An interview with
Jimmy Ågren (2008)

By Beppe Colli
Mar. 18, 2008

Almost-but-not-quite well-known for his playing a Beefheart-related kind of "mutated blues", the excellent guitarist (and drummer!) Jimmy Ågren released (at last) Various Phobias, his fourth solo album after Close Enough For Jazz, Glass Finger Ghost and Get This Into Your Head. It's an album that - as I argued at length in my review - while being easily recognizable as having been made by him, features music that is a bit less "knotty", and sounding (what in my opinion is a touch) more Beckian, than in the past.

It goes without saying that present times are not exactly friendly when it comes to this kind of music, not to mention this kind of kind of - amphibious? - musicians, who by now obviously do it mainly for what we could call "personal satisfaction". Which is one more good reason to back this kinds of efforts, right?

The following conversation was conducted by e-mail, last week.

Last time we talked, you told me that you already had a lot of the material for your next CD - what is now Various Phobias - ready, and that you hoped to release it before the end of 2005. So, why was the CD released so late?

Well, for different reasons: first I got tired, didn't do much in the end of 05 and the whole year of 06, I worked at the radio as a sound-engineer and didn't do much else than that.

The CD was finished in early 07, but I've been waiting a long time, trying to get a label for me. I've also recorded maybe 20 songs that I didn't put on this CD.

You did everything yourself. Here's a Q for you: When you record a song, what do you start with: the drums, a guide vocal, a rhythm guitar, or...? Please, discuss.

It differs, often I play and record drums, just fooling around for a long time, then I listen back to it, and see if I've done something cool and different; same thing with guitar; then I will try to build something from that. So sometimes I use a click-track, but sometimes not. It's 50/50.

What happened to the harp? There is none on this album!

Well but it is, on Durham Takeoff and one of my favorite parts on They Don't Care. It's all dubbed with guitars though.

Ha! Why is the album called Various Phobias?

Everybody who knows me well, now that is a good title for me... I'm afraid of everything and that scares me.

You've mentioned B.B. King, Ry Cooder, Frank Zappa, Captain Beefheart and King Crimson as being a really special influence on you. Are there any names - new or old - that you've come to appreciate in the last few years, since our previous interview?

Not really, I don't listen to music/or don't have so much time doing it, all the time I have left, I will do something involving my music; but, I've been listening a lot to Dean Martin the last years, I love his voice, and the songs, and the sound...

As I stated in my review, in your new album I seemed to detect a few guitar passages that reminded me of Jeff Beck. Am I hallucinating?

I think he's really great, but I haven't listened that much to him, so I can't say that I'm influenced by him, so I think it's just a coincidence actually. I never thought about it anyway.

The red guitar that's pictured in the booklet is a Gibson SG, but what's the other one, with the name Modena, I think, written on it? And what's the amp that's pictured on the cover? (The cab is a Marshall 4x12, right? But what about the head?)

The "Modena" by Italia, made in UK, great slide-guitar, I've actually become a featured artist. (

The head is a THD, it's a great amp.

You have been part of the group Mats/Morgan, with your brother Morgan and Mats Öberg. Any recent experiences you'd like to talk about?

The old line-up is gone, they are a trio now, and I'm not in it.

Any current guitar players whose work you find to be of inspiration to you?

Hmm, no. Who could that be? I don't know anyone anyway, except my old heroes.

Any plans for the future? How's the situation, business-wise?

I've just finished a live DVD, I have to decide if I will put it on my home-site as a free download, that was my original plan, but I have to think about it.

Michael Traylor US (magic band) is trying to help me finding a label.

And I've just begun to write new material.

© Beppe Colli 2008 | Mar. 18, 2008