giovedì 27 agosto 2015

Backyard Babies: Dregen talks about new album!

Dregen: it's not a come back, we've just been on holidays!

It's not an everyday kind of experience being at the phone, shortly after waking up, with one of your all times idols. For some kind of silly reasons, when I was told our interview with Backyard Babies guitar player had been scheduled in the morning, I feared I would have been waiting for this phonecall for ages but, surprisingly, like a clockwork, at 10 am, my breakfast was delighted by Dregen's mellow voice greeting me and talking to me as if we already met thousands of times before, almost the way you'd talk to an old friend. Now I suppose you would like to know something more about what he said, openly and truly, in this really pleasant chat, don't you?

Dregen: Hi babe! Good morning!
LFDM: Awwe! Hi! Good morning Dregen! I am very pleased and honoured to welcome you to Les Fleurs Du Mal Webzine! Thank you so much for giving us this incredible chance. I am pretty sure our readers will be really eager to know something about your coming back with Backyard Babies with a brand new album to be released by the end of August...
D: Well, yeah, first of all, it's not a know, because we have been very clear when we did our last tour. Actually our last album was in 2008, but we toured till 2010 and we wanted to take a break, so we were just taking a holiday. It's not that the band had split up, we knew there would have been another Backyard Babies album, we just didin't know when. So, you know, we've been working on this album starting to write in September last year, so being Backyard Babies it's been a pretty quick album, ya know...but we felt we wanted to play together again, there was nothing personal between us, it was just that we'd been on tour pretty constantly since 1998. For over 10 years we've been making albums and touring, making albums and touring, so I'd say we were pretty tired.

LFDM: Yeah, I can imagine, just a little bit...Actually I confess I was kind of afraid to use that expression, I mean I knew you never split up and the words "come back" might have been misleading, so let's say you've been on a longer period of holidays, but you know, when a band takes a longtime break and some members, like you and Nicke, for example, have the chance to experience also a solo career, well, I think fans kind of start to fear you might end by finally splitting up. You know, it's the nightmare of many fans, you must have experienced that at your own turn, maybe when you were a kid...
D: Yeah, yeah, of course, I can get that, but I still think that that one was the best thing to do for know, I think we could have released another quite good album, let's 2009, then we would have toured again, but in the end of that I think Backyard Babies would have really been a splitting up band, you it was necessary for us to take this break.

LFDM: Yeah, of course...
D: And you know what? I always wanted to make like a solo album and have the chance to play with other people, you know. Having a break from each other for a while was a good thing for all of us and at a certain point we endend up thinking "Oh Fuck! I really miss the Backyard Babies again!" I think this album everybody can hear that sounds like a '95 hungry rock'n'roll band again, ya'know...

LFDM: Yeah and talking about playing with other people, you had the chance to be in Michel Monroe's band: would you like to tell us something about that experience? It seems to me you enjoyed that period a lot. Horns and Halos is a really great album, by the way...
D: Oh Yeah, I think if I have time in the future I would love to work with Michael Monroe again and write one album. I love the whole band, we have amazing chemistry and everyting. It's very luxury, you know... I think it is great because, ya know, I'm gonna do more solo albums..

LFDM: Great news!
D: But The Backyard Babies, I mean, is a band that will alwyas be... around. Maybe there will be more Backyard Babies than The Rolling Stones in the future (laughs).

LFDM: It might well be! I be on it! I always thought you are probably one of the most enduring Scandinavian rock bands ever!
D: Yeah!Thank you!

LFDM: How would you explain this long lasting bond you share with the other guys? Do you get along great together, do you like hanging out together? What is the ingredient of this chemistry that made this line-up unchanged since 19...94?
D: No, 1989...

LFDM: Aw, sorry. So almost 30 years. Wow, it's a lifetime!
D: 27 years... yeah, a pretty long ride, isn't it? I don't really know, I mean, with these 4 guys we have the same ideas about rock'n'roll music, we played together fo so long...

