Jeff Dahl is a rare bird who has a big heart that beats for rock’n’roll. I challenge you to find a more dedicated, real and ambitious artist than him. Nothing has ever stopped him from doing his thing. You could always rely to him to manage the legacy of bands like The Stooges, New York Dolls and so on when no one else cared for that type of music. He has helped preserve that corner of rock’n’roll and kept it alive. People really should be aware of that. There was a time, in the late ’80s, early 90’s when Jeff and his music were one of few bright lights. His approach as an artist is very similar to ours. We have a lot in common both musically and philosophically. He has always been a true inspiration to us.
Jeff and I have been pen pals since our first 7″, which he gave a favourable review in his fanzine, Ultra Under. When time came for him to travel to Sweden again, mainly for intellectual reasons, we wanted to squeeze some rock’n’roll into his visit as well. He chose some songs and we rehearsed them before he came over. I wrote the song Mean Street Beat which he contributed the bridge to. Then we did one show in Stockholm. It was sparsely advertised and maybe 40 or 50 lucky people showed up. It’s already legendary.
The day after we headed into the studio to get the record done. Most of it was done more or less live with minimal overdubs. I took the recording to my studio and made some additional overdubs and stuff. Then it was mixed and mastered. Just a great experience all together. It was a true privilege to work with him on the record. We had a great time and it shines through in spades.
As a kid, I first heard Two Headed Dog in his version and discovered Roky Erickson soon after thanks to Jeff. I really wanted to do a Roky song for this record but we never got around to do it. Maybe next time.
And the split you did with The Hip Priests was a great match up what about some dates in the UK maybe with the Hip Priests who have a new album ready to go.
The Hip Priests approached us to do that one. We are really thankful to them because things snowballed a bit for us because of that record. Plus it became a great single. Their version of Hot Runnin’ Blood is so great. I love what they did to it. Without that record. I don’t think we would have been as active in 2018 as it turned out. They sort of reintroduced us to our own scene weirdly enough.
We have been talking about doing a UK tour with The Hip Priests and I am really looking forward to their new album. As it turns out we’re label mates as well now. At least in Canada.
How did you find touring America those looked like great matchups you guys with The Nomads and Fleshtones and then New Bomb Turks and Datsuns.
(It was The Dragons we toured with Stateside. Datsuns opened up on some of the shows on The Hellacopters farewell tour when we played with them.)
Touring the States was , of course,a dream come through. It was very tough though, especially the first time. We had gotten used to a certain standard in Europe and that was luxury compared to the US. Sometimes it was extremely far between the venues, food was always okay but sometimes we didn’t have anywhere to sleep. Then and again someone took us home and gave us beer and a place to crash for a few hours. Americans are great that way. Very helpful. Someone will always lend a hand. Even so ,we stood without accommodation on a few occasions. Those days were just crashing anywhere, sleeping in the car or not at all.
I fell asleep in a car i New Orleans with open windows at one time. Lucky I didn’t get killed, hehe. Vaguely I remember sleeping in an attic under an American flag and once in a coffin someone had in their house. Weird memories..
At one time we ended up at this guys house (wont tell you who) and he played us rehearsal tapes with The Stooges recorded on reel-to-reel from the time around Fun House. The tapes have never been released in any form and as an old fan it was an amazing experience to get to hear that.
The second tour we were put together with The Dragons from San Diego. They were the perfect ambassadors to the road life in the USA, toured all the time and knew every trick in the book. I guess it was the most fun tour we did over there. Hanging out with those guys was amazing. Not did they only show us the real, dirty underbelly of punk rock’n’roll America, they also showed us how to become a great live band. We learned a lot from them.
Eventually, they got signed to Gearhead as well. I guess we demanded they should be signed to the label. They just got out of some contract if memory serves me well. We had a couple of fingers in getting New Bomb Turks signed as well. No doubt about that. For a while, Gearhead had the greatest roster in the history of punk rock. “DEMONS”, Dragons, New Bomb Turks, The Hellacopters, The Hives, Turbo A.C’s, Riverboat Gamblers..
Touring with the New Bomb Turks was also great. We always pulled pranks with the bands we traveled with and at Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco we rented gorilla suits and hit the stage. Just as Elton John did with Iggy. The idea came from that. I think it was during their version of Mr. Suit. It was meant as a joke but I think Eric got genuinely scared because of some incident we didn’t know of. I remember Micke stage diving while his the head of his costume turned backwards. He was totally blind, mid air..
