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02. “I like to sing songs on behalf of small creatures”: The Bid interview

This is a really long conversation, so let’s make the introduction brief. Fantasy band Scarlet’s Well, with their songs from the village of Mousseron, played at Odenteatern in Stockholm at November 21st. We met Bid, the charming, iconic, leader of the band – previously in the legendary and very special new wave Rough Trade/Cherry Red group The Monochrome Set, of course – at Café Corno for a nice little chat about life, politics, philosophy, history, music and everything in between (like mice, because mice get drunk as well!).

HISTORY

It’s been a while since I last did an interview like this. That was with Lawrence a couple of years ago, in 2006 I think.


Of Felt?

Yes, Lawrence of Felt! He played here with his new band, Go-Kart Mozart. I’m curious if you have had any contact with Lawrence, are you friends since Cherry Red days?


It’s interesting that you would ask me rather than assume that I knew him. You’re in the music business so you know that just because you’re on the same label, it doesn’t mean that you’ve ever met any of the other bands before. Because actually, the very first time I ever met Lawrence was when Cherry Red had a Mojo Award for the release of Pillows & prayers.


What year was this?


Last year, I think. They got an award for “best …”-something release, I can’t remember. Not re-release but sort of … oh, best catalogue release, whatever that means. Anyway, so I went along to the Mojo Awards and Lawrence was there and the guy from … edit this cleverly … because there is a guy from another band. Eyeless in Gaza! What’s his name?

You mean Martyn Bates?


Yes, I met Martyn Bates! Edit out the other bit. I think it was kind of the first time I met him, because it is possible we did a gig with them once but I never met him. It is just very typical of bands, you might even share a dressing room with someone but you never actually meet them, you just pass them by. I don’t think I ever saw Lawrence in the Cherry Red offices, and we went in there quite a lot. We never passed each other, I never actually met them personally, but very very nice people. Possibly because we’re all mature now, so there’s no instinctual hatred.

That’s funny, because from the outside it’s really easy to think that you probably … you’re about the same age, you live in London …


There’s probably more people living in London than there is in the whole of Scandinavia! No, because when you’re in a band, and when you’re younger, and you’re focused on that band, and the band is at least semi-professional, then you’re just doing too many things to really associate with anybody else really, you just focus on the band. And you live your life and then you go and do the band. But you don’t sort of go out all the time looking for other bands. I mean, some people do, but generally speaking, you know.

I don’t know particularly the other people of Rough Trade either. I might have got to know other bands from other labels just purely because we have toured with them or met them at motorway service stations. So we have got to be friends with certain people you wouldn’t assume we would’ve done, like Prag Vec. I mean, we’re all friendly people and we all get along very well but you just don’t get to meet the people in the first place because you’re just too busy.

Now I remember Momus mentioning you in his blog recently, a bit in the same way you’re talking about Lawrence now. You two never really met either, did you?


There was an album we did called Songs for the jet set which I produced for Michael Alway and Nick (Momus) wrote one of the songs for it and we met in the studio and that was the first time we ever met. We got on very well. And subsequent to that, I think it was Nick that might possibly have given The Monochrome Set their last gig, in Athens. He put me in contact with a promoter. It’s really rare for people to help each other in the music business, it’s such a big thumbs up. So he’s a very good guy for doing something like that.

It sounds crazy, but when you’re in the music business … and the rest of the Scarlet’s Well have started understanding that over the past few years. I run this band along professional lines but we’re not professionals really. We get paid, and when they join I make the point there’s money involved. We might come away with a loss all the time but when there’s money involved and when people pay to see you, you have to be good and you have to turn up on time, you have to do things, and when the record company have put up a few thousands to record you actually have to do stuff, you actually have to work at it. You can’t be like … Dan Treacy, and be an arsehole. And you can print that!

We can or we can’t?


You can. You actually have to be kind of professional, because this is a proper business. And I do say occasionally, you know, when you’re at a festival and you’re number four on the bill and you move to number five and the people on number five are moved to number four, that it’s really bad. And they say, “what is bad? It’s all great, the people love it!” When you’re number five on the bill there’s 300 people in the audience, when you’re at number four it just so happens that another 1000 people walk in, and they’re all clapping you. They don’t know who the fuck you are, but they are gonna clap you anyway. And you suddenly look like a big band and you get invited back.

