The singer Mikael Erlandsson belongs to the creative crowd. Besides his solo career and his lead vocal position in the band Secret Service since 2006, he’s also the singer in the band Last Autumn’s Dream (L.A.D.). Besides from him the band consists of the bass player Nalle Påhlsson, the drummer Jamie “Jompa” Borger and the keyboardist Ulf Wahlberg together with the guitarist Peter “Pac” Söderström. L.A.D is now launching their 12th album “Paintings”. Apart from L.A.D these guys also play in the bands; Treat, Therion, Secret Service and Talisman. When svip.se calls Mikael on this rainy day, he asks us to ring back in five, so he can run inside...
I am so sorry; I was in a queue at the shops. It usually takes about five minutes but today everyone was in line but I am with you now.
I thought this interview would have been appropriate and fit in with the title of you latest single, let’s do this interview on the go.
Ha, ha right. Take it on the run, yes that’s how it usually is.
But it’s not quite what the lyrics are about…
No it’s about rumours and stuff.
And there are a lot of them floating around in this line of work I suspect?
Oh yes, it certainly is. One shouldn’t believe everything you hear. Within the world of music and lyrics you are allowed to do your own interpretation. Unless it has a political message and it doesn’t.
With 12 albums, you’ve succeeded to be quite anonymous in the Swedish media…
It is quite a thin genre this AOR (Album-oriented rock), we ended up in this category. We mainly released albums in Japan and not very much in Sweden. We haven’t toured much at all since the other guys and I have several other projects and bands. We are freelance musicians and this band’s been around since the end of 2003. And we haven’t made a lot of noise; none of us is a clown or persons who are elbowing our way forward.
So how did it start with the band and how did you come up with the name, Last Autumn’s Dream?
Let’s take it from the beginning. I had a solo career and played some pop and rock and released albums in Japan. And when I quit, a Japanese record label guy had an idea about forming a band with that name and he had some wishes about me singing and the guitarist Andy Malecek from Fair Warning together with the guys from Europe as they where available at the time. But by the time we started to record, they were putting Europe together again, so it didn’t happen... We thought; let’s make an album and see what it will be and it was received well in both Japan and Germany. So there was a sequel and after that there’s been more coming. We kind of went from being a project to a band, we’re working as a band now and hang out in the studio and jam together. But it’s difficult to get gigs.
Sweden is not exactly the hard rock country number one…
No it’s not and this isn’t proper hard rock either. On stage it sounds really heavy but on the album it has a lighter sound, but it’s a genre I really like. We had no idea we’d make this many albums and now we’re on number twelve...
Now we are going out on the road to do gigs at some festivals and now we have a pretty good selection of material, twelve albums, it will be a long show.
You’re not going to play all of your songs from all the albums?
Off course we will. Ha, ha. No.
There’s a huge fan base in Japan who’s following everything we do, what ever we do. They have their favourite songs and the one have your own. We would probably be able to an hour and a half without any doubt. If you cut it down it will be really hard, since it’s so many songs you would like to play. A set of forty-five minutes would result in a fight on stage about which songs to play.
You must be very productive; it’s nearly one album per year…
I’m in song writing mode all the time. Right now I am about to finish my solo album. I can’t help myself, I love being in the studio. The songs come to me while I’m in the shower, out walking or whenever really. Me and “Jompa” (the drummer) we record everything which makes it a lot of songs. Although, some are really crap and we don’t even record them, but then there’s a few that are much better. So we’re productive because it’s fun.
The songs on your solo album, are they very different from L.A.D’s songs?
You hear the harmonies, the structures of the songs are about the same, but this is more “sweet” almost like conditioner. Think about the old ELO, a lot of the 70: s. I grew up with ELO, so the genre on this album is something I’ve always dreamt about. I have the Eldorado album as a land mark, I’ve always wanted to make an album like that and now it’s happening. I’m in my studio and play all of the instruments myself; we’ll see if I will release it maybe on You Tube, it’s an ego thing. I’d like to release it because it’s fun.
Do you write music for other artists?
Me and a guy called Claes has written a lot together. Arvingarna (a Swedish dansband) has taken up some of the songs and also a few Korean artists. You try to send some songs out there, but there are a lot of song writers too. Three’s also a fight with the technology; I don’t work with the latest techs. I am a bit allergic to the thing with pressing a key and an all ready beat comes out. I play a lot of acoustic, which can get things to sound good but a bit “antique”. I like songs instead of beats. I am unable to write for today’s artists, I leave that to my son. So it is mainly dansband I write for and a bit of country sound on top of that.
Not only did you put a lot of effort into your music, but also on your cover art…
He’s a Belgian/Frenchman called Eric Philippe and who’s wonderful. He pains by hand, and he’s awesome. I love cartoons and stuff, so I’d like things a bit old fashion. I don’t want knights, swords or skeletons, I don’t think that’s representative for us. Come on we’re like fifty-five, all of us. It is much better to let him paint something nice for us, as long as it’s got a lot of colours. That’s what we talked about for this album, since the songs are like small pieces of art.
