BIOGRAPHY 1983-NOW

OK - this is not a cool fancy wrapped up "how you should write a cool biography". This is the boring long version - me rambling facts about my life in a semi chronological order for the really interested person. I have a feeling that this text will change over time. Adding more silly details making it even longer and harder to read through. 

So I guess the only way to write a biography is to write it yourself. And I really hate writing about myself. But on the other hand, every now and then people ask for a biography so here we go ’cos then I don’t have to write a new one every single time someone asks me things. I assume it will be long and I’ll write too much. And the grammar and spelling will suck. As usual. And seriously, what’s really there to say?

I was born in 1983 in Sweden, raised as a normal kid would have been in the 80s with Turtles, Nintendo and Europe (the band). It was great.

I got my first Casio keyboard when I was 6 or 7 and I started to learn the guitar when I was 7. I wanted to learn how to play "Wish you were here" by Pink Floyd 'cos my mum had played it to me. I still can't play it. But I still love the song. Funny how musical memories from your childhood seems to stick with you forever.

I started my first bands when I was 11 or 12 just because my sister had a band and all her friends hung out in basements playing punk rock or hardcore. We played rock and techno and we sucked.

My father brought a computer into our home 1990 and I loved it. You could paint, make music but most important rip the heart out of your opponent in Mortal Kombat. It was great.

My early interests in bands and computer music making combined with the fact that I was a fast learner made it possible for me to dive into something very time consuming and when you do that and you have fun you have a tendency wanting to continue with just that and skip the rest.

Bands, small shows for no people, getting your first concert in another city - a whole new life opened up. Kids were into sports back home but I wasn’t any good. Music was much better. It was magic.

When I was 15-16 I made my first record on my own. I programmed the drums on my computer and learned how to record the rest by myself. Suddenly I realized I didn’t need a band to make music. Just a computer and some time.

Fast forward a few years, being 20 years old finished school, no real plans, playing in bands wasn’t that fun anymore. It was so complicated to make it work. Well it could be fun of course but most of my friends wanted to do other things. I wanted to make music all the time. I bought gear and built small studios. In my parents basement. In an abandonded part of the school. In another basement. Back to my parents basements. I’ve probably had 15-20 studios by now. I love the smell of a small home studio. That’s where I belong.

Living in a shitty small town with no money isn’t fun. But I never wanted to study or work on a career in anything but music so my choices were limited. I tried to go to the university to learn music production but the classes sucked so I dropped out. I worked in a candy store. Selling candy and hotdogs. And ice cream. Lots of ice cream.

I didn’t sing, cos I hated my voice and I was to afraid and embarrassed to even try, even worse let anyone else hear me. But I really wanted to sing. How the hell can you complete a song without vocals I thought? I always called friends up to sing. But most of the time they never showed up.

So one day I tried and it wasn’t magic. No it wasn’t. But eventually I learned, got better and started writing songs. I had set up a drumkit, some amplifiers and some keyboards and played everything myself, singing tunes about waterpipes, broken hearts and being a lonely kid with a Volvo in Åtvidaberg. You now, pretty self obsessed.

When I had released a bunch of EPs on my website someone told me that the only way to make a living is to get a record deal and then make records for them and make money that way. I had no insight or idea of how the music biz worked but I tried to send a few records to labels to get a deal. I don’t even think I ever got an answer. Surprise Niels. Big surprise. So there and then I decided that the only way I can do it is on my own. So I formed my own label. That way it would look a little bit cooler and feel a little bit more official every time I put out a record. If you don’t have a label it’s just a demo. If there’s a label name on it, it’s a fucking record.

The Cortina Collective was founded by me in 2005. My first release was my first album. I sold 150 copies and I bought a new guitar for the money.

Very early I decided I didn’t wanna play live. The studio was my thing. But then of course someone asked me to do a show and I put together a small band and we packed the Volvo and took off for our first show. I was so nervous and I hated it. But people said it was good. I doubt it. I think they just wanted to be nice.

That little band I put together later became it’s own group called ”Sansui Rocknroll”. We made some records and played live a lot. Mostly for no people. But we went to England and we had fun. But as most bands, when the fun is over and you have to work for something to happen it falls apart. It did.

