We at ProgSphere are proud to present an interview we made with one of our musical idols, the songwriter/keyboardist/guitarist/lyricist/accordianist/otherstuffist of BEARDFISH! We tried to make the interview comprehensive, so it would be futile to attempt to plumb its depths in this despicable synopsis. Read and enjoy! Be sure to stop by Beardfish's forum, shown here: http://forum.spa-networks.co.uk/punforum/index.php - to discuss Beardfish with fellow fans!
Nick: Hello Rikard! Welcome to Prog Sphere, “don’t forget to bring the fish!” We’re gonna start with some of your side projects, because we want to hear about them and I’m sure you don’t get asked about them as much as you do about Beardfish! We hope that’s ok.
Dan: Tell us about your old album Cyklonmannen. To me, this album seems to have been made in the style of one of Bo Hansson’s old works. Could you tell us something about the book you based it on? Bo seemed to enjoy using works that were well-known to the English-speaking world, but I’ve never heard of Cyklonmannen.
Rikard: Cyklonmannen (The Cycloneman) is a book written by the Swedish author Sture Dahlström and it’s part of a series he called cyklonsextetten (the cyclone sextet) and although I don’t think he ever got around to actually write six books in the style of Cyklonmannen (I count five) there was this particular period in his career that I appreciate very much. First and foremost, Sture was, and still is, Sweden’s only true beatnik writer to this date (at least that I know of) and his writing is a reflection, I think, on his adventurous life. He lived in Spain for most of the time, he was a jazz musician (double bass and guitar) and I think that shows in his writing, it’s fluent just as good music is when at it’s best. The books in the cyclone sextet and particularly Cyklonmannen are told at a very high speed. The book is about an inventor and ladies man (all of his lead characters are btw) who travels to New York to seek a patent for his new invention, the pest harness, a transparent body condom that shields its user from every sexually transmitive disease there is. On his trip he has many encounters with all sorts of crazy characters and the book is so wild, sexual, psychedelic and free in a sense that only really good literature is! It’s too bad most people don’t speak Swedish coz in my opinion it’s a must read! When I read it (the second time, mind you!) all this music started popping up in my head and I just had to make an interpretation of the book. I like the album and the only regret I had is that I didn’t finish it before Sture passed away. I talked to him on the phone once and he was very interesting to speak to!
Dan: Another one of your projects, Bootcut, was also formed around Bo Hansson in a way, but this time you were inspired by Hansson’s work with Janne Karlsson. Can you tell us more about this? I also read somewhere on the Beardfish forum that you have another album’s worth of material that you might release at some point. Any word on this?
Rikard: Bootcut is a duo that has been around since 2000, so we’re celebrating 10 years this year! We most often make songs with only keyboards (mainly Hammond B3, but also some synthesizers and stuff) and drums. We’ve done a whole lot of fun stuff in these ten years, we’ve been a house band at a jazz club, we’ve accompanied other artists in their live performances (and this works out pretty good since I play the bass on the organ) when they’re singing or playing the guitar or horns or whatever – we’re a pretty solid foundation to layer stuff on! We’ve released two albums; “Hammond VS Drums” in 2002 and “De Fluff” in 2006 and as you mentioned, we do have a third one recorded but we haven’t gotten around to releasing it just yet. It’s mostly an economical question. We may just put out a vinyl with an mp3 code or something, I like that idea…
Dan: Why do you think this “organ and drums” setup is so popular in Sweden? I’ve seen a great deal of bands from your country that arrange themselves exactly like this, or at the very least, around the organ/drums model, even if they use other instruments.
Rikard: I have no idea.. probably because of H&K.. When we started out the only other band that I knew of who were doing it (besides H&K) were Sagor & Swing (or Happy Hammond in Slumberland, as they started out – but back then they had a saxophone player as well) and our style was totally different than theirs, and it was and is very different from H&K as well, apart from the instrumentation!
Dan: Your second album with Bootcut employs the use of a bass, as well as a few other instruments. There are even vocals on some tracks! My question is this: why did you lie to us?! There’s supposed to be only a Hammond and drums!
