|“Power & Volume’
By Alle Royale
The Soundtrack Of Our Lives was an exciting band, a winning mixture of sixties’ psychedelia, Oasis’ pop sensibility and AC/DC’ instinct for killer riffs. When, not long ago, the band ended its journey for good, guitarist Mattias Barjed, the hard rocking part of that sonic equation, decided he was still not too old to rock ‘n’ roll, and formed Free Fall with another illustrious unemployed musician, Ludwig Dahlberg, former drummer of The International Noise Conspiracy; the band was completed with the hiring of bassist Jim Martens, and vocalist extraordinaire Kim Fransson, an authentic revelation, a man with the pipes of a young Bon Scott and the looks of a teen idol.
2013 has been a pivotal year in the life of these Swedish rockers, with a Classic Rock Magazineaward nominee for best song of the year, and an endless run of great reviews from all over the rock world (our’s included). Free Fall, faithful to their name, are a mix of rock’n’roll freedom and reckless guitar exuberance that sounds almost astonishing in this aberrant world, where Coldplay’s and Radiohead’s guys are considered guitar players.
We had the lovely chance to exchange our thoughts with drums banger supreme, Ludwig Dahlberg and, suddenly, the world has turned into a better place.
Hi Ludwig, how are things going these days in the Free Fall camp?
Hello! Things are going well, thanks. We just did a couple of shows in Norway that were a real trip and right now we’re writing new material and planning next years touring.
How was Free Fall born? Was Mattias the mastermind behind it all? How did it start?
Yes, Mattias had nurtured the idea of forming a four piece loud rock band for quite some time. Jan (Martens, bass) and he had played together in the nineties and he knew he wanted Jan to be in the band, being one of the most magnificent bass players on the continent. Mattias and myself had also worked together in the past under different circumstances, I once did a US tour as a stand in drummer with his old band The Soundtrack of Our Lives, and we really enjoyed playing together and each other’s company.
The idea of Free Fall came together when a friend of ours (former The (I)NC and TSOOL sound engineer Don Alstherberg, now a producer of Graveyard, Junip, Blues Pills, among others) recommended this singer, Kim Franson, who he thought would be perfect for a constellation of this type, and he was very right; when we all heard Kim sing, everything fell into place in the most natural way. The first time the four of us played together the room exploded and we instantly felt we were on to something special. We wrote the song “World Domination” on that first day.
How the overall positive feedback to “Power and Volume” was crucial to the future of the band? Are you already working on new material?
Yes, we’re writing new stuff as we speak, some songs for the new album was written at the same as we wrote for “Power & Volume”. The feedback and reviews of the album has been overwhelmingly positive which has been great of course. But even if it had been received in an other way, we’d still be riffing away in the practice space writing new stuff like there’s no tomorrow, to make the ultimate follow-up to “Power & Volume”.
Since all of you are coming from independent musical realities, did working with a huge label like Nuclear Blast put any pressure on you, or did you work in total freedom of choices?
Actually, our previous bands were, at least for some time, on major labels. So we’ve all had to deal with that part of the industry in the past. Working with Nuclear Blast has been a great experience so far, they’ve been extremely positive and encouraging and they’ve given us complete artistic freedom about everything; the music, artwork, videos, etc.
International Noise Conspiracy don’t release any new material since 2008; is the band on hiatus?
Yes, a never ending hiatus! We played our last show in 2009, but didn’t know it was going to be our last at the time. Around that time we started Free Fall and it felt fresh and exciting. I’m very proud of what we did with The (I)NC but eleven years is a long time to be in a band, I was nineteen when we started, so it felt like it was time to move on.
So we can consider Free Fall as your main band at the moment?
One of Free Fall’ strengths it’s your no frills, no trends approach to the most classic of classic rock; is that a kind of answer to the most cerebral and arty ways of your and Mattias’ previous bands: International Noise Conspiracy and The Soundtrack of Our Lives?
Yes, one of the things that turned us all on so much with this new band was how easily and direct the music happened when the four of us played together, and the idea at first was to just do that; play fat and (sometimes) brain dead riffs with immense power and joy, and not overdo or overthink the songs or arrangements. Which often is just as hard if not harder. I mean, songs like “Meriola Blues” or “Yeah”, those riffs are pretty much lobotomized in their simplicity, that’s why they work and appeal to the reptilian part our brains, hehe..
It’s not like our old bands were like Mahavishnu Orchestra or YES or anything (both of whom we love) when it came to arrangements, but sure, there were other elements that we don’t have in Free Fall.
Tracks like “Midnight Vulture” brought me back the emotions of listening for the first times to “Powerage” or “Dirty Deeds”…did you have a Bon Scott pic in the recording studio with you?
Thank you, if we can invoke the same feelings as those classic jams then we’re doing something right, hehe.. Actually, there was no Bon Scott photo but Martin Ehrencrona who engineered and co-produced the album with us has a photo of Steve Marriott hanging over the console in the studio! But yeah, obviously those two guys are big inspirations for Kim.
Ludwig, on “Armed Love” (by International Noise Conspiracy) you worked with Rick Rubin; how do you think it could work a collaboration between Rubin and Free Fall?
Yes, Rick Rubin produced “Armed Love” and he also did our last album “The Cross of my Calling”. I think a Rubin produced Free Fall album could be a great idea, I haven’t sent him a copy of the album yet but maybe I will! And he’s always had a soft spot for loud rock quartets throughout the years (Danzig, The Cult, Chili Peppers, Sabbath, Audioslave, etc..).
Even though “Power & Volume” is a lot dirtier sounding than his productions, the overall attitude is the same; live and direct in the studio with few overdubs and with the focus on the song.
Humble Pie is often named as one of your main inspirations, do you think in the future you could embrace a more soulful way of songwriting? I think Kim’s voice could shine on some passionate soul number…
Yeah, on this album the song “Meat” was as souly as we got, with the vocal melodies and lyrics being a sort of tribute to Ray Charles. We also covered “Baby don’t you do it” on some of our earlier shows, so yeah, the soul influence is obviously there, maybe it will come out more in the future…
Drummers are rarely considered as songwriters, but at the same time a band is as much good as its drummer is; from your experience and attitude, how do you influence the process of composing an album?
With both Free Fall and my old band, the song writing has always been very much of a group effort, it happens in the practice space. Someone brings an idea for a song; a riff, a hook, a drum beat or sometimes a whole song (Mattias or Jan in those cases) but everyone’s specific time and playing makes it what it is. Especially in band with so few elements, everyone comes through very clearly and it gives you a lot of space and freedom which is absolutely fantastic and a dream for a drummer.
When it comes to rock the house, which are your favorite drummers of all times?
Elvin Jones, Tony Williams, Ginger Baker, Dannie Richmond, Art Blakey, Buddy Rich and Keith Moon.
With Free Fall, your approach to drumming is very different from the one you’re usually known for; you sound like a beast that was waiting for years to be unleashed…
Hehe, well, I think that has more to do with the sound of the group and the four piece setting that I talked about before, that makes the beast sound unleashed! The drums have an even bigger place in the sound spectrum of Free Fall. There were more instruments in my old band and the albums were more produced; keyboards, percussions, two guitars, etc. My approach to drumming, in these two cases at least, is pretty much the same; I don’t plan things too much and try to go on a heart and gut feeling when writing my parts, and usually it’s the first things you come up with that work best. I get bored doing the same things too much so I rarely play the same fills, and try to play as musical as possible and play whatever serves the song in the best way.
Is there any new Swedish band you think GTC should put their ears on?
In the end, what have we to expect from Free Fall in the next future?
A new album and more touring!