Martin Molin is a musician, a member of the group Wintergatan. He is also the inventor of the "Wintergatan Marble Machine," a fantastic wooden creation that plays both melody and rhythm with the help of 2,000 marbles.
– I have always loved both music and mechanics, but never believed that the two worlds could be combined. It was a bit of a shock even to me when I managed it for the first time, says Martin Molin.
The machine actually has its roots in Lego. Both the Marble Machine and the music box that Wintergatan uses incorporate elements from Lego Technic. As a child, Martin would dedicate hours, days and weeks to building with Lego Technic. But where others lost interest and drifted away, Martin has never stopped.
– I am still totally fascinated by complex systems and constructions. And cogs. I love cogs!
It would now be fair to say that Martin Molin's initiative of combining music and mechanics has been a success. The Marble Machine video became a huge viral phenomenon. Just three days after it was uploaded to YouTube it had 10 million views from all over the globe. Today it has just over 27 million.
– It's unbelievably cool! I wanted to do something that could stand for itself and this really turned out to be a winner. It was like an avalanche to begin with. My phone didn't stop ringing and my email inbox was overflowing. I did loads of interviews for two months. In the end I had to say no because I didn't have time to get any work done.
– It was overwhelming, but it wasn't a complete surprise. When we released the music video, I said a bit tongue in cheek that my goal was 30 million views. But that was a number plucked from my wildest dreams. In actual fact I would have been delighted to get just a million.
But reaching out with his music has not always been so easy.
Its was no easy ride for Martin to find his niche and connect to an audience with his musical creations. For three years he sent several unsuccessful applications before getting on to a course at a college that recognised his potential.
– Can you understand how crushing it is when your biggest dream is to be a musician, but you hear time and time again that you are not good enough or that you should play like this or that? I don't know how many colleges I applied to after finishing school. But the answer was always the same. No.
It was only after Martin applied to the Songwriters Academy in Örnsköldsvik that his dogged persistence finally began to pay off.
– It was heaven for me. I have never paid any regard to genres or to what constitutes beautiful or horrible music. My niche is my breadth.
They never paid any regard at the Songwriters Academy either. One day the students were assigned to write two songs for Ricky Martin, the next for en entirely different artist in another genre.
– All of a sudden my scattered qualities found their place. It was wonderful to find my own musical world after all of my previous attempts to fit into others', like when I applied to all those folk schools.
Finally, Martin found his place and his composing could properly blossom. But his passion for music had awoken much earlier – when he, as a 13 year-old, saw a video of Jimi Hendrix performing live.
– I was completely blown away. With just a guitar and two microphones he made a sound all of his own. It was like he had created a totally new sound library. It opened my eyes to how technology could be used to make new sounds. There and then I decided to start playing guitar, and after that I spent all my free time making music.
When he was 14, he started his first band, inspired by other skate punk groups. However, it was not until they found the reverb button on their sound system that things really started to happen.
– We were mesmerised by the changes to the sound that came about from that reverb button. After that, everything we wrote was written with the button in mind. Ever since then, I've always tried to feature certain interesting sounds that draw the ear.
– But I wouldn't say that I make experimental music. On the contrary, I think the music I compose is very easy to listen to. I like it when music provokes a distinct feeling of recognition, but I try to give it some extra spark with some minor, unique sound in there.
Martin Molin believes that he inherited his musical side from his father and his talent for structure from his mother. And in contrast to many others with two distinct interests, one creative and one perhaps more practical, it has always been Martin's intention to make a living from music. The thought of working with science, being an engineer for example, has never crossed his mind. It's more like he has seen problem-solving as a hobby, while music would always be his livelihood.
– That's a dream I've had, at least. When I've met actual engineers I'm always slightly starstruck and tell them that I secretly would have liked to have been a researcher or engineer. Physics, space or buildings bridges, something along those lines. But I never really took it seriously. Music was how I was going to support myself and that was just the way it was.
This is also where STIM comes into the picture.
– Without the income from my earlier songs I would never have been able to properly devote myself to building the Marble Machine. So I am truly grateful for that.
Martin Molin was previously a member of the band Detektivbyrån, but since 2011 he has been one of the four musicians making up Wintergatan.
– The group means so much to me. All of us play a fair few different instruments. As I got to know David, Marcus and Evelina, their attitude to musical instruments was one of the things that meant we clicked so well. Maybe they needed a harp, but nobody knew how to play it - they just went out and learned it.
