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A Dirty Dozen with JÖRGEN SCHELANDER from SWEET FREEDOM – July 2022

| 12 July 2022 | Reply

According to a recent press release: “Jörgen Schelander has been in lots of bands over the years since early age. Finnish metal pioneers OZ is one. But he also found joy accompanying for instance Swedish artist Dan Lindblad covering songs written by the legendary Carl-Michael Bellman or with Great Britains enfant terrible Judge Dread. But in recent years the focus has been on Misth (with singer Maria Rådsten from One More Time) and Astrakhan (with his brother Per Schelander on bass, Marcus Jidell of Avatarium on guitar and later Johan Hallgren of Pain of Salvation on guitar).” We get Jörgen to discuss new music, influences, and more…

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

When I quit my other bands I said to myself “now is the time.” It is said that everyone should write a book in their lifetime. Well, that’s not for me but to record an album with my own music, producing it myself? That is surely my thing. So I started from scratch writing music and lyrics, forming a band around them and produced the album Sweet Freedom according to Jörgen Schelander. During the whole process I ran into a few problems of course. Money was always on my mind and also the timeframe. But most of all the pandemic which was a problem as for everyone else. But if there was a positive thing with the pandemic and all the restrictions it’s that we could focus on the music. We didn’t have anything else to do and could dig deep into the songs. I struggled forward bit by bit with help from everyone involved and when Stefan Boman (Alice Cooper, Def Leppard, Opeth, etc.) agreed to do the mix I finally felt calm and satisfied. So there isn’t really any hidden nuggets in there, at least that wasn’t my intension. What there is is honesty, it is a very honest record. It’s very true to what I like in music. There is the energy that I’m listening for, you can feel us playing inside of you. When Stefan Nykvist sings his heart out you can tell he means it. On the other hand lyrically you may find other and deeper meanings the more you listen to it. There are some obvious ones for sure, but other songs like “Rest in Peace,” “Ghost of You,” and “Istanbul” might puzzle you the first times you hear them. But if you read the lyrics as you listen to the record and know about history you might find new things in there. But I won’t give them away, you have to listen for them yourself. The whole album is meant to hear as you did in the old days. You know, listen to it from start to finish reading the lyrics as you go. If you do that, you’ll get more out of it. I mean there is a reason that “Rest in Peace” is the last song on the album.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realized you wanted to be a musician?

There wasn’t any particular moment that came out of the blue sky. Others may talk about when they saw Jimi Hendrix on TV or the first time they heard The Beatles. That wasn’t the case for me as I remember it. Music was around in the house when I grew up(my mother played piano and organ in church). My older brother began to play drums(or banging on buckets might be a more proper description) at a very young age. So me and my younger brother just had to pick up guitar and bass so we could form a band. There is only five years between my oldest brother and my youngest, with me as the middleman, so we are and has always been very close. So, there wasn’t really a choice for me. When I had reached the age when I could begin study music at the communal music school in Sweden my mother didn’t ask me if I wanted to go but what instrument I would play. I wanted to play lead guitar like Ace Frehley of Kiss but that wasn’t an option. I was told I first had to start by learning to read music and that was easier if I played in an orchestra. So I started to play trombone at the age of 9 but quit after one year. Things had changed and I could began learning to play guitar instead. From that moment I just kept moving on, with my brothers side by side, at least until I was like 20 or something.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

A long time ago me and two friends went to a jazz- and blues festival in Gothenburg, Sweden. Initially we wanted to see The Blues Brothers Band (what was left of them) since we liked the movie so much, but the artist that stayed in my mind was Ray Charles who was headlining the festival. The musicianship combined with his energy and stage presence made a huge impact on me. I may say against myself now but it’s not only the song, it’s of course also the singer. Another occasion is when I saw Roger Waters perform Pink Floyds The Wall live in Gothenburg(again). I knew the hits but I couldn’t sing all the songs from beginning to end. So I was kind of surprised when there came a plane crashing within the first minutes. There and then began my love for Pink Floyd and I now understand what the band is all about. Years later I together with friends covered their 1977 album Animals from beginning to end which also was very rewarding and inspiring. I have quite a few persons that have inspired me. Paul Stanley, Ronnie James Dio and for the last ten years or so Steven Wilson to name a few. But if we’re talking keyboards I like to mention John Lord, Don Airey, Mark Stanway and Gregg Guiffria. Those guys have been with me from day one and are still my go to guys. When I heard Dream Theater for the first time in 1992 I was blown away. I had been kind of struggling trying to convince people that you could play rock and still have keyboards in the band. But they showed everyone it was possible. For the next 20 years they stayed up high on all my playlists. Top three of their records are Images & Words, Scenes from a Memory, and Octavarium I think. Especially “Pull Me Under” from Images & Words is a song I still listen to and enjoy even though the production sounds kind of dated nowadays. But I grew up with bands like Deep Purple and maybe more so the ones that came after, Rainbow and Whitesnake. On this record Sweet Freedom according to Jörgen Schelander I wanted to go back to that. Last but not least I take the opportunity to mention the band Giant. What a great band they were, and I am speaking of the first two albums. They didn’t have the greatest timing with their releases but what a band. If you haven’t heard them, check out their albums Last of the Runaways and Time to Burn.

4. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

Oh, there are so many… The first one I think of is Paul Simon. I mean what a dream to sit with him and write songs. He on the guitar, me playing piano. By the way, that is one gig I would have wanted to attend. Simon & Garfunkel live in Central Park NYC in 1981. They have so many good songs and the lyrics speaks to me. Or just being a fly on the wall when Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus of Abba sat in their little house on an island in the Stockholm archipelago throwing ideas at each other. That would have been something. But I think these days I not so much of a collaborator, I’m at my best when I write songs on my own and that’s what I wanted to try and do with this album. To write all of the songs, music and lyrics, by myself and to see what I came up with.

