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Abramis Brama

Ze vertolken hun teksten in hun moedertaal Zweeds, zijn er niet op uit om de grote massa te bereiken, maar hun passie voor muziek uit te dragen. Gelukkig krijgen ze veel waardering van een relatief kleine maar fanatieke aanhang en veel collega muzikanten. Hoog tijd voor een nadere kennismaking met Abramis Brama. Zanger Ulf Torkelsson en bassist Mats Rydstrom vertellen hun verhaal.

Door: Cor | Archiveer onder hardrock / aor

Abramis Brama is pretty well known in the Scandinavian regions, but most of our readers will probably not be that familiar with the band. Can you give us an update about the band history please?
Ulf: Abramis Brama started as a band around 1997 in Fagersjo, on the outskirts of Stockholm, Sweden. It all started with four guys who where all working together, when they realized they all had a passion for music. They started jamming together and discovered that writing songs came easy. All of them enjoyed heavy, riff-infused rock and the genre kind of took its own form from there. To write songs in Swedish came naturally since all the members of the band were inspired by earlier Swedish folk/rock acts such as Pugh Rogefeldt and November. The first twelve song demo was recorded in 1998, which resulted in recognition from record companies and other musicians. The first album, that was a result of this, was called 'Dansa Tokjävelns Vals', and was released in late 1999. From then on we played a lot of live gigs and built our underground fan base. We have never really been a commercial band, more known for energetic live gigs at festivals and such.

You seem to be much appreciated and respected by many colleague musicians. I personally got in touch with your music after recommendations by several other bands from your region, when interviewing them. Also your relatively small group of followers is very dedicated. Is there anything special you did to achieve that?
Ulf: Mostly we all enjoy playing live and connecting with the people who come to our shows, it's the best forum for them to hear what kind of a band we are. We always worked hard to be the kind of live band we'd want to see ourselves, making sure that every single person who comes to our shows gets drawn in to the groove and enjoy the music. Many hours of rehearsal is crucial, and we are so glad to see this has resulted in us becoming an appreciated act!

Mats: As a previous diehard fan and friend of the band I attended 30+ shows over the years, if not more, and they delivered the goods every time, the musicianship and energy was always top notch! My old band, Backdraft, shared the bill with Abramis a number of times, back in the early 00's. As far as I can remember is that we usually switched who went on last. Backdraft were quite cocky at the time and we thought we would always run over other bands like a bulldozer. Abramis Brama was the only band that we didn't really want to go on after and try to follow.

What can you tell us about the peculiar album title ‘One-way Ticket’, is there some philosophical meaning?
Ulf: There is absolutely a meaning to the title of this album. We wanted to state with the title track and it's lyrics that we are never giving up on our passion for music. We are not slowing down and we are not ever going to stop. There has been some major changes in the dynamics of the band that could have slowed us down, but we saw it as an opportunity to build something new, even heavier and even more energetic. This album marks kind of a rebirth of the band.

It’s been over five years since your last release. In the meantime the last founding member Dennis Berg had left the band and had to be replaced. What parts of Abramis Brama’s music are still true to the original values, and what parts have evaluated in your opinion, and is there a difference in approach towards song material and song writing?
Ulf: Most of the music is still true to our previous values, but the process of writing the songs is quite different. Before, we often worked with almost finished songs that one or the other band member had written themselves and then we tweaked them together. Now, we jam together and write together, which leaves us greater opportunities to explore all kinds of musical outcomes. I definitely prefer this way of writing, since we are passionate about playing live and therefore play best when given freedom in creating.

Mats: I have maybe got some sort of outside perspective still, and as I joined just before the recordings, the foundations for the songs were already there. We mainly worked on finishing writing and arranging them. In that respect, the album has a strong connection to Abramis Brama's past, but I also think it goes off in some other directions that they had explored before, but this time were not afraid to fully go to the end of the road in each direction. We tried to make the most of every song, and they are all quite different. The most interesting part is: Where we will go next? During these recordings we also worked on four or five other songs, in early stages. I feel they also are true to Abramis Brama's history, but of course they will be slightly different since Dennis is no longer in the band and writing process.

In 2012 you performed on Rockpalast. This must have been some kind of break-through to a broader audience. How did you experience this, and was the performance on this show noticeable in for example sales numbers?
Ulf: The experience of playing on Rockpalast was truly amazing! Previous heroes in music have played at Rockpalast and it was an honor to stand there and perform. Since playing there we've increased sales outside of Sweden but most of all we've gotten a lot of requests for a European tour. Lots of new traffic on social media and comments from non-Swedes happen on a daily basis now and I think we have the gig at Rockpalast to thank for that, absolutely.

