Grilling Mattias « IA » Eklundh (Freak Kitchen)

After a track-by-track of Freak Kitchen’s latest album, Cooking With Pagans, concocted by Mattias “IA” Eklundh himself, here’s our full interview with the band’s leader, singer, and guitarist. This time we take a more general look at the album (five years in the making), but also at the band itself, and at their promising collaboration with cartoonist Juanjo Guarnido, a Freak Kitchen fan who has worked for Disney and is most famous for his Black Sad comic books.

If you don’t know the man yet (and even if you do), this interview will paint a rather comprehensive picture, and allow you to discover an atypical, quick-witted musician. With humor and intelligence to spare, the man talked about pretty much everything: Freak Kitchen and Art Metal (with bassist Jonas Hellborg), his crazy soli as Freak Guitar, his love of India, his highly unusual use of guitars, his contempt for effect pedals, his musical tastes, his philosophy, his humility (he considers himself neither a singer nor a guitar player), cows, and Gustave Flaubert.

« Everybody is dead serious and they’re all pseudo angry on stage and they growl and they dress up like [takes deep a scary voice] panda bears and everything… We relax a bit, but we still rock hard and we’re louder than everybody else. »

Radio Metal: Three years have separated Move from Organic, four years Organic and Land Of The Freaks, and now five years have passed between that last album and Cooking With Pagans. How comes time seems to expand in between your releases?

Mattias « IA » Eklundh (vocals, guitar): [Laughs] it’s a bloody good question! Well, the thing is I’m super busy in between. It’s not that I sit and just wait around. Time is my true enemy, as it is for everyone. But basically, between Land Of The Freaks and Cooking With Pagans I did a double album called Freak Guitar – The Smorgasbord. That took some serious time to actually do that when it was forty tracks long, so it took many years to record it. Then I did an album with Jonas Hellborg called The Jazz Raj, which also took quite a bit of time. And then you travel, you get kids, you get married, and… It’s a lot of stuff. Life usually comes in between. But without saying too much, I actually started making rough drafts for a next Freak Kitchen album, the one after Cooking With Pagans, because it takes such a long time and I want it out maybe in a year or two. But then again, I know how it is, because when Cooking With Pagans is out, we’re gonna tour like crazy. Over the next year we’re gonna tour like crazy as well but the ideal thing for me would be to actually do short tours – sometimes weekends, or a maximum of 10 days in America or a week in France – and then work on new music here, back in Sweden. But we’ll see I haven’t got a clue. You know, to me, we’re looking back and it’s like “bloody hell, it’s been five years!” So yeah, that’s how it is. The actual recording doesn’t really take long, because I have my own studio. It’s just all the shit that comes in between.

And the other guys, aren’t they a bit frustrated with these long waits?

Yes. [Laughs] yes, because when we record drums and stuff, Björn, our drummer, is really fast. So he’s doing his takes in a day and a half, five years ago, and then he’s like “Ok, I did my one and a half day, now it’s your turn”. And then it takes me five years… But the next one won’t take as long. I promise. I promise. I hereby officially promise.

[Laughs] The album is called Cooking With Pagans. Is this what you consider yourself to be; a pagan?

[Laughs] Well, I’ve always sort of walked my own path. I don’t really feel I’m… [Stops] of course I’m part of society: I pay taxes, I’m a nice guy and everything, but I try to have as little to do with it as possible. So yeah, I’m a freak, I’m a bit of a pagan every once in a while, I do as I please. Initially we actually wanted to call it Wi-Fi for Pagans! I was in Australia with this guy who was accompanying me on my travels, we were having lunch and I said “Can you check the password because I need to make a skype call home.” He went in and asked and they said “No, no wi-fi for pagans” and I thought “oh, that’s a good album title!” So we looked it up but with all the trademark bullshit saying “Wi-Fi is a registered trademark, you can’t use that”, we said “fuck it!” Since Freak Kitchen is a [with French accent] gastronomic kind of name we thought “What the hell, let’s call it Cooking With Pagans”. And I’ve always had this idea to have ourselves with our heads chopped off – I don’t know why I have this idea, but I’m Swedish, and I’m a pagan, and I do as I please [Laughs] – and the cows sort of taking over and wanting to cook us, but we’re all very jolly and happy about having our heads chopped off, I don’t know why. So yeah, that’s how it is [laughs].

