#61: Living on the EDGE…

Tomorrow, May 1st, is a national holiday meaning that there will be no office work. The plan was to spend the night building on a WordPress theme project without having to worry about getting up early to go to work tomorrow morning. I am able to use my right hand to write almost normally now, so I was looking forward to go into code mode tonight.

But there has always something wrong during the last seven days. Today it was a major breakdown causing the internet connection for a big part of northern Sweden to stop working – so I have been forced to use my mobile phone connection to get online. And while it can give up a fair connection speed for regular browsing, having only a percent of the regular connection bandwidth means that every single page load and file transfer means waiting times. And when the phone keeps dropping the 3G connection in favor of EDGE, the difference is significant. I am a very patient person, but constant waiting times do affect the creativity and production tempo negatively so I will probably stay offline and enjoy a good book tonight and hope that the normal connection is working again tomorrow.

One thing is for sure: I will still not get up at 06:30 in the morning, unless the dogs wake up early. And if they do, I will very likely get straight back to bed once they have been walked and fed. They are usually very calm in the early mornings once the morning routines are taken care of…

I’ll be back at work again on Friday. Since the clients I work with right now will be out of town until next week, it will likely be a day for working on new content for the own company websites, including Jokkmokk.com – a site which has more visitors each week than the town of Jokkmokk has residents which makes it really interesting to work with.

But first things first: Offline, book, bed…

#60: Gaia live – 90 minutes of goose bumps…

This is a video from the A State Of Trance 650 event at Ultra Music Festival a month ago. For people not familiar with the melodic trance genre, it may not seem like anything special. But for me, this is an amazing video. I won’t go into any details about why, because it wouldn’t make much sense. But Gaia is a side project by two of my big idols and all-time favorite electronic music producers, and even though the two (Armin van Buuren and Benno de Goeij) have performed together many times, this was the first performance of Gaia as a project. 90 minutes of pure trance music, and the final song is one of the old favorites that has inspired me a lot throughout the years. This is a video that I will probably watch again and again…

#59: Exciting projects at work…

This blog is not intended for posts about my professional work. But today I started working on a project which is well worth writing about: I’m building an artist website for a local band, which I believe will reach out to a huge audience when they get their music published online. I haven’t done any music-related project in a long time, and it is really exciting to get into the old mindset of “how can I make a million people listen to this?” that was a big source of motivation for a long time back in the days. Even if it is mainly by building a website. What makes it special is that there is a connection to my hometown, Porjus. And to the old piano I wrote about in an earlier post. There are stories hidden everywhere, but they are not the interesting part in this case. It is the music itself. I will very likely be writing about it in future posts, from a personal viewpoint.

It is not the only exciting project I work with right now. More about another interesting project tomorrow, one that is built on evenings and weekends. Or was, it is on a break because of a slight wrist malfunction… But it appears to be healing well, I’m able to write with both hands on the keyboard again. Just not for long enough periods to allow me to work on this project. But I hope it’ll be a matter of days before I get enough strength back to write more…

#58: Pause for radial nerve recovery…

The ice cream photo of yesterday and this post today, are short for a reason. A small elbow injury has affected a nerve in my arm, causing me to lose the ability to control my right hand (I can not straighten it, or any of the fingers). That, of course, makes writing on a keyboard a bit difficult. So I’ll keep it short for a few days until I get my hand back. It feels better today than yesterday (when I wasn’t able to even write a proper caption for the ice cream photo), after using a wrist guard with a support rail. Hoping for more of the power to be back tomorrow…

#56: The healing power of love…

Engagement rings on a couple holding hands...

The photo above is sweet and heartwarming. It shows the left hands of a man and a woman, and they are wearing engagement rings. But just as with other photos I have posted, there is a story to it. And if I combine this photo with the background story behind it, a story that only lives in the form of experiences and memories inside my mind, then the photo turns into something truly amazing…

A little bit of background…

I grew up in a happy family as the only child. My parents married in 1982, when I was two years old. And their love lasted until my mother passed away in the summer of year 2000. The time that followed her passing was, quite naturally, painful and really scary. I was afraid that I would lose my father as well, since he has always been there for me. Just like me, he went through a terrible time of grief and depression, and the first couple of years were a constant struggle to make it to the next day without getting lost on the way.

However, it slowly got better. And suddenly a couple of years ago, my father told me that he was actually in a relationship. The full story is way too long and personal to write here, but one thing I can mention is that he was worried about what I would think about him living with someone new. At that time, I didn’t know her other than by her name, Therese. But my answer to my father was really simple.

“Who you love, is up to your heart to decide. And your love is always more important than opinions that other people may have…”

My parents had never said any kind of negative thing about who I was been dating, ever. I grew up learning to follow my heart and to trust my feelings. Who I was with, was up to me to decide, and if I felt that it was right – then it was right. Both my mother and my father kept telling me this, with my mother even going as far as saying that I should never be afraid of telling them about love and relationships “even if it would be something that could be really scary to tell”, because they would always support me as long as I trusted my heart. Long afterwards, I realized that this was basically her way of saying that I could always rely on their support, even if I would end up getting a boyfriend rather than a girlfriend…

While it can sound awkward to have discussions like that with your parents when you are a teenager yourself, to me it was important and very valuable. It also meant that we could always be open and honest with each other. And since I lost my mother, I have continued to value that openness and honesty high with my father, as well as with my fiancee Johanna. My father and Johanna are the two rocks on which my life is standing.

Anyway, I reminded my father that whatever he felt in his heart, I would support him with all of my own heart. And after he met Therese, a whole lot of tings have turned into positive directions. The two of them are a sweet couple, and they are both genuinely good-hearted, kind, humoristic and clever persons. I am so happy that they have eachother, and I can not really describe how much it means to me personally to have got past the terrible years which took many hard hits on my father – and to see him happy and in love again…

So, back to the photo…

Yes, the photo at the beginning shows Therese holding my father Kjell’s hand. After living together for a couple of years, they are now officially engaged – and even though I’ve known about it for a long time, seeing them showing their rings was just so incredibly beautiful.

(Note: My mother also told me that it is perfectly OK to cry, and that happy tears come from big hearts. Tonight, I’m finishing this post in “big heart”-style…)

#55: New idea: Translate a really good WordPress plugin into Swedish…

Today, I spent most of the day working with a brilliant commercial WordPress theme from ThemeForest, on behalf of a client. The theme had a new kind of visual layout editor, module-based and built around a responsive gridsystem – that actually moved the layout editing out to the frontend of the site. While I have tried the feature/plugin before, this was the first time I tried the latest version with the frontend layout editor. And I completely fell in love with the concept! So much that I contacted the developers and offered to do Swedish translations of the plugin, so that I can build a really good theme with that editor – and make it a perfect option for Swedish bloggers.

Discussions are ongoing, and I will be writing more about this exciting project in future posts…

#54: Making music – hardware synthesizers from the past…

I apologize in advance for this, but I’ve been so much into old synthesizers and all the adventures they have been a part of that I have to get it out of my mind. So… To continue on the synthesizer nostalgia theme, here is collection of old photos that show some of the gear that was used back during the Lagoona years, both for stage performances and in the different studios. The main studio was always (with the exception of a short period in 2001) located in my band colleague Björn’s apartment, while I usually had a few keyboard synths in my apartment.

I still have old versions of the Lagoona website stored on my computer, where all gear was listed and reviewed. If anyone would want to know more about it (which I assume no one will, honestly), let me know and I’ll consider posting it later on.

Rewind to the beginning of the 2000’s…

…a time when you still needed hardware synthesizers, MIDI cables, a powerful rack of effects – and when the mixer was the heart of the studio…

Access Virus Indigo (original limited edition model)

Access Virus Indigo – One of the original 500 Indigos that were manufactured. Based on Virus KB, with aluminium panels on the sides.

Korg MS2000 (left) and Roland JP-8000.

Korg MS2000 (left) and Roland JP-8000 (right), in my apartment in 2002. The piano in the background is the same as I have written about in an earlier post.

Oberheim OB12. There is indeed something special with blue synthesizers… This was a true monster in terms of size and weight, visually beautiful. But I didn’t like its sound, and it was difficult to program. It was used for only one live performance, during which it fell right on my foot.

Oberheim OB12 synth, close-up of the arpeggiator panel

Close-up of the Oberheim OB12 arpeggiator.

Lagoona live performance setup, as it appeared around 2002.

Classic Lagoona live setup as it could look back in 2002: Yamaha AN1x and Novation K-Station to the left (played by me), Behringer Eurorack MX1602 and a Sony Minidisc player in the middle (handled by a temporary third member of the band acting as a DJ) and finally Roland XP-30 and Access Virus Indigo to the right (played by Björn).

The Lagoona studio in early 2002, located in Björns apartment. The left rack included a Roland XV-3080 and a Yamaha EX5r, as well as a couple of basic sound modules like the Yamaha TG55 and a Roland U220. The computer was a PC running Windows XP, with a powerful Creamware Pulsar soundcard with a number of DSPs for running softsynths and effects. Beside it is the digital mixer, a Fostex VM-200 with 24 channels. The rack on the right side were effects units (compressor, limiter, an Antares Autotuner and patch boxes).

Access Virus Indigo, Roland XP-30 and Yamaha AN1x, preparing for soundcheck at a 2003 Lagoona gig in Jokkmokk, Sweden.

Access Virus Indigo, Roland XP-30 and Yamaha AN1x, during preparations for an outdoor music festival at mount Storknappen in Jokkmokk, Sweden, summer of 2003.

Yamaha TG55 and Roland U-220, rack-mounted sound modules from the 1990's.

Rack-mounted sound modules: Yamaha TG55 and Roland U-220. Lagoona also had a similar Korg module, but today I can’t remember the model name of it. These were never really used, but they made the synth rack look a bit cooler!

And then return to year 2014 again…

There were more machines and units than the ones above, like the Yamaha CS1x, a Roland MC-505 groovebox and a Waldorf micro-Q among others. But I’ll stop there, because my point will hopefully be clear already: Back in 2002, this was a really cool collection. But today, just over a decade later, any single computer with a USB-connected keyboard, can do a thousand times more in terms of sounds, effects and mixing possibilities. While hardware can still be really cool, it is no longer necessary. The concept of having a room full of gear only to make electronic music, is more or less outdated. It can still be done like that, but it probably takes an enthusiast to find a hardware studio to be a better option than a software studio today.

When I look at myself, I feel that the time of using a hardware studio is completely over. I see no reason at all to have 25 different physical machines to create or manipulate sound, if I want to make music. All I need is a simple USB-powered keyboard to record MIDI into my software-based synth/sampler/effect rack. I use Propellerheads Reason, and it offers is all I could ever need. I don’t even use any of the incredible VST-synths that are out there, because the possibilities are endless – and by putting up a limitation by deciding that my software-based studio is the Reason rack only, I still need to find creative ways to combine the Reason synths and effects get the sound I need. And it makes it all a bit more fun, than just loading up a 20-gigabyte sample library and automatically have anything and everything.

The exception for hardware synthesizers are for live use. Just as in the studio, a computer on stage can do much more than a whole set of hardware synths. But when playing and performing, I still prefer to use traditional hardware synths. Which is why I got so fascinated with getting a Yamaha EX5 a few days ago. I will never use it to record music, but it would be awesome to use on stage at some time. Anyway…

Forced limitations to enhance creativity, good philosophy or not?

Today, anyone with a regular computer can make music that sounds truly amazing in terms of sound quality – all without ever having to touch a hardware synthesizer. But as readers of this blog have probably already noticed: I still like playing around with old synths. There is still something special about spending a few minutes turning knobs, adjusting values, selecting oscillator modes, adjusting envelopes and routing the mixed signal through various effect units. And then playing the created sound directly on the keyboard while tweaking filters, pitch and modulation in realtime.

I would never have the patience to work in a full hardware studio again, if I wanted to make new music. However, by keeping Reason as my studio and choosing to not step outside into the much larger world of VST:s, I keep a little bit of that old “what do I need to do to get this synth to sound like I want it to”-feeling.

