Glenn Hughes

THUNDER EXPRESS
We Play For Pleasure
Razzia Records (Sweden)

On hiatus from his day job as lead guitarist for Swede-superstars The Hellacopters, Robert Dahlqvist took the summer to write, record and produce his own pet project. Thunder Express tips a hat to the highly-influential Detroit MC5 while maintaining an heir of class and Rolling Stone-like emotional thrust. Ten tracks ring out pure, undefiled rock ‘n roll, not to far removed from his parent band but still providing an open field of amped-up freedom and personal mic time.

As a vocalist Dahlqvist is an acquired taste. A mid-range baritone he strikes his lyrics with conviction and passion and in some cases frailty. Those familiar with his contributions to the Diamond Dogs will hear some crossover in tracks like “Get Back In” and the embracing ”Coming Back”. Yet, it is his remarkably powerful John Lennon-like rapture of the blues baked ”I Won’t Pretend” and the country-tinged ”I Don’t Understand At All” that move the record in a deeply personal direction.

Dahlqvist house band includes friends ”from around town”, all with respected backgrounds from Soundtrack Of Our Lives Mattias Barjed (guitars) and Martin Hederos (piano, organ) to Diamond Dogs Jasper Karlsson (drums), Magnus Jonsson (Trumpet) and Henrik Widen (Piano). No Hellacopter buddies made the list but the same thirst for loud & proud rock boil over from leading track ”Off I Go” with full-tilt guitars ripping into a Slade-type anthem.

As a composer the guitarists pulls from everything within his Cheap Trick, Faces, Stones collection to J. Geils and early ZZ Top. Check out the whiplash of ”Always Up To Something New” where the guitar and piano run headlong into a bar-room boogie. ”Stupid Lies” follows with an Eddie Money-tinged open chord, layered chorus and plenty of tamborine. Both ”In My Mind” and ”Believe In You” claim a retro pop-garage-rock hook and spit it out with muscle and blood. Dahlqvist’s solos in both will leave your speaker smoldering.

We got a hold of Robert via email on the eve of the Hellacopters ten-year anniversay bash at Mondo in Stockholm. The night had them playing a sold-out gig with Gluecifer and The Flaming Sideburns. Check out our interview below.

THUNDER EXPRESS
Interview with Robert Dahlqvist

The Cutting Edge: Hey Robert thanks for taking the time to answer our questions regarding your new release Thunder Express. We are huge fans of your ever-expanding body of work from the Hellacopters to Diamond Dogs, to Thunder Express.

First let me say, that I’m thrilled with the outcome of Thunder Express. It’s got a great edge to it that we don’t hear much on American radio. I know the Hellacopters stem from their passionate roots of bands like the MC5 and the Stooges, but where are your personal influences and do they very from Nick’s (Andersson, singer/guitarist with the Hellacopters).

Robert Dahlqvist: Personal influences… well that’s hard to answer cause there are so many of them. Everything from Cheap Trick to Freddie King. But I have to say that Johnny Winter, early ZZ Top and J.Geils Band was really important to me as a kid, when I discovered blues rock. Lately I’ve been listening a lot to The Band. I guess Nick has always been into punk rock more than I have, but now he’s a soul-freak! So am I…

TCE: The Diamond Dogs remind me a lot of the Faces / Stones – once the horns and the organ kick in it’s 1973 all over again. What was your reason for joining the Dogs?

RD: Sulo (the singer) called me up and asked if I wanted to join them…that’s it!

TCE: What is your future with the Dogs?

RD: Well…I have quit! Ha ha ha… Even though I love them I don’t have the time right now. I’m too busy with Thunder Express and this Swedish singer/songwriter Stefan Sundström. And pretty soon we are going to record a new Hellacopters album.

TCE: How did “Confirmation” come about on the Dogs’ ”Black River Road” record?

RD: I guess I just picked up my acoustic guitar and wrote it. Not the lyrics though.

TCE: Is Thunder Express named after the MC5 song, and will it be an ongoing side project?

RD: Yes, it’s after the MC5 and will it be ongoing? I think so…yeah! Why not? I was thinking…maybe I should record an album singing in Swedish…That would be awesome!

TCE: “Off I Go” has this Slade “Cum On Feel The Noise” feel to it - especially right before the chorus. Is there any influence from Sweet or Slade overshadowing some of the songs here?

RD: Nope. I’m not a big Sweet/Slade fan, they got a few good songs that’s it. “Cum on feel the noise” is one of them….he he

TCE: You’re voice takes on a new life on this record. I don’t think people realize how good it really is – especially in “I Won’t Pretend” which has this frailty to it. Are you a frustrated singer playing guitar, or is this a hidden talent coming out?

