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!


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


Love songs

Gramps. Photo: Christopher Anderzon.

In this day and age, I find genuine kindness to be a very underrated personality trait. There, I said it.

We are becoming increasingly guarded, skeptical and cynical. When someone performs an act of kindness, we automatically look for a hidden agenda. Generosity is viewed with distrust. Being polite and giving compliments in a conversation is often mistaken for flirting. We never take anything at face value, we assume everything is said ironically.
This is fucking bullshit.
When did kindness become a dirty word? And why? Because a kind person is seen as being vulnerable, naïve or a dupe? While sass and sarcasm is supposedly cool and intelligent? Fuck that shit.
Ironic detachement is not a sign of someone being smart and savvy, it’s a sign of fear of being a sincere person.

I think this is why I enjoy schmaltzy love ballads so much. Oh, I’m perfectly aware that they are often insincere on the writer’s part, and cliché-ridden beyond belief, but their sentiments still speak idiomatically to the soul. Once you have fallen in love for the first time, and once you’ve had your heart broken for the first time, love songs speak a language you understand with every inch of your being. No matter how calloused and jaded we may be, or at least think we are, the heart yearns for sincerity, kindness and love. And those songs can bypass many of our mental barriers, and soothe our souls.

Most lyrics about love are fairly straightforward and simple, and that usually works the best, since love is straightforward and simple. You don’t kind of love someone. You do or you don’t. The complexities we associate with love are not about love itself, but disturbances that interrupt love, like jealousy, pride and power struggles. But love itself is simple, ’pure’, to use another word that is openly ridiculed these days.
That said, I do take great pleasure in songs where the writer really puts in an effort to be eloquent, and takes an intelligent approach to the subject matter. Some of the sweetest love songs I know are smart, some are even funny.

Frank Zappa once said; “There are more love songs than anything else. If songs could make you do something we’d all love one another.” This is true. Listening to love songs will not automatically make us more loving creatures, but hopefully they can remind us of the way we really want to feel, and at least for the brief few minutes the song lasts, we can surrender our insincerity and cynicism, and allow ourselves to experience genuine emotion.

Recommended listening:

XTC – The Mayor of Simpleton
Chaka Khan – Through the fire
Fountains of Wayne – I-95
Jethro Tull – Slow marching band
Don Henley – The heart of the matter
Jars of Clay – Safe to land
Billy Joel – And so it goes
Björk – Unravel
Marillion – No one can
Alannah Myles – Sonny say you will
Francis Dunnery – What’s he gonna say
Warren Zevon – Reconsider me
Tom T. Hall – Tulsa telephone book
Fish – Cliché

Circadian rhythm and the creative mind

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?

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?

Swedes and the Swedish pop wonder

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.

Shut up, already! Damn!

The Head. Photo by The Coffa. 
Tell me who in this house know about the quake? Well, we do!
It was 30 years ago, today. – Well almost. I was on a school trip to some canoeing place and while some went out for a second round, I hung out with my favourite girl friend, Tina. No, not girlfriend, (we were passed that) but girl friend.

She lent me her brand new cassette tape with the latest Prince album on it. I popped it into my yellow Sony Walkman, inserted my earbuds, pressed play, and nothing was ever the same again. Sure, we had all heard “Sign O’ The Times” but the album was a whole other beast! When I first heard that overly confident voice demanding everyone to “Shut up, already” I was blown away! Those drums, man. I was heavily into hip hop and metal at the time and hadn’t fully fathomed the awesomeness that was Prince. I hadn’t even realised how good his earlier records was, until that magical, mystical moment in the sun on that floating pier. I remember I had to sit down, it was all just to much. “I mean really!” – I was listening to the worlds greatest party, and I was invited! The music took me places. Lunch was served and I had starfish and coffee, maple syrup and jam. I got to bathe with Dorothy Parker, with my pants on! I was 15 and believe me when I say, I thought about “It” all the time.
prince 2
For the first time I could relate to the androgynous singer. His beats were hitting, his riffs were hard. His voice was punchy and raw. He was singing about me, to me. I was mesmerised. It was as if he was inside my head. All those times I had wished that I was your girl friend! Lately, in school, I had turned into the guy they all came to, with their older-boyfriend-issues. I had gone from king status to geek status. I had become the nice guy in the friend zone and summer could not come fast enough! And suddenly here was Prince! He got me. He understood. He gave me comfort and a sense that I was destined for something else – the afterworld. For me, that afterworld was whatever was gonna come as soon as school was over.
Safe to say, Tina didn’t get the tape back. Not until I had had the chance to make a copy of it anyway. (Don’t worry, I’ve bought it three times since).