Things like that. So you try, in your own little way, to upstage other people all the time. It’s got nothing to do with wanting other people to do badly, but it’s just trying to make sure that you extend your career, make sure that you sell enough albums to keep the record company giving you a budget for another album. You don’t want to really support other people, if you start supporting people you get known as a support band. It’s just sort of trying to keep ahead of other people.


And, getting back to Nick, when other bands actually help you it’s a very big favour that they do, a very friendly genuine favour. And there’s a few of us that help each other. There are two German bands that I help and I give them lots of information and they give me lots of information. And you don’t share this with loads of other people. The information I’ve got have taken two or three years of just mailing people, and just being nice to them, you know. So you just don’t share it with people, and it’s not being nasty, it’s sort of halfway between hippieness and nasty professionalism, but I can’t explain that to the outside world.

During this decade there have been quite a lot of serious books written about the scene you’ve been involved in. I’m thinking of titles like David Cavanagh’s My magpie eyes are hungry for the prize and Rob Young’s book about Rough Trade. Do you read these kind of books?


No, no. I don’t really read a lot anyway. If I’m going to read anything, I’ll read Lovecraft or Clark Ashton Smith, I’m not going to read books about music. When I come home from a rehearsal, the last thing I want to do is to listen to music or read about music because it’s in my head all day.

And, you know, a solicitor is not going to want to read books about law at the end of the day. It’s not the case. Peter (Momtchiloff) in Scarlet’s Well is a bit of a musicologist, but generally speaking, at least older musicians, they don’t know a lot about music because they just don’t want to know. Especially writers, it’s too much to have to listen to stuff all the time, because you carry it in your head all the time.

And to a degree, because I’m experienced in what journalists say about bands and about me, I’m therefore not that interested in what people have to say about the period because I know it is wrong.

Because what was big in that period, in the late ’70s and early ’80s, was new wave, not punk. Punk was an extension of new wave. New wave came first, it didn’t come afterwards. Punk developed out of new wave, and they have always got that wrong.

New wave bands, in order to become punk, just doubled the speed of their songs. It sounds like punk, but it’s true. They either stayed new wave or they became punk. It wasn’t called anything then, but …


It seems like the term “new wave” has disappeared.


New wave has disappeared because it’s very difficult … The whole idea of new wave is that it was people, individual writers and performers, developing their own thing, therefore by definition it’s not easy to pigeonhole. All those bands were very very different, very individualistic, so when journalists look back they don’t want a lot of work in trying to explain each band and what they were doing. So much easier just to talk about one thing, the boy band new wave like Buzzcocks, who were never punk – they were just pop new wave – or just punk. And really, the only real punk bands were Sex Pistols and The Clash. And everyone else was just sort of a fake punk band. Like 999, they weren’t really a punk band. They wore all the stuff, but listen to it now and it’s just standard pop/rock. If you listen to it as opposed to just see it.

The first two Blondie albums, that’s new wave. But that’s not written about. That was what made Blondie initially a success. Then they sold out and became commercial. I’m not saying they got worse, they just became commercial. But “I didn’t have the nerve to say no” and songs like that, they could easily have been done by The Residents.

Nobody talks about the very early Alice Cooper albums which is just insane experimental albums, before he became rock. Even when he was big, the School’s out album is half experimental rock, but people don’t realize that. So there is a lot of stuff there which is not mentioned and you’d think in a book, in a journalistic thick book, they would bother to do that.

I think the historical line that usually is drawn is from punk to post-punk. Were The Monochrome Set post-punk?


It’s very difficult to describe The Monochrome Set, it’s impossible actually. You can’t say that we were post-punk because we weren’t any different to The B-Sides (the pre-Monochrome Set band) and The B-sides started in ’76, ’77. So it’s around the period of time, you know. And I think that one of the very early supposedly punk bands … what is Vic Godard’s band again?

Subway Sect.


Subway Sect weren’t really punk, exactly. I don’t consider them punk, I consider them hard new wave. So how do you say something came out of something else? I would say that punk is really a concept. If bands hadn’t based themselves on The Clash and decided to follow that commercialism, you know, we wouldn’t have had a lot of crappy punk bands coming out in 1979 and post-1979. We wouldn’t be talking about punk at all, it’s just an aspect of the new wave. But now we talk about punk because it was an aspect of the new wave that a lot of bands followed. So it was one thread after this ball of threads, so it became a genre. The Monochrome Set influenced an awful lot of people, but it was sections of The Monochrome Set music. The guitar playing, the way the lyrics were written. But the actual genre of The Monochrome Set … there is no genre.

