Posted November 12, 2006
THE SWEET SOUND OF
There's something majestic, intriguing, whimsical but most definitely rocking about the way Swedish band The Soundtrack Of Our Lives write and record songs. Surrealistic in their lyrical content and ambitious in their instrumental augmentation, they end up sounding like a dozen classic bands that have gone before but somehow like none of them. Cue: mandatory Floyd, Beatles and Stones references.
But don't take out word for it:
"The music of The Soundtrack of Our Lives shows a deep assimilation of past highs - early Rolling Stones, Love, Q65, Syd's Pink Floyd, The Beatles, The Who, The Stooges, The Pretty Things - at the same time expressing a very personal vision rooted firmly in the NOW." - Mike Stax, Ugly Things
TSOOL, as they're known through most of the world (although the Swedes just call 'em Soundtrack), they've been name-checked by the likes of Oasis and Blur yet still remain a critical (and underground) favourite. Arising from the ashes of Gothenburg-via-Detroit exhibitionist punks Union Carbide Productions and with four challenging and evolving albums under their belts, they've pushed psychedelic rock under the nose of the mainstream to the point where they're constant USA and European tourists.
Finally, in December 2006, it's going to be Australia's turn with a local release for their double CD retrospective rarities collection ("A Present From the Past") and an appearance at the Meredith festival in Victoria book-ended by shows in Melbourne and Sydney.
THE BARMAN became a convert to the entity that is TSOOL in the late-'90s. He missed chances to see them in San Diego and Chicago and resigned himself to listening to the albums, until the tour news broke. He jumped at a chance to ask singer EBBOT LUNDBERG into the Bar for a quick question session on the eve of the band coming Down Under. Here's the outcome
Q Thanks for joining us in the Bar, Ebbot. TSOOL is finally making it to Australia. How did the tour come about?
A: By watching a light in the northern sky spelling HELP RICHIE RAMONE DOWN UNDER! in ancient Greek letters.
Mr Ramone [publican at Melbourne's Tote Hotel] did make a phone call the same night and invited us to come down under the earth's belt and play. Telling us that this is going to be the greatest thing for the Aussies since the first and last Olympic Ice-skating gold medal. We had a meeting and since everyone in the band actually saw the letters in the sky, we all agreed to make the trip and do our job.
Q There was a very long time between "Behind the Music" and "Origin Vol 1". Was this down to touring? Are you concentrating much on the USA? What's your schedule been like in trying to crack such a large country?
A: There was a constant delay of releases for "Behind the Music".... first in Scandinavia 2001, then Great Britain 2002, and the USA in 2003. This of course led to constant touring which led to very little time to concentrate on new material.
We´ve spent most of the time during 2003- 2005 in the States gaining a large crowd of followers.
This was during the invasion of Iraq.The American media was scary at the time and we felt very proud to be from elsewhere. And I guess none of our fans were Republicans except the ones at our label.....maybe that´s why our schedule was so hectic.
Q I suppose the other side to touring the US constantly and having a Grammy nomination is managing the hype. How did you do it and how was the reaction back home in Sweden that you were attracting that sort of attention in America?
A: Well, everybody who hated us before the nomination suddenly became fans and the ones who loved us became irritated.
So all we tried was to keep the first disciples of TSOOL happy by giving them free access to our demo-library. But come to think of it - we did not manage the hype because nobody in this band is developed enough to manage such a thing...
Q I heard you spent a year in the States as a teenage exchange student and liked hardcore. But was American music a big influence for the rest of the band? How has touring the US had impacted on the band's music?
A: I never went as a teenage exchange student, but my best friend Patrick Caganis did. He's the former guitarist of Union Carbide Productions" and nowadays a member of "the New Alchemy"- a constellation which I am also a part of. The reason he went was mainly because of the American hardcore scene at the time with bands like Bad Brains, Circle Jerks, Black Flag, Angry Samoans, Minor Threat and Husker Du etc.
The reason I never went is that I was going to be living in Utah, so I postponed my trip to the States a couple of years, so to speak..
I was content with all the imports arriving to the local record shop in Gothenburg before joining UCP.
For the rest of the band I cannot tell because they are all a little younger but our guitarist Ian was a huge fan of American hardcore the same time as me. Which means the period ca 1980-1985 AD.
