SLOWMAN
Happy Boy
(Slow Records)

 

Sweden continues exporting fine pop-rock albums with new artists who sing in English in an effort to reach out to the international music market. Case in point is the artist called Slowman, (his real name is Svante Törngren) who is back in 2014 with the 12 track CD, Happy Boy. An excellent guitarist / composer and vocalist, Slowman rises to the occasion with Happy Boy. The closest classic rock comparison would to Bruce Springsteen, but the Happy Boy album also abounds with a kind of positive originality that will keep you coming back for more. Released after returning to the music business over the past decade, Happy Boy is a fab look into Slowman's original rock style. Further explaining his steady comeback over the past decade, Svante tells mwe3.com, 'My return to the music business was "The Best Of Slowman" that came out 2008, the second album was "I'm Back" in the Spring of 2010. And then in September 2010 I released my tribute album "Hey Jimi", which was my third full length album.' When asked to compare the wide contrasts in his music, Svante tells mwe3.com, 'You’re right in your theory about the two sides of my personality. And they’re linked to the two instruments I use for songwriting. If I use the guitar, I often end up with bluesy riffs and driving licks. If I sit down at the piano, the ballad side of Slowman is closer. Happy Boy is definitely the album I wanted to do now. Where I’ll be next is a white paper" Slowman’s band on Happy Boy is first rate and the memorable music matches the highly professional studio sound. The entire album flows start to finish, while track five “Every Heart Is Crying” would bring a smile to any number of Springsteen fans. With the release of Happy Boy, Slowman is one of the hottest current pop-rock acts coming out of Sweden, don’t miss him. www.slowman.se



mwe3.com presents an interview with
SLOWMAN

mwe3
: Can you tell us how and when you started in the music world? How long have you been recording and can you give a little background as to how your new Happy Boy album came together? Is there a story behind you being called Slowman?

Slowman: I fell in love with the guitar at a very early age and I’ve been playing in bands from the age of 10. Back then, I was living in Linköping, 20 miles south of Stockholm. In 1981, I moved to Stockholm to make my way in life, and played in an Afro-funk band that had some success. I also worked as a theater musician in a small company.

In 1982, I joined 2001, a pop band with a CBS record deal and we had a minor hit that year and made an album. In spite of, or due to, the success, the two main members – the songwriter and the female singer – couldn’t get along and the band broke up.

As a consequence, I formed my own band and wrote all the material myself. My work back then was inspired by bands like Doobie Brothers; the sound was smooth and neat. A couple of record companies were interested, among them Polar, ABBA’s label, and I practically had a deal with Glendisc, not the coolest label at that time, sorry to say, but I couldn’t accept the conditions in the contract. I rushed out in anger from an office in the fancier parts of Stockholm, and there – in my old Simca – I made the decision to turn my back on the business, reducing music into a hobby. That was back in 1984.

Over the years, I formed and joined a number of cover bands, helped some friends make demos, and did some gigs while making a living in the advertising business. In 2004, the music became more important again. Together with two fellow musicians I started Crossroads. We played covers, mainly blues and old r&b, and I decided to learn some Hendrix tunes. I listened, practiced, looked for clips on YouTube to figure out how he did his stuff...

Crossroads played successfully in small clubs, at private parties and at some business events. But my drummer went on and on about me taking up making my own music again. I said no, no, no and no, that was a closed chapter of my life.

But the nagging got into my mind, I suppose. One day, while I playing the guitar, I realized I was about to write an original song for the first time in 20 years. It turned out to be the riff in the opening song ”Taking The Long Way Home” on The Best Of Slowman – the solo debut album released later in 2008.

For my 50th birthday, I got studio sessions as a gift from friends and musicians longing to see and hear me do my own music again. And here I am. My alter ego Slowman originally comes from a song I wrote way back, about a man who had to walk since the last train had gone. And since it took me 24 years to come up with my first solo album, the stage name Slowman seemed valid. That’s the story.

mwe3: I had heard your Jimi Hendrix tribute album but Happy Boy is quite different. Is Happy Boy the other side of your musical personality? You’ve said you’re quite happy with Happy Boy. Is this finally the way you want your music to be heard?

