Nubian Rose have just released their sophomore album, “Mental Revolution”, a
superb take on melodic Hard Rock conspicuous for the powerful lead vocals of
Sofia Lilja ┼kerlund. Sofia’s husband Christer, plays guitar and writes most of
the songs while Simeon Liljegren plays bass and behind the drum kit is Thomas
While the band was passing through the English capital for a brief promotional
tour I sat down with Christer and Thomas for some coffee in the heart of
London’s live scene (Camden). After introducing ourselves, Thomas himself became
the subject of our conversation.....
Thomas came in the band about a year ago. He brought new life into the band with
his great drumming and fantastic attitude. So we’re very happy to have him with
Thomas, I believe you’ve played in a number of
White Metal bands before, such as Veni Domine, Glory, Saviour Machine.....all
Yes, that’s right, I did.
Incidentally, what happened to Veni Domine? I
heard that the band split up....
Yes. We had been together since around 1987 so I think it was time to close.
You made some good music with that band...
Thank you. We had to close so that maybe one day we’ll be able to do a comeback
Yeah, maybe in 10 years’ time you’ll hear from them again! [grins]
So was it a big jump to go from Veni Domine to
Yes, a big jump.
In what way?
It’s a big difference. I mean the whole attitude to playing the drums...Veni
Domine was kind of slow and Nubian Rose is more straightforward, more uptempo.
I even think that the brand new Nubian Rose album
is more uptempo than the first one.
I didn’t play in the first album...
Yes, especially some songs. There are some songs [in “Mental Revolution”] that
are heaver, harder, faster.....even though we had a few songs like that on the
first album too. We always end up writing songs like those. I mean I’m a huge
Heavy Metal fan myself. My influences are in early Judas Priest, Saxon,
Accept...even early Metallica.
Funnily enough only yesterday Accept performed
just round the corner from where we are now.
Was it yesterday? Ah, I thought they were playing tonight. If they would get
together with Udo [Dirkschneider] again I’d definitely go to see them.
Same here – that would be great for an old-school
Metal fan like me. However they do have an excellent line-up right now too.
That’s what I hear. So anyway those influences are definitely in there. Also,
Sofia voice is very powerful. So you can do a lot of heavier stuff with that
voice. It’s very tempting for us to keep doing that but at the same time it’s
also important for us not to lose touch of our melodic side because we really
like that part too. It’s great to have a mix of both, to do a song like ‘Higher’
but at the same time have a ‘Break Out’ and a ‘War’.
Speaking of Sofia...the impression I get when
hearing her sing is that her personal influences do not come entirely from
Metal. What do you say?
With regards to her influences. I mean she can probably speak for herself but
she is Classical schooled for once. She has been to music University and
classically trained in singing.
She’s been formally trained...
Yes. So she has that Classical stuff in her but she also listens to bands like
Heart, to singers like Aretha Franklin, Janis Joplin...
I can easily see that. Sofia has a soulful
quality in her voice...
The music I love the most is early Whitesnake, 1970s, early 1980s Hard Rock and
Heavy Metal...and all of these bands have listened to soulful stuff, to a lot of
Blues. And out of that they made Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. So Heavy Metal used
to be a more soulful kind of music, very Blues-influenced. And that added a
really great touch to the music. If we can...I’m not saying that we are...but if
we can create a little bit of that, I think that it would be amazing.
We spoke about Thomas’ musical history...what was
your own involvement in the music scene prior to Nubian Rose?
For a long time I had been on what I call a ‘music hiatus’. You know, I played a
lot. When I was younger I had played in tons of bands. I had been in L.A. for
some years, played with people here and there but it never took off. There was
so much Rock in my life that it came to a point that I needed a break. I took
the guitar and I put it in the corner and it stayed there. And then, after a
while, it started looking at me with its dog eyes as if it was telling me
‘Please, come on, let’s do this again.’
Sometimes you need to feel the hunger to drive
you towards something.
Yeah, definitely. And I felt the hunger and then I met Sofia and we started
doing stuff together. Then I got really hungry because I felt that we had
something really unique.
Sofia is of Ethiopian origins, right?
She was born in Addis Ababa [capital city of Ethiopia], but she was adopted in
Sweden when she was very young. So she is Swedish but has her roots in Ethiopia.
Is this something reflected in the artwork of
Yeah, you noticed. We thought it would be an exciting connection. I have been to
Africa many times and I really love that continent. It’s very exciting, very
powerful and you know...very back to basics. There are a lot of natural
resources...the jungles...nature...the people. So we wanted to include some
connection with African cultures on the artwork.
Let’s speak about this new album, “Mental
Revolution”. By the way, has it been released yet?
Well it’s a good question actually. I don’t know. [laughs] First it was supposed
to be released on the 24th, which is Monday [the interview was done
on Thursday 27th November]. Then it was going to be delayed but now
it seems that it’s been released on Spotify and iTunes. So I guess it has been
released. I don’t know if the physical CD has been released but it seems the
digital version has indeed been released.
