2017: A year in the life of Billy Momo

It is with equal measures of amusement, trepidation and awe one looks back at a year that’s coming to an end. It always amazes me how we manage to cram such a shitload of events, emotions, logistics, memories and just… stuff into 365 days. 2017 was a fairly intense year for Billy Momo, and I will try to give a non-chronological overview of the highlights (and perhaps an occasional low point).

DSCF38002017 saw the launch of both this very blog you’re reading right now, as well as our visual diary of sorts, MomoTV. With both of these outlets coming hot on the heels of our band documentary ”The dirt road to Seven Rivers Wild” (released in late 2016) this year has been the so far most informative for those who’d like to learn more about the band and its various members. Behind-the-scenes footage, on-the-road shenanigans, navel-gazing rants, we provided the tabloids with ample fodder for slaughter, and yet somehow the big headlines eluded us, again. But do not lose heart children, all that stuff is still available for you, so during the holidays you can binge the entire first season of MomoTV (to be continued in 2018) and read all the blog posts as well as watch the documentary. You will be a BM black belt by the end.

DSCF4359.jpgAs always, we produced a few videos, including two projects in collaboration with Kola Productions for the songs ”Following me, following you” (Kola editing) and ”We need another shovel” (Kola production and editing), as well as a self-produced, and ultimately abandoned attempt at a video for ”Say you’re sorry” (we managed to find use for some of that footage elsewhere). We were very pleased with the two completed videos, and they are of course also available for you to watch at your leisure.

IMG_0693.PNGWe played some nice venues in 2017, and made a lot of new friends.
Franskans Crêperie in Rörum, Österlen was an instant love affair for the band, and we played there three times over the course of the year. The late-nite post-show parties we threw there were pretty legendary too.

IMG_3884.jpgIMG_3882.jpgThe Taube stage at Liseberg fun fair in Gothenburg was another nice gig for us, not only was the show a lot of fun and well received, but we also got to rock out with our cocks out (well, not really) on the various rides and had a great time.

IMG_0371.JPGWe played another of our favorite joints once more, Plan B in Tranås, and we will be back there yet again in the spring of 2018, it’s always a great place to play. The same can be said for Stationen Scen & Konst in Bålsta, possibly the smallest venue we’ve ever played, but also one of the coziest and most intimate (the audience is literally right in your face, surrounding the band on three sides). Another memorable show was when we played a huge party at the old stadium in Stockholm. Perhaps the gig itself wasn’t that exceptional, but it was interesting that we had some real saloon-style fights breaking out in the audience, sort of making you wish for the chicken wire fence from the Blues Brothers.

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We actually managed to win an award for ”Best street music act” at a festival in Askersund, having played our first real busking set. That was a real honor, considering some of the other competing acts.

We released a 3-song EP in the fall, ”Umbrellas, wings and magic things” for which we threw a little intimate release party at The Creak/Knarret, Barba’s new house doing double duty as our new recording facility, and is the place where we record the stuff you will see released during 2018. The construction of the studio is well documented in the MomoTV episodes, as well as some glimpses from our recording sessions there.

All this and more kept us pretty busy throughout the year. Add to that Barba moving house not just once, but twice (!) finally settling at The Creak, various love stories and debaucheries involving band members, plenty of drunken nights and parties where people’s personal belongings may or may not have been severely urinated upon, as well as the utter nightmare of seeing a clean-shaven Preacher Man, and you have plenty of drama going on as well.

DSCF9965-Redigera.jpgStay tuned for more music, videos and scandals coming up next year. Thanks for being with us during this one.

Happy Holidays and a Happy New Year to all you crazy kids in love out there!

