Dom Feta Åren är Förbi
by Todd K Smith
As the Hellacopters were taking a break after two years of touring in support of their critically acclaimed 2002 By The Grace Of God LP, lead guitarist Robert “Strings” Dahlqvist expanded out into a solo side project known as Thunder Express. The band consisted of Dahlqvist as guitarist and singer, second guitarist Robert Pehrsson (Death Breath), drummer Jesper Karlsson (Diamond Dogs) and bassist Jens Lagergren (Hello Saferide). The band’s name sprang from the group’s love for the MC5 and their 2004 debut included 10 tracks reflecting a healthy dose of ‘the 5’, Stones, Cheap Trick and Faces influence. Though the disc gave Dahlqvist a musical outlet during the Hellacopter’s downtime, it was seen as a one-off project done primarily for fun. In 2007, after another extended Hellacopter’s break following the ’Rock & Roll Is Dead’ tour, Thunder Express resurfaced with record number two Republic Disgrace, proving the band were now a serious venture. The record continued in the same vein as the first, though with a bit more Kiss in the writing style and included the exotic vocal pipes of east African born singer Jaqee.
A year later Dahlqvist was operating the group under the Swedish name Dundertåget (a rough translation of Thunder Express). The line up remained the same and several songs from the earlier TE albums were re-recorded in Swedish for the Dundertåget debut Skaffa ny Frisyr. For the conservative English, a switch to Swedish rock ‘n’ roll maybe a leap, but for the adventurous, the musically soundscape is not only rewarding but also magical. This year, 2010, Dundertåget release their most accomplished work to date under the heading Dom Feta Åren är Förbi. The record is more ambitious but deeply ingrained in 70’s West Coast rock. It’s not a far leap from Lindsey Buckingham’s pre-Fleetwood Mac Buckingham Nicks. There’s even a gorgeous ballad, “Vingars Brus,” that features a duet with Dahlqvist and Electronica goddess Nina Ramsby. Singer/songwriter Stefan Sundström, who penned several songs on the band’s debut, also lends a hand here rounding out the rough edges and injecting traditional elements of folk rock into songs like the above mentioned “Vingars Brus” and guitar-driven “Dom Feta Åren Är Förbi.”
Dundertåget played Sweden Rock this year opening the festival’s second day. Amidst wind and drizzling rain, the band delivered an hour-long set of revved-up scorchers proving Dahlqvist can easily lead a high-energy show. They not only kept a fevered pitch through songs like “Full Kalabalik,” the piano-tinged “Förvånad, Hånad Och Kränkt” and blistering “Här Har Vi Allt Som Du Behöver” but created a wave of tears in the emotional ballad “Vingars Brus.” The highlight of the show was the closing jam when the three guitarists lined up near the front and, after taking aim over the crowd, lifted their instruments high in the air as the feedback resonated for a good five minutes after each left the stage. Sometime later, huddled near the backstage bar, we grabbed Dahlqvist for a quick chat to catch up on old times and talk about the future.
The Cutting Edge: Whose idea was it to break up the Hellacopters?
Robert “Strings” Dahlqvist (RD): Well since it was Nicke’s (Anderssson) band it was his idea we knew it would hurt a lot of people because our fans are so loyal but there was no other way. Nicke was sick of touring. He’s been touring since he was 17-years old and he never really liked it. All the long travels and we would do these gigs like in England and nobody would show up. Sometimes the gear wouldn’t show up, like the last time we toured the States the gear didn’t show up for a week. He just got sick of all the hassles. Me and Robert (Eriksson, drummer), on the other hand loved touring. To be honest, I think he was done with the band and wanted to move on to other projects.
TCE: We are quite sad to see the end of the Hellacopters. You were a great band, however, now each member has gone on to other bands so from the ‘one’ there are now four or five new projects springing up.
RD: Yeah, now Nicke has his thing called Imperial State Electric and the other guys are all busy with their own individual projects and bands. We’re still very good friends. We’re planning to do a tour of Sweden together in the fall. It’s good to show people that we’re still good friends.
TCE: Let’s talk about Dundertåget. The band started off as Thunder Express back in 2004. You released two good albums We Play for Pleasure and Republic Disgrace, both were well received. The fans liked them and the critics were kind. Now you’ve changed the name to Dundertåget and started singing in Swedish.
