Zeon Light Casette is run by Joakim Granlund and is a tape-label originating from the wilderness of Växjö. In other words, this is another one of those Swedish labels. This interview is done in English so more people can understand what it’s all about. I hope you enjoy this interview, where I’ve asked him about the origins of his solo-project Folkmun, about the artists and bands currently signed to Zeon Light, where he draws his inspiration and creativity from, what’s happening in the near future and much more. He’s also lent me a song that’s been exclusively released just in time for this interview called Folkmun – Klyvs Af Hettan, so make sure you find it at the bottom of this page, but read the whole interview first!
Why did you choose the name Folkmun? Could you tell me anything about your musical history? Have you played in any band prior to Folkmun and when did your musical career first start out?
- One may well wonder. I’ve had so many different names in different projects but wanted something Swedish. Really fucking super Swedish. And I had used Folkmunnen as the user in slightly different places and I liked it. And at the same time, David Vikgren, one of my favorite Swedish poets, released his book Folkmun. Then it just felt so perfect.
My musical history goes pretty far back. Right back to the mid 80’s. I think I was 13-14 years old when I played in my first band. We tried to play synth in the vein of DAF, Soft Cell and Depeche Mode. We were no masters but it was fun to play and it was a nice feeling that you were somebody. A few years later, I was more into industrial and severely influenced by the band that played on angle grinders, sheet metal and other stuff. So I locked myself in our basement and turned on everything I could find and dropped it on cassette. A damn fun time where you had contact with people around the world by mail.
It was an extremely vibrant scene and I loved to empty the mailbox. Almost every day there were a letter, a cassette, a fanzine, or anything else. A few years went by and I met new people and started listening to metal. We heard the Swedes Filthy Christians and had to start our own band in the same spirit. It became Misery which recorded a demo in the woods somewhere. It sounded terrible enough, but something had happened in our world. We started listening to more thrash and death and had several changes of band name that was really important at that time. How many bands have not started out that just got a name but nothing else? But, finally, we were Leukemia and decided we had to record a demo and in 1991 there were just one place to record a thrash/death demo: Studio Sunlight, Stockholm. We booked time with Tomas Skogsberg and recorded the demo Innocense Is Bliss, which I still listen to with happy ears.
Really like it was sticking out from the rest even then. This meant we had to drop an album on the legendary Black Mark. The record was Suck My Heaven and was a disaster (then). The sound was quite different when we had to work with none other than Thomas, but we loved it then. We invited guests from the Grave, Entombed, Rosicrucian, Divine Sin and Mastication, and there was a record that none of us loved. Well, we liked it for a year or so but… UNTIL NOW!
When I listen to it today, I love it. Suck My Heaven got its own attitude. Both sonically and musically. The Swedish death metal bands really sounded the same back then. I loved it, but originally it was unlikely that either was not intended. We wanted to sound the same but we could not. We recorded a new album, Grey-Flannel Souled. Got videos played on ZTV and we probably thought we were damn good but the album is not good at all. In 1994 we went to the mastermind Dan Swanö to record the album Love. The best experience I’ve had musically. Kenth (aka Lord K, Torture Division, Project Hate blablabla) wrote that kind of incredible riffs and built up songs like no other. We searched for a new record company but had no luck. I moved and the band became extinct. The album was not going anywhere until this year, 2012, when Dutch label Vic Records made a great move by releasing it and it’s still so damn good. I’m very glad I got to be featured on such a lovely album.
We continued to play a bit under the name Toolshed where Jörgen from the Grave, Entombed was included. It was probably more a drinking booze and having fun kind of thing, than doing something serious. After that I stopped doing music for many years. I’ve never played, but taken care of the microphone, so I did not know how you did it and did not believe that I could. But around 2005-2006, I had a college friend, Jonas, who was involved with music in his dorm room and it was some really good stuff and I also loved to make something of my own. I got a synth, a guitar and started playing in a small scale under the moniker Soaring Skylark.
This then led on to Aalto that was a bit more ambient. But I wanted to change the name again, and it became Urberget and I released a few cassettes of the imprint Ingen Våg. The music was a mix of everything. I had played before with no vocals but now I tried to sing and it turned out fine. Tried with extreme falsetto, but I wanted to move on again and Alan Hansen (named after the old center-back in Liverpool) was born. I wanted to play synthetic as they did it in the 70s with greasy arpsynths and a fluffy sound. So I released a few cassettes, but felt somewhat tied to Alan Hansen, but then came Folkmun as a rescue!
