One of the hardest working musicians in Sweden over the last two decades has to be Bjorn Lodin. With 12 albums under the Baltimoore banner, at least another 10 with him behind the mic for other acts and many more producer credits he’s become one of the most respected names in Scandi-rock history. We caught up with Bjorn to discuss the new Baltimoore release “Back For More”.
Bjorn, we chat again, it’s been a while since Baltimoore’s 2009 release “Quick Fix”, what have you been up to in that time?
After QF, I was asked to join Hungarian band HARD. That call came just right, I was ready for a change of scenery…
Hard took up a lot of your time over the last few years, is that now over and if so why?
Yes, it sure did. At first I was going back and forth but after about a year I moved to Budapest and set up camp there. I brought a bunch of recording stuff and guitars so I could keep working with productions I had going. I had a very nice apartment and the owner was kind enough to let me sound proof it and I made it quite useful. I produced a female Hungarian artist while I was there, recorded drums in my studio in Sweden and did the rest in Budapest. We made 2 albums with Hard, and did some live shows. It was a great adventure, and sure wasn’t something I would have imagined doing but after a year and a half away from my family I called it. We’re still in touch but right now I’m focused on Baltimoore. If there’ll be another record with me and Hard, it won’t happen anytime soon.
Ok, the new album “Back For More”, when did work commence on it?
I love writing songs and wanted to make a 3rd Hard album, so I started writing stuff while still living in Budapest, and made some demos. The songs I came up with wasn’t what Hard was all about… I wrote most of the songs for the other 2 albums and tried to get some of my vibe in there… I guess I took it too far this time. Anyway, that’s what I do so, I still liked what I’d come up with and decided to do them with Baltimoore. So with none of my new songs suitable for a new Hard album, the idea of a new album skidded to a halt. I went home for X-mast 2011 and tracked some drums and bass with Hempo and Weine, then back to Budapest for another 3 months before I wrapped it up and moved back to Sweden.
Did you have any other musicians lined up or in mind from the start?
Yes, I tracked lead guitar with János Szücs in Budapest, and Hempo (Hilden – drums) was on for a while but he got a severe back problem so he had to step down. He’s had some surgery now and is doing better. Mankan (Sedenberg) was also on for a while, to play rhythm guitar, but it turned out to be too difficult due to workload and logistics. Anyway, when I came back to Sweden I first made my Swedish solo album ready – that I’d been working on for 10 years, and then got Klas Anderhell in to track the final drums. It’s been a curvy stretch…
What was the catalyst to getting Mats Attaque on board; I believe you two have previous history?
I realised in order to get this done I needed a guitar player who played a lot like me – but better. Yes, we were in a band together in the mid 80’s, the band prior to Baltimoore. Several of the early Baltimoore songs came about around that time. We also grew up in the same area and share a lot of rhythm. He’s got a great voice and guitar tone and he’s influenced me and my playing for sure. I had been meaning to look him up many times but… Anyway, I called him and he was available. He turned out to be perfect for this. Made my day!
When did rest of the band join and why where they picked?
Rather than being ‘picked’ they were politely asked to join and be ready to take the abuse J
At first, we weren’t gonna use organ – only twin guitars, but after Örjan Fernkvist and I had a session with the songs there was no turning back. Örjan and I go way back and he’s been on several recordings with me over the years. He even played on the first Hard album. Weine (Johansson) was the first guy I asked. He’s been in the band since 1991, with the exception for Quick Fix, where Björn Lindkvist was playing bass.
We should probably point out that back in the mid-late 80s you signed a solo deal but called it Baltimoore, not Bjorn Lodin. 12 albums in do you think this has been a help or a hindrance? Do fans not get upset with line-up changes?
The band I was in with Mats – Ready Steady, were demoing for a label. That fell through and I was asked to do a solo album. At 23 years old, it didn’t sit well with me going solo. I wanted to pursue the opportunity, especially since it was Scandinavia’s biggest label at the time, but not as ‘Björn Lodin’. I made 2 albums with the same producer and he had a clear vision of how it should sound and I really had no say… I’m glad I didn’t, it turned out very good – despite I was rather ‘unmanageable’ at the time J. However, it wasn’t the sound or approach I had in my head and that’s why I’ve re-recorded many of the early songs.
As far as fans and line-up changes go… Not really…maybe in the beginning people were confused, thinking this was a ‘normal’ band, but by now I think they have gotten used to it. Hell, I’d even replace myself if the right singer comes along!
