I Just Want to Make That Sad Boy Smile: An Interview with Kleerup
Former Robyn producer Kleerup dropped a lovely solo debut in 2008 then largely disappeared before deciding to come back over a decade later. What happened to him in the intervening years? "Actually, I died twice but got sent back," he tells us.
6 March 2020
The year was 2007, and "With Every Heartbeat" was picking up steam. The pulsing electro number would help redefine Swedish pop star Robyn as one of the most influential dance artists of the era and instantly made producer Andreas Kleerup one of the biggest rising stars out there.
"There was without a doubt a feeling of divine intervention when 'With Every Heartbeat' -- which had been released in 2006 and was done with the intention of being 'Kleerup single number two' as part of my two single/album option deal with EMI -- reached Number One in the UK," Kleerup recalls when speaking to PopMatters.
"Reason being," he continues, "It was done as my 'make it or break it' track, [and] had it bombed, my album option would unlikely be picked up, and since the first single I did ('Medication', a power-pop/Phil Lynott/XTC kinda track) didn't really make any headlines so to speak, this was it!
"So, while being the musical director and playing bass, guitar, drums, and serving as 'creative director' to Robyn whilst creating a concept on how to make her newest record and her back catalogue work seamlessly in a live setting, I had this deal with EMI. Hence I asked Robyn if she would like to guest on my next single, she said yes and chose one out of the two basic beats/tracks I gave her to listen to. The other track later became '3AM' and the track we started working on became 'With Every Heartbeat'."
"3AM" would later appear on Kleerup's eponymous 2008 debut, along with other tracks of a similar ilk, including a reclaimed instrumental he did for Cyndi Lauper that was cynically retitled "Thank You for Nothing" following a falling out with the legendary pop diva. That didn't stop Kleerup, though. The way he tells it, he was on top of the world.
"The fame/popularity was something I had not planned for," Kleerup admits. "My basic plot was that the person whose name is on an album, as in the name being the artist -- the same way my heroes Brian Eno, Boards of Canada, NEU!, Frank Zappa, Arvo Pärt, etc. -- had done, should also do the interviews in contrast to the producer as a person who doesn't want to do stuff like that and perhaps is satisfied with sitting behind the desk. It turned out it was not only a fun 'add on', though. Unfortunately, it was the reason my life became a soap opera."
All of this conversation and contrast comes as Kleerup finally unleashes his second true-and-proper pop album onto the world, simply titled 2. While he had intervening projects in the interim -- some even in Swedish -- he largely faded away from the spotlight following his late 2000s peak.
"I'm proud that it made such an impact without getting mentioned a lot," Kleerup says of his debut. "I mean, ever since it came out, I hear music that -- without sounding full of [myself] -- I think would never have had sounded like it does without someone having listened to that Kleerup album. Also getting tagged as a 'genius' so many times that it becomes a word included when speaking of me and to have all of that happening before turning 30 is just a total overwhelming thing to happen to any person.
"Here is a list of what I learned from that album also," he notes. "Never look better on the album cover than in real life. Working with guest singers on your own album is much closer to what I thought being a producer is compared to producing music for that singer's album. Nothing new but always utterly important: get a lawyer to go over any contract before signing it. Take everything that you've listened to and liked with you and use that unique combination of influences to create something that is you; Watch out for things that are expensive and illegal."
After sharing some links to his previous band, Kleerup digs in deeper to that period after his solo debut where things got a little murky. "I went through some really rough years, but I'm fine now and a living proof that there is no such thing as not being responsible for what you put in your body without knowing the possible consequences. Actually, I died twice but got sent back. Since then, I can assure everyone that when that day comes when it's time for the great gig in the sky, there is nothing to fear, and you will be in good hands."
Overall, 2 has a sound that's less club-ready than Kleerup's debut. His sound has matured and somewhat mellowed, but that doesn't stop him from putting out a few surefire pop moments, especially with the AlunaGeorge-assisted lead single "Lovers Table". While Kleerup makes a point to work with up-and-coming voices for his vocal collaborations, this time out, it's clear that the track "Hang on to My Vertigo Vertigo" holds a special place in his heart, as the song features a vocal turn from the late Swedish punk legend Freddie Wadling, who passed in 2016. What led to Kleerup sitting on this collaboration for so long?
"I lived in Gothenburg at the time, and Freddie was and is a soulmate," Kleerup beams. "We used to have Sunday jams, and we [once] decided to do a proper recording. I had my studio in the big wonderful studio complex called Svenska Grammofon Studion -- it is run by Kalle Gustafsson who [used to] play bass in the Soundtrack of Our Lives and [does] a lot of scoring for movies and series now. It is one of the best studios I've ever been in. José Gonsaléz had his little studio there, I had my room, and during the time I worked there, people like John Grant (also a soulmate), Sophie Ellis-Bextor, the Foals, Little Boots, and Nervo was there. The mixing desk in the main room is 'The One' that Queen used in Montreux, making all those wicked albums. But back to Freddie. That track was only saved somewhere on my drives, and I found it a couple of years ago, though only as an MP3. But to let you in on a secret: three-to-four songs on my first album were mastered as MP3s!"
While those looking for a classic Kleerup synth rush on 2 will find it on songs like "U R", but the record's biggest surprise is the stripped-down acoustic closer "Say Ten" -- a vulnerable ballad that sounds like nothing Kleerup has before released. It's a striking number and one that holds a special place in Kleerup's heart. "I wrote it about my best friend Alex Di Giorgio, who died two years ago. If you look at old live clips, you see him smiling and playing percussion in my band."
After a period out in the pop music wilderness, Kleerup is happy to be back, and this time around promises that he'll be putting out music at a much more regular clip. Asked what his plans are, he says he'll "do another record for a major or sublabel US or UK company so I can really get out there and then produce bands like Guns N' Roses or make unheard music with Max Martin and Dr. Dre! I will always release my albums, though, no matter what."
Here's to hoping we don't have to wait 12 more years before we hear the next one.