Rikard: Hey now! The bass was used on one track, and it’s the one track where I don’t even use a Hammond – I play a Wurlitzer piano and we wanted to record it (The Immortal Session) as a sort of jazz trio thing. The same with the vocals, one track! We didn’t want to make the second album with JUST organ and drums because we had been doing these gigs where we had guest musicians coming up on stage to join us in making good music and we simply wanted to translate this onto a record and ergo: De Fluff was made. The guest appearances are just icing on the cake, Petter and I cover up 90% of the album by ourselves…
Dan: YET ANOTHER one of your projects, Gungfly, is going to have its second album released soon. Tell us about this project, and why you have so many projects in general. Too much music in your head?
Rikard: You’ve already answered the question within the question! I make a lot of music and I practically always have something going on, mainly because music is all I do.. All day long! Gungfly is my attempt at a project where I decide completely for myself and record most of the instruments myself (on the new album it’s gonna be a 70/30 split, songwise) simply because I like doing it and there are people encouraging me to do so. The new album will be a diverse range of songs, more so than the last one. It has everything from forrest-smelling 60’s progpop to metal to surfguitar!
Dan: How much has Bo Hansson influenced your work with Beardfish? As we discussed before, he obviously influenced the music of some of your other bands/projects.
Rikard: In general I can’t say that I’ve been very influenced by Bo in my songwriting, but he is one of the main reasons I started playing organ, together with Jon Lord. The only song that comes to mind directly that I feel personally is inspired by Bo (and that’s only in part) is “Coup de Grâce” with Beardfish (the slow part with piano and guitar). There are probably other places in all of my projects where someone could point to the speaker and say “Hey! This reminds me of Bo Hansson” but it’s never intentional and I’ve never seen him as one of my big inspirations for writing music, although I love his music!
Dan: Can you tell us about some of your other influences besides Bo Hansson? I know you like to listen to Gentle Giant and King Crimson. Personally I’m quite partial to Van Der Graaf Generator, as well as those two. Oh, and Beardfish of course. I think hear some Samla Mammas Manna, or perhaps some Flasket Brinner, in Beardfish. Am I correct? Are you a fan?
Rikard: I like all those bands and I’m sure there are influences from all of them, especially Gentle Giant and King Crimson, not Van Der Graaf Generator though – haven’t listened a whole lot to them. Other influences are Frank Zappa (who might even be my biggest influence in the writing of Beardfish material between 2005 and 2008!), Jeff Buckley, Henry Cow, Jimi Hendrix, Opeth, Astor Piazzola, Nirvana, Stravinsky, Soundgarden, Made in Sweden, ZZ Top, Angelo Badalamenti, Baron Bane, Kogo, Foo Fighters and of course Beardfish itself, playing with those guys is the biggest inspiration I can think of… I could go on and on… basically every good artist out there who’s album I’ve listened to more than once would end up on this list!!! And don’t forget books and movies!
Dan: I asked Andy in our interview with him what the chances would be of you two doing a tribute album for Bo Hansson. He said he would love to do something like that. What is your response?
Rikard: I have no comment on that… If we would decide to do something like that… we would! That’s all I can say. I love Andy’s music and we had a great time when we played together, that’s all I’m gonna say for now.
Nick: Where do you get inspiration for your lyrics? I have an opinion that you present a very “normal” life through them, but expressed in mysterious ways.
Rikard: You got me! I don’t particularly enjoy writing about broadswords and fair ladies or stuff like that (and I’m biting my own ass a bit here, because in one of the new Beardfish songs there are some pretty storytelling type lyrics for one song!)… I like writing about stuff that happens in everyday life and I like to twist it around, sort of like; what if this would have happened the other way around, you know… I like writing what I feel about things.
Dan: Let’s switch to Beardfish now, starting with the band’s artwork. Dave’s album covers are getting better and better with each release. Do you have cover art ready for the upcoming album? My favorite so far was definitely Destined Solitaire’s, with the art that linked to the music in some ways, such as by showing Bob Dylan on the cover eating cornflakes, and someone’s head exploding due to the frustration of ALGEBRA!
Rikard: Yeah, David has done some great stuff but he didn’t do “Destined Solitaire”, that was a guy named Spencer Bowden! He’s a very talented young artist living in Hawaii who approached us and said he wanted to do the album art so we checked out some of his stuff and thought it was excellent!
Dan: Where did you think of the name “Beardfish”? Do you like bearded fish? Do they taste good? Do you feel like it fits the band’s image and irreverent sense of humor?
