In Episode 9 – I talk to the always sensational, Troy Miller. Troy has worked as a drummer with artists such as Laura Mvula, Mark Ronson, George Benson and the late great Amy Winehouse, but is also an extremely established producer in his own right. You can listen here –
David Sandstrom Interview – by Zel K – 2016.
The funny back story is that Refused were notorious for not doing interviews. My band, Pettybone, played with Refused at the forum way back in 2012, and when I spoke to David then he said he would be up for doing an interview. I excitedly emailed him the questions and waited, and waited…. and waited. Nothing. Then suddenly in May 2015 there was a reply! “sorry Zel, I realised I never got round to replying to this – if there is still an interest for me to complete the interview then I will!” I emailed the questions through again, this time with a follow up email a few months later, and here we are… finally, an interview with the excellent and super talented David Sandstrom of Refused. I hope everyone else is as stoked to read it as I was to finally find these answers sitting in my inbox.
The new song sounds fucking great, and I love the psychedelic vibe you have going on both in the music and the video /artwork. How was the writing process for you guys?
Thank you. It was years of hard work. Which was necessary because we were finding our way back in to the core of our thing, our “sound” or “aesthetic”, whatever you wanna call it. It took a while, but next time I think we’re gonna do it quicker, both for ours and the musics sake.
The drum parts are complex and interesting (as always!) is there ever a time when you are practicing drums by yourself and you think – I would love to try and work this concept into a song, and then present it to the other guys to write to? (if so, anything in specific you would care to elaborate on?) As a side note to this, one of my drummer buddies was very eager to know if when you are playing complex drum parts, do you count them or just feel them?
I don’t like playing by myself, I try to avoid it, but sometimes I have to since we live in different cities. Usually I make up drum parts in my head. There are rythmic patterns that pop up and since I write a lot of the music I can work things out on the guitars and drums at the same time, and sometimes the vocals too. The Deadly Rhythm was basically all in my head at first, guitars and drums, and then I figured it out on the actual instruments.
Kristofer is a drummer too, so when he brings a riff I prefer if he already has ideas for beats for it. He is also very much up in his head, and talking it out in the rehearsal space is often a very cerebral experience. We will talk for a good while before playing at all. It’s a pretty open environment, but when I play I don’t think. That’s what I like most about it.
Why did you choose to work with Shellback as producer for the new record – what was it like, and how do you think it influenced the tracks you recorded?
Nick Launay actually produced the record. We went to LA to a studio called Seedy Underbelly and made the record over 6 weeks. He made us do live take after live take after live take until our fingers bled. It was an intense process, and a great one, but when we got home there were two tracks that just didn’t cut it, and that’s were Johan (Shellback) came in. He basically re-wrote Elektra, which was an unruly beast of a song, clocking in at 7 minutes. He’s a friend and a fan of the band so he’d heard demos and sort of out of the blue sent us this take on Elektra that just blew me and Kristofer away. So he influenced that song a lot, and 366 which he re-arranged and produced.
Talk us through the recording process for you as a drummer, and if it was similar or totally different with your forthcoming album compared to the first album. Do you rehearse the parts by yourself as well as with the band before hitting the studio?
We really don’t think about the drums as a separate instrument creatively, Kristofer can change stuff in the drums just as I can work out things on the guitars. So we tend to work together, feels like if I play on my own I will adapt my playing to that environment which is bound to clash with all the stuff going on when there’s five of us. We renovated the old stuff when preparing for the reunion in 2012, often the drums would be playing something the bass already had covered and vice versa. We had to clean it up, and it taught us a lot about ensemble playing. Which, by the way, is how me and Kristofer met, we were in the same percussion ensemble when we were ten.
Do you play to a click track with a guide, or do you play live with everyone else in the room?
We all play together. Whether we use a click track or not depends on the song, certain songs need it, especially if you know you’re gonna be adding stuff in post, that way you can just copy and drag and drop overdubs. Certain songs are not helped at all by a click track. But I will rehearse every song with a click track at some point, to really nail the tempo down.
Also, is there specific gear you prefer to use in the studio that would be different to your live set up?
I’m so not a gear guy. I play an SJC set, great drums, and the cymbals are mostly Sabian I think. I hit way too hard for Istanbuls although I like those. When recording, I leave the gear to the producer. It’s bound to sound better if someone with a very specific ear calls the shots. The logistics with drums is a bummer, and I only ever own stuff that I use regularly.
You mentioned in an interview before that you expected The Shape of Punk to blow everything else away at the time of it’s release – but it didn’t really happen & life on the road became ‘petty and banal’. With hindsight, would you have preferred for people to have picked up on the album straight away, or are you now able to appreciate it’s slow burn into a cult classic? Why do you feel it has become so relevant now?
It’s hard to complain about having a cult classic under your belt, if that indeed is the case, but having given your all at that age (I was 22) and having made something that you thought was quite impressive and then having it be sort of laughed at, it did change us in some way. We, specifically me and Kristofer, started caring less and less about an audience and that type of validation. The next record I made was a 64-minute theme record in swedish about my granddads suicide that I toured with a generator playing shows outdoors without any pr, just an illegal tour of the north with the people from the leftist collective I’d taken part in forming when Refused fell apart. Pretty funny in hindsight. It’s taken a while to actually value and appreciate an audience again. Which I do now. Sort of.
How do you feel your musical influences have changed over the years? Are there any newly emerged artists who have influenced you with the new record?
I don’t know. A really good crash/ride maybe, haven’t had one of those in a while.
