Sven the Hippie speaks! An exclusive interview

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Perhaps no one was been more surprised by the phenomenon that is Sven the Hippie than Sven the Hippie.

A simple country boy from Mora, Sweden, Sven has catapulted to internet fame with such stunning videos as “Yack K,” and, of course, “Dungen,” which recently won the August 19th installment of the Big Sur International Short Film Series, beating out “Miracle Fish” from Australia, “Manon Sur Le Bitume” from France, “Dangerous Games” from the Netherlands, and others.

We recently caught up with Sven, who took a break from sleeping in his van on Highway 1 and practicing “My Sweet Lord” on guitar, for an all-too-brief interview over e-mail.  Enjoy.

HML: Sven, “What is Vinyl in the Woods?” went live a few months ago.  Then it went viral.  Were you truly prepared for that kind of response?

Sven: I always knew that everyone was going love me. Is that what is viral?

HML: When you perform in those movies, how do you prepare?  What is your mind-set like?  Do you go to a dark place?

Sven: Prepare? I am just myself.

HML: Recently, a young lady on the Henry Miller Library Facebook page suggested you get your own Facebook page.  How does that make you feel?

Sven: Really, really good – I am hitting the big time in he movies…but music comes first…roadie…groupies…

HML: Speaking of which, is there a special lady in your life?

Sven: That is so embarrassing to talk about…you are crazy to ask about that!

HML:  What is next for you, Sven?

Sven: Going on tour with Dungen, I know it will happen, I know it will happen, will happen, will happen…happen.

Sven, Kerouac, and finding satori on Bixby Beach

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If “House of Floyd in Big Sur” was Sven the Hippie’s “On the Waterfront,” than “Yack K” is his “A Touch of Evil.” (?)

Never before has Sven plunged to such murky, yet technicolor, subterranean* depths.  Sven’s experience lends credence to the theory that to your mind must disintegrate before you can put it back together again.  Very intense.

The film was created to celebrate the August 14th screening of “One Fast Move or I’m Gone: Kerouac’s Big Sur,” the fantastic collaboration between Jay Farrar and Ben Gibbard.   The move traces the origins of Kerouac’s “Big Sur,” which documented his not-so-pleasant retreat from Beat stardom while renting out Ferlinghetti’s cabin in Bixby Canyon.  If “On the Road” was joyous and librerating, “Big Sur” is stiffling, uncomfortable, and tragic, as Kerouac speaks of his psychological meltdown in candid, impressionistic detail.

It is into this mythical narrative than Sven steps, seeking to attain satori and purge his Swedish soul of unspeakable – and as yet, unidentified – demons.

* That was a Kerouac pun.

There’s a Riot Goin’ On: some musings

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There’s a Riot Going On is a hot seller here at the library.  It examines the radical 60s and their intersection with rock n’ roll.  So we read about such ahem, “revolutionaries” as Abbie Hoffman, future Apple shareholder Jerry Rubin, the Black Panthers, the Weathermen (lame), and how they feebly tried to co-op Dylan, Beatles, Stones, etc.  Not the Monkees,  though.  What’s up with that?

No one in the book comes across as too cool.  Most people come across as young, ignorant, rich, confused, and conflicted.  Keith Richards, for example, was bummed to know that the cash the Stones made went to their label, which in turn gave money to contractors who built bombs.  Gnarly.

Most of the book focuses on those two super-central “spokesmen” of the counter-culture, Lennon and Dylan.  Each comes across pretty good, but in different ways.  Lennon struggles mightily with his fame, and we see his thinking evolve, from a pacifist, to a closet-militant (funding the IRA and other armed groups), back to pacifism.  Give him credit: this was complicated, heady stuff; there were no simple answers (sorry, Abbie Hoffman), and his agonizing, I imagine, spoke to a lot of other middle class kids torn between the status quo and some un-specified, drug-addled “revolution” that would only lead to a lot of dead, unarmed kids.

Lennon also kind of rules because all of this confusion is perfectly encapsulated in his tune “Revolution.”  “We’d all love to see the plan,” he said, and gosh darn it, no one ever saw a plan.  The Weathermen’s plan was wanton, chaotic, violence, and innocent people died for no reason.  Total morons.  So I give John credit there.

