A song a week #11: The Dust On Your Floor

Olle is looking moody on a Stockholm back yard.
Olle is looking moody on a Stockholm back yard.

We’ve made it almost all the way through “In Fact” and the very last track of this cassette is a nice one. I think it gives quite a good insight into what is to come in the future, since it’s got more of a dark mood and classic synth-pop vibe to it.

It begins with the intro, which uses a lot of percussion sounds to create a moody landscape leading up to the timpani drumbeat.

This song is all Roland D-20, with some creative drum parts where we used the rim sound for once. But what’s really interesting here is the very sweet melody going in the bridge. We were always trying to combine nice melodies with a dark atmosphere and mood, and in this track it really paid off, I think.

The vocals sounds sort of forced, and they were recorded using a drum microphone, so there isn’t a lot of full vocal sound there to work with in the first place. There is nothing wrong with my singing, but the sound is very sharp and piercing.

After using our synthesizers separately all through “In Fact”, we were now learning how to hook them up to each other using MIDI. This would give us a whole new range of sounds to combine for our next cassette, “Nowadays” which had a lot of truly great tracks on it.

With this, we leave “In Fact” in the (quite literal) dust and move forward into the 1990’s! Next week, we start with a song that leads on “Nowadays” but is actually from the “In Fact” era. More on that soon!

A song a week #9: Tell Me Why

The whole gang during our first photo-shoot in 1989.
The whole gang during our first photo-shoot in 1989.
From left: Jonas Embring, Anders Ljung, Olle Söderström, Måns Jonasson.



Oh, yes! I’m so happy that it was my (Måns) turn to write this week. This is definitely one of the very best songs from In Fact, and I have very vivid memories of recording this song too.

“Tell me why” stands out as a great little pop ditty with, for Art Fact, very well-defined song structure. There is nothing hidden in this track, nothing left to the imagination or that could have been done that wasn’t done. Simplicity, pure pop. I love it! Of course, this is pretty far from synth-pop and I’d say that our influences from Erasure are very clear in this track.

This track is made with Roland D-20, although I am fairly certain that there was an earlier version made on the PSR-70, sadly gone today because it was probably never recorded. There are a couple of cute quantizing errors very typical for how we worked with the D-20, because we never knew if we should quantize in 1/16 or 1/32. Sometimes we did it wrong and there are a couple of off beats in this one.

The bass line is classic octaves, in a bouncy, sort-of slap bass sound. A weird choice maybe, but it works. One thing that is very different here is that we allowed Anders to add a GUITAR to the chorus. Again, I blame Erasure since Vince Clarke was dabbling with guitars at this time as well, at least in the “Sometimes” video, which we loved. I know that Anders doesn’t like that guitar sound any more, but I think it really works and blends in nicely.

Vocals then. The vocals are, in my own opinion, probably the best ones I recorded on In Fact. I did the recording in my bedroom in my parents’ home at Västmannagatan, and I remember that it was fairly late so my little sisters were sleeping and I sang so loud that my step-mother came to tell me to quit. Anyway, I got it done and today I still really like how they turned out. Blues-y, and really “on”. You need to remember that I was only 16 years old or so, which is the main reason I’m impressed today.

The lyrics are nothing special really. It’s all about rejection and not understanding why, in a teenage angst sort of way. The up-beat music doesn’t really match the lyrics.

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A song a week #7: Dig A Hole For Me

Anders outside our "studio" in the school Måns and Olle went to.
Anders outside our “studio” in the school Måns and Olle went to.

Oh boy.

This is quite akward. This song is really, really hard to listen to, since it really shows how young and silly we were. This is almost a novelty song, with stupid jokes and laughs throughout. If you can take listening to it, some of the details below might be interesting.

The bass line is the “fantastic” Yamaha PSR-70, the first machine Anders owned (I think) and I would borrow it, use the built-in very simple sequencer to write songs, and sometimes it would be impossible to find replacement sounds when we actually wanted to record the song. This bass sound is actually quite cool, I like it. The “strings” are also PSR-70 I believe! Other than PSR-70, the drums and sound effects are Roland D-20, and the bridge lead is most likely from Olle’s Casio CZ-101.

