April 12, 2007
Sweden is a hotbed for new up-and-coming sleaze bands, but the hard rock scene there didn’t just happen over-night. Bands like the Glorious Bankrobbers (www.gloriousbankrobbers.com) began unleashing sleaze metal upon their countrymen (and the rest of the world) in the early 80s and have played an important part in this thriving scene. In this exclusive interview, bassist Lake sat down and talked about the return of the band, their new album, their influence on the avalanche of new groups coming out of Sweden and life on the road (dwarf included).
SR: You just released a new album called The Glorious Sound Of Rock ‘N’ Roll, how did it come together?
L: Last year we were asked by SwedMetal (www.swedmetal.com) if we wanted to remix/remaster the Dynamite Sex Dose album from 1989. But since it was impossible to get the master tapes, SwedMetal wondered if we possibly could record the songs once again. So it all ended up with picking bits and bobs from all previously released albums and old demos.
Young Alcoholic #1, Young Alcoholic #2 and Bloodshed Twist (slightly rearranged today) are from the first album (Glorious Bankrobbers, 1984). Spitfire, Dynamite Sex Dose, Crazy Sioux and Hair Down are all taken from the album Dynamite Sex Dose, 1989. Ridin Down The Highway was on the Live At CBGBs album, 1991. Then we added a few that were written back then (round 90-91) but never released before: BITCH, Ma I’m A Looser, Too Much To Touch and Rodeo.
The true GBfan with all the recordings and a sharp ear notes that Young Alco #2 is on every album released now! We love that little motherfucker!
It was recorded in Stockholm during a 5 day session in March 2006 and the first plan was to release it in September. But we weren’t 100% happy with the mix (made by us…) so we got in contact with Chris Laney and he did a new mix at his studio the Platform in October and now it was VERY listenable. It was well worth waiting for.
SR: What was it like working with Chris Laney?
L: We had never met the guy before, just heard a few things he did with CrashDiet, Europe and Zan Clan, but we found each other right away and we had a very easy going atmosphere right from day one (eh well, we brought a bottle of Vodka too). We really felt confident with him and we were complementing each other in many ways. It would have been easy to use an “old” sound on an album like this with all the retro-feeling that is in it, but with Chris we combined the “old” rock’n’roll style with a year 2007 sound, which turned out to be an irresistible combination.
We definitely wanna work with him again, in fact he has just finished a live mix from the release gig.
SR: Does this release mean the band is back together and ready to record and play live again?
L: We don’t have a plan really. The band is back and ready to play live for sure, I mean, we are a live band above all, we were and are known to be a really good live act and we just love it. We did 3 gigs in January and there’s a couple of gigs coming up in Sweden and Norway this spring and summer. But if you ask us if we are back to write and record new songs for another album and so on, we really don’t know. Time will tell I guess.
SR: What has it been like getting back together with your bandmates?
L: Touched to tears! Not.
We are like brothers since waaay back, me and the drummer played together when we were 13 years old and even through times we didn’t play together we saw each other quite often, went to the same clubs and parties and so on. One dude is missing though, Micke moved to Norway and just wished us good luck when he heard about the reunion. But I must say that 4 persons is a lot better in many ways, looks better on stage, in cars, hotels, rollercoasters and when we split the money!
It’s a pity that we don’t have our 4-track Scalectrix racetrack left, would have been perfect today. We used to bring it on tour and put it up in hotel corridors or wherever. Since we were 5 back then there was always one guy that couldn’t race. It was real fun, it happened that girls joined us in the hotel after the show with party on their mind, but they ended up in some racetrack corner, with orders to put the cars back on.
SR: How have the guys at Swedmetal been to work with?
L: We have a very relaxed relation to SwedMetal. Since it is a very small company, you speak to the boss directly. But small company also means small muscles so we all have to use our imagination and network to make things happen. We were on a small label back in the 80s too, but they tried to act as if they were big label hot shots which just ended up in nothing happening except a lot of conflicts between us and them.
SR: It must be much easier to get your music out to the fans these days than it was in the 80s.
L: Big time difference! The Net makes things totally different, MySpace is just brilliant, and I have never heard so many good unsigned (and signed) bands ever! Today’s favorite is LaPuma from Stockholm! The big revolution is for all the bands outside the main stream, the death metal dudes were pioneers in creating their own channels to reach groups of fans all over.
A really big thing back then was to get your video on MTV, they showed the Dynamite Sex Dose video a few times on MTV Europe and all of a sudden EVERYBODY knew about you. MTV today is just another whisper in the great white noise. 20 years ago there were just a few big channels to get your music out, now there are thousands of ways to do it. But to sell albums today seems to be a joke. On the other hand, if the sales are 1/10 of what you expected, the number of listeners are 10 times of what you expected. Good for your heart at least, and more people on the shows too.
