Hej hej! Thank you to Mats for giving me this opportunity to share some of my thoughts about Sweden and my experience of reconnecting with family and ancestry through my time on Allt for Sveriege. For those of you that may not be familiar with the show, I was one of the contestants on the first season of AFS and it was quite a dream come true. I had always heard from my dad about our Swedish ancestry but never knew much about it.
I knew ”MAGNUSON” was a swedish name…and that we spelled wrong…but that’s about it! I had been in some movies and TV programs in Los Angeles so one day, my wife mentioned the show and told me I had to try to get on it. I did…and ended up spending 7 weeks in Sweden visiting different parts of the country, competing in contests, and learning as much as I could on the way. I didn’t end up winning, but I gained so much in the friends I made and family I was able to get to know. So to the music…here is a cover of one of my favorite Kent songs, ”Om du var här”. I got to play an acoustic version while at the arctic circle in Sweden on the show. This is our rock version!
So, you may be asking…”How does a guy from Los Angeles know about Kent?? Well, when I first started dating Kyrsten. we were starting to write some music together and trading music and she gave me Hagnesta Hill to check out. This song in particular resonated with me. I loved the chords, I loved the lyrics…I just loved all of it. Great song that really got me hooked. And yes, I know the Swedish version is better, but this is the version I started with 🙂
But this affection for music from Sweden is not a recent thing. I enjoy a range of music from things on the more melodic side to things on the heavy side. I liked quite a few bands in the metal genre when I was learning guitar and was very inspired by them. But…the one band that I can say changed my perspective on ”what was possible” in music was a band a friend played for me. He said…”hey, you wanna hear some really crazy stuff?” Naturally I said…”yes”. He played me this song. And I’ve played this song and album probably more times than I can count. I’ve since seen them..many times and even met the drummer one time at the House of Blues in LA. So great!
During my time filming AFS, I had some downtime in Stockholm. I decided to take a walk around town. I was a bit nervous at first because in the US, people still mainly drive cars. Luckily I take public transportation around LA sometimes so am somewhat familiar with how it works. But I’ve gotta say, Sweden knows how to do it! So I took the metro here and there and with my tourist map in hand…I spent a lot of time just walking around Stockholm. I love that city. The history, the views, the boats…the architecture. Every where I looked, I felt inspiration. The parks too were so nice. Not that parks aren’t nice in LA, but they just aren’t maintained at quite the same level they are in Stockholm. I felt very confortable and spent a lot of time listening to different albums from these guys. This was my favorite.
I’ll post one more for now and then off to bed. One of the things I’m most thankful for is the opportunity to not just to get to visit Sweden or to be part of a TV show, but that I also got to involve music in this experience. They mentioned my band MAGNUSON briefly in Episode 3 and played a bit of our music as well. But after the show was over, I wanted to go back and spend more time exploring and if possible, play some shows. We heard about Live at Heart in Örebro so sent in an application to see if we could get in. And…we got accepted! Since then Anders Damberg and his crew have had us back to play the festival many times and it has ended up serving as the starting point for our last 5 European tours. Here’s some video of last years tour with our song Brand Park. Thanks again for listening and reading and I’ll see you all in a few hours!
I’m back…though a bit groggy 😉 But this reminds me of how I felt when I first got to Sweden the first time and was trying to adapt to 23 hrs of day light. No matter what I did, it seemed like I couldn’t sleep because when I opened my eyes…there was the sun. It did have an energizing effect though. Aside from being tired, I just really didn’t want to sleep. This was on AFS when we were staying at a farm near the beach…not sure the town. But with the fresh memory of almost dying on that first boat ride next to the ever-present sun, I had to get up and just experience nature in the middle of the night with the sun out. It was one of those moments where you have lots of thoughts about the world but can’t really explain them to anyone else. Here’s a cover of an old classic by a couple of my favorite artists.
In 2014, we returned to Sweden for another tour and we were working on booking a show in Stockholm. The 2 previous years we had played Stockholm shows at KGB which was such a cool venue. (The irony of an American, Capitalist band playing under a giant bust of Stalin was never lost on me but I, still liked it.) But upon hearing it had closed, we looked for other options. Kyrsten was doing research on venues and had mentioned something on Facebook about it. She got a response from an American transplant to Stockholm who just happened to be in a sword group with her. (She and I both train in HEMA long sword…but that is a story for later today!) Can’t thank Erin Lynch enough for the help she gave us on that tour and others after. But also for her introducing us to some really great bands in Iceland. Here is on of the first songs I heard by one of the other bands she works with.
