ARTICLE CAROLINA GONZALEZ
WITH A NEW ALBUM OUT FEBRRUARY 4TH, CEO—YOU KNOW, FORMERLY ceo, AND FORMER TOUGH ALLIANCE MEMBER ERIC BERGLUND'S SOLO PROJECT—IS ONCE AGAIN READY FOR BUSINESS. WE SPOKE TO THE SWEDISH ELECTRONIC MUSICIAN AND SONGWRITER ABOUT HIS EPIC NEW SOUND, THE OTHER SOUNDS HE'S A SUCKER FOR, AND GETTING HELP FROM MOM AND DAD DURING MUSIC VIDEO PRODUCTION
When it first started, you wrote that CEO was a warzone and sanctuary, Ashanti and Seinfeld. With this new album you wrote that it should make us feel as though we're being attacked with shurikens and kissed by fairy cheerleaders. How has the way that you define CEO changed in the past few years?
ERIC BERGLUND Defining CEO is like trying to define life. There's a chance you might come up with a smarty-pants definition but what good does it do when you still have to experience it to get a clue what it's about? And if you know what it's about, what is the use of defining it? Defining is what minds do though, and since we are so identified with our minds we have a hard time accepting when it can't be done. That's why some people don't believe in things their minds can't grasp. All I can say is how I feel about life now and it feels larger and even more multifaceted. More fun. More forgiving and still sharper. CEO 1.0 was extremely solemn but in a kind of stereotypical and one-dimensional way, at least compared to now. Because I was more stereotypical, more one-dimensional. Still singling out what was divine. WONDERLAND is more about the divinity of all, even the things that don't seem so divine. Whorehouses : divine! Panic attacks: divine! Miley Cyrus: divine!
You've spoken in previous interviews about reaching new levels of understanding with the CEO project. Are you expressing an understanding or trying to understand something on WONDERLAND? What is it?
EB Hmmm… If CEO is a project separated from the rest of my life, I have a very hard time seeing the boundaries of it. I feel that more or less all I do as a human being is try to understand life, with my mind, but above all, with my heart. But I sing songs and that kind of stuff rather to communicate with other people what I experience than to directly come in contact with a deeper place myself. I have more effective ways of doing that. I mean I learn a lot about life through trying to relate to my work, handling all the emotional shit around it, but it doesn't set me free in the direct way one could imagine it would do. The music is the ashes of my art. Making it is my cross to carry. But I believe I evolve a lot through facing and trying to accept the fact that it's what I have to do right now. At least until the moment when I'll finally flip that cross over my head, kiss it and transform it into a princess. Boy, am I gonna fling her around then. I can't see any alternatives right now anyhow. What I do is the only thing that comes natural to me and I find no other way to express things that feel crucial to express, things that can't really be put into words. There is no concept. I'm trying to express what I experience, on a deeper level as well as on the level people often refer to as reality. Sincerely. It is a tough job but nobody else can do it, you know?
Are people resistant to the more spiritual or abstract aspects of CEO? Do you feel that your message is coming across to your audience?
EB I think the people I know are usually the ones least resistant to those aspects so I'm afraid I'm not your judge. It's so hard to say what happens on a deeper level, especially with people you never meet. I wish I did meet them. I don't often read what people write publicly about my work since it makes me uninspired, but when people send me press things I always react to them talking so much about how it sounds. It's so technical. To me, that feels a bit like people only talking about your clothes and skills when they talk about you. I feel a bit like a kid not really being seen then. I don't see myself as a musician so it's confusing to be treated as one. I mean, if it's only music you're after I think you can do a lot better than me? Most of the time I'm not bothered with that though, I just do what I feel is my only alternative in the only way I can do it. The way people take it is the way they are supposed to take it. And respecting that is part of my spiritual evolvement. Which is part of theirs. All good, baby baby...
Do the bands on [your independent label] Sincerely Yours evolve together? jj released “My Boyz” not so long ago, and I felt like it had a kind of yearning mixed with a sort of feeling-cheap emotion that I also felt on “Whorehouse,” although they're very different songs.