Is there anyone out there, perhaps among my old fellow music producer friends from older times, who feel the same? Or am I the only one who adds limitations on purpose to force myself to keep creativity levels up? I’d love to hear your views on the incredible journey that music production technology has taken in the last 15 years…

#53: Skipping another day, because…

…I’ve been writing on a long post with a lot of photos, and I won’t get it done until tomorrow. But it will be a great post to publish, full of technology and some philosophical views on how music production works today (software and computers) compared to what it was back at the time when a studio was not a studio if it didn’t have a significant amount of hardware devices. More about that tomorrow.

And when preparing tomorrows post, I’ve also rewritten some of the gallery and caption CSS for the Jokkmokk theme for WordPress to make single photos with captions (published using the WordPress media manager) look a bit different. I’m thinking about skipping version 1.1 of the Jokkmokk theme and release 1.2 directly, since I’ve expanded it in a number of ways. However, the theme is not a high priority right now since I will have a lot of design work to do at work, so for those of you who keep waiting for the update: Hang on, and thank you for your patience. And as always, don’t hesitate to get in touch if you don’t want to wait any longer. I’d be happy to send over the theme in its current form, to those of you who are able to do manual upgrades.

#52: Suddenly, it feels like 1999 again…

Yamaha EX5 (silver version)

Today I went to Boden to hand over my old Novation K-Station to its new owner. But rather than selling it, I accepted a very generous trade offer which was too good to turn down. In exchange for the K-Station, I got a silver-colored Yamaha EX5, one of the most amazing synthesizers of the late 1990’s. Lagoona had the rack-mounted version (EX5R) when the synth was new, and it was one of the synths that remained a part of the studio until the band was put to rest.

It was a challenge to carry the 20-kilogram synth from the bus to the office, but it was well worth the effort. The EX5 may be an old model, but it sounds amazing even by todays standards. And the keyboard is wonderful to play with. Now, I don’t really have any use for a hardware synth, so the happiness of suddenly owning an old top-class dream synthesizer is most likely only temporary. Unless some kind of miracle happens, I can probably not afford to keep it. But for now, I’m just enjoying the feeling of playing around with some of the patches and sounds that we used in numerous Lagoona songs back in 1998-2002…

Photo from 1999: The Yamaha EX5R in the Lagoona studio...

Photo from 1999: The Yamaha EX5R in the Lagoona studio…

#51: An old friend is moving out…

Snabelfestivalen 2002, in Boden, Sweden. The K-Station can be seen in the foreground.

Snabelfestivalen 2002, in Boden, Sweden. The K-Station can be seen in the foreground.

Tomorrow, one of my old and faithful friends will move on to new adventures. It is the Novation K-Station, a small 25-keyboard synthesizer which I have used since the days of Lagoona. While small, it proved to be a magnificient sound engine, and it can be heard in a few of the Lagoona songs. But it was mostly used for live performances, as a vocoder or as a lead melody synth. The small size made it a lot easier to use on stage than more massive synths that I have had, such as the Oberheim OB12 and the Korg MS-2000. When I got it, it was a replacement for the Roland JP8000 that I had just sold, another of my all-time favorite synths.

Today, I have no use for the K-Station, so I am happy to pass it on to another artist who have wanted a K-Station for some time. But it has a lot of memories and emotions attached to it, so I really wanted to give it an own post in this blog. It is silly to get emotionally attached to a piece of electronics, but it is actually the memories related to the use of it that are valuable – and those I will keep.

#50: Halfway through…

50 days into the 100-day #blogg100 challenge, and I feel like it would be a good idea to give up. I have been tired all day, constantly yawning for more than five hours now. And completely blank when it comes to ideas or motivation. But I won’t give up, since I know myself well enough to realize that lack of inspiration one day can become an overflow of inspiration the day after. So I’ll just accept that I couldn’t find any proper subject to write about today, or any inspiration to make one up – and see what tomorrow brings.

#49: Celebrating the new millennium…

December 31st, 1999. A day which was going to be something special, since the day after would be the first day of the new millennium. Year 2000 would arrive, and a lot of scary things could happen with computer systems all over the world. And as if that would not be enough, some major celebrations were planned in my hometown, Jokkmokk. There would be artists performing on a stage built by ice and snow, there would be fires (“the highest fires in the world”, someone said) and the largest single fireworks bomb would explode about 800 meters above ground by midnight.

Now, it sure was an amazing night. And there were artists, fires and a big boom somewhere up in the clouds. But the strongest memory I ended up with had nothing to do with the celebrations. My grandfather passed away the same morning, and it was rather painful. Still, I know he would have wanted me to make the best out of the evening – and since I would be one of the artists performing (as a warm-up act for the main act, Markoolio) I made the day and the night as good as I could.

Here are some random photos taken from that night. Some are digital photos, some are frames from the video that was recorded. The quality is bad, but you’ll still get a feeling of the atmosphere:

Thinking back of the celebrations, it was a great New Years Eve. I got to start the new millennium standing on a stage, together with all the other artists and performers, and I even got a taste of the champagne that one of the musicians had brought on stage and passed around. It was originally planned that only the headline artist and his band would be on stage, but two of the band members told me and the Lagoona DJ of the night to make sure that we join them on stage for the countdown to midnight – and I’m happy that we did.

#48: Elven the papillon, 11 years old today…

Elven, a sweet papillon dog and our first and oldest pet, turns 11 years old today. Click the image to see the full photo album!

Elven, a sweet papillon dog and our first and oldest pet, turns 11 years old today. Click the image to see the full photo album!

The upgrade guide I was planning to write today will have to wait, since I haven’t had time for any writing today. I worked from home for half the day, and after that the work week was over. Then Johanna and I met up with my father Kjell, his fiancée Therese and a friend of the family, for a long-awaited family dinner. Back home, I have been helping Johanna with various upgrades and fixes for one of her sites, and in a few minutes I’ll need to sleep.

However, I will have four days free from work during easter, which should hopefully give me a lot more time to write posts here. So, I’ll try again tomorrow. Until then, I would like to recommend you to visit this sweet photo album that Johanna published in her personal blog today. Elven, the oldest of our dogs, turns 11 years today. She is an amazing old lady with lots of energy, even though her fur has turned gray. Check her out by clicking the photo to the right…

#47: WordPress 3.9 has been released!

WordPress version 3.9 has been released. Get it from WordPress.org.

WordPress version 3.9 has been released. Get it from WordPress.org.

Today, the new version 3.9 of WordPress has finally been released. It is a major update which brings a whole range of new features, and as with all major releases it means that I will need to go through the process of making backups of the FTP content of every single WordPress site I own or manage, then make backups of the MySQL database of each site – and XML exports of the content. Not to forget, making the actual upgrade for all sites. And then search for new versions of all plugins that are used on the sites. And finally, test all sites to make sure that they work without any problems.

For the next post, which will be published tomorrow, I will write a guide about each of these steps to help others go through the upgrade process in a secure and safe way. Upgrading is always recommended, but every now and then upgrades can cause serious problems with the site – such as the white screen dilemma that I wrote about in an earlier post. So please check out this blog tomorrow for a step-by-step guide on how to upgrade your WordPress website(s) to the new v3.9.

Here is a short video from WordPress.tv that introduces some of the new features in WordPress 3.9:

With the sites in order, there are more updates to do…

The Jokkmokk theme for WordPress will also be updated, both with the planned features and fixes – and with official support for WordPress 3.9. I have been testing the theme on beta versions and release candidates of v3.9 for weeks without seeing any error, but the theme will still need to include a line in the “Read me” file that states that the theme has been tested and proven to work with the latest version of WordPress to make the compability information visible on the theme page on WordPress.org.

Need help with upgrading?

I am available for all kinds of WordPress-related projects, including providing support and technical assistance for upgrading and optimizing your site. If you need an expert to help you get your site(s) up to date without having to worry about things that could go wrong, get in touch with me through Facebook, Twitter or Google+ – or simply post a comment to this entry and ask me to get in touch – and I will contact you as soon as I can.

#46: Cherry blossom…

Photo Credit: Lisa Widerberg via Compfight cc

Photo by Lisa Widerberg (via flickr.com / cc)

Being a person who finds my inspiration and motivation in different kinds of experiences, there are a number of things I would want to do but which are still on the “to do”-list. I have managed to make many such things happen. The electronic music festival I wrote about a few days ago was one such thing, to give one example. But there is one thing that I have failed to do despite years of tries. A thing that can seem really silly, but which would be a dream for me: Experiencing the cherry blossom, when the flowers of the cherry trees turn the world into a truly beautiful dream-like scenario of pink colors.

For the last four years, I have made a numerous trips to Stockholm, including several times during the spring. There are cherry trees in Kungsträdgården (The King’s Garden) in central Stockholm, and that is where I have tried to get the cherry blossom experience. But I have missed it every year, and since it is currently going on right now and will already be over by the time I visit Stockholm next time, I will miss it again this year.

I don’t really know why I keep on dreaming about seeing the cherry blossom with my own eyes, but I think it comes from an animated movie I had recorded on a VHS tape when I was a kid. There was a beautiful cherry blossom scene with dramatic music, swaying branches and sunlight shining through the branches of the trees. Until I get to stand under the pink roof of cherry flowers myself one day, I’ll keep on enjoying all the beautiful photos that keep appearing in my Facebook and Instagram feeds.

Next year… Next year…

#45: Playing my first melodies…

Andreas playing the piano, photo from November 2007

As a kid, I spent most weekends with my grandparents who lived a few kilometers away from my hometown, Porjus. It became a weekly routine to go there on Saturdays, and stay a night or two before I went back home. They had a big house with a big lot beside the forest, and it was a world of adventures for a young boy. I got to do all sorts of creative things, such as paint, read books (they teached me how to read when I was three years old), explore the forest and play with the old 1950’s radio (oh, all those buttons and knobs!).

Among the many exciting things they had, was a number of music instruments. My grandfather played the guitar, and he would often let me “play” by strumming the strings while he held his left hand over the guitar neck to make sure that I was “playing” proper chords. There was also an old flute which I used to make a whole lot of noise, and a harmonica. And there was a pedal organ, and an old piano. The piano was a classic 1950’s upright piano. A bit out of tune, since it had probably not been tuned since it was purchased. I have been told that I spent a lot of time by the piano, just as with the other exciting things in the big house.

The day when dad got angry…

One Sunday when my father came to pick me up after one of the weekly visits, I was sitting by the piano when he arrived. And I was playing a melody. I was three years old at the time, and he was curious who had teached me how to play that melody, since my grandfather (who had played in bands since a young age) was not home and my grandmother wasn’t very musical. I told him that nobody had teached me, since I had heard the melody on TV. Not satisfied with the answer, he asked again, now a bit upset that I wouldn’t be honest. And I gave the same answer – which made him really angry. He was sure that I was lying, and honesty has always been a core value in our family so he did not like it.

Pretty soon, he realized that I was actually telling the truth. One melody became two melodies, and then three, and many more…

There is an old casette tape recorded when I was four years old, where I play a number of melodies on an old Casio keyboard at home. At age five, I held my first concert for the kids at kindergarten – together with my grandfather who played the guitar. This was also recorded, although I have no idea where the casette tape is today.

Sadly, I never learned to play by notes. And I didn’t make any effort to become better at playing, other than spending some time by the piano whenever I got a chance. I did end up being a musician, playing in bands and writing my own music. But even though have played the piano by ear since a young age, I have never been much more than an intermediate player in terms of skill. I’m perfectly happy about that, but there are times when I wonder what would have happened if I had made a serious effort to become a better piano player…

And the piano lives on…

When my grandfather passed away and my grandmother moved out of the big house, the piano was given to me. It was placed in my first own apartment in Jokkmokk, and when I moved back to Porjus in 2001 I brought the piano into my part of the Lagoona studio that we had. In 2005, we moved back to Jokkmokk again – but this time the piano was left in my father’s apartment. There it remained until last year, when I decided that it would be better to give it away than letting it stand unused and collect dust. Students from a local school expressed interest, and today it can be found in a music room in a school in Gällivare where it gets to be used much more…

Here is an old video clip of me playing a song on the old piano, recorded back in 2007. The song is the intro of the TSEC song “Dreams”, which was one of the very first own songs that I co-wrote and recorded. While the video is short and the quality is rather bad, it felt suitable for this post.