RD: When I started the band and I sang in English, that’s true. But my English is not very got and I felt uncomfortable trying to express myself in another language. To be honest, I’m much more comfortable singing in Swedish. It may be hard to understand for you but for me, singing in Swedish is more honest. When I was 9-years old I was listening to Twisted Sister and I didn’t understand shit, but I still liked the music.
TCE: In the Hellacopters Nicke was the focal point and you were the lead guitarist. Was it difficult to put yourself out there as a sole frontman?
RD: In the Hellacopters Nicke was the main character. So yeah, it was a push to get myself out there in front. But I like to be on stage, I like the people. It wasn’t that hard stepping out in front. Maybe it was a bit difficult at the beginning but now it’s been several years and it’s very natural. It’s been way better than I thought it would be. We’ve been touring this record (Dom Feta Åren är Förbi) in Sweden for a couple months now, so it was good to see such a large audience Sweden Rock. The clubs we play are all packed. It’s not a big country but we have a lot of fans. We’d play England and the US if they were ok with us singing in Swedish. Maybe certain pockets.
TCE: How do you see your music fitting into the overall landscape?
RD: Most people who know me, know that I’m a huge Rolling Stones fan but when people come out to hear us I think they recognize that we have our own sound. Yes, there may be shades of our influences but we are very strong on our own. The way we play and put our songs together it’s very original to us, besides we sing in Swedish so that makes it unique. When I play the more acoustic stuff, maybe even folk music, it reflects who I am now. There is a big history of Swedish folk singers that have affected Swedish rock like Pugh Rogefeldt, Mikael Ramel and Fred Åkerström. I know I’m not a Steve Marriott or Lindsey Buckingham or Nicke Royale. I’m a limited singer, but I think it’s very important that you show your feelings and emotion.
TCE: You’ve had a long history of working with female singers. In Thunder Express you worked with African-born Jaqee, who now has a very good career. On the first Dundertåget record you did a duet with Maria Andersson of Sahara Hotnights (“Delad Vårdnad ‘Ska Du Ha Spö’).” And on the new record you sing with Nina Ramsby on the song “Vingars Brus.”
RD: I like the idea of working with female singers. When I write I think certain songs go better with a female voice. I don’t want to do the same thing over and over. Maria Andersson from Sahara Hotnights is a good friend and I love her voice. It’s the same thing with Nina Ramsby. I toured with her and Stefan Sundström, the guy that’s written a lot of the lyrics for Dundertåget. Nina was very easy to work with and having my own project means no record company hassles when I want to work with someone.
TCE: Have you been asked to guest on other artist’s material as well?
RD: Yes, but not that often. I just did a guest solo with the band Märvel and I played on a track for Kill Company out of Falkenberg. It’s a lot of fun when I have the time to do it.
TCE: Are you still in touch with the Diamond Dogs? You played on the album Black River Road (’04).
RD: Sulo, their singer, is doing his solo thing now. That band has had a lot of members come in and out over the years. I played with them for about a year. They’re super nice guys and we had a lot of fun together.
TCE: What is your least favorite part about running your own band?
RD: There’s some pressure. When our record’s first come out I read the reviews. I know some artists say they don’t let it bother them. But I read the reviews and if I read a bad one it bums me out. I get hurt just like everybody else.
TCE: And the best part?
RD: I get the final say (laughs). We do have a good management team, it’s the same management as the Hellacopters. I trust them and they do a great job for us. Our record company was set up by the same guys that worked for Universal and signed the Hellacopters back in 1992, so it’s very much family which eases the pressure. It’s very important to have an honest dialog, not only with management and label but the other guys in the band. Robert (Pehrsson) our guitarist, I’ve known since I was seven years old. We grew up in the same town on the west coast of Sweden. Jasper the drummer is from Diamond Dogs, Jim came to me to play bass. Communication is such an important thing. In the Hellacopters, I never argued with Nicke, I knew it was his band from the start. It was very clear from the beginning, but I got to write a few songs, so that was nice. I was still learning. I was so very, very happy to be in the Hellacopters because I was such a huge fan. I am very, very thankful that I was in that band for ten years. The reason I play music today is because of the Hellacopters - because Nicke gave me that chance and I love him to death for that.
With my own band it's 100% my vision, for better or worse - hopefully for better. We have a great time together and I love the opportunity it gives me to create and write music. Right now is the best time for me and hopefully the fans can hear that in the music we play.