“To Comprehend a Nectar”: 14 Questions with Peter Moren

peter moren

Peter Moren has been performing songs since he
was a 10-year-old in the small Swedish village of Vika, learning
to compose music in English by listening to British rock and covering
Bob Dylan at pizza parlours. Despite the undeniable success of his
primary band (Peter, Bjorn, and John) Moren's first recorded solo
effort is an introspective album about doubts and failures. As he
himself explains, "Flaws and mistakes are much more interesting,
both personally and professionally." Entitled The Last Tycoon, after the Elia Kazan film, Moren alludes to the similarities
between the current state of music--the "end of an era"--and
the era depicted in the Kazan film, when "talkies" were
replacing silent movies. While the album tackles such serious concepts,
it still comes across as a sweet pop album, filled with Beatlesque
melodies and certain charm.

How do you feel about lyrics in music? Are they the focal
point? Are they a distraction?

Sometimes it's nice to listen to instrumental music, of course.
But when it comes to pop songwriting I would say that they are 90%
the focal point. Not that they always have to be deep or meaningful.
They can just be rhythmical and sound good, but they gel the whole
thing together.

Do you draw inspiration from fiction, films, music? Do you
often write autobiographically?

I draw inspiration from pretty much everything that is going on
around me, including the things you mentioned. Often a song starts
for me with an inspiring line or a title, which I might have gotten
from a book, film, record, or exhibition. But when I actually write
the whole thing, I always reach back to myself and my personal experiences;
most of the songs are about that. But the things I go through, most
people go through, so I think it communicates.

What is your approach to translating recorded songs to
the live setting?

I like to change it around and play with it. Maybe play a soft
song louder or a loud song softer. Add or lose textures. I find
it boring when concerts are like the records. Live, it should be
more loose and playful.

What music did you grow up listening to? Do you feel that
your sound now incorporates the music of your upbringing, or denounces
it?

First, my daddy's records like Electric Light Orchestra, ABBA,
Elvis Presley, and the Bee Gees, and current pop like A-Ha and The
Housemartins. Then I got heavily into the Beatles, Beach Boys, Byrds,
Kinks, Bob Dylan, and Paul Simon. I like more music now than ever
in different genres, but I still feel I have closeness to my roots,
basically classic pop songwriting.

Was there a particular album that made you first consider
becoming a musician?

There was a TV show with the Swedish king of rock 'n' roll, a sort
of Swedish Elvis, called Jerry Williams. His guitarist looked so
cool that it made me want to play guitar.

What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?

Writing better and better songs every day. But mostly trying to
learn from my mistakes in the personal field and becoming a better
human being, friend, and boyfriend.

How did where you grew up influence your exposure to music
and your tastes in music?

I grew up in the '80s, way out in the countryside in Sweden, a
small village. There wasn't much exposure to music, apart from local
heavy metal bands and folk music, radio, and TV. My parents weren't
heavily into buying records, and I didn't have big brothers or sisters
whose taste influenced me. But I think by being bored by the surroundings,
I got more heavily into finding music I liked and amused myself
and learned through listening closely to it, over and over. There
weren't proper record stores in that area, so I had to shop on vacations.

Is the concept of "the album" important, or are
you more invested in songs as individual experiences?

I like the idea of putting songs together in a certain order, with
a package of artwork and lyrics. I think you lose something when
you just download individual songs. Or at least lose some of the
artist's ideas. But maybe that's just my own vanity. I never think
about concepts when I write songs, though. I just write.

Are you a proponent of music theory education and vocal
training, or do you believe artists should just do their thing?

Training can be good, like the ability to write scores and arrangements.
I wish I could do that. But when it comes to singing I almost always
think training gets in the way of natural expression. I like it
pure. But I could be wrong.

Is there anything about music as a business and industry
that is off-putting to you?

Almost everything about it. As Elvis Costello said, "I wanna
bite the hand that feeds me."

What have you always wanted to do, but haven't yet?

Do a children's music record in Swedish, and have kids.

What are three things that you love?

My girlfriend, my guitar, and lots of food.

What makes you unhappy?

The environmental situation, and stupid right-wing politicans in
Sweden privatizing everything to make a profit, including the caretaking
of the elderly, schools, and medication. On a more shallow note:
being hungry.

What recent albums or artists are you enjoying?

My friend Tobias Fröberg's new album (Turn Heads),
Vampire Weekend, Cass McCombs, Anna Järvinen, Papercuts, and
lots more.

Visit Peter Moren at MySpace.

Identity Theory's recommended listening: "My Match"
and "Le Petit Couer " by Peter Moren

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