Varg²™ on Sweden, Sincerely Yours, Therapy, and Being the Bad Boy of EDM

Varg²™ on Sweden, Sincerely Yours, Therapy, and Being the Bad Boy of EDM
Photo by Henrik Schneider
Photo by Henrik Schneider

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Varg²™ is an interesting guy to me, not just because he's made a lot of electronic music that straddles the line between several different subgenres (which I always appreciate). The Swedish producer comes from a loose artistic community filled with fascinating people who seem to be taking hold in youth culture (Bladee certainly being one of those people), and he's also from Sweden, a place from which interesting, challenging, and genre-straddling music always comes from. We got to have a great conversation about some of these topics and more, too.

I’ve always really been drawn to Swedish pop and indie in general, and Year0001 is to me one of the latest labels where I’m always hearing what they’re doing and am really intrigued by it. Tell me about releasing stuff through them, as well as the label’s sense of community.

I come from Skellefteå, which is in the top north of Sweden. We don’t have much of any culture. When I was a kid, there was this label called Westside Provocation from my hometown, and they had some successful groups like Sahara Hotnights and this band called Wade that was also signed to the same label as Blink-182 or some shit.

We also have a bunch of hardcore, like Refused and shit like that. Sweden used to always be so prominent when it came to the creation of music—there’s always been so much dope stuff coming out—but it kind of died out. Sincerely Yours, with the Tough Alliance and stuff, was the last breath before it started to die out.

So what you’re saying about Year0001 is true. It is a fact, they are one of the few interesting labels. It’s so easy to compile something fun if you just know Swedish music history and mix and mash what it is. You’re gonna find a pretty fun narrative, and that’s what Year0001 is doing. They found that narrative.

I’m glad you mentioned Sincerely Yours, which I have thought of while checking out Year0001 releases. We both grew up listening to their music. What impact did they have on you?

My connection to them is not so much—I sold ecstasy to one of them at a club once, that’s about it. [Laughs] But as a teenager, that’s all I listened to basically. Since I’m from the North, black metal was a big thing, so it was a lot of black metal mixed with the Sincerely Yours stuff.

It almost feels wrong to say, but Stockholm almost has this gloom over it that’s like uplifting melancholia, and Sincerely Yours really captures that. It’s sexy and romantic, but it’s also very hopeless and pathetic. It’s minimal, but big-sounding. There’s ambivalence in there. You don’t know what you’re feeling when you’re listening to it. It’s happy summer music, but it’s fucking sad, too. That gloom is all over Stockholm.

That’s basically why I moved back, because I’d been living in so many cities around in Europe and the world, but Stockholm has a feeling around it you can’t put your finger on. That’s basically what you’re hearing. Even AVICII was on that tip, too, if you think about it. It’s arena EDM, but it’s sad as fuck in many ways. That “Hey Brother” track, that country song, is one of the most depressing tracks I know. Femi from Year0001, her mother made a track called “Come Along” that was a big hit in Sweden, and it was the same type of thing. It’s a big pop anthem, but there’s something melancholic about it that pierces you.‎‎

When did you move back to Stockholm?

Last summer.

What’s the vibe been like over the last year?

It’s been fucking great, I’m not gonna lie. We’ve had a lot of good creators doing shit, but we don’t have anything going on. It’s beautiful, the winters are cold and long so you can just stay in and create, and that’s mainly what me and my friends do. We just make stuff. We don’t go clubbing. [Laughs] That’s pretty dope. It’s quality time to just create and be in this beautiful landscape and vibe.

I talked to Lokey a while back for this newsletter too, but I haven’t talked to anyone in Sweden about post-vaccine COVID-era goings-on. How have you seen things change over there over the last three years?

Sweden never really locked down fully. To be honest, I was broke as fuck during COVID. It’s been dope though, because I needed that time to stop and reflect. I was DJ’ing clubs every weekend, just rabbit-holing and trying to make rent money. Then COVID happened. I lived part-time in Rome and Denmark, moving around and trying to entertain myself, and at the end I ended up at my parents’ house in the North. I started thinking about what I actually wanted to do. For me, it was super peaceful and much needed. I started going to therapy again and biking in the forest, and I got the chance to re-evaluate what I wanted to do musically.

