In between releasing two critically acclaimed albums (2010’s Skit I Allt and 2015’s Allas Sak), Stockholm-based psychedelic progg-rock quartet Dungen was asked to create an original score to Lotte Reiniger’s 1926 touchstone The Adventures of Prince Achmed, the oldest surviving full-length animated feature film. Inspired by her particular style and characters portrayed within, the members of Dungen collaborated on themes to represent the film’s unique visual narrative. Dungen will be at The Getty on March 21st to perform the album alongside the film as part of a long-awaited return to North America for their ongoing tour. We caught up with bassist Mattias Gustavsson to talk about their upcoming album, setting music to film, and getting through those long Nordic winters.
Music critics often differ in how they classify your music–how would you describe Dungen?
It’s hard to tell when you’re on the inside of it. We never need to describe it, we just do it. But it’s sort of simple classic pop music to my ears. And then there are the psychedelic elements, of course, and some jazz, and some folk…
Is it a good time to be a musician?
As good as any, I guess. We have been lucky to be able to play with Dungen for a long time, and still have new people coming to the shows, as well as old fans coming back. And then we tour the world singing in Swedish, so yeah, if we can do that, it must be a good time to be a musician.
What do people misunderstand about the Swedish music scene? Do you feel Sweden is a good place to make music?
I have no idea! Do people misunderstand it? Sweden is a pretty good place to make music. It’s a small country and still have heaps of great bands and artists. It’s a varied and inspirational music scene.
Can you describe the process of taking Gustav’s songs and arranging/learning them for live performance? Do you prefer recording or performing?
It’s simple. Gustav usually knows how he wants them to be played. And the rest of us just learn our parts. Sometimes we need to make some of the recorded arrangements work with our live set up by replacing instruments and/or parts, but most of the time Gustav has a good sense of how to make it work.
Do you prefer recording or performing music?
Recording and performing are so very different it’s even hard to compare! I love both equally!
What do you do to stay healthy and happy during the winter?
Preferably I’d escape to a warmer and sunnier place. If that’s not an option I usually get unhealthy and miserable.
What are the differences between recording an album and movie score?
We haven’t really ever recorded a movie score per se, so I’m not sure. When we recorded Häxan, we recorded the different themes separately, much like when we record a normal album. And then we gave our producer Mattias Glavå complete freedom to sequence everything in the way that would work best for the album format. On the other hand, performing the score, actually accompanying the movie, is totally different from performing a regular show. When the movie starts it keeps rolling until it ends and we just need to make it work in between, whereas with a regular show you get breaks between songs and it’s a lot looser what direction the show will take.
Do artists have a responsibility to be activists or to be politically engaged? What has been your view of the changes in the political climate around the world from Sweden, especially considering Trump’s recent comments?
I don’t think artists have more responsibility than anybody else. But I do think people in general benefit from being politically engaged and active. I wouldn’t mind seeing capitalist corporations get deprived of some of their power in favor of democratic institutions. And that would need people to be more interested in supporting democracy than capitalism. The politcal situation in Europe and the States has gotten completely absurd. It’s so polarized we will just have to see if the system is rigid enough to withstand this phase.
What do you think the future of music will look like?
Unimaginable I hope! I want it to be free and sexy and unruly!