Tagged: Mats Levén
My year in rock – 2014 retrospect
It’s that time of year again – when it’s time for me to look back on the past 12 months to summarize what I’ve been up to. It’s been a rockin’ year for sure, although it didn’t start out that well.
My year in rock started tucked down in bed at my friend Blackie’s house in Nashville, Tennessee. I had a bad fever and a touch of the flu after visiting another friend in Florida two days before, Kevin from JOP (Jon Oliva’s Pain).
[The first blog of 2014:]
I missed the gig I had planned to go to on New Year’s (Blackie and her bf Ronnie, both from a band called Liquid Courage), but at least I got to see former Savatage-frontman Damond Jinya do his thing with his tribute band Kuzin It in a club before I left.
[Left – Damond with Savatage Right: Blackie, me and the ladies, at the club]
I loved this!! Great cover, well sung, awesome!
It was a fairly slow concert month in January, as always. I did an interview with Gus G for Sweden Rock in January and I think that was pretty much about it, musicwise. Yes, a VERY slow month.
February served the rock’n’roll table at Amager Bio in Copenhagen – first with the PARTY BAND number ONE: STEEL PANTHER (February 14th)!
A week later it continued with ROYAL HUNT taking on the stage. I went cause I love the drummer’s style, Allan Sorensen. He’s absolutely amazing. As it turned out, so was the singer – D.C Cooper. Holy shit…
March was the month when things started to move a bit. Gus G had just released his first solo-album “I Am The Fire” and was kicking off his solo tour with a few shows in Greece with Uli Jon Roth and Jorn Lande – and Mats Levén fronting his own band. I flew down to Thessaloniki which I almost consider as my second home nowadays, met up with my friend Suuded from Germany, and checked out the show.
Had a great time in Greece – as always. Was great to see Gus and the others, we went to this rock bar after the show which is almost a tradition every time he plays in his home town.
The day before the show, we visited Firewind bassman Petros in his bar Emerald – really cool rock pub. He served us the best booze in town, personally. ;)
But the loud music makes it almost impossible to hear what anyone is saying so after maybe 2 hours everybody left to get some well deserved sleep.
A few days later I was on a plane over to Manchester, UK, to check out the Steel Panther show there. That was all I did – for a change. No interviews, no parties, no nothing. Just fly in, see show, fly home.
The week that followed was graced by the super awesome Danish rockers D.A.D! My friend Henny and I made a roadtrip to Gothenburg and had a great time, getting slightly intoxicated at Hard Rock Cafe – and I hit on the Swedish prince, Carl Philip, literally. I wasn’t looking, as usual, and he and his “gorillas” were passing me on the sidewalk where there was a construction area and not much room. I wasn’t looking and thought “why do I always have to be the one who moves??” so I pretty much shoved the prince, when my friend whispered to me who it was. Whoops…
The cool thing was that he went to Hard Rock as well – and ordered a burger that he enjoyed while Zakk Wylde and Black Label Society was playing from the video screens all over the restaurant! The Swedish prince ROCKS! :) And he’s handsome too – for a short haired prince. ;)
THIS is what I call rock and f***in’ ROLL!!
In April, I got a message from Iréne on Facebook – she used to sing with female rockers Modesty Blaise, a band I used to manage back in the day, and that was reallyyy a long time ago. We lost touch but reconnected thanks to social media. :)
She invited me to come over to the studio where they were recording a tribute to our old friend Andy Pierce from the band Nasty Idols who passed away last year.
It was so great to see everyone again. Sometimes it’s like time stood still, we all had a great time and Andy’s positive spirit was with us the whole time.
And that takes me to MAY and the months that followed that were super-busy concert- and travelwise! Let me catch my breath a little bit here before continuing to part TWO of 2014, cause there’s a lot – a LOT more where this came from. :D Keep checking!!
Never waste a drop of it, you can’t put it back in the bottle….
