Recorded after the gig at Rock Café, Tallinn, Estonia on 07.10.2012
The interview was to take part either immediately after the gig, or the next day. When the show was over, I was taken backstage and we agreed to do an interview after all the commotion settles down. They came out to meet the few fans (always a nice gesture!), went for a breather and a smoke, and then we sat down with the singer, guitarist, keyboardist, and main songwriter Rikard Sjöblom, and bassist Robert Hansen.
So, this was your first show in Tallinn.
Rikard: It was, yes!
Sorry about the crowd. (The crowd really was small, maybe 150 people.)
Rikard: Oh, they were very enthusiastic. I mean we had a good time, you know. (Laughs.)
So, you liked the few who were in the front?
Rikard: Absolutely! And the ones in the back. We like everyone who comes to our shows. It's always good.
OK, you completed a tour with Flying Colors.
Rikard: Yeah, it was like two weeks ago.
How was the tour?
Rikard: Awesome! It was great! (Laughs.) Not much to say about that. I mean, we had... Other than the fact that we had some troubles with our van, because our car broke down several times, we managed to get to every show. And we did a good show every night. The guys in Flying Colors, like Mike Portnoy and Steve Morse and all those guys, they were really friendly, and, you know, everybody was really good. We had a great time.
Robert: Even the tour manager was good. (Laughs.)
Rikard: Yeah, even the tour manager was good. That's always nice, you know.
Who was your tour manager?
Rikard: He was called...
Rikard: Lothar, yes.
Robert: And the manager for this band Bill...
Rikard: The manager for the band was called Bill Evans. He was really friendly guy. Everyone was really good, you know, because sometimes it can be that when you're a support band they don't really care. It's like, yeah, OK, you can play if we have the time, you know.
Robert: We don't care about you, babe. (Laughs.)
Rikard: (Laughs.) Yeah, this time it was different. They were really good.
Any particularly good touring incidents to report?
Rikard: Well, basically the fact that the van broke down many, many times...
Robert: The first time was 2 hours away from home.
Rikard: The exhaust pipe broke in the middle.
Robert: After 2 hours!
Rikard: 4 hours, actually.
Robert: Yeah, OK. (Laughs.)
Rikard: And then we managed to fix that in Hamburg in Germany. And then in the middle of the tour, after exactly one week, the engine light started to shine, you know. So, we looked it up in the manual and it said that it is probably a diesel injection failure which makes the car run on three cylinders instead of four. Which is not good because the car couldn't go for shit, you know. If you're going up the hill, it's like... ugghaaargh... (makes some dying noises.) Well, we managed to drive that way for like 600km, actually. Then we found a repair shop...
Robert: And it was all fixed in like 20 minutes.
Rikard: Yeah, they fixed it in 20 minutes. Then when we got home... Not home, but when we got to Sweden, from Denmark to Sweden over the bridge something happened, cracked in the engine and white smoke started coming out. So, we had to pull over in Malmö in Sweden at a gas station. We phoned around to a couple of mechanics and they said "That sounds really bad, don't drive another meter, you know. Just stop the car and have it towed."
Was it your own van or a rental?
Rikard: No, it was a rental.
OK, so they gave you a pretty shitty piece.
Rikard: They did, yeah.
Too bad. So, a month ago (in August) you released a new album (The Void). How has the reception been so far?
Rikard: I think it's been good, right?
Robert: Yeah, mixed, though, but good.
Rikard: Yeah, mixed but mostly good.
Robert: Mostly good.
Rikard: Because I think some people who were sort of expecting maybe more of the "Sleeping in Traffic" kind...
Robert: The quirky Beardfish.
Rikard: The quirky sort of seventies style thing...
(Here we are interrupted by someone to say thanks to the guys for the show.)
Rikard: Yeah, well maybe some of the people who expected that kind of thing were disappointed because I think we're always try to do some new things, new stuff for us. We're always exploring our own musical journey rather than trying to sort of repeat something that's worked in the past. So, this album just turned out a bit heavier and I think the songs sort of took that direction. And we said let's embrace that and follow that direction and try to make the album as heavy as we can.
Can we expect even more heavy Beardfish in the future?
Rikard: You never know! That's the thing. I haven't written any new songs yet since we recorded The Void. So, I don't know what kind of songs are going to show up. It can be a new style.
It could swing right back?
Rikard: Yeah, exactly. Maybe we'll sound like Rammstein.
Rikard: You never know. Nah, I don't think so. Well, it's difficult, you know, because the songs just sort of show up and when they do we usually embrace them.
