26 Nov 2002

Helena Josefsson, backing singer at AGM Studios (III): Winokur's Swedish Diary (III)

Justin Winokur continues recording his first solo album at AGM Studios with Christoffer Lundquist. Remember that Helena Josefsson will take part as backing singer. He writes about Sweden and the Swedish. Really interesting.

2002.11.20 AGM - by Justin Winokur 3

Some people ask me what Swedes are like. I find that the best description is this: Imagine eight millions of blonde Swedish chefs, hurling lutefisk out the windows of their white Volvos like Nordic madmen as they drive (never faster than the speed limit) in search of pickled herring and Viking treasure. Well, not really. But, they are like that in my imagination.

I went into Sjöbo last night to find a pub so I could see some drunk Swedish teenage girls flirting with guys who were mostly preoccupied with hitting each other in the face, but I had no such luck. The pub was almost empty, except for ten youths in puffy jackets. They all looked so beautifully sculpted, but the way they held themselves made it clear that they were painfully average by Swedish standards.

Strangely, I managed to locate what I imagine to be the only Swedish youth who could not really speak any English even after 15 years of compulsory English in school. The fact that they were surely all dreadful students told a lot about their character and the character of their town. They were self-deprecating, constantly talking about how stupid they were. Many had dropped out of school. There did not seem to be the sparkle of hope in the air.

I chatted with them in my idiotic, broken Swedish and asked why there weren't any drunk people fighting or flirting. They replied in Swinglish that I was a day late. I guess Friday was the hopping night, not Saturday. The bar closed at 1 AM, only an hour after I had arrived. My new acquaintances invited me to walk with them to an afterparty at some apartment, and I was happy to have some company and conversation so I happily obliged.

At the apartment, drunk, awkward early-twenty-somethings drowned their sorrows and chatted about things which I could not hear over the unsociably loud stereo. The music sounded like Iron Maiden only a little more recent. People still listen to music like this? Niklas, the boy whose apartment it was, had a corn snake that he let me hold. I spoke a lot with a Finnish girl named Monika who reminded me that in Swedish the word for Finnish people is the same as the word for pimples. I already knew this, but was delighted that the conversation made such a turn in the right direction. Two identical twin girls sat on the couch. Monika pointed out to me that they were twins, and the twins nodded in agreement. I sympathized with them, "You must be so tired of that story, huh?" Again, they nodded in agreement, only this time a bit more enthusiastically.

One of the guys was so drunk that he started to pull down his trousers and wave his fists as he shouted the lyrics to the deafening music. It was 3 AM and I could not believe that the neighbors were not complaining. The conversations I managed to have in spite of the ear-raping metal music were not surprising, though. The boys worked in blue collar jobs such as machine shops or road repair and they all had nearly identical apartments in rectangular brick buildings. The girls did not work and all had low self esteem. Everyone's parent was an alcoholic.

I left soon because the music was too loud for conversation and I could feel the high-frequency response of my ears melting away. But, I wished that I could have spent days and days with each of them, talking with them, maybe helping to dispel some of the stupid things that they believed, such as the notion that they had no self worth or that they would never amount to anything (just like their teachers tell them). Instead I walked alone through the empty, rainy streets of a sleepy, brick-colored town that seems to barely support itself the sort of town where the population will be the same or maybe a little less in 50 years, but never, ever more. I had to find my white Volvo so I could drive back to my cottage, so I could wake up and record again today.

2002.11.20 AGM - by Justin Winokur 4

Christoffer is editing vocals for Never Go Back Again today, so I spent some time doing fun things. I drove to the grocery store in Sjöbo and bought some food, took apart my FireWire hard drive and put it back together again, and spent considerably more time than I wanted to coercing a piece of smoked salmon out from between my upper right molars. Smoked salmon is quite cheap here, so I try to eat as much of it as I can. The low price of salmon is just one of the benefits of being in Sweden.

Here is a list of the benefits of being in Sweden:
  • 1) Smoked salmon is inexpensive. (About $3 for 200 grams.)
  • 2) Nobody makes fun of me for never shaving. Many young men here appear to go months if not years without shaving.
  • 3) My skin is great here. I have not gotten a single pimple, white head, black head, or anything!
  • 4) They have a fantastic array of soft drinks which kick the ass of our soft drinks. Some of my favorites include smultron berry cider, pear cider, and a lightly spiced soda called julmust.
  • 5) Swedes are better looking in general than Americans. (Not that this comparison is saying much, as Americans tend to be pretty ugly people on a whole.) I usually think that babies are about as beautiful as H.R. Geiger's monster in Aliens, but somehow Swedish babies (and small children) seem to be very cute. They look they are all models for Scandinavian travel posters or postcards.
  • 6) The showers are almost all converted bathtubs with hoses stuck into the faucet part as an afterthought. This means that you must awkwardly crouch in a stupid bathtub and try to shower off with a clumsy hose. Perhaps because bathing is so inconvenient, it is quite accepted to not take a shower nearly as often as one does in the USA. This is possibly the best thing about being here.
  • 7) Socialized health care and nobody is homeless. I recently went three years without health care and am never more than a few weeks away from being homeless. Anyone who thinks that the USA will catch them when they fall has no idea what they are talking about.
  • 8) They have FOURPLY facial tissue. Yes, that's right. Four glorious layers of luxurious paper for snot handling. Best of all, there is a brand here called Lammbi with a picture of a sheep on it. It is so soft and luxurious, it's like smearing a sheep on your face!

