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1 July 2015

Rock trios tend to be the welterweights of the band universe. They are quick on their feet, nimble, tireless, can continually jab and then toss in the occasional haymaker . Hailing from Sweden, Truckfighters are a proud continuation of the form; though musically different than, say, Jimi Hendrix Experience, Meat Puppets or Hüsker Dü, the well regarded desert rockers from a desert-less country recently released their fourth full-length, Universe, on their own Fuzzorama records last year.

Max Burke and I got a chance to talk with the band prior to their performance at Psycho California which was a breakneck speed affair, full of heavily fuzzed out riff action and flying bodies.

All photos by Tim Bugbee / tinnitus photography

Why is the Swedish metal scene so good?

OSKAR CEDERMALM: It’s in the water, I have no idea.

NIKLAS KÄLLGREN: We usually say it’s the long winters and there’s not so much to do.

OSKAR CEDERMALM: We get a lot of funding from the government to rent rehearsal spaces, so it’s cheap for us to play music. You don’t need to have a lot of money or have rich parents or anything like that.

Does that carry over to tour support?

OSKAR CEDERMALM: There is some tour support to apply for but that’s a little bit harder.

NIKLAS KÄLLGREN: It’s actually quite hard to get.

OSKAR CEDERMALM: But the rehearsal space is no problem, they have cheap spaces, you can have it equipped with gear.

NIKLAS KÄLLGREN: There is also a kind of an institution that’s called “music school” where every kid can try an instrument and there are days where you can go all through the building and try any instrument. If kids think, “Oh this trumpet looks fun,” then they can get lessons really cheap and rent the trumpet for the first year.

How did you first get into music – through school or your parents played music?

OSKAR CEDERMALM: Not at all. It was actually my cousin taught me a song on guitar and I was hooked. That was it. My dad and my mom are completely..un-musical (Laughter)

What do they think about the band – do they support you?

OSKAR CEDERMALM: They say “Ahhhh…it’s good, I think.” (Laughter) They’re not really hard rock fans.

NIKLAS KÄLLGREN: My parents are very supportive and they help out with the babysitting and all that. My father likes Truckfighters very much but my mother doesn’t understand it I think.

What was the first instrument you picked up, Niklas?

NIKLAS KÄLLGREN: I played electric bass for one year, I thought that’s what was fun. My brother played guitar so after a year I thought I’d play guitar as well.

OSKAR CEDERMALM: This might be a surprise but I actually had a drum kit.

NIKLAS KÄLLGREN: Wow, that’s a big surprise!

OSKAR CEDERMALM: But I sucked! I was banging on everything (Laughter) I had it on the loft on top of our house…I’d go up there, beat on it, that’s it.

How did Truckfighters get together initially as a unit?

OSKAR CEDERMALM: We met at a sound engineering school, a one year course. So we were both sound engineers and that’s where it took off from.

You record your own records now as well?

NIKLAS KÄLLGREN: Yeah. And we found Axel through another band that Oskar recorded once. We asked them: “Do you know any good drummers?” and they said “Yeah, this guy, he used to be good five or six years ago.” (Laughter)

Are there limitations as a trio or is it easier because you have defined roles?

OSKAR CEDERMALM: It’s easy, its so nice, it’s awesome.

NIKLAS KÄLLGREN: Of course in a purely musical way, sometimes you mix in another guitar when you do arrangements. Maybe you write songs slightly differently when you know there are only three people.

OSKAR CEDERMALM: When you stumble on your cables and there is silence. The guitar disappears: “Where is the other guitar?” (Laughter)

Do you identify as part of specific Swedish scene or with an international scene of heavy music bands? Do you feel part of any community?

OSKAR CEDERMALM: Not really. I think we’re separate. We’ve been around so long, we’ve seen stoner rock bands come and go, metal bands disappear.

NIKLAS KÄLLGREN: Like you said we’re kind of a crossover thing, we don’t belong here or there. We don’t have a “scene.”

Your latest album Universe wasn’t released on a US label. You’ve been distributed through Tee Pee in the states before. Has it been difficult to establish a US label?

OSKAR CEDERMALM: We had a guy here in the states that was supposed to run our label, Fuzzorama, in the US. To give the releases the proper push. I’m not sure it worked that well. Maybe we need something bigger, or some more money, I have no idea.

NIKLAS KÄLLGREN: Our experience with Tee Pee on the Mania album was that they didn’t really work the album, they just put it out. We thought it’d be better to do it ourselves, but I’m not sure how much better it was really.

It’s hard to be heard out there among so many bands.