Like any self-respecting drummer, happiness for Fredrik Sandsten is getting lai-ed.
Q What's the most bizarre thing you've seen on the road?
A:We saw a Sasquatch dressed up as a ballet-dancer smoking a huge reefer and then taking a big shit on our knocked out loaded road manager's ugly face before disappearing in to the forests of Canada. They have very good grass there by the way.
Another coincidence happened in Holland when we were attacked by stalking male strippers in a Rembrandt museum just before soundcheck. Our previous road manager, who was gay, disappeared and has never been seen since.
But I guess the most bizarre thing is yet to come down under I hope.
Q When are you releasing Origin Vol 2? There's a report that you have three or four albums worth of material ready to go.
A; We haven't decided yet. But it´s true we have a lot of good stuff waiting to come out of the fridge.
Q TSOOL have their own studio, I believe. Tell us about that and the recording and songwriting processes you like to use.
A. Our bass player Kalle, has built a large recording studio complex behind the amusement park in Gothenburg where we record nowadays. It is almost like a museum of old analogue stuff mixed up with the latest technology.
We have for instance, old microphones that were use by Goebbels during World war II....Gives a very mean sound indeed...and we also have the first Hammond organ that was ever made.(the one used on Del Shannon´s "Runaway").
One of the mixing tables (from Montreux) been used by Deep Purple mixing "Smoke On The Water" and later Mick & Keith used the table as a cocaine bed during the recording of the "Black and Blue" album.
Michael Jackson also used the table as a bed, but for naked youngsters, while mixing the album "Off the Wall" drinking heavy amounts of Jesus juice....
But It is indeed a very nice studio I must say and the staff working there are all very handsome and cunningly humble.
Mattias Barjed winds up for a Pete Townsend moment.
Q What's the most obscure instrument Mattias (or anyone else) has used on a TSOOL record?
A. I played with a vacuum cleaner on "Cleaning Session Raga" for instance..
Mattias was playing skin-banjo from the toilet while recording "The New Messiah" just to get that extra shitty sound we were looking for. But the strings went off so he used a Mandolin instead.
Q I suppose I could ask this about a lot of the songs, but someone has specifically requested I find out where the song "Dow Jones Syndrome" comes from.
A; Written about the balance between the planet and the ruling world bank stock-market....Which leads to a sickness and the feeling of being one chromosome short instead of one extra which is the ever struggling battle between hate & love.
Otherwise apart from the message the music of this song comes from Mattias who is an over-energetic unbalanced Gemini.
Q There's a real mysticism about TSOOL's music and I reckon a listener could re-interpret your lyrics five times over. Is this a conscious thing in writing the songs?
A:Sometimes it is.....I admit some songs are like the Da Vinci code with parallelograms and riddle-abouts to test the confused listener.And in some cases it is just about sexual frustration combined with lack of memory, just to make the listener even more confused.
But most of the lyrics are written under hypnosis really.
Q The other word that springs to mind is 'cinematic'. Is there a dominant theme in the stories your songs tell?
A: Every tune tells a picture....some are beautiful and some are less interesting......I saw a very hyped band the other day the name is of no importance and never will be) and there was a picture in my head seeing someone pull the plug for the electricity and then from above there was this giant Monty Python-foot squeezing the fuckers into oblivion for wasting peoples lives. Very Cinematic indeed.
But speaking of our own music there is a wish on keeping things magical and a little bit bigger than our own narrow-minded level of selves to make life worth living.
Q Your first release, "Welcome to the Infant Freebase", was a stunning 20 tracks long. "Extended Revelation" was 16. Not many bands debut with a double album. Are you fans of double albums?
A; Not really.We just had too many songs and it worked putting the majority of these songs together as an entity for everyday excitement. These things just happen and there´s nothing we can do about it really.....except pressing the "random play" button of course.
Q Tell me your five Desert Island Discs. What are you listening to know?
My five discs are made of Fire, Metal, Water; Wood & Earth (very Chinese). Put them together and you have an equalizer that plays all the music you can dream of.
Knowledge is not required.It only takes five fingers and a lot of fantasy.
