With inexhaustible creativity – Sulo
Sören Sulo Karlsson from the Swedish town Katrineholm has during his creative life met, played and worked with an enormous amount of well know names. So many, that sometimes it seams too good to be true. But the number of records amongst other things that keeps coming is showing that it is in fact the truth.
You’re very creative and have a lot going on, what about your band Diamond Dogs?
Diamond Dogs made their closure album last year. I believe it was released in August and I’ve made another five albums between April 2015 and April 2016. It started out with my band the Crunch’s second album, then Diamond Dogs. After them two releases I made Kicki Danielson’s album (wrote and produced) and then I went on to the setting of an English punk poet named Gary Johnson and then finally came the Brilliant Outsiders’ album in April.
So is it time for relaxation now?
No not really, I just finished the tour with Kicki Danielsson (Kicki is a Swedish country, dance band and pop singer) and stopped in Gävle to record ten bases for an album that will be called Sulo’s full English, which will be a Rod Stewart/Faces/Slade thingy but with me and some British guys playing. The former guitarists from Rod Stewart amongst others. It’s in London at the moment for some recordings but I don’t know when it will be released. In a few weeks I start with the recording of Kicki Danielsson’s Christmas record where I have written four of the songs and the others are old classics within the country music genre. I also have a book that I am about to finish and it might be released during early 2017.
What kind of book are we talking about?
I am writing the biography of the chairman on of the board of AIK’s football club. It might not sound a lot of fun but it is about the renowned and spectacular Mr. Johan Segé.
Have you ever considered throwing out your TV? You can’t have any time to watch anything…
Ha ha. I am being asked that question all the time, how do I find time for everything and I can’t really answer that, I’ve always been like this. In a constant flow. I always write one song each day, it’s like a mantra. Sometimes it just rolls and I like to be in a flow and so far so good. I’ve jumped between different genres all my life, so I believe that’s a large part of why I can go on a still be creative. If I stood and dug at the same spot, it might be tougher.
So you have written music for more artists then Kicki?
I won the Guldklaven (Swedish music award) about a year ago together with Lars-Kristers’ for the best dance band song. It was called Det måste gå å dansa (you have to be able to dance). I am on their new album as well. I have written for Idde Schultz and for the Boppers. Everything between country, punk, dance band and pop, I believe it’s everything but hard rock. On the other hand I was offered to replace Mr. Dan McCafferty in Nazareth about a year ago. He has rheumatism and needed to rest, he was unable to go on tour and I’ve been on tour with them a few times as a support. I was flattered to receive the question.
But you were too busy to jump on that one?
Yes. I had the plane tickets and just needed to rehearse three songs to audition for them but I felt that it was a too big commitment to be away for nine months. That would mean that my projects would be on ice too long and I didn’t like that idea. But it’s nice for the soul to have had the question.
So it is The Crunch that is your main band now?
I believe it is. As a band considered, it’s the main band for now. We’ve been on the lazy side lately, which has been lucky for me as I have had time to do other stuff for various reasons. Mick’s been busy with some sort of farewell tour with the Cockney Rejects and I don’t really know how it will work in the future. Their bass player died so it got a bit messy. Terry Chimes had a baby in his older days… but we have planned a few shows in Sweden, France and England during the autumn. I will be alternating with the Kicki thingy at the same time, as you can imagine there’s quite a jump in between...
Pretty mixed, do you have the songs in your head while you’re out playing?
Yes, it’s really weird. But I have what Idde usually calls an autistic streak. Regarding the songs, I know them after playing them just once. I am very grateful for that streak, otherwise it would be difficult. It will be a lot and I don’t think I have to worry about being out of a job just yet.
The poet Gary Johnson, did you meet him or did you just read his lyrics?
I’ve met him through Mcgeggus. The guy who came up with the idea was Garry Bushell. He started to release collector’s albums through his rock magazine NME which during that time was called Sounds. He made four collector’s albums that became legendary. They were called Oi1, Oi2 and so on. His best friend is Gary Johnson and he wanted to be a pop singer. He was a very good lyrics writer but couldn’t sing at all, so he read his lyrics as poems which were something new in 1991. It was a sort of street poems in a totally new way. Cockney and a lot to the left, left wing against Thatcher. There are three poems on the second album... I was in touch with Gary Bush and we talked about it and out of the blue, Gary Johnson contacted me. We started talking and he had been in hospital after his fourth or fifth heart attack and been in a coma for like twenty seven days… There was this really tragic story behind all of it. I said I can write music for your poems and make an album out of it. It was written and done pretty fast but came out very good and I am pleased. That was an impulse which is normal for me, when these impulses come along you just has to go with them.