SR: There seems to be thousands of new bands coming out of Sweden these days, how come so many great hard rock bands are forming there now?
L: Hard to tell, very interesting question, I guess it must be discussed from an anthropological, socio-cultural, or socio-economical point of view to get the whole picture. Traditionally, there has always been a huge amount of bands in Sweden. A lot of factors contribute to that, as tradition, a lot of cheap (government subsidized) rehearsal places, relatively “rich” country where almost anyone can afford an instrument, we have and can use the latest technology etc. But maybe most important of all, young people of Sweden are very updated with what’s going in the U.S. and Europe, and are very quick to hang on to and reshape musical trends. I think Sweden is one of the most U.S. influenced countries in Europe, everything that’s happening over there is coming here shortly after, at least the best parts. So basically, you filter out your best rock, we import the parts we like, transform it, repack it and export it back again.
Talking about the hard rock scene, it seems to be more widely accepted over the last years, from being something out in the margin to some everyday music in many homes. Probably it is a time thing. People who were into hard rock in the 70s/80s now have kids that grow up with their parent’s music. Also, those parents are today pretty wealthy and spend money buying the music, going to concerts, etc. which supports the whole genre. Sweden Rock Festival in south of Sweden has grown to become one of the biggest hard rock festivals in Europe, and it has also probably an average age that is a lot higher than other festivals. But again, this question can be discussed for hours and hours, let’s leave it for now.
SR: Does having so many new up-and-coming bands around keep you motivated so that you don’t get ‘shown up’ by the young guys?
L: Hehe, not really. We are more like the grand old daddies who don’t have to prove anything, and we are treated with a certain amount of respect from the younger bands. Many of them came to our shows when they were really young and we hope that we inspired them to go on doing their thing. The Glorious Sound Of Rock’n’Roll album is perhaps just a way to remind them who are still the sleaze kings over here 🙂
SR: What are some of the newer bands that are really impressing you?
L: I like bands with a well defined musical idea and heart and attitude, it doesn’t have to be hard rock, not even rock at all in fact. “New” bands from Sweden on my playlist right now are Lapuma (Rabbitboy) and Thunder Express (listen to Jaqees’ lead backing octave on Republic Disgrace!). I also just heard a pretty good energy trio from Hamburg, Razorhead.
Actually, I’m not that updated about what’s going on in the musical scene here in Stockholm, but I try to go to at least 2 or 3 club gigs a month. Last gigs I went to was dear old SuperSuckers at club Debaser and Thunder Express and Doits at club Rabbit Fighter. I’m also looking forward to the next Hellacopters album which they are recording right now.
SR: How are the crowds at shows like yours over in Sweden?
L: If they like you they are really enthusiastic! So far for us with this reunion thing they have been fantastic, all up front singing along, grabbing microphones, carrying Olle away for a float. We didn’t know what to expect really, if there were any new fans out there or if it would be the same old faces as 15 years ago. But we were really happy to see that there were both old and new faces showing up. We seem to have an audience spanning from 16 to 50 years old! It feels a bit strange though, to know that some of the songs are older than people in the crowd.
SR: How did the Glorious Bankrobbers originally form?
L: Hmm, I should pass this question since I was the last guy to join the band. But since I was among the same bunch of friends and I also was the soundman on some of the gigs back then, I know the story pretty well. It was kind of a reaction against too much pretty pop music around back then. GB wanted to be more alive and physical. With the raw punk wave from the late 70s in mind and influences like Sex Pistols, Stooges and Aerosmith, the first 5-piece lineup was formed in summer 1983. It lasted only for a couple of months but with the new bass player Pelham (nicknamed after the movie The Taking of Pelham One Two Three) and drummer Oden, Olle and Jonas had a band that all went in the same direction. It was all about doing wild live performances, drinking, crawling, climbing and smashing the gear and the rumor spread pretty fast that this was really something to see. The first album came out in 1984, but it didn’t match the live thing at all.
SR: So are you the one we can thank for taking the Glorious Bankrobbers in a sleazier direction between the debut and Dynamite Sex Doze?
L: Nope. The Bankrobbers grew harder over the years, and Mikael from the original lineup came back adding more guitar to it. When I joined the band in 1988, the sound was already there. I was no bass player actually, I was a guitarist and had been playing around with different bands in Stockholm before. GB tried several guys after Pelham left but nothing felt good, and since I knew the band and the songs very well, I got the question if I wanted to try 4 strings instead of 6 and I got the job.
