Monorail

Monorail

3:10 to Malmö

interview by Francesco Amoroso, Alessandra Reale
Mattias Oskarsson, from Malmö, is probably unknown to most people. And it's a real shame, since his debut album "Bedroom Recordings", moving among sensational Neil Hannon-oriented melodies, evocative and cinematic instrumental passages and psych deviations, is certainly one of the most beautiful and unexpected surprises in 2011.
On the eve of the unique Italian date of Monorail (this is the moniker under which Mattias records his songs), we decided to investigate his knowledge. And many suprises came out.


Where did you get inspiration from for your solo moniker? Why "Monorail"?

I've played in many bands throughout the years, mainly drums. Around 2001 I came to the conclusion that I had to do it all myself in order to create the sounds and songs I wanted. Being "just a drummer" didn't do it for me anymore since I had so many ideas that were very hard for me to explain to others. The name "Monorail" was a coincidence, really. I wanted a name that stated the "solo" aspect of the project and I wanted the word "mono" in it, so Monorail was the name that eventually stuck.
The inspiration for Monorail came from lots of music listening around 1999-2001 when I really broadened my perspective, music-wise. Pop and rock bored me then, so I began my search for more cinematic and extreme sounds. It fell in love with "Soundtracks For The Blind" by Swans and Burt Bacharach around this time.

How/when did you start making music?

I've been playing the organ since the age of 4 or 5. My mother taught me how to play some songs on our electric organ and from there I started learn it all by myself. Since then music has been more or less an everyday thing for me. I have a need to create music.


How did you understand that you wanted to be a musician?

To become a musician has never been a plan. It has rather been something I've loved doing no matter if I've been successful or not. But, I can say that composing and recording music has become more and more important for me during the last 10 years or so.

After many years playing in various bands, how/why did you feel the urgency to express yourself like a pop musician?
That's a very good question. I actually do not know for sure, but somehow my ideas turned out "pop". I do listen to a lot of pop music, but I also listen to many other genres of music. I have a more rock-based musical background, at least when looking back at my old bands and projects. During secondary and upper secondary school I was really into harder indie-based rock and pop and even death metal.  But at the same time I really dug old Vangelis soundtracks and more light-weight pop, such as Eggstone.
One thing that strikes me when thinking back is that melody has always been one of the primary things when I've been making music, no matter which genre it may have been. So, to answer your question, being a pop musician has never been my goal, but I do enjoy it very much. I would say that most of the music I've been listening to, even as a kid, inspires the sound of Monorail.

We know very little about you and your Monorail project and the internet doesn't help very much... Is it a mindful choice? Do you prefer to deal with fans only through your music?
I find it very difficult to promote my music. It is as simple as that. Being a solo project does not make it easier, since I have no band mates to consult. Of course I want as many people as possible to listen and have access to my music. I happen to be a useless promotor, ha, ha. I cannot even describe my music to other people, which probably is a necessity for promoting it. But, I have a small and loyal group of followers who seem to like what I'm doing. And it seems like things are starting to happen in Italy.

Mattias OskarssonYou say that all the songs on your debut album "Bedroom Recordings" were written and recorded between 2004 and 2006. Why did you decide to share those songs online after many years? Where has Monorail been from 2006 to 2011, the year when the record came out?
I recorded many of my best songs between 2004 and 2006. I took me a couple of years to compile a bunch of songs that blended well together. I released several demos and was put on several compilation albums during those years, so in a way the songs were re-released on "Bedroom Recordings" last year. The Monorail project has really never been asleep. I recorded music for theatre and more instrumental pieces during these years, but I didn't think there was enough of that material to "release". I also started to play the theremin and organ with other bands, such as Pyramido, during these years.

