Track By Track with Jörgen Schelander
ASTRAKHAN from Sweden just have released the follower to their good debut from 2013. With experienced musicians seen in bands like PAIN OF SALVATION, ROYAL HUNT, EVERGREY and other scandinavian quality bands ASTRAKHAN is now set to reach a broader audience. Magnificent singer Alexander Lycke is well known as a musical artist, starring main-roles in plays like Jesus Christ Superstar, Hair, American Idiot and Les Miserables all over Europe.
For their new record (Review hier) we asked Jörgen Schelander of ASTRAKHAN to tell us everything about the new songs. So please enjoy the track by track commentary by Jörgen to ’Adrenaline Kiss’:
Hear me Now
This is a very varied song, and one of the last to be finished. It wasn't until we started rehearsals for the recording of the ’Adrenaline Kiss’ album that everything came into place. Marcus Jidell came to the rehearsal studio telling us he had a riff for this song that we thought was finished. We had been working hard to get all the different pieces fit together ever since Martin showed us the rhythm on drums and bass in the beginning and there was no time for any new parts. But Marcus showed us the riff, Per and Martin added their bass and drums and the opener for the album was there. I think it’s interesting how a short riff can embrace a whole song and make it sound fantastic.
Per and Alex worked together on the lyrics as they did on many of the songs on this album, and the lyrics adds so much to the melancholy feeling, especially in the outro.
So all in all, this song is truly a band effort and we immediately knew it should be the first song on the album.
Wisdom Of Massdestruction
I have always written these short tunes on piano, but in the end not knowing what to do with them. We already had so many songs to choose from, and didn't really need more ballads. So we tried to spice it up a bit and struck gold. Instead of a ballad played on rhodes we now had a moogdriven, aggressive but still floating song where Alex could sing his heart out. If you listen very carefully you will hear all the different rhythms going on in the chorus. Different and slightly altered but together they work fantastic, so very progressive.
We had some problems getting it right when we recorded the song in the studio, and actually argued a lot over the vibe of the song. But it was late and when we came back the day after and talked things over we got to work, and the result was there in no time. That was the only time during recordings we had an argument and voices were raised. Otherwise we had a great time with lots of laughs and joyable memories.
The middlepart after the pianosolo is a result how Per and I sometimes write songs. I showed the chords to him and a few days later he returned telling me he had a melody way different from what I had thought. This is just one example how this song all the time went different and sometimes strange ways. But it’s one of my favorites and is so fun to play live, especially the heavy outro.
Per was on tour in Europe and Alex was away singing Jesus Christ Superstar in Finland. In retrospect many of my early ideas on this album are from those few months in spring. I was at home writing some bits and pieces and had the band listen to them between gigs so to speak.
When they came back to Sweden both Per and Alex had melodies for the chorus. We got together and tried them out and the result is what you hear on the album. Per and Alex had written singingparts which, slightly changed, fit perfect together. I heard a modern flower of power song and with all the harmony-singing tangled in each other, the mellotron and the heavy riffing I think we achieved just that.
Finally in the true sense of being categorized as a progrock band we end the song as we open it. And of course it’s a long one, more than eight minutes.
How can you name a song so gloomy, about people no longer with us ’Alive’? Well, if you know your ASTRAKHAN this comes as no surprise. This was the first song we wrote for the album and it took us only like 15 minutes from start to a finished song (it is actually initially written on guitar). But then comes the sometimes tricky part. ”Ok, we have a great song, what do we do now?”
Our way is often to do as little as we can, just letting the song lead you on and this is what happened here. Instead of playing the song on guitar, I played it on my rhodes while Martin and Per just played along as smooth as they could. Alex sang the lyrics as only he can do and everything fell into place, the rest is only adornment. When you have a singer like Alex in the band you don’t need so much more. Just let him have his space and enjoy the ride.
That this was to be the first single was not a difficult choice. Every time I hear ’Alive’ it puts me in a melancholy state of mind, and when we play it live time stands still.
Marcus plays a great slide solo which leads into the odd-time part and then back to the intro again.
The title track is a song I initially didn’t think would make all the way to the album. But it came out in a way I hadn’t expected and it is nowadays one of my favorites when we play live. The indian middle-part with flutes and tablas gracefully played by Jonas Sjöblom, mixed with moog and guitar and backed by heavy bass and drums was one of the first things Per and I wrote together many many years ago.
