Electronic music, symphonic music, new age music … if you hang on to LAU for a while, you’ll think that computers are good only for certain kinds of music. In particular, those that can be composed and played with keyboards or whatever direct-to-computer interface you fancy. But as a rock and heavy metal fan, I wondered: where are the guitars?
And then I found the Charles Darwin Evolution Experience, the name that hides Robert Jonsson. Deeply rooted in stoner metal, Robert shows that you can rock using computers — and a good guitar, of course.
The musician that came in from the cold
Robert was born in 1971 in a small village in the frozen north of Sweden. Having their share of snow, cold and darkness, there wasn’t much to do; and maybe that was what headed him to music, starting by mainstream artists as Elvis and The Boppers. But being grown in the seventies and the eighties meant the birth of hard rock and heavy metal, and that was what got him hooked. At twelve he got his first guitar, and as he said: “What CAN’T you do with power chords and distortion?”
Another boost to his music hobby came from school. In Sweden there is a well established municipal school system that children can attend for cheap, and the threshold for starting to play is quite low. He started playing guitar in school at ten, and learnt keyboard too.
A bit later he, his brother and a few friends took by storm a nearby old cottage and made it the scene of their musical perpetrations (“an ungodly amount of noise”). Shielded by names as awesome as Savage, Black Dragon and (my favourite) Pirates of Pestulon, they experimented with eighties’ rock, portastudios and too much distortion.
Now he’s an IT guy, single father of two and sporadic performer in a couple of bands. And he has a drumkit in his living room. How cool is that?
“The Charles Darwin Evolution Experience” (CDEE, for short) is a one-man band clad in the style known as “stoner metal”. This style drinks from old waters, for it hails the style of heavy metal pioneers Black Sabbath. Wikipedia says that it combines “elements of psychedelic rock, blues rock, traditional heavy metal and doom metal”. Traditionally, Monster Magnet has been called the paradigm of stoner metal, but this isn’t a direct influence of CDEE. In fact, Robert doesn’t think that Monster Magnet is quite the reference for stoner metal:
Monster Magnet is probably the biggest band that are generally called Stoner, though I beg to differ, I don’t think their style really fits. Not sure my own style fits but my influences are definitely stoner. The origins of Stoner is old Black Sabbath (though one could argue that they are the grandfathers of pretty much all metal).
Asked for some examples, these are the ones Robert gives:
But in the end, he always goes back to the roots: the Blues.
I tend to always return to the blues. It’s oh so technically simple but so expressive and passionate in the few short phrases you are given. The guitar heroes of old, Clapton, Hendrix and not the least Chuck Berry are probably the ones that keep influencing me consciously and subconsciously.
I always ask how people make their music, and though most find inspiration while doodling with their instrument of choice, there is always some quirk, something special and different that each of them does differently. In this case, Robert is hit by inspiration sometimes while driving:
It has happened that while driving round a tune has popped into my head from nowhere and I directly feel I must try to do something with it, I write down lyrics quite often when this happens and sometimes record a bit of humming vocals to preserve the idea.
Sometimes inspiration comes, but reluctantly and slowly. In particular, the songs for CDEE took over a year to finish, while the electronic stuff he releases under the project Periri are finished quickly. My opinion, and Robert may disagree, is that for us in the IT business it’s easier to spend time in front of the computer, which lends itself more to electronic music. Playing guitar, at least in my case, involves some cable-plugging and switching on of stuff that making music with the computer doesn’t. Those are my two cents.
Robert is not an exclusive metal head. He has several music projects, each under a different name: CDEE is for stoner metal, Periri for electronic music, and Diligo DeCanto for singer/songwriter stuff. I’m featuring him for CDEE, but you can check his other music in his webpage too. All for free, as could be supposed: asked about the subject of free music, he sums up his opinion in a simple sentence: “I just want to make music”.
The road to Linux
Robert is not only a Linux user, but also a contributor to one of the oldest music-related projects, MuSE. And as such, he’s been in the Linux world for a while:
I’ve been around Linux since the dawn of time, so to speak, I went to university early 90:ies, and my first encounter with Linux was installing Slackware with a linux kernel 0.99.
The reasons to come to Linux were similar to others: computer geekiness, not being able to afford to pay for Windows software, and not wanting to use software he wasn’t legally allowed to use. There were already lots of grassroots projects all over the place: Ardour, Rosegarden and many other that are now forgotten. But having broken his teeth with Cubase on Windows 95, he naturally found himself at home with MuSE (not related to another project called MusE; yes, I know it’s weird). After some time of being only an user, he became one of the developers around the mid 2000s.
Featured song: “Timmar”
The first song I listened to from CDEE was “Timmar”, a pounding sound assault made of furious guitar and angry drums. To my amazement, everything there is made by Robert, from the drums to the singing, as rabid as the rest of the song.
I can’t say enough how much I like this song. It’s one of those songs that makes you wonder why this guy is not making money with music. Air it in any metal radio and it will pass for one of any other famous band. But alas, he’s got a day job like any of us. Life’s that’s unfair.
I know I usually feature only one song, but you must listen to my other favourite song from CDEE, “Kliva av”. It’s a metal song disguised as funk. It has a lot of swagger, and the singing is great: different from the one in “Timmar”, showing Robert’s versatility.
And this was yet another installment of a very delayed “FLOSS your music”. I must beg Robert to forgive the inexcusable delay of this one. I wish I could say I have excuses, but it was pure laziness and the so common and abused “I-am-very-busy-ness”.
There’re been a few months without FLOSS your music, and it will likely be that way for some to come, too. I’ve got a few important things to do in the coming months, and they’ll take most of my time. That said, there’s still plenty of FLOSS musicians there, and I’ve taken note of a few of them. So, while the next installment will be even more delayed than this, it’s not the end of “FLOSS your music yet”. Hang tight, it’ll come before you expect it.
A big thank you to all the musicians that have collaborated in this first series. You’re making great things even if only a handful of us know about them.