Trip to the States, Detroit for Rob Zombie and Madam X, then back to Sweden and literally straight to the office from the airport and 10 hours of travel – then one day at home to repack my bags to get to the NEXT destination, Greece and Gus G/Mats Levén acoustic gig…
I just got back from that – and I’m exhausted, but in a good sort of way.
Hey, you know me – I’m definitely a fan of Gus G, so there is nothing new there, I loved the acoustic show. It was back to the roots, showing what music is supposed to be like when it’s stripped of all its props (pretty much).
Two guys with unplugged guitars and a powerful voice. It doesn’t take a whole lot more than that, when you get the pleasure to watch two top notch musicians doing their thing.
It’s even more interesting maybe for someone from Sweden, cause I remember Mats from WAY back, when I first met him at the rock club KB in Malmö back in 1989, doing an interview with his band Swedish Erotica. He was young and the girls were going all ga-ga over him.
A few years later I was out touring with female rockers Modesty Blaise and the band Seventeen (featuring Chris Laney, who’s a well known producer and songwriter today) and Mats’ cover band was a part of the touring package.
We were all kids with dreams. It’s just wonderful to see how all the bits and pieces of a puzzle have ended up fitting exactly where they’re supposed to. Mats is where he deserves to be, he’s worked hard for many many years to become the respected vocalist he is today.
Both these guys are hard workers, so it’s simply great to see what they do, in all its simplicity. Music is in their blood and no gig is too small – not even a rock bar in the town of Ioannina, Greece. :)
My own pics didn’t turn out that well, but this guy got some pretty decent pics:
It was almost totally dark in there, so it was nearly impossible to get good footage. This was as good as it got. It’s enough to hear the music at least.
And speaking of which – I was incredibly impressed by the guys who opened for Gus and Mats. I have no idea who they were. I read somewhere that they are music teachers, and that would explain it, but the guy had a fantastic voice. I had to Tweet the video to David Coverdale, I hope he took the time to listen to it. ;)
I only wish that people would have the decency to shut the f**k up when going to an acoustic show. When someone is putting his heart and soul into his performance and you hear someone just yapping loud and laughing like it’s a private party, I just get pissed off. I’m sorry, I do. Show some damn respect. And some of us actually want to HEAR the MUSIC and not drunk people and their blah-blah-blah. :-/
Here are the anonymous guys – that VOICE is AMAZING!
Now it’s cool for a few days, before Ian Hunter visits Malmo.
Now THERE’S a legend I’m looking forward to seeing live in a small club. Check him out with David Bowie:
I’m dead tired, but it doesn’t matter. I can sleep when I’m dead. I just love this life and I want to enjoy every minute of it. :) Never waste a drop of it, cause you can’t put it back in the bottle…
Starkers in Ioannina? (Gus G & Mats Levén acoustic)
So I made it to Ioannina, Greece – finally. God knows it wasn’t easy getting here. For whatever reason, there are no direct flights from Copenhagen to any of these places that Mats and Gus have been playing on this acoustic tour. It took all day to get to a place in Europe, which would have taken maybe 3 hours tops if there had been a direct flight.
I had to change flights 3 times and finally made it to what mostly resembled a parking lot – Ioannina airport. I’m not kidding, the tiny plane could barely move on that piece of “airport”. ;)
But – as always, these adventures are worth the trouble. :) I’m sitting at the rock club Irida right now, after having listened to the very stripped down sound check. And I have to say, there is no way something like this can go wrong!
Mats Levén has such a strong, powerful and steady voice, he doesn’t miss a note – it’s just pure joy listening to him sing. THAT, accompanied by Gus G, whose guitar is an extension of himself – he and his guitar are as ONE. Whatever he plays is always perfect. Those two together is like squeezing out the essence of what is great and presenting it in its most pure shape and form.