Is the album Brilliant Outsiders something similar?
It was an impulse in the way that the producer Mr. Kevin Porée said:” You who delivered twenty two The Crunch songs in just a few months, all good enough to be singles. Wouldn’t you be able to write a country song too so we can go to the States?” He said this as a joke and I wrote the song Constant Reminder and we made a demo of it. On my way home I was thinking about what to do with the song and who could sing it. I went through different favourite singers and got to think about Maria McKee, that I hadn’t heard anything about in a long time. She basically retired from the music business but I found an address and sent her the song. Writing the e-mail I thought it felt a bit greedy to try and sell a song, so instead I wrote and asked if she wanted to record a duett with me. Pressing the send button I didn’t think that I would get a reply.
But you did get a reply?
I had an e-mail at six thirty in the morning and it was Maria thanking me for thinking of her and said that she loved the song and wondering if I had more of them. I wrote Brilliant Outsiders the same day as I thought I had to be quick. I sent her a demo of the song. She replied”Awesome, lets record both, I live in Los Angeles can you come over”?
I had to sort out my finances and jump on a flight to LA. Without knowing what condition Maria was in or anything but when I arrived at her home she opened the door and looked like she was two years younger than when she became famous. Unbelievably well preserved! I know that she’s written a lot of great songs herself, for example Good Heart for Bette Midler that sold 12 millions in the US. So to break the ice I asked if there was somebody else that had written songs for her. ”There are a few”, she replied. Who? I asked. Bob Dylan and Van Morrison amongst others she said and I felt that I was in good company.
Then she took down an acoustic Gibson from the wall and said I could use it, the guitar used to belong to Mr. Johnny Depp. I said that I didn’t know he could play, and then Maria replied that he can’t act either...
Did you get recognized in the US?
Not quite but there was one fun thing that happened right before we went back to Sweden. I walked in to a sushi bar and bought a mineral water and there was a group of girls standing around whispering, then they walked up to me and asked:” are you in the Rolling Stones?”
I didn’t even reply before they said:” The bar is free”.
So me and my friend were like, okay?!.
Really good when you don’t drink alcohol anymore, so I had twelve mineral water.
Later I realized that they thought I was Ron Wood.
How did the work with the album continue?
Back in Sweden we thought about the two songs with Maria McKee and then decided to make a duet album. With a few rules: It must be country music and it should consist of artists that might not be associated with the genre but who has a good story and also they must want it because how good the song is. So no one is bought but is all on the album because of the great song. It’s an unlikely group of artists and I don’t think that this has been done in Sweden before. The band is fantastic, Los Pacaminos. Amongst others the guitarist has played second guitar with Queen for over twenty years. The bass player is Sir Paul McCartney’s bass player and the drummer is from the Pretenders. It’s just top of the line.
You’ve bumped into quite a few celebrities; do you have an anecdote to share?
I wrote songs together with Bachman from BTO on one occasion. He was on the tour”Every song tells a story”. And he travelled around talking abut his career and how he wrote his songs.
I made a complete fool out of myself, anyway we were talking and he says that some songs begins in one way and ends in another, like this one he says and plays a few jazz cords. It begun like this and ended like this… and I didn’t know what song it was; turns out it was”You ain’t seen nothin’ yet”. Oh well I do know THAT song…
Have there been any raised eyebrows and questions about your anecdotes?
I have never strived to earn as much money as possible but to have as many experiences as I possibly can. I am a rush seeker in the sense that I want to tick off things I’ve done. I have realized that I have done so much more compared to other people; sometimes I hold back my stories to avoid looking like a complete fabricator.
Which the following story confirms.
My father used to be the mentor for Sweden’s former Prime Minister Göran Person. And me, Idde and Hellström has played a lot for the Social democratic Workers' Party and so Göran wanted to see me and discuss politics. I don’t know if he had a hidden agenda and wanted me to join the party, anyway I was at his mansion and talked politics for about two hours. And as I was leaving Terry Chimes rung my mobile, we had just started the Crunch and to me it’s a huge thing to play together with the drummer from the Clash. So I got a bit nervous and answered the phone. Terry says Hi, what’s up? And when I quickly am translating in my head and just honestly say what I was doing, I answer: I’ve been at the former Prime Minister of Sweden for coffee and Terry just: Yeah sure!
Where does your nickname Sulo come from?
I am not really sure; it’s from my early punk career. An older friend of mine started to call me that. It’s just stuck from there, and people called me Sulo more often than Sören. Later I have understood that people think I am Finish. When we toured with Hanoi Rocks Mike Monroe told me that depending on how you pronounce Sulo, it can mean the fair or toilet in Finland.
svip.se thanks for your time and good luck with new projects.