Jonahgold is one of Sweden’s most notable reggae producers, and has worked with both domestic and international artists. He is a sound engineer, producer and musician and has learned his craft from legendary Swedish studio owner and producer Internal Dread. Reggaemani got a long chat with Jonahgold in the Rub a Dub studio.
My first contact with Jonahgold was in relation to the release of Sheya Mission’s acclaimed debut album Nine Signs & Heavy Bliss. From our e-mail conversation prior to the interview I learned that he works at the Rub a Dub studio, just around the corner from where I live.
We decided I should drop by.
A few days later I sat down in a well-used sofa in the studio, located downstairs in a backyard at Södermalm, an area in central Stockholm. A room that seems to serve as a living room, bedroom and kitchen.
We discussed reggae. I greated singer and trombonist Joseph Beckford, studio owner Internal Dread and two Swiss musicians on a visit.
Jonahgold showed me around the studio. Though he has worked there since the late 90’s he still looks like a child in a candy store when describing the different elements in the heart of the studio. Delays, reverbs and other equipment essential to a sound engineer and producer.
Unfortunately I had to leave after just a few minutes. We decided to set a new date for an interview at the coffee shop opposite the studio.
A week goes by and I’m heading for the interview. Just when I’m about to reach the café I notice an individual outside the studio entrance, sweeping the street clean from gravel. It’s Jonahgold.
“The coffee shop is closed for renovation”, he says and suggests that we use the studio instead.
Jonahgold boils tea and we sit down in the sofa for the interview. A long interview.
Jonahgold is thoughtful, low-voiced and cool and he often emphasizes certain words. He has long hair, round glasses and gives the impression of an intellectual as we talk about his passion for reggae and mysticism.
But let’s take it from the beginning.
Started as a tennis player
Jonahgold started playing the piano at an early age and he also went to music school in Stockholm.
“I played boogie woogie, and really liked it,” he says.
He was also a promising tennis player and competed in his early teens. One of the players he met was former world no. 1 Björn Borg.
“I played against him when he was about to make his first comeback. It was great fun,” he says, and continues:
“I believe that tennis gave me discipline, dedication and focus.”
Jonahgold says that the basis for his musicianship is the keyboard, but that he hasn’t got enough patience to practice. He is rather in the studio behind the mixing desk.
He started out in a local reggae band in the 80’s and sometimes played with Cool Runnings, a band that worked with late producer Denniz Pop.
“I also played with a band called Yardem Riddims, which had Sheya Mission on vocals. We did recordings and sent them to some labels.”
Working with Daweh Congo
His first release on his own label – Goldheart Music – was Sheya Mission’s Valley in 1997.
“We were almost the only ones putting out Swedish produced singles,” he remembers.
Jonahgold is lucky. He has had the opportunity to produce his favorite singer and lyricist Daweh Congo. It begun in 2004 with a few recordings and in 2009 Daweh Congo’s praised album Ghetto Skyline hit the streets.
“He performed at the Uppsala Reggae Festival in 2004. He came to the studio and we recorded Steppin’ and Ganja Baby,” Jonahgold says, and adds:
“When we later did the album, I recorded the music here in Stockholm and sent the riddims to him in Jamaica.”
The two also recently worked together in pair with Hawaiian-based label Jah Youth.
“Daweh Congo had recorded some a cappella’s which needed music. Jah Youth contacted me and I did the music,” he says, and continues:
“It was free tempo and was sung on a free key. His singing was surprisingly steady. It was a challenge, and I built the music from scratch,” he smiles.
Other possible collaborations
He would like to get the opportunity to work with Army from St. Croix or Keith from Keith & Tex.
“I’ve contacted Keith, but it hasn’t resulted in anything.”
He also gets inquiries from artists from time to time. But he turns down almost everything due to lack of time.
And if you listen to his productions you will probably notice why. The songs are carefully crafted and detailed.
“Nobody produces on a detailed level anymore. I often out start very ambitious, and the Sheya Mission album took some time to finish,” he says, and adds:
“I often pay attention to details, but it starts to get a bit slack. I haven’t got the same craze anymore.”
Running a label these days isn’t easy. But according to Jonahgold it’s not all that bad.
“It has never been easy,” he states, and continues:
“But today it’s cheaper than ever to distribute an album and get it out all over the world. It’s a new world order, but I don’t know if it’s better or worse.”
Aside from producing his own music, Jonahgold is a freelance sound engineer, both live and in the studio.
“This is my school”, he says and looks up from his cup of tea.
“Tom [Hofwander aka Internal Dread] has taught me everything. I have been working with him for many years. He is a sound guru, and it has been a great school. He has a fantastic feeling for frequencies.”
“I like the spirituality in reggae music. I’m on a quest for freedom and self-knowledge. No aggression or depression. I want to be really free and distinguish between what has been taught and what is the real ‘I’,” he says, and concludes:
“I have advanced during the last ten years or so. Maybe it has made my music more soothing and meditative.”