INTERVIEW WITH THUNDERMOTHER FOUNDER AND GUITARIST FILIPPA NÄSSIL
Date: May 24, 2022
Photos: Matts Vassfjord (courtesy of Fly PR)
SOME PEOPLE MAY HAVE BEEN SURPRISED TO SEE SWEDISH ROCKERS THUNDERMOTHER LAND THE AMAZING ASSIGNMENT OF OPENING FOR LEGENDARY BANDS SCORPIONS AND WHITESNAKE STARTING NEXT MONTH THROUGHOUT NORTH AMERICA. I, FOR ONE, WAS NOT. SINCE THE ADVENT OF THE COVID PANDEMIC, THERE HAS SEEMINGLY NOT BEEN A HARDER WORKING BAND. THE ALL-FEMALE ROCKERS, WHICH CURRENTLY CONSIST OF GUITARIST / BAND FOUNDER FILIPPA NÄSSIL, LEAD VOCALIST GUERNICA MANCINI, DRUMMER EMLEE JOHANSSON AND BASSIST MONA LINDGREN RELENTLESSLY SCHEDULED TOUR DATES AFTER TOUR DATES THROUGHOUT THE PANDEMIC. ALTHOUGH MANY DATES HAD TO BE RESCHEDULED WITH THE EVER CHANGING COVID CONDITIONS AND REQUIREMENTS, THUNDERMOTHER ALSO ENDED UP PLAYING COUNTLESS SHOWS.
ON TOP OF THAT, THUNDERMOTHER RELEASED ARGUABLY THE BEST ALBUM OF 2020 IN ‘HEAT WAVE‘, WHICH FINISHED AT #1 ON THE SLEAZE ROXX’S TOP TEN ALBUMS OF 2022 AND #6 ON THE SLEAZE ROXX READERS’ TOP 20 ALBUMS OF 2020, AND THE VERY COOL ‘HEAT WAVE DELUXE EDITION‘ IN 2021. ON AUGUST 19TH, THUNDERMOTHER WILL BE RELEASING THEIR FIFTH STUDIO ALBUM TITLED ‘BLACK AND GOLD’ VIA AFM RECORDS AND SLEAZE ROXX IS HONOURED TO PRESENT THIS EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH BAND FOUNDER FILIPPA NÄSSIL. YOU CAN PRE-ORDER THE ALBUM ‘BLACK AND GOLD’ VIA AFM RECORDS.
Sleaze Roxx: You ladies will be embarking on a huge North American tour with the Scorpions and Whitesnake. How did this come about? How did you get the opening slot on that fantastic tour?
Filippa Nässil: Well, it was thanks to the tour that we did during the pandemic. We toured a lot around Europe. We were the only band actually. We got a lot of press from that because we rented this car — this old fire truck. We stood on the roof of that and played places around Germany — squares maybe you call it outside — so people could come and watch with masks. There was a lot of media attention and I think the whole world saw that. This guy Chris in Los Angeles [California, USA] got a link from a friend of hers in England. I know this because we had coffee recently when I was in LA and he heard our music and he was like, “Whoa! I want to work with you girls.” So he contacted our management and then he said, “I am going to put you on a big tour. Any first wishes?” I was like, “AC/DC.”
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Filippa Nässil: [Laughs] Because they are also on that label. We are so stoked to do this because we grew up with that music — Whitesnake and Scorpions. He really delivered. He really delivered for his first tour with us.
Sleaze Roxx: Yes, that’s for sure. That’s for sure. It is actually quite rare these days to have a band of Thundermother’s stature get on a tour like that so you must feel very special to be on such a great tour package?
Filippa Nässil: Yes! I mean, [we’re] so blessed. I know that no[t many] bands can get to do this dream scenario [laughs]. I am just so happy that all of our hard work paid off. Not resting at all, even during the pandemic. We kept spreading our love for our quote “We fight for rock n’ roll” thing. It pays off to work hard. It’s just great that our album [‘Heat Wave‘] was so good that he liked it, you know [laughs]. I’m happy we spent a lot of money on the studio [laughs].
