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Diablo Swing Orchestra

Better late than never, as the saying goes: recently we finally received back the answers to the questions that LoM sent to the cheerful Swedish swing metal sensation Diablo Swing Orchestra. It seems that in order to make up for the slight delay, bassist Anders Johansson really took the time for this one and he has blurted out a real tsunami of words. Which is not a bad thing at all considering his positive style of answering. Though somewhat belated, we are more than happy to present to you our readers the entire story behind DSO's most recent album 'Pandora's Pinata'.

By: Richard G. | Archive under different metal

How is Diablo Swing Orchestra doing at the moment? At the moment of writing it is still a little over a week until the new album 'Pandora's Piñata' will be released. How are you anticipating this date?
First and foremost, thanks indeed for having us. As time would have it, the record has actually been out a few months by now, so anticipation was gradually somehow exchanged for amazement over results. The expression ”assumption is the mother of all fuck-ups” often seem to apply to anything anticipated, so we kept that on the far end; out of reach. These days, having a better view over the terrain, being on the other shore of the release date, we are all truly humbled by the reception of out there so far. Some of the reviews and statements really raise a lot of diabolical eyebrows in the positive sense over at our end, I'd say. To be totally honest, aside from the highest rated reviews, we praise the lowest grades too, since they tend to contain superlatives and their entertaining counterparts, which in turn usually make for a good read. However, nowadays, we seem to have to make do with the all good ones alone! What happened there? I guess there's something in this Eden-born piñata appealing to everyone somehow, huh? The in-betweens on the other hand, tend to be kind of vague and boring; hence they seldom interest us much. We're not less grateful for them though! That being said, we are indeed eagerly awaiting all the grand negative ones popping up. The writers of those usually use word-crayons like none other!

With already two mind-blowingly diverse albums under the belt, was it difficult to determine where to go with the third offering? How would you describe the chosen course for the record?
You really think they are that different? Well, I guess you could say that some songs from all three albums were brothers from other mothers in a sense, but I personally believe they all keep some form of thread all the way through. That being said, with this third release, we surely have thickened that thread into a tightrope — Something that make us all calmer around eachother musically. Everybody contributes in a wider sense these days, as opposed to the process of ”The Butcher's Ballroom” for instance, in which Daniel (Håkansson) did most of the composing. A whole lot has changed since then, though some things seem to stay the same too. Pontus (Mantefors) was already co-producing during our 2005 recordings, which still is the same for today's process. So. Everyone of us chipping in like that, is truly noticeable in the finished result, being as vivid as I'd like to say it is. Again, the various personalities of the band represented, as well as our musical backgrounds being of such a wide spread; it's all there, and audible. That spread is also what I've tried to convey using all those colours while art directing and drawing the latest album art work. We're simply not just red and black anymore — A whole lot of schatterings and hues in there today, in a lot of different ways, wouldn't you agree?

Another important part of the upbringing of our third album, definitely has to do with us communicating quite closely with our listeners during the last few years. For example, we've based a lot of the lyrical content on the mix of our own, and other people's own stories regarding relationships, individuality, as well as of society and its possibilities and discontents. We're all very alike as humans, and these topics can't be aired enough really. Along with those influenses, the most important thing we've applied in the process this time, is that growing definitely is all about integration, as opposed to excluding what you per definition see as ”not you”. Allowing is key, and our forgiving way of using a wide range of elements in our music, truly is the living proof of that. Evidently, all this has coloured the course of writing and arranging. The diversity of musical styles and influenses aside, we also have reached some kind of group identity in the recent years; almost ten years in by now! That's definitely the soul that keeps building up the tightrope we walk, I'd say.

