Interview conducted June 27 2017
Interview published July 18 2017
"It's a way of writing and a way of producing
and a way of playing that we feel have been lost for a very long time."
For various reasons our interview
with Björn Strid of Swedish retro act
The Night Flight Orchestra has been postponed a couple of times, but when
I in the end am able to get in touch with him over the phone to discuss
the band's new effort Amber Galactic [Out May 19th] I get to talk to a
humble singer that seems very happy with what he's doing right now and
it's like this project is doing good for him as a different outlet and
a temporary substitute to his light death metal band Soilwork.
"Yes, isn't it wonderful that you get to hear
Tobbe: In what way have you guys tried to
pick up the track from your two previous records, Internal Affairs 
and Skyline Whispers , and tried to lead that into Amber Galactic?
If you have, that is.
Björn: Yeah, I think we have. It has been kind
of a phase of development. The first record was more kind of an experiment.
It was a group of friends who had really fun together and wanted to
create an own soundtrack of being in motion. That was the key to it
in a sense. There were so many influences and a lot of knowledge and
musicality that were going to merge into something really great. And
it came out really great and it caught many elements, but there wasn't
the same focus as on the new record.
the second one things fell in place a little bit more and then prior
to the new record it really felt that we had found the focus on what
we wanted to create. We got rid of the Hammond organ and focused more
on roads, bullets and early 80's synthesizers as well, because we felt
that it was more our thing and there are so many other bands that deal
with the early 70's in a good way. So we wanted to focus a little bit
more on a different era and a different expression in a sense.
Tobbe: You know, your music tends to bring
out a certain nostalgia factor, so how much do you have to twist and tweak
to be able to get that atmosphere that makes the music kind of sound like
it's stylistically 40 years old?
Björn: There is a certain love to this era and
also incredible knowledge, even though knowledge doesn't necessarily
mean that you can write a good song. But the foundation is there and,
you know, it's not just a pastiche. I understand that people get nostalgic
and I get really nostalgic too of course or else we probably wouldn't
have started this band. [Laughs] But at the same time it's so much more
than that. It's a way of writing and a way of producing and a way of
playing that we feel have been lost for a very long time.
So it's more of an entirety thing and I believe
that's why it feels so genuine too and not just a bunch of metalheads
who have come together to simply just play some 70's and 80's stuff.
So there's so much more to it and there's a lot of heart and a tremendous
amount of joy behind this as well. You get completely high on life playing
this stuff and it gives you an incredible kick and it's so damn fun
Tobbe: As you mentioned, there are many
retro bands out there, but most of them don't play the same style as you
do, so did you realize already in the beginning that you had to create
your own type of music to not end up in the same style as everybody else?
Björn: We kind of felt that this style wasn't
really out there and it was either the early 70's retro rock, which
is often more passive and a little more downtuned and sometimes even
a little bit like pseudo stoner, if you know what I mean? And pretty
often with a kind of occult theme in a sense and often it sounds like
pot and we wanted to sound more like cocaine.
I have never tried cocaine in my whole life and
I will never do either. It's a damn unpleasant drug that can make terrible
things, but in terms of sound and expression we glanced in that direction.
It was a little more lively and glittery in a sense, if you know what
I mean? There was a different shimmer around it and a little more spirited
and not so weary and hazy. So that was what we wanted to create and
specifically a soundtrack of being in motion.
You know, a lot of artists out of old habit say that what they write always
comes naturally, but if you guys would say that, I would actually find
it kind of hard to believe since you haven't really played this music
up until a few years ago, at least officially, so how much of what you
do then comes naturally, really? Even if you like what you do, you know.
Björn: I think that everyone involved has rehearsed
during many years in their mind, so to speak. You know, we've been on
some kind of training camp and then it has just been unleashed and thrown
out on the table in a real mess and then we've been kind of searching,
so maybe it hasn't come purely natural and of course we discuss a lot
of stuff around it, stylistically and in detail. But that's what's so
damn fun too, that you can go into detail in music.
But at the same time we can be very spontaneous
since we have, like, two producers in the band who both have their studio,
so we can just get our gear together and rehearse and we can just press
REC when we feel like it. So often the foundation is quite spontaneous
and maybe it doesn't sound entirely good, but it is occasionally, and
then afterwards you can go and search a little bit more on a detailed
level. But, you know, it has come out of our jamming too. We have jam
sessions and then we record it when it feels good. I don't know in what
other way I can describe it, really.
