Interview: Mattias Alkberg

So you've decided to disband MABD -- what's next? Will you be playing solo under your own name or starting other projects? Any specific plans yet?

I've been doing acoustic or semi-acoustic solo shows for years as well as as touring and playing one off shows with all members of MABD or just doing more punk rock gigs as a trio. I mean, playing solo is nothing new to me, I've been adjusting the sets according to circumstances for seven years or something now. But the question is will I go solo, right? Well, yeah. My plan is to release records under my own name from now on. But I will also keep on playing with The Bear Quartet and get involved with other people. I've had some cool offers already. But I can't really talk about it just yet. I disbanded MABD on Monday and made it public today [Wednesday]. It's a bit early, I think.

So what's up w/BQ then? Is a new album underway? Any clues as to what it will end up sounding like?

As nothing has turned out the way we thought it would the last two years or something regarding The Bear Quartet, I can't really say if there's gonna be an album out this year. But we are going to hook up in Calle Olsson's studio this summer, and I've got like 10-15 songs for that occasion. But how they'll turn out, or even if any of them make final cut, I don't know. Thing is, we used to work so fast before, and in my mind we've made like two or three records already. And I'm tired of them now, this one will sound nothing like the last two (imaginary) records. I know it sounds weird, but I can't explain it any other way. We've made an album full of Talk Talk-like ballads and a funk album. In my head. I have no idea what the other's records sound like in their heads. Same goes for the next one, the real one we are planning. But that's sort of the whole point, as far as we're concerned.

Seeing as how you've been playing acoustic, does that mean we can expect an acoustic album? Or do have other plans? Also, do you think you'll still be singing in Swedish as with MABD or will you also work again in English outside of BQ?

I will most certainly not make an acoustic record. Not in the singer/songwriter vein anyway. I lived under the illusion that I was making mainstream music for Swedish radio the last couple of years, when clearly I was not. I don't know why the radio didn't pick up really. But I think I will sing in Swedish for the most part. Swedes who sing in English kind of annoys me. That said, I think this year (and the last) some people have finally made great records in English although they're Swedes. I'm thinking of playing rockabilly in Swedish. With serious lyrics about real and engaging things. I don't think it's ever been done. But it's just an idea.

I want to take things all the way, that's what I mean. I did feel that MABD was quite mainstream on the last album, and don't get me wrong, that was all fully intended, but I think I prefer to work in the extremes more. Or, I don't know. I want to make a million different records before my head and heart explodes, that's all really. I just don't now where to begin just yet.

But I wouldn't rule out English completely. I just don't think there are enough good Swedish lyrics around and I still want to change that.

It seems odd to me that the mainstream didn't pick up on it more either - especially since the Swedish public seems to go crazy for even the most lackluster Swedish language pop. Maybe you should try your hand at a schlager/dansband record? But seriously, now that you've freed yourself to do your own thing, what do you think you'll do first? What kind of niches are you wanting to explore? How extreme are you going to take it?

Well, I want to make a real old-school hardcore record, a dark, dark post-punk/post hardcore one. And I want to finalize what was supposed to be the next MABD-record. Oh, and I have a full album, lyrics, songs everything written for the most annoying record in the world. It's like Greg Ginn's [Black Flag] solo albums, paired with prime-time Throbbing Gristle, Flipper, No Trend, early PiL and early Butthole Surfers. But with me smeared all over it like a rotten egg.

However, I have a large family that I can't and won't let down, who I (together with my wife) have to support and take care of. I have no education whatsoever, no steady income, or anything like that. Perhaps the most annoying record in the world won't put food on the table or pay the rent. On the other hand, I'm turning 40 next year; time is running out and I don't really have any other options, so I've got nothing to loose. I don't know who'd want to release these records, though. And since I'm already living on the absolute edge financially, I can't really release them myself. I don't know in which end to begin, really. But it's early days yet. Things might work out by themselves.

I dunno, it seems like more and more niche/fringe artists are able to make a go at it nowadays. I know that locally here we have hardcore bands like Sex/Vid blowing through thousands of 7"s in a few weeks that immediately fetch crazy prices on eBay. And they don't even have a web presence. Is it maybe that the underground in Sweden is dead? Or am I mistaken? Are you able to keep up with that stuff?

I started up a kind of community center for grown ups last year, you know, rehearsal spaces, a place for gigs and the occasional party. It was me, Jonas Teglund [Park Hotell] and a bunch of hardcore punks. They, the punks, have several gigs each months, bands from all over the world (I've seen Tervet Käädet, MDC and Born/Dead to name but a few only this year), and the local hardcore bands like Avskyvärld and Kranium are touring constantly all over Europe. They release 7" EPs and splits with other bands and sell them on gigs. You know, just like in the old days. But I don't think they sell thousands of records and I don't think any of them earns a living from touring either. I mean, the underground is not dead in any way, but it's a micro-genre in a small country. Then again, I suppose Kristofer Åström gets by playing his brand of country-rock doing the same thing for about the same sized crowds all over Europe. I don't think there's too much money in the punk/hardcore community. I understand that if I were to sing in English I could probably sell more records and tour more often and at a higher standard in Europe (since Sweden is kinda sick of me by now). But that line of thinking just triggers something profoundly Bear Quartet-ish in me, and I think fuck you, I'm gonna sing in Swedish anyway and even more. No compromise, not even in the face of armageddon, as they say in Alan Moore's Watchmen. I think it's a handicap, but I can't really help it. I just can't conform. Maybe when I grow up.

Ah, so even the hardcore scene is alive and well way up in Luleå, eh? Speaking of which, do you think that living up there has hindered your career at all? I mean, it seems like a big part of the reason MABD is no more is because everyone is so scattered. Do you think you'd be more successful in a more "major" city like Stockholm or Gothenburg? Or is that simply incompatible with your iconoclastic personality?

Hehehe. If I had thought of it as a career. Yeah, of course it's been a problem and will continue to be a problem, living in Luleå. One quite major part of us quitting was my inability to take the business/career side of it seriously, and feeling guilty that I was holding back the others who, in the beginning anyway, felt there was a possibility to actually earn a living from this. But I actually prefer to play Debaser Slussen in Stockholm as to play in Debaser Medis, which is a much bigger venue. I think maybe some of the others were hoping that we would play a even bigger place the next time we played Stockholm. But I didn't (and to be honest, still don't) care enough to make that happen, and they (not everybody, but some of them) haven't really told me to my face, but I think they were a bit disappointed about that.

Every now and then I try to shape up, be a proper Artist, with A Proper game-plan or whatever, but I can't be bothered. I just wanna go home and write some new songs instead, rehearse them, record them and put them out. I don't have time for careering. I'm about something else.

How soon until we get to hear something new then? Have you had any label offers yet or are you considering other distribution plans? My door is always open of course, though money is scarce/nonexistent.

I've had offers. Or rather, one expressed interest and one offer. I'm always considering other distribution plans. My problem is recording, not releasing. Or rather, I care more about being able to make the record(-ings) than getting it out. Record labels and/or means of distribution are the next step. The ideal thing would be to find a way to record whatever I want, and THEN get a label. As my plan is to make all sorts of records, I can understand if the majors and the more traditional indies hesitate to sign me, or to fund my recordings. By that I mean that I can't say anything about when or what will be released. But I'm up for just about anything. Although I'm not too keen on making home recordings. I want a actual studio, maybe a producer and someone to work the studio equipment.

And thanks for the offer. I will consider it.