A chat with Fever Ray

von Moritz Stellmacher

The first question is about the lyrics. I read that you often write your lyrics in a unconscious state, a daydreaming mood.

I think it was a lot when I was so tired. I think when you don‘t sleep at night, the days become very strange. And you don‘t know if you are awake or asleep its something between. I think a lot of the lyrics and music happen during that kind of a time.

You know the artist Francis Bacon did a lot in this kind of state. But he said, you need to have the experience, the technique before being able to create in this state. I was wondering if you have to read a lot, like lyrics and poems, to develop this or is it just like a dream-diary?

I think I mostly watch film, that‘s what I do. When I doing music and writing lyrics. I started to read much more now. I have kids too. A long time I didn‘t had time to read or listen to music. But I think I come back to reading. That‘s very nice. But all that more after this album. I think during and making an album process I don‘t read or listen to much.

But is it in this mood? Is it, that you do not think about it so much when you write?

No. No. I think about it. I try to use the brain as much as it works. To come back to Francis Bacon, he was painting first, than he checked what is good and what is not. The thinking process came after the creating process. Yea, that could be. That sounds like. Often you start to write something and afterwards you try to get it more structured – more clear. Like finding the right words.

Do you focus more on the meaning or more on the sound of the words?

Its, both. But I think meaning become more important than it was before. But it is also important that it fit into the music.

So you have the beats before the lyrics ?

Lyrics is what I do last. I work with the vocals before I start to write lyrics. Trying to find the right kind of vocal. How to use it – scream or shouting, whispering, like also the pitch which character I suppose to play. When this if finished I start with the lyrics.

I also read that you think of your voice as an instrument. Many people in the USA use auto-tune, this software plug- in. It makes everything very melodic. There is a experiment with a baby scream and it still sounds melodic. But I like in your experiments that they do not sound so artificial. I think it is more androgen, not really human but its still organic. Was there a plan behind using it, or did you just found the sound interesting?

I think I‘ve been using this sound-pitch, gender-pitch for such a long time so I don‘t know. But if you still have an idea about the song and the feeling of the track it sometimes becomes much more clear and much better, I do it with a low pitched voice or very high pitched voice, the right voice character for each track.

With The Knife your music was more powerful. Now, your music has become a bit more minimal, I think.

It is? Do you think so?


OK. I don‘t think minimal. Its slower, I know. But its so hard to compare. I don‘t listen to The Knife music so much. I‘m very bad at genres.

Not genre, just the form.

I do as few different sounds as possible.

That‘s a bit minimal isn‘t it?

Than I put so many other things on top of it.

Like effects?

Effects and vocals, and synths, and base and stuff.

You do the structure all by yourself?

Yes. When I do beats. I like it when it‘s very clear in my computer. Not so many tracks. So that‘s a big difference from me and my brother. When my brother is doing music it‘s more like samba, salsa.

You also put on your performance a lot of theatre elementsI like this, really, there is this trend, coming back to unreproductive media. A lot of people are going to theatres again . They want to experience more. Something a film can‘t show.What was your idea behind the performance?

I mean first I work with Andreas Nilsson for the video. He did the „If I had a heart“ video. He also did the visual and scenography for the live show. Lights, lasers, costumes, masks… I think both – him and me – I have known him for a very long time. I think both of us really want to experiment and go really into what you can do on stage. How you can develop and work with the concert. The idea of a concert and that is very interesting I think. You really have the possibilities. You have the audience, you have the stage – I have a band now. And we can do anything we feel like. I think it‘s, for us its just necessary to take care of all elements you can use on the stage. I think that‘s very fun.

But the audio part is still on the focus?

I guess it depends how you see it as the audience. I think we use visual part to effect the audio. Its so interesting how you listen to the music when you see different things. I think when you are at home with your mp3 player or CD, then you have your own images. When you come to the concert, you have ours! Its very important, that‘s not black and white, not so strict. There must be room for you as an audience, that you have your own experience. I think that‘s what we try to do. I mean, it took for The Knife seven years to go on stage. My experience of going to concerts, there was music of course, but the rest was just nothing. The people standing around. Nothing happened really.

Was that the reason why you didn‘t want to play on stage?

Yes. Playing on stage was meaningless to us. We didn‘t see the meaning of doing something live. But then Andreas talked us into it, he said we can do it like this or that. We had like so many ideas so we started to work with him about the visual, about touring and live shows. It‘s very fun if you can work in a way like this.

And was this the only concern of not performing?

Yes we found it meaningless, not so meaningful. Yea.

They say, if you have a brother, this is the person you will know the most time of your life, because he is a relative and he has almost the same age, and you also work and went famous with him. Isn‘t it a lot to share so much with one person?

We worked so much, for so many years, so we never met in our free time. No family gatherings or so. So now, when we haven‘t been working that much, we have been more hanging out. So that‘s nice. But I mean, he moved here to Berlin. That makes it better, I think.

So you come often to Berlin?

Yes, I work here a lot.

You go out or something?

No, not much. He build a studio here and we work there a lot.

A lot of people come to Berlin, because it‘s so cheep and they can afford to live here and be creative – artists. But in Sweden everything is so expensive. I was wondering how you can do it. How to do your artist thing and survive.

That‘s a tricky question, now when people don‘t buy music anymore. I maybe have to get a proper job later. I think it still works for a lot of people. Many people have regular jobs too. But in Sweden you know, the government has paid a lot of money to the council of cultural affairs. Like small indie labels and stuff. You can apply for projects, everyone can. An amount of money. It has been quite easy to get it for a time. But we had a right government two years ago and they change a lot. They will just close it down… It‘s going to be harder, I think. I think we had a very luxury situation in Sweden, because of all kinds of money you could get from the government. We had high taxes and people with a lot of money had to pay a lot of more taxes! That‘s been very nice. But they also removed that, there will be problems.

Thank You! Could we ask you one more question. Which is your favourite district in Berlin?

I‘m always in Kreuzberg when I‘m here.

Text & Image Moritz Stellmacher

Fever Ray by Fever Ray

Moritz Stellmacher

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