Tobbe: You know, the bass in today's music,
maybe more in metal though, tends to get hidden a little, but in The Night
Flight Orchestra it gets plenty of room. So what were your thoughts around
the bass play and how did you approach it?
Björn: Yes, isn't it wonderful that you get to
hear some bass? But it's really great and, I mean, Sharlee D'Angelo
is such a fantastic fucking bass phantom, you know. By all means, you
can hear him in Arch Enemy too, but it's a totally different thing,
like you say, where sometimes the bass kind of plays a little bit like
the guitars, whereas here it gets to live out completely and live its
own life. So it's incredibly awesome and it's so important to the sound
and the music and it creates a completely new dimension, you know. We
have kind of given Sharlee freedom to create and we've just been sitting
there cheering for him when he gets going.
Tobbe: If you look at the whole record,
in what way do you try to make different types of songs, in terms of up-tempo,
mid-tempo and lighter ones, you know?
Björn: I don't think we really think about that,
since we can record stuff whenever we want to. I mean, new songs come
to life every Saturday. You know, still, even after we finished the
record. The guys are sitting at home writing all the time and we got
25 new songs already that we can record whenever we feel like it. So
it's more like we do whatever we feel like.
all means, there have been times, like when I wrote Saturn In Velvet.
The feeling when I wrote it was like "Damn! Something's missing
on the album.". So of course that happens too, but for the most
part you don't think about what we need, but it's more like "Just
go!" and write songs because it's fun and therefore a whole bunch
of songs get written.
Then it gets hard to choose and then you maybe
have to reason about: If you have a demo, what will the song be like
in its final form? You never know, really. Like
"Damn it! It didn't even turn out as good as the demo was.".
The magic can disappear once in a while too, so it might be a risk in
a way to make too good demos sometimes.
Tobbe: I wouldn't say that the record is
monotonous, but the songs are kind of all in one vein, so how far off
that frame might you go with this band? Or do you feel like you have to
stay kind of safe and not spread it out too much?
Björn: Someone in the band said "Okay. We
sound like '82 on this record and on the next one we will sound like
'85 and on the next after that one we're in '88 or '89.". No, I
don't think that will happen. But you can do so much around this expression,
I think. It's endless and you can find so many bands from this period
that are so damn good, but never even made it to some chart whatsoever.
It's like a never-ending stream of good stuff and you can find so many
incredible bands and that's what I try to do quite often. There are
no limits, really, for what you may come up with.
Tobbe: Most people agree on that most things
are already done nowadays, so if we look at younger people who listen
to music, in what way may they embrace this record? I mean, they have
to choose too, just like you and I did when we were younger.
Björn: It's an interesting question, actually.
I'm born in '78 and a lot of people in my age or maybe a bit younger
and especially people who aren't musicians themselves say "Oh!
It sounds like Miami Vice!". That's their reference when they listen
to Night Flight. But it would be interesting to hear what teenagers
or even people up to 25, that maybe don't have this reference, would
say. I haven't actually presented this face to face with someone who
is so much younger than I am, but it would be interesting. But I think
it's timeless. Well, I mean, that era, it sounds refreshing today too
and it's nothing you laugh about. At least I don't. [Laughs]
Tobbe: Are there any of the parents to the
guys in the band that say that you have found the right way now, since
they perhaps listened to this type of music in a sense when they themselves
Björn: Well, you know, my parents have always
supported me regarding Soilwork and they have even listened to it. Even
my [maternal] grandma, before she passed away, went to sleep listening
to Soilwork and she was over 90 at the time. But yes, you're right,
surely the parents say like "Oh! Here we get to kind of hear your
real voice.", but I was expecting that too, so. And maybe it's
because they kind of grew up a little bit with some of that type of
music and they can relate to it a little more. So I guess it's just
You got the ability to go from normal or clean singing, the singing style
you actually utilize in The Night Flight Orchestra, into aggressive singing,
like you do in Soilwork of course, and then back to normal singing again,
and the ability to do so, do you think that it will eventually get more
difficult when you get older?
Björn: Well, possibly. But, you know, so far
I'm very grateful to feel that I still progress. So far my voice hasn't
deteriorated, you know. It's rather the other way around and during
the last 5 years I have made huge progress. You never know for how long
this will go on, but I sing almost every day and I have built a very
enduring voice. I never have to warm up, really, but just go and the
voice usually works as long as I don't get sick. Knock, knock. Maybe
I have to knock on wood now. [A second of silence follows.] I'm glad
that it still works, but I'm not that fucking old, so the best is yet
to come. [Laughs]
Tobbe: You know, a singer can't cope without
his voice, besides doing something else around music, really, and do you
have something to fall back upon, musically or in general, if your voice
would suddenly stop working?
