Pelle Almgren interview
Martin Gordon went out of his way to prove that there's more to Sweden than Smorgasboard and hot blondes. And although I would gladly have settled for one of those blonde babes, Martin came home with Pelle Almgren, arguably Sweden's greatest rock voice yonder side of Abba.
And after Martin's interview, we found it only fair that we should protect the innocent, so we decided to give Pelle some airtime too. We were quite disappointed to find out that the words 'baboon' and 'hogwash' were only used in reference to the album titles. But on the other hand, it does give hope that the possibility of a collaboration for a third cd is still in the cards...
Except for your appearance on Martin's cd's, I don't think your name will be a familiar one to the world at large. Please introduce yourself, musically.
I'm a lover of pop (or anything with melody) at heart but what got me started in the first place was punk in 1977. I was at the right age (15) and totally loved everything about it - the music, the look and the fact that anyone could do it. So I did. The band I joined, Warheads, released some stuff and we played gigs around Stockholm. After that, there where a few singles here and there - an EP with one of the guys from Hanoi Rocks - until I scored a big hit here in Sweden in -91 with a band called Wow Liksom.
What was your relation to Martin's work before you met ?
I was (am) a big fan of Kimono, Jet and Radio Stars (I even did my own Radio Stars t-shirt back in the day), when I was young, so it's all a bit of a Judas Priest situation here with me being "Ripper" Owens and wanting to be Andy Ellison..
How did your collaboration with Martin come about ?
Me and another guy called Pelle went for this songwriting boom that happened in the late nineties. Everybody from Britney to the Backstreet Boys came to Stockholm to write with Max Martin and we jumped aboard. We had some stuff released, but I still ride the tube whereas Max has a Lamborghini in every available colour ...
Anyway, I found Martin's website and wrote him a mail asking him to come over to our studio and write with us which, rather bravely, he did. So that's where Fuss Me and That Girl from 'Baboon' came from. Some months later he wrote me and said he was writing pop/rock songs again and would I be interested in singing on some of them if it came to recording? But of course. I was honoured.
For the first time in his career Martin was completely in charge of the product. How did you feel about that ?
Totally fine by me. Every project needs a führer and Martin looks very good in uniform. Actually it's very very nice to take a back seat and not having to worry about anything but singing fifty-five 'Gallileo's' in synch a day (or get executed).We'd like to think we've contributed to some of the vocal arrangements here and there though..
Martin's lyrics are a bit unusual, to say the least. Could youidentify with them ? How difficult is it to sing somebody else's words ?
Me being Swedish, I have to admit there's a few lines here and there where I haven't got a clue what I'm going on about - but I can totally identify with them. Also, Martin has given me a rare opportunity to sing things like asphyks.asfyxita.asphixti.ATE. And that is something I have never ever done before, in any language.
I have already read a comment that it is difficult to imagine that the vocals on the cd's do not come from Martin's mouth, but from yours. A compliment ?
From a singer's point of view I'd say that's about as good as compliments gets. It (hopefully) means I have managed to make Martin's words and melodies sound like my own (which they actually are).
What would be the main difference between Baboon and Hogwash ?
Baboon is fantastic and contains one of my favourite songs of all time, "Hit Him On the Head" plus plenty of other gems. But Hogwash is even better, I think. It's sharper, shorter and slicker. And of course the four of us have had more time to rehearse together and gel as a band. I think everybody can hear that.
Favorite tracks ?
I still have a hard time getting past "Coup". It's everything I like about pop: Cinemascope and 5.1 Surround sound, over the top but ballsy, catchy but weird - and a bit silly. Other tracks I love are 'Plug', Land of Nod, Love Power, Hogwash, Every Little Thing, Sheep Trick, "Frying Pan" and Everybody Is Very Nice where Martin presented me with a rare opportunity to do scat vocals. And that is something I have never ever done before. Every track is super, by the way.
Baboon got rave reviews. Did that put the pressure on for Hogwash ?
Well more on Martin I guess, having to surpass the 'grandeur' of Baboon as a song writer. But as soon as I heard the demos for Hog, I new he'd done it. Then I started to worry a bit..
With 2 albums under your belt together, it looks like a morepermanent relationship is in the cards. Something you're lookingforward to ?
I have quit the performance side of this ridiculous business really. But I will happily take part in whatever Martin throws my way in the future - be it a rock opera, a ballet or the final third in his intended mammal trilogy (sadly no carpets, I'm led to understand).
Is co-writing with Martin something you'd like to explore further ?
I'm seriously fed up with song writing and totally lack vision and drive at the moment - and Martin seems to be doing pretty good on his own, wouldn't you say? Having said that, I'll probably be back at it some time next year, and then who knows. It was a very nice experience the first time.
