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William The Contractor Interview

(Sputnikhalle, Münster, 2011)If you’ve ever been to a Friska Viljor show, you most certainly will already have made Markus Bergqvist’s acquaintance in his function of playing the drums for his fellow Swedish friends. Now, however, it’s time for William The Contractor, his very own musical project, so Markus isn’t only part of the rhythm section for the main act, he’s also promoting his debut album as Friska Viljor’s support, which means that he has quite a busy and exhausting night to face on a daily basis, doing twice the amount of work. However, this doesn’t seem to bother him the least and I get to meet a laid-back, very friendly guy, who seems happy to be on tour finally presenting his very own songs. The writing of those songs featured on his debut album Tall Stories was partly triggered by his father’s unexpected death and therefore they obviously take another direction, both musically and lyrically, in comparison to what one might be used to listening to the band Markus usually joins on stage. What else hides behind songs featuring talking puppets, Stockholm subway stations and mean old ladies you can find out in the following.Your album Tall Stories tells a lot of different stories. How autobiographical are they? So, how much of you is really in there? Because, there are several points where I thought ‘Wow, there’s some serious soul striptease going on there...’.Yeah, but they are kind of... they were kind of true stories from the start. But when I realized, like, three years later, after writing those lyrics, because I took them from real stuff in life, when I put the album together I felt like ‘Oh shit, man, this is like my teenage period. I cannot possibly stand for this anymore!’ (laughs)Therefore I called it Tall Stories, because after you’ve played a song for a while you feel like... ‘Was that really me in that song?’ Because you change all the time. But, yeah, most of the songs are actually based on true stuff, so...There are some examples I picked out from your songs. The one thing I would like to refer to is Warehouseman. There’s this sentence ‘Man, you look like an actor from Japan’. Is this something somebody really said to you?No, that was a girl in a dream that I had. So I woke up, it was some days after my father had passed away, so it was actually one of the first songs I wrote for that project together with Above The Clouds. I had a dream, like really early in the morning and there was this strange little puppet from a garbage can, coming out and talking to me. And then it was like she almost played on my feelings all the time. It was like a nightmare. So I just woke up and then I wrote the song.Sounds creepy...(laughs) Yeah. It was creepy. But it was not that... I mean, it was like kind of a cosy nightmare, actually. But when I woke up it was hard, because then I was like just in a process of going through the death of my father. So that song is, yeah... It’s kind of heavy, still, to play, sometimes, but I really have to keep playing both fun and both sad stuff, I guess.Another one would be Old Witch. So do I have to imagine this woman that you describe really living in your house, or is it more a stereotypical kind of woman that you picked out?Oh, she lives in my house. But we’ve moved now, to Malmö. She was kind of, in my eyes, not that human. She mostly thought of herself and her own business and I prefer to say that it’s better to do equal for all or so, if you live in a house, but... I can understand her, too, in a way, but she was like, she was constantly saying the one thing and she did another thing behind the curtains. (laughs) So, yeah, but then of course you... It’s nice to twist the stories a bit. But I think it gives me motivation to develop a story, if you feel that at the bottom of it there is really something and you can, like, take some turns, you know. I mean, it’s nice to feel that you really want to say this when you sing it. (laughs)So what’s the story behind My Little Man and what about the pretty German ladies there?Oh yeah, it’s so strange. It’s a really strange song. That is more of a fantasy song, actually, that I had to go through through my first year of touring. Now, for me it feels like a teenage lyric, you know. (laughs) But, and I was like not sure if I was gonna put that on the album or not, but in the end I felt like ‘Yeah, this was like a good feeling and a good swing in the song’. So I just wanted to do a little twist and put it in behind the other, sad songs. And I talked to my record company about it, because at first I didn’t want to have it on the record, because I felt like ‘Yeah, this is a teenage lyric...’ It’s nothing that I would write now, because I’ve got a great family back home and stuff.I think it’s a point that you don’t only try to play so good all the time, that you can actually make mistakes and stuff and then you realize this some years later. So I had to sing it anyway. (laughs)So the Reeperbahn and Autobahn...I don’t know, yeah, it was like the first tour [with Friska Viljor], which was a mess in my head, actually, when we were out under those circumstances. Like, the only thing you actually got paid from the shows was in alcohol and stuff like that. (laughs) So it gets a little bit confusing, you know, riding around in a car, playing from town to town and then I just came home and wrote that song. And it’s also like a twisted lyric. So it’s not that I want to say, you know... I mean, it’s more like a funny thing than a... See what I mean? Yeah, but I think party has a great reason in life, it’s important to have some balance. But, I mean, pretty ladies could be everywhere. (laughs) So, if I felt that once, it doesn’t mean that I’m feeling that like right now or all of the time I’m singing the song.The very first lyric on your album is I think something around ‘Sweden is a place I’d like to call the quiet whole / They never laugh, don’t say hello’. Now, why do you start off with such a negative image of your homecountry? Because, on the other hand, I’ve been to Sweden twice now and I’ve made a totally different experience.Yeah, but, you know, that was like just one day on the way to my work. Like seven o’clock in the morning and, you know, everybody sits on the subway like ghosts, like nobody is talking to each other. And the impression... I wouldn’t say that it’s that in general, but when you’re working 9 to 5, or actually, I worked like 6.30 to 5.30 every day, for a lot of years, when I played with Friska Viljor, on the weekdays.What did you do as a job?I started at a warehouse and then I moved on to furnitures and did some carpenter stuff, like, work with the environment and that was a lot of physical work in the early morning, so...But to go back to the point, I just took some days off to record and I needed a new song, so I tried to write a really fast song and that was really nice, because I wrote the lyrics and recorded it the same day and then it was done. ‘Cause I was used to all these looong recording processes for songs and stuff like that, so...Yeah, for a second it felt like ‘Ok, everyone is dead around here. Everybody is unhappy sitting on the train, watching the ground, and nobody wants to go to work.' And that just made me a little bit like I feel that this is hopeless. So it was just based on that feeling and in Sweden... I don’t know, we’ve got this irony going on all the time, so I think it’s actually a lot of artists putting on that ironic theme, or so. But for sure, Sweden could be really great, just look at those guys (indicating into the direction where Joakim and Daniel of Friska Viljor might be sitting at the moment) sitting up there, funny guys, you know. (laughs)So, really, it was like ‘Is he talking about the same country?’, because, I always felt like in Sweden everybody is so friendly, easy-going and nice, more open than in Germany. And people in Germany tend to be a bit grim all the time. But I guess this is more a universal effect of people sitting on the tube and going to work.Yeah, I think so. And it’s also a difference between societies, or class, you know. If you’re a human that... (sighs) like... if all you do is work, all the time, you easily get into that mood or feeling, too much pressure on yourself or so. And that’s like the big thing around it that can make me like feel a little bit sad sometimes, because I really wish for most of the people to experience freedom. But you cannot take freedom for granted these days, because it’s all about the big economies and stuff. So a lot of people get too much pressure on themselves and they feel like they forget how to smile. And that was like the thing about it. (laughs)Well, talking about the subway, Nästa Thorildsplan, that’s a tunnelbana station in Stockholm. (Markus laughs) What’s the story behind it and what is said on the track, because my Swedish is not good enough to understand what’s going on there.(laughs) Oh, I guess it’s stupid. I had this period like four or five years ago. I went round with this diktafon, this recorder, like this one (pointing at my voice recorder) and I just like recorded everywhere, just to see if I could get some ideas. And when I was drunk and on my way home I met this guy (laughs) and he started to talk about music with me. So it felt like ‘Okay, I have to record it.’ And then he said like ‘Okay, so you gonna make a record?’ And I said ‘Yeah, I’m in the process making a record.’ That was after I decided to make this record, like many, many years ago. So I kind of promised him to have him on the record... (laughs) Haha, that’s cool...He won’t remember that, for sure. I don’t know even if he’s still alive, because, you know, he was kind of an old drunk guy. But I felt like, yeah, since we talked about shall we have ten or eleven songs on the album, so I said to the record company ‘Okay, I’ve got one more!’ (laughs) And it felt really good having it there. So I just mixed it together with the other songs, yeah...So it doesn’t have anything to do with the fact that this subway station...The point when he says something... they say in the speakers like ‘Nästa: Thorildsplan.’ And I lived there back then. And then I had to go off the train, so that’s where the recording stops.Ah, okay. I thought that it was maybe connected to the fact that this station has been made into a piece of art, with all this pixel thing going on there, with this computer theme, with Super Mario on the walls and everything.Is it there? Thorildsplan? Maybe it is...Well, I looked it up when I was preparing this interview, and I found this article on the internet the other day, with photos and everything. They have those Super Mario mushrooms and old Windows arrows and all this computer stuff on the wall, made up of tiles. (See the article here: Cool.Anyway, I’d like to get to a rather sad topic now. Your father’s passing away has been a kind of catalyst for finally writing and playing your songs, at least, that’s what I’ve read about you. Doesn’t this kind of bear the danger of being constantly reminded of this sad feeling? Especially, as I saw this TV appearance of yours, and, as I said, I speak a tiiiiny bit of Swedish, and everything I understood was always that this TV host was constantly talking about your father’s passing away. So I think people tend to focus on this.Yeah, I think so. Yeah, but... I knew that if we were to write that stuff in the biography I would have to be prepared to answer this question to every magazine I meet. (laughs) But... It was also a journalist telling me that. You should really think about it if you were to... I didn’t have a chance to escape from my history, either, so... Actually, in my opinion, I thought that, if this had happened like two years ago, then maybe I would feel like that, but now it was so long ago and I really feel that also death can give you more spirit to live. So, it’s no problem for me, I think it’s only good to, you know, if you can learn to look at it in another way or so.But for sure, I mean... I think it’s nothing unique that I used this situation to write that. And, everybody goes through it. I don’t want to make some kind of commercialized thing around death, you know, so that worries me more, in a way. But I’ve got no problem to... it’s not that I... it’s not too personal for me. So it’s okay, really. But I feel like that for the next album it’s, maybe it’s more interesting to write about life, instead. (laughs)Yeah, I just felt like people like to jump at topics like this. But anyway, you’re the father of a son, who we could also hear in the background of this shower session you did. And talking about stories, as I think that your album is very narrative in a way telling these stories, how important is telling stories to your son to you?Yeah, he’s not old enough yet. (laughs)How old is he?One and a half. But, yeah, I think this is really important for me. I mean, I’ll definitely read stories to him, because it’s a great thing to use your fantasy about stuff and how you learn that and it’s a nice way of getting around a grey day. (laughs) Yeah, I will definitely buy some books and then, like I remember, when I was a kid, like in pre-school some guy just took us into this big black room and told ghost stories. So I think it’s nice, doing that, so I will definitely work on that one.So, we were talking about this TV morning show in Sweden. Did you get any positive reactions for this? People writing to you, going like ‘Hey, I saw you on the telly!’Yeah, there was a lot of stuff like that. It was national TV, it was a good spot on a Saturday with half a million watchers or something. But it’s a lot of bands playing there, like every morning there’s a band playing there, basically. And on Saturdays a little bit bigger bands are playing, but I actually jumped in, because another band cancelled. They had planned to have me later there, so I didn’t really have time to put up some shows around it, because I just threw myself on the train and called my musician friends and did a show, so it was very spontaneous for me.So, I thought it’s going to be later and they just called like the day before and I thought ‘Yeah, why not?’ It felt kind of relaxing doing it that way, as well. But yeah, there was a lot of positive reactions around it. Like, if you wanted to do things the indie way instead, maybe you’d say no to playing television, but I felt like why not, I mean, it’s a great spot, so why not? Hm? And I have a passion for playing anywhere where people offer me, really, so, yeah, it was a nice thing.So did you gain new fans by doing this? People to buy your album, listen to your music?Yeah, you know, it’s so totally new for me, like, right now I’m thinking about if I’m going to lay down my Myspace or not and I just started a Facebook page and a homepage. So, I will see how it will develop, because for me, really, it’s... For me music has always been more personal and about writing and sitting in the studio and stuff like that. You can see that it grows all the time when you are touring as well, but I think it’s really tough nowadays to get a big fan base if you don’t have money enough to put on promotion and stuff like that. So I think it’s more like that. And so I’m happy about the small things I get all the time, even if it’s only one person who writes me a mail after that TV morning show ‘I loved that song’, and stuff like that, then I can feel like there is the possibility to get it out to more people. Like, maybe some more can feel like her or him.So, it’s a little bit sad, but I think a lot of stuff is about having money, actually, to get it out fast. Now it’s more like I’m really happy if it grows slow. I mean, I will not stop playing, just because I feel like, you know, that I don’t have like a million