They surprised the hell outta me with their brand new CD "Kingsize". I must admit having some doubts as the pre-release hype doesn't always (now there's an understatement) reflect with reality. However, this time it actually did as the Swedes has managed to record a album filled with catchy and fun (melodic) hardrock. Here's bassist and main-million-man B.J. LANEBY's thoughts about the CD and lots of more...
RockUnited/Urban - Hello B.J. Congratulations to "Kingsize" which in my opinion is Million's best album so far (and one of the best hardrock albums of 2004). Are you pleased with the way things turned out? You surely must be?
B.J. LANEBY - Hi there, big thanks Urban! Yes, I'm very pleased and excited. We worked hard on this one and our intention was to do an album that we would buy ourselves if it was another band, nothing less. The reactions have been fantastic so far, so maybe we got it right…
RU - I know it's not that easy for you to try and explain. However, did you do anything differently this time? I mean, how come that you haven't been able to record stuff like this all of the time? ;-)
B.J. - An album reflects where a band is at a specific time. Kingsize is where we are right now. That said, I actually think we've made strong albums before, maybe production hasn't been top of the line all the way but the songs have mostly been alright, I think. And many people worldwide agree, we have often received great reviews for instance. I personally like half of We Ourselves & Us very much, Electric is pure rough rock which is cool, and Detonator is a very strong album if You ask me. But we are improving, getting better and better- not interested in stagnation! And the line up we have had since 1999 with singer Ulrich Carlsson and guitarist Jonas Hermansson (next stop Guitarplayer cover?) is the strongest in our history so our last album Detonator and our new baby Kingsize are definitely my favourites. For Kingsize we more or less locked us in for six months, not coming out before we had a killer album.
RU - Would you agree that you've taken a small step back to your melodic side with Kingsize? Yet you've managed to progress as a band! What's up with that?
B.J. - We've always been a melodic band and always will be. Without hooks, no songs if You ask me… But as I said: We really took our time to write the album and our new keyboard player Johan Bergquist made the songwriting team even stronger. He´ s a great musician and like me, very into melodies. We all like to sing in the shower, don't we? Hahaha…
RU - Indeed, What I really like about "Kingsize" is the way you've managed to stay out of constant repeating of melodies and such. Each track sound quite differently from the previous one. What's the secret behind that? Many sources and years or experience, or what?
B.J. - Experience (I guess), focus (yeah, when there wasn´t too much beer around ;-) and hard work (yes)… We wrote many songs. Picked the best suiting. I tell You: We have some great tracks from this songwriting period that didn't make the album, not necessarily lower standard but just not suiting. The variation and flow of an album is very important and personally I think very much in those terms. First we worked hard on the songwriting without any limitations, just kept'em coming. But when that was done it's time to pick the album songs – the ones people get to hear and at that time the ingredients are to be picked for the cake. And those ingredients are of course very important for the final taste, right?!.
You can´ t have an album full of double bass drum songs (gets boring) or an album packed with ballads (zzzzz) or just aggression (samey, samey). And the You have this: Some songs remind You of other bands too much and some songs even reminds You of Your own earlier stuff, hahahaha. But anyway: Next step is You rehearse and record the material picked, but even then things change during the ride and You never know the 100 vibe until the mix is done and it´ s time for mastering .The running order is what You do last before mastering it and I worked 3-4 days on that to get it right, even threw a recorded and mixed song out (it just didn´t suit in anywhere). Think the album flow and diversity turned out alright in the end. Played it back to back to the guys and they approved… But again: Having a strong songwriting team like M.ILL.ION, is of course the fundamental issue. If You have 12 shitty tracks, the running order doesn´ t matter that much, does it…
We all come from different backgrounds and influences and we all bring those to the table: I come from heavy 70/80 s rock but also like more melodic acts like Styx, Magnum, Survivor etc. Jonas knows his blues but also like Guns'n Roses, Skid Row, Motley and KISS of course J, Our singer Ulrich comes from Queensryche, Rush and Sabbath etc and Johan (keyboards) is an AOR freak, but at the same time has the SAXON logo tattooed on his arm… Our drummer Per likes everything from LA Sleaze/Glam to Purple…so there You go… However: Doesn't matter who's initial idea we work on, it all tends to be Millionized in the end. Kingsize is as Millionized as it gets this year, glad if You like it!
