Mats Björke, long-time keyboardist with Mando Diao, decided it was time to move on to other things. So he started Swedish label Lab259 and started producing and promoting all his favourite bands.
After going from strength to strength, the label is opening a new office in Berlin, and to launch it, they have a showcase of their bands at Bassy Club on the 12th. We talked to Mats about where he’s been and where he – and his label – are going.
indieBerlin: What exactly is Lab259 – and what’s the inspiration behind it?
Its’ quite simple, we do: Music.Production.Studio.Label.
Mats: We are an artist-driven music company that want to use the traditional roles of the music industry in new ways. We do production and recording, we run a studio and release music. We have a network of artists and musicians all over the world that we collaborate with.
If we would have an in-house vinyl pressing plant like Jack White’s Third Man I would be happy
Its all run by me and my partners Timmy Fredriksson and Ludvig Larsson. Timmy is a drummer and we have been working since a long time as he is part of Caviare days and Ludvig Larsson is a producer and songwriter with an ear for details.
Our inspirations are artists and companies and labels who have been unconventional in how they do things and different in how they work with their music. If we would have an in-house vinyl pressing plant like Jack White’s Third Man I would be happy. Motown or Stax could be an inspiration because we perform and record with our artists too. But most important is that we see a change that is happening and especially in Sweden that a lot of new alternative and independent music companies have started to pop up. This is due to the digital age and the freedom it gives.
Our ‘roster’ right now is almost its own niche
indieBerlin: Are you pushing a particular strain of music/direction that’s going on in Sweden at the moment? How do you choose/sign artists?
Mats: I think we have a certain taste for things that don’t seem to be obvious at first. I almost want to be brave enough to say that our ”roster” right now is almost its own niche. Its like we picked the raisins of the cake from what’s going on in the middle of Sweden combined with the sun in LA and Costa Rica. We sign on to a feeling that we want this to be presented to the world, it takes a long time to develop something unique. So i guess patience is key.
indieBerlin: So you quit Mando Diao to help produce and bring out other musicians – it must have been quite a change of pace and lifestyle. How do you find that?
I think being in Mando taught me that you should never say no to opportunities
Mats: Well sure at the beginning I realized that I did miss touring. So I went out to travel and spent a lot of time in California and Costa Rica. It opened some new doors for us and also my ideas regarding our vision. So, not really, I think being in Mando taught me that you should never say no to opportunities, So I have been keen on just keeping on going, not hesitate so much. I almost record more now and that is a great win. I travel and I play live. I also love making sure things are working out. A release a production a gig.
indieBerlin: Is Lab259 dedicated only to working with Swedish bands?
Mats: No not at all, WARGIRL is from Long Beach California. And now being a Stockholm-Berlin ‘thing’ I would love to find some bands from Germany to work with.
indieBerlin: Is this the first time Lab259 is presenting music in Germany?
Mats: Yes it its and we are happy and a little nervous!
Swedes are a little more reserved and it takes longer to get a reaction. But I believe it is changing.
indieBerlin: How do you find the difference between German music fans and Swedish music fans? And/or the Swedish music scene and the German music scene?
Mats: I think the German fans are really loyal and interested. Swedes are a little more reserved and it takes longer to get a reaction. But I believe it is changing.
I still know too little of the scene to compare. In Sweden there are a bunch of great bands and artists that is doing it for real. I know it’s like that here too.
It’s a concert! Its’ a party to celebrate that we are starting our office in Berlin, it’s a showcase of our artists and none of them has played in Berlin before
indieBerlin: What exactly is happening on Tuesday?
Mats: It’s a concert! Its’ a party to celebrate that we are starting our office in Berlin, it’s a showcase of our artists and none of them has played in Berlin before. So its feels exciting. Well Daz Ekzem are special guests and they have played Berlin of course as they are locals!
There’s a feeling that organic music is coming back
indieBerlin: What in the present music world excites you? And what bores you to tears? What do you want to change? What would you like to tear down and start again?
Mats: I get excited that there’s a feeling that organic music is coming back. That people are recording more and more live again. Real feelings excites me.
Taking down stereotypes and bad habits in how we work and not exploit young people’s dreams
I would like to change some of the barriers for new alternative artists that are not commercial enough. More alternative radios and TV programs.
I think most of what we are working with is torn down. It’s up to us to build structures that are transparent and fair. Both regarding shares of money and that everybody is equal. Taking down stereotypes and bad habits in how we work and not exploit young people’s dreams.
indieBerlin: Where is the event on Tuesday, how much is the entry price, and what can we expect?
Mats: It’s at Bassy Club, it’s 6€ and you can expect a wonderful evening full of new music!