”It Ain’t Me, Babe”, ”Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door” and “Love Minus Zero” are among the eight Bob Dylan classics now covered in Swedish by singer-songwriter Reine Johansson, the man behind the artist name Vargen (“The Wolf”).
On his new album “Tänk Inte Efter – Bob Dylan på svenska” (Don’t Think Twice – Bob Dylan in Swedish) he’s backed by a full band and on half of the songs he shares the vocals with fellow translator Mia Rosengren. Musically, the songs vary between Americana, Country and Rock, with essential contributions by Dan Kristensen on guitar, lap steel and dobro.
Some of the songs on the album is released for the first time in Swedish, since Bob Dylan and his publishers rarely approve translations of his legacy. Also included on the album is the single “Men Bara Om Min Älskade Väntar”, a 1975 cover by Swedish rock icon Ulf Dageby of “Tomorrow is a Long Time”.
The album, released yesterday April 26th 2019 on Vinyl, CD and Digital Download on Vargen Records/Border
IndiePulse Music gets many review opportunities, yet none have been as stirring and exciting as this International Release of music by an artist that has captured the works of an American Artist with a reverence and respect to the works of our nation’s true living treasures.
This album covers a lifetime of musical legacy, and even though I, personally cannot understand the Swedish Language, the musical performance alone captures the emotion and draw of the original work in perfection.
In Review: “Tänk Inte Efter – Bob Dylan på svenska” (Don’t Think Twice – Bob Dylan in Swedish) by VARGEN was a very interesting review, as I said, I don’t speak Swedish, but I can attest to the music, so, since some have said I am “long winded” in my reviews I will keep this on the side of brevity.
Considering the tracks recorded, the songs and their history, the timber and textures of the performance and the translations provided, I would have to say this is a masterpiece of technical and emotional performance skill and , as said, a “Reverence” to the music of Bob Dylan. VARGEN has taken no liberties other than to create a series of covers of the legacy tracks and set them to an emotionally stirring rendition of their original recordings. Keeping to the original canter, measure and beat. With lending his own style and the lovely voice of Mia Rosengren’s voice in the vocals, the poetry of Bob Dylan’s work is preserved to immortality in another tongue.
Many of past reviews of songs done in other languages, some things just don’t translate or translate well, but in this album, “Tänk Inte Efter – Bob Dylan på svenska” (Don’t Think Twice – Bob Dylan in Swedish) is not the case, it was easy to se that VARGEN has truly taken the time and has made good on his promise to create beautiful music while staying true to the original creation.
In Interview with VARGEN, we learned about the artist, his past and hat he inspired to do with this album and his art, it is a very reveling read and we hope it inspires you as it has us to enjoy this wonderful International release.
A bit about VARGEN in his own words “Now, I was born and raised almost in the woods, in a little village about 50 kilometres from Varberg, near Gothenburg, on the Swedish West Coast. I think the solitude and my parents’ great record collection with 60’s-70’s greats such as The Doors, The Stones, Creedence, Steppenwolf and The Beatles, made a great impact in the music I write. I started playing the guitar when I was eleven and my first songs came straight away, very inspired by the artists I listened to at the time. I had a lot of different occupations, an actor, teacher, fire eater and fakir, janitor, librarian. Started getting a lot of gigs as an troubadour when I discovered the Swedish songbook, much based on story-telling lyrics and began to try to write lyrics in Swedish. It was then I turned to Bob Dylan, thinking that if the original lyrics being this good, I have to learn something by trying to get that work in my own language. It was by then I realized I wanted to do my own stuff and being in control of how it should sound. I took the artist name Vargen, which means “The Wolf” in Swedish. Thinking that would work both as a lone-wolf solo artist on stage, and with a wolf-pack band if I desired that.”
IPM: What inspires you to write music the way you do?
Other music. My mood. I write music wherever I am, but it tends to come very easy to me when I just turn everything off and go for a walk in the woods or by the sea.
IPM: Tell us about your recent release “Tänk inte efter (Don’t Think Twice)”, This is a major and very exciting undertaking, why the work of Bob Dylan?
He’s written so many absolutely irresistible songs and the vocal deliverance and arrangements at least throughout the 60’s stands as a monument of song-crafting to me.
IPM: Here in the USA, bands that try to cover the work of artists that are historic or legendary often fall short, yet your album is a strong and living tribute. What are or were some of the challenges you have faced producing “Tänk inte efter (Don’t Think Twice)” while keeping true to your vision of your music?