“Revolution” also noted, “If you carrying pictures of Chairman Mao/You ain’t gonna make it with anyone anyhow.”  And it’s true.  Why the hell were people like Phil Ochs embracing Mao, who killed, what, 20 million people?  C’mon Phil.  Not cool.

Dylan came out smelling like a rose simply because he kept his mouth shut on such issues, more or less, from 1966 onward.  (He even hinted he may have supported the Vietnam War.)  That’s the lesson, kids: sometimes it’s best to keep your trap shut, head up to Woodstock, and crank out tunes like “All the Tired Horses.”

Ultimately, it’s an impressive narrative constructed by Peter Doggett.  My only major beef is how the story stops short in 1972 (or, in the Epilogue, roughly 1975), proclaiming the “dream was over.”  C’mon.  What dream?  The dream of civil rights?  Women’s rights?  Gay rights?  Legalization of pot?  Multiple dreams, man, and there is no objective end-point to any of ’em.

If anything, the truly powerful and long-lasting contributors of this era – the legions of unnamed, hard-working, pragmatic activists who cared more about their respective causes than yucking it up on Dick Cavett (you, again, Hoffman) – created the movements that still exist today, and are still affecting lives today.  Great book, though!

Getting in touch with our inner (musical) child with Dan Bern

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I was eavesdropping on the Dan Bern songwriting workshop last night  and realized the participants were singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat.”  And later, “You are My Sunshine.”  So cute.  But to what end?  I thought.

Then it hit me: when you go retreat at Esalen, you get in touch with your inner child (while eating killer red quinoa.)  Why not do so musically?  Those melodies have been ingrained in us since an early age (less so for me, sadly; came from a circus family), and their simplicity is stunning.

There’s an old saying that John Lennon wrote at least 10 songs that ripped off “Three Blind Mice” (eg. “My Mummy’s Dead,” “All You Need Is Love.”)

So why not get in touch with your inner musical child? This is a rhetorical question.

Look at ’em go!

“House of Floyd in Big Sur” – break down The Wall, Sven!

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Sven the Hippie movies are kind of like children.  You say you love them all equally, but deep down, you love on the most.

That said, even if I did love “What is House of Floyd?” the most, I wouldn’t say.

I’ll say this, though: from a character-perspective, he we begin to see Sven the hopeless romantic, the lost soul, the drifter, the Swede in search of acceptance, love.  Pathos ensues.  Powerful stuff.

Huxley on Huxley: Feed your head (responsibly)

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Ahh, nothing like movie night in Big Sur.  The redwoods.  The stars.  The LSD jokes.  Last week’s installment: Huxley on Huxley, a film about the prescient, hulking-yet-gentle, and tweed-clad British writer-genius Aldlous Huxley, told through the eyes and voice of his second wife, Laura Archera.

It was a hoot, especially for this Huxley neophyte.  What was especially telling was his prescience about the extinction of fossil fuels, namely oil, and his fear of religious lunatics.  Of course, these ideas made their way into Brave New World, but seeing him speak to Mike Wallace of CBS in 1955 about the very same issues we’re dealing with now was downright eerie.


What was also cool was how the director addressed his relationships to mind-altering drugs, like LSD.  Huxley was no Tim Leary.  Huxley took that stuff super-seriously, unlike Leary, who wanted everyone dosed (even Nixon!)  It’s like, y’know, with great power comes great responsibility.

There was the obligatory Doors reference too, with an interview from their drummer, whose name currently escapes me.  At least it wasn’t Manzarek.  Anyway, if Huxley did turn the Doors and Jim Morrison on to acid, the chap has a lot of explaining to do, what with that “Mr. MOJO RISING” bit in “LA Woman.” I mean, really.

“What is Vinyl in the Woods?” – The video that started it all

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It’s hard to believe it was only two months ago.  We here at the Library were just trying to promote a little vinyl fair we were putting together, called Vinyl in the Woods. Then we met a drifter-Swede named Sven and our world hasn’t been the same since.

Sven the Hippie has gone viral; it’s a sensation not even we could have imagined.

But through it all, we’ve never forgotten where we came from. So here it is, the video that started it all, “What is Vinyl in the Woods?”