The Purjocopter Concept

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Tony Lind, aka Gramps.

My bass player friend Mats, who I play with every now and then, once made a remark regarding my faiblesse for cymbals (I often tend to bring quite a few to any kind of gig). He asked, cheekily: ”How many cymbals does a drummer really need?” I answered: ”Exactly as many cymbals as the stage size allows.” After a moment’s pause he said: ”That’s really a perfect answer.” And I’d have to agree.

All kidding aside, I really do enjoy having a rather elaborate setup, not just with cymbals, but the overall drum kit. I never truly arrived at any definite setup that I felt was the ultimate one for me, I like to keep changing it around, moving pieces, and adding new ones.

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Billy Momo – photo: Marcus Landström.

With Billy Momo, I have taken this concept to a new level (for me), when I started my work-in-progress, The Purjocopter. In the early days of the band, there were quite a lot of Hiphop-influenced beats on the recordings, some played, some programmed, and the challenge for me was to try to recreate the feel of those beats live, not always by playing them exactly the same way, but to interpret the recorded version in a way that would translate well in the live situation.
I tried many different kinds of setups in the beginning, acoustic, electronic, and combinations thereof. But after a while, I decided that it would be a much more satisfying thing for me to have an acoustic kit (so that I wouldn’t have to rely on great monitors to hear myself), but to still try and have many different sounds, as if I had a sample library, and have many of those sound sources not being strictly a classic rock’n’roll-style drum set. I began by replacing pretty much all the regular crash cymbals with different effects such as chinas, EFXs, splashes, bells, and all kinds of ding-dongs and bang-booms. I also added some more snare type sounds with very different pitches (for instance, if you listen to the song ’Swim’, I played that on a 10” TAMA Mini Tymp snare, cranked way up, to get an almost drum machine kind of sound, which The Head beefed up a little more by triggering a sample on top).
And then there were various percussion instruments added, as well as roto-toms, an 18” hihat, and much more, in combination with the typical meat-and-potatoes kinds of drum sounds.

What this does is allow for me to keep some of the quirkier beats from the albums and do them justice live, even if they’re not truly identical. And also, I enjoy improvising a lot with all those different sound sources at my disposal. If you’ve ever seen us perform songs like ’All we were’ or ’Billy Slomo’ live, you know what I mean. It also allows me to be a bit orchestral when I solo.

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Gramps (drums). Photo: Niklas Månsson.

Now, I don’t want to give you the idea that this was a concept that I came up with on my own in a vacuum, hell no! The Purjocopter was influenced by many of my drum heroes, probably starting with Neil Peart’s expansive kit with Rush, but also guys like Terry Bozzio, Michael Blair, David Van Tieghem, Tony Oxley, but more than anyone else, Bill Bruford. His different setups (and the ways in which he used them) with King Crimson were endlessly fascinating to me, and I can tell you that the Thrak album with Bill and Pat Mastellotto on double drums was life changing for me. If you can get hold of a copy of the November ’95 issue of Modern Drummer magazine, and you read the article on Bill and Pat, and you look at their setups from the Thrak tour, that’s pretty much where the main inspiration for The Purjocopter came from, I think.

So, the next time you see Billy Momo perform a full blown set with all of our own gear on a stage that allows for it, you will probably see quite a lot of drums up there. And now you know that it’s not just for show, although a big drum kit is probably among the most beautiful things you could see, next only to… well, it’s a pretty sight, let’s leave it at that.

/Gramps

It ALWAYS snows in April!

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Orren. Photo: Christopher Anderzon.

Today is 25th of April and it fucking snows. Not just today. It’s not like a little drunken gag from mother nature, unless she’s been on a bender for about a week. It’s been snowing on and off since Easter.

If you know a lot of Swedes, you know we’re not easy going. Sorry, we try but we fail. Because we know there’s another fucking snowstorm coming any day now, be it December or July. No use planning for a BBQ because the beer might freeze. Still, if it by some miracle all of a sudden happens to be sunny outside, we can’t be inside and miss the one chance we get at any vitamin D this year, so we can’t plan for an indoors party either.