Thank you. There weren’t many challenges at all, really. Me and producer Andreas Alm decided early that we wanted to have a light but full band sound with mine and Mia Rosengren’s vocals and Dan Kristensen’s playing up front in the mix, the three of us shifting being in the spotlight and sometimes sharing it. The challenge was to kill some darlings so the songs on the album would stand as an entity. That decision was made before we applied for approval from Dylan and his publishers. Among them were “All Along The Watchtower” and “Highway 61 Revisited”. Some other songs could have made it, but I hadn’t finished translating them and didn’t really see how we should arrange them so they should fit in, like “If You See Her, Say Hello” and “Sooner or Later”. I don’t think “I Threw It All Away” or “Baby Tonight” are among the songs that gave him the Nobel Prize (Ithink that was for lines like ‘Crying like a fire in the sun’), but there’s something very romantic, funny and feelgood about them.
IPM: “Tänk inte efter (Don’t Think Twice)” is in your native language, which I find amazing, I hear you sing in Swedish, yet knowing the songs, my mind makes the connection and translates, but will you release any of the tracks in English for an English speaking market, or if you travel to perform in English speaking countries?
That must be a nice and funny feeling. I must try to listen to a Dylan translation in say, French, to experience that. When I was a kid, it was very common that you’d hear covers in Swedish long before you’d hear the original versions of older standard popular songs. I guess that was due to most Swedes not knowing or speaking other languages, not even English. That started to change first when the pop explosion came in the 60’s. And then it changed things radically. Almost every pop or rock act sang in English, like their influences. It’s still that way in a sense, although punk and alternative rock bands in the late 70’s started to express themselves in their native language again. The latest 20 years it’s been like 50/50.
No, I don’t think we’ll release them in English, there are so many great versions already. But live, off course we’d do it.
IPM: Bob Dylan has been considered here in the USA a National Treasure and a poet laureate, yet his music has always transcended boarders, you have in this album taken his work and made it your own, and I must say I am thoroughly impressed, can you tell us the process of recording this album and how it went.
Thanks again! Yeah, of course the intention was to make the songs sound as our own and not a Swedish carbon of an idol, like at least many Swedish artists done in the past. Sure, we had our references, like sounding as a mix between say Creedence, Neil Young, Nick Cave and early Dire Straits. Andreas, Dan, Jan Lundin and me rehearsed for a day with a buddy and former band-mate of Andreas and me, Måns Broman, who was new to the material, on drums. We hired a big room in a school over Easter Weekend last year, rigged our gear and laid down ten tracks with drums, bass, a guitar and me singing and giving instructions in headphones. All the songs were done in one or two takes, so it went really smooth. After that, we went to do all the over-dubs. Even though we were very efficient, it took four or five months until everything was done, all of us having day-time jobs and families. It was a joyride, really, hearing the songs grow and Andreas and me planning how to give each song its’ own personality.
IPM: Tell us about the artists appearing on this album with you.
Mia and I started singing together ages ago. When I started looking for people interested in playing the Dylan songs, I was told I had to meet Dan Kristensen on guitar, and we hit it off for some shows together with some other guys around 2015. I thought this was a temporary thing and started working on two solo albums, one in English and one in Swedish. I came across Daddy Musesa, a painter who’s also great on congas, and Mia, him and me started getting some gigs with my material.
Andreas Alm is a multi-instrumentalist and started producing in 2011, when we had a Stooges/Doors-like band called Rogue Radio together with Måns on drums. Andreas produced a single in English, “American Brow”, which I released under the name Wooden Grass late 2016. It was with that song I found a new way of singing, earlier I was more into a rougher rock voice. And thanks to Dylan, I played with surreal lyrics. Now 2016 was that shitty year when Bowie and Prince died, and I remember waking up in Stockholm in a hotel room in November, there was a snowstorm outside and on the news I heard that Trump’s become president and that Leonard Cohen had died. During the year, two bands that I played in broke up. It was just that strange ominous vibe ‘round stuff. So, for the first and maybe last time, there was a Dylanesque/Bowiesque song in English that I put out. There are 10 demo songs with Wooden Grass kicking around but I don’t see when I’ll have the time to take care of’em.