Your record has very different atmospheres from one song to another: some of them are very minimal pop songs, some have orchestral arrangements, and others are instrumental tracks. Which approach do you feel more comfortable with? And what will your direction be in the future?
I feel comfortable working with all of these approaches and I simply cannot exclude one or the other. That may be both the strength and weakness of Monorail. I refuse to choose, he, he.  I don't see any reason to separate the two. That wouldn't be me. At the moment I'm working more with orchestral arrangements, which I love. But, I can never decide at forehand which type of song that I'll create.
About future directions, who knows? The mix of styles will probably continue. Time will tell.

All the album is crossed by a delicious psych vibe. How do you relate with psychedelic music? How do you work with experimentation in your songs?
I'm honestly not very familiar with psychedelia, actually. I'm glad you hear it in my music, though. I mostly experiment while recording the songs. I see it as a process of finding the right mood or vibe for the songs.

What is the weirdest sound you ever used?

The weirdest sound? Hmmm, let me think. I have used weird instrumentation in many of my songs, even though people may not hear it. For instance, in "Oh, Duchess", I wanted congas, but didn't have any. So, I ended up slapping my cheek which created a nice percussive sounds. In the intro of "Amalgam" I play on my teeth. These sounds may not be weird sounding, but they were produced in a rather unconventional way and turned out pretty good.

As the title of the album itself suggests, you recorded all the songs of "Bedroom Recordings" in your bedroom. How did this affect the atmospheres in the songs?
The main reason why I recorded all of these songs in two different bedrooms was that it was the only space in which I could have my recording equipment and instruments. But, I must say that recording in my apartments really flavored the sound. Not being permitted to play too loud has been a challenge, which has led to certain choices of instrumentation, especially when it comes to drumming and percussion. So, instead of using a traditional drum kit I've ended up using tambourine, cymbals, maracas and even furniture, sometimes.

In your opinion, how much influence does the location have on the final result of a recording?

In my opinion the recording location can really influence the sound and even the song writing. Nowadays, I have a small studio in a basement and it's such a freedom. I still cannot play too loud, but at least I don't disturb the neighbors as much.

"Bedroom Recordings" was released only as a digital album. Why did you make this choice? Are you planning to release any physical copies of this album in the next future?
I would love to release "Bedroom Recordings" on vinyl and cd!!! It's a question of finance and distribution, really. To release it digitally was a simple choice since it's so easy to do this nowadays. But, I do feel that the songs deserve to be released on a physical format. I've spent many days, nights, blood, sweat and tears creating them and people don't seem to get tired of the songs.

Can you tell us something about the beautiful front cover of the album?
I found this really nice old postcard on the Internet. It's one of many old drawings of monorail trains. Unfortunately I don't know anything about this specific postcard, except that it looks nice.

What are your musical influences? What kind of music do you love best? Do you love Neil Hannon's The Divine Comedy? (Some of your songs remind us of him.)

It varies from day to day, actually. I have a nice story about the Divine Comedy, actually. I didn't know the Divine Comedy up until about 2004. One of my songs ended up on a music journalist's favorite list and he compared me to Neil Hannon. Since I didn't know Neil Hannon I looked him up and since then I've been listening a lot to him. I really like the Divine Comedy, especially the last three albums. I sense his love for French soundtracks and Scott Walker. All in all an excellent artist, I must say. I really like it when people compare my music to artists I haven't heard before. I've discovered many bands this way, actually.
My musical influences are many. I was really into Mike Patton's projects such as Fantomas and Mr. Bungle about 12 years ago, which led me to Ennio Morricone, Bruno Nicolai, Nino Rota, Riz Ortolani and even Adriano Celentano... Arrangements, feelings and moods inspire me. Even extreme metal at times.
When it comes to pop music I like new wave from the 80's. Some pop artists I've listened to a lot would be, for example, Jeremy Enigk, Divine Comedy, earlier Elvis Costello, Beach Boys, Ron Sexsmith, Serge Gainsbourg, Cocteau Twins, early Electric Light Orchestra and much more.