EB We are super close friends, how could we not? We are hella cheap and we are priceless. Sincerely yours, baby. Stars in love.
Speaking of which, what's your emotional relationship with your songs? Are you so close to them that you look at them technically, or do they still make you laugh/cry/dance?
EB It depends a lot on which state I'm in. Unfortunately, I have a hard time listening to especially the latest songs without getting tense and critical. My mind still won't accept that I've done what I can and it's over. But sometimes when I manage to trick my mind one way or the other I can hear them for what they are and then I laugh, cry and dance, yep. And howl, kick and scream.
Your oeuvre (including The Tough Alliance) seems to be concerned with happiness and vulnerability in different ways. Is the image of yourself you put across in your music happier or more vulnerable than you are when you're not making music?
EB It's very hard to compare music and a person, I mean what the fuck, ha? I guess my work is more than you'd see of me as a person but then again I am a lot more than what you'd see. Even a lot more than I feel. Just like everyone is. All I know for sure is that I am doing everything in my power to express what I feel sincerely. WONDERLAND is a bit more intense than me as a person I would hope though. I'd be so annoying to people if I behaved like WONDERLAND, I'd like them to be able to stand me for more than 34 minutes at a time, you know.
The album begins with a clip about Pandora's box, and its title references Lewis Carroll’s Alice. Are there certain ideas about loss of innocence being expressed here?
EB It's a bit about reclaiming innocence I believe. It definitely was lost. It's always been about that for me though, I used to have this intense feeling of having been taken from my home and violated. Which made me violate. And that still hasn't gone away completely. Almost all people behave like lunatics but are completely innocent. If they only could feel it.
Do you get any particular inspiration from traditional forms of music? There's a part of “WONDERLAND” that has this string sound that’s almost like Donegal fiddling, and “White Magic” closes with “Den Blomstertid Nu Kommer.”
EB For real. I listen a lot to traditional music from all around the world. Traditional Swedish music is insaaaaane.
Are there any sounds that you're a sucker for?
EB Alarms, kids, roars, weapons and girls. And Chief Keef's “naaah”s.
Were you listening to any artist in particular as you were making the album?
EB It's been made on and off for quite a long time and I've been listening to like, everything between hardstyle and black metal and traditional Chinese music. I've heard everything between heaven and hell, I hope you can tell. But in the most intense part, Chief Keef and Team Rockit played a very special part for me. Whenever it felt like shit was going down and I was roving the streets I would listen to Finally Rich or the songs that became Anima.
You released a music video for “Whorehouse,” and in it you're wearing glitter lipstick and these amazing flower crowns on top of Gucci goggles and you’re blowing kisses; are you playing with sexual identifiers at all or just having a good time in that video?
EB I'm not playing with anything but myself. There is no thought behind it except for trying to let loose whatever would jump up. Happy to hear you like the flower crowns by the way, I feel I didn't get credit enough for them, ha ha! My father helped me put them together. And my mom wrote "bitch" on my back. So sweet.
Any other favorite accessories you're wearing these days, besides the goggles?
EB I have this jacket that I bought far up in the Himalayas from an old woman that had made it herself. It still smells like the houses did there, like fireplaces and love. It's so dear to me, I can't stop smelling it. Apart from that, I like classic shit like Kenzo, Gucci, Fruit of the Loom, Ralph Lauren and Dries Van Noten. My running shoes! My favorite right now though is my ultra hi-tech Arc'teryx jacket I had to buy for my natural adventures. UFC cap!
The album closer, “OMG” has the repeated line “get on my level.” Any advice for getting on CEO's level?
EB Just git down! I'm below you baby. Take a bow and you will see me. It's not that hard is it? Just forgive yourself and try to be humble.
Is there something else you want people to know about CEO, or anything else?
EB I want to people to know that there is really no reason to be afraid. Just don't worry, life will take you through what you need to go through. Just let go of what you think life should be like and enjoy the ride. ‘Cause you have no reason not to. Life knows what it is doing. God knows I know it's hard to remember sometimes but just try to keep aware. Keep it pure lil' darlin. See you inside! Ta-ta!