Here is a list of why it is better to be in San Francisco, California, USA:
  • 1) Andie and my friends and family are there. This is the most compelling reason of all, and it is the trump card that will always bring me home. I miss my loved ones they make my life more complete.
  • 2) More than 5 hours of sunlight in the winter. Darkness is stupid.
  • 3) No matter how much gas costs, it is always less than the $4 per gallon I pay here.
  • 4) Faster internet connections DSL or cable modems in most houses in the Bay Area!
  • 5) They have better facial tissue, but our toilet paper kicks their toilet paper's ass. Their toilet paper is the color of wheat with the softness and consistency of photocopy paper.
  • 6) Dishwashers. I have never seen a dishwasher in any house or apartment in Sweden. They don't actually wash their dishes by hand, do they?
Ok, I can hear from the sounds in the studio that it is time for me to get back to recording!

Justin Winokur

23 Nov 2002

Helena Josefsson, backing singer at AGM Studios (II): Winokur's Swedish Diary (II)

Justin Winokur has begun the recordings of his first solo album at AGM Studios with Christoffer Lundquist. Read his blog! Helena Josefsson will take part as backing singer.

November 20th was the beginning of day 2 in the studio. Already we had decided upon the key of 6 songs and recorded the basic guitar tracks for No Truth Anymore, Never Go Back Again, Lullaby, and Fly Away. Lullaby was exceedingly difficult to play with a click, so Christoffer Lundquist recorded tambourine and piano tracks that I used as my tempo source instead. This allowed me to play more fluidly and without hesitation. With only a simple click there is too much pressure during the spaces between the beat divisions. Other instruments allow a more natural feel for me.

Recording the acoustic guitar tracks for No Truth Anymore was the most fun, simply because I had so many mics in front of me while Christoffer listened to find the best one. I felt like a dictator during the 1970's, preparing to give an important speech into a cloud of microphones of various shape, size, and vintage.

We ate dinner at a place in Sjöbo, the nearest town to Christoffer's town, Vallarum. With less than 10 houses, Vallarum is barely a village. At the restaurant in Sjöbo I ate something called öggakaga med skinka och lingon. Basically it was a 10 egg soufflé with landing strip sized pieces of bacon on top of it. It came with an earthenware bowl full of lingonberry sauce. At 105 kr ($10.50 USD) it was a stellar value, seeing as it was more than enough food for 3 people. How will I keep my girlish figure if I continue to eat this way?

I had really hoped to update my web site more frequently during this trip, but it is just not possible with our grueling work schedule. I wake up at 12 noon and begin recording at 12:30. We take a few short breaks for food and then finish up about 2 AM each night. I drive my own personal white Volvo the 2 km to my cottage and then crash out immediately. Next day: repeat schedule of previous day.

2002 AGM - by Justin Winokur 2

The house I sleep at is more of a cottage than a house. Actually, I wouldn't really know, since all I do there is fall into bed and sleep. You can also see the Volvo that I get to drive. This car is special because, unlike any modern Volvo in the USA, it has a manual transmission.

The rigorous schedule has payed off. We have completed all the basic tracks for six songs: bass, electric and acoustic guitars, drums, zither, and piano. This evening we finished the background vocal arrangements and recordings for Lullaby. The harmonies sounds so lush: sort of like a megapop collision between the Beach Boys and Brainpool. My brain is too tired to think anymore. Sleeping.
Justin Winokur

19 Nov 2002

Helena Josefsson, backing singer at Tambourine Studios and Gula Studion (III): Magnus Sveningsson, a righteous boy

Helena has been in the studio again. And this time with Magnus Sveningsson.

What do you get when a 'cardigan' (Magnus Sveningsson) records his first album with a 'ray wonder' (Henrik Andersson), a 'stockfinster' (Sebastian "Batti" Borg), two 'brainpool's (Jens Jansson and their producer Michael Ilbert), some "eggstones" (Patrick Barstosch and Per Sunding), some 'mopeds' (Petter Lindgard and his partner Marco Manieri) and a 'mouche' (Helena Josefsson)? A righteous boy.

