Around the beginning of July, I (Schultzie) talked with the totally down-to-earth Linnéa Olsson of Maggot Heart about creativity during a pandemic, how the subconscious can shape lyrics, growing up a rebel, and her recent formation of her record label Rapid Eye. You can also read the review I wrote, which was published earlier, here.
MPN: Hi! How are you?
Linnéa Olsson: I’m not too bad. Thank you. It’s really warm in Berlin. How are things in – where are you? Michigan?
MPN: Yeah, I’m in Michigan. Um, it’s a mess here.
Linnéa Olsson: I bet. Of course, of course. Just asking an American, “how are you?” It’s… yeah. I keep forgetting that there’s like armageddon going on.
MPN: Yeah, the world is ending over here. Where are you based at right now? You’re in Berlin?
Linnéa Olsson: Yeah, that’s right.
MPN: Is quarantine still going on for you?
Linnéa Olsson: No. It’s been open since a while. It’s more or less back to normal, except that there are no shows or anything like that. No big gatherings, but you can even go to the bar. There are some restrictions, but not a ton of them. It’s sort of like back to normal, but still not normal.
MPN: You’ve had a pretty extensive tour last year, right?
Linnéa Olsson: That’s right.
MPN: What is it like this year not having that?
Linnéa Olsson: Well, last year and the year before that was so intense. We did a lot of touring. We were in America three times in a year. We went to Mexico, and we did Europe a bunch of times, so when we came back from the last American tour in October, then I was like, “okay, we’re not going to play until the new album is out.” So we took some time off the road to record this album. I was thinking we were going to start playing right about now, more or less. So that was already a big break, but now the break is going to be much longer than anticipated. I’m just glad that I’m not hooked up to a ventilator somewhere in a hospital. It could be way worse. Of course I miss playing live and I miss everything that goes along with that, but you know, I’m not complaining over the situation I’m in. I mean, in some ways there’s a silver lining. It’s been nice to kind of sit back and focus a little bit on what’s going on and where you are instead of always thinking two steps ahead about where you’re going to play or what you’re going to do. So it’s been good to sort of root in the moment a little bit, you know?
MPN: Yeah. Have you been staying creative then?
Linnéa Olsson: Yeah! I think at first it was almost like a pressure, like, “oh, I’m supposed to write a new album now.” But actually, it’s been really, really good for the band and for myself. We haven’t had the pressure of rehearsing or recording for new tours, so when we meet up to play, it’s just for the sake of playing. It’s for the enjoyment of playing. Like in the way we used to practice, like when you’re younger. You go down to the practice space a few times a week, you know? You just play. It’s been really nice. I just felt like I maybe reconnected a little bit with the joy of playing music. We’ve been creative. I haven’t written a ton of new songs or anything, but maybe that will come. I’m sure it will come before the end of the year.
MPN: It sounds like you’re having a good time though! Just a nice reprieve from having to write something, you’re just having fun.
Linnéa Olsson: Yeah, it’s not bad. It’s not bad at all. I’m quite happy. It’s weird because the situation, I don’t know what it’s like for you, but the stress and tension is much more subliminal. I’ll have a bunch of nightmares. Like, why am I so tense? But at the same time I’m feeling quite good. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions.
MPN: Does Maggot Heart have any livestreams in the works? Are you guys planning on doing something like that?
Linnéa Olsson: Um, I’m not like a superfan of livestreams. I think it’s a little bit of a weird thing to try and replace a live experience, so if you do it then you have to be really creative with it. Try to do something more like a visual experience somehow, or do something that sort of makes sense – not just stick a camera where the audience should have been and then the band pretends the audience is there.
MPN: They’re trying to replace that energy.
Linnéa Olsson: Yeah, exactly! I feel like that’s a little bit weird. On the other hand, it could be cool to see a live show from somebody’s rehearsal space, but yeah. We’re not really going to do that. We have a ton of other projects in the works. We haven’t released any videos yet. We were supposed to do some videos, but then this happened and then you couldn’t work with anyone, of course, because nobody could leave their homes. I’m working on that. I don’t feel super inclined to do a livestream at the moment.
MPN: Understandable. You mentioned nightmares and I feel like all of your lyrics have a dreamy quality to them. Is there a correlation there?
