Almost five years after their indefinite break Backyard Babies are back with an album tour, and all the rest for which the band’s guitarist, Dregen, with his own medals of swagger as well as a solo artist, and a member of Hellacopters and Michael Monroe’s band, has to say. A bit under the weather, but always humorous and lively, even when he is told that a song on the new album sounds a bit like Def Leppard. The truth is that at this point he hang up, because as he said his phone ran out of battery. But, to his credit he was courageous enough to call back for more challenging questions! Interview: Yiannis Dolas
Rockpages.gr: Would you say that getting back with the band was like reuniting with an old girlfriend from the past, or hooking up with a new girlfriend that reminds you of your high school sweetheart?
Dregen: Heheheh! I don’t know! Maybe getting back to my old girlfriend that had some fantastic plastic surgery! Hehehe! Having a band I almost like having a relationship. But, it’s also like having a family. I am actually an only child, so I don’t have any brothers and sisters, so I guess that it’s the same kind of feeling. You know, you love them, you are always going to stand behind them, even if they do something bad, or stupid, that is totally wrong… they are my brothers in a way, but also you can hate them in a nice way!
Rockpages.gr: So, what did you miss from your brothers all those years that the band wasn’t active?
Dregen: Well, it’s like an old cliché you know… I actually enjoyed having a solo career. I think that all of us enjoy being in a team. There is always something special being together. You go through good and bad staff together. Like when I was doing my solo album and there was good stuff happening I didn’t have any people to celebrate with, it was just me sitting by myself. But, with a band it’s more like team work and I am a team player, I guess.
Rockpages.gr: What did you think about the people’s expectations from your comeback album? You’ve been away for a long time, maybe you were thinking about what people would expect from you when you came back, right?
Dregen: Well, don’t get me wrong but in Backyard Babies I think that of course we play music for our fans and in order to get new fans, but the most important thing for us is that our first priority is that we do this because we want to do this ourselves. We love doing this! So, I think that it also comes with age, which I really enjoy, becoming older. I sincerely and being 100% honest I don’t really give a fuck anymore about what people think, as long as I am satisfied with something. But, then of course it’s the thing that people must buy the new album… I think that if you’d asked me that fifteen or twenty years ago I would probably give you the same answer, but I would be lying, because when I was younger I’d say “I don’t care what people think” but in the end I was! Of course you want people to love what you do, but I am more self-confident today.
Rockpages.gr: Can you tell us a bit about the process of writing the new album? did you have some material that you had written before and you brought to the table?
Dregen: No, we started from scratch, but it was mostly me and Nicke (ed Borg, singer/guitarist) that wrote most of the material, but every member in the band is very important for the sound. In Backyard Babies we never have songs that are completely finished. I’ve never wrote a complete song with lyrics and music and go “hey guys this song goes like this and you will play this and that”. We have like 50-60% ready and we jam together and make the songs. That’s why I think this break we had was the best thing this band could ever had, you know? Because, this album was smooth to do because everybody was really into having fun doing it and then also because we haven’t played together for four years. It’s like your girlfriend, you break up with her you have sex with her for hours and get nothing out of it and now you reunite and you cum in thirty seconds!
Rockpages.gr: Still, there is something unexpected on the album, a song that lasts more than seven minutes, something you’ve never done before in the past with Backyard Babies and it’s also different musically. Can you tell us a bit about “Walls”?
Dregen: Yeah… Well I hope that Backyard Babies try in every album to break some kind of new ground and stuff. We called this the “lab rat”, as we experimented with the song “Walls”. On the 60-70% of the album you have typical Backyard Babies, but then we wanted to throw ourselves in an area that we have never been before and we have always been discussing all four of us about more, how can I say it?, bluesy music, or soundtrack music? Kind of more instrumental music… when I arranged “Walls” I was trying to put a splash of “Twin Peaks” into Backyard Babies, like a strange kind of feeling, a mix like “Twin Peaks” meets Ennio Morricone meets… I don’t know… Black Sabbath or something! Hehehe! We also tried to surprise our fans a little bit. I always like bands that are trying to reach new grounds. I am not saying that the next album is going to be full of songs like “Walls”. That’s never gonna happen! You never know, maybe there is a jazz song on our next album! No! That’s never gonna happen!
Rockpages.gr: Would you say that this thig “trying to experiment” is happening because you are more mature now, than you were 10 of 15 years ago?
Dregen: Hmm, I think so, but it’s always fun to explore new territories, otherwise it’s going to be “same ‘ol, same ‘ol”. Actually, it’s a win – win situation, it’s good for the band and hopefully it’s good for the audience as well.
Rockpages.gr: One of my favourite songs on the album is “White Light District”, can you tell us a bit about that?
