ReGen gets an inside look at the electronic and environmentalist world of Swedish trio Twice a Man.
An InterView with Dan Söderqvist, Johan “Jocke” Söderqvist, and Karl Gasleben of Twice a Man
By Edgar Lorre (ErrolAM)
When one is an obsessive enthusiast, one that spends a great deal of time researching, discovering, and unearthing music, film, art, and literature from the past, it is fairly common to uncover unfamiliar, yet actually old artists – an obscure female Renaissance painter, a silent film about insanity, a mid-century suicidal Latin poet, or a tremendous English hotel dance band from the 1920s. What is more unique is uncovering a far more somewhat contemporary band only marginally heard of who for 40 years has quietly released 21 studio albums, written for theatrical performances at The Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm, and has also created music for movies, exhibitions, dance performances, and computer games. That band is Twice a Man, the pioneering Swedish electronic ensemble who, long before it became fashionable, were strong environmental advocates – a constant theme running throughout the band’s music with its blend of futuristic electronics and organic elements. Dependent Records has just released a career retrospective entitled Songs of Future Memories (1982-2022), a long overdue and beautifully packaged three-disc anthology of Twice a Man. In this special contribution to ReGen, Edgar Lorre sat down and chatted with Dan Söderqvist, Johan “Jocke” Söderqvist, and Karl Gasleben of Twice a Man for an enlightening conversation about their four prolific decades of work.
Congratulations on the 40th anniversary collection on Dependent. Although I see that there was at least one collection of 1980s material released in the past, is Songs of Future Memories (1982-2022) the first true career retrospective for Twice a Man? Who came up with the idea to do a vast collection like this? Did the entire band sit down and curate the collection yourselves?
One of the new songs on the collection is ‘Dahlia,’ which also has a new video. TAM is one of the first bands to express deep environmentalist concerns about the planet and has regularly utilized imagery and lyrics that reflect that. ‘Dahlia’ epitomizes that, and Dan recently stated that the song is ‘a reflection about our time.’ Can you first expand on what the song is about? Additionally, are you optimistic that things can change with our planet?
TAM: In these dark times with wars, pandemics, and above all, climate change, environmental destruction, and through that, loss of biodiversity, all caused by human activity… we experience a conflict between the outer world and an inner imaginary world. We need to feel comfort, and music – at its best – gives us that inner peace.
The Earth will survive, it is just altering in a way that will no longer host the human race. These changes intensify from our lack of respect for the planet. Is greed better than survival? Is a reckless behavior a way of honoring what we have? Our songs often float around the idea of taking care of each other and our surroundings. A decent survival for future generations seems more and more like a fantasy and not a reality. One way of experiencing the lyrics of ‘Dahlia’ is, ‘We are here, tasting the scent of a dark future.’
When TAM was first taking baby steps for finding a sound and an identity circa 1977, there were only a handful of artists utilizing electronics and synthesizers either at the forefront or as part of their sound. At the time, TAM must have been affected or influenced by a diverse list that includes Kraftwerk, Wendy Carlos, Brian Eno solo and his work with Bowie and Roxy Music, Vangelis, Jean-Michel Jarre, Tangerine Dream, Krautrock, perhaps some of Giorgio Moroder’s work. So, while these artists all share electronics in common, their styles are drastically different from each other. Are you partial to any of the aforementioned and do you have any thoughts as to what led to this expansion of electronic music in the 1970s?
TAM: Of course, we listened to all of them, but the minimalistic school of composition was also a big influence, with names like Terry Riley, Steve Reich, La Monte Young, and others. The great thing with the electronic equipment is that you can add sounds in the composition that were not heard before. And as the drone heads we are, from time to time, a solid sound can be altered forever.
We also listen to some of the ’60s psychedelic experimental music with electronic sounds, like The United States of America, White Noise, and also some of Pink Floyd’s early work. But perhaps the initial idea to start the electronic Dadaist punk band Cosmic Overdose (the first incarnation of Twice a Man) came from listening to the albums Low from Bowie/Eno and Pink Flag by Wire, where we tried to make a hybrid of two very different expressions.
Do you feel as if it became a bit easier once you had a few contemporaries like Gary Numan, Mute Records, Fad Gadget, Depeche Mode, and New Order? I often wonder about things like this because I would imagine that having access to equipment, synthesizers, and basic gear must have been challenging. It seems that not a great deal was yet available, and I’d imagine what was commercially available was not highly in demand in music stores in Sweden. With that in mind, did TAM have to literally invent some equipment or adapt non-musical gear for your purpose?
Twice a Man reminds me of artists like The Residents, Chrome, Suicide, New Model Army, Scott Walker, and even Cabaret Voltaire and Fad Gadget. Artists, although very different in sound and style, share in common a rabid and loyal true cult following of obsessive fans across decades, yet obscure outsiders not only to mainstream success but even within alternative music. I realize many of the aforementioned artists are not active, yet when they were, they had cult followings that continued after dissolving and even after death. At what point did you first realize that TAM had an international cult appeal and were you always fine with its occurrence?
TAM: If you say there is a cult around us internationally, we have to take this new knowledge under consideration.
How do you feel about performing live? It seems that TAM has not done a great deal of touring; in fact, it seems that your live performances are rather select. Was this intentional and do you think of yourselves more of a true studio project? If I am incorrect, do you have any upcoming planned performances you’d like to tell our audience about?
It is interesting to note that when TAM began, vinyl records were the dominant format, the 8-track tape was fading, cassettes were gaining popularity, and compact discs were starting to gather steam circa 1984, which later led to the demise of vinyl. Now, for the moment, we have returned full circle to the popularity of vinyl records and the demise of the CD. That said, what do you think of this vinyl revolution, and what are your thoughts on streaming along with the changes in the music world? Does TAM try to pay attention to what is going on, trends and the like?
TAM: The streaming world seems more single oriented, and we are more of an album oriented band. But how to spread the music around is more up to the record company than us. We make the music we want to communicate with, without concerns about a specific platform or vehicle. The CD and vinyl thing is a tricky one. Vinyl is a nicer product with the big cover that gives more artistic possibilities, while on the other hand, the sound is better on a CD.
How do you feel about the current crop of bands and are there any new artists that you admire?
Söderqvist: I have since the start of the ’90s preferred female artists. I think they are the ones that push the envelope the most in new music. At the moment, I listen to ‘new’ artists like Zanias, Rosa Anschütz, Darkher, Chelsea Wolfe, Anna von Hauswoolf, and others, all with their own unique vision, not necessarily electronic artists.
Jocke: At the moment, I am listening to Henryk Gorecki, Giacomo Puccini, and Joy Division… so no, not very contemporary.
What is next for Twice a Man? Any plans or aspirations that you would like to tell our readers about?
TAM: We plan to make new compositions and recordings this Spring. We will work to try to reinvent ourselves once again. What it will be, we don’t know yet. To make the two new songs on the album, ‘Lotus’ and ‘Dahlia,’ was perhaps the most satisfactory part of the process to make Songs of Future Memories. We have not played live for some years now, but if there is an interest and we can make ourselves justice, then why not?
Twice a Man
Website, Facebook, SoundCloud, Bandcamp, YouTube
Website, Facebook, Bandcamp, YouTube, Instagram
Photography provided courtesy of Twice a Man