LFDM: So, might it be that the album title Four By Four, somehow, refers to you four members of the band?'
D: Yeah, let's say it's something like that. You can think to us to be like a 4x4 vehicle, you know, you need four wheels to make a car or a truck move, every wheel is important to make the vehicle go for, but if a wheel breaks down the other three can still manage to hit the road, they will still carry the vehicle forward. It's kind of playing with words. We are all equal. It's not just me and Nicke writing the most of the material, because every member of the band has the same importance for us.

LFDM: Yeah it's the impression I always had about this band and, since I had the chance to give this abum a pre-listening, is what I felt too. It's a great album, by the way. It sounds so Backyard Babies, but there's also something else, something new that I can't still point out precisely, but it really seems you had a lot of fun while recording it. 
D: Yeah, that's true! But you know, it's also that me and Nicke have recorded solo albums and I've been playing with Michael Monroe, we both experienced new stuff musically and this probably made us become much better songwriters. I think it's good to play with other people...

LFDM: Exactly!That would have been part of my next question, since I noticed that both of you brought something of your personal experiences outside Backyard Babies in this new album. Maybe it's this kind of contribution that creates this new atmosphere, the secret ingredient which I was referring about shortly before
D: Yeah, sure...

LFDM: Now, let's introduce your first single Th1rt3en Or Nothing. By the way, 13 is a pretty recurrent number for you...and album titled Total 13, and now this song...I thought It referred to the numer of the tracks in the album, but I'll ask you somethign about it later. First of all, Th1rt3en Or Nothing: what does it mean?
D: Well, when I wrote the lyrics I wanna mean more or less something like all or nothing, you know, when you put everything, 100% into something, which is very Backyard Babies, and since all or nothing has always been commonly used and 13 is, like many of you know a lucky number, we decided to call the first single that way. Besides, Total 13 was our lucky album, because it was the first one which allowed us to make a living from our music, it was our breakthrough album and since then 13 remained our lucky number too. 

LFDM: So that number 13 appearing among the letters is not an alphanumeric device to prevent it from being downloaded illegally, it's just somethiung visual...
D: Yeah, yeah!

LFDM: Ok, then I thought there would have been 13 tracks, but there are 9...
D: Yeah, there are 9 tracks. We were working actually on 10, but then we endend up writing a song called Walls, which is over 7 minutes long, so it's like having 10 tracks. Well, let's say I've never been a fan of long length albums, I am more into shorter albums like in the 1970's style, when there were like 10 songs and each album lasted 38-40 minutes. I love albums including maximum 10 songs. 

LFDM: Oh, so when you recorded 13 tracks albums in the past they must have been already too long for you... 
D: (laughs) No, well, you know, when the cds were released back in the days the record company always pushed to have at least 12-14 songs. There were albums in the 90's that had 18 songs or more...I mean...for me it's... It's not that I despised something like Guns'n'Roses "Use Your Illusion", but when also "Use Your Illusion II" came out I thought there could have been enough material to make another Appetite For Destruction. I mean, there were too many songs. For me it is more important to realize a good album, to focus on quality rather than on quantity.

LFDM: Of course, then you can be sure Four By Four is a very high quality stuff
D: Thank you!

LFDM: How do you think your fans will react to the new album? Have you any idea?
D: I wouldn't wanna say that, but I'm pretty sure they will love it. I mean, I think there is some new sound that wouldn't annoy them (some noise interferes with the conversation)
That was my son, he's here too.

LFDM: Awwwee he's such a cute little baby!
D: Yeah, he is. We're actually by the beach right now. But what was the question again? 

LFDM: You almost answered, it was about your audience reaction to the album.
D: Well, you know, the ones who never listened to Backyard Babies before, hopefully might enjoy it, while our longtime fans, well, it's not something you can really plan, but I think they could appreciate it, since it's like we tried to put as much as we could of our history in this album. They might find a bit of rock'n'roll, a bit of punk rock, a bit of poppy songs's like there's a bit of each album we released so far. We have something from Total 13, or from Making Enemies, for example we have a song like Bloddy Tears.

