By David Perri
Stockholm, Sweden’s NICKE ANDERSSON needs no introduction, but let’s give him one anyway: as the founder of ENTOMBED, THE HELLACOPTERS, THE SOLUTION, DEATH BREATH and latest band IMPERIAL STATE ELECTRIC, Andersson has criss-crossed his way through scenes, subgenres and semantics and, in the process, has consistently and successfully imparted his rock purist principles to the proceedings he’s engrossingly been involved in. 2013 finds Andersson and Imperial State Electric on tour promoting its latest record, Pop War (an album that channels ‘70s rock through an AM radio lens, as formidable highlights ‘Can’t Seem To Shake It Off My Mind’, ‘Deride and Conquer’ and ‘Back On Main’ attest), and BraveWords spoke at length with the always affable Andersson in the Canadian capital of Ottawa before Imperial State Electric’s set at the infamous Zaphod’s.
“A lot of times people compare Imperial State Electric to The Hellacopters,” Andersson begins. “But there are things in Imperial State Electric that we could never do in The Hellacopters, even subtle things like the swing beat in ‘Deride and Conquer’ that I had never done before. So, for me, we’re a different type of band from The Hellacopters; not worse, not better... just different.”
“It’s still my song-writing and I sing, so it’s bound to sound similar,” he continues, “but with The Hellacopters we sounded like we did because we were The Hellacopters. I guess it’s just how it is. But with Imperial State Electric, it’s different players. Even if it’s a similar style, there’s different beats and grooves and I think this band is a little more danceable, or seems that way. Rock ‘n’ roll should be the dance music, and it was at the beginning, so maybe we just want to get a few more people dancing.”
Imperial State Electric’s formation seems as organic as it gets: in essence, Andersson just wanted to keep playing after The Hellacopters’ dissolution in 2008.
“When I stopped The Hellacopters, a week later I thought, ‘I’m not going to play anymore?’” Andersson explains. “So I got a band together. I wanted to play, so I called Dolph (de Borst, THE DATSUNS), who had moved to Sweden from New Zealand and I knew him from before. The Datsuns are still together but don’t play as often, so I thought maybe he needed something to do in Sweden. I knew Toby (Egge) because he had a very small band called THE OBJECTS and I liked them. I knew he had a good voice and I knew he liked KISS more than I did even, and I got Thomas (Eriksson) from a band called CAPTAIN MURPHY, who I thought would be big but they broke up and no one liked them, so I realised I had shitty taste in music (laughs). At that time, I started working on the first Imperial album by myself, and then we started playing together and became a band. There was no pretense and no egos, and it felt really good. I can’t deal with egos; it’s too much bullshit. For this band, I said to them: all the cards on the table. If you have a problem with anything, say it and we’ll deal with it. Don’t say it tomorrow, say it today. We may not agree on everything, but I’m sure we can work something out. So that was the most important thing for me. In my other two long-standing bands, Entombed and The Hellacopters, it wasn’t like that. I’m not a fighter, so I guess I see why... it was never anything major, but it creates tension. I think it’s better to get everything out and then move on.”
“With The Hellacopters, we never did anything that was really stupid, so I was happy to leave it at that after 14 years together,” Andersson says with a laugh. “But I haven’t regretted that we broke up, not even one day. I thought maybe by being in The Hellacopters, it might have helped Imperial a bit more but, nah, that has happened. We’re starting from scratch. I meet some people in Sweden sometimes and they go, ‘Aren’t you that guy from The Hellacopters? So, you gave up music?’ And I go, ‘No’ (laughs). And then they ask what the new band’s called and then I think to myself, ‘Maybe our Facebook should be better’ (laughs). But we still have the hardcore fans that collect all the vinyl and they’re still there – you can’t trade that for gold, it’s awesome.”
In terms of what Andersson hopes to accomplish with Imperial State Electric, his motives are rooted in the band finding its own niche and fanbase.
“Of course it would be great to have more money and have more people coming to the shows, but if that happens, it happens,” Andersson continues. “I think maybe people in Canada and the States thought that The Hellacopters were bigger in Europe than we actually were. Our biggest tour was the last tour, it was like three times bigger. We did well before the last tour, but on the last tour we played to 2,500 people in Cologne (Germany). That never happened before. I was like, ‘You’re coming to our shows now? We’re ending this. You should have come 10 years ago’ (laughs). So that was awesome. Sometimes there’s bitterness with being a new band again, especially when a lot of people like a shit band. It’s like, ‘We’re so much better than them!’ (laughs) But people don’t know us and they haven’t heard us - they’d like us if they just heard us (laughs). I’m a grumpy old man sometimes and I hate it, but sometimes it just happens... you hear new music and you go, ‘What is this shit kids are listening to?’ And then I realise I’m becoming my dad (laughs).”
