Being one of the first artists to introduce techno music to the concert realm, Jan Blomqvist has the perfect balance of minimal techno and organic vocals. His innovative self-formed sound is playing live on his Disconnected new album tour, together with a light show that delivers a fully-immersive experience to all present. While coming from a performance in Istanbul and heading to Switzerland and Germany, we managed to chat with him about the meaning of time and disconnection from reality. 
Jan, from a young age, you’ve been in touch with music; first, learning how to play the guitar, then, getting in touch with the punk movement, and later, on educating yourself by going to Radiohead open-air concerts, to Bar25 or After Hours. What made you pursue an artistic career in music?
It just came step by step. As you said, I got my guitar and I played from ten to ten. For me, it was sort of a dream but, at the same time, it was already there – I had no other chance actually. I really wanted to do it, so I did it. I worked hard every day to make it, and over the years, step by step, I could make my living and I got to play my gigs in foreign countries. And now, I’m sort of even playing too many gigs I think (laughs).
So it just came naturally to you.
Yeah, there was no certain point where I decided to go towards music; it was my whole life. I was already on this path trying to make it as much as I can.
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Your self-formed sound is deep but close thanks to the perfect balance of minimal techno and a melancholic and organic feel. You are known the be one of the first artists to bring techno to the concert atmosphere. How did it happen? Was it by chance or was it something you found was lacking?
Both I think. First, I still had my friends from the punk band, and I had the idea that maybe I could play electronic music with them, so I said, ‘hey, let’s try’. We went to our old rehearsal room and just did it. And it was like, ‘wow’! It worked easily, and we could actually do it. Nobody or not many people did it before, so we decided to give it a try.
And also, it fit because at that time, in the early 2000s, the music was pretty ‘propeller’; for me, there was some emotion missing, some life and feeling. Some good pop vibes actually, and some vocals and stuff. That’s why I wanted to try with vocals – I thought this could be a new kind of music, and then, unfortunately, I was not the only one who had this idea. However, I’m happy to have been part of this development.
Listening to your music creates goosebumps. The tunes are warm, and your secure voice reflects emotion. You masterly add meaning to the music. How do you manage to add that analogical feel to the techno/digital world?
I think that with the vocals it’s easier because you automatically have some human as well as natural feelings. Also, just making piano and guitar songs to layer my electronic tunes. But for example, last year, I was totally analogue, I didn’t use any digital song. And ever since then, I used some analogue sounds: papers crushing, sand, stones on the street, etc. – always natural sounds to layer the electronic ones. It makes it more alive and more dynamic to me. And I think I even want to go further with that, to record even more sounds from the woods or from the mountains, the waterfalls or something that would add a deep, wide noise.
How much attention do you pay to the rest of the music industry? Are there any musicians who you’d say are making similarly interesting moves at the moment?
There are so many interesting artists but I’m sad that I don’t have enough time to listen to them all – not only in the electronic music scene but also in the bigger music scene. I would like to go to concerts and stuff, but I think I have to rest and spend time with my baby boy. However, it got to the point where, in my opinion, there’s a lot of shitty music.
On the other hand, though, there is also a lot of music that is extremely well done. Maybe I’m wrong, but what I mean is that there are definitely really interesting people right now producing nice stuff. For example, I’m pretty fan of Billie Eilish. She’s a superstar already but even her, in the pop scene, uses many electronic music sounds, so these come to all music genres now, and I think that’s really interesting.
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Two years after your debut with Remote Control, which led you and your band around the world, Jan Blomqvist now reports back with your latest album, Disconnected. Through the thirteen tracks, you explore the meaning of feeling lost in a world that is more connected each day. It is about our day and age, it is about the present generation. The world is becoming more and more digital and therefore increasingly linked. The meaning of time has changed forever. Is to disconnect the solution?
No, I don’t think so. That was not the meaning. Disconnected was just the title, which fits pretty cool because if you hear the word – disconnected –, you automatically have some questions like, ‘What does it mean?’ But I think there is no solution at all. The only solution there may be is that everyone has to find out by themselves what their personal way to find inner silence again is, so as to not be attracted all the time by all these feelings from Instagram and Facebook, where everything pops up. We receive so many inputs that we don’t need…
We are the first generation to suffer from this Internet influence, which can be good but super bad as well. We are the firsts who have to deal with it and for me, it is crucial to say that the only choice is that we have to reflect on ourselves really patiently and honestly. We don’t have to believe everything we are told; we have to ask questions and talk to friends. And have friends because the one on the Internet is not really your friend, you know what I mean? That’s the meaning of the whole argument, I think. Disconnected is just a nice name to explain how disconnected we actually are from our friends and our families since we are so connected to this virtual game that is not real.
How did this existential reflection arise?