Do you actually have a special relationship with cooking?

Eh, not really. I’m a vegetarian, and so are Björn and Chris. But I like occasional French food – I like your coffee very much. But no, I’m not a wonderful cook. I’d rather eat good food than make it myself [laughs].

You often have a quite provocative way of addressing serious topics with humor and sometimes the other way around…

Absolutely! I want to bring people in and share and include them as much as possible. I think it’s also much stronger if you include them and you actually bring yourself into the equation. You know, it’s very easy to sing about “I know everything and I’m right and you’re wrong” and having pointers, but that pretty much sucks, because the more I know… the less I know, actually! The more I learn, the less I know. So I think you can sing about pretty much anything, but since you have the opportunity to have some attention, in a planet that has a very short attention span, it is good and you should use that time to actually say something that concerns you. And sometimes humor is a very good way to actually get – not your message – but your thoughts through, and that’s what we use. I think humor does belong in music, as Frank Zappa said.

Do you think a topic can have a greater impact when it’s conveyed in a humorous manner?

Sometimes, sometimes, sometimes… eh sometimes, sometimes, sometimes! [Laughs] it needs to be serious sometimes, humor does not always belong. But in a way it’s good. There are many songs on Cooking With Pagans with dead serious topics about life in general, about getting older… But in my book, you should do it with a twist because it makes sense, and your guard is way down. Every now and then it’s not so humorous and then sometimes it is. We like to have a good time, you know. Everybody is dead serious and they’re all pseudo angry on stage and they growl and they dress up like [takes deep a scary voice] panda bears and everything… We relax a bit, but we still rock hard and we’re louder than everybody else.

The song Once Upon A Time In Scandinavistan kind of has a cartoonish vibe. It makes me think of Primus actually. Is it a band you enjoy or are influenced by?

Yeah, I used to listen to Primus a lot, many years ago. Sailing The Seas Of Cheese, and Suck On This, the first two or three albums were just really kick ass, and I like the Brown Album as well. I haven’t heard about them in a long time, are they still together?

Yeah, they’re coming up with a new album actually; it should be out this year.

Oh, Good, I need to check it out. It is probably unintentionally influenced by Primus. There are a lot of Indian elements as well and there’s a long fretless guitar solo to end it. But yeah, Primus is some cool shit [laughs] talking about growing their own moustaches!

Just like on every album since he joined the band, Christer sings on one song, “Private Property”. When we talked twelve years ago, you seemed pretty confident about the fact that he would sing more in the future and hoped that he’d share the singing with you on some old Freak Kitchen tunes. But that never really happened. Why?

[Laughs] oh, good God, if I knew! I haven’t got a clue. You do what you do, and again, we’re all fathers and time is the enemy. But the thing is we need to get our shit together now, throw out a lot of stuff and change a lot of stuff in the set list as well and we need to get our asses together. So September will be the big rehearsal month! And I would also like Björn to sing lead on some tracks as well because I’ve damaged my voice a bit, as you can probably hear. It actually added a new dimension to it, and everybody likes it but it’s raspier and more broken. We like it, but it’s slightly more evil. But it’s actually because of age and touring, and singing for 26 years without being an actual singer [laughs]. I’m not even a guitar player, I’m a drummer you know, but it’s really hard to write songs on a drum kit! So it really might happen, you never know. We’ll see! Next time in France, he might sing a lot more.

« I just am sort of gifted with liberal ears to understand when there’s a potential musical idea – maybe not brilliant, but at least it provides a certain sound. »

But how comes he kept being limited, so to speak, to one song per album?