Linnéa Olsson: Um, well, that’s cool. Yeah! The dreamworld is something that has sort of come back as a topic in several of my songs. Not really as a conscious decision or anything, but it’s just a very easy route to take if you’re interested in the subconscious. That’s basically what it is. I like to use archetypal symbols a lot, and that’s something that is used a lot in dream interpretation. You know, you have a dream about a huge tiger and it’s scratching at your door – which I did have once – and then you look it up and it’s like, “you might have a lot of repressed anger,” and I’m like, “yeah, there might be something to that.” I like these symbols because everyone can relate to them in one way or another and everyone has their own interpretation to it. Like if you stick a picture of a snake somewhere or a tiger, a sword or any of these symbols and it will bring something out of you and inspire you in one way or another. It’s just like a tool, not in the sense that I sit down and write down my dreams and then use them or anything, but in terms of symbolic value, there’s something there.
MPN: Are you into dream interpretation?
Linnéa Olsson: I wish somebody would teach me properly. I think that would be super cool. I think that’s what you would do if you go to classic union therapy, isn’t it? I think they sort of pick your brains on what you’ve been dreaming and then tell you about your sexual hang up. I’m like a complete hobby person. I just google shit. I don’t have any cool books on it.
MPN: I wish I could send you a book I have!
Linnéa Olsson: Yeah! That would be cool. If you have any recommendations, please feel free.
MPN: I can’t think of the author right now, but there’s tons of really cool ones out there, I will say that.
Linnéa Olsson: Yeah, that’s cool.
MPN: Can I ask what the inspiration was for the album, if anything?
Linnéa Olsson: Yeah, of course! There’s a ton of inspiration. It’s kind of difficult to give a concept or anything like that. That’s not really how I think of it. Like if I look back on the previous album we did, that was very rooted in the mind and the subconscious that we were just talking about and kind of like dealt a lot with quite heavy topics and trauma and violence. A bunch of things sort of rooted in the mind. Everything that’s happened since then and the band has played a lot. A lot of things happened in my personal life as well. I think that I felt that I wanted this album to be more going around themes of the body. Maybe I felt that I wanted to be more centered in myself and in my body, rather than feeling that I was in my head, if that makes any sense. Quite abstract to say this, but I felt like early on that maybe this would be a little bit more here and now. I might also say that it’s a manifestation of the body. That kind of really feeling where you are at the moment, and at the same time I explore these other things that go along with it. Sex, being one of them, or for instance the body being this kind of machine that you sometimes feel cut off from or not a part of. Uh, yeah, a bunch of other weird stuff, I don’t know. You just sort of hear something cool or you see something cool and you just sort of pick it up and then it becomes a song.
MPN: Like a magpie!
Linnéa Olsson: Yeah, exactly! Like a magpie. Then later on you read it and you’re like, “hmm, yeah.” Maybe you thought that it wasn’t about anything, but later on you’re like, “yeah, that was probably about something else.” So, yeah, I think it’s a little bit more punky than the stuff we’ve done before. That also had to do with it, but I also wanted it to be a bit more peppy. Have a bit more bite. A lot of cool music is also an inspiration. I listen to quite a lot of rap lately, believe it or not, and that’s for sure a big inspiration when it comes to female sexuality. It’s just hands down so aggressive in rap music and I find that so super inspiring.
MPN: Did you grow up listening to punk music? Or was it more hip-hop, rap?
Linnéa Olsson: I grew up – my brother is six years older and he was into punk, metal, and rock. I grew up listening to Guns N Roses. They were my favorite band, but at the same time I was also really into the Spice Girls and mainstream pop – anything that was kind of big on the radio when I was a kid. My dad listened to soul music and Rolling Stones, stuff like that. It was kind of a mixed bag. I wasn’t really allowed to listen to metal. My mom was kind of overprotective and my brother didn’t want me to steal his records, so I think that added a layer of excitement for me. I would find metal magazines that he had and you would see these pictures of death metal bands and it had a really big impact on me. It still does actually. It was a little bit of everything. I still love a great pop song and a lot of punk. I listened to a lot of Swedish punk growing up. No rap. Rap has come into my life the last two years and it has blown me away. It’s fun to discover a huge genre like that that has gone completely over my head. I’m curiously diving into that.