And it seems like The Monochrome Set really stood out in the period.

It’s possible that’s because we just kept going, you know. It wasn’t … like, The Fall is very much you have to be into their politics or lyrics or something, but musically I’m not sure that The Fall stands out. The Monochrome Set is about everything, about music and lyrics, but you didn’t have to join the club. You didn’t have to understand, you weren’t necessarily meant to understand it, you just listened to it and liked it or didn’t like it.

So when you look back on it, maybe it stands out somehow. And we were also enclosed, we didn’t care about what other people were doing, we didn’t know what other people were doing, we just did our own stuff. And I suppose a lot of other bands were like that as well …

But something you had in common with other bands from that period is that you shared a kind of artiness.


There was no way we were ever going to sell out anything. We never liked the idea of dressing up for someone else. So there’s no way we would ever have done seriously commercial videos. Be told what to do – no! Whether that was good or bad … Objectively that was obviously very bad, and stupid and childish or whatever. But we just weren’t going to do it, because we became musicians, because we picked up a guitar, it meant something suddenly to us.

If we wanted to just make money we would all have gone and do law or something. But if you want to be just an entertainer then you don’t even start with The Monochrome Set stuff, you start with something just much more commercial and you’re prepared to debase yourself. So you make that decision at some point.

It’s also true to say when journalists look back at that period they just don’t know the reality of who was actually big and who wasn’t. Crass were very big, bigger than the Sex Pistols. Nobody knows that. They used to sell more records than the Sex Pistols. Sex Pistols never used to sell that many records, but they are iconic for the period. The Sex Pistols are like The Rolling Stones, they never used to sell that many records either but they are iconic for their period. Sex Pistols got to number one, but they are on Virgin, and Virgin controlled the charts. They just didn’t sell that many records. And then during the course of the early ’80s, Throbbing Gristle were a huge selling band, they never got into the charts so nobody knows that. I know it because I know people in the record distribution business so they tell me things like that.

HOME & ABROAD

Now it’s time for the first real question that we’ve prepared!


All right! [laughter]

The thing is we have very few questions about actual music, it’s mostly about other things. Anyway. This is the fifth time since 2004 that you’ve visited Sweden with Scarlet’s Well. What’s your overall impression of these visits? How important is it to travel and see other countries?


From a technical point of view, for an indie band, it’s very very very important to play as many countries as possible. Young indie bands think it’s important to be big in just their own country. And they of course, like most people in their age, don’t think ahead till their 40’s. It’s important because at some point you may not be big in your own country anymore, and then you’re finished. And actually, if you go out you find it’s nice to be big in other countries, and your own country becomes less and less important. You actually find people who are nicer in other countries than your own country. And if you spread it around to as many countries as possible you can keep yourself going.

This is going off at tangents slightly. But if you’re a writer and you don’t think that you ever want to be like Lily Allen, be a commercial star, you’ve got to say to yourself: I’m a failure. Before you even start. I’m never going to make any money, I’ve failed. Then you can start to really enjoy yourself, then you can start to plan your own longevity, and play in a lot of countries and meet a lot of people. And to gain a different perspective of yourself as well, see how other people see you. Your own country will see you in a certain way, which ultimately psychologically affects the way you might write songs. However enclosed you are from that, it does affect how you perceive yourself and it affects how you create your art.

I think that’s true. The domestic environment can be a bit claustrophobic. You have to get out to get some new perspectives.


It’s very good for an artist to have a lot of different perspectives on yourself, because then you think to yourself – when you’ve written a song – and you can tell, “no, Swedish people won’t like that”. And, I mean, no matter how loved you are, but then you say to yourself, ”oh, Spain is worth though, I’m gonna carry on and doing it”. So, you just feel freer. I think, if you feel free as an artist, you feel better. You just feel more loved as an artist and that’s important. Commercial success isn’t necessarily important, but to actually be liked for what you do, to have your work liked, is quite important. You get more of that if you play around on different locations.

