- Bryon Harris
Vargen - Music Interview
Vargen ('The Wolf' in Swedish) is the stage and recording name of singer-songwriter Reine Johansson. Vargen's music encompasses Americana, country, blues, folk, rock. His album debut Sånger från Natten, sånger från Dan (2017) featured new music set to Swedish author Dan Andersson's (1888-1920) darker poems. Tänk inte efter (Don't Think Twice - Bob Dylan in Swedish (Vinyl/CD/DL 2019) featured new Dylan-approved translations by Vargen who collaborated with singer Mia Rosengren on the project. Tänk inte efter received critical acclaim outside Scandinavia. Vargen has also collaborated with Anna Vild on the single "To Stockholm From L.A." and released the EP Bluesliv (both 2019). What got you into music?
Good music got me into music. My parents had a great record collection with most 60's bands like Creedence, Steppenwolf, Beatles, Stones and Doors. When I was eleven one of my mom's cousins gave me her acoustic guitar, since she never played it. I started practising and began to write songs almost right away.
What is your favorite part about being an artist? Is it songwriting, performing, recording, something else?) Tell us why.
All of them, really. I get an instant kick from playing live and a lasting kick when a song's turned out nice in the studio. And songwriting is a bit like a relationship, sometimes it's love at first sight, sometimes you have to get to know eachother bit by bit, and sometimes it's just a brief encounter you know never gonna lead to something good.
Can you tell us what being in the recording studio is like for you?
I love it, much thanks to producer Andreas Alm, who's a great director in the studio. For these last albums I've been well prepared, knowing the lyrics by heart and have had an idea of what mood the vocal should have. My singing partner on the record, Mia Rosengren, usually nails a track in one or two takes, she has a voice that's just there from the start. I'm a bit envious of that, I tend to search for a character, and sometimes want to try different styles. It probably has to do with my acting background. I love the studio process, hearing a track grow with the band's contributions.
As a songwriter or musician, are there any obstacles you have had to overcome or obstacles that you are facing right now in your career?
Time. An album can easily take a year from production start till street date if you're into physical records like I am. So when it's ready to master, we usually start a new project right away. This year obviously has been a disaster, with delays in distribution and of course, cancelled gigs.
Who do you admire most in the music scene today and why?
I think Lana Del Rey's 'Norman Fucking Rockwell!' album is a masterpiece, both conceptually and artistically. The best album released in years. And that Bob Dylan at the age of 78 releases the chilling 'Murder Most Foul'...you have to admire that.
To date, what do you think your best song is? Can you describe the song for us?
Since there's not much original work out (yet), I'd have to go for 'Visa vid Varma Källorna (Song from the Hot Springs)' from my debut album, where I set new music to Swedish writer Dan Andersson's darker poems. It's the best melody I've written this far. The lyrics are very mystic, the springs are the narrator, telling their story of men sacrificing to them in the days of yore, but now has forgotten them and began to worship machines...quite over the top, but I love that poem. I'm pleased with the video too, beautiful nature, just about a mile from the studio, and we managed to get a Czechoslovakian Wolfdog in the cast!
Are you working on any new material right now or what's in the works for the upcoming year?
Yeah, we've finished six songs, one of them an approved translation of Mark Lanegan's 'I Am The Wolf'. Some of the songs will get English lyrics as well. Right now I'm only writing original work in English, so there's a chance that they are released first.
Tell us where fans can access your music?