Rikard: We have no reason at all for the name. it came up during a brainstorming for a name and we didn’t even like it at first but once we started playing and noticed that people actually remembered it we decided to keep it. I know they do exist though and they have beards!
Nick: One very interesting thing about Beardfish and its lyrics is how you write dialogues and monologues that somehow manage to fit very very well into the music. This somehow adds an organic feeling to the music, while also somehow managing to keep it very strange. What’s your take on it?
Rikard: I almost always write the music before the lyrics and when there already are melodies you have to fit the vocal phrases with the words which sometimes can be quite tricky, but it’s worked up until now! Maybe that’s the secret.
Dan: An interesting thing about the first Beardfish album, Fran En Plats Du Ej Kan Se, is your usage of Swedish vocals. Why did you decide to do that only on the first album? An equally good question would be: why sing primarily in English in general? I suppose most bands do it nowadays, what with English being the “de facto lingua franca”.
Rikard: Yeah, sure! We never made a decision about it, it’s just based on the fact that I haven’t written anything in Swedish since that album. Those three songs are the best Swedish lyrics I have ever written and when I tried translating them for the booklet on the rerelease of the album in 2007 I had a big problem finding a good rhythmic feel for the English version. It came out as totally different lyrics, which fortunately only the Swedish speaking community will ever know! And then narrow it down to the Swedish Beardfish fans and they’re not that many, so – haha!
Nick: What inspires you to write stories such as those on “The Sane Day”? There are elements from this album that show up on later works, as well.
Rikard: That’s something I appreciate in Zappa’s work that I’ve tried to apply to Beardfish as well – the conceptual continuity (as Frank put it). The stories are there to tie it together and help paint a better picture!
Nick: You’ve been creating stuff pretty much constantly, I’d say, what with the amount of albums you’ve released since you began. Especially from the SiT 1 until the upcoming album, 4 albums in 4 years, and every one better than the one that came before it! What is it that keeps you focused? Especially you, who besides Beardfish, have other projects such as Gungfly and Bootcut. You must be a real workaholic.
Rikard: We work fast when we work, that’s all I can really say about that. There can be periods when we don’t do anything for a while and then we decide to start writing and rehearsing new material and then we basically know that in a couple of months we’re gonna be recording a new album. We just like to make music.. We don’t force it.
Dan: While Beardfish’s style (whatever the hell that is) always seems to remain somewhat consistent, the albums can vary considerably. For example, Sleeping in Traffic Part 1 is pretty mellow compared to the sublime chaos that is Destined Solitaire. I would imagine this reflects the lyrical content, because the content on DS was pretty chaotic, while SiT1 was more about lazy afternoons and that painful feeling of opening your eyes after a good night’s sleep. Am I right?
Rikard: I’m gonna refer to a previous question here and say that the lyrics almost always come to after the music, so in this case we’re rather dealing with the song writing. But we have a certain style and I guess it’s based on my writing and how the guys and I play our instruments. The lyrics reflect the musical content, rather than the other way around as you described.
Dan: Does the opening track of Destined Solitaire, “Awaken the Sleeping”, perhaps allude to the previous two Beardfish albums?
Rikard: Yes, it was a way for us to say that we were done with sleeping in traffic.
Dan: Speaking of the chaos on Destined Solitaire, would you mind revealing, through your infinite grace, what some of these songs are about? Occasionally I am able to tell (such as with the title track, “In Real Life…” and “Abagail’s Questions…”), but “Until You Comply Including Entropy” is simply an enigma to me.
Rikard: But, see – do you really want to know? If you have your own little version on what it could be about, you could leave it at that. Maybe I’ll just destroy it for you? I could tell you that it’s about my life, it reflects me and my view on the world (and it’s usually not a good view, at least not in Beardfish lyrics) that I was seeing that particular day when I wrote it. The “outside my door, everything’s different..” part is about mustering up the courage to go outside and meeting people and stuff and quickly realizing that it’s not fucking worth it because to you they’re all blithering morons.. A pretty pissy attitude, I know! But that part reflects a night at a disco, in the middle of the meat market, where you see the “best” version of people… drunk, egocentric assholes who are there in pursuit of status, not even happiness! And everyone’s just glaring at each other because no one is really happy and no one really wants to be there.. On the other hand, that’s just a part of the lyric – some of it is actually pretty positive!