Mike LaVella was in on the prank we pulled on The Dragons. Mario always wore that “Who the fuck is Mick Jagger” shirt Keith had. Mike printed a few shirts with the text “Who the fuck is Mario Escovedo” which I wore at our show with them at the Casbah in San Diego. Mario was not that amused however, haha.
Our first headlining tour followed and it is by far the most intense and crazy tour we have ever done. Everything happened, we got robbed of all our gear, played motorcycle hangouts where everybody fought, even the women, got booted off Gearhead (not for doing drugs though) got lost in the desert and was held at gunpoint. That’s just the beginning of it. There’s a great live recording from the Crocodile Lounge in Seattle where the crowd chants “burn down the club” after the show since we weren’t allowed an encore. We hope to release that some day soon.
At the end we had met everybody from the Commodores to Jello Biafra, hardcore legends came out to see us, T-Model Ford opened up for us in Baltimore of all places, we got our kicks on Route 66, got seriously fucked up and never missed a show. It was great fun, chaotic, but great fun.
There are lots of stories and they would sure fill up a whole book.. Even though it was back breaking work it was an amazing experience all together.
There seems to be some great festivals in Europe featuring a lot of good bands like Hellacopters, Nomads, Turbonegro like Helldorado recently sadly not in the UK. Is there a good appetite for high energy rock n roll in Sweden right now?
The surge for high energy rock’n’roll is coming along for sure again. There are a couple of rocking underground bands here but almost none of them are playing much in Sweden. The industry here will never accept rock’n’roll music in any form. Only if any band gets infamous or so. Media will never cover an underground band just to help out a scene or something like that. That just wont happen. Being independent has no value in Sweden. It’s more on a grass roots level.
Although we just got added to the Garage Rock Day 2019 with Electric Frankenstein headlining. It takes place in Stockholm on the 25th of May. That, and last years Drenched in Beer festival will hopefully lead the way and make more venues interested in this type of music.
Being from the UK there was a big explosion back in the day from Scandinavia of really cool bands at a time when the UK music business was busy eating itself and there wasn’t a massive amount happening and we saw some of the bands hit our shores and I know it took off and we had some pretty good tours from the likes of Backyard Babies, The Hellacopters, Gluecifer, Turbonegro, The Hives and Randy as well as other bands like and D4 and Datsuns (although not from Scandinavia they toured the UK at the time) off the top of my head, what was it like in Sweden at the time because obviously, you guys would have been friends right? Did it seem like things were happening or was it just isolated bands or were we getting a distorted picture?
We toured the UK back then. Played with local bands as well as The Dirt Bombs, Moldy Lemon and more. Great times!
In Sweden, everybody hooked up with everybody in those days. Often touring bands slept at friends houses or apartments. It was intertwined in all sorts of ways you wouldn’t believe. People had parties and sometimes we would be at Nicke’s (from The Hellacopters) listening to records by the new bands on Crypt, Estrus or Sympathy. I live in a small apartment and at one time members of The Hellacopters, Entombed, Turpentines, “DEMONS” and some more people crowded my small living room partying and listening to records. I remember trying to convince Nicke to get into ska (as he liked rhythm and blues) and gave him a rare Skatalites record.
One of my best friends, Odd from The Robots (known to Hellacopters fans as the originators of Sign of the Octopus) frequently would put up Happy Tom in the independent days, They are still good friends I guess. We were hanging out with everybody coming through town. Zeke, New Bomb Turks, Queens of the Stoneage, Powder Monkeys, Chris Bailey, Guitar Wolf, you name it.. Everything centered around a record store called Freak Scene where Robban from The Hellacopters worked at one time. Freak Scene also released their second single along with a bunch of other cool stuff.
The place we usually took bands was Kvarnen on Södermalm in Stockholm. We rehearsed there in the basement together with The Nomads (who got us in), Bob Hund, The Cardigans and Atomic Swing. Robban Strings Dahlqvist’s first band, Silvermachine, were there as well. Legend said David Bowie had rehearsed there once for a show and Lou Reed also.
It was a very interesting era. Of course, the area is gentrified now and most of those hang outs are gone. Somebody bought Kvarnen, kicked everybody out and converted the basement into an orange tile covered bar where they played house music. Nothing really wrong with that. Guess it’s progress. All though It should have been converted to a museum instead with all that cuture going on.
We heard all sorts that you guys would have grants out of high school if you started a band and stuff like that we used to joke that every child in Sweden was given a high school pack that contained some creepers, a leather jacket a les paul junior and a packet of smokes I guess that wasn’t true then?
