perfection takes time

By: Johan Carlsson
Photos by: Jessica Frank

One of Sweden’s finest bands are back again with the new album "Short and Explosive". It’s been five years since the last one. What have they have been up to? I met up with Jörgen Josefsson and Mårten Kellerman at a café in Stockholm to get some answers.

Five year mission
The most obvious question first. When asked why the new album has taken so long, they both get a bit defensive.
- There are a lot of other bands that take several years to make a new album. Why is everyone asking us? No one questions the other bands, Mårten claims.
- I think our problem is that we released a single, Jörgen laughs.
- Yeah, and perhaps the dates. We have pushed the release dates a couple of times. But I would like to stress that the dates have originated from the record company, not us. And we might not have been confident enough to take a stand sometimes. Then again, of course we wanted to deliver, but somehow we didn’t make it all the way through, and other stuff came in between.
- For me, it was also the fact that I was tired of the things we had done before, says Mårten. I think we created something beautiful, and possibly unique, on “Avalanche Breakdown”. But it still felt like we had taken that concept all the way, so what were we to do then? We heightened our standard drastically with “Battered and Bruised”.
That single was released in 1999. After that, we have been given more singles: "Less Than Perfect" (2002) and "I'm Love" (2003). An album, "Short and Explosive", was finally released in mid June.
- We have made an incredibly good album, and it’s the first time I want to listen to it on my freestyle. It almost feels like another band did it, which is strange. For the first time, we have impressed ourselves.
- Yeah, I agree, Jörgen interjects. It’s a really good album, and if I had the money, I would buy it myself, he laughs.
Other than that, the members have lived their lives working as designers. And they have also experienced both private and band related troubles. They have spent time rebuilding their studio (Kraftwerk, anyone?), and coincidentally the night before I meet them they had a moving out party there. The entire building is being torn down, leaving the band without a home again.

Mårten Kellerman.

The pressure from success
The band felt a lot of pressure after the successful debut “Avalanche Breakdown” (1996) and then later the alternate version "Breakdown” (1998). I wonder how that felt and if they are ready for it this time; if it could happen again. Mårten elaborates:
- Well, it was a bit scary sometimes. We have been getting badly hidden threats from people after concerts just because they don’t like how we sound now. We want to develop musically, and not stand still. There were also people that were hoping for Statemachine to really be something big, even though they didn’t like the music. We were expected to be the ones to lead the Swedish synth scene. People got really pissed because we lost the momentum we had back then, and that was really scary. But we don’t really care much about it nowadays.
- It would be silly to expect the same thing to happen again. But we think that the things we’ve done are damn good, and we are happy with it. It’s not an instant hit album, but it grows on you, Jörgen points out.

Rickard Gunnarsson.

Doing it live
Statemachine has now switched to SubSpace Communications, a leading Swedish electronic label. An effort to launch the band in Germany is underway, but things are a bit uncertain at this point.
- I know we’re on a small label in Germany, but I can’t remember the name of it. Sony will distribute. But everything is unclear now, all we know is that according to our contract we have to play if we get a gig, Mårten explains.
- The live part is very important for us, and it’s something we put a lot of energy into, Jörgen says. It’s also hard work to prepare all the sounds, and get them onto DAT tape.
To get things rolling, the band played a lot of really crappy gigs (Mårten's description) at the start of their career, to get some practice. There were apparently sound systems that didn’t work, stages that were nothing more than wooden cartons, and audiences with as little as 15 people.
- Once there were 25 people in the audience when we started, and only 5-10 left when we finished. We’re usually very convincing live, at least that’s our own impression. That’s where we find new fans. So when things like these happen, you just laugh it off and go on.
- Bad concerts are good too, because it’s largely because of them we improve, says Jörgen.
- Alexander Hofman in S.P.O.C.K once said to me that the gigs with bad audiences are the gigs that are the best for him. That’s when you really have to work to win the audience over, and he gets a kick out of it, Mårten confides.

An album with attitude
The "Short and Explosive" album is more mature and coherent than "Avalanche Breakdown" and "Breakdown", and while you still hear that it is Statemachine, it shows some new tricks as well. The vocal performances are better, and more heartfelt, it seems. At first, they talked about naming "Short and Explosive" “Punk” (as in the attitude, not the music genre). Mårten elaborates:
- We talked about making the album with lots of bass, drums, vocals and some effects. Keep it less crowded, and not use a lot of sounds. Rickard didn’t like the title "Punk"; he thought it sounded like we wanted to distance ourselves from the band we are. But I wanted that feeling, something that was short and explosive. So we used that description instead. Now it can almost be seen as an ironic title, considering all the delays and the fact that the songs are all pretty long…

Jörgen Josefsson.

Something on the side
Jörgen has also found the time to work on a side project, called Lowe. It started out as Statemachine material, but somehow they thought that it didn’t fit on the album. He really liked the tracks though, and didn’t want to throw them away. The label also heard it, and was enthusiastic about it.
- A friend of us, Mehdi Bagherzadeh, wanted to be in Lowe as well. So we decided to get things started. We have a couple of finished songs now, and have even made a video. We’re going to let the label listen to the new material soon, and we’ll see what happens. When things have calmed down with Statemachine again, it might be time to bring forth Lowe. It’s still electronic, but perhaps a bit more direct. Statemachine is still number one though!
If “Short and Explosive” really takes off, all three members of the band are prepared to quit their jobs, but it’s not something they count on. The future is a bit unclear, and there are only two booked gigs (in Sweden, at the Arvika and Malmö festivals) so far. The album is just out, and we have to see what happens.
- Many bands live on the road, and that’s not something I’m interested in at all, says Mårten with conviction.
- But on the other hand, if it really happens I guess we have a certain responsibility. And we owe it to ourselves to make the best of the situation, Jörgen comments.