5. What is your favorite activity when out of the studio and/or not on tour?  What do you like to do to unwind?

I like to travel and have done that a lot during the years, and when I travel you won’t find me in the fancy hotels with their all inclusive. I am more of a simple man. I been to many different countries and when I’m there I try to get to know the country, it’s people and it’s customs. It is more rewarding I think. In recent years I been hooked on trekking. I do that as much as I can. In the woods, in the mountains or in the big cities. Some years ago I became a certified pilgrim as I walked all the way from the Spanish border against France to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain. That’s about 900 km and it took some 30 days. But it was great and gave me more perspective to life and the world. Listen to the song “Good Life” on the album and you’ll get my meaning.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

I would describe the music as classic rock or prog rock. It’s not that complicated and is more focused on good melodies and the energy that comes out of a band that plays together. But it’s hard to label your own music. Other people usually hear something else than you do. I remember when I played the demos I’ve made for this album for a friend and he said: “If this is classic rock then the band Yes plays blues rock. So I say we play hard rock and then let the listener hear for themselves. When Ekerö Gospel choir came in and recorded their thing on the song “The River of Silver and Gold” they thought it sounded a bit like the musical Jesus Christ Superstar. I liked that comparison since I have played that a lot of times and love the musical. When I played in Astrakhan we in 2018 did a tour and a live album covering the musical, you should check that one out. We had some fantastic singers on board, Alexander Lycke and Mats Leven for instance. That was also the first time I met Karner/Perrelli Vocals who helped me with the arrangement for the song.

7. When your band is hanging out together, who cooks, who gets the drinks in, and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

Haha, I don’t think the guys would agree with me here but I would answer me on all those things. Except for the drinks, I’m not your go to guy when drinks are needed. There I finish last, way behind the others. When we recorded the album the studio had a kitchen. So lunch was made there for everyone and it was usually me and Jan Lund (bass) who got the food on the table. Acoustic guitars for a singalong? No, we are not that kind of band. Both me and Håkan Rangemo (drums) love to sit by the campfire and sing those songs we all love together. But in Sweet Freedom we don’t do that, we are a rock band. We feed on the energy that happens when we play together.

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

I really can’t remember… Since we all been stuck at home for so long time I haven’t met anyone that starstruck me for quite some time. And as I said, I’m a simple man so that is not something that happens often. I can remember a few moments that got my jaw to hit the floor. Meating Dream Theater, the whole band, at an airport in Vienna. Shaking hands with Ronnie James Dio after a gig in Stockholm and just watching Ray Charles get on stage at that festival in Gothenburg.

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

The best part of being a musician is just that, being a musician. Working on songs, with the band or on your own. But also being in the studio and to see your songs grow. But mostly when you play live in front of an audience. The joy it gives you is like nothing else, the feeling when you connect with the people in front of you is priceless. If I didn’t have music in my life it would be sad. But if that was the case I would like to work with people in some way. In recent years I have been involved in the development and education of leaders and leadership and it has been very rewarding. That I want to do more of, so that is my answer. But since I like to travel and explore other countries and cultures that would also be an alternative.

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

That’s a tricky question. When the question is asked, I can in situations sometimes think “what kind of a question is that”. But to pick one just like that is difficult. The question I want to answer but no one asks is this: Name your best three concert experiences, where you’ve been in the audience? My answer is: Extreme live at a small club in Stockholm when their album Pornografitti was released. The club was packed, there was smoke everywhere and the band was on fire that night. Same things goes for when I saw Status Quo for the first time. That was in a theater but the energy level was high, the place was full of boogie junkies and again, a lot of smoke. The third one is when I saw Billy Joel live at Shea Stadium in NYC. This was the last concert at the famous stadium where The Beatles played their last concert and I think there was like 65,000 people there. When he played his hits the whole stadium moved. He also had a bunch of guests(Don Henley, Tony Bennet and John Mayer for instance). No smoke on this concert but the energy level was at it’s highest point. I think that’s the most important thing in rock music, you got to have the energy. I said to the gospel choir when when we recorded The river of silver and Gold that “it’s important so sing well, but it’s more important to have the energy”. I think most bands lack of energy these days, and if you’re playing rock music you lose me from the first chord if there’s no energy.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over,” even if it didn’t change your current situation?

Not really, I can’t think of any particular moment or a band I regret I joined. Everything has led me up to this album with Sweet Freedom. I feel sorry for how things turned out with me and my younger brother Pers band, Astrakhan. What it did to our relation. But all in all I try to learn from life instead of looking back and think about what I should have done different. There are tons of situations during my career where I made mistakes but that’s life. Good or bad decisions, you still have to live and deal with them.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

I would love have been in the studio when Kiss recorded Destroyer in the 70s. To see and hear the producer Bob Ezrin running around with his whistle. To be there when that record developed to what it became. Destroyer is a record I go back to and that has influenced me a lot. It meant a great deal to me from the first time I heard it and has stayed with me ever since. From the production with the orchestral arrangements combined with rock, the choirs and everything else. I mean the intro with the car crash leading into “Detroit Rock City” all the way to the bells in “Do You Love Me,” it doesn’t get much better than that. On the other hand maybe the experience would destroy my illusion with all the fights, the drugs and the egos. But I grew up in the 70’s and to be apart of the recording procedure with the tape, how the instruments were recorded and so on. That would have been something, and to see Bob Ezrin at work as a producer.



Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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