January 2002 - THE SATELLITE CIRCLE
Two years ago I received the debut EP of this Swedish power-trio and I still like it a lot. In 2001 THE SATELLITE CIRCLE released their outstanding debut album on ROA Records and it's just more than only a fine step forward. With their authentic mixture of Heavy Psych, Blues and Doom they stick out of the mass of average groups. So it was time to contact the band for the details and the background of their heavy blend.
Hey, how you're doing guys?
Fredrik Holmgren: Fine.
You've released an exciting debut album on Rage Of Achilles Records. Is it true, that they have re-released your first mini-CD and how did you get together with them ? I ask this, because in Sweden are also a lot of small independant label.
Fredrik: Yes, ROA also released our EP Way Beyond the Portal of the Bone White Rubber Sun. Duncan, who runs the label, first heard and read about us on the Internet I think. He then made contact with us and asked if we could send him some promostuff. A couple of tunes from the EP were on a number of compilations before we got in contact with ROA.
Although the mini-CD was very good, I think you've made a step forward with the debut. There's a bigger variety and the songwriting has progressed a lot. I would say, that the whole band sounds more matured. What do you think about it and how are the responses for the debut-CD ?
Fredrik: The idea behind the material on the album was to make it varied and dynamic. We didn't want to do a record that was heavy all the way, 'cause there are so many of them already. That stuff also sounds a bit boring when you have heard a couple of songs in a row. We wanted the psychedelia and the soft parts to make the heavy doomy bits sound heavier. The record has a lot of heavy riffing on it, but we have arranged everything to have chords and melodic passages in there as well. It gives the vocals possibilities to be more melodic, and create contrast to the heaviness.
The whole album sounds very organic. How much time have you spend in the studio? Have you recorded the tracks in Sweden or in the UK?
Fredrik: We recorded everything in four days or something like that, and then mixed it during three days or so. The album was recorded at a local studio here in Umea, Sweden, called Second Home. It was a great place for this kind of band. The guys who runs it really understands what is needed to get a 70s/psychedelic vibe. They also have lots of vintage equipment such as fuzz pedals, echos, keyboards and so on.
Douglas Knightbridge who recorded and mixed everything also plays in Spacious Mind, a well known act in the psychedelic scene. The album was then mastered at Tonteknik. We are very pleased with the outcome of the sessions as a whole. We're not the kind of band that would like to spend 6 months doing the basic tracks, we want to go in there and play together. Most of the tunes on the album are very early takes. A lot of mistakes have been left but we didn't want to change anything. The groove is always the most important thing to preserve, and I think we succeded.
One fact, that impresses me very much about THE SATELLITE CIRCLE is, that your sound is very close to all the legendary underground heavy-psych monster bands from the early 70's . You have managed it to capture the vibe of this musical period, without sounding like a boring retro act. Is it a thing that comes naturally out of the band ?
Fredrik: We are not really trying to sound exactly like the old acts of the 70s, we sure would like to, but we can't. They grew up with different music than us. The Satellite Circle are just trying to create an own version of 70s jam rock. It is impossible to copy the real thing. Somewhere we ended up with a sound and a groove of our own, a lot of people have told us that we have a special sound. We will develop that (hopefully) unique thing further.
In another interview you have been asked about Sir Lord Baltimore, one of those legendary bands that I've mentioned above. Are they a great influence for you, and what do you like about them?
Fredrik: They are one of those early hard rock powertrios whos sound has almost disappeared in modern day music. We like Sir Lord and other bands in the same tradition. Mountain, Cream, Blue Cheer, Who and Grand Funk are some others. The element of those bands that we are influenced of is the jamming feel. Every instrument works together as a whole and fills out the songs. The arrangements are made by feel and written during jams, not on a computer or something. It is a fun style both to hear and play.
What does this musical period between 1966 and 1974 means for the band ? Do you think, that there was something special going on and what are your personal faves out of this time?
Fredrik: Well, for me it's the period between '68-'72. There was a lot of interesting things happening in rock'n'roll then: Zeppelin, Sabbath, Stones at their best, Who, Purple and so on. The evil commercial side of the record industry hand't yet been able to get a hold on the heavy rock scene and kill it. They finally caught up in about '74. A lot of great music have been made since despite this, but the '68-'72 period is real special. It is also the core in my vinyl collection. 1983 was a good rock year too.
Frederik, you have used a bass sitar as an additional instrument for the recording sessions of the self-titled debut. I know what a bass is and a sitar, but what is a bass sitar ? I never heard of it before.
