Interview with Pelle Ahman (Vocals) (In Solitude)

I was obsessed with a Swedish musician from the sixties who had some sort of Bob Dylan ambitions, but then he started to make some comical absurd albums, and...

Pelle Åhman In Solitude Interview pic_3




Interview by Alan Daly

© Olga Kuzmenko

Photos by Olga Kuzmenko



Alan: Welcome back to Dublin.

Pelle: Thanks

Alan: You were last here with Amon Amarth in Vicar Street two years ago. Do you remember how that went?

Pelle: Yeah, I remember it. It was really good. We were in a strange place in that tour, because it was a strange combination of bands, I guess. And the people who came out were mainly an Amon Amarth sort of crowd. But if I remember correctly, there was a pretty good response. Then again, we have older fans here and a lot of friends.

Alan: And was that your first visit to Ireland? Or had you been before?

Pelle: Not before that.

Alan: Given that you are headlining the show tonight, and with the success of your latest album Sister, are you anticipating a big turn out tonight?

Pelle: I’m trying not to have expectations, because we’re that sort of band; we try not to think ahead too much. But it’s been great thus far. There has been a lot of people coming out.

Alan: You had a show last night and you have another tomorrow night, so you’re going non-stop?

Pelle: The whole tour is non-stop!

Alan: So did you get time to see any of Dublin yet?

Pelle: Actually, we did today; we went to a church around the corner; St. Michan’s. So I’m glad, unlike other days on the tour, we actually got to see some stuff.

Alan: Did you get to go into the crypt there?

Pelle: Yeah, and we touched the crusader for good luck tonight!

Alan: I believe the organ that Handel used to compose the Messiah is in that church also.

Pelle: Yeah, we were told about this place that was just around the corner, and we read all about it.

Alan: It’s one of those places that is not heavily promoted. I’d say a lot of Dubliners have never been there.

Pelle: Yeah, it’s sort of crammed in between all of these big new buildings. I can imagine just walking by it because the facade is quite anonymous.

Alan: So let’s talk about music. What was the last album that you bought?

Pelle: I’ve been quite poor for the last year because I’ve had to spend my money on other things, but I bought Round About Midnight by Miles Davis. I’ve loved that album for years, and I found it really cheap. The problem is that I have a record player that plays records a bit too fast, so I rarely listen to my stereo any more, because I know it’s a little bit too fast, and I can’t concentrate on the music. I have to fix that somehow.

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Alan: What about the first album you ever bought?

Pelle: I remember that I got a Kiss compilation album as a kid. I probably bought Killers by Iron Maiden or something like that. My parents started recognising my interest in loud and heavy music, so at birthdays or whatever I would get albums. I had an uncle who had this old vinyl collection so that’s where we found some. We would pick things with cool album covers like anything from Angel Witch to even shitty albums just because they had cool covers. So we found a lot of things there. But then the leap to buying death metal albums was not very far, you know? When I started to buy my own records, I went straight into death and black metal music.

Alan: So what format did you buy your music in?

Pelle: CDs. I grew up buying CDs.

Alan: You mentioned that you like to listen to Vinyl now which is interesting, considering your age. You’re only 22, so I would have thought you would be of the “MP3 generation”. I’m almost surprised to hear that your first music purchases were physical releases.

Pelle: I think we were more like the “CD generation”, or the last outpost of the CD generation. It’s a horrible format; it’s going to die out. But growing up, I bought a lot of CDs. But like with most people, when you recognise the sound quality and format of an LP; that’s my main concern, when I buy records now.

Alan: So do you shun the MP3 format completely?

Pelle: To me, the most important thing is just to hear it, and to get something out of it. So if you’re in a situation where you can’t actually get your hands on it, it’s nice that you can find a way to get it somehow. But yeah, vinyl records to me are the ultimate format. It’s a good format to work with aesthetically as well. I’m as big a fan of album design as I am of music. I love looking at old records. There are certain years in history that are perfect.

Alan: What past and current bands do you find inspire you and the band.

Pelle: There are so many. We are quite fanatical music consumers. We’re looking for stuff all the time. So there’s this enormous amount of music that we’re finding all the time, but I guess there are primary things like Amebix, early Metallica, Nick Cave and Black Sabbath. The more primal stuff; AC/DC, and stuff like that.