Otherwise 5 favourite desert island discs by artists are:
1.The Rigid Range Rover Rollers: "Rectum Restoration Area 52 Revisited"
2.Justin Slayer "Big Booty White Girls 3"
3.Reverend Postcard "Stamp that Oyster"(live at the middle chest -74)
4.Feta Fettot Fes "Lukta Forever På Mitt Bajs Javla Hora"
5.James Fjong feat.Joey Silvera "Gött Me´ Fetta Enna Gubbar EP"
Q Do many critics "get" TSOOL? I'm intrigued to know what you think of the Beatles comparisons as I figure most reviews only scratch the surface regarding your collective influences.
A: Don´t know if anybody "gets" it...We certainly do not.
We just exist as receivers of a very dim information that we transform into sounds & words.If some people compare this to the Beatles they are probably right in a way. The main difference, apart from talent and chemistry, is that our band is not in any nation's interest. And the world the Beatles (or any '60s group) reflected is not the world we are reflecting.
We are nowadays more like a virus constantly attacked by spam blocks...
Q Did the band change a lot when Bjorn left?
A; We became physically younger for some reason.And we became a better live act.
But I sometimes miss the confusion and the ego struggle we had. It was a comic situation that was meant to fail.
Now I am glad he was not in the band during the big hype - for his and everyone else´s sake.
Q Seeing you're coming to Australia, are there any Aussie bands that have
had an impact on TSOOL's music? I know the Aussie music thing made its way through Scandinavia in the '80s so is there anyone you want to meet?
A: Well I used to dig bands like the Hoodoo Gurus,The Birthday Party and Cosmic Psychos, before that I was into The Church, Flash & the Pan(& the previous Easybeats) and, of course, the Bon Scott version of AC/DC. Men Without Hats or Men at Work or Midnight Oil never got to me really. But I would certainly, in a very drunken situation, gladly sing along to any of their hits for sure...
Q I was also intrigued to hear you did an extended set of Led Zeppelin songs at an awards ceremony in Europe. Was that one influence you kept hidden during Union Carbide Production days or weren't Swedish punk fans so precious about that sort of thing?
A: I don´t think the Swedish punk fans cared about that at all. And during the Carbide days we never tried to hide that we liked Zeppelin because there was no reason.
TSOOL were asked last spring by the Swedish King to play Zeppelin songs in front of Jimmy Page, Robert Plant & John Paul Jones at the Polar Price Award, and we said yes just for the challenge of it. And I think we pulled it off pretty well considering the look on their faces After the event we went out for serious nordic drinking with the old templars of heavy metal. And we all felt like the viking replacements of John Bonham's ghost that evening...
Q UCP recorded a song for a Black Sabbath tribute, no?
A;Well, we did a pretty lame version of "Planet Caravan" that I don´t want to talk about.
Q Turbonegro used to play up the faux gay mythology in their image but did UCP do it first? I've read you used to bait skinheads when drunk by tongue-kissing in bars and you jokingly told the German press Bjorn was a transsexual.
A: Yes, I think Turbonegro adopted the whole UCP idea and took it further on in a very ambitious way....poor bastards!
Q You're on the record as saying you were glad Union Carbide Productions went nowhere, relatively speaking, because there was bad karma in the name. Is that accurate and how do you look back on that band now?
A:I think in the end you actually become your name. Look at the Rolling Stones for instance.They must be made out of Stone. Or at least coconuts with Keith in mind.
I think UCP asked for its bad karma after naming a band after such a horrible catastrophe. But that is of no importance now."The proof is in the pudding" as Iggy once said.
And I am proud of what we accomplished then and that we all survived that rollercoaster.
Q I seem to remember hearing about a one-off reformation by Union Carbide Productions a few years ago. How did that go?
A:It went pretty well and we had a lot of fun but it felt a little bit strange for us to play on a big stage because we were always an underground band playing at small clubs.
Q Another Ebbot quote that I'm paraphrasing: 'Bands are social experiments'. How does that apply to UCP and TSOOL specifically, bearing in mind three of you have been in both bands?
A: Now there are only two of us since nine years and we are not trying to be social at all because we have realized that we have nothing left to talk about. So our lips are pretty much sealed except when we are under recording process.But most of our so called communication has been transferred as e-mail the last couple of years...
Q Do you think many people came to TSOOL through being UCP fans? Is there much crossover or does that vary from country to country?
