|Dregen - Uber Rock Interview Exclusive|
|Written by Johnny H|
|Saturday, 26 October 2013 04:00|
Without the guitar playing of one Andreas Tyrone Svensson (known more commonly as Dregen) I can hand on heart say I would not be sat here today doing what I’m doing. That’s because when ‘Total 13’ was first released back in 1998 I had one brothel creepered foot in the musical graveyard having almost given up on the hope of ever finding anything remotely as exciting as 'Never Mind The Bollocks'. However one listen to the likes of ‘Made Me Madman’, ‘Robber Of Life’ and ‘Subculture Hero’ and suddenly I had found my musical purpose in life again, and that purpose was to follow Backyard Babies like some obsessed teenager, picking up some stellar releases along the way by the likes of The Hellacopters, Super$hit 666 and Midlife Crisis to name but a few, in my quest to own anything and everything related to the band.
But with Backyard Babies now on an indefinite hiatus and Dregen seemingly having found his perfect writing partner (other than Nicke Borg) in one Michael Monroe I was intrigued to find out as to why after two decades plus in the music industry he chose right now to release his self-titled debut solo record?
Well with a little help from his record label (thank you James Hingle at Universal) I finally got the chance to ask this and a few other burning questions I’d long since wanted to ask THE glunk rock guitar hero of the 21st century.
Hi Dregen, thanks for taking the time to talk with us at Uber Rock. I wanted to start by saying I think the solo album is great – how does it feel to finally have your own record out there?
I have been doing this for 25 years now and I love being a musician and I love recording albums, but when you get up to your 10th album, it’s still fun of course, but it gets a little bit more like a job. I’ve just turned 40 and now, and I’ve released my first solo album, and I’m singing for the first time, and I feel like I’m fucking 21 years old again! I'm like a kid. Like, “oh my god, let me see the cover!” You know, it’s a new dimension, for me personally as well as for me the musician; it lights up some sparks in me, and I’m really enjoying that.
There's a lot of different things going on sound-wise on this record; was that down to the influence of your producer, Par Wiksten?
Yeah, a lot. I co-produced the album with him. I had meetings with different producers, but when I met Par I know he was the right guy, we share the same ideas about rock music. I'm a Gemini, I am born in June, so I'm slightly schizophrenic (laughs). On one hand, I am very conservative when it comes to rock music because I like ‘70s guitar sounds, and I also hate new bands trying to sound like a band from the ‘70s. I have been recording on vintage gear, but my solo album sounds very 2013, I think; it’s the perfect mix, a blend of old stuff with new, crazy, fresh sounds. I think Par has been an angel with this project.
What influenced you to write tracks like 'Flat Tyre On A Muddy Road' and '6:10'? As a long-time fan, I must admit that these two surprised me somewhat - in a good way, though.
Well, ‘6:10’ is kinda like a play on words because my son is called Sixten – that’s a Swedish name. I was in New York, we were writing for the Michael Monroe album, and me and my wife had been trying to get a kid for almost 5 years, and suddenly, at 6 o’ clock in the morning, the phone rings, and it’s my wife screaming that she’s pregnant. It was actually 6.10 in the morning! In terms of the music, I was trying to create some Scandinavian sounds; it’s almost like a disco punk song… I was trying capture an Abba moment!
It doesn’t strike me as being a typical guitarist's album; was it intentional to make the songs paramount rather than them being a vehicle for your playing?
Yeah, and the biggest challenge for me was handling the lead vocals. I mean, I’m pretty confident in my guitar playing, but then I tend to play in a different style to the songs. I’m not a guitar player that can play whatever, I’m not a master of the guitar, and I think that saved me, actually, because I have my own style and my own tone, and I can’t really do anything else. I think that’s what holds the album together; even if the songs are different, you can hear from my guitar playing that it’s very much me, that it’s a Dregen album
The lead song from the album, 'Just Like That', immediately grabbed me as a great pop/rock song, and then I saw the video, with Karl Rockfist on drums, and that just totally blew me away. What was that whole experience like?
It’s was more or less a coincidence. I have a friend who works in an office building, a tall building in Stockholm, and he is fan of Backyard Babies and The Hellacopters. He just said, you can use our roof top if you want. Stockholm is a beautiful city, and I just wanted to show the world Scandinavian rock from the top of the world!
