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Foghorn Lonesome - Interview

Interview with: Eric Sparkwood
Conducted by: Ines

If you haven’t stumbled upon Foghorn Lonesome, you should. One-man project hailing from Sweden, explores the lands of gothic, darkwave, dark electro and synthpop music and blends their elements with precision and dedication. Eric Sparkwood, the founding and sole member of this project, is currently working on his debut and you can access his work simply by visiting his Soundcloud profile, where he freely shares his work. You'll be amazed just how much variety and hidden emotions are present in his tunes. While obscure "Mariana" emits the primary darkwave energy, as it portrays the frosting and mysterious ambient, "Ulieicry" will make you feel you found yourself on a dance floor 30 years ago, in the golden age of synthpop, when Depeche Mode was the next best thing. Eric has gathered various professional musicians to feature on his songs, involved his fans in his creative process and dedicated himself to his music 110%. So you can imagine, we had quite a lot to talk about.

Ines: Eric, for those who don't know your project Foghorn Lonesome very well, could you give us a brief introduction into this project, to which you are currently the only member?
: It started in mid 2011 when someone answered an ad I had online looking for people to start a band with. He had his own studio and lots of experience with recording music. So it seemed like a perfect match. During our ''collaboration'' which lasted a year I wrote a lot of songs. He was the producer and I was the songwriter but it didn’t work out for various reasons. So now I was on my own with songs waiting to be recorded and mixed properly. So I needed help with finishing everything. In December of 2012 I contacted a professional music studio where I have been since. We are now putting the finishing touches on the final mixes. So it's been a long journey and I’m very tired. Some songs have been replaced with new ones during my time in the studio. The final result is now thirteen songs.   
Ines: Even though Foghorn Lonesome is your project, you have quite some guest musicians working with you. Who has contributed on your upcoming debut?
Eric: On vocals there is Shades of TL who is musician from Singapore who lives here in Stockholm, Alex Waghorn who is the singer in the band Reach, Pharyngeal who is a one-man band working on his own music, Mia Stahl, Emelie Andersson, Sanna Dorielle, Michael Örekärr, Lovisa Lindell, Joanna Ericsson, Johanna Lindhult, Tuva Berger and Andrea Real who is actually a fan in Mexico. She sent me her vocal recording over WhatsApp. My producer, Tomas Rosenberg, also sings on many songs. Julia Fedioutchek plays saxophone on "Watership Down" and Chris Karlsson plays harmonica on "The Worst Feeling In The World". I've been lucky to find good people who have been willing to help me out. Most of these people can be heard on the songs on Soundcloud but some have recently contributed with their work. So they will be on the upcoming final mixes of the songs. So the versions of the songs on Soundcloud at the moment are not the final ones. But the difference between the current mixes and the final ones is mostly minor.
Ines: As the lyrics and music are solely your work, what inspires you to write and compose?
Eric: I usually write about personal things. I have lived a complicated life and I struggle with many things. So I use that for inspiration. I don't know what else I could write about really. It's quite clear what some songs are about and there are other songs where it’s not so clear. Everyone can interpret the music in their own way. But some common themes are loss, loneliness, longing and misery in various forms.
Ines: You've got a pretty solid fan base though and you even have a section named Children Of The Horn on your website, where fans can tell a little bit about your music and give you commentary. Where did the idea for Children Of Horn come from?
Eric: The name comes from Stephen King's short story Children of the Corn. There are other bands that have something similar called "fan of the week" where a fan is featured in some way. I like involving fans as much as I can.
Ines: I noticed a fan of yours posted a picture of having your lyrics and signature tattooed. Now that has to be very honouring, but Whiplasher from Deathstars said to me, seeing people with Deathstars tattoos is inspiring and frightening at the same time. How did you react to seeing the tattoo? Did you ever even imagine someone would have your words made permanent on his skin?
Eric: She has some similar tattoos. So it's not just me. No, I never thought that would happen. It’s an honour that someone would do that. It means that my music and lyrics have had a big impact on someone which is a good feeling of course.
Ines: Your fans also contributed to your video for the song "Always The Undertow", by posting their footage. What made you decide to take this approach and how fast did you receive all the necessary footage for this video? What is the message of this video you wanted to present?
Eric: There are other bands that have made similar videos. I don't have any means to make a professional music video. I could have probably made a semi decent one myself but involving people in this way is a quick and simple but effective way of making one. Like I mentioned before, a fan from Mexico provided some vocals on one song and I like involving fans in different ways. I also want to avoid being in front of the camera as much as possible. But I am in the video briefly. It took me a couple of weeks to get all of the video submissions and I'm quite pleased with the result. Everyone did a great job. I'm not sure there is a message in the video or the song itself. But the song is about loss and the fear of losing someone. People can interpret it in their own way. I'm now making a new video which will also be done in the same way. This time people will be dancing. The song is called "All I Want Is Some Love". More information about this can be found on the main page on my website.
Ines: Similar approach, this time with dancing. What made you decide to go with dancing this time?
Eric: "All I Want Is Some Love" is a very different song from the other songs, "Always The Undertow", which has a more serious tone to it. It just seemed fitting that people could dance to the song since it has that style to it. I don't know how to dance myself but the song seems easy to dance to. Also, when people make their own videos like this there is only so much you can ask of them to do. Setting up a camera and lip-synching or dancing is very easy to do technically. It can't be too elaborate. Then people won’t do it. It's also nice to do a more light-hearted video.