/Gramps

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Brothers in arms

tony_tomasYou know, I see my little brother almost every day. 
It wasn’t always like that, but these days we both live in the suburbs of Stockholm (albeit on different sides of the city), we have been working together since 2003, and oh, lest I forget, we also play in the same band. 
Siblings playing in the same band aren’t really that unusual. Ray and Dave Davies. Alex and Eddie Van Halen. Karen and Richard Carpenter. Malcolm and Angus Young. Duane and Gregg Allman. Ann and Nancy Wilson. Vinnie Paul and Dimebag Darrell. Not to mention the Staple Singers, the Jacksons and the Beach Boys. The list is endless when you start to think about it. 
Barba, as he is affectionately known within the ranks of Billy Momo, is five years younger than me, and growing up, we really didn’t hang out much due to that age difference.
In his between-song rants, Orren often relishes in pointing out my trailer park white trash credentials, as I married and had kids at a fairly young age (not to mention becoming a grandfather in my early 40s). This also meant that I was preoccupied with family life and being a dad at the same time that my brother grew into his rock’n’roll-lifestyle-era. And as my kids got older and more independent, and I became more ”accessible to frivolous social encounters and activities” as it were, that’s when he started a family and the responsible-dad-thing. We just always seemed to be out of phase, although we got along great whenever we’d see each other. 
We are both drummers, so we spent many years playing in different bands, never actually playing together. The first time that changed was when Barba started his RockSteadyEddie solo project, where he was the lead singer, and thus needed a drummer for live performance (he still played on the recordings). I was drafted for this task, and this was the first time we performed together. It was also the first time I played with Orren, who was the bass player then. It was not too long after this that Barba and Orren morphed into the early stages of Billy Momo. They started writing and recording songs, discovering a new direction different from anything they’d done before. In the beginning they played most of the instruments themselves, with auxiliary players added whenever needed. I was one of those players. And I played the drums with the band live from the very first gig, so I was the first +member added to the then-duo, nowadays a septet. Growing pains much..?
So, what’s it like to play in a band with your younger brother, especially as he is one of the two bandleaders, you ask? (Or maybe you don’t, but I’ll tell you anyway.)
In a seven-piece group where the dynamics pretty much resemble a dysfunctional family on a alcoholic binge anyway, with sibling rivalries, squabbles and inside jokes, the actual blood relations between Barba and myself doesn’t really seem too obvious. In fact, we are probably the two guys who argue the least among each other in the band. We both like to be on time, none of us is a snob in our tastes (although our tastes often diverge quite a lot from each other), and we are both pretty easy-going (out of the two of us, I’m the moody, difficult one).
One of the funny quirks is that initially we both found it really hard to do vocal harmonies together. Our voices have really similar timbres, and if the harmonies were tight (as they should be), it would be very difficult to differentiate between us, so much that we’d sometimes not know which parts we were singing! I’d find myself having to do a little pitch bend to find out which voice was me! Over time, we have learned how to tell ourselves apart a little better, but sometimes it’s still difficult. One of the band’s inside jokes is that the most pointless gag imaginable would be if I started to sing lead on a song instead of Barba, as most people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference.
Barba is the organizer of the band, the disciplinarian father figure as well as the worrying mother, while the rest of us are the unruly kids driving him crazy. But that doesn’t mean that he’s boring and stiff. In fact, he’s one of the most fun guys I know to hang out with. If you’ve ever partied with Billy Momo, you are keenly aware that we all know how to have a good time. 
On a strictly personal note, while we have obviously been family our whole lives, it’s very precious to me to find that in our advancing years, my little brother is also one of my very best friends, and I love him like crazy. 
As today is his birthday I’ll raise a toast to the man who was happier than anyone else when the VHS era ended. Here’s to many more years of brotherhood and bandmatery! Cheers, little brother! Love ya!
/Gramps

A different drum, crayfish and the-day-after-volumes.

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Gramps. Photo: Christopher Anderzon. 

We have started recording a bunch of new songs lately, and you will no doubt see a lot of footage from this project on MomoTV in the weeks and months ahead. But here are some personal reflections after the first week of recording.

Each Billy Momo album has had its own approach and recording process. ’Ordinary Men’ was done very much as a duo with auxiliary musicians.

More of a band sound started to emerge with ’Drunktalk’, although it wasn’t quite there yet. And it was still largely put together one instrument at the time, the separated recording technique used by most smaller studios.

