Stylistberlin Interview: Jonatan Bäckelie aka Ernesto

1 Comment 26 October 2012

* Picture from here

Stylistberlin interview: Jonatan Bäckelie aka Ernesto

„Write your own stuff. Use your own words. That way it is probably easier for you to really feel it and find your voice and the way to perform it.“

By Y. Cho



The first time I heard the voice of Ernesto was through Tricksi’s hit “God time to pray“. Daniel and Yannick (Trickski/SUOL) were very fond of him, and as GTTP was one of my favourite tracks of 2011, I wanted to know who Ernesto was.

You might have noticed from his tweets that he does not only write about his releases, but also very often thoughts on life and politics. I personally found loads of inspiring ideas through his words. I found out that Jonatan Bäckelie was  doing loads of other things besides music and I thought it might be worth to share his insights and introduce him to you:

Ernesto, the guy who feels most comfortable being at home on the sofa, with one hand in the potato crisp bag, watching Bones or Project Runway. Equally loving being in the studio.

“And of course I have some memories of truly epic gigs. I really love doing gigs and performing live. I don’t like the stuff surrounding it much, like all the driving to airports and sleeping in anonymous hotels and whatnot, but it’s hard to beat the thrill of being on stage in front of a pumped up crowd. Comfortable for me is a feeling of being reassured in my self that these are things that I know how to do, and I know how to do them well. And that goes for both the TV and snacks, studiowork and live gigs.“ – Ernesto

How does a guy find time to study, make music, have a family? Let us see what Jonatan aka Ernesto had to say about this and learn the stories about his music. Enjoy the interview!




Stylistberlin: “Good Time to Pray“ was a hit in Germany, records were all sold out in a short time. Do you like that track?

Ernesto: Yes. It was a bit hard to get around first, because the background was so minimal. It’s harder to do that kind of song as it’s basically up to me to decide how much of a ”proper” song in the classical sense it should be. But I like the balance that it struck. And I really like that Daniel and Yannick went with the vocal sound I was after, but made it even better than my demo mix!

Stylistberlin: You have already released tracks with Jori Hulkkonen, Andreas Saag, Trickski, Mario & Vidis, all quite well-known artists. How do you chose the collaborations? Are they friends, or do the labels ask you?

“Jori Hulkkonen and I actually hooked up over Myspace. Maybe that’s the one good thing that came out of Myspace“

Ernesto: Andreas Saag I’ve known personally since we both went to music college, but the rest have approached me, because we know someone in common that has passed on my details. Jori Hulkkonen and I actually hooked up over Myspace. Maybe that’s the one good thing that came out of Myspace.

“I’m thankful for computers.“

Stylistberlin: Do you play all instruments on your tracks yourself? (Piano…)

Ernesto: I’m thankful for computers. I do have a piano, and I love to sit around and play at home, but I don’t consider myself an instrumentalist that would perform live on a piano. But yeah, ten out of sixteen tracks on the new album are all me; writing, performing, mixing, producing. And of course under my Pinku Vääty monicker I do mainly instrumental stuff, so that’s also all my handywork.



Stylistberlin: You are involved in a lot of music scenes, where do you define yourself, though?

Ernesto: I like poststructuralists such as Gilles Deleuze. For Deleuze language reduces the inherent difference that is in the world. Instead he uses the concept of becoming- and then uses various suffixes. I think I take on music in a similar way, meaning music is always in transition from something, to something else. Often between genres. It is a terrible ”career- choice”, but it’s deeply satisfying for me as a person.



Stylistberlin: DJ NIBC, Andreas Saag, Axel Boman are great names if it comes to electronic dance music. Who else can you recommend?

Ernesto: These days I like what some people call dubstep and others call post-dubstep. My favorite producer at the moment is Synkro. His song ”Look at yourself”, and his collab ”Guidance” with Indigo are fantastic. They really bring a lot of feeling to music, in a way that was erradicated throughout the emotionally void years the music scene went through with electroclash and subsequently minimal.

“My favorite producer at the moment is Synkro.“

Stylistberlin: Sometimes, you can experience loads of shallowness and superficiality in the music business. It is sometimes hard to find “real people“, and one can say he is very lucky when he finds a few around that teach and mentor him. What do you think about this?

Ernesto: Again, here I think the distinction between artist and Künstler is useful. Artists in a non-kunstler type way gives you entertainment, whereas art in a kunstler type way is about probing, poking and questioning without simultaneously providing answers.

I don’t want to judge people for wanting to have a good time, do lots of cocaine and forget who they are. It’s not my toolbox for working with my self and my life, but hey. I understand why people search for instant gratification, but it’s not a way of life I choose to lead myself.

Stylistberlin: The last thing I heard from you was “Reelin“ from your own label Rakkaus, which I listened to over and over and over. How was it received?

