For thirty years, BACKYARD BABIES has delivered top of the line dirty rock ‘n’ roll, both live and recorded. The fact that the original four guys that started the band still are playing together, is next to unique. Now for the first time in over a decade, BACKYARD BABIES are touring Australia thanks to Silverback Touring. Hi Fi Way speaks to Nicke Borg about the tour.
First of all I’d like to congratulate you on the Australian tour announcement. It’ll be great to see you guys here this October.
This is your second tour to Australia. Do you recall much of the 2001 tour? It seems like such a long time ago now.
Yeah, it was a long time ago and I would like to say that I remember. I remember that it was amazing just to be in Australia. But for two reasons…. It was a long time ago, and also at the time I was drinking and doing a lot of drugs so it’s a bit blurry at that time. The people were amazingly kind and it’s so great to be able to come back again.
I really didn’t think that we may ever play Australia again because it’s not around the corner and we haven’t really got any offers the last 10 years. And I don’t know about our records… are people listening to Backyard Babies down there? But now we got this opportunity and it was a really good deal and we were like…. “Fuck. We’re in Japan before, let’s go there. This is going to be so much fun”. We’re super excited. Really excited.
Last I spoke with you was at the Backyard Babies 2015 press conference. At the time you said that you were in discussions with Soundwave Festival here in Australia. Of course that never happened. How close was that to happening?
I don’t think that was ever close. Australia has always been on the list of the places that we want to come and play but it never seems to happen, but this time it did. It’s a good promoter that made us a really good offer. As I said, it’s really hard and a lot of hassle to go there both money wise and timing with everything else.
I first came across Backyard Babies in 2001 when I saw the “Making Enemies” album in Kmart here in Australia being advertised as ‘The Last Great Rock n Roll Band’. That was in the early 2000s when the Swedish hard rock scene that was just starting to break worldwide. What do you put that down to? …the worldwide success of the Swedish hard rock scene that was somehow different to the rest of the world at that time?
I don’t know. It’s a question we get asked quite a bit in various different versions and I rarely have a good answer to it.
It was something happening at the end of the 90s with all these bands like Backyard Babies, Hellacopters, The Hives, Millencolin, … you name it …. There were tons of bands that broke out of Sweden. There was something similar in the way we played that we were acknowledged around the world. In America they called it “The Scandinavian action rock scene is taking on the world blah, blah, blah.” Sometimes it was a bit exaggerated but it was definitely a movement of inspiring.
We were inspired by the garage bands … New York Dolls and all the stuff like the Dictators from the States. But Backyard Babies was also inspired by hard rock bands like Guns N Roses, Social Distortion, and all these bands. So music wise we’re not all the same but we were getting energy from each other. “Wow That band played there. We can do it also!” type of thing. Then all of a sudden all these bands were touring around the world and had some success on different levels.
But Sweden in general has had a lot of good songwriters that are behind the hits on the charts around the world also. So it’s not just bands. Swedish people… I think we have this “something”… some kind of fingertip sensitivity for writing good songs.
The early 2000’s Swedish scene was a very sleazy and melodic type sound. I see Backyard Babies are often grouped with this scene. Is this something you embrace or did you see Backyard Babies as a band with a more punky rock n roll sound?
Yeah, you see… I think we are a band with MANY different influences which is maybe why we sound like we do. On the one hand we grew up with Motley Crue, Hanoi Rocks, Guns n Roses and all that stuff. On the other hand we grew up with Ramones, Sex Pistols, Social Distortion, and real punk stuff. And on the other hand the earliest bands I listened to was fucking Iron Maiden and the new wave of British Heavy Metal and all that stuff. And I listen to a lot of artists like Steve Earle these days and Dregen is listening to a lot of other stuff. I think that’s a really big reason why we sound like we do.
People really liked to put us in that sleaze / glam punk area in the beginning but we were never really comfortable in there. We were like “we are 50% punk also”.
How do you think Backyard Babies have maintained the same line up for over twenty years now? How have you managed to keep it together for so long?
Many other bands seem to have band members rotate through, whereas you guys have managed to maintain the same line up over that period.
We’re actually going to be celebrating our thirtieth anniversary this year. It’s crazy when you think about it. I’m “Wow” and surprised as anyone else as to how we managed to keep it all together, especially the same four guys, with no band member changes or anything like that. And when I don’t think about it, it feels like we started last year. We still have the same fucking new beginners issues, the same friction in the band there was when we started thirty years ago. I don’t know if that’s a good or a bad thing but it sure keeps us together in a weird way. And I see people are tired sometimes and like I said, some friction and the music business in general has changes so much in the last ten to fifteen years so people can complain about various things, but I think we will continue to play for a very long time from now on wards.
