Band Mates: Junip | Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Tuesday, July 23rd, 2024  

Band Mates: Junip

José González and Tobias Winterkorn Interview Each Other

Jul 23, 2013 Web Exclusive Photography by Karla Andreasson Bookmark and Share

Band Mates is our recurring interview series where members of a band interview each other and our writer listens in. For this Band Mates, Junip’s José González and Tobias Winterkorn pose questions to one another.

It is one night into Junip’s North American tour and no one at the Troubadour in Los Angeles is quite sure of the group’s whereabouts. Touring in support of its second and self-titled album, the Swedish trio is led by José Gonzálezhe of the Argentinean heritage and Swedish upbringingwho initially made a mark with his contributions on the Zero 7 album The Garden. Keyboard player Tobias Winterkorn and drummer Elias Araya round out the trio. Araya has opted out of this tour, leaving González and Winterkorn to scramble, frantically prepping their fill-in drummer on songs from this album and Junip’s debut, Fields.

González’s work with Junip stretches him beyond his own solo full-lengths, Veneer and In Our Nature. His signature hollow tenor coupled with Winterkorn’s dark synthesizers and Araya’s understated percussion brings layers of definition to González’s folktronic style. On Junip, much as on Fields, it is González’s haunting tones and his expressive guitar that are the centerpieces. Whether it is on the rallying “Your Call” or against the buzzes of “Walking Lightly,” González always sounds as if he is slightly miserable but trying to make the best of it. It is the inclusion of rumbling electronics, such as on “So Clear,” that make González sound ever more poetic.

The eccentric Don Alsterberg, González’s childhood chum, has produced both albums. Alsterberg reins in the trio’s natural tendency to pack on layers of sound, and gives the band many anecdotes to recount to anyone who will listen. Both videos from Junip, “Line of Fire” and “Your Life, Your Call,” are conceived and directed by Mikel Cee Karlsson, who created them as a two-part short filmand used up the entire Junip video budget in the process. Considered a staple member of the Junip camp, Karlsson also put together The Extraordinary Ordinary Life Of Jose González (2010), a documentary on the process of creating music with González.

After a number of overlapping phone calls and texts, González is located and summoned back to the Troubadour. Here, he and Winterkorn grill each other in their very public dressing room prior to their show, over a beer (for González) and a nice cup of tea (for Winterkorn).

José González: Let’s talk about Don [Alsterberg], the producer. I’ve known him since we were 12. We grew up in the same small city, Vänersborg. We were into skateboarding. He had this big rehearsal space and he started to build his own guitar. That is really typical for him. Don’t trust anybody making other guitars. He wants to make it perfect in his own way. That is really significant for how he works and what he thinksbut he can also be really open-minded.

Tobias Winterkorn: Don has an idea of what’s right and what’s wrong in many areas, not only music. He’s been saying if he had an island, how he would run it and what would be the rules for that island. He’s basically been our mentor.

José: Absolutely. He has his own mixing and recording studio. When we record, we have our rehearsal place and he comes to us and we discuss the songs. He tells us what he likes and what he doesn’t like. Of course, what he likes is most important.

Tobias: We will probably not work with another producer. We can’t call just anybody up and say, “Hey can you show up three times a week here for an hour and a half and tell us what we need to do?” We can only do that with Don. When we have recorded everything digitally in our studio, we take it to his studio and transfer it to tape machines and mix it all in analog there. Sometimes we do stuff that we forgot. We can do it there in 10 minutes.

José: But it’s not 10 minutes. I’m a time pessimist. I always show up an hour and 30 minutes earlier. I remember when we were recording our hardcore group with Don in the early ‘90s, we were sitting there with the guys waiting for a full hour outside of his house and it was because he needed to have his clothes ironed and he took a lot of time in the bathroom.

He’s a character. I’ve learned so much from him in terms of sound and music. We have no limitation on the computer; we could record as many channels as we wanted. But when we transfer to tape, it’s only 24 channels, so that’s a limitation. Also when he’s mixing, many times he’s taking stuff off. I’ve heard of other mixers having that same approach. In order to make the mix sound great and interesting, the sounds in themselves, it’s easier to give them space if you take stuff away. When we were recording this album, we were already adding stuff but trying to make each thing sound as good as possible on its own.

Tobias: We learned some moves. We know how to use EQ in a good way. We know how to place mikes to make a good sound. When you’re comfortable with that, you can explore even further. The sound is simple to start and then you have more time to play music and experiment with musicand with videos. Shall we talk about the videos and meeting Mikel Karlsson?

José: Andreas Nilsson has done four or five videos for me, and in many of his videos he was working with Mikel Karlsson, who worked on my documentary. We knew him quite well and he liked our music. We knew we had those two songs, “Line of Fire” and “Your Life, Your Call,” and we knew we had a very limited budget and time. We asked him very last minute. He came up with the story for both of them. He has the ambition to stir up thoughts and to provoke. I felt like with our music it should be a bit more about the music so it didn’t need to provoke.

He rented this huge house with a pool, and this double HD Plus Super-Wide camera, and he got actors that he knew from before. That’s the Junip budget, out the window. But he could have fixed angles and still do panoramic shots. The actors he used, he knew them from before and he was holding them for a good opportunity. Also he used this looping technique, which is basically an animated GIF. There are some apps that do that—you film something and you decide which parts will move and which parts won’t. He didn’t know about the apps. He’s been thinking about this for a really long time and was saving it for a good opportunity.

He took the relationship aspect of the songs and with that technique he was good at capturing these monotonous day-to-day routines. Of course, his underlying story is controversial. There are people that like it and people that don’t. I actually enjoyed watching both videos without music. It feels like they can stand on their own.

Tobias: Why did you agree to do the documentary on yourself?

José: I was recording my second solo album. Next door there was another guy who had been doing videos and working with film in general. He asked me, “Would you be interested if I just film while you’re recording?” I thought, it’s better to do it now than in 10-20 years when I’m bald. I felt it was okay as long as it didn’t take time from other things. He put up some cameras in my studio. He and Mikel came along on tour back and forth during over two years. It was annoying with a camera in the room, but as persons, we were hanging out and having a lot of fun.

Tobias: Did you get used to the cameras and forget about them after a while?

José: I didn’t really get used to it. In a way, you’re acting because you’re aware when the camera is on. It’s sort of like when someone is taking a picture. You’re aware of it even though you might not change what you’re doing consciously. It ended up being a mixture of footage from when they were in the room, but I also got a camera that I brought myself. I put that in the corner and let it roll for two hours.

Tobias: We should mention that we are trying to tour less in general.

José: Yes! The world is big and time is limited. We have families and friends, and we would like to make more music. To me, it’s important to have a normal life and this is not the normal life. This is the exception. It’s about 700-800 shows over 10 years. It’s not the type of life I want to live. It’s not the way I envision my life to continue. Touring two, two and a half months per year for two to three weeks at a time is perfect, but not more.

Tobias: It’s not fun anymore. It’s like living in a parallel universe.

José: It’s definitely a bubble. When you’re playing your music and people like what you’re doing, you go back to your normal life and think, “But what about me?” Because so many people like you when you’re doing shows you think you’re more important than you arein a bad way. For me, it’s good to have a normal life on the side, and also to stay creative, because on tour it’s difficult to be creative.

Tobias: For me too. Sometimes when we have sound check, I get an idea and think, “I’ve got to remember this.” But when sound check is done it’s, “Oh I’m hungry, oh, I’m too tired.” After the show it’s two o’clock in the morning and you have to sleep, even if you don’t want to, even if you have ideas.

José: It’s fragmented. It’s a lot of waiting around, but not good waiting.


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