DATE OF INTERVIEW:
14th August 2010
Originally formed in 1999, it wasn't until early 2001 that Swedish prog-metallers Andromeda unleashed debut album 'Extension of the Wish'. Since then, the band have been crafting their accessibily progressive sound throughout the course of another three albums, interweaving sonically challenging passages with more musically lucid elements, resulting in a potently epic aesthetic and engaging fusion of styles that has earnt them glowing commendation from both the press and prog fans worldwide. Renowned for not playing live too often, Bloodstock Open Air 2010 would mark the occasion of Andromeda's debut UK performance so I took the opportunity to chat with the Swedes, namely bassist Fabian Gustavsson, a short while after their set. On a day that was threatening yet more rain on what was transpiring to be a rather wet weekend, we initially settle down at a table outside the VIP bar to begin discussions...
METAL DISCOVERY: How was the performance today from your perspective because it was very early to go on stage at half past ten?
FABIAN GUSTAVSSON: Yeah, but it was no problem. I liked it a lot because the weather was fine and we were afraid of the rain. It was like, first chord…sunshine! And there wasn’t so many people in the beginning but, by the end, there were a lot of people. I dropped my in-ear, but I know what I’m playing. It was during the second song. I was just playing and then, now it’s quiet...oh, my in-ear’s on the floor! Smile and carry on!
(Fabian Gustavsson on Andromeda's progressive credentials)
"I think we are more progressive than many bands who say they are progressive."
Fabian Gustavsson in the VIP bar at Bloodstock Open Air, Derbyshire, 14th August 2010
Photograph copyright © 2010 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
MD: You could still hear the music through the onstage monitors?
FG: Yeah, the keyboardist, Martin, has monitors.
MD: You were due to play ProgPower UK in 2008 before it got cancelled…
FG: Yeah, but I’m not sure why it never happened.
MD: I think it was down to poor ticket sales.
FG: Ahhhh, yeah.
MD: Obviously that was going to be your first time in the UK, but Bloodstock is now your first time in the UK?
FG: Actually, it’s my first time in the UK. The other ones have been here on vacation. But I like the people a lot.
MD: The weather is usually better…actually it’s not, I’m lying!
FG: I like soccer so when I look at soccer it’s always raining!
MD: Do you follow any particular team?
FG: No, I follow the Swedish players like Aston Villa and Olof Mellberg – he had a throw in and it went in his own goal!
MD: Really?! That’s not so good. Obviously you didn’t get to play ProgPower UK but you’ve played the three other ProgPowers in Scandinavia, Holland and the States – what’s been your favourite ProgPower in terms of personal experience and audience reaction?
FG: It’s a very hard question because every ProgPower has its own identity. Scandinavia, in Copenhagen, is a small one but the crowd is very good. In Holland, I think we’ve played there three times and I’ve been there for two times, and I think it’s going upwards – better bands, better sound, better everything. And in the States it was perfect. The crew was great, the equipment was great, and I liked it a lot because everything was so professional and sometimes it’s not so professional when you come to festival gigs. But here, at Bloodstock, it’s really good.
[At this point, rain begins to fall heavily…]
FG: Shall we go inside? Your equipment is probably quite expensive!
[We relocate from outside the VIP bar to inside and manage to find a spare sofa to sit on at the far side of the marquee…]
MD: Okay, we’re still recording.
FG: One more time…one, two, three, four, five. It’s working…yes please, I lurve you!
MD: That’s going in the interview, by the way!
FG: It’s okay!
MD: Obviously at prog festivals you’re performing to a crowd of people who are largely into that style of music but do you see more diverse metal lineups like here at Bloodstock more of a challenge to play to that audience?
FG: Yeah, in one way, yes. But, in the most part, no. We only played for half an hour today so we chose songs that are not so hard to get into – quite straight and not so many different parts. So we chose songs that are quite “simple”.
MD: You had quite a big crowd as well for half past ten in the morning so it was nice to see so many people come out.