The lyrics are stupid. Something about wanting to die, but clearly not very serious, regardless of the message. The only part of the lyrics I like now are in the intro: “I searched for hours, days and for weeks. I know now my search was in vain.”

The vocals are good, as usual on In Fact. It’s easy to hear now why listeners were impressed by my vocals, as I had a very clear and distinct voice, being schooled in choir and opera. I think all of the backing vocals on this track are improvised during the recording, which is quite impressive, at least in the intro where it works quite well, even with the weird screaming at the very top.

OK, let’s stop this now. Next week we’ve got one of the best tracks from In Fact (at least in my opinion) so I’m looking forward to reading Anders’ writeup of that instead of this nonsense song.


A song a week #6: Shirt

Olle and Måns on the subway.
Olle and Måns on the subway.

This song existed even before I joined Art Fact. Måns and Olle went to music school, and had already started a band called Cairo. This was in 1987 or so. Måns recorded some songs, including this early version:

This version uses his Måns’ father’s Tascam Porta 05 portastudio, Roland TR-505 drum machine, piano, and Alesis MicroVerb. I think Olle later added the synth line intro using his Casio VL-1 and loooots of reverb. There are lot’s of similarities between the early demo and the version that ended up on In Fact, but two (in my opinion) major hooks were added:

  1. First of all the drum fill intro. Måns played some drums at the time, or at least he had a practice kit set up in his room. He knew how to play the standard drum fills on toms, which in 99 cases of a 100 go from smaller (high pitch) to bigger (low pitch). But when programming the intro to the song he came up with a fill that in all its simplicity I’ve never heard before or after. The upwards motion works really well as an intro, and leads the way to…
  2. The drum beat. Most drum beats have a snare on beats 2 and 4, but the early version only had it on beat 2, and the In Fact version only on beat 4. This gives the song a sort of half-beat feel.

The last hook on my list is the same in the two versions, and that is the lyrics “I am clean and you are dirt / You tell me to wash my shirt”. I have no idea what this really means, but it’s a line that has stuck in my head for many years.

The In Fact version again uses the Tr-505 but then mainly Olles Casio CZ-101. Those who owned one can easily identify it’s sound in the break.

At the time I was extremely impressed that Måns and Olle had written and recorded songs of their own. Not just by the musical skill to pull it off, but also by having access to a portastudio and drum machine. Back then, this was more or less rocket science and really expensive. I knew I had to team up with those guys….

A song a week #5: As You Say

Art Fact live at Adolf Fredriks musikskola, 1990.
One of Art Fact’s very first live shows, in 1990. Anders behind the D-20 and Måns behind the microphone. Also pictured: totem pole!?

If “In Fact” had been a real album instead of a cassette demo, and if Art Fact had been on a major record label, the label might have pushed for a single before releasing the album. And if that would have been the case, my money is on “As You Say” as their choice for first single.

Why? This song is one of the most accessible and least “synth” songs we ever made. In fact, at one of our live shows we performed “As You Say” with just Anders on guitar and me singing, since “unplugged” was all the rage at the time. This song works well that way, but I think it also works pretty well as a little synthpop ditty.

Preparing for this post, Anders gave me two pointers. He said “One, the handclap should have only been there when there are no vocals” and “Two, the lead synth in the chorus is CRAZY loud in the mix”. I agree with both points, but it’s a little funny how bad we were at hearing these kind of things at the time. The chorus, with my “aaah”, reminds me of some song with Swedish artist Thomas di Leva, and that might have even been the inspiration for that part, since it’s very unlike our regular sound.

Once again, the trusty old Roland D-20 is alone on this track. The drums might be presets, in fact most of the sounds might be presets since this was a quite early production, and we had not really started messing around with the sounds too much yet. I like the sound, except maybe the bridges. They are quite boring. Obviously something more should have happened in the song/sound structure between verses. As it sounds now, all verses are identical, which is quite boring.

Bonus points to ourselves for the nice pizzicato sound in the verses and the cool intro. Those are the only two things that stand out to me now that I listen to it, production-wise.