PrinceStrangely though, as the years have passed, I haven’t listened that much to the album for maybe 20 years and as I saw that it was time for its’ 30th anniversary I started wondering why? So the other day, I sat down and put my headphones on. Wow! Immediately I was back on that pier in the sun. But something else hit me. The reason why I haven’t listened to ”Sign O’ The Times” for so long is probably because I am listening to it everyday! Every time I put on Miles Davies, it’s thanks to that album. Every time I listen to Frank Zappa, it’s because of Prince. Every time I enjoy a great pop song it’s because of how that album taught me music, production, sound. Suddenly I realised, that moment on the pier was the starting point of my career as a producer and mixer. Had it not been for ”Sign O’ the Times” I might never have dared to venture into all those obscure jazz albums and fusion groups. Maybe I wouldn’t even have understood the rest of Princes catalogue. The album is full of exciting counter point, intricate chords, weird sounds, and advanced theory, but done in a way that you never realise the complexity of it. It’s a true masterpiece and maybe the highlight of a brilliant career. It’s also a rare gem for musicologists that is far to often overseen. On a more serious note, if it wasn’t for ”Sign O’ the Times”, I would never have had the balls to build my studio. I would never have learnt how to make a properly gated reverb. I probably wouldn’t have been asked to produce Orren and Barbas earlier group, King Kong Crew, and we would maybe never have met. I certainly wouldn’t have been Grammy nominated, and Billy Momo wouldn’t have sounded the way we do! In a way, I owe it all to a purple-loving man in heals, wearing Peaches and Black! (Oscar Harryson, aka ‘The Head’, guitar + producer)

Music, I hate you to death but I can’t live without you.

foto.jpgHi! My name is Tomas and I’m a musician.

I read a thing online somewhere that you should never fall in love with a musician because they are egocentric assholes. It’s true! But it’s not their fault. Music is worse than heroin, white sugar and swedish hardcore snus combined into a bitch of an addiction.
I was into sports and had friends before I met music. That’s all gone now. I have bandmates. I never hang out with anybody that doesn’t play music or don’t mind me only talking about music. I wake up every day thinking, today I will stop. I feel strong. I can do this. I WILL STOP MUSIC!

Then I get out of bed and go straight to the piano. I don’t even have any clothes on yet. Something is very wrong with this.
And you know what? I LOVE EVERY SECOND OF IT. That’s the problem.
I will never quit music. It’s a drug I tell ya!

You know that recorder they force you to play in music class when you’re a kid? It might seem innocent while you’re stumbling your way through Brother John the first few times. But that’s more of a gateway drug than any spliff or beer you’ll be tempted to try in your teens. When you put that fucker to your lips you better be aware of the risk you’re taking. It could mean you’re hooked for life.
Think before you try it kids! (Tomas Juto, aka ‘Barba’)

The dynamics of being a band

header 161115Anyone who has ever been part of a creative team (and who hasn’t?) knows that within a group of people, various individuals get assigned different functions within the unit, and these roles in combination are fueling the creative process. You have leaders, you have thinkers, you have doers, you have morale boosters, you have analysts and critics, all various catalysts for moving the project ahead. The weird thing is that the same individual can perform a specific role within one group of people, yet have a significantly different function in another team. The dynamics shift, depending on the energies produced within each unique combination of people. It really is true that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. And Billy Momo is no exception to this rule.

Orren is sort of the gatekeeper of the Billy Momo environment. He is often the first one to say that ”This doesn’t really feel like a Billy Momo thing to do”, and he often comes up with the initial idea for new concepts, videos, etc.

My brother Barba and I are quite alike in many ways, and yet in others, we are vastly different. Barba seems to have a constant creative drive, a slow burning kind, where he is in perpetual forward motion, which is a very good, disciplined way of getting shit done, even if it sometimes happens below the radar. My creativity seems to lie dormant periodically, and then show itself in bursts of energy, which is good for times when things need to get kicked in the ass a little bit, but isn’t very effective for actually finishing a project, being a ’closer’ takes a persistence and determination I sorely lack. Barba is, together with our manager Birgitta, the taskmaster of the group, the one who makes sure we actually follow through on what we have planned.

The Head seems to thrive within his own framework, headspace and timezone, and although he is very active when we have conceptual discussions about what we are trying to achieve, he tends to do most of his work on his own. He is very much a morale booster as well, ever optimistic and enthusiastic.