Thundermother‘s “We Fight For Rock N Roll” video (from Thundermother album):
Sleaze Roxx: That’s funny. One thing about Thundermother obviously is that you were one of the only bands that was touring during the Covid pandemic. I must have been very hard to find out which countries that you could tour in and what you had to do to make it happen. So take me through those last two years being on the road with the Covid pandemic.
Filippa Nässil: What was the question?
Sleaze Roxx: Oh! My question was, what was it like to organize a tour during the Covid pandemic and being able to actually make it happen?
Filippa Nässil: We were very fortunate. So, We have had good success, great success, in Germany as you may well know.
Sleaze Roxx: Yes.
Filippa Nässil: The government in Germany actually chose us a few years back to represent Germany in kind of a music festival for like showcasing Germany as a country. It’s pretty funny because we’re a Swedish band.
Sleaze Roxx: Right [laughs].
Filippa Nässil: They chose us to help us. They had an organization called Corona Concerts EU. So they contacted venues that were willing to do a friendly show and [be part of the] tour with us.
Sleaze Roxx: There was a lot of cancellation of tour dates depending on how the pandemic was going. So how did you manage that?
Filippa Nässil: I mean, we would go to airports all the time and not know whether we would enter the plane or not. When we landed for the tour, we didn’t even know if we could do the shows. We didn’t even know from one day to another because they change the rules in each part of Germany all the time. And they have different rules in different regions. It’s like you get to a different region and they have different laws. We got a call and we just went for it. Some days, we were stuck in our hotel rooms. Some days, we played. Some days, they came to us, ‘Okay, the rules just changed now at 3 o’clock. We have to limit the audience. We can only have 50 people.’ Then we talked to the venue and said, ‘Let’s do two shows tonight. The first 50 tickets sold, they can come in second to the last show and the late people can come to the first show.’ So we organized it. It was a lot of hustle!
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] Wow! That’s amazing. So would you recommend to a band to do that like you did? Do you think it was worth it?
Filippa Nässil: No band is crazy enough [laughs]…
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Filippa Nässil: Absolutely, absolutely. It was perfect because it took us to do this American tour now, because we can show that we are not afraid to put in the work. We can sacrifice anything to do this. It was very exhausting obviously.
Sleaze Roxx: So let’s talk about the new album a little bit. It’s called ‘Black And Gold.’ What made you decide to name the album by that title?
Filippa Nässil: [Long pause] Errrr [laughs]. Well, let me think about this. We had 20 demos and we had no idea what to name the album to the very last deadline date. Our label forced us to choose something [laughs]. We have these crew jackets when we tour. They are black and gold. So we thought that it could be a funny thing to have an album called ‘Black And Gold’ ’cause that’s how we dress when we’re out on the road [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] That’s cool. And for the previous albums, did you have difficulties naming them as well or was it just for this one?
Filippa Nässil: This one was the most difficult one, yeah [laughs]. We’re still not sure we made the right choice.
Sleaze Roxx: And why is that? Why was it so hard this time around?
Filippa Nässil: Because I mean, it’s such an important thing and it should be easy to remember, catchy and not long. I had a whole sentence that I wanted to name the album to buy we just decided to do something that was easy to remember and then we have a football team here in Stockholm [Sweden] that is black and yellow, and we are really into that club so we were like, ‘Maybe we can work with them in the future or whatever.’ Maybe when the football team is playing, we can play the “Black And Gold” song.
Thundermother‘s “Watch Out” video (from upcoming Black And Gold album):
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] That’s a good idea. So for the material on the new album, when did the band write it and who wrote the songs?
Filippa Nässil: We all wrote — like me, Emlee and Guernica — wrote the whole album in some kind of compilation between each other. When we worked, we did it a little bit separately and then we tracked everything. We wrote everything. We did however invite our producer to co-write three songs with us and then a good friend of mine, I invited him as well to like come up with some ideas when we were tired and we had all the riffs, lyrics and everything, but we needed something extravagant in the song to make it pop even more.
