[Interview] Jan Blomqvist & The Importance Of Disconnection
Two years after his debut “Remote Control”, that led Jan Blomqvist and his band around the world, he has returned with an album that falls in line both stylistically and sonically with his distinct sound.
“Disconnected” draws from heady themes of broken connections, incoherent narratives, and escapes from reality, exploring the meaning of being disconnected in thirteen tracks. Gradually released across 3 mini albums over the summer, now the complete piece has been released, connecting the disconnected narrative and aiming for insight into the behaviors and necessities of our day, age, and generation.
Over the summer, we managed to bring three exclusive cuts, plus a final one, for a steady stream of anticipation leading up to the album’s release. Now, with it finally available, we managed to catch up with Jan to discuss the making, approach, and ethos of the album in detail..
“…we need to get away from our lives from time to time, to disconnect as much as possible, to live differently”
With your new album “Disconnected” now available, as I ask every creative, what would you say was its original “seed”? Was it this idea of disconnection? Or was it something less abstract like a particular rhythm?
It was a moment at my first Burning Man in 2016. I was blown away by the whole thing. So many people setting up camp in the desert. It’s so fascinating because, in the end, it’s totally weird. The desert is not a friendly place to be with the extreme heat and cold, the sandstorms and everything. It’s a total hassle to set up a festival with these proportions out there. But people still do it. Why I was wondering. And my answer to this question is that we need to get away from our lives from time to time, to disconnect as much as possible, to live differently. That’s why the desert might be so appealing. I made the same observation at other places I visited after. Not just at festivals. People need to disconnect. The way they do it is different and depends on many factors but almost everyone does it. Some do extreme sports in remote areas, others take drugs, some dance in the desert. Obviously, I quickly also saw that disconnecting on a smaller scale during our daily routines is also an important topic, as we are constantly connected over the internet.
You are known for a particular kind of musicality in your productions and performances that combine electronic elements with voice, as well as more “traditional” instrumentation. If there was a single piece of equipment, hardware, software, or instrument you would say was seminal to creating “Disconnected”, what would it be?
Easy and short answer: There are two synths that were absolutely vital. My Moog little Phatty and the Prophet6.
Leading up to the full album’s release you broke it down into 3 “mini albums”. What was the thought process behind this approach? What was the narrative that the mini album collection put forth, and in the context of the wider project?
We recorded the album in different locations around the globe. That made it kind of logical to fragment the release of the album into three parts, to disconnect the songs, if you like. :-) In addition to that, I liked the idea because none of the songs is a fill-in as it’s often the case in albums. Quite the opposite: Every song more or less gets the same attention.
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The album itself was created in various locations around the globe including New York, Berlin, and California. Was this a result of your touring schedule and, therefore, necessity, or were these locations specifically planned around creating the album?
It wasn’t a result of my touring schedule. To record in different locations was part of the album concept that existed long before we chose the locations. I came up with the idea while being in New York a couple of years back. I got to know the city because of the many gigs I played there… But the other places, Iceland and the Californian desert, I chose because I was fascinated by the respective landscapes and had always dreamt of visiting those places. The idea was to see how the surroundings influenced us as musicians and consequently the music.
Iceland also plays prominently as a creative inspiration and, in my view, the album’s overall visual look. What inspiration did you take specifically from Iceland?
For me, Iceland is the topographical equivalent of disconnection. I mean, it’s an island far in the north, seems like more sheep than people live there, the earth is black, it’s very cold and rough and very different from what I’m used to if it comes to landscapes, having spent most of my life in Germany. I had a feeling that you start to feel somehow disconnected if you spent time in places that you can’t even imagine before you’ve seen them. For me – because I live in a city – it’s also the lack of people and the stuff they need, like cars, houses, public transport, etc…. Inspiration comes easier when you discover new things.
Speaking of the album’s visual look, can you describe a bit about how it represents the overall theme?
I guess the answer partly has to do with the last one: Iceland to me feels like the perfect metaphor for disconnection. But there’s a second and more mundane reason: The whole team spent two weeks up there, writing lyrics, being together, traveling the island. We simply had a lot of time to take pictures. This didn’t happen again afterward. :-)
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Do you have any “solutions” to our current disconnected state as a society?
Solutions for problems in society? I don’t know if anyone ever has real solutions.. especially not me. :-) The answer to this question depends on what you mean by disconnected state of society, I guess. What exactly is this society you are talking about? Who is disconnected here? And: Disconnected from whom or what? There are so many possibilities.
In the end, I think the mission of an artist, musician or poet cannot be to find solutions for problems in society. Maybe it’s enough to make people think (and hopefully find solutions) by reflecting certain things that happen within our societies. It’s like carrying a mirror. You show what you see, but the excerpt that you show is yours to choose, whether it’s the sun setting over the ocean or the waste swimming in that same ocean.
During this time of travel, as well as a career on the ascent, how do you maintain a sense of mindfulness while on the road? Do you practice any particular rituals or processes to keep yourself grounded when away from home?
Ha. That’s a tough question because this is exactly what I am struggling with at the moment. I mean, I theoretically know what I need to do to stay focused and grounded while being on the road. The recipe is simple: The main ingredients are as much sleep and as little alcohol as possible, eating healthy, etc.. Sounds easy but isn’t. In practice, you meet friends you haven’t seen in a while or meet new and interesting people and all of a sudden it’s late again, you’ve had one too many drinks and you need to hurry to catch your flight. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not complaining. Or, well, maybe a little and on a high level. In the end, maybe being on the road isn’t really about being grounded but about the opposite: an elevated state both physically and mentally that needs a lot of energy. This isn’t good or bad. It’s both. I just need to prepare and take vacations before and after being on tour for longer periods to be able to cope with this.
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What’s next for you?
After the album release is before the album release! Actually, that’s not really true. We already started working on the new album before Disconnected was released at the end of September 2018. So a new album is definitely on the horizon. But before we really jump into that the band and I will play the Disconnected album tour which starts at the end of November. Exciting times ahead. We are currently working at the light show with an old friend of ours.
“Disconnected” is NOW AVAILABLE on Armada Electronic Elements