Ernesto: Well, then you have missed my full length album ”Suffice Suffice” and the single that came afterwards – ”Care”. Mario & Vidis did two different versions, and released one on their Silence label and I got one that was released on Rakkaus. Check it out!*

*Editorial comment: I am terribly sorry, sometimes I loose track of all the good stuff coming out… *blush*

Stylistberlin: What are your next projects if it comes to music?

Ernesto: I’ve got some things in the pipeline for 2013 and 2014. Plus I’m planning to do a few collabs pretty soon. I haven’t taken on any collab work at all in 2012. I want to keep it pretty low key at the moment though. But I simply feel the urge to make new music all the time, so I have a hard time seeing that I will ever stop. Although, it will go in a slightly different direction when it comes to my future solo stuff. I have a number of people involved, but not in the music production part of it, more around it, giving input on various aspects of it.

“James Blake & Bon Iver’s Fall Creek Boy’s Choir and Synkro’s Look at yourself

Stylistberlin: What are your favourite tracks at the moment?

Ernesto: Although it’s been out for quite some time, I can’t seem to stop listening to James Blake & Bon Iver’s ”Fall Creek Boy’s Choir”. That and Synkro’s ”Look at yourself”.

Stylistberlin: Which artists should Berlin have an eye on?

Ernesto: All people everywhere ought to discover the genius of Lewis Taylor, a british soul/rock guy that debuted in his 30ies in 96. His songs ”Lucky”, ”Bittersweet”, and ”Song” are some of the best songs I’ve ever heard and amazingly enough he’s pretty much unknown to people in general.




Stylistberlin: Do you smoke as a singer?

Ernesto: No.

Stylistberlin: A word to aspiring vocalists? In Korea, they say hug a tree and sing to it…

Ernesto: Write your own stuff. Use your own words. That way it is probably easier for you to really feel it and find your voice and the way to perform it.

“Write your own stuff. Use your own words.“




His website offers besides the usual categories of musicians, one part about “PHILOSOPHY“. Actually, he just started philosophy at grad school. For a musician who worked full time with music 2001-2007, he found it hard in 2007 to live off from music alone once piracy exploded, as it was not possible to do that anymore. So he picked up Religious Studies and Theology:

“Probably already after one semester I was hooked and felt like it was a context where I wanted to be a part, to get indepth about these topics and produce text/contributions. Under the way I’ve turned more towards the field of Politics and Religion. Which is tricky, because next to economy – I would totally study economic theory as a third subject matter by the way – it’s those two things that people really avoid talking about. So I need to hone my skills if I should ever be appreciated at dinner parties.“

“Religious Studies and Theology (…) it’s those two things that people really avoid talking about.“

“Seriously though, I’ve always been fascinated by how people see their place in the world, how they see their value systems interact with others, and if they think that their own point of view should somehow deserve extra credits. If I should be all psychological about it, I think it’s got to do with the fact that we moved around quite a bit, and that I also got bullied in school at some point. So it was important for me to figure out people pretty fast if I were to succeed in new environments. I think that fascination for ”getting” people still has left an imprint, although now I don’t do it to fit in, but because it’s an intriguing topic that genuinely excites me.“

“I’ve always been fascinated by how people see their place in the world, how they see their value systems interact with others“

What I really found interesting were his attitude towards those studies:

“Also, I get to wrestle with the big questions in life: a) What is a human being? b) What is the perfect society based on the understanding of what a human being is, and c) How do we get there? To me these are the basic components of both religion and politics.“

Stylistberlin: When do you plan to be finished with the Ph.D? Do you see yourself in the academic world in the future? Is music just a hobby?

Ernesto: A friend of mine got the tip ”live long term” on how to cope working within the culture sector and having kids. That’s what I’m trying to do.

If life is like a mixing desk with my fiancée and kids on one channel, my doctorate on one, and music on one, then the loudness of the different channels will vary over time. Right now I’ve just completed an album, so I can focus more on family and my academic work. But in a while the mix may be slightly different.

Both musical and academic work are often in project form, so my long term plan is write music, and apply for research funding at the same time. Then one year, I may have a big research grant, meaning very little time for music, but other years it may be only 50% or 20% research and fill the rest up with music. It’s not the safest of careers, but I’m not in it because I love playing safe.

Stylistberlin: You are quite successful, from a fan’s perspective, if we can listen to your tracks from the German radio. Why [study] more?

„(…) being successful in terms of creating something that is somehow fulfilling, both as and end-result but also as a process“

Ernesto: I think for many artists – or to use the German Künstler which I prefer, as it has different connotations – the drive in what they do is not to be successful in terms of sales. It’s being successful in terms of creating something that is somehow fulfilling, both as and end-result but also as a process. For me, I tend to think a lot in terms of process, and that is extremely important for me. For me human life is an open-ended process. And any kind of achievement is a part of that process, but I don’t see humanity or even my own life ever getting to a state of some sort that could be called ”completed”.

