Archive for the ‘Dear Jean Interview’ Category

Dear Jean interview with Nicke Andersson

June 6, 2010

Hi Nicke,

You recently released Imperial State Electric May 28th, an album you have described as “power pop emphasizing on power”. Is the project to be seen as the solo project you have mentioned in previous interviews?

The idea of I.S.E. seems to change from day to day. Let’s just say it’s me doing whatever I feel like at the moment. Initially I guess the idea was based around a solo thing but since I don’t care much for the words “solo” or “project” I decided a band name was what I needed. It leaves everything more open. And yes, without power, pop ain’t worth much in my book.

The sound of the album is very immediate with strong melodies and catchy choruses, not unlike KISS. What’s the main strength of Imperial State Electric in your opinion?

– Thank you. It’s not for me to say what I.S.E.’s main strength is, I just try to write the kind of songs I’d like to hear myself. Maybe that’s a strength? You decide.

What are your expectations on the response on the album?

– One thing I’ve learned over the years is that you’re better off having no expectations. All you can do is hope that some people will like what you do as much as you like it yourself.

You were one of the death metal pioneers in Stockholm introducing Nihilist in 1987. Death metal was in the mid eighties kind of rare and hard to get a hold of in Stockholm. What can you tell us about the tape trading days and it’s importance for the genre?

– Death metal was rare in the mid eighties period. It was all tape trading. Very few albums was released. Very exciting times indeed. Unlike today where it takes one click on the computer to find out about a band you really had to be into it and work hard to do so back in the day. A kind of dedication and determination which I think is very rare today. Kids don’t realize how convenient everything is.

After Nihilist you went on to form Entombed. My colleague states to this day that Left Hand Path from 1990 defined his entire interest in music, I guess like some kind of benchmark. Did you realize at the time that you were making metal history?

– Entombed is basically Nihilist with a different name. Same band. No, that’s not how it works. You do what you do and that’s it. Of course we knew that we were the first in Sweden with an album out but that wasn’t important at the time. In hindsight it’s great and all but it wasn’t anything you thought about at the time.

You did four albums with Entombed and by the third album Wolverine Blues you started incorporating traditional influences from hard rock to the death metal. The album is widely considered to be the origin of death n roll, i.e. death metal incorporating rock n roll. Was this maybe the first steps as a musician towards an interest of exploring the rock n roll that would be the signature of The Hellacopters?

– I don’t think we deliberately started to incorporate anything. If anything I think some of our influences showed more on that album. We were into that Amphetamine Reptile stuff, Uffe especially. Early Helmet, Unsane and stuff. Black Sabbath was always had a huge influence on death metal. Kiss, Cheap Trick, The Beatles and The Sweet were the first bands I heard and got into. Then I discovered punk rock. And from G.B.H., Exploited and Discharge the next logical step was Metallica and Venom and beyond. So no, it wasn’t about starting to explore rock and roll. It had been with me since I was a kid.

The Hellacopters was originally sprung out of a tradition of punk and garage rock on first albums Supershitty To The Max and Payin’ the Dues. However, with third record Grande Rock the direction changed to a somewhat cleaner sound. And eventually, with sixth album Rock n Roll Is Dead, you reached a sound of old-fashioned rock n roll with soul influences. What led and inspired to the changes of direction?

– Being on the outside looking in it might seem like we changed but I don’t think we did. We progressed, for lack of a better word. We learned to play our instruments. For better or worse (your decision). Also, song writing has always interested me. Sure, if you put “Supershitty” next to “R&R Is Dead” I can see the difference but The Hellacopters, unlike a lot of other bands, was a band that started to record after three rehearsals so what you see is the whole process of a band developing. Whereas most bands spend years perfecting their sound and skills, we kind of left the door open from day one. A rock and roll reality show.

The announcement of The Hellacopters breaking up came as a big unpleasant surprise. In addition, this happened while you commercially probably were peaking. What led to this decision?

– I wouldn’t say we were peaking commercially. We’d been on the same level for years. I think all good things has to have an end. We’d done it for about 14 years and in my opinion that’s more than long enough. The decision to throw in the towel when we were still a good band was the best decision we could make.

Final album, Head Off, is a collection of covers. I read somewhere this was a way of introducing new bands to your fan base. The album seems, at least to me, somewhat less inspired than the previous ones. Did it turn out the way you wanted?

– Yes, I think it turned out great. It wasn’t less inspired on my part at least.

You teamed up with Scott Morgan from The Sonic’s Rendezvous Band for a successful soul collaboration, presenting The Hydromatics in 1999 and The Solution in 2004. You did one album with The Hydromatics and two albums with The Solution, are more to follow?