’Seven Rivers Wild’ was the first album recorded entirely as the seven-piece band that we had grown into, and we also started to record a little bit more as a live unit, with at least the rhythm section being recorded at the same time. It had happened on occasional tracks before, such as ”The Weekend”, but this time around that was the overall approach for most of the tracks. On SRW we also began experimenting with double drums on some songs, with me and Barba playing together on separate drum kits to get a lively, swampy feel to the grooves. With this approach we could also introduce more interesting sounds into the rhythm tracks, junkyard percussion, stacked cymbals and other sonic experiments. SRW was quite ambitious, a glossy, rich production, Billy goes Fleetwood Mac, almost. The final enhancement to this album was the amazing artwork, which made it ideal for the vinyl format.

But these days, we are living in a world where streaming services and downloading individual tracks constitute the norm, rather than oldskool album listening, where you with a sense of pride, joy and even duty listened all the way through the album you had just purchased (yes, there was a time when you paid money to the creators of the music in order to listen to it). Today… not so much. And so, why not try some different approaches to platforms and formats?

With this in mind, we are now experimenting with different approaches to recording, not necessarily working towards ”an album” as the desired end result. It might still end up being that, of course, but we try not to have that as a preconceived notion, but rather approach a handful of songs at the time, consider some creatively interesting method of recording them, and see what happens. They may be released as individual tracks, or as parts of a bigger, cohesive whole, but we’ll see what it is when we get there.

The first and most obvious difference this time around is that we have started to work in Barba’s new house, part of which has been converted into a recording facility (again, MomoTV will bring you up to speed on that) which gives the whole working environment a more homegrown feel, which suits the band perfectly.

During rehearsals in the past couple of years we often found that some really interesting things happened to the groove when we were playing at lower volume (the decision to turn it down was probably more due to hangovers than intentional improvements of musical nature, but hey!) and so we wanted to try recording some songs while playing softly and more delicately. So this has been a deliberate change for this particular batch of tunes. Oh, there are still some viscerally exciting, rambunctious, slamming beats going on (oh, man, you have noooo idea what you’re in for, people!), but there is a different sonic quality that comes out of drums and percussion when played slightly less forcefully, and the interplay between players gets more dynamic, so this we feel is a huge improvement.

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Gramps. Photo: Christopher Anderzon. 

We are also expanding the idea of the junkyard percussion setups, with both myself and Preach having some deranged setups to work with. Trashcan lids, wooden crates, fucked up cymbal combinations with applied chains, drums filled with quinoa, and the list goes on. The Billy Momo sound is getting deeper, grittier and sweatier than ever. We can’t wait for you to hear these fucking songs!

The first week of collective recording finished on Friday (some individual overdub sessions proceeded over the weekend), and we had a traditional Swedish crayfish party on Friday night, right there in the studio! It was the usual Billy Momo joint, with way too much booze, and so, the drunktalk began, as expected. One member of the band kept insisting that most fears that people refer to as “phobias” are actually just a part of ones personal image and public relations-package, or something along those lines. The verdict from the jury is still pending on that one. And at some point during the wee hours of the morning, we hazily drifted into listening to terrible 90s Eurodance music (although some of us insisted it was FUCKING AWESOME!!!) and eventually some of us got wild and crazy behind the drum kit for a bit at 4:00 a.m.-ish, presumably to the immense enjoyment of the neighbors, but, you know, what price art, eh?

Stay tuned here and at Momo TV for continuous updates on the recording process.

Have a beautiful fall, all you crazy kids in love out there!

/Gramps

Recommended listening:

Suffering for Art – or – the Art of Suffering.

Gramps/Tony Lind
Gramps, aka Tony Lind. Photo, as always, by Christopher Anderzon.
I have always been deeply suspicious of the notion that the only ”real” or ”good” or ”important” art is one created out of misery, pain and suffering. That concept always smacked of unchecked ego and inflated self-importance to me.
A lot of unbelievably great art was created out of sheer joy, the pleasure of the creative process and loving inspiration, and is in no way less valid than the art born out of pain and hardship. But for some reason, a lot of people seem to perceive depressed and/or depressing artists as ”honest”, an idea I find dubious at best.