It’s not really “limited to”. He’s very cool with it as well. I consider him to be the real singer because he has a great voice and everything and I have a lot of stuff on my mind and he says “You are the voice of Freak Kitchen” and so on, and he also has his own side project where he sings on everything, called Eaglestrike. We’re actually recording the vocals for that in my studio next week. I’m producing the vocal sessions. But it might happen. It’s just how it is somehow [laughs]. Because I sort of work all alone in my studio, and work and work and then we’re like “ok, what do we have? Chris, will you sing on that one?” We also spoke about him doing harmony vocals but somehow, on record, our voices really don’t match super well. I don’t know why, it’s the same with Björn! It works live, but when you start recording, they’re so different! He’s got a great pitch and the timbre of his voice is completely different to mine which has a lower range and everything, but it just doesn’t work. I had him sing a little bit on “Freak Of The Week” because Juanjo wanted that, but it didn’t work at all from a producer side, it didn’t work to blend. But you never know, never say never, it might happen, so just be on standby, we’ll see.

Your music can be quite heavy and technically challenging but at the same time very catchy and full of pop melodies. Do find a special pleasure in playing with opposites?

Yes. It sounds like a stupid cliché but we really make the music we can’t find anywhere else. We like a good and solid songwriting and it doesn’t matter at all what kind of genre. We can really freak out on some acoustic ballad or a jazz song, or a death metal song or whatever. As long as there’s a good and solid songwriting, we like it. And we’re influenced by everything. As you know I’ve been really into Indian music for the past almost 10 years now, and that has really spilled over in our music. But Land Of The Freaks sounded really Indian especially on songs like “Teargas Jazz” and “OK”. Now it’s more subtle, it’s more hidden away, but it’s still here in almost every song. You don’t really feel it but even in a song like “Sloppy” – which sounds like ACDC – there are lots of Indian elements like Carnatic music and odd time signatures and everything. You don’t really feel it, but it’s there. So we basically cook our strange music. We throw a lot of ingredients in from all over the world, from different genres and styles, and then we sort of make our own very strange dinner; which is Cooking With Pagans. You can do anything, but I always like a good hook. I’ve always liked a good hook line, a good chorus that you can sing along to.

Is the kind of freedom you allow yourself in music a result of your own broad taste and open mindedness in music?

Again, I try not to think too much of what I do when I produce and write. I just go for the gut feeling. But It’s great to be independent in that way, that we can decide to the very last drop exactly how it sounds. I’m there, mixing it together with a great engineer, I record everything, I work with a mastering guy and even do a bit of the artwork, so it’s really nice to have that control but it also takes time, especially when you produce yourself. Sometimes you have to be somewhat objective, you have to get away from it all, and get back to it again and have another listen. So it’s tricky business and that takes a lot of time as well. Sometimes I write something and I think “Oh, this is a kick ass song; it’s going to be great”. Then you start recording it and you start putting too much shit in there; too many overdubs, maybe a delicate guitar, orchestration or whatever. And all of a sudden, I hear it with somebody else’s ears and I realize that “Oh, I’ve just ruined the song. The good stuff of the song is gone and now it’s just a big gooey mess.” And then you have to take it away, you have to kill your darlings again and again. That was not your question but… [Laughs] I just talk because I have a mouth!

What music do you usually listen to?

Oh, good God! I think you would be really disappointed if you looked into my iPod. I’m an iPod kind of guy; I’m old school… Well, if iPod is old school. But I buy a lot of records that I put into the iPod. Recently, I’ve just put 48 CDs – that took a long time, 48 CDs! – of Ella Fitzgerald. So that’s one big playlist, it takes about 5 days to get through it or something like that. I listen a lot to Dean Martin, Jango, even Edith Piaf, believe it or not! I cleanse my head listening to old stuff, I listen a lot to Buddy Rich, stuff that have nothing to do with Freak Kitchen. If I listen to classical music it’s usually contemporary classical music or I listen to classical Indian music, or Romanian music, but not so much metal. I’ve said this many times, but in order to grow your own moustache, you need to hide a little bit from what’s going on around you, so you can find your own path. So that’s what I do, I cook and I sit in front of the fireplace with a glass of Cognac maybe or a glass of “vin blanc”, or a glass of water, and I listen to “golden oldies” so to speak. And then I come up with the most insane idea, and then I come running into the studio and manifest it and record it. So my iPod is not a heavy metal maniac’s wet dream, take it from me! [Laughs]

And what would be the most shameful music you actually enjoy?

