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For fans of progressive rock, the decade from 1970 to 1979 has always stood as the heyday of the style, when virtually all of the elements fell into place. English and American bands are best known, but in other countries around the world, similar kinds of innovation were flourishing; in Sweden, the young men who called themselves Trettioåriga Kriget produced several albums that caught the attention of listeners outside their native land. The band remained active until 1980, but the turn of the century saw them getting back together and making new music.
by Jon Davis, Published 2019-01-22
Unlike many bands of the 70s who have recently reformed, Trettioåriga Kriget features all of the same musicians who recorded some of their classic albums of the 70s. Their new albums have been well-received, and avoid the pitfalls that have struck so many bands with such a long history: either falling back on rehashes of past glories or trying to adapt to newer styles that do not come naturally. I was able to ask Stefan Fredin about the band’s history and experiences via email. Stefan is the band’s bassist and primary composer.
What are your earliest musical memories? How did your conception of music develop?
Without any doubt hearing The Beatles “She Loves You” for the first time as a ten-year-old in 1963. This was the defining moment for me. After that I was hooked! It was like a new world suddenly opened up for me. A world with bright colors and hope making you wanna do music on your own too. I still think that song is one of the greatest singles ever released. Through the 60s I bought and listened to all the great groundbreaking and influential albums who formed the basics of rock as we we know it today. Being a teenager in the 60s with all this great new music coming out was pure heaven, really.
What kind of formal schooling do you have in music?
I did take lessons in classical guitar playing from the age of 12 for a year. I also have to mention my music teacher in high school who always supported me and the other founding members of TK and really believed in us.
When you were a teenager (or younger), what music inspired you to become a musician?
Firstly, of course, The Beatles. Later on: Cream, Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, The Doors, and the other West Coast psychedelic bands. What influenced us most though to form TK was probably hearing the first King Crimson album In the Court of the Crimson King. We were all completely knocked out by it! I also have to mention a rather obscure American band called Touch. Their first and only album was very influential for us when we formed TK. I still think that album is a masterpiece!
The group originally formed in Saltsjöbaden. Can you tell me a little about this town?
Saltsjöbaden is a small village 15km southeast of Stockholm, situated just by the sea. Actually is more of a resort. It was built as a resort at the end of the 19th Century. Only 10.000 people live here permanently, but of course there are many tourists coming here, especially in summertime. We have two big hotels here.
How did TK come together? Did the original members already know each other?
Yes. We all knew each other attending the same high school here in Saltsjöbaden. I, Pocke (Öhrström, guitar), and Johan (Gullberg, drums) had already been playing together in a trio called Erkson Drive Car playing more psychedelic rock influenced by the American West Coast bands. One evening in June 1970 we were all together in the kitchen of our friends, the brothers Hasse and Jåpe (Persson), having coffee and chatting when Pocke suggested that we all who were there ought to form a band. Not Hasse and Jåpe of course, who did not play any instruments, but the rest of us there. We all agreed that it was a a very good idea and TK was born. Almost immediately we started to rehearse using our high school’s main hall as rehearsal room. Hasse and Jåpe would however play a huge part in the TK history later as roadies, sound engineers, and supportive friends!
Did the band write original music from the start, or did you play other people’s music?
It was decided already on that June evening in 1970 when we formed the band that we only would play original music.
Listening to the first album, it seems that you had a distinctive style right from the start. What were the influences that led you to this sound?
Pocke and Johan left the band after we recorded our first album, Glorious War, which of course was not released until 2004. In 1971, Robert (Zima) joined guitar and vocals as a replacement. In 1972 Dag K. (Kronlund, keyboards) and Olle (Thörnvall, guitar and harmonica) left, leaving the band to consist of me, Dag (Lundquist, drums), and Robert. We decided we needed a guitar player and started to audition players. Through these auditions we found Chris (Christer Åkerberg). After he joined we rehearsed intensely for one and a half years. During this intense rehearsal period we managed to find our style, I think. I also felt that I was getting more confident as a song writer. Of course, Olle returned to the band also as a lyricist, which was very important. I think our influences during this period was bands like King Crimson, Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Yes, and Colosseum.
I think that the decision to have lyrics in Swedish was a very good one. Was it difficult to decide not to sing in English, and did your management or label disagree?
It was an easy decision really. Most bands and artists at that time in Sweden did sing in Swedish so it felt natural for us to do it... Remember that at that time there was no Internet or anything so we could not even imagine that anyone outside Sweden would be interested in our music.
What do you see as the highlights of the band’s existence? Which album (or albums) are you particularly proud of?
Clearly my favorite albums are the self titled debut (1974), Krigssång (1976) and Elden av år (2004), which of course is our comeback album after the long 23 year hiatus.
TK has managed to stay together with essentially the same personnel for a very long time. How is it that you’ve been able to keep working with the same people together for so long?