What’s been the friendliest countries and places you’ve been to during the last ten years?


I would say that the only unsuccessful place for us to play were Pop Revo, in a technical point-of-view. We also do website analytics and usually, just before we go somewhere, there’ll be a big rise in site visits from that country – and a falloff, obviously. As a matter of interest, Sweden is the third highest in the world of visits to the Scarlet’s Well site.

You’ve talked about other European countries. How do they compare to the UK today?


The UK is a terribly depressed country. Although there is an awful lot of to do with the ’80s … I could make a very long complicated answer to this, because there’s an awful lot of society, education, bla bla bla, falling off standards. So there’s less of a expectation amongst young people or less a desire amongst young people to see interesting things. But the recession, the overpopulation, the bla bla, has made it a very, very unhappy country. And unhappy countries aren’t good for indie music. You know, after 9/11, indie sales in America went like that [pointing downwards]. It’s absolutely true and it’s not good. We get a lof of site visits and it’s starting to go up a little bit in the UK. I don’t know why that is. Maybe because we know that we’re leaving Afghanistan or we’re not in Iraq anymore. Psychologically, it’s very deep-seated, I think. People are starting to relax a bit or something. It’s bizarre, but I think it’s got something to do with it. So there’s more interest for us now, but it hasn’t been very good.

How has it changed since the late ’70s?


What, in the UK?

Yes.


It’s just that the society there has changed so much because you used to get paid to go to college. The government used to pay you to go to college. Then it became more like Europe – you have to pay to go to college. When you had to pay to go to college, you no longer went to art school. When they paid you, you went to art school, formed a band and the last day of the three-year art course, you did a lot of shit and got your degree. And the previous three years, you’re in a band. And you were paid to be in a band. So that’s the difference. It’s very, very deep-seated, a very profound difference. The people don’t do art stuff at school anymore, they do IT. Or they’ll do something else, pharmacing. And people immediately are in debt when they’re young, they’re in debt and they’re depressed. Therefore they’re not necessarily gonna be interested in light, sort of happy, interesting indie. They just want raw stuff, you know. To get drunk, listen to raw music.

Or maybe really soothing music like Norah Jones. Or the music that we hear now [typical cafe muzak].


Yeah, whatever. And of course the rise of computer games and things like that.

People read less, but … I don’t know. The interest is going up recently, but it’s not been great for Scarlet’s Well, that’s for sure. In countries – I think – where there’s better education and there’s a more relaxed feel, then it’s good for us.

How do you fit in London then?


Hm?

With this climate, how do you fit in?


With the band?


Yes, or personally. As a person just living in London.


Well, London’s different to the rest of the UK. It’s like Stockholm’s different to the rest of Sweden. It’s not so bad, it’s fine. It’s not so depressed in London, it’s very multicultural. So, we still have that, we still have a big audience in London, but it doesn’t feel like the right kind of audience for us. It just feels like that, as an instinct I can’t explain.

POLITICS

All those kind of things is politics, I think. The state of society and so on. Sometimes music like Scarlet’s Well can be described as escapist music. Are you a political person? How interested are you in political stuff?


Not excactly. I’m interested in philosophies of politics or philosophies of society, but not necessarily in politics itself. Politics is like … I mean democracy – practically speaking, not in theory but practically speaking – is the art of easily leading the easily led, that’s what it is. Easily led people aren’t necessarily stupid, easily led people are optimists. They work nine to five, they don’t want to start having protest rallies. They just vote for someone. They’ve got too much other things to do. I mean before the war in Iraq, the protest against the war was the biggest in England’s history. At the same time the real deal was – and I don’t know if you want to print this – that nobody in the UK seemed to notice that within two weeks of saying yes to helping the Americans going to war in Iraq, the Americans stopped funding the IRA and we had peace in Northern Ireland. So now we know what the deal was. That’s why Britain went to war in Iraq. The Americans having funded the IRA for fifty years said ”okay, we’ll stop doing it – you help us”. So that’s our special relationship. They had us by the balls from that time. So, it’s … I don’t know.

Maybe you could argue that the message of Scarlet’s Well is kind of a philosophical take on a political question.


