Name: Fredrik Wallin aka FredAtlast
Occupation: Songwriter, multi-instrumentalist
Recent release: FredAtlast's Banner of A Lost Belief EP is out via Small Matter.
If you enjoyed this interview with FredAtlast and would like to find out more, visit his official homepage. He is also on Instagram.
Where does the impulse to create something come from for you? What role do often-quoted sources of inspiration like dreams, other forms of art, personal relationships, politics etc play?
I think it's a mix of curiosity, in the new and the old, of letting the inner world manifest itself in the exterior, and by doing so, repealing the feeling of alienation. So I guess it's all about making a connection somehow.
I think all these sources can play a part in igniting the impulse, it’s sometimes subtle and other times more direct. On this EP it's mostly personal relationships that inspired the lyrics. Musically it's all over the place.
One specific work of art that comes to mind and that inspired the song "Banner burns" is the film: The draftsman's contract by Peter Greenaway. Michael Nyman’s music is so pomp, joyous and pop-baroque.
Have a listen to the tune “Chasing sheep is best left to shepherds”.
For you to get started, do there need to be concrete ideas – or what some have called a 'visualization' of the finished work? What does the balance between planning and chance look like for you?
There is a pretty constant flow of ideas and sometimes grander visions.
I’ve found it quite limiting with a too specific vision. It’s good to strive for that but chance and acceptance must be put into account.
Is there a preparation phase for your process? Do you require your tools to be laid out in a particular way, for example, do you need to do 'research' or create 'early versions'?
My preparation process for this project has been to find stillness and my own space. There are a few early versions, I need to live with the songs and ideas for a while. To challenge the lyrics, arrangement, tempo, key etc before I record it.
Do you have certain rituals to get you into the right mindset for creating? What role do certain foods or stimulants like coffee, lighting, scents, exercise or reading poetry play?
I've found that the creative train often departs in the early morning, so I try to be up, open and ready to board. One cup of coffee, no breakfast, ready to go. I tend to get a bit analytical and sometimes too critical in the afternoons, then I try to focus more on production, delivery and admin. There is usually a second wave or train departure in the evening.
I've found that late night walks or bicycle rides get me in a good flow, as there is something about movement, but also as a way of winding down.
What do you start with? How difficult is that first line of text, the first note?
The start is always the easy part for me. Finalizing and finishing, that's the hard part. Or even the part in the middle, the decisions, the endless possibilites.
When do the lyrics enter the picture? Where do they come from? Do lyrics need to grow together with the music or can they emerge from a place of their own?
It’s different for every song, it often starts with a key phrase that appears with the first riff or just when I’m out on a walk. Like: “This town ain’t for strangers, this road is forlorn.” Or “One day I'll be gone and you can ... I cup my hands from under your eyes ...” from the song “Salty doubts”.
Then I record the flow on the phone and freely associate, decipher the words and connect the loose ends.
What makes lyrics good in your opinion? What are your own ambitions and challenges in this regard?
I think I’m drawn to lyrics that are open to interpretation, poetic imagery without being too abstract. The human and personal predicaments need to be there for me to really connect.
I take great pleasure in my ambitions but I'm often challenged in finding the right balance between honesty and composition.
Many writers have claimed that as soon as they enter into the process, certain aspects of the narrative are out of their hands. Do you like to keep strict control over the process or is there a sense of following things where they lead you?
I've found this to be true as well, that I have to follow the narrative for the song, accept where it needs to go and what it's trying to say.
It can be very challenging sometimes. Also dealing with the disparity of the feeling and the banality of the words. Detachment and grace is of importance.
There are many descriptions of the creative state. How would you describe it for you personally? Is there an element of spirituality to what you do?
There is definitely an element of spirituality, in the sense that It’s like opening up to something, being a vessel for it, letting it speak, flow or sing through one's self. It’s some form of consciousness, either the subconscious or perhaps a collective one. It’s all about connection.
Especially in the digital age, the writing and production process tends towards the infinite. What marks the end of the process? How do you finish a work?
I've found that my attention can be quite limited, therefore I’m drawn to more minimal forms of expression. The old cliche of ‘less is more’ is true for me. Otherwise it can become diluted or overwhelming and not in a good sense.
These songs had to work with just a guitar, keys or a bass, the rest is icing on the cake, but just the right amount. It’s been helpful to play the songs to people around me, to listen to what they hear but almost more important; what I hear, when I listen in the presence of others. What I become conscious about. It’s very telling.
What's your take on the role and importance of production, including mixing and mastering for you personally? How involved do you get in this?
It’s crucial for me. It’s the delivery and the clothes of the musical body. The first impression and part of the character. It can make it bounce or crawl.
Finding the balance of polishing the edges without losing them.
After finishing a piece or album and releasing something into the world, there can be a sense of emptiness. Can you relate to this – and how do you return to the state of creativity after experiencing it?
Yes to a certain degree, I think it should feel empty. It's no longer mine
Still feels quite early for me now though. It’s only been a week and I’ve been busy with other things. Think it's good to stop for a moment to evaluate the process, also to be thankful to everyone involved. I'm saying this mostly to myself.
Creativity can reach many different corners of our lives. Do you personally feel as though writing a piece of music is inherently different from something like making a great cup of coffee? What do you express through music that you couldn't or wouldn't in more 'mundane' tasks?
There is such a directness with music, that the actual playing, singing doesn't have to go somewhere, it can just be a pure moment, collectively or by oneself. Like a jam or a meditation, that's just meaningful in the way it connects us or to certain parts within.
Writing I guess is more like cooking, improvising with what's at hand, making up a new dish and writing down the recipe.