Another Swedish band that inspired me a great deal and who I have seen in the US and at Gröna Lund in Stockholm is this band. They are amazing live but not only are they incredible musicians, their lead singer, Mikael Åkerfeldt, is also quite the comedian. His in-between song banter is hilarious! It was funny seeing them at Gröna Lund because he was still saying his jokes…but this time they were all in Swedish 🙂 In my introduction interview for AFS, you can see a poster of these guys behind me. It still hangs on the wall of our studio today to as motivation. In a very un-Swedish moment, Mikael, during screaming and cheers paused before launching into this song and stated in his matter-of-fact way: ”we know we’re the f*cking best”. Everyone screamed! It was so great.
The whole experience of being on AFS has been life changing. I mentioned all the Swedish friends I’ve made since then but many came from a combination of the show and Live at Heart. Our first trip back in 2012, we traveled forever, landed in Arlanda (where we ran into Mikael Åkerfeldt!) and finally got to Örebro. After we got checked in, we were exhausted but we knew we had to get out to see some bands. We did our homework and since some shows can’t be missed, we went out on the town. Can’t remember the club we ended up at but we were going to see this band. It was the only slot they were playing so we had to go.
When we first walked in, a couple walked up to us and said my name. It was strange as I hadn’t planned on being recognized but we began talking and have been in contact ever since. This was the amazing photographer Charlotta Raklitz and Matte Holm. You guys rock! Our last day of L@H that same year, we played an acoustic set in the mall. Someone came up to us as we were playing our last song and introduced himself. He later became our tour manager, guide, and mentor in all things Swedish. This was Leif Persson. Thanks to you for being there from the beginning and continuing to be our friends 🙂
One of my favorite artists growing up was this guy. I bonded with my friend Ola Fredholm while talking about The Smiths and his solo work. I always liked this song as it relates to my last comment about friends. You may not always agree on everything (we are all individuals so why should we?) but no matter what happens, value them always appreciate them!
Also on our trip in 2012, we were able to have one of the best experiences of my life..again as a result of AFS. I was able to get contact information for much of my family still in Sweden and, after connecting, they set up a reunion in Växjö. We all got together, looked at family trees and old photos, and shared stories from our different perspectives. We had some old maps of where family houses used to be but in one case, this had now been turned into a round-a-bout 🙁 So, in true Viking fashion, we ”reclaimed’ the round-a-bout as our family inheritance…but only for a photo op. I realized a connection to something greater than just myself and to the ”land of my fathers” for generations. This song came to mind as capturing feelings I’ve had reconnecting with perhaps the ”heart” of Sweden. Also, one of my all time favorite bands 😉
In 2015, we decided we needed to release another record. Reflecting on much of the tension facing our world, we decided to name the album ”Discordia” and set out to write songs to express some of these feelings. By early 2016, we had the material and got to work in the studio. This song was one of the first ones I wrote in a ”drop-C-but-the-rest-of-the-strings-stay-the-same” tuning I started playing around with. I’ve since grown quite fond of it! I have to thank our media guru friend Rob Condol for his help on this and all of our other videos.
Super strong coffee, herring, smoked salmon, knäckebrot, Melodifestivalen and annual Eurovision viewing parties are all things that have acquired permanent residence in my life after spending time in Sweden. In 2015, we were so inspired by this song, that we decided we had to learn it and play it at L@H. A big ”Grattis” again for the win on this song and its inspirational message.
I have to post this. Again, back to the thoroughly paradigm-shifting creative machine that is Meshuggah. I think this may be the definitive ”djent” song that so many have been inspired by.
My dad’s family also has Finnish ancestry but had never had a chance to go there. But after we had been to Sweden the first year, a friend from LA who had traveled there a great deal suggested we try to go to Finland. He put us in touch with some great people and starting in 2013, we’ve played there on every one of our tours since then. We played a DOOM festival with these guys in 2014 called ”Kiarama II”. We ended up friends with Teemu from the band, and he helped us in booking shows in Latvia, Estonia, and all over Finland. They are EPIC!
Art and technology have really been enhanced by Sweden in recent years. Platforms like Spotify and Soundcloud, as well as the song writing teams behind so much current pop music, have made the Swedish influence on the music industry impossible to miss. But art can also hold a mirror up to that same technology and reflect some of the challenges presented with having…anything we want at our finger tips…all the time. Like…who else might know what you’re looking at? This song hooked from the first moment I heard it and this video is so original and well done….I think it’s worth sharing.