Out of the many things that have formed me as a person, the fact that my grandparents let me explore the world of music using a range of different music instruments is definitely one of the major things. I’ll always be grateful for that.

#44: Working as a computer techie…

A few days ago, I had to fill in for a colleague by doing some computer support work. Taking care of things like bringing a crashed harddrive back to life (chkdsk -r), back it up and transfer the data to another computer – and trying to get Internet Explorer 11 on another computer to actually display websites. I also sold a computer to a customer, handled malware scans on an infected laptop and took care of incoming deliveries and closed down the office for the weekend. Pretty fun work, even though I have lost a lot of the old skills from the days when I had to know how to get a crashed computer to work – because my own did it all the time…

This weekend Johanna has been away to attend a dog grooming education, so I have spent most of the days taking care of the dogs at home. The extra hours of sleep I was hoping for, didn’t happen. But I still feel a lot more refreshed than I have in a long time. Tomorrow I’ll be back in techie mode, unless my colleague is back at work again…

#43: Villa Ileva…

Villa Ileva, Jokkmokk, Sweden

In October 2010, Johanna and I moved from a small (58 square meters) apartment in central Jokkmokk into our current home, a red one-floor house in a calm residential area in the outskirts of Jokkmokk. It was much more than a move from a small home to a larger home, it was the single biggest upgrade we had ever done in our lives.

In the past…

In the apartment, when we stepped out of the door, we stepped right out on a sidewalk with a busy road just two meters from the front door. We did not have any lawn, or any garden. In order to walk the dogs, we had to go a few hundred meters away to find a calm area. Having neighbours in all directions, we could hear music, screaming babies, barking dogs and other kinds of sounds all around the clock. And with an electronics shop right below our apartment, we were occasionally awakened at night by the sound of sledgehammers as thieves were trying to break the storefront windows. There were no space close to the apartment where we could sit outdoors and just relax. We did have a balcony, but it was so small that it only hade space for one of us at the time.

Both Johanna and I were working from home, and we had four dogs at the time. Managing to find space in a 2-room apartment for two workplaces is difficult by itself, and adding the dogs to that makes it almost impossible. I had an own office corner in the kitchen, Johanna had an own corner in the living room.

…and today…

The house we moved into, has a big lawn and a beautiful garden. It is located in a calm area with the woods only a few meters away. Now we have a porch which is used as an outdoor room, where we can just relax and enjoy the beautiful northern Swedish summer. We are never bothered by sounds and noises from the neighbours, or traffic. We have built an enclosure around a big part of the plot, so we can open up one of the backdoors and let the dogs run freely. And during the summer and fall, we get fresh blackcurrant, redcurrant, strawberries, raspberries and rhubarb from the garden.

Today Johanna has a home office of her own, along with a room dedicated for handicraft and creative works. Also, two other rooms are being used for her dog grooming business: One bathroom with a dog bath and one grooming room. The grooming room has its own entrance, which makes it perfect for her business. I have an own room as well, a room intended to be a home office but in reality it is still just a desk with a computer and a number of boxes with computer parts, cables, CDs/DVDs and other things that I haven’t found any good place for yet. After 3,5 years in this house, I still haven’t “moved in” to this room for real yet. One of many things that I should have done a long time ago, but haven’t managed to do yet.

What about the name, Villa Ileva?

When I started building HTML/CSS templates, I used the term acronym “ILEVA” to describe my design philosophy:

– I for Independent, meaning that the templates should work in all editors and browsers. No browser hacks, no ugly tricks. Just good code.
– L for Lightweight, since the first templates (including all images) were always smaller than 25 Kilobytes when downloaded in a .zip archive. Small size = short loading times.
– E for Elementary, which was a way of saying that I preferred to build simple and functional layouts rather than advanced and cool solutions. I still do.
– V for Valid, since all code followed the W3 webstandards for XHTML 1.0 Strict and CSS 2.0. In later templates, that would include HTML5 and CSS3.
– A for Accessible, since good accessibility in websites is something I consider to be a requirement. Section 508 and WCAG standards were the guidelines I followed.

I had ideas to build upon the concept of ILEVA and turn it into some kind of guideline or standard that other website template designers could choose to follow. In order to do this, I registered a number of domains that I was planning to use. But I never did anything with the term other than use it to describe my own work, and the domains were left unused.

When Johanna founded her own company to work with various projects, she choose to name the company Ileva. She took over the domain ileva.se and used it for her business website. And when we moved to the house and we wanted to give it some kind of name, “Villa Ileva” was the obvious choice.

Villa Ileva, Jokkmokk, Sweden, in the summer (August 2013)

#42: November Lights festival, Stockholm, 2013-11-30…

Andreas at November Lights om Stockholm, Nov 30th 2013, with Tiësto on stage

In the end of November last year, I went to Stockholm for a few days. I took a flight from Luleå Airport to Arlanda, Stockholm, on a Friday, worked Friday afternoon in the office of my employer at the time and then stayed over the weekend to experience my first ever arena music event on the following Saturday. It was an electronic music festival called “November Lights” at the new Tele 2 Arena, with some great DJ:s in the lineup. The highlight was Tiësto, one of my all-time favorite artists in the electronic genres since many years. Other familiar names were Sander van Doorn, Dimitri Vegas & Like Mike and Blasterjaxx.

To make a whole series of long stories short, it was a great night and something I would love to experience again some day. One of the highlights was Tiësto playing his latest song “Red Lights”, which had premiered only one day before the event. The entire arena turned red, and people almost stopped dancing to stand and listen to the track. While the track is a rather basic and not really any dancefloor track, the moment when it was played was pure magic. I recorded the first half of it with my phone, and then put the phone away to just enjoy the moment. Luckily, there were others standing nearby who filmed more than I did. The video below was filmed by someone standing a few meters behind me. I can see my arms and my mobile phone screen on the front row, just to the left of the stage screen. And while it may not look very special, this video brings the moment back to life for me. Still pure magic…

#40: More from the creative home…

amigurumi-papillon

Our home is truly centered around creative works of different kinds. Beside my home office, where I work with graphics design, HTML/CSS design, building and managing blogs and websites and writing both music and texts, Johanna has a home office of her own. And now she is in the process of converting the living room into a handicraft room. Large boxes of yarn, fabrics, textile tools and two different kinds of looms have been placed in the room, and the idea is to basically turn the room into a kind of workshop where she can do whatever she has inspiration to do.

This is the sewing desk, where she is creating everything from hand-woven dog leashes to tote bags and even an apron that she made simply because she needed one. All while playing a game on the iPhone, reading Facebook posts on the iPad and watching Netflix on the computer at the same time. Now THAT is true multitasking.

Sweet amigurumi-style crotcheted papillon in the making. A day later, it looks like this:

Needless to say, with her creativity and her wide range of handicraft skills, Johanna is an inspiration to me too. And living in a home where this kind of creativity and love to create things are so central, is just wonderful.

#39: How to pronounce “Asokay” in English and Swedish…

The alias I use here, and the name of the .com domain where this blog is hosted, is Asokay. I have got several questions about what Asokay means and how to pronounce it. I have written about the meaning of the alias in a previous post, and there is a short explanation on the “About this site” page. But I have not yet written anything about how to pronoucne it, so here we go…

Asokay is an acronym, and I pronounce it as if it would be a name rather than spelling out each letter. Now, I am not at all experienced in how to write out names phonetically, so I’ll simplify it as much as I can.

How to pronounce “Asokay” in English:

The emphasis should be on the starting “A”, and pronounced like this: ACE – okay. Not ass-okay, azook-ai, as-ook-aye or any other strange form. Think “A’s OK” and you got it.

Hur “Asokay” uttalas på Svenska:

Det svenska uttalet är Aso-kaj eller As-okej. Båda varianterna fungerar, men själv använder jag i stort sett bara den första varianten när jag pratar om Asokay på svenska. Det engelska uttalet “ejs-okej” (där betoningen ligger på den första stavelsen) använder jag enbart när jag pratar engelska.

#38: And it feels like me, on a good day…

Today has been that good day that I needed. Not in any special way, just a day that gave more incoming energy than the output required – while I still got a lot of things done. I know that writing about “energy” can be interpreted in many strange ways, so let me clarify the word once and for all: When I write that word in this context, it is basically describing a combination of mood, amount of inspiration and general drive to get things done. It is a fuzzy way of comparing my life to a self-recharging battery. When the energy runs low, I’ll either need to calm down and give myself a chance to recharge – or I will crash.

I am a rather typical introvert person, and I would guess that other introverts can relate to the way I use the word “energy” if I say that being in a room full of people takes up a lot of energy, while being by myself will recharge it – just to give one example. Other words that could be used could be “strength”, “motivation”, “drive” and “ability to perform”. I use “energy” here, since it sums it all up in a simplified but valid way.

Anyway, tomorrow will be an interesting day. And a very different day, with the potential for both positive experiences and a small adventure in itself. Actually, the word “adventure” is also a fuzzy term I keep using to simplify descriptions of myself and my life, mostly to define a series of events that lead up me getting new experiences that eventually leaves me with valuable memories. Again, valuable as in personal value, to myself.

So, what will happen?

Well, I will spend the day working as an extra during the filming of scenes for an upcoming movie that I have mentioned in an earlier post. It is a future cinema movie based on a really funny book, and one part of the story takes place in my hometown Jokkmokk during the winter market. Just outside the office where I work, a small movie set has been built to bring the traditional winter market to life. By Swedish means, it is a big production with well-known actors, produced by the production company behind the original “Millennium” trilogy of movies.

After submitting an e-mail about being an extra, I was surprised by an answer that invited me to audition for one of the minor roles – a character that has a lot in common with me. I cancelled a work trip to Stockholm to attend the audition, and was told that it would take a while until the final decision about the character would be made. I still haven’t got any formal response about the role, but I did get an instant promise that I would get to be an extra even if I would not get to play the role I auditioned for. So, tomorrow I’ll sign up to be one of the persons in the crowd of peole of the future movie version of the Jokkmokk winter market.

Even if I don’t end up playing a named character in the movie (which I honestly do not expect, but just as honestly still keep hoping for), I will get to spend a day at a movie set. And it will be exciting, interesting, educating – and simply fun.

Title taken from the song “On A Good Day” by Above & Beyond pres. Oceanlab. Watch the official music video, and the longer and simply beautiful fan-made video by Ashleigh Tritton.

#37: Taking a day off…

With only minutes left of the day and no blog post written yet, it is tempting to give up on the #blogg100 challenge and realize that the blog has been a low priority for the last couple of days – even compared to the time wasted on watching funny YouTube clips and listen to new songs. But I’ll simply skip today, let it be a post about nothing – but still a post. Just to keep the challenge alive while hoping that there will be more inspiration to write later.

Next week will require even more focus on getting energy-demanding things done, so I think that taking a day off like this (basically doing nothing useful at all even though I should have done a lot) could prove to be good. I’ll be going into the new week feeling a bit refreshed compared to how I felt a few days ago. And again, there are exciting things happening next week as well, so I’m going to make it my target to feel better next Friday than did last Friday.

#36: The story of a found camera…

After a relative of mine passed away a long time ago, I somehow got a camera that the old man had owned for a long time. It was probably from the 1970’s, and it still had a film inside it. After having it in a box for a long time, I decided to take a few photos with the film that was still in the camera, and then send the film to a photo company to have it developed and have paper photos sent back to me.

I took four images of random objects in my home, and with no real skill about how manually controlled cameras worked. A few weeks later, I got the photos in my mailbox. The photos that had been taken in the past were all white, but the photos I had taken were actually surprisingly good considering that the film was atleast five years old by the time that the photos were taken.

These are the four photos that turned out well. Scanned in September 2002, but not edited in any other way than basic cropping.

The camera was never used again after that. It was given away to a local photographer who had a display of old cameras in her gallery, so it ended up in good hands and in good company.

There is no point with displaying these photos, it is just another random story that lived inside my photo album and in my memories. But it is still a bit fascinating, I think.

#35: Lights, camera… Action!