OSKAR CEDERMALM: Yeah, and the US is such a big country. You don’t know where to start…well, maybe you know where to start but you don’t know how to wrap it up.

What was it like the first time you toured in the US?

OSKAR CEDERMALM: It was really stressful. The venues would be like: get in at eight in the evening, put your stuff in the corner, start playing, boom, get out. In Europe it’s more like…

NIKLAS KÄLLGREN: …in the US there’s a bigger difference between an unknown band and a big band. In Europe even small bands can soundcheck properly, set up their merchandise, and then they open the doors. Here it slike…get in at eight, show starts at nine.

A lot of US bands that tour Europe say they like it better, that it’s much nicer. So I wonder what European bands think of the US, do you think our touring format is crazy?

NIKLAS KÄLLGREN: Yeah! (Laughter)

OSKAR CEDERMALM: The first time we didn’t know what to expect, it was stressful. The second time it was like, we know the deal.

How do you keep riffs fresh, is there an endless supply of killer riffs you can tap into?

NIKLAS KÄLLGREN: You’re born with it! We’re the prophets of fuzz! (Laughter)

OSKAR CEDERMALM: We try to have fun and do things we enjoy, that’s the key to keep doing good stuff.

When you aren’t preparing for a tour or album do you rehearse a lot?

OSKAR CEDERMALM: No, not at all to be honest. (Laughter)

Do you live near each other in Sweden or are you scattered around?

Niklas: Scattered all over the country to be honest.

What are five riffs you wish you had written?

NIKLAS KÄLLGREN: “Desert Cruiser.” [Truckfighters’ signature song] (Laughter) I have no idea.

If somebody flipped through your record collection what would be an unusual or unexpected record they’d find?

OSKAR CEDERMALM: I have some old Michael Jackson records. I listened to a lot to Michael Jackson when I was younger. I think he was a great music writer.

NIKLAS KÄLLGREN: I have a record of a Belgian band called dEUS, they’re really soft but it’s quite good! (Laughter). “Soft,” ok.

AXEL LARSSON: You’d find a lot of strange stuff in my record collection. I’m not really into the hard rock scene at all. I studied jazz for a lot of years so I listen to a lot of improv.

OSKAR CEDERMALM: You know, a lot of shit! (Laughter)

Anyone you’re excited to see play Psycho this weekend?

NIKLAS KÄLLGREN: I haven’t checked the schedule. Wo Fat is playing the same time as us, so we can’t see that.

OSKAR CEDERMALM: Elder I’ve heard a lot of good things about.

NIKLAS KÄLLGREN: Earthless I’ve heard about, and Om. I don’t like Pentagram personally.


NIKLAS KÄLLGREN: So….we’re leaving before closing time! (Laughter)

Any terrible tour experiences to relate in general?

NIKLAS KÄLLGREN: Once we slept on a stone floor in Italy, that was really really annoying. Or actually….on a wooden bench. We played an “occupy the house” squatter type thing and we’re about to sleep at one of the organizer’s places. It was supposed to be five minutes drive, it was 45 minutes or something. So we got there and it’s a really big house in the countryside, looked really nice, and we thought “Oh yeah this will be nice.” So we went around the back and there was a was a stairway, a big room with a stone floor and wooden benches. We thought, we can’t sleep here so we’ll go up the stairs. So we go up and they scream “What are you doing!?” and we said “We’re going to sleep.” and they say “No you can’t sleep up there, her parents are there!” So where are we sleeping? “It’s heeeere,” they said. We tried to sleep a few hours and when the sun came up we went out and laid on the grass. It was luckily, many years ago now. It was maybe 2005.

Axel, do you play in any other jazz groups?

AXEL LARSSON: I joined Truckfighters like two years ago. Actually it was 20 years ago, I was like five when I joined. (Laughter) I still play a lot of jazz, try and keep it up.

Is there any crossover between your background in jazz and drumming with Truckfighters?

AXEL LARSSON: I grew up playing a lot of rock music so I have that in my backbone. There’s a lot of things you can do to bring that out, and do something different with the drumming. Rock music still has a very strict format of how you play drums. It’s fun to try and do something different, and to be something else instead of a regular rock drummer.

With all your energy and movement, have you ever hurt yourself onstage Niklas?

NIKLAS KÄLLGREN: Yeah, we recorded a video last year and I twisted my foot really bad and I still have pain from it over a year later. Once I hurt my knee…that was about a year of pain.

If you got to program a day of a festival like Psycho, what acts would you pick?

NIKLAS KÄLLGREN: Every band on Fuzzorama records, two hour sets, that’s it! (Laughter)