Interview with Iggo from Kitchen And The Plastic Spoons, a pioneer of the Swedish punk/new wave scene
Forty years ago, one of the most influential bands of the Swedish new wave/punk scene of the 80s, KITCHEN AND THE PLASTIC SPOONS, was founded. I was able to have an interview with the founder IGGO (now involved in the Iggof Foggy and The Plenty and ToStupidToDie project!!), who was kind enough to give us a little bit of his time, answering our questions with such passion that while reading it is hard to believe all these years have passed since the band broke up. A good lesson in DIY and life in music that I find important for current bands. I often find myself interviewing groups that are not yet established and who answer the questions listlessly, as if the promotion of one’s music project were something obvious or secondary.
Kitchen and the plastic spoons had some fleeting reunion on the occasion of the release of an incredible collection on vinyl called “Screams To God” (already at collector’s prices) by the never too praised “Dark Entries”, of which I’m a proud owner. Inside the vinyl there’s a little pink leaflet that tells the band’s story and summarizes its discography. The small paper was my bible during the interview and it’s pretty much the only well-written article that you can find online about the group (in English, I did not search in Swedish).
If you search on YouTube the songs by Kitchen you will immediately realize that this is a sui generis band that had already surpassed the punk as a musical genre and took free musical expression towards new frontiers, marrying what was the nascent new wave scene, but without reclining on its already present clichés.
“while everyone was talking about how depressed they were, Kitchen talked about eating ice cream with God.”
You used to play the synth in a band called Psycho, then you founded Gdansk which later became Kitchen and The Plastic Spoons. I’d like to know something about you before all this happened: how did you approach music and this particular genre?
I’ve always loved electronic music from the time I was introduced to Wendy Carlos soundtrack A Clockwork Orange. I started listening to Kraut Rock around 1974. From age 14 I spent about five years in a record store called Space Records located in central Stockholm City. In that shop I lived through the Glam and Prog Rock and Disco era over to the Pre-punk era that then transformed into the Punk and New Wave. One of the best usical
educations I ever have had. I stopped work there in end of 1978.
In 1979 me and Helena (keyboards in Kitchen), my girlfriend at the time, were listening a lot to all kinds of new music coming up, especially from John Peel at Radio One.
After the punk music attraction started to fade away and a lot of Post Punk stuff started appear like PIL, Magazine and the never the less influential pioneers Ultravox, we went totally hooked on all of that alternative Do-It-Yourself kind of records that started to pop up like Throbbing Gristle, the Human League, Fad Gadget, Thomas Leer & Robert Rental, Cabaret Voltaire and This Heat etc etc.. There wasn’t that much like that going on in Stockholm at that time except for a few obscure events here and there. One had to really have wide open eyes and ears to get in touch with that movement at all!
I first met Mats R of Psycho at a postmodern art event in a massage parlors basement. There was a band called Plast that performed and some other spectacular constellation doing an hilarious Venus in Furs cover, everyone was dressed up in beautiful vintage clothings and with makeup. That experience really blew my mind. Especially Plast that was using tape loops and synthesizers. Later on when Plast had disbanded and changed name to Rhure we did an amount of gigs together.
Mats R had a rehearsal place and a couple of synthesizers and introduced me to come visit. I did and brought my bass and we started jamming and then we decided to do something together. We were both into stuff like Silicon Teens, Kraftwerk and Gary Newman and sounded like a mix of that. I rather quickly abandoned the bass and a couple of months later I bought my first Yamaha CS10 that I upgraded to a CS15 a couple of weeks later. Mats R used a Stringman and a Roland SH 2000 and a Boss DR-55 Suddenly this new band showed up in our rehearsal place called Porno Pop Moon Family.
We immediately started to spend time together partying and having fun and after a couple months one of the singers, Jarmo opened up Club Mods because that was the latest trend from London at the time. In that club Psycho had our first gigs and we also started a mod band with the bass player Jackie and Mats W the drummer from Porno Pop, called the 60s!
Together with Mats R girlfriend and her sister on vocals we did mod sixties covers and played at Club Mods a couple of times.
In May 1980 Psycho finally had the opportunity to attend with a gig at one of Stockholm’s most attractive venues, Musikverket and we were so very ON to do that! Unfortunately Mats R catched a cold and we had to cancel. But I wouldn’t let that chance to perform slip out of my hands so I asked Jackie and Mats W if we could just kind of put something together for fun and they agreed to that and we then asked Jackie’s girlfriend Anne to join, because she had the coolest look in town and she just stepped right in. So in one evening we had made three songs and as our name we took Jackie’s birth town Gedansk, and later we would change name to become Kitchen And The Plastic Spooons (as it originally was spelled).
We made such a fantastic performance and a huge impact on the audience and from that on we decided that there was no return. Then we took my girlfriend Helena in on synth as well and then a while later, to broaden our sound more, we took Patrik in on guitar.
We still did, at the same time, tried to keep our other bands alive as well but they slowly faded away…
The band didn’t last long, you released a few songs on various compilations, a 7” and a flexi, but you broke up before an LP. You were still able to leave a mark though, to the point you got reprinted by III Wind records on CD and by Dark Entries on vinyl. Why did you disband so quickly?