Haha, the creepers most likely came from us, but no, there was no easy way to do it back then. There was also considerably more interest for this type of music outside of Sweden. It took a long time before Swedish journalists and media caught on and when they did only The Hellacopters was their focus. Most of the other bands had to deal with the fact that the darlings of the press were them and constantly be compared to them. We were all friends and supported each other in the beginning but to us it felt absurd to be compared to The Hellacopters. Mostly because we, from the start, were isolated and alone on our turf with the influence of all that music that was also claimed by them a few years later. We love The Hellacopters though.
There was this weird self-promoting media culture in Sweden that I guess is hard to understand if you’re not Swedish. Back in the day most all of the more influential music journalists were more interested in writing something sensational and creating a buzz around something than actually covering a scene or some type of music. Some of that self-indulgent culture is still apparent in Swedish music media today. National radio, which is funded by tax money, only play major label crap. Anyone with an underground band knows what I’m talking about.
I mentioned the record you did last year on Ghost Highway with Jeff and you recently mentioned that you just finished up a new “Demons” album any idea when we can see this get released? tell us a bit about the new record? where was it recorded – producer – any details of the songs or possible title?
Yeah, there is a new album on the way. The title is Kiss Off and it contains a whole batch of new songs plus a bunch of re-recorded titles from our most recent records. It will be released through God’s Candy Records in April with Get Hip distributing. Most of the basics were recorded in Studio Dubious in Stockholm during different sessions in 2018. Then it was completed and finished in my studio and again mixed in Dubious in Stockholm. I guess we recorded about 70 percent of it ourselves just like the last album, Scarcity Rock.
It’s gonna be our first full length since 2010. The material is maybe a tad more varied and definitely more song-oriented. Someone said it was melodic but it’s more brutal and heavy as well. What can I say? It’s our sound and our style, I can’t really compare it to anything now since it’s so fresh. They are just songs written over a period of two years or something. Personally, as a songwriter, I think it’s the best bunch of songs I’ve written. It is a damn fine album and one of our most focused ever. Hopefully, people will take it to their hearts and join us for the ride.
We kind of decided when we picked up playing again that we never would do another full-length album and only focus on smaller releases on independent labels. That was my ambition anyway. Albums always took too much work and then they never ended up as you wanted. Suddenly we were doing one anyway and I’m glad we did because it’s gonna be a great rock’n’roll record. One of our best.
A lot of this had to do with God’s Candy Records. Brett who runs the label really has an enormous ambition and loves vinyl and its possibilities as an art form as much as we do.
It seems like a great time to be in music as there is so much great music all over the place at the moment people complain about it not getting big but there is plenty out there making fantastic records
I think what’s happening now is a new growing underground culture that builds on the ’90s, early 00’s high energy and garage punk movements that “DEMONS” had quite a decent part in developing. At least from a Scandinavian perspective. I hope it stays underground.
Sal from Electric Frankenstein is doing a new set of Fistful of Rock’n’roll compilations who showcases the width of what is happening. He took on an incredible task and has done an amazing job. As long as bands are managing themselves, bookers book shows and independent labels put out records it’s great. I think the internet provides a direct communication possibility that has never really been there before. That’s how you can keep it on a grassroots level and still make it work between all parties.
I guess most bands have that dream of making it big. But as I stated earlier you got to figure out why you are playing music. If you want to be a star and make serious money maybe you should go the other way, play some commercial music and find a producer who will shape your sound to something that is playable on the radio. Or just find something else to do that is more commercially viable than playing music. Plus I think that aiming for the majors is a philosophy that is a bit out of date and not very modern. But then again, if you find a major label that fully supports you and your philosophy there isn’t a problem.
what inspires you to keep making music.
I have music in my head 24 hours a day, always wake up with a song in my head. When I write I usually drink four cups of coffee, put on a record, have the TV on and a couple of books lying around. Then I just start working. That has always been my preferred way to get things done and it’s been that way all my life.
I also buy a lot of records and listen to a lot of music. But I always preferred artists that showcase a little darkness and need to channel real emotions. Everything inspires me in different ways.
Being part of great split records and collaborating with legends like Jeff Dahl is there anything you’d like to fulfill somewhere you’d like to play or someone you’d love to work with?
When I started out I had a long list of people I would have loved to work with. Mostly old idols. These days I will work with anyone who is passionate about what they’re doing as long as it works philosophically. We’ll work with anybody who has a great idea. It’s about creating great stuff. After all these years I just love to work with small labels and people who are driven by dedication and love for music. That is the real reward.
Finally, if there is anything you’d like to tell the readers or promote feel free that’s what we’re here for.
Stay sick and keep keepin’ on.