I think it’s basically because the band was founded on friendship rather than finding very good musicians to make a career. Friendship is still and will always be the foundation for TK.
Tell me about how the band decided to start making new music again in about 2002.
I have to give credit to Olle for that. He felt we had more to give and was always pushing me, Dag, and Chris to start to rehearse again. Finally we agreed and started to rehearse. Not very intense in the beginning. Just playing trying to find the feel and joy… Slowly we worked our way back together, even starting to write new songs. In 2003 we decided to enter the studio again to record two tracks for a possible compilation album, though in the studio we all felt that we really were working on a new album. That album of course became Elden av år!
When you went into the studio to record Elden av år, what was different or the same from when you made the earlier albums?
Obviously being 22 years since the last time we were in studio recording together a lot things were different including the studio technology. At the same time much was the same including our work process and the relation between us. It did not feel like it was such a long time since we were recording together.
Entering the studio our original plan was to just record two new tracks for a planned Best-of album. However… as we started to record we all felt that we were actually working on a new TK album. I quickly wrote two more new songs with Olle and we also had some unfinished songs from the 70s that we finished and recorded. Also there is an instrumental (“Nightflight -77”) which was actually recorded in the 70s and somehow nicely fit into the album. I remember that at least I was very nervous in the beginning of the recording wondering if we could still pull this off.
What kind of reception have the new albums received in Sweden? Is the press supportive, and have you been able to attract new young fans?
Especially Elden av år got very good reviews here in Sweden. We were also pleasantly surprised to find that we still had an audience. We did not know anything about that at the time of the recording of the album. Remember that in the 70s, 80s, and even a big part of of the 90s there was no Internet. So we had no clue about any potential audience even if we made a one off reunion concert in Stockholm in 1996 which attracted a lot of fans. Surely we have noticed many young and new fans at our concerts during this “bonus round,” as we jokingly call this time since reuniting the band.
Can you think of any ways that TK or your music is different now than it was before the hiatus?
I think our music is a bit different now than before our long hiatus. Being older we now work more with atmosphere and ideas, where before the hiatus we had a bit more emphasis on our playing - and to be honest even showing off a bit, as young musicians sometimes like to do! I mean… we were only 21 years old when we recorded and released our debut album. Though I still love that first album for its energy and refusing to compromise.
What is the process for writing TK songs? Does it start with Olle’s lyrics, or does he come up with lyrics for musical ideas you have? Do you usually work everything out before presenting to the others, or is there some collaboration?
In 90% of the cases I come up with the music first. Olle also prefers it this way, since he thinks his lyrics become a bit stiff when he writes them first. Usually I have a melody, chord change, or some riff and then play it to Olle humming the melody for him. If he likes my musical ideas he takes them back home and writes the lyrics to them. Olle and I then go through the song one more time to check if it works. In the final stage, I present the song to the band and the arranging of the song begins. This can sometimes be a very time consuming process. When we are rehearsing for a new album we also jam a lot and sometimes we use instrumental ideas from those jams in the songs.
Do any of the band members have other musical activities aside from TK?
Yes. Dag has produced and recorded many of the most popular artists here in Sweden. Myself, I have been releasing solo records during our long hiatus — between 1983 and 1988 I released one album and four singles. The album has just been re-released this year and is now available digitally. Robert has been running his own cover band playing nice old disco hits! Christer did make some singles with a band called George T. Rolin Band in the 80s. He has also been working as studio engineer.
It’s been announced that you’ll be playing the Seaprog festival in Seattle in June 2019. Can you tell me about the band’s past experiences playing in America?
We have only played two times in America before. In 2004 we played the Progday Festival in North Carolina. I have very fond memories of that show since it was the first time ever we played in America. I still remember the excitement I felt just before we were gonna go up on stage there! Then I was honestly almost shocked to learn that we even had a lot fans there. I really did not expect that. After the show many fans showed up even with our old vinyls from the 70s wanting them signed. A complete and very pleasant surprise!
Our second show in America was at NEARfest in Pennsylvania (2009). I have very fond memories from that show too, but to be honest I was not completely happy with our performance there. So we are very very much looking forward to play Seaprog in Seatlle. It will be only our third show ever in America and of course our first ever show on the West Coast.
There are many excellent bands in Sweden these days, and from listening to many of them, I think that TK must be one of their influences. Do you have contact with any of the newer bands? If so, in what way?
Yes, we do have contact with some of the newer bands like Opeth, Änglagård, and Anekdoten. All of them have told us that we have influenced them, which is of course makes us happy. It does not get any better than learning your music influenced others. It makes you think that you must at least have done something right. Having gotten all those positive and good vibes back from both our fans and other bands have made us so very happy. When we first started out we could not even have imagined this... This trip we have done have really exceeded all our hopes and expectations!
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