I have to think about that. All I know is I do discuss politics, but it’s on a particular forum. It’s one of the biggest forums in the UK, but it’s a football forum. They have loads of different sections to it and there are people on there that just have ideas. There are people on there like me, who just ask people to question those ideas: are you sure about that? Just think about what’s actually happened. And that’s the thing, if people thought about not what is meant to happen or what people say is gonna happen, but actually what’s happened.

I mean, the thing is about the UK – why it’s so depressed – is that there is sixty millions people living on a tiny island. And it’s not a manifacturing heart, it’s not the center of a huge empire.

Sixty million people are forty millions too many. And that’s the problem. So they lie about the unemployment. There are millions of unemployed in Germany, and in the UK, and in France. France is in a terrible state. Gradually pensions get taxed, this gets taxed and that gets taxed. The educations goes down, the help goes down. You can’t write songs, protest songs, about that. You’re not gonna change … all you can do is to appeal to people’s other side. Because maybe if you appeal to people’s other side, indirectly you change them.

And probably that’s how culture works, how it affects people in a postinspirational state.


If you’re not taking away someone’s gun, but if you take away their concrete and you plant a garden there, maybe they’ll be less violent.


Absolutely, I think you’re right. Now, I think this was the first question we decided on, and it’s a big question. It will probably be a really short answer. But, in life, do you have any really, really, really strong beliefs? Like, this is what motivates you, these are your passions or this is what gets you out of bed in the morning? This is what it’s about.


No, probably …

That’s a short answer.


No …

It sounds quite depressing.


Depressing? No, it’s not at all.

But is it writing a new song or is it maybe …


No, it’s just that you sort of carry on. I’m quite happy. I don’t really think about, I have to do this, I have to do that. That’s just part of the flow of life, you know. I don’t have any motivations, but I have addictions, one which is songwriting. And I can’t stop it, so I have to deal with it, you see, by allowing it to happen.

There’s no real motivations, I just allow myself to do things and I don’t allow myself to kill people, but I allow myself to do what I want to do within reason. I don’t know how to explain it, but no, there is no I have to do this and I have to do that. I mean, there are specific things, but not generally, no.

After a while, when you reach my age, you just sort of carry on and you’re quite happy to carry on. That’s it. I don’t have a great, huge opinion about myself, in particular.


PHILOSOPHY

You have not converted to an extreme religious belief lately or …


No, I’m a Brahman, but being a Brahman doesn’t mean to say you’re a hindu. This is not a hidden history about Brahmans; there is a large part of it which is atheistic. People don’t understand that, because you can’t be a priest in Christianity without believing in God, but actually Hinduism came after Brahmanism, just like punk came after new wave. [laughter] Hinduism is just a philosophy, and there’s a large part of Brahmanism which doesn’t believe in God. But it’s philosophical, a different philosophy, different beliefs. It’s a sort of vibrant atheism, which is belief in kind of consciousness down to quite a small level, possibly even inanimate. But in ways we can understand, because atoms of conscious – if you can describe them in a certain way, properly – you could perceive it as consciousness, with the way they interact with each other. Kind of.

And also the fact that you’re changing everyday. Your body changes everyday because you get rid of lots of it, and you make a lot of it everyday with the food. The past ten years you’ve lost quite a lot of your body, so you have to ask yourself who you are. Because you’re not the same you were ten years ago. You’re just a past memory of yourself. So how could you be that bigheaded, because you’re just … The new past that you’re making are told what to do by the old past. So, they weren’t always there. They’re learning how to become you. You can’t be too bigheaded and too motivated ultimately, I think, to do this or that. And then you gain a respect for other creatures as well.

Do you know the title of the latest Prefab Sprout album?


No.

You haven’t heard it?


No.

It was released this autumn. It’s called Let’s change the world with music.


Is it a joke title?

No. [laughter] How about the importance of art …


Well, the importance of music … music is not like any other art form at all. All other creatures understand music, but they don’t understand art necessarily. Music exists outside the human being and it exists outside of life itself. Hummings and vibrations – it’s all music, in a sense, as you can put a tuning fork, you know, it’s just a vibration made by an inanimate object. So music is quite important, but if you can change the world with it? I don’t know. I think you can with culture generally, but first you’ve got to feed people. It’s all to do with the quality of life as well, generally speaking. If people have a good quality of life, they might … they probably want to create music themselves rather than having music forced upon them. They should have a nice quality of life and want change, that’s the main thing.

