Interview with Reine Fiske of Dungen
  • TUESDAY, JULY 10, 2007

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Two years ago, Swedish psychedelic rock band Dungen were most likely known in the U.S. to only a handful of psych fanatics and Scandophiles (We know that might not be the term, but you get the point). But as word of their fourth album Ta Det Lungt began to spread around the blogosphere and into indie rock retail, the quartet quickly became Band du Jour and Lungt rightfully found its way on numerous end-of-year lists. After prolonged tours in both the U.S. and Europe, the band needed a breather, choosing to leave the “buzz world” and record Tio Bitar (“Ten Pieces”) last year. Alternately expanding and contracting on the ideas laid out on Lungt, Bitar is more than merely a worthy successor to Lung; It’s a fully-formed album whose best moments are equally as blissful as its predecessor. In a candid interview, guitarist Reine Fiske tells Baeble about the conflicts and hostilities that can accompany fame and how his band overcame them. Or have they?

Baeble: Given that the band decided not to tour immediately around this album, what are you up to?

Reine Fiske: Not much is happening. It’s been a while since we played live. To be honest with you, it’s sort of resting time.

B: How do you relax?

RF: There are a million things to do in Sweden. But lately, I’ve personally been feeling a bit down. I try to get involved in different projects. You wonder if you’re going insane or normal.

B: Where did that insanity come from?

RF: Not insanity, but working with Gustav can be very pleasurable, but it’s also…I don’t know what to say really. I’m probably the one who gets closest to him in the creative process of making a record. Usually, he does a lot of things alone. That’s how he works. But [he] uses me quite a lot for lead guitar and bass. I get pretty close to him and making this record has been very, very hard actually because everything’s been so turbulent.

The pressure this time was because Ta Det Lungt took a couple of years for the material to grow into actually becoming an album. This record is more of a collage. These songs were actually recorded for the album. It was not songs put together to become an album. That created a lot of friction and pressure and there was a time limit. He worked his brains out.

B: Did you try to take a bigger role on this album?

RF: No, because [Gustav] listens to other peoples’ ideas but he wants to get his things through first. But maybe I changed my approach towards him on this one because we’ve been together so much. I’ve been with him since the first [album]. We’ve been close for a while now, but we almost grew tired of each other because it’s a very hectic thing to do. You live in each other’s pockets and then you suddenly have to be inspired to do things in a different way. You have to find new blood.

B: Did you find there was more pressure making this album given the acclaim Lungt received?

RF: I think Gustav felt that, but he eventually gave that up because you have to. Of course it affected the whole thing though. We knew that more people knew about it and were waiting, which is a nice thing. [But] this nice thing can also turn into a monster and that happened in a way. But when we finished, it was okay because the album felt okay. This is how it is. This is the way it turned out this time.

B: You’ve released your music mainly through independent labels but at one point were signed to Virgin. What problems did you have being on a major?

RF: I think for Gustav, it didn’t work at all because he wants to feel that he’s having total control and he didn’t have that. People told him to go there and there and you have to do this interview and that and he just doesn’t cope with those kinds of things. He’s not interested. It’s not the way to do it anyway. You create something, and of course you have to spread it in some kind of way for people to know about it, but it’s not supposed to be that way. I think the Internet is a very good in that way and you should be able to download stuff.

B: I read that Gustav was in a pretty bad mood while recording the last album. What was the vibe on this one?

RF: To be honest, I don’t know what to say. We were doing a pretty short tour in Europe and things were starting to get weird. People started to flip out [in the band.] There was a lot of friction going on, but that’s the normal thing. We’ve never done this kind of thing before and it creates a lot of friction and pressure because you put so much in it and there’s so much passion lying around. Even though Gustav wants things to be his way, I was playing the music into something that would become our way of doing it. Of course, he accepts that. We’ve been playing almost every night for two years and it’s been working. Eventually, though, you freak out. It becomes too big or too strong or too passionate. You don’t sleep very well. You drink too much. You smoke too many cigarettes.

B: Was the band ever on the verge of breaking up?

RF: I never said this to anyone, but yes it was. We didn’t because we mended it again.

B: This was before the last U.S. tour?

RF: It was not a break-up, but it was a mental breakdown.

B: How did you work through that?

RF: I don’t know because I really don’t know where we are right now to be honest with you. The thing is this: Gustav is feeling quite well and he’s been recording some new stuff and I’ve been recording some stuff with him. I think Gustav deliberately wanted this record to just sorta be what it is. There wasn’t a tour planned or anything. The record company in New York, they wanted to make a tour of course, but we decided no, it’s not very appropriate to do a tour right now.

B: How difficult a decision was it not to tour?

RF: (Long pause) I don’t know, really. This sort of communal decision of not making our psyches go to bits was more important than going away again. It’s all of us together really, but Gustav is the captain. It was sort of a mutual decision. It felt like, “OK, we have to jump off the train for a while.” Maybe I’ve said too much.

B: Do you feel your psyche is back?

RF: Uh, no, not for me personally. I think I’m actually going insane. I miss playing so much. But I’m trying to get involved in different musical projects. My last words are Gustav is very passionate about what he’s doing. Music is a very important, vibrant thing for us. There’s no one that I ever played with that I felt the way about music as with him. He’s very important to me as a musical soulmate. It’s always music surrounding everything, so those things can get very intense. I think that’s what happened. It got very intense. It got too much. We had to take a break. But he’s recording again and we’ll see what happens. - Jason Newman

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Tio Bitar is out now on Kemado Records.

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