PART I: I'M PETER MORÉN TILL I DIE
- My solo albums are my chance to play around with ideas/sounds/songs and have the last say in everything; I’m my own boss. I want to be open-minded in every kind of aspect from lyrical subjects to musical styles; anything goes if it feels good in my stomach, Peter Morén explains while enjoying a cappucino at a café in Stockholm.
A popsong writer
- Since Peter Bjorn And John is a very democratic 3-piece I need that outlet and freedom to decide and express myself. But regardless, it’s not like a crazy unlistenable project of free-from stuff. I’m a popsong writer and that’s what I want to do with both projects.
- It might change in the future but now at least I’m into song-based music, melodic with interesting arrangements. I mean pop music can be a lot of things, from folk-pop to techno! It’s also not a lighthearted side-project, it’s something I take very seriously and hope to develop further in the future.
- It’s true that the band is my way of bringing food to the table, but the solo-thing is just as important (if not more at times), artistically. Also a band is always a band, but Peter Morén I will be until I die, so I can’t get rid of that or split up with myself, Peter Morén says.
The new album
So does this show on your latest album?
- The latest album is my most developed album so far, especially production-wise, it’s a bit more polished and uses quite a lot of different musicians, engineers and studios, compared to the first album for example that was mostly home-recorded.
- It’s also the most eclectic thing I’ve done. It’s recorded over a long period of time and takes in the influences I had on “I spåren av tåren” of old soul, folk and rock’n’roll, but also the folk-jazzy-vibe from “The Last Tycoon” and the indie-power-pop roots obvious in Peter Bjorn And John.
- So it’s the best of everything that is Peter, maybe. Lyrically, it’s my most negative, political and self-critical so far but it also have some positive lovesongs on there. We mostly started with live-takes, me (on bass), drummer and keyboard-player, then added overdubs and built and changed around stuff based on that foundation.
His own favourites
If you were to highlight a couple of songs, which would it be?
- Two favorite songs I have from the latest album is the opener “Erik M. Nilson” and the sun-drenched wordy pop of “Capri, Cannes & Brighton”. “Erik M. Nilson” is a tribute to a Swedish documentary filmmaker I really like, but it’s also about just being lazy and not feeling like doing much. I think it’s one of my favorite melodies/compositions I’ve ever done! It feels like a classic! I love the way it sounds, he explains from a winter-struck Stockholm.
- Of course it’s flirting with the dreamy, slightly psychedelic sound of early Bowie, The Zombies and John Lennon but HEY! ; you could have worse influences!
“Capri, Cannes & Brighton” was written during my honeymoon in Italy and deals with melancholy as a desired state and how beauty can hide a lot of rot beneath; nothings one-dimensional really!
- We wanted a summery feeling but a summer on the brink of a hazy autumn and used a bed of guitars and harmonies over swinging folky drums and as icing on the cake harp, flute and loots of zither and guitar through tape-delay effects to get a blurry and dreamy feeling! Love it! It’s “Happy/Sad” like the Tim Buckley-album!! All the best pop-songs should have both sides of that coin, nothings one-dimensional as I said!
The video for the song “Odyssén” from your 2012 album, Pyramiden, is available in this interview. Please tell us about the process – from writing the song to the final recording and video?
- “Odyssén” is a song that has been around for a long time. I wrote the music together with a fellow songwriter/producer called Peter Ågren, who among other things sings in the band The Amplifetes. At first, it had English lyric, but with the same theme, this kind of love/hate-relationship I have with pop music and the music industry.
- It’s a catchy popsong about skepticism to popmusic, which I find quite funny, meta-pop! At first I thought the song would fit Peter Bjorn And John, but then I came up with the idea for the Swedish lyric and saved it for the solo record.
- When we recorded it, we used a lot of the ideas and even some of the sounds from the demo I made with Peter, but replaced synths and drum machines with pianos, guitars and a drumkit.
- I love all the little rhythms and riffs that goes on at the same time, it’s quite a well-arranged track I guess. As on most of the things I do with co-producer Tobias Fröberg, we played around with tape-delays, which you can hear.
- For the video I collaborated with some really creative friends. We wanted a high-energy video with lots of movement and colour that would in a humuoristic way use the theme of “pop” of the lyric. We used the green-screen-technique common when MTV was young to get some 80’s vibe, which suits the song.
- One inspiration was Paul McCartney’s great clip for “Coming Up” where he himself plays the different characters in his (big) band who all have different musical “images”.
- I nicked that idea for my smaller combo with a punk-bassist, mod-guitarist, hippie-organ-player and student/jazz-drummer. All characters I feel a kinship with myself. For the “dance”-scene at the end we asked some friends and hang-arounds to participate and did a simple choreography. The aim with the video was to make a fun video that you would like to watch again. And again. I think we succeeded, Peter Morén says.
PART II: QUALITY SOUND - AS LONG AS IT'S NOT BORING!
What inspires you when creating new music? And which kind of music have inspired you?
- As soon as I get a kick out of something I want to do something similar. But of course it end up sounding like me most of the time. I have a certain melodic DNA that runs through all I do.
