Fredrik Vindelälv & Niclas Blixt Madison

Read time: 38 minutes

Most K Composite interviews are conducted as a direct interrogation. Scott Ritcher, or someone else, sits down with the interviewee and gives them the third degree.

However, in a first, we invited these two old friends to turn the tables on each other.

Fredrik (above left) and Niclas (right) have worked together in the magazine business for eight years, which they both agree is “way too long.”

Those years came to an end in 2014. On the eve of parting ways for different projects, they sat down to interview each other about their lives, that journey, and their unending quest to embarrass each other.

PHOTOS BY EMILY DAHL

Niclas (left) is in bold type. Fredrik is in normal type.

How would your life be different if you had never met me?

Would you like me to give an honest answer, or an answer you’d love to hear? [laughter]

You know how to please me, so go ahead. [laughter]

Well, then, I’m going to give you the answer you’d love to hear. [laughter]

My life would be fucking miserable. I would probably be homeless, out of a job, a washed-up, dirty, printer-slash-ex-hockey-player, and probably picking up people’s garbage somewhere.

Now I feel much better. [laughs] What about the honest answer?

No, let’s skip that. [laughter] How would your life be different if you never met me?

I think it would be… Actually, I’m going to give the honest answer, because I met my wife through you.

So my life would be…

…a whole lot better. [laughs]

Totally different. This was after we were already working together.

I just remembered this recently, that you applied for a job with us one time before you actually got a job with us. And I told you that you weren’t good enough! [laughs] 

No you didn’t! That’s false! You never told me anything! You just stopped answering my emails. [laughs]

But I never quit. I never gave up!

And you came back to another interview much later.

Stupid as I was, I came back two years later. So you gave me the job and then you left the company – as always.

Now I’m leaving to take a new job. It’s the first time that’s ever happened.

How does that feel?

Good, for a change. [laughs] The truth is that we have been working together – on and off – for about ten years, and you’re always the one dragging me around to new places, giving me jobs. But as soon as you do, you always move along.

You’re always like, “Hey, come work with me!” and then as soon as I do, it’s like, “Now you’re here, so I’m gonna get out of here.” [laughs] I’ve been chasing you around for ten years.

Now the chase is over.

I got tired of it.

(faux-reflectively) It’s time for that little bird to fly on its own. [laughs]

No, it’s time for you to chase me for a while.

Of all the places you’ve worked, which was the best?

As weird as it might sound, I have to say Slitz Magazine.

And as far as the worst place?

It’s the same answer. But working there truly was a great experience. Both good or bad.

It’s hard for other people to understand what it was like at Slitz

It’s indescribable if you weren’t there.

Well, we should tell the readers that Slitz is a men’s magazine. We had like 8% of…

It’s the equivalent of Maxim or FHM. It’s basically the same thing. A lot of “hooch” [laughs], a lot of fun, a few pages with females on them. But that was never the fun part. The fun part was the camaraderie of our colleagues.

It was a social playground of young guys who wanted to get into the journalism or entertainment business. And get free booze [laughs] and stuff. 

We only wrote about things we enjoyed, like playing video games, drinking booze, hockey – any sports basically.

We tried out and reviewed tons of different products. It always started like, “What stuff do we need now? What are we missing in our homes? Okay, let’s try it!”

And the man who was in charge…

…was a complete nut-job.

I believe you described him as “he was like Steve Jobs except an idiot.” [laughs]

That’s a very, very good description of him. [laughter]

There’s a fine line between being an idiot and almost a genius. And that guy, he knew how to make the magazine. Or at least he knew how to hand-pick the right people and force them to make the magazine for him. [laughter] So in that way he was a genius. He got people to stay late and work their asses off for peanuts.

He described himself as “the General Patton of the magazine industry.” His main motto was “management by fear.” And he succeeded at that.

Fredrik-Vindelalv-K-Composite-Magazine
Fredrik Jonas Martin Vindelälv
Born 17 August 1978 in Södertälje, Sweden
178 cm • greenish-grey eyes
Favorite Atari game: Green Beret

But it was a fun time as well.

Heaven and hell, definitely. Two weeks of hell, then two weeks of heaven. Compared to working with you now, which is neither heaven nor hell. It’s probably just life.