You have been releasing quite a lot of albums over the years including your solo stuff. Don't you fear running out of ideas?
Rikard: Every time! Every time the new album is finished it's like "Oh, I don't have any ideas. What should I do?"
So, what do you do?
Rikard: Nothing. I mean, we play. We try to play as many shows as we can, which is not a lot but at least we play some. Usually we go out and play a while, play the new material that we just released and then come fall, as they say, you know... It's usually a cycle, like we record in spring, then we play all this stuff in summer and autumn. And then when winter starts coming along I usually get a lot of ideas and start writing again.
So, the dark period is your writing time?
Rikard: It really is. I guess that's why all the albums are quite depressing, you know. Lyrically at least. I think I write the best stuff when I'm not that happy. And winter sort of brings that out in you, I guess. (Laughs.)
How do you write and record a Beardfish album?
Rikard: It usually starts with me coming up with some kind of song idea, like some riffs. We usually try them out, I show them to the guys and they sort of learn them very quickly, usually...
Robert: Noo... By now this album actually came a lot quicker to learn than the other albums. But we rehearse a lot.
Rikard: We do, actually, if you compare this one to Destined Solitaire, for instance, which was son of a bitch to learn because it was a lot of stuff, you know. I think that I usually have one or two ideas when a new song is born. Then we play it for a while, and when we're playing together it sort of kick starts a reaction. I usually come up with a lot of new stuff in the process.
Robert: Then he calls the next day "Can we rehearse tomorrow?" (Laughs.)
Rikard: (Laughs.) Then everyone has a lot of input on how everything is going to sound like. And also the fact that Beardfish would never sound the same if it was me and three other guys than these guys. Because it's very sound based, you know. Robert has a very special bass sound and very special way of playing. It's the same with David (Zackrisson) and it's the same with Magnus (Östgren). I usually write for these guys, you know. I know that this is something that Robert will want to play and I think he's going to like this.
Rikard Sjöblom and Robert Hansen
How do you prepare for the show? Before your part of the show started I saw you guys standing here, basically in the front row for the warm up guys. What's your gig routine to start off? Do you have anything?
Rikard: I don't know if we really have one. It's different every time.
Some players say that they have to warm up for an hour, practice their fingers, you know.
Rikard: I guess we'll be getting to that when we hit 40 or something. Because then our fingers will be stale... (laughs) from holding all this beer. We generally don't do a lot of stuff. I mean, David and I we changed the strings early in the afternoon when we got here. After that we were sitting and just playing for a while, playing some old songs, actually. That was our warm up, you know. Other than that I guess we write a set list usually like one hour before we play. We had a lot of stuff rehearsed now, since we've been out on tour. When we were out on tour with Flying Colors we played like 45 minutes per night. We knew that all the songs we played on that tour we had, you know, in our backbone. Yeah, we know those ones. We just added a couple more.
Did you pull off "Sleeping in Traffic" in those 45 minutes?
Rikard: We actually didn't. But we played that one in spring when we were over in the States, playing three shows there, and one in Canada as well. And we played "Sleeping in Traffic" on every gig I think.
Robert: No, three.
Rikard: Three of the four gigs, yeah.
OK but those were like your headliner shows. What I meant was, you know, in a warm up gig.
Robert: We once did it actually. We warmed up for The Tangent and Ritual on our first tour, actually.
Rikard: Yeah, back in 2008 we did one night. But I don't think we did it any good. I think we do it a whole lot better now. (Laughs.)
Yeah, that was one song I was waiting to hear.
Rikard: Oh, really? I'm sorry.
Robert: I wanted to play it, actually. (Laughs.)
Rikard: We were sort of backing off a little bit there. It takes up a lot of time in the set.
Ye-eah... half an hour.
Rikard: Half an hour.
Robert: Sometimes it's like 40 minutes because...
Rikard: Some parts can be drawn out if you're not careful. (Laughs.)
Do you have any formal vocal training?
Rikard: I don't, actually, and I notice that from time to time.
But you've still got an amazing voice and great technique.
Rikard: Thank you very much. I guess I've just been singing a lot from when I was a kid. And I think that I could probably benefit quite a lot from doing some real vocal training because it will be good.
Robert: This man is music, you know. It flows out. When he sings he makes everything he thinks up.
Rikard: Oh, well, that's good, thank you.
Getting back to live shows, something I wanted to ask. When SPV went bankrupt in 2009 I heard it hit you pretty bad. What happened?
