Berkeley, California. In the middle of a long day of shopping for rare and unusual vinyl artifacts, we pause at a sidewalk coffee stand and catch up on the latest news of things musical and progressive from both sides of the Atlantic. Stefan Dimle is the bassist and a founding member of the Swedish band Landberk, whose latest release One Man Tell's Another is selling well and gaining respect for the band worldwide.
by Peter Thelen, Published 1995-07-01
photography by Pam Thompson
How do you like the United States?
Fantastic! I've been to the East Coast a couple of times, but this is my first time on the west side.
Has Landberk ever played outside of Sweden?
We've toured in Estonia — it's on the west side of Russia. We all went down in an old 1965 bus, and we played — it was really interesting because there have never been such progressive bands in Estonia. They had heard some rumors in 1971 that November from Sweden would come, but they never showed up. Then, 21 years later Landberk came, and they were really glad: "Finally a band came that plays real music." (laughs)... but they didn't have any money, so they paid us with diesel and T-shirts.
What kind of crowd did you draw there?
They were totally inexperienced in this kind of music. Some of the guys were into bands from Russia and Poland and Czechoslovakia — jazz progressive bands, but nobody knows much about any western music at all, so they were listening and trying to sort out what they heard. They tried to buy the CDs, but it was very expensive for them because the normal price for a CD or record in Russia is about two dollars. Our CDs cost ten dollars, so it's quite expensive for them.
Yeah, I can imagine that probably makes it impossible. Anywhere else?
We've been to Norway, it was very successful because we've released an album in Norway [vinyl of Lonely Land], and I think it's selling a lot in that country.
Is there a vinyl of the new one?
Hopefully coming on a label in Santa Cruz, I don't know (laughs). Mike [Piper] may be doing that for us. We want to put it out soon — as soon as possible.
Yeah, you should. If you put it out on vinyl, will you be doing it with lyrics in Swedish?
The label that put out the CD has the rights for the English version, but I don't think it will create any competition if a vinyl version comes out in America, so I guess that it would be in English. But we have the rights for the Swedish version, so we hope that someone will do that too.
Have you already recorded it in Swedish?
Yes, everything, the whole album.
I know there was a single that was available at Progfest...
Yes! we didn't expect that anyone outside of Sweden would be interested in Swedish lyrics, but I heard a rumor that people went crazy and bought all fifty...
...Oh, we're interested!
...Because at that point the single hadn't officially been released yet [It was scheduled for release in January '95], so it was a little exclusive taste of the single that was to come.
So everything on the album will be released...
Yes, and then we are going to Italy next week, then on to Germany. I know in Italy they've already booked a studio up in the mountains in the north of Italy, and they want us to record some Van der Graaf Generator tracks. And I guess it's going to be out, hopefully either as a single or on a compilation in Italy, and also maybe as extra tracks on an American version...
That's great. What tracks will you be recording?
In the very beginning we were thinking about "Afterwards," but it could be "Refugees" as well. I like them both, but I think "Afterwards" is one we can develop to the 90s sound. At first we were thinking about taking something a little newer, from Pawn Hearts or Still Life or like that, but we wanted to keep it basic, and the basic albums are the first two.
Is Van der Graaf a big influence for you?
Yeah... I think they have some sad and moody touches that we like, because both our albums are a little sad and dark... and Peter Hammill has proven he is the king of that kind of music (laughs).
What about other influences?
Besides Van der Graaf, there's a few Scandinavian things that influenced me a lot. You know, Bo Hansson who did Lord of the Rings, I think that's one of the best albums ever made. And I think we have a touch of that.
I agree, great album, from a long time ago. I'm a little surprised that people still remember it! That was like 1972.
And we're also influenced by all those great Italian bands we've discovered, like Museo Rosenbach and Il Baletto di Bronzo, and French bands like Sandrose... you know them?
Yes, Jean Pierre Alarcen's group, they were very good!
Yes, I mean with the exception of the girl that sings, I think we're influenced a lot from that album.
