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Interview conducted August 05 2016
Interview published September 20 2016

I think I shouldn’t even try to copy what Dojan did on the first record.

Metal Covenant met up with Mustasch’s since one year drummer Robban Bäck at Skogsröjet festival
in August. Robban has in the last couple of years been a member of Sabaton and Eclipse, among
others, and also functions as a session musician once in a while, so I was kind of curious to find out
what would make him stay with this particular band and new employer in the long run and also what
his first year with the band has been like.

Ralf is actually 40 years older than what I am.

Tobbe: The last Mustasch record [Testosterone] has been out for about year by now, so how far have
you guys come with the work on next record?

Robban: We’re working on it, you know. I mean, I’ve been with the band for a year and I gotten to
realize that music in this band is written constantly. We were writing on the train on our way here and probably on the flight to Finland tomorrow. As soon as someone gets an idea, you know. What I like with this band is that everyone is involved, so when someone gets an idea it’s like “Let’s go!” and we record it on our phones or whatever. As soon as there’s material enough we will record a new album.

Tobbe: You just told me that the whole band is involved, but for the last record Ralf [Gyllenhammar, vocals and guitar] let David [Johannesson, guitar], together with the producer Rikard Lövgren, handle most of the songwriting. Not lyrically, but for the actual music, and could Ralf let this procedure continue? Would he dare to let go of the songwriting again?

Robban: No, absolutely not. This will be a band effort. As I understand it, it was an experiment from their side. Ralf has for the most part written the music throughout the years. When Testosterone was about to be recorded, he was like “We have to freshen up in some way. I will write the lyrics and ‘David! Just do it!.’”. It’s a record that sounds a little bit different and it’s because David has done most of the writing. He worked really hard, you know, for almost a year. But what the hell, it became great in the end. But for the next record the whole band works together.

Tobbe: You are already involved with the music, but during your kind of short time with the band, how much are you involved with the business side and the activities of the band by now? Or do you just
follow and they lead in the beginning?

Robban: You know, I’ve been playing with so many bands, like Eclipse and Sabaton and blah, blah,
b lah, you know, and as soon as I joined Mustasch I got full insight immediately. It was like meeting a chick who undresses and washes away her make-up and “This is what I look like. Take me or leave me!”. To me there are no question marks. It’s the cards on the table and if someone gets bothered with something or someone we take the discussion right away.

Tobbe: Most of the people who listen to heavier music in this country are familiar with quite a few
Mustasch songs of course, but how much did you know about the music, in detail, before you joined
the band? Honestly, you know.

Robban: You know, I skipped school and went to the record store and bought Mustasch records. I
owned them all and listened a lot to them, so I have grown up with this band, more or less. But when we started playing the songs… They have their own versions when it’s played live. It’s a completely different thing, you know. I told Ralf “It’s cool. I can play tomorrow if you want me to. No problem.”. And then we met up and he’s like “What the hell! This is not how we do this part here.”. But I’m a big Mustasch fan too, you know.

Tobbe: If a song is played pretty close to the studio version, do you try to copy the original drumming
or do you want to put your own style to it?

Robban: I think I shouldn’t even try to copy what Dojan [Mats Hansson] did on the first record. It’s “Just forget it.”, you know. We will play a couple of songs tonight, which we haven’t played together before actually, and I was trying to analyze Dojan’s playing style and I just [sighs].

He is so damn unique and an awesome drummer. And I try to be an awesome drummer too, but I have a different approach, you know. So I try to take his stuff and try to adapt it to my drum kit. It becomes a little bit different, but kind of the same. Well, you know.

Tobbe: But honestly, most of the people who see you live don’t specifically hear a big difference. But those who do, see it as a huge difference, you know.

Robban: Yes, exactly. We have changed and do so much digitally, you know. We have no guitar amplifiers and the drums are digital. We played in Kungsträdgården [A park in central Stockholm] 2 weeks ago and there was 10000 there and then there’s at least 5 drummers there and then you get 5 judgments after the gig, like “What the hell are you doing? You can’t play drums like that. John Bonham didn’t do it that way.”. But we’re like “We gotta try it.”. Progress moves forward, right?

