Friday, March 25, 2011

A Moon in the Gutter Q&A with Author Daniel Ekeroth

As some of you know, I recently had the great pleasure to add Daniel Ekeroth's new book Swedish Sensationsfilms: A Clandestine History of Sex, Thrillers and Kicker Cinema to my film reference library. The title has already become a favorite of mine and today I am thrilled to include Daniel in my ongoing Q&A series at Moon in the Gutter. Daniel is an extremely talented writer and musician and I really appreciate him participating in this. Leave some comments if you like and, most importantly, order a copy of Bazillion Points' Swedish Sensationsfilms: A Clandestine History of Sex, Thrillers and Kicker Cinema!

Daniel, Thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to do this Q&A for my readers here. Swedish Sensationsfilms: A Clandestine History of Sex, Thrillers and Kicker Cinema has already become one of the essential film reference books in my collection, so it’s a pleasure to have you participate in this. Can you start out by telling us a bit about yourself and where you are from?

I guess I’m just your typical 30-something who basically refused to grow up properly and decided to dedicate my life to popular (and, sometimes, un-popular) culture. I was born in Uppsala in 1972, and have since moved around all over Sweden to explore a little bit of everything. I spent seven years at the university, earning a master in Film Theory—something that most certainly didn’t open many work options. So I try to cope by writing books, freelance as a journalist and play in the rock bands Iron Lamb, Tyrant and Usurpress. At the moment I travel a lot, between my bases in Oslo, Stockholm, Eskilstuna and New York. I live cheap but I have a great time—all of the time!

As a musician and a film-lover, I was wondering if you could talk about some of your earliest influences in both fields. Who were the artists and works that first sparked your interest in the both fields?

Music has always been in my life, since my dad was a musician and music lover in general. The first artists I got into were The Beatles and Harry Nilsson, but the first band I found on my own was Kiss, when I picked up the “Destroyer” album in 1977. Since then I’ve been a metalhead at heart, even though I listen to all kinds of stuff. With films it was harder, since my parents were dead against the VCR, and the two national TV channels in Sweden at the time hardly ever showed anything interesting. Luckily, the father of a friend in school opened one of the first video stores in Sweden, so we could go there and take home all the cassettes for free. And back in those days, all that you could get was low budget genre films since the major studios seemed to stay away from this new technology. So the first films I really got into were mainly Italian genre pictures, such as “Alien 2 on Earth”, “Caliber 9” and “House by the Cemetery”. In retrospect, I grew up in the very best of times and I am eternally grateful for those formative years.

Tell us a bit about our acclaimed first book Swedish Death Metal and your career as a musician.

That book is basically about the death metal movement I grew up in during the late 80’s—wonderful and magical times. Up until that point metal music had kind of been out of reach, bands like Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and Metallica were like unobtainable gods. But death metal was a very underground teenager movement, and you suddenly realised that you could actually make music yourself. The book started out as a list of demos I had lost, but eventually turned into this monster project about the entire Swedish movement. I am very happy about it, since it captured a part of my life before I forgot too much about it! My own music career started out in several punk and progressive bands in the late 80’s, but I never really got anywhere until 1995. That year I joined Diskonto and Dellamorte, released lots of albums and toured the world. I later continued in Insision, and today I play in Iron Lamb, Tyrant and Usurpress now. I play because I like it, and to be in a band generally cost more money than you earn. Still, I have been able to travel the world for free in the process—I would never have gotten to Thailand or Australia if it wasn’t for my bands. Being in a band is great when you get older—you see your friends, do what you love to do and travel a lot, instead of just turning boring and grumpy!

I am always fascinated by connections between music and cinema. As a musician who has an obvious passion for film, can you talk a bit how film influences your music?

The lyrics are often inspired by films, especially back in the days when I played death metal. You know, gore, horror, terror, evil…all the gruesome stuff. We sampled a lot of films too, but you really can’t do much of that anymore since you’ll risk getting sued. Today I listen a lot to soundtracks of genre movies of the 60’s and 70’s—there sure are a lot of cool bass lines to pick up there. We have also been inspired by film posters while making album covers and artwork. I love the film poster artwork of past decades; they are true pieces of art.

Onto Swedish Sensationsfilms: A Clandestine History of Sex, Thrillers and Kicker Cinema. I imagine it took quite a while to put it together. How did you initially come up with the idea for it and can you detail some of the research you had to do?

I wrote a Swedish version of it years ago, since I realised nobody had written about this stuff. Back then it was hard to find some of the films, and information was scarce since the internet hadn’t really developed yet. So I went to all my film collecting friends to gather information and track down copies of movies, which sure was time consuming. When we started to work on the English version, we revisited all the films and rewrote the whole book, incorporating everything I had learned over the last eight years. We also added a lot of films I missed the first time around, and got hold of some lost gems. But it basically came down to the same method once again—to keep in touch with film collectors.