Björn: It's a horrible thought. Well, there
is stuff that I could do. I play the guitar and I could do that. And
I could play the bass, and possibly the drums, I don't know. But outside
What the hell would that be? I really don't know. How
about a nurse or something?
Tobbe: What about being a producer? Everyone
seems to end up there.
Björn: Well, I've done that to some extent.
I've produced vocals and so, but I want to be part of the music as well,
like standing behind the microphone or play something, so that's a little
frustrating. It can be fun to be in the studio and produce stuff, but
I don't think that I could manage being in a studio 24/7, you know,
and have it as a job.
Tobbe: Soilwork and The Night Flight Orchestra
are musically two very different bands and is it important to you to considerably
separate those two bands?
Björn: Yes, it's very, very important to me.
It is, really. Even if I've done some other project that are pretty
similar to Soilwork I've never felt so balanced as I do now. It's kind
of a yin and yang situation, you know. So I feel a huge balance now
and I feel, you know, complete in a way, musically, and that I don't
need more than this in a way. I'm a metalhead, but I'm also a rocker
and there's also some pop in there. So it feels like I'm able to include
everything in these bands and I like to perform with both and write
And if you will do Soilwork stuff as the next thing, will you be even
more pumped when you have done stuff with Night Flight and focused on
that for a while?
Björn: Yes, absolutely. We have tried to make
things work and we're starting to slow down a bit with Soilwork and
we haven't so many gigs left to do for The Ride Majestic . We
have toured all over the world, several times, so we've been working
really hard. So now Night Flight will take over a little bit and we
will probably work with it until after next summer. We will write and
record an album with Soilwork, but we won't tour.
I think it's quite important to take a break,
because it must become fun again. If you work so hard and tour this
heavily, in the end you get really exhausted and even a bit tired of
it, but I guess that's just natural. So, I try to find the balance now
and then we can approach Soilwork again when we've been doing Night
Flight for a while and worked that cycle to the end in a sense.
Tobbe: In a long perspective, how much time
will you put on each band, respectively? Will it be 50/50 from now on
or what do you have in mind?
Björn: Well, we will see how things turn out,
really. I mean, both bands really mean a lot to me, you know. By all
means, Soilwork has also become my job and I've been doing this for
20 years and had this for a living since 2003. Maybe it's easy to see
certain things as a job sometimes when you've done it for a long time,
but at the same time when I'm going to a festival and meet the Soilwork
guys it feels very natural and it doesn't feel like a job. You meet,
have a few beers, go on stage and launch a set and it's really fun.
I don't feel like there's kind of a business relationship that we have
in the band.
seen a lot of bands that get huge and then quite inevitably it becomes
like a fucking machine where they expect you to do stuff. But sure,
if you completely ignore the business side, then it will go to hell,
you know. So of course you have to nurture it, but so far it doesn't
feel like routine, like a 9 to 5 job to go to. It doesn't and it's still
Tobbe: If I look at both bands on stage,
there's a more relaxed atmosphere when you're on stage with Night Flight
than with Soilwork. So can you describe the feeling and the difference
when you're up there singing those songs with Night Flight instead of
singing with Soilwork?
Björn: So far we haven't done so many gigs so
yet I haven't got the feeling of that this is the most natural thing
in the whole world. We have just done our first Night Flight gig outside
of Sweden, on the Rock Hard Festival in Germany in June, and we have
only done, like, 8 gigs in Sweden in total. So it hasn't been a tour
But it feels kind of like an out-of-body experience
when I sing and I almost see myself sing, since it's like a new persona
that has been brought to life in a way. [Laughs] So it's pretty interesting,
but at the same time it feels quite natural and it feels good and relaxed
too and it's a different kind of expression, you know.
Tobbe: Do you sense somewhere that this
band, with a little luck, can actually become quite successful? Or is
it more a feeling of that this level is good enough? So what do you feel
right now, you know?
Björn: Well, we have all the possibilities to
reach a wider audience, even though that wasn't the reason why we started
the band. But of course you're aware of that too, that we might do that.
Some new doors are opening, so to speak, and it surely addresses more
people, you know. It feels like we're playing our own genre to some
extent. You know, there's nobody else doing this, really, and in that
aspect it will be interesting. You know, by coming out with something
that sounds very nostalgic and creates a lot of images in people's heads,
but at the same time people have described it as very refreshing in
a way. So, who knows? Maybe we will go far. You never know.
of the album Amber Galactic