Tobbe: Like you said, you been with Sabaton and Eclipse recently, and then a bunch of other bands too, so what will make you stay with Mustasch? And my question is also: Does the economical side of
it weigh in as well?

Robban: Well, you must not forget that it’s a job, you know. My job is playing the drums and people change their employment all the time. But as soon as I get a new job there’s like a huge hate storm. You know, I have kids at home and I must make money. Ever since I bought my first Mustasch record I have always dreamed about Ralf calling me and I have jumped between many bands and all of a sudden I get that call.

So for me this was a lucky strike, even if none of us make millions, you know. If we wanted to be really rich we would have started a carpenter business, or been running festivals, or whatever. But we do this because we love heavy metal, you know.

Tobbe: It’s a job that you enjoy and you don’t suffer when you think of it. Not too often anyway, but I
guess it still gets boring occasionally.

Robban: I’ve been playing with so many bands and there’s always someone that is annoying or there’s a conflict in one way or another. I don’t want to slam the other bands and it’s not what I’m saying, but in this band… we argue like hell, but we lay the cards on the table. If there’s an issue we clear the air immediately and there’s no one lurking around and mumbling “Oh, I hate that
fucker.” [Whispers]. We’re just like [Snaps his fingers.] And to me this is essential if I want to stay, you know, at my job. That everyone has a say and that it’s a democracy, you know.

Tobbe: Didn’t you get kind of a smooth transition when you joined the band, since you started with a
few live shows and there wasn’t a big announcement either?

Robban: Yeah, they wanted to try me out. The previous drummer [Jejo Perkovic] left the band quite suddenly, so they needed a drummer in an instant, you know. And I was like “Let’s go!”. My first gig was in Arvika last August and I wanted the job permanently, but their, at that time, manager told me that they were thinking that I wasn’t gonna bear with them and they didn’t want to hire someone who would leave after 2 months.

It was a trial period for both sides. We did a German tour and a longer run in Sweden and when we did the last gig for last year, they asked me if I was wanted to become a permanent member of the band.

Tobbe: Were you guys never worried about the age difference? You’re like 30 and even if David is somewhere in between, the other 2 guys [Stam Johansson [bass] and Ralf] are actually considerably older than you. We’re talking like 20 years.

Robban: Ralf is actually 40 years older than what I am. At least. [Smiles] But you have to ask them, really. I started playing the drums so early, you know. Already when I was a little kid, older guys began to hire me, so I have always played with people who are older than me. I have always been the youngest one in the band. For me, it hasn’t been strange at all, so you have to ask them. When you hang out with someone who is 20 years older, there’s something in the biology and they always point out something. Even if I’m a grown man, really, they try to raise me.

Tobbe: By having kids and family probably makes it easier to get along with them.

Robban: Yes, besides Stam, we all have 2 kids each, so we can relate to each other, you know. If
someone says that they will be late for rehearsals because their kids are sick, the other guys are
understanding. In other bands that I’ve played with it’s like “What the hell! Leave the kids at daycare.” and I’m like “It’s Sunday!”. [Sighs]

Tobbe: If I dare asking you. About Sabaton and when you quit the band. Did you really quit or did they
ask you to leave in the end? Everything hasn’t come to light yet. It’s been like “I wasn’t comfortable
anymore”, but was it really that simple?

Robban: I can tell you exactly what it was like. I resigned almost immediately after I was hired for the job. I signed the contract for the company… It’s not Sabaton, but it’s another company, and I think there was a notice period for 3 months… and I almost immediately knew that I wasn’t comfortable, professionally, economically or with the boys in the band, you know. I chose to pull away, more or less after the first gig, but I kept going because I had signed the contract. At that time, and this is quite funny, Mustasch was looking for a drummer in 2011 and someone put out David’s cell phone number on their homepage, so I received a text message from a friend, like “Mustasch is looking for a new drummer!”.