From October to May, going out means suffering. Naturally, you don’t see many smiling faces out in the street. There’s nothing to smile about. We’ve spent six moths putting on layers on top of layers of clothes, and dressing up our kids like eskimoes so that they can’t move. And yes, they hate it, so there’s six months of kicking and screaming. We’re wet, cold and exhausted and at the same time sweating from the subway ride to work.

Mother nature fucked us. Our forfathers must have been loo-oo-oosers to be handed this place. We’re OK. Most of us have shelter and 200 layers of clothes. Those who don’t, well that’s a far bigger issue that I won’t try to address here. We’re OK, but it aint much fun. We all talk about moving somewhere, but it’s hard to leave everything. Seems you need even better reasons for doing that (oh, here I go again with the much bigger issues! Sorry!) So we keep wishing it would sometimes snow in April. Because here, it always does. (Oskar Hovell, aka Orren). 

Guest blog #2: Becoming big

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Birgitta Haller, management Billy Momo.

A bit simplified: there are two major ways to get a breakthrough as an artist (or at least one that will last for more than 15 minutes) – a hit on the radio or building an audience performing live. Come to think of it, I would say the only way to get a real breakthrough is performing live. (Spice that up with a hit on the radio and you’re safe.)

The radio scenario is a quick fix, it can make you big in no time. It will most probably be accompanied with anxiety, because you have to follow up on that radio hit with another one, and another. The radio listening crowd might be interested in seeing you live, performing that radio hit. I use the word ‘might’, because the radio listening crowd doesn’t always attend concerts. And if you can’t follow up on your hit, and you suck at live performance, you will lose your following just as quick as they came.

The really slow (and a bit tiresome and frustrating) way to get a breakthrough is to perform live. This is where you reach an audience who really likes music. Work, work, work! Practice, take every opportunity to try out your material on the live scene. Act out, become performers, become awesome at what you do on stage. Practice to be able to feel secure and safe on stage, work on your show, practice and play until you feel sick. And when you think you’ve nailed it – do it all over again. And: get paid for your craftsmanship – if you’re good at performing live, you should get paid. Unfortunately, this section needs a totally separate blog post…

The live show performance was the thing that made me convinced to sign Billy Momo in the first place. These guys are totally awesome live and are constantly working on their live set, making it fun to watch and, musically, a feast for the ears. And the continuously growing crowd of followers that gets to see them live, agree.
I know this band is going to make it big, but one piece is still missing. A live agency or a promoter, someone who can take them outside our native country and out where they really belong – worldwide.
Ash Pournouri, the manager of Avicii, once said that a breakthrough takes minimum 5 years. We have just entered Year Two. (Birgitta Haller, management) 

Circadian rhythm and the creative mind

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Tony The Drummer. Photo: Christopher Anderzon. 

Up until very recently, Orren would refuse to acknowledge jet lag as a real phenomenon. I’m just gonna leave that there.

Most people whom I would consider artistically creative, tend to thrive at night. I know, it sounds like a terribly clichéd stereotype, but I really think it is true for the most part. The outside world slows down, gets quiet, and that’s when the fun begins. The creative juices start to flow, as the drudgery of daytime existence grinds to a standstill.
I mean, I can be productive during the daytime, in an assembly line kind of way, I suppose, but my creative thoughts lie fairly dormant throughout the day. All that sweet, exciting stuff tends to come out when I get to turn on the colored lights and the smoke machine at Club Purjo, put on some amazing music and read a book that blows your hair back, to paraphrase Will Hunting.

All those great existential conversations with a close friend, or for that matter, a new acquaintance you’re just learning to know and find endlessly fascinating, where you take the plunge into the deep end and then just drift away on a stream of consciousness where concepts are shared, dreams are born and new galaxies of the mind are discovered, how many of those have you had during a lunch meeting in a crowded restaurant? I personally can’t think of one, but then, my memory does get more selective with each year, it seems, so maybe I’m mistaken. But I know with absolute certainty that I have had most of them late at night.