– At the moment I don’t see The Solution happening again. I’m really glad we did what we did but it was heaps of work involved getting all the musicians together and Scott living in the States and all. I’m sure I’ll do more soul stuff in the future, one way or another.

Is soul and rhythm n blues a big influence?

– Yes, like any music I listen to. Since I discovered it I haven’t turned my back on it. I dug really deep but I still haven’t heard all the stuff I want to. Which is great.

In 2005 you went back to your roots and rediscovered death metal with Death Breath, partly influenced by Celtic Frost and Venom. What does death metal mean to you today?

– Good death metal gets me going. Again, like any music I like and listen to. I don’t care if it’s Autopsy or Sam Cooke. Can’t analyze it more than that I’m afraid.

So far one full-length album and one ep are released, Stinking Up the Night and Let it Stink. Rumours state that another Death Breath album is planned…?

– Yes, we’ve recorded all the music for a new full-length album and we’re waiting to do vocals. But since I’m kinda in the middle of something right now it’ll have to wait. A release later this year/early next year seems likely. And by the way, it’s gonna kick ass.

In addition to all of this you are a part of Cold Ethyl, a club act playing seventies hard rock. Interestingly, Cold Ethyl doesn’t have any ambitions of releasing albums. Do you consider the live experience more important?

– Cold Ethyl was just a one off thing we did at Debaser last year for the club “Fanclub”. Five shows. I consider live shows and recording two different things. I like both.

It seems like you’re on a never-ending journey of exploring new musical territories, starting off in death metal, continuing to garage rock, then further on to classic rock n roll and soul and finally finding your way to the power pop of Imperial State Electric. Where’s your next stop in the musical landscape?

– I don’t consider it a journey. I just do what I feel like doing. We did power pop with The Hellacopters too. It’s just labels. I wanna play good music. It’s not like I go “metal – check, rock – check…”. I’m a music fan first of all. Listening to music makes me wanna write and play music. It’s as simple as that.

Has your broad frame of reference and varied musical expression ever alienated your audience?

– I couldn’t care less. If I did I don’t think I would be where I am today.

In autobiography Scar Tissue Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers tells us about the disappointment of opening for The Rolling Stones due to the fact they weren’t allowed to neither sound check nor to fully use the stage because of Jagger’s mahogany dance floor. You have opened for The Rolling Stones, how was it for you?

– Boo hoo. I just picked up a new instrument – the world’s smallest violin. Poor Anthony is just cranky because he can’t sing and is in a real shitty band. Opening up for The Stones was amazing.

What was opening for KISS like?

– That was amazing too. Considering I grew up with Kiss it’s quite a big deal for me.

You were also invited by Wayne Kramer to join the MC5. How did this happen and what was it like joining your long time heroes?

– Even more amazing. We met Wayne when we played in L.A. with The Hellacopters. We met some more and got know each other a bit. When they were gonna do this thing at the 100 Club in London he asked me if I’d be into playing guitar. I guess I still can’t believe they asked me out of all people. Then when they were gonna do a full European tour they asked me again. Must’ve done OK in London then.

Which artists have inspired you to become the musician and composer you are today?

– Kiss is probably the biggest reason I do what I do since they got me into music at a very early age. Also Sex Pistols, The Ramones and the whole punk thing since they proved that pretty much anyone can do it.

Where do you find inspiration, apart from music? Literature, art, politics…etc?

– Books and movies are good for writing lyrics. Also politics for pissing you off.

What does your process of composing look like?

– I pick up a guitar and usually something comes out of it. Most of the time the chords and the vocal melody comes simultaneously. Lyrics is the last thing I do.

You are contracted by TYM Guitars; an Australian manufacturer of custom made Mosrite guitars. Both Johnny Ramone and Fred Smith used Mosrite guitars, were they an influence on your choice of weapon?

– I’m not contracted by Tym Guitars but I’ve got a few of his creations and I like them a lot. I just find it hard not to like Mosrite guitars. There’s just something about them. Johnny and Fred are two of my absolute favorite guitar players ever so yes, that’s an influence.

You were asked by TYM to design the Nick Royale Model, which is based on a mahogany Versatone body with a maple neck. Where did you get inspiration for the design?

– I wanted a tad smaller version of the Mosrite Mark I body with one mini humbucker. Kind of a cross between a Firebird and a Mosrite.

What other endorsements do you have today?

– I have a great DiPinto guitar and a “real” Mosrite which they make in Japan these days. A Yamaha acoustic guitar. A Tanglewood 12 string acoustic. An Eagle 12 string Rickenbacker clone. All great guitars.

The music industry 2010 is unfortunately far from as inspiring as the scene in 1969 or 1979. Is rock n roll really dead on today’s music scene? And which artists do you find relevant today?