Dan: Destined Solitaire seems like the most eclectic opus Beardfish has created so far, and that’s saying something! It goes from almost dark symphonic on the intro, to a sort of hard rock/metal epic in the form of Destined Solitaire, the title track, to a few chaotic masterpieces, and then to a jazzy instrumental epic named Coup de Grace. What were some influences in the creation process of this album? Was Opeth in particular responsible for the title track, perhaps?
Rikard: I think I had listened to Opeth quite a lot around that time, yes! Regarding influences for the album they were quite diverse but mostly it came from a state we were all in and none of us were very happy, you know. The verse on “Where the Rain Comes in” is heavily influenced by Bruce Springsteen though! And Coup de Grâce was inspired by the bandoneon player Astor Piazzola.
Dan: What’s your favorite Beardfish album? Which was the most fun to create, which one was the most difficult?
Rikard: I think “The Sane Day” was our favourite to create, we had a great time. But the recording of the new album was also very funny and creative! We had a great time. Destined Solitaire was the worst recording of them all. We were not in a good state as a band and we were under a lot of stress because we only had five days to record 76 minutes of music! It turned out great though, so maybe we should hate ourselves a bit more and all our albums will be grand!
Dan: Most people seem to name Sleeping in Traffic Part 2 as their favorite BF album. Why do you think that might be? Personally, we both (Nick and I) enjoy Destined Solitaire the most, by far.
Rikard: I think SIT2 is an easy album to like, because it has some very accessible tunes and melodies and it also has a 36 minute song and that makes most progheads cream their pants without having even heard it… Also it was praised by a lot of reviewers.
Dan: I believe Arjen Lucassen of Ayreon said it best: THE HAMMOND ORGAN IS THE GREATEST INSTRUMENT KNOWN TO MAN! I think I might be paraphrasing slightly. Anway, I agree with him completely. Any thoughts?
Rikard: I love the Hammond organ, it’s one of my favorite instruments as well, but lately I’ve been in love with the grand piano and my Gibson SG!
Dan: The Hammond organ is almost a staple instrument in prog and jazz, but there are not many musicians in the genre who use the accordion, and Beardfish has quite a few bits played on that instrument. Do you like playing accordion? I wish there was more of this sound and at the other side I’d like to hear you playing an album full of accordion and that doesn’t have to be Beardfish. Maybe I just gave you an idea, who knows! Perhaps you can be Lars Hollmer’s spiritual successor.
Rikard: The accordion is an instrument that is very dear to me. It was the first instrument I learned how to play as a child, my grandfather taught me. We almost never bring it on concerts though because we have so much gear already (because of me playing both keys and guitar) but if we had a big production I bet we would. I love playing it!
Nick: What other instruments do you own? I know that you possess a Gibson SG guitar which is an amazing and pretty expensive piece. Also, what’s your studio/live equipment like? Amps, pedals, etc. There are for sure a lot of “tech freaks” who want to know more about this.
Rikard: I basically use the same stuff live as in the studio. My amp is a 50 watt Marshall Vintage Modern head going through a Marshall 1960 Lead 412 cabinet. When overdubbing guitars I’ve been using this bad boy’s overdrive and it’s sweeeeet! I’ve also used a Music Man HD150 head in the past and an Ampeg V2 head, also a Peavey Valveking combo but since I bought the Marshall it’s all I use! In terms of pedals I use (in this order): a George Dennis Volume/Fuzz pedal, a modified Cry Baby Wah, a MI Audio NeoFuzz, a T rex Dr Swamp overdrive, a Boss Tremolo, a Line 6 tone core Echo Park, a Boss Tuner and a Boss Reverb rv-5. In the past I’ve used an Ibanez Tube Screamer a lot and a Big Muff, but I don’t use them much these days. I’ve also used a Digitech Whammy pedal quite a lot but right now it won’t fit on my pedal board! In
terms of guitars I’ve mainly been using my Gibson SG for the past couple of years, and it has now grown up and acquired a Vibrola tremolo! I also play a Fender japan Strat quite a lot, especially for solos, but sometimes on whole gigs. I have a Gibson The Paul from the 70’s that I use sometimes as well, it’s a real heavy metal guitar!