Preacher Man often refers to himself as a ”spare prick”, which is funny, but not entirely the case. It is true that he gets assigned various roles depending on the requirements of specific songs, be it percussion, vocals, guitar, dobro, but not in an arbitrary fashion, and his versatility is a very strong point within our setup, and one we always look to finding new ways to expand. Also, his unique character provides endless source material for Billy Momo folklore.

Hot Lips often comes up with quirky, creative ideas, and has a great instinct for visual presentation. He’s a gifted sketch artist, and seems to have an infinite treasure trove of old pictures and vintage equipment (not always of a musical nature) we can draw inspiration from. Combined with The Coffa’s photography and graphic design skills, as well as Orren’s visionary quality control, we have a great visual design team within the group.

I realize, as I’m reading everything I’ve just written, that most of these processes within the band are not directly concerning the music, but other aspects of being a creative team. But, being a very DIY type of organization, a lot of the work we have to perform in order to keep this beast we know as Billy Momo alive and kicking, takes place with our instruments unplugged. Sometimes the balance gets a little fucked, which can be a bit frustrating. I have had recent discussions with Barba where we both expressed an itch to get back to the actual music for a bit. It will happen, as we have a number of shows scheduled during the spring, but for now, we are currently doing a lot of other stuff. This very blog, for instance!

Peace, love and music to all you crazy kids in love out there! (Tony Lind, aka /Gramps)

Working on a dream


It’s a beauty don’t you think?

I’ve got myself a moped with a flatbed. I actually could already have owned one.
When I grew up, an elder relative of mine parked a moped like this one in the woods behind our house. It wasn’t functioning, and I was to young to repair it, so all I could do as a kid was dream about driving it.

Suddenly one day, together with my uncles and some welding, the moped got a changed appearance. It was turned into a gocart. We used a 5 hp motor from an old cultivator, and as for breaks we used nothing.

I still remember the high speed driving. It sure was fast! And the rock in the ditch I crashed it into, sure did it’s job to. I got out just fine, the gocart didn’t. Enough whining about that.

I bought this moped a while ago. It had been left halfway out in a lake or something like that, and as with the case with my bass harmonica, some earlier owner has made some not so great improvements on it, but I seem to prefer to buy stuff like that, and make some crappy stuff work again.

Besides me looking really cool on the road with it, I think the moped can be of use for the band, shooting music videos. Me driving, The Coffa with the steady cam on the flatbed, the rest of the guys in front of us running for their lives… I mean acting.. acting… not running, screaming and crying… noooo, just some good old acting.. perfect. (Mårten ‘Hotlips’ Forssman, harmonica)

Blowing in the wind or just sucking in general?

wingedwordsYes, Billy Momo does write songs on political and social subjects. But it seems to me it’s kind of hard to do it right.

I love it when a song has a deeper meaning and it’s incredibly cool when music can put out a message that changes the world.
It’s just that to me, the subject doesn’t make it a song. It’s still the way you tell it that counts.

When you express an opinion, you have a responsibility. Especially these days, when your opinions are posted on social media and there are many people reading. With the terrible amount of hate and fear we now have floating around, desperately looking for somewhere to point its finger, there are risks involved with claiming the truth. You need to check your facts and also think about what people may read into your statements.
Here’s the difference between that and writing a song.
Music has to be about expressing your emotions. It cannot be about coming across as politically correct, teaching the youth or taking part in a cause. Those things are welcome as a bonus, but if you’re not expressing an honest feeling, without censoring, you’re violating the artform.
I grew up with a political/musical movement not too different from the flower power movement. People believed that an artist is responsible for the messages they put out and how it’s recieved. I believe putting that on an artist is a big mistake.

Think about it. If only music that seemed responsible, music that expresses views we can stand by, only music that parents would be happy to play to their kids, only music that was never banned from radio, was successful, would any of the music you listen to exist?
A lot of my favorite artists were or are assholes. And I don’t care! They sang it and they meant it. They probably meant it in a fairly twisted way, but they were still sharing a piece of their souls with other people. If anything, it’s beautiful that we can share something really deep and profound with someone we could never get along with outside the music. That should contribute to a lot of love and understanding, right? And to me, it’s deep and profound because you mean it, wether it’s about healing the world or making love.
So, what this all comes down to, in my view, is that artists don’t have to be good guys. They only have to be honest.

If our music is to contribute to world peace, it needs to be free of judgement, so that it can touch people emotionally, because that’s what music is good for.