Pontuz Bergman and Jon Brandt-Cederhäll, better known as the Wasted Penguinz, have an own unique sound for years. They’ve played at almost every festival imaginable with their melodic hardstyle: from Decibel Outdoor to Defqon.1, you name it! These two dj’s from Sweden released their new album Clarity at the end of last year. So we decided to visit these gentlemen at their studio for an interview: ‘This is exactly where we stand for.’
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As the name of the duo might suggest, these dj’s love to drink every now and then. We already prepared ourselves for a heavy drinking session and decided to meet up in a local bar before we bring a visit to their studio. Beforehand, we had the idea that these Scandinavians would order some rounds of beer and Sambuca at the bar straight away. So when the two of them arrived at our table and the waitress came to take our order, we were a little frightened to be honest. Goodbye liver, it was nice knowing you.
‘May we have two fresh mint tea, please?’ It’s a Friday evening, the weekend has just begun and there isn’t even a drop of vodka in their tea. Do we have the real Wasted Penguinz in front of us or who are these two? ‘It may sound a little bit weird, but we don’t drink that much anymore’, says Jon. ‘We drank so much that we were basically alcoholics. I’ve even had a complete black out a couple of times during a booking, I can only remember that I’ve mixed just one single song.’ Still totally flabbergasted we watch Pontuz taking a sip from his ‘hot water with some green leaves and shit in it’ and he says: ‘Well, we get a little older every day. The Wasted Penguinz are not that wasted anymore.’
Wasted Penguinz is a Swedish hardstyle duo that had its breakthrough for the big audience with their track ‘Melancholia’. Now, five years later, it’s time for an album. Pontuz: ‘Even though it’s not our first album, it is the first one where we’ve actually thought things through. Our debut album Wistfulness was basically a compilation of a bunch of different tracks, from the time that we were in between labels. These tracks were – when we signed at Dirty Workz – put together on a double cd. It wasn’t planned at all.’ Jon: ‘It was a mess. But back then we had to play in Belgium one time and we ended up talking to some guy we didn’t know. We told about our situation and he instantly told us that he wanted to release that album on his label. It turned out to be someone from Dirty Workz and we haven't left ever since.’
‘For our new album Clarity we have – in contrary of our first album Wistfullness – thought about every little detail. From the album title to the meaning of the tracks, from the style to the artwork: everything.’ When we ask how they’ve come up with the name of the album, they both respond instantly: ‘The name Clarity is short, but also really to the point. That was also the purpose of our album: it had to be simple, but very defined as well.’ While they both take another sip of their mint tea, Jon goes on explaining the idea behind their latest album: ‘If I had to describe it in one word, then it would be clear. Simple, but elegant. We are very proud on the name of the album. And also the artwork is really sick if you ask us.’
‘The response on the album is unbelievable. We get a lot of positive reactions, from throughout the scene. That’s something that really makes us feel great, when you’ve been working on an album for such a long time’, says Pontuz. We didn’t even know that satisfaction had a facial expression, but it glows off the faces from the Swedes. Jon: ‘We have never thought about the response of the album. When you’re making this kind of production in de studio, you get in some king of bubble, you get stuck in the same mindset for months. When the album finally was released and we slowly received the first amount of feedback, we finally noticed the size of the production we’ve put together.’
When we take a look at the track list of Clarity, there are two things that stand out straight await. There’s (only) one collaboration and two edits from tracks that are already featured in the beginning of the album. ‘We’ve been working on collabs a lot for this album’, says Jon. ‘But with the collaboration with Crisis Era we knew straight away that it would be an awesome track. We like to work with them and outside the studio we like to hang out with them too. They are our drinking mates.’ Pontuz still can’t believe the reaction from the crowd when they play this track at a festival. ‘How they all lose their minds at the dance floor, what the fuck!’
Nowadays, a lot of hardstyle tracks contain one word of lyrics, just before the drop. But those who have listened to Clarity from front to back, know that the Wasted Penguinz use a ton of vocals in their tracks. Why is that? ‘Good question’, says Pontuz. ‘Most of the time a vocal gives a better message in a track. Without the lyrics, you’ll get lost in the song: you make up your own meaning of the song.’ Jon adds to the words of his colleague: ‘Some tracks don’t need any vocals. It just doesn’t sound right. We tried to add some vocals or something else to it, but then it turned out to be shit.’
Slowly it becomes clear that these guys put a lot of effort in the deeper message of their productions. Pontuz: ‘We both suffer from anxiety and panic attacks. I’ve been struggling with this since I was 14 years old, it’s a part of our lives and we can’t just take it away. By making music we set our feelings aside. We really put our emotions in our music and that’s why it mostly has a message. Some people go boxing when they struggle with stress or something else, to lose their frustrations. We make music.’ Jon: ‘We get a lot of messages from fans, they say that they can totally relate to one of our song because they suffer from a depression or anything like that. They say: “Your music saved my life”, that makes us really proud and honoured.’
We know that making an album isn’t always going as smooth as some people might think. It can be a real frustrating and difficult job for a producer. What were the real struggles of making this album? ‘The melody of ‘Locked Out’’, they both say instantly. ‘We’ve made like 8 different melodies for this one and still we got stuck multiple times. That’s the most difficult thing of making an album, you act like a perfectionist, trying to make it only better and better. But in the end you make yourself crazy because you can’t distance yourself from your work. Luckily everything ended up alright!’ When we ask what their favourite track of their album is, Pontuz and Jon start to discuss with one is the best. Pontuz: ‘Locked Out’. Jon: ‘That’s what I thought as first too. But the more I listen to ‘Clarity’, the more I like it.’
‘We really would like to work with Justin Bieber in the future’, says Jon when we ask with what’s on their bucket lists. ‘I admit: since Skrillex makes his beats, I turned into a Belieber. So production wise I would like to sit in the studio with Skrillex.’ And are there any events that are on top of the list? ‘Qlimax, definitely! That was our first hardstyle event that we have visited twelve years ago and since then we’ve been into hardstyle. It’s the ultimate goal for every dj to play at an event like Qlimax.’
The guys finished their mint tea’s (and it seems that they won’t follow those up with some booze), so we slowly ended up the interview. Now the album is finished, these Swedish dudes probably will enjoy their well-deserved days off… They both jump off from their seats: ‘No, not at all! We can’t stand still, to be honest. We are currently working on two big projects – which we will release this year.’ Pontuz looks at his buddy, but tells us they can’t say too much about it. Jon: ‘The only thing we can tell, is Wasted Penguinz Classics. That’s all we have to say for now!’
Clarity is now available. Check out the Wasted Penguinz store to order yourself a copy!