MPN: Did you start playing guitar at a young age then?
Linnéa Olsson: I started when I was 12 or 13. 13, probably. I was really into Guns N Roses, like I said. I borrowed an acoustic guitar from someone and then I got the tabs for a few songs and I taught myself how to play.
MPN: When did you know that you wanted to be in a band?
Linnéa Olsson: Oh, man, like since always. This is like an obsession of mine. I was obsessed with rock and roll. I remember being 13 and I would lie awake at night and just obsessively think about being in a cool band. Since I was into Guns N Roses, Los Angeles was this crazy place. It sounds super lame now.
MPN: No! That’s precious!
Linnéa Olsson: I would dream about playing at Whiskey a Go Go in Los Angeles. I think, for me, rock music and being in a band and all of these guitar heroes that I loved, it represented freedom to me and a sense of rebellion and a fire in your stomach, you know? It’s actually still the same – I’m just as obsessed with it as I was then.
MPN: The guitar work on the album – is it in a different tuning or is it just the tone that makes it sound the way it sounds? It’s very jarring.
Linnéa Olsson: The tone! It’s the tone. A lot of people tell me that it’s very jarring.
MPN: It’s so cool! Is it something you came up with yourself? Is it a mix of pedals?
Linnéa Olsson: It’s this guitar that I have had for a long time that is an old 70s Swedish guitar. It’s a Hagstrom. It’s not a super common guitar, and then it’s a mix between that and Fender combo amps, and then this overdrive pedal that I have, and um, yeah! Live it’s probably even more treble-y. When I get a certain look from my band, then I know that it’s a bit too much. It’s all standard tuning, so there’s really nothing too fancy going on there.
MPN: It just sounds so gnarly. You come up with really cool riffs.
Linnéa Olsson: Thank you. That’s really nice to hear. I like a certain type of dissonance, but I think the sweet spot for me is if you can combine that with something that works also really well. Like something quite poppy or smooth or really catchy and then you can combine the dissonance with that. That’s sort of my aim always. I want something that sounds a little bit urgh, jarring, but then at the same time have that hook.
MPN: I see that the label the album is on is Rapid Eye, and that’s your label, correct?
Linnéa Olsson: That’s right!
MPN: That’s very cool. Do you plan on having more bands on there like your own band, or do you plan on branching out? What do you plan on doing with that?
Linnéa Olsson: At first it just seemed like the natural step for me to take. When the topic of a new album came up, then I was like, “yeah, I should just officially start my own label.” I’m doing it with my partner Ricky. If we’re doing this, then we want to do something with it, right? The plan is absolutely to release other artists, but we’re not in a huge hurry right now since we managed to start the label literally right when the pandemic hit. There’s no super rush for plans as of now. We have one other release planned for this year. I hope we can make it for this year, or else it will be early next year. I don’t know. I’ve thought about it a lot – What can I do with this label? What can I do different to stand out? I’m not really sure. I would like to do something that somehow feels like a platform for independent artists, something that can connect artists with other artists. Something that’s a little bit more collaborative. I mean, in so many ways it’s important to stay independent, and this is just another challenge for me, you know, to see if I can still get people’s attention and if I can get this band to grow even though I don’t have any support from a label backing me. So far it’s really fun. It’s really rewarding. I get to work with my partner. I’m actually really excited about it and I hope that we can do something very special within the next year.
MPN: It’s following that DIY/Punk ethos still.
Linnéa Olsson: That’s right, exactly. God, I just don’t want to work with any fucking lame people.
MPN: Plus, you get to pick and choose. It’s your choice.
Linnéa Olsson: Exactly.
MPN: Well, I feel like I’ve taken up enough of your time. Thank you so much for talking with me.
Linnéa Olsson: That was a really nice interview. I really enjoyed that. What’s your name again?
MPN: I’m Serena!
Linnéa Olsson: Well, thank you so much. I hope you can get something great out of that.
MPN: I got a lot of great things out of that. Thank you!
Linnéa Olsson: Cool, cool. Well, stay safe over there in Michigan.
MPN: Same to you!