RD: Thanks a lot! I am a frustrated guitar player with a will to sing. But I think it’s really hard.

TCE: Where did “I Won’t Pretend” come from and how did you build it?

RD: I wrote that song a couple of years back, I guess that I wanted to write a Rolling Stones type of song. I just tuned my guitar into an open E and wrote it.

TCE: “Get Back In” and “Stupid Lies” could easily be Hellacopters tracks. Are there any songs that you have been working up for the Hellacopters but moved over to this project? Both of these songs are brilliant by the way!

RD: No, I wrote them to myself. Glad you like them!

TCE: “Coming Back” is probably my favorite song on the record. It has muscle but holds back a bit until the solo at the end – which is amazing. How did the song come about?

RD: I don’t really remember…sorry. Sometimes when I write songs I don’t have an idea of what kind of song I want to write, it just happens by itself.

TCE: When the Demons were in town (Portland, OR) they were discussing your nickname “Strings”. How did you get the nickname?

RD: When I started to rehearse with Hellacopters I broke so many strings it was unbelievable, so Boba kind of got pissed off and started to call me “Strängen” which means “the string” in English. So it took a few days and everybody started calling me strängen. Then, when I toured the States for the first time, we toured with Quadrajets (from Auburn, Alabama) and they were all wondering what strängen was and I tried to explain that it meant the string, but they where like, “We are gonna call you Strings man”… that’s it. Odd name…but its not my fault, I think its kind of funny.

TCE: Do you spend time hanging out with other Stockholm bands like the Backyard Babies, Hives, Flaming Sideburns?

RD: Flaming Sideburns live in Helsinki, Finland. But when it comes to all the other bands, yeah sometimes we hang out and get drunk!

TCE: What do you think it is about bands from Sweden that do Detroit rock so well?

RD: I don’t know…I have heard that question so many times but I really don’t have an answer. Maybe, it’s because we appreciate hard-driving good-old rock n’ roll more than the rest of the world?

TCE: On We Play For Pleasure “In My Mind”, “I Don’t Understand At All” and “Feed My Dreams” have this kind of country/ Kinks vibe. Where do they fit in your musical repertoire? Classic late-Sixties?

RD: I love late sixties! Kinks, Cream, The Who, Pretty things…all those bands where great songwriters and I love that!

TCE: How was it producing your own record?

RD: I think it was a good experience! I had a great time when we recorded this album, it was a very laidback attitude during the recording and I liked that a lot. Sometimes I think people get too serious when they play rock n’ roll, I think its all about having fun and I think we had fun!

TCE: Great record Robert – one you should be very happy with!

RD: Thanks man!

TCE: What was it like opening for the Rolling Stones last year?

RD: It was like being in a cartoon …unreal!

TCE: The Hellacopters are becoming legendary in the States. However we haven’t seen you play over here since the High Visibility tour. When can we expect you to make it over again?

RD: I’m not sure when it will happen, but I’m sure that we are going to tour the States next year!

TCE: Were you happy with the “Goodnight Cleveland” DVD? Any chance of a live Hellacopters concert coming out on DVD or a compilation of all your videos?

RD: I think “Goodnight Cleveland” is awesome! It’s like Spinal Tap but it’s for real! I don’t know about a compilation, we haven’t talked about it, but I guess its possible.

TCE: Does having the freedom to step away from the Hellacopters help the band maintain its strength?

RD: I think so, yes!

TCE: Any word on a new Hellacopters record?

RD: We are going to start rehearsing in January and record a new album in February. It’s gonna be the best record you have ever heard!

Website:
www.thunderexpress.se, www.hellacopters.com

STOP THE PRESS: This just out. The Hellacopters have released a new EP to commemorate their 10-year anniversary entitled Strikes Like Lightning. The disc boasts six tracks including, ”Turn The Wrong Key”, ”Take Me On”, ”A View From Nowhere”, ”Blinded By The Light”, ”Fiends And Frankensteins”, ”On The Line”. A must! Get it at
CDUnivers.com.

Says musicOMH.com, ”Nicke Andersson and cohorts merrily blitz through six tracks in the space of 16 and a half minutes. 'Turn The Wrong Key' and 'Take Me On' are raucous blasts of retrobilia, complete with touches of piano and quickfire guitar solos; the intro to 'A View From Nowhere' is pure Blue Oyster Cult; 'Blinded By The Light' and 'Fiends & Frankensteins' are cabriolet top-down, driving music; while 'On The Line' sounds like a less metal, more psychobilly version of Motorhead.”