So when I was asked if I wanted to interview the iconic Alexander Bard of Army Of Lovers and BWO fame – the answer was a quick and excited – "hell yeah"! For those of you who don't know, Alexander Bard is one of pop's true legends and maestros. He is the man behind such great pop acts like Alcazar and has now formed a new electro-rock group called Gravitonas that are taking the pop blogesphere by storm with their new single "Kites".
In this EQ interview with Alexander Bard, we talk about all sorts of things from his crush on Gary Glitter, how he manages all his various music projects, his dislike of reality talent shows and why he thinks Lady Gaga is the new incarnation of Madonna 2.0 – enjoy!
EQ: Well hello Alexander – how are you today sir and whereabouts are you answering our questions from today?
Alexander Bard: Well hello EQ, I'm very good thank you and ready to answer your deeply personal kiss-and-tell questions from Gravitonas' studio in Stockholm.
Fantastic – let's get right to it. When it comes to pop music – you are such an icon. When you were a little boy growing up, what influenced you to become the beard-sporting, quirky dressing electronic pop maestro you are today?
This was the 70s, so I would say two men: Marc Bolan and Gary Glitter. I wanted to be Marc Bolan and I wanted to sleep with Gary Glitter. I was seven years old but still already very determined! The only guy in the universe sexier than Gary Glitter (or rather his hairy belly) was of course Friedrich Nietzsche (or rather his moustache). Mind you, I was not the sort of gay boy who wanted to be Diana Ross, rather the exact opposite. The queer side of Gravitonas comes from Andreas. He always wanted to be Motley Crue.
Hilarious! So I love "Kites" from Gravitonas – tell me a little bit about this song and how it came about…
My co-producer Henrik Wikström and I wanted to get away from the tired formula of verse-bridge-chorus and create something anthemic without following the usual old tricks. So inventing a catchy and beautiful guitar figure and then just one repetead melodic line was the form we worked with. Andreas loved the basic track and I wrote the lyrics with him loosely inspired by the movie "The Beach", a story about a generation who have been everywhere, done and seen everything, but also failed in everything. It's all very dark and moody, but who doesn't love melancholy? Here in Scandinavia we thrive on it. What surprised us was that Universal were willing to go with "Kites" as the first single. We knew it would work with the fans we wanted to reach, and was perfect for remixes (there are already 14 of them), but it wasn't the obvious hit single from the hookfilled material we presented to them. So that was a sweet little surprise!
The video is certainly a little dark and moody now isn't it? Where did you draw inspiration from for this video.
Well, using images reminiscent of "The Beach" would be too obvious, so we asked director Björn Johansson to come up with something much darker, more David Lynch-ish. He jumped on this line "keep your eyes wide shut" and we went for a decadent but melancholic feel, like Lynch meets Kubrick in an Anton LaVey dungeon. Not decadent in the sort of sporty and aerobic pronographic way it is usually described these days but rather in a truly decadent way, decadence as in something really falling apart, beyond help, destitute. I'm very pleased with the result. There are fascinating new details jumping up with every view. Whatever Gravitonas would come across as – where a first video is always important – we do want people to understand we take ourselves and our music really seriously. This is as far from Idol TV shows and Xenomania factory pop as you can possibly get.
Between BWO and Gravitonas – how are you finding balancing the time between the both projects? While one is on hiatus, are you then working on the other? Do you ever leave the confines of your studio?
I work on one project at a time and right now my focus is totally on Gravitonas even though BWO might do some shows in the U.S. later in the year since we have charted high there now. I'm of course good friends with Martin and Marina – it is actually easier to socialize when you're not working on something together at the same time – but Gravitonas is my focus now and for quite some time to come. I love the challenge involved and with Andreas and Henrik being as devoted as I am, I know this is the right thing to do.
So how did you end up meeting Andreas and how was it decided to form Gravitonas?
