Johnossi Interview

Album „All they ever wanted“

with John Engelbert and Oskar „Ossi“ Bonde


Dennis Kastrup [DK]: What do they really want?

Ossi: Well, that is for you to tell me. People are always searching for something and maybe the search is something that takes up people´s lives a bit too much and they do not really know what they want. I guess it is just the way of putting it out there that I should be, everybody should be more aware of what you are really searching for in life. Often when you finally get there you want something totally different. That is part of what “All they ever wanted” means to me at least.

DK: Bands shift from one level to the other after a debut album. What happened to you since the debut “Johnossi”?.

John: It is a never-ending story with creating music but we are satisfied now at this little pit stop that we have done with these ten songs. We are very satisfied but we will always develop as persons and as members of Johnossi.

Ossi: Things always happen in your life that you do not expect to happen. It always forms your life in that way. So this is where we are now and I have no idea where we will be in three years. The first album was where we were exactly at that point. This is what has happened to us in three years.

DK: …and what happened?

Ossi: I think this is a result of us touring a lot. Many personal things happened to us since the last album and especially we have developed as musicians. This is the kind of music we want to play right now!

DK: Was it easier to record it?

John: For me who wrote the lyrics it is a different one than back then. I see things in a little different [way]…perhaps I do not see things in a different way but I have [experienced] different things now than what I had when I wrote the lyrics for the first album. I do not really think about anything when it comes to all that stuff and what is behind the music. I just take our song for what it is. If we think it is a good song it is a good song! End of discussion! Ossi and I do not really talk about it. We only talk about the stuff around the music when we do interviews. So we do not think about stuff like that.

DK: So what was so special about it?

Ossi: It took a very long time for us to do the second album because we have been touring a lot and this was the first proper opportunity for us to really take time to finish all the songs that we have started writing a year ago. But I believe that it was actually the best time for us to do the album. If we would have done it a year ago which we talked about doing it would not have come out the same result because a lot of things happened the last year as well and I think that was good for this album.

DK: But why did you not do it back then?

Ossi: Because we did not have the time for it. We had too much touring to do and there was no time for it. We had so much work to do with the first album, go to the States and here to Germany. We really wanted to work as much as we could with the first album so that we did not have anything left from that time and period where we released this. So it will be a new start with this album.

DK: Does the inspiration come from touring?

Ossi: No, lyricwise John has to answer that question. But when it comes to the music we have of course seen a lot of live shows when we are out playing but I think the inspiration we get is when we are actually in the rehearsal studio and John is presenting some ideas and songs to me. That is really a big inspiration for me. I do not think we have been out in the world, gathering stuff and taking them [inspirations] home and making a record out of it. It is not like that.

John: Out on tour we just play, sleep and drink. It is not like: “Oh, I have all these new inspirations of the beautiful hills of Heidelberg”. It is not like that. The inspiration comes from our daily lives. If we see some beautiful countries: that is nice but it is not going into our songs. It is not like going to India and making a strange Beatles album. It is more our daily lives back home. That is our major inspiration…and also the inspiration of not being home. What is the result of not being at home for two months when you have people who want you to be home and perhaps you also want to be home? It is more like that.

DK: I have read in your blog that walking around Stockholm feels like loving and hating it at the same time. Is it that feeling?

John: That is also connected to the album title “All they ever wanted”. You think of your childhood and you can never experience that stuff again. The search can go on for ever. You dream of having sex with someone with silicon boobs and you go on and marry someone with silicon boobs and then you just want old fashioned sexy mama’s boobs which are hanging. You know what I mean? “Oh, I do not want your silicon boobs anymore! I want original boobs!”  You have to decide what is important for you in life. You cannot go on wanting and wanting because then you become a very ego-centric person. You have to pay attention to the people who are close to you. You have to give sacrifices also.

Ossi: Both, John and me, have a really safe base back in Stockholm. We are always longing for Stockholm when we are out on tour but at some point, like now when we have recorded a new album, you want to go out on the road again to play live music because that is what we love to do. But still in the end we will be longing for Stockholm [laughs] just as much. It is always the best feeling to come back to Stockholm.

DK: Did you record the whole album in Stockholm?

Ossi: Yeah, we recorded the album in Stockholm, in Gröndal, which is part of the outskirts of Stockholm. We did it in eight days and stayed in an apartment right above the studio. We recorded until we dropped [the instruments] and then we just went up to bed and then down to play another twelve hours. That is the way we wanted to do it. The first album was recorded during half a year so a couple of hours every week. We wanted to do it in more compact recording sessions We did not even go home to our own apartments. We lived 20 minutes from the studio but we wanted to be there not having to think about anything else but recording music. I think that was a good thing. We played everything live. So everything is live on the album. Then when we finished the album we could go home to our own apartments and feel that we had done a good job. It was really intense recording sessions.

DK: So you did actually have eight days time. Why didn´t you take your time?

Ossi: You could do that as well in three weeks, put more time into it and take takes over and over again to get it right but I do not think the result will get better in that way. We wanted to do it like this.

John: Basic stuff like knowing that nobody has to leave at six o´clock to go home or nobody has to do anything…everybody, even the producer, could just focus on the album. We were going to do it in ten days. We decided that. We planned it very nice: ok in ten days it is going to be done. So we focussed on that and slept when we could not play anymore. And then we woke up, had some food and kept on playing.