It is Friday, the official work week is over and two days of rest are what awaits. No, not really. But it will be days of working from home, rather than in an office. And working with different things than I do Monday to Friday, mainly being the weekend editor for a Swedish humor blog that I have been involved in for many years. And time for doing all the things at home that I should have done long ago but that I don’t have the energy to do after a day in the office. In terms of energy levels, the output has been bigger than the input for quite some time – and I simply have not managed to recharge and reach my full capacity. But I’ll change that soon enough.

There are, however, some great boosts for the mood and the energy that help a lot. Small gestures, helpful friends, positive comments, happy clients, a smiling fiancee, a beautiful sky in the afternoon, visits from my father… And just today, something as unexpected as walking straight into the filming of a new movie. I knew that there would be cameras, actors and crew around the office to shoot scenes for the movie (which include the Jokkmokk Winter Market in a part of the story) at some point next week. But today it was completely unexpected. For someone that loves the art of storytelling, watching a movie scene being shot was really fascinating. And there will be more of it when the winter market scenes will be filmed in the same location, right outside my office, next week.

#34: Learning by doing – WordPress multisites

After building a large number of regular self-hosted WordPress websites, I have now started looking into a new area of using WordPress: To build a network of sites based on a single multisite version of WordPress, with each site running on an own domain. I will probably write a long post, or even a series of posts, about what I do and what I learn from it. Basically learning how to build, customize and manage a multisite, multi-domain network as I build one for myself.

There are multiple reasons why I want to learn more about site networks. The most important reason is that I would find it useful to manage all my own sites (current and future ones) from one single place. But what actually pushed me into getting started was a request from a person who asked me about the possibility to run a couple of similar websites about a few different topics in a way that would be easy and time-effective to manage. So, I’m basically learning to do this, in order to use the knowledge for future professional work. And as a bonus, I can hopefully get my own sites organized into the same kind of network.

I do have an old fantasy about running a simple blog host within a specific area of topics, in a unique way that could make the world a little bit better. I presented the basic platform required to turn the idea into reality in a Facebook group where there are a lot of creative people, but the idea would require others to help me reach out in a very specific way. Sadly, the required start of the idea was not recieved as well as I had hoped, and the positive feedback I got was instantly used by someone else to buy the domain that I would have registered and used, so for now I’ll stick to building a network for myself.

So far, I’ve got the main site running in multisite mode. Plugins for domain mapping have been purchased. This will be interesting to do. If it will be interesting for me to write about, and for you to read about, remains to be seen.

#33: The random yearbook – 17 years in photos

As I have written in earlier posts, I have a lot of digital photos on my computer, and they are among the most valuable things I have in terms of personal value. They are the visual collection of half of my life. Here are 17 of the photos, originally posted on Facebook as a kind of “one picture every year” album, where the pictures were randomly selected from photos of myself. The first photo from 1997 is a scanned paper photo, the others are digital photos.

To anyone who does not know me (to anyone else than me and my family, really), these are just 17 photos. And this is just an egocentric post about its author. To me, each photo have a long story and brings lots of memories. Some day, I hope I will have many of them written down. But that will probably take another half life to do. I’m posting this to remind myself about the value of writing the memories down. Not value as in “something anyone else will care about”, but value to me personally – knowing that I have atleast tried to save my memories and my views of the world, memories of the kind that everyone have a ton of – but which mostly get lost in the noise.

And no, I have no photo for 2014 yet. I’m saving that for a future update…

For some background information about the different photos, see The random yearbook album on Facebook.

#32: One night in an Umeå nightclub…

It was February 2000, and Lagoona went on our first “mini-tour” to perform at different venues in Umeå, northern Sweden. It was back at the time when the cameras had traditional film, so there are not that many photos. But the main night on Dragonen was an amazing experience, and these photos are amazing memories of yet another music-related adventure – one of the more exciting. Mouseover the thumbnails for captions, click images for larger versions…

#31: WordPress stops working after upgrade – here is what to do…

Today I recieved a phone call from a person who had got a major problem with his WordPress-based business website. After upgrading WordPress, it had turned all white – and it was no longer possible to login to the wp-admin or do anything at all. Everything was just… Nothing… Luckily, this person decided to call me out of all people he could have called, and I am extremely familiar with the concept of whiteout emergencies on WordPress websites.

To make a long story short: Upgrading from an old (as in several years) version of WordPress, means that there is a risk that some plugins used on the site will stop working. In some cases, because the plugins use WordPress functions that have been deprecated. In some cases when a plugin is loaded early in the WordPress loading process, it may break the entire script and cause it to output nothing at all. The screen goes white on load, and no source code output can be found. This was what had happened to the site I was called about today.

The solution?

The solution is simple: Login to the FTP of your web host, and click your way into the wp-contents folder. It may be a good idea to make a backup of the entire web root (usually the folder called “www” or “public_html”) before you make any changes. Then, once inside the wp-contents folder, try renaming the “plugins” folder into “plugins-“. This causes WordPress to load without any plugins. Check your site again. If it loads again, even if it looks a bit strange since no plugins are loaded, it is because one or several of the plugins are breaking it. If so, rename the plugins folder to “plugins” again, and open it.

Then start renaming each and every plugin in the same way, just putting a “-” at the end of each plugin (which is also a folder). After each plugin folder name change, check if the site loads. Once you rename the plugin which causes the loading to break, you will notice it as the site starts loading again. This may take some time to do, since there can be several plugins that are causing trouble. Another way is to rename all plugins at once, and then activate them one at a time until the site loading breaks.

When you have found the plugin that breaks the site loading, look for a new version of it. There may be one which fixes the problem. In this case, there was no new version since the plugin had been declared dead – so I simply kept it deactivated. And after that, the site worked as it should again.

Note: This may apply to old themes as well, so if nothing happens when you rename the plugins, try renaming the folder name of the theme your site is using.

A situation like this can cause a lot of stress for site owners, especially those who are not familiar with WordPress and common problems. I have seen this problem many times, so I knew how to fix it. By writing about it here, I hope that it can help others who suddenly realizes that their WordPress site is not loading after WordPress has been upgraded.

Finally, a shameless self plug…

This is the kind of things I do for a living. Building WordPress sites, helping fix problems and (more so) avoiding them. If you need some WordPress support, get in touch. I am available for projects and by the hour.

#30: Testing the photo plugins…

Just a simple feature test today, as the daylight savings time stole an hour of my time that I would have loved to keep…

Here is a photo album consisting of random photos I have uploaded for previous posts, organized as a WordPress gallery using Jetpacks tiled gallery addon:

The plan is that this will let me post a lot better photo albums later on, that would be easy to view on any device. So, feature test today, evaluation day tomorrow. Thanks to my ever so helpful fiancee Johanna, who showed me how to get the tiles working together with the colorbox as she had done on her own blog.

(a few minutes after midnight)

Got it working as I wanted now! All I need to do is to write the captions and the image titles in a good way, since the thumbnail grid shows the captions and the colorbox popup displays the image name. Simply perfect. Especially with the full-width page option that I’ll be adding in the next version of the Jokkmokk theme – it will result in pretty nice photo archives.

#29: This is how far away summer is…

May 12th, 2013 - Still some snow left...

May 12th, 2013 – Still some snow left…

After the post yesterday, showing the snow that is left outside our house as we are in the end of March, I was asked when the summer really starts in northern Sweden where I live. To answer that, I started looking at photo albums from previous years. And the photo above is actually a good way to answer. It was taken on May 12th last year, and there are still piles of snow visible in the photo. Most of the snow close to the house has melted away, but small pieces of ice still remain. And the grass is not yet green, so the first mowing of the lawn would be weeks away.

It is of course different from year to year, but in general I would say that we will get the first really warm days sometime in early May, and that summer by its traditional sense will arrive at the end of May. The summer will be short, and September will be windy and possibly with some subsero temperatures at night. In October we will likely see the first snow on the ground. However, we will get a whole lot of sunshine during the short summer that we have, because of the midnight sun. During most of June and a few days of July, the sun never sets, so we get bright nights. If the weather is good for a few days, we could have constant sunshine for several days.

I will be writing more about the midnight sun, and show some photos taken during sunny summer nights. It is one of the truly amazing things about living in the north. Summer is still far away, and I know that it will be short once it arrives. But it will be well worth the wait, and I will enjoy every day of it…

#28: One garden, two seasons…

Friday night, and a weekend of creative projects is about to start. The post of today are two photos. They show the same place, the backside of our house (which is called Villa Ileva, by the way) although from somewhat different angles. No further description is needed. This is what it means to live in Swedish Lapland. And I just love it.

#27: A day of my life on Instagram…

Today I decided to take a few photos throughout the day, to document what a typical day in my life could look like. I posted the photos to my Instagram account, and it really turned out to be one of those days that just pass by without leaving any special mark by itself. Not boring or bad in any way, actually a really beautiful day where I got some good things done at work. But still just a random day of my life, displayed within the limitations of 12 photos with short captions.

The photos below are displayed in chronological order, from morning to evening. They are embedded from Instagram, and the embeds do not include the captions. To see the captions you can either see my Instagram feed, or click on the logo above each photo which turns into a “View on Instagram” on mouseover.

#26: A look at the statistics…

Ever since I got online in the mid-1990’s, I have been fascinated by numbers and statistics centered around websites and the internet in general. More specifically, about changes in statistics from day to day, from month to month – and inevitably comparing my own stats with the world around me. At different times, it has been numbers such as visitors per day on my website(s), number of song downloads on different music sites (especially MP3.com), numbers of websites built with my HTML/CSS templates and CMS themes, and various chart positions. And how different things I have done have affected all those numbers, almost always as personal challenges to improve the numbers until the next time I check them.

Many of the experiences I have got from the music and from the web, have come from such numbers that have got into upward spirals and ended up going wild. But today, I don’t care as much about general website visitor numbers, especially not for this blog. If I would focus on the actual number of visitors, it would be a waste of time to write on this blog when I am also working on a couple of blogs with a lot more visitors (the largest having several hundreds of times as many daily visitors in average than this blog has). I am more interested in the quality of each visit, in documenting and sharing memories and thoughts, and finding a good way to organize a lot of small pieces of a much larger story that is still mostly unwritten. It may not be of interest for more than a few people, but I enjoy writing it. And I appreciate each and every comment I get.

Still, I find it a bit fascinating to look at the statistics for the first 25 days of the 100-day long #blogg100 challenge. And even with only a small number of visitors, I learn a lot by analyzing the stats. I can see that the majority of the visitors are Swedish, that there are a few visitors coming back every day once a new entry has been posted – and that the different kinds of topics I write about generate very different kinds of reactions. And of course that posts like the one I wrote yesterday are just as uninteresting as one could expect.

The peak…

Below is a screenshot of the last 25 days. I’ve left out the actual daily visitor numbers since it is not relevant, but the point should be pretty obvious just by looking at the image:

Visitor stats for asokay.com the last 25 days.

Visitor stats for asokay.com the last 25 days.

The one day that really stands out among the others, is the day I wrote one of the most personal blog entries I have written in several years: “And there she was…” – about how I met the love of my life. Anyone who knows me, knows that I have kept silent about my personal life for a long time. That doesn’t mean that my life is all about making music and building websites – definitely not. I have simply chosen to write about my work rather than myself, since my work will always be more interesting than the person behind it. But stepping out of the comfort zone that work-related blogging provides and focusing on the things that have made me the person I am today, can lead to unexpected topics. Including posts about love.

But I am really happy to see that a post about emotions and love can cause a peak like that – since the people closest to me are what really matters. Wild numbers and charts may have given me some amazing memories. But if it wasn’t for my family, I would probably not have been around to experience any of it.

So, will this become a romance blog?

No, I will continue to write about whatever I feel like writing about. With the core being fragments of the story of my life, from the past as well as through regular diary posts about current events. That may very well include more personal posts and pure emotions, but it will also be a lot of plainly boring diary posts, useless trivia and random memories. I will continue to learn about what is interesting to the people who get to know me through this blog by keeping an eye on the statistics. But when it comes to the topics I write about, I’ll just let the thoughts and memories out in whatever order they appear.

