Random consistency: Profile on Axel Boman

Random consistency seems to be Axel Boman’s calling card. The Swedish producer and DJ has had a colourful musical career, one that has seen him touch on elements encompassing the widest spectrum of musical influences from American Soul to European House, channeled in an autocratic musical taste that span his DJ sets, productions and the label he runs with Kornél Kóvacs and Petter Nordkvist. With a flippant, jocular approach to music, Axel Boman continues to skirt the fringes of House music with affable productions and sets that communicate a sincere, serious musical talent.

Although Axel Boman had released his first records back in 2008 through a brief tenure with the little known label Ourvision, it was “Holy Love” released on DJ Koze’s Pampa Recordings and especially the track “Purple Drank” that established Axel Boman’s musical career. The release came about in true Boman fashion when “he gave DJ Koze a demo at a post-show party before puking out of the hotel window” according to a Red Bull Music Academy interview.   

It was quickly picked up by the music media, launching the Axel Boman name into popular consciousness. “From the dubby breakdown to the long arc of the whole track, it’s a trip, and surprisingly forceful given its soft sounds and slow tempo,” wrote Philip Sherburne for Resident Advisor in his 4.0 out 5 review of this release at the time. Boman’s deep, but energetic inclinations struck a chord with DJs, but it would be his distinct love of melodies that would eventually make him a crossover success.

Axel Boman has divulged little in the past about his early life, besides that maybe his father was a plumber, and that the Orb’s Little fluffy clouds was “essential” listening growing up, but it is common knowledge that a budding career in music became apparent during his art academy days in Gothenburg. “It was just a good ground to try stuff out,” Boman told EBTV in an interview. The five years masters program was just a little surreal. It comprised of a studio where Boman could indulge his wildest creative fancies and required little more than a monthly check-in with a supervisor. The only premise was that he create something and with music constituting some of his creative endeavours at that time, he was constantly experimenting with this discipline during his academic years. “It was just weird and fun” remembers Boman about those early pieces, and something of that element of fun followed Boman’s into his professional career.

“(B)ut I don’t want it to seem that I’m not serious, because I’m totally devoted,” he told DJ Mag interview in 2014. Although he approaches music with a self-effacing tongue in cheek  fashion, there’s nothing absurd about the results. And that extends to the label, Studio Barnhus too. “People are always looking for some twist, or a hidden prank,” he told Red Bull Music Academy. “Sometimes people label us as being funny or prankish, but we’re totally serious: We love this music! We don’t devote that much time and effort towards elaborate jokes.” The label started in 2010 out of a small studio in Stockholm with Nordkvist and Kóvacs. “The initial motivation was just to release some great songs,” he told the Mancunian and with early releases extending out from the inner circle to kindred spirits like HNNY and Jesper Dahlbäck, the label quickly started “growing by itself” to the position it occupies today as one of the most sought after House labels in Europe, with some exceptional examples of  Axel Boman’s own productions. 

Starting from the middle and working outwards, Boman’s tracks have an integral accessibility with definitive melodic- or vocal hooks giving his House constructions an approachable and self-possessed voice. “Most tracks have an essence then you build around it,” he told Resident Advisor in 2013. Entrancing melodies have always been a vital aspect to his music. “I’m just a sucker for melodies” he told EBTV, and in a Ransom Note interview he divulged that he thinks this  “works to my advantage, because whereas some people are always looking for the hook that fits a track I can just experiment with different samples and ideas until something clicks.”

In 2013 this all found its rightful place on the album format as he released his debut and only LP under his given name. “Family Vacation” was constructed around an abstract idea, taken from a fictional story written by a friend. “It’s a murder mystery, in a way,” Boman explained in RBMA with a fictional tome written around the infamous, real-life murder of the soul singer, Sam Cooke.

Family Vacation proved an artist that can go beyond floor and the perfunctory beat. “Not a lot of tracks for me have to start with a kick” he explained in RA about the making of the album. “Did you care about the dance floor when you were writing the album?” asked RA’s Kristan Caryl. “I tried to, always, but I’m bad at it and if I do it I get a wave of self-hate. I can set my mind on doing some techno, pumping 4/4, but I always end up somewhere completely different.” Axel Boman’s extensive musical palette has always played a role in his music, and he’s always displayed an innate ability to feed some accessible pop element into his very serious dance floor music.

It’s something that other Swedish artists like Varg also emulate, but whether that’s a Swedish thing or just the open-ended listening habits in the era of the internet is something up for debate, but it’s clear that Boman has never been one to confine his music to one small area in the vast expanse of modern music history. At the end of Family Vacation, Boman came to the conclusion in a DJ Mag Interview that; “I needed to have some closure with this computer and this hard drive and all these gadgets that I’ve been working on so long, so they kind of helped me to reach that point. Now I’m ready to throw that out the window and start all over with the guitar.”

Since then he’s split his efforts between many side projects like the John Talabot collaboration, Talaboman and Man Tear, a post-pop project he does with label mate Petter Nordkvist. Man Tear is Boman and Nordkvist indulging their pop sensibilities with the sonic template of House music. Boman’s desire to work outside if the club music cannon and flex “different muscles in the brain” sees him constantly experimenting with different elements in music and according to his EBTV interview that activity is only set to increase in the future.   

“I listen to lots of music so get lots of inspiration,” he told RBMA, and in the very same breath he also explained that all his music is “always” focussed on the club floor. The trajectory might not always correspond to the initial idea but the purpose of his music is always to get people dancing and from his various musical projects, his LP to his EPs and singles, it’s that unflinching consistency that makes Axel Boman’s work such a favourite on various dance floors, even if the results are often quite random

*Axel Boman plays Frædag this week with Strangefruit, g-HA & Olasnkii and Olefonken.