Friday night in Angel and there’s a steady gathering at the Islington O2 ahead of the Truckfighters’ second last UK gig. I am escorted to their dressing room where
I’m introduced to Niklas “Dango” Källgren, who is calmly noodling away on a shiny black Gibson SG. He strikes me as quiet and unassuming and happily, ready to share his thoughts.
AN: Thanks for taking the time to talk to us. How’s the tour gone so far?
NK: Good I think. Most gigs have had good attendance and a good night. The first show in Birmingham maybe wasn’t super good but it was a Sunday night and the people who were there were really happy.
AN: So the British crowds have been good then?
D: Overall, yeah I think so.
AN: I’m a big fan of the new album “V”. It’s an absolute ripper. You must be happy with the way it’s been received?
NK: Yeah, most importantly I’m happy with the album. I don’t care much what people think in that sense.
AN: The new songs have been well received at the gigs?
AN: For me it sounds like a step up in maturity level. Would you guys rate it as the best album you’ve done so far?
NK: Yeah for sure, but I think all musicians think that when it’s new, and then a year or two after you get some perspective and might think differently. But I totally like it. It’s a little bit more progressive than before and the songs are a bit more like…it’s hard to explain, we don’t have many songs that are normal in the sense of verse, chorus, verse, chorus. Most of the verses on this album, it’s just different. Verse one and verse two on this album are very different parts and its classic song writing in that way…it reminds me a bit of classic music somehow. Weird but…
AN: When you were recording did you approach it differently to previous albums?
NK: Hmm, not really. The past three albums we’ve done more or less in the same way because me and Oskar do all the writing – everything, and some things we’ve taken from gigs or jams or recorded ideas at soundchecks or whatever. But most of it we just sit down, press record on the computer, we have a click track, bass and guitar in with the ideas and then we compose out of that.
AN: So as you’re composing albums it’s a very organic thing? You get ideas and then just get them down? Once you get an idea and are set to record it, do you like to get it done in a few takes for that natural feel? (NK laughs) Or is that a bad question? Ha.
NK: Usually we don’t have everything set when we start recording. We don’t really know how it’s gonna be. It’s impossible to use a few takes – it doesn’t exist. We cannot create as we do it and compose. And as we get drafts, me and Oskar we have ideas in our heads. Then when we okay the drafts we listen to the really rough track with click track and guitar and bass and then we talk a bit about the feel and how we want it and then the drummer goes in and plays something. And then we push him until we’re happy, hahaha.
AN: Is that why you’ve gone through a few drummers?
NK: Ha – maybe!
AN: But that’s another question. There’s the two of you and you’re the creative brains – you are Truckfighters, but does not having a consistent drummer slow down the process sometimes?
NK: It used to be but then we just thought fuck it, it’s going to work out. But after Mania, it took five years for Universe to come out and I think then we had problems because we changed drummers every time we lost energy and we’re like “arrggh!”…we have to have a drummer and then we just thought like, fuck it, we don’t have to have a drummer and now we just play with session guys. We don’t say you’re in the band, you’re in the band, you’re in the band. That kind of makes the whole creative thing much more relaxed as well because you have one piece of pressure you don’t need to have. And we don’t need to feel like the drummer should get into the band, and maybe we should have let him write something, maybe we should get him decide what to play in studios and things. Then he’d think – ah fuck that. We just do it the way we want it.
AN: So, it’s your baby and you guys are obviously very close. You’ve been together for 15 years. That’s a long time these days isn’t it?
NK: It is! It like time goes so fucking quick!
AN: You’re like elder statesmen now. You must be very well respected on the road.
NK: We’re like the old guys. I remember when we toured, we did support for Fu Manchu back in 2007, we played here – the first time we were at the Academy and on that tour Scott Hill turned 40. We were like wow, it’s so cool that he can still do it! Now Oscar also is 40 and it’s like, we’re playing the same venue that Fu Manchu were playing then – it’s quite funny isn’t it? And we don’t feel like we’re so old now because it’s like then it was like he’s 40, how can he can still do this? But now it’s quite natural to just… I mean why would we not do what we think is fun just because we’re closing in on 40. But when you’re around 30 or less than 30 it’s hard to understand because then you think someone who is 40 is actually old but when you’re 40 you don’t want to feel like you’re old.
AN: The music scene in Sweden – there seems to be a ton of bands. I’ve come over from Australia and discovered all these band whether they be stoner metal or the whole retro thing. What’s the scene like in Sweden these days in the underground?
