The Ark im Interview. „Was that supposed to be Swedish?“…22.09.2005
…schreit Ola Salo ins Mikrofon und beendet damit vor dem Zugabenblock eines der fraglos besten Konzerte, die Wien dieses Jahr sehen durfte.
Vorweg: Ja, „The Ark“ sind glamrockende Schweden-Poser wie es im Buche steht.
Ja, die Songs sind allesamt einfach gestrickt, hingeschrieben auf bestmögliches Audience-Feedback – eben Stadion-taugliche Gitarren-Epen mit Streichern und picksüßem Bubblegum-Discobeat, die weniger durch qualitativ musikalische Brillanz reüssieren als vielmehr durch das, was Rock’n’Roll in seiner Quintessenz eigentlich sein sollte: Having a fuckin’ good time. Nicht mehr und nicht weniger. The Ark sehen auf der Bühne aus wie ein fehlgeschlagenes Gen-Experiment, wo die DNA von 70er Glamrock, KISS, Broadway-Musicals und eine gehörige Portion guter, alter Rock’n’Roll versehentlich gemixt wurden.
Die Band erinnert schon im Interview vor dem Gig an eben diese großen Namen, mit denen sie permanent verglichen werden – ABBA, David Bowie, The Rocky Horror Picture Show: Frontman Ola Salo gibt die allürenhafte, aber unglaublich sympathische Diva, streichelt im Gespräch mit Britishrock ego-„zärtlich“ seinen nabelfreien Bauch, bügelt nebenbei selbst das – zart formuliert – gewagte Bühnen-Outfit („Don’t tell anyone that I’m ironing my clothes myself!“). Gitarrist Martin Axén, optisch der Prototyp des kühlen Schweden, macht derweil den typisch verkorksten Lead-Gitarristen und beschränkt sich auf knappe Subjekt-Objekt-Prädikat-Sätze. Herrlich. Back to the Seventies!
Carsten Schumacher, Chefredakteur des Musikmagazins „Visions“ schreibt in der aktuellen 15-Jahre-Jubiläumsausgabe: „Wenn mich ein Album ins Mark trifft, soll es mir schnurz sein, wie aufrichtig der Künstler mit mir ist. Was zählt, ist das Album und das Konzerterlebnis. Ganz ehrlich, der Urheber kann mich ruhig anlügen, wenn mich das Ergebnis überzeugt. Außerdem gehen nur die größten Lügner mit dem Begriff ‚Ehrlichkeit’ hausieren.“
Ob The Ark ihr völlig übertriebenes Gehabe ehrlich meinen, sei in den Raum gestellt. Fakt ist: Es funktioniert. Und es funktioniert nicht nur live, sondern auch auf den bisher erschienenen drei Alben – Allerfeinste Singalong-Songs für die schnelle Autobahn-Tour, für die Geburtstags-Party, fürs Verliebtsein, für die eben geschaffte Prüfung, kurzum: Nummern, die man hören will, wenn man der ganzen Welt den sprichwörtlichen „Haxn“ ausreißen möchte. Großes Kino im Kopf gemischt mit Gefühls-Hochschaubahn. Musik, von der man nie zugeben würde, dass man sie hört, die aber jeder aufdreht, wenn man sich „larger than life“ fühlt. Radiohead’sche Kompliziertheit ist tot – We Are The Ark.
The Ark haben bisher drei Alben veröffentlicht:
We Are The Ark (2001)
In Lust We Trust (2002)
State Of The Ark (2005)
Britishrock: What was the first song you’ve heard this morning? Because one says that that particular song is responsible how your day and your mood turns out…
Ola Salo: It was a song called “An Indian Summer Night’s Dream” by a Swedish singer. It’s the song I hear every morning when I wake up because it’s the alarm clock on my mobile phone. So that song kinda sets my mood every single day.
Martin Axén: My first song today was one by JJ Cale. But I really can’t remember which one.
Britishrock: So when you’re touring you don’t just turn up the radio and listen to some local radio stations?
Ola: Well, if you hear something on the radio from the bus driver, you know.... But most of the times we listen to our own music.
Britishrock: Last May you played in Vienna with Sugarplum Fairy and lots of people I’ve talked to back then said that they should have been the opening act, not you. Are you flattered?
Ola: Well, actually they were the opening act for half of the shows. That tour was just for eight shows and they were opening on four of them and we started the other half. It was a split double-bill tour.
Martin: But we’re really glad to be back here in Vienna because apparently that’s a sign that people really liked us. (grins)
Britishrock: What’s the reason that there’s so much good music coming from Sweden at the moment? Mando Diao, for instance. Has Britain finally run out of ideas?