So what’s on the new album? Tell our readers about the 10 tracks and why you think they are worthy enough to be released?
-It’s 10 of the best songs I’ve written J. Big credit to Mats for stirring the pot the way he did! I feel this record is just right. It sums up what Baltimoore’s music is all about. We tried our best, like we always do…this time – in my book, we nailed it.
This was all recorded at your home studio right?
Yes, except some guitar tracking that we did online.
This album is probably the band heaviest since the Nikolo Kotzev days, there’s a nice bark to it, it sounds great and Mats is on fire. How do you keep the energy and consistency so high in the bands long running history?
I feed off others. After a few years trying to get a steady line-up, forming a band etc. I gave up – way too many compromises involved, making the creative process suffer. I decided to do my music this way. I know it might look as an unconventional way of playing rock music… I’ve certainly answered this question many times over the years, but after I sobered up back in 1994, I decided to just go with it.
When I first teamed up with Nikolo Kotzev in 1992, we had no choice but to produce, record and mix ourselves. I realized then that it was the only way to do this. I didn’t want to rely on anyone making my music ready, so after we split up I went at it myself…figuring out how to record and mix. I’m learning new things every day.
What were you looking for sonically in this release? Does the music take your ears where you need to go or do you dictate the sound from the off?
I’ve been looking for this sound for a long time J. Once the songs have passed pre-prod, you need to make the recording a certain way in order to be mixed in a certain way. This is the difficult part! I’m no friend of the plastic and artificial sound from drum samples. I don’t care how good the song is – if I hear a sampled drum in there I turn it off. Once the songs were arranged and ready to be recorded – they already had the sound. Of course it can be mixed different ways, but the main part of the sound is in the arrangements…how the drummer plays, how hard the strings on the rhythm guitar was hit etc. Putting the final make-up on and making the final tweaks in the mixing took a long time but it was all down hill.
Lyrically where were you looking this time round?
Well, I’ve always strived to improve my writing in English, and sometimes manage better than others… My lyrics are basically about me and what’s around me, my outlook on things. I vent in my songs. I also invite other writers sometimes and this time my friend Theresia Scher wrote one song and we co-wrote another. Writing in English is difficult!
The album has a digital only release, is this a result of changes in the industry and if so how do you feel about that?
Yes, it’s the only thing – if any, that made any sense this time. I don’t do my music with the music industry in mind. But sure, this is the worst possible business adventure one can think of. It will change, eventually…
You are an ardent voice against Spotify etc, is the music scene ultimately doomed?
Na, musicians/artists will always find a way and some will just stop what they’re doing – people in general are the ones being fukked in the ass J. Spotify, YouTube, Google and the likes (if they don’t change their approach towards song writers and artists – and why would they?) will end up with legacy catalogues and mainstream stuff. That business model simply doesn’t make any sense to a working musician to be part of. But hey, we can always go on tour and sell t-shirts, right?!
You seem to know everyone in the Swedish music scene, yet you don’t follow the pack and like unearthing fresh talent, why aren’t you taking the easy buck and doing what is expected of someone with your reputation?
I don’t think there’s an easy buck anywhere… And as far as the pack travels, I guess I’m still trying to find mine J. There are many different ways to do music. But being a musician/composer on the path of exploring and figure out what’s within is probably not the smartest career move. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t have it any other way. Too much navel contemplating left to do!
Looking back over the 12 albums do you have any regrets?
None whatsoever! It takes time to figure things out.
I know you love the stage so has the limited touring activity with Baltimoore been something you’d have liked to have done more with, or are you comfortable with it’s predominantly studio only status?
Yes, there’s nothing like being on stage with a good band. It hasn’t been in the stars for this band, something I’ve given a lot of thought…and the logistics in members being all over the place hasn’t helped. This time around we’re not too far away from each other and I hope we can set something up for later this year.
What next for the band and yourself for 2014 and beyond?
Well, at the moment I’m mixing and co-producing Thomas Larsson’s upcoming album. I’ve also cracked open the legacy Baltimoore albums and are preparing them for a new mix and some new overdubs. It’s about 70 songs, so it will take some time…hopefully they will be out in 2014. Some videos are in the making…
I’m also doing a sort of country album with original songs together with another line-up. Not sure that I’ll do the hick-up thing with my voice though J.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Not really. I hope people give this album a shot and that they’ll find something they like in there!
Bjorn, many thanks for your time, it has been a pleasure.
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