Ines: A visual artist Johannes Graaf approached you himself with the idea of making a video to your song "Mariana", but you don't consider that as a Foghorn Lonesome official video. Would you say that his visual interpretation presents the meaning of the song?
Eric: He asked me if he could make a video for the song "Mariana". He had some leftover nature footage that he could use for it. It's always great when someone is willing to do something like that. But no, it doesn't visually represent the song. But that wasn't the point of the video either. He had the freedom to do whatever he wanted with the song and his footage. He's a good filmmaker and photographer and the visuals are very nice. But the lyrics describe something different.
Ines: You have all your music uploaded on Soundcloud and you're preparing your debut album. Can you give us a little bit of an insight about it? Do you perhaps have the title for it already?
Eric: The album will most likely just be self-titled. So no title. I also don't want to name the album after one song because that highlights it over the others and kind of gives the album an identity or concept. Some songs vary a lot from each other in their musical style. There is no concept or whole. Each song is its own and I've treated them all differently. But if I come up with a suitable album title I might consider it. Some of the artwork for the album can already be seen on the website. There will be pictures of nature photography. Pictures of fog, trees, flowers, animals and so on. Some I have taken myself, but most of them I have gotten the permission to use from the photographers. Two sides - left and right - of the CD booklet will be dedicated to each song, featuring the lyrics on a picture that covers both sides. I think that kind of simple imagery goes well with the music.
Ines:  Is there any particular reason why you chose the pictures of nature?
Eric: I've always enjoyed well-taken photos of nature. It's easy to relate to, because it's a big part of our lives. It's always all around us. I think it also keeps things a bit neutral in terms of the image of Foghorn Lonesome. There is no specific image. There are no theatrics. It wouldn't fit with the music and lyrics and me as a person. I’m just myself and that will have to be enough. So using this type of imagery for the album gives the music a simple but atmospheric visual representation. It gives everything a sort of calm and stillness and creates a bit of contrast to some of the music. It's not right in your face and it doesn't demand too much attention or thought. The main focus needs to be on the music.
Ines: Your music is a mixture of gothic and darkwave music on one side and synthpop on the other side. Which artists of all those genres would you say influenced you the most?
Eric: When I write songs I never think about other people's music. At least not consciously. I think that all the music I have listened to all of my life has gone into my musical DNA in some way and I'm sure you can find traces of other people's music in my music. I discovered one of my favourite bands ten years ago, Diary Of Dreams. I think that was the first time I had heard electro and goth combined. Or whatever one chooses to label it as. But it was mostly electronic, dark and very atmospheric. It definitely left an impression. But when I write songs I never think about genres. I don't consciously make a choice to stay within certain genres which is why some songs are quite varied. So anything could happen when I write songs.
Ines: You hadn't had any live shows with Foghorn Lonesome yet, but I assume that will follow. Do you have any idea who will accompany you on stage and how the whole performance should look like?
Eric: I'm slowly planning the live aspect. It's hard finding people who are interested. My music is fairly small compared to other genres. But I am in touch with some people who might be a part of things later on but nothing is certain yet. I have some ideas of how things will be live. Fog machines will obviously be involved.
Ines: Speaking of fog machines: you already published some pictures you took recently, using a fog machine, which will be a part of your album artwork. Is there any story behind the pictures and the fog?
Eric: We needed two pictures of me for the CD booklet. I don't want to reveal too much or where I got the idea from yet. I want to see if anyone figures it out. But the pictures are very simple but effective and fit with the overall tone of Foghorn Lonesome.