Magnus Sveningsson was born April 4, 1972 in Falköping, Sweden. Sveningsson is best known as the bassist in the Swedish rock band The Cardigans.

Magnus has been recording a solo project entitled Righteous Boy with Jens Jansson (Brainpool's drummer) and Helena Josefsson (backing vocals). He writes about it in his myspace:
Hi, Why call myself 'Righteous Boy'? Isn't it a strange name for a 29 year old? Actually, I intended to call myself, 'Elephant Man', but the name was already taken, so I decided to use the name from the first track I wrote for this project: 'Righteous Boy/Righteous Girl'. It's a remarkable feeling to have made my own record and to be, at the same time, both beginner and an experienced rocker.

My background history might be well known, but I think I ought to tell it once more to be certain. In December 1998, I took time out from The Cardigans as the thought of touring for half a year or more made the decision for me. You see, at the time, I couldn't raise the energy for the traveling lifestyle during a difficult period. Of course there were many other reasons that contributed to the decision, but I don't think I should go into them here. Instead, you can read the lyrics on the album and come to your own conclusions.

Instead of touring, I began work at the Tambourine Studios here in Malmö. Without their help and support, I wouldn't be sitting here agonizing over the contents of this press release. On the other hand it can be quite a pleasant agony, which actually helps one to concentrate on being creative.

Magnus Sveningsson continues writing about his new project, Righteous boy.
In spite of The Cardigans' successes over the last few years, I felt myself drained of energy and now after a year in Tambourine's care, I realized why: I hadn't written any music at all, since the 'Last Song' on the "Emmerdale" album in 1994. I began to write and record some rough demos in my little bedroom studio during the winter of 99/00, and I found that it was really interesting to sing solo, as I had never done it before.

During the spring and summer, I started to work on improving the songs I had and got the chance to record in the Tambourine studios in the aut
umn. My friend, Sebastian, was extremely keen to help me produce the album, and so things really began to get going. During periods when the studio was free from bookings, we fitted in the recordings of 'I Feel Apart', 'Lone Among Friends' and 'Elephant Man'.

The overriding intention was to work on the project from within my circle of friends, which include many of Malmö's pop-artists. My best pal, Jens Jansson from Brainpool, agreed to play the drums, while I played the other instruments myself, except for a bit of guitar here and there that Sebastian took care of.

With fingers crossed, we waited for gaps in Tambourine's bookings calendar, while I managed to write some new tracks in preparation for recording. Sebastian became involved with another project during the autumn, so I moved the recording sessions to take place in our rehearsal room instead, which doesn't have the same pleasant atmosphere as Tambourine does! Together with Henrik Andersson from Ray Wonder, I recorded the backing tracks
to, among others, 'Love Among Friends', 'No More Love', 'I Made It Hard For You To Love Me'. Despite the fact that we had to work under quite difficult and limiting conditions, Henrik's equipment is more basic than Tambourine's, I managed to pull the project together. I believe that the album benefited from Henrik's creative input, as his musical background differs significantly from Sebastian's and mine. If you like, it might be fun to try and guess which tracks Henrik has contributed most to. We eventually managed to give the album its necessary shape and form, with thanks due to Nathan Larson, who helped me with the programming on, for example, 'Righteous Boy/Righteous Girl' and 'No More Love'. We then invited in an outside observer in the shape of Michael Ilbert, the master mixer from Gothenburg. We needed someone who would really be able come in and clean up our sound files and generally squeeze the best out of the tracks, as it's easy for one to become blind to certain details when you've been looking at something too long - like an Ice Hockey trainer can be... After the summer and autumn, the record was finalized and mixed-down, which felt really strange, perhaps, because I have dared to finally sever the safety line, and that something important and time consuming had come to fruition at last. Most of all, this feels like my rightful comeback, but to something that I never had before. The fact that The Cardigans have kept my place for me until I'm ready again, is wonderful, but I would hardly be an asset for the band if it wasn't for what I have achieved for myself over the last year. None of the other cardigans played on the album, but that is just the way things turned out. Now it is time for the release and there's no going back. All I can do now is close my eyes and hope that it goes well.

The first album of Righteous Boy will be released next Spring 2003. We are waiting for this promising work.

6 Nov 2002

Helena Josefsson, backing singer at AGM Studios (I): Winokur's Swedish Diary (I)

Vallarum, Skäne. The beautiful, peaceful countryside of southern Sweden is the home of the remote rural residential recording studio AGM, owned by Christoffer Lundquist since 1998. AGM is a fully equipped professional studio with accomodation for up to ten people. AGM is primarily an analog studio with a very large and unique collection of musical instruments, synths and amps, two live rooms, two isolation booths and two echo chambers. The digital side consists of a ProTools HD2 system (40 in/48 out). The concept of AGM is that of the classic studios of yesterday when recording studios had a soul, a sound of their own and a strong vibe.


