What are your influences and how did you decide on the name of the band?
When the band was formed, more than 20 years ago, the original bass player Dennis Berg worked with youngsters who were into death metal and they were looking for inspiration for a band name that was all mystical and trve. Dennis is a dedicated sport fisherman so he suggested Abramis Brama, the latin name for bream. The kids weren’t impressed. But the band formed by him, guitarist Peo Andersson, drummer Fredrik Jansson (these days in Angel Witch!) and original singer Christian Andersen used the name to play an early private party gig. The press still makes a point about the band name, perhaps it’s the equivalent to Frank Beard being the only guy in ZZ Top without a beard?
They were heavily influenced by the Swedish band November at the time, and covered several songs. November was a very early Swedish proto-metal band, our equivalent to Cream but singing in Swedish. The musical influences from Black Sabbath and Mountain are greater on the overall music of Abramis Brama but I believe more people abroad should check out early Swedish rock, to see where all these contemporary bands parents used to listen to in the 70’s.
Many people think Swedish pop and rock history is lame, and it’s true that the early decades were very derivative of rock’n’roll and country – often with badly translated Swedish lyrics or just gibberish that was supposed to sound like English. But in the mid to late 60’s something happened, beat groups like Tages got more psychedelic and heavier, eventually exciting artists like Pugh Rogefeldt and Mikael Ramel came on the scene, progressive rock bands Trettioåriga Kriget, Samla Mammas Manna, the folk influenced Kebnekajse, there was Råg I Ryggen, Nature and also cool stuff from solo artists like John Holm. In some way, Abramis Brama has a connection to these traditions within Swedish music.
How do you approach song writing and has it changed since you started the band?
The members of the band have changed over 20 years, and so has the writing. Previously, bass player Dennis also had a big part in the songwriting, but when he left the band in the fall of 2012 and I came in, they certainly didn’t get no replacement in that department. I don’t have those skills but more of a producers or managers mindset. But there was no doubt that guitarist Peo was more than capable of handling the writing, he wrote pretty much all the music for ”Tusen År”, except the one tune ”Vägen Ut”. That is a Swedish version of the Ashbury song “Vengeance” – speaking of the tradition of translating or re-imagining English or American music into Swedish. The choice of songs on this record was whichever ones fit well together to make an interesting journey, and I believe structuring an album – also bearing in mind the ebb and flow of two sides of a vinyl – is very important.
Where did you seek inspiration for the songs on this record?
I don’t think you ever seek inspiration, but you’ll have to be ready to capture it once it comes. The process usually starts with Peo showing up with his musical ideas that he has been working on at home. Sometimes it’s just a riff on the guitar, sometimes it’s more of a completed idea for a song. We rehearse regularly and record rehearsals, so over the course of a year, a song will slowly form and singer Ulf Torkelsson will get ideas for lyrics and melodies. The process also becomes the inspiration to keep developing the songs. I remember trying out ”Tusen År” around the time we released the last album, ”Enkel Biljett” in 2014, but it had to go through a few different stages, fine-tuning of the parts and structure. We might go into some more details about the lyrics at a later stage – to help out the non-Swedes – but in short, that song is an observation on the religious-military complex throughout the last thousand years, which is what ”tusen år” actually means in Swedish.
How has the music industry changed since you started?
You know that! The Internet! The disruption of all that we knew to be the music industry has meant radical changes for all musicians to be able to support themselves through album sales – while holding on to the nostalgic notion of the album as an art form. But on the other hand, if you are a true musician, you will find a way to keep going. You know what? Go listen to the song ”Everything Is Free” by Gillian Welch right now, one of the best songwriters of this generation. It should take 5 minutes and costs nothing.
So… In 1998, when Abramis Brama released their first 12 track demo, MTV was everything, vinyl was obsolete, The Hellacopters were Sweden’s coolest rock’n’roll band, and most other CD’s were unfortunately 78 minutes long.
In 2008, digital downloads had already had it’s heyday, The Hellacopters called it quits, Facebook and Spotify were just starting to break through.
In 2018, vinyl is again the premium medium, albums have 8-10 songs like they should have, and The Hellacopters are playing again!
It is a strange development, but I’m positive to these changes. The amount and quality of heavy music is great, the availability awesome, and the opportunity to make your voice heard is huge. You just got to want to.
What plans do you have for the future?
We are touring Sweden in May, opening for Tiamat, which will be very good, and a handful of our own shows, and will continue throughout the year – hopefully also including some shows in the rest of Europe. We are currently getting a lot of attention from outside of Sweden, which I am happy about, and I hope everyone is able to get into the music. Peo’s throwing new riffs at us in rehearsals, we have a new label and certainly lots of plans for a few busy years to come.