Moving to a small flat with no heat in Sweden isn’t a very good idea. But that’s what I could afford. I had left my parents house where I had built up a nice collection of instruments and traded it for a better computer and my own place in the city. Norrköping was cold. But me and my friends lived in the same house and it was fun times. We still had no jobs, still no plans and big surprise nothing happened. I made another record. And another.

OK fast forward again. Im making tons of music. But nothing really kicks off. Eventually I got offered I job. And I took it. No one wants to hear about a job in a story like this. But that job eventually got me connected to Ghost. They were starting out and needed someone to help them organize stuff. I did that for them. We bonded. They were my new friends. We travelled, they played, we laughed, it was beautiful. They became a big band, to big for my skills. I had to quit. It was a little bit sad but I wanted to get back working on my own stuff and since I was never a part of the band, it didn’t really helped me much they were getting bigger and bigger. Fun for them. I was still where I was.

One summer I took all my money and went to New York. The Big Apple. I had previously e-mailed with a guy about my music and how he could help me get my songs into tv-shows and commercials. His name was Cary and we had a belgian beer on the lower east side one afternoon. Cary was a magician. He took my songs and voila! they were played in commercials and tv shows and in return I got checks with american dollars. It was magic to me. Up to the point I hadn’t figured out how the hell one make money since no one buys records, I couldn’t get a record deal, my own sales were in the numbers of 50-100 copies and shows didn’t pay. Suddenly I got money for not doing anything. Well, I wrote the songs. But I didn’t have to do anything else. It was great.

For some reason my lofi indie seemed to work well for the american market of syncs. Amazing. Cary is not just a magician. He is also my friend. I owe him a lot.

Ok, so how did I survive and earn money over the years. I often ask that myself. Of course when Cary started working with me it got easier. But up until then I really had to take on whatever came across. You see when you own gear and know how to record stuff people tend to ask you to do that for them. So I recorded bands, artists, mixed and did whatever I could to make money. Cos I really didn’t wanna get a ”regular” job because I would just sit there all day and wait to get home to "my real job" - making music.

That’s how I got into the whole producing and record making business. It was a way to earn some cash to fund my own music making. I never set out to be a producer or engineer and to be honest, even though I do think it’s fun, it’s not what I wanna do. I just wanna be in my studio working on my own stuff. Like I did in my room when I was 14. Some people never grow up I guess.

But it all goes hand in hand. When you make records for other people you interact and learn and without that part of my life I would never been able to do what I do and live the life I live.

I haven’t mentiond my other project Dead Soul. When I briefly went to the university to study I met this guy Anders Landelius. He played the blues and we both dropped out at the same time. He was 14 years older than me and was a wise man.

Two years after the time in school I met him during a walk and he asked me if I wanted to produce his record. By the time I didn’t really know what a producer actually did but I accepted his offer since he offered me money. We did a record and people seemed to love it. After a few years he wanted to do a second one and that recording led us to the point where we formed a project called Dead Soul.

We’ve released two records with Razzia Notes and Century Media and toured extensively in Europe. Mostly as support to Ghost. One time we travelled to 55 shows in 22 countries in 85 days on trains ’cos we didn’t have money enough to pay for a bus. It was fun. But we also learned that we never wanna ride trains again. Dead Soul seemed to strike a chord with people and even though we might never tour again (who knows) we are certainly gonna make more records.

So here I am. At the age of BEEP. Making a living out of music. All I ever wanted was to make my own music and I got so much more. This fall I’m gonna do a big tour as a session musician with In Flames with whom I now play keyboards with live. It’s good fun. They were my heroes when I was a kid. And I’m working on other peoples records all the time.

In fact, still after 12 years, my own music is probably what I’m the least known for but it doesn’t make it less fun to work with.

My path hasn’t been thought out. I just started to walk in a direction and I just never stopped. I’ve just kept on going wherever I’ve felt like going. And that is probably what I’m gonna keep doing.

I make music every day. That’s basically what I know how to do. And you eventually get good at what you do.

I’m looking forward to that.

And by the way, I deny all rumors I’m that Cowbell Ghoul people are talking about.

- Niels Nielsen