The Return of Scandinavian Rock
Word: TK Smith
With the recent activity of Scandinavian’s “Big Four” to festival stages across Europe including Turbonegro, Backyard Babies, The Hellacopters and Gluecifer, we can now confirm “Scandinavian Rock is back!” It’s been nearly 15 years since these four bands prominently toured. Turbonegro went through the difficult task of replacing their front man (Hank Von Helvete with Tony Sylvester) and getting their guitarist Knut “Euroboy” Schreiner healthy post-cancer. Sexual Harassment (2012) was a noble step but this year’s RockNRoll Machine (2018) solidifies the group’s permanent installation. The Backyard Babies went on hiatus in 2008 finally to return in 2015 with a new lease on life and judging by their current single, “Shovin’ Rocks” promises a rich future. The Hellacopters reformed three years ago after disbanding in 2007 and are now an active unit. The one missing ingredient was Norwegian band Gluecifer who called it a day in 2005 after the success of their critically acclaimed fifth album Automatic Thrill.
A chance meeting led to a friendly discussion which opened the door to a set of Gluecifer dates in their hometown of Oslo for the fall of 2018. The shows sold out instantly, a third show was added it too sold out. A final fourth sold out night convinced the group their audience had not vanished but had grown stronger and more dedicated. This opened the door to a string of summer festival dates. Hellfest booked all four bands to celebrate the momentous occasion, yes indeed, the return of Scandinavian Rock! We caught up with Gluecifer at the Bukta festival in northern Norway where they were booked to headline the second of three nights (The Hellacopters headlined the first night). Singer Biff Malibu and guitarist Captain Poon set down with us to sort out the band’s history and their incredible return.
“We did two proper tours of the States,” recalls Poon of their foray into America. “We were over to play some shows, maybe four times. We had two longer tours, one with Motörhead and a tour with the Gaza Stripper and Murdercity Devils. We also did SXSW a couple times. Then…the whole thing just shut down. We didn’t get along with our record label and didn’t feel they supported us, so we weren’t able to tour the States any more. Which was such a bummer because we had such a great time touring there.” The band’s first three albums, Ridin’ The Tiger (1997), Soaring with Eagles at Night to Rise with Pigs in The Morning (1998) and Tender Is the Savage (2000) were released on White Jazz Records and imported to the US. Basement Apes (2002) and Automatic Thrill (2004) were internationally released on Epic records.
“We decided that if we were going to get back together it had to be fun,” says Poon of their current reunion, “no record label pressure. We didn’t want to answer to anyone but ourselves. I have to tell you, it’s been great fun and it’s still exciting. We’ve only done two shows so far, in Spain and Hellfest, but it’s been a blast!” Asked how the band gets along after nearly 13 years apart. Poon reflects, “when we were rehearsing I got this feeling of excitement, this was a band we had dedicated our lives to in the early years and never thought we would be playing these songs again. We’ve had a great time hanging out and working together again. Right now, we are limiting it to a few shows, to have some fun and see what happens next. We don’t have all the stress from playing in a fully active band. We don’t answer to a label, we don’t have pressure to make a record.
“We have our separate lives, so this is a big bonus,” continues Poon. “Musically we’re going back into our song catalog that’s 30 years or later, sometimes even playing them in a different way. I think we’re better players now and its fun rediscovering our music again. None of us have been listening to our old records in quite some time so getting together, listening to our music, traveling together, and hanging out has been great. Before we split, we were exhausted. From 1997-2003 you could have seen us everywhere. We toured a lot. At some point we got tired and wanted to do something else. Honestly, I never expected this band to come back together and do shows. It was coincidental how it all came together.
“Over the years we’ve been asked if we would ever play again,” says Poon. “Due to the fact that we haven’t been hanging out much we hadn’t talked about it. When we came together to talk about it, I thought we were going to officially call it dead. Then all of a sudden, it was like ‘if’ we do this or ‘if’ do that…(laughing). By the end of the meeting we were all on board. We built Gluecifer into a grand name. Getting the chance to put it back up again would be fantastic as long as it feels good. We did a rehearsal or two shortly after our meeting and it felt right.” Biff Malibu, the band’s singer joins, “We were comfortable booking two shows in Oslo. Our promoter said we should hold four dates. And we said, ‘Ah, you’re crazy, they will never sell, we haven’t played in years, everybody’s forgotten us’. He reminded us that rock and roll is something that never dies. People always want to have something they can’t get.”
“That true,” says Poon, “It’s very flattering but it also feels well deserved in a way. We made some great records. We didn’t have to come back, this was never planned. We decided to do this ourselves for the fun of it. We hired a manager to look out for us but that’s it.” Which led our conversation to Tromsø, a little fishing village at the top of Norway. “This was our second home in Norway,” says Biff. “This small Arctic town is a fantastic place for rock. We’ve play like eight different places in this little village. Apart from Oslo, this was our most important city in Norway.” Though their popularity has remained intact, the group is not keen to jump in a van and start doing nine-week tours again. “We don’t want to get back in the routine of a constant touring / recording band,” continues Biff. “These shows are special for a reason. It’s different then our day jobs but we don’t want to get sucked back into an unhealthy routine. We just want the highs, not the lows.”
Poon follows, “It would be really stupid to commit to what people want from us. We’re in the perfect situation as a band. We have the privilege to pick and choose. Not to say it was all bad in the past, we got to travel the world and play some great shows. We had some lucky breaks. We played the biggest festivals, we sold out the biggest club in our hometown. How much bigger is it going to get?” One thing on everyone’s mind was what the band would play for their extended Bukta set. “We’re excited because we get to play a few more songs tonight than we did in Europe,” says Biff. “We pick the songs we want to play that give us a thrill on stage. We’re playing a few really fast ones, almost punk. The set leans a little on the last two albums but there is still plenty of the older stuff to make people happy. For fans of the obscure songs, B-sides, stuff like that, we’re not going too far down that road.”
One noticeable change is the addition of bassist Peter Larsson. “When we talked about reforming he was someone we wanted in the band. He plays in one of the biggest punk bands in Norway, Oslo Ess. He’s good for us and brings fresh blood to the band and the show. He’s a great player that make ‘us’ sound better.” When asked about their status as one of the pioneers of Scandinavian rock Biff is quick to agree. “We were one of the first. That’s a fair title because we are one of the pioneers. That’s why playing this show with the Hellacopters is so great. It’s just like coming home because we played so much with them when we were all in the clubs together. After our first show back, the guys from Turbonegro stopped by and said some very encouraging words, some really nice things. Coming from a band like that, it was very inspiring. I think they are happy to have us back again.” Biff leaves us with an interesting thought, “Bringing Gluecifer back is like having a sports car you can take out of the garage ever now and again and drive around!”