Track List for Black And Gold:
01. The Light In The Sky
02. Black And Gold
03. Raise Your Hands
04. Hot Mess
06. Watch Out
07. I Don’t Know You
08. Looks No Hooks
09. Loud And Free
10. Try With Love
12. Borrowed Time
Sleaze Roxx: Cool! And how was it working with Søren again?
Filippa Nässil: Great! He is an amazing guitarist. He’s very strong [guitarist] and he’s a very humble guy. The most humble guy you’ll ever meet if you ever meet him. He’s not like a boss who decides. He lets us do what we want and he never gets tired and is like, ‘Let me show you how to play guitar or whatever.’ He lets me do all that stuff without complaining guitar wise. He really puts the best out from me, you know, as a guitar player. I never sounded better than I do here. Some producers have even told me, ‘Do you like to play here a little faster?’ And I’m like, ‘Well, whoa! How can you say that? You’re like a producer!’ And you hear those stories about Mötley Crüe, and I’m like, ‘No. We’re a band. We’re playing everything.’ And Søren is nothing like that. we’ve met some crazy people [laughs]. You just want to get rid of it. Do we even need to be here? Like no. We’re not working like that. We want to be proud of our baby.
Sleaze Roxx: Now, there’s one big change with your new album. You have a new bassist once again. This time, it’s Mona. So how did Mona end up joining the band?
Filippa Nässil: She was a stand in when our other bass player could not be at a show. She helped us out. And we just said, ‘Hang out for as long as we need you.’ And then one day, we announced [to Mona] one day, ‘Do you want to leave the band or stay with us as a member?’ She was really excited and had proven herself to be a hard working bass player and she’s very good at the stuff that we are bad like IT, meetings, organizing.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Filippa Nässil: And she’s not even a bass player. She’s a guitar player. We always have a stand in joke between each other that ‘You should watch a video now on YouTube on how to play bass before the show.’ The joke is that the bass is not a real instrument [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: Right [laughs].
Filippa Nässil: She [Mona] thinks [the bass] it’s fun now. She doesn’t even want to jam anymore.
Thundermother‘s “Hot Mess’ video (from upcoming Black And Gold album):
Sleaze Roxx: That’s good! One thing that I find about Thundermother that’s interesting is that I consider you like an A type of personality, a dominant personality, in that you were running the band when you first started it but you have Guernica who was running her previous band and you have Mona who was running her previous band. So how do you work it out? You have three big leaders and I think Emlee is pretty assertive as well so how do you manage all these strong personalities?
Filippa Nässil: We talk very loud and interrupt each other.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Filippa Nässil: [Laughs] So we all have sore throats after we speak to each other in a good way. Everyone has a leader personality as you say. I’ve been thinking about it too because it’s pretty obvious [laughs]. It’s just like a competition. You can compare it to a competition of who can do the most work. So the band works really fast now. A lot of work is done fast. And then when everyone has done their part, ‘Bam’, we can relax and you hear nothing. Everyone’s gone. Meetings — ‘Bam, bam, bam’ — the whole day. It never ends. We’re meeting for eight hours every Monday. So I never had this focused band before.
Sleaze Roxx: Yes, it must be a very big difference to when you first started the band?
Filippa Nässil: It’s enormous because I did everything back in the day. Now, I’m in the backseat and I don’t have to do anything really if I don’t want to [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] That’s great! So what are your favorite songs off the new album?
Filippa Nässil: I really like everything but if you listen to the song called “Wasted” for example, that’s really my kind of song — kind of rock n’ roll fun and infectious party rock, you know? I really like that vibe about joking a little bit because that’s really how I am. And there’s some more serious rock songs, which I love. I mean, I also develop. We write — everybody — now. I am open to everything. That’s the key to a successful band, I realize. I also like — I like everything — but “Looks No Hooks” is a really cool song. It’s very 60’s styled and it shows just how much I have developed from Airbourne like riffing to a more middle melodic — not melodic in an AOR way — like melodic in a chord way. I can take you on a B chord and riff on that. That’s pretty cool I think. It’s new to me and interesting.