RU - Each and every hardrock album needs a power ballad and "Forbidden Fruit" is THE ballad of the year for me. Can you give us some inside information about the song and what you were aiming for here.
B.J. - Thank You so much! The intention: To do the ballad of the year! Hahaha, just kidding…Ballads are tricky. We didn´t want to do the typical standard powerballad with the drums coming in halfway through the song, a melodic guitarsolo with a fast ending, change of key in the end etc. It's been done so many times… We went for pure feeling and no calculations. It's just great pianoplaying from Johan, one laidback guitar from Jonas and a guy from the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra on a violin. No fake strings here and no bass, drums or powerchords! The lyrics are very personal to me, a true story, and I think Ulrich did a worldclass job singing them for me. If we'll do a 3:rd video/single Forbidden Fruit probably would be picked for that. It's the best ballad we've ever done and I am damn proud of it. Glad You like it, have had many great reactions from a lot of different people worldwide for that song, maybe a sign…
RU - Any chance that you could also go through these tracks and perhaps explain what they are all about and what inspired you to write them.
B.J. - Sure, I´ll do my best…
Eyes Of A King
RU - My promo doesn't hold any info about the producer? Tell us a little bit about him and what kind of sound you were going for here?
B.J. - The album cover says: Produced by M.ILL.ION, Co produced by Robert Johnson. Executive producer & coordinator: B.J Laneby. I was in the studio from day one 'til the last mix and had the overall responsibility and view. The other guys came and went. Robert Johnson was the engineer in the studio we recorded at, Jonsered Recording Studio, and he had some good production ideas as well. Must mention the mixing guy, Toby Lindell – brilliant! Had earlier worked with a lot of charting popacts in Sweden (E-Type, Petter etc) but he proved he owned some KISS and Van Halen records as well…We worked very well together on the mix (Toby, Me and Johan). The sound we went for was atmosphere and power. The goal was to sound “expensive”, classic hard rock 2004. I think we got pretty close…
RU - I believe that Vinnie Vincent and/or Gene Simmons would like to have back their opening/main riff from "On And On". There's a lot of KISS influences going there, or???
B.J. - As much as I love KISS, nope we didn't think of them on that track. But if it reminds You of them- hey that's great! They've written some rock history so I take it as a compliment… B.t.w: Jonas likes Ace more I think…
RU - I also mentioned in my review that "Room No.3" and "Fight You Forever" reminded me of Dalton with more balls somehow. Do you think that I'm completely off the chart here? I hope you're not too offended ;-)
B.J. - Dalton haven't exactly written rockhistory, have they…? I think I saw them by a coincidence in a club in the 80´s somewhere, but can't remember. Was it that drummer from Treat or something? I hope they were good as You refer to them…
RU - Ehem... yes, the drummer from Treat. Who's that kick-ass keyboardist anyway? Where the heck did you find him??? He's not related to Jon Lord is he??? (gotta luv that hammond sound you've created on Kingsize)
B.J. - Hahaha, he's got no moustache yet… Johan Bergquist is a fantastic musician, can play a lot of instruments and sings. When we needed a new keyboardplayer (2002) we put up ads in the papers and in the musicstores etc. Johan´ s friend, who saw us at the Sweden Rock Festival gig that summer, told him we were looking for a new guy and thought he was right for us. Johan applied and I met him over a beer, liked him and checked him up. Heard he had played with Hammerfall (guesting on their last album) and with their guitarist Stefan Elmgren's band so I talked to Stefan and he recommended him.
