Kent 2007: a serious quartet with, from left to right: Sami Sirviö, Martin Sköld, Joakim Berg and Markus Mustonen. If you look closely, you can spot a grin on Martin.
Photo by: Johan Carlsson


A new Kent order

By: Johan Carlsson
Published: October 20, 2007

Kent is without a doubt Sweden's biggest band. An extremely popular band that also manages to get universally great reviews, and it has been like this for the last ten years. No mean feat! It's been two and a half years since we got an album from them, and now they have returned to the scene with the electronically tinted "Tillbaka till samtiden". Since this is right up our alley here at Release, I arranged a meeting with bass player Martin Sköld and drummer Markus Mustonen.

Pretentious, moi?
When I enter the Psykbunkern studio (complete with a Kent clock and Kent plectrums) for the second time in my life, I do a quick photo session with all four members of Kent, and it’s a joy to behold Joakim Berg’s extremely grumpy face as he sits down, completely in Kent character. Both Markus and Martin quips away, but Jocke doesn’t move a muscle.

– People think we never laugh and are serious all the time.

Drummer Markus Mustonen tells me this later as we sit by his drum set, in front of Martin’s bass amplifier, and we are currently discussing the recent band picture found on their web page where the members are all dressed up in 18th century wear. Much to mine and the bands amusement, a lot of people actually thought they were being serious and called the band pretentious.

– We only wanted to take the concept of a photo session further, says bass player Martin Sköld with a smile on his lips. We turned it into something ridiculous, and it was fun to hear some people trying to predict how the album would sound just from watching the picture.

As I sit together with Markus and Martin in the cosy but murky studio where Kent spends most of their time, I once again realize that this grumpy image couldn’t be more wrong. They are both funny, easy going chaps and they make an effort to make me feel comfortable. Markus even remembers that Release did a Kent cover story in 1996, in the old printed Release magazine.

The pic that caused so much fuss.

I ask if there is any symbolism in the pictures, as in going from “then” to “now”, alluding to the album title “Tillbaka till samtiden” (“Back to the contemporary”), but apparently there’s not any. It’s a sort of wordplay of “Tillbaka till framtiden” (“Back to the future”), and the pics were taken in the beginning of the year, when the title hadn’t even been set.

But let’s move on to the new album. “Tillbaka till Samtiden” marks a new era for Kent, as they have moved towards a dark electronic sound. Martin tells the tale of how this came to be.

– On our last album we had so many guitars, and there were little melodies and guitars everywhere. We just got tired of it, and wanted to do something different. We got together and everyone wanted to go in the same direction.

– We have done electronic tracks before, Markus chips in. For example “Spökstad” and “Längtan Skala 3:1”, but it’s perhaps not as prevalent as now.

Demo versions
One other reason is the album producer Jon Schumann, also called Joshua, who worked as a front of house mixer for Kent's opening act Mew on the “Vapen & ammunition” tour. When looking for a producer, they remembered that Jon said he knew a thing or two about Pro-Tools and they decided to give him a call. And apparently it worked out perfectly.

– He immediately had a lot of ideas for the tracks, and was a perfect fit for us, Markus says.

In the early stages of the making of this album, Martin and Jocke travelled to Paris to make demos. They brought Martin’s laptop and a Neumann microphone to make basic songs on, in their hotel room.

– When we played the demos for Jon he surprised us by asking us to keep a lot of the rough demos, Martin explains. Normally we make the demos, and then almost automatically add guitars and stuff on them.

Apparently the first single “Ingenting” sound very much like the demo, and so does “Elefanter” and “Berlin”.

Jon and the band hired Allaire Studios outside of New York to record the bulk of the songs, and it was a really creative and productive session, and according to Martin and Markus we have many more great tracks to look forward that didn’t fit the flow on the album.

– We worked like hell during daytime, and then chatted with each other and drank beer during the evenings, Martin reminisces.

Depec... umm, Kent.

A choking sampler
After spoiling us with huge concerts and tours the last couple of years, the shock was total when Kent announced the new dates. Only medium-sized venues were used, and they only announced two gigs in Stockholm, with a capacity of approximately 3000 people each. Fans hustled to get tickets, and the concerts were sold out in a couple of minutes. Kent then added several extra gigs to meet some of the demand. But did they honestly think that playing for 6 000 people in Stockholm would be enough? When they played Stockholm Stadion in 2003, 33 000 people showed up.

– Hmm, well, Martin starts off. It’s always difficult to know. The last gig we did got bad reviews (the gig at the Hultsfred festival), and since we got a different style on this album we thought it was better to be safe than sorry.

– It’s going to be really fun to do something smaller this time. We have done some really cool tours, but some were almost too big. Each day you met someone on your own crew you hadn't seen before and thought “whoa, who’s that?”...

So will Kent do their gigs in Kraftwerk style now, with lots of synthesizers?

– No, you will get this, says Markus pointing towards his drum kit.

– But Andreas Bovin will have a lot more to do, laughs Martin.

Andreas plays keyboard live, and he has had to buy four new synthesizers for this tour. The story is that his sampler almost died when they loaded all the sounds required. Another change in the live setup is Max Brandt, a new live guitarist that will accompany them on tour. Martin:

– He is an old friend of ours since our school days, so there was nothing to discuss really.

– He’s a skilled jazz guitarist, but he actually had some problems with our melodies, haha. He’s so used to variation, while our songs use a lot of monotone riffs.

Here we go brooding again.

It turns out that both Markus and Martin are into dance music. The single “Ingenting” features a couple of techno remixes and we start talking about dream remixers for the second single (which hasn’t been picked yet). Markus starts off.

– Aphex Twin!

I point out that in that case they will have to be prepared for the fact that it won't sound anything like the original song.

– Hehe, no but that’s what we want, Martin says. I think dance music is more about moving forward compared to rock music. There’s a whole lot of conservatism in rock music, while dance music is more about breaking the rules. Sort of like punk when it came.

Other names dropped were Vandalism, BoyzNoize, Justice and Trentemöller. Kent have had some contact with Trentemöller actually, but he’s on tour right now and isn’t available for remixes. The same goes for Justice. 

Our time is up, and I carefully step over all the cords on the floor, while Martin and Markus rush out to check their laptops in the kitchen. As I walk out in the daylight, I think that I will have a couple of days to write my article and review since the album's release date is not until the week after. Alas, the album leaked on to the Internet and the record company acted quickly and pushed the street date forward, so "Tillbaka till samtiden" was in stores the day after my visit. Such is the music business these days.

Read more:
Release "Tillbaka till samtiden" review

Johan Carlsson's Kent interview from 2005

Release issue 1996/1 with Kent cover story can be ordered at Tidskriftsbutiken