Talk switches to the past, with Andersson describing one of The Hellacopters’ top moments, the monumental and life-altering By The Grace Of God.
“After By The Grace of God I told Boba (Fett, Hellacopters piano player), ‘We should quit. This is our best album and it would be perfect to quit now.’ I don’t remember saying that, but Boba says I did. And maybe we should have (laughs). I don’t think I’m ever going to get better on guitar, I just don’t have that practice gene in me. I can fake it on guitar; people think that I kick ass on lead guitar, but I really don’t. And that’s ok - you need a poker face (laughs). Music is music and it’s there to entertain people. But it doesn’t mean you have to write about your rocket in your pocket (laughs). I’m ok with that, but I don’t think that I could do it. As much as I love ‘70s KISS, I could never write lyrics like that. It would be fun to try, but I would probably blush, even if I was all alone.”
In terms of Entombed, the co-creator (with DISMEMBER) of the legendary Stockholm Death sound has received far too little credit for its prominent and influential role in extreme metal’s pantheon. An Entombed reunion with Andersson could bring renewed attention to the group’s legacy.
“I don’t know. I’m never going to say never, but if a reunion is going to happen they’re going to have to pay me because that’s going to be a lot of physical work (laughs). To get back into that shape? Jesus Christ, I’d have to spend a year in a gym (laughs). Maybe that would be good for me, though. We all still know each other, and there’s no grudge as far as I know. I wouldn’t want to do just any tour. It would have to be a special tour to celebrate something. It should be thought out, I think. We could do a NIHILIST thing, maybe one gig. A festival thing, just for fun. But with Entombed it should be right. Entombed... everyone thinks we invented this Swedish sound, but what people don’t understand is that our influences were from North America and South America – we pretty much stole everything. It’s AUTOPSY, it’s the first DEATH, throw in a little bit of the first POSSESSED record maybe, then a lot of MASTER, early SEPULTURA, and PENTAGRAM, from Chile. And DEVASTATION from Chicago. And there you have it. And if you put it together, you have Entombed. So to me it’s not Swedish, it’s American.”
Despite no reunion plans with Entombed, Andersson’s death metal writing still does have an outlet, as Death Breath will continue its old-school raison d’etre.
“We have a new Death Breath record that’s been done for two years, the music has been done for two years. But as soon as we go to do the vocals, something comes up (laughs). The album cover is even done. But we probably won’t tour it, maybe we should become like DARKTHRONE and not tour. But it’s going to be good - it’s going to be really heavy and really nasty sounding (laughs). My goal with Death Breath is to record death metal the way it should have sounded. We’re going for more of a demo sounding thing. The magic of when you went into the studio back in the old days, and why underground music sounded like it did, is that you went into the studio with an engineer who absolutely fucking hated the music, and that’s why it sounded like it did. They didn’t have a fucking clue! They didn’t even consider what we were doing music, they were spitting at us and they hated it. But it has some charm to it that I really like. It’s like they were going for a DIRE STRAITS sounds but it was death metal. Somehow it worked.”
Our conversation ends with discussion around SONIC RENDEZVOUS BAND’s underground classic, ‘City Slang’. ‘City Slang’ acted as a sort of catalyst for The Hellacopters, and the band covered it for a limited 7” in 1998 and then referenced it by name in Hellcopters classic ‘Where The Action Is’.
“Carl, from Sound Pollution and White Jazz... me and Uffe (Cederlund) were at his apartment in ’91,” Andersson recounts. “And he’s like 10 year older than us and at the time it was cool to hang out with guys who were 10 years older, they were like 30! (laughs) They were into garage and punk, which we thought was great. And even though were into death metal, we thought garage and punk were cool, which not every band did. And Carl goes, ‘I’m going to play you the best single ever.’ And we said, yeah whatever. So he puts ‘City Slang’ on and we were like holy shit, this is good. And I asked him to play it again. So that night we probably played in 10 times. For me, it’s just right up my alley. If you take that song and ‘Search And Destory’ by THE STOOGES that’s a blueprint for a whole musical career. I still like it, it’s a genius song. It’s perfect. I know we shouldn’t have touched it, but it’s so good that you want to play it, so were covered it. I know our Hellacopters version wasn’t very good, but it served its purpose and got a lot of people into it. Same with MC5, we got a lot of kids into MC5.”