Though he really made himself a name with the super hit Det snurrar i min skalle a few years back, Johan T Karlsson managed to keep his musical project Familjen away from becoming a one hit wonder. Three albums later he’s now bigger than ever. We have met him.
Before Johan became synonymous with Familjen, he worked together with other musicians, recording, producing, and mixing. A dynamic he says can be exciting, but that eventually made him long for a project of his own.
– Familjen came out of a wish to do something on my own, to work more freely and independently, Johan tells us. I’ve always been interesting in working in the studio, recording and collaborating with others, but there were a lot of fighting and quarreling over ideas. There is a dynamic there that can be truly exciting, but back then I just felt misunderstood. I felt that I really needed to do something that was solely on my own terms.
– I made an EP, but realized how important it is that the music works well on stage, that it has a tempo that people can dance to. So I began altering one of the songs from the EP, which turned out to be Det snurrar i min skalle.
Det snurrar i min skalle was the song that would change everything for Johan. It wasn’t long until the song literally was on everyone’s lips and in everyone’s headphones.
– In the beginning I didn’t really get what a hit that song was. I realized it when I began playing shows outside of Sweden, and the whole concert was a preliminary to that song. It turned into a some kind of demon. It was quite hard on me, to just have this one song that everyone wanted to hear. But then I made album number two and the song Det var jag, and suddenly it was that song everyone was screaming along to. I was just like yes, I could make it twice!
With album number two, Mänskligheten, Johan proved himself to be something more than just a one hit wonder. And with the third, Allt på rött, he established himself as one of the major names in the Swedish electronic music scene. Earlier this summer he released the singel Väger ett andetag from the lastest album, together with a cover on the classic Ängeln i rummet by Eva Dahlgren. There will be a fourth album Johan says, but right now he’s waiting to be challenged.
– When you’ve been collaborating with others for a while you feel an urge to work with your own music. To be challenged. There has been a new challenge for every album, with the second one I wanted to use new kinds of sounds and loops, and the third album came out of a life crisis. A cliche, I know. I think the next one will be less introvert and more playful. But I still don’t know in wherein the challenge will lie.
With Familjen Johan has found his own niche in the Swedish electronic music scene, somewhere in between the more highbrow hose scene and what’s sometimes called big room house music
– Many musicians hate on this big room house music, like Swedish House Mafia or Avicii, think that it’s not highbrow enough, Johan says. But I’ve learned to really appreciate it. I find myself somewhere in between that scene and the more highbrow house scene, and I think that it’s great to be torn in between them. I’ve realized that the older I get, the more I have to struggle to keep an open mind, and not end up like a bitter old man, solely listening to Primal Scream and Chemical Brothers, hating everything new.
What does you writing process look like?
– I’m usually just playing with different sounds and beats, trying this and that combination, swapping things around. Sometimes I need some kind of catalyst to kick me off. It can be a remix that I’m working with or just a bass line that gets me going. Then I just dump the original song, transpose it a tone up or down, and make it my own, Johan laughs. But it can be anything that just kicks you off.
Do you believe your music has developed since you first began with Familjen?
– I think so, but I also think that it’s in some way the same. I have a kind of musical diction or palette that I return to and reuses. Then I’ve naturally picked up influences along the way. I still make dance music, one have to say.
What makes you dance yourself?
– Tricky question, Johan laughs. I really don’t know. I just feel it when I hear it. It depends on the moment.
Listen to Familjen’s latest singel Väger ett andetag and watch the video above.