When one thinks of Swedish music, it’s usually the Pop giants and historically successful acts such ABBA, Roxette etc that come to mind. Sweden as a region has been one of the dark horses – a more befitting description of the “underdog status” in this context – when it comes to Hip Hop. Despite the fact that there is an active Hip Hop scene, the Swedish market offers a relatively low amount of exposure to Hip Hop acts such as our interview subjects, 18 Horses.
Hailing from a town called Norrkoping, which is also home to the football side IFK Norrkoping, 18 Horses have been doing their thing and embarked on the long journey to make it in the Hip Hop game. Horses are often associated with traction and mobility measured in units of power, considering that Sweden also manufactures the luxury automobile line called Volvo. With all this considered, we spoke to the lead vocalist of the 18 Horses band, Sebastian Lennskog; as a jockey of this horse, he rides on the backs of another singer and a producer to complete the 18 Horses trio.
Sebastian shared with us how the 18 Horses stable (pun intended) came about and touched on their music – in light of their recent EP releases Kapitel 1 – Samhallet and Kapitel 2 – Relationer. We also discussed a number of things and got the low down straight out of the (18) horse’s mouth ;)!
Lavatory Records: Who’s Sebastian Lennskog as an artist and a person?
Sebastian Lennskog: Well, I’m a 32-year old IT-consultant during the day; as soon as the workclock goes off I start my other work as a professional writer and musician! So, I’m caught between two worlds – the IT world and music world. I’ve worked in IT for ten years, but have been in music for way longer than that. The ultimate dream would be for make a living off the music.As a person, I’m very social and outgoing, I believe you have to meet new people to evolve.I have been living with my girlfriend for the past three and a half years in Norrköping, Sweden, with no kids and no pets only because I don’t have the time!J
LR: When did you become aware of your musical talent and what inspired you to pursue it as a career?
SL: My dad always played a lot of music when I was a kid, but no one in the family had any musical tendencies actually. I sang in front of my class when I was 11 because a teacher forced me to (ha-ha), but then she went quiet when she heard me sing! So, after that I kept on doing solos during school-ending sessions and such. The next 20 years can be described as: music school, then more music school, started a band, quit the band, started my own solo rock project, ended the project, started a hip-hop project and yeah, here we are today! I’ve never thought of music as a career since it’s always been my main love. In the past three years, since establishing 18 Horses, I actually have been working double time on the music.
LR: You don’t only rap but sing too! Have you had specialised vocal training?
SL: Yeah, at least I try ha-ha! I had a vocal coach during the two years I was in music-school, but have mostly been self-taught. I think with the right coach I could do a lot better, but that’s also about money.
LR: As a youngster, which artists did you look up to?
SL: My biggest influences during my teenage years were Green Day, Blink182, Millencolin, a lot of skate punk and emo’ rock. During my earlier years, I was full-on into Queen, Fleetwod Mac, Cranberries and Michael Jackson. It’s really been a mix of everything!
LR: You’re the lead vocalist of the 18 Horses band. How did the 18 Horses collective come about?
SL: The 18 Horses band is actually my solo-project that I started three years ago. I’ve always been into writing lyrics, poetry and stories so I tried to put that into my music. In January this year, Alfred Yao joined the band as my backup-singer. We perform live and work together on the project or the band, but I still write all the songs. The third and most invisible member of 18 Horses is Andreas Olsson from Skåne who produces our beats.
LR: What would you list as the highlight of your career so far?
SL: The highlight is happening right now I think, we released our new EP and video a few weeks ago and it got great reviews! It just keeps playing every day now on Spotify, so every day is a highlight!
LR: What are some of the challenges you’ve experienced in the Swedish music industry?
SL: I’m really sick of it. As an artist who works really hard at my craft, hearing music that really has no content get a million plays on radio is something that’s hard to take. There are a lot of really impressive artists in the Swedish hip-hop scene but it’s hard to reach out to the masses when you get smothered by overproduced, auto-tuned mainstream crap.
LR: Are there any changes you’d like to see in the music industry?
SL: Well it’s a business so it has to earn money. I think the change has to be in people mostly, where we listen to the mainstream and just accept something we’re not pleased with. If people start paying attention to what they’re actually hearing, maybe the industry will have to take a step back and let the artists come forward.
LR: Granted a chance, which artists would you like to collaborate with?
SL: George Watsky, anytime, anywhere.
LR: What projects (studio or performances) do you have lined up?
SL: It’s a lot going on with us all the time! In March, we will be releasing our second EP of our three-part series. So, another EP coming that has three songs this month and a new music video for each song. I have written seven songs now and maybe will write seven more and then we’re pretty much set with our releases for the year!
LR: Are there any special mentions that you would like to shout out?
SL: Special shout out to my girlfriend Frida who lets me work on my music whenever I like and supports me all the way. To Alfred my co-singer and partner in crime, this job is much funnier with you as a part of it! And Andreas our beat maker, this couldn’t be done without you!