Photo by Petter Duvander

Now with just Robert Enforsen remaining from the original line-up, ELEGANT MACHINERY began as a trio in 1989. They were named after the third album by DATA, the cult synthpop project of SAILOR’s Georg Kajanus released in 1985.

Alongside other acts such as PAGE, S.P.O.C.K and SISTA MANNEN PÅ JORDEN, ELEGANT MACHINERY were part of a movement of Swedish synth trailblazers dedicated to making a purer form of melodic electronic pop in the vein of early DEPECHE MODE, OMD, THE HUMAN LEAGUE and YAZOO.

In their first phase, ELEGANT MACHINERY would release three albums ‘Degraded Faces’ (1991), ‘Shattered Grounds’ (1993) and ‘Yesterday Man’ (1996). They disbanded in 1999 after the release of a “best of” compilation ‘A Decade of Thoughts’ which featured re-recorded material and rare songs.

Although there was a reunion in 2001, a full return did not begin in earnest until 2004 and the subsequent album ‘A Soft Exchange’ in 2008. However, there was another split but in 2016, Robert Enforsen revived ELEGANT MACHINERY for the much darker ‘I’ EP.

Since then, there have been no new releases but most recently Robert Enforsen has been performing as ELEGANT MACHINERY with Johan Malmgren who had been in the band since 1992 and a revolving live line-up that has included current S.P.O.C.K member Val Solo.

With the release for the first time of ‘A Soft Exchange’ in vinyl formats, ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK had a career spanning conversation with Robert Enforsen…

How has the ELEGANT MACHINERY brand managed to keep going for over three decades?

I’ve got to be upfront here and tell that I actually have been the only one of the other members that kept on going. After years of disagreements, me and Johan Malmgren eventually decided that life is here and now. I suppose that the soft start of this was when we were forced to meet at our mutual friend’s funeral. Johan afterwards gave me a hug and said the very wise words of that “who knows when this will happen to us, it could have been you or me in that funeral coffin”. Later on we two simply agreed on to start fresh, with our original intentions of EM; to make the best available synthpop the world has ever seen. So far I believe we’ve done quite good, despite some drawbacks.

Although ‘101’ and ‘Violator’ had happened, by the time of ELEGANT MACHINERY’s debut album ‘Degraded Faces’ in 1991, Grunge was about to take over the world… in hindsight, it perhaps wasn’t a great time to be a new synthpop band? 🎹🎤🎹😉

I get what you’re trying to go for here, which is rather funny. We were surely not blind for the music trends going on in the world, but we didn’t bother. Our only reason to make music was to make it as we’d love to hear it. ‘Violator’ was probably the best album ever coming out of DM, but we didn’t aim for that sound anyhow. We decided to stick to our unwritten rules of our work; basically to make music that sounded as weird and wonderful as the early/mid 80s in its top class.

What attracted you to making pop music by electronic means? Had the Synth Britannia movement been influential?

Synth Britannia, as such, never really came into my hemisphere as it obviously did in the UK. It was never the thing, so to say. Then again, all these bands, as mentioned before, have had a major influence on us, without a doubt. What the Brits refer to labelling it like this is basically what we would refer to as the synthpop movement. But yes that affected us all in a multitude of ways.

In 1995, ELEGANT MACHINERY’s recorded the title song for the ‘To Cut A Long Story Short’ electronic pop pioneers tribute compilation, what was the appeal of that SPANDAU BALLET song for the band?

The original song made it all clear for us; this song could also sound like ELEGANT MACHINERY. This was, as I can recall it, the trigger that made us plan our next steps. Then, one shouldn’t forget that SPANDAU BALLET by then were kind of an electronic band, unlike what they became. We simply made the song “ours”; more synthpop.

You also paid tribute to DEPECHE MODE with a cover of ‘My Secret Garden’ on the ‘I Sometimes Wish I Was Famous’ compilation, ELEGANT MACHINERY were often compared to early DM, did that help or hinder the band?

Oh gosh, hahaha, that is still the issue when talking about us today with people who are really not into the scene. For the outsiders, we probably always sound like DEPECHE MODE. Yes, we’ve got similarities to the early DM, but clearly also to bands such as SOFT CELL, THE HUMAN LEAGUE, OMD and so on. We truly, from the start tried to create our own identity, and I think we did.

’Process’ from ‘Degraded Faces’ was a wonderful lively pop tune… is it true that was popular in Spain, was that a surprise?

Thanks! The whole story goes like this; We released the album ‘Degraded Faces’ in 1991. We were already planning for the follow-up, when a Spanish label got in touch, wanting to release ‘Process’ as a CDM. They wanted it to be club friendly and we were suddenly stepping into territories we probably didn’t want to dive into. However, we made a compromise with ourselves and went into the studio trying to deliver a club sound as we could possibly interpret it.

During a recording procedure, that was more adventurous than one might think, and what truly can’t be told just in a few sentences, we managed to transform our song to what it became. Sadly, we didn’t get to see a single coin from the sales, despite reaching number 5, kicking down Madonna to number 6, in the official Spanish charts. On this matter I can go on forever, because the consequences didn’t stop with us, but also made our record label to chatter a bit or two.

