Broken connections, incoherent narratives, escapes from reality. Jan Blomqvist’s new album ‘Disconnected’ is contradictorily set in a time of constant connection. It is about our day and age, it is about this generation. The world is becoming increasingly linked, via Email, Facebook, Instagram. Everybody is following everybody, is reading and liking posts, comments and images. Avatars, profiles and handles are interwoven on multiple channels, all in polyphonic communication with each other. Human contact has changed as a major part now is happening online. The world is shrinking, the meaning of time has changed forever. The internet offers countless opportunities of self-fulfillment just waiting to be seized. Sometimes it seems as if virtual proximity causes people to disconnect in real life as the variety of possibilities can be overwhelming. To be disconnected is a curse and a solution. The album explores the meaning of being disconnected in 13 tracks: What does it mean if people are living in two different worlds: the real and the virtual? How do these worlds intersect? What happens when virtual connection makes you feel lost in real life? What happens if real life fades, overtaken by the glamorous instagram filter selection, if the person on the selfie is much more interesting than the one pushing the button? And what if your profile boasts more friends and likes than you do? Is digital better? All these questions are shrouded in music, lyrics, mood and design as if encircled by white noise. The album release will also be ceremoniously ‘disconnected’ with it’s entity broken down as the tracks are released over the summer in form of three mini-albums. That fragmentation reflects the circumstances of its making: disconnected was recorded, produced and written – in cooperation with Felix Lehmann and Ryan Mathiesen – in various locations around the globe: from Iceland to New York, through California and back to Berlin. In autumn the complete piece will be released, to finally connect the disconnected narrative, visually and auditorily. Two years after his debut Remote Control, that led Jan Blomqvist and his band around the world, he now reports back with an album that stylistically falls in line with the distinct Blomqvist sound, just more grownup and forward-thinking.
We caught up with Jan Blomqvist to talk about his ‘Disconnected’ album.
EG: Hi Jan, thanks for joining us. How’s everything going with you?
Jan Blomqvist: Thanks for having me! I’m pretty happy at the moment because the band and myself will be part of a German live TV production for ARTE in a couple of days. It’s a great opportunity to play this gig but as usual, opportunities like these aren’t just fun but are also a lot of work. So, I’m happy but really busy.
EG: Can you tell us how you first got into music? Who or what were your early influences?
Jan Blomqvist: My aunt gave me a guitar pretty early on and I taught myself to play it, day in, day out. Basically, I never stopped. That was my first active step into music. Other than that, I listened to my parent’s record collection before they woke up in the mornings. I mainly picked Dylan, Cohen or The Rolling Stones and some German stuff like Ton Steine Scherben and a bit later, Tocotronic.
EG: You recently released your album ‘Disconnected’, that explores the meaning of being disconnected. Can you tell us about what sparked the initial inspiration of this?
Jan Blomqvist: The moment I first thought about the concept behind ‘Disconnected’ was at Burning Man in 2016. It was my first time there and I was mesmerized by the whole thing, constantly wondering why do people, including myself, love this so much? It’s so hard and weird to build a temporary city in the desert. Why do we want and need this? I guess because we all need to disconnect from our daily lives and routines from time to time. Burning Man is definitely the place to do it because it’s the opposite of what we normally do in so many ways.
EG: What does being disconnected mean to you?
Jan Blomqvist: It means to be true to myself, to have some peace and quiet, to be focused, constructive, free and with no interference from anyone. Totally annoying if you want to have a beer and a chat.
“I hope, we’ll quickly find a way to handle the possibilities more responsibly, to challenge what we see, read and listen”
EG: What are your views on today’s generation and their relationship with the online world? Do you think things have gone too far?
Jan Blomqvist: Generally, I wouldn’t say that things have gone too far but maybe the changes are too quick for us to be able to adjust properly. To be conscious of the power of viral opinion is important. I’m not sure people are conscious though. I feel as though there has been a great shift, networking used to mean power and advantage. Now, I feel powerless because of all the trolling, fake news and the sheer mass of data and content.
EG: What does the future look like to you in this online world?
Jan Blomqvist: Ha, how am I supposed to know what the future is going to look like? I hope it won’t be as dire as it sometimes seems. There definitely will be some changes for the better. For musicians for example, because the link to a label (and the common structures) will be further worn down. In general, I hope, we’ll quickly find a way to handle the possibilities more responsibly, to challenge what we see, read and listen. This actually should be part of the curriculum in schools. Children should be given a manual on how to use the internet responsibly and safely.
EG: You created the album in various locations around the globe from Iceland to New York, through California and back to Berlin. How did the contrasting surroundings across those locations affect the outcome of the music?
Jan Blomqvist: You can listen to the places we visited in the songs of the album. The first EP ‘Disconnected – Part One’ is hugely inspired by Iceland. New York is talking through the freakier stuff like ‘A Bridge over Novocaine’ or ‘The Noun Destroys’. Influences from the Berlin club scene can be found in ‘Our Broken Mind Embassy’ and ‘Elephant Shunned’. Last but not least, the perfect example of the Californian sound is The Stones Cover ‘Synth For The Devil’.
EG: For an album exploring the meaning of being ‘Disconnected’ it could be said that in travelling to different places, you’re making an immense effort to connect. Why did you choose to channel those different locations into the album?
Jan Blomqvist: We decided to have the places we worked to mirror the concept of the album. This is why we tried to find the topographical equivalents of the notions of being disconnected and it’s opposite of being connected. The places we travelled to were the first ones that came to my mind but I have to admit that I had been wanting to visit Iceland for a long time.
“We decided to have the places we worked to mirror the concept of the album listen”
EG: You perform as part of a live band, why did you decide to perform this way rather than as a solo performer? What do you enjoy about it?
Jan Blomqvist: The band is just part of the Blomqvist experience. I’m also performing as a solo artist but it’s much more fun to travel and play with my band. We can’t easily react to the audience like I’m able to when I play solo but sometimes we create moments on stage that are not possible to plan or rehearse. It’s magic and so much fun.
EG: You’ve recently started your ‘Disconnected’ tour where you’re playing 28 shows across 5 months. With those shows, is there anything you do to pass on the meaning of the album to the audience?
Jan Blomqvist: It might even be 32 shows in the end because a couple are not confirmed yet. The most important addition to the music on the Disconnected Tour is the light show that we developed with Shan Blume, a Berlin-based artist and a dear friend. It’s obviously also inspired by the Disconnected leitmotif. Maybe, in this case, I should say Disco-nnected. The theme is easily transferred to every aspect of my work. In the beginning, it takes a lot of effort to draw up the concept and in the end, everything works out and it’s easier because the direction is already clear. Anyway, come and see for yourself! The tour has just started.
EG: Apart from your tour, do you have anything else upcoming?
Jan Blomqvist: There will be more releases in the form of remixes. Rodriguez Jr. did his version of ‘Maybe Not’ and Solée created a remix of ‘Elephant Shunned’. Apart from that, I will play a massive tour in the US, starting at the end of April 2019 and after that, I will be in Europe during the Festival summer.
Grab your ‘Disconnected’ copy here.