– In a lot of ways rock and roll seems pretty dead these days. I’m doing my very best to keep it alive. Hex Dispensers are really good. The Hives are still relevant. Of course there are good bands around but the sad truth is that you have all these old timers that completely rock the socks off any young so called rock and roll band, when it really should be the other way round.

You have stated that Pig Champion of Poison Idea is your biggest role model. Why is this?

– Because he is definitely the biggest.

The visual framing and aesthetics have always been an important part of metal, something that often is obvious when it comes to the cover art. Which are your five favourite album covers? What’s special about them?

– In my world it’s not important in metal only, it’s just important. I think there should be some sort of a connection between the music and anything around it. It makes everything better. It’s the way you wrap up a product and how you present yourself. Every good band has been concerned with that. From The Beatles to Kiss to The Ramones to Iron Maiden to The Hives etc.

Kiss – “Rock And Roll Over”

Ramones – “Road To Ruin”

Black Sabbath – “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath”

T. REX – “Slider”

The Stooges – “Funhouse”

Iron Maiden – “Killers”

I know that’s six but I could go on forever. What they have in common is that the covers perfectly represent the music inside. Flawless!

You yourself have designed some of the cover art on your albums, for example the Entombed logo and the cover art of Stinking Up the Night. And you’re currently hosting an art exhibition in Stockholm, Rockikoner II, with pieces from Erik Rovanperä and yourself. It’s kind of a tribute to long time heroes. Art and design seem to be something you hold close to your heart?

– Yes, I really do like to draw and paint but I see it more as a hobby than anything else. I think my ideas are often better than what I actually come up with in the end.

As an old KISS fan, have you got hold of any rare KISS merchandise?

– I bought the Kiss pinball machine for next to nothing in the early 90’s.

You have historically taken the part of being the composer, drummer, the guitarist, the singer, the producer and the designer. Is there any more to it?

– Yeah, bass player!

Your broad frame of reference makes it interesting to hear some of your spontaneous reactions and thoughts on a few Dear Jean favourites. Would you mind giving a comment on your thoughts when you hear them?

(Spotify link for playlist)

Jerry Lee Lewis Don’t Let Go (1965)

Great stuff from the killer.

Rod Stewart Blind Prayer (1969)

Amazing! Rod at his absolute best!

Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys Dusty Skies (1941)

A very likable little hillbilly hoot.

Gang Of Four Damaged Goods (1979)

Not my cup of tea.

Brinsley Schwarz Surrender To The Rhythm (1972)

Great, I like it a lot.

Judy Mowatt Black Woman (1983)

My expertise in reggae is somewhat limited but I like her voice.

Monster Debbie, Debbie (1997)

Pretty good.

Chicago Introduction (1969)

White cocaine funk. Not my thing.

November Starka Tillsammans (1972)

A bit too much on the hippie side of things for me but quite enjoyable.

Opeth Heir Apparent (2008)

Not my cup of tea either. I like verses & choruses. The piano bit was nice though.

Finally, it would be great if you picked five of your favourite songs for the Dear Jean Spotify playlist that you feel represent uncompromising art and the love of music.

Little Jerry Williams – She’s So Devine
Starz – Rock Six Times
Sparks – Lost And Found
George Jones – Revenooer Man
Bobby Patterson – Soul Is Our Music

Thanks Nicke!

And good luck with Imperial State Electric. The album is nothing less than excellent.

Dear Jean Guitar Clothing is to be found here. Nicke Andersson’s suggestions for the Dear Jean Spotify playlist are to be found here. The Dear Jean Spotify list in it’s entirety is to be found here. And Imperial State Electric on MySpace is to be found here.

Opeth interview coming up

February 12, 2010

The Dear Jean Journal is currently preparing an interview with Mikael Åkerfeldt, frontman of Swedish death metal giants Opeth. Opeth is about to kick-start their twentieth anniversary tour, starting off at Cirkus in Stockholm March 30th, 2010.

Hopefully, the interview will be posted within a week or two. Til then…

Dear Jean interview with Daniel Gilbert

January 17, 2010

Hi Daniel,

New African Sports, Soul Café Club No #1 is your solo debut after many years as an established musician. What took you so long?

I guess I never felt that burning need for sharing my music, it only served as something for my own pleasure… A kind of a vent. The fact that it’s now out for public inspection came out of a sudden window of opportunity. Instead of dealing metal t-shirts last summer I took the time to shut the band and myself away …

When listening to New African Sports, Soul Café Club No #1 we sense influences from Velvet Underground, Johnny Thunders, Pixies and Television. What artists have inspired you to become the guitarist and composer that you are today?