‘Forget What I Had In Mind’ on the 1993 second album ‘Shattered Grounds’ recalled CAMOUFLAGE, do you think that successful German wave of bands which included DE/VISION and WOLFSHEIM helped keep the door open for electronic acts such as yourselves within North West Europe?

Without a doubt, even though DE/VISION started in 1988 just like ELEGANT MACHINERY and WOLFSHEIM just the year before. I tend to believe we all made this scene to stay alive.

Did you feel an affinity with other Swedish electronic acts of the period such as PAGE, S.P.O.C.K and COVENANT?

Yes, absolutely! PAGE started as one of the first electronic bands in Sweden. One must note, PAGE started when most of us were still pre-teens! However, we all kind of grew together. Not to forget that a pre-version of COVENANT actually had a gig at the party where I was asked to join what would become ELEGANT MACHINERY. Alexander Hofman designed the cover of ‘I Sometimes Wish I Was Famous’. I sold merch for the other bands of Energy Rekords, like POUPPÉE FABRIKK. I can continue forever here, hahaha! We all were part of what it all would become.

1996’s ‘Yesterday Man’ album maintained the melodic positivity despite the melancholic theme in the lyrics of songs like ‘Save Me’, ‘Say Goodbye’ and ‘Feel The Violence’? Was the ‘Yesterday Man’ album the one where the band felt most confident about in its abilities?

The mentioned songs in themselves are for sure rather melancholic, all being mainly in a minor key. Me personally can’t recall that this was a calling for us to make them like that; we all always had a penchant for the darker sides of life, while totally also being in love with the bleepy synthpop. The whole album just happened as it is from our hearts.

ELEGANT MACHINERY didn’t go drifting off into live drums and guitars like CAMOUFLAGE did on their third album ‘Meanwhile’ and DEPECHE MODE with their narcotic fuelled pseudo rock on ‘Songs Of Faith & Devotion’? Please discuss 😉

Hahaha, there’s nothing to discuss here. We started off with a passion for the drum machine sound, with synth sounds and such; no drummer or guitarist in the world could ever replicate this. We longed and still are longing for that programmed sound, with dynamic vocals on top.

Eskil Simonsson of COVENANT co-produced a number of the new songs and re-recordings on the 1998 compilation ‘A Decade Of Thoughts’. What was the idea behind doing re-recordings rather than using the familiar versions and how was the experience of being in the studio with him?

Our record label in the past, Energy Rekords, urged to make a “best of album” – we refused. To make such a foolish thing after just three albums simply seemed to be a bit over the top. ‘A Decade of Thoughts’ is the result of our refusal. We felt that it would be better to present ourselves in updated versions of our songs, while also getting the songs that’ve been laying there for a while a chance. I dare to say that we all felt we did the proper choice here. One fun fact is that while looking for a producer, Eskil Simonsson, an old friend of ours said that he HAS to be the one since he’s the biggest fan of ELEGANT MACHINERY ever. The search was over! 😀

The booklet of ‘A Decade Of Thoughts’ stated ELEGANT MACHINERY “use Novation synthesizers from Music Mania, Malmö”, what equipment did you use before then and what are you using now?

Without sounding snobbish, what didn’t we use back then in the 90s?! We’ve been blessed with getting hold of the finest analogue synths while they didn’t cost more than a low-price car. These synths got sold way back in time, while a few already then broke down, even during live performances. Nowadays we are using quite some synths from Arturia, some Behringer stuff, the old E-mu…

ELEGANT MACHINERY disbanded in 1999, it was a difficult period for synthpop bands as opposed to dance / DJ acts, what happened to cause the split?

This is a tough one for me personally, since I truly got taken by surprise of the split-up and that I, on top of this, got told about it on the very New Years Eve 1998. Pretty nasty indeed, since we on that very evening had a show in Germany on a mini festival with WELLE: ERDBALL, S.P.O.C.K and CAT RAPES DOG – I was in shock. However, I afterwards can understand my band mates; I was partying too much. To cut the words short, I eventually became more decent, but then it was for the moment too late.

What prompted the return of ELEGANT MACHINERY in 2001? How was the experience for you?

Back then, we got two great offers for shows in Hollywood USA and Mexico City that were too good to reject. However, Johan Malmgren was then already about to go on tour with S.P.O.C.K in Germany and the surrounding countries, so we had to find another solution with someone who both could play, sing backing vocals and perform. In came our old dear friend Jarmo Ollila from DAILY PLANET (in these days singing in the band TELESKOP that he’s got with his brother Jouni Ollila). These two shows and the surrounding free days will always remain as fantastic memories for me.

There was a new ELEGANT MACHINERY album ‘A Soft Exchange’ in 2008 but there has not been a long playing record since, but how do you look back on the making of this record?