After the sound check, the gentlemen went back to the hotel to get some rest (or their beauty sleep!) but I’m not one to sleep NOW, or I’ll just get drowsy later. So here I am. Me and my dear laptop. Show in about 3 hours. This place is just way cooler than my boring hotel, so I’m hanging out here watching metal videos! Live-report soon!
Yes, I’m in love!
I was online all evening yesterday, trying to figure out how to make the logistics work for the Gus G/Mats Leven tour in Greece in October. It was pretty frustrating because nothing was going the way I had hoped.
Flights that took 30 hours (with layovers), flights that cost more than it would cost me to fly to the States, cities where the nearest international airport is 4 hours away and basically – nothing went my way. Yet I really want to catch at least one of those gigs.
I’ve been following Gus G’s every move for the past three-four years, so it feels strange to suddenly NOT be able to make it to even ONE show that’s after all in Europe. Shouldn’t be too difficult. But as it turns out, it can’t be done, can’t get the parameters to fit… :-(
I’ll also be missing the US-shows because of bad timing – I’m over in the States for Rob Zombie and meeting up with Madam X in Detroit the week before and don’t have enough vacation days to stay there and wait for the Gus-tour.
And then I’m missing the Metal AllStars South America-shows too because I’ve already booked a few gigs with Billy Idol at that same time!
And THAT would have been a great reason to go to South America, as I’ve been wanting to go there for quite a while, but just needed a good reason to go.
Gus G is my “random travel-generator” and I love that. He tours everywhere, all the time – the perfect artist for someone like me.
It doesn’t hurt that he’s a cool guy who I enjoy hanging with as well – and the same goes for his crew and band members. Super sweet people, the lot of them. All of that is a bonus.
In my Facebook status the other day, I mentioned that I was slightly annoyed that I couldn’t make it to some of those shows, cause I really want to go. One guy left a comment saying: “It sounds like you’ve got a crush on Gus, Daniela”.
I can’t say that I was surprised to get that comment. I can imagine that to the outside world, that would be the only explanation why someone would act as “crazy” as I do. I’ve heard that for every single band that I’ve followed. Even going way back to my days in school, hanging “with the guys”. It was interpreted as “she’s got a crush on so-and-so“.
But that’s not what it is. Not like that. It’s a combination of music, travel and friendship. To me, that’s the ultimate kick.
Another guy replied to that first commenter with the words:
“Daniela is in love with good music! Many great and long lasting relationships”.
That was SPOT ON.
I love the life that I have chosen for myself. Sometimes I can just walk down the street and smile, because I suddenly remember a really great gig or a trip that lies ahead, or a journey that I’ve made in the past – and all the interesting people I’ve met along the way, places I’ve seen, experiences I’ve had… It’s a lifelong love – no doubt about it. But it’s not the kind of “love” some people may think. :)
I’m in love with life, with music, with everything that surrounds it. Sometimes I might even be attracted to some people for about two seconds, but it’s nothing I’ve ever acted upon. Some awesome people I meet along the way catch my interest every once in a while, but it usually doesn’t last very long. What DOES last long however, is all that other stuff. LIFE – that’s what. :)
Seeking happiness in individuals is one thing, but I think that seeking happiness within yourself and the kind of lifestyle you want to live, makes you happy in the long run and is not as fragile as “regular relationships”. Or at least that’s my take on it.
So – am I in love? Do I have a crush? Hell yeah – I love my life and I love my music, and that’s a marriage that’s going to last forever. :D
Guitar Universe – final destination…!
It was slightly different getting up in the morning only to transport myself from one side of town to another – from one situation to another. From the Metal God to a guitar-gig.
I was still in Kensington where I had spent most of my day at Sony Music’s office, listening to the new Judas Priest album and talking to “The Metal God” himself, Rob Halford. NOW, I was checking out from my fancy Kensington high street 4-star hotel, to take the tube over to Angel station (funny – the song “Angel” by Judas Priest was in my head the whole time…!)