There are many sources of inspiration, not necessarily only musicians. I love people like Klaus Kinski and some of the parts played by De Niro can be just as inspiring as Pretty Things, or even more… However, artists that have followed me through life are for example Bob Dylan, Mr Cash, 22 Pistepirrko, Spacemen 3, Oscar Peterson, Chet Baker, Glen Campbell, Afghan Whigs, The Jesus & Mary Chain among others….

Your nickname is Hurricane and Hurricane Gilbert struck, as we all know, with tremendous force upon Jamaica. Has the Jamaican music tradition been an equally hard-hitting influence and source of inspiration for you?

Oh, The Congos, Linton Kwesi, Toots And The Maytals…. There is so much music from that island that I’ve dug into…

When listening to early Broder Daniel, Augustifamiljen or Håkan Hellström, we’re struck by the fact that what mostly characterizes the sound is your guitar. Can you feel that that sound is yours?

Hahahaha. I can’t say that anything on Earth is mine, apart from my own feelings. If my guitar playing has set the colour of any band that I’ve played in, I take it as a wonderful compliment, however I’m not sure that I can agree on this!

Your characteristic sound often makes us think of Tom Verlaine. Do you consider it a strength having a clear identity as a guitar player, like for example Verlaine? Or is there a risk of painting yourself into a corner?

Not a day passed for several years without me thinking of the greatness of Television. For me, the creative expression has always been the most interesting in music, not technical finesse nor skills… I have never had the discipline to practise enough to become a fast or technical guitarist but that has never been a goal of mine, I’d rather preserve my own expression! All guitar players that I admire have their own sound, you can right away identify if it’s J. Mascis, Richard Lloyd, Blixa Bargeld, Django or Chet Atkins (not that I’m in any way comparing myself to any of them).

What does your process of composing look like?

The songs always used to come to me. I used to be playing around and all of a sudden an idea was formed to a riff or a chord composition and I continued building from there.
Only the last couple of years I’ve started with an idea of a whole song and then tried to put that thought together to a song, which to my surprise works…
One shouldn’t present a situation being worse than it really is but soon I’ll probably write the lyrics first and then the music to it…. Hahahaha!

We sense a streak of punk in your music? Do you agree on this?

Punk has, if possible, played a bigger part than rockabilly in my life. Nevertheless, I didn’t fall for the British punk wave (THE CLASH excepted!) as I did for the American punk scene with Hell & Voioids, Ramones and acts like that.

Håkan Hellström often calls attention to his love towards the Swedish folk song tradition, something that is kind of unusual in pop music. Do you keep it as close to your heart as he does?

Swedish folk obviously is a part of our growth, both my and Håkan’s parents are a bit too old for Beatles, Stones and Elvis so there were instead a lot of folk songs in our homes. However, I consider jazz to be a more important foundation of mine.

Music artists who are given attention in the media, are often the ones that have been produced by the TV industry, therefore cast in the same mould. Can you see that uncompromising art has a natural place in an increasingly commercialized society where, in addition, copyright is challenged by modern technology?

Good Lord, you could write an essay on this topic, but briefly, I believe that the only consistent art is art being allowed to be uncompromising and unique. Conformity will extinguish itself by the fact that there is so much of it. Like comparing gravel with diamonds!
I certainly hope that I’m right on this because I have never managed to identify myself with mainstream culture. It has always been alternative music that meant something to me, and that identification has made me who I am.

What are your expectations on the response on your debut album?

I haven’t dared to set any specific expectations on this album, I’m happy if a handful of people listen to it and appreciate it.
But I am bloody keen on going on the road playing so therefore I hope it will be well received! We’re right now rehearsing for the spring tour and obviously we want to visit as many big cities as one-horse towns as possible, if we’re allowed to.
It would be great touring outside Scandinavia in somewhat faraway countries, this being something I haven’t done yet!

Finally, would you mind picking four or five songs for the Dear Jean Spotify playlist that you feel represent uncompromising art and the love of music, we’d be very grateful?

The Blank Generation, Richard Hell & The Voidoids
Tangled Up In Blue, Bob Dylan
Golden Age, Union Carbide Productions
My Love Has Gone, Josh Rouse
Love Kills, Radio Birdman

Thank you, Daniel.

Great questions! I enjoyed answering them. And thank you for the gig bag, I use it on the daily walk to the rehearsal studio.

Regards, D.

Daniel Gilbert plays at Debaser Medis in Stockholm January 23rd 2010. Solo debut New African Sports, Soul Café Club No #1 was released December 26th 2009. You’ll find Daniel Gilbert at MySpace.

Unfortunately, Spotify has yet to add some of Daniel’s suggestions for our playlist. The playlist is to be found here.