Saturday, February 2, 2019

A Ripple Conversation With Olof Axegard From The Riven

When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and Simon and Garfunkel, the first time I ever heard Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphany's since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears.

What have been your musical epiphany moments?

I’ve had many musical epiphanies in my day. Everything from listening to 2112 by Rush, and trying to get my drumming chops up to par, or just knowing that I wanted to be a musician and a drummer by listening to Patti Smith’s Easter album as a kid. There’s a lot of moments of course, but to go through them all would be a very long and boring read! I can boil it down to two epiphanys that made me who I am today.

I didn’t grow up in a very Rock ‘n’ Roll kinda household. What you would hear mostly would be my fathers synth pop or my moms gospel records. Nothing wrong with that at all, but it was something that I wasn’t very drawn to as kid. My brother on the other hand had a lot of good records, so I would go and have a look now and then to see what was new. He had bought a Best Of Rock collection CD if I remember correctly. Obviously I was intrigued and began listing away. There was Kiss, The Who, Iron Maiden, Queen, Heart, Thin Lizzy and so on went the list of artists. To say the least, I was hooked. The way they played their instrument, the way they made sure every note and lyric was perfectly executed just made me wanna listen more.

But it wasn’t until Patti Smith’s song “Because The Night” came on that I really understood. I had been playing drums for about a year at this point, I was seven and had learnt all the pasic beats. When I heard that groove I was think - “Hey! I can play that.” And that set me on the career path that I’m on today.

My second epiphany was when me and the family were on a vacation, somewhere in Sweden. I was sitting in the car and my brother lends me his mp3-player, probably because I was loud and annoying, but that’s beside the point. I put the headphones on and pressed play. I still to this day get goosebumps from hearing that drum fill intro. It’s such a powerful intro with so much flare and control that just punches you in the face, and you more or less end up thinking - “What the h*** did just hit me?” I’m of course talking about Where Eagles Dare, the opening track from Iron Maidens - Piece Of Mind record. I sat there in the car, with my mind blown to pieces (no pun intended). The melody, the vocals and the rhythms were just so perfectly executed. From there on I knew what kind of drummer and band I wanted to be in.

Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?

For me it varies. Most of the time we jam riffs, it can be the whole band or just two and two depending on who’s in the rehearsal space at that time. After that, everyone has a say to build upon the song.

But having said that, sometimes it starts with the lyrics for me. I’m lyric man, and conceptual lyric man at that. I like when songs tell a story, so sometimes I’ll have a pre set idea of what I want out of a song for the lyrics to work.

Who has influenced you the most?

Musically I would say Iron Maiden. They’ve been there since day one.

Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?

I look everywhere else, meaning that I try to not stick too much to my safe space. I like a lot of music, so to get new ideas, new inspiration and motivation I usually listen to other genres. It can be Jazz, Fusion, Traditional latin american Music, Prog Metal and so on.

I’m a massive fan of movies as well,  and all the technique behind it. Storytelling and music scores. That I’ve found in later years is a very good way for me to stay inspired.

We're all a product of our environment. Tell us about the band's hometown and how that reflects in the music?

As we are formed in London I would say Hard Rocks, Raw and a Soulful look towards beer. But now as the band has relocated to Stockholm, I would say coldness and expensive beer.

Where'd the band name come from?

It was Totta, the singer in the band that came up with it. Like for most bands starting up it’s hard to come up with a name that sums up what you’re about. We went for a while without any name, until Totta found this Swedish word that had the same meaning in english, “Riven”. Meaning divided or torn. So we just stuck a “The” in front of it and there it was. It captures us quite well, as we all have different musical specialties that we bring to the bands music.

You have one chance, what movie are you going to write the soundtrack for?

Oh, this is a tough one to answer. If it was just me drumming, I would like to something with the idea the director Alejandro G. Iñárritu had for Birdman, with just having drums as a score. Don’t know for what film, maybe a thriller.

If it was with the band, maybe make the soundtrack to either a Spielberg or a Nolan film. I mean, how cool wouldn’t it be to do a score for his Batman film or Dunkirk?

You now write for a music publication (The Ripple Effect?).  You're going to write a 1,000 word essay on one song. Which would it be and why?

Spirit of the Radio by Rush would be my choice. They talk about the musical integrity within the music industry, a theme I find very interesting and a theme that's close to my heart.

Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments?

Well, I remember being on tour in France. We were playing this small venue, in the middle of the summer, and they did not have any aircon. They had one fan in the ceiling and we weren’t allowed to open the windows because of noise restrictions. So the fan would more or less just throw around hot air. When the time came, the venue was packed and it was like a sauna in there. We went on stage and played one song, and after that song I was drenched in sweat. After every song I had to take off more and more cloths. At the end I was in my shorts and had water thrown on me so I wouldn't faint on stage from a heatstroke. Thanks to Max, the bass player for being there to keeping me alive. Pretty bad!

To add on to that we had no aircon in the tour van, so when we got hot we had to put towels on top of our head and pour water on each other to keep cold in the hot van.

Tell us about playing live and the live experience for you and for your fans?

For us it’s always exciting and fun! We really enjoy playing with each other and to be able to play our music to our fans means a lot. The live experience is something that grown forth more and more. We try to make the live experience more as a story being told, with songs leading into each other, and having quotes heighten the lyrical meanings and mood. This gives the set a bigger meaning and keeps the song unique for us and the fans. And so far we’ve heard good things about it.   

What makes a great song?

Strong rhythm section, massive and soaring guitars and great vocals on top of that. Add some interesting ideas musically and lyrically and you have a great song.

Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?

With The Riven it was the title track, from our first EP Blackbird. It was our first rehearsal together as a band, and I had just been asked at a party to come and play to see if we had some chemistry. I remember that the band had pre-written some parts of it, and I’ll never forget when Totta began singing the melody. It was perfect. It was just one of them moments. I began adding my parts along with Max, and I guess I did a good job, as I’m still here haha! 

What piece of your music are particularly proud of?

I need to mention our first EP Blackbird. But of course our new album that is dropping in the middle of March. There’s a couple of tracks on there that has great meaning to me. But as a whole I think we’ve really outdone ourselves writing wise. It’s a great album that I’m really proud of, and shows us as the band that we really are.

Who today, writes great songs? Who just kicks your ass? Why?

Oh, there are many. But if I have to go for one it would be Horisont. I think their songwriting is daring and very clear. And it gets better by every album.

Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?

Vinyl of course. But if I’m out and about digital is very handy.

Whiskey or beer?  And defend your choice

Beer! You can never have enough beer. Whiskey is great, but with beer you don’t have the same taste of regret in the morning as you do with whiskey after a night drinking.

We, at the Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. What's your home town, and when we get there, what's the best record store to lose ourselves in?

Where I was born, which would be Örebro, there is no record store anymore unfortunately. But if you swing by Stockholm you have Sound Pollution. Great people working there, and they’ll point you towards anything you’re looking for. And there’s a lot of records to go through and lose yourself in.

What's next for the band?

First there is two more singles to be released, and after that we’ll release the album. When the album is out we’ll go on a couple of tours around Europe during spring, summer and autumn. Go to our social media pages to get the latest tour dates and to see if we’re swinging by your hometown. We would love to meet you! 

Any final comments or thoughts you'd like to share with our readers, the waveriders?

Don’t forget to rock hard and ride free!

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