The dystopian soundworld of Karin My: Interview

J.N. October 19, 2020

The sounds of another world, mysterious and alluring, that penetrates the listener’s consciousness with its eerie melodies, often hypnotic in its rhythms and suggestive of inner landscapes, and coated in darker, gloomier electronic sounds, represents Karin My’s almost hallucinogenic effect on the listener.

The crucial components of Karin My’s sonic print relate to timbre, and are best described by way of adjectival and adverbial constructions: cold, grand, steeped in melancholy and desolation, crystalline, mechanical, screeching, oddly at ease, comforted, empty. Together this adjectival assemblage forms a metonymy for how to describe her sonic identity. Or like her producer points out, “It may not be the happiest music”.

However, aside from the melancholic downward leaps on record Karin My is far from the gloomy, dark personality representing her on record, she’ll rather end up on our top list of the happiest interviewees we’ve ever met.

Together with her producer D. Kaufeldt we sat down for an interview ahead of our live recording at Twice A Man home turf somewhere at the Swedish west coast, and we chat about their life-long friendship, running an art project rather than a music career, and a debut album in the works.

From featured artist to a solo career

You have a background as a featured artist in many projects but didn’t embark on your solo adventure until quite recently, and late in life as well. Why now? Why not earlier?
Karin: It’s all about growing a confidence and a feeling that you can do it, and stop being afraid of having your name all over the music. I easily get worried about being scrutinized by people coming out for my shows or listening to my music because it becomes personal. On one hand you want people to listen to your music, on the other it’s a bit hard for me to handle the attention. That’s just how I am.

But it was also about me not being ready to release my own music. When it was ready for a release, I felt that it was time to do something on my own. I built it up from the ground by writing music to other bands, being a featured artist on records or just adding backing vocals, and after a while you get this feeling, “Hey, I can do this on my own” (laugh).

D. Kaufeldt: I understand Karin’s point, it’s difficult to hide when you put your name on the music. There’s nowhere to hide even if you want to, you’re in the spotlight whether you want it or not.

Just ahead of the interview you told me that D. Kaufeldt is the mastermind behind it all and that he encouraged you to start. How did you meet up?
Karin: Yes! Karin My wouldn’t exist without D. Kaufeldt. It feels like I’ve known him my whole life. He told me one day “For God’s sake, you write better music than many bands you work for. If you want to do something on your own, I’ll help you to produce it”. There’s no way that this would have happened without him.

He’s great on picking up on ideas, like when I call to tell him “Hey, I had this really creepy nightmare last night. I was locked out and walked through the cold winter night in Gothenburg dragging a sack behind me, and when I tried to push it through the ice on the canal I realized it was me laying in it”. Kaufeldt was like “Let’s do a video!” (laugh), and that dream became a video. He’s just great on catching my quirkiness and do something creative about it.

To me it sounds like a working relationship built on a visionary and a realist.
D. Kaufeldt: Maybe a bit but Karin has great ideas to work with. Jocke Berg [frontman in legendary Swedish band Kent] once said something along the lines of ”It takes five minutes to come up with an idea for a song, then you just have to finish it, and that is the tricky part”. It’s all about finding a way to bring ideas into life and make something good out of it.

You can try out ideas in many different ways, by downloading chord packs, preset libraries, drum beats, transitions or whatever to create interesting sonic landscapes, but we obviously don’t. That’s one of the reasons why this whole project takes a lot of time, there’s no generic way to do it and we just have to try everything along the way. But as long as there’s no money in it there’s really no reason to not do it like this even if it takes time. We just want it to come out as good as possible.

What’s very interesting with your solo career is that it’s as much a visual project as it is about music. Has it become an art project rather than just a music project?
Karin: I would say that it turned out like that as it has evolved, especially after we started doing arty DIY videos where there’s a blurred line between music and art.

D. Kaufeldt: ”Do It Yourself” is a euphemism for “We don’t have any money” (laugh).

Karin: Exactly! (laugh) We don’t have any budget or anything and really don’t know how to make it work out at times, but for some reason we always pull it off. It can’t be more DIY than that (laugh).

