Welcome to the start of my 2022 year-end coverage. Each year I like to kick things off by interviewing my pick for the best new synthpop artist, and this year my choice is Swedish act Current One.
Before we begin, I must concede that “new” is a subjective term. Some of the bands I considered for this selection are literally brand new—they released their first song this year. Others, like Current One, may have been tinkering around with music for a year or more—in fact, I included his 2021 bombshell single “Inside of Me” on my list of the best songs last year.
But there’s something about Current One in 2022 that felt like he’d arrived. The music he was making prior was preparing us (and him) for this year—and what a year it’s been for Current One. In May, he unveiled his debut album, a collection of exquisite synthpop tunes called Praeludium (a musical term that, fittingly, means prelude). He soon followed that with further singles and a five-track EP. There’s even more on the way.
Markus, the artist behind Current One, was kind enough to answer a few questions about his background, his songwriting process, and where Current One is headed.
Let’s start by introducing yourself. Tell us your name and background, and how did Current One come about?
I am Markus Enström, born and raised in a Swedish town called Norrköping, 160 km south of Stockholm.
Music has been with me from birth, but my first contact with music making was in 1994 when I bought a sound card to my PC. Yes, in those days a PC wasn’t equipped by default with a sound card. They had a speaker though that could put out ”beeps.”
I had a small midi keyboard connected, and I could use the sound card as a sampler. Later I would invest in a couple of synthesizers, a better computer and an audio interface… but I only made music for myself and my closest friends.
One day I suddenly woke up with a family, and music making was put on hold.
Now I am located in Piteå, about 1,000 km north of Norrköping, and in 2020 I decided that it was time to pick up music making again. This time everything had changed—you could make music with only a laptop, headphones, and a piece of software, and you could release music by yourself to the whole world. Awesome!
The name Current One was invented in the early days when my friends thought that I should have an artist name. The name was derived from my last name, freely translated from Swedish to English.
Where does your musical interest and ability come from?
My father is a musician, and my mother went to music school. I have a basic keyboard/synthesizer education, but I am mainly self taught.
I am also a tech nerd so I am very interested in all the tools you have at your disposal when making music. Though I am a tech guy, I have a creative side. Music has always come natural to me, but I really suck at painting and other creative work, so I stuck with music.
You released a handful of singles in 2020 and 2021. But this year, you released your debut album with 10 brand new songs and quickly followed that with an EP featuring 5 more songs. Why were you so prolific this year?
I love to write music, and I want to evolve and learn everything about the production stage. My mind is full of ideas all the time, and until now (at least), I’ve managed to make songs out of some of the ideas. If I had more time I would probably be even more productive… or not.
Making music is my way of relaxing after a busy day at work. Oh, and I am also a night owl—it’s way more fun tinkering with music at night than watching TV or like… sleeping.
Who or what would you say are your influences?
I grew up listening to my older cousin’s Depeche Mode and Howard Jones records. I also listened to a lot of Swedish synth like S.P.O.C.K and Elegant Machinery and German bands like And One, Alphaville, and Kraftwerk (of course!).
But I am influenced by so much more: The Beatles, New Order, The Cure… and yeah, the golden days of techno music! And please don’t forget the good times of ”Eurodisco”! (Or have I forgotten… and were they so good?) And Britpop and punk rock and… (I can go on forever).
What’s your songwriting process? Do the words or the music come first?
The long answer: I usually start with a musical idea, typically an 8-bar loop. If it ”speaks” to me, I will continue towards a full arrangement. If not, I will save it for the future (I have hundreds of saved files containing just a few bars with a few tracks and I don’t know if I ever will listen to them again). I wish I could stop being a file hoarder!
When the arrangement is finished, I come up with a melody and I will record this melody by singing and improvising lyrics with English words and mumbo jumbo. After listening to this almost finished mumbo jumbo song a 1,000 times and making tweaks here and there, I will write the lyrics.
The short answer: Music always comes first!
You’ve released about 40 songs so far. If you had to pick just one as the essential Current One song, which one would it be and why?
That’s a tough question to answer. Current One has always been about the love for electronic music and to evolve. That’s why I started to release songs from the beginning (well, the second beginning). I would like Current One to be a musical journey for me and for anyone who wants to be a part of that journey.
One could argue that every release is an essential Current One song… in that moment of time. But if I really have to pick one (that is released), it would be ”Inside Of Me.” It has all the musical elements I like in a synth song. It is bass driven, has a simple beat AND I managed to not clutter it with lots of sounds which I usually do. I really love to layer and layer and layer melodies and sounds.
A lot of your songs start with the personal pronoun “I.” Is your music confessional?
Haha! Yeah they do!
”I” have noticed that too, and a couple of months ago I talked with a friend about this. ”I” think that my lyrics should tell a story—hopefully a story that the listener can relate to. ”I” like to put myself in someone else’s shoes (like an actor) when I write lyrics and write a story as this person. But of course, there will always be a little bit of myself in the lyrics, but I will not reveal any specific part.
”I” think that I have tried to begin with ”You” a couple of times, but I really need to come up with other words in the future, for the beginning!
My favorite track on Praeludium is “Never Go Back.” I love how you lower your voice on the verses, and the lyrics are very evocative: “All you wear is leather and you’ve tied me with a tether.” It might be your most goth moment! Does that song refer to a particular time period?
Cool! One good thing with that song is that there is no ”I” in the beginning.
Jokes aside, I thought that the song needed a goth-ish story. It felt right! The lyrics could be about a memory or a fantasy, and I wanted to give the listener some kind of mental pictures and emotions.
I didn’t have any particular time period in mind when I wrote the lyrics. I like to write lyrics where the listener can interpret the story as they want—e.g. one song can mean different things to different listeners. I don’t know if I am able to pull that off, but that’s my goal.
Has Current One performed live yet? Is that something you’d like to do?
No, Current One has not performed live. I haven’t got the time really. I need to work and provide for me and my kids. As for now, this is my spare time project and a way to do what I love—make music!
I haven’t thought about live performances actually. I think I’ll need to add two more members to Current One before any live performances could be entertaining… maybe when I become Current Three?
What’s next for Current One?
I would really like to release my second album in 2023. I may have hinted about that in a post somewhere, but I can’t make any promises. As for now, I have 12 finished songs and around 8 songs in progress, but very little time to record.
I have a lot of plans for 2023 though, and the journey has just begun, so stay tuned!