The singer is good! I like her.
Yeah, once you get used to her. The first time you might be a little shocked, trying to sort out what kind of music it is.
What about Reine, your guitarist. What are his influences?
He's so much into Swedish folk music, and he's also very much into psychedelic music these days. So he's gotten influence from the old violin players in the ancient Swedish tradition, and also from the American psychedelic guitarists of the late 60s and early 70s.
What do you think about the new Italian music that's coming out now?
I've heard Men of Lake, and I've heard Devil Doll. An amazing band....
Now that's dark! (laughs)
Yes, Mister Doctor and his crew. So we hope we can keep in touch with them, we're going to play in Napoli and Milan. The Rome gig got canceled, it was really too bad. Anekdoten played in Rome, and it was really successful, but the guy who arranged the concert is not working at the radio station that promoted the concert anymore. He couldn't do it. So we're going all the way from Sweden to Italy, and we're not even playing in the capital.
Will you be headlining or supporting?
We have a manager that arranges everything both in Italy and Sweden, so we don't know if there's going to be another band. Maybe Devil Doll hopefully (laughs) that would be a good fight! Another interesting thing about Italy, they're really into dark and mystical things — like in the 80s they had all those Lucio Fulci and Dario Argento movies with Goblin playing the soundtracks... so I think it's a good market for Landberk.
So it's only going to be two gigs?
No, well, the promoter will be paying us for the whole week. Napoli and Milan will be the big gigs, large concert halls seating four or five hundred people. But I think there will be some club gigs in the smaller villages as well — but before I came to the States I didn't have any information about these.
How big of an attendance do you get at your shows in Sweden?
After the new album came out last summer, first we played together with Anekdoten — we went to the south of Sweden where this kind of music is starting to get popular again, we were invited to play in Goteborg, and we played for... it was a full house, maybe five hundred people. The audience went crazy, because they haven't [had bands like this playing live] there. In Stockholm, they are more used to it — Stockholm is more extreme, so we can only play at small clubs there.
It's the same way here, just small crowds — even at the festivals, it's really just an underground thing at this point, and frankly that's the way I'd like it to stay. Don't want the big labels to get hold of something they don't understand — like before...
I don't think it's going to be so big, but I'm glad there's some kind of movement in progressive music, that people wake up from their empty visions and realize that [this kind of music] is something that is needed in the world (laughs). People ask me — when I'm talking about such strange bands — they say "What kind of band is that?" I just say it's intelligent music for intelligent people... and they have to turn their Madonna album off and ask.
How many copies of the new CD have you sold?
When I left Sweden it was exactly three thousand.
That's very good.
...And I hope there is going to be a new pressing of it before we go to Italy, otherwise there is no need for us to go there if we couldn't sell any of our CDs.
So the first pressing is all sold out?
They first made two thousand, then after those sold they pressed a thousand more. Those are all sold out now. And the new single has already been played on Swedish radio a couple times, there's only one — it's not like the US where there are hundreds of radio stations. In Sweden there is only one major station for the whole country — the government owns it.
Are there any privately owned radio stations?
Yes, there are. There are even a few that are English speaking, because there are so many people coming from all over the world to live here. That station told us they were interested in playing some progressive things, but we haven't heard anything yet. In Sweden it was illegal to have commercial or private radio until just one year ago, so now they are just starting to build it up. Hopefully in the near future we'll have radio with wider musical tastes, but up to today that's not the case.
From this point, what's next for Landberk recording-wise. Do you have some new material ready?
We have two new tracks that are very strong, in the same category as the new album, One Man Tell's Another, but we have to develop some more.... The studio where we recorded One Man Tell's Another, it's called Silence, it's a very famous studio, all of the great bands from the 70s... Samla, Bo Hansson, Kebnakajse, and all those bands have recorded in that studio. It's out in the deep forest, it's a long journey to go there so we're thinking about next time, maybe taking a holiday and staying there for a couple weeks, recreating and getting a good atmosphere before we start recording. Otherwise, every time a band will record, they go into a studio close to where they live, they just go in there after work or take a weekend or something, and they never take the time to get into the right mood. They record the material they have, but they need a little more soul to the music. I think next time we'll be in the studio a week before we even look at a tape machine.
