INTERVIEW WITH GARMARNA FROM TheCelebrityCafe.com ARCHIVES
DM) What are the instruments “the E-bow” and “the Mungiga” that you play on the album?
RW) E-bow is a device used when playing electric guitar. Basically, it is two magnetic poles that make the string tremble and, in that way, create a tone which sounds as if the guitar was played with a bow. Mungiga is simply a Jew’s harp, a very common folk music instrument all over the world.
DM) What was the first instrument you learned to play?
RW) The guitar. I started playing when I was nine years old.
DM) Has music always been in your family?
RW) Not really. My brother plays the guitar, too, and somewhere far back there is some legendary fiddler, but that’s it.
DM) A legendary fiddler?
RW) Yeah, the Wernberg brothers, cousins of my grandma or something like that. Stefan’s father is a well known fiddleplayer in the area, though, and Emma’s father is one of the best known fiddle players in Sweden. So I haven’t got much to put up against that… Both Wernberg brothers drank themselves to death, I believe. They usually did in those days.
DM) I know for me, not knowing Swedish, the music sounded great, but I was almost blacking out the words, which were foreign to me, and just concentrating on the melody. Growing up with such a heavy influence of English music, did you find you had the same experience?
RW) Well, obviously, since we are all Swedish and speak Swedish, we don’t have that problem at all.
DM) No, I meant when you hear English music.
RW) Oh, sorry…It hasn’t happened that often with music from the Western world, which usually is, sadly, with English lyrics–except for when I was younger and didn’t speak English and sang along with Bob Marley tunes with homemade words… It sometimes happens with music from other parts of the world, though. Finnish music, for example.
DM) Were you very surprised when you learned what the music meant?
RW) Not really. It was more the “Wow, that’s cool” reaction to it. Also, I knew what the music was about before I got to the point where I could understand the lyrics via articles written about it etc.
DM) Who were your musical influences?
RW) Neither I nor the rest of the band is very much influenced by any other band. Garmarna works in a very democratic way: You may do whatever you want to; and we’ve never done anything with the idea that one particular tune should sound in any particular way. On the other hand, you could say that we are inspired by any kind of music that we listen to, and in Garmarna that stretches from everything by David Bowie via Beastie Boys to country music and Pantera…
DM) How do you resolve conflicts within the group over song ideas?
RW) Well, we don’t. We’ve always been a very democratic band in that sense, where each one of us is free to do whatever he or she wants to. In a recording situation it is different though; then, of course, our producer, Sank has a lot of influence on what is going on. Which is good, because I believe every band should have someone without any prejudices listening to the material, saying what is good and what is not.
DM) It sounds like Sank becomes like a conductor.
RW) More like the sixthth member of the band when we work together. He has a lot of influence but so do we. There is no orchestra around where the violin player tells the conductor that his way of doing it is wrong.
DM) How long has Sank been with the group?
RW) He’s been working with us since the previous album, God’s Musicians, which was released ’96.
DM) On what page of the booklet is your picture?
RW) I’m the first Garm. Short-haired and standing at the left. (At least in the Swedish release, but it could be different in other release
DM) What is the meaning of the first track, “Herr Mannelig”?
RW) It is a medieval ballad that tells the story of a mountain troll who wants to marry Sir Mannelig (a knig
ht), because that would make her a human being instead of a troll. She offers him all kinds of gifts etc., but he refuses since she, after all, is not a Christian woman.
DM) That seems very deep for a pop song.
RW) Well, it was originally a medieval ballad.
DM) Do you find you have fans who do not speak Swedish?
RW) Yes. We play a lot outside of Sweden, and we do get plenty of e-mails, letters etc., and we always have good crowds, so that is a fact.
DM) What was the best reaction you’ve ever had from fans? Any unusual gifts, sell- out shows, people asking for autographs?
RW) The biggest crowd so far has been more than 10,000 people in Stockholm a few years ago. A few weeks ago, we played two festivals in Portugal and Spain. Portugal was sold out, and Spain more or less sold out. People who want autographs are common, especially abroad, but gifts…that doesn’t happen too often. We got a painting once, a really ugly one! Another highlight is the plate we received from the Mayor of Macon, Georgia, at the Cherry Blossom Festival…
DM) Did you ever anticipate such success?
RW) No, you never do. At first you dream about it and hope for it. Now the dreams are more or less gone and we just want to do our thing, hopefully making some money out of it and having a good laugh at the same time. The success, when it occurs (which is seld
om), always comes as a bonus surprise.
DM) And if the music doesn’t work out, what will you do?
RW) Well, I’m just about to finish my end exams in history, which has been my major at the university, and I’m thinking about studying journalism next. Maybe something in that direction, or work as a tour producer or something else that is connected with music–as long as I don’t have to play any instruments or be involved with productions of albums etc. You don’t earn any money being a musician unless you make it big, and even then it is too demanding, I think.