Lizette von Panajot
Musical Discoveries: So Lizette, tell us a little bit about your background.
Lizette: Well, I was born in a small town in Sweden called Katrineholm. We moved around a bit when I was a small child, but we eventually ended up in an even smaller town called Kungsör. I was six years old when my parents got the house where I lived until I was nineteen. I did the usual kid stuff I guess, you know, standing with a skipping rope pretending that it was a mic, singing along to Abba songs and being a star.
How did things develop from there?
I remember that I had another favorite album--Kiss' The Elder I think it was called. I loved making up melodies for the songs without vocals--a bit odd for a six year old girl--but then again, I did a lot of "odd" stuff that six year old girls usually don't do. I played with cars instead of dolls. When someone bought a doll for me, I ran it over with my cars!
When I was eight I got my first moped from Dad. I was thrilled! Driving things as fast as possible became my passion at this point. I sold my horse when I was around twelve, I think, and got a big moped that I trimmed and rebuilt into an off road moped. My Dad had a secret competition with our neighbor who had a son that was my friend, so he got the best trim parts for me so that my big moped would be stronger and faster than my neighbor's. Those were the days! I still enjoy going for a bumpy ride at my parents place. If I only had a bike I would that is!
So how did the singing career begin?
When I was around sixteen I started singing in a studio in Kungsör. Well, it wasn't really a studio, it was in a basement with a four-track tape recorder, a mic made in Taiwan and a sampler. I sucked! I sang like a goat or something, but I didn't think so at the time (thank God) so I continued singing as often as I could. I got a lot of help from Dad with this. He is a musician and singer himself, so he gave me tips and hints on what to do and what not to do. He was a tough teacher though.
He didn't always tell me how fabulous I was. He would tell me what things I suck at--and mostly that. This was perfect for me because I had to prove him wrong, so I practiced and practiced and practiced. I am not kidding you when I say that I sucked--I really did--so I had a long way to go before I was even fairly good. I am pig headed, so I did take the long way. At one point I was in seven rock bands at the same time, and singing every day for 3 years had to pay off.
Did you get any work?
I started working for my Dad when I was nineteen in a coffee warehouse driving a forklift--again not the girliest thing to do--and during a coffee break I browsed the ads section and found this guy who was looking for disco vocalists for a project in a studio that would eventually end up on a record. A record--hhmmm---I had been singing in rock bands for the past three years and I had never sung a disco song ever. "A record, hmm," I thought,"I'm gonna be a star--so why not a disco babe star!"
I called him up. One week later I was on the train to Stockholm with a tape recorder and a blank sheet of paper. I had told this guy that I had been doing nothing but singing disco songs (lie) that I would be thrilled to make the melodies and lyrics for the backgrounds that he sent me. Another lie - I had never written a lyric in my life and I never come up with a pop disco melody either. I was close to panic at this point.
The lyrics and melody were done about five minutes before the train stopped and I had almost stopped sweating by the time I got there. I met the guys at Future Crew--this is what they called the studio--and we got along like a house on fire. I did the vocals while all of the guys were watching--all six of them in a tiny room and the mic was huge! I kept on pretending that I was in my element and that I was an experienced studio vocalist. I had them fooled for about five minutes but they let me into their world anyway.
And how did the RedNex project come about?
I quit my job at the coffee warehouse, to go chase my dream, and moved into the studio. My place was under the coat hanger where I had a mattress and a screen to give me a bit of privacy. I did have an apartment in Eskilstuna but I was never there and I used the money I should have been using for the rent to go to the studio and sing. Janne soon became my mentor at Future Crew. He was a bit different from the others and I loved his music. We started co-writing a lot of songs, I did the melodies and sometimes the lyrics and vice versa.
One day the studio was filled with country music and weird people. Everyone seemed to have been bitten by a country techno bug. There were toy guns and wood horses all over the place. RedNex had been invented by the wonderful guys at Future Crew. Janne had two songs that he needed help with. So he came to me and asked if I had any ideas of what to do on the songs. I of course did, so I wrote some of the lyrics and some of the melodies on the songs "Shooter" and "Rolling Home." RedNex was released and it went boom! It sold millions of records worldwide and all the guys at Future Crew had enough money now to switch their diet from noodles to filet mignon.
So what happened then?
I got a job as a vocalist in a band that was playing on cruise ships. This led to the toughest two years in my life. I did 250 gigs a year on boats that would be away for one week--sometimes more--at a time. I had very little time to do anything else than rehearse and perform. As a vocalist this is where I got all the technique I could stand and all the routine I could bare. It was brilliant technically, but it was killer creatively. I didn't want to have anything to do with music when I was off. After doing this for two years I came to a crossroad, either I kill myself or I quit this job. I obviously quit.
Now I had to start my creative life again. I took over the studio rooms that Future Crew had had. The guys had all moved to Brussels, so there I was all alone. Janne had taught me how the studio worked so I got some gear and used what the guys had left behind and started writing music on my own.