So I call that number and talk to David and we were talking drums and he told me that they had a few names that they were gonna try out, but he would call me if that didn’t work out. Then the next day Sabaton calls and “We need a drummer! Come on now!”. So we flew to the U.S.A. and we were there for 10 weeks. The years went by, you know, and then our paths crossed again. All the time in Sabaton I was thinking “Mustasch! Why didn’t you pick me?”.

Tobbe: The bands have quite different styles. Mustasch is like dirty hard rock and Sabaton is more like sing-a-long heavy metal in a way.

Robban: Absolutely. And it works great for them. Their concept is great. But I simply wasn’t fit for the job, really. Just like someone doesn’t want to work in a grocery store anymore and wants to do something else. It’s just the way it is.

Tobbe: Don’t get me wrong now, but what can you really contribute to a well-oiled machine like Mustasch is after over 15 years of record releases? Like “This I can really bring to the band!”.

Robban: I think I can benefit from being younger than them. Unlike Ralf, I have grown up to his music, so I join as a fan. Like tonight, we will play a different set, because I’m like “We must play that song, and that song.”. And Ralf is like “You really like that song? OK, let’s play it.”. So I think that this can benefit the band; that I’m hungry and eager to play.

Tobbe: So when you will lay down the drums on the record, do you think that you will be a little bit
careful anyway?

Robban: No, I can’t afford being careful, because I will get yelled at then. I record with other bands too, as a studio musician, and there I’m used to be laid back and ask them what they want. With this band they’re like “What the hell are you doing? Double bass drums! Let’s go now! Drum solo!”. It’s kind of funny, because we always have a drum solo nowadays. It started right after I joined the band.

We were in Germany and Ralf approach me at my drum kit and “I must have a cigarette. Just do something. Play a drum solo or whatever.” and then he just leaves. I start to play something and looks back and wonder where he is. After a while he returns and he’s like “Good job! Thank you.”. And ever since we always have a drum solo in the set. I think it’s fun, because everyone in the band likes drums. They like a lot of drums, so I get to play without shackles, you know.

Tobbe: What can Mustasch really do at this point to take yet another step? Or have the guys in the
band, including yourself, accepted that this is the level you will stay at? Like “We won’t be one step
bigger.”. Or do you try to work hard to take that step? Please feel free to elaborate.

Robban: We work in the hard rock industry, one can say, and it goes up and down all the time.
Someone once said a really smart thing: “A watch that’s standing still will show the correct time twice in 24 hours.”, right? So we have said that we’re just gonna go. We play hard rock because we think it’s fun and we don’t release albums to make money, because that’s impossible, you know. If we record an album it’s because we wanna release music that we think is good and then we just follow the wave. Right now we’re kind of in the doldrums, but maybe in 3 years we’re bigger than The Beatles, you know. Who knows?

Tobbe: That I know. Did you really have to compare yourselves to The Beatles? But, of course things go up and down.

Robban: Yes, exactly. So we just gotta keep going. And like I said, if we wanna make big money, we will have to stay at home and start a carpentry business or whatever. So it’s just the passion to music that keeps us going.

Tobbe: About touring. It inevitably affects your families, so to what extent can you be away from home? Can you be away for like 2 months?

Robban: Yes, of course we can. What can I say? It’s what separates the wheat from the chaff. It’s just realize that “If you like hard rock, then show it!”, you know. And hopefully you can return to your kids with some money in your pocket. It’s a way of life, you know.

Most of my friends, who I grew up, played bass or guitar and also drums, but they quit after a while because they couldn’t stand being away from home. It’s really important too, that if you’re gonna be away on tour for 2 months, you must feel that this is your second family that you hang out with. If you’re not comfortable in the tour bus, then you can’t stand even 2 days.

Tobbe: Where does your passion come from then? From within or is this something you build along
the road?

Robban: To me, it’s just natural. It just feels right. Ever since I was little I’ve always been restless. I always must be on my way to something new, so this fits me perfectly. If I’m away on tour for 2 months, and during the last week I just wanna go back home to my kids, then after 2 days at home my fingers start to itch and I wanna go out and play again. It’s just the way it is. This is not something for everyone. It’s not like the land of milk and honey. Absolutely not. Not for us at least. Not in 2016. So it’s hard work, but we like it. At least I do.

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