A: I think It varies from Man to Man ,Town to Town, Country To Country, Planet to Planet, Sun to Sun, Galaxy to Galaxy,Season to Season, Reason to No Reason, Laurel to Hardy, Cheech to Chong, Alfa to Omega & from Bush to Ortega...
Q I don't want to dwell on your former band but I can't help but think that a song like "SF Boogie" is a precursor of some of the songs TSOOL would go on to write...
A:Do you really think so?.I would rather in that case mention "Golden Age" or maybe a song like "Mr Untitled" as a precursor of the TSOOL sound.
Q One thing I have been hanging out to ask...who picks the TSOOL song names? Has there ever been a song title that ended up on the scrap heap because it was just too bizarre?
A: I name all the songs in 99 percent of cases, I guess.
But there are a lot of titles that never made it, like "Branflake Dandruff Mongoloid" which became "Sister Surround", "Foreskin Nazi-anal Bigamist" which became "Jehovah Sunrise" and and a UCP song called "Father Further Up My Mother" which was named "So Long" later on....well, there are too many previous titles I´m to lazy to mention right now....
Q What sort of song selection can Australian fans expect or hasn't that been decided? You're doing an acoustic show at the Tote in Melbourne. Tell us about that and how often do you do that sort of thing?
A;We have not decided the set list yet. It always changes. Sometimes we just do acoustic shows to relax and play songs we don't usually play. Maybe we have done something like 10 shows a year like that so far.
Q As we mentioned, The Tote publican Richie Ramone is a key person organising aspects of this tour. How far back do you guys go?
A: I met the bastard maybe 4 or 5 years ago. He is very cute and organized.
Q I've been asked by someone to throw you a probing question about a trick you used to do with a beer tap...
A; Well - If you can´t have it in the front you can always try the back way...
Q You're renowned as a "taper-friendly" band. Can you expand on your attitude towards fans file-swapping and bit torrenting your shows.
A: People can do whatever they want. But it is always nice if they send us copies.
Q You're also a band with a reputation for wearing sharp and unusual threads. When did the kaftans come into your wardrobe and where do you get 'em?
A: It all started in Morocco while gaining some weight. Now my wife reluctantly makes most of ´em.
Martin on keyboards. His command of the tambourine makes him a multi-instrumentalist
Q Former TSOOL member Bjorn recently produced an album for a Swedish psych band called The Movements. Have any current band members followed the same path?
A; Yes. I´ve done that for a while, And Mattias and Kalle are also successfully producing other bands right now.
Q I'm not a Swede so I might not understand but give me three reasons why Gothenburg wipes the floor with Stockholm.
A: 1.Because it is the home of Volvo cars and heavy drinking.
2.Gothenburg people are not impressed by anything and are not hung up like the poor Stockholmers.
3.The saltwater and the magnetic fields makes the west coast people more
creative, intelligent and relaxed compared to the eastern part of Sweden.
Q Seeing we're in a a bar, what are you drinking?
A: Someone else´s drink, probably yours....Cheers mate!
Friday 1st December - THE TOTE, Johnston St, Collingwood
with Johnny Casino and the Secrets plus more
Tix $32 + b/f at The Tote front bar, Polyester (Brunswick st. Fitzroy), Missing Link (Bourke St. City)
Saturday 2nd December – CORNER HOTEL, Swan St, Richmond
with Spencer P. Jones & the Escape Committee, Shooting At Unarmed Men (ex-Mclusky) and the psychedelic sounds of The Great Apes.
Tix $32 + b/f at www.cornerhotel.com or 9427 9198
Friday 8th December – ANNANDALE HOTEL, Parramatta Rd, Annandale
with The New Christs, Johnny Casino and the Secrets, and the Dolly Rocker Movement . Tix $28 + b/f at www.annandalehotel.com
Saturday, December 9 - MEREDITH FESTIVAL (SOLD OUT)
Tuesday 12th December – THE TOTE, Johnston St, Collingwood
ONLY acoustic performance (actually electric, just kinda stripped-back)
with Dan Kelly and the Alpha Males, with more to be announced, plus a FREE BBQ !! . Tix $32 + b/f at The Tote front bar, Polyester (Brunswick st. Fitzroy), Missing Link (Bourke st. City)
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