Could you explain for my readers what Folkmun essentially means? Both personally and the standard definition?
- I cut this from a Wiki! Hehe: Folkmun used in the term “locally” is an idiomatic expressions in Swedish. If one thing or person named something “in the vernacular (I Folkmun)” means that this is what normal people call the thing or person. Does this makes sense?
Where do you sell most of your stuff from the Zeon Light label? What country seems to be most fond of tape releases?
- So, I’ve been too lazy and haven’t really struggled to reach out beyond Sweden’s borders. But it falls inside orders from different countries. Portugal, Greece, USA, France, Poland, etc. A thing that’s nice is that record stores from France and Japan buys the cassettes to their stores. Otherwise, Sweden is superior in sales but I hope to change that!
It seems like you’re also the man that runs the label Zeon Light. Could you tell me more about the history of it? Why did you choose to strictly release tapes? What is the main convenience in releasing tapes instead of CDs or vinyl?
- Yes, I am also Mr. Zeon Light. There are several reasons why I chose to use Zeon Light as a cassette label. First and foremost is the availability, I think. That I in a few days can get tapes from England, and a week later, the release is out on the market. And it is equally important, the fact that I can get out music in a quick way and that it’s not dependent on anyone else in the process. It’s only I who can delay a release as long as I get the cassettes in the mail. I still have plans to release music on vinyl because I love that format but it requires more money and generally a larger apparatus to get it all to work in a good way. And it will also mean that I can not drop the music at the same rate as I have been, which is a bit sad. Because I think it’s such very, very fine music that not only have to be on mp3 blogs, but are worth a gorgeous cover, something to hold on to – the physical copy.
Why have so many acts chosen to have their material released on Zeon Light? What makes your label so unique?
- Good question. I think they know that I really like what they do. And it’s an easy way for them to get their music quickly. Almost everyone I’ve asked have been interested of releasing on Zeon Light. And now I’ve received inquiries from acts that I really like myself. So I do not even have to chase what I love which is such a amazing feeling. But I can´t see what´s unique with Zeon Light. I just think I´m a nice dude wanting to put out some great music.
The covers for the different releases seem as psychedelic as they are urban, where can the general aesthetic influence be found?
- Thoughts on the artwork are different. Some of the bands have chosen to make their own cover, but most of them have given me a free hand to fix the graphics. I, myself have done a couple of covers, but the one that might have created the Zeon Light-feeling when it comes to artwork is Andreas Frisk who made several of the covers and he makes them so damn nice. He has made the NIGHT, Oliwa, Alan Hansen, Timeless and Bird Paradigma-covers and he never disappoints me. He works with graphic design and he has an eye for how it should look. People have said: you can see that it’s an Zeon Light cover, which is fun when it’s still several people who made the covers. But yes, maybe there is a certain feeling in the Zeon Light artwork but I find it hard to pinpoint what that would be.
What would you recommend if anyone decides to visit the city of Växjö? Are there any good restaurants or bars around? Where do you usually hang out?
- Växjö is a quiet town. I conduct myself in a limited area. I drink good coffee at Gusto. If I’d want to drink beer and eat good food, l´ll go to Kafé De Luxe / Gräddhyllan, which is run by some good friends of mine. A place that is quite unique in its appearance and in their attitude on how to run a restaurant. It’s a very nice place everyone should visit, if you’re around. We have finally got an Indian restaurant which I haven´t had the time to try yet but everyone says it’s totally great so I hope it is. If you want music and theater, Växjö is a pretty bad town. It is a city of guitar-loving people. And by that I mean guitar-lovers as in 80’s heavy metal. Not my thing.
Where do you normally find your inspiration for the tracks you make? Also, what would be the main musical influences for Folkmun?
- I do not get that inspiried I think. When I got time I sit down and make some tunes. As a family father you must hold onto time and I don´t have time to get inspired. The thing about influence is always difficult. I hope and believe that I am with Folkmun is headed for what I looked for a long time. Combining rhythms with synth-ical tones and a kind of filthiness I never made use of before. I could be influenced by almost everything. The good part is that I really can not play particularly well, so whatever I get inspired by is the sounds and I’m not the same because I do not know what to do. I think this can be created for any individual and become unique.
