Staffan Eriksson Artomus Friendship Interview (2019)

Posted: November 10, 2019 in Classic Rock, Classic Rock - Interviews, Cool stuff, Deep Purple Family, Jämtland (County), Magazines, Music (general), My photographs

Today it is a distinct pleasure to present an interview with my good buddy Staffan Eriksson of the Artomus Friendship project. The album “A Day Of Celebration” is available on major platforms and physical copies (including a Limited Edition Vinyl+CD release) still exists. This is one of the better albums to have come out of Sweden in recent times, not to mention Jämtland County. In this interview I let Staffan get into the details about the album and as a bonus he has added a track-by-track overview with additional information. Enjoy.

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Staffan, we have known each other since the mid 1990s when I asked you to assist me with the DEEP PURPLE FOREVER magazine. I know you as a major fan of both 1960s and 1970s music and I know you played in bands as a youngster that were influenced by the guitar driven rock of that era. Still, your Artomus Friendship record ”A Day Of Celebration” takes us back almost exclusively to the 1960s, why is that?

– Well, it is nothing I planned in the beginning. I really got into music in 1973 when I really listened (LISTENED!) to Deep Purple for the first time. Of course I had heard them on the radio before, and even played ”Black Night” on the juke box at the local café but that year I became a huge fan. I am still a fan but not as fanatic as in those days when the release of a new Purple-related album was like Christmas, almost a religion! But in the 1960s when I was a little boy my father used to tune in Radio Luxemburg on Saturday night and we used to listen to The Beatles, Hollies and other bands together. The music that came out  around 1965 was really fresh and I loved (and still do) the vocal harmonies of the bands of that time. Beatles is in my heart and soul ever since. I have written in various kind of styles over the years but this time it felt right to concentrate on the 1960s. As I said I am a Beatles fan and so are my collaborators Michael Klemmé and Anders Kronlund. Those two great guys inspired and encoured me to write for a whole album.

I know that you feel that you sort of have done your bit with this album as far as records go. But I know that you have been writing stuff for decades. Which song on this album goes back the furthest?

– ”Criminal Minds” and ”Chasing A Treasure” was the first songs written, ca 2011. I did not know Michael and Anders then, it was basist Lars Ericsson that suggested I should get in touch with Anders. I knew that Michael was a great vocalist, I had heard him do the Glenn Hughes part in Lars Deep Purple tribute band Mark 3, so he was number one on my list, but I did not know him then. My favorite Beatles period is 1965-67. ”Criminal Minds” was written with those years in mind.

When did you decide that this had to be done and why? Was it a legacy sort of thing, for yourself and your family?

– At first I recorded five six songs in different styles just to see if my ideas was good enough. And that was it. I thought.  A few years later Michael asked me if I had more songs he could sing. And I thought the songs in the spirit of the 1960s from that earlier session, ”Criminal Minds” and ”Chasing A Treasure” was the best ones. The puzzle bits came together on those, and I had quite a few more loose ideas that could turn into something. And when I decided to give it a go, the songs kind of wrote themselves. It is partly a legacy, it has to be for me. It must come from the heart. But it is great if the message can reach people outside the family, and it obviously has. Many people have told me the songs touches them, it is their story too, which feels great.

To me, and I know I share this opinion with many others, this is a damned good album. It stands heads and shoulders above the competition and yet you had to release it yourself. Did you even try to go to labels or do you feel that the business is dead these days?

– Thank you very much! I am sorry to say I think the business is dead. I have been in contact with an independant company in Sundsvall, Massproduction, they liked the songs but they had no time to do anything since there is just one person working on that label.

How many copies were printed, CDs and Vinyls?

– I printed 250 CDs and 100 Vinyls.

It is a testament to your credibility around these parts that you got so many elite musicians to join you, first class players. Tell us about the process, how did you pull this off?

– Well, once I got in touch with the boys, Michael, Anders, and drummer Björn Höglund, and they liked the songs and wanted to work with me, I thought I must do this with these great boys. If I had the chance to pick anyone from the whole world I would not chose anyone else than these guys! They understood my material and took care of my music with love and respect. And about the recording process, it is easier now to record at home on Logic so that is what we did. I wrote the songs and arranged them, then I sent them to Anders for him to re-record the guitar parts and put his ideas into each song if he wanted. On some songs I play the guitar myself though. Anders sings lead on some songs and he also did the harmony vocals together with me and Michael. Michael sings most of the lead vocals and I had the same correspondence process with him. When the songs were ready they sent the files back to me and I listened and cleaned it up. On some songs I contacted guest musicians to complete the songs. Then I sent the files to Björn who played drums and mixed. The last thing before sending the material to make records of it was to get the material mastered. Björn suggested Aral Suurna, a legend in the music business who have been an engineer for Roxette, Ulf Lundell and some of the biggest artist of Sweden. And a very nice guy as well.