I think Paddy McAloon is almost like a music evangelist. He’s almost religious about music. There is a phrase on the record that says “Music is a princess / I’m just a boy, in rags / I’m glad to carry her bags” or something like that. It’s really interesting to read the interviews that Paddy McAloon did when the record came out. He’s getting blind, has hearing problems and he always has this addiction of writing songs. He just keep on writing songs, but he can’t finish records. His whole apartment is just unreleased songs in boxes, which must be really, really frustrating for someone … for a musician and an artist.


You see, the thing is – you say – to change the world with music, but how about all those people in Iraq? There must have been rather young people there. I know Zarah, from the first Scarlet’s Well album, one of the singers. She was Jewish and from Teheran. And I knew, a couple of years ago, a Catholic girl from Teheran. There’s this culture there, so loads of different sorts of people come from there, not just fundamental Islamic. How about all those young people who live in Baghdad, who are actually indiepop? They had computers and they were just about to buy a guitar and do something when a bomb came in. See, people in America don’t even know where Baghdad is. They think it’s a country somewhere near Ghana or something.

But there’s all these people there. How to change the world with music is letting music happen by itself, not invading a country. Being friends with them, that’s how you change the world. Because you can’t force music, you’ve got to just let it come up somehow. So, that’s the thing. I think that other cultures will have clever artistic, creative people coming out of them eventually, if you just let them come out. They way to do it is try to help them, not convert them. Helping countries too much is wrong, but invading them is also wrong. Just letting them come up with their own thing will change the way you think as well. I think I would never say to be too political in music, it’s just better trying to persuade people not to do things like that.

But for people to make things themselves, they have to get input from something.


Well, I don’t really know if … You could possibly say that the American protest people might have helped or forced America to leave Vietnam a day earlier than they would have done. But, you know, they were losing anyway.


AESTHETICS

Actually, the last part of the question was: What’s your input of æsthetic experiences?


I don’t know. What influences me to write?

Sure.


I don’t know, that’s the thing. And I don’t want to know. I don’t want to be influenced necessarily by anyone. Things just happen and I don’t know how they happen. I’ve got a vague idea of how they happen. Once, I’ve just written a lyric called “The Society of Figurines”, a very bizarre lyric. It’s written a little bit like a letter, and I just happened to see this letter from a society – and I just wrote a song. I didn’t know what I was writing, though, it’s really strange. So that influenced me. Things that I can’t predict influence me. I’ve got to allow myself to be not stretched, not distracted by this or that. I just write. I don’t really know what I write, but that’s the way it is.

I can bet you that when people specifically want to write something, as a protest about this or that – there is one song, one or two songs where I could have done that – generally speaking, they just write a song and they make it a protest song, but it isn’t originally. It’s very difficult to force yourself to this or to do that, you have to kind of do something and then if you want, you can change it and make it about this or that. So I don’t like to analyze that part of it too much.

It’s like analyzing a room when it’s just a mess, just a thing – you just leave it, you know.


Personally, as a consumer of culture, do you have any specific “this have been the most important æsthetic experience I’ve ever had in my whole life” moment?


Yeah, one thing is listening to Rock ’n’ roll animal, because when I was at school everyone was listening to progressive music or disco music. To listen to Rock ’n’ roll animal and to get into Velvet Underground – it was just suddenly black & white from what I was listening to before. It was a way of playing music not necessarily being a brilliant musician. Just doing something and showing how to do something when you’re technically not that good, but actually doing something really well. So that was a big and I think to that degree, that influenced an awful lot of people. Rock ’n’ roll animal got a lot of people into Velvet Underground and therefore got a lot of people into writing songs.

A lot of Yes stuff, like the Fragile album, was written just purely musicianly. Brilliant musicians sitting in a room together, writing a song, just like that. And you can’t do that if you’re 16 and just learned the guitar. Then you won’t be able to do that for another ten years.

But I suppose people are listening to Bob Dylan and things like that, just three chords, and then you get into music. I’ve known other people who’ve gotten into music through listening to very simple, meaningful simple, music. So that was a big thing. Since then, no, I won’t say anything specific.

When was this? Was it in the early ’70s?


Yes, the mid ’70s, about ’74, something like that.