Purely musical influences I have, otherwise in abundance: Tangerine Dream, Burial, Chicagojazzen, Neu, Skeppet, Hills, Hüsker Dü, The Smiths, John Maus, Lars Gullin, Burzum, DAF, Karelia, Islaja, Sagor & Swing, Testbild!, Adrian Lux, Hans Appelqvist, Pluxus, Alkberg, Scuba, Shogun Kunitoki, old Turkish music, record companies like Honest Jon’s & Finders Keepers, Fläsket Brinner, International Harvester, Vote Dukakis, Vangelis, Sacred Reich, Paul Simon, G-Anx, Fleetwood Mac, Miljoner Döda, Erik Enocksson, Prince, Anders F Rönnblom, Death, Benga, Sand Circles, Maher Shalal Haz Baz, Embassy, Bo Hansson, Dolphins Into The Future, Claudio Rocchi, Julia Holter, Peverelist, Tape, Sun Araw, Hot Chip, Beloved, bob hund, Library Music, JD Emmanuel, Joy Orbison, Ducktails, Erkin Koray, Absurd, Isan, Swalastog, Jeans Wilder, Paavoharju, Luva, Prins Thomas, Kraftwerk, Conny Plank, Dan Lissvik, VED … well, I could go on forever.
Could you tell me a little bit about your releases? How much material have you written and what are you going to release in the near future?
- Folkmun is pretty fresh and I’ve actually just released one cassette, Weckoskildringar (c35) and a split cassette with my friend Solo Archivist. I have a lot of loose pieces lying around that aren’t completed. One idea is doing a cassette where I’d want vocals by Mia Voltag (who released an excellent tape for Zeon Light that no one should have missed). Her voice is unique and I would be extremely happy if it came to be. She has accepted that it is I, who must put together songs that work for her voice. And, I really would like to release a vinyl in any way. Maybe a split. I’m not sure, but I believe in Folkmun!
Why did you choose to focus mainly on ambient and not any other genre? What do you think ambient gives you that no other genre could?
- I grew up with fat synths and fluffy sounds. The first albums I ever bought, were by Tangerine Dream, Jarre and Kraftwerk, and it was never lost in my world. I just love the ambient atmosphere. Many may say that it all sounds the same and it’s so easy to create ambient music and well, many can do it but when it’s good, it’s so damn lovely and not much can beat the feeling of some tasty ambient! Just such a thing as: we can talk about the weather as ambient. It’s totally great! And it is possible to combine the fat synths in other genres, which I think is inspiring the creative process.
Your music sounds like a mix between ambient and lo-fi, what would you categorize yourself as? Or do you like avoid categorizations?
- I really have nothing against placing the music in this field but I think it’s damn hard to do it and to make it fair. I really have no idea where to place Folkmun musically. Sure, it’s lo-fi, sure, it’s ambient, but it says nothing about how it sounds, or does it? You’ve got to hear the music to be able to create your own world and words are just words.
What would you say is the satisfaction of running your own label? Do you have any DIY-tips for anyone that wants to try it out themselves?
- There is such a feeling of total abuse of power! I can do what I want with the music I love and if others like what I do, I’m very damned happy. I am as delighted as the artist when someone writes something good about them. Like when NATTEN was played at P3. I was proud that you, in a simple way, can reach out in this commercial industry. The fact that P3 is shitty is another story.
For those of you who feel you want to make something of your own, just do it! Do not think so much. Would you be releasing a zine, write a book, cassettes, for all I know: just do it. That’s all I can think and say.
Could you tell me a little bit about the acts you have signed on your label? Which one of them do you like the most and what was the reason for signing them?
- Wow, tough question. I really like all the emissions in different ways. First, how they come by, how the covers match the music, how music emerges. Right now I’m listening a lot to Fluorescent Heights, which is so extremely well made. He released a vinyl that is great but I really like cassettes better. Also, I think Oliwas latest tape Rituals is extremely good. Ambient in a unique way.