NK: Well, the live scene sucks because somehow people don’t really go to see the shows.
AN: So you’re forced to go elsewhere?
NK: Yeah. It’s weird because there’s so many bands playing but, it’s like everybody is into the underground music. I would say 50% of them plays in a band more or less because the scene is small but there’s so many bands.
AN: Is that a new thing or was it pretty much like that when you started out?
NK: No, when we started out it was better. I mean, where we had a gig for the release party we’d have 400 people coming to the show but then when we released the next album, two, three years later maybe, 250 people came so I think the whole rock thing kind of faded around 2005-6 and it became more pop and electronica and more popular in a sense. And also in that time between when I was 20 to 25, my small hometown had 100,000 citizens and had four or five clubs or pubs having rock shows every week. I could go see two, three shows every week if I wanted to.
And if I do it now, if I’m lucky – one. So it was different to how the scene is at the moment.
AN: You’ve got a monstrous tour schedule. First and foremost, is Truckfighters a live band?
NK: I don’t know. Live, I think is a different thing. It’s hard to get the live thing on a record. It’s two different worlds and I think we don’t want one without the other. It’s fun to be in the studio and do records and it’s fun to play live, you know? But I like the live album we did and we released this year from last time we played here – we recorded it. And there I think we kind of managed to kind of get the live feeling on the record but it’s still nice to listen to it as a record. And I’m not objective in that sense, hahaha! It’s like a “best of” album almost!
AN: Exactly! But you do look to capture that vibe, don’t you?
NK: I really like that we recorded it because we had really nice improvisational parts and stuff that doesn’t happen on the albums and live – then we do it. And so that’s the thing with Truckfighters live shows, there’s always some things that doesn’t happen on records – it just happens live. We try to improvise here and there because, you know music is supposed to be alive.
AN: This is my first Truckfighters gig- so what am I going to expect? You guys have quite a physical show, don’t you?
NK: Yeah, we’re quite crazy. We’re bringing the energy and I think playing live is about the flow of energy back and forth between the audience and the band and the vibe in the room. We like to get energised and a little bit crazy and the crowd goes crazy and we get more energy from that – so it’s adrenaline all over. It’s fun.
AN: Is there a best country for crazy crowds?
NK: No, not really. Everybody asks that question but I think wherever you go you get people crazy. If there’s a packed venue and it’s like warm and sweaty and there’s a rock’n roll vibe around, it can happen anywhere in the world.
AN: And you’re off to the USA next year? It’s going to be another busy year.
NK: Yeah, I mean this fall we did two European tours and we’re going to do two US tours in the spring and then Scandinavia where we couldn’t do now and I don’t know where it’s going to be, maybe Eastern Europe as well. There’s festivals, I don’t know how busy that’s going to be. We’ll see about that. Probably relatively busy as we have a new album now. In the fall, we’ll see. I hope that we can go back to South America and Australia quite soon because it’s warm and nice.
AN: I’m talking my own book here – how are the crowds in Australia?
NK: Oh great. It’s so good to play there. People love Truckfighters there. It’s fun.
AN: This much time on the road there’s obviously a physical toll. How do you unwind between gigs?
NK: I try to do as little as possible. If I have a day off maybe I take a walk. Otherwise I just eat and sleep and maybe work a bit on my computer. If I let the tension off, the tension that you have on tour – you know the tension you have when you’re on tour playing a show in the evening, you have a little bit of tension and give yourself a bit of adrenaline but if you don’t have a show in the evening it’s like, you’re so heavy! You’re legs, you can barely do anything. It’s like, dead almost.
At this point, their agent, Paul walks in. He’s dressed smartly and very jovial and chatty and there’s some good banter. Oskar follows him not long after and there’s general discussion over the length of tours, rebuilding broken guitars from a recent gig, the amount of brilliant merch at the gigs and the re-emergence of vinyl. When asked where they hadn’t been but would like to they both reply with Asia. Then there’s the benefits of a single deck tour bus over a double decker – Dango likes it when everyone can hang out together. There’s also talk of the benefits of FaceTime. Niklas and Oskar both have young families and it makes you realise the difficulties of being on the road for great lengths of time, away from loved ones.
Time has come for me to say farewell. I thank the lads and they oblige me with a fanboy photo. They’re great, down to earth guys. I race back up to the main room, doubly excited for this gig…
(Interview Johnny Zed)