Oh, there is no shameful music, I think. It’s about good music or bad music, but I can really get off on very trivial stuff. I can listen to The Eagles and say “Oh, this is just kick ass” or to some country music or whatever or “hey, I listen to Mozart” and “oh, this is all the white keys of a piano” no it’s not, it’s quite sophisticated! But to me there’s no shameful music. I listen to everything. It’s anything. If I listen to rock music it’s usually AC/DC. For some reason it’s always the music I go back to and sort of relate to. Why is this so groovy? What is it that these guys have, you know? Before I start a production, I always listen to Let It Be Rock by AC/DC or Frank Zappa’s Overnight Sensation or Into The Great Wide Open by Tom Petty and I wreck my brain wondering why these are so good. Of course these are great songs but also production wise, they cut to the chase. And I think Cooking With Pagans is pretty raw and pretty honest, there are not so many overdubs. You have two guitars, with a maximum of three but sometimes only one, sometimes nothing but bass and so on. So it’s the most stripped down album and I think also the album that sounds the most like Freak Kitchen does live.

Freak Kitchen is very pop oriented and one would think that it has a big radio potential. But we don’t hear Freak Kitchen on the radio so how would you explain that?

[Laughs] I think, usually, yes: there probably is a great potential in every song, but there also are stuff in every song that sometimes are disturbing. Maybe it’s a word, maybe it’s what it’s about, maybe there is some strange Indian breakdown, reduction structure… There is always something. We never ever write anything with the aim of getting on the radio. If they play it, that’s fine, but I mean, how much metal music do you usually hear on the radio nowadays anyway? It’s cool you know, you have the kids out there and more people than ever that listened to the band. We want to grow and make the band bigger but always on our own terms and always with integrity. So we turn a lot of stuff down that would perhaps make us much bigger, but we would also lose control of the band and so on. So that’s a fine line, but you can really expect to hear a lot about Freak Kitchen in the future. We’re like herpes, we really won’t go away! We were gone for some time and now we’re back! [Laughs]

« Maybe it’s madness to spend all that money on an animated video when you could give it to charity, but on the other hand you would never get the money for that. »

We talked about cartoons earlier. You’re collaborating with Juanjo Guarnido who did the artwork and is currently making a music video for “Freak of The Week”. Can you tell me more about how you two met and your collaboration?

Yeah, he’s an absolute sweetheart and we’re so lucky. He contacted us, he just wrote me an email one of these days and he said “Hello, I’m Juanjo Guarnido and I’m a Spanish bloke who happens to be an artist. I have done a lot of Disney movies, worked with a lot of stuff and now I have this Blacksad character which is wonderful and I love Freak Kitchen. I’ve been a fan for a long time and I would just like to send you some of my stuff.” And I freaked out when I received the FedEx package: he drew me with Blacksad, rocking out. I was just like “Fucking hell, this is absolutely awesome, you need to do the artwork for the album!” and he said “Well, of course, that’s the reason I wrote” [Laughs] “I just didn’t say so” in his humble way. And I freaked out again when I saw it, and Chris, our fine bass player, being an artist himself nearly sort of shitted his pants when he heard that Juanjo Guarnido [contacted us]. He said “Oh, he’s a fucking God in the comic world, he’s wonderful!” Time went by, he did the artwork and then he said “Listen, I’ve always done these movies and painful animations, and I’ve always been really disappointed with the end result because it has never turned out as good as I wanted it to be, and for once in a lifetime, I would like to have complete control and I’d like to make an animated video.” Of course, animation by hand, a zillion frames per second, takes a lot of time and it costs a lot of money to do this in 2D, in old school actual drawing. It’s got nothing to do with all the cartoon channels and their super-duper quickly animated stuff – some of them are good and some of them not so good. So I said “of course, let’s do it” but then he said “how much money can you actually cough up?” and I said “well, even if I sell my house it still wouldn’t be enough.” So he said “well, let’s do a Kickstarter campaign” and he worked really hard and we had great support from the comic world and God bless you, all the people out there supporting this: we had 152 000$ from the Kickstarter. It’s still not enough and he’s working like crazy and putting on his own capital and everything for 4 minutes and 45 seconds I think. It’s going to have a world premiere in New York at the Comic Con in the first half of October and then we’re gonna premiere it as well in Gothenburg with Juanjo here, joining us on stage, perhaps even playing a bit! It’s on November first, so then it’s gonna be out there on YouTube of course. There’s a book being written about the project as well because there is so much wonderful freaky art that it needs to be documented. He’s just a dream come true, he’s such a sweetheart.