Up to now, Martin has written the majority of the group's songs, but new music composed by Wintergatan will now be the result of collaboration between all of the members.
– I've tried writing lyrics, but I'm totally useless at it. All I can write is emails, so I'll stick to that.
In autumn 2012, Wintergatan emerged on the musical stage with their début single and music video Sommarfågel, and six months later came their first album Wintergatan. After a long touring schedule, Martin decided to build his Marble Machine.
The thought was that it would take two months. It took 16 months. Working full-time.
After six months, he actually hit a dead end and was forced to start again from scratch. Something that might make most people give up. But for Martin, it was one of the happiest moments of building the machine.
– I knew that from there the only way was up again. It was a really good feeling.
The fact that he finally got his machine up and running is not just thanks to his passion for music and mechanics. To succeed with a project of this calibre, you also need to be just a bit obsessive. You have to be able to shut out the world outside. Completely.
– For me, it's all about the flow. I love to get submerged, to be in a bubble with just me and the problem. Like in this case, focusing on making all the marbles one after the other roll in one direction. It's my idea of paradise – a simple and enjoyable way of managing life.
– I know of course that I am the archetypal introvert. My latest obsession is hunting down 800 pieces of the same little Lego bit from all of these Lego suppliers. I love doing things like that. But at the same time, I do like to talk and, most of all, to get up on stage. After the first time I was applauded, that was it for me. Applause is addictive.
What does the future hold though?
The group is currently composing a double album.
– It will be one calmer record combined with one that's more intensive. The vision has been to reflect two galaxies – one uninhabited and rich with nature, the other fully populated. Then it will be like a journey, where every planet is a song.
Not entirely unexpectedly, Martin is a perfectionist and pores over every detail with a fine-toothed comb.
And, as if it weren't enough to devote 16 months of full-time work to building the Marble Machine, Martin will soon roll his sleeves up and start building a copy. This time, though, it will be perfect.
– I was a bit naive when I built the first one. The rubber bands dry out and have to be replaced all the time, one by one. Plus there's a heap of other small construction flaws.
On top of that, it's too wide to fit through the door in the workshop it was built in, so it has to be disassembled whenever it is moved.
– I want to be able to use it at our concerts now after we've released the new album, so it's just a matter of getting going and building a better version. The engineering is going to be a bit more refined this time so it can be split into seven parts, which will make it much easier to set up and take apart when we're touring.
– It's going to be perfect this time.
Martin Molin on…
– I love the possibilities created by technology and certainly don't believe that things were better in the good old days. On the other hand, I do also love going out to our cottage in the forests of Värmland. The forest doesn't care about technology or the world outside. It still looks exactly the same as the first time I was there. It is in a perfect state of development and decline, unaffected by human machinations.
– Small worlds with concrete rules are always forming all over the place. Within music too. These worlds are too small and the rules are too rigid. It's a shame because they impose these limits. If you want to succeed, you have to find your own world and your own place in it.
– I don't believe in any of this about geniuses and talents. Especially not when it comes to music. As long as you have a dream, you can succeed, that's what I think. So to everybody who is still trying to find their way with music, I would like to say 'Being single-minded and working hard is all that matters, talent is beside the point. Believe in your dream and don't let others judge you. You might not be going wrong with what you are doing, you just have to find the right context for you.'
In Martin's headphones right now:
– Bob Hund's new album. Going to see them in Copenhagen in November.
Martin's favourite songwriters:
– Eric Satie and Yann Tiersen. They both make what, on the surface, seem like simple, almost minimalistic compositions. I am inspired by the way they manage to make their music so scaled back and yet still achieve something that feels so large and complex. It's difficult to do simple but they are masters of it.
Background: One of the members of the group Wintergatan. Former member of Detektivbyrån.
Album: Wintergatan 2013. Singles: Sommarfågel, Starmachine2000 (2013), Tornado (2013), Marble Machine (2016).
– Instrumental band focusing on music and the instruments.
– Formed in 2011.
– The group consists of Martin Molin, who specialises in vibraphone and music box, Evelina Hägglund, specialised in keyboards, David Zandén, specialised in bass and Marcus Sjöberg, specialised in drums
Stim facts Martin Molin
Number of pieces with Stim 230
First registered work: Honestly
Most radio airplay:
Små små saker
En annan typ av disco
Biking is Better