Zeon Light have a bunch of new tapes on it´s way and I think it´s going to be terribly good. It’s mostly Swedish artists, but also two Americans are in it; Arc Light and Robert Anton Pizza. I think the Arc Light tape will be something extraordinary. Aother released planned is Chicagojazzen, which I think is one of Swedens finest orchestras. So it’s lots of fun that he wants to release a cassette of ZL. We have Erik De Vahl whom for years have been one of my great heroes. He has been able to break through, but continues to release limited edition CD-releases, and when I asked him if he was interested, he said that he would just release a CD. But later on, I received an email where he said he was eager to release a cassette and it feels incredibly great. Same thing with Markus Hulthén which at first was hesitant, but then got in touch and wanted to do a cassette.
This summer, I’ve received e-mails from Pär Thörn and Diskoteket who both want to do stuff with Zeon Light and it’s also fun for the people that I know a lot of respect for and that they have found their way to Zeon Light means a lot. Poet Leif Holmstrand releases a double cassette with sounds from his kitchen! Tsukimono is another guy I have long thought about and he answered really fast and wanted to release something. NATTEN will release a vinyl later this summer but wants Zeon Light to be a part of the future. And on the cassette you can find a exclusive song not included on the vinyl. Also great fun. This sounds ridiculous but another old hero is Paddington DC and he will also release a tape this fall. Named Unit. (Do not miss his last cassette on Periferin named Unite.) It’s sick when you think about it. And a guy who calls himself Fastlandet (who is a friend of Fluorescent Heights) will release a cassette that is more of noisy characteristics. I really like the mix of bands and artists that I’ve gotten to Zeon Light.
Which release do you like the most, if you had to choose one of your own? And which tracks would then be your favorite ones?
- As I said earlier, I really love Fluorescent Heights. Mia Voltag have got some amazing tunes. So does Tidlös – Tid och position. Mascara Snake will last forever with his acoustic guitar. So, I can not answer that really, I think. Haha. All releases have got something I love and it feels so damn good. There is no release that I dislike in any way. Each have their natural place in my heart! Amen.
Have you been playing live anywhere in Sweden or elsewhere? If so, what would you recall to be your favorite moment and venue when performing live?
- No, but I sometimes think that I should but we´ll see what´ll happen. Mr Daun in Malmö thinks that Folkmun/Alan Hansen should come and play but I´m so shy.
Could you recommend any artists or bands that you like very much? Also, what other record labels do you prefer?
- I mentioned some bands earlier in this interview and that hasn´t changed! Some labels that I adore is Kosmisk Väg, Periferin, Hyperdub, Finders Keepers, Häpna, Honest Jon´s, Not Not Fun, Sic Sic Tapes, Irrlicht, Fonal, Kning Disk, Service, Sincerely Yours to mention a few.
What is your set-up when you record music, what gear do you have? Also, what would be the first thing you do when you decide it’s time to record new material? What do you generally start to record?
- Well, I use a bad guitar. A bad speaker, a bad synth and some apps for iPad. And I record it in a bad computer. I have no way that I always work after. Sometimes I start with a bass drum, another song can start with a synth riff.
What would be your opinion amidst the mainstream vs. underground debacle? It’s been going on for quite a while, so it would be interesting to read your opinion?
- Well, I´m not much for the mainstream I guess. I find it hard to find interesting stuff in the mainstream era. But just being underground doesn´t mean I love it even though I love people that keep on doing their thing without thinking about selling stuff and earning lots of money. I think money often ruins the creativity. Not always but often. Also, a big fat studio can destroy some good music. You could say that I like it rough.
One thing I hate about the mainstream is that it makes people so fuckin’ lazy. They stop searching for new things and I think that’s kind of sad. They miss out on so much in their life by listening to the mainstream crap, I think.
Also – what do you think about the current state of the music industry? In what way does it affect you nowadays?
- There is so much incredible music out there to find. And the industry will always be an industry, but with services like Spotify, others will be working even more with their music and creating their own paths to reach out with it. You always have to work against something although I can see Spotify as a good thing, to some extent. But it’s the same there, it’s those who must make money from their music that get angry when it does not work properly.
So – have you gathered any words of wisdom throughout the years? If so, what would be your words of wisdom?
- Haha, my words of wisdom: create.
What band do you think I should interview next and what would you want me to ask them?
- Chicagojazzen. Ask him how it feels to be a genious!
Listen to the song Klyvs Af Hettan which is being released exclusively for this interview:
You can also find the label over here: