I'm pretty unpredictable!: Interview with Björn Lodin
Björn Lodin, new front-man of Hungarian hard rock band HARD has recently visited Budapest to meet his fellow musicians for the first time and to work on the new album, targeted to be released on 15th November. Hard Rock Magazin took the chance to ask the singer about Baltimoore, HARD, his first impressions about Hungary, the Swedish hard rock scene, and much more... He was accompanied by Gábor âZserbó" Mirkovics, bass player and founder of HARD, but he mainly let Björn do the talking...
HRM: Hi, Björn! Let me first congratulate you to Quick Fix, the latest Baltimoore release. I like it a lot, but I'm not 100% sure, that the hardcore Baltimoore fans expected such a â70s like, retro sound. Was it an intentional move to do something different this time?
BL: Hello! Whenever I start a project, I have no idea how it's gonna end. First of all - I'm sorry Baltimoore fans, but I don't care, what you think... I can't have that responsibility! This is maybe not a smart commercial decision or a humble thing to say, but this is the way I make music. I have an idea, I feel I want to make a record and I check which musicians are available and interested at the time. Then we start... and it grows... it's a growing process. And when it's finished, it's finished. Then I move on to the next step.
I don't feel obligated to play a certain style... I'm pretty unpredictable that way. Concerning the sound... well, hey, this is what this music sounds like! I don't wanna kill our songs with too much overdubbing and drum samples ... just trying to produce the songs accurately, so when they are played live, they sound the same - only louder (he laughs).
HRM: Yes, but the Hammond is quite dominant on this album...
BL: Yeah, it is a lot of it... but I love the Hammond organ! Maybe I could have played it down a bit, maybe it's taking too much room for some.., but it's a great instrument. I'm happy with it. By the way, we are also making a new Baltimoore album right now, we will release it at the end of October this year.
HRM: With the same line up?
BL: No (he laughs). The drummer and organ player is the same, but we have a new guitar player, Lars í ke Löwin for this project and I'll also play the bass and guitar. Actually these songs were written parallel to Quick Fix. We decided to release the album in October, just to âget it out of the way". Baltimoore is not a touring act. Very, very rarely we play live, because it's difficult to get everybody together. All the people involved in Baltimoore are involved in other bands as well. Anyway, we thought it would be good timing to release this now, instead of next year. It looks like next year will be very busy for HARD so...
HRM: So there will be no conflict between the two albums in that sense. Do you have any idea about touring already? Do you target Europe?
BL: Yeah, that's the whole idea. First we make the album, than we play live. But it depends on economy and a series of things. You know, there are rough times now, but we're working on it. We have an idea of what we can do and what we are willing to do. Right now we're very optimistic about the whole thing... We're very excited!
HRM: Baltimoore is your own band, but HARD is not. How does it feel not to be the boss this time?
BL: Oh, it's a relief! Working with Gabor, who takes care of lots of things. I am producing, so I do have a lot of responsibility and we'll record the album in my studio in Sweden. We work all together on the promotion part and writing songs... it's a good collaboration! But this is the same with Baltimoore. It's not that I feel I must write all the songs. I always look for new players. Even a new singer for Baltimoore would be welcome!
BL: Yeah, sure! Just knock on my door and start singing! Show me, what you've got! That is what it's all about, to get inspired by each other. I always get inspired by other players in the band. Surely, I decide when a Baltimoore album shall be released, what the cover will look like and what the lyrics will be all about. But the rest... I just have âfinal cut", so to speak, but I for sure feed off other talent. Baltimoore is my project and if you wanna be part of it you must have something to contribute! I wanna hear something unique in every player.
HRM: Did you have the chance to get into the song-writing with HARD? Or they were more or less ready, before you arrived?
BL: No songs were ready before we decided to work together. We are working on the new songs right now, while I'm here in Budapest. I'll be here for three weeks and during this time we'll make the songs ready. We have a bunch of ideas, but we have to shape these ideas into songs. Before I leave, we'll have all songs ready for recording.
HRM: Will the guys fly over to Sweden for recording?
BL: Yes. This is an interesting time for all of us. Like a honeymoon, we're still getting to know each other and having a good time. It's great!
