Power of Metal.dk Interview

Interview with Christer ┼kerlund & Thomas Weijnesj÷ - Nubian Rose, December 2014

Me(n)tal revolution

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 Weijnesj÷.

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.....

Christer: 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 us.

Thomas, I believe you’ve played in a number of White Metal bands before, such as Veni Domine, Glory, Saviour Machine.....all excellent bands.

Thomas: Yes, that’s right, I did.

Incidentally, what happened to Veni Domine? I heard that the band split up....

Thomas: Yes. We had been together since around 1987 so I think it was time to close.

You made some good music with that band...

Thomas: Thank you. We had to close so that maybe one day we’ll be able to do a comeback [laughs].

Christer: 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 Nubian Rose?

Thomas: Yes, a big jump.

In what way?

Thomas: 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.

Thomas: I didn’t play in the first album...

Christer: 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.

Christer: 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.

Christer: 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?

Christer: 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...

Christer: 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...

Christer: 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?

Christer: 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.

Christer: 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?

Christer: 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 “Mental Revolution”?

Christer: 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?

Christer: 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 Revolution’?

Christer: 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.

Christer: 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 their bullshit.

We 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?

Christer: 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?

Christer: 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 of!

Christer: [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 light-hearted songs...

Christer: Yes. We want to have lyrics that mean something. But of course we have to have fun sometimes.

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?

Christer: 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 members.

Christer: 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...

Thomas: Torbj÷rn...

Christer: 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 playing live?

Christer: Yes.

Thomas, Torbj÷rn was your brother, right? I mean is your brother...

Thomas: 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?

Christer: 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.

So 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 songs too.

Thank you very much, guys.

Christer: Thank you.

Thomas: Thank you. 


 ę 2014 Chris Galea

Nubian Rose - Mental Revolution

Label: Limewire/Cargo Records

Link: Nubian Rose @ Facebook.


Part 1 Part 2

Sofia Lilja ┼kerlund - Vocals
Christer ┼kerlund - Guitar
Simeon Liljegren - Bass
Thomas Weijnesj÷ - Drums

Mental Revolution (2014)
Mountain (2012)


Interviewed by Chris Galea