Phoenix Musik Group
by Todd K Smith
This is a story of perseverance, dedication and following your heart. This is the story of Bloodlights. In July of 2005 the five members of the successful Norwegian band Gluecifer met for a band meeting at guitarist’s Captain Poon’s apartment. After eleven years together, five smash records and several international tours the band decided to call it a day.
The official reason for the break-up; singer Biff Malibu (who went on to pursue a career in journalism) and Raldo Useless wanted to dedicate their lives to something different than a touring rock band. The original plan was to take a year-long break, but just a couple of months into the year, it turned into something a little more dramatic. “I was really surprised, and far from happy about their decision” says Captain Poon as we walked from his interview with Oslo, Norway’s 105.8 Radio Tango FM. “I wasn’t ready to pack it in just yet, we’d just recorded Automatic Thrill, the best album of our career."
In minutes Poon and I sat on the lawn of Frognerparken (Vigelands Park). Ironically the city park hosted one of Gluecifer’s largest attended shows (10,000) so for Poon, this was holy ground. “I had a feeling something was going down,” he says. “We’d been going for ten years and a couple of the guys wanted to have a break. I can understand having time off now and then but I’m too restless to take a break. My thoughts are, ‘if you’re privileged enough to have a couple months off that’s cool’ but I wanna play music, not sit around and get bored.”
Many fans have questioned why Gluecifer dismantled at the top of their game. Poon set the record straight offering a few details. “We did ok, we had decent publishing and record deals. We were one of the last big bands that got a big record deal. If someone offered me now what we were offered back then, I’d feel like a millionaire. But it’s relative. When you’ve been going on many years and watching things grow, you take a lot of things for granted. We could have saved more money but when we were given money we spent it. We had everything we needed.”
“On the Gluecifer farewell tour everyone came out, all our old fans” says Poon. “We didn’t really think about capitalizing on it. We just wanted to say thank you for being there and taking this ride with us. We were the kind of band that had a great live reputation and played bigger venues because of it. We were selling merchandise like crazy but it’s because we built it brick-by-brick. In ’02 our label SPV had a US office in New Jersey. We were label mates with our good friends Monster Magnet. After the release of Automatic Thrill we joined forces and did a big tour together, which was really exciting for us. Personally, I thought with Automatic Thrill (‘04) we reached a new high in our song writing - and as a band, we we’re really coming along. We were collaborating on a good level, which made it rewarding. I knew Gluecifer wouldn’t last forever, but I had the feeling that we should have made at least one more record just for the music.”
After the “break-up” meeting, and in quick order, Poon was conducting interviews with local and regional press getting the word out that he was forming a new band. “That was five years ago,” says the guitarist. “I remember tapes and videos came in everyday. Some were really strange and weird, others were just plain shit. I was very picky about the personalities of the people I wanted in the band. I knew I had to spend a lot of time with them if we were going to make a real go of it.” Bloodlights came together a year later with Captain Poon as both guitarist and vocalist. He was joined by second guitarist Howie B, bassist Ron Elly and drummer Jonas Thire. “These were not really guys I knew before,” says Poon, “but we all had a similar vision and direction. To me I needed to work with cool people that were into it like me. That was the difference. They’re all from Norway and none have been in famous bands - just small underground bands. For them to get out on the road and play in different countries was a huge experience.”
Determined to get it right, the group spent months working up demos and writing. They tested the waters with the single “One Eye Open” in ’06 recorded for the Norwegian horror movie Fritt Vilt. Says Poon, “The guys (in the band) have turned out to be great friends of mine. They’re easy to collaborate with and we have grown together to the point we’re more confident. I will always be the leader no matter what band I’m in, but I had to adjust to the fact that I couldn’t hide behind anything. I was out there for slaughter. It was tough at the beginning because we needed to pull it off in the proper way. It’s been cool to see how things developed ya, know, rolling along getting better and better. We know we’re not Gluecifer, but my presence and guitar playing is still there. With our new record, Simple Pleasures I was a lot more comfortable and confident, but I can see with our next record I will be 100% satisfied.”
The Captain continues with optimistic zeal. “Whether Bloodlights reaches the same level as Gluecifer or not, I still needed an outlet. I have a pretty good knowledge how to make it as a band. Not that Gluecifer was the biggest band on the planet, but I was the one that made it as big as it got. Doing that again is hard work. You have to enjoy playing shows, doing interviews, rehearsing - the whole thing. You can’t worry about the level of your popularity you just need to enjoy it. As long as I’m doing that, I can see no reason to quit.” He goes on the say, “The positive things from the first Bloodlights’ record (released in ’07) was to get it going, to build a new band and get out on the road. When you’re from Norway, there are so many bands that seem to be scared to go out on the road and convert people one by one. We were lucky enough to use some of my old connections, and hit the road shortly after our debut.”
When asked about the momentum going into the second Bloodlights disc, the guitarists admits, “It’s easy to be super critical of yourself but it does give you a spark when you can do things better. With Simple Pleasures I feel that I have taken both the band and my own skills two steps further. The next step is to drag the guys a bit further into the songwriting, and let the band feeling behind the scenes shine through as much as it does on stage. We’re getting closer to the point I want us to be - the closer we get to each other and as a band the easier it is for me to open up and let them go with it.” Poon maintains that he still writes all the lyrics, plays most of the parts in pre-production and produces each song.
“On our first record, when we were working with Phil Caivano of Monster Magnet,” says Poon, “I was depending on someone else to bounce ideas off of. I needed someone to take some weight off my shoulders. I was having nightmares about all the sessions we were recording. I felt a lot was at stake. I had to throw myself out there be able to accept my own voice and where it was. There was a lot to deal with. But after we did it and put over a hundred shows under our belts, I got a lot more confident. When it came to Simple Pleasures I knew what I wanted, I didn’t want anyone else to tear my songs apart or swap them around.” The disc continues in Bloodlights guitar-driven style - heavily influenced by 1970’s and ‘80's hard rock. One can hear Thin Lizzy, Priest and Sabbath but also boogie elements of Status Quo and melodic touches of Cheap Trick.
Fans will also recognize Poon’s Les Paul front and center, celebrating riff after riff. “I stick with the Les Paul ‘cause I like how it looks and feels,” says Poon. “In the studio I might use a number of different amps for tone and color but ‘live’ I use the PV5150. Not because I want that metal sound but because it’s a very reliable amp and easy to get a cool rock sound. In our current set we play just about every song from the new record, no Gluecifer stuff because I need to put as much distance as possible between the two bands a least for now. I need to establish this new identity and I’m finding it very inspiring with the band and the audience. After all, it’s about having a good time together.”