The former frontman of Fibes, Oh Fibes! is making some serious noise with his new solo project, OLSSON. The Forumist caught up with him to talk creative freedom, the beauty of the unexpected and the birth of his visual concept.
Christian Olsson has just returned home to Stockholm from Germany when we speak. As OLSSON, he played the Reeperbahn festival in Hamburg, performing his set on a moving boat. Even though his music career has already spanned 15 years and Swedish music has a following in Germany, he hadn’t played there before. The release of his track Hold On has changed this, and he has been happily enjoying an instant success he hadn’t anticipated. One of the reasons for the song being welcomed as fresh blood on the music scene may be the way he created it.
“I pretty much haven’t listened to any other music in three years,” he says. “I’m obsessed with listening to my own music when I’m in the middle of creating it, which isn’t entirely healthy. I’m in the studio, listening and dancing, until I’m finished. Of course I hear other music, but I try not to actively listen to it, because that can break you down. There are so many good things being made that can make you abandon your core idea.”
In his mind, the results didn’t sound anything like Fibes, Oh Fibes!, the band formed in 2001 that originally brought him fame in Sweden but was put on ice a couple of years ago. This time around, this is all his own music, created from ideas he had been sitting on for a long time. For him, the public response wasn’t what was important – it was about getting his new music out: “I thought, ‘Even if only 200 people in the world like it, that would be great – then, at least, I’m doing what’s in my head.’”
Some have compared what he is recording as OLSSON with what was coming out of the UK during the Madchester era, from bands like Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses, who combined dance music with pop in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Olsson grew up with those bands, as well as Scottish cult group Primal Scream. He happily admits the Madchester style of clothing has been a huge influence on him – the bucket hats, the parkas and the sea of neon clubwear seen on the dance floor of legendary Manchester venue The Haçienda during that period – though he mostly dresses in turtlenecks and slacks nowadays.
The ideology behind Primal Scream’s music is also something he relates to: “I’ve always wanted to make an album based on the approach they had to dance music. The Screamadelica album is pop and gospel but with a dance groove. They didn’t know how to make dance music but wanted something groovy, so they made this album. I’ve always felt like that – if you have an idea, just make it. You shouldn’t have to follow a rule book or any pattern.”
Olsson developed the visuals for his solo work with one of the founders of The Designers Republic, the Sheffield-based graphic design studio that has created album covers for Aphex Twin and Pulp, among others. His drum tracks and a vibrant mood board referencing the aesthetics and neon hues of the 1990s were key starting points for his new project – strong colours were to pierce through the music and the visual idea, and the latter was given as much attention as the tunes. The result is a striking, in-your-face combination of yellow, black and white that is present wherever you find the music.
When it comes to his sound, like Primal Scream, Olsson has no desire to repeat himself. His next album might be nothing like what he is currently putting out, especially now that success is allowing him the freedom to do what he wants. For him, there is an allure in the unexpected – he uses Kanye West as an example of someone who does the opposite of what everybody else thinks is doable, but succeeds no matter what. With Olsson’s current musical hero being rapper Young Thug, an extremely spontaneous creator, maybe the only thing we can expect from OLSSON now is the unexpected.
And when it comes to listening, q-JAYS Reference earphones are the dream creation for the audio nerd. With their minimalist design and unimpeachable delivery of brilliant sound, they’re perfect for enjoying Screamadelica, Hold On or whatever comes next from OLSSON.
Hold On is out now on Kaptenchris/Universal
Words by Filip Lindström
Photography by Ivan Rudolfovich Nunez
Special thanks to Jays