Your son Sixten Dregen, who’ve you’ve mentioned already, crops up a few times on backing gurgles and heartbeats on the record; he must surely be the youngest backing musician in the history of rock 'n' roll? (laughing)
(laughs) Probably! With the heartbeat, he wasn’t even born yet! I was trying to allow him to make some money early on, so he is a song-writer right now… well, at least a musician.
Apart from your son’s involvement, is there anything else on the album you would single out as being a career/ musical highlight?
Song-writing wise, I am happy with the diversity of the album, and especially with the song ‘Flat Tyre On A Muddy Road’. That’s a new style for me, and one that hasn’t been shown before.
It’s just been announced that this December you will play a series of dates with Imperial State Electric. Who will feature in your solo band and what can we expect to see at the dates?
Hux (Nettermalm) on drums, Martin (Tronsson) on bass and Michel (Santunione) on guitar. They are pretty unknown guys, but they won’t be after this tour!
It must be tempting to try and get some Hellacopters action going on this tour?
Yes, most definitely.
And you play Bristol the night after Michael Monroe. I'll be at both shows, as I think your record along with 'Horns And Halos' are two of the best of 2013. What’s the plan for your involvement with Michael going forward?
I’m still a member of the band, and we were just shooting a video the other day in Helsinki, for the song ‘Stained Glass Heart’, which is going to be the next single. Rich Jones, the guitarist from Ginger's band, is filling in for me on the road while I’m doing my solo tour, so I'm going to be back in the band at some point, but I don’t know how long I am going to be away for… hopefully not too long.
As you mention, Rich Jones, who coincidently designed the Uber Rock logo, is taking your place, in the meantime; have you been teaching him any of your moves, he could learn how to flick a plectrum, you know!
(laughs) I don’t know, he is playing on my gear so at least he has got the sound. I might have to order a plane ticket to go and see them, and just sneak in without him knowing to check out his moves!
I saw recently that Nicke (Borg) turned up at one of your signing sessions. What are relations like with you guys these days? Will we ever see a new Backyard Babies album?
Oh yeah, definitely, the relations are good with the Backyard Babies members, and I can promise you that there is going to be another Backyard Babies album. But I'm 100% into my solo project right now, so I can’t say when that might happen. We can go in tomorrow and start recording a pretty good album, but I don’t see any point in doing a decent Backyard Babies record. Maybe in a year or so we’ll be ready to make the ultimate BB statement?!
I recently got Tyla to do me an art commission of the '(Is It) Still Alright To Smile?' cover, which I will soon have on my wall next to the print of your art installation which you sold a few years back. Have you ever been tempted to do more art? I mean, if Paul Stanley can make money from his art anyone can surely? (laughing)
I’ve always been an artwork junkie since I was a kid. I’ve probably looked at the gatefold sleeve for ‘Kiss Alive II’ more times than I’ve have listened to the album. I still remember when I first saw the ‘Nevermind The Bollocks’ cover and was completely blown away. I had to wear fucking shades to look at that artwork (laughing). In rock music, I love the whole package; I love the song-writing, I love the great playing, and I love the great album covers. But I’m not doing jobs for other bands at the moment, because I’m so busy with my own stuff.
And of course Tyla has just done a new T-shirt design for you, too. Have you ever been tempted to do another acoustic album with him? Or just write some songs with him? I'd really be interested in hearing that especially after the spark you added to 'Horns And Halos'....
That would be amazing. I was actually talking to Tyla a few weeks back, and yeah, that would be fun, a lot of fun. I have never really done much acoustic stuff, the most I have done is ‘Flat Tyre On A Muddy Road’, and I saved that up. In another 20 years, when I’m 60, I’ll start doing my acoustic shit!
Talking of possible collaborations if you could pick one artist or band who you could work with, who you haven’t, who would it be and why?
I would love to do something with The Beastie Boys or maybe Jack White, that would be amazing, I think. Something really good would come out of that, I’m sure.
I just wanted to finish by asking you what you would hope to achieve with 'Dregen' the album. I mean, if we were to sit down in a year's time, what would you like to have achieved with this record?
I have a space on my wall that is just white at the moment, I would love to see a gold album hanging there or maybe a Grammy (laughs).
Dregen, thank you once again for talking with Uber Rock. May your M.O.J.O continue to rise, and we look forward to seeing you out on the road in December
Thank you so much!
To check out the full list of dates that Dregen will be playing this November/December check out his website, linked below.
Photos courtesy of Niclas Brunzell