Sweden’s very own Backyard Babies have been flying the flag for dirty, punked-up rock n’ roll for over a decade now. Over the years, they’ve released four full-length albums, notched up support slots with the likes of AC/DC and Velvet Revolver, and developed a fearsome live reputation.
Alex Gosman caught up with Nicke Borg (vocals/guitar) and Dregen (guitar/backing vocals) just before their last show at London’s Islington Academy.
So, how’s the tour going?
Dregen: It’s been great, we’ve been touring with Social Distortion since their London show [in early August], and we’ve also done three or four dates of our own in Switzerland and Belgium, when they had days off. So yeah, we’ve been busy! We’re pretty much done touring for now – because we did an American tour with Social Distortion, and then they asked us if we wanted to do the European tour too, so these three UK shows are the last ones before we go home and start writing the new album.
Do you have fond memories of playing in the UK? Have our crowds been good to you?
D: Yeah, always…but the sad thing is that back in 2000, we signed a worldwide deal with RCA Records, and they were complete c**ts over here…they didn’t release or promote our records properly, so for us it’s kinda like a restart in the UK, cos we pretty much haven’t been here for about 3 or 4 years, besides the shows we did with Velvet Revolver and Social Distortion. But now we’ve signed a new record deal with Century Media, who are releasing a compilation album called ‘Tinnitus‘…but most of our hardcore fans will already have all the songs, so we threw in a live CD too, of a show we did in Paris last spring, so it’s a good deal.
You first made a name for yourselves in the UK with ‘Total 13’, back in 1998. How do you feel you’ve changed as a band since then?
Nicke: Well, ‘Total 13′ was more like an angry, frustrated scream, and now we kinda control the anger better…the coolest thing about being in this band is that we’ve never felt trapped in a corner, having to play the same kind of music to keep the fans happy. I’m not saying we’ll go and record a country album, but in a way we could, because it would still sound like Backyard Babies. We’re hoping to branch out even more on the next record!
These days, you see the phrase ‘rock n’ roll’ mentioned a lot in the press, but it’s usually in relation to bands like the Strokes and the Libertines. Do you feel that these bands capture the spirit of rock n’ roll, or is it all just hype and no substance?
D: Well, I don’t think anyone will remember the Strokes in 50 years’ time, but they will remember Guns N’ Roses, you know? They called Nirvana a grunge band, but I would say Nirvana was way more rock n’ roll than the Strokes are.
N: The sad thing is, though, that bands like the Libertines are more rock n’ roll than Good Charlotte or Blink 182, the mainstream ‘punk’ bands…a bunch of sissies who are controlled by their record company. So in comparison to them, the Libertines and Strokes are rock n’ roll, but there’s a lot of better bands that people are missing out on, because of how fucked-up the media is.
D: But I’ve got a good feeling right now, because I think everyone’s waiting for something new…record companies aren’t looking for the new Strokes, that’s pretty much over. Maybe it’ll be time for us!
N: Again! [laughter]
You guys have toured almost non-stop over the past few years; would you say Backyard Babies are more of a live band than a studio band?
D: Yeah…I think this is the ninth tour we’ve done for this album, so it’ll be good to get home and start writing a new record…but I have to say we do get bored pretty fast in the studio. For us, records are a necessary evil, so we can go out and start touring again! You can’t be a rock n’ roll band without rolling, you gotta tour, you know?
N: I think for any rock n’ roll band, the live show is important. I hate bands who put out, like, 2 records a year, with maybe 2 or 3 good songs and the rest is all crap…we’ll never be one of those bands!
Do you ever get bored of playing your older songs live, or does the audience reaction make it worthwhile?
D: Yeah, it does…I mean, for us there’s no difference between playing [recent single] ‘Minus Celsius’ or [old favourite] ‘Highlights‘ live, but to be honest, in the rehearsal studio it does get boring sometimes!
N: Like you said, the audience makes it worth it…but I guess it would get boring if we only got a reaction for the old songs. The ideal thing would be to be like AC/DC, where almost every song you play is a hit!
An over-asked question, but what’s your opinion on mp3 downloading? If someone told you that they discovered Backyard Babies via downloading some of your tracks for free, how would you feel?
D: It doesn’t really bother me…ok, on the one hand, it would be good if people bought the records, because we need record sales to live off and to make more records…but on the other hand, I don’t really give a fuck, cos I love bootlegs, I’ve bought a lot of them. Thing is, I buy a lot of vinyl…not because I think it looks or sounds better, but because I like the whole packaging of a record, which is usually bigger and better with vinyl.
N: For me, it would be so boring just to sit there and download songs…it’s just not the same as putting on a CD, or vinyl, or whatever. Fair enough if you’re broke, but it pisses me off when I hear kids say “Oh, you’re all about the money these days” – it’s like, would you want to work in McDonalds, and not get paid?
D: I think it happened naturally, like a punk rock movement – people started to download, because record companies have been fucking their customers over for too long, first through re-releasing vinyl records on CD…and now I think they’ve fucked themselves. But it doesn’t affect us too bad, as we make most of our money from touring, and I think that only the good live bands can survive in that way.
Cool…and finally, what are your plans for the near future, after this tour ends?
[Dregen yawns and briefly pretends to fall asleep]
N: [laughing] We’re gonna go home, take about two weeks off for holiday, then go back down into the basement to start writing the new record…hopefully we should be recording by January, and the record should be out before next summer.
C: We’ve also got a DVD, ‘Jetlag’, which will be released on Century Media…it’s a kind of documentary about the band – 15 years of us on one DVD! – with a load of interviews and videos.
Backyard Babies’ most recent album ‘People Like People Like People Like Us’ is out now.. Check www.backyardbabies.com for more info