Dregen: I think it’s a typical kind of Backyard Babies song, it’s actually one of my favourites too on the album. Actually, all the songs came pretty smooth. Nicke had the riff for it and then I did the heavy break, and I had this title in my head for many years. I think we did the music for “White Light District” in 20 minutes and then we put the lyrics.
Rockpages.gr: Also, I enjoyed “I’m On My Way To Save Your Rock’n’Roll”, which makes me think that maybe Backyard Babies are some kind of rock superheroes and they are trying to save rock’n’roll. But, from what?
Dregen: Ahhmmm, you know I think that there are a lot of good bands out there but, today I can also feel a little bit lack of attitude. When I was a kid I was listening to a lot of hard rock… I am 50% like Black Sabbath, KISS, AC/DC and stuff like that but also 50% of me and also the Backyard Babies come from the punk rock scene with Ramones, the Sex Pistols, the Clash and all that. I think today there are good songwriters and they play great, but I think that the attitude of rock’n’roll is missing a little bit in some of the new bands out there. I think that even we are 40 years old Backyard Babies still have that rock’n’roll attitude to life and everything. We’re on our way to save your rock’n’roll… Also, we are a band that still focuses on making albums and we are going on tour now. The touring part was always important for us…
Rockpages.gr: I must agree with what you said about new bands and I have to say that in Sweden in particular a lot of bands, good bands are trapped into that vintage/retro kind of thing, trying to replicate the ‘70s, or the ‘80s and maybe this is not very good for rock’n’roll. If you are always looking back but never look forward. What do you think?
Dregen: Well, I totally agree with you. I thought in the beginning when Backyard Babies broke through in ’98 with “Total 13” and all that everybody was asking “why don’t you make another one”. But, that would have been like doing again something that we’ve already done. This is kind of a complex question because rock’n’roll in a way –as I think of it- is kind of conservative. I think that a rock’n’roll band has to have drums, guitars and bass at least to call themselves a rock’n’roll band. I love the ‘70s and the ‘60s as well, but I don’t wanna sound like… you know some bands sound like 1978 in 2015. When I listen to “Four By Four” I think that it sounds like 2015, but also there are some elements like guitars sounds that are kind of retro in a way, so it’s like best of both worlds… Some bands say that they use the same gear as Led Zeppelin did back in 1969, but if Led Zeppelin would have formed today they’d use the top modern technology for recording today. When they recorded back in 1969 they were using the best gear that was around at that time… I like retro and I hate it at the same time.
Rockpages.gr: While listening to the album when I got to the song “Mirrors” it made me think of Def Leppard!
Dregen: Oh my God! (line disconnects)
Rockpages.gr: What happened did you hang up because I said this thing about Def Leppard?
Dregen: Hahaha certainly not!
Rockpages.gr: I didn’t understand if the album cover is real, or if it’s something you did on Photoshop…
Dregen: It’s very real, it’s not one single computer! It was a really tough project. It took us three days to get that photo. We actually built a whole wooden floor ourselves and then our art director Bjӧrn Rallare who also did the art for my solo album as well, he painted by hand the logotype and then we put the backline on it and then we had a big fucking crane, about ten meters tall, and Peter (ed Karlsson) our drummer used this automatic kind of thing that’s taking a picture every five seconds…
Rockpages.gr: Are you going to do anything with that now? Can you use it in other things?
Dregen: Ιt was so big we had to tear it down afterwards! But, I know that our art director took a big saw and actually cut it out the two meters of the logotype, so maybe we can have some kind of a competition, if someone wants to have a part of our floor in their apartment or something!
Rockpages.gr: A stupid question that came up when I was thinking about our interview was how many time have you used the cowbell on “Thirteen or Nothing”?
Dregen: Oh, I have no idea! If you do the math… it’s 1/16, so how many verses? Three verses… Oh, I don’t know but it’s gotta be hundreds at least…
Rockpages.gr: Also, “Never Finish Anything” sounds a bit autobiographical, is there a meaning behind this?
Dregen: Ahhmm, kind of… it was me and Nicke writing the lyrics one day and we didn’t really know what to write about and then we were trying to start to write the lyrics and then my phone rang and then his telephone rang, and then someone was calling via Skype and on the computer there was someone else… today we live in a world where information is everywhere all the time. A bit too much sometimes. So, the song is a little bit about that, not information but it’s hard not to get anything thrown in your plate, it’s like commercials…
Rockpages.gr: Back when you were trying to get a record deal and you left everything behind and you moved to Stockholm, rented an apartment you were sharing it… do you ever think what would have happened if you didn’t make it?
Dregen: Ahhm, no I don’t dare! Hahaha! I would have been dead today. No, I don’t think so, hopefully I’d be working in music, but hopefully that’s one thing I think we are here with Backyard Babies. We are a band and we try to look forward and we don’t think too much about stuff in the past. I don’t know what would have happened… probably, we would have become four bank robbers or something!