I sometimes go into a state that feels like a shark in a feeding frenzy, when I have an urge to learn about something, and I will look up every documentary or article on that topic I can find online, search my bookshelves, and sit at the kitchen table with my laptop and a pile of books all night, and just gorge myself on all the cool shit amazing individuals have said or done. But rarely do I have these urges while the sun is up and people move around me like sneaky predators trying to suck the marrow out of my life and eat my soul. Nope, that good shit only hits when nothing’s up but the rent, dammit.

When it comes to writing music, most of my inspiration comes out of moments like those described above. A sea of thoughts and emotions will ever so slowly boil down into a savory broth of an idea, which will eventually find its home in a piece of music. This is my creative process. So, while I’m no vampire, I am nocturnal in the sense that I need those late nights of exploration and meditation to feel alive.

Or, maybe it’s just the booze talking? I don’t know, and I don’t give a shit. I’m gonna stay up late tonight. Turn on that smoke machine, baby! Let’s rock! (Tony Lind, aka ‘Gramps’)

Can’t we all just get along?

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Tomas Juto, aka Barba. Photo: Christopher Anderzon.

I’ve always been fascinated by music scenes.
Seattle and grunge, New York and hiphop, L.A. and 80’s rock, Laurel canyon and singer/songwriters, San Fransisco and the flower power scene and so on.
Those are all American of course. But England had Bristol and trip hop, Norway had black metal and Swedens Umeå had the hardcore scene in the 90’s with Refused and similar bands. I’ve never been a part of a scene like that. I think I would love it. I get super inspired when people I know get a break and make it big or make a super obscure but amazing album that gets good reviews in underground blogs or whatever. It pushes me to try harder at whatever I’m doing at the moment.

But these days it’s really hard to reach through the noice with your music. And whenever people manage to carve out a spot in the limelight for themselves they don’t want to share the space.

I can understand that ’cause I know how much work it takes to get ahead. I can see why people tend to be a bit defencive of their spot. But it’s still a drag. I’m not saying I’m not a part of the problem. I’m probably just the same as any other musician. I just wish that I could somehow change the attitude in the business to a more collective kind of focus. Let’s make something really cool, together. Even though we’re not in the same band or whatever.
Let’s do a tour, a collaboration on a track, cameos in videos. Not because it’s a career move or looks good on the CV. Let’s do it ’cause we all love this thing. It’s fun!
Maybe by writing this I can remind myself to be more open to it. And at least that’s a start, ey?

Fans, fans, fans!

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Oskar Hovell, aka Orren. Photo: Christopher Anderzon.

Do you sometimes read or hear about extraordinary people doing great deeds, changing the world for the better and are you then thinking to yourself “Fuck! I should have been one of those guys!”

I do, sometimes. When our fans write to us, when we see them at shows and when I see the things they do for us. The way they selflessly and without ego dedicate their time and energy to spread music, it awes me every time I see it.

I’m a music fan of course. I go to concerts, I tell my friends about new bands I’ve found and so on. I have posters on my wall and I think Ennio Morricone is probably God. But I dedicate my time and my great efforts into spreading my own shit, boosting myself, telling the world about my own greatness.

The way our fans interact, showing us and everyone else their enthusiasm, giving us all the extra energy we need and at the same time spread our music, is of course great for us. But we are not the only band that enjoys this. Fans and independent bloggers, putting in ten times as many hours into finding new music than any A&R have ever done, keep fighting to introduce us to new, formally unknown, great music!

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Orren. Photo: Christopher Anderzon.

Even though a lot has changed, still a few powerful people hold more or less monopoly on the channels that spread music to the world. We often come across those guys. They generally seem mysteriously uninterested in new music. There seem to be almost nothing that tires them more than having to hear a new band play.

I don’t know how many music biz VIPs I’ve heard claim they know a hit when they hear one. And I didn’t really believe any of them. They know a marketing plan when they see one, they know a guy who knows all the right people when they meet one, they know a significant sync when they see one and they know heavy rotation on a radio station when they hear it. But most of all, nowdays, they know a youtube hit when they see one. And guess who made it a Youtube hit? You did.

