Interview with Mando Diao:
You’re not supposed to follow trends as an artist.

In Interviews by indiespect

Mando Diao are back again with their second record in the current lineup. It's called «BANG» and it marks the return to the roots for the Swedes. The harmony within the band is as good as never before. That is quite special since Mando Diao got founded 20 years ago. Bass player Carl-Johan Fogelklou and drummer Patrik Heikinpieti talked about the reasons for that, their new as well as the old records and a planned Swedish invasion. The interview took place before their gig at the X-TRA in Zurich.

Mando Diao are:

Björn Dixgård (vocals, guitar)
Carl-Johan Fogelklou (bass)
Daniel Haglund (Keyboard)
Jens Siverstedt (guitar)
Patrik Heikinpieti (drums)

Indiespect: There are a lot of Swedish rock bands and most of them sing in English. It seems that everyone of you is very fluent in that language. Is it sometime still difficult for you to express certain feelings in that language because it’s not your own?

Patrik Heikinpieti: It’s hard but it’s doable. It’s harder in Swedish in one way. You get more naked when you write in your own language. You put so much out to people. It’s kind of nicer to write in English because it doesn’t feel as personal, though it can be. It’s a small safety wall against the world to write in English. I don’t know how you feel about it, CJ?

Carl-Johan Fogelklou: I think, it is exactly the way you say. Sometimes you have to look up some words if you don’t have a synonym or whatever.

Indiespect: Why are the Swedish people so fluent in English?

Carl-Johan: There is nothing dubbed in Sweden. Every TV programme is in English if it is in English, if it’s a German programme it is in German, if it’s a Dutch programme it’s in Dutch. You only get subtitles which means that you hear the languages from a very young age. My daughter is ten years old now and she is ten times better in English than I was when I was ten years old. Swedes are almost becoming bilingual with English. And we’re such a small country which it’s based on trading. We have the woods, we have iron. It’s really important to go abroad and trade some stuff.

Mando Diao

Jens Siverstedt, Daniel Haglund, Björn Dixgård, Patrik Heikinpieti, Carl-Johan Fogelklou (from left to right)

Indiespect: On your current record «BANG» you rediscovered a lot of styles in guitar music. You have blues, soul and your rock sounds of the early days in it. Was it intended to use those styles again or did it happen by accident?

Patrik: It really was intended. Jens, our guitar player, had some riffs on which we wrote melodies around and tried to make a more simple rock album this time. I mean, rock’n’roll has always been around the corner for us. We never lost it. Even if we did a Swedish album with slower songs and some synthesize record. It was just a question of time before we do a rock album again.

Carl-Johan: It was really nice to look back at all those rock records from the start, like Bring ‘em In, Hurricane Bar, Ode To Ochrasy and so on. We were doing basically the same thing for ten years. We needed a break from that and wanted to do something different. Then we came up with this Swedish record. Then we started experimenting with synthesizer and electronic music. That was such a big relief for us. But then it felt the same way, going back to play proper rock’n’roll music again. If you do something long enough, you do get tired of it, for sure.

Indiespect: A special song is «Scream For You». Björn sings softer on that one and it even has a western touch to it. Where did that come from?

Patrik: Good question. I don’t know.

Carl-Johan: It comes from our inspiration of Afro-American music. Blues, soul music, even country and western. We are hugely inspired by American music and have always been. Sometimes people think that Mando Diao is sort of a britpop inspired band. But the britpop is inspired by American music as well.

Mando Diao

Carl-Johan and Patrik on stage in Zurich.

Indiespect: Since the making of «Good Times» and the new lineup with Jens you seem to be as happy like you haven’t been for a long time before.

Patrik: Correct, yes.

Indiespect: What makes the current lineup perfect for you?

Carl-Johan: I think, we’re all easier nowadays.

Patrik: We’re a good match to each other. We’re getting older and that helps. We know what fights to start and what fights not to start. We travel a lot together. We don’t always disagree but when we do, we will start a small fight and solve it.

Carl-Johan: Everybody in this constellation has a more defensive way of thinking about life. You don’t have to throw yourself out, if it’s not about music or art. I don’t have to throw myself on Pat if I’m not feeling alright. Then I’m gonna say that I’m not feeling alright.

Patrik: Then I can back you up.

Carl-Johan: Exactly. You help each other out.

Indiespect: So, you’re a better team now.

Patrik: Yes, best ever.

You’re not supposed to follow trends as an artist. You’re supposed to create them.

