Dungen is described regularly as the studio project of Gustav Ejstes, which makes the “band” sound like some one-man Swedish psych troupe that only transforms into a quartet for live situations, or when more hands are needed. Ejstes is the face and goldilocks of the crew as well as the central composer and Mascis-style multi-instrumentalist, but since Dungen’s inception in 1999, the extended guitar shredding of Reine Fiske has largely defined that airy, vintage, tube-crackling sound. Dive back into the band’s 2004 breakout Ta Det Lugnt. It’s hard to imagine caring about “Panda,” “Bortglömd,” the title track, or “Sluta Följa Efter” without that face-melting, overdriven, always clearly articulated six-string fuzz. On Dungen’s fourth album, Tio Bitar, Fiske handles every lead, including the silly-string fret fire of “Gör Det Nu,” which can be found at the end of this piece along with “Familj,” the mellower, pastoral affair that also comes before it on the record.
This isn’t Musician, though, and Fiske isn’t here for guitar talk. Ever wonder about the secret life of your postal worker? Or is that just me? They stop by your house everyday, hand you stuff, duck out. For some folks in Sweden, Fiske is the guy weighing their parcels, affixing their stamps, and making sure their holiday packages arrive on time. Of course, the requisite Postal Service question is somewhere below…
STEREOGUM: How’d you get started in the post office?
REINE FISKE: I just needed a job, really. I had worked as a mailman before when I was around 19 or 20 years old, earning money to buy my first proper vintage Stratocaster. But it was really just for a “period,” as it usually starts I guess.
STEREOGUM: How long have you been there?
RF: I started it again in 1997 and been in and out of it for about nine years now. I was actually doing a research project in music history for a couple of years before that, so it was a bit of a bummer in some ways … But that project was a bit weird anyway, and there wasn’t any more money left to squeeze in, and I was somewhat getting a bit too spaced out at the time, and needed some new routines as well. So I started to drink a bit too much instead…
STEREOGUM: How often do you work?
RF: I work full-time now. I’m planning to fix up for a free day during the week, to get some more proper strength into doing others things, which I really need right now.
STEREOGUM: Do you wear a uniform?
RF: You have to wear a uniform when you work there. I don’t like the feeling of it at times. It just doesn’t feel like me at all at times. You’re not in the mood and it’s so early in the morning and you have to put that extra “skin” on you and just do it. During the summer you can wear more “leisure” stuff though. Sometimes I simply wear my jeans — when no one is watching, that is…
STEREOGUM: What are your duties? Do you deliver the mail or sort it?
RF: Delivering and sorting. Working hours are 06:30 in the morning to around 14:30 in the afternoon. Sometime it’s about an hour of overtime, everyday throughout the week.
During one period I got so sick and tired of the mood of being just a mailman and having to put up with some of the older people nagging about everything that I jumped on the job of working behind a counter, sending stuff like packages, mass-mails, letters and selling different products. I never really got a proper education for it, which is a bit weird, and it was really hell at times. I have a strong tendency to get stressed-out nowadays. But it was a bit better anyway. At least there’s some creativity in it — delivering mail just isn’t. There’s just a new pile every morning. And then it’s all the commercials that have to be delivered.
STEREOGUM: Do you think postal workers get a bum rap? At least in the States, folks say someone’s gone “postal” when they freak out or go crazy. Wonder if this phrase has made its way to Sweden…
RF: It has, and people sometimes have a laugh about it. I don’t know about any famous “postal happenings” in Sweden, though. Personally I have very different kinds of weird feelings, moods and thoughts about it all actually — because it’s just so soul-destroying at times. Of course I chose to do this, for a “period”, but I’m still doing it! Someone has to do it, of course, and some really like it, too. I respect people like that.
In a way it’s a free job because you’re pretty much left alone. Maybe that’s the danger, too. It can attract a lot of weirdos this way … maybe, I don’t know. I listen to music. It keeps me sane. I think. I hope! I shut myself up in a way, too. Sometimes I think, “Well, to do pretty hard and dull work is actually altering your needs for doing those other more heartfelt creative things, the anger and frustration gets out” … blah blah blah … and I think at times when some things have been recorded for the Dungen project, I’ve actually had that exact thing coming out. But that is probably the most normal thing in the world I guess…
STEREOGUM: Has the rise of the internet decreased the flow of mail through your post office?
RF: Maybe some. But “Posten Sverige AB,” as it is called here in Sweden, earns that up through delivering commercial papers through the mailmen that eventually end up in dustbins anyway. I don’t know how much of it that actually turns into paper again … It’s just plain sad. All this wasted paper.
STEREOGUM: Do your co-workers know about Dungen?
RF: Some of them. It’s not talked about very much, because I don’t want to really…
STEREOGUM: Favorite commemorative stamp?
RF: A lot of beautiful stamps were actually made in the 1950’s and early 60’s. Amazing graphics. Sort of a bit Victorian…
STEREOGUM: Do you like that band, the Postal Service?
RF: Haven’t heard about them, but I bet they sound like a mix between “Scratch Acid” and “Big Business” right? Or maybe “Henry Cow.”
[EDITOR’S NOTE: Turns out bassist Mattias Gustavsson is also a postal worker! Due to the last-minuteness of the revelation, we were only able to track him down for this brief comment: “All work is slave labor, a necessary evil. At least I have a job that is morally defendable because people do enjoy getting their records from Amazon.”
You can likely even grab Gustavsson’s solo record Look!! There Is… which comes out on Subliminal Sounds in mid-May. He’s calling himself Life On Earth! for the project. (Could a tour with Reykjavík!, ¡Forward, Russia!, Thunderbirds Are Now!, or ultimately !!! be somewhere in the future?)
With all these mailroom epiphanies popping up, we have to ask: Any other postal workers out there? Seems like most people we know are busy with electronic mail, not the real paper-and-glue stuff. Listen to some Dungen while you mull it over.]
Tio Bitar is out in the US on 5/15 via Kemado.