The lyrics on this track I wrote as one of very few Art Fact songs that were based on a true story. I had in fact received a letter much like the one mentioned in the song, and my only possible response was to accept the letter and go on with my life. Very typical teen stuff though, and the lyrics are no masterpiece.

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A song a week #4: I’m Jealous


This week we’re taking the time machine back to 1989, and the quite interesting track “I’m Jealous” off of our “In Fact” cassette. This song is more or less a forgotten piece, made almost entirely around a single sound from the Roland D-20, which was the only piece of equipment used on this track.

The sound heard in the intro and throughout the song is probably a pitched-down percussion of some sort – this was during the time we were experimenting a lot with the sounds from the D-20 and trying to make it do things it really was not designed to do. The result was sometimes quite good – as in this case I think, where it does sound like something else.

Typically, for this time in Art Fact history, we are using only drums and one more sound for the verses. This left a lot of of space for my vocals, which were recorded through the Alesis Microverb with quite a long reverb. So 80’s, indeed.

There is not much else going on here – either lyrically or melodically. It sounds very dated and old in my ears today, and the only notable idea was the use of whispering in the repeating “I’m jealous” of the chorus. Also, that’s quite a scream at the end! I used to be very afraid of hurting my tender choir voice, so I’m surprised that I would scream like that. It’s all there though, raw as it was on the tape, just as raw today.

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A song a week #2: Payday

Payday is the second track in our weekly series “A song a week”. Payday was the second track on our first cassette “In Fact”, and was recorded some time in the late 80’s, most likely in 1989.

Payday is made using only the Yamaha V50  and its internal sequencer. Well, almost. The “intro” being a number of coins dropped on a mirror, recorded straight to tape (we didn’t own a sampler) is the only sound not originating from Yamaha’s wondrous work station.


This was a very different machine than the Roland D-20 we had used up until we got the V50. Using FM synthesis and sporting a step programmer in the sequencer we made good use of these features. Payday is using what is probably a number of presets, especially the bells in the chorus and the drums. What makes the sound in this song for me is the square lead playing the hook in the chorus. Together with those bells, it really gives of that great 80’s vibe.

Of course I am partial, but I think the vocals on this track sound great! They’ve got that “blues-y” feeling that made Art Fact special. I really don’t know where my inspiration came from to sing that way – none of my then-heroes sang that way, and it’s certainly not a very “synth” vocal sound, which I’m grateful for now, since it sounds better than most contemporary vocals.

The verse is nothing but drums, bass and vocals. This is typical for the naive productions we made back then, and the thing is that we simply didn’t know any better. We didn’t know what to put there, so we thought we were done. Today it sounds extremely minimalist, but it’s purely by accident.

For some reason, we decided that adding a drum fill after the title word “Payday” is sung in the song would be cool. What is not cool though, is the poorness of said drum fill. Listen for it. :)

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A song a week #1: Whom Are You Dancing For?

Starting today, we will try to say a few words about every Art Fact song. Starting with Whom Are You Dancing For?, this was far from the first song we ever wrote or recorded, but it’s the first track we released (if you can call hand-copied cassettes “releases”). Listening to it now it sounds like one of those tracks that started by just tinkering with some drums and bass sounds. There is quite a lot of borrowed stuff in this song, from the typical octave bass (from Depeche Mode´s Photographic) to some lyrics like “life in itself” and “they can’t get no / satisfaction”. On this particular track I remember that Måns showed the lyrics to his English teacher, who wanted him to change the title to the more grammatically correct “WHO are you dancing for?”. Claiming his artistic freedom, Måns refused to change it.

The track is done using just the Roland D-20. It was probably completed at Olle’s house. The drums are quite busy, but at this point we didn’t use any hihat since that sounded too much like a rock drummer. I remember that we recorded the harp-like arpeggio by hand, slowing the tempo down quite a bit. We also automated the stereo panning a lot, which still sounds pretty good I think.

Overall it’s a very minimalist track. In the chorus it’s just drums, bass and vocals! But at the time I think we didn’t know what else to put in there.

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