eGigs catches up with guitarist Erik Ohlsson
to chat about their rare UK tour.
How's the tour going?
The tour is going great. Its been a while since we've been to the UK; you can probably tell because we are playing much smaller sized clubs then we did before but the tour been really really fun. It's fun to play smaller clubs too for the contrast. In a week we are going to South America to play in eight thousand seaters, it's just such a big contrast. This is how touring in punk rock is. It's a good experience to do everything.
It was three years ago when you last played here...
Yeah, we did the Antidote tour, there were not many dates. We haven't done our own tour in the UK for five or six years I think.
Where does your name come from?
It comes from a skateboard trick. When we started a band everyone was a skater and starting to play skate punk music so it was a natural thing that the name had to have something to do with skateboarding. We name dropped and the trick 'melancholy' came up, and we changed the spelling to Millencolin.
Can you all do that trick?
No Fredrik Larzon (the only non-skater in the band) can't but the rest of us can do it.
Who or what inspired you to form a band?
We played in some different small punk bands before we started Millencolin together. For me to start playing music was because at my school when I grew up there were some really cool thrash metal bands playing and I thought it was awesome; people slam dancing and diving and stuff like that, so we started a thrash metal band but of course we couldn't play, so it quickly turned into punk rock! Then we heard this sort of punk rock we are paying now, Californian punk rock, from skateboarding videos back then.
Most of you are skaters. You have your own skate park and annual event...
Me and two other guys started the park pretty much. When we celebrated our ten year anniversary with Millencolin we thought that we would throw both a show and a skateboard contest there and call it 'Millencolin Open'. That became really big right away, and weve been doing it annually. Now it's grown to be Sweden's biggest skateboarding contest. It's gonna happen the 14th and 15th of February next year. That will be the seventh edition of it.
The 'Pennybridge Pioneers' album saw you take on a more rocky sound. Would you do another album in that vein?
We never really plan what we are going to do when we are recording. We've been talking now about the next recording and I think the songs will be a little bit faster and maybe more aggressive on the next album. The songs are just ideas at the moment and not written and rehearsed. I think it is important that we follow our hearts and not just try to do something you're not, because that will end up dishonest to everyone who is listening. We always play what we feel at the time; thats what forms our sound.
You worked with producer 'Mr Brett' Brett Gurewitz, who is also a guitar player for Bad Religion (and owner of Epitaph) on that album. What was that like?
He got us signed to Epitaph in the States back in '96 I think it was, so firstly we came over there to have meetings and everything. He was a super idol to us, and the whole thing; coming to the US and touring and stuff was like a dream coming true. We met him over the years a lot of times and started to become friends, then when we wanted to record 'Pennybridge Pioneers' in '99 it was already on a friendly level. When you work with a producer they quickly turn into their role and the magic of them being an idol goes away, but you still have respect for them.
He didn't have to sort you out then?
Nah. All of the producers we have were very soft with us in the recording process actually, because most of our songs are already finished. We record a demo tape in our own studio, and it sounds pretty similar to the finished product. The production is bigger and better on the finished version. You hear about some producers that come in and change the whole songs from scratch; sometimes that's good too. Sometimes we have wanted the producer to do a little bit more, to get an outside opinion, but nobody really changes much of the music. We are such an established band that it's hard for a producer to come in and tell us what to do, unlike telling somebody who has never really had a sound. Then they create the sounds.
You started in 1992...
Yeah, weve been going sixteen years.
You returned to your roots for album 'Kingwood'.
'Home from Home' was a bit rockier than Pennybridge. We never try to sound like anyone else, but for 'Kingwood' we said it was going to sound more punk rock; dirtier. The sound is a bit more analogue with rougher production, whereas for the latest album 'Machine 15' we tried to make the sound as good as possible, and we recorded it in our own studio. We wanted production to be as big and crisp as it could be.
You have your own studio then?
We have had the studio for a long time. It was Mathias Färm in the band and a guy called Mieszko Talarczyk; he died a couple of years ago [in the Indonesian Tsumani], and they had the studio together [Soundlab Studios] and have been producing so many bands like the Bombshell Rocks, Nine, No Fun At All recorded there and tons of bands, a lot of metal bands; Swedish metal bands. When he passed away Millencolin bought out his parents and Mathias too so now it is our rehearsing room and studio.
How did 'No Cigar' get on Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2? Did you send it in or were you approached?
We are good friends with Steve Caballero. We met him the first time in '96; he came to one of our shows in Santa Cruz. We started to talk and he had everything we had released; all the seven inches; he had totally collected all of our stuff. We became friends, and he called me up. He wasn't in the first game, but he called me up and said he was to be a character in the sequel to Tony Hawk. He asked if we had any input of music and asked if we could be in there. The next day the people of Neversoft contacted me. When the game came out I got an email from Tony Hawk; he must have got my address from Steve, and said that our song was his favourite on the game. That game did a lot for us in the States, opened a whole new world. We were still known over there but more underground; this was a break. We had supported people like Down By Law, and had done a lot of touring so we gradually grew over there.
Your latest album 'Machine 15' is available for preview on your Myspace site. Do you think being able to hear the whole album this way increases sales
I don't know actually. It's hard these days; it's hard to know what to do and people consider music to be free, record companies are going under; there's no recipe. It's great when people can listen to it, then they can decide if they want to buy it or not. The problem with MySpace though is there are billions of pages, and hundreds of billions of hours of music you can listen to; what's gonna bring people to your site? It's changing the whole time so it's hard to know what's going to happen.
You were the first band to get a signature shoe model by Vans.
Kind of the deal as the game, Steve Caballero was involved too in a way. We did Warped Tour '97. That was the tour where we met with the Vans people and Steve and it went from there. Steven Doren, the son of the former owner of Vans shoes, and Kurt Schroeder. Kurt asked me if I wanted to design a shoe [Erik does all the bands artwork] so I did. It was the first band shoe for sale ever I think. He just contacted me as they are doing a book about Vans' history of shoes, so I wrote him a quote.
Can I ask what the quote was?
I can't remember what I wrote now; something about the process and that we were stoked! The first order was for two thousand pairs worldwide and I think they ended up making ten times that; I think they ended up making twenty thousand pairs. A cool thing.
I read that you like to keep a low media profile in your home land of Sweden these days, any reason?
On our first three albums we toured around Sweden so much, we did over a hundred shows a year in Sweden, which is a lot. After the third album it kind of wore us down dangerously, so when you feel that it's good to let it go for a while. Then we went to the States and everywhere else and built up there. We did some festivals and stuff but we kinda left Sweden for almost seven years. When we then came back it was really really big again. Your career always has peaks and troughs, and its hard to have something remaining forever; nothing's like that.
This is an extensive tour; you've taken in Europe, Australia, South America. You played quite a few festivals, any plans for any UK festivals next year?
Hopefully. We haven't started talking about festivals for next year. I know we will be playing festivals, we're gonna aim to do some UK ones next year.
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article by: Danielle Millea
photos by: Danielle Millea
published: 01/10/2008 14:38