Anekdoten: Questions from within

DURP - eZine from the progressive ocean

Interview

After the release of the third record "From Within" it was time to feature this Swedish prog band on DURP. Jan Erik and Nicklas answered our Questions.

What about the influence of other artists to you?

Nicklas: We listen to a wide spectrum of different music and of course it all has some influence to us. Just to mention a few: Magma, Van Der Graaf Generator, Arvo Pärt, Massive Attack, Motorpsycho, Tim Buckley, Motorhead, King Crimson, Sun Ra and more.

Is there a mastermind inside of the band or are you more a "democratic" band?

Nicklas: I think we are a pretty democratic band. I try to visualize Anekdoten as a living organism, everybody's work is equally important.

How does the songwriting work in the band?

Nicklas: Usually someone has an idea and then we improvise around it to find a certain mood and the right kind of instrumentation. Then we try to put everything in order to make it a real tune. Often a song changes a lot before it's finished. We try to perform the songs live in front of an audience before we record them just to get the music into our bodies. Jan Erik writes the lyrics.
Jan Erik: And the lyrics always come after the music. Sometimes I get a very clear picture of what they should be about at an early stage and sometimes I have to live with the music for a while before the lyrics come out of the closet.

What about the cover artwork? It's professional but more sparingly and not overloaded....

Nicklas: I guess we all had a feeling that the "Nucleus" cover was slightly overdone so the cover for "From Within" became very clean. I personally like it very much. I think it suites the music well.
Jan Erik: Anna Sofi do our cover artwork and the cover was her idea. It was something of a matter of letting the music do the talking this time around. And there is more space in the music on "From Within" than "Nucleus" so it was fitting from that point of view as well.

How would you like to develop in the future?

Nicklas: Hard to say but hopefully we will develop as songwriters, musicians and as a group. I personally want to get into more improvisation since I'm now listening to a lot of free-jazz. Do you think about changing your style?
Nicklas: Not really, but as new influences and new perceptions in life occurs there will always be a change in our music. Anyway I hope so. We don't say that this time we want to be more straight or more far-out, it just comes from the inside. Changes is very important for us, otherwise we would become very bored at the end.

Is there a most important event in the history of the band?

Nicklas: I guess it has to be when we released our first album because it was then we were able to go on tours and so on. There has also been gigs that has been very nice, for example Progfest 94 in Los Angeles and Burg Herzberg 96. I remember those gigs as electric, much because of the audience. I will never forget these occasions.

What about your success in different countries?

Nicklas: I guess that most of our "success" is abroad. We have been very fortunate to tour in Europe, Japan, North and South America. We haven't done that many gigs in Sweden really. Most of our recordsales are in Japan, USA, France, Germany, Italy, not in Sweden.

What kind of compromises would you make to push your career?

Nicklas: I don't think we ever going to compromise musically to push our career. The compromises are elsewhere, for example working harder with the music and tours and because of that you have to make choices in life. Give up your full-time job maybe, have less money and so on. It is a very tough balance there. There are a lot of other things than music which also is important in life, but still the music has to be done. You cannot just give up your need to create music. It is there in your head and it's got to get out somehow.
Jan Erik: We are in a fortunate situation because there is no-one telling us what to do. We release the records ourselves and we have put our hand in everything, including production, artwork and promotion. So we don't have to compromise with anyone or anything outside the band. And in the band it is also difficult to develop an idea if there is someone in the band that's not very into it. So the compromises may be that some ideas won't turn into finished songs, because one or more members in the band do not find them good enough.

How would you describe the development between the new record and the records before?

Nicklas: "Vemod", our first album was pretty influenced by King Crimson. We were unexperienced with the recording process so I guess the versions of the songs aren't the best, but still I like some of them. It was recorded and mixed in ten days.
"Nucleus" is more of a schizophrenic record. The songs were very arranged and the recording process lasted over three months. It's our most extreme record so far.
Our new album "From Within" is more melodic in a sense. I guess the songs are more stretched out and heavy.
Jan Erik: Many people have said that "From Within" has a sound more similar to "Vemod" than "Nucleus". I think that this was deliberate in one sense: we had found that the songs from "Vemod" generally worked better on stage than the ones from "Nucleus". The songs on "Nucleus" are so demanding, both to play and to listen to. We wanted to make music with a more distinctive groove and make a record that was more hypnotic and flowing than what had been the case in the past. Can you tell me something of the process of creating the new record?
Nicklas: We were very lucky to work with Simon Nordberg again. He was helping us out on "Vemod" and now he worked as the main producer and I think the sound of the album suites us very good. It was recorded in one of the best analog studios in Sweden. The mixing desk and most of the equipment is from the beginning of the seventies. That and a big recording room gave us for the first time a very natural sound in the studio. Recording and mixing took us a month so the process was faster than on "Nucleus". The songs were recorded more or less live in the studio except for the vocals, keyboards and cello. We made the overdubs in our rehearsal room. The songs are in my opinion our best so far. It is the first album we made that I can listen to myself and enjoy.

Were there any problems or went everything well?