The lyrics, as the music, are a collaboration on the subject written by Alex, Per and Jörgen. When your world are moving too fast you must sometimes take a step back and see things from a different angle. In true ASTRAKHAN-way Per and Alex probably will say it’s about something else, and people listening to the song and lyrics probably will see it in a different perspective, at least that’s what I hope. A truly great song should mean something else to you than it does to me, and give you something back when you are listening to it. And that something doesn’t have to be the same to each and everyone of us. I’m not here to preach to anyone, and that is one of the reasons we don’t explain or discuss the lyrics that much within the band. A lyric can mean different things to different people and that’s the way it should be.
One More Day
There are so many elements in this song that sums up what ASTRAKHAN is about. From the heavy riffing, big harmony-vocals, the layered chord progression down to the hymnlike middlepart and then it’s back to the acoustic verse again. This one is also from the sessions when Alex and Per was touring abroad and for me the song is the sibling to ’Silver Dreams’.
Marcus played a fantastic solo but still he wanted to try a different one. I am just amazed how talented he is, and how fast he can come up with one great guitarpart after another. Marcus really made a deep impact on this record, as a producer as well as a guitarist.
When we started the journey this time we wanted to make the album more like a band effort. The sound and the vibe of the album should be more jam-ish than on our first album ’Retrospective’. To have everyone involved from the beginning, from songwriting to a finished album was important for how this album came out. During rehearsals Alex suggested that we should try different keys on this song. Not on the whole song, only some parts of it like the chorus for instance. It turned out great and spices everything up a bit.
The hymnlike middlepart was not everyones favorite and we struggled to get it right. But once we had it and knew what we should do there wasn’t really any problem for any of us. Klas Jervfors and Bengt Melin joined in for horns and I got to play an old school pumporgan.
Ballade De Rhodes
We all liked this song, but felt different about it. We had many discussions how we should approach it and actually recorded it in three different versions, each one way different from the other. The lyrics are very special here and at one time in the studio someone asked what it was about. The answer was interesting since we had different opinions not only what the lyrics was about but also the mood of it. I believe that’s one of the reasons why we recorded it in so many versions. Is this song about sadness or is it about hope or is it about courage?
The changes from minor to major when you hear the chorus might give you a clue.
The beginning of a journey through time and space, in so many ways. I have a special place in my heart for the old keyboardsounds from the 60s and 70s. You know the moogs, the mellotrons and others. I used them a lot on this album. On the intro and in this song they all fits just perfect. I wanted to capture the vibe of the lyric, just to be moving on constantly. Talking time and space it is all over this one. The riff is an extended one that just goes on and on changing time as it goes. The same goes for the chorus, changing keys and then back to that long riff.
Marcus played a fantastic guitarsolo here to, way different from what I had expected but still so good and so smooth.
We got so many good reviews for our first album ’Retrospective’. We were sometimes overwhelmed by what people told us in concerts and in letters. But one swedish journalist reviewed it as ”smäktande paviljong jazz”. In english it could be translated to ”languishing pavilion jazz”. Funny, but far from what we thought so we said to each other ”ok, let’s try writing some real languishing pavilion jazz”. It turned out so good, many thanks to Alex vocals, that we kept it and put in on the album. But with the twist that Marcus goes all the way over the jazz on his guitar in the outro. Per wrote the lyrics, at first in english but later in swedish. We choose to go by the swedish one on the album. It just felt more natural.
sTHLm is of course a shortening for Stockholm, Swedens capital and our hometown. We all have lived our whole lives here and have so many memories from this town. I have been to many countries and seen lots of places but I say Stockholm is the most beautiful capitol in the world. The air is clean, you can take your own boat (if you have one) all the way to the royal castle in the centre of Stockholm. It’s fairly safe, at least compared to some other big towns and there is so much history here, especially in the ”Old Town”. It’s just our hometown and we love it, for better or worse.
What may be the downside in Stockholm, at least if you are a musician or a fan of hardrock, is that there is almost no place to hear live music. There are very few clubs where you can enjoy good music of the harder kind. Some enthusiasts, like those people arranging the Sweden Prog Fest each year, work hard to change that. Maybe there are so many other things to do, I don’t know, but I for sure hope that will change. Every city needs a living live stage and Stockholm is no exception.
Von: Michael Haifl