Fredrik: That was more or less a joke during the development of the cover idea. We descided to take the bass sitar thing off but the record company had already begun to manufacture the CD:s, before we had corrected everything! So there are a lot of misspellings. Anyway, the bass sitar idea came from a trick I did in the studio during the recording of a song called Black Mountainside. I put a guitar string in between the bass strings at the bridge on my Fender P-bass, and the ran everything through a guitar amp with reverb. It sounded a bit like a sitar when I played a certain scale.
This question goes to drummer Jonas. You're are also responsible for all vocals, and I think this isn't the easiest job. Can you agree and when did you discover your talent for singing? Did you start as a drummer or as a singer?
Jonas Ericson: I really dont think playing the drums and sing at the same time is that hard as everyone seem to think. For instance, if you play the guitar and sing, then you already use both arms and your voice, just add both feet and you will be able to learn to play the drums and sing as well. The problem is, from my point of view, the exhaustion. Our music always tend to make me wanna hit harder and sing and scream even louder, and it's hard work. Before, myself and Jonas Nordin shared the singing, but now I sing lead. And to answer your last question, I first began to play drums, when I was around eleven or twelwe, and then took up singing.
When did you decide to form THE SATELLITE CIRCLE and what is the musical background of every member? Have you ever been into 70's Rock or what are the musical roots of every member?
Fredrik: The Satellite Circle grew out of a former project involving all three present members in around 1997-98. I have been into 70s rock for a long time, that's what I learned to play the bass from. I'm also into blues, heavy metal and 60s bands like Beatles and Kinks.
Do you feel some kind of limitation as a three-piece or was it planned right from the start?
Fredrik: No, we are not limited by being a three piece. It's rather the other way around. It's a lot easier to jam with one guitar playing both leads and rythm at the same time. I think that guitar style is a dying art. People like Pete Townsend, Ron Wood or Billy Gibbons can fill out a band better that two guys playing the exact same riff over and over. The bassplaying and the drums gets more freedom too. Everyone fills out the songs by feel, after a long time together we know what works and what doesn't. That old powertrio approach is what gives us a 70s feel. One way to add to the band's sound would be by using a hammond player. We have been jamming and playing live at a few occations with a keyboard player and it worked fine when everything was knocked into shape.
What are you doing, when you're not playing music ? How do you earn your money and what are your other interests aside of heavy psyched-out Rock?
Fredrik: I have a degree in software develompent, looking for work right now. Besides music I am interested in cars, old litterature, the third reich and web development.
Let's talk a little bit about the newer Swedish heavy rock scene. Aside of more popular bands like Spiritual Beggars or The Hellacopters, there are a lot of very good underground groups like Grand Magus, Abramis Brama, Backdraft, The Quill etc. Is there some kind of contact between you and these bands (gigs, tours) and what do you think about the Swedish "scene"?
Fredrik: There are lot of great bands, some of the best are Mushroom River Band, Half Man and Twin Earth. The problem is that there are no scene at all. It is hard to tour in Sweden playing this kind of music. People in general are into dance music when they go out to drink, and the rock scene itself is more centered towards currently more trendy styles. If there were more places to play I guess that Sweden would have a very healthy rock scene with a lot of interesting things happening musically. We haven't been gigging with any of the bands mentioned but we hope that we'll be able to.
I think, that there's a huge heavy rock explosion worldwide since the last five years. Everywhere on this planet there are a lot of new bands, new fanzines and online zines and new record labels. What is your point of view about it ?
Fredrik: Yes it has been coming back and that is great. For a while there were only dance crap and hip hop everywhere. There was some kind of over reaction to the 80s Poison/Def Leppard movement. People had enough of those super commercial bands (that were destroying rock by the way) and then turned techno and elecronic dance music. Music that was even more sell out! The mainstream rock scene sucks in general but there are lot of bands around that play for the right reasons. Many of them can be found in the stoner rock scene.
At least, what happens around THE SATELLITE CIRCLE in 2002 ? I hope, you are coming next year to Germany to present your mind-blowing sound.
Fredrik: I hope that we will be able to tour, nothing is certain at this point. Right now we are writing new material, we have a lot of great stuff on the shelf at the moment. Later on we'll record it. We will also be looking for a new record label to work with, ROA has changed direction a lot since we were singned. It would be great to work with a label that had a little more cash to spend on promotion, without beeing a major.
Thanks a lot guys for answering my questions. Good luck for the band and for your personal plans.
Fredrik: Thanks, good luck to yourself!