A conversation with Marcus Fjellström


    Bas Mantel spoke with Marcus Fjellström about synesthesia, Twin Peaks, whether or not telepathy exists and what his head would look like as an audiovisual mixer.

    I love that music and art can mean so much to us on a level beyond logic and intellectual understanding.


    Bas Mantel

    I often experience your music like I am listening to a soundtrack taken from the subconscious. A dreamlike universe where multiple layers and dimensions loosely blend with each other into structured compositions. Do you translate your dreams into your compositions? What are the influences of dreams on your creative process? How does your consciousness or world between being awake and being asleep look like?

    Marcus Fjellström

    I’m sure I’m not alone in being fascinated by dreams. They do mean a lot to me and they do have an influence, but I’d hesitate to say they have a direct influence. And no, I have never translated dreams into compositions. What they do have in common with my creative endeavors, however, is that it’s all about what’s “between the lines” and what cannot be expressed intellectually. If you’ve ever tried to tell someone about an amazing dream you’ve had, you have probably realized that the magic of the dream is not so much the narrative of the dream (i.e. what “happens”, what you can put into words) but is actually more about the complexity of subtle sensations surrounding it. And I think that’s what I love about music and art in general. It can get to the core of our experience and it can mean so much to us on a level beyond logic and intellectual understanding.


    You grew up in the north of Sweden. Can you describe this landscape from memory? How did you experience this environment as a teenager? How did this geographic area influenced you?

    The house I grew up in was surrounded by woods, and I loved exploring and playing there. I even got lost there a couple of times. To my young mind, those woods were endless and stretched far into realms I couldn’t even imagine.

    But as much as I grew up in northern Sweden, it’s probably even more truthful to say that I grew up in books and comics and TV and radio and computer games. And I believe that the influence from those things was vastly larger, but they don’t cancel each other out. I’d say one probably bled into the other.

    The number eight is dark purple-blue with hints of shiny black.


    A few years ago you told me that you see music in color. In neurology, this is called synesthesia. When did you became aware of the fact that you connect music to color? What impact does this have on composing your music? And can you give/draw us a color key in which you associate the color with one composition from your recently released album Skelektikon?

    I actually don’t remember saying that I see music in color, because I don’t think I do. But I am synesthetic in other areas. I tend to be able to relate sounds (i.e. timbre, but not necessarily musical material such as melody or harmony) to subtle colors and shades of light/dark but also to senses of taste.

    When I’m cooking, for instance, I can feel that the dish might lack middle register (needs more broth or garlic) or that it lacks high register (needs more salt). I feel that dark chocolate has its peak somewhere around 200 Hz. But my strongest synesthesia is still between color and numbers. Ever since I was a small kid – and up to this day – numbers relate to a consistent color code for me. I’ll share it with you below.












    I know that you are a huge Twin Peaks fan. What is your favorite scene or character? If you were to interpret or translate this scene or character into a sound, what would it be?

    Oh! I don’t know if I can answer this question. To pick a favorite scene or character from Twin Peaks is like trying to pick your favorite word from a good novel – it’s all about how things work together on a larger scale and it won’t really work in isolation.

    I prefer to believe that existence is not an accident, because following the other line of reasoning to its natural conclusion invariably leads to bleak nihilism.


    The video for your track “Hermitage” is an intriguing blend of animated and live-action images –  a mysterious creature, choreographed shadows, drawings and diagrams, an atmosphere of melancholia, existential questions about human existence revealed, and all of it with a metaphysical undertone. Do you think there is an entity, a higher force or power that creates and recreates life? An inventor of existence at this moment in time in 2017, in or outside this universe? How can he/she/it be conceptualized in terms of evolution for mankind – or for, let’s say, the next thousand years?

    I see the “Hermitage” video as more of a fairy tale than anything else. It’s about a hermit living alone in a construction on a planet, using a floating bubble as a proxy to travel through space to different planets, looking for company. The hermit finds and rescues the soul of a child who is trapped on one of these planets. Upon releasing the soul of this child, the hermit also accidentally releases all the souls trapped in the planet.

    I’ve always been fiercely agnostic and I probably always will be. While I am very much in love with the various stories we’re telling ourselves about our own existence and what may or may not lie beyond, I personally see little use of earnestly trying to define and having strong opinions about what clearly lies outside of our field of comprehension.

    I am, however, much more inclined to believe that there is something out there than the opposite, and I prefer to believe that existence is not an accident, because following the other line of reasoning to its natural conclusion invariably leads to bleak nihilism. But I’m not very interested in any serious speculation, because I think that’s exactly where we start going wrong with religion and spiritualism and other -isms! So again – sorry to disappoint – but I have no answer.


    Did you ever invent a secret language when you were young? If so, could you reveal a glimpse of its words and translations, or would you keep the secret to yourself?

    I really wish I had such memories, but if I really did invent a secret language as a kid, I’m afraid I can’t remember it.


    How about extrasensory perception – a phenomenon like telepathy? Have you ever experienced telepathic moments yourself? What are your thoughts about this? Do you envision a world wherein a form of telepathy is a general human characteristic, which will be developed by everyone in the long run? What does this future world for human mankind look like?

    There have been moments when other people in my life have experienced what looks like telepathic reactions to events in my life that they couldn’t have known about. But I haven’t experienced telepathy myself. I think it is possible, but I haven’t really given it much thought.


    If your head was an audiovisual mixer or a translator, how would it work and what would it look like? Can you draw us an image of your head as a mixer?

    It was really hard for me to come up with a good result for this, so I asked my friend Timo to draw it for me.

    Drawing by Timo Perekki.


    David Lynch has said that his favorite directors are Jacques Tati, Werner Herzog and Stanley Kubrick, all of whom can be said to use silence of varying length to great effect. How important is silence in your audio-visual work? What is silence? Is there an image for silence?


    I don’t think I use a lot of actual silence in my work – probably hardly ever. There’s always something there, even if it’s reduced to room tone or surface noise. I think I might use a lot of absence, stillness, and hollowness, but never really silence. I can’t think of any image for silence. I don’t think my brain works that way.


    In Berlin you have your own inner circle with places, people and friends you see regularly and people you like working with. Can you make a map representing this network?

    Again, this proved too difficult to me, but Timo had a suggestion.

    Drawing by Timo Perekki.

    Thank you.


    Conversation: 20
    Curated by: Bas Mantel
    Conducted by: Email
    Edited by: Morgan Enos
    Published: August 16, 2017
    Total questions: 10
    Word count: 1370
    Reading time: Five minutes
    Hyperlinks: 8


    City: Berlin
    Silence: Arguable
    Head: Audiovisual mixer


    About the subject

    Marcus Fjellström was a filmmaker and composer from Sweden.

    About the curator

    Bas Mantel has worked as a graphic designer for music magazines, record labels and cultural institutions since graduating from HKU in 1998, He works with various media, from print to stop-motion animated movies. His graphic design is characterized by the combination of old-school skills combined with modern technological techniques. Bas Mantel runs also the small record label REV. LAB. Records, which finds its inspiration in electronic, ambient, experimental, cinematic and abstract soundscapes.

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