DK: Let me imagine a typical day in a band studio: drink, play, stay up all night, sleep in, wake up late and start playing again. Was it like that?

Ossi: It was kind of like that. Not in the studio. But we did not focus on what time it was. We just focussed on how we felt ready to start another recording session. We did not look at the time. We just played until we felt: “ok, now I really need to sleep because my brain is not really working. I need a six hour sleep now and then I can continue!” And that is pretty much how it was.

DK: On one song it sounded like you were using an organ? That is new for you.

John: It is a new guitar pedal. That makes the guitar sound like an organ. We have a big orchestra drum: “boom, boom” We have a gong also. Those are the only things that are not me and Ossi as we have it on stage live. But it is still the guitar and the drums. The gong gong is part of a very big drum kit. On one song there is a little bit of piano, just laying chords. On a B-side that is not on the record there is also a piano.

DK: The album sounds fresher than the last one. Can you rely to this?

Ossi:: Actually I have listened to it many times. When I put it on in the CD player I tend to listen to the whole album in one take because I think the wholeness of the album is very complete. You get a very strong finish, a very strong middle and a very strong beginning. I really like the structure of the album.

John: And we are doing the music for ourselves. That is why we play. We play for ourselves. We do not play because we think there are no good bands and we have to do the music ourselves to hear good music. It is not like that. We play for ourselves in the first place. We do not think of what people want to hear because we do not know how to deliver something that people want to hear. We can only do what feels right for us. But I am glad because sometimes when I listen to the album when I am drunk I can imagine it is not us playing. I can see it just as a good album from a band. Then I can hear that I would really like this album. I would be a fan of this band if it was not me.

DK: I had the feeling that your voice has grown in confidence. True?

John: I am a way better singer now than on the first album because back then I just started singing.  I have never really sung before. Ok, perhaps I had sung for two years or something. My voice has developed a lot. I have a pretty strong voice I think.

DK: The album deals with a lot of issues in the past.  You look back quite often.

John: Yeah in some songs I do. On the first album I only looked forward. I look back but I do not look back [starts singing] “when I look back now at everything…[laughs]”  I do not know. In my head it is all: back and forward, future, past. It is all the same, just emotions.

DK: How do you work together? Who has got the initial ideas?

John: Often I have a verse, a chorus or just cool guitar stuff. 90% of the time I come up with it just playing guitar at home. I show it to Ossi in the rehearsal space. And if he thinks it is a cool thing…it is not that I just play it and he says “yes” or “no”.  It is more like: “ok, I like this. What do you say? Do you think we could do something?” we start jamming on it and sometimes it goes: “yeah, that was really good!” And sometimes it goes: “oh, we will see. We can pick it up later on”. Then we work on it and arrange it. Perhaps it is like “cut and paste”. We perhaps take an old verse from a song that did not make it because the chorus was not good. We take that verse and put it in a new song which has a pretty week verse. After a while it becomes a song. Sometimes it is a song after half an hour and sometimes we have songs that we had have worked on for two years and that we cannot still figure out what to do with it. It is hopelessness with some songs.

DK: Why is playing as a duo perfect?

John: We do not have much experience in not working as two people because bands that we have played before were just bands in school, nothing serious. For us it is the only way to do it because we really want to play in a band. We do this because we feel that this is the only way for us to do it and we have a really good chemistry between us. We kicked off really good from the beginning. You get a really good confidence when you get a record deal after three shows and when you get to go on tour with one of the biggest rock bands from Sweden “Soundtrack Of Our Lives”. So after that you do not think: “Perhaps we should add one more guy to make it better” because when everybody says you are the best fucking band you do not want to change anything. We never had the feeling that something is missing in our music, at least not for us. If somebody thinks that something is missing in our music then there are lots of other bands to listen to who probably have that part what they think is missing. That does not effect us because we are not doing it for them. We are doing it for ourselves.

DK: What is so good about Ossi?

John: I like that he is a good drummer. He is a loud drummer. He beats really hard on the drums. He is a tight drummer.

Ossi: Well, I think John and I have learned to play our instruments not by taking lessons. John has developed a very personal style with playing the guitar and he always gets a lot of comments. I am privileged to play with one of Sweden´s best guitarists. He is a very brilliant songwriter as well. It is very nice.

DK: Good things about John?

Ossi: Oh, a lot of things. How much time do we have? Our friendship is more based on brotherhood but still there are a very few things that we dislike or think differently about. And if there is something we tell each other. It is not a big deal. Right now John is a good person. He is very well balanced in its life. That is nice [John says in the background: “yeah I am actually”].

DK: Do you feel privileged to be a Swedish band?

John: Perhaps we are privileged to be from Sweden because Sweden is a great music country. Sometimes when we play in the States, or England is the worst because they are so nationalistic with their music…their British artists have first priority. They are a bit narrow-minded when it comes to music because they have their British pop history. When we meet bands from America they say: “Oh, you are so privileged to be from Sweden! It is so hard for us to get over to Europe but easier for you to make it in the States.”  But you have to be good and you suck [laughs]. People always want something that they do not have. You know: “All they ever wanted”