He's funny and intelligent and it felt good when he auditioned later… He suits the band fine, totally crazy, likes to party etc but are very serious about music and does a great job. I think You can hear that on Kingsize! We all like Purple and Jon Lord is the master- if his spirit is around in our music – well, then that's another big compliment! (Johan visited me yesterday b.t.w and had bought a new Leslie so expect more of that Hammond sound in the future!)
RU - You've certainly had your share of dodgy record labels over the years. Do you feel at home at Majestic Rock? Geoff & Adrian take good care of you all I hope?
B.J. - Unlike many, Majestic Rock are a great label. Geoff and Adrian are both musicfreaks and biz men and they have respectable backgrounds in the industry. Geoff has worked at both Warner and Phonogram with KISS, Guns'n Roses, Metallica, Dream Theater etc… They believe in us, they trust us and they have named us no.1 priority on their label so… They also have offices both in London and Tokyo which helps. I talk to them every day and they have taken great care of us so far.
RU - They've reissued all your previous albums too.
B.J. - Yes, I wanted them to have all the M.ILL.ION back catalogue as some of the albums have been hard to find. No.1, We Ourselves & Us, Electric and Detonator are all now available again through Majestic Rock and they are remastered and have bonustracks and videos on them. Your's truly have also written “the story of the album” in each booklet. Check them out! In addition to the M.ILL.ION/Majestic team we now also have signed a management deal with Honey Bianchi, former manager of the Led Zeppelin guys Robert Plant & Jimmy Page, also has worked with Judas Priest and The Who… Not bad, eh? She's been great so far and she will mean a lot to us in the future, I think. There's an Iron Lady for Ya!!!
RU - Million has recently been on tour with MSG in England. What was that like? (see pics)
B.J. - Yeah, we were booked on that tour with short notice. Initially we were going out with Motley's singer Vince Neil but that was postponed (we all know why now, don't we). Then the Michael Schenker offer came up and we went for it. We played Nottingham Rock City, London Underworld, Dudley JB's and Bradford Rio's with them. The venues were packed and we went down really, really well. Being accepted and idolised in the country that gave birth to Sabbath, Zeppelin, Purple, Rainbow, Whitesnake, UFO, Priest, Queen etc etc is a special feeling! We had fans that saw many gigs, came just for us, and we signed autographs like hell after our 45 minutes. The UK has a very special place in my heart and we're going back there in January!
I hope that Schenker managed to stay out of trouble this time? Any fistfights or mishappenings along the way? ;-)
B.J. - No fights what I saw. They had a problem with their singer in Sweden prior to the UK tour, we heard. And they flew in Leif Sundin. Leif did a great job in England. Michael can still play magical guitar and his band (Americans) were good musicians. Their bass player Rev, happily used my EBS gear on the last gigs and were cool, Wayne- their keyboardist/guitarist was a really nice bloke.
RU - Pete Way (UFO, Waysted) was a great source of inspiration for you as a youngster I believe?
B.J. - Aaaah, Pete… I saw him as a small kid in 1979 with UFO at the Concert House in Gothenburg and he was the first bass guitarist I saw that owned the stage. Last time I checked, UFO at Sweden Rock 2004, he was as good. A legend…
RU - So what's it like being at the same record label as your "idol"?
B.J. - Feels good of course. I've met Pete a couple of times now and he's such a nice, warm and funny person. On stage he becomes this animal. And what the hell, he's done it all. Toured the world a zillion times, wrote and recorded many of the classic songs and knows just about everybody in the rock´n roll biz… There's a man that could tell You entertaining stories… It's a privilege to know him.
RU - What else did you listen to as you grew up? I know that you're a major KISS fan.
B.J. - When I was really small I initially listened to my sister's and brother's records. They were much older than me, which was good – gave me some good rock history as a start: Stones, Beatles, Kinks... My first ever self bought album was Nazareth´s “Razamanaz”. I think that listening to the track “Alcatraz” at school was one of the reasons I got into hardrock in the first place… Album no.2 was Deep Purple “Machine Head” and after that I got seriously into Black Sabbath. Bought everything they´d done and scared the shit out of my girlfriends, which was useful = hey, we were just kids then…. Then some girl in my class played me KISS Alive…The rest is history, I think I've seen KISS 18 times or something during the years. Paul Stanley is my favourite member, by the way. We all have picked one, haven´t we?...