Fans, we love you. Not just because you are rubbing our egos, but because you are crucial to the survival of music innovation. Fighting that monopoly, finding other ways to spread interesting music. Because you guys, if any, know a hit when you hear one!

Swedes and the Swedish pop wonder

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Oskar Hovell, aka Orren. Photo: Christopher Anderzon.

In an interview with Global Texan Chronicles recently, Walter Price asked us what the biggest misconception about Swedish music might be. We thought about it, and concluded that it could be – considering the amount of super successful Swedish pop song writers and producers – that Sweden would be a typical breeding place for musicians, bands and artists. A haven for artsy people. Street musicians everywhere, live music bars and Chelsea Hotels round every corner.

It’s not, I’m afraid. Here’s how: Swedish culture and etiquette is easy to grasp: Just don’t ever bother anybody. That’s it. Don’t bother nobody and you’ll be fine. People will love you.
If you show up at a Swedes doorstep unannounced, the polite thing for the Swede to do is to not invite you in. See, you might not want to and then you may feel like you have to, like you’d hurt his feelings if you don’t. Or worse, you might feel like you are bothering him, forcing him to make coffee and worrying about cookies. So, the best thing for everyone is to not invite you. You should never have just showed up like that, but don’t worry, noone will say that to your face. They’ll tell each other, people will get uncomfortable around you and some cookies will be baked just in case, but you won’t know. Noone will bother you with all that information.

It’s not that we don’t want company, we just don’t want to force ourselves on anyone.
Yes, this sounds really bad. But still, as a guy with many friends and relatives from other cultures, I’m forced to do things I don’t want to all the time. I drink stuff I don’t like, I tell people about my job even though they don’t want to know and I don’t wanna tell them. I have them make me coffee even when nobody else is having it, so they have to make it just for me, which makes me feel very uncomfortable plus the coffee is often no good. Once, I ended up drinking a hole bottle of whiskey with some guys who didn’t really want me there and I missed a great night out with my friends, just because we were all being polite. That’s not the Swedish way. We never bother anybody.

So, let’s say there are pros and cons. I would never recommend traveling to Sweden as a tourist unless you’re hiking in the mountains alone.
On the other hand, the day Iran is free (insh Allah), I don’t know what we’ll do. There are so many relatives of mine (wife’s Irani) that we’d have to visit, we’d never get out of there. We wouldn’t see much of the country’s exterial since we’d be sitting inside drinking thousands of gallons of tea and eating ghorme zabsi. And the next time we can afford to go again, we’ll have to do it all over again. Some of them we’ll be very happy to see after all these years and some of them we don’t know at all. I don’t speak persian, so I will not be having a conversation apart from saying hello, thank you and good bye and getting lots and lots of praise for having learned how to say that, after 10 years of marriage to a Persian woman. (Oskar Hovell, aka Orren)

Anyway, the real downside with Swedish tradition is, as you may have guessed, that music can be seen as something that bothers people. People trying to sleep, trying to have dinner, trying to put their kids to bed or trying to watch TV have managed to bann live music from Stockholm almost entirely. Other cities in Sweden are probably better, but for anyone from abroad, the whole of Sweden will seem very sleepy. Because if one single person, be it in the flat on top of the bar or even in a tent at a festival, wants to sleep, the whole town will go SSHHHH!!

So what of the Swedish pop wonder? How does that happen? Well, boredom, lonelyness and really, really thick walls I guess.

Recreational listening

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Tony Lind, aka Gramps. Photo: Christopher Anderzon.

As I get older, I find myself craving silence more often than I used to. During periods when we are playing lots of shows, or especially when we are working in the studio, this becomes even more important. Oh, I certainly listen to a lot of music, just not every single moment of the day, which used to be the case. I would wake up to music, and have a constant soundtrack running throughout the day. These days, I have a bit of a problem with ”background music”. If I’m not listening attentively and intentionally, I often prefer not to have any music on at all. I know that this is not a very rock’n’roll thing to say, but I am rock’n’roll enough to not give a fuck.