I mentioned HEMA earlier. Kyrsten and I got inspired after seeing video from a Swordfish Tournament in Sweden. We
thought…”People are actually learning how to fight with long swords???” Luckily there was a school here in LA and we got on it! During our 2013 time at L@H, we found out that ÖREBRO HEMA had a class available. So we contacted Carl Ryrberg there and he said we could come by. This class was awesome! We already knew the basic moves but the level of expertise that exists in Swedish HEMA schools was mind blowing. These guys are the real deal and they’re awesome people. We came away with a new understanding of the art and with aspirations of improving our own abilities. And since we do like swords…we decided to put a few of them in this video. Don’t worry, no actual violence occurred during the filming of this project 🙂
A fairly recent band that I’ve grown to love is this band. I’ve generally loved the music of Europe but hadn’t really considered France as a destination for metal. But it has it…yes it does…and it has become a part of my morning public transportation commute! It took me a while to really, really get these guys but once I did, I just couldn’t ride the subway without this album playing. Probably my favorite song on the album.
Canada isn’t by Sweden…but neither is Australia 😉 So I thought I’d share a brand new song from on of my favorite 2-piece bands. I started listening to these guys about the time our drummer left our 3 piece band…and Kyrsten and I were trying to see if we could make it work with just 2 people. Then a friend said..”These guys are a 2-piece…” and they were amazing…so I knew it was possible. They’ve been a true inspiration. Very glad they got past their differences to put the band back together. The video is set in LA and I can say there are some ideas they explore here that are a bit too close to home 🙁
Okay now I know there is much more to Sweden than Vikings and swords and all that…but it is still a part of history that fascinates me and many others. Here’s a tune from another inspirational band proving metal can still be relevant to mainstream music. Metal is still quite popular in Europe but in the US, bands in the genre have had a harder time. Not true for these guys. Seen these guys quite a few times and even got to party on their tour bus once along with the drummer from Opeth. That was a night 🙂 They are helping to keep the metal alive and well in the US! Excellent production and…of course…the video has vikings and swords 🙂
This band also changed my mind of what was possible musically. I heard them when I did a tour in the UK playing bass and I thought they sounded a bit like Radiohead but way more EPIC! Their live show is ridiculous and I think I’ve seen every show they’ve ever played in the SoCal area. So talented, powerful, and thought provoking.
We often reach out to other bands when putting our tours together. In 2015, when we were working on our first Iceland show, Kysten found this band. I’m not sure what’s in the water there (or perhaps its what ISN’T in the water), but the music of Iceland is on a level all its own. We didn’t play with them but we wanted to! Insane drumming and overall composition so often overlooked in pop music these days. The industry seems to value acts it can easily package without a focus on originality. Perhaps if more bands were like this, that would change?
One last favorite band I have to mention. This time from Sweden’s long time historical best friend of a country, Denmark! 🙂 I’m intrigued by the idea that both Sweden and Denmark at one time thought of each other’s kings as dragon’s. Today, the 2 countries have one of the most insane bridges I’ve ever had the opportunity to cross. Quite a feet of cooperation and innovation…as well as an example of how people can come together to overcome obsacles to achieve big ideas.
I think I’ll leave it there for now. Thank you again for listening, reading and commenting. Being able to visit Sweden has changed my life in nearly every aspect. It has given me a chance to make new friends, learn new things, eat new foods, and go places I only hoped and dreamed of not that many years ago. It may be cliche but I still believe if you have a vision or goal, you can achieve it. It may take hard work, effort, or even personal sacrifice in some form or another but it is possible. Perhaps its the kind of sacrifice my great grandfather Fritz had to go through to leave Lörby Kladd in Blekinge or perhaps its as simple as spending less time with media and spending more time with friends or on whatever project you feel compelled to explore. I am thankful for Fritz’s sacrifice which, so many years later, created the chance to chase my dreams in the same way he did his. We aren’t the best band in the world but we do our best. I’m not some kind of special ’star’, but I live in LA and I do work on movies from time to time and that was always my dream. I always wanted to tour in Europe…it was just an idea. But by being open to opportunities as they came (or as I found them) let me take these steps to be here writing today. Without my experience with AFS and Live At Heart, I may have found another way to get these things done, but it wouldn’t have been the same. And I’m so blessed to have had things go the way they did. To everyone that I didn’t mention that helped make it possible…I can’t say thank you enough 🙂 I do my best to respond here to email or by FB message so if anyone ever wants to chat, feel free to reach out. Hopefully there’s enough material here to get you through the night. I really appreciate Mats asking me to participate in this series and I hope you’ve enjoyed it as much as I. One last video from my band that we’re quite proud of. Maybe its not ”the f*cking best” ever…but it means a lot to us. Enjoy…and see you soon in Sweden. Skål!!!!!!!