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Soundtrack of Our Lives | Behind the Music | interview | rock | Lollipop
The Soundtrack of Our Lives
Behind the Music (Hidden Agenda)
An interview with the band
by Brian Varney
If you've read anything I've written or spoken with me in the last couple of years, you probably know that I love The Soundtrack of Our Lives. And that's putting it mildly. From the first moment I heard "Mantra Slider," the leadoff track from their debut LP, Welcome to the Infant Freebase, I was completely enraptured with this band of insane Swedes. Here, finally, was a band bringing the glory of late-'60s rock to life with neither eggheaded affectation or distracting mothball-scented retro stylings (no Beatles boots or matching suits here). Even when blatantly copping a riff or two from a '60s classic, TSOOL's music is immediate and fresh, a living, breathing entity. It is, bafflingly, both unquestionably classic and utterly modern. They've released three full-length albums and a handful of EPs and they're all great. The only problem has been finding them. Until now, that is. The fine folks at Parasol have done everyone a favor by acting as U.S. distributor for the band's catalog. So do yourself a favor, point your browser to www.parasol.com, and prepare to be blown away.
You've been in successful bands (i.e. ones that people outside of your hometown know about and like) for over ten years now. How does it feel to be an "adult" in the rock scheme of things?
It feels very sexy to be "adult" in the rated rock scheme.
How do you fit in?
We use oil from the Norwegian whales.
You guys are signed to a major label in Europe and yet you have no American record deal? Why not?
We never had a proper management until now... But I guess you can blame it on the label as well.
Here's one I've wondered since I first heard Union Carbide Productions (legendary late-'80s/early-'90s band which included Lundberg and TSOOL guitarists Bjorn Olsson and Ian Person): Why do you write lyrics and sing in English even though it's your second language? It seems to be fairly common in Swedish bands and I'm curious as to why.
Because the world has drowned in English-American culture and it's just a way for us to call for help.
Since TSOOL's records haven't been available in America, I have no idea what the band's fanbase is like. What kind of people come to see you guys play live?
It's a look-alike dog contest watching our audience. Mostly they are extremely tired people that gave up a long time ago, trying to get some glimpses from the future and the past in their minds.
I haven't met many people in the States who are TSOOL fans, but those that I have are more like zealots. Do you inspire this sort of fanatacism with your European fanbase as well? Would you venture to guess why your band inspires this sort of fanaticism in Americans?
Modern America was built by fanatics. Shortly after that, it all changed to phonetics, and it all will probably end with The Soundtrack Of Our Lives. It's like an infanatic freebase for phonies all around us wherever we go. There's definitely a paranoia. It can be hard to keep the "error balance" sometimes. But it's mostly inspiring and a lot of fun.
What's an infant freebase? Freebase as in the drug?
It's a free base for the infants of recorded history. That's relative to the experience. It's not a message to David Crosby or anyone else who can remember their name.
Your songs as they appear on the albums are very arranged, i.e. there are a lot of overdubbed layers of vocals, percussion, etc. I'm assuming the arrangements cannot be duplicated in concert, so how do you compensate for the missing sounds when you play live?
We don't have to compensate anything when we play live, except ourselves and the way we look.
Although he's left the band, I noticed that Björn Olsson has a co-writing credit on "Nevermore" and I know that you two have a long and storied history. Does he still work with the band even though he's no longer a member?
Not anymore, because he doesn't have to. As a resolver of song ideas, I have too much to deal with as it is. Though Björn and I are probably going to record some songs that were unfinished, we haven't decided yet when. There's no rush.
I have a question about the five songs on the Bonus Future Excerpts CD that came with the first pressing of the Behind the Music CD. Were these songs recorded during the album sessions? Why were they put on a bonus disc rather than included on the album? I'm just wondering since I like these songs as much or more than the songs on Behind the Music.
The songs were actually supposed to be on the album, but it didn't happen for some reason. But the songs will be released on a B-side compilation in the near future with some unreleased stuff from the first and the second album.
I was a bit surprised when I first received the Gimme Five EP in that it seemed a departure in several ways. For one, the packaging was quite different, very colorful, whereas the previous releases had been done in very muted colors. Also, the production is a bit more "modern" sounding. Was this EP a conscious departure?
It just happened by chance. There was no such thing as a conscious departure. We recorded it just before Behind the Music as a starter, just as we did when we recorded the Homo Habilis EP before the first album. Considering the production, I guess you're imagining things. Again.
It's obvious from listening to TSOOL that you love '60s rock. Are there any modern bands whose music you enjoy?
Not anything I can think of right now. I'm sorry. But I'm sure there's a lot of good music out there somewhere.
Whose idea were the plaster casts on the cover of Behind the Music? Did you guys get to keep your casts after the work was done? Was the design influenced by the cover of Byrdmaniax?
I guess I have to take the blame. Yes, they are in our studio in a plastic bag somewhere. The basic idea was to use the faces at the surface on a distant planet. But we changed our minds and it became more like the Byrdmaniax cover in a way (we later realized).
Now that your records are available in the U.S., are there plans to tour here?
Of course there is. We think your country needs us right now.
Much has been made of TSOOL's "borrowing" riffs from classic rock songs. Is it done intentionally, or does it happen without your realizing it?
I think most things you do in your life could be considered as a theft. Very often without realizing.
What are the last five albums you've listened to?
Howie B Folk, Jan Johanson Mobil, Lazy Smoke Corridor Of Faces, The Undertones True Confessions, Silverbullit Citizen Bird.
What's your favorite Beatles album and why?
The White Album. It takes off and it never comes down.
Favorite Stones album and why?
Aftermath. Because it was recorded in 1966.
Although top 10 lists are generally silly and rather pointless, I'll ask anyway because I'm a silly person. Can you give a list of your ten favorite albums or artists?
Love Da Capo, Black Flag Damaged, Pink Floyd The Piper at the Gates of Dawn, The Stooges Funhouse, The Kinks Face to Face, Fettan Fes Rövhålet Stinker Gubbkuk, Germs GI, Povel Ramel Suger Vidare, The Residents Commercial Album, Lars Ax Let's Drink to Canned Heat.
These are the 10 best for the moment. The list may change from time to time. I don't know why I like these albums. Maybe somebody told me they were good.
For someone whose formative music-listening years were during the '80s, you seem to have an unusually deep and abiding love for '60s music. Can you remember when you were bitten by the '60s bug?
I'm interested in certain periods no matter what century it is. I could have easily put Sidney Bechet, Hoagy Carmichael, Edgar Varese, or Pergolesi on my list, but as a figure born in the '60s, I guess there's an interest that relates to my first experiences. I guess you could say that I'm a product of when I first joined the game.
Is your acoustic side project Levity Ball still active? Did that project ever record or release anything?
"Retro Man," "Mega Society," and "Chromosome Layer" were originally Levity Ball songs. There are some demos, but we never released anything. That's very much a solo project and the songs that were made are going to be recorded later on.
It's kind of strange to think that some of the same people responsible for the insane, squalling early UCP stuff are also responsible for the TSOOL stuff. What happened to the noisy punk influence in your music? I see from your top 10 list that you still enjoy this music. Was it more to do with the influence of the other band members, or was it something you outgrew? Or am I missing the boat completely?
Every situation that was formed into a song has been, since 1986, about missing the boat completely.