About The Interview
For such a small country Denmark has produced a fine collection of rock and metal acts. One band that looked to be about to break into the countries metal elite in the mid 90’s was Pangea. Led by vocalist/guitarist Torben Lysholm the band produced two well received albums of hard rock with wow guitar, then the band went through a torrent of problems before calling it quits. The band reformed to complete their long thought lost third album and are now ready to go at it again with their excellent new album “Retrospectacular” out now on Lion Music.
Torben many thanks for agreeing to this interview and welcome back to the scene!
Thank you so much!
Its taken the best part of 15 years for Pangea to get album number 3 out there, why the delay?
The 3rd album was ready for release in ’00. It had been turbulent times in my life and I had just left the studio I was working in and which was where we recorded our albums. We had made two very well received, yet commercially moderately successful, albums and what we felt was missing was a “big” album from us and more active promotional work from the record company. So we set out to deliver a big monster album. It got expensive enough to fit that bill and that spawned a wish on our behalf that promotion should REALLY kick ass. During production we talked to the label about going to Japan for signing albums in stores on the release date, doing gigs and so on, but what we weren’t aware of the economic crisis going on in Japan and suddenly all communication with the label seized. After a while we knew that we had lost our deal with them and that left us very frustrated and in a new position all of a sudden. Now we had this expensive album that we tried to place on other labels and no one was interested in matching what we knew we could get from the old label…had it not gone as it did. To make matters worse we were already at that time talking about maybe remixing the album because there was room for improvement and since I had left the studio to start my own, I wasn’t aware that the moneyman behind it had suddenly and very tragically died. The studio had been closed down and all the gear was sold off. Including all the 2″ tapes with our recordings. Actually someone out in the world has the 2″ tapes for all three Pangea albums, unless they erased them to use them for something else… Anyways, all that was lost for good and to make an even longer story short we had the choice to use the original master or rerecord it all again. We did the latter. All that was left was what had been transferred to hard disk to free up tracks on the 2″ tapes. That was lead and backing vocals, drums, percussion and bass and guitar for It’s Too Late. Oh, and a couple of solos and bits and pieces…
For those maybe not familiar with the band can you give us a brief history lesson of the band.
Pangea is a trio from Denmark that has existed as a band since the mid 80’s in various four- and five-piece formations leading up to the current formation as a trio in ’92. We wrote a lot of songs, got a production deal and started recording what would become our debut album The First. The whole process of recording and getting signed went on over a couple of years and it was first released on JVC Victor Entertainment Records in Japan in ’95 and later Europe would follow. We released our second album Manchild in ’97 and followed it up by playing concerts here and there. A couple of videos were made but it was hard to really get the ball rolling when we didn’t actually go to Japan and Southeast Asia on promotion tours. We then decided to give it a serious and ambitious go in ’99 and we recorded a very expensive album while trying to get some promotional stuff up and ready for the far east territory. But the financial crisis in Japan killed the market for us over there and with it’s ripple effect through the business globally we simply couldn’t get the album out. Suddenly the studio and production company closed down and was sold and all we had left was data backups of the stuff that had been dumped from the production tapes on to hard disks. Long story short (or is that too late now?) this was followed by years of nothing really going anywhere and after having split up we’re now back together picking up where we left off.
You say not a lot was salvaged from the original masters, what was it like to revisit this material when laying down the new tracks? Did you feel you could improve on it or are the new recording quite representative of what was originally intended (albeit under a new recording)?
The re-recording is pretty much true to the original recording. Our stuff is usually very arranged in details so we were pretty much sticking to the plan. Shorter answer than the question but it truly wasn’t too mysterious or weird or anything. Mostly a matter of pulling ourselves together and just do it. That was the hurdle. Great fun to do it though. It’s music. It’s supposed to be great fun, and it was the second time around as well.
Please tell us about the piecing together of old and new components.
Well, it’s not much unlike producing a new album. After the songs are written it’s mostly just work and craftsmanship. I could paint you a beautiful picture and talk about inspiration and creativity and how you set the mood in an inspiring environment and all that but the truth is that when everything is written and arranged, it’s more or less just a matter of getting it down on the hard disk. Not that that can’t be a lot of fun but that has much more to do with chemistry in the band. That’s also the reason why we all know amazing albums in history that was made by bands that was on the brink of breakup. Those two things don’t really have anything to do with each other. Of course if you have to improvise solos or something on the spot in the studio you do have to be inspired of course and there are those moments always but mostly it’s just executing what you’ve trained so many years to be able to do. For this re-recording it wasn’t very different from the first time because what I improvised on the guitar the first time took a fresh look at and improvised over it again, so…
‘Retrospectacular’ has its roots in the hard melodic sound of the late 80’s/early 90’s where melodic vocal hooks intertwine with driving riffs and great solos. Is this definitive Pangea and if so why?