Sleaze Roxx: You had mentioned that you realized that it’s good to have input from the other band members. So was there a point when it wasn’t like that and what was your evolution in that regard?
Filippa Nässil: In songwriting or in general?
Sleaze Roxx: In general and songwriting. Both!
Filippa Nässil: Input from different other members? How do you mean?
Sleaze Roxx: Yeah, you mentioned that it was important to get input from all of the band members and have them participate in the process. And you indicated that you realized that at some point so I am asking, what made you realize that and what was your evolution in that regard from running things….
Filippa Nässil: I think that the main thing is the musicality of the people that I play with in Thundermother. They’re very talented and I have a big respect for them because I am very nerdy myself when it comes to playing, practicing and whatnot. So I get challenged and I do really appreciate that. I feel that I could be better now and that’s something that I need to develop myself. I can’t just say something now and they’ll take it. They challenge me and question why. Like, ‘Why do you want that?’ With that kind of like resistance from someone, then I realized, ‘Okay, I didn’t work to be a friend. I need to be a friend so that they respect me back. I can’t just come here and decide, ‘This is how it is.’ I love that, to have tough girls who challenge me in person and musically.
Thundermother live “offstage” at Rockpalast in Bochum, Germany in 2021:
Sleaze Roxx: Cool! So we know of your North American plans. What other plans do you have for the future and once the new album is released?
Filippa Nässil: We need to follow up in the States after the tour with our own tour. I talked to the girls about it. We prefer to do it not too long afterwards. Within six months at least, a follow up tour in the States and then in Canada obviously, and then Toronto. You are more than welcome on both shows.
Sleaze Roxx: Oh yes! Well, I am definitely going to be at the first one [Thundermother opening for Scorpions and Whitesnake at the Budweiser Stage on August 19, 2022] for sure! I got my ticket already!
Filippa Nässil: Yeah, we’ll see you on the second one then [laughs].
Sleaze Roxx: The Scorpions and Whitesnake have a lot of days off between shows. Has there been any talk about Thundermother playing your own headline shows in between days off?
Filippa Nässil: Yeah. We are currently working on that or our agent in LA is working on that. So that’s the plan. And also, a few options to look around would be cool. To not play every day because the distances are so long. It takes more than one day to travel between some shows. We’re not kind of used to that. So, sometimes we need to make a stop somewhere, and then we were like, ‘We should make a stop somewhere, have a show, and continue the next day.’ That’s the goal. Right now, we are working on our visa because this is a process that we have been working on for months! Nothing seems too happen there.
Sleaze Roxx: Oh no!
Filippa Nässil: There’s things happening obviously but it’s very frightening to think what happens if we don’t get the visas. You know, how long should we wait until we get an answer? It’s really frustrating. We paid for the visas and the fast [track] thing to get the visas. We’ve spent so much money on this already. We’re in magazines, papers and TVs so I hope that they will come soon [laughs]. I’m thinking of going to the embassy of [America] and go, ‘Hello!’
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs] Well, you should definitely do that because I don’t want to find out that you can’t make it due to visa issues. That would be very sad.
Filippa Nässil: I just heard [inaudible] [a band] never got their visa on time. They applied seven months’ before the tour.
Sleaze Roxx: Really? Wow!
Filippa Nässil: They’re pretty huge in Sweden so we were like shocked, all the bands in Sweden.
Sleaze Roxx: Well, hopefully you will get it. Is there anything that we haven’t covered that you would like to mention?
Filippa Nässil: Ummm [long pause]. The way to support Thundermother and rock n’ roll is basically come and see the show, and come early because we are opening up to Whitesnake.
Sleaze Roxx: [Laughs]
Filippa Nässil: Come early to see our show. It’s only 30 minutes and we are used to 90, 90 minutes of show time! So it will just be in and out. We appreciate the people that come early to see the show.
Thank you to Linnea Johansen of Fly PR for facilitating the interview.
Thundermother‘s “I Don’t Know” video (from upcoming Black And Gold album):