The Swedes have exported another boundary pushing, groove enticing, electronic music artist. This time, they’ve dug deeper and are making waves with the melancholic sounds of Magnus Johansson, who is known to the EDM world as Bam Spacey.
Based out of Malmö, Johansson has been in the music industry for years playing stints in various indie pop bands. In 2007, Johansson decided to ditch the multi-member outfit to approach music solo and on his own terms.
The result is an intriguing blend of microhouse, ambient dub and minimal techno with dark touch. Though Johansson’s music isn’t the kind you would typically dance to, it has its draws and catchy beats and, despite the shadowy overtone, his message is positive.
College Times caught up with Johansson about Land EP, which drops on May 22.
College Times: What led you down the electronic DJ/producer path?
Magnus Johansson: I used to play in a couple of bands before. Those were more along the lines of indie pop and straight synth pop; pretty lo-fi stuff mostly. And that was a lot of fun, but working within a band is always a compromise. I used to write all the songs for those bands and had this idea in my head of how I wanted it to sound, but then everyone wanted a say and it turned into something else. I'm not saying that's a bad thing but, I don't know, it turned me off at times. And there was the physical side of things – rehearsal, recording and so on. And we were eight people in one of the bands so it was a struggle at times to get everyone together. I just want to lock myself up and get to it when I make music, preferably alone. So, I decided to start making tracks by myself and just let the band thing fade out – at least take a break from it. Going down the electronic dance music path was pretty natural as I had always been in love with that kind of music, but it's a constant metamorphosis. Music changes and you change, so what I've done over the years is really varied.
Your music is very "moody." It has this deepness and intimacy that you don't usually get from electronic music, but you manage to achieve that. I know it may be complicated to answer, but what do you think is the key to that?
Oh, that is a difficult question. There are a ton of answers, as there are a million little things that play into this. I do think it all comes down to trying to make the music feel alive though. Even if it's just looping along, you have to make the music breathe somehow. […] I'm a fan of the darker, melancholy side of music and that shows in what I do, but there's always a shimmer of hope in there. […] When a track is going too dark, I often try to incorporate a lighter element to give it balance and vice versa. The intimacy I think comes from not overcrowding the tracks [and] letting each element have its rightful place. And of course, the vocals play a big role in that too. It's a great tool to use to bring another level of emotion into the track.
It seems like you were trying to create some kind of vision with Land? What is it about?
I was stuck in a pretty frustrating situation and knew I had to get out of it. It was all about where I lived at the time; a smallish town in Sweden. I felt like I had nothing to do anymore. I sat at home a lot and didn't get much out of life. There just wasn't much happening around me. I had my friends, but it just wasn't enough. So I decided to move to get a new perspective. That move was to Malmö, where I currently live. Malmö's not that big, but it's grown into a really cultural city, with lots going on. And it's got lots of interesting people making interesting music. I instantly felt at home. So, when writing and producing Land, I thought about all this stuff; about being stuck somewhere – both physically and mentally – about moving, about not moving, about the places we inhabit, about the land between them. It's a record about leaving people behind and in a sense leaving parts of yourself behind.
Who or what inspires you? Music or otherwise.
I'd like to say everything around me. Right now though, my biggest inspiration is my gardening. I'm growing stuff on my balcony, like carrots, herbs, tomatoes. Just to sit down with a cup of coffee and be surrounded by plants, hearing people pass on the street below is pretty therapeutic and ideas just keep popping up. Still, listening to other people’s music is what really gets me into the studio. […] For Land I listened a lot to Peter Gabriel, old house records and the electronic samba group Antena. […] Lyric-wise I'm actually really inspired by my friends, or rather, the lives they lead. That really gives me the material I need to write lyrics. Maybe it's because I lead a pretty dull life. I don't know, but I love gossip.