I wanted to start a new project based on the songs I began to write last summer with Henrik Wikström. We had this vision of creating a contemporary rock theatre sort of thing but without the boring West End Musical connotations such ambitions are associated with these days. We had several guys in the studio testing and auditioning and all that but nothing seemed to gel. Then our record company called us and asked us to see Andreas. I knew who Andreas was from his punk band, who I actually was a big fan of, but his punk background seemed odd for what Henrik and I had in mind. But all it took was for Andreas to sing a few lines from one of the ballads we had written and we fell in love with his voice right away and just knew he was right. The fact that Andreas is also a driven songwriter and producer on his own is just like a massive bonus, haha. So we met for an initial breakfast, had Andreas singing some stuff in the studio and had formed Gravitonas, all within the same day. Creatively, it was nothing short of love at first sight.
So the Gravitonas album will be coming out in September – give us a little plug for it! Which songs are you most excited about and what sort of sound can we expect from it?
The whole point with Gravitonas is that we are never going to give away any of our music in advance to any privileged listeners or talk about it before it is released before everybody can hear it, share it, and make up their own minds about it. We want to make music more democratic and a lot less speculative! On the other hand, Gravitonas will be released digitally and thorugh streaming in over 100 countries from day 1 with every release. Universal have totally bought our plan although it must be the first of its kind and not the way they have always worked before. This is the age of experimentation in the music industry. Having said this, like all debut albums, Gravitonas' debut album is going to be long and full of songs and very varied, as all debut albums ought to be, varied and experimental. That's all I can say for now.
One of the best shows I have ever been to was Army Of Lovers, BWO and Alcazar at G.A.Y. a few years back – how on earth did Jeremy Joseph convince you to do this show?! I thought I would never ever get to see Army Of Lovers live as I was just a teenager living in rural America when "Crucified" came out!
Because Jeremy Joseph is Jeremy Joseph. Once he gets his mind set on something he will make sure it happens. I wasn't too concerned with his plan for an Alexander Bard Night at G.A.Y. at first. I was more concerned with finding an excuse for reuniting Alcazar as a trio and put them back on stage and there could be no more suitable place to do it as Alcazar must be the ultimate G.A.Y act ever and BWO were already invited by Jeremy to come to G.A.Y and perform. So BWO just went with the ride and doing an Army Of Lovers playback while we were at it, well adorable Jeremy made a few phone calls behind my back and voila it all happened! Army Of Lovers then of course went off to Moscow – how many Russian TV Producers were there at G.A.Y.? – and did a huge TV show with 150 dancers (lots of cossacks) on stage, in front of 20,000 people in Moscow's Olympic Stadium with some 70 million TV viewers. But that's another story, haha.
We notice that Gaga's "Telephone" is on your Spotify playlist – what was your reaction when the legendary music video dropped not too long ago?…
Gaga's producer RedOne is an old friend of mine from Stockholm – his manager and I have been best friends for over 20 years- and I'm very happy for him about his massive success lately. There are also quite a lot of people at Universal who work with Gaga who will also be working with Gravitonas. So the connection between us is I guess quite organic. And with "Telephone" being one of her best tracks, it should be a given on our playlist. I guess we are all suffering from a bit of Gagaoverload at the moment (where does she get her energy from?, get me those pills!), but man, did pop music need her? We have been waiting for a Madonna 2.0 now for over 25 years, it was about time! Madonna can finally do a Cher and retire gracefully to Las Vegas now.
