Johan T. Karlsson, Musician & Producer
Words by Nikolaj Hansson. Illustration by Sine Jensen.
Johan T. Karlsson is most notably known in the Western hemisphere for his breakthrough-single, "Det Snurrar I Min Skalle", but the musician and producer from Southern Sweden is way more than just that one track. With four studio albums under his belt to which Karlsson has written and produced everything as well as making the vocal and instrumental work, Karlsson is hard to pass up when discussing the Swedish music scene. We linked up with him to hear him out about Swedish house, craftsmanship and Sverigedemokraterna.
Did the level of popularity that "Det Snurrar I Min Skalle" reached come as a shock to you?
Yes, very much so. Everything just took off all of a sudden and I no longer needed my ordinary shitty job. I started doing gigs and produce music full-time. Mission accomplished.
What made you write your lyrics in Scanian, the Southern Swedish dialect, rather than the more broad Swedish language?
I come from the south of Sweden and that is how I talk. I’m proud of my origin and I’m never going to change my accent like many do when they move to Stockholm or Gothenburg. The fact that I sing in Scanian makes it more special and more me. Some Swedish critics hated me for it, and that’s somehow what I wanted too.
After having produced and mixed for a variety of artists, you decided to venture out on your own project. What made you take this decision?
I needed something where I got to choose and make all the musical decisions. The people I worked with weren’t always listening to my genius ideas so I had to create Familjen as an outlet for all that.
In 2015, you released “Familjens tolkningar – Så Mycket Bättre”. What was the idea behind this project?
I was in the Swedish TV-show called ”Så Mycket Bättre” last summer. It’s about hanging out with six other Swedish artists in a villa on Gotland where we interpreted each other’s songs and performed them. Afterwards, I thought it would be nice to collect my versions and put them on Spotify.
It seems that there’s a lot happening in Sweden these years with regards to both gender as well as immigration politics. Do you agree with the direction that the swedes are headed? (Why/Why not?)
Right now there are strong opinions in all political directions in Sweden. Unfortunately Sverigedemokraterna, Swedens third biggest political party, is a retrogressive racist party doing its best to normalize their neo-nazi values. I strongly believe in a feminist perspective politically; the exact opposite to the politics of Sverigedemokraterna.
Quite a few household names on the house scene have emerged out of Sweden, including Avicii and Swedish House Mafia. Why do you think this is?
I don’t know. I think it’s a combination of talent, timing and luck, as always when you break through as an artist. Sweden has also got a good reputation musically and from what I’ve heard, we’re the third biggest country in the world regarding music export.
Are you more at ease with the music you release, now that you’ve experienced several successes throughout your career?
Yes, I am. I don’t have anything to prove to anyone anymore. I make music that turns me on, that’s it. In the studio, while working on Familjen-material, it’s all about me. Live on stage on the other hand, it’s all about unity. Nowadays, I also work with others as a producer and/or mixing engineer which is good fun. I think it’s good to alternate between your own career and the craftsmanship it takes working with others.
Do you focus on the different aspects of music, when working?
No, I don’t focus on those things. Normally, I’m just writing different songs depending on which mood I’m in, thinking full-length album. Then you pick the best ones, finalize them and choose the most radio-friendly songs to be released as singles.
Why do you think foreigners embraced your music that was written solely in the Scanian language?
I write and produce top tunes. That’s universal. Lyrics don’t matter really; it’s the phrasing and the melody of a vocal that matters.
What is your mission with Familjen?
To help people escape reality and feel the same passion as I feel while writing and performing my music.