Juno Plus Podcast 121: Porn Sword Tobacco

Henrik Jonsson conjures up something special on a 90-minute mix of music, overdubs and effects the producer has called his PSTories.

More than what you probably realise goes into publishing a podcast but sometimes it all comes together naturally, as this 121st Juno Plus Podcast did by the way of some drunk talk, social connections and good timing at a festival somewhere in the German wilderness. Henrik Jonsson has been releasing music as Porn Sword Tobacco (more on where that name comes from in the interview below) since 2004, and the now defunct City Centre Offices label treated Jonsson to his first PST release, a self-titled album, and three more over a five year period. All of this, mind, stemmed from Jonsson sending the label some music after sensing the right kind of vibe from a Bill Van Loo 7” the label put out in 2001.

Before this, however, Jonsson was making music as Stress Assassin and put out two dub LPs on a Swedish psy-trance label called Spiral Trax, and around the same time he was also making music as Swayze Dub which included the Freezy Freeze / Swayze Dub – Back From The Box 12″ with Gothenburg electro devotee Luke Eargoggle. Furthermore, with fellow Swede Joel Alter, Jonsson forms more of a classic house project called Jonsson/Alter, a collaboration exclusive to Kontra-Musik that’s put out a stream of 12″s and two albums, alongside the solo work he’s done under the name Gunnar Jonsson. Porn Sword Tobacco’s sound, though, has evolved from a trippy, ambient and totally free musical pursuit to something that’s drifted into housier waters thanks to his hook ups with Aniara Recordings and, again, Ulf Eriksson’s Kontra-Musik.

Over the past decade the sound of Porn Sword Tobacco has sustained its overall lo-fi identity, and it’s on a quality tip akin to what you’ll hear from labels like Acido and SUED. Jonsson does collaborate with SVN, founder of SUED, too, and together they’ve released two 12″s, of which the most recent Feels Good EP will almost certainly line up somewhere in our end of year lists, while his most recent double pack for Aniara Recordings, Magnifik Botanik, is perhaps the best record he’s put out since his days at City Centre Offices that showcases the magic and spiritual essence of Jonsson’s music.

As Porn Sword Tobacco, Jonsson has delivered what he calls PSTories, a 90-minute concoction of splashing delays and spring reverbs, spoken word extracts, over dubs and resultant layerings of atmospheres to go with a down pour of Jonsson’s musical selections. And we highly recommend you read the earnest answers Jonsson was happy to give in the interview below which has only been edited for clarity and repetition.

Thank you for telling us one of your PSTories, it’s one of our favourite mixes this year. You told us over email “it’s gonna be a journey somehow”. So was it?

Thats great to hear! Makes me real happy. Thank you. The way I see it is that I’m just painting away with my records and collected sounds in my studio for a joyful journey. My wish is that the listener will feel this too and take the ride in any way as the listener pleases.

How was it put together?

Record players thru analogue effects/mixer, recorded to a laptop (cassette deck is at the repair shop) with overdubs using synths, a drum machine and other fun boxes, live. Working in layers for a nice cooked up taste. Many of these great records you hear in this podcast won’t sound the same if you listen to the original record, I dub around with a delay and spring reverb for example. I wanted to add some spices and herbs for this Pstory for you.

There is quite a lot of spoken word samples used throughout, do they have a specific meaning to you?

Yes, they put a smile on my face, making me feel all fuzzy and excited inside, just like a juicy piano chord or an analogue drum machine can do to me. This random story about water and life on earth just came out and I just went with it, it was a real trip. Diving into the ocean after the Alan Parson track, as you hear what goes up must come down is so great I think. Again something like painting, why some red there? Yellow there? Who knows? Just looks good. I hope other people will enjoy this art too. It’s almost like a nice comic book here and there to me.

As the provided artwork suggests, you spent some time living in London during the ‘90s. How did you find it?

I lived in Bethnal Green for a month with my girlfriend at the time, it was a great youthful romantic vibe in a two-story brick house. The streets were somewhat tuff I remember, weird people could just show up wanting to fight and stuff.

I didn’t like that so much. You see I had poetry to think about, records to find, drawings to visualise in my head, etcetera, I was able to find some really nice dub records in a small shop there I remember. Scientist was big then in my life, King Tubby, Prince Far I´s (Voice Of) Thunder too, and early Orb to name a few. I remember a Rasta customer once muttering to me what is a white boy doing in here one day in a small record shop.