Slowman: You’re right in your theory about the two sides of my personality. And they’re linked to the two instruments I use for songwriting. If I use the guitar, I often end up with bluesy riffs and driving licks. If I sit down at the piano, the ballad side of Slowman is closer. Happy Boy is definitely the album I wanted to do now. Where I’ll be next is a white paper…

mwe3: Speaking of Hendrix, can you tell us about your Jimi Hendrix tribute album and when it was recorded and when it came out? I know mwe3.com has a review of your Hey Jimi album. It’s great to keep the Hendrix name out there. Will there be a Hey Jimi 2 in the future?

Slowman: I recorded Hey Jimi during the summer of 2010 in Real Music Studio in western Stockholm; a very analogue studio. The idea came up since it was the 40 year memorial of Mr. Hendrix’s death on the 18th of September. I was in a flow musically and did the record just because I wanted to, even though I prepared myself for a frosty reception. But I survived, some of the reviews were even encouraging.

mwe3: I guess Hendrix is still your favorite guitarist right? Any other essential guitarists on your list? Were you influenced more by American music than Swedish music? Your music sounds very Hendrix / Springsteen inspired.

Slowman: Hendrix is above everybody else in my opinion. The level of skill, fantasy, innovation and beauty in capacity and timing is still unsurpassed. I have a long list of favorites but on the shortlist is early Clapton in The Bluesbreakers and Cream, Billy Gibbons in ZZ Top, David Gilmour, Pink Floyd, Slash, Lowell George, Ry Cooder, Freddie King and some more.

Swedish music has never swept me off my feet, even if I like many Swedish musicians and singers. Some of Timbuktu’s work is amazing, and many artists on the Swedish hip hop stage are interesting.

But lots of American music makes me happy and knocks me out. There’s a power and soul that I don’t hear anywhere else. And you’re absolutely right about the references to Hendrix/Springsteen.

When I heard Born to run, I finally found the missing piece in my life. I wasn’t sure of what it was, but I wanted to stay within that music. I loved every piano intro, every lyric line, every saxophone riff, every passionate roar from the young Springsteen.

When I saw the video with the sax solo in “Jungleland“ from Hammer-smith Odeon in London 1975, and Bruce closed his eyes, I must admit it touched me deeply. And still does, every time.

And Jimi Hendrix remains an unachievable role model for every guitarist in the world. He played tough, he played sexy, he played beautifully, and no-one can handle the feedback and tremolo on a Strat like he did.

mwe3: The new Slowman CD Happy Boy starts off with “Time”. I guess you wanted to start the album with a driving rocker. Is the song autobiographical? Seems like time is the number one topic on everyone’s mind these days? Is it a flash of exuberance and upbeat? Perfect song to kick off the CD.

Slowman: That is exactly how I thought. The song says: Here I am. Listen to what I’ve got. It’s not autobiographical; it’s about the feeling of time passing by faster every year. My ambition was to depict a sense of urgency to capture life while you can. A very natural consequence of getting older, I guess.

mwe3: Who is in your band on the Happy Boy album? What’s the musical chemistry like with these players?

Slowman: Basically we are a four piece band. Drums, bass, keys and guitar. The bass player and I have a common history from the band 2001 in the ‘80s. The drummer and I met in 2004, while forming Crossroads. The keyboard player had a short musical career in the early ‘90s and we played together in a covers band. The chemistry is good when playing, but we have different views about touring. Personally, I could travel a lot more.

mwe3: “Nothing To Pretend” is very personal. Is it really about making a stand, especially true for anyone involved in the music business these days? Also the song questions the concept of God in some ways that are really funny. Great song. Is the country music influence noted on “Nothing To Pretend”?

Slowman: I have a soft spot for alt country, the more urban out take of the genre, and I’m really fond of artists like Steve Earl and Lucinda Williams... but have big problems with too much haystack. I have a romantic, melancholic side and from time to time I slip into the country mood.

mwe3: Track 3 of Happy Boy is “Into Gold” is a tribute to New York City in some ways where you talk about landing at JFK, from Stockholm I presume. What’s your biggest fascination about the US? Any other favorite cities? Anyway, the song has a great driving beat. Why did you call it “Into Gold”?