Ola: I don’t know. There’s very good self confidence in Sweden today about making music and I think that you’re absolutely right that Britain has run out of ideas. I don’t think that there has come anything interesting new from Britain for many years.
Britishrock: What was the last thing you’d say?
Ola: I’d say Suede.
Martin: It’s just like that British people are scared or something because they did make so much good music back in the 60’s and 70’s.
Britishrock: Do the Swedish make the better BritPop today?
Ola: Well, the BritPop scene in the 90’s was very creative but now I think there’s a sort of nervousness about the British music scene. They’re really lacking a kind of creativity and imagination. Unlike Sweden or Norway nowadays.
Britishrock: You guys yorself have been around since 1991 but success came rather late – I guess it was in 2001. And apparently you even thought about quitting the band back then. What’s the state of The Ark in 2005?
Ola: This year we’ve been on our biggest tour ever, playing both a big Winter Tour and a big Summer Tour and now we’re continuing that with this European tour. It’s been really great doing all of these shows and I think the state we’re in at the moment is that we feel stronger than ever and we’re just having a fantastic time.
Britishrock: Can you make a living of The Ark already?
Ola: Yeah, sure. One of the few bands… (starts preparing his voice for the gig by singing high and low)
Britishrock: How was the party when “We are The Ark” hit number 1 in the Swedish album charts? Can you remember that day?
Martin: I think we were in Stockholm, weren’t we?
Ola: Yeah, we were in Stockholm. I think we went to a restaurant. And I had spaghetti (laughs). And I went home alone from the restaurant and then threw up big time…
Britishrock: Because of the drinks or of just being overwhelmed?
Ola: Well, you know, the drinks, all the spaghetti. I guess that certain night we wanted all the drinks in the world, especially the colourful ones. The combination of colourful drinks and spaghetti just makes you throw up, I guess. (laughs)
I have small memory of going home that night and throwing up and thinking of “So this is how the day ended when I was Number One”. It was some sort of an anti-climax.
Britishrock: Ola, you tend to have a good feeling for great singalong anthems. What comes first during writing a song – melody or lyrics?
Ola: I would say a lyrical idea. And in that lyrical idea I try to find some sort of a natural melody. The lyrical idea contains a melodic idea and a rhythmical idea from the very beginning. But yeah, it’s the lyrical idea I’m developing into a song.
Britishrock: “Father Of A Son” is a song about homosexuals rights for adoption of children. Is society ready for that?
Ola: Well, it’s getting ready for it, I think. When we wrote this song it was still illegal in Sweden for homosexuals to adopt kids. The thing is that in that year, 2002, there was an election in Sweden and we thought that this topic would be a very big issue. But they wanted to avoid this being an election issue. Actually they finally formed a law that allowed gay people to adopt children, just two months before the single came out. Which was a little strange because this was supposed to be a protest song. On the other hand Sweden in that matter is very ahead because there are so many other countries where it’s still illegal and where the song can still fill a very important role.
Britishrock: Nathan Larson, Nina Perssons (singer of The Cardigans) husband, said that you, Ola, have learned that music doesn’t always have to be about politics, sometimes it’s just rock and girls. True?
Ola: Yeah, he said that and I read that. That was about the last album. Yeah…(laughs)…yeah…Well I think that was his analysis of…in what way my writing had changed from the previous albums to this one…
Britishrock: …you call it “riff disco”. What does that mean?
Ola: Exactly what it sounds like. I think that was very much the musical idea what we wanted this album to sound like, with a disco beat and a riff guitar. I guess that songs like “Clamour for Glamour” and “Deliver Us From Free Will” fit that description. This album is very…I knew that there was a risk when making it that people would experience it as a little more shallow than the previous ones but to me it’s a very artistic piece of music. The songs aren’t as overtly philosophical as before. They are philosophical in other ways because they have a certain simplicity to them. They seem more simple but actually they’re handling quite difficult issues. And maybe it’s not apparent the first time you listen to the new songs but they are about quite serious stuff. Of course I would not feel inspired to write about something that was all shallow and meaningless.
Britishrock: Media say that you are more a revival than a revolution. When it comes to The Ark you always hear about names like ABBA, David Bowie, even Rocky Horror Picture Show. Can critics hurt you?