The place where I tend to do most of my recreational listening is in the car. Before long drives I often prepare a playlist of stuff I intend to listen to, albums and artists I’ve been meaning to check out. I also have several go-to playlists, one of which is my ’Singalong’ collection, which are tunes I enjoy singing, and that give my voice a good workout. Since I often do the high harmony parts with Billy Momo, I try to work on my upper range, and have songs that stretch me a little bit.

We also have a joint playlist in the band, ’The Billy Momo toolbox’, where we all add songs that we feel somehow relates to what we do. Now, when I say ”relates to”, I use that term very loosely, and the playlist is sprawling as all hell, but it’s got a lot of great stuff in there, and we sometimes crank that playlist in the PA before our shows.

I also listen to a lot of music that doesn’t really appeal to most of the other guys in the band, so when I’m alone in the car, I try to enjoy that stuff, lots of Prog Rock and Metal, Zappa, Jazz/Fusion, Classical, and, of course, sugary sweet ballads.

Traditionally, Friday night is Movie Night at Club Purjo, but I often listen to music as well, and then I turn on the smoke machine and the colored lights and blast cool, moody music into the night, Miles Davis’ ’In a silent way’, or ’The Rite of Spring’, or Pink Floyd.

Oh, and for that hungover Sunday mornin’ comin’ down, there must be Country music, what else?

Here are some tunes to carry you through the week:

Monday: ’Breakdown’ – Prince
Tuesday: ’You Suck’ – Strapping Young Lad
Wednesday: ’Wings Of Love’ – liv
Thursday: ’Lungs’ -Townes Van Zandt
Friday: ’Echoes’ -Pink Floyd
Saturday: ’I-95’ – Fountains of Wayne
Sunday: ’The Blower’s Daughter’ – Damien Rice

What are your listening habits, folks?

/Gramps

Love, love, love

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Oskar Hovell, aka Orren. Photo: Christopher Anderzon.

Billy Momo did a show yesterday, at a small bar in Nynäshamn, near Stockholm, the day after the terrible attack in Stockholm. We had an odd feeling about it. Every gig is a sort of a party for us, a celebration of a sort. And it didn’t feel quite like the time for celebration. Still, letting an act like that stop people from gathering and having a good time together seemed out of the question.

So we went and we thought we’d do the best with what we got. It seemed quite possible that few people would even show, concidering everything. But we also knew we would probably have people coming in that would have traveled for hours to get there, which is not only a great responsibility but also, it gives us a lot of inspiration. And thinking about that, there’s a lot of love there, isn’t it?

I’ve talked about it before, how much we admire our fans and fans in general. The way they take our music to heart, the way they seem to stop to nothing in order to support us and the way they keep looking for new exciting acts to support. Now, Marvin Gaye is not the only dude who’s said it: only love can conquer hate. It might sound cheesy, but it’s true. Somebody went ahead and killed four innocent people for very vague reasons to say the least. Shit like that tends to fill your head with dark thoughts. It is what it’s designed for, I guess. Anger that should be directed to one guilty man often widening it’s aim somehow, pointing out all kinds of people that often need everything but more hate and accusations. In the long run, some of those people might even turn into the enemy that our anger tried so hard to make them. And that’s when we’re in really deep shit.

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Billy Momo, Live in Nynäshamn – April 8.

Now, Billy Momo didn’t save the world yesterday. It was actually more me being saved. The reception we got from that audience was overwhealming. It blew all dark thoughts right out of me. See, the problem is, even though you know Marvin and all the others were right, it’s so hard not to give in. That devil inside you can’t be beaten down without an emotional reminder.

Today, I went to a manifestation for love in central Stockholm. Tens of thousands of people gathered just to feel unity, solidarity and love. Because it makes us better people and that makes it a better world. So, the message is the same, fifty years later. All you need is love. (Oskar Hovell, aka ‘Orren’)