Slowman: “Into Gold” is an homage to the Stockholm Archipelago and a light memory of grace from our years in a summer house by the sea. Sitting down by the water with a good cognac watching the moonlight reflect like gold in the water... I try to capture moments of clarity and meaningfulness to a collection for rainy days.

My biggest fascination about the US is the energy... a young nation and super power that sometimes acts like a teenager on speed. I’ve done short visits, mostly work related, to cities like Baltimore, Los Angeles and Washington, and the only city I’ve revisited and really enjoy is New York. But of course I have to go to cities like Chicago, Houston, New Orleans and San Francisco some day.

mwe3: Is “Little Berlin” about your relationship with that city in Germany? It’s really got one of the best arrangements on the Happy Boy album. Are those real strings? Who’s playing and singing with you on that track? Be great if you could have some remix versions of that track with extended instrumental sections as the melody is so strong.

Slowman: ”Little Berlin” is my pet name for my part of Stockholm, Hornstull, in the western part of Södermalm. When I visited Berlin in 2011, I met the same kind of coolness and laid-back lifestyle that is common in my hoods. And, yes it’s real strings played by a professional quartet. You’ll find all the names in the CD booklet. The string arrangement is written by a highly respected horn player and conductor, Johan Ahlin. The singers come from a gospel choir in Enskede Church, led by Camilla Stenman. A remix of "Little Berlin"? I will certainly think about it!

mwe3: “Every Heart Is Crying” is track five on Happy Boy and it sounds like the single from the CD. Is that a good example of your Springsteen influence? There’s a few examples of the feeling of the title as you sing in a third person way about several different people. Is it about the rain of lost dreams in life? Must be your Swedish depth of perception!

Slowman: I, myself, can’t hear the Springsteen influence in this specific song. To me, it’s a composition that I’ve struggled with, and made demos of, in a large number of versions. The final theme is the impossibility of lasting happiness. For each achievement, we move our ambitions forward and increase our demands. So what’s the meaning? Maybe the struggle itself? Listen to famous bands: What do they talk about as their best years? Often the early days, when they couldn’t afford hotels and played for ten people in a lousy joint in a god forsaken town… The key words in “Every Heart Is Crying” is in the bridge:

”The day when you have everything, just everything you want,
you’ve already forgotten, what really was the point”

mwe3: What guitars are you playing on the Happy Boy album? You also use acoustic guitars to great effect on the CD. What are you favorite acoustic guitars? Interesting that you use the acoustic guitar sound for rhythm in the rock setting, which is a sound I always loved.

Slowman: My equipment consists of an electric Gibson Les Paul Standard ‘78, a Fender Stratocaster, a Danelectro DANO ‘63; an acoustic Simon & Patrick, a Hagström ‘70 and an old 12-string Japanese guitar named Nippon Best, according to the store, the predecessor to Ibanez.

On several tracks we recorded the 12-string and two 6-stringed takes. In the mix we placed the 12-string in the middle, and a 6-string on each side. Yeah, I’m also fond of that sound!

My main amplifier is a clone of the first Marshall model JTM 45 Combo with two Celestion Greenback elements. Actually, the same model Clapton used on his recordings with The Bluesbreakers.

mwe3: How abut Swedish music? Do you still sing and write with Swedish lyrics? There seems to be a pop renaissance in Sweden these days, especially after the incredible Swedish instrumental prog sounds in the 1970s and early 1980s. Were you influenced by some of the great Swedish bands of the past? I’m thinking of the cult rock and progressive bands, rock bands like Dag Vag and legends like Bo Hansson and ABBA too for that matter. Seems like many great players from Sweden are gone now.

Slowman: I did release a Swedish EP in March 2014... as a test. Could I get more national airtime that way? It really didn't work out the way I hoped, some good reviews but reluctant radio producers, so I’ve put the project on hold, but sent you a copy anyway.

