Robert Dahlqvist, the famed guitarist for the Hellacopters, Thunder Express and Dundertåget has just finished putting the cap on his first solo album. Joining forces with original Soundtrack of Our Lives guitarist, Björn Olsson, has given Dahlqvist a more introspective direction. That means that the melodies are marvelous, the definite rock lineage is still there and yes, it’s sung entirely in Swedish. Simply titled Solo, the record feels most comfortable under the genre, soft rock. Elements of America, James Taylor and Bob Dylan creep into the compositions as well as Swedish folk rock heroes Cornelis Vreeswijk and Pugh Rogefeldt. The guitar playing is superb moving from the dreamy, ballad-like “Jag Va Kött Och Blod” to the Bowie / Stooges inspired “Sneseglaren”. Though Dahlqvist’s voice is an acquired taste, his emotion and phrasing are in line with his delicate writing. Of the record’s eleven tracks, the guitarist penned eight putting his stamp on each with a sincere, soulful approach that radiates from the heart.
“I can, from the bottom of my heart say, that I have never been this proud of the music I’ve made,”’ says Dahlqvist calling us from his home in Gothenburg. “It feels like a life’s work with everything from the music to the lyrics and production.” Dahlqvist gives Olsson, whose band’s Union Carbide Productions and The Soundtrack Of Our Lives are national treasures, much of the credit. “I have been wanting to work with Björn since I heard the first Union Carbide album (In the Air Tonight, 1987). I think we kind of found each other. He became like a big brother or ‘Daddy’ to me.” A year ago Dahlqvist had become frustrated with playing rock music. Changes in his personal life were tearing at him and he sought solace in the ‘60s and ‘70s folk music of his youth. With guidance and direction from Olsson, he was able to focus on the roots of his musical passion. “Jag Va Kött Och Blod” and “Ej Med Flilt” were the first two song we worked on together” says Dahlqvist. “We found our direction in those two tracks and Björn became the producer.”
The guitarist allowed himself to step outside the world of guitar god and into a journey of the soul. “I loved the Hellacopters and I loved Dundertåget, but sometimes I just want to be mellow. I tried to talk with the guys in Dundertåget about it but they didn’t agree. They didn’t want to do any acoustic stuff, so we decided to split up. I was so tired of rockin’.” At the end of last summer (2012), a somewhat depressed Dahlqvist rang up Olsson and asked to record in his garage studio. “My mom drove me to his studio and dropped me off there. Björn had this 12-string guitar and we just started singing and recording. My girlfriend had just left me, my band was no more and the mood was very raw. The first song we recorded was ‘Ej Med Flit’ and I cried all the way through it.” Sleeping in Olsson’s garage and working through a dark period provided Dahlqvist the opportunity to find his footing. “It is the closest to who I am by far,” he says. “I have never been so pleased of the work we did. I got the same feeling as I did when I did High Visibility (Hellacopters) because that was my first record.”
Through the sessions Dahlqvist discovered “Vi Tar Båten” a song written by Olsson for the first Soundtrack of Our Lives record. “Björn wrote that song in the mid-nineties and sang the vocals,” says Dahlqvist, “but Ebbot (Lundberg) didn’t want it on the album. Björn later put it on his solo record, The Shrimp and called it ‘1995’. I’ve always liked it and asked if I could use it. I wrote the lyrics in Swedish and did it in my way. If you listen you can hear a bit of Bob Dylan. Though Dahlqvist wrote most of the lyrics he did have some help from friends. “The drummer for an old school Swedish punk band KSMB wrote one of the lyrics and this famous Swedish poet, that I met on the street, wrote “Inte En Dag”. I had never met the poet before but we corresponded through email and worked on that song together. It’s actually the record’s first single.”
Fans of Dahlqvist will be hard pressed to find similarities between Solo and the high-energy rock of his past. However, his vintage rock guitar does come growling out of “Redo Nån Gång”, the snarling “Sneseglaren” and fuzzy “Ta Det Kallt”. They each take a different element of the guitarist amped-up playing and balance them between the album’s softer moments. Where once there was juicy guitar leads, orchestration dominates much of the fills. “Martin Hederos, the keyboardist from Soundtrack of Our Lives, wrote all the orchestration,” says Dahlqvist. “We also brought in professional string players from Gothenburg to record at Björn’s studio. Unfortunately, I was away in Norway at the time working as a chef. I’ve been working at restaurants since I was 15 and that’s what I do between tours.” A track that is closest to the artist heart is “Ingrid Isabel” named after his daughter. “I was listening to some of my old demos from 2007 and I heard this one,” says Dahlqvist. “It was a lullaby for my daughter when she would go to bed. I played it to Björn and he was like, ‘man, we need to record that!’ It’s just two or three chords, a very simple song with a talk box. We tracked it and had it finished in an hour.”
Inevitably the question of a Hellacopters reunion came up. “Nick (Andersson) and I are still in touch and we speak every once in a while,” says Dahlqvist. “We do get offers from our booking agency, but it’s not interesting to us at this time. We’re all off doing our own things. I did a record with the Diamond Dogs, a couple with Thunder Express and Dundertåget. I just want to do my own thing right now. I want to focus on this record.” For Dahlqvist, recording Solo has brought him back to his roots and the music that first inspired him to pick up a guitar. “I listen to a lot of Swedish folk music like Cornelis Vreeswijk,” admits Dahlqvist. “He was a political singer with a bohemian lifestyle and remained controversial right up to when he died in the ‘80s. There was a lot of good rock coming out of the ‘70s too. Pugh Rogefeldt, one of the biggest Swedish musicians from that era invited me to play with him on Swedish national TV. It went so well wer’e doing more gigs with just me and him, acoustic.”
Dahlqvist assures us that he has not left his rock and roll behind. “My biggest influence was Kiss. My guitar teacher turned me on to Johnny Winter, Lightning Hopkins and the three Kings, Albert King, BB and Freddie. Because of my older brother, I listened to a lot of The Stones and The Kinks. I think where you hear my influences on Solo is the ‘less is more’ feeling from the blues. I didn’t want to play too much, like on the song “Det E Hon” there’s not that many tones just a lot of guitar echo to create this ghostly, desert rock vibe.” Dahlqvist went on to say, “We recorded this record during a time that has gone up and down for me emotionally. That is why the songs have a very personal and fragile sense of themselves. But, in no way was it difficult to record. There cannot be anything better than to record music with a friend and be friends throughout the whole process, it has actually never happened before.” Solo stands as the purest form of one man’s music and a perfect reflection of his soul.
Website: Robert Dahlqvist, Despotz Records