Backyard Babies (2001)

Dregen and Nicke from BACKYARD BABIES were in Paris for a promo day. Waiting for their new album called “Making Enemies is Good”, Veglam and Lollypop zine got together to know more about it and to talk to one of the most interesting rock’n’roll band around.

Can you describe the new album, how is it different from “Total 13” ?
Dregen : Well, I guess this is the first time we wrote an album from scratch. Before, we had like 15 songs, recorded them and then made an album. This time, we already knew that we had to go to the studio, sit down and start to write. “Total 13” was pretty much like the music we listened to at that time, but for “Making Enemies Is Good”, it’s kinda like we’ve gone back to what we’ve been growing up to and checked out our record collections from… when we were 10 or 12 up to today. That’s why you can hear what some of the guys listened to and guess that they have some PINK FLOYD records at home for example. With “Total 13”, we came out in the media kinda like a punk band, which we are, we’re punk rockers but also we’ve been growing up to stuff like IRON MAIDEN, MOTLEY CRUE, GUNS N’ROSES and even earlier stuff … put a bit more of ROLLING STONES into it and a little bit of BEASTIE BOYS as well.

What about the lyrics ? Are they still in the same vein ?
Nicke : Yeah, I guess they’re in the same vein but, I think we actually know for the first time what we’re talking about. We actually put some more focus than the lyrics that we’ve done before. BACKYARD BABIES should and always will be a band that, even if you don’t understand any single word of English, can make you jump around, cause it’s the music that talks. But there’s been so much happening in our heads over the last three years that it felt very natural just to write stories about every day life from “Total 13” up until now. Sometimes, we even touch more serious stuff that we’ve never done before, some of the songs are angry, other not that angry like we want to have a laugh and get some sunshine. We’re proud of the lyrics for this album, I think that they mean a lot but, the thing is that our lyrics should always be able to be read into two or three different ways, and it can mean something totally different to you and to me. To me, lyrics are like poetry, we’re just storytellers, we never want to point anything like “do that” or “don’t do that”. This is what we experienced, take it your own way and maybe learn something about it or whatever.

You were on tour with AC/DC, how was it ?
Nicke : Every rock band’s wet dream is to play before AC/DC and then stand with a drink and watch them every night. It was like a rock school, we learned a lot on that tour and they treated us really really nice, the whole crew and everything. We got the chance to test our new songs before the release in front of ten thousand people every night. That was really good, it was cool for us, we were like “…this is a good album that we made”. Everybody warned us before “oh, you’re gonna play with AC/DC, they’re gonna kill you and AC/DC fans like any other band than AC/DC”, but it wasn’t like that, the crowd was already in while we were playing. Like Malcolm Young said himself, it’s a three chord two guitar rock band, it doesn’t try to be anything more or anything less and that’s what AC/DC has been doing for 25 years. We worked really good together even though we’re not exactly the same.

Dregen : It was a really great experience for us as a band. We’ve already done big shows before like festivals, and then went back to clubs. We did 28 shows with them and it was a great experience to be part of a major tour, big stages every night, great sound, great lights and great people. We’ve never met a band that treated us better than AC/DC. It’s really weird cause they’re one of the biggest band and they were really nice. But they like the band as well, that’s why Malcolm Young came up and said that they wanted BACKYARD BABIES as a support act. It’s really flattering and that’s the highlight of our career so far.

Which band would you like to play with now ?
Dregen : I think there’s only The STONES left, isn’t it ? A dream for us has always been to play with The RAMONES but… (Veglam : Joey passed away 4 days before.) We recorded one song called “Friends”, it’s not ready yet but it includes a lot of friends that we met over the years like Joey Ramone, Joan Jett, Kory Clarke, Tyla, Nina from The CARDIGANS, Michael Monroe… all on the same track !

Nicke : And L7, The DICTATORS, Sam Yaffa from HANOI ROCKS…

Dregen : That’s gonna be out sometime. It’s like a new version of “We Are The World”, but weird, rock’n’roll.

Nicke : It’s really cool cause I actually don’t sing anything else than the choruses. All these people also had to write their own lyrics as well. It’s a very cool thing. It’s comin’ later on this year.

You guys played with KISS as well ?
Dregen : We were booked for that tour but there was some fuckin’ L.A glam rock band called BUCKCHERRY instead of us. So we decided to write the new album. We were supposed to do the whole European tour with KISS but I think AC/DC was way better so… that’s cool.