The shows in USA and Mexico lead to even more shows in like for instance Moscow, Russia and Tallin, Estonia (where we had the honor to sign the wall behind the bar in the famous DM pub in the latter city). We started to seriously talking about a new album. Since I was already dug deep down in the work of my other band HYPE’s forthcoming album ‘Desperately Yours’ that got released in 2006, the new album with ELEGANT MACHINERY, ‘A Soft Exchange’ had to wait.

After the release of the HYPE album, a year later I was expecting my first son, while we were recording all the pre-production of the new songs. We were by now, once again, living spread out in different cities and towns over Sweden. I had to travel a lot to enter one of the most used studios for my vocals, while I could sit in my home studio and work on different hooks for the production. The Moog Voyager Rack was for a while essential for me to create a lot of the drops and risers to use. ELEGANT MACHINERY were once again back – for a while.

The most recent ELEGANT MACHINERY release was an EP called ‘I’ in 2016, how do you find producing new music now, is it more enjoyable than back then or is it much more challenging?

Back in 2016, I befriended a talented musician named Jonas Kröjtz, living in Gothenburg, Sweden, where he also had his studio. We started to talk about if we, without the other past members, could create a new album with ELEGANT MACHINERY and at the same time try to make it more fresh. The EP ‘I’ became our child; a strong four song EP that was meant to be followed up with two more EPs. However, the way the record label worked with doing no real promotion made me to quit the collaboration with them.

At around the same time, I moved from Sweden to Germany. Eventually me and Johan Malmgren got back to each other, starting to talk about making a new album, despite living rather far away from one another. Then, thanks to the current technology, we could move ahead with our plans. We can collaborate in multiple ways online. Then… here comes the difference from the days of our youth and around nowadays; we spend more time with family and ordinary day-jobs than with producing music.

Already 20 years ago, the downloads of mp3 killed our incomes and now it would almost be an absurd thought living from what the music brings in financially. The sum of it all; we have more fun these days to create our next darling, but it takes more time. Actually, it has to take more time due to the lack of the very same; time.

Songs like ‘I Say’ and ‘Wheels In Motion’ from ‘I’ both brought in some aggression when compared with early ELEGANT MACHINERY and even the songs on ‘A Soft Exchange’, was this the midlife angst creeping in?

Hahaha, this is a funny reflection, but unfortunately not true whatsoever. With the EP ‘I’ and the circumstances it was created from, I could start to express myself in new ways. There was life events that were rather unpleasant happening the years before there and I needed to get it out in the songs in a proper way. I also thought it was time to develop the sound of ELEGANT MACHINERY.

Had the lyrics of ‘Future Breakup’ been motivated by anything in particular?

Indeed! This song is directed directly to my then pre-teen son and how he could get my advice later on in the future, being grown up.

Your vocal style, past and present has always had a passionate and honest style of delivery, how do you feel about the use of voice correcting software in recording today?

There has, since the early days of multi-track recording, been ways to manipulate certain takes from both musicians and vocalists. There’s nothing wrong with that. I mean, sequencers for electronic bands have always corrected the timing for instance. Then, of course, vocals need to have a certain degree of humanity when producing rather static synth music. I am no fan of too much editing there. Then, when it comes to the music production after Cher’s song ‘Believe’, most current song productions went downhill. I think like this; if you can’t sing, learn to sing or shut up. It’s as easy as that. Today’s younger people have been growing up with more corrected vocals than non-corrected ones. Isn’t that sad?!

What have been your ELEGANT MACHINERY career highlights? Do you have a favourite memory or amusing story?

Oh gosh, this is impossible to tell in less than a book, but one funny highlight that I always come back to is when I and another guy from our team separated from the rest of the group going out at Reeperbahn in Hamburg. This is way before Google Maps. I tried to be clever, so I wrote down the station street we got off and were to head back to in the dim night. I knew “Strasse” meant street, so I wrote down the name “Einbahnstrasse” and we carried on. Later on, me and my mate hopped into a taxi cab whereby I proudly announced our destination. The driver leaned back to me, asking “Are you a tourist?” Hahaha, little did I know that “Einbahnstrasse” means “One Way Road”!

Are there any of the 21st Century wave of Nordic electronic pop acts who you enjoy and rate?

Well, TELESKOP, TRAIN FROM SPAIN and KENT is some of the acts I can enjoy a bit. To rate them is not my cup of tea; that’s not fair. I prefer to see the good stuff only.

Finally, what is next for you and ELEGANT MACHINERY?

Me and Johan Malmgren, who has written the foundation for most of ELEGANT MACHINERY’s ultimate well-known songs like ‘Save Me’, are working together again since a couple of years. As mentioned before, we take it bit by bit as our time’s allowing us to do. Eventually there will be a new album out, with songs stronger than ever before. Also with some sprinkles of anger in the vocals on some songs can be expected, hahaha!

ELECTRICITYCLUB.CO.UK gives its warmest thanks to Robert Enforsen

Special thanks to Steffi Enforsen

‘A Soft Exchange’ has been reissued by Out Of Line Music as a red vinyl LP, available from

Text and Interview by Chi Ming Lai
Photos by Simon Helm except where credited
4 April 2024