Who are some of your favorite artists and how have they influenced your singing and song-writing?
Nine inch Nails has always been my biggest inspiration. NIN's album Downward Spiral was an eye opener for me and it got my own songwriting going. Brilliant! I also love Tori Amos' nakedness in her vocals. It doesn't have to be perfect to be brilliant. Björk is an artist that I really admire. She is so pure and unspoiled by this business in my opinion.
How would you characterize the "sound" of this new album?
Please tell us about your work with Spektrum?
Spektrum was a lot of fun to do! I got to work with Hansi who is a dear friend of mine whom I admire and I got to know all the other guys who are brilliant musicians and great people! I was working on Lizette & at the time--both before and after. Spektrum has nothing to do with Lizette & though. Spektrum had a life of it's own as all creative and fun projects tend to have.
Tell us about the "band" name Lizette &.
Well, have you thought about the fact that the name would be pronounced Lizette und in Germany, Lizette och in Sweden and Lizette and in English? Music has no boundaries and neither do we and the symbol looks cool.
This album has been a long time coming. How would you explain the production process and the time it has taken to release?
There is something called writers block. I got "mixers block." The production of the album was fast, but then it had to be mixed. I went into all kinds of weird stuff and I did everything wrong and complicated. I thought, "This is an album so now I have to do it 'right.'" I produced all of the songs first, then I was going to mix them, bad idea. I usually produce, arrange and mix at the same time. so when the production is done, so is the mix. I didn't do that this time and that gave me lots of problems.
It was hard enough to realize that I had to do the production, but to do the mix myself was harder to come to terms with. I thought that I couldn't do it. It took me a year almost to understand that I could (smiles).
Tell us all about your tours and the different people you worked with.
I have spent many days on the road and I love it. When you are out there it is however very important who you choose to work with because you leave friends and loved ones behind and you sort of create your temporary family on the road. In this business however, there are quite a few people who sneak around with a friendly grin whilst they are hiding a knife behind their backs, so it is crucial to have and to work with a good label, a good management team and crew. Otherwise you're in trouble.
What has the response been like?
The response you get is what you give--and we always give everything! Lizette & is like a nuclear plant: hard to control and a bit scary, but we give a lot of power to a lot of people (smiles).
What is it like for you to perform in front of a live audience?
Oooohhh, I get goose-bumps just thinking about it! I love performing live! I get to tell my story to them--people that I can see, feel, touch and hear. That is what it's all about. They are the reason why I make music. They usually react the same way as I do. You connect to people you don't know and at the end of the day they are your best friends.
I always feel this way after a performance. The response has always been what I want it to be. Sometimes it just takes a bit longer to get it to that point. We did a gig with Lizette & for a small group of selected people. I'm still shaking with adrenalin when I think about it. We--as a band--have become something that I have never experienced before. When we got on stage and started playing--we blew ourselves away--and by looking at the audiences reaction, we weren't the only ones feeling this way. December 2 is a date that I really look forward to. We get to do it again!
What would your greatest moment as a musician be so far?
It is without a doubt the day that I got an e-mail from a fan. He wrote to me just to let me know that I had saved his life. He was going to kill himself and he was getting ready to do this, writing the note and so forth, then he heard the song "Breathe," he got interested and sat down and listened to it. When the song was over he had decided that killing himself would make him the looser and it would be the ultimate failure if he went through with it. So he didn't because of the lyrics in the chorus:" I breathe in spite of it all, I breathe, I get up when I fall And breathe, Sometimes the air seems thinner, But I breathe, And that’s what makes me a winner."
At this point making music became a duty because I made a difference in one person's life and he is still around because of a song that I wrote, I might be able to do this to more people. How can I justify not doing it after this?
Is music now your full time thing?
Yes I do music full time thanks to my brilliant record company Blue Lemon.
What is the most difficult thing you had to overcome in your professional music career?
The record industry! It is truly an industry. It has got very little to do with music, and this was a huge obstacle. This album has been written for a long time, but when I started looking around for a deal the only thing I got back was how I should be or sound like someone else or they wouldn't be interested in signing.
It is hard to keep your integrity as an artist these days. You get all these offers thrown at you. But youcan only get them if you change who you are. It sucks! I am so happy that I have found a sane record company who let's me be who I am. If they don't like what you do, they simply don't sign you up--very simple. And you don't hear, "Well we'll sign you if you do these songs that a songwriter (who we own) has written and we produce you album like Britney (she sells a lot of records) you take off some of those clothes and show some cleavage."
The promises continue, "We will give you all the money you need and youwill live in first class hotels all the time while we are recording your album." They forget to say that you will owe them all the money that the first class hotels cost, and the money you get in advance, will of course be taken from your royalties of 4%. Blue Lemon rules! They are the only record company that I know of who has the slogan and motto: Power to the artist.
What are your hopes, plans and dreams for 2004 and beyond?
Meet a lot of new friends. Tour, enjoy the company of the band--sell 1,000,000 albums--small things like that (smiles).