Carl-Johan Fogelklou, Mando Diao

Indiespect: With Mando Diao you’ve experienced the peak of indie rock...

Carl-Johan: I don’t agree. It’s gonna come, just gonna come (laughs)

Indiespect: So, the first peak maybe.

Carl-Johan: I can agree with that.

Indiespect: Then this genre got less attention again. What was the main thing that changed for you?

Carl-Johan: You mean when EDM got big?

Patrik: (laughs) Or German hip hop.

Carl-Johan: Well, one thing that is really important when music genres go up and down… One thing we did in the middle of the EDM hysteria was Dance With Somebody. I don’t think we really thought about it. We felt like doing a sort of disco rock’n’roll kind of tune. That fitted quite good in what was going on around at that time. When hip hop came along we did Ælita. Of course you get inspired by things you are surrounded with. But the other thing is that you’re not supposed to follow trends as an artist. You’re supposed to create them. That’s exactly what we’re trying to do right now. What is going on right now? German hip hop is super big in Germany. But what would people say if Mando comes out and will do a ten track record, rapping in German with trap beats. We have to do our thing from the bottom of our hearts. As soon as you start following things, you will fall apart directly. Nobody will take you seriously.

Mando Diao

Back to the roots: «BANG» is a stripped-down guitar album. It's the second release in the current lineup of Mando Diao.

Indiespect: I also thought about the status you had during that time. It must be hard to step back again as a band, when you’re used to the really big stages.

Patrik: That doesn’t really matter to me, at all. I’m happy that we can do this as a full-time job. We do the thing we love and we have the best friends traveling around with us. The crew, the band, you know. As long as I can do what I want to do and pay my rent, I’m not complaining. Of course, I would like to have 50 million dollars on my account. But that’s not what’s important the other day. I’m really happy for the moment.

Carl-Johan: Status, fame and money are things that come along, if you’re successful. Music is what makes you successful. But you won’t be successful unless you love what you’re doing. The love for the music has always been the most important thing for us. And it’s always going to be the most important thing. That’s exactly what you said. As long as we can pay the rent and do what we love…

Patrik: And buy a BMW.

Carl-Johan: A vintage one. Used. 1997.

Indiespect: Really? That’s your dream?

Patrik: Nah.

Carl-Johan: ‘98.


Back on top: Mando Diao play a sold out show in Zurich.

Indiespect: You played two sold out nights in Dalhalla in Sweden with The Hives and The Sounds. You already announced two more shows at the same place with the same bill, next year. May you tell me some more about this place?

Patrik: It’s an old mine.

Carl-Johan: It was a limestone mine, I think.

Patrik: It’s a big hole in the ground, it’s like an amphitheater. It has really good acoustics. Some dude came up with the great idea to build a stage there. It’s built in the middle of the lake and I think it fits 6000 people. It’s a really special place.

Carl-Johan: We had the audience record, last summer. Most people ever been to Dalhalla, 6000.

Indiespect: There aren’t more people allowed?

Carl-Johan: I think, that was on the fucking limit on what it can take. We’re gonna do the same thing in Helsingborg, as well.

Patrik: In a big castle.

Indiespect: But you don’t plan to bring it to other special places as well?

Patrik: Not yet. Maybe in the future.

Carl-Johan: Yes, we do plan doing it in different places. But there’s nothing set, yet. It would be a wonderful thing. We have been playing on the same scenes since 2001 or 2002. The Sounds started the same year as us, The Hives were one or two years earlier with their debut record, I think. It’s really nice to be around these people because we’ve known each other. We’ve been through the same stuff together, we’ve been to the same festivals. It’s really fun. We should do like a Swedish rock invasion.

Indiespect: You played at the Rock am See in Konstanz back in 2009 where The Hives and The Sounds played as well. Oasis were supposed to be headlining the festival but they split up just days before. Do you have any memory of that day? I know that Patrik only joined Mando Diao in 2011. But what about you CJ?

Carl-Johan: I remember it.

Indiepect: Did it mean something to you that Oasis split up or nothing at all? 

Carl-Johan: I don’t care at all about them.

Patrik: (laughs) They have great songs. That’s about it.

Carl-Johan: Yeah. I mean, they’re just grown-up kids. I saw the documentary about them. I just thought that they are a pretty lame bunch of people, actually.

Indiespect: The vibe of the festival was quite special because the headliner cancelled that shortly before the day it took place. So, I thought it might feel special for the bands as well.