But would you do it differently if you suddenly would be able to monetize on your music and the overall concept of what you do?
D. Kaufeldt: I would probably leave and do something else then, I’m not super interested in monetizing it (laugh).

Karin: (laugh) I have quite the same opinion and don’t aim for commercialization just to earn money, but if we would earn something on what we already do it would buy us more time to write even more music or do more videos. We’re always broke (laugh).

We know quite much about Karin and her winding road to a solo career but little about you, D. Kaufeldt.
D. Kaufeldt: It’s probably because I’ve taken an even more tortuous course. I had a band called Alien Waveform in the industrial/electronic scene, but started working on folk music projects instead. It made sense to me (laugh). The next step was to produce other bands and run my own label, Ad Inexplorata. The last years I’ve been working with Twice A Man, The Exploding Boy, Fake Moss and Karin, and lots of similar bands.

But I’m pretty unknown because I’ve spent the last 30 years at home in my studio (laugh).

The music you write together has Karin’s name on it. You don’t feel that you’re part of the band?
D. Kaufeldt: Not at all. Karin My is Karin’s project, I just produce it.

Karin: (raising her hand) Just a note: it doesn’t matter what I say about it, he doesn’t listen to me (laugh).

D. Kaufeldt: When I make decisions during the production process it’s always based on what Karin likes. If I would do something for me it would have been lots of distorted guitars and growling people on it.

Karin: That’s when I give him a call and say “Let’s get rid of the distorted guitars and add a lot more Korg instead” (laugh). He has one of those Korg PS-3200 [analogue synthesizer], and there’s nothing sounding like it, it’s just amazing. No distorted guitars, just more Korg (laugh).

Melancholic stories and features on the debut album

After an array of singles Karin My is about to release her debut album, hopefully before the end of the year. From being featured on other bands records, My cashes in on her debut album and brings in a few surprises on vocals and remixes of songs.

But don’t expect her to snap out of her gloominess, she’s not done exploring the dark electronic soundscapes that plagues her songwriting.

Rumor says there’s a debut album in the works. Will it continue on the same melancholic path as on the singles?
D. Kaufeldt: It may not be the happiest music (laugh). I call it feel bad music (laugh).

Karin: No! That sounds so awful (laugh). You get a package of tissues when you buy the record (laugh). But isn’t it anything that lightens up the mood a bit on it? Don’t I write any happy music?

D. Kaufeldt: No. Well, maybe you have a few songs that may suggest something less depressive at times.

Karin: Yeah, so far I just write dark and gloomy music, it’s pitch black. When I finally found a platform for my music and videos and have the chance to put all my thoughts out there on the slab, both about things that happened in real life and pure fiction, it’s all fine to write dark songs when I’m a quite happy person in general (laugh).

If you’re the type of person who really listens to music and lyrics you will understand that life isn’t always perfect, sometimes it’s a bit sad, but you’ll probably also understand that no one can be that sad all the time. It’s super easy to make me happy, in fact it just takes an email from someone asking me to do a live session (laugh). But it’s just who I am, I can shift my mood really quickly between super happy or hit rock bottom like on the record.

Will it be a physical release or just an online release? With no budget a physical release may not be possible.
D. Kaufeldt: The record will be released on CD at least, vinyl isn’t possible right now because you need to sell quite many copies just to reach break-even.

Karin: If I had the money it would be released on vinyl as well, but let’s wait and see. We can always do as Carbon Based Lifeforms (CBL) and Solar Fields, they released their albums on vinyl after the actual releases.

D. Kaufeldt: Speaking about CBL; they did a remix for us.

Karin: Oh, I almost forgot about that. They did a great remix of one of our singles.

Does it mean more releases after the record is released, maybe a single or EP with remixes?
Karin: I’m not sure how we will do it, but maybe after the record is released.