RU - Ehem... actually... my favorite as a kid was Gene (since he's the scariest one), then Peter (I took up drumming), later Ace (he's really spaced out), and nowadays it's Paul (since he's the best songwriter after all).
B.J. - I always liked melodic stuff, so bands like Boston, Styx, Journey and Magnum showed me that side of the coin as well. Nowadays I listen to most music, but the kid years leaves a special place in Your heart, don't they?… I´m glad that I have this background. Kids of today, what do they grow up with… Fake products they sell on TV, Lip syncing so called live artists, and Hits 47… Jesus Christ, I don't envy that. My ten year old son, Sebastian, went to his first concert ever last year. Bruce Springsteen at the Ullevi Stadium (56.000) and he had tears in his eyes. That's what it's all about. Real stuff that effects You!
RU - What about your background as a musician before Million? I guess you played with several other bands in Göteborg? Any musicians or bands we might recognize or remember??
B.J. - Nope, I come from a small village outside a town called Uddevalla in Sweden and when I came home from my first trip to England in the late 80´s, having seen KISS at the Marquee (secret club gig =500 people), Maiden play another small secret gig (at their old school), hanging out with lot of famous musicians/biz people at VIP bars and rounding it off with seeing a bill like IRON MAIDEN /KISS/DAVID LEE ROTH /GUNS`N ROSES/HELLOWEEN in front of 107.000 at Donington, I came back home and told my band at the time: I've had enough of local activities – I'm forming a new band and really go for it - I'm moving. That was the start of M.ILL.ION, so in Gothenburg I've only had this band. Though : I could, but I won't, give You a list of N A M E S that has applied to us, when we have been looking for musicians… I'm pretty sure You´ d recognize some of those…J
RU - I believe that you will be going out on tour with Waysted later on?
B.J. - Yes, we've been offered the special guest slot on their British Tour. Looks like January 20 – 30. We get to play 1 hour and we are offered good conditions so that one we're really looking forward to. Playing big stages, meeting the British fans again and hanging out with Pete and the guys sounds good to me…
RU - What's up next for Million? I heard something about Japan earlier???
B.J. - Yep, me and our singer Ulrich Carlsson will fly to Tokyo for promotion 15-20 December. Looking forward to some real Sushi, mate!!! January will see the British Tour. February looks like German dates. After that a Japanese tour is discussed and also Scandinavian shows… It's looking good at the moment, but who knows what will happen… Right now I enjoy the ride…
RU - Since we're all Swedes here, your opinion about the new Europe album? (the most successful hardrock group ever from Sweden).
B.J. - I have big respect for Europe. They've done some real good things for Sweden and for the hardrock interest in this country. To be perfectly honest I haven’t listened to the new album much. It might be too heavy for their mainstream audience and to wimpy for the hardcore metal fans, but got some good tracks on it. The “Start from the dark” track is alright, I think. But I have to listen more to give a real opinion.. They are very good musicians anyhow and they always have a brilliant livesound. Personally I want more of stage moves and rock´n roll show when I see a band, but they do what they do well.
Thanks for everything B.J. If there's anything you'd like to say, add, or promote, please do:
B.J. - Hope all You hardrocking people out there check out our new album KINGSIZE if You haven't already. If You like that one, then M.ILL.ION is for You – then You can check out all our other albums. If not, fair enough – at least You gave it a chance. The world is full of aggressive, doomy stuff that might suit You better... To all the fans: Check out the Backdoor Queen video out soon, see You all on tour in 2005 and keep those emails coming –it's always a pleasure hearing from You.
B.J Laneby, Founder member / bassguitar of M.ILL.ION
Interview by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
Photos by Batttttty, www.strangers-in-the-night.com