From having started off as a funny joyful and very easy going approach I guess we slowly ended up with the well known big issue called expectations on ourselves. From being very playful we started to need to compromise and sometimes almost fighting to get our ideas come through.
We also constantly wrote new songs and dropped the older ones in a rather hysterical tempo. The set lists where never the same.
The usual procedure making a song was that Jackie came along with some new bassline and the rest of us dressed it up. Mostly me Jackie and Mats W did the main arrangements together.
But one other problem was that Jackie started to do slower and darker stuff as well and we became more and more kind of dark ourselves, thanks to that. It wasn’t so much fun anymore. Anne broke up from Jackie and later left the band. We tried to keep on going with Iodine Jupiter on vocals, the other singer from now closed down Porno Pop but most of the joy had seeped out and after a while also Mats W left.
A while before Anne left we had signed up with our so called manager, Syk, that became rather disastrous. He was an old friend of mine but in this situation it turned out that he was very unreliable and struggling to deal with. He and I had earlier started Castor Records together.
Kitchen also started to record what would have been our first album just before we broke up.
How was being a band and trying to arrange gigs in Sweden in the early 80s? Have you had the chance to play outside Sweden as well?
When we started playing with Kitchen, all the doors were suddenly open to the at the time existing alternative stage. Many wanted us to join in on their arrangement. It was a new building spirit that was later taken over by more professional players. We just did one pretty big tour in Sweden, Lokaaalen Turnén. That tour was like a showcase with some of the other bands we shared space with in our rehearsal place with. The bands was Hörförståelse, Rhur, Helen & the Warriors and Silicon Carne. Here’s a link to some of those bands from a Swedish Punk & New Wave page called PUNKTJAFS.
Kitchen only played abroad when we reunited in 2008 at the Drop Dead Festival in Lisbon, Portugal and then we did a gig in Dresden a few years later.
If singer Anne had not dropped out, we might have continued to play abroad. We received offers from many different countries but we were forced to refuse.
The compilation Cosa Nostra delivers an idea of a high-profile, multi-coloured artistic environment that must have been really stimulating to be in. How was “the scene”? Did you have the feeling to be part of something destined to remain in punk enthusiasts’ memory?
The Cosa Nostra was mostly recorded at studio Humlan in the same basement as we rehearsed, owned by this Italian guy called Lino Ajello. All the bands were rather close friends of ours. Syk was involved and partly behind it all and surprisingly it actually became more than just talk, and it was finally released as a cassette.
I don’t think we carried any thoughts about being kind of special or something. We did what we did instead of doing nothing. Stockholm at that time in general was a rather good boiling pot with several good venues that offered a pretty good mix of genres. There were maybe a couple hundred or more people that rotated at the same places and with the same bands and everyone supported each other, very alternative and most of us were all comfortable to belong under the Syndicalist flag if one can put it like that.
Your music, with a predominant artistic and avant-garde component, detached from the first wave of punk and refused to abide by its clichés. It seems art music based its production on stylistic cues given by pioneering bands such as yours. What’s your opinion on this?
Yes, I definitely think that, for us at least, our playful and naive attitude to what we were doing was the biggest reason for how we sounded. We deliberately tried to, as you say, avoid the most worn-out cliches almost all the time unless we were joking about it instead. It was much more easy in the beginning when we allowed everyone to contribute with their own part of the whole, but when we later started poking in each other’s expressions, it became much harder to maintain what we once started as. I think that is also heard when listening to how we developed and later advanced.
What kind of music do you listen to these days, in 2020? Any new bands and artists you really dig?
Oh, that’s a tricky one. Among other things, I listen sporadically to all sorts of old music I haven’t been able to listen to before, as well as very old classic obscure stuff I have in my vinyl collection but which I can’t access now because I live abroad. YouTube is my salvation then.
I also listen very much to the artists I have come into contact with during my about five years stay here in Bangkok where I live now. Everything from Harsh Noise Ambient free Jazz to blah blah blah, haha! Impossible to describe, but I change taste almost every day and listen to everything except Hip Hop and Top List Chart music, quite simply.
My wife and I playfully covered Liberty, your most popular song which I particularly love. I played the bass and she played the synth and trumpet, but when we tried to put everything together the tracks didn’t “bond” properly, we were not able to make synth and bass lines sound harmoniously. Played by you, the song works perfectly. Did you work on the songs methodically or you had more of an instinctive approach?
I have always adhered to the instinctive strategy because I always trust my intuition.
I am not a trained musician in any way more than as a child I was forced to play flute and clarinet which I abhorred. I wanted to play guitar! So when I then finally got my father to buy me a guitar, it was too hard to learn the chords so I started playing bass instead. After the first meeting with the synthesizer was what finally released all my creator joy and to this day I think it is very entertaining to twist and twerk among all filters, envelopes and oscillators!
Liberty is recorded at a reel-to-reel tape recording in our rehearsal place and it has one Yamaha-CS15 line that is dubbed twice with a Farfisa or similar organ, I don’t remember the brand anymore. I think that’s why it’s not so easy to cover those synth lines… hehe