Sweden’s Skitsystem initially started out as a side-project for members of At The Gates to indulge their d-beat fantasies, but the band has since blossomed into a highly respected act in their own right, and are often cited as one of the leaders of the incredibly vibrant Swedish hardcore scene. M3 spoke to guitarist and vocalist Fred Wallenberg about touring, the flaws of the music industry and their upcoming album for Southern Lord Records…
M3 – First of all, could you tell us a bit about yourself, and what it is that you do?
Fred – I’m the guitar player and vocalist in the band and as of today I am also the only former member of the band. Im reaching my 39th year in life so I guess I’ve done this for a while now! ;)
What inspired you to form Skitsystem? What are your own musical backgrounds?
Well, back when the band started I had just moved to Gothenburg. It was a growing activity to say the least! I had been in several death metal and punk bands in my hometown Uppsala, outside Stockholm. So, oldtime friend Tomas “Tompa” Lindberg of AT THE GATES asked me to join in on guitar in his new punk band, sideproject to AT THE GATES. Back then, I had just gone out of the “biggest” bands for me, SARCASM (melodic dark metal) and I was pretty fed up with the whole situation so I got really happy to be with friends in my new hometown, just drinking beer and having a good time. So, metalheads doing d-beat songs?! Well, the rest is history I guess.
What would be your preferred medium to listen to music (eg. Vinyl, CD, tape, MP3 etc.), and why?
Until 2008 I was an DIEHARD vinyl collector, I had 1200 LPs myself, and my wife closed the collection at 1700 with her share. I was desperately looking for albums I didn’t have and at a certain point I discovered that that to fulfill this collection I needed to come up with a ridiculous amount of cash at the end, so I decided to (!) sell the complete collection. So, I went to CD instead, I have still angst when thinking of the LPs, I sooo much loved the process of having a new album: peeling off the plastic cover, smelling the fresh vinyl, looking at the insert, hearing that first song, wow… Nowdays, I’m like the rest of the growing mass of Spotify users, as well as MP3 as well. Still LP would be my No 1 choice!
Do you feel the idea of an album, as a piece of art that people will listen to from start to finish, has been undermined or forgotten about in the digital age?
Hell yes! Like I mentioned aove, the whole process of seeing an album as a creative artform even when it comes to the listener has vanished into ones and zeroes ;) Today people demand you also have to have a webpage, Myspace, what the fuck ever to get ahold of your lyrics etc . To me that’s totally stiff man! The whole meaning of the concept is lost in the digital format, or at least as it is presented today! I could easily ask for lot more info even in CDs today, like OSD (on screen display) for TV sets if your CD player could present that, with band bio, lyrics, and other info as well as videos or what else.
Many people have claimed that there is no longer any money in record sales, and that touring is the most efficient way to earn an income as a band. How much truth do you think there is in this sentiment?
About as true as it gets ;) As mentioned before, the Spotify streaming services as well as other actors in that branch have turned back the clock to the 50’s when talking about money!!!! LADY GAGA can make some cash most likely (85$ for 3 million plays), still the foundeer of Spotify made it to FORBES top ten in England with an estimated saving/earning from that service worth of 2 Billion … ok, wheres MY share ? ;) This is how the contracts were given to the black musicians in the US early 50’s right? WHY should media moguls earn the artists money? That was NOT the purpose of filesharing etc.
So still you need to connect to the DIY way of making things otherwise someone else is stealing your belongings… About touring, this has also become much harder to earn out of as more and more bands find themselves needing to get something back. And as long as you’re cut back from record sales you need to tour more, still the audience can’t keep up with the increasing availibility of the bands in some ways. I’m quite double to this, as we have ALWAYS (after some months after relaese) put all of our songs on our (nowdays not working) webpage for FREE download. Still most fans want the real deal and buy the LP/CD at the shows.
Do you think the internet has made it easier to adhere to the DIY ethos? If so, do you think this will enable the DIY approach to flourish even further, or do you think it could harm it through an oversaturation of bands?
I think it will consist to a certain level, still you need to come up with some quality as well to maintain the intrest. The flooding of new bands can’t keep on coming, soon we’ll run out of new band names anyway hahahaha!
Do you think traditional copyright laws are still enforceable in the digital age, or do you think we will have to rethink the concept of copyright itself?
It’s an intresting age we’re living in right now, time will tell. I have no real ideas. I think this: IF people could at least give up the idea of copying merchandise bands would be more eager to provide the rest. Today the whole idea is built around having the whole deal for free, still: who wants to get up for work if the boss does not pay you at the end of the shift? I know that I’m not pretty intrested… So, what happens if I make my own Volvo car? Nothing. What happens if I sell it? A lot… I think most artists today are beyond help as most companies DON’T sue anyone (yet) etc.
What is your take on the recent SOPA/ACTA controversy?
Probably just a storm in a glass of water… I think nothing will come out of it. You need to RE-THINK the strategy. Today, the biggest screamers are those who already have billions of fucking money and they want more! The greed in the industry is what made shit happen right? If you dont pay more than a dollar more above where ends meet for a CD it doesn’t have to cost (as in Sweden) 18€, thats a fucking shame. Lower the cost, lower the income for executives and make the payments to ALL artists, not only Madonna, U2 etc. Same within the fake brand stores in China, it’s a second class market for the poor, the rich has the cash, still they complain?! Why? Divide the wealth then?! Then all can buy what they want, right?!
Do you feel that music is still capable of bringing about change or influencing political decisions?
I think the filesharing movement can make an political impact actually. Artists who release their stuff on Piratebay for example, as a promotional download, will gain much more attention than Lars Ulrich screaming about loss of income. Respect, non-profit, modern bands WILL do this and find other ways of income. Things that CAN’T be copies, like screenprinted tour posters sold at shows for 10$ is more common, then they divide the profit w/ the painter/printer dude etc. There is a world of opportunities I think, we just need to re-think the way the industry works. Today, still, the greedy bosses take it all….
What would you say are the main challenges facing an up-and-coming musician/band in today’s cultural climate?
Well, first off: finding record deals will be really hard! There are 1000 bands better and more hungry than your band, so you need to be on top of that. Also, shows. Today you need to make yourself a name, and getting on the bill can be really hard. Hard hard work will get you there eventually, just stick to the plan! And, most valuable: get ready for being ripped off at all times possible! Instead of getting a manager, hang out w/ the biggest dude in town and bring him on tour! Youll be surprised of the power of big dudes talking w/ the organizers….
Finally, what does the future hold for Skitsystem?
We will record the new album, tentatively named FRIHETENS DÖENDE SOL (THE DYING SUN OF LIERTY) for the US label SOUTHERN LORD RECORDS this fall, the first for this label. Hopefully the promotors will bring us out on the roads again if theres any demand for it! So, right now, the future looks bright (even though our SUN OF LIBERTY is dying ;) )
For more information about Skitsystem, you can find the band on Facebook.