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Swedish psych-rock quartet Dungen are heading to Australia in December, armed with Häxan, a brand new album which will be released on November 25. AM editor Greg Phillips chatted to Dungen’s founder, singer and songwriter Gustav Ejstes about his influences, recording and the upcoming tour

It should come as no surprise that you could experience some kind of six degrees of separation moment when speaking with an artist whose music you’ve long admired. I’m chatting with Gustav Ejstes, main man from Swedish psych-rock outfit Dungen, whose music I’ve appreciated since the release of their debut self-titled album back in 2001. We’re talking influences and the name Bo Hansson comes up. Bo Hansson was a Swedish composer of ambient, progressive instrumental music in the 70s, best known for his album Music Inspired By Lord Of The Rings. It’s an album which had quite an impact on me growing up, firstly for its surrealistic cover art and more importantly for the pioneering progressive rock sounds contained within it. It seems that Bo’s music moved Gustav in a major way too.
“I discovered his records when I was about 17,” he tells me. “I don’t know what it was. I can’t really describe it. It’s like a condition or a state of mind. How can I break it down? I could talk about it for hours. I don’t know, he’s just one of the Gods. His total language and production-wise also, the instrumentation is something that really connects with me and I don’t really know what it is. He’s just an all time classic.”

Going back and listening to Bo Hansson’s music post-interview, it all makes sense. Previously, trying to nail down a specific source of influence in Dungen’s music was proving futile but here it was, the combination of folk and electronic instrumentation, the mix of progressive and traditional sounds and the notion that musically, there shouldn’t be any rules. Add to the equation Gustav’s mother exposing her young son to an eclectic blend of gospel and African music at church and later with his equally inquisitive band mates, trawling through market stall and record store vinyl crates seeking out rare audio gems, you can see why Dungen create the beautifully weird and wonderful music that they do. Plus Gustav works hard at it. In fact, he’s generally up and at it quite early and enthusiastically.
“Well, it’s about 10.20 now and I am up and going and have been for several hours,” he says chipperly from his Swedish home. “Before noon is my period. That’s my moment in the day when I create. The afternoons between 3 and 6, that is my worst.”


Dungen are about to release a new record titled Häxan (which translates as The Witch) on November 25th. It will be an all-instrumental album, inspired by a silent movie, Lotte Reiniger’s 1926 film The Adventures of Prince Achmed, which is quite possibly the oldest surviving full-length animated feature film. Häxan will be the band’s second album in 14 months which is a relief to Dungen’s loyal fanbase, who waited a long 5 years between 2015’s Alass Sak and 2010’s Skit I Allt. Not that the gap was intentional, it just turned out that way. Gustav spent time writing and recording with his other band Amason and similarly, his Dungen band mates had side projects too. “Everybody is involved in other projects and the older you get, time flies, so it was not like it was on purpose to take a break,” Gustav offers as an excuse. “Maybe for the first month it was like that but everyone wants to play and they found other projects to do, so that was the main reason.”

While there seems to be an endless supply of instruments used on Dungen albums, Gustav wouldn’t consider himself to be a collector and doesn’t get emotionally attached his instruments. In fact most of the cache of gear was supplied by the band’s producer/engineer and Gustav’s “technical soul mate” Mattias Glavå.
“Mattias has an amazing studio with all these instruments. I have a couple of pianos and some organs only,” says Gustav. “I’m not so sentimental about instruments. I learned pretty early from violin lessons playing Swedish folk music. I was like … that song is so beautiful, it must be influenced by the mountains and hills and the teacher was like … no this is just a B flat and a G minor. I mean you feel a lot and want to express yourself but to be able to express yourself in music you have to be aware of how to make the music … where to put your fingers to get certain sounds. It’s the same with my engineer Mattias. He is like, yeah very beautiful but do your fucking job man, just play the fucking song. There’s no sentimental mumbo jumbo about mountains and lakes, it’s just play the fucking chord man.”

As much as Gustav relishes the process of writing and piecing together songs, the task that he enjoys the most is preparing the band’s recorded material to play live, as they’ll be doing for their upcoming December tour of Australia. “That’s the beautiful thing about this because we have developed this four-piece band where everyone is so important to the format,” he explains. “The songs are arranged the way they are but then there are elements and parts that are totally free. We have these jam parts in the  show and we do that thing together and it’s a unique thing in that it is just us four. That is something I always look forward to.”

We look forward to seeing Dungen live in Australia in December
Mon Dec 5 The Zoo Brisbane
Wed Dec 7 Oxford Arts Factory, Sydney
Thur Dec 8 Corner Hotel, Melbourne
Sun Dec 11 Rosemont Hotel, Perth
Dungen also play Meredith Music Festival which is sold out


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