#25: Catching my breath…

Today has been a long day, and I haven’t had any time to write any blog post. I woke up at 06:00, started working less than an hour later – and have basically been working non-stop until now (minutes before midnight) with only a short break for lunch. So today I’m just making a short post to keep my series of daily posts alive for the #blogg100 challenge. This is day 25 of 100, so it is still a long way to go – and I still have a lot of things to write about when time and energy are at a better level.

One of the things I have done today will be worth a post of its own at a later time, since it includes a completely new experience for me, within a media that I have never worked with before. I can not write anything about it yet in a while, but it is something that could become really exciting and that could give me a whole lot of inspiration – so I hope that I will be able to write more about it at a later time. For now, sorry for the lousy teaser. I’m writing it mostly as a note to myself to remember how I felt about it this day when I look back at it in the future…

One thing, however…

I am almost ready to submit an updated version of the Jokkmokk theme for WordPress to wordpress.org. It will be version 1.1, and the new version will include some design fixes (mainly stylesheet edits), a set of background images, a better screenshot, taxonomy descriptions and some other useful things. I was hoping to write a complete list of changes today, but I am honestly almost sleeping over the keyboard right now, so I’ll make another attempt at it tomorrow…

#24: Album cover design from the past…

Back in the old days, when my life was all about making music and the concept of releasing songs on the internet was something new and exciting, there was one thing that I really enjoyed doing: Creating cover art for the released songs. In early 1998 when The Solid Energy Crew was about to release “Dreams”, our first real album, we spent several hours trying to come up with a really cool cover. The album was going to be released in 500 copies, and even though we did everything all by ourselves, we wanted it to look just as professional as any other album in the music stores.

Working with a set of multi-layered, high-resolution images for the album cover, the sleeve and the back (which had to include the track list and credits), did take a lot of time when the only computer that we had access to that had Adobe Photoshop on it, was slow and low on memory. Needless to say, it doesn’t look very cool by todays standards. But “Dreams” sure stood out back then, with its screaming orange ripple effects. And just as with the songs, I still like the album design.

I also created cover art for the songs I released as a member of the Kosmic Free Music Foundation, one of the largest scene groups in the world in the 1990’s. Being a part of KFMF and releasing songs on Kosmic.org was huge to me, and I wanted my song covers to live up to the high standards set by other members.

In the early 2000’s, I made covers for the MP3.com albums that Lagoona released, as well as for my own album releases and for a few MP3.com compilation albums. In later years when I learned about the concept of ID3 tags and embedded covers in MP3 files, I started making covers both for single songs and for song collections that were not really albums by the traditional definition of the word but rather just a bunch of tracks that had not been released together on any album before.

Those were the days…

All of the things described above feels like it happened a long time ago, in a different world and in a different life. So much have changed since, especially in terms of how the internet works and even what an album is. But one thing remains the same: I still love designing covers for songs, and for collections of songs – albums as well as “albums”. To celebrate the concept of MP3 cover art, I made a deep dive into my archives and backup CD:s to find some old cover art i have created. All old stuff, from the cover of “Dreams” (from 1998) to one of my KFMF songs (also from 1998), to some MP3.com albums by Lagoona (from 2000 and 2002), and on to some embedded covers for MP3 collections from 2005-2007. I’ve also included some unfinished and undated designs.

Here it is. Scroll over the thumbnails to see a short description and click to see larger versions of the images:

I have a whole lot more unfinished covers, which are basically more of graphics design experiments more than anything else. Probably hundreds of them. But I’ve only taken a few as examples of the things I did back at that time.

Even to this day, I love making images like these. If you ever need a cover for an album or for your own music collection, don’t hesitate to contact me. My creative output for these kind of projects is still much larger than the need for it, so if you like the style and could use a cover of your own, you know who to ask. Of course, that is valid for other kinds of graphics design as well, such as website headers, background images, logotypes or common photo editing. But there is something special with covers, as it was through cover design that my interest for graphics design was born…

#23: Nothing but static…

I did take on the snow on the entrance to our house, but I didn’t get any more than a small amount removed. It was late night, and I have been extremely tired this weekend. Even taking afternoon naps (yes, naps in plural) yesterday and today – so for todays blog entry I’m simply taking a break. Inside my head, there is currently nothing but static noise, tinnitus beeps and a pulsating headache. I’ll try to make it up by posting a better entry tomorrow, i promise…

#22: November Lights at Tele2 Arena, Stockholm

In the end of November last year, I fulfilled a dream that I’ve had for many years, when I finally got to experience a large electronic music festival on location. It was November Lights, and Tiësto was the headliner. It was my first arena event, my first time seeing Tiësto on stage and it gave me the largest bost of inspiration I had got in many years…

Photos of November Lights festival 2013

Here are some of the photos I took using the camera in my iPhone. The photos are a bit boring compared o the actual experience, but there are some great YouTube videos that brings back the magic again..

What’s next?

To sum up the experience: It was amazing, and I hope that it will not be the last time. I also hope that at some future point, the headlining DJ will be Armin van Buuren. This is one of the negative effects of living so far away rom the larger cities – There will be a long travel if I would want to experience November Lights 2014, or its outdoor sister festival Summerburst. In any case, it was a great night that gave me memories for life…

#21: The snowy northern Sweden…

Today I ended an e-mail with a phrase that I sometimes use when I write to people in other countries: “Greetings from the snowy northern Sweden”. As mentioned in other posts, I live in Jokkmokk in Swedish Lapland, a few kilometers north of the Arctic Circle. And yes, we have long winters here. But the reaction I got was a bit unexpected: “Yeah, but you can’t have that much snow left, right?”.

Well… According to the official measurement of the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI), we still have about 70 centimeters of snow. In the last two days, we got 12 centimeters of fresh snow, and yesterday we had temperatures below -20 degrees Celsius. Spring is still long away…

Below is a photo of the entrance to our home, where the snow hasn’t been removed. I guess I’ll have some snow-showeling to do tomorrow.

"Is there any snow left in Jokkmokk at this time of the year?" Yes, indeed...

“Is there any snow left in Jokkmokk at this time of the year?” Yes, indeed…

To see the current weather in Jokkmokk in realtime, check out this webcam

#20: Portable music production systems today and in the past…

Since the early 1990’s, Johannas family has had a cabin in Nautijaur, a small village about 50 kilometers west of Jokkmokk. It is beautifully located on a hill, surrounded by deep forests and high mountains in all directions – giving an amazing view from the cabin.

Back in the early 2000’s, we often went there over Easter to get some quality time away from work and distractions. Whenever it was possible, I would bring my computer and some gear that would allow me to write music in the inspiring, relaxing and simply beautiful environment. In 2004, the smallest possible portable music studio I could bring was my miditower PC, a 17-inch CRT display, two wooden loudspeakers, keyboard, mouse and a small synth (Novation K-Station) to get an easy way of recording MIDI signals and sample synth arpeggios. It may not sound much, but considering that everything we brought had to be transported from the nearest road to the cabin using snowmobiles, it took a lot of work to get the machines and gadgets in place.

Here is what it could look like, set up in our small bedroom in the cabin:

Ten years later…

Today, I am no longer in need of carrying a whole bunch of heavy gadgets to get the ability to make music whenever I leave home. In fact, I could get all the possibilities I need, all the functionality and even a larger set of synthesizers, drum maskines and soundbanks, into one single piece of technology. Instead of bringing 20+ kilograms of gear, I’ll simply bring my iPhone. If I want to get really serious, I bring the iPad. And If I want to do something really special that requires more production power than the iOS gadgets can offer, then I bring a laptop. And a pair of great headphones, of course. Some time ago, Johanna ordered a pair of classic Koss iPorta Pro that works as a headset for the phone as well.

So today, this is all I really need to bring to be able to write music from the cabin on the hill and in the woods:

My portable music studio in 2014: the iPhone with a good selection of music apps...

My portable music studio in 2014: the iPhone with a good selection of music apps…

It may not let me create any complete superhits, but it works perfectly well to piece together melodies, create song structures, write lyrics, send samples to otherss to get that valuable feedback I need when I have created something. And if I ever need to take a break from making music, I could always play a few pinball tables, read the news, call my father and post a few Instagram photos to show my friends that I am speneding time in paradise.

Can’t wait for the next weekend in the cabin…

When the snow melts, we are planning to take all the dogs with us, along with a lot of good cabin-friendly foot (such as meat to grill over an open fire, and mashmallows to toast in the woodstove in the cabin. As for traditional computers, they will all be left home. Nautijaur used to mean offline time, but today we have mobile broadband through our phones – so it is rather going into mobile-only mode. I am really looking forward to it.

Useless trivia

One of my songs, the long trance track “Andact”, was (mostly) written with the older portable studio in Nautijaur. If you want to listen to the song, you can do it below:

#19: Me and the band…

Whenever I get the question “Do you still make or perform any music?”, I usually say “No” or “It’s been years since I did that”. But in fact, I still play some music every now and then. Not within the electronic genres, but rather in a more traditional band. A band that happens to have a long history, since it was founded long before I was born.

The band: Fjälligan. Asokay to the bottom right.

The band: Fjälligan. Asokay to the bottom right.

Today we had a three-hour jamming session in the rehearsal room hidden in a large basement somewhere in Jokkmokk. And it is a lot of fun, even though it is not the kind of music I listen to any often. Just experiencing the joy of playing the piano, together with four really talented musicians and singers, is simply the definition of relaxation for me. And it is a good team of people, so there are plenty of laughs, many interesting stories from the past and much experience to find inspiration from.

The band, Fjälligan, has not made any official gig since I joined, and there is really no rush for it. Playing in a band is much more of a good way of getting off the grid, turning the phones off and just dive into the world of melodies – a place in which I enjoy being. We rehearse for a few hours every week, and may possibly end up making some kind of public appearance sometime in the future. But to me, it is just a great feeling to play – even if it is in a rehearsal mode with more jamming than actual rehearsing.

Tack för att jag får vara med och spela med er, jag uppskattar det verkligen och känner att det får mig att må bra. Ses igen inom kort!

#18: A home full of creativity…

Hand-woven dog leashes by Johanna / Ileva.se

Hand-woven dog leashes by Johanna / Ileva.se

While I do most of my creative work with computers in the form of web design, writing, music production and graphics design, my fiancée Johanna does a lot of handicraft. A few days ago, she launched a small online store for a few of the things she creates. She has a dog grooming business, and beside that makes hand-woven dog leashes, dog toys and other related products. The store is only available in Swedish, but even if you don’t understand the language I recommend checking out her site on ileva.se to see another form of design work that happens in our home.

Her business name, Ileva, comes from the design philosophy that I had when I started creating HTML/CSS website templates back in 2005. It is an abbreviation that means Independent, Lightweight, Elementary, Valid and Accessible, and I liked the word so much that I registered the domains ileva.com and ileva.se in case I would find some way to develop the philosophy into something more. I never did, so when Johanna started her business she adopted the name and built her website on ileva.se.

The domain ileva.com is still unused, and I have no plans for it. As a five-letter domain that works in many languages (of which there is certainly a rather limited amount), it could perhaps be useful for someone else, so if anyone would want to buy it – I’m all open for discussions.

#17: The Jokkmokk theme for WordPress goes live!

This day has been like a rollercoaster ride in many ways, but it all ended up being a good day. First of all, it is the birthday of my father Kjell. Born in 1957, he turned 57 years old today. Grattis, käre far! The celebration will have to wait for a few days, but I hope that we will be able to go out and have a nice dinner the next time he visits Jokkmokk.

Secondly, the Jokkmokk theme for WordPress was finally published in the official themes directory on wordpress.org. To download the theme, follow the link below:

https://wordpress.org/themes/jokkmokk

The Jokkmokk theme for WordPress - Now live on wordpress.org

The Jokkmokk theme for WordPress – Now live on wordpress.org

I have also published a separate page for the Jokkmokk theme on this site, where I will soon add live demo links, language files and screenshots. From now on, anyone who uses the theme will be able to update it from inside the wp-admin, and I am already working on the next version which will add useful features such as a full-width page template, customizable color settings, a selection of included background images and other things that I think could be good additions.

Also in the works: Built-in support for some useful plugins. Johanna is already using the theme with Woocommerce and a booking calendar for ileva.se, her business site. And again: feature requests, suggestions and feedback are all very welcome. I want this theme to be useful, so if you miss something or think there is something that should be changed or improved, please let me know.

