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Familjen - Absolut Familjen

Author: Carlisle Rogers
Monday, 30 June 2008
Hailed as Sweden's answer to The Presets, who else then is better to represent Scandinavia at Parklife than Familjen- 3D's Carlisle Rogers gets to know Johan Karlsson.

Familjen's debut album Det snurrar i min skalle is a plaintive, techno-based album that echoes that strange dichotomy of human warmth in Stockholm. Heading out for Parklife, Familjen brings a live show full of what he calls 'pop songs in techno clothes'. The show also features Familjen, or Johan T Karlsson, singing in his native Swedish tongue over a phalanx of electronic instruments.

'It will be me and my friend Andreas Tilliander,' Karlsson says of the Australian shows. 'For our live shows, I mainly sing and twiddle about with effects and other stuff. Andreas is playing the music through samplers and synthesizers and drum machines, so there are two people on stage.

'I originally met Andreas at school when we were 15. We have known each other for 15 years now. When I moved to Stockholm, he had been living here for a while. We started hanging out again and he joined me playing live as Familjen.'

Although Tilliander only joins Familjen when Karlsson is touring, he sometimes plays a part in the creation of Familjen's original material too. 'I work with my laptop, putting down ideas, and then if I realise that this bass line needs something else, I'll go visit Andreas who has all of this vintage analogue gear. If I want a Mini-Moog or a real TB-303 or something like that, I can go to him and record it. I don't care, really, if it's analogue or vintage, it's the song that counts. The lyrics I do at the end of making a song. They are the last thing I do. It takes a really long time to write the lyrics. In a way, it's harder to write in Swedish. In Sweden, it's not that direct hearing a song in your mother tongue. You have to put a lot of work and effort in it to make it come across.

'I'm working on new material now, I have some new songs already in the bag, but hopefully there is some really fresh material for the shows in Australia. It's good to have plenty of things, so you don't bore yourself with the songs you've been playing for a year. The new stuff is similar to what was on the album, but it has some breakbeat sounds in there. I have a lot of new ideas, working with drum loops and breakbeat ingredients. The album's been out now for a year - and that's a dance album, essentially. It is pop songs in techno clothes. I have tried to stick to that recipe with the coming album as well.'

Over the last six months, Karlsson says he and Tilliander have been playing four times a week, but he says they are cutting back to make more time for writing. 'It's just me writing, that's the whole thing about Familjen,' Karlsson says. 'Before this outfit, I played in different bands and projects and things like that-but Familjen is just me, where I am king. I get to decide everything. I have a few ideas for collaborations on the next album, mainly British artists. I have contacted people, so hopefully there will be some interesting collaborations.'

Karlsson says he got his musical inspiration very early, and then set about trying to figure out how to make the same sounds as his heroes. 'I got into music when I was a kid. I was listening to the radio and heard all the great songs by Duran Duran, Alphaville and Depeche Mode,' he says. 'I was so amazed when I heard these sounds. Later on, I wanted to make music on my own, and I always wondered how they made the sounds they made, so I went to older friends who have studio equipment and synthesizers. I would hang out with them in the studio and learn how to do all of that with them. That is how I got into music, I was really into how to make the different sounds."