Ines: Foghorn Lonesome is your main occupation nowadays, but you have 20 years of musical experience already behind you. Could you shortly present your musical path from your beginnings to where you are now?
Eric: I started playing bass when I was 15 or 16. It seemed easier than guitar since it only has four strings. We were all beginners in the first band I was in. I remember that we played a couple of Metallica songs. I later joined another band that played some kind of thrash metal. We also played some covers by bands like Pantera, Crowbar and Sepultura. But I grew tired of the genre. Playing fast and aggressive music just wasn't interesting anymore. I wanted more depth, layers, emotion and variety. So I formed my own band and sang for the first time. Attempted to sing I should say and attempting I still do. We played gothic metal but I got tired of being in a band and dealing with other people. After I left the band I started recording music at home. I was now 18. It's hard to explain the style of the music I was making. I think it was some kind of neoclassical darkwave. I later got involved with photography and other things and I stopped making music for a long time. I tried now and then to get a band together but nothing worked out. In 2011 is when Foghorn Lonesome started. And as I mentioned before, the end result is now thirteen songs. I have learned that it's better to do everything yourself or as much as you can by yourself. Then involve other people.
Ines: Now that we got your musical career covered chronologically, what about your personal life? You mentioned before you have struggled in life a lot and you use that for inspiration for your musical creations. I also know you had moved a lot all around the world, when you were a kid. Do you consider that an important source of inspiration for your music?
Eric: I was born in Pakistan and when I was a few months old I was adopted by Swedish people. My father was a diplomat and we moved around a lot due to his work. We lived in Canada, Iran, Indonesia and Nigeria. I went to American schools in Indonesia and Nigeria. We also travelled to many countries on vacations. I've lost count how many places I've been to. We moved for good to Stockholm, Sweden in 1989. I was then twelve years old. Moving around as a kid was normal to me at the time I suppose. Leaving friends, starting over and finding new friends was just the way it was. As I got older I started noticing the side effects of my childhood and it gradually got worse. Today I struggle with constant anxiety and insecurities among other things. I know a lot of it is due to not having any roots anywhere and other things. It's always been this way and I've just accepted it. I'm not comfortable with myself and I've never been happy but I try and cope with it as best as I can. So bad experiences and emotions are usually the inspiration for songs. I can only write songs about things I know. And unfortunately I know myself.
Ines: Is there any particular song of yours, for which you'd say is your most profound and introspective song?
Eric: Some songs are more personal than others. Some can make me cry. It’s difficult to pick just one song. Some mean less to me. Some more.
Ines: And if we'd have a sneak peak at your music player, what would we find there? What was the latest album that really surprised you?
Eric: I actually don't listen to music that much anymore. I've been so busy with my own music the past years that my interest to listen to music seems to have faded. The need just isn't there anymore which sounds strange even to me because I've been a big music lover all my life. But being so wrapped up in my own music seems to have taken away something from me. Maybe it will come back later when things have calmed down. Occasionally I will put on a song. The latest songs I listened to are "Summertime Sadness" and "Faster" by Within Temptation, "Government Hooker" by Lady Gaga and "To Die Among Strangers" by Rome. Lana Del Rey's debut album, Born To Die, really impressed me. I actually mention her in a song. I haven't heard her new album yet.
Ines: Well you should, it's a great album. Anyway, Eric, I think our readers will get to know Foghorn Lonesome pretty well from our conversation, but still: if there's anything you'd like to add, now is the time!
Eric: I would like to thank everyone for their support and hopefully there will be an album out next year in some form. And thank you to you too for your continued support!

Foghorn Lonesome links: Official website, Facebook, Soundcloud