So if one on the guys turned around one day and said they didn’t want to do it anymore do you think you would continue as a band, or do you think you’d go your separate ways? After being such a tight unit for such a long time…
That’s a question you think about it sometimes.. and you also get asked. But I can’t answer because the thing is I would like to say “if someone leaves then we split up the band” because the band is ONLY about us four. But if that was to happen I’m not sure. I think we’d need to think about it it in a different way. But it depends also a little bit, I don’t really want to talk about it, but it depends who it is. For sure it wouldn’t be the same. Whoever leaves… it wouldn’t be the same to replace him.
The bands seems to involve themselves in quite a few side-projects in-and-around their time with Backyard Babies. You have your Homeland project and the radio show. Dregen has his solo career, The Hellacopters and his work with Michael Monroe. Do you see these side projects as an important creative outlet?
Yes I think so. Definitely. For sure. I think that’s another reason that we manage to maintain the band as it is because we have so much other stuff going on at the same time. Other careers and businesses. And we’re not spending too much time…. Actually, were not spending any time where we’re not working together or when we’re not touring and I think that’s a good thing. I get inspired by having other music projects going on, I also get inspired working in radio because there’s a whole business side that I like. And I also get inspired by being away from music completely. And I think it’s the same for the other guys too. The drummer and the bass player are doing completely different things when we’re not doing music and touring.
Myself being a fan of vinyl, I notice you guys have continually, even when vinyl wasn’t “cool”, you guys have always released you albums and singles on vinyl. Is that something that has been driven by the band, or something that has been driven by the label?
It’s definitely something we have wanted to do. These days it’s a bit hip again to release vinyl so sales are going up, and there are new vinyl pressing companies popping up …which is cool.
We grew up with gatefold sleeve vinyl. Kiss Alive, Shout at the Devil gatefold sleeve where you’re like “FUCK! That’s so cool”. Then there all the Iron Maiden records with really nice sleeves, so we are from that era where we really like a bigger picture. I hated the CD when they came and I hated even more the mp3. Fucking what is this shit!
I stream some music when I’m in the car or whatever, but I really don’t like it. It has almost come to the point where I don’t even pay music at home at all because I’m sick-n-tired of how music is consumed these days. But maybe that just me. Vinyl, or more of an extra thing, is something we care about and our fans seem to care about it too because I think we grew up with it.
Hopefully you’ll be bringing some of your vinyl with you on tour because it’s very difficult and expensive to get down here. Usually we have to import it from Europe, so hopefully we can see some at the merch desk on the tour.
That’s crazy. Actually, I have no idea what types or merchandise we will or can bring with us. I’m not sure.
I’ve been lucky enough to see Backyard Babies twice before. Once at a club show at Sticky Fingers in Goteborg and once at Swedenrock Festival. What do you see as the difference, or your preference, between playing a small club show and a big festival like Swedenrock?
I think there is some type of connection, something that is interesting that you get with the audience in a small scene. You can have an instant feeling on what the reactions are from the crowd and you get a feeling, it’s hard to explain, you can put your finger on the atmosphere in a small club. On a big festival stage you don’t see people expressions. In a way you play in front of a sea of endless people. You can’t get an instant feeling of reaction and that is sometimes a little bit sad. But I like to play festivals. I like to play in front of new people, I like to play on big stages but I love to play small stages as well.
With our allotted time running short here, I want to quickly turn to the upcoming Australian tour. What do you want say to people who have never seen Backyard Babies before, what can they expect from the upcoming lives shows here in Australia?
They can expect a really exciting, hungry band that want to come down again FINALLY to Australia and play our music. We have made so many records and so many songs since we were there last time, and we have played so many shows since that it will be great to show the Australian fans and the people that have never seen us before the way we look at rock n roll music.
I think we are a really cool mix of your favourite bands when you see us live. If you like KISS, if you like Social Distortion, if you like Guns n Roses , if you know The Ramones – you get this sort of stuff from Backyard Babies. You know that because you’ve seen us, but for people that have never seen us they will sure get a good show. And show us around! We haven’t been in Australia for so long and we like to see stuff.
Interview By Lindsay Bulach
Catch Backyard Babies on the following dates, tickets through Silverback Touring…