After a five-year hiatus, one of most extraordinary bands Diablo Swing Orchestra makes the audience happy with their new album ‘Pacifisticuffs’. On the eve of this, we had an opportunity to talk with Daniel Håkansson about new album, swing, changes and Devil.
Do you yourselves satisfied with a ‘Pacifisticuffs’ as an end-product –engineering, mix, whole sound, etc.?
Sure thing we are yes, we’re really happy with how things worked out in the end even if we had some tech issues along the way that took some energy to get past but now when we can listen to everything i would say we’re pretty damn happy about the whole thing and can’t wait for the whole thing to be released. We feel as if we managed to capture a sound we’ve been looking in the past records and so it feels as quite an achievement.
It took about five years to create new album. Aren’t you upset about this? How did your music and your personal feelings about your songs change through this time?
I wouldn’t say we’re upset. It’s more like we’re really relieved to finally being able to release this baby of ours. The main problem that really was frustrating was the tech issues since those kind of problems have a tendency to kill the creativity but I must say that our producer, Roberto Laghi, fought bravely with those issues and got himself a shining new computer while he was at it.
What was the main reason for you to turn to 1930-40s in your music? Was that any special feeling or spirit of that times that resonated in you?
One thing would absolutely be the danceable rhythms combined with some really cool and memorable melodies. My take on a lot of contemporary music is you choose one of the two. You either have a killer melody with a somewhat mundane rhythm backing it up or it’s all about the beat. I’m generalizing a bit but I have a feeling you were better of combining the two back in the days.
Is Jazz (and Swing as its form) something ultimate, or absolutely infinite space for fantasy?
Well at least it gives you a very broad musical framework to operate within. Swing music does have a very appealing approach to music. If you look at any musical video containing swing music you will see someone smile along the line and that’s what we want to achieve with our music- to make people smile.
Do you fear to be considered as old-fashioned musicians due to your landmarks?
No not really, I don’t think that quality ever goes out of style and no matter what genre you play or operate in if you just wait long enough it will always come fashionable again somewhere down the line.
Swing, fusion, retro revival and other genres of music that you experiment in have very strong visual image. Also Diablo Swing Orchestra members are pretty charismatic – we could see it on your live shows. However, you have only one live-shot official video (“Black Box Messiah”). Do you have any plans to enrich your videography with other videos, eccentric and memorable as your music?
Yeah, we’re very aware of the fact that we don’t really have the visual image to back up the music we’ve put out. I believe it has come down to the fact that we’ve invested a lot of time and money into the music and simply haven’t’ had the funds and time to create some visuals to back it up with.
Continuing the previous topic: have you ever thought of concept album, rock opera, or even avant-garde metal musical?
We really like the album concept as such so we might do a full concept album somewhere down the line. But in order to pull it off you need a concept strong enough to hold the line for a full album and we haven’t have had an idea that fulfill those criteria yet. But I’m sure we’ll manage to come up with something in an album or two.
Your music is a wild mix of different styles: from metal and jazz to romances and even Latin American influences. What helps you to bring this variety of tunes and sentiments to the whole?
I think the fact that we stay curious and open to all kind of influences helps. We are very aware that we really don’t master these genres we dabble in. But we do our utmost to treat them all with respect and do our best to present our version of them and hope that people can see that when listening to the songs.
Regarding this, could you tell us more about your songwriting process?
The songwriting process has had a steady change from the first album where I wrote pretty much everything to the latest effort where the songs are real team effort. All members pitch in their ideas to the songs and our policy is to try everything once, no matter how crazy it sounds on paper. Sometimes some ideas simply have to be heard to fully understand and appreciated.
What do you think about grotesque in music and art in the whole? Why did you decide to bring it to such traditionally severe genre as metal?
We’ve always felt that hard hitting danceable music and metal have a lot in common even though it might be obvious at a first. So to combine the tow is not such a far-fetched idea that it might look in theory.
You said that your album inspired with the fact that “there’s too much going on in the world right now”, and its underlying feeling of positive aggressiveness in fact calls for change. What are the changes that you are calling or waiting for?
Well to sum it up in a sentence we would hope that people wouldn’t worry too much about other people’s beliefs, sexual orientations and political viewpoints.
By the way what is it “positive aggressiveness”?
