Swedish formation Red Mecca was originally set up by Jan Strandqvist (music) and Frida Madeleine (vocals). Frida Madelaine left after four albums and got replaced by Susanne Jonsson. The brand-new duo first released “Truth” in 2019 and this year stroke back with the sixth album “Away” featuring eight songs and again released on Massproduktion. Red Mecca is a band mixing different influences like Electro-Pop, Indie-Pop, Shoegaze, Electro-Wave… but “Away” definitely sounds as their most accomplished work to date. I asked a few questions to Jan.
(Picture credits by Lia Jacobi / Interview courtesy by Inferno Sound Diaries)
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Q: Red Mecca has been set up for while now. What do you consider as being the major facts in the band’s history? And what have been the main points of satisfaction so far?
Jan: As from the reboot of Red Mecca in 2013, when Frida Madelaine joined in as vocalist and together we steered in a direction of, mostly mine, Post-Punk roots, we planned to have an open mind and refused to be boxed-in into a typical genre. When we released“Electricity”in 2016 and got the chance to meet up with people working with the alternative scene in Berlin and we played at Urban Spree and the day after NCN-festival, it was like an awakening. The pieces came together.
Later that year we were nominated to best Electronic act from Sweden at the Manifest Award and we won. That was of course a confirmation, which was fun and a self-confident boost. For some days. Then I was back in doubt which seems to be 90% of my waking time.
WGT 2018 was also a fucking blast! And the soundtrack sync for two episodes of “Killing Eve”with “I See Darkness In You”was of course surreal joy. “Killing Eve” was one of my favorite TV-shows beforehand and I think the composition of the scenes were quite as sublime and perfect as I wished them to be.
But, to be honest, I think the main point of satisfaction is the privilege to be able to create something that could be important to other people. In one way or another. Something that maybe can give people strength. I don´t know. I mean, music givesmecourage and strength. It´s one of the most important ways to just to feel. And to travel in your mind. With your mind.
Q: You earlier this year released your sixth album “Away”, which is the second full length together with singer Susanne Jonsson. How did the collaboration evolved from the “Truth”-album (2019) towards “Away”?
Jan: Every album is sort of an experiment and the end result is somewhat surprising every time in comparison to the naive plan you have from start. When we made “Truth”, we hadn´t got to know each other so well in a musical sense and there´s maybe a lack of a red thread. There´s less of a pronounced integrality so to speech. When working with “Away”, we were more comfortable with what we were to accomplish. We were more secure in our roles. Susanne added much atmosphere both in various vocal style and in the lyrics, which were important for the end result. We both felt what direction it should go.
Q: Tell us a bit more about the writing- and recording process of “Away”? What is this new work all about and what has been the main focus –and eventually challenge, in the accomplishment of this work?
Jan: We always begin the process with an album to paint up a rough sketch of a plan and then hopefully launch the flow-machine and then it turns out to form into something else, haha. We were in the middle of a pandemic and the Trump administration were crazier than ever and there was much fucking turmoil in the world. The state of affairs colored the work and the album, and it came to be about just that. Not as poster politics, but in a more subtle way. What was happening to our emotional life due to what was happening… sort of.
Music is, in my opinion, all about emotions and I wanted to tune in. Receive and broadcast. But it´s always a challenge to tame and harness the flow of things that wants to come out. It´s such an abstract process and hard to describe.
Me and Susanne managed to start up a new level of interaction and interplay and the goal was clearly something we both understood.
Q: I personally consider “Away” as your greatest accomplishment so far. But do you consider each new/last album as being the best one? And how do you see and consider this album in Red Mecca’s discography?
Jan: Thanks! It´s in the nature of the work process. It would be devastating, speaking for myself of course, to feel that during work, that this is not sufficiently good enough in comparison with former work and releases. I think I would consider to stop doing what I´m doing and call it a day. As an artist, I don´t know. I think all the albums we´ve done are in one way or another an exactly mirror of the music we were able to perform in that moment of time. I´ve thought a thousand times: ‘I couldn´t possible have more music left to create’, but I´ve been wrong every time.
I´m not kidding if I say that I’ve got about one thousand songs/tracks in my computer that never will be released. It´s like a surplus of composing. “Away” is a successful snapshot, if I may say and I like it a lot. But you get a healthy distance to every album after a while.
Q: You also have a new single out, “Into Prayer” featuring KMRS. Can you tell us a bit more about the song and this collaboration? And what do you think about people affirming releasing albums make no more sense since most of the people today are using streaming platforms?
Jan: I discovered KMRS by chance and liked her harsh lyrics and flow of British style Rap/spoken word and came curious if it would fit in anything. I was in the process of making “Into Prayer” and contacted her (and she really liked us) and got an acapella and it was like perfect. The only kind of Rap I like is British artists like Ghostpoet, M.I.A, Sleaford Mods and Dan Le Sac vs Scroobius Pip for an example. It´s not Hiphop you know. It´s something else. I was really into the Hiphop scene in the beginning of the 90’s. Public Enemy, Disposable Hereoes Of Hipoprisy and such.
Anyway, there´s more to come in that collaboration. Probaby a new really heavy club track 12″ stand-alone maxi for the dancefloor.
Well, I work in a vinyl record store and I was raised with LP’s, so I don´t really care about it´s not making sense. Since when did anything in life make sense? I still think albums are awesome in every way. I listen to albums all the time on streaming platforms as well. Yeah, I know, the kids just listen to fast playlists. They listen to music in a new way. Ok. Let them. But I really don´t think that albums are vanishing because of that. We still have books, don´t we?
Q: How do you see Red Mecca evolving and what are the further plans?
Jan: We´re currently in the finishing state of a double album, which will be released mid 2022 in shallah. May seem like hubris, but hopefully it´s going to be our Magnum Opus haha. Some remixes are on their way too. We´ve, however, decided to not play live until 2022. The unintentional pause of live performances 2020-21 have made us realize that we have to reboot and invent ourselves again before entering the stage. We have to come up with something new regarding stage plot and everything. We haven´t been rehearsing anything in almost a year. We’ve just been focused on composing.
And I´m an addict and alcoholic and after ten years of sobriety, I plunged myself into a relapse, mid pandemic, which almost killed me. So it´s been some time of rehabilitation and finding spirituality again, so to speak. But now I´m back on track. So we´re not going to tie us up with things feeling stressful. We have a rough plan, but we´ll leave the BIG plans just for now. But I´m getting eager to come out and play live again. That´s for sure.
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