Carl-Johan: I think, The Hives and us, we played at the same day. I don’t remember The Sounds.

Indiespect: It was only one festival day.

Carl-Johan: I can’t remember seeing The Sounds there. I remember hanging around with Pelle and the bass player. We flew in with a private jet to do that show.

Indiespect: Because there were so many Swedish bands?

Carl-Johan: No, only us. We just had kids, days before. All of us (laughs). We just flew in for the day.

We love to go out and party when we can.

Patrik Heikinpieti, Mando Diao

Indiespect: What is the main thing that has changed in the way you tour since the beginning? I imagine, that it won’t be the same like when you were in your twenties. Or has everything stayed the same?

Patrik: In moments, yes. We love to go out and party when we can and meet new people. I love to dance. Maybe we got a little bit smarter. We can’t do it every day. When we were younger, we did it every day. Today people pay to see us live. We finally know that we have to perform the maximum and be worth the money. So, I think we’re smarter but we’re living the same way. Only a little bit less (laughs)

Mando Diao

Carl-Johan Fogelklou on duty.

Indiespect: Can you remember the first time you’ve met Jens?

Carl-Johan: Yes.

Patrik: Yes. Björn met him…

Carl-Johan: They started writing songs together.

Patrik: Exactly. They met each other a couple of weeks before Björn brought Jens to us. He said: hey, meet this guy. It was at one of our rehearsals. He tried out to play guitar with the band. He came in shorts, I remember. It was very hot then.

Carl-Johan: Gustaf just left the band. Björn felt unsafe doing the guitars himself. He said that he wanted to have someone else with us, someone who could play guitars. We were like: sure, why not? He was like: I have this great guy, he’s called Jens. I’ve been writing songs with him for quite a while. Then we tried him out. As Patrik said, he came with shorts and sneakers.

It took a while before we found the chemistry.
And now the we found it, we’re not gonna leave it anymore, that’s for sure.

Patrik Heikinpieti, Mando Diao

Patrik: Before we transformed him into a rock guy. (laughs)

Indiespect: Really? Was he a bit shy?

Patrik: Nah. But he was mainly into hip hop. He’s a famous Swedish hip hop producer, actually.

Carl-Johan: He also worked a long time for Avicii’s studios in Stockholm.

Patrik: It used to be EDM and hip hop. Now it’s rock.

Indiespect: His role within the band seemed to evolve since he joined.

Patrik: Absolutely.

Indiespect: I saw pictures of the first shows he played with you. There he stood on the side of the stage and looked a bit shy. Björn was in the front performing.

Patrik: I think, everybody was kind of insecure in the beginning. When you’re in a new lineup you have to find new roles. Same for me, same for you, CJ. It took a while before we found the chemistry. And now the we found it, we’re not gonna leave it anymore, that’s for sure.

Mando Diao

Björn Dixgård is responsible that Jens Siverstedt joined Mando Diao.

Indiespect: Have you ever been forced to perform playback? If yes, how did that feel for a passionate live band like you?

Patrik: We have played playback sometimes, but never forced. You can say yes or no. Some TV shows we do, we have to do it playback. If it’s good for us, promotion-wise, we do it. It’s part of the job.

Indiespect: Doesn’t that feel strange?

Carl-Johan: It does feel strange. But it feels really good if you do a playback performance on a TV show that reaches out to a lot of people. They buy tickets for the concerts. That’s the main reason why we do it. It’s a commercial thing.

Patrik: It’s not the most fun. But you do what you got to do. Part of the job.

Any Berlin habits? We go to Berghain on a Sunday.

Carl-Johan Fogelklou, Mando Diao

Indiespect: I have a feeling that you often talk about Berlin and your love for the city and its vibe. Did you acquire any German habits since your connection got so strong over the years?

Patrik: Kebab. (laughs)

Carl-Johan: Any Berlin habits? We go to Berghain on a Sunday.

Indiespect: Ah, really. Have you been to Berghain a lot?

Carl-Johan: We love techno.

Patrik: We love to dance to techno.

Indiespect: I’ve only heard about the legendary Berghain.

Patrik: You should go.

Indiespect: I don’t think it’s that easy to come in.

Patrik: Nah. If you don’t have the contacts, it’s tough.

Carl-Johan: We have a tunnel. We dig a hole.

Patrik: Exactly (laughs)

Indiespect: Well, that’s perfect. Thank you very much for your time.

Patrik & Carl-Johan: Thank you!