Glenn Hughes

Liquor and Poker
TCE interviews Dregen

“Everybody has a say in the band and the songs. But, like in hockey every team needs a coach. So maybe I’m the coach.” Dregen

Sometime miracles do happen. When Sweden’s Backyard Babies announced their tour opening for Social Distortion we were sadden to see Portland failed to make the list. As fate would have it, a month after returning home and with a killer showing at South By South West (SXSW) in their back pocket, the tattooed four-piece returned to the US and this time the Rose city was given the chance to play host. Easily one of the most exciting bands to see live this year, Backyard Babies did not disappoint. Their set list followed current compilation Tinnitus closely. Live versions of “Brand New Hate”, “UFO Romeo” and Minus Celcius” were much more vicious on stage than under the confines of the car radio.

Dressed like vagabonds from some urban ghetto the band delivered no-nonsense guitar rock like it was their last day on earth. Several references were made from the stage as to how good it felt to be playing in front of a “real” rock crowd as opposed to the mid-West seat sitters. With a bandana around his head and acting more like a pirate than a singer Nicke Borg spit his way through half a dozen songs before taking a breather. Most eyes were fixed on ex-Hellacopter guitarist Dregen who pulled out one power chord after another followed by a host of classic solos. “Highlights” and “A Song For The Outcast” shined like jewels in the night but it was “Colours” that brought the show to it shivering climax.

Sweat drenched and properly satisfied the band closed down after nearly an hour and a half of Sweden’s finest. Bassist Johan Blomqvist and drummer Peder Carlsson proved to be unstoppable as a rhythm section and though somewhat shielded from the limelight made their presence known as the building continued to shake ten full minutes after they walked off stage. “It’s very much a democracy in our band,” Dregen told us shortly before the band took the stage earlier that night. “Everybody has a say in the band and the songs. But, like in hockey every team needs a coach. So maybe I’m the coach.”

For a band that’s been together for 17 years it a bit stunning that they are only now seeing inroads into the US. Their recent worldwide deal with Century Media’s Liquor and Poker has much to do with their current Stateside assault. However, to more fully appreciate the band one needs to shell out some serious cash and purchase 2003’s Stockholm Syndrome, 2001’s Making Enemies Is Good and 1991’s Total 13. “We just did a live record called ‘Live In Paris’ which is a great way to hear some of our older songs already established in Europe,” says Dregen. “Hopefully our past couple of record will be issued in the US with our recent record signing over here. We hope so – I know it gets expensive to buy our CDs online because most of them are from Japan or Germany.

What sets this particular band out from the rest of the Swed rush is their melodic and very catchy songwriting. Much like the bands they claim as influences including The Clash (who they wrote a very cool song about), MC5 and all things Detroit, Hanoi Rocks and Motorhead, Backyard Babies feed off of punk pop with a fist-to-wall delivery. Say’s Dregen, “Nicke and me write most the songs. But things have changed a lot. For instance with Stockholm Syndrome Peter, our drummer, has been involved in the writing. Our next record will be more of a ‘band’ record. We plan to all do the writing.”

A good song can die on the vine without the aid of a good producer. These guys not only use the likes of Joe Barresi (Queen of the Stone Age) but one of the best sounding recording studios in Stockholm. “We’ve always been involved in the production,” claims the guitarist. “We even co-produce everything now. The last two albums were done with Joe (Barresi), an American guy who’s worked with some of the best bands in the industry. He knows what we want from our sound and does a great job getting us there. We love Stockholm Syndrome and the way it came out but we want the next record to be tougher sounding – more dirty. We always try to make happy songs – rock ‘n roll happy songs - but there always seems to be some fuckin’ bullshit going on that we’re pissed about so we end up writing about that.”

Dregen says their lives have changed a lot of the past 18-months, which effects the direction they take their writing. “We’ve been playing bigger stages. We went out with AC/DC for two months. We did like 35 shows - all big arenas. That will defiantly influence the kind of song we want to write for the next record. It’s different when you play clubs. You tend to write songs that work well in a club situation – maybe more punk. But, when you play in larger places to more people you tend to write for that vibe. I want the next record to be a bit more noisy – something we can play to 50,000 people a night.

Most know Dregen was the guitarist for The Hellacopters prior to Strings joining the band. He left on amicable terms and remains fast friends to this day. He tells the story, “The Hellacopters were doing their shows with the Rolling Stones a couple years ago and Nicky invited me come along. We were recording Stockholm Syndrome and I needed to put down my guitar tracks. There was a short period of time that we had the studio and Joe (Barresi), was over in Sweden putting the thing together. I called Joe and said, “Joe, I ain’t coming to the studio tomorrow. I’m taking the day off. The Hellacopters are opening for the Stones – I’m going to get drunk.”

With years of experience under their belts and sold distribution worldwide Dregen feels Backyard Babies are ready for the next big step and hopes that by combining forces with other bands from Sweden they can break a frustrating and almost anti-rock market. “The biggest crowd we’ve played for so far was probably the Reading festival – around 65,000 were they and diggin’ what we do. We’re off to tour Germany and England and for our next record, if everything goes right - we hope to have it out in March or April next year - we’d like to tour with the Hellacopters or Turbonegro. I could see a package tour with all three bands on one ticket. Then we could move up the venues and show the US what real rock is all about.”

Wouldn’t ‘t that be nice!

Backyard Babies, Liquor and Poker Records