What’s your opinion about the Swedish rock scene ? It seems to be bigger than in any other European country…
Nicke : I think that’s great. Over the last two years, the media started to write about bands gettin’ tours outside. Everybody knows each other and compared to London for example, when someone gets big in London, the media start talkin’ shit about that. In Stockholm, we help each other out in a way. For instance, The HELLACOPTERS gets some success in Germany and they bring an unknown band with them, we’ve brought some bands over to England… We all share the same ideas and always hang out together anyway. That builds a strong scene, it’s like the Seattle scene, hopefully it doesn’t go down as the Seattle scene did.

And what bands do you really like among the Swedish bands ?
Dregen : HELLACOPTERS, TURPENTINES, there was a band called the A BOMBS…

Nicke : But now their singer is working for us as a guitar tech (laugh), they split up but did some really good EPs…ENTOMBED, SOUNDTRACK OF OUR LIVES, NOMADS… there are also good producers… The only thing that is really bad is that the rock clubs, the rock places in Stockholm are being shut down. The computer business companies are buying all the buildings in the centre of Stockholm.

Dregen : There are still good places for bands to release their first CDs or first 7″… but there’s no place anymore for bands to play before 400 people, which is really bad. One of the best places has been around for like 20 years but a fuckin’ Swedish car company bought the whole place, and now there are some boring offices there. That’s bad.

Nicke : But I mean, that’s a little bit of our goal, maybe someday, hopefully we’ll make some money out of this and actually open up a place, you know, spending money in a good way like having a bar and supporting live bands. That’s always been like a… not a dream but like an idea in our heads to have our own place to promote new bands. Maybe in 20 years (laugh.) It would be a really cool thing.

You talked about punk rock, do you consider yourselves as a punk rock band ?
Nicke : Well, what’s punk rock today ? I think that we actually are very much a punk rock band because of the way we’ve always done things our way. It’s like the title of the album “Making Enemies is Good”which means do it your way, trust yourself, follow your heart, don’t listen to anybody else, walk on a straight line and you will succeed someday, sooner or later.

Dregen : Maybe we’re more a rock punk band than a punk rock band.

Nicke : Today, what is punk rock ? RANCID punk ? LIMP BIZKIT punk ?

Dregen : We grown up in a kind of trash culture, you know, comics… when your biggest hero was Ace Frehley when you were 6 years old, you get a bit wicked I think (laugh.)

Nicke : Punk rock is just like to start and do what you believe in, believin’ so hard and actually doing this stuff, you know.

Dregen : Some of the punk rock today is very much political, we’re trying to be as unpolitical as we can be because we don’t wanna be a band which is pointing things like “don’t do this”, “don’t do that”. We’re pretty openminded and we just want people to have a good time.

Nicke : Punk rock should have nothing to do with politics…

Yes, it’s a very difficult thing to be a political punk rock band without sounding like “don’t do this”, “don’t do that”… a band like PROPAGANDHI do it well for instance, with humour.
Dregen : Yeah, in that case, I consider RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE as a punk rock band, but they are more like a punk rap band. But I guess there is a political message in our music anyway, our message is kinda like not to think too much about people who try to force their messages on you.

Nicke : It’s like Spinal Tap, “have a good time all the time”(laughs.)

Let’s come back to Joey Ramone, now that he’s dead, how do you feel about that ?
Nicke : Of course that’s very sad but he was sick for a long time, and when we recorded with him and met him, he wasn’t that healthy even if he never looked healthy… he was very weak, but still he went to all of our shows in New York and he was on his way to finish his solo album. It’s just very sad that he was only 49. Being in a punk rock band such as The RAMONES is a very tough thing and he always did his job very very well. I’m very happy that we actually got the chance to meet him and actually work with him. There are people who are still alive today but who are so totally fucked-up in their heads that you can’t even talk to them. Joey was such a nice guy, it’s sad.

Are you guys going to do something about that like a cover song on a CD or something ?
Dregen : I don’t know but we’re gonna dedicate this song “Friends” to him.

Nicke : I don’t really like that stuff, that when someone dies all these small record companies put out thousands of different compilations.

Dregen : Yeah, that’s a bit greedy, making money out of somebody’s death ain’t right.

Nicke : Maybe we’ll do a show or play a song on a tribute show, but not an album.

Dregen : We did a tribute yesterday actually on Swedish television, we all played in RAMONES outfits, you know leather jackets, sneakers and blue jeans and we had the picture of Joe in the background. It was one live song recorded for a youth programme, kinda like a teenager programme.

What was the song ?
Nicke : “Brand New Hate”, the new single.

Dregen : It actually went on number 14 in the Swedish charts, that’s pretty fuckin’ hilarious. The best we ever had before was like 39 or something.

Was that “Highlights” ?
Dregen : “Look At You”. It went better than “Highlights”. The new single is gonna be out here and in Germany and the UK on the 14th of May or something.