I personally never trust an artist who takes themselves too seriously. They may take their art as seriously as a fucking heart attack, no problem there, but when they allow their sensitive minds, bleeding hearts and fragile little baby souls to demand that you laud them for the suffering they have endured, rather than the quality of the work they produce, fuck it, I’m outta there, faster than a paycheck.
Those ”artists” are often whiny little pricks who should have a therapist rather than an audience. They are often also dismissive of and even indifferent toward their fans, which is a cardinal sin in my book. Like when Morrissey scoffs that he doesn’t perform. ”Seals perform.” Yeah, right. If that’s the case, get off the stage, you have no place there.

When I walk onstage in front of an audience, I feel a huge responsibility to make sure that these people are entertained in some way, and I feel disgusted when I see bands who obviously don’t give a shit. I was raised on artists who know how to put on a show, in their own different ways, and I took those lessons to heart (at the end of this rant I’ve put together some clips of bands who know how to treat an audience). That doesn’t mean that your act has to be all out party animal energy, that’s not what I’m saying, it would be really boring if everyone was like Angus Young all the time, but there should be an effort to communicate with the people who bought their ticket for your show, and the least you can do is to acknowledge them and let them know you appreciate them coming to hear and see you.

Michael Stipe was absolutely right when he sang that everybody hurts. Everybody does, sometimes. And just because you have the creative outlet to vent your pain, which is fantastic and beautiful, that does not mean that you hurt more, better or deeper than anyone else. I love that you have the gift of touching people in a way that allows them to understand their own struggle a little bit better, ease their pain for a moment, or just recognizing that they’re not alone. But that gift does not entitle you to be a primadonna. Art is about sharing, so don’t be so fucking precious about what you do.

A lot of people suffer from depression and anxiety, and I think it is a very positive thing that we as a society are starting to unstigmatize mental health issues, although that process is still way too slow. And in that sense, it is also a very positive thing that people create art about their struggles, to show that not only is it ok to acknowledge that you have this burden in your life, it is essential to do so in order for things to change. But that doesn’t mean that the Suffering Artist should be put on any sort of piedestal. And to perpetuate a lifestyle of misery, as some would at least like to give the impression of doing, just to make ”better” art, is stupid as shit.

/Gramps

What’s on your mind?

Sometimes people come up to me after a show and say, ”You look so happy up there on stage. Your joy is really contagious! What’s going on in your mind when you’re performing? What are you thinking about?”

I am usually quite the brooder. I think a lot about stuff, and some would say I think too much. But not when I am on stage. I don’t think I am ever more ’in the moment’ than I am while playing music in front of an audience, except maybe while fucking.

Yes, obviously I do think about stuff when I play, but it’s like the world outside the venue disappears, and none of the everyday issues matter. My entire focus is on the performance, and the music. The most important advice I can give anyone who wants to play music live is: pay attention! Really be there. I listen to what my bandmates are doing, and I watch their body language for cues and clues as to what they might be doing next. When you’ve played with the same people for a long time this process is almost a telepathic thing, you are not really consciously thinking about it, just reacting.

If The Coffa plays something cool on the bass (which he is very prone to do) I like to be supportive, play something that enhances what he’s playing, or complements it. And it’s the same way with all the guys in the band. You pay attention, you listen, you respond. I don’t think too far ahead, my mind is rarely on the next song, unless there is a segue of some sort that needs to be focused on. If my mind starts to wander too far down the setlist, I find it distracting, and I don’t enjoy it as much.

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The Head, Orren and Gramps – photo: Marcus Landström.

Sometimes even a ”mistake” can lead to a very wonderful musical interaction, and it’s not unusual that songs are altered because of some unique event that took place, everyone thinking ”That was really fucking sweet!” and so we incorporate it into the arrangement. Serendipities like that are what makes live performance so exciting and joyous.

