One of my favourite albums of this year must be “Definition of raw moments from a different perspective” by Mago, released by Ad Noiseam. Beautiful, relaxed music with a warm feeling. I was rather surprised to hear that the Swedes behind Mago are the same people who are involved in Sanctum and Azure Skies. Jan Carleklev was so kind as to tell more about this new project…

Can you introduce Mago and its members in a few sentences?

For the work with “definition of raw moments from a different perspective” mago was supported by the following people: h?kan paulsson, ulrika carlsson, stephanie euler and me, jan carleklev. H?kan, who is the male voice that you can hear on mago, has worked with me in a lot of projects since 1988. The other voice you hear is stephs. Ulrika is responsible for the video performance during our concerts. We try to get away from “one-guy-turning-some-buttons”-concerts to more-dimensional happenings on stage. I am by the way the guy that turns the buttons and presses some keys to write the music.


Help, I’m confused. A few years ago I first heard Sanctum. Then a cd by Parca Pace appeared, followed by the project Azure Skies. Now there is this cd by Mago. And a while ago I encountered a track by the Crescens Collective, which also seems to be the general flag under which most of these projects are united. Can you give me sort of a family tree?

I was trying to take away this confusion by establishing the crescens collective. To unit all the bands and projects that I?m involved in. Crescens collective is a bunch of people that I like to work with and that are contributing with something in my striving to explore and express. This doesn?t have to concern music, it can as well be visual arts. I?m very much into working with film and I?m always open for new ideas in any field. The members can be in for just one project or stay till the final day. My idea is to create a situation where creative people meet and my wish is that those meetings create situations that wouldn?t have happened otherwise. If I may use this metaphor I could say that I?m trying to build up a brand called crescens collective and the different project that I?m involved in is different products around this brand. When people see something labeled crescens collective they can have and idea about who is behind that and what quality it has.

When and why did Mago came into existence? Weren’t you making enough music already?

The idea arose in 1999 – I discussed a couple of ideas that I had with h?kan. I wanted to write beaty music, not pure dance music but music with a groove. Along the path I discovered another area that is kind of close to this in a way, the monotony. For some reasons the project evolved in another direction, the slow beats came naturally when I started to work on the album. I think this was due to the idea I had about monotony and also because of the over all soundscape I had in mind for the album. but my mind wasn?t clear about what I wanted to archive with mago and the first album before autumn 2001. then I started to put together “definition of raw moments from a different perspective”.
I can never make enough music, that is something I have to do and since my urge to explore different soundscapes is so strong I have to put the music in different projects. And even with all the releases i have put out so far, I still sit here with a lot of unreleased music.

Being very enthousiastic about the Mago cd, I was telling a friend about it. I found it quite hard to give him an idea what the music sounds like. How would you describe the music yourself?

Please don?t make me describe my music, I find that so difficult too. I think most of the people out there writing music find that difficult. The thing with music is just that it isn?t supposed to be described with words – otherwise I wouldn?t write music, I would write words instead. If I try to describe my music I would be forced to start comparing my music with other bands and genres and talk about material stuff like, the music is made with electronic instruments bla bla bla… that kind of things wouldn?t say anything about the listening experience. As a composer you?re not supposed to describe your music. I can see the point for journalists to do that and they should do that very carefully but they will never reach all the way. I give you this. Slow semimonotone contemplating music. But still borrow your friend the mago so he can get an idea.

Were there distinct musical acts or styles that influenced the Mago cd?

No there wasn?t. I never start the work on a track or an album with a style in mind or a particular act. I have a vision that I want to explore and see how close I can get the core. What influence me in the process is hard to tell. I think everything I experience through my senses can have an impact. I don?t say that musical acts can?t influence me but right now I must admit that it is very difficult to find any interesting new and challenging music. I have to return to a few albums that I have had in my collection for a while to get a really kicking experience.

I think the sound of Mago is quite emotional and warm, with a ‘retro’ feel. Do you agree with these qualifications?