Were you surprised by the incredible success of the Kickstarter campaign?

Yes, very much so! But I also knew that Juanjo said “I’m going to do it, and we’re gonna succeed!” So he was really the guy who made it happen. He had actual private talks with a lot of the donors and everything and said “listen, if you pay this much, I will do this and I will draw you stuff and everything”. So it really didn’t happen by itself, there’s a lot of work behind it you know. So when people do Kickstarter, maybe they will have 6 000$ or 7 000$. We have 152 000$ when the goal was 90 000$ so it’s amazing. And maybe it’s madness to spend all that money on an animated video when you could give it to charity, but on the other hand you would never get the money for that, so we try to give money on the side to good stuff like Green Peace and Amnesty International, but once in a lifetime it’s actually great to do something like this. We’re just bloody floured from it. We have a drop box folder where all the updates are being sent and every time there is a new update I just fall off my chair because it looks so damn good.

Do you think this collaboration will go further in the future?

I truly hope so, absolutely. On November 1st, when we kick off the Cooking On The Road tour, Juanjo is going to be with us, actually live drawing on stage for 3 or 4 songs with a camera and a big screen. So anything is possible, the future is wide open.

Has this motivated you to further expand and associate your music to other forms of art?

You never know! When I compose, I always think in pictures as well and in order to write something, I need an idea that triggers my mind. I watch a lot of movies, I read a lot of books and anything can be done. It’s great! I also get sent a lot of wonderful art from people who were inspired by the music so it works both ways so to speak.

On another topic, you’re known for using some pretty surprising objects with your guitar. How do you get those ideas that no one beside you would actually think of?

[Laughs] I think it helps to live in the Swedish countryside as well and walk around in your strange jogging pants, your strange shoes and everything, and to give yourself the time to come up with new stuff. But I never do anything for the sake of doing it. I never sit down and say “ok, what to do today?” and look around wondering whether I could use this or that. Everything I do happens by mistake. I just am sort of gifted with liberal ears to understand when there’s a potential musical idea – maybe not brilliant, but at least it provides a certain sound, like “Musth” that I play with a comb or I use the ass dildo – forgive me – or play with chopsticks or printers, or horse clips, or remote controls or balloons or alarm clocks, or anything! I just do it because there is a sound in there that I haven’t heard before and you have to have some kind of musical statement with it, otherwise there’s no point and then it gets back to “Freak Of The Week”: you do stuff to get some really fast attention and then it’s gone. But if you do stuff that create a new sound, then it makes a big difference. Even if it’s cheesy, like playing with a comb, it really works, and it’s fairly easy to do. And it’s a French comb! [Laughs]

What are your latest experiments? You just mentioned the comb, but what about the rest?

Yeah, on Freak Guitar – The Smorgasbord I played with my son’s pirate balloon through the guitar, on a stupid song called “Trumpet Lesson”. It’s not really a song, it’s just stupid noise. Anything is possible, I have some stuff in the works, but then I would have to kill you if I revealed it. [Laughs] you will see! There is more stuff to come, I promise.

I saw a picture of your 8 strings guitar and noticed it has irregular frets. What is the purpose of that?