HRM: You've been here for a week and a half, already. You gave quite a few interviews, TV, radio, there are extensive rehearsals - are you tired?
BL: Yeah, maybe a bit... but it's ok... I try to take good care of myself, go to bed early and eat healthy. I would probably be as tired if I was at home. Maybe worse even... Everything is very inspiring here, we're having a good time!
HRM: I've heard you visited Lake Balaton during the week-end. How did you like it?
BL: I liked the north side the best, it's calmer. I'm 44 years old, and I like it quiet sometimes. In Sweden I live out on the country-side. I'm not a city person at all.
HRM: How do you find the country and the people? Have you been here before?
BL: Now, it's the first time. I did not know what to expect. I had no idea. But everybody I met is lovely. Great people! Interesting language, everything's nice. I understand you have a very interesting history, the Iron Curtain, lot of things going on right now in Hungary... lot of things in the changing still. This is very exotic and interesting to me!
HRM: It's a bit messy right now.
BL: It's a mess all over! We have a mess. Maybe another mess... same, but different (he laughs). But I like it here...great vegetables - totally love the letcho! (This is the Hungarian version of Ratatouille - edt.)
HRM: Can you tell anything about the album right now? Is there a concept behind?
BL: We've agreed not to have a certain concept! We'll gather all the ideas, record it, go back, listen to it, and slowly the songs will get into shape. We all have a lot of music and a lot of rhythm inside. So when we get together and start bouncing an idea, someone interprets this idea in a certain way -âcause it comes from his own experience. Then we're rolling, and that is what we are trying to capture. So we will not follow a recipe, that's not for us!
So, there is no concept other than we will sing in English, this time. We also thought about me, singing in Hungarian and maybe, one day I will. That's a true challenge! Am I joking now? Huh...
HRM: What does make you move? After releasing so many records, what does motivate you?
BL: I feel, I keep getting better. My philosophy and my logic in making music start making sense to me. I feel more secure, when I start a project - I know I can finish it. It's not gonna take forever. If I accept to be a producer for a project, I know I can do it! It's only music. It's nothing to be afraid of. It's not brain surgery we're doing, you know - maybe brainwash..!
Everyone is inspired by certain groups, certain sounds and rhythms. We're cooking our own soup, we like these spices in our soup. Other bands like other spices. It's the same procedure somehow. Be true to yourself, that makes it easier. Just look inside and decide what you wanna do. If you try to copy something else, it's more difficult, I think.
That's what keeps me going! I still have a lot of music inside. I wrote about 70 songs last year, alone and together with other people. No songs sound the same. Different styles for different bands and artists. There is so much to do, and I wanna do it all! You'll never know what to expect from me, that's my trademark - if I have one.
HRM: You talk a lot about choices and making decisions. Is this the concept behind the Quick Fix album cover? The dice with yes / no / maybe?
BL: Yeah, that's what life is all about. To make a decision about certain things, then move on to the next âquestion". And the next, and the next... I had the title for the album before we started. I kept thinking about this when I worked on the lyrics.
For the HARD album, we're not there yet. We're attacking this from another angle. This time it's five people involved. This is another situation. When I make a Baltimoore album, I can do a lot by myself and present the idea to the guys. Here we're still bouncing the ideas together, which take a bit longer, but I think, it's very healthy. For me it's a refreshing way to work.
HRM: Tell me a few words about your other band, Balls. What was the idea behind? Why was it necessary to put together another line-up? You can implement all your ideas with Baltimoore, can't you?
BL: Well, I missed playing live. So that was basically the reason why we formed the band - to go out and play. We did the album and started the whole procedure, but things changed... Life changes and we did not manage to set the ship to sail. It got too complicated. But I learned a lot from that. C'est la vie! No problem. I decided to go back, lick my wounds and make another Baltimoore album or two (he laughs). But that could have been a great band, âcause the players are excellent!
HRM: Some of your fans still consider Double Density and Thought for Food as the best Baltimoore albums. The ones you made with Nikolo Kotzev. What do you think, will you ever play with him again, or is that a closed chapter now?