For a fan of guitar driven music, was it hard to hold back on the guitar solos on this album to stick to the late 1960s era more than the early 1970s?

– Strangely enough, no it was not. I love guitar and organ solos and I really enjoy extended live versions of songs by for example, Deep Purple, Rainbow, Mountain. But the songs on the Celebration project did not have that anatomy, the songs ”told me” they wanted to be short. Instead I have worked really meticulously on the bass lines and the vocal harmonies. I would like to say that every note is carefully conceived and analyzed as far as the basslines are concerned. I play the bass myself and I have always admired the way Paul McCartney plays that four-stringed instrument. Melodic and imaginatively! Imagine ”Come Together” without Pauls characteristic basslines…

It is a happy sounding album and yet there are moments that are kind of dark when you describe the journey (see the track by track section below). Maybe one reason that the album is so great is because it has been done by somebody that has a lot to say. And here was your chance to say it.

– Absolutely! When you are 60 you have gone through both bright times and dark. I understand that many can relate to the lyrics. In this way the message is universal. It is another reason why I just had to do this album.

Some tracks has enormous radio potential. Have you got any feedback from media so far in these parts?

– No. I have sent records to the local media, both radio and newspapers but there is total silence from them. The only radio station the album is played on is Radio Krokom, that is because the editors there love the album. Radio Jämtland P4 does not seem to care, which is sad. It seems that you have to be 20 years old and have names like Benjamin Ingrosso or Molly Sandén to be played on radio. Most of the new songs heard on the radio now sound like AVICII I think. The radio stations, for example P4, plays ”modern pop” when most of the listeners want classic pop and rock. The stations are not in tune with the listeners. And the paper press do not give a rats ass which is strange. I mean, how many vinyls are released in the County of Jämtland every year, one? Or even less some years?

I think it was a good move to add the album on YouTube and other platforms. Will there be a music video at some point for one of the songs?

– The album is now on Spotify, Amazon, Youtube, Soundcloud and other media. I am working on the first video, ” A Day Of Celebration”, it is almost finished and my intention is to release it sometime in November. I will release it on Youtube. And I will make more videos, maybe ”Brand New Day” is next.

That would be great. What made you pick that particular image of yourself for the cover, and what did you do with it for effect (that car is called LOVE which is pretty cool, but surely that was added for the cover for fun)?

– I found that image when I was searching for another photo and I had totally forgotten it existed. It was my sister who took that photo on the last day in second class at the school in my village back in 1968. The school closed that year, in fact that day when the photo was taken so it is very emotional for me. Those two first years in school just one km from my house was very idyllic, we did not know the word ”bullying”. But we became aware of that when we moved to a much bigger school in a bigger village the following year… But about the photo, on the original there is not much colour left, but I liked it. So I used Photoshop and hand coloured it and that gave that surrealistic expression. The car is our old Opel Kadett. I tried to make the colours work as a composition; the red, the blue, the green and the yellow in the right position to keep the balance. And the colours is very saturated. The word ”love”, I got that idea because three of four letters are the same on ”love” and ”opel”. I switched the letters and changed the P to a V. It is a good message. If you have not noticed, my year of birth is on the number plate, and the Z is the letter symbol that our County of Jämtland used those days. A little Photoshopping there as well…

Your idea to incorporate images of family members from yesterday and today is such a moving and bold move. It is a wonderful idea.

– Thank you! Well, it could be anyone but many people in my age seem to have quite a similar story as me, so I figured the images in their photo albums must be quite similar. I hesitated at first but the lyrics are personal so I thought if I used images with the same feel to it, they could enhance the music and the lyrics. The album is personal but not private, even though it is a fine line in between.

I can see that you poured your soul into this project. What else are you doing these days?

– I am currently working together with my great friend since 1968, Glenn Eriksson, on a project that will be released in the spring of 2020. It will be five six songs on an EP. It is music for a sports event that takes place every spring in the area I live in. It is called Häll race and it is a running competition that takes place at the end of May every year. It is the skiing club Offerdals SK who arrange it. It has become very popular and attracts more and more people every year. The ski club wants to make a video. No pop-music on this project, this is folk-ish in style. But really heavy! And Glenn and I have two or three more projects we are working on. One is folk music, one is more in soul rock blues style.

Tell us about your early work with drummer Peter Hermansson (220 Volt).