LFDM: Yeah, it's one of my favourites
D: and a song called Walls.

LFDM: Which is the longest one and maybe a bit far from your typical sound too
D: Yeah, it's the last one, it's more psychedelic and nearer to the old school heavy metal.

LFDM: It's a very good idea to mix old and new elements, but something I noticed is that your typical sleaze, your "bad guys" and "self destruction" kind of attitude you had at the beginning has almost disappeared. Is it because you've grown up and are a bit wiser, maybe...or because you're a dad now...I mean, all these changes must influence the songwriting and composing process somehow...
D: Yeah, of course. You know, I personally don't like bands where they are 40 and pretend still being 25 years old. If you are in a band and wanna be around for a long time, you have to be current in the year, you know. I want people to understand, when they listen to this and to our lyrics that we are 4 guys who are 40 years old now, we can't always act like our teenagers fans, and I can say we're going to change again when we'll be 60...

LFDM: Yeah, of course. After all it is a natural process. All great bands make some changes at some point.
D: Yeah, I mean, we already had some kind of experiences, I'll never regret that, a certain kind of behaviour, or throwing Tvs out of the hotel rooms... we lived the tough stuff when we were younger, but now I'm here by the beach, with my son...

LFDM: It's something new, a new life, a better one, or maybe just a different one?
D: After all isn't that what rock'n'roll's all about? Rock'n'roll is doing what you like to do, live like you want to live and right now I am having a great rock'n'roll experience. I still believe I can rock like I did when I was 25, even if some things belong to the past...we're still Backyard Babies live in 2015 and we always give 100% when we play. We focus more on music now, than...on other...stuff (laughs)

LFDM: Yes, let the music do the talking. Concerning this, have you already had the chance to play some new songs during some summer festivals so far?
D: Yeah, we've been trying to play something but the album is not out yet, so...

LFDM: So I imagine you can't spoil it too much...
D: Yeah, so, basically we've been playing just the new single. Adding some more stuff would be difficult, also because during festivals we have more or less one hour to play, so it's basically all greatest hits...

LFDM: And for you it must be hard to chose the right songs among all the incredible ones you have, to be included in the setlist with such a short time...
D: Exactly, but when we're gonna play in theatres, clubs and other venues for the tour, we're gonna add more songs of the new album. We'll be in Italy too and we'll play some songs from Four By Four.

LFDM: Yeah, you'll be here in November. What kind of a show should we expect?
D: A full Backyard Babies, exploding energetic ass kickin'show! We're gonna play new songs but also some classics and why not some b-sides, some less known tracks.

LFDM: I am a long Backyard Babies fan actually and I had the chance to see you live in Milan in 2005 at Transilvania Live. I still remember it like a total blasting show. I can't wait to see you live again.
D: I'm glad to hear that! Thanx! Cool!

LFDM: Which song of the new album do you think is going to work better live? Apart from the single, I mean...
D: Th1rt3en Or Nothing works pretty good, I have to say and maybe, Bloddy Tears? You know, we do not have many properly slow songs, but I would love to try some of the strangest ones of the new album, like Walls

LFDM: Which is also very different from all the other ones...
D: Yeah, I like the guitar parts in there, for me it's kinda fun

LFDM: And what about I'm On My Way To Save Your Rock'n'Roll? Do you feel like you are in charge for this mission? 
D: Well it's the reason why I'm here, that's my duty!

LFDM: And how do you plan to save our rock'n'roll? By touring all over the globe, spreading the rock gospel?
D: Yeah, basically... we can only do what we do. You know, maybe when I was younger I was more concerned about that, but now I feel much more self-confident, the whole band feel more self-confident. Once we worried a lot more about what the fans would think, what the press would say...but right know what? I am happy? the people like the album? Then it's ok and at the same time I don't give a fuck, really...