BL: No, I have not closed any doors. Not at all! That would be great to play with him again! Sure. We talk once in a while over the phone. He's a very busy guy. He's a maestro, you know. Out of this world, this guy! I've learned a lot from him... but I know he learned a lot from me too... more than he would admit... (he laughs). We had our time in the early â90s, we worked very, very hard and we got very, very close. It got too intense, too much. I wanted to go down a certain path and he wanted to go another... that's just the way it is. He's been very successful with his idea of how to make his dream come true... with Brazen Abbot, with the rock operas, gathering all kind of musicians... his projects. Excellent! But maybe someday we'll do something together again...
HRM: You know, HARD is pretty much on the radar screen now, with talented guitarist Endre Csillag also in the group, Hungarian fans expect something exciting; similar to what you did with Nikolo. With your help, we hope, this Hungarian band can make the international break-through.
BL: Well, of course we have the potential. But people's expectations must always be one step behind us. Our job is to be one step ahead, that's how I look at it. We cannot work towards expectations, that's not our job! We'll make a go of something, then you'll decide if that is good or not. We will do the best we can, with what we have. That's really the only way we can do this. We cannot promise anything, we cannot guarantee sales... but who knows, maybe Bill Gates wants to be our sponsor - and then I can promise you good sales!
HRM: I did not particularly mean sales. Rather recognition.
BL: Well, anyone can have an international release, but the true measure in the end - is sales. That's the most common measurement tool for success. Not if you're on TV, or if you have big tits, it's the sales! It's the money! Ask any executive at record companies - if you don't make money, you're dropped from the label. It is as simple as that!
HRM: But you have your own label (BLP).
BL: Yes, and that's pretty much why I have my own label (he laughs). Because I don't agree with that, for me this is not important. I make music, âcause music is what I do. I love making music. Well, I have to put my business hat on and start thinking as a business man when I work with the label side, but maybe I'm not a good executive. I try to keep it simple and let the music do the talking. If I don't like the music, if there is no close relationship to it, then it does not matter how hard I work. It takes another personality. I try to focus on what I think is important.
Together with Gabor and with the others in the band, we try to smell what song is a potential song for the radio, etc... should we change a little bit here, so that we get more air-time? This is pretty important, not only at the internet radios. You need to get into the other radio stations as well, alongside with Alice Cooper & Bon Jovi, the big acts, you know. It's always a kick in the butt if you manage to get in there! I've been there a few times and it feels good...
HRM: It's difficult nowadays.
BL: Very difficult! So many bands coming out, everybody is fighting for the same bandwidth. You have to think what is important to you. How do you wanna make music, not how successful you wanna become. Success is being alive and making music. Success is already here. You have to learn, how to recognize it. Success is not something that is only on TV. Success is here, we could be sleeping under the bridge. Hey, we're lucky people, man!
HRM: It seems that the Swedish hard rock scene is very healthy. Lots of good bands, excellent players. What is the secret?
BL: Well, I think most of the popular stuff coming out from Sweden is pretty main-stream. Very polished. As it says in the manual. In my ears, a lot of it sounds the same. We have great song-writers, who know the manual very well, great engineers who can get a hip sound going. I'm not trying to put them down or anything, but for me, it's not that unique and special - and not the same as high quality or excellence!
HRM: You may be right, but the overall standard is quite high, you have to admit.
BL: Yeah, but you have as great musicians here, I'm sure. We're maybe just faking it better... no, we are not better than you or anyone else. I've heard productions made here in Hungary and they are clever in arrangements and sounding just right in my ears.
HRM: By the way, your home page is in Swedish... isn't that strange nowadays?
BL: I don't have time to do everything in two languages (he laughs). There are parts of my homepage that is in English, my biography for example. I have a career singing in Swedish also. I make songs in Swedish that I release for the radio around Scandinavia. Hopefully an album will come out one day with my Swedish songs. That was the main reason for setting up this home-page. You know, it's not a big deal! I just don't know how to find the time to upgrade my site and what to write, it's so much work. But sometimes I write something there, I know my mother-in-law watches it every day (he laughs)!
HRM: Thank you for the interview! Finally, do you have any message to the young musicians?
BL: Keep on making your own music! If that is something completely different to the mainstream, don't hesitate - go ahead and do it! That's the only important thing - get to know yourself and what kind of musician you are...!
Hard Rock Magazin (www.hardrock.hu)