In fact I had already tried the bass in the band one year before. I was with the band in Norway as the sound engineer, that day at club Pierrot in Fredrikstad. Because of personal family reasons Pelham had to leave back to Sweden immediately and instead of canceling the show, I rehearsed the bass parts during the afternoon. On my side of the stage I had like 15 sheets of papers taped to the wall, one for each song, with big reminder notes: ODEN STARTS, BASS BREAK AFTER INTRO THING, SLOW A-STICK, STOP, DONT FORGET F#SOLO, HANG, HOLD, Do this, do that! I had a minor hell up there but the crowd looked happy. I will never forget that night.
SR: Is it difficult switching from guitar to bass? Do you wish you were playing guitar in the band instead?
L: Technically it’s not that hard, but it takes some time to think bass if you understand what I mean. I never thought about playing guitar with this band.
SR: What was it like recording the Dynamite Sex Doze album?
L: It was spring 1989 and we were young and excited and wanted to bring our energy into the studio and into the recording. We recorded it pretty straight forward, all songs live, little bit of adding guitars and vocals. I think it took all in all 3 weeks from first riff to mastering the tapes. The result could have been better though. We had a rough mix that we liked a lot, with a pretty dry sound, but Planet Records had other ideas. They were in contact with some big three letter company that were about to buy the license right away if it turned out well. So they wanted it to sound more…I don’t know…and it was remixed and remixed until it was all crap in our ears. We were too weak to stand up. We should have had a producer with the same musical idea as we, strong enough to claim that idea against the record company. Musically it was ok but technically a lot of things could have been different.
SR: Did you head out on a big tour to promote that CD? What bands did you open for and what were they like?
L: Not touring like being weeks on a bus or so, it was more like get in the van, play Thursday, Friday, Saturday and then back home to Stockholm for rest and detox and then out again. We were all over in Sweden and Norway around 1990. Charlie Watts once said that his 40 years in a band was 39 years of waiting and 1 year of playing. For us, especially in Norway, that year it was like 50 weeks of driving and 2 weeks of playing. We were mostly playing clubs, sometimes together with other bands, sometimes just us. Other bands in Sweden, doing the same thing at that time was Electric Boys, Swedish Erotica, Reptile Smile and Capitol Rockers just to mention a few. The furthest up north we got was Tromso way up north in Norway. It was in the end of January and it was totally dark all day, but that day everybody was wearing sunglasses. We didn’t understand anything, but after lunch people went out looking at some mountain top and – tada! – there was the sun for about half a minute, then dark again. It was the first time they saw the sun for 2 months…
We were also a support act to Yngwie Malmsteen at Johanneshov Ice Stadium in Stockholm. That was the first time I saw the Marshall walls from behind. All empty dummies connected with wires to the red on/off bulb. We did a few more big arena things like Bollnas Ice Stadium (with Electric Boys, Treat and a few more), Lucia Rock at Fryshuset Stockholm (TV show, Nordic Channel) and some festivals.
SR: You released a live album from New York, so you must have made it to America eventually?
L: I don’t remember the background story completely, but somehow a promotion guy named Rick Shoor (RPS Music) heard about us and wanted us to come over for a promotion tour to see if there were any labels that were interested in making a license deal for the U.S. He and Tommy Gunn set a 14 day club tour in NYC in November 1990. We played Cat Club (opened up for the Sweet, I remember Joey Ramone’s head sticking up in the crowd), Spoodee Yodies, Bond Street Cafe, CBGBs, Wolf Club (Queens) and RedSpot (Staten Island). We slept in a rehearsal studio up in Hells Kitchen and had a great time with a lot of partying and laughing.
We also ran into Ace Frehley and his wife at some weird S&M club (Zone DK) and he asked if we wanted to spank his wife, and of course we did! At CBGBs there was a stationary 16 track recorder so there was no big deal to just pay the man to do it. We brought the tape home and mixed it back in Stockholm. And yeah, by the way, the crappy band didn’t get any deal over there.
SR: What are some of your most memorable stories about life on the road?
L: If you ask me personally – there were some real funny stories with Mental Hippie Blood on the road in Germany 93-95 with our dear old roadie Spy-T. For instance how he got his nickname…it has to do with a transvestite. I can tell you but then I will have to kill you, sorry.
But back to Glorious Bankrobbers…thinking…thinking… ok I got one! We were in Oslo, playing at a place called Stedet. The same weekend it was some kind of HomoPrideFestival in town so all the hotels were packed with gay people. After the show at the hotel we were pissed and kinda influenced by the surroundings, ehhh, and we started to take some photos with a lot of ass and dicks and pissing all around, laughing to death. All of a sudden the hotel door opens and a completely unknown naked man stands in the door, he wanted to come in and play real games! Thanks, but no thanks.