For readers in the United States, this book will be a goldmine of cinematic discovery, but we will have to really do some searching for many of the titles you cover. I was curious as to the availability of many of the rarer titles in the book in Sweden. Were there any titles in particular that were difficult to track down and what do you think is the typical attitude that the average Swedish film fan has towards many of these films?

Some of the films have never been released, so you had to find a collector who had taped it from TV or got hold of it through the national archive of films. “Månguden” was impossible to find ten years ago, but was released on DVD last year so things are changing. Some films are yet to be found, though, such as “Silent Chase” and “Fränder”, and I just had to write about them based on the information at hand. During the last years many sensationsfilms have been released on DVD through Klubb Super 8, so it is far easier to get much of this stuff today than when I started the project. Even if you don’t understand Swedish, you should pick up some of this stuff! Even though the general public doesn’t even know that the movies exist, the sensationsfilms of the 70’s are held in high esteem by Swedish film fans, and a title like “Breaking Point” is like the holy grail of exploitation cinema.

I loved your top ten list of essential works at the end of the book. I don’t want to give that away for readers who haven’t seen it yet, but I was hoping you might share a couple of favorites here as an ideal starting point.

You should start with “Thriller – A cruel Picture”, since it is the epitome of Swedish sensationsfilms. It’s available in English and easy to get hold of. Then you should move on to the crime films “Smutsiga Fingrar” and “Mannen på Taket”, before you dive into sex with “Jag en Kvinna 2” and “Jorden Runt med Fanny Hill”. After that, check out some of Mats Helge Olsson’s action films (preferably “The Ninja Mission” and “Blood Tracks...), and end with “Stockholmsnatt” and “Sökarna”. By then you have learned the basics, and can feel free to explore the rest. Once you feel secure enough, you should track down “Breaking Point”. After that, you won’t be yourself anymore!

I think it is fair to say that the wonderful Christina Lindberg is the greatest icon of Swedish Sensationsfilms. Who are some of your other personal favorite figures you cover in the book?

She is the reigning queen for sure, but you should also check out the three Maries: Liljedahl, Ekorre and Forså. A personal favourite is also Diana Kjaer, whose lustful eyes are mesmerizing. Among male icons, Heinz Hopf and Ulf Brunnberg are the kings. When it comes to directors, you really shouldn’t miss the incredible films of Bo A Vibenius, Mac Ahlberg and Arne Mattsson—the latter probably have the most entries of all directors in the book. And as the true maverick director of Swedish sensationfilms, you have the hilarious Mats Helge Olsson.

Were there any films in particular that you came across in your research that really caught you off guard and became favorites?

I had seen most of the best stuff already, such as the eye-opener “Breaking Point”. Still, I hadn’t seen “Kameleonterna” when I started out, and that sure became a favourite. Some movies that I revisited turned out to be better than I remember them, like the Jokull-Western “Korpen Flyger.” I also saw all the Mats Helge Olsson pictures I had missed, and though they aren’t masterpieces in any sense you really have to see them to believe them!

I’m guessing you don’t sit around watching Swedish Sensationsfilms all day. Are there any other particular genres and filmmakers you admire and what are your thoughts on the state of world cinema in general these days?

I have always been, and still am, obsessed with Italian genre cinema. I actually moved to Italy for a year just to pick up films and get to know the language. I pick up all the titles that are released on Blu-Ray these days, along with too many DVD’s. I don’t really care for new films, something is definitely lacking for me in modern cinema. Still, I enjoyed “Let the Right One In” so I hope some films like that can create a new field of moody thrillers. The best film of the last decade is “Team America: World Police”, and I really would like those guys to make another puppet film!

I wish you all the best of luck with Swedish Sensationsfilms: A Clandestine History of Sex, Thrillers and Kicker Cinema. It’s a fantastic book and it deserves a lot of success. What’s next for you and can we hopefully look for another book from you sometime in the future?

I guess I have found some kind of field for myself as a documenter of weird Swedish culture, so I’ll just have to find something else to continue that path with. It might be music, it might be film…it might even be board games! I just have to open myself for all the strange things that have been going on around me once again.

Thanks again Daniel. This has been a real treat and, once again, I appreciate you taking the time to participate in this.

Ok, thank you for the interview and good luck with all your work in the future.
I’ll be in NYC for the last two weeks of May, so if anyone wants to hook up for beers and a chat about dirty Swedish films, I’m game!

Terrific Dainel and thanks again!

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