Alan: Sister is your third album. Have you found that as time has passed, your inspirations changed?

Pelle: I think all of our obsessions leap into our band and have some sort of effect on it. So I think you can see what we’ve been obsessive about at a certain point. The earlier albums were very different to what we’re doing now, where we were very concerned about certain things, but that has evolved a lot.

Alan: I understand that you write all of the lyrics yourself. Where do you get your ideas and themes?

Pelle: From the way I see the world, you know? And the way I interact with the world. And for some reason, that has become very eager to lift the lid on certain things. The way I see it, there are quite a few layers to all of it. And I like to examine that with words as well. And the records are some of my conclusions thus far. And just what the world does with you. It’s not that I go into a fantasy world and just have this inner concept that I’m trying to get across. It’s more fluent than that, you know. I pick very much from my interaction with the world and what’s underneath it or above it or behind it.

Alan: Your command of English is excellent. Did you grow up in a bilingual environment, speaking Swedish and English?

Pelle: No, but unlike many other European countries, we don’t overdub television. If it’s an English program it’s just subtitled, so I think everyone in Sweden grows up hearing English all the time on TV and on the radio and so forth. And then I guess, being obsessed with a lot of English speaking music and fanzines and all that sort of stuff has probably helped. A lot of the things I consume are in English; like books. I was probably better at the names of organs on dead bodies when I was 14 than my classmates maybe, because I was listening to Carcass! But I like languages in particular. Those were the subjects in school that I got really good grades in, because I think it’s interesting. I like linguistics; that we’re actually making noise to each other and we can understand each other. I like English, because sometimes when you read something like William Butler Yeats, it’s like you’re eating something. You know what I mean? Like you’re eating an apple.

Alan: Do you speak any other languages?

Pelle: No. Just Swedish and English. I studied German in school, but I was not good at that at all. It was too hard. I would love to study languages if I had time.

Alan: So is music your full time career now?

Pelle: Yeah, more or less. I think we are all up to a lot of other stuff all the time. The parts of us that people see is basically through In Solitude, but we also have our own lives doing a lot of different things. We still have to work, but it’s pretty hard finding work where you have to say “I have to be away”. I might get to know tomorrow that I have to go away for a month.

Alan: So do you have a day job at the moment?

Pelle: I don’t have a day job at the moment. I live a very not-nine-to-five sort of life. I’ll have to at some point, definitely. But I live a very sparse existence.

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Alan: But you must be enjoying touring and bringing your music to people all around Europe.

Pelle: Yeah, this more than other tours, because it’s really our tour. Ours and Beastmilk’s. It’s on a smaller scale than before, but finally it’s actually about the two bands that are playing. Whereas before we’ve been either opening up, or playing festivals in a bigger list of bands. So yeah, it feels great. I’ve been enjoying it a lot.

Alan: Your brother is also in the band. Are your family and parents musical in general?

Pelle: No. Not at all actually. My grandfather and his brothers were old jazz musicians, but that’s basically it. And I don’t know how much that has to do with us starting to play music, but my mother is a teacher, and my father works with cars.

Alan: What was your first exposure to music when you were young and what genre was it?

Pelle: I was obsessed with a Swedish musician from the sixties who had some sort of Bob Dylan ambitions, but then he started to make some comical absurd albums, and I didn’t understand that they were absurd, but I was just obsessed with that music. After that, it was Kiss and metal music. I just remember a notion of hearing things and feeling that it concerned me in some way. Whatever it was, there was something about music that was reaching out for me. I think I had that feeling very early on that this would probably be something that I would be up to for a long time. Maybe I just thought that I would be listening to a lot of music.

Alan: Do you play any instruments yourself?

Pelle: Yeah, I started out as a drummer. I don’t particularly feel much like a singer actually. It just happened that the other guys were better at their instruments than I was, and nobody was a singer, so I just became a singer. That seems to be the classical way that a singer becomes a singer. I’m not the sort of singer that’s passionate about singing or anything like that. I just got that part. But yeah, I play a lot of piano actually and drums.

Alan: Do you think that at some time you would like to expand and play instruments with the band?

Pelle: Yeah, definitely. I have another band called No Future where I play the drums and sing. And I’m making a lot of instrumental music on my own. So there’s stuff going on, but just on a much smaller scale than this.