I had the first idea to make the whole concept of Disconnected in 2016 at Burning Man festival because I was wondering why people are so into being disconnected in the desert instead of doing a festival somewhere else with better infrastructure. 
You are based in Berlin. How does this city contribute to your music production?
To some extent. I’m not here really often, maybe two or three days a week maximum – and that’s Tuesday and Wednesday, so I don’t go out anymore in Berlin. However, the energy of the city is still very positive; it’s a very free city, you can do whatever you want. You can even go naked to the supermarket if you want to, nobody would complain.
I reckon that this feeling of total freedom is pretty important for every musician because you can’t work creatively if you have to deal with some stupid treatments. Musically, this city has a huge input still, you can feel it in every corner. But I can’t say much about what’s in the underground scene right now because I honestly haven’t been there in these last years.
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However, “To record in different locations was part of the album concept that existed long before we chose the locations.”, you once said. You created the album in different parts of the world from Iceland to New York, through California and back to Berlin. How did this variety of surroundings affect the outcome of the music?
I wanted to have a cold island, a hot desert, and two big cities as contrast because opposite points are really good to inspire you; that’s exactly how it worked.
How so?
In Iceland, I was with my whole team and we just had a really good time, wrote many lyrics and made all the first recordings. Well, we tried because it was so windy that we couldn’t record much, but at least there was still quietness. The silence was really impressive; it was as if there was nothing, you looked out of the house and that scene… Humans can get really nice inspiration, so I wrote many lyrics, many melodies with my guitar, etc. That was the beginning of the album. Then, I came back to Berlin and worked in my studio, of course.
New York is maybe one of the freakiest but most beautiful cities in the world, there is so much inspiration. I think you can hear that the two New York tunes are not even clubby, they are pretty freaky sounds – and a bit funny somehow. I had the doubt of whether to put them in the album or not, but I think that they fit. Then, in California, I recorded some vocals. It’s totally different than if you stay in the studio. Do your singing and don’t go out, there’s nothing: no smell, no trees, no birds, just quietness. And it’s clearly a different feeling than if you are in a big city.
“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”, you explained. A fully immersive experience to reach the inner soul of all those presents in the event. How important do you feel it is to complement the sonic side with a more visual-oriented performance?
Music is the most important thing but I wanted to have a nice side effect. I always wanted to work with visual artists – not with a program or light show that looks like screenshots; I really wanted to work with artists. The more I worked on this, the more I realized that it’s interesting to me, so from now on, I definitely want to combine both sound and visuals.
My aim is to be really connected to visual artists in the next few years so the music goes together with the visual art and the visual art goes with the music. But this was just de first step. Right now, I have to point out that music is the number one and the visuals come together with it. It was really hard work. Now it’s finished and it’s really satisfying. But I’m sure that after this tour, I’ll definitely want to go further.
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How have Shan and you worked together to match sound and image?
Shan Blume is one of my best friends from my childhood but we lost each other for ten years or so. I did my music stuff and he did his visual art. It was when I came up with the idea that now was the best moment to start with this project that I called him to ask if he knew somebody who could help me to arrange this visual thing. He was like, ‘yes, I know somebody, it’s me!’ So we got together and started working on it.
Starting with a European tour, you’re playing several shows with your band, as well as solo DJ sets across the continent. You’ll be later heading overseas for a sequence of solo gigs including the esteemed Coachella Festival and Art With Me Festival in Coachella. How do you prepare, both physically and mentally, for such a demanding endeavour?
It’s quite complex. We were preparing the album tour in September-October – the rehearsals and the music. The visuals came together later, in January. Now, when we go on stage, we don’t have to prepare anymore, it really is like a perfect theatre team where everyone knows exactly what to do. If you are six artists on tour, that’s the only way to manage it. I personally think that it’s really important to do sports because body-wise, it’s pretty hard to be on tour; you don’t get much sleep and it’s really hard work.
You don’t think about it but the hardest part is always the soundcheck. Once it’s done, everything is easy, you don’t have to prepare for the show. So the organisation before the concert/performance needs to be really accurate, everything has to be there; if an instrument is missing, you can’t work. You have to have a good team as well. My booking agency, they organise a lot. However, when it’s a solo DJ set, it’s easier. I did it six-hundred times already, so this is just about getting the job done. So I would say that it’s all about the preparation: to do sports, run, train the voice, eat healthily, and then, the rest has to be perfectly organised – the only way to make it work.
And by the way, any place/city you’re especially looking forward to going?
I am always looking forward to cities where I haven’t been before; I really want to go to New Zealand and then to South Africa for the first time too, so I’m excited for that. And then, of course, looking forward to cities that I like, for example New York, or places like California – I also have many friends there. Ibiza as well, and Barcelona of course! I think that the more you travel and the more friends you have all over the world, the more you’re looking forward to meeting them again. I think it’s more about friends than about cities.
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