I am also aware of the audience, and the way they respond to the show. Often when you are on stage with bright lights in your eyes, it can be difficult to pick out faces in the crowd, but you can usually see a few, and I try to pay attention to them, and if possible make eye contact every once in a while. To me, a live performance is about communicating with the audience in every possible way, and I really dislike it when artists act as if the people in front of them don’t exist. I want the people who paid for a ticket to the show to go home thinking they really experienced something cool on a personal level, and acknowledging their presence by looking them in the eye is a very effective way of achieving that.

Also, I try to be transparent in my reactions to what’s going on. A lot of time funny shit happens on stage that the audience might not even be aware of, but I’ll laugh out loud, and they will understand that something happened, even if they are not sure exactly what, and they will sense that they just witnessed something spontaneous and special. It’s little details like that that make their experience special and your performance memorable.

So, in essence, the question ”What are you thinking about onstage?” can be answered with: ”Nothing. And everything.”

/Gramps

Recommended listening:
Henry Rollins – gig mishaps
Rush – The Big Money (live)
Frank Zappa – Tinsel Town Rebellion
The Band – Ophelia

Passion

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Gramps. Photo by Birgitta Haller. Or was it Christopher Anderzon? 

Today, I will expose one of my main character flaws. At least, it seems to be a flaw whenever I read a book or an article about how to succeed in life, in work, in love, in anything.

As a musician, and as a person overall, I am deeply motivated by passion in everything I do. When I am passionate about something, I thrust myself into it with everything I’ve got.
On the flip side, it’s very hard to get me to do anything that I don’t feel passionate about. I’m not a very goal-oriented individual, I’m not a strategist, I’m not an entrepreneur, and I never consider ”smart career moves” or maneuver Machiavellian schemes to advance myself. I don’t make five- or ten-year-plans for my life. I can hardly make a ten-hour-plan and stick with it, for fuck’s sake!
For me, without passion, there is no ambition. None.

But when I get fired up about something, or someone, I am fiercely dedicated. Always in the moment, but applying myself as if that moment has no end. For a guy who’s been playing music for 30 years, I haven’t been in all that many bands, but the ones that I’ve been in that I was passionate about, I’ve stayed with for a long time, in some cases more than 20 years.
I’ll invest time, money and effort into endeavors without any guarantee of reward, payback or success. This is a big part of being a musician in today’s climate anyway, you certainly don’t make a lot of money, but you spend lots and lots of it just to keep at it, recordings, gear, travel and whatnot.

Like the almighty Rush (and their drummer/lyricist Neil Peart) put it in the brilliant song ’Bravado’; ”If love remains, though everything is lost, we will pay the price, but we will not count the cost.”

That line pretty much sums up the way I’ve lived my life so far. As long as the love was there, as long as the passion was there (love and passion are not the same thing, but they work very well together), I didn’t quit, even if in hindsight I can see that sometimes perhaps I should have.

It’s a bit like the orchestra on board the Titanic, who kept grinding away at ’Nearer, my God, to Thee’ as the ship went down in the cold, dark waters of the Atlantic. At some point you start to realize that it is futile, but you stay with it, because what else can you do? You decided to board this ship, so now you go down with it.

On the other hand, when that labor of love does come to fruition, when your passion gets its reward, it’s oooooh, so fucking sweet! When that happens, being driven by passion does not seem like such a flaw after all, because the payoff is not just a box to be checked on your massively detailed ten-year-plan clipboard, it is a piece of your bleeding heart being healed, a dream coming to life and a climax for the soul. It’s really that good!

/Gramps

Recommended listening:

Rush – Bravado
Mavis Staples – Eyes on the prize
Van Halen – When it’s love
Rush – Mission
Peter Gabriel – Passion
King Crimson – One time
Tom Petty – I won’t back down
Metallica – Nothing else matters
Drive-By Truckers – Danko/Manuel