This is life. This isn’t hell. It gets much worse. [laughter] At Slitz we could be standing around just playing pinball for two weeks, then working 20 hours a day for two weeks… and listening to AC-fucking-DC all the time. [laughter] That guy, he loved AC/DC.

The last time I listened to AC/DC was probably when I worked there.

I haven’t listened to AC/DC since I quit working there.

They’re not on Spotify, you know?

I don’t know why.

I haven’t missed them. [laughter]

No, but, it was a great experience. I don’t want to go back but I don’t want to have it undone.

What was the most fun you had at Slitz?

Oh, so many different times. One of my strongest memories is probably when I got Tenacious D to strip down naked for me in a hotel room. [laughter] That kind of stuff just doesn’t happen when you have a regular job.

And two years later, I met Jack Black at another press junket when he was in Sweden to promote School of Rock.

He was jet-lagged and tired. There were about twenty journalists there and he just glared around the room, looking like he would rather be any where else in the world.

Then he looks up at me, points to me and screams out, “Man, you’ve seen me naked, dude!” [laughter] And all the other journalists just turned their heads and stared at me. [laughter] Awkward moment!

Another great memory is when I broke your collarbone. [laughs]

I have never forgiven you for that. [laughter] I’m still a cripple! You know, when we work out I still can’t lift one of my arms all the way up.

It was the first day of the Hultsfred Music Festival. It was Thursday and we went to the backstage area. We had just gotten there and and had two beers maximum!

Something like that, yeah.

And we tried to tackle this other dude – the dude you’re leaving to work with now at Spoon – and I was too fast. You caught up to me a little bit too late. So I had my shoulder in the ground when you tackled us and it just broke.

But all the people around me thought that my shoulder was just dislocated, so these three or four other guys grabbed my arm, and one put his foot on my chest and tried to pull it out. I woke up the day after that and my entire upper body was blue. [laughs] 

So I couldn’t go and do the interview with Brett Anderson and Suede, like we had planned. You and some other guy went and did the interview.

[laughter] Yes, and that led to our legendary first question to Suede, “So, who the hell are you guys anyway?” [laughter]

I think that broke the ice with them! He laughed his ass off. He was quite tired and he just shined up when we asked him that. “It’s been twenty years since I’ve gotten that question,” and then he just answered it!

From time to time it was really fun at Slitz.

That was the last time I have ever broken any bones, but you on the other hand are quite a frequent visitor to the hospital. [laughter]

Yeah, that seems to be the case lately. [laughter] I’m pretty unfortunate these days.

Good thing we have healthcare in Sweden.

Oh yeah! And triple insurance as well. [laughs] That’s why I do it. I need the money!

How many years in a row have you been injured?

I think it’s four years in a row now.

And almost exactly at the same time of year.

October. It’s not my month.

What happened yesterday? [laughs]  Oh, just a small accident. I stabbed myself in the hand with a pair of scissors. [laughter] You know, shit happens! [laughs]

We’ve talked about this.

I think it makes me stronger, or maybe it’s just because I’m getting older and more clumsy.

You shouldn’t use scissors, son. [much laughter]

Speaking of getting old, Niclas. Guitar lessons… massage lessons… dance lessons… drum lessons…

I’ve taken a lot of lessons, man.

How desperate are you to stay young?

I’m not desperate at all!

When are you going to get a motorcycle? [much laughter]

I’ve been thinking about getting a driver’s license for a motorcycle for several years now, but I’m too afraid I’d kill myself if I did. I’m saving that as a “bonus card” for when I turn 50.

When the crisis is really bad! [laughs]

I really enjoy doing a bunch of new stuff all the time. It’s really fulfilling to take a course in something and try something new.

Kjell Niclas Blixt MadisonBorn 26 July 1972 in Sundsvall, Sweden182 cm • blue-grey eyesFavorite Atari game: “I don’t have that app on my iPad.”
Kjell Niclas Blixt Madison
Born 26 July 1972 in Sundsvall, Sweden
182 cm • blue-grey eyes
Favorite Atari game: “I don’t have that app on my iPad.”

Okay, but lindy hop? [laughter]

Lindy hop is great! Have you tried it?

No. I’m a man.

Whoa, there. [laughs] 

I just have the feeling that lindy hop classes were not your idea.

It might not have been my idea at first, but after a few lessons it was really fun.