What is Silence studio like?
A fantastic studio. They have loads of material in the basement that we didn't know exists! Things like Jimi Hendrix playing with Bo Hansson, Pink Floyd with Syd Barrett in a basement in Stockholm, lots of other things that people would go wild about. You see these books about the complete recordings of Jimi Hendrix, but we found a lot of tapes in the basement of that studio that no one even knows about! And for those of us who are musical freaks, who love to listen, it was... ecstasy the whole week we were there, we could hardly concentrate on recording our material.
So you got a chance to listen to a lot of that?
Yes, but he refused to tape it for us.
Understandable. Who owns all that material?
Anders Lind, he's owned Silence since around 1968 or so. But the tape machines and microphones he bought in '67 were even better than the ones used by the government's radio stations, so all those recordings of Pink Floyd and Jimi Hendrix were all top quality.
Have you ever had the opportunity to work with any of these musicians from the 70s, like Bo Hansson?
He is one of our big favorites, but the only place you'll find him now is outside the liquor store begging for money.
That's too bad.
Yeah, really sad. But you have other things, like some of the guys from Kebnakajse and Flasket Brinner, they are still vital and in the same condition.
Ooooh! They're even better now than they were in the 70s. I never saw them in the 70s, but I've met maybe fifty people that have seen them in the 70s and seen them now, and they say they are even better now. And if you look at pictures, you can't tell the difference — they look exactly the same from 1974 to 1994.
I saw that Ad Perpetuam Memoriam will be releasing a live Samla show, though I don't know if it's a recent recording or old stuff.
Didn't know. We played... we had a Swedish progfest in late 1993, we called it "Tord-festival", Tord of Änglagård arranged the whole thing (laughs) and there was Anekdoten, Landberk, Samla, Per Lindh was playing that night, it was a great night, and Samla did an amazing concert, the audience went crazy so they played 20 or 30 minutes longer than they were supposed to.
What about Roine Stolt?
He plays on the Per Lindh album and he's made a solo abum called Flower King. But there's not going to be any reunion with Kaipa. I've talked to the guys and they say it won't work. Trettioåriga Kriget are going to play this spring for the first time since 1976... and they are also in perfect condition. I know Reine [Landberk guitarist] saw them rehearsing one time, and he said they sound exactly like they did on Krigssång.
That's exciting. They were a great band.
Yes, they were, and one of my favorites. And that album Krigssång is the only album that Anekdoten, Änglagård, and Landberk have as a reference, if we talk [about early influences]. That's the common reference point, but otherwise the three bands are completely different, as you know.
What about these other Swedish bands? Apparently they are still together but we don't hear about them much. Isildurs Bane?
They are touring, they have always been touring, but they have never been... we have this society in Sweden called "Crimson," we're all progressive bands, we have gigs every Wednesday, there's a club in Stockholm, all those bands are playing. If somebody comes to Sweden they should concentrate coming on Wednesday because there's always good music on Wednesday! But Isildurs Bane have always been outside this, they get all their money from the government, so they are touring in Sweden together with big musicians like Bjorn J'son Lindh and Janne Schaffer and all those old heroes. I just had contact with them in 1986, and that's nearly ten years ago... and they're touring every year, in schools and everywhere... so they're not into this 'movement' — they're a little outside, but they're playing fantastic music.
And what about Tribute?
Yes! New Views was their album In the mid 80s — they were active and playing everywhere, and for awhile they had that guy from France... [Pierre Moerlen]... from Gong — he was playing drums with them. They were really active, but then suddenly they disappeared, so I haven't heard anything. And I know, I think it was Änglagård who had an ad out for rare equipment like Minimoogs and strange 70s synthesizers, and I think one of the members of Tribute answered the ad, and that's the only connection any of us have had with them, so I don't think they exist anymore, and Pierre Moerlen has probably gone back to France. Of course they have an album with Tribute that they called Gong!
