Interview – Kamchatka
“It made me realize that you always have to do things the only way possible; and that is with every bit of your heart. It has to be honest.”
DB’s is a damn fine venue in Utrecht, Netherlands. Even though the stage is small, the atmosphere is always good and the different kinds of beer taste amazing. We meet up there with the boys from the Swedish Kamchatka. Not long after arriving, bassist Per Wiberg implores us to try the Winter Draught. A black smoky beer with a long lingering aftertaste. The tour has just started but he’s already loving every minute of it, he says. For even though Mr. Wiberg has been part of the Kamchatka family from the beginning; delivering the cover art for all the albums and offering help on certain songs for the last two albums; he only joined Kamchatka for real on their new album The Search Goes On. An album that is so good we fear the boys must have met the Devil somewhere and decided to sell their soul. So we ask singer and guitarist Thomas ‘Juneor’ Andersson if that is the case and a little bit about The Search Goes On…
Thomas: “Haha! I sold my soul many years ago my friend. I had no choice. Music is my life. It is my everything. I started to play when I was six years old and sort of grew up on stage. My father was a fisherman who played shows in the weekend. His accordion sound made the Swedish folk music he played teach me about life. And that fact and my early memories of seeing and hearing a piano at my uncles house made me want to become a musician too. I did my first rock show in 1983 when I was nine years old. And now I am a father myself. My son turned seven today and my daughter is five. And I love them dearly and want to share my love for music with them as well.”
Do they already play an instrument?
Thomas: “My son plays the drums. There was no escape from it. He started to bang on everything when he was only a few years old. Haha.”
The Search Goes On… Is the fifth album. The first two were produced by Nicolas Elgstrand the guitar player from Entombed, the next two you did yourself and for this one you implored the help from Per Wiberg (Opeth, Spiritual Beggars, Candlemass, and many more). Why an outside producer and why Wiberg?
Thomas: “Well, I always wanted to have Per produce something I wrote and played on. He is a very talented musician and has a very wide spectrum and open mind. I mean he has played with so many bands. Like Opeth for instance. But we also played regular blues music in the nineties and played together in a side project together with Jean Paul Gaster from Clutch called King Hobo. When I talked to Toby (Tobias Strandvik, drums) about wanting Per as a producer, he immediately said: ‘Hell yeah!’. Cause he has known him for a very long time as well. And we both knew he would bring something special to the table and do something amazing for our sound as a producer.”
And then you asked him to play bass as well?
Thomas. “Yes, cause he is such an amazing bass player. I know that from the King Hobo project as well. You see, our former bassist, Roger Öjersson, decided to leave the band. He is an amazing guitarist and wanted to go back to his first love: the guitar. When we started out we were playing Jimi Hendrix covers and needed someone to play the bass. Roger agreed, never knowing it would turn into Kamchatka as it is today. Don’t get me wrong. He loved playing for Kamchatka. But around 2011 he said he was beginning to feel his heart wasn’t completely in it anymore. Which we could understand. So we said goodbye with no hard feelings. The search for a new bass player began. But it was messy. It’s not very fun to audition people. So after a while we decided: fuck this, we have this great music and we want to record it. Let’s do it ourselves and ask Per to play the bass as we put down the live backbone of all our songs. Because that is how we always record. We put down the music as a live trio and add vocals, solos or keyboards later on. Per agreed to do that too.”
(The old incarnation of Kamchatka with Roger Öjersson)
After which you thought it was only logical to ask him to join the band fulltime?
Thomas: “It was indeed a logical step. And he took it as seriously as we hoped he would. For us it is our life and priority number one. Not some little side project. And when we asked Per, no hard feelings if you can’t do it or don’t feel like it. So he thought about it a couple of weeks and checked all his schedules and decided he wanted, no, he really wanted to play with us. And that’s wonderful, it makes the new album and this new Kamchatka even more special. I mean, Toby and me grew up together and went to kindergarten. And now my best friend also joins the band. Damn. This is going to be good! Haha!”
But what was the most important thing Per brought to the table as a producer?
Thomas: “I guess the most important thing is the fact that we wanted him as a producer and that we gave him the full reign. You know. We decided to take his ideas and criticism to heart. He was the boss. So if he said: ‘let’s try it this way.’ We immediately did so. And if he said: ‘no no no, I want it that way.’ We thought: ‘fuck it, if you want it that way, here it is fucker.’ You know. It makes everything more edgy, you want to do everything even better than before. We listened, cause he WAS the producer.”
The first two albums were really searching for the Kamchatka sound. The third went to the left of that and the fourth Bury Your Roots more to the right. This one it seems like it goes straight through the middle and has really found the Kamchatka sound. So why the title?
Thomas: “Wow, yes exactly. But the title called out to us. Because of our history. Because of our search for the sound we wanted. Because of the different bass players. Because of our search to feel complete. Which we are now with Per. But the search also goes on. For the band and for us personally. We want to find new music, play new venues and meet new people. We want to find more fulfillment and be better as a person. It might be our fifth album, but it feels like it is our first.”
It indeed sounds like it is your first; and it comes across as a very personal one.
Thomas: “As a band we never say we want to do this or do that, we never plan, we just play. We find our sound and our music by playing. It takes a couple of albums to find out who you truly are as a band. It is like putting a puzzle together. Thanks to Per, who has always been a sort of mentor to me, we could more easily cut to the chase. He kept us focused and made it more direct. No more bullshit. Which made it more personal. He contributed to raising our art a few steps. It also made my own writing better. It made me realize that you always have to do things the only way possible; and that is with every bit of your heart. It has to be honest. So my struggles and thoughts about life are my story and that is the only thing I can truly sing about. It might not be easy, but we are all human beings and I think it gives your music its validity. It is life.”
So what was the most euphoric moment surrounding this record?
Thomas: “When we got to listen to the first track, with vocals and everything complete. We recorded like three songs a day. During day time we did the band with the instruments. And in the night we did the vocals. And around one or two at night, we had something, we had three songs done. And that first listen, to those songs, complete, was amazing. We felt exhilarated. We know we were on to something.
And what did it smell like by then in your very own Shrimpmonkey Studio?
Thomas: “Sweat and beer!”
I reckon the moniker ‘free rock’ might label your music best, cause anything is possible and there are no boundaries.
Thomas: “That is how we think about music in general and especially about Kamchatka. We don’t look at ourselves as blues rockers or stoner rockers. There is nothing wrong with labels or that kind of music. But we have too many influences and want to play to many different things to think like that. We just want to make the best music possible. We were branded as stoner in the beginning of our career. Which was probably due to the fact that we toured with Clutch a lot. Although I do not consider them a stoner band either. But what is stoner rock? I mean, when I hear that word, I always think about Jimi Hendrix. Ooh well. I sometimes call it punk blues, when people ask me about it. Hehe.”
And damn fine punk blues it is! How difficult will it be to top this album?
Thomas: “I don’t think of it that way. I don’t look at music as good or bad. I write every day and some of my music will be better and some of it will be worse. I will just keep looking for those moments where the music captures something unique and I will keep hunting for music that makes me feel. Every kind of emotion is good. That is what music is all about. The search goes on!”
(Written by JK)