– It was a great time! Peter and I got on good together. I think we ”thought music” the same way. I remember I got a call from Bo H Persson who played guitar in Peters band. They needed a bass player. A few days later Peter called and told me with his characteristic enthusiasm about a song they had just written. I auditioned and they liked my style. Besides of Paul McCartney I admire basists like Pete Way, Geezer Butler, Glenn Hughes and other melodic bass players. I guess I incorporated these great guys styles into mine. I remember the band, that was called Stargazer, was very structured and worked through the songs carefully. The first gig was on Lugnviks Fritidsgård and the place was packed with people shouting for us! The gig went down well and I still remember the evening and the great feeling I had! Peter wrote most of the music and I remember being impressed by him because he could play the intro to Rainbows ”Lost In Hollywood”, in my ears, perfectly!

How many songs do you have in the archives with old bands that you played with?

– Oh it must be 150-200 in different styles. Most of it are shit but there are ideas that has something.

Any chance that we could get to hear some of that stuff on, say, YouTube?

– It might be in the future.

I recall filming your band around 1991 in Östersund, some contest (Rock SM was it?). I remember meeting you then, knowing that you had bought the old DEEP PURPLE FREAK SOCIETY magazines in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

– I remember I was happy finding your Deep Purple magazines! And I still got all issues in my archive! Back in the late 1970s almost no media in Sweden wrote about hard rock, at least not in a positive way. Sweden was very trendy and it was punk only in the media, all along. It is different now thank God. But I almost stood by the mailbox waiting for the magazine every month or so!

What happened with that film I made, did you get a copy?

– I have not seen it. It could have been Royal but that was during the first part of the 1980s, one year or so after Stargazer.  I played in various bands in the second half of the 1980s. I temporarely replaced bassplayers in a variety of dance bands that period and in the first half of the 1990s too.

I can totally see why you feel that the time has come to look back. Time is a strange thing, the older you get the faster it disappears it seems. I guess I did it with my magazines.

– Yes, I agree. Bruce Springsteen said recently that you always come back to your roots sooner or later. I guess that is why the ”Celebration” album is in the style of the late 1960s.

Having said that, I do hope that I will have reason to come back to you someday in the future, if you ever should feel that a second album would be a good idea. Maybe a 1970s tribute?

– I could do another album in the style of the 1960s quite soon. I have quite a few ideas, but it is very expensive and I would like to give Christmas presents to my daughters this year. A 1970s tribute is a good idea but I think The Summit made that kind of an album, which was a great one,  a few years ago and I would not dare to compete with them! And I have a huge respect for riff driven music. It is impossible to match riffs from the 1970s, I am thinking of the Deep Purple and Rainbow albums and songs like ”Burn”, ”Smoke On The Water”, ”Stargazer”, ”Man On The Silver Mountain” and many others. But then again, I might make another one and concentrate on the late 1960s. If that happens I need good hard rock guitarists, a great singer and an awesome drummer to work with… that would be the same people as on ”A Day Of Celebration” I guess! Glenn has loads of great riffs and I also would like to recruit Mats Karlsson (220 Volt, The Summit) into that project. We will see what the future brings. But I know the title of it already, it will be called ”A Pebble In The Shoe”, a quote I heard from the film director Lars von Trier. I might release a folk music inspired album together with Glenn with my wife on vocals and various guests on violin, cello, accordion, saxophone, and maybe another album with Glenn that will be blues-soul rock oriented. Songs for those albums are already written but not yet recorded properly. But those thinkable projects will only be released on digital media.

Where can people buy your album?

– They can buy it from me if they visit on Bengans and CDON, Jämtlands musikarkiv, Hamm & Nilsson Östersund, iTunes and Apple music, Amazon and others.

Is there anything that you would like to add to this interview?

– Appearently ”A Day Of Celebration” is an underground album. To be honest, I thought the radio would be interested because of the fact that it certainly is quite radio friendly. But it is not the kind of music that you hear on the radio these days, as I mentioned before. The lead singers are great, the very best I think. And the sound is a bit ”ín your face” and it has a certain atmosphere. Not many people have heard the album yet, but those who have get surprised because it is way better than they expected! It is better than I expected too! It seems like those who have not heard the album think it is amateurish. It sounds cocky, but I do not want this album to be compared to local amateur music, I want it to be compared to the big bands in the same genre. The album tells the story of an outsider who has always struggled to gain recognition, to belong to a community. But invaluable friendship has been found among other outsiders, other eccentric persons. I can see that my elder daughter is that kind of person. The ones who likes the albums most are women in general and male musiclovers. That feels good!


”A Day Of Celebration” – The whole album is about reflections, personal and in general, of a man ”surviving” life, he is now in his 60s. The title track starts with a pop-riff in E and the lyrics tells the story of a boy back in 1968 with a flower bouquet in his hand, celebrating last day in school in his home village. Little did he know then that in the new school there would be bullying. Some say that things that do not kill you make you stronger. But is it always like that? Maybe those days a long time ago did not kill you, but did the hard times really help you to grow? But, this man survived, battered but not beaten. But not everyone does that. It is the last song written for the album with help from my dear friend since 1968, Glenn Eriksson, a great guitarist who is, like me, a Ritchie Blackmore-fan. It is a simple riff, but so what, most great pop and rock songs are simple. The bass on all tracks is carefully composed, not a single note is randomly played. The title ”A Day Of Celebration” is bittersweet, dark irony. We celebrate many occations, but are these days really worth celebrating?