Which pop stars of today are inspiring to you? Who sort of makes you sit up and go "hey what they are doing is quite interesting…"
Well, there are loads of interesting male duos around at the moment. 2010 is the year of male duo launches. What I heard so far from Hurts and Monarchy sounds great, especially as it is really good melancholic songwriting and the productions are not so nervously anxious to be now-now-now as a lot of electronica has boringly become lately (being hip and bad is even worse then being just bad). Definitely count The Sound Of Arrows in there too, they are neighbors and great friends of Gravitonas here in Stockholm. And Dada Life have of course remixed "Kites" and are BIG favorities of ours and very inspiring to work with. But as for inspiration, we would never dream of copy anything or just take inspiration from one source. The real inspiration comes when mixing the unexpected, a country guitar, an electro beat, an R&B-style chord sequence and a stadium rock melody line, mixes like that. After all, there are four producers and songwriters involved in Gravitonas and we have all been successful before, so there should be a lot of knowledge and ideas there to take inspiration from. This project just can't be short of quality. By the way, don't we all need a KLF 2.0 in 2010?
Now that I would love! Which pop stars do you think are a bit "undeserving" these days…spill the beans.
I really dislike dissing. But if there is one open goal I can point at it must be the TV talent show phenomenon. I have never watched an Idol TV show in my life, I hate the whole phenomenon. It stands for everything that is NOT artistry in music. To me, Idol participants are naive kids with little or no personality (meaning if they have a personality, it is quickly destroyed within the show itself) and too eager to please. None of this is what interests me in pop or rock music. I'm interested in emotions and creativity, not in karaoke talent and lookalikeness. Idol can not produce artists like Madonna, Gaga, Robyn or myself for that matter and in that case, it rather stands for precisely those things in the music industry that we all dislike, doesn't it?
As someone who has been in the music industry awhile – what are your thoughts on music piracy and how has it effected you and your music?
I like the democracy of it all and see Spotify as its truly positive outcome. Filesharing has pushed the music industry to connect with fans again and make music more widely available. That's all good. But meanwhile music piracy has cut every damned budget dramatically and music is all the poorer for it. I feel really sad when I think of how truly amazing pop and rock could have been today if we would have had the budgets to play around with that were there in the 80s and early 90s. Thinking of it, the world could and would have been full of Michael Jacksons. What is frustrating is that the kids out there don't realise that their piracy is killing THEIR music, that they are depriving themselves of great music and art by doing it. Most of all are they deprive themselves of THEIR chances to express themselves by getting a recording contract to begin with. I think streaming music is the way around the whole problem. I've had Spotify Premium on my mobile and computers for a year now and I love it! It's both far superior to filesharing and also legal, so it's like the best of both worlds. How piracy has affected me? Well, I'm not the one to complain, tough times foster innovation etc, but just imagine what I could have done with an 80s-style U2 or Michael Jackson budget [laughs].
Now Alexander, one of the things I really love about you is your weird yet interesting sense of style. Are you a fashionista or do you really just like to dress up for the cameras? Does mum approve of your outrageous use of clothing?!
I love fashion but would much rather be ahead of fashion than ever copy it. I love Dries van Nooten, possibly my favorite designer, but now when he does men in shorts with long socks, the Alexander Bard style, I have had to change and this is where the black exotic workwear of Gravitonas comes into the picture. At least nobody in Paris did that yet, although I'm sure they soon will, haha. I'm glad Andreas is as obsessed with fashion as I am, fashion obsession should be mandatory for all rock and pop stars! And I will pretend I didn't hear you mention mum in there. My mum is actually far more obsessed with nurturing the opium poppies in her Madeira garden than with my sense of dress. Yes, it's true, I'm coming out as a hippie child!
Out of your catalogue of pop hits – which is your favourite and why?!
Well, you don't ask a father who is his favorite child, do you? Enough said. And this is possibly the least interesting question to ask a songwriter. Because it's the fans who decide which is a great song, not the songwriter. My job is just to write the songs and put them out there, for you guys to judge. And if my heart connects with your heart, that's when the magic happens!
Well that's it Alexander – thanks for taking time to chat with us at EQ today. Any parting words for our Electroqueer readers?
If you stay loyal with Gravitonas, we will stay loyal with you. Just trust us! Love from Gravitonas!
To get the skinny on all things Gravitonas – make sure you visit their official website.