LFDM: The most important thing is that you are happy with what you do, that you are satisfied with your work.
D: Yeah, definitely. Because if I'm not happy with it, the album can never work

LFDM: If you don't believe in it in first person...
D: You're never gonna make it.

LFDM: Sure! The songwriting process and composition for this album has been the same as usual? Or there was something different?
D: Ehm...I provided the skeleton of the songs, the first writing, but here there's more technique, we all worked a lot on the arrangements and we met in the reharsal room to make it work together the best way possible, arraniging the songs live. Every element of the band brings his own contribution at the same level.

LFDM: Is there a song you feel closer too? I mean also referring to your whole production...
D: It's a tough one. If I think we wrote so many songs and recorded just something like 7 studio albums in more than 20 years... I dunno... Maybe I'd chose the whole Total 13 album, because it was our turning point, it means a lot to me, it's a special one.

LFDM: I see we got some few minutes left and I can't wait to ask some silly questions, may I start?
D: Sure!

LFDM: If you could be any other member of your band who would you pick?(in the meanwhile Sixten is starting to claim his daddy back again)
D: In any band or in Backyard Babies? In Backyard Babies I would be Peder, because I always wanted to be a drummer.

LFDM: I could have imagined that...and in any other band?
D: Ummh.... I dunno, maybe Paul McCartney, so I could have had the chance to play with John Lennon.

LFDM: Wow! And if you could be a song? Not of yours?
D: Umhh... Oh...maybe Jailhouse Rock by Elvis Presley?

LFDM: Great choice! And finally, if you could be any other singer? 
D: No doubt. Bon Scott from AC/DC!

LFDM: Great attitude, great voice! Now, before we end this call, I know you like playing poker, so how much would you bet on your Italian audience at your live act?
D: Aww, I would go all in babe! (laughs) 

LFDM: Is there something else in particular you love of Italy?
D: I mean our audience is always great, but you Italians are particularly loud. When I think of Italy the first things coming to my mind actually are food, wine and women!

LFDM: That's an ace kind of an answer, definitely. I always wondered who was your guitar hero when you were a kid?
D: Ace Frehley. I dunno why, he's always been my biggest influence. I only know I was just 6 years old the first time I saw a picture of him and since then I realized I wanted to do the same thing. I bought all of Kiss records and stuff, my first electric guitar...

LFDM: Very young but with very clear ideas. What about your parents? Did they approve your choice to become a musician or were they mostly worried about that?
D: Well, you know...they didn't really have a choice (laughs) but right now I think they are pretty proud of me

LFDM: I'm sure of that. What about your son? What do you wish for him?
D: I don't know if I really want him to be a musician, but probably he's gonna be. He could be maybe a painter...

LFDM: Some kind of artist anyway...
D: Yeah, music business now is so fucked up... I dunno.

LFDM: Well, he has both parents in the music world, he might love it or hate it, but he's certainly a lucky child, being surrounded by good music
D: He's 2 years and a half but he likes my electric guitars, so I think I won't have a choice, he's gonna be a guitarist. I will certainly try to teach him some guitar, then I just hope he will do what makes him happy.

LFDM: So will you ask for a little customized Gibson Les Paul for your son, like Malmsteen did for his one, asking for a little Fender Stratocaster? 
D: Right now he's starting with a little ukulele.

LFDM: Really? What a weird kind of intstrument! But being so uncommon, it could work...(laughs) 
D: (laughs back) 

LFDM: Now I guess our time has really run out. Thank you so much for you kindness and for the precious time you spent with us this morning.
D: Many thanks to you! See ya in November then!

LFDM: I'll be there, front row! Bye bye Dregen! Thank you so much! See you soon!
D: Sure! Ciao Ciao!

Interview by Margherita (MEG) 

(Photo credit: Ville Juurikkala)

For the review HERE

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