An interview with Swedish artist Johan Reinhold
Swedish singer/songwriter Johan Reinhold once had dreams of becoming a rapper and a professional skateboarder, but his heart settled on music. His Indie electro-pop sound is the product of a plethora of musical influences stretching as far as David Bowie. His new EP Shoot Me Down (The Remix EP), remixed by The Kill Van Kulls, Owsey and Frnknstyn and released on 20th January, showcases a raw side of him that has never been revealed before, proving once again that Johan Reinhold is a first class artist. His first album Beautiful Loser will be released later this year.
Beautiful Loser is your debut album but you have been around for quite some time, haven’t you?
Yes I’ve been around for a while. I played in a couple of bands. I still somehow consider this to be my debut album because it’s totally a new style and I’m writing all of the songs myself and that’s totally new for me.
Why did you want to create your own album?
I quit writing music for almost a year and I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to pick it up again. But then I re-discovered playing the guitar and started out just playing around with it again. I wrote a couple of demos and slowly but surely I found my way back into writing music and sort of fell in love with it again. I think that’s what happened and now I’m enjoying myself again and I really want to get this album out.
What did you do in your year-long break from music?
I didn’t do anything music-related. What I did was pretty much bury myself in work as a graphic designer, which is also something I love to do, and just create, making art, and so that’s what I did for the whole year.
We read that Beautiful Loser is a metaphor for you stripping off your old self. Why did you feel the need to re-invent yourself?
I don’t think it was so much that I felt the need to re-invent myself – it kind of just happened. Two or three years ago the music I was creating, I wasn’t writing it myself. I was also doing a bit of rapping and somewhere along that process I discovered the power of singing and melodies and so that’s when I started writing my own material again and found my way back to music. It was a new sound, there was no barriers; I just did whatever I wanted to do. I didn’t worry about sounds. Basically it was just a new me.
Yeah it was and it still is. It’s more or less a love song that I think so many people can connect with and relate to. You discover that someone and you start chasing that love but you don’t really feel that you connect until you feel that love back. Some days you do and then other days you feel, “Well, this girl is playing with my heart and my feelings,” and you’re not really sure if this can grow into something. You run back and forth, up and down and in and out of love, so that’s basically where it comes from.
Does this single set the tone for the rest of the album or will the other songs contain more uplifting messages?
Yeah, there will be uplifting songs as well. Most of the songs will be more up-tempo than Shoot Me Down. Shoot Me Down though is so far the only song that is recorded with the 80s-style guitar riffs. My album stands somewhere in that ballpark but it is more piano-based and has more electronic elements rather than the rock-and-roll riffs.
You were nominated for the Swedish Grammy Award in 2009 in the soul, dance and hip hop category. Tell us more about your Hip Hop past?
Ten years ago or so I really wanted to be the greatest rapper alive, and that’s what I strived to achieve for a couple of years and pretty much hung up the guitar. I was going to be this awesome rapper but I guess I wasn’t too good at it, and so I discovered singing and writing songs again – so here we are now, no more ambitions of being the greatest rapper alive now. I just want to write some cool songs and hopefully there are some people out there who will enjoy it too.
Your musical influences include Daft Punk and Gorillaz. Why is their music is so appealing to you?
I guess I enjoy Daft Punk very much because they’re really out there. They have so many classic songs that they’ve created out of all of these really cool sounds, mostly analogue synthesizers. Their sound is so futuristic even though it’s old keyboards and synthesizers and I love that. Gorillaz I guess I’m inspired by their melodic stuff. My inspiration comes from little bits and pieces from here and there.
Who else are you influenced by?
Well, believe it or not one of my greatest inspirations ever is David Bowie. I don’t think you can tell from listening to my music at all but I love the work he’s done. He’s a great inspiration. Also Wilco, I really love Wilco… and that’s another band you probably wouldn’t associate with my work but still it would be that one melody or so that I fall in love with that inspires me to do something of my own. So I don’t think that it’s that I’m inspired by a certain sound, or a certain band; just when I hear something I love – it can be rock, it can be electro, or house music – I try to incorporate that and transform it into something that is my own, that can stand on its own two feet. I don’t want to copy anything or sound like someone else.
Do you listen to any UK artists at the moment?
Yes, of course: I listen to Gorillaz, lately I’ve been listening to Marina and the Diamonds. There’s one particular current artist I love – I think he’s working on a new album now – it’s Mr Hudson. A new artist I admire is called Michael Kiwanuka. He was number one on the BBC’s ones to watch for 2012. His sound is 60s, 70s and it sounds so authentic and he’s making it today. I don’t know how he does it but it’s absolutely awesome!
Would you consider collaborating with any UK artists or producers in the future?
I’d love to work with the producer Star Slinger, he’s awesome. Mark Ronson is the main man I’d love to work with. I’d love to work with a lot of different people and just explore what can be created out of nothing, so to speak.
Has music always been a big part of your life or did you have another dream?
Yeah, when I was young, I dreamt of becoming a professional skateboarder. That was all I did back then, it was all I wanted to do, but when I discovered music I slowly drifted towards it and gradually left skateboarding. I still love skateboarding but now I’m too old and too much of a chicken to do it and you’ve got to have guts if you want to be good at it. Now I just enjoy spectating.
When will your album Beautiful Loser be released?
There is no specific date of release but I’m hoping it will get out this year, maybe September/October. Nothing is set in stone yet, we don’t have a specific date. Right now we’re just focusing on the songs. I think we’re going to release a new EP just before the summer and hopefully we’ll follow up with the album sometime in September.
Photos: Courtesy of Johan Reinhold
Johan Reinhold’s Shoot Me Down (The Remix EP) was released on 20th January and is available for free on his website.
Listen to the EP on Soundcloud here.