When it comes to keyboards I have been using the Hammond B3 in the studio this time around, to everyone’s rejoicing! If I could, I would bring it everywhere but usually we don’t have the space to bring it on tour, unfortunately. I also use a Nord Electro 3 for all the electric pianos and the clavinets and the mellotron sounds. An Arp Pro Soloist is also my weapon of choice when it comes to lead sounds, it’s an awesome synthesizer! The
organ i use live is a Nord C1 Combo Organ and it is (in my opinion) the best organ emulator on the market. On the new album we’ve also recorded some grand piano, a Steinway (don’t know the model).
David uses a Roland Jazz Chorus 412 combo at the moment. He has a lot of fun pedals too! A NeoFuzz just like me (I had mine first, haha!), a cry baby, a blue box fuzz, a satchurator overdrive, a whammy, an Akai head rush delay pedal… and probably some more stuff that I’m forgetting. He plays a Yamaha SG guitar, a Gibson Marauder and a Fender Jazzmaster.
Robert plays a Fender Jazz bass through a HH (guitar) head through a HH 412 (bass) cabinet – it’s that simple!!
And finally Magnus plays a Tama Star Classic kit.
Nick: You use a lot to overdubbing on your albums, how do you cover that sort of stuff when you guys play live?
Rikard: We do the overdubs to fatten up the recorded music to compensate for an energy that comes to life when we do concert, so it’s a bit the other way around!
Dan: So, ProgSphere has interviewed bands from Norway (Pictorial Wand, Jaga Jazzist, and many more) to Peru (Flor de Loto). Would Captain Flurry be proud of us?
Rikard: Haha!! Yeah, he would! HAR HAR!!!
Dan: If you recall, during the recording process of the album that will be released soon, a few people were a bit antsy about news on Beardfish’s forum. We eventually came up with a game where we would add words to a sentence to construct a super silly phrase, in the end. Someone suggested Beardfish include this sentence backwards in one of their songs. Now, we won’t insist something so stupid (more like, stupidly awesome!) but we would like to know. If you had to make a song based around the sentence “Hell yeah, any bloody freakin' news, you wondrously good, piratical, grogdrinking people-cakes?”, what might it be like?
Rikard: Oh, man! I’d probably have to sing something to you to make this work… It sounds like something for Tenacious D to wrap their minds around, haha!
Dan: Speaking of the new album, is there anything you can tell us? Perhaps a name, any more song titles besides those you have mentioned on the forum? Perhaps some song lengths?
Rikard: There isn’t much to tell yet, unfortunately… I’m so in the middle of it all that I feel like I don’t want to spill too much for some reason. It’s a harder album, in a sense that it has a couple of songs with more distorted guitars in them than usual! We’re working on the album title, and I think we have it, but the risk is always there that we might change it, and in that case I don’t want to tell you now, you know! I can tell you there is one song that is 15 minutes and it’s probably the most classic prog song we’ve
ever done and at the same time it has some crazy metal parts to it so we had a guest vocalist who came in and did some growling on it, a friend of mine named Jimmy Jönsson. There is also gonna be some saxophone on a couple of tracks!
Dan: In your eyes, is there a sort of “Swedish music scene”? I have a theory that there is a sort of Swedish subgenre of progressive rock, similar to Italy’s RPI, or England’s Canterbury Scene. It seems to be characterized by keyboard/organ-driven, energetic and cheerful jazz-rock, with elements of Swedish folk music. Some artists/bands with the typical sound are, to me, Bo Hansson, Samla Mammas Manna, Beardfish, Klotet, Sagor & Swing, and many more. Do you have any thoughts on this idea of mine? Is it something that has been thought of before? I call it SvenskProg, by the way!
Rikard: If it’s a common thing with many Swedish bands, I think it can be traced back to our traditional Swedish folk music perhaps… But I’m not sure either. It could just be that bands mimic one another… That’s a tricky question and it’s not one that I will find the answer to here, tonight – sorry!
Dan: Just before we end, I must ask, as I ask everyone I interview: are you a fan of dogs?
Rikard: Yeah, sure! Not a big “hey I gotta get me a dog so I have to walk it and pick up its poo everyday” kind of fan, but my family have had dogs all my life and so I like their company.
Nick: Thanks for the interview, Rikardo, I’m glad I’ve found my shogun moustache fish at the bottom of the sea (Note from the editor: I have no idea what that was supposed to mean). Do you have anything to say, as we end the interview?
Rikard: No, not really! Just thanks for reading and keep your ears and eyes open for the new album!