HigherFrequency  DJ Interview



While two albums, two EPs and a string of collaborations may sound like the discography of an ageing musician past his peak and slowly on the decline only to be seen again in the pages of a musical almanac, these are surprisingly the accomplishments of Ernesto who at 24 years old, and with a third album due out in April, is anything but a fading star. Back in Japan for his fourth visit Ernesto was kind enough to spend a little time chatting with Higher Frequency about jazz, raves, church and Michael Jackson.

As we listened to Ernesto's upper-class British enunciation we began to question whether the twenty-something artist, better known to his parents as Jonatan Backelie, truly originates from Sweden or even whether he was based for more than a year in rough and ready Birmingham. But it's true and once you get over the accent you'll find there is a lot to be learned from this vocalist who blends jazz, soul and electronic music into a genre of his very own.

* If you would like to view the video interview...Click Here!

> Interview & Introduction : Nick Lawrence (HigherFrequency)


Higher Frequency (HRFQ) : Higher Frequency (HRFQ): Thanks for talking to us today. We've heard from Shuya Okino that you've actually been to Japan quite a few times. Can you tell us how many times all in all?

Ernesto: This is the fourth time and it has been in a very short period as well. The first time I was here was November 2004 and then I was here again in May, last November and now.

HRFQ: What keeps bringing you back to Japan?

Ernesto : Well, every time I'm here I'm trying to desperately think of a way that I can come and visit again because it totally blew me away the first time. But also I think the contact I got with Shuya Okino was very important. We envisioned a project at first that was putting together a compilation of works I was doing with other producers and that was released in May, so I came back to tour. Then I presented him with the sketches or the demos for what later became this album. I asked him, "Can you please see if you can find a label home for this?".

HRFQ : How did your relationship with him (Shuya Okino) first start?

Ernesto : He came to Gothenburg actually when I was living there because he was aware of the music scene going on. So, he just came to visit and took us all to a nice Japanese restaurant in Gothenburg. Then we kept in contact. He came to the club night we were doing there and then he invited me over.

HRFQ : Talking about Gothenburg, we've actually spoken to some guys from 'Dealer's of Nordic Music' and apparently you Hird and Andreas went to school together. How well did you know each other back then?

Ernesto : Well, really well. Christoffer (Hird), Andreas, I and a guy called Paul sort of hooked up instantly when I started school there and we've been best friends since really. We are still really really close.

HRFQ : How big a part has that played in your musicalc

Ernesto : I think it is hard to see how much it really has influenced because it is so greatly important. I've been doing music with them throughout all these years and I started at that school maybe eight or nine years ago. You know, keeping in contact with them and doing things musically, especially Andreas who I am also the closest to on a personal level. So, I think musically when we come together, since we know each other so well, we compliment each other really well in the studio and can bring out various sides of each other's music making that we maybe didn't think of at first by ourselves.

Ernesto Interview

HRFQ : What about your musical background, can you tell us a little bit about that?

Ernesto : Well I think a lot of people who are into jazz, soul and electronic music started off doing jazz and soul then at some point came across electronic music and tried to fuse that together. I really came from a background, when I was about eleven or twelve I started to listen to breakbeat and sort of ravey things around that period of time. Then it wasn't until my teachers presented me with jazz for the first time at the age of sixteen that I sort of took to that. And that became a part of my writing and how I performed and I sung. So for me it was the other way around, I started with the Prodigy and moving on to Chet Baker and possibly refining things a bit.

HRFQ : So, sort of different than everyone else you think.

Ernesto : Yeah I think there are a lot of people that have done it the other way around.

HRFQ : You said you were eleven or twelve when you got into breakbeat and that sort of music. When was your first rave or dance music event?

Ernesto : In Sweden it is quite strict with ages and I missed a lot of the period where it was illegal raves out in the forest and other things like. So, I think the first things I went to must've been about the same age as when I started high school. It was, you know, not legal either. I was about fifteen, sixteen or seventeen at the time and the problem there was that these places were dangerous to be in and people were taking all kinds of heavy stuff that seventeen year olds shouldn't be around. But seeing as we couldn't get into the legit clubs where people were just serving alcohol, we had to go to where fifteen year olds were doing heroin.

HRFQ : Yeah, not quite a safe area to be in.