Yeah, I’ll buy that. I’ll buy it, but…

Man, I’ve been doing gymnastics for (wife) Magda’s sake, as well. I was trying to do these somersaults and standing on my hands and stuff like that. That was definitely not my thing! [laughter] I was the worst in the class!

What does she do for you? Do you have crazy ideas, too?

She has been to several hockey games and football games. We put each other in different situations. [changing the subject] Let’s talk about Karma for a moment.

Karma?

Yes, your daughter, not the concept of treating people nicely.

I know. I got it. I know what my daughter’s name is.

What is she going to be when she grows up? What would make daddy proud?

[laughs] Happy? Not suicidal. [laughs]

Are you going to bring her into the family business of publishing and design?

Definitely not.

I think she’s going to be a horse girl. [laughs] 

I really, really hope not! [laughs] “Dad” already spent all the money he’s ever gonna spend on horses.

(imitating a little girl) “Daddy, I want a horse!”

“You shut up!” [much laughter] That will never happen! I’ll make her hate horses!

Oh, you will melt! You’re going to melt when she says, “Daddy, I want to ride a horse!” [laughter] 

If there’s anything I can dedicate myself to as my life’s project, it is to make my daughter scared shitless of horses! [laughter]

She’s gonna be a rebel, like all teenage girls. “Daddy doesn’t want me to have a horse? I’m gonna be the best jockey in the world!” [laughter] “I’ll show him!”

Well, if she becomes the best jockey in the world, I guess it’s okay.

You’ll be laying on the couch, old and angry, watching TV as she wins the Kentucky Derby.

Bitter and old.

“Dammit! Fine. I’m proud of you! Is that what you want me to say?” [laughter] Cue credits!

Well, how old are you now?

(gasps) You don’t ask a gentleman that question! [laughter]

Okay, then, how old are you? [laughter] 

35.

Did you dream about becoming an NHL player when you were young?

Yes, I did.

How long did you have that dream?

I’m still playing hockey, but that dream got killed when I was about 18.

Why is that?

Well, I realized I wasn’t good enough.

But couldn’t you play in the Paralympics now… [laughter] …because of all your injuries?

No, I’m not that crippled!

Aren’t you officially 10% handicapped or something like that?

It’s 5%, actually, and that just happened last year.

Too bad. It would be great to know someone in the Paralympics.

How old are you?

I’m 41.

The past couple of years, you’ve had a tendency to dream yourself away. It’s been dreams of New Zealand, then the next week you’re buying a summer house in Uppsala, then the week after that it’s about taking a trip around the world…

Never Uppsala.

…then all of a sudden you’ve bought a house in Sundsvall, the next week the purchase is off. So what are you doing? Seriously, what do you want to be when you grow up?

Oh fuck. [laughter] (faking sincerity…) I think that what I’m doing right now is what I want to do with the rest of my life. [laughter] 

That’s such a lie!

We never bought a house in Uppsala. We did make a payment on a house in Eskilstuna, but that house turned out to be too crappy to buy. We are still looking for a little summer cottage or something like that. And the plan is still to go abroad and live in some other country for a few years.

Fredrik-Vindelalv-Niclas-Blixt-Madison-K-Composite-3

You have to dream a little bit. Man, you have been dreaming a lot… if we’re going to talk about dreams!

No! Now we’re not talking about me, we’re talking about you! [laughter]

Okay. So the plan is still to move to some other country – preferably New Zealand or some place like that – and to see how it feels to live there for a year or two. I have no idea what I’m going to do there…

Do you have any idea what you’re doing here? [laughs]

No. [laughter] No, I don’t. It’s “same, same, but different.” Have you thought about living in a different country?

Oh, yeah! [long pause] Since I was 15. But I’m way too lazy.

Which countries were you thinking about? New Zealand?

Never.

Because I could give you a job there. [laughter] Yeah, I have a small business down there now. [laughter]

I had plans for going to the States for a while. Never happened.

Man, you and I had plans to go to the States.

Yeah. We actually had our own magazine for a while. We made a huge mockup and everything. It was called Eurostyle.

We actually went to Los Angeles and had a “launch” for the magazine – a fake launch party – and people came up to us and said, “Oh, I’ve seen this magazine! It’s great!”

