(Interview by Simon Helm / photo by Krichan Wihlborg) Sweden’s love affair with EBM goes back a long way. Bands like Pouppée Fabrikk, Container 90, Kropp, Sturm Café and Spetsnaz have carried the torch for body music for many years.
The next generation of Swedish artists influenced by the sound has included Rein, Circumpolar and Strikkland. These acts have built on the beats of their predecessors by adding elements of electronic pop.
The last of these has started to release a series of singles and an EP independently in 2020. A duo composed of Henric Ceder (keyboards and computers) and Henrik Johansson (vocals), Strikkland has combined EBM and pop influences to striking effect. They have also leveraged Johannson’s skills as a videographer to ensure that their visuals are as dramatic as their sound.
We asked Ceder to tell us about Strikkland’s work and plans in the time of corona.
SL: How did you come together as Strikkland?
S: Strikkland was started in Trollhättan, Sweden, in 2015.
Henrik and I had been friends for a long time, and we shared a passion for electronic music. We had often talked about starting a band, since he had a background as a singer in a metal band and I had been mucking about with synthesizers since the mid 1980’s. In 2015, we actually sat down to make something, and the result was “Predatorial Right.”
Unfortunately, Life™ intervened. I got divorced, moved to Gothenburg, and Predatorial Right ended up in a drawer until the summer of 2019, when it was played at a private Subkult Festival pre-party in Trollhättan.
The feedback we got was amazing, and in April 2020 it became our first single, released on all major streaming platforms. To our surprise, the single was nominated as a newcomer at the German Electronic Web Charts (GEWC.de) and aired at several Web radio stations across Europe and even in South America. That was like a vitamin injection for us that really sparked our creativity. So, here we are, seven months, three singles and one EP later.
The “Dance Like a God” video.
SL: How important is the visual element to you?
S: The visual element is pretty important. A reason for that is probably the fact that Henrik is a photographer by trade. The cover art of our releases are all photos taken by him. Our first (and, so far, only) music video (“Dance like a God”) is shot by his film production company and directed by his wife Sofie.
The obvious thing to do would be to go to a closed-down factory and take pictures in black-and-white, posing in combat boots in front of chimneys, rubble and cog wheels, and use that as cover art; but the visuals are an equally important part of our art (if we may call it art without sounding like pretentious wankers). So, we do our thing just like we do with our music.
SL: Your style is based on old school EBM, but you have acknowledged influences ranging from metal to Depeche Mode. What do you draw upon to create your music?
S: We both love old school EBM, and it has had a huge impact on us in terms of influence, but we can never become another DAF, Nitzer Ebb or Front 242, even if we wanted to. We also have to confess that we love synth-pop, lush pads and solid melodies. I mean, I grew up in the 1980’s with Human League, Depeche Mode, Ultravox, Alphaville, Yazoo and all the other great artists like Vangelis and Jarre – that was the soundtrack to my youth. So, of course, that all sits in the back of my brain when I write the music.
I also took classical piano lessons for more than a decade when I was young, so that probably has an impact, as well. I usually sit down with the intention to make a raw bassline on an analog hardware synth, but a few hours later there are pads and melodies added. That is our workflow, by the way: I write the music and Henrik writes the lyrics and does the vocals.
SL: What is next for Strikkland? There seem to be remixes on the way?
S: There is another single in the making, which will hopefully be released in November. We will also be releasing some remixes of our music that other bands are working on right now. No ETA on those yet, though. We are also working on a remix for the amazing Swedish band Octolab, and we are making a cover song for a German compilation that will be out before Xmas.
There is a small Covid-safe live performance together with our good friends Peter and Robert of Dpoint scheduled for December 18th. Hopefully, we can pull that one off, but of course nobody knows these days. Last but not least, we are looking for a label to help us to the next level – to release a full album on physical media.
SL: Are you happy with how your material has been received?
S: We are extremely happy and thankful for the amazing support and positive feedback we have received. Strikkland wouldn’t exist without it, and that is what sparks us to continue. With that said, we did expect some of the songs on the A Gift to Solitude EP to attract more streams and attention. I mean, “Kinky Sophisticated Gentleman” deserves to be a floor-filler, and “Truth Will Unfold,” where my wife Cecilia contributes with some vocals, is a pretty solid track with a 80’s vibe to it.
But, all in all, we are extremely happy with the reception of our music and we really want to thank everyone who helps making this journey possible for two fifty year olds!
Released so far…
Since you’re here … … we have a small favour to ask. More people are reading Side-Line Magazine than ever but advertising revenues across the media are falling fast. And unlike many news organisations, we haven’t put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as open as we can. So you can see why we need to ask for your help. Side-Line’s independent journalism takes a lot of time, money and hard work to produce. But we do it because we want to push the artists we like and who are equally fighting to survive. If everyone who reads our reporting, who likes it, helps fund it, our future would be much more secure. For as little as 2 US$, you can support Side-Line Magazine – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. The donations are safely powered by Paypal.