Sweden is a super power in music nowadays, First Aid Kit is only one example. ABBA was a no-no in my circles in the ‘70s. But Dag Vag, Samla Mammas Manna with Lasse Hollmer, Kebnekajse with Kenny Håkansson, Hansson & Karlsson, Nynningen, Nature, Pugh Rogefelt, Georg Wadenius, and to some extent Ulf Lundell was alright.

mwe3: The title track to Happy Boy is actually the single and you have a video for it. Compared to the other tracks, the song “Happy Boy” seems very deep and almost mournful. The guitar solo is classic and who is playing cello with you on the video? The guitar solo sounds almost symphonic to me. Why pick this one for the title of the album?

Slowman: For me the song is essential to the album. It’s about life and how we manage ‘our pound’. The very simple and strong metaphor is a man looking at a picture of himself as a vibrant kid, and then at himself today in a mirror, measuring the difference. I know it’s not the optimum commercial choice, but it captures the album's theme and is my personal and artistic first choice.

mwe3: “What Do We Do Now” sounds very mid life crises like. I guess if you’re lucky you go through something like that. Again another tear-jerker track with a beautiful string arrangement. Just kind of fades in the mist!

Slowman: It’s a very bittersweet mid life crises that is told. I’m glad you noted the final chord. Since it ends with the third chord in the key, it sounds like an open question...

mwe3: “Drowning Stones” is very Dylan-esque. I guess it’s man’s plight. Society’s woes. Life seems so much easier these days but it’s never been so challenging and worrisome too, sad to say.

Slowman: The title “Drowning stones” is inspired by the novel Swimming home by Deborah Levy, and I think she got the concept from Virginia Wolf’s suicide. I use the stones as a metaphor for the burdens we collect throughout our lives: guilt, low self-esteem, jealousy, sorrow. And in vain, I beg my daughter to leave them on the beach; you don’t have to save them all. If you do, life gets too heavy. And yes, it’s tough times in Sweden, especially for young girls.

mwe3: Is “Ain’t Gonna Worry” the flip side, the humorous side of “Drowning Stones”? It’s just the way things turned out! lol Cool guitar solo. It’s almost gospel like but the lyrics are hilarious. Are you singing about your kids? lol

Slowman: Very well put, Robert. The flip side of “Drowning stones”! It just came to me... took me approximately 15 minutes to write. And it’s completely autobiographical, of course. The guitar solo is played on the Danelectro since it’s very good for slide work.

mwe3: Track ten on Happy Boy, “Baby’s Burnin’” is X-rated. (lol) I can picture Bad Company or the Stones doing this one! Is “Baby’s Burnin’” the heaviest song on the Happy Boy album?

Slowman: “Baby’s Burning” is without question the heaviest track on the album. Raw sex with some Prince-influences. We recorded six guitar tracks here, but only used four in the final mix.

mwe3: “Where The Roses Grow” is kind of a modern day protest song. It’s really effective in getting your points out there but the melody is haunting. The lyrics kind of reminds of the Beach Boys song “A Day In The Life Of A Tree”. Nature’s plight trying to survive man?

Slowman: Yes, I guess you can call it a protest song, but to me the core is the same as in “Into Gold”: Don’t miss the good things in life, you miserable old fool. They exist, but you have to keep your eyes open!

Aren’t the harmony vocals fantastic? And I think Mats really does it on the keyboard!

mwe3: “Nobody Else” is a cool way to end the CD. I guess it’s a real personal kind of song. Your wife is beautiful so I guess you have a pretty good life over there in Sweden! Speaking of tomorrow, what’s next for Slowman musically? Will Happy Boy earn a grammy this year? Where can I cast my vote?

Slowman: I am a happy boy in many ways. I love my wife, have two beautiful daughters and my own business seems to find it’s way. I’ve made four full length albums on small budgets without any support. I’m not sure what happens in the future. It all depends. It’s hard to keep a band together. We’ll see...

Thanks to Svante Törngren @ www.slowman.se and to Peter Holmstedt @ www.hemifran.com

 

 
   
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