I haven't actually heard it...
Are you a collector?
I've been collecting since the 80s, but Reine — the guitar player, he's working for the Swedish music museum, and they realize now in 1994, that music from 1967 to '75 has become ancient. So now, twenty years after we have to try and find everything from that time — pictures and tapes and records... instead of doing it when the records came out, they could have put them aside for the museum 20 years later but they never think like that. Now it's gone too far, for twenty years all the Japanese and American dealers and collectors have bought them up, now they are impossible to find. Then the Swedish music museum understands "Ah, we've got to collect everything for the museum," and they have employed Reine for that job. He has a tough time, but he's really come up with some great things.
Does he have to travel around a lot to find things...
He gets help from the biggest newspapers, they give him free ads, and like they'll do an article about the museum and him, and people who read the paper will hopefully contact him, they'll say like "Hey, I've got some posters here from 1969, there was a festival here in my hometown and maybe you're interested," and so he gets things that way. And I've been collecting so long, Reine used to come over to my place and write down some private pressings from the early 70s and like that. They can only have them in a discography, they can't find the records anymore because they're too rare.
How many records in your personal collection?
Today it's about two thousand, maybe — it's not so much. But in '92 I had a problem with a burglar, who took nearly a thousand records, so if I still had them it would be closer to three thousand. There were a lot of rare things and once-in-a-lifetime records that disappeared, and it was no dealer or collector, it was just a junkie who happened to find my record collection and took it.
That's real sad. I worry about that too.
And so for a couple weeks I just stopped collecting. I told my friends "come on over and buy whatever you want because I'm getting rid of all my records, and I didn’t want to hear the mention of music anymore." I was really tired having to clean up after a burglar when he'd stolen your things and took your records. But after a couple of weeks I decided to start all over again. And until now I haven't found all those rare things that I lost, but I've found all kinds of other rare things.
I've just heard the album by the band Octopus from Norway...
Yes! Yes! It's a really rare one. I don't have it myself, but it's been offered to me for... in dollars, maybe eight or nine hundred dollars, but I didn't buy it. It's very very rare.
...But it's a very good album, I would hope that someday it will get a proper reissue, either on vinyl or CD.
There is a band called Host from Norway, they are also a favorite of Anekdoten, Änglagård, and Landberk — a common band that we all like and a very important influence. They made their last album in '76, but there was a compilation in '77. You should hear them, they are fantastic.
Now that we've completely wandered off, I'd like to get back to the subject of the new album. You've sold 3000, that’s very commendable!
Yeah, we started selling it in August, so that's just between August and the end of December...
And some people are just hearing about the album now, so it seems like it probably has a lot of potential sales left.
Sadly we had some problems with rumors that it was sounding like U2, I heard someone say that the guitar riff in the first track, it was a little too familiar and similar to something by U2!
Yes, I think I know the person who said that!
Lots of people have said it. And I say please listen to the rest of the song and the rest of the album, and you won't even hear one second of a U2 riff in the rest of it anywhere. And actually, that riff originally came from an old ancient Swedish folk song (laughs)... and I don't think that U2 has ever heard this Swedish folk song (more laughs), so I think it's just a coincidence that it sounds like U2. To our ears, and to people in Sweden it sounds like Swedish folk music, so we have to explain this before the rumors get out of control. We are very satisfied with the album.
You need to put those fires out before they get out of hand!
And that's why it took so long to make it. We have one track and we play it again and again, then we give it a rest for a month or two, then we take it up again, and then ask ourselves if it's good enough to put on an album. And the tracks that haven't come along this far, we just drop them and go on.
Do you ever reuse them later?
No. Maybe we use some parts of an old track. Maybe we'll have some nice floating part that we'll take out of an old song and use it with a new one.
How does the songwriting usually come about?
