Saturn – Unaltered UniverseWednesday, 12th April 2017
Otherwise known as the sixth planet from the sun, Saturn also is the namesake of this Swedish quartet. Despite not being alive in the 1970’s, these musicians wish to take their favorite bands from that era and create new ideas that transform into melodic, catchy songs of their own. Admitting a love for everything from Judas Priest and UFO to Black Sabbath, Budgie, and NWOBHM, their second album Beyond Spectra glistens with the hum and glow of bygone times – higher octane melodies and guitar movements that electrify as vigorously as those early days.
Feeling the need to discover more behind the band, guitarist Robin Tidebrink answers these questions regarding his childhood and evolution in music, how Rise Above Records signed the group, live show philosophy, as well as hopes for getting the third record out in a timely manner over the three-year gap between Ascending and Beyond Spectra. There’s plenty brewing in the Scandinavian scene for whatever tickles your heavy music fancy – thus let Saturn be your guide into the 70’s again.
Dead Rhetoric: What can you tell us about your childhood and your musical development- what specific memories helped shape your desire to pick up an instrument and start playing in bands?
Robin Tidebrink: My grandfather was very musical. Always playing the guitar and piano but his main instrument was the accordion. I spent a lot of time with him as a young kid and it was really fun to fiddle around with all the instruments. But I really didn’t start practicing the guitar until I was 15 and got my first acoustic one. Around that time I discovered a lot of the old guitar heroes and all the classic rock and metal acts as Black Sabbath, Judas Priest etc. and I knew that that’s what I wanted to do.
Dead Rhetoric: Saturn contains many different elements to engage the listener in the progressive rock and heavy metal realms. You describe your sound as heavy metal space rock – how did you come upon this combination, and what makes an essential Saturn arrangement and song in your eyes?
Tidebrink: I find that whenever you try to define your music genre-wise, you kind of put yourself in a corner. Nowadays when somebody asks I would just say that we play metal and hard rock. The space thing is not necessarily in there to define how we sound. It’s more of a word we add just to be able to do all kinds of styles really (laughs).
I would say that an essential Saturn arrangement contains a classic rock/metal guitar riff. Always, it just has to be there. And then there is Oscar’s bass that he basically plays as a guitar player. Recently I also try to focus more on melody in the solos rather than ‘showing off skills’. No one in our band is a virtuoso and we don’t claim to be either. That’s why melody is becoming more and more important. I want people to be able to hum along to my solos.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the major differences between your debut album Ascending and your latest effort Beyond Spectra, outside of the three-year time lapse and natural seasoning that occurs within the band?
Tidebrink: The production is better, by far. We recorded in a proper studio this time. The songs are more in harmony with each other as well. I mean on Ascending the songs vary in style very much. There’s nothing wrong with that and I think that it’s nice to be able to do all kinds of different styles of songs on the same album. But I think that the listener can hear that we kind of found our way of sounding on Beyond Spectra. But who knows, the next album may go in another direction. It’s not like we’re writing songs planning all of these things (out). Maybe we should? (laughs).
Dead Rhetoric: How did you get on the radar screen for Rise Above Records? They seem to be the best label for a band like Saturn that has a lot of eclectic influences from doom to progressive rock to metal with a decided old-school 70’s flavor to things…
Tidebrink: We released Ascending as a ‘name your price’ deal on Bandcamp in 2013. A person from Greece who somehow knew Lee Dorrian really liked us and wrote to Lee about us. A couple of days later we got mail from Lee and that’s how we got the deal.
What I really like about Rise Above is that they let us do our thing. Not once has anybody from the label said to us things like: ‘change that in that song’, or ‘you have to change your sound’. So they are awesome with letting us express ourselves totally unaltered.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you come from on the lyrical content – as there seems to be a sense of humor coming through while also being serious about many of the historical and current events that effect everyone daily? Especially just looking at titles like “Electrosaurus Sex” or intergalactic rager “Orbital Command” alone…
Tidebrink: Oscar is writing most of the lyrics and I think that you almost answered your own question. His exact answer to this question usually is: “All lyrics kind of reflect the world today, but seen from different perspectives with various degrees of humor and fiction, I would say it tries to capture the present as seen from the past.”