Rikard: It did, yes. We were scheduled for a tour in USA with Dream Theater, Zappa Plays Zappa, and Pain of Salvation as well from Sweden. So, we were going to do the tour basically together with Pain of Salvation, we were going to travel together in the same bus and everything. Since we're on the same record label, you know. And then SPV went bankrupt and all the money that they had promised Inside Out just disappeared. It was not there any more. And our executive Thomas Waber at Inside Out, he actually really tried for two days. He was phoning around to different people on the telephone, and just asking if they could support the tour. He said that had he had 5-6 days he would probably have pulled it off.
It was this close.
Rikard: Yeah, it was really close, actually. And we were in the States when this happened. 'Cause we hadn't really heard anything about it and we started getting suspicious because we got an e-mail from I think it was Daniel Gildenlöw from Pain of Salvation who e-mailed us and asked "Well, have you heard anything about this thing that we might not get any money for this?" And we were like "No, we don't know anything." Then Dream Theater's management started contacting us and said "Well, looks like you're not going to be able to do this." And this was sort of before we heard anything from our own record label and everything. Then they called us up as well and said "Oh, man, we're so sorry, this is not going to work out."
So it did hit pretty bad, yeah.
Rikard: It did, yeah, we had the whole summer planned around that tour.
Robert: Magnus quit his job.
Rikard: Yeah, Magnus quit his day time job to go on that tour because his boss wouldn't let him go for that long. So, it all sucked pretty bad. (Laughs.) But then I think we got some good songs out of it, maybe, some depressing songs, like usual.
Robert: People heard of us as well. It was a big thing. We figured could it happen to us? No apparently.
Rikard: Yeah, it couldn't. But, as you said, a lot of people heard of us because of the fact that we were going to do the tour...
Yeah, but didn't...
Rikard: … but didn't. So, I mean, we got a lot of publicity without even doing it.
Robert: And people are still like "Oh, I'm sorry I missed you at Progressive Nation!" and stuff like that. You didn't! (Laughs.)
Rikard: Yeah, exactly. People think they missed us because they didn't go.
Do any of you hold day time jobs right now?
Rikard: Well, we only play, Robert and I. David works almost at a place like this (referring to Rock Café) for symphonic orchestra, the concert house. And Magnus, he works at IKEA. He sells light bulbs and stuff.
So, some of you do hold the day time jobs.
Rikard: Yeah, that's the short answer to the question. (Laughs.)
As I understand, music doesn't pay enough in this regard.
Rikard: Well, Beardfish doesn't, you know. But we do a lot of cover bands, you know, stuff like that just to make a living. Because you earn more money from playing other people's music than playing your own.
I imagine it's like taking wedding pictures, pays a lot.
Rikard: (Laughs.) It does, yeah.
Robert: He played a wedding yesterday.
Rikard: Yeah, I played a wedding yesterday and it kept on going for ever and ever as well. I got home at half past 4 in the morning. So, I'm really tired today 'cause we had to go up at 8. I overslept actually.
I read there were plans for a DVD, for a proper DVD release.
Rikard: We're going to try to do something like that because we have released seven albums and we should do some kind of live thing. There's a lot of people asking for it. People who can't come to the shows, the few shows that we do they can't come to, you know. But we don't really know when and where...
Robert: And how.
Rikard: We were actually discussing it earlier today because we could do it in our home town, maybe. That would be really easy because we know a lot of people who could film it and stuff. But we always have better crowds in Germany and The Netherlands and places like that. For the actual viewing of the movie I guess it would be more fun, it would be more fun if we shot it somewhere else.
Yeah, makes sense.
Rikard: Our home town isn't really a music town. People really don't go out to watch bands play.
Robert: They go out for drinks.
Rikard: Yeah, they go out to drink.
Another thing might be that they probably have already seen you.
Rikard: Yes, that too. We really don't have a big fan base in our home town. Some people can come just because it's us, you know, because they know us from other places and so on. But we have more fans in Germany, and Holland too.
Rikard: Yeah, USA as well.
How big a thing Beardfish can be?
Rikard: I don't know. That's a difficult question because it all depends I guess on...
Well, you kind of sing you see far in to the future. So, shoot!
Rikard: Yeah, I know. But that line sort of refers more to a state of mind that I was in at the time. I went through some rough stuff, like a year and a half ago. When I wrote that it was, like, when I look in to the future I only see a repetition of the same thing over and over again. It's never going to be anything new, you know. And that's not the way I really want to look on Beardfish because I think that with a little bit of luck we could probably hit a lot more people. But you never know. Most of the bands who make it big, it's almost always like a lucky shot, you know.