#16: An Excellent story…

During a long night in February 2002, one of the strangest songs I have made was created. We lived in Porjus at the time, and my old friend Petter had come to visit us for a few days. Sometime during the early evening, he was playing around with the drum samples in the Roland XP-30 keyboard, including a looped beat. He discovered that the tempo and pitch of the loop could be controlled with the pitch stick of the synth, and at the slowest setting (somewhere around 65-70 BPM) it sounded pretty cool. For some reason, I quickly made a simple arpeggio on another synth, the Roland JP8000, that matched the tempo of the slow drum loop. And suddenly we were in recording mode, finding different ways to get the two sounds into something that could become an actual song.

The Roland JP8000, the wonderful synth used in the song "Excellent". Photo taken in February 2002.

The Roland JP8000, the wonderful synth used in the song “Excellent”. Photo taken in February 2002.

After many crazy experiments, we found a set of samples from a game, ran the sounds through a vocoder and sampled the output in different keys. More drums were added, along with more sounds from the JP8000. Sometime in the middle of the night, Petter fell asleep on the studio couch. I took all the different pieces that we had created and made two different mixes – one full edit and a shorter radio edit. Both with the vocoder voice samples included. Once the song was completed, I woke him up and played the result.

It sure didn’t sound like anything I had ever made before, but I really liked the song. I still do, actually. But a part of the joy was quickly ruined when we discovered that one of the voice samples (“Requesting action!”) actually sounded like it said “Det kostar en fjärt!” (Swedish for “It will cost a fart!”). The kind of misheard lyrics that can become incredibly funny at 5:00 in the morning. Since then, I can’t listen to the song without hearing that phrase…

Andreas and DJ Isecore performing "Excellent" live on stage in Kiruna, Sweden, March 2002.

Andreas and DJ Isecore performing “Excellent” live on stage in Kiruna, Sweden, March 2002.

Less than one month later, on March 9th 2002, Petter joined me on stage in Kiruna, northern Sweden, for a Lagoona gig. I brought both the XP-30 and the JP8000, and we played the song in a special semi-live version for a tiny but energetic crowd. While it is not any dancefloor hit, it became obvious that it was really powerful when played on a large concert rig. The song was also released on the web, under a goofy artist alias by Petter and me called NoName Project which was abandoned soon afterwards.

I haven’t managed to create anything similar ever since. But “Excellent” will remain an old favorite from those days, mostly because it was created in such a random way – out of pure experimentation and being more tired than focused. Here is the version of the song that we played in Kiruna:

(Note: The YouTube description doesn’t include any song-writing credits to Petter, but it should. “Excellent” would never have been created if it wasn’t for our combined silliness that dark February night 12 years ago…)

#15: Managing 16 years of digital photos…

My very first selfie taken with a borrowed digital camera in November 5th, 1998.

My very first selfie taken with a borrowed digital camera in November 5th, 1998.

36.371 files…

The “Photos” folder on my computer is a constantly growing mess, and since it doesn’t seem like it will automagically sort itself anytime soon I will need to get it done manually sooner or later. The number above is the number of photos I have in the folder, and it everything from scanned photos from the 1990’s to regular digital camera photos taken over 16 years – to mobile phone photos taken in the last 10 years. 91 Gigabytes in total, and that is after I have deleted a whole lot of blurry photos and only kept the ones I really want to keep.

The photos are currently sorted by year, but I would want a better order than that. The dream would be to have all photos geotagged and individually marked according to a clever event/persons/objects tag system so I could easily find the photos I need, at the time I need them. All while keeping the sorting future-proof and not depending on any specific software.

The simple problem is that I have thought about getting it done for years without actually getting it done, and today I don’t really know where to start. I have been looking for the right tools to use, without finding anything that feels right. And rather than once again having to try a whole range of different tools, I figured that it could be worth a try to ask others about advice. So… What tools are you using to sort, manage and future-proof your own digital photos?

Basically, I only have three requirements:

1. I want to be able to easily tag photos, individually or in batches, and get the tags (including location) stored in a standardized format (EXIF/IPTC or similar) inside the actual files rather than in any external database.

2. I want to keep the current file/folder structure, but have a sorting and viewing tool that can display images based on EXIF/IPTC or any other similar metadata.

3. The sorting/viewing tool needs to work with Windows 7 since it is the operating system I use on my home computer.

Please post a comment if you have any ideas, suggestions or useful advice. The photo collection is incredibly valuable to me, as it contains a lot of memories that I want to bring with me into the future… Thanks in advance!

#14: A better embed for the songs…

Thanks to a massive effort by Facundo González (thanks man!), almost all music by me and by TSEC/Lagoona can be heard on YouTube.com. Since the PureVolume link yesterday did not work as intended, here is an embedded YouTube playlist consisting of the solo songs I released back in the days. Again, I will write more about some of these songs when I have more time and energy for writing – this week has simply kept me busy with other work…

Anyway, feel free to listen. Downloadable songs will be posted separately later on, but I need to find a good place to host the music first.

By the way, I have re-registered lagoonamusic.com, the old domain that hosted the Lagoona website back in late 90’s and early 2000’s. I’ll make some kind of music archive for that domain later on, I promise.

#13: Free MP3 album: eXtended Modules

I could write a book about these songs, as each one of them have a story of its own. But I’ll skip that for now and just link to a page on PureVolume.com:

http://www.purevolume.com/andreasviklund/albums/Free+music+collection

This is “eXtended Modules”, an MP3 album consisting of some of my older FastTracker 2 songs. Most tracks were created 13-16 years ago. I’ll follow up with some background information on another day, when I am not as tired as I am today. Until then, feel free to listen to the music – and download the tracks if you like what you hear.

#12: Swedish translation of the Jokkmokk theme

The new Jokkmokk theme for WordPress that I wrote about a few days ago (and which I built for this blog), got a number of positive comments. Today I finished the Swedish translation for it, so that WordPress blogs and websites that use the sv_SE language setting will get all text strings in the theme in Swedish (“Skrivet av” instead of “Posted by” and so on). Unfortunately, the translation file is still stuck on my work computer so I am not able to upload it today as I had intended, but check back on this post tomorrow if you want it – I’ll update it with a direct download link and instructions on how to install the translation file.

Update, March 13th: Here is the language file: sv_SE.mo

Right-click on the link, save it to your computer and then upload it to the /languages folder of the jokkmokk theme. If you have WordPress set to Swedish (sv_SE), all text strings inside the theme should now be displayed in Swedish.

#11: Web design in the 1990’s

Whenever someone asks about my experience of web design, I say that I’ve been building website templates and WordPress themes since 2005, so it is about nine years of experience. But that isn’t really true, as I am only counting the hand-coded design that I have been doing since I started learning about CSS and the W3 web standards. If I would include the time before that, back when I used visual editors to piece together designs using nested tables and 1px transparent gifs for spacing, back at the time when I thought that “optimized for Internet Explorer” was a valid excuse for not having to make websites work for everyone, then I have built websites for more than 17 years.

To show you what my websites could look like 12-15 years ago, here are a couple of screenshots made from archived versions of the sites. First, my personal website made in 1998, in a screenshot from early 1999:

Website from 1998 - Designed by Andreas Viklund

This was all about nested tables, pixel-perfect positioning and code that today looks terrible. But to my surprise, it still renders well in modern browsers. And honestly, I still think that the design is quite nice – for its age.

Next, the website of my band, also from 1999:

Website from 1999 - Lagoona Music

This was minimalism at the time, except for the large number of animated .gif buttons in the left sidebar. Light text on a dark background was trendy, and I went for the fixed-width centered layout that I am still using today. Headers were images, which looked nice but turned out to be bad for text-based browsers.

Finally, my personal website from 2001. Made with frames, Server-Side Includes, javascript scrollers and – as so often – nested tables. Full-width, classic 3-column layout with fixed sidebars included by SSI (as .shtml files). My first experiment with making a very basic content management system, even though it was just a simple “templates with included sidebars” solution. Still looking OK, even though the text is a bit small by todays means:

Website from 2001 - includes and frames...

Looking back like this is really fascinating. As I have written several times by now, it was another web and another world. I have lots of more examples, so perhaps I should upload a complete site from those days just for the fun of it…

#10: The Jokkmokk theme for WordPress…

screenshotToday, I got the theme that I built for this blog approved by the review team on wordpress.org. That means that the theme will soon be available in the official WordPress theme directory – the first new theme by me in several years. And it also means that anyone who wants to use the theme, can simply download it and use it for free. WordPress.org themes can be installed directly from inside the WP-Admin, so it should be easy to find.

Having managed to build a new theme and get it through the review process, I have got some good inspiration to make more themes. One final WordPress theme release is planned for andreasviklund.com, and I may possibly rewrite some of my older themes later on just for the fun of it. But for now, I’ll just wait for the approved theme to be added to the theme directory – and once it is online I will publish a page for the theme on this site.

A short description

Technically, the Jokkmokk theme is built upon the _s starter theme by Automattic, with Bootstrap added and with a very typical design – similar to some of my old HTML/CSS templates. It doesn’t have any cool features, but it works well with all default features of WordPress such as custom background image, custom header/logo, post formats and widgets. The layout is responsive thanks to the Bootstrap support, and it has been tested in a number of mobile browsers to make sure it renders well. I haven’t tested it on any retina screens (such as the newer Macbook Pro models), but since it is mostly based on text I think it should work OK.

It has also been tested live on a few websites, including Johannas business website ileva.se (which uses a custom header/logo), and it appears to work well on non-blog sites as well.

Comments, suggestions and ideas for improvement would be very welcome!

#9: Back to 1997…

October 1997 was a long time ago. More than 16 years, which is truly a lifetime away on the web. Despite that, the very first website I was a part of running is still online on its original location. Take a look here:

http://home.swipnet.se/~w-51362/songs.html

What you see there is one of the subpages of the first real website for The Solid Energy Crew (TSEC), just as it appeared when it was last updated in the end of the 90’s. Amazingly, the downloads still work – including the first MP3 song I can ever prove that we uploaded to the web. That song is called “Electronic dreams”, and it was actually a refreshed version that I made of an original song that my bandmate Björn made with a friend of his. All made with FastTracker 2 during the breaks between school lessons, in the small computer room that we had outside the main classrooms.

The MP3 song still has its original timestamp, which says October 27th, 1997. And yes, that was actually even before MP3.com was first launched. Back at a time when MP3 files were rare, and whatever could be found was commercial songs distributed illegally, we released our first legal MP3 song…

That is not the only page that works on the site, but I’ll let anyone who wants to see the rest of the site do some investigation work rather than just posting the links. The main index file is broken, but if you can find the menu, you will find some funny photos and texts from the past!

#8: Dreams…

TSEC - Dreams (DayDream Records, 1998)

Imagine being a teenager, having recorded music for only a year and suddenly getting the chance to make an own album. Back in the 90’s. A real CD, looking just like any professional music album in the music stores. In 1997, at a time when CD-burners were still not very common, it was the coolest thing I could think of. It was the first album I was ever involved in creating, and it made everything feel a lot more serious and professional.

“Dreams” was released in 500 copies, and sold in local stores in and around our hometown and by e-mail orders from the band website. The album never sold out, I still have a few copies left. But it was still a major step forward in the adventure that the music would become for me. And it was incredibly fun to record it, to design the cover and to send out the mail orders. Despite the sound quality and the fact that recording an album doesn’t mean the same today, I’m still proud of “Dreams”. And I still love listening to it and remember what it all about in the very beginning…

Here you can listen to, and download, the album for free: TSEC – Dreams on SoundCloud

#7: And there she was…

It was the month of May in the year 2000. I had moved to my own apartment in September the year before, and now I was sitting by my computer and preparing the backing track for an upcoming Lagoona gig at a new local music event in Jokkmokk (called Jokkmokksfestivalen) that my class in school was organizing. Suddenly I got a message, saying that there would be a meetup in my apartment before the festival started. The DJ who would help us out on stage was dating a girl from my hometown Porjus, and she had decided to go to the event together with some of her friends and classmates – after meeting up at my place.