Well, by then I was getting deeper and deeper into the Swedish poet Dan Andersson (1888-1920), melodies to his lyrics just started coming to me in a creative flow I’ve never experienced. Now I had to choose between all the projects, I had about 50 songs in different genres and languages. So, the first Vargen album focused on the Dan Andersson compositions. Half of it consists of home-made kitchen recordings with just me and a guitar, but half of it needed much more flesh so Andreas and I started to build from scratch in his studio. In between sessions his curious neighbor Jan sneaked in and recorded some bass without my knowledge. When I heard the result, it was pretty obvious that he had to be included in the Dylan project, which came next. Anna Vild, who is releasing her own debut album now, had earlier joined Vargen on tour, and went in and gave a beautiful gospel flavor to “Kastat bort allt – I Threw It All Away” and a cool double harmonica solo on “Kärlek minus noll – Love Minus Zero”. Finally, we had a great guy called Zacharias Sjöberg adding piano on some songs.
IPM: I see you have an official video for Tänk inte efter – Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right, will you be doing any other videos for this album, and again, any in English?
We’ll do one for the single “Men bara om min älskade väntar – Tomorrow Is a Long Time”. We planned to shoot it in February, but for various reasons we had to post-pone it. It would be cool to do one for “One More Cup of Coffee” or “Knockin’ On Heaven’s Door”, spaghetti western style. After the shoot we can overdub our Swedish vocals into English, so the lip-sync also will be in the true vein of Sergio Leone…no, nothing in English is planned. But, never say never.
IPM: tell us about some of your past work and how t compare to your present musical creativity.
If I compare for instance Rogue Radio with Vargen, it’s miles apart. I really enjoy listening to some of the tracks from the first album, it’s got a cool raw energy to it. And I had an raw attitude in my electric guitar playing. When we started working on the second RR album, the songs and sound had grown more pretentious and I kind of lost interest in the band, especially after beginning with all my other projects. But there’s a big difference between my first album and this one too. I found my vocal, musical and visual “Wolf character” at the end of the sessions of the first Vargen album, with “Visa vid Varma Källorna (Song at the Hot Springs)” and “Tjuvskytten (The Poacher)”, both of them chosen as singles and the videos gained some public acclaim in on Facebook. But everything really came together with this album, the band is playing great and Andreas’s produced it wonderfully. And when Dan Kristensen plugs in and Mia and/or me stands by the microphone, I feel Vargen has a sound that’s “our own”.
IPM: Where do you see your music going, where would you like to be in the near future, goals, dreams and passions?
In fact, we didn’t know if our translations would be approved when we did that Easter session. The plan was to primarily record nine original songs and doing the Dylan songs if we had the time. They are quite in the same style as this record, some are a bit bluesier, some a bit rougher and some a bit softer. My song-writing coming quite much from American music from the 60-70’s, it will certainly be recognizable, even though I can’t compare myself with Dylan. We’re half-way through the production, so I hope we’ll release it in November. Some of our shows these last years have been up to two hours long, we’ve picked songs from all three albums depending on the venue. So it will be a pleasant problem picking out the gems for say a 60 minutes show. My dream is that these two albums draw enough media and public attention so we can get out and play nation-wide, maybe as a support act to someone. Bob Dylan’s coming here this summer…
Dan and I have a dream of doing a trip to Nashville, New Orleans, Memphis and Chicago next year. If we have the time and money, we’d either go to N.Y. or go west. Santa Monica seem to have some great music lovers.
IPM: What would you like our readers to know about you?
Maybe that I truly believe you should support people fulfilling themselves, if they feel good about something, support it. I had a kind of existential twist some years ago, when I faced the risk of having a serious illness. That insight that life can end instantly, made me step on the gas and follow my dream.
IPM: Where can our readers find your music?
Vargen can be found on Spotify and Facebook, the latter written in Swedish, though. Our music videos can also be found on Youtube.
If you’re up to listening to former projects in English, not sounding like Vargen:
The rougher Rogue Radio (recorded 2010 and 2011, I put out the albums digitally when I started Vargen Records 2016): https://open.spotify.com/album/0zNqI4POxnKnCKPoM1n6rR?si=87K_RrVETNOW9v2olRDUfA
- BUY LP/CD: https://www.ginza.se/artist/vargen/87601258
- LISTEN/DL/BUY: https://orcd.co/vargen
- Spotify (Artist): https://open.spotify.com/artist/3sl00gQLFexX8tuanNfe9e?si=YhuLyrk3Tiqt-UBCvk_kWg
- Soundcloud: https://www.soundcloud.com/vargen-music
- Facebook (press photos-web): https://www.facebook.com/pg/vargenmusic/photos/?tab=album&album_id=721230471574266
- Website: https://www.vargen.net
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