Volume 94, Issue 52

Thursday, November 30, 2000


A Conversation With...Roy McDonald

Swedish punk band sure isn't ABBA

Canadian hip hop on the ropes with new releases

Swedish punk band sure isn't ABBA

Gazette File Photo

By Dale Wyatt
Gazette Staff

Think Sweden: beautiful blonde people, cold weather and one damn fine bobsled team, yeah!

Musically speaking, the country has produced mainstream bands like the Cardigans, ABBA and Ace of Base. In the punk rock perspective, it has been home to many influential punk rock figures such as Millencolin, Randy and the Satanic Surfers. Although this name may not ring a bell, their previous album reached sales upward of 60,000 and established themselves as a growing force.

While the band has enjoyed some hard-earned success, they haven't let it go to their heads. The band initially joined Bad Taste Records to release their debut EP, "Skate To Hell" in 1993. A few years later, the band moved to the Epitaph-owned label, Burning Heart, which proved to be better sales-wise but the band decided to leave as they missed the freedom and friendship of Bad Taste Records. Guitarist Fredrik Jacobsen states that resisting the move to a major label has not been a hard decision for them.

"We were on Burning Heart and put a record out but we have left now, and it wasn't that hard. [Bad Taste Records] has been supporting us since day one, so it was natural. We still hang out with them so it almost feels like we get to do the label ourselves," Jacobsen admitts cheerily. "It's the integrity of it all. We may not gain much for other people but for our own sake that is what we wanted to do."

Like most bands, the rowdy teenagers have matured over the years. The biggest change from albums like Hero of Our Time to the latest release, Fragments and Fractions, is found in the lyrics. The band has now dedicated themselves to more politically conscious ideas. Jacobsen states the reason for this was simple.

"Lyric-wise it definitely feels we have something to say. I think we noticed that people sometimes listen to what we say, so we should say something. Also, it feels better for us to sing about stuff we care about. But it is pretty much [band member] Rodrigo's call," he laughs. The band's sound has also evolved from unrelentless fast-paced punk to a more melodic sound on the new album.

"It's different on the new album; we're punk with melodies and harmonies. Sometimes it isn't as fast. We put more effort into doing different kinds of things than just play fast. You don't hear it that much on the album but live you hear more harmonies on the guitars."

One thing that makes the band's live performance memorable is the fact that Rodrigo Alfaro, the drummer, is also the lead singer. "It can be hard because some people want a standing singer – this is so different to them. There is no real frontman in that way, as that is what a singer is to them."

The Surfers spend most of their time touring Europe, but have not actually toured their home country for a while. "We haven't toured Sweden for four years. It is not very fun, so we spend more time in Europe instead. The scene just isn't that big anymore," Jacobsen claims.

When it comes to playing live, Jacobsen says coily, "It can be tiring, but if we have a good time then its not that hard. Some days you don't get any sleep, but we always have to play so that keeps us going."

Jacobsen has some advice for other musicians trying to conquer the punk rock community. "Just keep the integrity of whatever you want to do – don't listen to other people. That is what we have been doing. We don't care if other people like it or not. If we like it, we are happy with what we do. It is not that we don't care about people, but if we are not happy we can't play."

To Contact The Arts and Entertainment Department:

Copyright The Gazette 2000