Mustasch on

About evil twins, Abba, demons and celebrity life in Sweden …

Interview with Mats „Stam“ Johansson and Ralf Gyllenhammar by Leo / Pic by courtesy of Mustasch Welcome to Cologne

Ralf: Danke! This is the 3rd show of the tour. Are you hung over already?

Stam: No

Ralf: I don’t drink No?

Stam: But we do. I’ve seen pictures of you drinking …

Ralf: That was my evil twin (laughing). He had to stay home on this tour. But I am sober guy now. The tour is going well so far?

Ralf: So far it’s perfect, as always in Germany. How would you describe Mustasch to someone who hasn’t heard your band or say was temporarily deaf?

Ralf: If I became deaf? No, no, if the person you were describing Mustasch to was temporarily deaf.

Ralf: I would say play Metal/Hard Rock. We have traditionalHard Rock with elements of traditional Metal, like double bass drums and high gain guitars and a tremendous singer (laughing). I have to say that your voice reminds me a little of Ian Astbury of The Cult

Ralf: Yes, I hear that a lot But like an angry version of Ian Astbury.

Ralf: I proud of that but I’m a nette Leute (German for “a nice person”) … The tile of your new album which is going to be released January 15th is called „Thank you for the demon“. Is this a reference to ABBA?

Ralf: No. A reference to ABBA?

Stam: ABBA? You know „Thank you for the music“?

Both: Aahhhhh And as a Swede just exactly how much do you love ABBA?

Ralf: I am a very, very big fan of ABBA. But “Thank you for the Demon” is about dealing my Demon that I have inside. I’m adopted, you know. My biological father was a very talented and I was born outside of the marriage, he was married and he had a mistress. They put me up for adoption and I came to a family that had no musical talent at all. So it has been a constant struggle for me to be the person I am. So I have been dealing these issues in the lyrics before but now I’ve taken it to a more honest level. I used to trying to hide it in the lyrics with double means and stuff like that but now I just spit it out. So is this also where the chorus of your next single “Feared and Hated” comes from “I just wanted to be loved or at least admired but now I want to be feared and hated”?

Ralf: Yes, this is from a Swedish poet said … it’s a little hard to translate to English it but it goes something like “You want to be loved and if not you want to be admired and if you’re not admired you want to be feared and hated”. You just want a reaction in some way so that’s why in my youth I was a loud kid. One teacher to me once when he was tired of me …..

Stam: You’re still loud

Ralf: Yeah. My teacher said when I was 14 or 15: “Well Ralf, there are two professions for you: Either as a Rock Star or a bank robber, nothing else”. I chose the wrong profession! You chose the one with less money. This actually leads me to my next question: Mustasch is big deal in Scandinavia …?

Ralf: Yo. And you’ve won Grammis (the Swedish version of the Grammys).

Ralf: Yeah we have two Grammis. And you are kind of celebrities in Sweden?

Ralf: Yeah, speaking for myself, if I go to the grocery shop I at least one person wants to take a photo with me. Every time, “Hi Ralf I have to take a picture”. But for some reason that hasn’t yet caught on in the rest of Europe. Can you think of any reason why you aren’t huge in Europe yet?

Ralf: Not yet, luckily (laughing). How does your writing process work? Is the music written in the rehearsal room or are songs written by individuals and are then presented to the band?

Ralf: Some songs I do all by myself and some songs David plays a riff and it like “Wow, what’s that?!” and David’s like “Well I don’t think this is a cool riff” I then say “No, whoa, please let me take your riff to a chorus I have. I have a song with a Riff in the verse but not in the chorus and your riff fits perfectly”.We don’t “Jam” songs. I’m a traditional composer. I sit down with my guitar and my grand piano. I actually have a real grand piano. Is that who you write your vocal melodies, in the piano?

Ralf: No, the vocal melodies just appear. I compose them in my head. They just pop up in my head. The new single of your new album, Feared and Hated, has got a kind of classic metal feel especially with the vocal and guitar harmonies. Was there any particular influence for this and could this be an indication of what’s to come on the new album?

Ralf: Yeah, I’m a big queen fan. There are going to be choirs and more traditional hard rock. (Asking Stam) What would you say the new album is? Is it old school but a new sound for Mustasch definitely? Is it old school?

Stam: A little bit.

Ralf: A little bit. It’s modern but old school (laughing). Ralf, you competed in Melodifestivalien (the competition to determine who represents Swedish in the Eurovision Song contest), I actually voted for you on both occasions….

Ralf: You did? I love you! How did your involvement in that come about?

Ralf: I always wanted to do it. I was a child in the 70s and in Sweden used to have just 2 TV channels so the Melodifestivalien had a huge impact on Swedish people. As I said I always wanted to do it. It was kind of my dream as a little boy. I wanted to play guitar, I wanted to be a guitar hero of course but my parents were only into folk music so they forced me to play accordion. Oh my god! My neighbor made a cassette tape with Kiss and Sweet and my mum took it from me and said “You’re not allowed to listen to this; you have to play your accordion”. This is how I was raised, constantly frustrated an angry. One last question: Does Robin Stjernberg (the winner) actually have any testicles?

Ralf: Yes he has. He was the only other artist in the competition that was down and a normal person like you and me. All the others were like *puts on a diva like voice* “Oh Schlager!!!” They were “Stars” and they hade like big entourages with hairdressers, stylists, makeup artists and vocal coaches. I was completely by myself. I mean I’m 47 years old and I can take care of myself and he just had his manager. So he’s a good guy but I think I should have been the one to represent Sweden in the Eurovision competition. I think I could have reached at least the 4th of 5th place (Sweden placed 14th). The song’s great, there’s fire, burning pianos, you’ve got it all. You’ve got a guy with a Mohawk … ..And a purple Tuxedo…

Ralf: …Yeah and a purple tuxedo. That was my tribute to Black Sabbath. Purple and black just like the “Masters of Reality” album cover. So would you consider doing it again?

Ralf: No, never. I’m done. As I said in the 70s I really wanted to be admired so I though “Oh, if I could be in the Melodifestivalien everyone will love me” including my parents. Whatever I did was like “no, it’s bad, it’s bad, it’s bad”. So what did they say about you being in the Melodifestivalien

Ralf: Now they are proud like “yeah, we always knew that he would make something out of himself”. *makes a snoring sound*. I tried to do that when I was a kid but you kept putting me down. It took me many years to find out that I should be a musician. I was 33 when we started Mustasch. All my life I’ve been walking around in this vacuum and have been searching for a meaning. I then decided to go all in with music and I have to say that I’ve succeeded. So you are all now full time musicians? What was your last job?

Ralf: Yeah. I was a dishwasher in Gothenburg. You’ve gladly given that up for a life of rock and roll?

Ralf: Sometimes I miss that life. You could be at home and meet your friends, but now I’m like a gypsy. I’ve got my home on my back. You’re a “beggar on four wheels” (lyrical excerpt from the Mustasch song “The Challenger”)…

Ralf: “A beggar on four wheels”, you’ve been doing your homework! Thank you for your time

Ralf: Thank you, see you tonight.