Yeah, it’s called True Temperament; it’s a Swedish design invention and it’s the best thing that has ever happened to guitars in my book. Because a guitar is pretty much a “caca” instrument, you can’t really tune it. Well, some people say it’s in the nature of a guitar to be slightly out of tune but for me it’s like driving with three tires instead of 4. If you can make it better, why don’t you? And I think that between Caparison Guitars and True Temperament frets, guitar playing has never been more fun! It’s insanely cool now that you can actually tune your guitar in a correct way. So actually the correct notes are measured properly and then the frets are shaped after where they are. With the 8 strings guitar, it’s absolutely divine: you have a small chamber orchestra in your hands. It’s just amazing, so check it out [takes a commercial voice] www.truetemperament.com!

Well, you’re using an 8 strings guitar and you also have a fretless guitar. Is it important for you to try out every type of guitar that exists? Or every sound you can make?

[Laughs] Nah! Not really. There are many people who have a much better knowledge and control of all kinds of instruments. I check my gut feeling and if I say “oh, bloody hell, this sounds interesting” then I ask Caparison to build it for me. I say “Can you send me a fretless guitar?” and they say “Yes we can!” And then I jerk around with it for a while and if I find something musically interesting I record it and maybe it becomes part of my arsenal, sort of. The 8 strings guitar was given to me by another company, at the time Caparison didn’t have 8 strings guitars. So I asked them saying “listen, I really see a great potential in playing an 8 strings guitar tuning it the way I do with a low E string and an A string and then E string and then another A” which means I have excellent octaves now in perfect tuning as well thanks to the True Temperament frets, and they said “What the hell, we’ll just build you an 8 strings guitar and release that as your signature model” which they are about to do very soon. And that’s great when they do stuff like that, because I didn’t want to work with any other guitar company so I’m really grateful for their support and it’s a kick ass instrument, take it from me. It’s absolutely stunning, I love it.

« I actually like to quote Gustave Flaubert who I think said back in the days ‘be regular and orderly in your everyday life so you may be violent and original in your art’ and that’s really how it works for me. »

You’re known for creating some quite improbable sounds with your guitar without adding any effect. Would you say that there’s so much to explore on a guitar before actually plugging it into an effect pedal?

Yes, I think that most of the time with the effect pedal, even if you dig up some crazy sound, it’s still the pedal doing the sound, and there will always be thousands of other players that can do the same sound. But a guitar itself, together with distortion, maybe a vibrato bar and an arm, you can do so much! You can do so much with the natural overtone series, the harmonies of the guitar that I use a lot as well; combining that with actual notes, you can do so much! For me, I feel limited when I plug a guitar in a couple of pedals and an amp. First of all I don’t want 9 volt batteries and adapters in between the signal chain; I want a good cable – a Brazilian Santo Angelo Cable by the way, almost organic cables – I plug that into my guitar, and then I have a completely passive Jim Dunlop volume pedal, no batteries whatsoever, and it’s built to withstand a world war, and then a Laney amplifier, and that’s all I need. If the sound engineer wants to add delay on a solo, that’s ok, I don’t really care, I don’t hear it anyway, but I don’t like it when I play. And a Laney is pretty harsh as well. I love it but you have to take control of the amp and that’s good, because then you need to get your shit together and I like knowing when I suck [laughs] I’ve said that many times!

You definitely play a kind of crazy music, considering the standards, but does that actually reflect your life? Would you consider yourself as a crazy man or living a crazy life?

Oh, I live a very, very [chuckles] not so crazy life. Well, it’s crazy if you consider that I travel the world and I sleep very little and I play in strange places and I experience a lot of strange stuff. But I actually like to quote Gustave Flaubert who I think said back in the days “be regular and orderly in your everyday life so you may be violent and original in your art” and that’s really how it works for me. I don’t compose well when I haven’t slept at all or if I was to wake up in Jakarta or Katmandu. I compose well once I’ve had a good cup of coffee – maybe French coffee – and sit in my studio and everything is cool, the bills are paid, the cars are working, everybody’s happy, well and healthy. That’s when I come up with the nastiest ideas. I can’t remember, what was the question again? [Laughs]

Well “does the craziness of your music reflect your life?” essentially.