Robert: Hit the right spot somewhere.
Rikard: You get a song on Grey's Anatomy or something. (Laughs.) I don't think Beardfish is going to play a song on Grey's Anatomy but, I mean, you never know. Stuff like that.
Robert: We all believe in the band. We are big fans of this band. Because we like the music that we do, we believe in our capabilities.
Rikard: Basically we play music that we would like to listen to ourselves.
I think that's the best recipe to play what you want to hear.
Rikard: I think so too, yeah. And hopefully other people want to hear it too. But if they don't, at least we had a good time. (Laughs.)
Aside from Beardfish, what do you guys want to see and hear?
Rikard: You mean in other bands? I think as long as the band has good songs and they play good... they don't always even have to play good as long as they have really good songs, and the energy and the attitude is there, you know. That can be almost anything from singer-songwriter stuff to really brutal metal. For me at least.
Robert: Yeah, I like people who can convince everybody, convince themselves, if you understand what I mean.
What are your current favourites?
Rikard: Oh, man... I probably have to say Tom Petty. I've been listening to Tom Petty a lot recently. But that's just for now, you know. It always differs for me from time to time. Before that it was Elliott Smith. He made the music for a movie called Good Will Hunting. He actually committed suicide back in 2005 or something. (2003, actually.)
Robert: Stabbing himself.
Rikard: Yeah, he stabbed himself in the heart with the knife. That's fucking crazy. And he doesn't really sound like that kind of guy when you listen to the music. But maybe if you read the lyrics you could've seen it coming.
And what about you?
Robert: Like, my stereo's broken, so listen to, like, YouTube. A lot of prog bands. I want to know what other bands are doing. What strikes emotions. I've been listening to Steven Wilson quite a lot now.
Rikard: Grace for Drowning?
Robert: The new album, yeah.
Rikard: I actually listened to that one quite recently.
Robert: Echolyn. I like that one a lot.
Rikard: I listened to Pain of Salvation's live album the other day, Ending Themes... I like that one. It's really good, man. 'Cause I remember we did a tour with them in 2010 and we were sort of really amazed because they were a really good live band. Their songs really come to life when they play live. I was never a big fan of their albums before we went on tour. I like the albums now. The Perfect Element, Part I is just a lot of really great songs.
This year one of the interesting shows that I've seen was Spock's Beard at Night of the Prog. I wasn't expecting that much but they practically stole the first day.
Rikard: Good! And I love Neal Morse. He was a fun guy when we were on tour. I don't listen to his albums, you know, that's not the thing. But he's a good stage person, you know.
Actually mostly I listen to one album by him, Sola Scriptura.
Rikard: I like V and Beware of Darkness as well, those two albums with Spock's Beard, when Neal was still in the band. I think those albums are really good. Good stuff.
Do you have any festival shows lined up already for next year?
Rikard: We don't have anything right now, actually. And we're trying to book as much as possible. Right now the only gig we had planned after the tour was this one.
Robert: We don't have any gigs planned.
Rikard: No, we don't have anything. We're going to try to do some kind of show in our home town now because we want to sort of do a little bit of celebration for the album. Because we haven't done that yet. And then we're going to try to books some more shows for spring. Maybe go out in Europe again, in Germany.
OK. So, I suppose this might be a good time to wrap it up. Do you have any kind of a suggestions for the readers who don't know Beardfish. What they should take for a test drive?
Rikard: Well, we usually say the latest one and Sleeping in Traffic: Part Two. Those two are good to start with, I think.
I'd like to give a piece of advice: get a couple of songs online from the new album!
Rikard: Oh, yeah!
Robert: Oh? We don't have?
I was actually looking at that for a recommendation and you didn't have. At least I couldn't find.
Rikard: Really?! Well... Spotify? The whole album is out there.
Yeah, not what I had in mind. A trailer, a song on the website or YouTube, or Bandcamp.
Rikard: Yeah, I know. We kind of suck at everything that has to do with the online department.
Robert: We got our first homepage a couple of months ago. No, a month ago. (Laughs.)
Rikard: You see! But we'll do it. That's good.
You should pick it up. I mean, really, you should have a couple of songs out for the crowds. I'd gladly spread a bit of word about it.
In the end I want to thank the guys for the lovely and relaxed talk that we had. Also thanks to Karel for helping with arranging the interview. And a special thanks to Robert for the T-Shirt!
Posted on 10.11.2012 by
I shoot people.
Sometimes, I also write about it.
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