Dead Rhetoric: How did the band secure mixing tables from an old Swedish government public radio service to use on the new record? Can you also discuss the importance of keeping things pure and as analog as possible for Saturn in a digitally driven music age?
Tidebrink: We didn’t secure them, they were in the studio that we recorded in. And they sounded awesome. We don’t strive to be an all analog band at all. Everything was recorded through old mixing tables but after that it all went in to the computer for mixing. When the mix was done we then ran it through the tables again just to get the soul of analog sound on the master. We’re all for technological advancements in the society in general as long as it does something better. I can almost promise you that i.e. Frank Zappa would use and take advantage of digital technology and different interfaces had he still been alive.
Dead Rhetoric: How did the cover concept come about – it appears to be a brilliant mixture of comic book style illustration and sci-fi action? Was it a collaborative effort between the band and the artist?
Tidebrink: It was our crazy minds (laughs). All of us in the band sat down and came up with ideas and then we sent it all to Pol at Branca Studio. He then got Maldo Illustration to illustrate the cover and after that he did the coloring in the computer. It came out really cool, we’re very pleased with it.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you hope the listener gets out of Saturn when taking in a live performance from the band? And what have been some of your favorite memories or shows with Saturn to date?
Tidebrink: Energy and engagement. We want to put out enough energy and 100% rock ‘n’ roll so that the crowd feels like they’re a part of the show. A live performance is more about putting on a show rather than playing perfect all the time. Nobody will remember or even notice if I miss a note on the guitar. But they will remember if we all just stand completely still on stage and do nothing (laughs).
We’ve played most of our shows in Germany and they are always awesome. The crowds in Germany are always really energetic, and you can tell that they’re there for the music.
Dead Rhetoric: Even though you didn’t grow up in the 1970’s, you have a sincere appreciation for the heavy music that came out of that period. How do you channel those influences in such a way to remain fresh and relevant? And what would be three to five essential vinyl releases from the 1970’s that you can’t live without?
Tidebrink: We all like old school metal and rock but I mean we were not born at the 70’s so of course we will be influenced by more modern acts as well. Linkan listened to a lot of to thrash and punk in his youth etc. so it all becomes a big mix of different styles.
I’m going to mix both 70’s and 80’s in my choices:
Budgie – Power Supply
Scorpions – In Trance
Judas Priest – Screaming for Vengeance
Iron Maiden – Powerslave
Black Sabbath – Black Sabbath
Dead Rhetoric: How is the scene for classic hard rock and metal in Malmö, or the southern part of Sweden? Do you feel like you have a good relationship with promoters, other bands, the venues, and your fans – or have you developed a bigger following outside the country?
Tidebrink: Like I mentioned earlier we do most of our shows in Germany, that’s where most of our fan base is located. They are 90,000,000 people, in Sweden there are only 9,000,000 (laughs). I do think that smaller Swedish bands would say that Germany is their main country to do live shows in.
We have done a couple of shows in Gothenburg where the classic rock scene is really big at the moment. We’ve played a couple of festivals in Sweden as well but we don’t have any super good relations to promoters in Sweden.
Dead Rhetoric: What concerns or fears do you have about the world that we live in today?
Tidebrink: That it will all go to hell if people don’t wake up from their narrow minds.
Dead Rhetoric: What is on the horizon for Saturn over the next six to twelve months in terms of live shows and promotion for the record? Has work already begun on the songwriting front for the next record?
Tidebrink: We’ve just signed with a newly started booking agency called Razor Agency so hopefully that will get us a few festival slots etc. They are also working on a European tour for us that will hopefully happen this fall. Our lead vocalist and bass player are becoming fathers this summer so we can’t do any touring this summer. The work on the next album has already begun in terms of writing songs. A couple tracks are done so hopefully it won’t be another 3 years until our next album is released.