Well, I think, again, the cooler and quieter, the better. Being outdoor works as well: I chop wood, I have two German shepherd, and I walk the woods and everything. I live a cool, pretty decent life – yes, on Friday evening I might have a glass of wine, but I don’t do drugs, I don’t smoke, and I’m a vegetarian. So then you can come up with some pretty nasty ideas. If your life is chaos all the time, you get absolutely nothing done.

You have a new Art Metal album out with Jonas Hellborg called The Jazz Raj. How would you describe your musical relationship with Jonas?

Well, Jonas is both my bigger brother and my younger brother. He’s a lovely man and he’s one of the few real guys left in the show business I think. Everything he does, he does it for the music, and he’s dead serious about it. He’s just a wonderful guy and again a great composer and bass player. I have learnt so much stuff from Jonas and not just musically but he taught me “don’t give a shit about this” and “this is not important” and so on. He’s a great guy. Sometimes he’s so radical I have to clean up after him, it’s like, he’s burning bridges in every direction and I’m like “hey, Jonas, relax and blah blahblah”, and “this is what Jonas actually meant in the interview, he didn’t really mean that and blah blahblah” [laughs] that is when he’s becoming my younger brother. But mostly he’s my little guru.

The album is mixing Western and Indian music. You’ve been a fan of Indian music for 10 years as you told us before but could you tell us more about your relationship with Indian music?

Yeah, actually it’s both Indian music and India in many ways. When you visit India, it really crawls under your skin, there’s just no way back. The country will mess you up in one way or another for better or for worse. It’s the same thing for Indian music, there’s no way back either. I’ve learnt so much, in so many ways, it’s really hard to describe. I can’t go back! Everything I do, even if I walk my dog, I walk and sing a little bit of Konnakol. It’s a rhythmic language that can be applied to anything: you can build the most complex time signatures in a super easy way because it’s very smart. Some of the greatest mathematicians of our time were Indians, and they just see the big picture. And also the tonality, going into ragas and everything really opened up a lot of stuff for me. Coming to India, playing with Indian musicians and doing it together with Jonas and alone… There’s no way back, I adore it. I’m going back again in October, we have a Freak Guitar Camp in India, in Poona, which is great. It’s just outside, in the jungle. I’ll teach everything I know about music to a lot of Indians for a week and I’ll bring my 8 strings guitar as well. Before that I will go to Calcutta, Bombay, Deli and Bangalore as well. So there is no way back, I try to go to India once a year at least.

Whether it is with Freak Kitchen or Art Metal, you seem to always choose trios. Is this a deliberate choice? Do you prefer trios over any other band formats?

Yes, I do. It’s naked, and again you need to get your butt together. There’s no hiding whatsoever, you are completely stripped down. I adore it, there’s so much freedom, but it’s also dangerous because you need to know what you’re playing and you need to play it like you mean it, with conviction. So yes, I like trios, I do! [Chuckles] and there’s more money for everyone as well… HAHAHA!

You’ve put out a double solo album last year. Do you consider these solo albums as a space for total freedom?

Yes, it really brings a sense of catharsis in a way. It’s my musical outlet where I do anything that comes to my mind, so yeah, I need that as well. I love Freak Kitchen; it’s always my main baby. It’s the mother ship and it is the important thing. And to have a band and to have guys like Björn and Chris is divine and there is nothing more powerful. But when we don’t work as much in between, once we’re done touring and everything and it’s time to think about a new record, I have all these musical ideas that really don’t belong in Freak Kitchen. So yeah, that’s what Freak Guitar is. I need to do this, otherwise my brain will explode.

Does it mean you have some self-induced limitations in Freak Kitchen?