How do you build your songs? Do you start from lyrics or from music? And do you use one particular instrument to start with?
I usually start with the music on guitar or piano/organ or sometimes a tune inside my head. But, sometimes the songs are created during recording, like a sudden inspiration. Lyrics come last. It's definitely the most difficult part of the process, but nevertheless not unimportant.

Mattias Oskarsson with PyramidoYou also play in a Swedish doom metal band, Pyramido. Can you tell us something more about this experience?
Pyramido is my second family. Our collaborations started about three years ago as I joined them on their first European tour. I ended up playing the theremin to their music. By their second European tour we had started to blend our sounds. Since then I've been touring with them quiet a lot in Europe and Sweden and I play on several of their albums. Now, I also play the organ and make cinematic noise to their songs. I plan to record an instrumental piece for their next album. It's going to be good!

Pyramido and Monorail explore different music territories and they look like very distant worlds. How do you feel about that? Does it somehow affect your approach to music?
I don't feel many musical boundaries, but musically Monorail and Pyramido certainly belong to different musical worlds. I really like to add atmosphere and melody to their music. It's not that different from the sounds I create on my Monorail recordings, actually. It's just in put in another musical context. Working with Pyramido and heavier music may affect my approach to music a bit, but not in any major way. I like both worlds.

What is your relationship with music, as a listener? How do you approach to a "listening moment"? Do you have any preferences (like a peculiar place where to stay, a specific player to use, earphones, silence around...) when you want to carefully listen to something? Does your mood have any influence on those moments?
I am very much a music listener. More than a musician, I must say. I mostly listen to music in my living room or in my studio. That's where I get my "kicks". I have to be alone to get these kicks. There may be lots of crying and goose bumps. Sometimes, I also listen to music as "background music", which is also nice. My mood definitely influences these moments. I can lie on my couch and cry to "The Juliet Letters" by Elvis Costello and the Brodsky Quartet and later be jumping around to an old Napalm Death LP. So, in conclusion, I'm very affected by music.

You are going to play some gigs around in Europe (and in Italy too). Does this mean that your Monorail project is alive and kicking?
Yes, Monorail is very much alive and kicking! Especially as I now have a studio to record in. I love it! Being invited to Rome to play is such a treat! I'm really looking forward to play for you.

What is your approach to live performances? How do you relate with the audience?
I never thought of Monorail as a live act, actually. But, as I have been offered several nice gigs throughout the years I feel that it is a good opportunity to reach new listeners. I do enjoy performing live much more now than I did a few years ago. I also like to meet new people after shows.

What is your approach to internet? Do you think that this media can harm independent musicians and labels or can it be useful for them?

For me, it has only been a positive thing. Many people have discovered my music on the Internet. I try to support the artists I like by buying their records and as long as I do that I feel I have a good balanced relation to music on the Internet. But, yes, the Internet can be harmful if people stop supporting the bands they like. I say, buy their music, buy their t-shirts and go to their shows and we'll be just fine.

As Monorail, you have only one record out and a bunch of other songs. Are you recording something new under that moniker? What are your music plans for the next future?
There are actually two records out. There's "Bedroom Recordings" and there's an EP on which I cover three songs from the 80's called "Friends Who Never Showed". I'm recording several new songs in my small studio at the moment. So, my plans are to complete these songs and release an album this year. Also, I have plans to do some concerts in Sweden. Monorail is my constant side-project in life.

Let's end this interview with a metaphor. One of your songs says that once you were a mountain goat. What are you now? And what will you be?
A small bird with a big beak, probably.

(01/05/2012)

Discografia
 Friends Who Never Showed (self-released, 2011) 
Bedroom Recordings (Record Union, 2011) 
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disco consigliato da OndaRock

Monorail su OndaRock
Recensioni

MONORAIL

Bedroom Recordings

(2011 - Record Union)
Incantevoli evasioni indie-pop per lo svedese Mattias Oskarsson

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