It was pretty easy finding my new hotel. What I didn’t realize was that it was right down the street from the venue where the Marty/Gus-gig was taking place later that evening: O2 Academy Islington.
I always pick hotels that are as close to the venues as possible, but this had to be a record! It was literally maybe 20 steps from the back door of the venue…!
I found a familiar face, Andy, sitting outside in the sun just chilling. It was the calm before the storm. Chatted for a minute or two, then I left him to just enjoy the few minutes of peace he would have that day, and went over to my hotel to check in.
After an hour, I went back out again, thought I would find something to eat, but after a short stroll around the block, I couldn’t find anything that I was in the mood for, so I went back to the venue.
During the 30 minutes that followed, I managed to steal a few minutes from the busy crew guys and a few band members who had been out for a walk and were about to start load-in. :)
There were two fans outside the club with plastic bags full of records, and I was wondering if they were there for Marty or Gus. Turns out, neither. They were there for Mats. They had every single CD he’s ever sung on…! And there was……a LOT. :D
Jo came off the bus, looking slightly dazed. So, while the load-in was in progress, I went inside the O2 with Jo and Or. They went looking for the dressing room, while I decided to just find someplace to make myself invisible, stay out of the way and just be a “fly on the wall”. :D
During the hours in there, I watched two sound checks, by Marty Friedman and Gus G, a video shoot for Marty’s new video and a “lesson”/rehearsal thing with Herman Li from Dragonforce who was going to join the guys on stage later that evening.
[Marty shooting a video] I bumped into Marty out in the stairwell. He smiled: “Oh, hi! You take good pictures. I like your photos.” I figured he probably must have liked them, cause I’ve seen a few of his updates that included some of my pics. I’m glad he liked them. :)
It was crazy hot inside so I went outside and found Or (bassplayer for both bands) there too. When Jo came out he immediately went: “Let’s go get some food!”. Food was the keyword. I was starving! So off we went.
Found a Vietnamese restaurant nearby, the menu sounded good, prices reasonable. And best of all, free WiFi (was pretty much the first thing Jo asked for, haha!).
I don’t exactly remember what I ordered but it was spicy…! And then we couldn’t quite figure out the currency (three people from 3 different countries, with the wallets full of various mysterious currencies, not necessarily the kind that is accepted in that particular country…!).
When we got back to the venue, the doors had already opened and there were people standing at the barriers, so I took my place there too. Last gig, thought I’d get a few pics and vids.
The opening act, Primitai, was okay. Never heard of them before – but they were alright. I remember thinking they had a good drummer. He didn’t look like a “powerful drummer” but he hit pretty hard and I liked his style.
Next on stage – Gus G. It was the perfect ending to my Guitar Universe tour, cause if I compare the level of energy at the first show in Tampere, Finland, with this one in London, it was very clear how much the band had grown into a true unity and what they were able to deliver.
Jo Nunez, drummer extraordinaire, impressed me more than anyone on this tour, funny enough. He’s always been an impressive drummer, but now he’s a full-fledged showman and entertainer as well.
He’s up there killing his drums every night but he’s gone from being a quiet guy that was almost invisible on his first tour with Firewind, to this mohawk-adorned, cool madman that’s spinning drumsticks, throwing them up in the air, challenging the crowd to make more noise, standing up behind the drum set letting his presence be known… He’s probably one of the best acquirings Gus has made for his band. :)
All I can say is: Jo-sus Christ!
Same goes with the new aquaintance, the bass-master from Israel: Or Lubianiker. Make no mistake, maybe people will take him for a shy and quiet guy seeing him offstage, but once he’s up there, he’s definitely not making any excuses. Just like Jo, he was working double-shifts, playing for Gus and Marty on the whole tour, keeping a steady and reliable rythm section for both guitar heroes.
While I guess that most of the guys in the crowd were guitar-geeks, I’m sure that there were some pretty impressed bassists there as well, who were checking out Or’s dexterity and experiencing total bass Or-gasms… (yeah, pun intended. ;D).