Once on our way to Norway, we started to steal one flag at each gas station stop and I think we had about 4 or 5 flags in the van when we got to the border. Some witness must have call the customs cause we were stopped and searched (they were a bit suspicious about our bankrobber toy guns as well…) and they took all the flags back. It all ended up in court 🙁
Yeah I know you are waiting for some girls stories too, here is one. In a small town way up north in Sweden we were eating in the restaurant part of the club. All of a sudden Olle looked very strange and was kinda dizzy. The answer was under the table, a dwarf girl had crawled in under the table and was sucking his cock! Tony the roadie who had the seat right opposite joined in from behind and the rest of us tried to finish our meals… the other guests in the restaurant didn’t understand nothing.
There are more stories…another day.
SR: Did the Glorious Bankrobbers ever officially disband, or did you just morph into Mental Hippie Blood?
L: Olle decided to leave the band, I think it was summer ’91, he moved to Oslo and joined the Backstreet Girls. It felt like the Bankrobbers’ chapter was about to close then, it’s hard to be the same band with a new singer. The rest of us were looking around for a new front man, not the easiest thing to find. We tried a few but nothing felt right until Michael Oran showed up. He was just moving back to Sweden from L.A. and had a voice from outer space. We actually did a couple of gigs under the name Glorious Bankrobbers, still playing the old songs, but Michael and Mikael started to write songs that kind of went in another direction, a little bit darker and harder, and Bankrobbers was definitely dead and buried. With the new songs, we got a deal with MVG Records and changed the name shortly after.
SR: Did Mental Hippie Blood end up lasting very long?
L: MHB recorded two albums, “Mental Hippie Blood” in 1993 and “Pounds” in 1994.
We toured in Scandinavia and Europe with Accept, Kyuss and Warrior Soul among others, and played some festivals like Rock am Ring in Germany 1994 and Dynamo in Holland 1995. We had some flow for a while but again the lead singer started to mess things up… He left and the band broke up in the summer of 1995, the last show was at Zeche Karl in Essen in Germany on our way home from Dynamo. Shortly after that I cut off two tendons in my left hand in an accident so I was plastered for 10 weeks. During that period I decided to cut my hair and get a job.
SR: How much did it suck getting a real job after life on the road?
L: It sucked dead moose, a bit of identity crisis too. But somehow, because I like to try completely new stuff in life every now and then, it felt better after a while. Got myself a little bit of education, got a job with money coming in the same day every month, bought myself a small house, took care of my kids etc. But now some 10 years later I’m pretty bored with that, this 8-5 life makes me sick sometimes, time for a change again I guess. It feels really good to be back playing with this band again. We have a very relaxed attitude to this now, this is no cash-in-thing or conquer-the-world, we just love our band and what we do. And it seems that we still know how to make a crowd happy.
SR: How does it affect how a band plays from when they are young and hungry to where they just play for the love of the music?
L: Another hard question… It’s hard to tell if the differences are because you’re older and wiser or if it has to do with hunger or love. We are all parents today and we value things differently today. It’s not about life and death anymore, it’s just rock’n’roll. The love of the music is still the same I guess, and on stage it’s not very much different except for your aging bone structure, pain in the back and in your knees nowadays, but the attitude to all the things around the band has changed, it’s more relaxed. If you wanna make it big time though, you just have to be young or at least very hungry and sacrifice the rest of your life a bit to get there. And yeah, one more thing, the hangovers are terrible nowadays!
SR: What do you think of some of these Swedish bands that were around years back; Bai Bang, Shotgun Messiah, Electric Boys, Nasty Idols, Pole Position, Swedish Erotica, and Tornado Babies
L: I knew this would come…Hey, don’t take this too personally guys.
Bai Bang – crap
Shotgun Messiah – high energy glam and a couple of good songs too
Electric Boys – were really good back then, it’s a pity that Niclas quit the drums
Nasty Idols – poses only, no substance
Pole Position – never heard of them, probably crappy as hell
Swedish Erotica – nice guys but lousy songs, too predictable
Tornado Babies – we had a couple of real funny party nights with them, a pretty wild band
SR: Were there any Swedish bands around when you were first on the scene that you thought should have made it big?
L: What is big? Stadium rocker? At that time in the northern parts of Stockholm there were two bands that smelled like something big, first a peach-fuzzed 5 piece gang from Upplands Vasby called Europe. The other band was Rising Force, with an incredible guitar player everybody spoke about. His name was Yngwie Malmsteen.
SR: In what ways do you wish your musical career would have turned out differently?
L: I hate to be regretful and try to be happy about the things I have done rather than unhappy about things that I haven’t done. But ok, since you’re asking perhaps a few club tours down in Europe with Glorious Bankrobbers back around 1989-1990 would probably have created a bunch of funny stories to tell the grandchildren.
SR: What would you like to say to the Glorious Bankrobbers fans out there?
L: Hello Cleveland!
Thanks to Lake