D. Kaufeldt: It will probably be bonus tracks on the digital release but the CBL remix is too good to not release on physical media. It would be great to release it as well.

Karin: CBL remixed ”The Silence”, and it just turned out awesome. They’re such good musicians. Daniel and Johannes [CBL] extracted the essence of the song and made it into one long crescendo. I almost get frustrated on how great they did it (laugh).

When do you plan to release the record?
Karin: Before the end of the year.

D. Kaufeldt: Hopefully.

Karin: Don’t say that! I can’t wait anymore (laugh).

D. Kaufeldt: It’s basically done and mastered but there’s always something turning up in the very last second that postpones the release. But hopefully before the end of the year.

It will be released on my label, Ad Inexplorata. We’ve also released the last three Twice A Man records in Sweden.

Karin: It was supposed to be released earlier but we wanted to record the last video because it’s connected to the record. But we couldn’t meet after the last winter, corona happened and it wasn’t easy to travel between cities, and we had to postpone everything. Today, when we know a bit more about the pandemic it feels like “Ok, we can do it now if we’re careful”.

It’s a very special video, recorded in one three-hour long take and it just needs a bit time-compression before it’s done.

Is your debut album also the end of you being a featured artist on other bands’ records and you will put all your attention on your solo career? Instead of being a featured artist you will feature others on your records.
Karin: It’s actually like that on the record. We’re featuring Dan Söderqvist [Twice A Man] on one song, and he does it great. It’s time to cash in and get something in return after all the features on other bands’ records (laugh).

D. Kaufeldt: It means that there’s a CBL remix on the record, Dan is featured on one song, Erik of Fake Moss has added vocals and there’s a remix by In Quantum, a dark ambient project by Eric Peterson.

Karin: But I really can’t wait anymore for it to be released. I’m the kind of person who wants to release what I write today on Spotify tomorrow. Why wait? (laugh)

To reconnect to the start about your solo career as an art project; how do you take a project like this on stage? I guess it’s not enough to do “just” a show.
Karin: You would think that it’s super important but I’m not sure it is, what’s important is to evoke feelings. When it happens you catch the response and get emotional yourself and give that back. Then we all leave the show with the feeling that we’ve just shared a great and very special moment.

D. Kaufeldt: I haven’t given it much thought actually, but for me it’s more important to play live as much as possible, it doesn’t need to be perfect. It’s all fine if it doesn’t work out perfect, if I would play something wrong, what matters is to be on stage.

Karin: But I’m working on having more musicians on stage. We were supposed to be one more for tonight’s live session but the third person had to cancel because of some deadline.

The point is that I could do so much on stage, but I can’t afford it. Musicians, cool video projections and stuff to decorate the stage, it all costs a lot of money and we don’t really have any. But in my head I’m doing all these things already (laugh).

But I don’t feel stressed about it, it’s just fun to play live. I’m just stressed about my voice because it doesn’t really work out all days. Some days it’s like “Wow! Let’s record everything I ever done” while others are like “Am I really a vocalist? Have I ever sung before” (laugh). What I really need is a voice coach or a voice that I don’t need to worry about.

What I really like with the electronic/indie scene, my scene, is how great atmosphere it is. People are very forgiving if things go wrong or if you would say that you were supposed to have a 25-man strong choir with you on stage but their bus broke down and you have to use backing tracks instead. People love it anyway, just the same way I do myself when I’m part of the audience (laugh).

To sum up: no, I don’t feel any pressure at all, but I always want to do my best and a bit beyond that, just to surprise people. I would love to share something extraordinarily with my audience, that’s what I love with watching shows myself.

Photographers: Krichan Wihlborg and Richard Bloom.
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About The Author

Music researcher with an unhealthy passion for music and music festivals. Former studio owner, semi-functional drummer and with a fairly good collection of old analogue synthesizers from the 70's. Indie rock, post rock, electronic/industrial and drum & bass (kind of a mix, yeah?) are usual stuff in my playlists but everything that sounds good will fit in.