Some other highlights I carry with me from London apart from its own beauty just as a city was seeing a big (Jean-Michel) Basquiat exhibition, the real paintings, to see how they were done up close was fascinating.  And you could also always find the best jungle and dub mix tapes at Camden Lock from my perspective! Once I got a tape called Zulu Dub and it was the best I ever heard, but it didn’t have any other info on it more than that. Just Zulu Dub and a drawing of a mask on the cover. Black on orange.

I was puzzled for years; who could it be, in what type of room was this made, I built worlds inside my head around that recording, child fantasies I guess. Later thru my research I found out that it was Keith Hudson and Rasta Communication in Dub that I had listened to all these years, but it was a selection, not all the tracks that are on the recently released CD were on the tape I found there.

That tape was played three times a week during my art school years, it just sounds so great on that tape. Still does.

And let’s not forget Speakers’ Corner, it blew my little Swedish nine-year-old brain away the first time I witnessed it , I had never seen anything like it, coming from the countryside of Sweden. Thanks Mom for showing me that!

Were you DJing at all during this period?

No not really, I did some ambient trip cassettes around the time I started to work with Atmos in the ‘90s that were much appreciated locally amongst friends and I did some DJing at local rave parties in the ambient rooms but I haven’t mixed records much since then. Here and there may be in random clubs only when people have asked me basically. I’m the worst in promoting myself ever! If that wasn’t obvious already… haha.

Have you returned to London much since then?

Once or twice as a tourist, but it’s been a while I’m sorry to say. It would be sweet to see Speakers’ Corner again just for the feeling, and maybe smell the roasted chestnuts around Hyde Park come winter, I get all cosy inside thinking of it. My granddad sometimes talked about the UK and I used to love to hear him speak in English, we went to Wales once when I was five, he was a cool man, he used to build tools for trains in a factory. Btw speaking of Wales, check out the Touched Two benefit record that came of from there, it’s for a hospital. Anders Ilar also made a remix of the track I put in that big benefit album.

Word is you’re a fan of stand-up comedy. Louie CK is a favourite among our office, anyone you’re into right now, or have been into for a long time?

Yeah Louie CK is funny, I was able find out about Rick Shapiros styles thru hi, also thru the first Louie show. For me Patrice Oneal, Colin Quinn, Tim Heidecker, Don Rickles, Todd Glass, Wu Tang Clan and Norm McDonald makes me feel all filled up and laughy today. When I need words put together in a cool order these are some of my favourite comedians/artists that fixes that for me. That show, Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee by Seinfeld is very nice too, it’s just like sliding down a water slide to me. The Portland episode is so nice, he rides in a green Saab, my mom and dad had one of those but grey, I was born in the city where they used to make the Saabs among other machines you see.

PST-Self-titledPST

There’s a story behind the Porn Sword Tobacco name, right? Was it a shop’s sign?

Yes, and it goes something like this: On my first P/S/T album for City Centre Offices there is a picture of the actual shop to enjoy, it’s printed on the inner label of the record. That picture explains the full spectrum of that particular establishment.

They sold what the name holds in the middle of the woods close to the Norwegian border, me and some friends I invited to join me there were on the way to the legendary Swedish studio named Silence to record musical improvisations and just hangout as friends (it’s an old wooden house that used to be a school that you live in as a visiting musician) and we drove off the path and just found that shop, it was a sight that stayed. Quick shout out to St. Redford who occasionally played acoustic guitar on some early PST and Stress Assassin tracks, he released a record some years ago, it’s like a nice modern John Fahey vibe in my ears but much more too! It’s great.

Try to find it!

What’s the story behind Porn Sword Tobacco’s music? Your first album, and subsequent others, came through City Centre Offices.

I remember I wanted a piano in our house as a kid but there was no chance. Later I was able to rent a Casio CZ-1000 from the local music shop in my hometown for a week, that was so cool, sitting hours with headphones just listening to sounds. I later sometimes played (maybe touched is the right word here) the piano in our towns community house when I sneaked up the stairs when no one was around, that was such great feeling I remember. Then after travelling and playing around the whole world for some years with my friend Tomasz in his Atmos project, playing in Zambia, seeing Ethiopia, driving for hours over the mountains in Morocco thru the night and then having a nice sushi in Osaka the next week and on and on, was wild to say the least for me… During that time I also made two albums under the name Stress Assassin for Spiral Trax.