I understand that you can sense a retro feel on the album but that wasn?t intended. That has more to do with the over all sound I wanted to have on the album. You also speak about warmness – that was something I had made up in my mind very early. I wanted to reach as far as possible in that sense. It?s so easy when you work with electronic instruments that you get a static and cold feeling in the material and I have done what I could to escape that. Concerning the emotional I always work emotional.

The Mago cd comes in a wonderful package, with some very nice cards amongst others, with childhood images and texts. How does it relate to the themes on the cd, and how important is the visual side for Mago?

The visual side is important to us. As soon as the music is ready, we try to put the same attention and care into making the cover. But of course there are parts that happen spontaneously – the tight up rabbit was one day one stephs paper and never went away again. It worked well, after we were looking for something pure (children are kind of pure, we already used that theme in “spaceships and piles of mud), emotional but with tention or certain dramatic (like the music). Another aim was to give it a personal touch, therefore the handwriting and the photos.
What I said about the cover counts in the same way for the video work ulrika does for our concerts.

Is it possible to perform the music of Mago live, or will it always be a studio-only act? How would a Mago concert look like?

Ohh yes, of course it is possible. and we?re going to do that as much as we can. As I just said a mago concert would include videos that ulrikas mixes on stage. It includes also me, who is pressing some buttons, h?kan who donates way more vocals than he does on the cd. Also giving it a little bit more harsher sound. Steph hasn?t really decided yet if she is a sample or not, so her appearance can?t really be guaranteed.

I read that the music of Mago was originally meant as a soundtrack for a dance performance. Can you tell us something about that?

A misunderstanding has occurred here – I must have said something in the past that makes people think that it originally was a soundtrack. It wasn?t meant for a dance performance and it wasn?t a soundtrack. The very first idea with mago was to start a project that should be kind of beauty, not pure dance music but music with a groove.

But to talk a little bit about dance performance I can tell that I just have started working on music for a dance performance. I?m very happy about getting the chance to do that again and work with the dance group Agnes one more time. This time the topic for the performance is about choices in life. Both to work with Agnes and to work with that particular topic I find very challenging.

How did you came into the contact with the Ad Noiseam label, which released “Definition of raw moments from a different perspective”?

It must have been 2000, when I spoke to nicolas for the first time. He asked me if I would like to contribute a track to the compilation krach test he was planing. A year later we met personally in berlin when I was playing there with sanctum and azure skies and nicolas was one among several people that made that stay amazingly fun. Then I moved to berlin and naturally nicolas and I got in closer contact and started to think about a joint venture. Finally we settled that score and I started to work focused on an album with mago.

What kind of equipment do you use? And how does a typical Mago songcreating process look like?

Mago2Basically I use a synthesizer, sampler, a bunch of different effect units and a computer. Then I have some handdrums and some other percussive instruments that i use to create the rhythms. I also record anything that sounds and can fill a purpose in a song.
Speaking of instruments it is kind of amusing that a lot of people (I admit: me too – HD) think there is electric guitar on the mago album. There is not a single chord taken on a guitar on the album. Maybe you can mistake a distorted synths for a guitar, but I think a guitarist would cry if somebody told him or her that there is guitar on this album.
A typical songcreating process looks something like this: In the beginning I have a very basic idea in my mind for which I try to find a way to transfer it into music. The first step in the process is usually long and contains only of thinking about what I want and how to archive that. At one point in this process I try to create a sketch, collecting sounds and lines to see if I have understood what I want. Usually this fails big time. Then it is just to continue struggling with thinking and playing around with my idea. But at one point I most of the time find it, and that it is an amazing feeling. The rest of the work goes smoothly but still very time-consuming. For me it is so important to find the right sound and I can spend days tweaking a sound for the right feeling.

How can someone that made harsh tracks like ‘In two minds’ (Sanctum) create such releaxed music as Mago?

I have no answer to that. For me it?s not about writing harsh or relaxing music. It?s all about writing music. But I?m very happy to get this question, then I know that I have succeeded in my striving to do whatever I feel like doing. No slavery under a certain genre. Then of course the fact that I use electronic instruments to create my music is putting me in a some kind of general genre but that is something I have to live with. with all the music that I have done I have had an idea and then I have sticked to that one as far as possible. If that leads me to write an azure skies album or a mago album doesn?t matter.