persons on my Facebook page or so. (laughs)Yeah, I mean, it’s the easiest access for people to go there. They have their friends there and on the other hand it’s so easy to get into contact with musicians, you can write them and they sometimes really get back to you. So you should really think about keeping this Myspace page.What do you think?Well, I think it doesn’t cost anything, so why should you delete it?Yeah, but people are more on Facebook and on the homepage right now and like on the Youtube stuff. Myspace really seems like dead at the moment. But there were a lot of profile views on my old Myspace page, but now you can see like, when you put out a song there, there’s not that many plays. I don’t have that many friends on Facebook yet, but it’s growing daily. I can notice on tour, there’s ten more friends after every show.Oh, so is there another page, like a real profile, or do you simply have to “like” the page?Ah, no, you have to “like” the page. And that’s the kind good thing about artist pages on Facebook, that you don’t have to be “friends”, because that was the thing on Myspace. The most successful artists were the ones who had time to sit and add people. But it’s kind of nice now with Facebook, because people are coming to me, because they like me, so I know everyone who “likes” me, maybe likes at least one or two songs, I don’t know. That’s a nice thing.So you were talking about your musician friends coming to join you for the TV show. And that’s also something I wanted to talk about. Being in the crowd and seeing Friska Viljor shows, you realize that there’s a certain group of people who reappear and it’s like a collective of musicians. I don’t know all of their names, but I recognize their faces by now. So would you say that this collective of musicians is kind of like an extended family for you guys?Like an extended family... (thinks) What do you mean?Something like that these people are very important to you on the road and that you help each other out when it comes to filling in for the show, for example, and playing drums on this track for this band and playing the guitar for this other band on this album...Yeah, I think it’s a lot of musicians in Sweden playing around with each other and I think it’s really, really nice when it feels open like that. But in the end it’s also... erm... very, like, egoistic and very, how do you say, narcissist, in a way, of being an artist. But the thing with touring with these guys, it feels very free to, you know... We’ve known each other for a very long time and it feels very simple to communicate. Sometimes, when you meet a new musician that you don’t know, it feels like maths or something, that you have to tell them how to do things all the time.But, yeah, I guess it starts to be like some kind of collective going on with us, but I think a lot of musicians are open to play with each other and that’s the thing about it. It feels kind of like it could even be more that way, like in the old days. You could really see that a lot of artists actually did stuff together as well, like Dylan played with other artists or Dolly Parton, Johnny Cash, everybody came together, which is also a nice thing for the audience, I think, if they can feel like, yeah, it’s kind of easy-going, you know, not me and you as a band and that’s it.Like, my band stops here and yours starts there...Yeah. But it’s also nice to really have a band with music where everyone is really into the songs, you know, and knows what it’s about, that’s also very nice. And when it comes to Friska Viljor it’s a really, really great band to tour with, because they are really open-minded and we just, like, feel the way we’re playing and it usually works out, but... in the long run, at least when it comes to William The Contractor, I don’t know if it’s gonna be like a constellation that is always the same, or if I’m gonna change the constellation from tour to tour. Because it’s also a matter of economy, like on this tour, I couldn’t afford to bring musicians, but Thobias, who’s the bass player for Friska Viljor, is joining me for free and Martin, the sound engineer, is joining me for free, so that’s what I really appreciate about people. (laughs) Because, in a lot of businesses people say like ‘Yeah, I won’t do this without getting paid.’Sure, I mean, everybody has to live on something...Yeah, so it’s a hard one...Okay, so is there already a second album in the planning? Or are you just like ‘Let’s see what happens’ at this time?Yeah, I’m a little bit like that, because when I wrote my first songs so long ago I had this pressure of making an album out of it. But now I’m kind of happy just to do my first, real tour after my album, because I did some pre-shows for Friska Viljor before, but then I didn’t have my album out. There were actually people mad at me, I saw some comments on the net, like people going ‘Hey, you said you had an album out in two months!’ And I was like, yeah, am I going to write him a long mail about how I just had a son? You know, I had to work five days a week at my other work and I’m really fighting to get through this, you know...But right now, yeah, of course it’s my vision to make another record. But it won’t take five years. That’s for sure.

William the Contractor Interview