Nicke : The album is gonna be out in a week in Scandinavia and Japan at the same time. It’s like a month later in the rest of Europe.

Are you selling well in Japan ?
Dregen : Yeah, we’ve done four tours so far.

Nicke : We’ll go there this summer again in July.

Dregen : And we’ll go to Australia for the first time, we’ve never been there and we’re gonna do that in July.

Nicke : We’ll actually play a gig with The WILDHEARTS in Japan, that’s gonna be cool. They always play once every year in Japan.

We met a guy in New York City, he works in a store on Broadway called Colony…
Dregen : Oh yeah ! I think I know him…

He’s like 45 years old or something, and he told us he saw you live in NY. He loves the band and he told us that he was kinda disappointed that you guys are not doing that well in The States, he’s thinking you’re not working with the right people there. He thinks that if you had the right people around you, you would do much better. He was talking like you could be like fuckin’ GUNS N’ROSES or something…
Nicke : In America, people you work with is a very important thing. You got a lawyer, a manager, a tour manager. I mean, there’s so much people there… we just wanted “Total 13” to be released and it was a really short time to get the right deal. It was released by Scooch Pooch, a sub label to Sub Pop. Now it doesn’t exist anymore, they got bankrupted. When they released the album, we had to do two tours that worked very fine, we played with L7 but it was obviously not the right pick up, they couldn’t promote the band.

Dregen : But it’s a bit the same here, I mean, we only played once in Paris and we were out on East West that is like a major company, but they didn’t care about the band. That’s why it took almost five months to break with them, and now we’ve signed to BMG. We’ve only been on the label for a month and a half and we’re already down here doing interviews. From the first time they’ve heard the album, they were like “this is the shit !”. But I think we’re gonna concentrate on Europe til’ maybe Christmas. Next year we’re gonna fuckin’ conquer America man (laughs.)

Ok, and what do you think about Napster ?
Dregen : I don’t think there’s any real problem with Napster. For me, music is more than just music because I’m a freak when it comes to layout and all of that, that’s why I prefer vinyl instead of CDs. I like blues music like John Lee Hooker but I’ve only been into that like 5 or 6 years, so it’s like a jungle, there are millions of albums and you don’t know where to start. I’ve been on Napster and checked out some blues, I’ve find two bands and went to buy the album. To me, it was a good thing for that artists, I think it’s good for new bands too. The people who are complaining are fucking greedy bastards like METALLICA and MADONNA and people who don’t really are music fans. When we started, we printed demo cassettes and sent them around, today it’s easier, you can download our files and check us out.

Nicke : The only thing with Napster and the whole Internet is that there is so much crap… sometimes it takes forever to find something. It’s like when you end up on a porn site and can’t get out of it, you click and there’s always a new one, a new one… There’s too much on Napster and I just get confused.

Dregen : But I think that something good will come out of the whole general idea in 10 years, it’s like when the VCR came out, all the cinemas around the world were screaming “this is terrible !No one ever gonna go and watch a movie anymore”. But that didn’t happen, people are still going to the movies. Now people are screaming about Napster and say that people won’t buy any records anymore. Anyway, not even 10 percent of the price of a record goes to the band. If a band can sell a record through the Net and get 50 percent, that’s still more, so…

Nicke : It’s good that Napster is pressing down the prices on the record companies, they’re giving out free music and the companies think “ok, maybe we should put our prices down a bit”. I mean, I’m not broke but I don’t buy as much records as I did before cause I think it’s too fucking expensive. Today, many kids can’t afford buying many CDs.

There are some pretty cool BACKYARD BABIES bootleg CDs, are you aware about that ?
Nicke : Yeah, but from that,you don’t get a single penny (laughs.)

Dregen : I know one called “Spotlight The Babies”. I think that bootlegs are pretty cool as well. Maybe we could collect them all and then pick up the best songs from each and do our own official bootleg.

So are you happy to be here in Paris ?
Dregen : Yeah, we arrived 4 hours ago from Sweden.

What about the other guys ?
Nicke : They’re hopefully rehearsing (laughs.)

Dregen : We’re gonna rehearse cause the Swedish tour starts on the 2nd of May, and then we go out to Scandinavia, England where we’ll do a couple of shows with MOTORHEAD, after that we’ll do some more promo in England and then the summer festivals start in Spain, Portugal… In early September, the real club tour starts.

People from BMG told us that you might play in Paris in a month or two ?
Dregen : Yeah ! Maybe we’ll do one or two festivals here in France.

Nicke : Maybe Les Eurockéennes in Belfort.

Really ? It’s where I was born !
Dregen : Cool ! Maybe we’ll play there but it’s not confirmed yet. There’s some talking about it.