Although Social Siberia is based out of Gothenburg in Sweden, don’t expect anything remotely metal from this dynamic entity. The creation of Joakim Jensen, Social Siberia present introspective lyrics and sweeping melodies that will linger within your mind for ages to come. The Master Of None is the latest recording from Social Siberia, now available worldwide from the folks at Panic & Action Records. On the pop and folk side of the spectrum, the songs of Social Siberia are as powerful as they are reflective. Here is an interview we recently conducted with Joakim Jensen to find out more about the wistful landscapes of Social Siberia. Read on…
Introduce yourself, tell me what you do in Social Siberia, and how long the band has been together.
Social Siberia is a one man act that I started back in 2005-2006. I was in the band Chemical Vocation at the time and in the beginning Social Siberia was just a label for a bunch of stuff I wrote that didn’t fit the band. Lots of experimenting with different genres and ideas as electro, metal, acoustic covers of punk songs and so on. I never really thought of myself as a solo artist but then I heard Tony Sly’s first acoustic record and thought: hey, I could do that. I’d wanted to write melodic punk songs but couldn’t get a band together so this was an eye opener. This way it could be unpretentious, simple and melodic, without a band, I liked that. So that’s when I started to focus on originals and doing some kind of serious thing out of it. I started putting up demos on Myspace and got contacted, first by a publisher and then the label Panic & Action, which allowed me to put out records, first one obviously was very diversed as all this started out as an experiment but the second record is way more focused, following the more folky side of my songwriting. It felt like a natural progression, I noticed early on that those songs worked best live and I don’t really need Social Siberia to experiment with anymore.
Where are you based out of and what is the local music scene like there? Are there any local bands you could recommend?
There’s no scene really, this town (Gothenburg) has seen some local scenes come and go like the melodic death metal that exploded internationally and 90’s indie pop scene that was more of a national hype. I guess my band got caught in the emo-thing back when it was a thing and that caught on pretty well in Sweden for a while, but I don’t really listen to any of those bands anymore. As for recommendations I’ve got a few, my friend Peter Netskar has a nice solo thing that’s great & I really like this hardcore band called Alenah, that hails from the same dark, evil woods that I originally come from.
What was the name of the very first song you ever wrote, how old were you, and what was the song about?
I got into songwriting kinda late. I started playing guitar at 14 but didn’t write my first complete song (that I can recall) until I was around 17. It was for my band Chemical Vocation and is called Unspection. It’s pretty ok for a first, maybe too ok I guess, that it might sound like flaunting. But I probably wrote hundreds of crappy bits and pieces before that. I’ve always been extremely picky, never felt the need to release crap for the sake of it, so it took some time.
Is there any story or concept behind the album title The Master Of None?
It’s taken from the title track and obviously derives from the saying ‘jack of all trades, master of none.’ It deals with this tragic figure: the master of none.
He’s the king, but the king of nothing, ready to defend his kingdom of nothing ’til death. He wants to tell his loved ones that that not everything has to be a fight, but the fear of losing and the urge to defend whatever power he’s got left finally proves that the fight is more important than the outcome and he loses everything. I guess I could contextualize it but that’s not really the idea with that one. Some songs are all about context and meaning but some other are just based on an image or a story, where the imagery is based on a situation, phenomenon, relation or feeling and where I never feel to dig deeeper but just ride the imagery and see where it leads. I just want to get to know the character and don’t really care who created him, if you know what I mean.
What could one expect from a live Social Siberia show?
It’s a bit rougher around the edges that your average singer songwriter-show, hopefully in a good way. I try to mix the straightforwardness of folk with the simplicity of punk rock and let the vocal control the dynamics. Dynamic and at the same time minimalistic, that’s what I try to do.
Are you involved with any other bands or projects outside of Social Siberia?
I was in Chemical Vocation for almost 10 years. I did 3 EP’s with a hardcore/metal studio project called Nemorosa and an EP with a one man full-band kind of thing called The Dearly Beloved. It can all be found on Spotify and iTunes.
Do you have any strange or scary stories from the road or at a show that you could share at all?
Social Siberia hasn’t really been on the road like that but I’ve seen lots of weird shit with Chemical Vocation. The flashing image of one crew member hunting the singer of another band around the room holding a knife with a (actual) pile of shit on top of it or having a promotor in Paris telling us tonight’s gig was cancelled due to someone slitting a member of one of the opening acts’s members throat with a broken bottle the previous night, all told like it was no biggie. (I think the guy was ok)
While on the road or at a show, some drunk guy offers you $100 to play What Makes You Beautiful by One Direction. He’s serious and wants to hear the song. What would you do?
I haven’t heard the song, but I guess it’s written by some big shot songwriter so it can’t be that bad. I need the money man.
How did you wind up being signed to Panic & Action and what do you think of the other bands such as Her Bright Skies and Adept?
They signed Chemical Vocation and liked what I did too. We’ve toured a lot together, I don’t really listen to that kind of music personally but they’re definitely good at what they do.
Have you ever played here in the States or plan to in future days?
Nothing in the pipe. I’m trying to build Social Siberia in Sweden first of all.
What are the future plans for Social Siberia?
I’m waiting for a the vinyl release to arrive and then I wanna go out and do some shows and spread the gospel of this record that I’m really proud of. Then we’ll see, as always, what happens. All I know is that Social Siberia and I will be synonymous for a really long time, whether anybody listens or not.
(Interview by Kenneth Morton)
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