So my current obsession with Swedish music continues as I interview Jonatan Westh, lead singer and guitar player for Blackstrap. Who? I hear you ask. Well, they’re a five-piece band from Jönköping, Sweden who are currently preparing to unleash their rather splendid album “Steal My Horses And Run” onto an unsuspecting UK and US audience. You can read a review of the album right here.
Hi Jonatan, first of all, for our readers benefit can you give me a little history lesson on band. Where did it all begin for Blackstrap?
Me and David (the drummer) have played in the same bands since our early teens. Everyone in the band, except Filiph who joined after the recording of Steal My Horses, is from the same area in Sweden (around Jönköping in Småland). The Cardigans and ¼ of ABBA is also from our hoods. Also our friends in I´m from Barcelona and the brain in Loney Dear.
Me , David and former bass-player Henrik Rubensson moved to Stockholm a couple of years ago to really focus on music and get closer to the scene. We had a band named Marygold and signed to a small label in Stockholm. Things didn´t really break loose and the record with that label never happend. We decided to go on and change our name to Blackstrap. We got signed right after that to Sally Forth records in Holland. Did our first album, Ghost Children..We did tours in Scandinavia and Holland. Patrick also joined after the recording of Steal My Horses. The linup on the recording was Jonatan, Maria, David and Henrik. The lineup 2007 is Jonatan, Maria, David, Patrick and Filiph
You originally started work on Steal My Horses And Run back in 2004. Why did it take so long to get it finished and released?
We had to do much work ourselves. There was no money from the label to hire a “real” producer. So we asked our friend Sebastian Forslund from Staireo to produce and mix the album together with myself. Sebastian had done some work before and is really talanted. I had only worked with own stuff for myself and the band. Since I had a clear vision where i wanted to take the bands sound it took some time to get there. Later on there was also some communication problems since our label is based in Holland and we were sitting in Sweden. This all made it take a long time finishing everything.
There is a thriving indie music community in Sweden at the moment, most notably in Stockholm. Why do you think bands from Sweden cross-over so well overseas?
Sweden is too small to make a living from music (exept a few ones). You have to make yourself a name in other countries to get a chance to make a living out of doing music. Stockholm is the biggest city in Sweden so it´s not that strange that right now it is most notably things from Stockholm that are doing well in other countries. But most of the bands and artists from Stockholm are from other places in Sweden. People move to Stockholm to get closer to the scene and the industry.
Have you ever, or do you plan to collaborate with any of the Swedish artists currently having success here in the UK and in America?
Have not really thought about it. But we are great friends with Loney, Dear and half of the people in I´m from Barcelona. We will see..Maybe someday.. If it is fun and a point of doing it!
Were you aware that the demand for Swedish indie has become so great that there are now club nights that play exclusively Swedish music. Tack! Tack! Tack! in London being one of them. This must make you feel very proud?
That is very fun and of course it make us flattered. I have a feeling that there is more interest in Swedish bands in other countries than there is in Sweden right now…
How do you expect the British audience to react to Blackstrap? Arguably the style of your band has been done before back in 2002 with the so-called “New Rock Revolution” bands like The Hives, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Vines & The Datsuns. Are you worried that you may have missed the boat, commercially speaking?
People who are into our thing will find us and like us. I have no idea how we will work commercially in the UK. We have never followed any trends or tried to hook on what´s going on for the moment. Just do our thing with passion and confidence. Don´t believe the hype..
Maria Lindén is the sole female of the band. Do you have to behave yourselves when your on the road or is she, “one of the boys” so to speak.
Maria is one of the boys and the boys is a bunch of girls sometimes.. We actually don´t think about it.
When most people think of Sweden they think of Abba and Saunas. Give me an interesting fact about your country that I wouldnt already know.
Sweden has the highest taxes in the world. Stockholm is to most singel populated city in the world. Stockholm has also the most studios/person in the world.
What do you prefer. Working in the studio or performing live?
Hard question.. Love both.. But in the end to perform live and being out on the road.
If you could choose only one, what would be your all time favourite album?
Have a few albums that I always get back to. But if I have to choose one it has to be The Velvet Underground and Nico.
What new music are you curently listening to?
I like TV On The Radios new album. But to be honest it is very unusual with new good bands and records.. I´m digging deeper and deeper in my record collection..
Name a band (current or defunct) that would be your dream act to open for on a major tour?
If it was right now I would like to open for Nine Inch Nails or The Sisters of Mercy. If I can choose from any band in the world at any time it would be interesting to follow Iggy and The Stoogies wildes days around 1970..
Whats next for Blackstrap? Seeing as the songs for this album were mostly written in 2004 have you got new material ready for the next record?
Since this album has just been released we will go out and promote it as much as possible. We are working on deals in the UK and USA and hopefully the album will be released and followed up by tours there soon.
We got alot of new songs. Since I have my own studio we record new songs there all the time. Hopefully we will be able to follow up Steal My Horses pretty soon..
What event in your life made first made you want to be a musician?
When my brother tought me how to play “smells like teen spirit” on my new bought guitar. I was 13 years old and thought I was Kurt Cobain..
Name a good book I should check out…
The Pianist byWładysław Szpilman. He was an Polish jewish pianist and composer who survived the World War II. I like to read and watch movies and documenteries about historical stuff. Roman Polanski also made an fantastic film from this book.
What are you passionate about in life, apart from music?
Girlfriend, friends and family.. Don´t have time for anything more.
Finally, tell me something about Blackstrap that not a lot of people know.
Our former bassplayer Henrik Rubensson left the band in 2006 and married our drummers sister!