Alan: So you said the tour is really hectic. Do you have time to party?

Pelle: You’re in a strange space being on tour, because you play for one hour, and if you’ve had a good night playing with all of your friends, there’s a lot of celebration going on. But that’s what tour life is supposed to be. It’s this sort of three week extreme vacation, of actually not seeing that much. Your habits become strange. You eat very little and you sleep too little, but you end up in an interesting headspace. But the world as it is becomes very apparent when you go home, because it’s a bit like being in a bubble.

Alan: Tell us where and when you had the best party on tour?

Pelle: I think the nights on the bus going to the next place; wonderful nights of discovering new music, sitting around talking with everybody. There’s a lot of people getting to know each other on this tour as well. We know some of the guys from Beastmilk, but the other guys are new friends to us. We just had a lot of great nights sitting on the bus, talking about things. When we were touring when I was 18 or 19, it was all chaos, but it’s a bit different now. You can imagine a bunch of 18 years olds sitting in rooms like this, getting beers. In those days, after the gig, we went out in the streets and weird things happened.

Alan: If you could chose to get drunk with anybody, alive or dead, who would it be?

Pelle: At the moment, it’s actually one of my dearest friends Olaf back home. Cab Calloway, the old swing jazz singer would be another one, because he’s amazing, and I’ve heard he was really into booze in those days. He’s been dead for years though. Those are two. And Marjorie Cameron, the wife of Jack Parsons. I would have liked to get drunk with her. She seemed to be a very interesting character and having a bit of absinthe with her would be nice.

Alan: So it’s been a year since Sister was released. Have you plans for a follow up?

Pelle: Not really plans, but some looser ideas are starting to emerge, like the skeletal parts of songs. We’ll see what happens. It’s really after this tour when we get home and sort of land again I guess that things will start to take shape.

Alan: After the widespread success of Sister, do you feel there is pressure or encouragement to produce an even better album next time around?

Pelle: There’s pressure on the inside I think rather than from the outside. It’s important to make a good third record, and it’s always hard to follow that up. But I don’t feel any pressure from the outside at this point. When you’re making an album you’re in your own world anyway, so it’s hard to get a vibe of what people are thinking. When we made the album; to us we made a pretty straight forward hard rock heavy metal album, but when it got out people thought it sounded very strange. So you never know. You become institutionalized in a good way, like in your little world, to the point when you release it and you see what people say.

Alan: I suppose art is in the eye of the beholder?

Pelle: Yeah, definitely. A lot of art is made once it is out of the artist’s hands, so to speak. Whatever people’s subjective idea is. It’s hard to pin down.

Alan: Are there any songs that you would like In Solitude to cover?

Pelle: We’ve already done two actually; We’ve done ‘Mother of Mercy’ by Samhain and a song we’re probably going to play tonight by an old Swedish punk band from the eighties called Cortex; it’s in Swedish and it’s called ‘Jesus i Betong’. So we’ve done those, and we’ve been talking about loads of stuff over the years. We’ll probably do something really soon. We always have this list of potential stuff. A lot of it is pretty weird. Things that some people might not hear In Solitude in it at all, but we can hear something that could sound really great if we play it, but do something of our own with it. Make it more in line with our ideas.

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Alan: Any songs that come to mind?

Pelle: We’ve been talking about covering some Leonard Cohen actually. But we’ll see what happens.

Alan: One final question. If you could go back and change anything about your music career to date; would you? And if so, what would you change?

Pelle: It’s an interesting question, but this is how it’s supposed to be, I guess. Throughout doing this sort of thing, it’s not necessarily exactly what you want to do all the time. And it’s supposed to be that way, because that’s when it takes interesting shape. People who just run through life and do exactly what’s smart to do at the right point, is sort of fruitless in the end. I like things that work because maybe it’s in the wrong time or at the wrong moment. That sort of thing. I like when it takes strange turns. But I don’t know. I don’t think I would change anything actually. I think it’s more about if you actually want to change anything then there’s still time to change it now. That’s what we’re trying to do all the time. That’s the point of playing music together, and on our own; to change a centimetre of the world that is ours and use it. If it’s important to us then it will be to some other person. I wouldn’t change anything.

Alan: On that note, I’d like to thank you for chatting and I look forward to the gig tonight!

Pelle: Thanks!

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