Well, on the first album it was only me and the guitar player. We were the only band members as well, it was just a two man band — he was just sixteen years old, we were sitting in his parents' house with just two acoustic guitars, and we wrote all the tracks like that. At first we thought maybe of doing an acoustic album — just the two of us, a Reine & Stefan album, but neither of us could sing, so we asked Patric to join... and he loved the idea of singing an acoustic album. Later we realized we really needed some rhythm on some of the songs so eventually we brought in a drummer and keyboard player, and then we had a whole group. But by that time those tracks we had written were already a year old, and we thought we should have [gotten a full band together] half a year before, but we hadn't done it. So when we went into the studio we just improvised the tracks. Me and Reine knew the songs and led the others, but the other members had to improvise their parts.
They did a good job. I wouldn't have known. Just to be sure, we're talking about Lonely Land? Doesn't sound improvised to me!
We had the structure, me and Reine, because they had no idea — we were just singing and showing them on the guitar, "This is how it should sound... do what you can." But after that the drummer said he wasn't in the mood for joining a band, so he quit. Then we were in the same position again, but we were four members. So we started writing new tracks, and there were lots of new drummers — I think we had four drummers in the band before we found Jonas who is our new drummer... well, he's not a new drummer anymore, he's been in the band one and a half years, but everyone calls him the "new" drummer because he wasn't on the first album. He's the only "real" musician in the band actually — he can organize and put things together and tell us listen to this and listen to this... and that's not usual for a drummer to take command and arrange and conduct an orchestra...
...It's great that he can do that, though...
...And that's I think why our new album is very rhythmic, because he has such a natural feeling for it. And I notice in a Norwegian magazine called Hybris... (pause, then laughs)
No, it's true, a very nice magazine from Oslo... they've voted Jonas as number one among drummers in the current progressive scene. He's just 21 years old, he has lots of things to do. Stevie Ray Vaughn's bass player was in Sweden two weeks ago, and they needed a drummer for the tour, and the only drummer that was good enough was Jonas, so he helped them out.
Did you play many gigs early on, like around the time of Lonely Land?
Yes, yes! Together with... we were like a combo Änglagård, Anekdoten, and Landberk at that time. I don't think Änglagård and Anekdoten... yes, they did play once together only the two of them, but otherwise it was either Änglagård with Landberk or Anekdoten with Landberk. It was a really fun time, because all three bands were really unknown to most people. If you would have put on a poster "Änglagård Anekdoten Landberk" — nobody would have known of any of these bands! So people would arrive skeptical, thinking, "What is this progressive evening with three unknown bands?" And now bands like Änglagård, like they've sold seven thousand copies of Hybris, and Anekdoten has sold five thousand of Vemod, and now we are three thousand with our new album and Änglagård is two thousand with their new album... So those skeptic persons who laughed behind our back at that time, they have to shut their mouths today.
Yeah, they would say (in a nasal voice) "Oh, you're kind of a new Marillion wave, ha ha ha" (laughs)...and they didn't know anything about it ! Today, those bands I mention are selling more than most of the pop bands in Sweden.
Are they really?
Yeah, the band that was mentioned as '93's best pop band only sold seven thousand records, and that's as much as Änglagård has done. They just haven't been accepted yet in Sweden because they are playing progressive music... but they've been traveling all over the world now to play it.
Yeah, most of the people who came to Progfest 93 had not heard of Änglagård beforehand, and most people went home as true believers — with their disc — they ran out of CDs to sell! Probably most of the people who came were familiar only with IQ.
I'm glad for that! There was a festival... I can't remember if it was this summer or last summer, a progressive festival in Sweden, and I heard a rumor that there were three bands that were not welcome: Änglagård, Landberk, and Anekdoten (laughs). And I asked Peter [Anekdoten] "Why are we not welcome?" He said "Because we are not progressive, we are regressive" (laughs). They don't want any regressive bands in the festival.
So what do you see for the future, as far as where Landberk is going?