You had some new additions to the orchestra in the form of Martin Isaksson (trumpet) and Daniel Hedin (trombonist). What specific opportunities did these instruments add to the DSO sound?
With Daniel Hedin (trombone) and Martin Isaksson (trumpet) finally added as full time members since a couple of years back, we've not only abounded into a dynamically larger apparatus these days, being able to accommodate horns in a much more integrated way while composing. We're also in the process of merging as components of a group; into some kind of creative alloy, if you will. This is truly noticable on the latest album, as you may have noticed. You can really hear the result of the eight of us being more present throughout the whole process of writing this time, with the aftermath of us being more glued together as both friends and fellow musicians, already as stated above. Again, the latter as opposed to in the beginning, that is. Now we're way better regarding rehearsing our songs before we enter the studio at all. I guess experiences of mutual highs and lows through out the years tend to do that to you as a group, right? We simply know the songs by heart at the end of the pre-studio phase these days; and there is well crafted pre-production material to fall back on, in case of issues presenting themselves while recording. This makes the recording process a much smoother one, which of course also may be heard audio-wise. I mean, that base helps everything from the producer to any possible additional musicians entering our recording sphere. Also, before, a lot of songs came out sounding like the brass was added on top of everything else, as opposed to these latest eleven songs, where trumpets, trombones, strings and woodwinds really blend into the mix, broadening the composition in its totality, instead of just being the salt and pepper on the surface. So, again, we are indeed a larger group of creative folks these days, but also a tighter unit at that; in a lot of ways.

The album's called 'Pandora's Piñata', what's behind this curious title?
As for the other two full length albums, we weren't only looking for a great title to connect to the other ones before it (albums or EPs), or to us as a band, but also a suitable container of the eleven songs as a whole — probably like any other band releasing an album would really. Think of it as a bag of tricks, a room for safe keeping, a collection of literary volumes, if you will. The piñata is our container this time around, and I guess you can all image the possible contents of that one, am I right?

And did any of these guest musicians have any creative freedom, or where they simply brought in to play what you had envisioned for them to play?
A lot of the melodic and harmonic ideas for the album came from Daniel (Håkansson) and Pontus (Mantefors) as usual, but many were added and conducted by Johannes (Bergion), who mantles all the additional musicians' work together with Daniel (Hedin) and Martin (Isaksson). Sometimes Bergion also does this in concert with Håkansson, and sometimes alone, or in collaboration with an external conductor, such as Per Gunnar Juliusson for the song ”Aurora” — A most splendid example of this. Mainly the add-on arrangements regarding harmonics are done separately and in Gothenburg, since Hedin, Isaksson and Bergion most practically all live there, while the main song arrangements are done in Stockholm, where we mostly rehearse guitars, drums and bass in unity. Well, we used to when Petter (Karlsson) was still in the band. So as a conclusion, the individual creativity and skills of the respective additional musicians of course shine through, but mainly Bergion and Håkansson pull the backend strings; pun intended of course!

band image

There are obviously numerous different musical styles played, often packed within one song. How do you decide which sounds work well together and which not? Does anything go, or are there any limits? Could you maybe give an example of a sound combination that you tried that did not work at all?
The main rule is that there are no rules, however, if it doesn't groove, swing or add goosebumps to your arms, why bother? Other than that, no unnecessary limits are neither placed upon the creative process, nor the respective genres or influences we represent as individuals. That being said, we try everything at least once, but that doesn't mean that it's applied to the mix in the end of course. A certain part, addition or instrument, must be part of a bigger picture; coherence and consistency wise. Otherwise it simply doesn't blend into the musical tightrope as spoken of above. An example of a song that didn't make this album due to this, was simply a more typical straight up metal song, ironically enough! Regarding future matters of cardinal directions of our music, I myself truly feel ourselves exploring the latin areas of music further. Partly because we're widely influenced from touring those countries, but also because we all seem to have those progressions built into our Swedish longing for places and experiences far away. Kind of a cliche, I know, but not less true.

The cartoon-esque album cover looks great again, why did you choose it? Who is responsible for it?
Being the Art Director of the above, I must simply blazon a THANK YOU right here. I'm most content over how the cover came out this time around. And at that — the seven deadly sins never sounded this good, right? The lyrical content of the album basically sums of the whole range of our human emotions of wanting and fearing in relation to our past and future projections, as well as the love within, available at all times. It applies to us all; through society as a whole. The worldly sins pulling us from love, can be likened to the contents of a piñata, just awaiting that proper blow to burst. Needless to say, that's the Eden reference of Peter Bergting's lovely cover illustration, as found on the cover of the US Digipak and the UK Special Edition CD & vinyl release. Along with Bergting's illustrative work, for the third time around, the somewhat more graphical 50s/60s manner from the molding of the seven deadly sins, was drawn by me during a period of six month before the album release. It's a somewhat vintage style that suits the way I usually tackle daily illustration work, but I managed bring it to another level for Diablo Swing, and at that find a way of easily adapting that illustrative manner from object to object too. Once I knew what a knife would look like, a pair of dice or a night sky weren't all that hard to draw. That really helped, since there were a lot of objects to be drawn! I really think they turned out well too. Browsing through the deluxe versions of the ”Pandora's Piñata” sure is a designers' treat! The US version from Sensory Records/The Laser's Edge also has black gutters and is printed on a certain uncoated paper stock. Nerdy, I know. Not to mention Candlelight Records' 180 g solid baby blue UK vinyl release. Now, how's THAT for De-Luxe?

After the previous album 'Sing-a-long Songs For The Damned And Delirious' was released on Ascendance Records, 'Pandora's Piñata' is now again release on Candlelight. What was the reason for switching back to the label that released your debut 'The Butcher's Ballroom'?
While working with Candlelight Records the first time around, we got to know the infamous Lee Barrett. A sound relationship that, among other things, made us come to play the Purple Turtle in London back in 2009. Since Barrett left Candlelight a few years ago, we simply chose to follow him to his own label, Ascendance Records. It's as simple as that. His focus on more deluxe releases was obviously interesting to me personally as a graphic designer too. At the time of the 'Pandora's Piñata' release however, the guys over at Candelight simply had the perfect synchronicity, and made us a good deal regarding the UK/Europe release, so we decided to run with those guys one more time. Their sub label Back On Black also received the vinyl rights for the release, and again, what a beauty that bacame in the end. Get 'em while they're still blue.

Even though Diablo Swing Orchestra have been releasing music mainly through metal labels, one would say that the music can appeal to a far more varied audience than just metal heads. Would you agree with this? Do you see this translated in the audience that might attend an average DSO show?
We park our cars in the same garage, so yes — luckily, we've hit a rather wide range of tap dancing folks out there. Even a lot of elders and kids seem to enjoy the constantly surprising moves and the wide mix of elements. I mean, the elders were young when swing was the main game of the contemporary scene way back when. And every kid in town has that all-access energy pouring over, that automatically brings it all to a boil while dancing! Those people aside, a lot of open-minded metal heads seem to fall into our void too. Not to mention the progressive lot at that. Folks listening to everything from classical music, contemporary yet crazed jazz and 1920s swing, to Muse, Primus, Tool, Porcupine Tree & Opeth seem to attend our shows. Yes, we do see a lot of familiar t-shirt prints out there. True metal heads may be kind of startled and a bit hard to coquette still though...

I saw that you will be going to South America first for live promotion of the album. What are your expectations for the tour? Why did you choose to go there first?
Again, as time has flown by pretty quickly lately, we've already managed to have gone over there, seen their nothing-short-of-amazing cities, tasted the spirits, and coquetted them citizens. Wow what an experience that was, aside from being deported from Caracas, Venezuela, of course. That could have both gone worse and better than it actually did. Phew. The reason for us choosing to go to Latin America for the premiere touring of the 'Pandora's Piñata', was definitely that many of the countries over there has expressed a vast liking of the band and its repertoire lately. I guess you can say that they simply coquetted us first then!

When will we be able to experience the Orchestra live in Europe again?
Oh boy. That would be something. Well, our in-and-out show at Wacken Open Air hopefully spawned some probable ventures for the near future. Truly looking forward to seeing the results from that one. Also, we're actually planning some shows here in Sweden at the moment — an awaited return after the 2008 show in Karlstad — and then two or three in Russia and Finland for the winter and spring. Other than that, we're eagerly awaiting a revenge on going back to Venezuela, and then adding some shows in other countries that we simply missed out on during our last visit, such as Chile and Peru. Of course a repeat performance of the 3000 attendee show at Circo Volador in Mexico City would be a dream come true; looking back with a smile...

These were my questions for now, thank you very much for your time and hope to see you soon! If you have anything to add, please go ahead.
Once again we bow and curtsey! And remember, boys and girls. Stay attentive, be playful, keep curious! And that future everyone is speaking fondly of, is now.

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