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The Scene: How would you describe your relationship with Stockholm?
Jonas Åkerlund: It's changed over the years. Because I'm traveling so much, Stockholm has become more and more a place for me to recharge and be creative, and then I head back on the road again. It's changed a little bit from being my home to being more a place where I go to get perspective. I keep a house in Los Angeles but it's weird to be there without knowing I have a return ticket back here. It's healthy to come back to reality.
TS: When you're away, what do you miss most?
JÅ: Obviously my children are always top of my list. Number one, it's always my children I come back to. If I'm away for a longer period I miss the seasons. There are no seasons in Los Angeles, so I always want to come back here and see the seasons changing. And in Los Angeles you don't walk -- you're on your ass in the car all the time, and I'm addicted to walking. Even in Los Angeles, I stop the car and walk. People look at me and think I am lost or something, they stop and ask if they can help me.
TS: Where do you walk in Stockholm?
JÅ: I do most of my post production in Stockholm, usually at night, so when I get out of the office at 3 or 4 in the morning, I usually walk around the city before I go home -- that's my routine.
TS: How would you sum up Stockholm?
JÅ: On one hand it's very slow and very quiet and quite boring sometimes, but on the other hand it's always cutting edge. If stuff is going on here it's going to happen elsewhere a few years later, especially America, and especially when it comes to music. Sweden has a weird sense of knowing what's going on in the world and picking up on it early. It's a really small city but it's a small city with an international mindset.
TS: Quite a few of your videos are shot in Stockholm. Why is that?
JÅ: It's a very film-friendly city, it's one of the few places on earth where people still think film crews are fun and cool and want to help. In America as soon as you put up a camera people want to get paid or you need a permit and all those things. It's a beautiful city, too -- we have the old town and some new stuff and we're surrounded by water and tons of islands. The big problem here is the weather -- you've got to have an idea that allows for bad weather because you're doomed to have it for sure.
TS: What's great about Stockholm in the summer?
JÅ: During the summer months it's all party. Everybody's outside all around the clock, the sun doesn't set and the girls are lightly dressed, everybody's drinking, you meet friends everywhere. Anybody who comes to Stockholm in the summer for the first time and walks around the city at night must think that we're weird.
In winter we change and we become gray and dark and ugly and depressed. It's the total opposite. You can walk through the city on a Friday evening and not see one person -- it's all dead.
The extreme seasons make people extreme in different directions, which is kind of cool. I like to be here in summertime but winters are really cold -- too cold for me. I do like the dark, though. I like it when it's all dark.
TS: Some of your work, including your movie, "Spun", is pretty vocal about drugs. Where does that come from?
JÅ: I'm the worst drug addict in the world. I just can't do it. I was always against it, and I saw a lot of close friends changing, even a few friends dying, and that made me think a lot about it. I'm against drugs, I don't work with people who use drugs and it's not part of what I do. I never wanted to scare people, I just wanted to show the real side of it and make people think rather than telling them what to do.
TS: As a filmmaker, is it about creating art or having a responsibility to educate?
JÅ: When someone's paying you to do a job, which is most of the time, you always have to respect your clients. But if I could make a beautiful film and at the same time make people think, then that's perfect. It doesn't always work -- music can just be an artist selling an album, looking good and doing a song -- but some of the music videos I've done have been great opportunities to show other sides of life that you wouldn't necessarily see.
TS: Have you ever done that but it's not worked?
JÅ: Sometimes it doesn't work -- Madonna and I did a video for American Life and we took a heavy antiwar statement. We ended up not showing the video because it became too graphic and the timing was just horrible. We shot the video before the war in Iraq broke out but it started during post production. You've got to be careful, you've got to make sure that you know what you're talking about and the timing is right because a video could potentially influence a lot of people.
TS: So it's a big responsibility?
JÅ: Yes, but the responsibility is not mine because someone is paying me to do it. Ultimately, they're responsible; I can only suggest.
Åkerlund counts Madonna, U2 and Moby among his clients
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