The Aerosol Grey Machine Studio was designed by Christoffer Lundquist's wife and built in an old barn using the classic recording studios of yesterday as a model. The acoustics of the recording spaces are meant to be used and heard on the recordings and they are easily variable so you can quickly get anything from a very live woody sound to a pretty dead yet warm sound.

Justin Winokur, an American artist, is going to record at AGM Studios very soon. Helena Josefsson is said to be the backing singer. We think it is interesting to LJdM readers to read the words of Justin during the recordings. Keep reading his funny blog!

Dear beloved friends and family,

You may or may not know that I am going to Sweden next week. Now, why am I going to Sweden? The point of my trip is definitely not to have a vacation: this is a miserable and dark time of year in Scandinavia. I am going there to work on a projectwhich has been cooking in my conscious for about two years now. I am going to begin recording my first solo album. Sure, I have out some other CDs with Spitkiss, Mortal, and the Blamed. But, this one will be different.

About 12 years ago I noticed something. Even though I played in heavy / rock/ punk/ industrial bands, I always (and almost exclusively) wrote sad love songs on my guitar. Pretty much no matter what I tried to write, just about the only thing that ever came out was a sad love song. And I spent the last many years shelving these songs and trying to write in styles that worked better with whatever band I was focusing on at the time. But one day, about two years ago, it occurred to me that sad love songs were my style, and by attempting to coerce my hands and lips and mind to create otherwise I was suffocating that which I already generated naturally, without effort.

Until that moment I did not realize that those songs I wrote were actually there for a reason. There was some void in this world that they were to fill. This was hard to imagine for me, since I had never heard songs quite like mine before and so I wasn't really able to visualize a place for them in this world. Duh. Of course not. They did not exist yet, so how could I visualize their place in this world? With that realization, my goals and my life's vector changed dramatically.

I started compiling, completing, and recording demo versions of the songs that I had written during the last 12 years. I wanted to make a solo album where I sang and played the songs that meant something to me, the songs which leapt from my heart and lips no matter how hard I tried to contain them. I wanted the songs to be more than demos, though. They needed to come to some sort of fruition beyond that. I wanted them to have the indescribable quality that my favorite albums have in common. I needed to find a producer, a partner to work with who could help me to this goal. But, who? Who would help guide me and keep me from becoming myopic? Who would push me to think outside of my regular patterns? Who would sharpen me when I became dull?

Duh. Why not contact the very people who produced my favorite albums? Why not ask my musical heroes to work with me and help me to mold the songs into something that was more like my dreams than the dreams themselves? It was so simple. I don't know why I didn't think of it sooner. So I did. I called and asked. And the answer was yes. Actually, it was more than just a "Yes, we can work together." It was the biggest honor I could wrap my brain around, really. One of the people who crafts the albums which inspire me to feel alive and live fully and make music was actually telling me, "I like what you do, so you and I are going to make your art together and have some fun." I felt like I could die that day and be happy.

But, I didn't die. Instead I booked my flight to Sweden, where his studio is. Starting November 15th, I will be working with Christoffer Lundquist, the bass player of Brainpool and producer of one of my favorite albums of all times, "Stay Free" by Brainpool. We will spend 17 days in his studio to record 4-5 of the songs which will appear on my solo album. (I would have stayed long enough to do the whole record at once, but my work would not allow it.)

On top of that, he is going to play the songs with me and sing some harmonies with me. Neither of us play drums, though. But, that is not a big deal since he will get the Brainpool drummer (Jens Jansson) to play on the songs. Wow. My musical heroes. Singing and playing with me on my songs. I feel all shivery and giddy just thinking about it. If it sounds like a dream come true, that is because it is. And, I want to thank you for the support and love and friendship you have given me that has carried me to this place along my path, this roller coaster path where dreams can be a reality. I would not be able to do this without the foundation and framework that is built up from the moments I have shared with the extraordinary people this life has blessed me with. Thank you, thank you, thank you.


There is only one part of this equation that I don't have figured out. Money. Not surprisingly, I don't have enough money to pay for the producer and studio fees. I love to help and give but I hate to ask for help and feel like I don't really know how to. I think my pride prevents me. But, this is me swallowing my pride and asking. I need some help. If you can help me out financially in any way at all, whether it be $2 or $20 or $200, now is a time when I could really use it. So much love and thanks,
Justin Winokur

4 Nov 2002

Helena Josefsson, backing singer at Malmö's studios (II): The Ark - Tell me this night is over

The Ark, the Swedish glam rock band from Malmö, has unleashed a new single from their second album, "In Lust We Trust". "Tell me this night is over" features Helena Josefsson (Sandy Mouche) as background singer.