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Probably the only true credible international popstar to come out from the ever wonderful Swedish scene, Jens Lekman has gained our harts with a handful of singles and an album that recollected most of his previous works. A perfectionist and music lover at heart, Jens has the brightest future ahead of him. Just ad Secretly Canadian is about to make him big in the US as well, we got the chance to chat a while with him.
You make a massive use of sampled sounds. Do you use them as an inspiration to create your songs or do the songs are pre-existent and then you add samples?
I write the songs and then I add samples when i've recorded them. its like decorating a christmas tree. I used samples before because I didn't know how to play drums and I knew I could never afford to hire a symphony orchestra. now I have a drummer at least.
How do you compose your songs?
A lot of songs are composed to push myself into actually making something happen. like the song Julie , I didn't know her when I wrote that song but I wanted to. So I wrote the song and then to be able to actually release it, I had to get to know her. And I had to do all those things, like -hey, lets go down to the bay and eat some fries.
Do you feel you're part of a qualified genealogy of music? if so, after which artists would you like to put yourself?
I'd love to BE Jonathan Richman. probably as much as he wanted to be Lou Reed. but just as he failed to be Lou I fail to be Jojo, cause I can never be that carefree and naive.
Why the movie "Mask" has made such an strong impression on you? And why do you choose to call yourself Rocky Dennis for so long?
That was a mistake. I never called myself Rocky Dennis. someone thought that was my real name cause I had a song about him and then radio picked up on it and I never had a chance to change it.
I think it was the lovestory in that movie that struck my heart.
What do you think of the present indiepop scene? Are there any artists you feel akin to yourself?
I don't know much about it. I mostly listen to records I find at fleamarkets.
This is something we never cease to ask ourself: why there is so much great pop music in Sweden?
Everything's upside down in Sweden. It seems like ever since the early nineties indiemusic has been extremely popular. I talked to a guy from the US who said that if you grow up listening to Morrissey today in the States, you're still automatically the one who gets beaten up. When I was 17, I got beaten up by the morrissey-fans. They were the ones who picked on you, who looked good, and always had someone.
So I guess everything developed pretty fast here. You've got to find someone new to save your life, Moz is taken, they even got to Bill Callahan...and that search is pretty inspirational. makes you wanna do something of your own I guess.
So music (I mean the act of discovering, listening and playing it) has been a matter of saving your life for you? I completely agree, and I think most of our readers can relate to that. I believe it was Nick Hornby that wrote the famous question: "did I listened to all that sad music because I was a sad person or was I sad because I listened to sad music?". What's your opinion?
I was a sad person. and sad music made me even sadder. but happy music makes me happy! I know that now. I sound like a mental patient , don't I?
Talking about Moz, did you had the chance to listen to his last album? And did Moz and the Smiths in any way affected your teenage years, despite what his fans were doing?
No I haven't heard it. I never even got to the Smiths greatest hits. I think I know two songs ... this charming man and there is a light (?)
The most accomplished Jens Lekman song, or the one you already feel will resist better the test of time
I think I have over 30 versions of mapleleaves. there was a point where I thought it was finished. but it's not. Still, it was the one song where I had an idea of how it was gonna sound ... or maybe more of a feeling, and then I worked with it until it actually sounded like I wanted it to. I'll never get it 100% right.
At least you didn't get all crazy over it like Brian Wilson or Lee Mavers. As time passes and you get the chance to work in bigger studios, do you feel the need to better refine your songs? Or is it just like before, only with costly instrumentation?
I did get crazy!!! I was Lee Mavers all over the shit. I looked all over for old taperecorders that had the perfect amount of dust in them. i'm still Lee Mavers. i've given up on my new electronic equipment my swedish label bought me just to return to those old taperecorders. I gotta figure out which one I recorded black cab with... I don't think i'll ever work in
a big studio. it just wouldn't work.
The three records that changed your life, and those that made you choose to be a musician.
Can't answer that without my record collection. Right now I'm listening to the Students, Arthur Russell, Frank Sinatra - Cycles, Antony & the Johnsons and the new Hormones in abundance 7".
You choose to re-record most of the songs of your previous works for your first LP. Was that because you wanted to give a cohesive feeling to the work or was there any other reason?
The old recordings weren't good enough for me.
How do you feel you and your music have changed in these last 5 years of Rocky Dennis/Jens Lekman songs?
Five years ago I wrote songs about bad stuff in the past. now I write songs about good stuff in the future! music affects me more than I affect the music. if I write a song about falling in love, then I instantly fall in love... which is nice.
I also meant about how are you relating to the fact that Secretly Canadian picked your records for a US distribution? It must be pretty exciting to know that a lot of new people will be exposed to your music. Is your life changing because of that?
Secretly discovered me before even my girlfriend at that time had heard my music. that was two years ago. i've sort of gotten used to the idea that a lot of people will hear it. my life's changed a little. I try to think of all this as a long vacation. i've got my strawhat and my bermuda shorts.
Alessandro e Salvatore