Nicklas: Of course there were problems as always when you are in a creative process but nothing serious.

Can you give us some liner notes to the songs on "From Within"

From Within: Nicklas - This tune was written a month before recording the album. A typical Anekdoten song in 6/8. Heavy riffing in the beginning. Maybe a little bit in the Mahavishnu vein.
Jan Erik - The song and the arrangement came very naturally and it is one of my definite favorites on the album. The lyrics are about the fences and walls that we erect between us. We might live a very organized and comfortable life, but it still gets cold inside if we don't have the courage to let anyone else in.

Kiss of life: Nicklas - The main riff was written a long time ago, but we didn't get the song together until a couple of days before recording. It's rocker and I personally love the way Peter and Jan Erik handles the rhythm section.

Groundbound: Nicklas - Rather poppy in the beginning with a nice melody to the vocals which leads to frenetic stick in the middle which is more or less improvised. Quite old song.
Jan Erik - My best lyrics up to date. It is about the moment of truth, when the cards are finally put on the table. This song has gone through quite a lot of changes since we started to work on it back in 1997.

Hole: Nicklas - One of our heaviest tunes. Maybe in the early Crimson vein. Lots of mellotrons!!! Jan Erik - Life is very much about making choices, and to not do anything is also a choice. In fact it's a choice that we very often do because it is the easiest one to make. But in the end it can leave us in despair.

Slow Fire: Nicklas - Oldest song recorded. Written in 96.
Firefly: Nicklas - Calm floating piece in 7/8. It was originally 7 minutes long but Simon cut it down to four minutes after we mixed it. He actually cut in the tape with a scissors. Good work, you can't hear it. Jan Erik - We were hesitant about if this song would turn out good enough to be on the album or not, but I think that it has its place. Probably the most "poppy" song we've done this far. I think it turned out nice in the end.

The Sun Absolute: Nicklas - Instrumental piece improvised in the studio. Peter added the vibes and I added the mellotron loops in the end. Maybe a little bit like Can. Very static. Jan Erik - The basic idea came from a jam in the rehearsal studio and the song was almost unrehearsed when we recorded it. It wasn't structured at the time of recording, but we had a vague idea about what we wanted. Peter came up with a really nice vibraphone figure when we were doing the overdubs and this really did the trick! It turned out better than I could have expected.

For Someone: Nicklas - Acoustic piece with cello, guitar. voice, vibes and some mellotron. Rather sad....
Jan Erik - Nicklas were fiddling around with the guitar parts already back in 1996. We played the song live in Canada in 1998 with different lyrics, but it as again abandoned after that gig. When we came to the time of the recording we thought that it was time to turn it into an arranged song. It is a naive tune, but I think that you need naivete as well from time to time.

How would you describe your relation to new media as internet, virtual reality, mp3...

Nicklas: I think much of our publicity has been through internet. We have our website that seems to be frequently visited. That's where we can put news about tours and stuff like that. It's a very important place for us to promote things, since we don't have that much money to put on promotion.

So you could make a choice, with which band would you like to play live on stage, for example as support?

Nicklas: Well I wouldn't mind supporting Sun Ra at some point but I don't think it's going to happen. We have always wanted to open for Motorpsycho and now it seems to happen in the end of March, which I'm very happy of.
Jan Erik: Yes, ever since I saw Motorpsycho live for the first time in Stockholm in 1998 I have wanted us to get the chance to open for them. I think that we have a lot of similarities in sound and attitude, but the Motorpsycho fans are for the most part not the same people that listen to us. I believe that we can complement each other very well in a live situation.

So you could have the possibility to make this record again. Would you change anything?

Jan Erik: I feel that some of the mixes could have been better. I can really enjoy heavy compression when I listen to other artists, but I think that the sound is too compressed on some of the songs on the album. Still, this is very much a matter of taste and the album still sounds much better than the other studio albums.
Nicklas: Of course there are always thing you want to change, but I wouldn't want to record it again. We make the changes when we perform live.

Is each member of the band absolute satisfied with each song of the record?

Nicklas: Probably not, but we are satisfied with the album in all. We would never release anything that we were unsatisfied with. I think we all believe that "From Within" is our best so far.

Was it your intention to handle all the production, distribution and management things self or is it because you couldn't get an record deal?

Nicklas: Before we released our first album, we had offers from 11 companies, but we turned them down and released it ourselves, and it I think it was a good choice. We have a record company in Japan, Disk Union but they are something special. We have a very good relationship with them. It is nice to have control of everything and be able to do as you want. We know of too many bands that have been in trouble with record companies. It would be nice to have some management though. Jan Erik: Yes, all things that are parts of presenting the music to an audience (like doing this interview, for example 8-)) in some way or another can intrude on the music making.
There are often decisions to be made, often of a more or less financial nature. We would have wanted to make more promotion, play more live gigs and release more records, but as long as we are not making our living from the music, this is about as much as we have time and energy for. Maybe it's good though, because in this way we might be able to sustain the fun and enthusiasm of playing together for a longer period of time.


© 06/2000 Renald Mienert
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