THE FUTURE

I think we have a last question. Again, a big question. There’s a new decade in a month. Do you think in terms of decades?


No.

Do you think about, this is the turn…


I didn’t think I was still going to be alive. When I was young I didn’t think I would live till I was forty. Nobody did. You don’t think about things like that. I remember when I was young and my grandfather once said to me, when he was seventy: “I wish I was a young man at fifty again” and I just laughed. And I’m fifty-one, I don’t laugh anymore. I wish I was a young man at thirty … No, I don’t think in terms of decades, it comes and goes. I didn’t even think I was going to be alive to see 2001 – A space odyssey. And the reason there will never be a 2001 – A space odyssey is because Windows 7 comes out and starts crashing. Can you actually imagine 2001, where everything works fantastically? No, there will be ”ah, fucking hell, it’s crashed again”. [laughter] It’s not gonna happen. That’s why aliens have never come. People wonder why we never have seen aliens here. It’s because either they can’t afford it or their stuff keeps breaking. But they are all really advanced, they just can’t come here.

I think the world will go under now in 2012. There’s a new movie out, so we have a couple of years.


Have you ever seen the film Dark star? I think it’s a John Carpenter film. It’s one of the very first science fiction films of the more modern period, early ’70s. Very funny. It’s kind of black humour, nothing runs, everything’s breaking.

Do you want to add something?


I’m a bit concerned about Swedish indie music, a little bit concerned about the immediate future. Swedish bands seem to … they’re really good, then they just fade away, for one reason or an other. Days, because they don’t have money to fly anywhere. They could have played this festival, that festival, but can’t afford the tickets. Kissing Mirrors because they just never manage to do one rehearsal. [laughter]

But that’s because … you’ve met Per …


Yeah, how’s the manager?


There’s a story about how they needed a GPS device to find their rehearsal space … [laughter]


Cats on Fire are doing stuff around, so they are kind of doing things in the right way. They play in Spain, they play in … but Swedish bands …

I think the answer is this: when you talk about DIY, there’s two really different broad traditions.

You have the Throbbing Gristle / Crass / Bid tradition – really carving out some kind of own culture and keep on doing it on your own terms. The other side can be really good and nice, but it’s also amateurish. People have problems to get motivated to see things in a longer perspective, because they just want to put out one single and play live like three times and then it’s over.


I think it might well be because, in a sense, Sweden isn’t an island, but it’s isolated as an island. So it’s not as if Swedish bands easily can drive over to Berlin and play a few gigs there. If they were all in Berlin, it would be easy. They’d just play a load of places and the near fact that there is this market there, would motivate them. But in Stockholm there’s a major problem with the cost of higher venues. It’s really expensive, much more expensive than London. In London, you get a place two or three times the size for the same amount of money.

For the next decade, you, Louis Philippe, Testbild!, Kevin Wright and some good Swedish bands should start a new label.


Noo! [laughter] I don’t associate myself with them. I’m not saying anything about the quality of the music they make – it’s very high – but I definitely don’t associate myself with Louis Philippe and Kevin Wright.

I don’t want to be seen as anything apart from a mainly girl fantasy band or just a fantasy band – that’s what Scarlet’s Well is. I don’t want to get associated almost with anyone, anyone desperate. We’re just doing our own thing and we follow our own thing. You know, in America, the biggest site visits are from Nashville, because we actually write some very country songs. We could play at The Munich Beer Fest and we could also play Odenteatern in Stockholm. I don’t want to pigeonhole ourselves. Everybody likes us. In heavy rock clubs in Italy they like us, like heavy metal people. I don’t want to be too one thing or the other. That’s going to work badly for us, but in one sense it’s going work well for us.

That’s the same thing as you would never, I guess, release a solo album under the name Bid.


I like working with people. I love the fact that, on the new album, the bassist and the keyboard player have just written a song that is really good. I love working with this band because they come up with ideas and it flows into it. They’re all starting to work together, and I love all that. I don’t want to be listened to by someone in a really cold flat who wants to listen to intellectual music, I don’t want that at all.

So you’re not the tortured solo artist.


No, I’m not tortured, not at all. And I also like to sing songs on behalf of small creatures. Like mice, because mice get drunk as well.

Stefan Zachrisson & Niklas Karlsson

Photo: Nils Kullberg