Any you paint in keys instead of colours?
Right. Tweedle colours.
Are your albums available as vinyl’s? It would be such a shame on the covers otherwise.
That’s what we want, we’ve talked about it but it’s a matter of cost. We have contacts since we’re on the road with Secret Service, nearly half of L.A.D is included there and Secret Service will release a vinyl. Then it’s a question of if we can release our albums as vinyl’s just because the cover is beautiful paintings. Just look at the album Nine lives; it’s so nice that I could have it framed. He’s a kind of a purveyor to the kings with the art to the band. Actually we’re on the next one...
No! Not thirteen. Take that number away, thirteen is bad luck. It will be something with fourteen I believe...
You release your albums in Japan first and with bonus tracks, is it because you are bigger there?
They want it like that; it’s supposed to be exclusive. And if someone likes it, they will order it from Japan, so the albums always come in two versions.
Can the band see where it sells best?
No actually not. There are so many downloads these days and the music is streamed so I can’t keep track of it. To be totally fair, who buys a proper album today?
That would be me then…
Yes, I buy them too. I want them physically, it sounds better and you can check out the cover. I’ve done it since I was a child and I still do.
I suppose it’s the development that is the reason to why so many don’t know what they have been listening to?
Yes, hence the choice of the single. We thought it was a good song, but who’s playing it today? It’s kind of the reason to why we play covers, because it’s fun.
How are you educated as a musician? Just raw talent?
I am a drummer from the start. Without any education, I just do things. When I play the guitar for example, I don’t use my handgrip when I strike a chord, It is just wrong, I’ve learned everything by myself. I decided that I need to be able to play a little; I’ve done this since I was a punk rocker back in the days. Lately I have made my mind up about actually learning to play the guitar, so I sat down with a guy who played the piano and I got better and better the most I understood. The best way to learn is to throw yourself into the battle, that’s how you learn. If you look at the people that compete in Idol and similar situations, they talk about hitting the wall. Come on, they haven’t got a clue what this is about. It is tough, you have to be dedicated. I feel that there is nothing better or more fun than to be in the studio or out and do shows. That it number one.
How come you quit the drums?
I discovered that it was hard to write music on the drums, so I bought a synthesiser. Although I still play the drums on the songs I write now, but I am no Jompa it you know what I mean. I quit because the keyboard took much more of my time. It was something I was interested in at the time; my singing came a lot later. We had a female singer in the band who quit and when we couldn’t find another singer, I ended up singing.
You have also competed in the Eurovision song contest?
Yes, that was fun. It was in 1990, we wrote the song and competed as the first rock band and after that I was in it in again in 2003. I got the question from Jan Johansen, which I said no to at first. They called me several times and I listened to the song and thought, this will end up last. Although it’s a good song. On the other hand if you could do the song some fairness and have fun at the same time... Everything was not on my conditions, I was dressed up and it was a live air show and it didn’t feel 100%. It’s hard to stand there, to be directed, look into the right camera and hold your hands in a certain way, they cut my hair and I was wearing a black suite. But no one remembers me in it and that’s nice.
Apart from me digging this up now?
That’s okay. I am not ashamed of it; it’s just that it went very wrong. It could have been cooler and more laid back. It all turned out to be very boring. I would have wanted to sit with my guitar and sing the song. It would have been so much better than standing there looking like a Tom Jones with a silly hair due. It’s done and I still thought it was fun.
So there won’t be a next time in the Eurovision song contest?
As a song writer in that case. But it’s difficult to get in and be accepted, we have sent some material but they have contracted song writers. We’ll see what the future brings, I’m not closing that door completely, but as an artist it’s over and done with.
Do you have an odd/fun tour memory to share?
Each time there’s always something going on. There was this incident last year in Kazakhstan. There was a van that drove up beside us and tried to hail us, our driver just kept on driving and the van made another go at us. A bit further ahead the police/military stopped the van… Later we learned that it was an attempt to kidnap us. I was really scared and felt very small. We’ve also seen a lot of poverty, but these people give all they have. We were invited to dinner and they boiled snow as they didn’t have water and cooked for us. It’s unbelievable. I felt ashamed but it’s impolite to say no. We took some photos and gave them records. This is the kind of stuff that really warms your heart. People should really see how they live and how lucky they are even if they don’t have much.
Any tour planned?
We have talked about going on the road together with Treat, as Jompa plays with them too.
It will be tough for him being in both bands?
He just has to swap hats. We’re friends all of us in both bands so it would just be fun. Good to get used to being on tour, which all of us are really but not so much with L.A.D. Play the songs into our backbones and right now they aren’t there yet, it would be nice if they did...
Svip.se would like to thank Mikael Erlandsson for the interview and hope the band will get a few gigs around our long country, so more people get to discover L.A.D. here at home.