Do you know anyone that got significantly sick early on?

No, I don’t. I had COVID four or five times, but I also picked it up really early—I did a tour of Asia in January 2020. It was pre-testing, but I had it for sure. But I don’t know anyone that died from it or had severe illness.

What role does therapy play for you?

Everybody should go to therapy, for real. [Laughs] The most important thing we have is to get the tools we need to handle life and whatever comes with it. I’ve been in therapy on and off since I was 12 years old. I had breaks because you’re thinking you’re good, but even when you’re not good that’s not what it’s about—it’s about having the tools to face everything and understand others. Therapy is the backbone for everything. I stopped going to school—I don’t care too much about that—but therapy is like the real school.

Do drugs play a role in your art or your life?

I like to keep a clear mind. I don’t fuck around with drugs. I lost a lot of friends through overdoses growing up. I’ve never really been into drugs like that. I’ve seen too much misery to want to step into it myself. My brain is already fucked up. I’m crazy enough on my own. I don’t need to boost that shit. Drugs are only good if there’s money to be made. [Laughs]

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Tell me about your latest EP. It sounds to me like the latest evolution in your sound, but you and your colleagues’ work is pretty unpredictable in general.

From the beginning, I wasn’t set into making electronic music. I’m a pretty late bloomer with that stuff, I only started listening to it when I was 20 and making it when I was 22. I spent time in clubs for other purposes, but not for what the music was. I had to listen to this shitty 4/4 music all night, and one night I just had it and asked my friend, “What the fuck is this? How can these DJs make so much money off this shit?”

I got home and put FrootyLoops on my mother’s old work computer and started playing around, and then my friend stole a bunch of car batteries, which I sold so we could finance my first vinyl release in 2012. Since then, I’ve been really into making electronic music.

The main electronic music I’d heard at that point was the ambient black metal stuff, like Ulver and Mortiis. I come more from that sound, and from pop. So I was trying to—I didn’t try anything, I just made shit. People called it “techno” or whatever, but honestly from my first tapes it’s been an open diary. I release almost every track I’ve done, and my sound keeps changing because I’m learning new shit and evolving.

I never strive to have a specific sound—I just do whatever I want. We work really hard over here to manifest that. Looking back, it’s been tough, because some people do one thing really well and through PR they really get a certain boom in a market or scene. But I’ve never done that. I do whatever I want, whether it’s a cello and piano record or a 200 BPM record. You can still hear me in it, and it means the world to me that I’m not bound by genre.

What specifically appeals to you about pop music?

Melody is everything. That’s why I fuck with Whitearmor so much—he’s literally one of the best melody-makers in the world. He really understands the power of a melody. No one makes it like him. I don’t know too much about music-making, I just do my shit. I never went to school for it, I learned everything myself and I played around. And I play until I feel something, basically.

Ecco2k and Bladee are both on your EP—two artists who have amassed sizable followings amongst young people. Why do you think their approach has been so appealing in that regard?

I’ve known them for many years. Me and Ecco actually studied at the same book printing school. They were chilling at all the noise and punk music spots. They’re not scaled down in terms of what their influence is—it’s more about organic creating. [Laughs] Fucking organic—I hate that word.

But it’s about not being held back, and letting inspiration hold, and not caring whether people will respect it. You have to set a trail. They have all these influences—hardcore, black metal, pop, punk—that are super melodic. We all have a sense of melody like that.

When you think of the future, what do you dream about?

I’ve been thinking so much about EDM. Back in the day, when people would classify me as techno, I’d always answer that I make EDM. It’s literally just “electronic dance music.” Now I’ve reached the point where I’m like, “What the fuck even is EDM?” Swedish House Mafia, all due respect, they’re back, bigger than ever, shout out. AVICII is dead unfortunately, RIP. But we have so much good EDM, like Eric Prydz.

There’s never been a bad boy of EDM, so I’m laying here right now in my cowboy boots thinking I’m going to be the new bad boy of the EDM world. I want to be standing at fucking Tomorrowland playing hardstyle shit.‎

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Jamie Larson