Ernesto : Not exactly, no. I found myself on the tram going to school one day, reading the newspaper after passing up the opportunity to go to the club the night before. I was reading the front page and it said there was a raid on a club on such and such street. And I was like, "that sounds awfully familiar, that is where I usually go to!". That's when I really found out, when they were saying fifteen year olds were found with traces of heroin in their blood, that was the kind of place I was going to. I didn't realize and I didn't see people do it until I could read about it in the paper. So that was kind of scary.

HRFQ : What about the other end of the spectrum, your time singing at church while your father was a preacher? What influence did that play do you think?

Ernesto : My faith has always been a very strong and important thing in my life. Coming from that background, that's a really good place to grow up in as well because people are very supportive and being on stage somewhere where there isn't a lot of bad influences as a kid. Whereas I recall seeing something in a Michael Jackson documentary where they were talking about after the Jackson's performed the strippers came on and it's not the ideal place for a child to be in. So I think to grow up in church and have that kind of support from everyone around you is greatly important.

Also, it has made an impact on how I perceive and see music because it made me realise the message is the core of the music, not the music and then you unfortunately have to write some lyrics to it. So for me, in my writing, regardless of if it's spiritual or about love or about having a good time or whatever, those lyrics are the thing that I want to promote and letting the music be the vehicle to do it and reach out to people with it.

HRFQ : You mentioned Michael Jackson, is that something you are sort of aiming at, that sound with your new album?

Ernesto : I think that when we started the project he is a good reference with 'Off the Wall' because it is a very mainstream album but it is still really dancey all of the way through. You can play it in clubs now and people go absolutely bonkers. That kind of thing where I didn't want to make a house record because I didn't want to alienate people that listen to more mainstream type of music, I wanted to reach out to both club and radio listeners and what have you. I just saw that as a good example of that kind of album.

Ernesto Interview

HRFQ : On the new album you've worked with a lot of Swedish and Japanese producers who we assume you've worked with before on other productions. What about Seiji from Bugz in the Attic and Atjazz, how did you get in touch with these UK producers? How did that start?

Ernesto : I mean now I do a lot of collaborations with people from Gothenburg whilst in Gothenburg and then when I moved to Birmingham I came into contact through my publisher and other channels with Seiji for instance and Atjazz. Atjazz was one thing where my publisher said, "he is working on his new album and he's looking for vocalists, would you fancy doing something?". And I really like his music so I was like, "Yeah, sure". He was living in Derby which is about half an hour train ride from Birmingham. So I went to his studio, listened to what he was doing at the time and I recorded a song which is going to be the first single off his album. Then, when we started to make this album a reality, I really liked the things I heard from him and I was sure I would really like to have him onboard the project. And with Seiji I have been working with him before as well. Even though I think this is actually going to be released before the other things we worked on together. But, you know we started working on other things together with Swell Session (Andreas) as well we have done a collaboration previously.

HRFQ : So you are working with artists from all different countries. Do you see any differences in the music between countries?

Ernesto : Yeah I think there are some regional differences, and I think I might be a little bit blind to them by now. But, I know I sat down with a guy from Gothenburg playing him some things that the UK producers did and he thought it sounded a bit rough but I didn't even contemplate it. Because you get into that vibe and that is the sound there.

As well, with the Japanese sound that's slightly different from the European even though everyone is doing very closely related music. It is kind of hard to say or pin point what it is a lot of the time but it is definitely there, small differences between the areas.

HRFQ : With Swedish music, at the moment in major house music there a lot of Swedish artists and Steve Angello suggested to us that the reason Sweden is so great at the moment is that there is not a lot do in Sweden and you can concentrate on your music. What do you think?

Ernesto : I think that is probably very true, actually. I find that with Gothenburg there is a very limited amount of places you can go to and also in the winter months it is that cold so you don't really want to be out as much. You prefer to stay indoors, wrap yourself up and work in the studio for that part of the year. I think there is a lot of truth in that.

HRFQ : Is there something special about Swedish music at the moment?

Ernesto : I think there is something special about Swedish music but I don't know if it is something different at the moment than there usually is. I mean there has been a lot of good things coming out and I feel there have been good things coming out on both the club side and the mainstream side pretty constantly for the last ten years.

HRFQ : Well, thank you very much for your time and good luck with the upcoming album.

Ernesto : Thank you.

End of the interview

Related Article

Related Link