One of the classmates was a girl named Johanna. We had exchanged a few messages in a discussion group on an online community, but never met in person until that day. We got along well from the first moment. As it would turn out, Johanna couldn’t make it to listen to Lagoona that night, but we met again some time later and rather quickly realized that there was some kind of spark between us. We simply enjoyed being together, and… Well, I pretty much got scared and backed away. And almost ruined everything.

Luckily, Johanna didn’t give up. She asked me out again and again, gave me time and had an incredible patience. And probably a rather hard time, while waiting for me to realize what was happening. I had a rough relationship behind me from the past, and I didn’t want to rush into something without being sure about what I was doing. Johanna was 15 years old, I was 20. And I was definitely the more childish one.

Fast forward – 10 years later:

Johanna and Andreas, summer of 2010, first photo of us in what would soon become our house...

This photo shows Johanna and me in the summer of 2010. It is the first photo of us in the house that would soon afterwards become our home. Shortly after we became a couple in the beginning of July 2000, Johanna asked if she could stay in my apartment for a few days while her family was out of town. “Of course”, I said. And that turned out to be the way she moved in with me. She just stayed.

The first few months were really rough, as we both lost our mothers that fall. But we supported eachother, and managed to get through it together in some strange way. When I wanted to move back to my hometown Porjus in 2001, she moved with me – making it all very permanent and official. In 2005, we moved back to Jokkmokk where we lived in a small apartment for five years before moving into the house where we have now lived for a couple of years. And here we are…

After all this time…

Today, it is obvious that we have been together for a long time. We are constantly completing sentences for eachother, having conversations without even having to talk and knowing what the other person thinks and feels. We have shared many laughs, many tears and many amazing experiences. So far, we can look back at almost 14 years together, and I hope that there will be many more.

Back at that day in July 2000, I had finally realized that the love I felt for that amazing girl in front of me was for real. And that she actually felt the same about me, despite the fact that I was not in anyway any perfect person.

Almost 14 years later, it still amazes me. And I couldn’t be more grateful…

Andreas and Johanna in 2012

#6: Where I grew up…

Porjus, seen from the E45 with Porjusberget in the background

This is Porjus, a village in northern Sweden, about 50 kilometers north of the Arctic Circle, with a few hundred inhabitants. It where I grew up and lived for the first 19 years of my life. The red house to the right is the old railway station, and the apartment on the 2nd floor of that house was my childhood home. My family lived there until I was two years old, at which point my parents decided that living so close to the road, the railway and the Lule river was not very good, so we moved to a house inside the village – just across the street from the kindergarten that I would go to.

Vintervägen 20, where I lived for 17 years

From age 2 to age 19, I lived with my parents in a small, red house with a lush garden on a street named Vintervägen (the winter road), which was kind of a paradise by itself. Unfortunately I don’t have any photos from that time, atleast not in digital form. But the photo above (taken in 2002) can perhaps give an idea of what it looked like. Very green in the summer, and very snowy during the winters. The photo below shows the view in the opposite direction, from the garden and looking down towards Vintervägen:

Vintervägen, seen from the garden of the house where I grew up

At age 19 I moved to Jokkmokk to avoid having to spend two hours every day on bus travels to and from school. One year later my mother passed away, and I decided to move back to Porjus again. At that time, I had met Johanna, and since she had basically moved into my apartment in Jokkmokk during the summer of year 2000, she moved with me to Porjus. For a couple of years, we lived in an apartment in the old post office building (Posthuset), before finally moving back to Jokkmokk again in year 2005.

Posthuset is almost worth a post of its own, as that was where my bandmate Björn lived and where several of the Lagoona studio generations were located. In fact, pretty much all the Lagoona songs created after year 2000 were recorded there. Just as most of my own FastTracker songs and the early Lagoona releases were created in my room in the house on Vintervägen. My father still lives in Posthuset (although he has temporarily moved to an apartment on Vintervägen since a part of Posthuset is being repaired), so it still feels a bit like home to me. And Porjus itself will always be where my heart is, even though I don’t live there anymore. One small village, three buildings – all close to eachother. And so many hours of joy and wild inspiration, resulting in a large number of songs…

Finally, this photo (taken in year 2002) feels like a suitable photo to end this post. It shows the view from Porjusberget, the hill that can be seen to the left on the first photo in this post. On this picture you can see the railway station, Posthuset, a tiny glimpse of the roof of the house on Vintervägen and a small part of the apartment building where the first Lagoona studio was built.

Porjus, seen from Porjusberget with the E45 road seen in the background

#5: Generations…

“Generations” was the name of the fourth album by Lagoona (if “Dreams” by TSEC is included in the count). The name refers partly to the concept of studio generations that we went through. Here are a few photos of the studio as it has appeared throughout the years:

The studio throughout the years...

The early years

It all started in 1996 with a Kawai keyboard on a livingroom floor, and then with a PC running FastTracker 2. In 1998, the studio was moved into an own room, and by then it also included a Yamaha CS1x and a Roland MC-505. Around that time, the first rack unit (reverb/fx) was also added – and the studio doubled as a karaoke party room. FastTracker 2 was replaced by a MIDI sequencer, and in 1999 the studio had actually started to look like a real music studio. Over the years, the studio moved around and grew with new hardware. The small 16-channel mixer was replaced by a digital unit, and a number of synths were used as the main sound source.

Sometimes synths were sold, only to be replaced by other synths. Among the models that passed by were a Korg MS2000, an Oberheim OB12, a Roland JP8000 (one of my favorite synths of all time, really) and random older rack synths such as a Yamaha TX81z. Other synths remained for many years, such as a Roland XP-30, an Access Virus Indigo, a Roland XV-3080 and the wonderful Yamaha EX5r. At some point, I can’t really remember when, the main studio computer got equipped with a DSP-powered Creamware Pulsar soundcard which made software synths more interesting than it had been before.

The later years

When I moved back to my hometown Porjus in 2001, the band split up the studio in two parts. But I never really got into MIDI sequencing and external hardware, I liked the limitations of using only software and samples. And inspiration for writing was low, I was more interested in promoting and performing the music. So most parts of the studio was soon moved back to a single location, in my bandmate Björn’s apartment. There it changed shape, as software was becoming more and more powerful – and as vocals were becoming more and more interesting. Björn built a recording room for recording vocals, and in that recording room we recorded the lyrics for the Lagoona song “Into my dream” (among others).

After Lagoona split up in 2004, I tried moving on to a professional music career of my own, and built an own software-focused studio in Jokkmokk. That project did not turn out well, and in 2005 the last part of the studio was disassembled and I was left with just the computer on my desk.

That was when the website template adventure started. But I’ll save that for another post…

#4: Endless ocean…

It was winter, and year 2000 was coming to an end. It had been a terrible period in my life with lots of sorrow and pain after the loss of several family members in the last couple of months. But it had also been a period of excitement, since I put a lot of effort into promoting music in order to keep the sorrow away – and it had resulted in some crazy results. The band that I was a part of had released songs on MP3.com, and with a mix of luck and clever marketing we had got into an upward spiral which took us all the way up to the #1 spot of the MP3.com Music Chart. For a few weeks, we had one of the most downloaded songs on the web, and at that time the numbers were way beyond what we could ever have expected. In less than four months, we went from nothing to over a million downloaded songs. Now, that is nothing compared to the hundreds of millions of YouTube plays that artists can get today. But this was over a decade ago, and back then it was a huge number.

Anyway, the success on MP3.com resulted in lots of interesting connections with people within the music industry. One such connection was a man named Mick, who contacted me and wanted our band to produce music for an artist that he was the manager for. It sounded like an exciting idea, so we invited him to our studio. Not really expecting anything more to happen, since he had realized that there was a lot of talking and not nearly as much action behind the words. But in this case, I was wrong. Mick showed up, in company with his artist, Gina G – who was mostly known for her Eurovision Song Contest eurodance hit “Ooh Aah – Just a little bit”.

Gina’s days in the small studio in northern Sweden is really a long story by itself (it resulted in a both newspaper articles and television appearances), so in this post I’ll focus on one of the more random things that happened. We got the wild idea that since we were making music for her, perhaps she could give us a simple vocal sample in return that we could use in one of our own songs. Gina agreed, and we found an unfinished track in which a voice would be a good addition. One basic sample, recorded in a few takes and with a powerful reverb added to it, and suddenly we had a really cool track completed. Atleast I thought it was cool, since I was (and still am) a big fan of Gina’s music. She gave us her pemission to release the track with her name featured, and soon afterwards we uploaded Lagoona – Endless Ocean (feat. Gina G) to MP3.com.

Gina was not the only exciting visitor we had in the studio. But her visit was probably one of the most inspiring things that happened, at a time when inspiration kept me moving forward. She was genuinely friendly, truly professional and without any doubt a great singer. While the productions we made for her never reached all the way out to any significant releases, I’m very grateful to have got that experience. Thanks Gina and Mick, I hope you enjoyed your visit in “christmas-card land”.

Listen to “Endless ocean” here:

#3: A day about language immersion…

No song lyrics today. I am a bit too tired to find a proper theme and write a related text to it, since it has been a really long day. Like most mondays, really…

I got up early to prepare for todays work, which was to act as a kind of technician during a conference at a local education facility. The organizer wanted the lectures to be streamed live on the web, and saved on YouTube so that people could see them later. At the same time, there were presentations to be displayed using a projector – and during the presentations the screen image would be stream live instead of the camera filming the lecturer. Adding to that, the sound recording system for the broadcast was completely separated from the microphone and speaker system in the auditorium. And as if that wasn’t enough, a third sound system was involved for realtime interpretations of the lectures.

For someone who has never done a broadcast like this it felt like it could end up with a lousy result. But it ended up going quite well, and I got to hear some really interesting lectures. The topic was teaching second languages (in this case Sami) using different methods, with a focus on language immersion methods. The concepts described were somewhat similar to how I learned english, or rather how it became a natural second language to me – with the main difference that my “school” was the internet and my “classes” were the different projects I was a part of in the early days of my online life (late 1990’s).

I’ll return to assist with the broadcast of more lectures tomorrow, and in order to do a good job I will need to sleep soon. But before I shut down the computer, I’d like to show a mirror selfie of the beautiful sticker I have on my phone:

My iPhone has got itself a pretty #blogg100 sticker!

Thanks to Fredrik for the sticker!

#2: We are the lucky ones…

“Just one day in the life, so I can understand.
Fighting just to survive. But you taught me I can…”

— Hardwell feat. Amba Shepherd – Apollo

four-leaf-cloverI grew up in a happy home, as the only child of a man working for the local hydropower company and a woman working as a hairdresser. The alias “Asokay” is a salute to my parents (it means “Andreas, Son Of Kjell And Yvonne”), and even though I had no plan to use song lyrics in this entry, the lines from “Apollo” are relevant to a post about my childhood. My parents lived happily together until year 2000, when my mother passed away after a few months of serious illness, 43 years old. Up until that point, life had been easy and not nearly as complicated as it proved to be later. Looking back, I realize how lucky I was.

As a kid I used to collect four-leaf clovers, just for the fun of it. There were plenty of them around the house where I grew up, and I loved showing them to my friends and let them pick one to get the luck it would bring. Throughout my childhood, I probably picked 2-300 of them myself, one of which I placed on the wall of my room (see attached photo). I wouldn’t credit the clovers for giving me a happy childhood, but they represent a period of my life which I can remember as truly beautiful. Not always perfect, of course. We had rough times as well, just as any family has. But in general, it was as good as I can imagine it to be. And always full of love and encouragement.

I will not make this a “story of my life” series of posts, I’m writing this mostly to give a better background of the alias I use and what it means. As a young teenager, still in school and living with my parents, they got me my first computer. That allowed me to start exploring ways to create electronic music. And then connecting to the internet to publish the music. And then to promote it, get it heard by people far from home and getting feedback in return. Out of all things that have happened in my life, that is the single thing that pointed out a direction to go.