Well, when we recorded the last album we said it would be one year until we do our next album — since it took two years between Lonely Land and One Man Tell's Another, so it's like the end of a tradition, now we can do one every year, so the people who like us can depend on that. We really don't want to have pressure on us, but we really do want to have [the next album] out by August or September. So we're working on that, and I know Anekdoten will be going into the studio now... I know they want to do the same thing, they want to put an album out very soon, because we're running out of time. People expect that we should come out with new albums, and to keep this movement alive, I think it's good...
But it can also be dangerous for the material if the band is in distress, and they try to do something...
...Yeah, If you're not ready and you don't have good material written. I guess you need to have two hours of material written so you can throw an hour's worth away and keep only the best. Will the band be taking any new directions?
I think we're quite satisfied with the new album, and of course we're going to develop in some direction, but I don't think it's going to be in a negative way... We have a drum player who writes really good tracks, and both me and Reine are still doing our old thing, and if we put all those things together it's a real nice mix... Landberk mix. Michael Piper has shown me some catalogs — and I have seen it myself, that the sound of Landberk on the new album... It's really nothing that existed before. It's a new sound that people can use as a reference.
I suppose you'll always end up being compared with Anekdoten and Änglagård, if only because you are part of the same scene... but in many ways you seem to have more potential because you are a bit more accessible than the other two...
That's an interesting point. Änglagård and Anekdoten are such high-tech instrumental musicians, and they can create fantastic music, and they have a very big audience, but I think that audience comes all from the progressive scene. I think that the Landberk sound maybe can...
Yeah, and maybe can tease people to come. The average person maybe can listen to Landberk today, and then go on to listen to Anekdoten and Änglagård the next day. When you get used to the Landberk sound, it's maybe because it's a little familiar, it's not all instrumental, it's not fifteen minute tracks.
I think to some extent Anekdoten may have that ability too, maybe to reach out a bit to fans of the hard rock grunge sound... like Pearl Jam. I remember in the mid 70s when King Crimson were at their peak, they were hugely popular, selling out stadiums everywhere they went — not because they were progressive, but because they were perceived as some kind of metal band.
Yes, it's a good way to invite the 'normal' people to the strange kind of music. I think Anekdoten and Änglagård really have to survive on their audience, the people that say "I really want a masterpiece high tech symphonic band." I hope the wider audience will come to Landberk, and easily through Landberk to this kind of music...
Yes, I think they will...
Because you need both. You need that dreamy atmospheric sound, and you need that high-tech symphonic sound.
Yes, but at the same time it's a real rock sound, it's not like... Jadis or something like that... which to my ears is really closer to pop.
Yeah, I remember when "Final Countdown" was popular, by Europe in 1983 or so. I think that's when everyone was into American FM radio rock... and now when I listen to the new SI bands, some of them are very similar to Europe, and they call themselves symphonic rock bands. If you listen to that song, and then you listen to the songs by modern bands like Jadis or Pendragon, I think that "The Final Countdown" is much more symphonic.
Well, I guess we've covered just about everything! do you have any parting words or thoughts for the Exposé readers?
Well, I hope that this movement with progressive music is going to grow bigger and bigger, and maybe big enough so we'll have an influence on big festivals... like so not only pop and grunge bands [will be featured], but maybe there will be a space there for some of this good music as well.
Yes, I remember the days when concerts and festivals featured all kinds of music, you could have a folk singer opening for a hard-rock band. Look at the lineup at the original Woodstock. That spirit of open-mindedness seems to have disappeared.
That's a good point. Before there was either music or no music. Now there are so many categories. This is neo-prog, this is symphonic-prog, this is grunge... everything. I read an interview with Smashing Pumpkins guitar player, I think he's about my age, he said, "When I was a kid, I could go one day with a David Bowie record under one arm, and a Judas Priest under the other, and nobody would care... they would think 'hey, this guy has good taste in music'. Today you can't do that, people will think you're crazy." I think we have to attempt to remove those borders from around our music.
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