We had, like, three or four copies with us that we had brought from Sweden. Nobody had seen them before! And everybody in LA was like, “Oh, I really love this magazine!” [laughter] “I’ve bought several issues of it.”

Eurostyle was basically a lifestyle magazine with the main focus on European fashion. But a lot of stories also.

The idea was to bring the best of Europe to the United States together in one magazine. The best of two worlds. 

We had Elin Woods on the cover. I think I might still have a copy.

It was a hardcover magazine with 300…

Yeah, the paper we used was even thicker than Icon (a Swedish magazine with thick, matte paper pages) but the texture was the same. We used a digital printer to make the dummy. The funny thing was how easy it was to open doors in America with just the illusion of a company.

We went to a lot of bars and nightclubs…

We had dinner with Larry Flynt’s daughter. [laughter] We met the guy who represented Frank Sinatra.

And the Winnie the Pooh woman almost dragged me out of there!

A gold digger tried to steal you away. She pinched you as the money man of the group and decided to go for it! [laughter]

It was you and me and another guy in LA. I was the only one with glasses, and she was scanning us, like, “He’s not the smart one… He’s not the smart one… Oh! It’s the guy with the glasses! He must be the smart one!” [laughter] And she was all over me.

Why do people think that people with glasses are smart?

But we are, though! [laughs] 

I think it gives the appearance that someone is a little more sophisticated. Like they’ve read a lot of books. (Fredrik takes Niclas’ glasses and puts them on)

Look at this guy! [laughter] It’s like Buddy Holly all over again.

I can’t see anything, though. [laughter] Who’s talking? Who’s there? [laughter]

We’ve been to LA together quite a few times. We’ve traveled quite a lot together.

We stayed at a porn director’s home several times. He lived in a rented penthouse in Malibu, right on the beach. Pam Anderson was his neighbor.

We were sleeping on those mattresses that you take out on the water. Inflatable rafts. Another time we went to his place and he didn’t open the doors, so we had to sleep in the car on the way to Vegas.

I was never been in any of his movies, but I can’t answer for you.

Me neither. [laughs] I got asked, though. I wasn’t supposed to be a pizza delivery guy, but it was some kind of cameo role.

You said no?

Yes.

Why?

I have no idea why. I would do it today.

[laughing…] You would do it today?

Yes. I wasn’t supposed to be doing any of the “acting” so to speak.

It was a role with clothes?

Yes.

So that’s why you didn’t want to do it. You wanted to be the fluffer. [laughter]

I should hope not. It’s great that people in Sweden know what the fluffer is. America has given so much to the world.

[laughter] There is no Swedish word for “fluffer.” That job doesn’t exist here.

“Praktikant” maybe. [much laughter] (“praktikant” is the Swedish word for “intern”)

So that’s what they do?

So how do we know the porn director?

Most of the Swedish people who live in LA tend to know each other and throw out connections everywhere. So we went there and the only person I actually knew was a photographer who worked for (Swedish tabloid) Expressen. And he introduced me to Nick – who was the porn director – and he had a spare place.

The porn director is also Swedish.

Right. A lot of Swedish people complain about foreigners sticking together when they come to Sweden, but Swedish people are exactly the same way when they live abroad. And they love to open their doors and they’re really hospitable.

Fredrik-Vindelalv-Niclas-Blixt-Madison-K-Composite-4

We have met some crazy people in LA and Las Vegas. In LA we met this guy – I don’t know what his real name was, I just know his artist name – Dick Nasty. [laughter]

He’s British. His name’s Richard something. Richard Nasty, maybe?

That guy, then, had been in over 5,000 movies.

How many good ones? [laughs]

He was like 60 years old. And in Las Vegas we went to the craziest party I have ever, ever been to. Are you with me on this story?

I know exactly what party you’re speaking of!

It was a party with…

It was the staff of the Cirque du Soleil Zumanity show, which is still going on at New York-New York in Vegas.

So there were midgets, Russian trapeze artists, a lot of gay people…

A lot of gay people.

And it was some sort of a release party for the rapper… What’s his name? The Swedish one…

The rapper? I don’t remember that much from…

That guy Sam went and watched. Jackie drove us to this place somewhere on the outskirts of Vegas and we watched a live act of some dude…

(remembering) Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah!

