Swedish anti-folk hero I'm Kingfisher, better known to his family as Thomas Jonsson, recently released the epic album 'Arctic'. Jonsson has toured relentlessly around Europe over the last few years and released three other albums, but ‘Arctic’ is his first release under the guise of I'm Kingfisher rather than as Thomas Denver Jonsson and it is something really special. Pulling influences from a wide variety of music and artists, 'Kingfisher' is also hugely inspired by the Arctic wilderness, (as the album title would suggest), and also those that have been pioneers in exploring this magical world such as Nobel prize winner and adventurer Fridjof Nansen.

Pennyblackmusic quizzed Jonsson on his music, where his inspirations came from and also all the fantastic music that is coming out of Scandinavia these days.


PB: It feels to me that while 'Arctic' is heavily influenced by the explorations of far off lands (for those of us in the living in the cities) there is also a real sense of metaphor about it for loneliness and longing, emotions that most people feel at some point in their lives. Was this intentional, or have I just read too much into it?

TJ: Although I've put the songs in an Arctic context, my initial idea with the album was first and foremost to do something more personal than on my previous records. Perhaps slightly contradictory, but when cramming in my impressions of Nansen rather bluntly together with myself, it allowed me to feel more free when writing. Some songs are all about me and some songs are all about Nansen and the rest are combinations of various degrees.

I wrote most parts of ‘Arctic’ after I had read some of the Swedish author PO Enquist's novels. He's very skilful in blending together documentary content with personal memories and then adding fiction to make a beautiful world of his own. After reading his 'Downfall' ('Nedstörtad
Ängel' in Swedish), the first seed was created in what eventually would be the ‘Arctic’ album.

So, you're definitely right that it is an album about general human emotions, and that's very intentional. Plus it's obviously referring both to television and my worries before flying, but the Arctic conceptual angle is also honest and shouldn't be neglected. This really reminds me. I did mean to write a dedication to Enquist in the album's booklet but of course forgot. It should say "to PO".

PB: Personally it is only through listening to 'Arctic' and reading up on the writing and influences you had while writing it that I learned about Dr Fridjof Nansen,. He was clearly a very inspirational man. What do you consider to be his greatest achievement or legacy?

TJ: I think what I like the most about Nansen is that he was such a multi-layered person. He was an adventurer, an author, painter and diplomat, occasionally full of doubts over what he was doing. I can really relate to that. You know, doubts and friction can be such a strong and potent catalyst for your everyday wish to make progress.

I also find it very romantic that the North Pole itself isn't a physical place. It's no land, just coordinates. There'll be no chequered flag there waiting for you to take home. It feels more like a state of mind really.

PB: Your music is incredibly evocative of Scandinavia and obviously the Arctic. Do you think you'd be making the same sort of music if you'd have come from say....Hull in England? Or do you feel that Scandinavia is a huge part of how your sound has developed and the sort of music you write?

TJ: Although I'm sure that Hull is the loveliest place in the world, I think and hope that my own situation, both geographically, personally and through musical experiences, have been crucial for creating what I do.

PB: My wife is potentially going to be doing polar ecology research in Svalbard in the future. Obviously it is the title of one of the tunes on 'Arctic'. It is of course somewhere not many people will get to visit. Is this somewhere you've ever been too? Or plan on going to?

TJ: I have never been there, but would love to go there though. I am dreaming about that seed bank there, where samples of the world's different plants are kept stored.

PB: Other than I'm Kingfisher, who would you consider to be the top three most important bands/artists to come from Sweden?

TJ: Dear Euphoria, an airy indiepop act fronted by Elina Johansson who I had the great honour to have sing on my previous album ‘The Lake Acts Like an Ocean’. Her EP ‘This Night Will Flee’ from last year is one of the best things being sprung out of Swedish soil ever. So is the band Loney Dear.
I also want to mention Pascal, a band I discovered when we were playing at the same festival this summer. I just love the way they combine loud, raw, monotone rock with great vocal melodies.

PB: Which new and up-and-coming Swedish artists should we be looking out for?

TJ: Keep an eye out for Bobby Baby. It's an electro-acoustic pop project of Ellinor Blixt who is one half of the band It's a Musical. They're currently working on their second album and she has also got this fantastic solo project of her own. After having a few awesome EPs out, I'm eagerly
waiting for her first full-length album.

PB: Which artists would you count as influencing you, both now and leading up to you 'becoming' I'm Kingfisher?

TJ: M. Ward has always been there. He's my favourite guy in the world. I got to meet him a few weeks ago, very briefl, after a show of his and I'm still very excited about that. And if PO Enquist inspired me how to compile the album thematically, rather surprisingly Six Organs of Admittance, who I shared a show with 2006, had a huge impact on the musical angle.

You see,I love minimalistic music and I also love big flippin' loud monotone stuff like Mogwai, Fuck Buttons and Sleigh Bells. Seeing Six Organs' show and how that spanned from noise to pure folk really hit a nerve. Of course I do my own stuff, but it really got me confident to let the album be wide style wise, from solo instrumentals to electronica coloured drone.

PB: If you could tour/collaborate with any artist or band dead or alive who would you choose?

TJ: Easy, the Band, when Richard Manuel was still around.

PB: Thank you.















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