”Give It Back” – I sometimes feel like a stranger in my own home country. It is not the hopeful and caring country I grew up in. It has become a cold country without self-confidence, and to where will it lead? What kind of country will my children live in in the future? Someone has stolen my dream, will it ever come back? A song based around the bass riff with a dark fate-filled chorus kicking it all off. The bass lines form the body of the song. The first verse has another melody than the second, a typical hallmark for my songs. There are rock and pop in this song but there is also a little reggae in the second verse and a slight jazzy feel in the verse just before the final chorus which is a reprise of the first lyrically and melodically

”You Are Not Alone” – This is a song with more modern approach. It is a soft and piano driven song. As with many of the songs on the album there is no solo, instead of an instrumental part, there is a choir. It is a comforting song, almost religious, there is always a friend no matter how dark life seems.

”R U My Girl” -When I was a little boy in the 60s I could not afford to buy records with the exception of the odd EP I used to get as a Christmas present. But on Saturday nights my father used to tune in Radio Luxemburg on our radio and we sat together and listened to Hollies, Beatles and other great bands. The music in ”R U My Girl” is a tribute to that era, I wanted the song to capture the atmosphere of those days. And the lyrics is a tribute to our wifes, mothers, daughters who who are struggling to make the life puzzle work.

”Grand Salute” – I bought a mandola from my friend Glenn. I had not learned how to play that instrument, it is tuned in another key than guitars. I put my fingers on it and the first thing that came out was the chords in the verse of ”Grand Salute”. In this song there is a reversed guitar solo part and one part is a cello solo, again in the spirit of the Fab Four. The song has an encouraging text for all the underdogs, all the heroes of the heart, all those who receive less praise than they deserve.

”Brand New Day” – Noone knows what life brings tomorrow. Suddenly a dark cloud comes and parks over your head. And there is nothing you can do about it other than let it take the time it takes. You do not think it will pass but suddenly you are on the other side of the cloud and the sun is shining again. It can happen to anyone. I had this riff in my head for several years and suddenly it suited this song. No solo again but two different bridges instead. Inspired by Beatles ”Tomorrow Never Knows” and influenced by the orient sounding scales of Ritchie Blackmore.

”Criminal Minds” – ”Criminal Minds” was written early for this project, in fact before there was a plan to record songs for an entire album. I tried a few vocalists but Michael Klemmé was the one. He impressed me and he liked the song and became the main singer in the band. Songs in this style was not unusual in the mid 60s and I like the tempo, it is fun playing bass to these kind of songs. Gustaf Hylén played the trumpet that gives the song the atmosphere I looked for. It is a story about not following what is expected from you.

”Tell Me” – This song is very much a taste of the 60s. In my opinion it was not good enough for the album but then Anders Kronlund, guitarist and my right hand through this production, came with the wonderful slideguitar parts, and the song suddenly took off. Anders sings lead on this one and Katharina Åhlén plays the cello. ”No matter what will happen, the show must still go on”, that is what the song is about. No matter if you deserve it or not, it is great to be loved by someone.

“Chasing A Treasure” – This is a slow Van Morrison-ish song, with a slant of gospel. Michael sings great and Gustav Hylén plays the accordion. It is about searching for love or happiness, truth… If you do not find it on the other side of the world, dig right where you are, you might find it when you stop searching.

”You And The Girls” – At first this one was a little slower, a bit like ”Sunday Afternoon” by the Kinks. But I speeded it up and the up-tempo seemed to be the right thing. The instrumental part has a jazzy feel combined with the ooo-choir. This is a celebration to my wife and my two daughters. They are good to have when one feels like a stranger in a foreign land.

”It Is Alright” – The song had another opening riff in the beginning, similar to ”R U My Girl”, but it did not fit, but I think this one did. In fact, the old riff is in the end of the song but in the playground rather than at front in the sound. It is quite a light fluffy pop song with a touch of later Lennon feel to it. My favourite part here is the bridge, it is dramatic with Anders singing lead and the lalala choir in the background. This song is about forgiveness and reconciliation. It feels good to have as few enemies as possible in the end.

”A Chance To Live” – The last song on the album,  sung by myself. My friend Glenn plays the guitar on this one and I play the bass plays, a melodic line on top of it. The guitar solo here is great and has a taste of Irish folk which I like. The story of the man ends here, he reflects on his life, ups and downs, considering that there is a lot to be thankful for.

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By Michael Eriksson (Trinkelbonker (2019) – Feel free to quote this interview.

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