When I say that the alias Asokay is just another way of saying “me”, this is a part of what I mean. I owe my parents a lot, and my father is still the biggest hero I know. Making something good out of what I have collected in terms of experiences and knowledge so far rather than letting setbacks and worries take over, is the only way to go. I don’t collect four-leaf clovers any more, as I realize that the luck I had was really all about love, respect and my parents having good hearts. I try to bring that with me, and pass it on to people around me as my parents did to me. If not directly, then through the music, designs, photos and texts I create and spread all around me…

#1: The rest is still unwritten…

“I am unwritten, can’t read my mind, I’m undefined.
I’m just beginning, the pen’s in my hand, ending unplanned…”

So, this is day one of the #blogg100 challenge. 100 posts in 100 days, and for most participants the whole idea is to inspire themselves to write, to give their blogs new life and perhaps also to get more readers. For me, it is somewhat different. This is an all-new site, very much a work in progress. It aint much, but it is my own – and it has been many years since I wrote a public, personal blog online. For the first time in many years, I can step out of the comfortable world of single-topic articles and write about any topic that interests me.

But instead of just using #blogg100 as a way of motivating myself to start writing, there will be much more to it. I have the inspiration to write already, and I am not worried about bringing new life into a site or blog – I do that for a living. As for readers, I do hope that someone will find this blog interesting. But honestly, it will probably be pretty boring since I write mostly for my own sake. As mentioned in a previous post, I will introduce myself – both as others know me and as the person I am outside of those roles. After that, this blog will be more of a diary than anything else. And it will probably be a quite rough ride…

A (very brief) background story

I live a pretty nice life. I have a lovely family, and I live with my fiancee Johanna and a number of dogs in an own house in a beautiful, small town in northern Sweden. I have a job that I enjoy, where I get to work with some of the things I really enjoy to do. I have had the luck of experiencing some great adventures throughout my life, and I have managed to do some things that I am very proud of. I am mostly healthy and mostly happy. Needless to say, a lot of things could be a lot worse. But there are also some serious struggles in my life, some of which are rather difficult to handle. And probably difficult to write about as well, since that will require an honesty and transparency that I haven’t used in a blog for a very long time. I guess I will find out about that pretty soon…

The primary cause of worries are debt and a growing amount of unpaid bills, which will force me to find a creative way of getting back on my feet really soon or it will become a major problem. Luckily, I am a rather creative person – and an optimistic one as well. But having ideas and turning them into action are two different things – which is where #blogg100 comes in.

Staring at the blank page before you, open up the dirty window.
Let the sun illuminate the words that you could not find…

Once I have presented myself, this blog will (partly) be a documentation of my travel back to a more balanced situation. I have a plan, or a set of plans, but would probably not be able to go through with it if I tried to do it silently. My hope and my target is that I will be able to finish the #blogg100 challenge with a post that declares that I have managed to sort out atleast the worst of my financial troubles, so that I can move on to a new challenge without having to waste a lot of energy on dealing with worries from the past.

One more thing…

But I promise that I will not only write about worries and unpaid bills. If I did, this blog would be way too boring to read. And way too depressing to write. As I mentioned, I have a whole lot of exciting experiences and memories from previous adventures, and for those who decides to follow me during the next 100 days, there will both surprises, valuable lessons and probably a few crazy ideas along the way.

I break tradition. Sometimes my tries are outside the lines.
We’ve been conditioned to not make mistakes, but I can’t live that way…

The quotes in this post are taken from the song “Unwritten” by Natasha Bedingfield, and while it is not within the genres I normally listen to, the lyrics are a perfect match to some of my views of life. I will tell you more about why in the next couple of posts, where I will also write about everything from giving my first piano concert at age 5 to recording a song that reached the top spot of the largest online music chart in the world (at the time it happened), from building website templates and blog themes that get used on millions of websites and blogs to becoming the #1 ranked blogger on Technorati – and how all the mentioned things could be achieved by a nobody from a small town in the snowy and cold north of Sweden. And why I am still a nobody living in the same small town, when I could have moved on to even greater adventures in some other part of the world. But I will also write about major failures (yes, I have a bunch of those, trust me), ending up in seemingly hopeless situations and managing to sort it out in completely unlikely ways.

It may sound like boring egocentrism, but those are some of the experiences that has made me into the person I am today. And that is what Asokay is all about: Who I am, why and where it will take me. Feel free to follow me, and please be aware that feedback is always welcome and appreciated. If you have comments, questions, suggestions and/or requests, don’t hesitate to contact me, either through a comment, through Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or through an e-mail. Social media links and contact information will be added to this site soon.

Thanks for reading, I hope to see you soon again!

Joining the #Blogg100 challenge

#Blogg100 - 100 blog posts in 100 days!Fredrik “Bisonblog” Wass has once again launched the #Blogg100 challenge, an effort to raise the status of the personal blog in a world where microblogs and social media are taking a lot of the attention that blogs used to get.

The challenge is rather simple: Publish at least one blog post every day, for 100 days, starting March 1st. The posts will be tagged #Blogg100, and I would guess that there will be hundreds of participants joining the challenge which will result in a whole lot of great reading material over the next couple of months. At the end of the challenge, there will be a meet-up for those who manages to fulfil the target and have 100 posts published on day 100.

The topics are all up to the bloggers to decide, and while it is mainly a project aimed at the Swedish blogosphere (of which I am a part), it is perfectly OK to write in other languages. As mentioned in previous posts, I will be writing in English since I feel comfortable with it, and since I would want my blog to be readable for people all over the world – in the unlikely event that someone out there would actually be interested in following my life and read about my thoughts, ideas, adventures and experiences.

As a fan of the classic blog format (myself having written online diaries of different kinds since 1997), I have wanted to join the challenge since it was first presented. However, I haven’t had any personal blog in many years, much because of the fact that my name has been closely connected to the website where I published my work – something that caused a dilemma since I didn’t want to mix personal topics with professional projects and thereby cause confusion and potential mix-ups.

Since February 1st this year, I am no longer working with the site which runs with my full name as its domain name, so now I am able to start writing again – and I have missed it a lot! As I still want to avoid the potential confusion, I will be writing under the name “Asokay”. It is simply my new online alias that will be used here and on other personal projects I work with in the future.

I have written it before, but it is worth to repeat again: Asokay is an abbreviation which spells out “Andreas, Son Of Kjell And Yvonne”, where Kjell and Yvonne are the names of my father (my biggest hero in life) and my mother (a wonderful and strong woman, who sadly passed away the summer of year 2000). In other words: Asokay is me, only me and nothing else. No fancy artist name, no costume that I wear for any specific purpose and no role. Just another way of saying “the real me, in my own eyes”. And maybe even more important: It is also who I want to be, the hopes and dreams that I have for the future.

If you follow my blog during the #Blogg100 challenge, you will get to know Asokay. You will also get to know the many other persons I have been throughout the years: The musician, the music producer, the stage artist, the web designer, the nerd who insists on living north of the Arctic Circle, the traveller, the blogger and the failed visionary. In any case, Just to mention a few. I’ll post texts, photos, video clips – new and current material as well as personal treasures from the past. Expect a wild mix, with a primary focus on what has made me into the person I am today – how the many different things I have done and experienced have resulted in the introduction of Asokay. It may sound egocentric, and perhaps that will be the case. But if I can give you one promise at this point, it is that there will be surprises and unexpected turns along the way – and that there is a point to it all. I don’t know where the #Blogg100 challenge will take me, but I know that it will be quite an adventure along the road…

I’m really looking forward to getting started with this challenge. And I hope that at least some of you will find it interesting to read. And please keep in mind: Feedback is very welcome at all times. A blog is not a one-way communication channel, so feel free to give me your input if you have opinions on anything I have written. If you find something I could improve, let mw know. If I do something wrong, please correct me. And if you want to know more about something specific that I have written about, let me know about it and I will tell you more.

I’m writing this blog mostly for myself. But I will do my best to keep it interesting and worth the time it takes to follow it. After all, I have a large number of exciting experiences to share with you. And those of you who know me already, have already figured out one important detail: Asokay is all about sharing…

Past, present, future…

A birthday has passed, +1 has been added in the “age” field and I am going through a lot of changes on several levels of my life. One of the changes is that I have stopped working with the site most people connect me to, and because of that, I can now officially declare Asokay.com my new home on the web.

The site is still really just a WordPress install with a simple theme and a minimum of pages and posts, but from now on I will be able spend a lot more time on building upon it. I have a plan, a set of exciting ideas and a dream. I also have a huge backlog of private diary texts, a photo collection of 30.000+ pictures taken over the last 15 years and a desperate need to turn a somewhat chaotic situation into something more organized. Going from “being alive” to “living”, to quote something that some wise person has probably said at some point.

I will start with an introduction post, where I explain who I am, in the eyes of others. The website template designer. Or the music artist. Or the old tracker musician. Or that guy who made those WordPress themes a number of years ago. Depending on who you ask, you could get quite different answers. I will try to include the most common ones. After that, I will tell you who I am beside all that. And where the name (or alias) Asokay fit in the context. And once I have done that, I will tell you who I want to be, what I dream about and what I will do to get a bit closer to turning ideas into action. It may sound boring, but to me it will be an adventure. And anyone who wants to come along and follow that adventure, will be very welcome to do so.

But that’s all for now. In a few minutes, I’ll turn into the musician who plays piano/keyboards in a band together with a couple of other musicians. That is one part of who I am, and very much a part of who I have been for a big part of my life. But it is only one “me” out of many. To be continued…

Designing this site

As mentioned, this site started with nothing but a single post, a single page and a default WordPress theme. Now, after a few days, I’ve got the basic foundation for the future site design in place. I’m planning to keep a classic two-column blog layout with a universal sidebar (meaning that the sidebar stays the same on all pages and posts) for most parts, mostly because I like the simplicity of it. And I don’t really need anything more advanced than that.

The design itself will be influenced by some of my previous CSS template design work, which will probably be a bit outdated and non-trendy compared to many other sites and blogs today. The Georgia font for headers and the Tahoma font for all other text are not very exciting, but I like the simplicity of it. And if I know myself, I will keep fiddling with the design in many ways, so it will likely change later on. For now, it feels better than the single-column Twenty Thirteen theme I started out with.

Building the theme for the site…

A few years ago, I could create basic WordPress themes from scratch and get a good result. At one point, one of my old themes was even the most downloaded theme from the official WordPress theme catalog for a number of weeks. But theme design has become much more advanced today than it used to be in the past, with a lot more scripting and coding to add a large number of features and effects, and I haven’t managed to update my scripting skills as would have been needed to continue building themes from scratch. So, today I use frameworks and starter themes as starting points, which is actually something I can warmly recommend since it can provide a truly great set of building blocks to work with even for todays top theme designers.

For the WordPress theme I am building for this site, I started off with the new starter theme _s (Underscores) by Automattic. It is well-written, and well-documented, but still very light and basic compared to more advanced themes. I found a version of it called _tk which had the Bootstrap frontend framework built into the theme. I downloaded the starter theme, rewrote the function names to give the theme an own name, and made some minor adjustments to the template files and adjusted the post formats to suit my plans for the site. I also added a portfolio feature which you will be able to see here soon, to get a nice way of displaying various projects using a custom post format.

As far as I have been able to test it, the theme works as intended. It is responsive, light, loads fast and keeps the code clean and simple. I’m not building this theme with the intention to release it to the public (again, I’m way behind when it comes to current WordPress.org theme catalog guidelines, so I will allow myself take some shortcuts in the theme coding whenever needed. And this will not be a web design blog, just writing down some notes to remember what it all started like later on.

The name of the theme: Jokkmokk

The theme needed a name. I decided to call it “Jokkmokk”, which is the name of my home town. I would simply have called the theme “Asokay” if it wasn’t for the fact that I have already created and released a WordPress theme with that name many years ago. If the Asokay alias is a tribute to my beloved parents, then the theme name could be a tribute to my beloved home town. Either that, or I was all out of creative ideas for names…

Introducing: Asokay

January 1st means the start of a new year. Today, it also means the start of a new website and the introduction of a new online alias: Asokay.

At this point, I’m only taking the very first step in what I hope will become a long and exciting adventure. There are a million steps ahead, but every journey starts somewhere, right?

So, who and what is Asokay, and what will this website be all about? Read more about this site to find out.

If you find the introduction interesting, feel free to come back at anytime to find out more. While Asokay.com will be a personal website created mostly for my own sake, I would definitely not mind some company along the way…