Det Stora Monstret

We caught up with Swedish musician Det Stora Monstret to talk about his debut album, his view on freedom, and what he thinks that every musician should strive to accomplish with their music.

Jacob Johansson, a Gothenburg born personal assistant and musician, recently made his debut as Det Stora Monstret with a self-titled debut album. When we call him up, Jacob explains that the album is a post-construction, and that it initially wasn’t meant to be released. He describes his music as a combination of a birthday party and a funeral, and says that the contrast between the soft music and the heavy, emotional lyrics really speaks to him.

Jacob’s interest in writing music evolved after listening to a cassette tape by Bob Marley and the Wailers. Born into a music family, it was a natural step for him to start using music as a way to express himself artistically. Later on, his interest in music would bring him to the Gothenburg Academy of Music and Drama, where he went from playing in various bands to devoting his time and focus to his own music making.

Can you tell us a little bit about the process behind Det Stora Monstret?
– I didn’t have a certain concept in mind when I started, where you actively decide to write these and these lyrics. Instead, I focused on what felt right at the moment. I never knew how a song would turn out; I just sat down with all this aching in my chest, both positive and negative, and tried to open up my creativity.

A concert with Det Stora Monstret
is really not about me. It’s about
the people in the room

He explains that the whole writing process was like an explosion, and that the hard work began when he first realised that he had enough material for an album. Still, he says that he was hesitant about releasing his work.

– If I am to take up people’s time with my music, it’s important that it comes from the heart. There is so much out there already, so I felt that it was important for my work to be worth considering.

What is Det Stora Monstret to you?
– The name comes from the songs, since the expression popped up at a lot of places in my lyrics. It’s a colouring word, a metaphor.

– I don’t want to force my opinion on anybody, and mess up people’s fantasy. The lyrics are hands on and straightforward. I think it’s important that people can apply the lyrics to their own life in whatever way they want. I have a clear vision about the name, but since it can mean a lot of different things it feels dumb to try to simplify the meaning of it.

How was it to work with both Christoffer Berg and Filip Leyman as producers?
– Christoffer and I don’t have a history, but he listened to a few of my songs and liked it. He has done both the synchronisation and the production, and then I have done the rest of the work with Filip.

– It felt really nice to record both the vocals and the guitar by myself, without being really self-conscious, and then meet up with the others to work on it later on.

Jacob says that it doesn’t matter that both producers are big names in the industry, but that he’s grateful for their skills and knowledge.

– They are extremely good at what they do, and I feel privileged to work with people with such talent. That also includes all the musicians I’m working with, such as Albert af Ekenstam who plays the guitar.

In your song Manifest, you sing that ‘it is hard to be free with a monster inside of you’. What does freedom mean to you?
– That’s a very big question. It could be a lot of things. It all depends on the references you have to that word. For some people it means love, for others desire, or dedication, or maybe God. It all depends on what kind of relation you have to that word and to the language.

It’s like a passage to something far from the cold shells of machinery that surround us

Like some of the earlier questions, Jacob is very careful about not revealing to many details about his own thoughts. He says that this is the kind of reaction that he strives to evoke in people when they listen to his music; that the music should work as a trigger to make the listener think and reflect. Something that he means every musician should strive to fulfil.

– A concert with Det Stora Monstret is really not about me. It’s about the people in the room.

How does your work as a personal assistant affect you and your music?
– I think of it like the string tied to a balloon at a fair. It keeps me on the ground. Working with art and music is really abstract, so it’s nice to have something concrete to do, where you’re also helping someone. And well, you got to eat, too.

How would you feel about being able to solely subsist on your music?
– I’m going to be honest. It would be fantastic to just dive into it for a period of time, but I don’t think that I would want to do it exclusively. We’ll see. At the moment, it’s more about a realistic point of view, to make the economic conditions break even, including tour costs and rent for the musicians. I don’t dream about luxury, I just think it would be cool to be able to live off my music from time to time.

How would you explain your relation to music?
– It’s like a window to a warmer place, a realm. It’s like a passage to something far from the cold shells of machinery that surround us.

 Listen to Det Stora Monstret’s debut album here.