PHOTO CREDIT: Magnus Bach
Schultz & Forever
I always love speaking with Danish…
PHOTO CREDIT: Theis Alstrup
artists, as one gets a different sensation and vantage. I have been learning more about Schultz & Forever and his (Jonathan) new video, Backwards. I learn more about his debut album, Grand Guignol, and what sort of ideas are expressed – and what the future holds for the Copenhagen-based artist.
I ask whether Schultz & Forever will come to the U.K. this year; what it was like growing up in a Christian family; the musicians that inspired the songwriter; what advice he would give to new songwriters – and how early music came into his life.
Hi, Jonathan. How are you? How has your week been?
Hi. I’m fine, thanks! It’s been busy, but alright.
For those new to your music; can you introduce yourself, please?
Sure! My name is Jonathan and I’ve had my little project Schultz & Forever for, approximately, seven years now. I started the project when I was sixteen so, obviously, there’s been musical changes and songwriting improvements since then.
I’m about to release my debut album, Grand Guignol, which I have spent the past two years making. It’s definitely my best work - but I could never have done it without the amazing contributing musicians and producers that have helped me make it.
I can’t wait to release it!
Grand Guignol is your debut album. What were the themes and stories that inspired the record?
The songs were all written in periods of time where I was reflecting on my own personal life, basically, and how I saw the world around me at the time of writing. There are biblical themes, which relate to my upbringing as a Christian - and which also relate to the point in my life where I had a natural turn against my idea and faith in the idea of God.
I was very inspired by the idea of creating characters in songs and expressing exaggerated feelings and thoughts, which added a kind of theatrical way of expressing my own feelings such as anxiety and anger, but also, love and hope. Most of the songs are actually a few years old - but they were totally redone and rearranged in the studio.
The video for Backwards is out. What is it about that song that marked it as a single? What was it like putting the video together?
To be honest; it’s just the most radio-friendly song on the record.
It’s two of my best friends, Glen Bay Grant and Ejner Seidelin, who directed the video for the song so, obviously, it was a lot of fun shooting and rehearsing the croquet choreography with them! They knew this guy named Gordon who teaches croquet; so the week following the shoot I was rehearsing it in my apartment naked in front of my two friends - together with Gordon, whom I had never met before.
It was a blast!
Each of your three E.P.s displayed creative leaps. You have taken another step forward with Grand Guignol. Do you think it’s important to keep moving and exploring?
Definitely. Just like how I change personally, I will always change musically and creatively. It keeps it interesting to keep exploring by making the ceilings higher in the creative process of writing and recording!
Did music come into your life early? What got you hooked on it?
I got hooked on it because my big brother and my cousins were all musicians and making music. So, as the youngest in my family, I looked up to them a lot. They would give me little yellow Post-its with bands and musicians I needed to check out. I immediately became obsessed with Nick Drake and Neil Young, who inspired me to write and play music. It’s the only thing I think I’m good at; so I’m gonna keep embracing it till I die.
Which musician did you grow up on? Can you remember the first album you ever bought?
I think the first album I ever bought was The Smiths’ Hatful of Hollow. I wasn’t entirely happy about The Smiths at the time but I had just heard some songs from the record that I liked. Eventually, the record grew on me - and now I love it!
I understand you grew up in a religious environment and raised as a Free Church Christian. Was that something you felt comfortable with?
I’ve always had the love, attention and comfort in my upbringing as every child should have…and I have never been a victim of any sort. My parents are the warmest and kindest people I’ve ever met and they have always put me and my siblings at first. They gave us the belief in God because they saw it as the only option - as they have had great enhancement in their life because of their faith. It was only when my own personal disconnection with God occurred that I felt like life had no meaning anymore. I started in high-school, which was the first time in my life I was surrounded by atheists - and the first time I read a school book that talked about the Big Bang and evolution.
I’m never gonna tell my children that there is or is no God: they can believe whatever they want and I think it’s important to give a child that option.
Is faith, positively or negatively, something you bring into music? Was it hard disconnecting with a very religious life and breaking away?
It was hard to go from being a kid believing that life is a gift from God and my earthly existence was just a stairway to Heaven - and believe that my life would always be in God’s hands and protection - to finally understanding life's meaninglessness. I had to find meaning elsewhere...and music was kind of like a safe-spot and a way to distance myself from an existential crisis...
I would say now, though, that it’s been positive in the way that it has inspired me to write about it - and given me a lot of themes and feelings that I can write about and put into records.
Can we see you tour soon? What gigs do you have coming up?
Only shows in Denmark booked right now. We’re playing Hotel Cecil, in Copenhagen, on 14th March. There’s definitely gonna be some shows outside of Denmark, but nothing in the calendar right now.
What do you hope to achieve in 2018?
I hope to be able to write and record a new record - and it would be amazing to release it at the end of 2018. It’s very important to me that I release music more frequently now!
Have you got a favourite memory from your time in music – the one that sticks in the mind?
I remember playing in a Punk band called Pink Roses when I was eleven-twelve-years-old. It was terrible music and we were, basically, just playing cover songs of The Strokes - but we told people we had written it ourselves. I remember the feeling of knowing that music would always be a huge part of my life - and that it was the only thing I would wanna do.
PHOTO CREDIT: Magnus Bach
What advice would you give to new artists coming through?
To stay true to who you are - and don’t make music about your Xanax habits!
Do you get much time to chill away from music? How do you unwind?
Yes, I do! I’ve just starred in a short film which will premiere in Empire Cinema in Copenhagen in April. I’ve recently started acting and I love it! It’s also a great way for me to distance myself from music - so that I can go back to music with new energy to write and record!
Finally, and for being a good sport; you can choose a song and I’ll play it here (not any of your music - I will do that).
Haha! Thanks! Well. I’d recommend you play Karen Dalton - In a Station from the record, In My Own Time. The whole record is amazing!
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PHOTO CREDIT: Magnus Bach