Then One day I just felt I needed to do something different in music, I took a break and wanted to explore something else, so what would come to be PST happened; I went back to that piano feeling I had as a kid I think, I had been to Silence once before joining in on the mastering on my first Stress Assassin album. There was a big grand piano there in the main room, I was left alone in the studio for two hours when Anders went to lunch and I could just go at it, free and alone, I decided to come back later and record improvisations right there and then, I was there five or six times after that for all my PST/CCO albums. Sometimes alone, sometimes I invited friends. The first recording I made at Silence was without any label backing, and from that first week in the woods at Silence I sent my first demo to City Centre Offices, I was so happy hearing back from them I remember; that made my whole week back then! The reason I found CCO was because in Stockholm I found this Bill Van Loo 7” on CCO and the way the whole thing looked and sounded in its the black sleeve, and that thin grey paper slip at the bottom in a see thru plastic bag, just gave me the feeling that this is a label for me somehow. Thanks Bill, Thaddi, Shlom!

Has the PST style evolved over the years and how does the project feel now in 2015; for instance Explains Freedom is a vastly different to the 4/4 run of your most recent Magnifik Botanik.

Yeah I’m not a stone that just sits in the sun, neither some fixed flute on a mountain top for the wind to blow true as it wishes, life moves and music with it.

Magnifk Botanik was recorded in 2009-2014 but during 2003 I actually made some house stuff but didn’t release that much, but Swayze dub is one project for example that came out on Kentaur-Racing and a one off label Blocky Diamond Disks that I made together with Luke Eargoggle in Gothenburg. We are rapping on there and doing live poetry styles. I am an artist always working on different stuff for joy in life.

Is there such thing as Porn Sword Tobacco live?

Yes, but it’s a little like Big Foot… My last PST live was in cool Zürich, but this year me and SVN did our world premiere live in Sweden together at the Intonal Festival in Malmö. Feels good to play live, even though you’re always just a little bit sick before going on stage, always the same feeling. Then afterwards you’re just silver surfing mostly.

What brought about your collaboration with SVN? Working in the studio with him must be a trip.

Dreesen (Acido Records) introduced me to SVN once and then later one day we were both going out for lunch on our own and just happened to meet by chance on the street, so we went for food.  I remember we had some lentil soup and some other Turkish delights on a plate at a place I go to sometimes, we then agreed we should do a session. Now we make records. It feels good.

Tell us a little about your hook up with Ulf Eriksson and relationship with Kontra-Musik.

Sure, Ulf made Gunnar Jonsson happen thru Muskelminne, my first 12” on Kontra-Musik, later from that I made Jonsson/Alter happen because Ulf wanted a Gunnar Jonsson album initially but I had started some mini-jams with Joel by then so I suggested that we should use the money Ulf had gathered for my Gunnar Jonsson Album instead on the Jonsson&Alter (project), we all agreed happily. Ulf rocks! He likes to laugh too.

Let’s see what the future holds.

And what can you tell us about the Aniara Recordings crew?

Fabian I see off and on and we always have very interesting and relaxed spiritual talks over a cup of tea. Good vibes.

How are things going with your Jonsson/Alter project?

No Plans!  But the important thing is that the music lives on to be enjoyed, there is some real nice songs in there like “Brevet Hem”, “Tre Akord”, “En Melodi”, “Kyrka 2.0”  to name some. It has been a very interesting experience for me, this project.

And for those who can’t wait, what else are you working on at the moment that you can tell us about?

I just built a small but cosy studio room, and it’s ready to be used now. More music and records will be done over time I feel. Some labels have asked me for albums which feels really cool but also bit stressy, I want to work but it takes time, I am very thankful.

Right now in the background while I’m writing this a little sequence is running along thru a maze, sounds are coming out of a classy drum computer flying thru the air. I guess I’m still looking for that perfect beat, to go further, being able to continue free and to meet nice people thru music. Music is sort of an emotional language I feel, full of possibilities for us humans. I’m still a little curious rosy kid that way I guess.

Finally a big thanks to all the synth builders, gear creators and musicians that’s a part this podcast!

Have a good one!

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