I think that a lot of rock and metal musicians can testify to the fact that aggressive music is a good way to let out some steam hailing from struggles in your private life. We want to fuel that aggression with positive undertones and therefor making the felling of aggressiveness a less negative term once you can embrace it
Nowadays there are a lot of bands that are flirting with occultism, Satanism and other similar practices (like Ghost, for example). What about you? How much DIABLO is the Swing Orchestra?
For us it really hasn’t much to do with occultism or the devil but instead of what that word combo does to your imagination. We like to do that with our titles for both songs and albums. The name we feel obligates that here has to be some kind of quality to the music even if everybody can’t appreciate it. If the devil had a swing orchestra at his disposal what would it sound like? That’s a question we try to answer with our records.
If you really were musicians in the service of Devil, possibly with some relevant supernatural powers, how would you push the world for changes? Except by your music, of course.
To us, who i know live fairly privileged lives it just seems so strange that we’re still struggling with the same kind of problems with racism, homophobia and slavery etc. It’s still so strange that so many people still to this day must have an opinion on very personal matters of others and then on top of that want to hunt people down if they don’t share that point of view.
Back to your new album: you changed your sound significantly and it became more lyrical, darkly passionate and sexual (thanks to Kristin Evegård). Don’t you afraid of losing your own zest and become “one more dark-cabaret band”?
I think band should be more afraid about worrying too much what others might think about their music than anything else. As long as you’re content with what you’re doing you should be fine as a band. I’ve always nurtured the thought that a band that don’t care too much what will be the reaction to the music creates the most interesting music. If you were to ask a focus group what kind of music they wanted to hear they would most likely describe it in terms of what bands are already out there and then there would be very little room for surprises so our message to other is not to care too much. Sibelius had a really good way of putting it: “Think not too much what critics think of things. No one has ever raised a statue over a critic.”
Was it hard for Kristin to join an extraordinary band like this?
No, it was love at first sight. The mutual feeling when Kristin joined the band was that we both felt that we presented a missing piece of a puzzle to each other and the transition was a really smooth process built on mutual understanding and challenging each other to push new boundaries and introducing new musical ideas.
During these five years you went through line-up change, re-recording, release delay and so on. Did you ever wanted to put Diablo Swing Orchestra aside? If yes, how did you deal with it?
If those thought presented themselves it was before Kristin joined the band, never afterwards. The good thing about not living in the same city and rehearse the whole time is that you get presented to the fact that you miss each other and that you feel the urge to create some music together again. On the negative side we need really long weekends together when it gets time to rehearse all the stuff that’s need to pull off a live show.
If you could turn time back, what would you change in the band, if something at all?
I’m actually honest that I wouldn’t want to change one thing since it would be kind of futile since you never know what was the reason that we are where we are today, and I must say I’m pretty damn happy where the band is today and how much we have achieved.
In your opinion, what is the phenomenon of Diablo Swing Orchestra?
That a lot of people who might not have been exposed to these genres before found out that they can be kind of cool and that we’ve hopefully broadened people’s musical horizons a bit.
According to your FB page, you’re booking a tour now. Where do you go? Where do you want to go? What was the most unusual you’ve played?
We’re trying to focusing right now to some gigs closer to home so that we can play more shows in 2018 than we’ve done so far. One fun gig we did was back in 2010 when we played at an abandoned (I think) racing track in the Ukraine. I remember the administrative part had some room for improvement but the actual gig was a blast.
About touring: usually, there are four or five people in a band. You are eight. Can you tell about your logistic while touring?
We’re eight souls trying to make ends meet on the road alright. Well the honest answer to that question is that we don’t tour so much since it is indeed a hassle but we do have a lot of fun when we actually do. We’ve never had any grandeur plan that we’ll be the next big thing simply because we’re not interested to do what it takes to “make it”. We still enjoy each other’s company so there still some miles to go on the road before we call it quits.
Do you remember that moment when you said to yourselves: “Ok, I’m a rock star now!”?
I don’t think that’s the opinion of ourselves in the band but I do know that we every now and then can appreciate the fact that we do have people all over the world enjoying the music we create on an average boring Monday in Sweden.
Spare a word to our readers, please.
Come and see us at a gig in 2018, we promise that you won’t walk away from the show unaffected. We can’t promise you’ll like what you’ll hear but at least you won’t think that it was just another show among many.
Interview by Alina Borodkina&Droll