What do you mean to say with the title ‘Mental
First of all it’s a line from the song ‘Illuminated Within’. Today people seem
to be getting more and more clouded and it’s all about having the latest
technical gadgets. You want the latest iPhone, you want the biggest flat-screen
TV...you want that great car, that beautiful furniture, that beautiful wallpaper
in your home...you want this and that and that and this. Everything is about
being entertained all the time. You go on a bus and everyone is fiddling with
their phones, nobody paying attention to each other, nobody looking out of the
window and getting impressions from the world around them.
I guess sometimes it’s a bit like you said
earlier when talking about many African countries in that we need to get back to
the simpler and more natural things in life.
Totally. A friend of mine refuses to have an iPhone and he still has a phone
from around 2001. And I’m like: “Dude, there’s a technological revolution going
on. What are you still doing living in the 1800s?’ And he’s like: “I don’t wanna
be like all the other guys sitting on the bus and having to touch something. I
want to learn how to be bored.” And that said something to me. So the mental
revolution is about opening up your mind.
Here in the UK you have this Ukip. In Sweden we have the Sweden Democrats, who
used to be a sort of Nazi party but they cleaned up their act to get back their
votes. We have 13% of our people voting for these guys. It’s still a racist
party and they want to throw all the immigrants out. I mean the white people are
OK but my kids would not be OK since they’re half African. Despite saying
they’re not racist, people are voting for that party because they’re buying into
need a mental revolution because we need to have people opening up their minds
to the world. They need to get more curious about what the world is about and
not just play Candy Crush on their phones.
Very true. I’d like to speak about some specific
songs on the album...’Break Out’, for which you produced a video-clip has the
lyric ‘I see your colours’. Can you tell me more about that song?
It’s about not going around anymore in what we call the squirrel’s wheel [also
known as the hamster wheel] where your life is going round in circles and yet
you remain where you are. You know, you go to work, you come home, you watch TV,
you get up in the morning and it’s the same thing over and over again. You might
have dreams but think you’ll never fulfil them.
You need to break out of that mentality. Everything is possible if you just put
your mind to it.
‘Tough Guys Don’t Dance’ is a curious song title.
What’s that about?
Well, it’s a party track. The title is taken from an old book and a movie from
the early 1980s. It’s kind of making fun of guys like me or Thomas...or most of
the guys in the audience...who appear to be Rock N’ Roll tough guys...biker
tough guys. They are always by the bar and are too embarrassed to dance.
Now that’s a category I see myself forming part
[grins] And then this beautiful girl you’d be checking out all night comes along
and asks you to dance and you’re like ‘Er...OK, now I have to choose: shall I go
dancing with her or lose a chance to get to know her?’
So the album has both serious songs and more
Yes. We want to have lyrics that mean something. But of course we have to have
I’d refer to the music of Nubian Rose as Hard
Rock and yet the band has played in Metal festivals and seems to have had a good
response from the Metal crowd. What do you think Nubian Rose has that appeals to
the average Metal fan?
I think our music comes from the same places all Metal fans come from. It
doesn’t matter if you’re a Black Metal fan or if you’re a Death Metal fan or if
you’re a Melodic Rock fan, you’re still gonna like Dio and Ozzy. So maybe our
hearts are in the same place. Sofia has a powerful voice so maybe that’s another
thing that appeals to Metal fans. But we don’t have any growling so maybe we
have to add that to our next album. Maybe we can get Thomas to do some Death
Metal growls. [laughs]
Well I have to say that amongst all Hard Rock
bands, Nubian Rose does sound a bit different, probably due to Sofia’s voice in
large part. About the band’s line-up, the last time I checked, your FaceBook
page lists 4 members and yet I believe there was a point where the band had 5
Yeah, today it’s me, Thomas, Sofia as well as Simeon Liljegren on bass. Simeon
is an amazing bass player who played with bands like Audiovision. He also did a
couple of albums with the band Modest Attraction. One of the best bass players
I’ve played with.
What happened was that Tobias, the guitarist and producer from Veni Domine...
Oh yes, Torbj÷rn, he was the guitarist in the band for a while. First Thomas
came to jam with us but we were all friends from way back so we told Torbj÷rn,
‘It’s so much fun, why don’t you jump on board and play with us?’ So he did and
he played on the album and did a few gigs with us. Then his life became packed
with too much stuff so he closed down Veni Domine and said he’s not going to
have time to be in Nubian Rose any more. But, you know, it’s always easier to
have four people to deal with than to have five or six. We’re going to have a
great sound anyway. A 4-piece band is what looks best on stage.
So you’re keeping on 4-piece format even when
Thomas, Torbj÷rn was your brother, right? I mean
is your brother...
Yes, that’s right.
That’s almost all the questions I had prepared.
One last thing: What does Nubian Rose have planned for next year?
First of all we want to get out there and play as much as we can. We are right
now booking gigs in Sweden and we’re coming to London to play at ‘The Barfly’ on
the 4th of February. That will be amazing. Then we are doing some
festivals next summer. Hopefully we can do a UK tour next fall. It would be cool
if we would play Download Festival but I’m waiting for their call.
those are our plans. It’s funny how it takes so much work and time to write and
record an album and when it’s done you think it’s done. But then it takes almost
a year after recording it to tour it. So now I’m really getting into writing new
Thank you very much, guys.
2014 Chris Galea