FG: It’s our first time, so we don’t know, but we were inspired. We like the audience a lot – many were headbanging and many were singing along.
MD: Yeah, you can’t ask for more, I guess. You did the signing tent at 1pm?
FG: Yeah, the signing was great.
MD: Did you have much of a queue to see you?
FG: Yeah, very polite people; we liked it a lot.
MD: So you had quite a few fans turn up to meet you?
FG: Yeah, probably. We hope so! But we don’t know if they just bought the CD and – “woohoo, a new band!” But that doesn’t matter because everybody listens to the music they like.
MD: Yeah, definitely. Andromeda are labelled as a progressive band – would you say you’re progressive in terms of the genre of prog in the style you write music, or do you try to progress as a band with each album too?
FG: Yes, we try to expand and develop. The first record was quite simple but the second record was quite difficult…[Fabian taps out different time signatures on his knees] And then, when I came in the band, on the third record we tried to do both. The same on the fourth. Some songs are quite easy and some songs are quite difficult. Like the first time you hear it – oh, what’s happening? We tried to do both styles. It’s not on purpose. The songs develop themselves.
MD: Do you think the progressive label could ever be limiting for Andromeda in that it might put some people off checking out your band before they’ve even heard you because you’re not all-out progressive like some bands?
FG: Actually, I think we are more progressive than many bands who say they are progressive.
MD: Of course, yeah, because they’re copying other progressive bands but not actually progressing themselves.
FG: But we are not so famous or big as the other bands. We have found something, I think, where someone in the band, mostly Martin or Johan, has written a song and then we come with ideas, like “shall we do it like this?” and stuff. And, for us, it works. I don’t know how it works for the audience but, for us, it works.
MD: Right, yeah. I think you do have wider appeal to the general metal crowd as well rather than just the prog crowd so it would be a shame if the progressive label is limiting your fanbase.
FG: I think we are a prog band but some songs are…for me, they are very…like when I heard the singing on ‘Veil of Illumination’ I was like, “oh, this is a hit”. Because, when I played on it I hadn’t heard the song, and this is quite difficult, but when I heard the singing it was, “oh, this is a pop song”. It’s still quite difficult and is not going on radio but…
MD: Oh no, no, but it could appeal to not just the prog fan-base.
FG: We are quite prog-ish but I think other people can like it.
MD: I think as soon as a band gets labelled progressive it limits their audience maybe. Hopefully not for you though, and now you’ve played Bloodstock there’ll be a lot more people who know about Andromeda.
FG: Hopefully, because here we played simple songs.
MD: I’ve read that your roots lie with jazz and funk?
FG: Yeah, I mostly play jazz.
MD: Are there any players from either of those two genres who remain an influence today on your style?
FG: In our band?
MD: In your band or just your bass playing.
FG: My bass playing…actually, I listen to a lot of R&B like Meshell Ndegeocello. I like music with grooves. I think that is, nowadays, part of Andromeda because Martin who writes a lot of stuff, and Johan, knows that “ah, Fabian likes the groove parts”. Before, they just said “play this” but now it’s open and they say “do what you want”.
MD: So you try and put in more groove when you want to?
FG: Yeah, but it’s not always grooves, it could be anything. Like I play Swedish dance music. Like…“Bommm…bom, bom…bommm…bom, bom”…so fucking…arghhhh, it’s boring as hell, but you have to play it and you have to play like jazz and you have to play like fusion…
MD: A good mixture of styles then.
FG: Yeah, a mixture of styles because, if you play different styles, then you will be better.
MD: Yeah, and that’s what partly makes you a progressive band as well, like properly progressive.
FG: Yeah, because if you don’t have any influences you can’t develop. If you want to develop then you have to play different styles. Like Martin is a classical keyboard player from the beginning. Martin – metal, me – jazz, the drummer likes hard rock, and the singer is very different styles.
MD: It’s good having that different combination of styles in the band.
FG: Yeah, I hope so.