Can we expect more of Mago, or is it a one-time project?

You bet!!!
But first I have to see where “definition of raw moments from a different perspective” is going and I also have to finish up a couple of albums for other projects. The work and final result of this album have been such a fun and so satisfying so that I?m definitely going to walk another round with mago. in fact there are already one or two tacks up in the air for mago.

The name Sanctum means something like ‘sacred place’. For some reason many of the releases you’re involved in have something ‘spiritual’. Is this indeed a important element in your work?

Mago3Both yes and now. but we have not chosen the name sanctum to express that. We wanted to create a special room for us in the band. A room where we could freely explore something unknown to us. and we wanted to express something no matter what. This room also holds a meaning in the way that we wanted to show music some kind of respect. That we along the road have gotten people out there to share this room with is so cool.

For me it is very important to create room for things. That?s the reason way I have started the crescens collective. Here people can meet around just one project or they can stay till the final day. The collective is about to make space for people to meet and exchange ideas and work together. My vision for the collective is to let it grow in any way possible, as long as it stimulates people to explore new ideas. It?s not only about music, it is just as much about visual art. In the long run I would like crescens collective to be a distributor of creative ideas. This can be on CD, picture video or what ever.

Opps!! Now I kind of lost the line. Back to the topic. I think spirituality is important. Music is spiritual, it has a soul so in that aspect it is kind of natural that you connect spirituality to my music. I?m also fascinated by life and the spirit within life. We?re kind of ban in taking care of this spirit and what I?m doing when I write music is to explore and bring this spirit to the front to be seen.

Are there important non-musical matters that influence your music, like art, literature, travelling, movies?

All those things that you list here is important to me. I?m quite sure that it influence me to, but I don?t know in what way and to what extent.

I really liked the track by The Crescens Collective on the Krach Test compilation. Can we expect more music under that name?

I?m glad to hear that you like that track. One of the projects that I mentioned above to be finished before I do another mago cd is just what you asking for. I have written almost enough material for an album with that kind of music. what is left is basically to produce the songs and to find a label interested in releasing the music.

Where do you live? Do you think the environment you live in has an effect on your music?

I have moved from Berlin to an island on the east coast of sweden this summer. This island is an amazing place so beautiful and filled with spirit. You are kind of isolated here – four hours to the mainland – more sheep than human beings, but it gives you a lot of time to focus on your own work.
I think the environment you live in effects you in many different ways and I?m sure that comes to expression within my music, but once again I can?t say in what way and to what extent that colors my music.
Something that always is brought up when this topic arises is the lack of light we suffer from during the winter. I think it makes a difference and you can hear that in a lot of swedish music, not only the genres that I have been put in. But then the fact that we during the summer almost have daylight 24 hours a day also must play a role but that is never discussed. I?m sure this influences us too.

Do you have jobs/studies besides your musical activities? And do you see that as a burden or as an enrichment?

I have just started to work full time after several years of studies. It is difficult to make time for all the stuff that I want to do and to be able to perform live. So I would say that it?s mostly a burden. Then I must admit that I?m working with stuff that is fun and creative so I?m kind of fortunate. But none would be happier then me to be able to live on the music, to have the whole day to be able to focus on music. But there is simply no money within the music I do.

A classic question: if you were banned to a desert island and you could bring along 5 records, which would that be?

I would take one album from each of these artists and I would let the moment decide which one it would be: bj?rk, einst?rzende neubauten, schostacowitsch, my bloody valentine and fl?skkvarteten.

Are there future plans of any of your projects that you would like like to tell the readers about?

There is of course plans for the future and I have a lot of stuff that want to do. Some of that was mentioned earlier in this interview. to not miss anything that is going on in the crescens collective you should visit our webpage every now and then.

Any final thoughts?

Thank you for some interesting questions. That doesn?t happen too often so it was a pleasure to answer them. Hope it?s interesting to read the answers.