Ola: I have no problem with people seeing us as a retro band because of course we have our roots and our inspirations which we sort of owe a lot to. We have no problems that people think of ABBA or David Bowie when they listen to our music. The thing is that most bands – or I would even say all bands – who play rock or pop are a sort of retro bands because they work within the rock and pop tradition. If you would do something that was not at all influenced by older pop and rock I think you wouldn’t recognize it as pop or rock. Our inspirations are little different from other bands. A singer/songwriter that sounds like Neil Young will not be called a revivalist because all singer/songwriters try to sound like Neil Young. Or a band that tries to sound like Joy Division in 2005 won’t be called revivalists because 60 percent of the bands today maybe sound like Joy Division. It’s easier to experience us as a retro/revival band because the music we are reviving or we pay hommage to is not the most common inspiration for pop bands today.
Britishrock: At home you play gigs in front of thousands of people. How’s the feeling for instance when you come to the US and play in front of a much smaller audience. What do you prefer?
Martin: It’s very nice to have both of them. It’s refreshing to play in a small club but it feels good to play a big outdoor summer tour in Sweden as well.
Britishrock: What was your biggest audience yet?
Martin: It was about 27.000 in Malmö.
Ola: Was that really 27.000? Are you sure?
Martin: Yeah, someone told me. (giggling)
Ola: I think the thing with smaller gigs like the one tonight in Vienna is that there’s this sort of unbeatable vibe. You get a connection with people and actually it’s a lot easier to get that connection when there are not thousands of people in the audience.
Britishrock: I’ve read in a magazine that a few years ago you performed in front of 10 people but you were acting like there were thousands more…
Ola: Every show you do must always be the best show that has ever been in the history of man. And I think that’s possible if you regard every show as a unique show in a unique situation. It’s all about taking care of that unique situation and giving the best in that one moment. If you succeed in that you will make the concert to one of the best ever. Bad concerts are always when you try to turn one situation into a situation that it isn’t. A concert situation with 10 people can be really magical and memorable in many ways. With 10 people you can have a connection that you can’t have with 10.000. Being an artist or entertainer or stage performer is very much about finding out what is unique about this specific situation in which you’re playing. Tonight there’s a unique blend of people out there – those people may have never been to an Ark concert before. Therefore it has the potential of becoming a very, very unique gig.
Britishrock: Ola, are you a singer or an actor?
Ola: I’m a singer. I’m only acting one role as this…this…stage persona aspect of my own personality. But actually I wouldn’t call myself an actor at all because I never really do a role or a character. I only try to get into what I want to express.
Britishrock: If your parents could have chosen “proper” jobs for you – what would that have been?
Martin: I have no idea because my mother always told me I should choose whatever I wanted to do. Maybe my father wanted me to be…in some sort of an office.
Britishrock: Ola, I’m not going to ask you the whole thing you’ve been asked a thousand times about your father being a priest and you being a rock musician…
Ola: …Actually I think my parents wouldn’t have allowed it if I had wanted to become a priest. My dad is an open-minded conservative priest, both of them are very open-minded and traditional at the same time. But they are very proud of me. And in some way it’s not very strange because actually I am a sort of a priest myself (laughs). I’ve very much walked in my fathers footsteps, I think. But in my own way. I think they are happy that I’m a rock artist who is glad about his life rather than being a sad priest.
Britishrock: You once said that doing interviews is similar to masturbation. Why’s that?
Ola: Probably because I enjoy talking about myself. But if I talk too much about myself I get the feeling of having eaten too much candy and wanting to throw up. Sort of feeling guilty. It’s a guilty pleasure talking about yourself. In the same way as having sex with someone is nicer than masturbating. Having a dialogue with someone is better than having a monologue that someone listens to. But having a monologue that someone listens to can give you a sort of statisfaction. But a sort of statisfaction that makes you feel a little bad afterwards.
Britishrock: Totally off topic: Have you ever met one of the Gallagher brothers?
Ola: No. But our former tour manager has toured with them. I think that the older brother…is that Liam?
Britishrock: No, that’s Noel…
Ola: …he seems to be rather intelligent and funny. I’ve seen him on documentaries and I think that he has a good sense of humour. But the other guy…what’s his name again?
Ola: …yeah. He doesn’t seem to be the brightest person in the world (laughs).
Britishrock: You guys have to decide on the worst song ever written in music history. What would that be?
Ola: Anything that contains musette or harmonica mixed with electronic drums. That’s my main hate-music in the whole world. It’s the combination of modern drums like the drum&bass thing with classical instruments. Any song that has that combination.
Martin: I really hate the commercial radio poprock where you can hear it’s only produced for being played on commercial radio. Spice Girls, Anastacia and that “Rock DJ” guy…
Britishrock: Robbie Williams…
Britishrock: Thanks for the interview, it was a pleasure.
THE ARK, Szene Wien, 19. September 2005
22.09.2005, 21:55 von Christoph Löger