This May, Gustav Ejstes and Dungen are back. They've got a new record called Tio Bitar, and it's pretty ridiculously fierce. We first met Gustav in Malung, Sweden, at a folk school where he was studying traditional Swedish violin music, and have since seen him and the rest of the mean Dungen touring outfit in Stockholm, New York, Tennessee, California and beyond. This time we caught up with Gustav on the landline– us in New York, he outside of Stockholm– to talk about the new record. Read the full interview after the jump.
I haven’t seen you since Bonnaroo last year, what have you been up to?
We were touring until July of last summer, then we came home and did some shows in Scandinavia, then I had been working on the new album. Although I’m sure I started that work when we saw each other at Bonnaroo too. I’ve been working on it now and then.
Are you living in Stockholm right now?
Yeah, I live together with my girlfriend in Stockholm since a couple of months ago. I have been—it was very important to have a home when we came home from all the tours. But I borrowed this house again from my mom and I started to record down there in South Sweden.
Is that where you were writing and everything?
Yeah I moved there as soon as we were finished with all the tours, so I was there writing and recording.
Did you build a home studio there again?
Yeah I rented equipment, like last time with Ta Det Lugnt, the same procedure. Went down there with some mobile equipment.
Were you there by yourself?
Yeah, I had people coming over like one at a time, Reina [Riske] came and we did some takes and he played the guitars as usual and we did pretty much the same as on Ta Det Lugnt.
When I was in Sweden gave me some demos of songs you had written in English, obviously you decided not to go in that direction.
Yeah, I did…after Ta Det Lugnt and we traveled with the music in Swedish, people seemed to not care how well they understand or not. So I just kept on with that.
So tell me more about your time in the South of Sweden recording, what were you doing during the day, were you pretty much just working on music or what were you getting up to?
I was kind of tired when we came home, tired of creating all the time because when we do shows we have these improvised parts, so it’s pretty much creative work doing the touring too. I had to take it really easy in the beginning, not force anything in the beginning, because it is kind of fragile if you want to do anything [new]. And I have been so into hip-hop the last few months, so I set up my turntables and I have been doing that every day since I came home. I’ve been practicing turntables and I’ve played a lot of violin and did that for awhile, then eventually the music came like it should. I started to record some new stuff. There’s stuff that is a few years old and some new ideas.
When you set up your turntables had you been buying new hip-hop records or had you been messing around with the old stuff that you already had?
I have been listening to a lot of old hip-hop and old records, but also I have been collecting some new stuff too, especially Madvillain and Stones Throw releases. Those are my favorite. Alternative hip-hop.
Right. Had you been picking up records of stuff as you were touring?
Yeah in the cities we have been to, I go looking for hip-hop records.
Are you still in touch with [folk music teacher] Johnny [Soling] and some of the people at the folkhögskola in Malung?
Unfortunately I haven’t had a chance to visit with him since we came home from tour, but we have been in contact, and like I said I practice a lot on my own. It’s a life long project—to get really good on violin.
Do you feel like you’ve been improving a lot?
Yeah, I hope so. I play so much.
As the new Dungen stuff started to come to you, were you still playing violin and that sort of thing in between writing and recording?
Yeah, I have these periods of fanatic practicing on different instruments. When I picked up the flute or the drums it’s the same thing, it’s slow, concentrated, focused on learning how to play. I don’t practice drums every day, right now turntables and violin are my biggest interests.
And you still have been doing turntable stuff almost every day?
Definitely every day.
What was it like while you were recording the album, I know people were coming through, but was it lonely to be by yourself or was it good?
It’s good to be by myself, I have discovered that the only way I could—I lived in Stockholm when we came home and I had a studio there but I really need the isolation and feel that I cannot be disturbed by anyone. I need to be free from talking—I have to just be at the place, alone.
Is it hard on a practical physical level to record yourself without an engineer to press the buttons?
I’m used to that, I’ve always done it that way. With computers it’s easy to just sit down and record.
And you do everything as far as the producing, right? Like with the drums for instance, setting up all the mics and getting the sound you want and all that?
Yeah sure, I’m still interested in sounds, really, and I’ve been experimenting. I’m not that good as an engineer but it always ends up different. I try until I am satisfied. I’ve done most of the recordings by myself so I’m used to it.
Was everything set up in the living room of your mom’s house?
She has a main house in this place but there are some small houses and I borrowed one of those and I lived there and had a recording room.
And she was in the main house if you got bored or lonely.
Yeah, they work, both my mom and her husband, but they were the only people that I met during a period. I had Reina coming over and playing guitar. My mom is—I got Hendrix from her when I was 8 and she is a big fan of fuzz guitars. One day it was a sunny afternoon and Reina and I were recording this long solo thing, and when we got out of the house we saw mom standing on the balcony of her house. She was standing there listening for hours, and she said it sounded amazing. She is a big fan of Reina’s.
Well, he’s very good.
How many days was he down for or was he coming and going?
He was coming and going, you could say he and I recorded most of it, then of course it is Frederick [Björling] on drums and another guy on drums. We finished the record in Stockholm just like last time and were mixing it here and so people came by and did some different things, background vocals and that kind of thing.
Tell me about some of what you were thinking lyrically for the new album?
It’s the same as Ta Det Lugnt, it’s my personal thoughts, it’s…I don’t know, any particular subject. Even for people who understand Swedish it can mean more than one thing, but it’s about me and life, I’m pissed off or not pissed off, it’s everything. But there is no particular message or concept or anything. It’s about me.
When I was in Sweden and we talked you were saying that the first time through you had gotten super uncomfortable with the music industry and all the bullshit that’s around and that kind of thing. Are you feeling like you like the way things are going this time around?
I’m glad I went through that, because I have my own way of relating to it all. I make music but I’m not a pop artist, I am not comfortable with that, I’m doing interviews from this telephone here now. But I’m not that—there are a lot of people today who want to be in media and in the center of what’s happening, but I just make music and just want to be doing that. I’m just making music, and it is great to get attention for that, but it is not the main purpose, to get famous.