- But I do like to experiment with different genres and styles. Mostly when I end up writing a song it’s because I have a lyrical idea I want to get in print. Just a “riff” or a “melody” is not enough for me to put a piece together, I need the “verbal” inspiration to finish something. So in this sense, the news, films, or just everyday life and people I meet are just as important as any musicians.
Peter Morén mentions The Beatles and their eclecticism as inspiration at an early stage in his life. Since then, his been inspired by 70's disco, older R&B, and folk-rock as well as Brazilian and African music:
- Lately I’ve also come back to my roots in guitar-rock/new wave/power-pop-indie from the 70’s to the early 90’s. And I also get into periods were I dig deeper into old favorites and records I’ve earlier missed, like Kinks-albums from the late 70’s-80’s or McCartney-solo-work that are often underestimated, but great! -
I dig a lot of modern soul and indie as well. The only music I never really been into is metal, progressive rock, and hardcore dance music, but it’s probably only a matter of time, Peter Morén states.
What good sound and good music is
Being sound- and loudspeaker fans, naturally we had to ask Peter about his view upon good sound and loudspeakers:
- I can love “hi-fi”-music and super-good “good” sound. But also really crappy “lo-fi”. It usually has to do with my mood our what ideas are presented in the songs and in which context.
- As long as it’s not boring it’s fine. But that of course is very subjective. I like music from all eras which all have different qualities in several ways but if you aim for the best most natural “sounding” stuff “hi-fi”-wise it’s probably produced between 1976 and 1982.
- There’s also a lot of good sounding new stuff, but often it’s compressed to death until the sound is destroyed completely and can’t breath.
- I have a pretty good stereo system but can’t remember what it’s called. It’s kind of ironic these days that a lot of people spend time and money to produce good sounding music, when people then listen on cheap headphones on their computer or telephones.
- Obviously, a lot of dimensions get lost. Unfortunately, I think producers sometimes produce tracks with this in mind and takes away subtle things from the production that they don’t think the listeners will get, Peter Morén explains.
The best way to enjoy music
You’re releasing your music on LP as well as CD and it’s available on streaming services such as Spotify as well. As a musician, what are your thoughts on the digital evolution?
- I’m very old-school when it comes to listening to music. I use streaming a lot, especially when traveling. I enjoy making playlists, and Spotify is good when you’re working/recording as a reference bank and for finding out about new music.
- But when I’m at home, I almost exclusively listen to records, vinyl or cd. I love the whole package you get with an album, the feel of it, the cover & the idea the artist has about tracklist and presentation. And it sounds better of course. So I still think it’s the best way to enjoy music. Unless its live.
Your solo album from 2008, The Last Tycoon, is in English, while your 2010 album, I Spåren Av Tåren, and the new album, Pyramiden, is sung in your native language Swedish. How come theses shifts between different languages?
- The shift came by as a happy accident. I was playing around with a Swedish idea to a song and struck inspirational gold. I now regard Swedish as my main musical-language.
- It makes me feel much more liberated to sing about what I want with words that I want to use, since I know the language so much better than English. In this sense, I can be more respectless and play around with it, Peter Morén says.
- I can sing about stuff like politics, history, and Swedish culture in a way I never could in English. But I might still do another English solo album as well, since most of my audience is outside of Sweden. But I have felt pressure to deliver English lyrics as good as the Swedish, a need to be original and I’m more critical of myself.
- So maybe the way to go in the future is writing in Swedish first and then translate to get more “honest” or playful lyrics. I don’t think Swedish is a “stiff” language to sing in. I think it’s pretty sexy in fact. At least, it’s closer to the bone, so it should be sexier, Peter Morén laughs.
More good music, forgotten talents - and more crap
What are your thoughts about the musical scene today?
- It’s very diverse and very big, so it’s impossible to get an overview of everything that's out there. But since there’s more music made than ever, I probably think there’s more good music made but also more crap.
- I’m sure a lot of extremely talented people are being neglected or forgotten just because they don’t scream the loudest with the sharpest elbows or have the most well-connected-parents or most obvious hits.
- That’s one thing I have a problem with, I often feel media today don’t have time for more subtle expressions, at least not when it comes to popmusic.
- So a lot of the “hits” of today are sometimes too simple in an annoying way, almost like the songs undervalue the intelligence of listeners. But then I’m only talking about the really commercial popmusic.
- And I still ear commercial stuff I like too, so there’s nothing definitive about the statement. Still, I think the best popmusic is often made in the grey zone in-between arty and commercial.
At the moment, Peter Morén and his band Peter Bjorn and John are busy recording their new, 7the album. He's also doing solo shows, and next year he'll probably start touring with Peter Bjorn and John again.
- Moreover, he enjoys jumping in as a session player on other peoples' records - and try to keep writing new music as frequently as possible, Peter Morén says.
By now, he's caught the Stockholm subway home and finished the interview in a cozy appartment with lots of burning candles surrounding him, Peter Morén tells us. And The Smiths and Aztec Camera playing on the stereo.
Find out more about Peter Morén at his Facebook and website: www.petermoren.com.
- Rune H. Jensen, firstname.lastname@example.org