Is that back seat something you'd like to see changed in the future ?
Not for a second. It's Martin's songs and his vision. And I happen to agree with all of it. In the studio it's all about him wanting me to do "my thing" and me doing it. There hasn't been one single argument during the recording of Baboon and Hog and that is very very rare in my experience. Possibly only about whose turn it is to go down to the wine-shop. Usually mine ("And pick up some pork legs while you're at it, Almgren").
Is it an ambition to work more as a band, contributing your own songs, etc ? Or would you prefer a separate outlet for that ?
I've said for many years that apart from writing for other people and singing on demos, I have no interest whatsoever to record or play live. The last album I did in Sweden was in 1995 and that was that. But this is a different cookie obviously, and a tasty one. But I don't think no newly written songs from this end will grace a Martin Gordon album. They are perfect as they are.
Does taking this show on the road look like an interesting proposition to you ?
Exept for me (age 32), everyone in this band is now in his late fifties. It will take an enormous effort to get this Brontosaurus in shape, let alone get it up on a stage. Plus some serious money. But it would be very very fun to do it at least once.
Which tracks from Martin's back catalogue would you like to include in the present repertoire (for live shows or whatever) ?
As an old fan of Martin's former bands, before I heard the Baboon and Hogwash demos, I used to think that anything he'll write now can't possibly top the old stuff. But he did - and then he did it again. Some of the stuff on Baboon and Hog is the best he's ever done. Still, I have a dream of one day yelling "Hello Tokyo, this is Tittle-Tattle" and kick in with a dirt-heavy version of it. I think it would floor (and confuse) any audience anywhere. After that we can all sit down and have tea and oxygen for a while and then possibly do an instrumental. When and if we're all breathing again, I'd love to do "Good Personality", "Nervous Wreck" and "Boy Meets Girl" for encores and then finish off by singing "Goodnight" from a stretcher as I'm being carried out to an emergency ambulance.
What's the main thing you have learned from working with Martin?
That the saying "Never meet you idol" ain't neccesarily true. You couldn't meet a better guy.
What's the next step ?
For me, cheap Botox clinic.
Pelle Almgren discography
Dagen Ar Natt EP (Rip Records, 791101) 1979
Warheads1980 Let It Out” lp (Adventure Records ADVLP 100) 1980
Incl. I Lost My Legs in the War and Today can`t be...
Break The Rules # 7 (Insekten INSECT 07, Germany, 1996)
Incl. Desperate (Warheads, Sweden, 1979, from only 7")
Sam Yaffa & Pelle Almgren
Sam Yaffa & Pelle Almgren (EP) YahooX1 (Finland - 1986)
Cover me / Last train to Clarksville / Lonely in love / Isn't it strange
Yahoo ! Best of Hanoi solo projects (1988) Yahoo LP 106 / Yahoo CD2 (Finland)
Incl. Lonely in love
Hanoi Rocks - Johanna Records (Finland) 4cd box feat. Yaffar & Almgren trax
The White House - Sonet Records - (1995)
Rain - Sonet Records - (1994)
It's Only Love - Sonet Records - (1995)
Suzy Says / Wonderland - Sonet Records - (1995)
Wow Liksom -
Pelle Almgren & Wow Liksom - Allting är bra - CD/LP - Metronome 4509-91177- (1991)
Omåomigen / Du Som Älskar - Metronome 1363487 (1991)
Vild MC Flicka På Drift / Inåut (live) - Metronome (1991)
Marianne / Vild MC Flicka På Drift (live) - Metronome (1991)
Abba - The Tribute - Polar Records (1992)
Wow Liksom track : Does your mother know
Superstjärna - CD - Metronome 4509-91177-2 (1993)
Hel massa kärlek - cd5 - Metronome 4509-90942-2 (1992)
Superstjärna (Starmix) / Hell massa kärlek (Floormix / Extended version) - cd5 / 12" - Metronome 4509-91659-2 (1992)
Revolution - cd5 - Metronome 4509-92073-2 (1993)
Baboon in the basement - Radiant Future RFVP005CD (2003)
The Joy of More Hogwash - Radiant Future RFVP006CD (2004)
God's on his lunchbreak (please call back) - Radiant Future RFVP007CD (2005)
The mammal trilogy - Radiant Future 3cd box (incl. above 3 cd's)
How am I doing so far ? - Radiant Future RFVP008CD (2006)
VARIOUS ARTISTS - We love you (Tribute to The Rolling Stones) Deaf & Dumb DD019
Incl AlmgrenGordonAndersson - We Love You