Vargen - 10 Questions Music Interview
Vargen (translates as 'The Wolf' in Swedish) is the stage and recording name of singer-songwriter Reine Johansson. Vargen's music encompases Americana, blues, folk, rock and country. 'Tänk inte efter (Don't Think Twice) - Bob Dylan in Swedish' (2019) featured Dylan-approved translations by Vargen and fellow singer/translator Mia Rosengren. The album was critically acclaimed, even outside Scandinavia, which led the band to follow up with their debut in English, 'Love/Leave - 11 Songs of Bob Dylan'.
Was there something (an experience) or someone in your life that was the "catalyst" for you to start writing music? Tell us about it. My parents' record collection of Beatles, Stones, Creedence, Doors, all them great 60's bands.
Let's get this out of the way. What is the CRAZIEST thing that has ever happened to you in your music career?
Bob Dylan approving our Swedish translations. The e-mail from his publishers was in my inbox when I came home from a three day studio session, laying down 18 tracks of both original songs and Swedish Dylan material, which we really didn't knew if we could use. Perfect timing.
What has been the high point of your music path?
Last year's album 'Tänk inte efter (Don't Think Twice) - Bob Dylan in Swedish' got recognized even outside Scandinavia, and this encouraged us to release the material in English.
So, how do you approach songwriting or what is your creative process like?
The melody almost always comes to me first. often when I'm out taking a walk in the wilderness or by the sea. Then I pick out the song on acoustic guitar, at this stage some lyric lines usually fall into place, and I record a demo on my iPhone so I won't forget the song. Enter lyric phase, which could take minutes, hours, days or months. When I'm done, I sit down with guitarist Dan Kristensen and record a new demo and present it to producer Andreas Alm. Often he gets a batch from which we pick out the best songs and introduce them to the band.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing Indie Artists today? Or, if you could ask the music industry to change one thing, what would it be? Being an Indie artist is often very lonely and the administration around an album usually takes far more time than the creative and lustful process of recording it. The challenge I think can be to keep up the good spirit.
If you could share the stage with one other artist or band, who would it be and why?
It would be great to do a duet with Iggy Pop. He always have a presence and energy that's magic.
What are your rehearsals generally like? Or, how do you prepare for a live show?
I send a setlist usually a coupla weeks in advance to the members. Then we rehearse two or three times close to the show or session. If a song doesn't work in two or three takes we drop it.
Pick one song that was your greatest challenge to write. Tell us about it!
I guess that would be some translations on our Swedish Dylan album, staying true to the original and yet getting the lyrics to work in a meaningful and melodic way in our own language. I'm very proud of our interpretations of *It's All Over Now, Baby Blue' and 'One More Cup of Coffee'.
As far as original work goes, I put a lot of effort to the lyrics and structure of 'Sagor från stad, sagor från land' on my debut album. It's an 11-minute biography on Swedish poet Dan Andersson (1888-1920), and I don't know how, but I managed to do it in one take with a Zoom H4n in my kitchen. Producer Andreas and I quickly realised that this demo had to be the one to work with. Then violinist Anna Engberg laid three different free-form overdubs, which gave the song a mystical and eerie sound.
What's coming up in the future?
We've just finished six Swedish tracks, one of them a Mark Lanegan/Duke Garwood-approved translation of 'I Am The Wolf'. Some of the tracks I'll do in English as well, and I'm writing some original English songs too. Hopefully, these two albums are being released in the beginning of 2021. Me and guitarist Dan Kristensen hope to do a vinyl store tour in Europé as soon as the pandemic's over and it would be great to take that concept to USA next year.
Tell us where fans can access your music?
Links on Songwhip
For more information on Vargen, please visit their website.