Stylistberlin: I welcome the tendency of combining musical talent and academic knowledge. In Germany, we have Fresh Meat and Cord from Robosonic amongst the producers, I personally started to give lectures for Sorbonne University master of Arts students in the field of Music Management. Who else do you have in Sweden?

Ernesto: I don’t know actually. That is a connection I haven’t explored so far. Right now I gotta do all the basic networking all over again, and I feel like a total rookie. If someone came along that are into both fields and with a similar academic interest, that would be wicked!

Stylistberlin: You grew up in a church environment. Your paper starts with non-theist William E. Conolly. Do you believe in God?

Ernesto: I love Jesus. And I love William E. Connolly. But I think they talk to different centers in my body-brain-network. I see music and academia to be on a sort of linear scale.

We start out with the part of the world that we can talk about, describe, measure even. Then we get to a point where language isn’t any good anymore. Even though there is much religious literature, the place where language stops is the place where we start tapping into the whole God-thing. The mystical, the unknown. The cool thing with music though, is that it works as a connection between these ”worlds”. Music goes further, even when language manages no more. So, I’ve got quite a phenomenological approach to God, and music definitely is a part of that mysterious quest; a gap that William E Connolly can’t fill no matter how hard he tries.

Stylistberlin: I have seldomly seen someone throwing so many philosophical statements on twitter. Do you feel sometimes there is a lack of deepness between your fellow musicians?

Ernesto: I realise I can be hard to follow, and sometimes I can resent the fact that people only ever tweeting about their music can have ten times more followers than I. However, I suppose only focusing on music makes for a simpler packaging. I am, I must admit, a hard nut to crack if you were to approach what I do in terms of branding. Which is a perspective I really hate applying to myself. So I do what is bad for business but good for me. But luckily, people like yourself still found me!

Stylistberlin: What is the purpose or meaning of life for you? What is life all about?

Ernesto: Life is about the process. About searching. And taking care of others doing the same, without thinking you can provide them with all the answers. Life is not about perfecting something, but living with a reasonable degree of humility towards your own and other’s shortcomings, managing to exercise love and sensitivity despite this non-perfection. To accept that stuff like God, yourself and ”the other” are all enigmas to us, that we can’t possibly unpack fully.

“Life is not about perfecting something, but living with a reasonable degree of humility towards your own and other’s shortcomings, managing to exercise love and sensitivity despite this non-perfection.“

Stylistberlin: Do you feel like you have a calling?

Ernesto: I think my calling may be to complicate peoples’ ideas of the world and themselves. At least, I’d be very happy if I manage to make people view things in a bit more nuance.

Stylistberlin: They say the world ends this year… Any comment?

“I saw an article saying that it wasn’t the end of the world, only the end of bacon.“

Ernesto: I saw an article saying that it wasn’t the end of the world, only the end of bacon. But I guess for some people that is pretty much the same thing.

Stylistberlin: If you had three wishes, what would you wish for?

Ernesto: One wish would be for a clean bill of health. At the moment I have to choose between drinking wine or coffee, so I choose coffee. But I’d love to be able to have a good glass of wine every now and again.

Another wish would be a Mini Countryman. And if I could wish for anything – it would be Steampunk version built by Carlex Design.

Apart from that I wish I had the time to hone my skills as a pianist and learn – really learn – how to play the guitar!

Stylistberlin: Where do you retreat and gain strength in times of hardship?

Ernesto: I do things quite intensively, I spend a lot of energy in short bursts, so usually when the work day draws to an end (I work with both academic work and music during daytime) I’m totally spent. So, I need to take it really easy when I’m at home, crawled up in the couch with a warm and soothing cup of Earl Grey tea, preferrably. Just hanging out with my fiancée, watching dvd-boxes of all the seasons of True Blood.

Stylistberlin: Do you have time to read for fun? Favourite book of all times?

Ernesto: I’m a slow reader, and I love what I read in my academic work, much more than I like fiction. So for leisure I much prefer tv-series. Today they’re so good, and the character development, twist, turns and depth that is possible following people over several seasons, now that’s my thing.


Stylistberlin: What is your weakest point?

Ernesto: Some people have an extra stomach for desserts. I have one for potato crisps.




Stylistberlin: What makes Gothenburg so special if it comes to music? Which are the places to go? If someone is visiting Gothenburg for the first time, which places would you recommend to visit?

Ernesto: I feel like an old fart, who rarely go out. But ask me for good restaurants, and I’ll point you in the right direction. I like the very rustic winebar Vink at Andra Långgatan – it’s like daycare for hipsters. For the best Coffee I’d say Mahogny at Skånegatan. For Swedish kitchen with real flare, go to Wasa Allé, at Vasagatan.

Stylistberlin: How often are you in Berlin?

Ernesto: My fiancée’s sister lives in Berlin. I’ve been to Berlin four times all in all in ten years, so it’s not very often. But really getting to spend some time in the city last time I was there gave me an understanding for how people so easily fall in love with it.


* pic from here





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