Yeah, I think that will always be something you can expect from a Pangea album although future albums will distance themselves more from that era.
There is a nice cross section of styles from within the melodic hard rock ballpark yet an identifiable sound there also – largely down to your vocals and guitar tone. Is this a fair assessment?
Hence the album title. Yes, I think…I hope you’re right on the money and everyone else agree with you because that was the intention. And yes, I do of course have a big impact on the overall sound of the band since I’m half the band really being both the singer and the guitarist. I will credit Tony in particular for much of his expertise on the genre. He’s very methodical and can change style within the metal and hard rock styles like flicking a switch.
You have a funky swagger in your rhythm work and lead work which just swings beautifully, this sense of time and rhythm is all too often lost in the metronome watchers the genre is often littered with. What was your influences guitar speaking and how did you feel those influences have affected your own personal style?
Thanks for noticing! I’m so thrilled you’re picking up on that. It’s something that’s important to me. I’m all about the swing and actually not very concerned with the technique. People often send me links to YouTube videos with guys who can play faster than some other guys and I couldn’t care much less about it.
For the swing I enjoy listening to guitarists like Steve Lukather, Dann Huff, George Lynch, Warren De Martini and Yngwie Malmsteen in the genre but swing is all important to me in any genre really. Need I mention Paul Jackson Jr…
Your guitar tone is unique, very full and punchy with great definition, what equipment provides the signature Torben Lysholm tone?
We all know it’s in the fingers that play so let’s just skip that part… hehehe Well, I really couldn’t live without an amp that reacts predictably to what I do on the guitar and I’m lucky to have found the amp that does exactly that. The Soldano SLO-100 and I use the Soldano X12 cab with it. It doesn’t get any better. It does get different but not better. It’s an amazing piece of equipment. Apart from my guitars (on Retrospectacular I used my HMH Lysholm Signature exclusively but I use Peavey Axcellerators live which is where I found the Peavey Humbucker I have in the HMH guitar too) I use only a CryBaby in the studio. Didn’t use it on this album though.
Is all your equipment stock? Any tips you want to share for budding tone hounds?
Yes, the SLO-100 and cab is stock as is the rest of my gear. Only the HMH guitar is built on order.
One tip I can offer when it comes to choosing your gear is to try to ignore the brands. I don’t mean specific brands but ignore what it says on the faceplate on any gear. Just play it and when you find an amp, guitar, cab, pedal or whatever that makes you forget time and place and when you are suddenly pulled back to reality by the shop owner who’d like to close the store and go home for the day and you realize you’ve been sitting there chopping for hours, that’s how you know what gear to buy.
How did you go about recording your tone and are you totally satisfied with how its represented on Retrospectacular.
I recorded the cab with a Sennheiser MD421N and a Primo UD-324 and I’ve experimented over the years with various mic formations. This was what was most true to the original recording of the album so I went that way. I’m right now in the process of designing sounds for the next album and I’m trying out new exciting stuff and techniques this time.
As a musician I’m very happy with Retrospectacular. As a producer there are stuff that I’d have liked to be different but on this particular album there were stuff I could do and stuff I couldn’t do without creating a situation where I would have to redo the things that were salvaged from the original production. That’s part of the reason we decided this album would be the kind of retrospective statement that it is.
Do you have any particular favourite songs/moments on the new album?
Little By Little is close to my heart, but it may very well be another song in a couple of weeks.
After the long wait getting this album together are there any plans underway for album number 4?
Oh yes, I’m now in the process of setting gear and stuff up for the next album. It’ll be more “trio” and more “shooting from the hip” this time. I’d like the next one to be more loose, more ambient yet more intimate and personal. It’ll be exciting to see where it takes us.
When will a band website/myspace profile be active as there is not a lot out there at present – aside from what’s on the Lion Music website.
You can find stuff on the YouTube channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/TorbenLysholm and we have a Facebook profile at http://www.facebook.com/pages/Pangea/121656997872201
What else is in store for 2010 and beyond?
Working with other artists and bigger and smaller projects. Being a studio owner means a lot of variety in the work you do and that’s exciting too. And then of course a new Pangea album.
Many thanks for your time.
My sincere pleasure! Good questions makes it interesting to answer. Thanks!