…with curly hair and no shirt, rapping.

We looked him up in Sweden as well.

Avalon or something.

Mick Avalon!

Yeah. His dad was from Borlänge.

That’s right.

But he was born and raised in America.

But that was in the old Vegas. At a small casino in the old Vegas. A shitty bar. And this dude was standing up on two speakers having a release party. [laughter]

But it was crazy at that party because of all the Cirque du Soleil people. You were sitting in the empty pool with the midgets and I was trying to hook up with a Russian dancer – but I almost got pulled by the ear by her mother who was there supervising. [laughter] It was crazy.

And then we went to “that house.”

I’m not sure you want to go there in this discussion! [laughter]

Okay. We didn’t go to a house. [laughter] Okay, next question. [much laughter]

The thing is, we have a friend, he’s actually the one who’s responsible for all this craziness.

Yeah, we are not responsible! [laughter]

No. We just tag along. His name is Lars Wallin, like the designer, but he’s not the designer. He’s a personal trainer… slash… gigolo… [laughter] type.

You really want to say “gigolo” as well? [laughs]

Slash swinger. [laughs] So he took us to a swingers’ house because he wanted to introduce us to the owner and the manager of the club.

But what we didn’t realize was that the reason he did this was because he wanted us to “join him” later that evening in the house.

But we didn’t “swang.”

So we got a free tour in the daytime through this house filled with latex and bath furniture.

Bedrooms as big as this! (talking about the restaurant they’re sitting in) [laughs]

An interesting tour, but we didn’t follow through. We were too scared.

(changing topics) What are you going to do for money when the publishing industry goes out of business?

I guess I won’t be working in the publishing business then. 

So what do you want to do with your life?

When I grow up? Shit. I haven’t really decided yet. I’m just 41 so I still have time to figure it out.

Fredrik-Vindelalv-Niclas-Blixt-Madison-K-Composite-5

How much time do you think you have? [laughter]

At least a couple of years. I don’t know. I actually don’t know. I know that I won’t be an athlete. It’s too late for that.

You won’t be playing football.

No.

Niclas, you’ve traveled quite a lot. If money were out of the question, where would you go and what beer would you have?

[long pause] That’s a tricky question.

You can only choose one.

Just one beer?

You can have as many beers as you like, but you need to stick with the same brand.

In that case, I have to pick somewhere I’ve already been so I know what the beer is like, but I want to see new places. That’s so unfair!

You don’t have to pick a place you’ve been.

Otherwise I don’t know the name of the beer they have.

You can be brave! It sounds like you don’t even know what you’re doing in your hypothetical life! [laughter]

Fuck you! [laughter]

I mean, you gotta choose!

Okay. A lot people would say a tropical island somewhere, but I think it would be cool to go to – not the North Pole – but the South Pole.

Antarctica? It would be hard to find a good beer.

It would be cold, though! And money is not a question.

But do they even have bars there?

Of course they do! I’ve been to Syowa, one of the last posts before the South Pole, and they have a lot of bars.

But there’s no people living there.

People, you know… Researchers…

You know how they like to party! [laughter]

It would be cool to see Antarctica. But, of course, I would also love to go to Tibet or someplace like that.

If you choose Antarctica just to go somewhere cool, why not go to the Moon and have a beer and look out over the Earth?

Well, you have to pee in a bag and drink from a bag, and you don’t want those guys to get mixed up. [laughter]

And if the beer gets shaken up on the trip, it’s just going to go everywhere when you open it. [laughter]

Okay. You’re so smart. Where would you go?

I would go somewhere warm. I’d have to say – just a place that I have always wanted to see and visit – I would go to Australia. The Gold Coast.

Ever since you saw Crocodile Dundee[laughter] …you’ve been talking about Australia. [laughter]

Ha. Yeah. But I wouldn’t drink Fisher’s.

Foster’s.

I don’t know too many Australian beers, but Foster’s is not good.

Fredde, I’ve been meaning to ask you: What is the best way to make easy money?

Ha! The best way is to not try to earn easy money. [laughter] Hold on to it. Don’t spend it.

Take this as advice from the guy who has tried everything! [laughter] And I mean really everything. Hold on to your your money. Don’t spend it on anything. Nothing works. It’s all a scam.

