Suffering for Art – or – the Art of Suffering.

Gramps/Tony Lind
Gramps, aka Tony Lind. Photo, as always, by Christopher Anderzon.
I have always been deeply suspicious of the notion that the only ”real” or ”good” or ”important” art is one created out of misery, pain and suffering. That concept always smacked of unchecked ego and inflated self-importance to me.
A lot of unbelievably great art was created out of sheer joy, the pleasure of the creative process and loving inspiration, and is in no way less valid than the art born out of pain and hardship. But for some reason, a lot of people seem to perceive depressed and/or depressing artists as ”honest”, an idea I find dubious at best.

I personally never trust an artist who takes themselves too seriously. They may take their art as seriously as a fucking heart attack, no problem there, but when they allow their sensitive minds, bleeding hearts and fragile little baby souls to demand that you laud them for the suffering they have endured, rather than the quality of the work they produce, fuck it, I’m outta there, faster than a paycheck.
Those ”artists” are often whiny little pricks who should have a therapist rather than an audience. They are often also dismissive of and even indifferent toward their fans, which is a cardinal sin in my book. Like when Morrissey scoffs that he doesn’t perform. ”Seals perform.” Yeah, right. If that’s the case, get off the stage, you have no place there.

When I walk onstage in front of an audience, I feel a huge responsibility to make sure that these people are entertained in some way, and I feel disgusted when I see bands who obviously don’t give a shit. I was raised on artists who know how to put on a show, in their own different ways, and I took those lessons to heart (at the end of this rant I’ve put together some clips of bands who know how to treat an audience). That doesn’t mean that your act has to be all out party animal energy, that’s not what I’m saying, it would be really boring if everyone was like Angus Young all the time, but there should be an effort to communicate with the people who bought their ticket for your show, and the least you can do is to acknowledge them and let them know you appreciate them coming to hear and see you.

Michael Stipe was absolutely right when he sang that everybody hurts. Everybody does, sometimes. And just because you have the creative outlet to vent your pain, which is fantastic and beautiful, that does not mean that you hurt more, better or deeper than anyone else. I love that you have the gift of touching people in a way that allows them to understand their own struggle a little bit better, ease their pain for a moment, or just recognizing that they’re not alone. But that gift does not entitle you to be a primadonna. Art is about sharing, so don’t be so fucking precious about what you do.

A lot of people suffer from depression and anxiety, and I think it is a very positive thing that we as a society are starting to unstigmatize mental health issues, although that process is still way too slow. And in that sense, it is also a very positive thing that people create art about their struggles, to show that not only is it ok to acknowledge that you have this burden in your life, it is essential to do so in order for things to change. But that doesn’t mean that the Suffering Artist should be put on any sort of piedestal. And to perpetuate a lifestyle of misery, as some would at least like to give the impression of doing, just to make ”better” art, is stupid as shit.


Making new friends

Orren & Barba. Photo: Birgitta Haller. (Picture taken on another occasion, in the Sullivan Vinyard in Napa, California).

Me, Orren and our manager Birgitta went to a meeting the other day. Actually we drove for 4 hours to get to that meeting.

Me and Orren didn’t really understand why we couldn’t do this over Skype, but Biggis insisted we’d go ’cause she had a feeling we should meet these people in person.

The people we were meeting were a production company based in Orsa, a tiny little town 4 hours north of Stockholm. Normally when you come to the office of a production company in Stockholm, or some other bigger city, you step into a slick world of hipsters with expensive computers, even more expensive jeans and they offer you coffee made from beans that were hand picked and eaten by monkeys who then shat them out and then someone made ridiculously expensive coffee out of the beans so that some hipster can pour soy milk in it so it tastes like coffee flavored soy beans.

But not in Orsa. We step inside the office and get the warmest welcome from a woman in rubber boots. There’s an old dog sleeping on the floor and it doesn’t even look up when we step in the office. We get a regular cup of coffee and a bucket of milk powder if we want it. We sit down around the office table and we are waiting for the sales pitch to begin.

But instead we start talking about what it’s like for a couple from Amsterdam (two of the 3 people running the company are Dutch) moving to a rural town in Sweden. How hard it can be to fit in. How hard it can be to connect to people from a culture so different from Amsterdam. And they tell us about the refugees from the Middle East who are staying in various places around the little town and how it must be even harder for them to fit in.

Then they tell us they’ve started a non-profit project in which they interview and take a nice portrait of some of the refugees. The result is a magazine in which all these people get to tell their life story to the people of this town. They are no longer a number in the statistics. They are a person that the citizens can relate too and not be afraid of. A really nice introduction into the community they are thrown into.
We talk for hours about life and then they invite us to their home for lunch and we stay all day and then go home without having talked almost anything about what we came there for, which was doing a video for Billy Momo. We didn’t feel we had to. We just knew this was the right people to work with. My dream is having a network of people like that around me. People who love what they do and use whatever they have to make a difference.

Sure, we all want to get paid and make it in the business. But it’s not why we choose to do what we do. We are super happy we took that 4 hour drive. We got to know some very skilled artists. But most importantly, we made some new friends.
Here’s to new friends and great people! (Tomas Juto, aka ‘Barba’). 

Music, I hate you to death but I can’t live without you.

foto.jpgHi! My name is Tomas and I’m a musician.

I read a thing online somewhere that you should never fall in love with a musician because they are egocentric assholes. It’s true! But it’s not their fault. Music is worse than heroin, white sugar and swedish hardcore snus combined into a bitch of an addiction.
I was into sports and had friends before I met music. That’s all gone now. I have bandmates. I never hang out with anybody that doesn’t play music or don’t mind me only talking about music. I wake up every day thinking, today I will stop. I feel strong. I can do this. I WILL STOP MUSIC!

Then I get out of bed and go straight to the piano. I don’t even have any clothes on yet. Something is very wrong with this.
And you know what? I LOVE EVERY SECOND OF IT. That’s the problem.
I will never quit music. It’s a drug I tell ya!

You know that recorder they force you to play in music class when you’re a kid? It might seem innocent while you’re stumbling your way through Brother John the first few times. But that’s more of a gateway drug than any spliff or beer you’ll be tempted to try in your teens. When you put that fucker to your lips you better be aware of the risk you’re taking. It could mean you’re hooked for life.
Think before you try it kids! (Tomas Juto, aka ‘Barba’)

For the love of music


I wouldn’t say I love music. For me, music is love.
If you got kids, you probably know the simplest, purest if you will, kind of love. Uncomplicated in the way it never changes, never fades, whatever happens.
You probably have experienced how you can hurt your knee by seeing your kid fall. How you can feel rejected from watching your kid try and fail to get noticed. How you can feel the disappointment when the store was out of chocolate ice cream.
And if you don’t have kids, you very well may know it anyway through siblings, lovers or very good friends.
There is nothing we human beings want more than for other human beings to feel what we feel. And we can make it so! We can communicate without words or even body language, straight from one heart to another. And the information we get is so complicated, so detailed that we could often never explain it.
There are only two ways that I know of to do this. Either you just love someone and it comes natural. Some sort of emotional telepathic superskill that either evolves with your relationship or just kicks in like a cannonball to the gut the day the litte rascal is born.
And the other way is art. All kinds of it.
Both ways equally magic, and in all that matters the most to us, the same.
We share things with each other that we can’t explain. We feel what they feel. We’re closer than we should ever be able to get and we can’t explain how.
If that aint love, I don’t know. (Oskar Hovell aka Orren: lead vocal, banjo, acoustic guitar)