Johan Agebjörn releases a new solo album, Notes; a dreamy, melancholic and mostly instrumental collection of songs. The music is quite different to the music he has produced earlier, both with Sally Shapiro and alone. The starting point for the album was the electric piano sound of the Casio MT­52, a cheap keyboard from the early 80s that was mostly used on an amateur level. It’s used (together with other sounds) on almost every track on the album.

Thanks to Johan Agebjörn

Thierry Jaussaud

Hello Johan. You’re back with a new album  » Notes » and we’re going to focus on the album in this interview but we need some background from you. You’ve been making music for quite a while now both as solo and with Sally Shapiro, but how did it all start?
It’s difficult to say when it started. My mum sent me to piano lessons at age five, because I played the piano in our flat a lot and she didn’t think I played it very well. When I was ten years old I discovered electronic music in the form of italo disco, and when I was fourteen I bought my first keyboard and started to make electronic music myself. In 2004 (when I was 26) I started to do that on a more serious level with the aim to release records.

When a new record comes out do you follow reactions, worry about it, stress out over it, or are you the type that once it’s out there, it’s out there, and you move on to the next thing?

I follow what happens pretty much. I don’t perform live or DJ very much, so without being in contact with listeners, blogs, record labels etc on the internet I would feel like making music in a vacuum, I think. But a few months after a record is released, I usually move on to the next thing.

Tells us about the new record. Is it a similar sound to the Sally’s last album ? Any favorite tracks on the new album?
The sound is more beatless and based on electric pianos than before. Lately I’ve felt that drums are mostly in the way, taking attention from details of the harmonies in the music, especially when there are a lot of notes. My favourite tracks on the album are The Boy Who Thought It Was A Good Idea To Cry, Malala’s Dream, On Golden Wings I Fly and It Was Never A Challenge To Love You, I think.

The Boy Who Thought It Was A Good Idea To Cry is one of my favorite song on the album, any history or story behind the name?
I heard an interview on Swedish radio with a boy, perhaps eleven years old, who said that it could be a good idea to cry when you’re sad, because you feel better afterwards. He wanted more freedom for people to express themselves regardless of rigid gender norms. When I heard it I wished that I would have been that wise when I was that young. First I sampled him on the track, but in the end I didn’t include it, because of copyright reasons, and since he spoke in Swedish and I mainly have international listeners, etc. But I still decided for that title.

Tell us some of the things – apart from music – that influenced the sound and feel of this record.
I fell in love with the electric piano sound of the Casio MT-52 a few years ago. It inspired me to start working in a different style, mostly without the kind of drum, bass and pad sounds I normally use. For some reason it turned out to be the perfect sound to express feelings I had inside me that I wanted to turn into music. There’s some kind of unintended sadness, simplicity and authenticity in that sound. Apart from that, I’m inspired by children, I think, both children around me (I’m a father of two children aged 3 and 7) and memories from my own childhood. I sampled children on a few tracks – for example a friend of my daughter is reading poetry on two tracks – and it influenced some choices of titles. I think there’s some connection between the child theme and the naivety of the Casio piano sound, the music sounds a bit childish to me sometimes.

How did growing up in Scandinavia in particular influence your approach to making music?
That’s difficult to say because I don’t have much to compare to. But there is a lot of subsidized music education for children in Sweden.

What was the music scene like there when you were younger? Were there many clubs?
I lived in a quite small city, so there weren’t many clubs. I went to a handful of rave parties but most of the time I was just a home listener. Maybe that’s why I don’t make so much music for the clubs even though I make electronic music.

What are you currently listening to?
The unreleased Aphex Twin material that was just put up on Soundcloud! Tracks like Organ, Make A Baby, Donkey Rhubarb Remix and Bimbongo. Aphex Twin has always been a big influence for me.

What are some of your favorite records of the last year?
Electric Youth Innocence. There’s an Electric Youth cover version on my new album, The Best Thing. Tommy ’86 Frequency Modulations, where I was involved as a collaborator with Sally on one track.

What are your plans for the future?
I don’t know. I’m discussing possible live gigs with a booking agency, but I have a lot going on in my life apart from music, so I’m not sure if I will perform live. And I never plan much ahead when it comes to making music. Time will tell.