It’s quite funny, because just five years ago you were so lucky – you said that all the time – that you didn’t have a mortgage so you felt free, like you could go anywhere…

Oh, you really had to go there? [laughter]

But I’m just reminding you…

(protesting) I had a good time! Now you want to… (giving up…) Continue please! [laughter]

The gloves are off, man! [laughter] But we’re not going to talk about mortgages…

(shouting) No, fuck it! I’m done with this interview! Shut that thing off! [laughter]

We’re going to talk about something else. What’s your opinion of horses?

Horses are a fruit that doesn’t exist.

How did you spend half a million Swedish crowns (about $78,000) on something that doesn’t exist?

Beats the hell out of me. I have no freaking idea. Just like horses, that money also doesn’t exist now! [laughter]

So that’s not the way to earn easy money then?

Ehh… No. It’s not.

I have another question for you, and I have the answer to this one. How many shoes do you have?

Fewer pairs than the number of watches you have. [laughs]

Fredrik-Vindelalv-Niclas-Blixt-Madison-K-Composite-6

Really? How many?

Last time I counted I think it was twelve.

Seriously. How many? [laughter] I have the number here. I can’t say who provided me with this information. [laughter] Maybe it was your daughter…

No, it wasn’t. She only counts to four.

And that’s way too low. [laughter]

Okay, give it to me. How many shoes do I have?

No, no, no, no, no. I want you to answer the question sincerely!

I have no fucking idea! It’s not that many.

You’re the fucking Imelda Marcos of Sweden! [laughter]

Still, you have more watches than I have shoes.

No, no, no! I counted my watches today, just because I knew that question would come up. I have eleven watches.

So how many shoes did she tell you I have? I have twelve pairs of shoes.

And you still say that I have many more watches than you have shoes.

You can’t count every single shoe. You have to count the pairs! [laughs]

And, for the record, twelve is not the correct answer!

So how many is it?

I need an answer from you.

I told you I think I have twelve pairs. (lowering himself to counting…) I have two pair of boots. I have two pair of sneakers. I have this pair I’m wearing. [pause] I have two pairs of nice dress shoes. I have three pairs that I gave away to homeless people recently that I never used. Then I might have two old pair somewhere. I don’t even think I have twelve pairs anymore.

I actually don’t have the answer… [laughter] I’m just fucking with you, man. [much laughter] But if I would have asked your girlfriend, I think she would have said twenty or something like that.

That’s because she can’t count! [laughs]

So actually your daughter Karma is a better at counting than your wife.

I didn’t say “better!”

Just different. [laughs] They have different styles.

I still think you have more watches than I have shoes.

I can give away some to the homeless as well.

This watch you’re wearing now has two clocks on it, so that should count as two watches.

I have nothing to add to that. If you could have just one wish, what would it be? You can wish for anything you want, just as long as it’s not for three more wishes, or something like that.

[12-second pause] Then I wish I would have complete and full access to the Ikea trust fund in Liechtenstein (worth over $15 billion).

I thought you were going to say that you wanted complete access to the Ikea store in Kungens Kurva and could get whatever furniture you wanted. [laughter]

No, I just want their funds. My guess is that I could do just about anything with that money.

But have you seen the Billy bookshelf? It’s quite nice! [laughter] You can put it together in just 15 minutes! Are you sure you want the money? [laughter]

Or I could have enough money to make, by hand…

…to put it together! Ah, nice! [laughter]

“You, go make me a Billy bookshelf out of gold! And put it together!” [laughter]

You know, money is not everything, man.

No, but it makes things a whole lot easier.

If we’re sitting here in three years, what will have happened by then?

I’ll probably be sitting here complaining about how boring the mining industry is. And you’ll probably be complaining that you don’t have anything to do because they shut down Boom Publishing two years ago, and they still haven’t found any new place for you to be yet.

And you still haven’t gotten off your ass to fulfill your dream of living abroad somewhere. So you have new plans every other week – where to go and what to do.

But we’ll still be having fun being our old selves.

Fuck you very much. [laughter]

How great will it be three years from now, not having to stare at my ugly face every day?

No, I’m actually going to miss… I’m serious now. I’m actually going to miss you. I think I’m going to miss you, but I’m not sure yet. [laughter] I haven’t felt that feeling yet.

You won’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone! [laughter]