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In my review I mentioned if there ever should be another Woodstock, Abramis Brama ought to be on stage. Your music breaths that great seventies expressiveness. How did you guys get to know that music which is not from your own childhood and who do you consider to be your musical examples?
Ulf: When I was six years old I used to lay on the floor, at my grandma's house, listening to my uncle's records. He was a hippie, living in Stockholm in the late 60's but when he passed away in 1973 my grandma took over his record collection. In there I found musical treasures like Golden Earring, Vanilla Fudge, Quicksilver Messenger Service and many more in that genre. From there my musical curiosity grew and when I one day literarily stumbled upon a broken tape on the street that I took home to repair, I found one of my greatest musical inspirations. As the church bells of the track 'Black Sabbath' started to ring in my speakers something sparked in my mind. I would never be the same.

Mats: After discovering Kiss and the metal of the day as a nine year old in 1983, I started working my way back through history. After the most popular 70's bands like Sabbath, Zeppelin and Purple you start discovering the lesser known ones. Before the Internet, one source of more obscure 70's rock was some radio shows by Hakan Persson on Swedish national radio, who actually interviewed us earlier today. That was probably in my later teens, when I first heard bands like Jericho, Groundhogs, Montrose, Armageddon. Later, when I played with Raging Slab, slide guitar goddess Elyse Steinman gave me a lot of wonderful music, from Canterbury prog to heavy rhythm & blues and all sorts of eclectic out there music, which has been very important to me. I'm still very curious about finding new old music. Even if the more obscure artists weren't always as solid as the big names, it's still inspiring to hear different takes on the sort of proto-metal that has since shaped hard rock, but these days I probably get as much of a musical influence from old blues, soul and R&B as any rock music.

Something else about that atmosphere in your music; how do you get it into your music? Has it basically been recorded in one take as a band in one room and do you use old vintage gear and analogue recording?
Mats: I'm not sure what you want to hear, but the fact is that it's neither an analogue recording, nor first takes recorded with all members in one room. We all did play together and Ulf sang for the basic tracks of the album, but the individual parts were all later redone and sometimes rewritten. We play well together and have fun doing so, so it will not be a problem getting good results that way – but for this particular album, it needed to be done in this way, for both various personal and practical reasons. The red thread running through the record is the conviction that we knew what end result we wanted to achieve, and that we worked until we were satisfied. Some of the bands earlier album have been much faster affairs, and we are not foreign to trying a completely different approach next time. It's all dependent on how the songs are developed. Some of these songs were more or less finished, while others were more open to modification. But yeah, either that or: We just got really high a few nights in a row and had a really amazing vibe and booom!!!

You once (re-)recorded an album with tracks in the English language. After that you returned to lyrics in your native tongue. Has this got something to do with you guys focusing on your Scandinavian audience/no aspirations to worldwide fame, or is this about the expression in the lyrics being best in your own language? Also, what can you tell us about what the lyrics are about?
Ulf: As I see it, writing in English is easy. One word can mean many things, where in our native tongue one word often means one thing. This makes it a much more tricky affair to write meaningful and heartfelt lyrics. It can easily become absurd and silly but when we write the songs we focus on getting the message out, wanting to let the listener think for themselves, not by being too obvious. We feel that if the music is good enough, and it can touch people who does not know the language – that is brilliant. But we never aspired nor do we aspire for world fame, for anything other than people listening and enjoying our music, understandable or not.

Mats: Staying true to the original idea of singing hard rock in Swedish, when no one else did it, I think has also earned the band a lot of respect, although some people abroad probably found the one English album more accessible. The fact that the band focused on Sweden also made them play here a lot more than most bands, and that also helped building a loyal fan base. I think the music fits best with Swedish lyrics, and I think the lyrics are important for the songs. At the same time, I'm a big fan of Bombino, for example, even though I don't know any Tamashek obviously. And I don't really get what either Magma sing about, or Blue Öyster Cult for that matter, but still love the music. So I can appreciate that listeners just find the music good enough without understanding the meaning.

A few choices: playing live or recording?
Playing live.

Playing a huge festival with a thirty minutes gig or a full show in a small venue?
Full show in a small venue.

Releasing on CD or vinyl?
Vinyl! And we will, but it will be after the summer.

What would be your ultimate dream for Abramis Brama and what are the realistic future plans?
Mats: I want to help preserve all that's always been so great about Abramis Brama, while at the same time trying to work to grow the opportunities for the band, whether it is playing in Sweden or abroad. Just playing, regardless of the size of the venues, is the most important, and to keep doing that while balancing any sort of normal existence for everyone involved is my goal. Of course it would be interesting to present the band on a big stage to a huge crowd, but not while sacrificing anything that the band stands for. To open for a the latest arena band, and playing five songs for indifferent hipster crowds would not do Abramis Brama any good. Playing an experience like DunaJam in Sardinia would be much cooler, in my opinion, or any of all the great but smaller sized festivals there are for bands like Abramis Brama. To be able to do more of that would both be perfect and realistic.

Ulf: I totally agree with what Mats says, and also going on a European tour would be really great, when we find the right kind of venues!

Mats: And also, another realistic and important part of the plan is also to write and record new music for another album, and that's not gonna take five more years. Promise!

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