You have a LOT of awesome energy onstage but you are also super tight – is there a particular warm-up routine that you adhere to?
Thank you. I sit and hit this pad that’s velcro’ed round my thigh for at least an hour before every show. It’s also crucial to listen to great music before the show.
You also played bass in AC4 – I heard this was because of problems with your wrists?
What happened, and how did you resolve the issues to get back behind the kit with Refused?
The pains started in 96 and I was told to rest but we kept going until we broke up in the fall of 98, at which point I stopped playing drums. I didn’t start again until Kristofer started playing guitar again in 2009/2010 somewheres. By then my wrists were sort of healed I suppose. It was somewhat of a gamble, putting the band back together, but the warmups is what really made it work. I used to walk up onstage cold and start hitting as hard as I could. Not a good idea.
When Refused split, you wrote some albums on your own – how was that experience for you? Do you think you formed your own band as a reaction to wanting to have more control of your own artistic situation?
I was always a musical kid, I wrote my first song from a newspaper headline when I was 8, but drums were my first love. Refused is one of the things I do but without doubt the most important and most challenging. I’ve done collaborations and solo stuff, experimental, pop, music for dance, played in comedy shows and I acted in a play last winter, but Refused is Refused. Nothing can change that.
What would you be doing if you were not a drummer? (Is it true that you recently finished up a play in stockholm??)
I’m trying my hand at writing fiction. It is very hard.
What is your practice schedule like? Are there any books or dvds that you have studied from a lot?
No, the way I think about it is: I play songs, not the drums. I wouldn’t play if there weren’t Refused-songs that needed to be realised. So I learn and develop as our music does. Makes sense to me.
“-If you’re gonna do something, do it like a lion.” Said to me by an old Krishna Swami at a show somewhere in italy on our 1994 european tour with 108. He liked the way I played.
What’s next for you and refused?
Touring, writing, reading, same as it ever was.
For more info on David please visit www.officialrefused.com (please note we do not in anyway own the above used photographs, they remain the right of the photographer).
I’m still processing the fact that Prince has passed away. I had never met him (but did cross paths with the members of 3rd Eye Girl once), and understand that writing a blog about a musician that I never personally knew might seems strange, but I have spent so many hours listening to his music and researching/reading about him over the years that in some kind of strange way, (as silly as it sounds) I feel as though I’ve lost a friend.
A few years ago I set out to try collect as much Prince music as I possibly could and even started sourcing material he released as Jamie Starr, Camille or Joey CoCo just so that I could try and hear as much of what he was capable of musically as possible. (I still need to try get my hands on loads of “unofficial NPG releases” and have never been able to find an original GuitarWorld release of ‘The Undertaker’, but I’ll get there eventually).
As with most musicians, Prince (and his music) wasn’t always every one’s cup of tea. Many people felt he was at his best as a funk artist, while a few people out there feel that he contributed just as much to hip hop as a genre as many of it’s top stars. Again, there are those that feel he didn’t quite ‘get’ hip hop and should’ve remained a more mainstream pop/rock artist as per his ‘Purple Rain’ era. The bottom line however, is that Prince was an outstanding musical talent that inspired countless of people throughout the world over the last 3 decades, so whether you’re a fan of his music or not, you cannot deny how proficient he was on the numerous instruments he had the ability to play.
As a musician, Prince helped me understand that as great as it is being a multi instrumentalist and be able to play pretty much everything on ones own recordings, that allowing other musicians into your creative world can take your musical ideas to new heights, add new concepts and ideas and be a lot more fun.
I also think it was great that even after he took over the pop world like he did in the early/mid 1980’s, that he constantly pushed his own boundaries, both personally and musicality. Again a lot of material he released wasn’t always accepted as mainstream pop but he kept writing/creating even long after he financially needed too. There are countless other artists that have simply disappeared after they’ve made their millions and given how he could have comfortable lived off off the money he made as early as the mid 1980’s if he had wanted to, he could’ve done the same. Instead, he kept producing, helped establish other artists (Vanity 6, Sheila E, Judith Hill).
Plus, he could hold his own musically with anyone – he truly was one of a kind.
Add to the above the outstanding amount of charity work he did (which no one ever really talks about) and how he stood up for musicians rights in regards to how streaming and distribution of music has changed how musicians earn a living and it’s easy to see why we’ll never have another icon quite like him ever again.
So yes, I realize that this is usually a drum related blog but I would like to say thank you for the music Prince, you were a true inspiration, (I would’ve loved to have had the opportunity to have jammed with you). For the drummers out there who have never taken the time to research what Prince contributed to the drumming world I strongly suggest you do, he always brought some of the drummers we now love and admire to mainstream attention. Did I mention that he was even on the cover of Modern Drummer once (Jan 2005 issue). Amazing.
In Episode 8 of the UK Drummer Podcast we talk with the incredibly inspirational Ian Palmer. In addition to speaking about what it was like growing up with famous family members that were already established drummers (Carl and Steve Palmer), Ian also explains to me how he juggles he’s time between arranging events like ‘The Worlds Greatest Drummer Concert’ each year, flies aeroplanes for Virgin Atlantic, and still manages to practice everyday. Amazing.
This week I talk to British session drumming legend ‘Clem Cattini’. Who, during the course of his career played on over forty four #1 singles and was part of a group called ‘The Tornados’ who were the first British group to ever achieve a #1 in the US with their single ‘Telstar’. He was also on a shortlist of drummers considered by Jimmy Page to potentially be a member of Led Zeppelin before the group officially launched. Say what !!!