No, not really. We do anything we like but I don’t want to go into very very strange territory, because I want it to be a band. I want it to be a song based band. I don’t want to make… I don’t know; a very disharmonic orchestra suite. I want it to be a band, because that’s a cool thing and that’s what we do best. But sometimes to do a song playing with balloons or remote controls or whatever, it wouldn’t really belong in Freak Kitchen. We could do anything we like but we also want to keep it a band with good songs. Freak style, of course.

About former drummer Joakim : « He would always end each of these letters with really stupid cows that would take a crap in my face for some reason, I don’t know why! [Laughs] »

The solo album you released before that last one was recorded in your bathroom…

[Laughs] Yeah, yeah!

Have you improved your recording process since then? [Laughs]

[Laughs] I did! That was the first Freak Guitar album which was recorded in a bathroom. Now I have a lovely studio, it’s in a separate house next to mine. I can see it from where I am sitting now in my office. It’s lovely, it’s about 4 meters away from the other house and it’s got two floors with an apartment where I can keep strange Indians that have flown in [laughs]. So yes, I have improved and I have progressed.

Freak Kitchen takes another dimension live. When are we gonna hear a live album or see a DVD?

You never know! We are shooting the concert on the first of November, it’s also gonna be streamed live in Gothenburg for the grand premiere of the Cooking On The Road tour. So, we’ll see, it might happen next year, you never know! We have shitloads of materials. Just the other day I was watching a lovely concert from Nepal, for instance, which is handsomely shot with lovely HD cameras. I have materials for maybe 20 live DVDs in my studio!

Freak Kitchen has been around for more than 20 years. How does that make you feel?

It’s amazing; I can’t believe it has been that long. It has been 21 years, or even more. 20 years in counting. But we still have shit to do and we are still in pretty good condition and we know more now what we actually want to do and what we don’t want to do, so… “vive la vie!” as I say. [Laughs] we are coming to France in February. That’s the plan, February or March, so stay tuned. And I hope to see you freaks there!

Do you already know which cities you are going to visit?

I think the first tour is part of a bigger tour. I think it’s called Progressive Alliance or something like that, which is going to be all over Europe, so I think we’ll do maybe 3 shows in France. But then we’ll come back to France and do all the cities… Obviously there will be Lyon and maybe Bordeaux and Paris of course. But we want to play more so we will come back again after that, maybe in May or something like that.

Actually this year precisely marks the 20th anniversary of the first Freak Kitchen album Appetizer. Do you plan on doing something special?

Eh, not really. Again, I am not so nostalgic or a re-releasing kind of guy. I want to move on. Let’s make a special album after Cooking With Pagans instead! [Laughs]

The Freak Kitchen symbol has always been cow. What’s the reason for that? Do you have a passion for cows?

[Laughs] That’s actually a common question! No, not really. I’m a vegetarian so of course I love cows and I don’t want to eat them. And they’re holy in India so that works really well as well. But it started with our former drummer Joakim drawing cows when he was living in L.A. and I was living in Copenhagen when we were young and actually sending [takes a mysterious voice] real letters, written on paper, to one another! He would always end each of these letters with really stupid cows that would take a crap in my face for some reason, I don’t know why! [Laughs] but that was always his way to say bye bye. And then I thought the cows were hilarious so for the first album Appetizer, which you mentioned, I had this idea of making him draw a cow for each song. He did it and everybody loved it so we said “Well, the cow needs to stay.” It doesn’t really mean anything; it doesn’t have a deep philosophical meaning, unless you want it to. It’s just a cool symbol. And Juanjo took it to a completely new level with the cows actually taking over and chopping off our heads. So yeah, I like it.

That actually makes me think about an interview we did with Devin Townsend, who’s a vegetarian too by the way, and he said that cows are awesome, so I guess you should do something with him! [Laughs]

Absolutely, yeah! I met Devin many times. The first time was when he produced the Soilwork album. I can’t remember the name now (note: Natural Born Chaos from 2002. Matthias was invited to play a solo on the song “No More Angels”). He’s a lovely chap so you never know!

Interview conducted by phone on August, 26th 2014 by Spaceman.
Transcription : Natacha.
Introduction : Spaceman.

Freak Kitchen official website : FreakKitchen.com

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