Mats Levén is a given frontman, he certainy has the pedigree to prove it too. He’ll sing whatever you throw at him, and he will do it well.
And Gus G himself? What can I say- I’m running out of adjectives! He was in a good mood which led to a more intense communication with the crowd.
The ONLY thing I would want to see more of from Gus, is an Yngwie-style guitar-pick rain during his set, to “feed” the hungry guitarists in the front row.
Those dudes down there would kill their own mothers for one of his picks…! More of that, and I think the “guitar geeks ” would walk on pink clouds for DAYS.
Cause needless to say, there are mostly guys in the crowd. How do you get more girls to the shows? My suggestion, from a female point of view, would be simple: Bring the “hair-fan” next time, it’s gonna work (well, it’s always worked for Steve Vai)! ;)
Other than that, he plays like a god. Always. I liked the songs from his solo-album before the tour, but I’ve gotten new favorites as I’ve kept hearing them live over and over again. “Eyes wide open” for instance has been stuck in my head for days already!
Also, their rendition of Thin Lizzy‘s “Hollywood – (Down on your luck)” was really one of the best so far. There was a drive and an energy in the performance of that particular song in London, that was really contagious.
Then, after the change-over, Marty time! Like I’ve said before, he’s got a very natural stage personality and that combined with his material, which is a winning mix between melodic, heavy and “riffy” instrumentals, simply makes time FLY!
He and his “partner in crime”, Takayoshi Ohmura, are constantly interacting with the crowd, making sure every single person out there feels like a part of the show. It’s virtuosity in every sense of the word, but not in a boring, nerdy sort of way, it’s made accessible and enjoyable for all kinds of people (providing of course that you like music…).
Before I knew it, he was done and it was time for that one last song, that one last little surprise…. Which this time wasn’t only Gus as a special guest, but also Dragonforce’s Herman Li. Yet another fast shredder to add to the equation. Hold on to your hats, ladies and gentlemen, here we go!
After the show, I remembered that I was wearing high heels (I usually go to these gigs in sneakers cause I always have to walk a lot, but this time with my hotel being so close, I chose the heels instead). Those things were KILLING me after so many hours or standing and walking, so I figured I’d just go and say bye to the guys and then get a bit of sleep.
Flashed my laminate to the security guy and went to the backstage area.
My original idea was to wait at least 20-30 minutes so the guys could just get a break before people started barging into their dressing room, but when two guys just walked right in, I just went right along with them. What the hell, if nobody else thinks in my unfashionable “considerate” terms, then I’ll just go along with the crowd, lol! :)
It was slightly crowded back there, all kinds of people. Glad to finally have met Sharon from the management as well. She was actually the first person I was in touch with before that Relentless garage-gig in London years ago, and then I’ve seen her name online many times, but never actually met her. So that was nice. :)
Gus was stuck in this tiny production office with people walking in and out. I could only see a bit of his black Converse snakers and hear him back there somewhere – otherwise he was pretty much invisible.
When a handful of guests had left the backstage area I just stuck my head in and asked if I needed to take a number or something. :) It was kind of like in a dentist’s office. “Neeeext!”
He was talking to the guy who’s made Firewind’s cover-artwork and also for the latest solo-album. So as it turned out, the Firewind-symbol silver-pendant that I was wearing, had in fact originally been designed by him.
Pretty cool, you rarely ever meet those people. As always after a show, people just scatter all over the place so I never got to say bye to any of the crew guys, Jo had left to take a shower but it took a while so I just decided to call it a night and leave the area.
It’s been different, but good and I hope there will be more touring soon.
Photos from this gig: https://intherearviewmirror77777.wordpress.com/2014/05/05/guitar-universe-day-2-helsinki-finland/
Reflections on coming home: Welcome to Tour Twilight Zone