Starting a band
"We were all part of the Music factory (Musikfabriken). A club where bands and fans of alternative music came together. A place where heroes like the cult, the cure and joy division joined forces with The Clash, Sex pistols and Kraftwerk.
We danced the pogo and worshipped the darkest of them all: Sisters of Mercy."
October, 1988 - Skellefteå, northern Sweden
A festival in support of the Nicaraguan Sandinistas is to be the first gig for Pär Wiksten, Stefan Schönfeldt, his kid brother Fredrik, Gunnar Karlsson, Christina Bergmark and a guy on violin.
They take the name The Wannadies.
"It was only for a gig but somehow the name kind of stuck..."
Only weeks later, after having saved up enough money from studycircles*, they enter the local studio 'KN' to record three of the four songs they have.
(* Studycircles is an educational tool, encouraging people to get together to learn new languages, how to cook/paint/play an instrument etc. Every group of people is given a small sum per meeting, to pay for the teacher.)
February 1989 - 'Smile'
They release the three track ep 'smile' (which was also the title of the fourth song - the song they didn't record). Though it is very much a low key/no money/no marketing/no press release, they are immediately spotted by the national newspapers - 'single of the week!' - and indie radio-shows like 'Bommen'.
"We were so thrilled to be getting played on the radio - we had a party, waiting for it to come on, and after they had played it we awarded ourselves gold 'Smile' records!".
August 1989 - Hultsfred Festival
The Wannadies play the Hultsfred Festival, after which they sign a record deal with MNW Records.
"They asked us if we had material for an album, and we said we had loads of songs. We lied. We had about six songs, our instruments and amps sounded shit (Fredrik didn't even own a bass amp!), but we really wanted to record an album!"
May 1990 - 'My Hometown'
The first single from the forthcoming self titled debut album is released.
August 1990 - 'The Wannadies'
The debut album 'The Wannadies' is released. A second single, 'Heaven', is also released.
"After 'The Wannadies' we appeared on tv, toured Sweden, Finland and Norway, played festivals in Copenhagen, Berlin (where we played with Robert Forster from the Go-Betweens!) and Cork in Ireland - and all we wanted was to play two gigs in a row, so that we could call it a tour!"
April 1991 - Paris
"It was a Nordic music festival in Paris. One band from each country. We played with 22 Pistepirkko (Finland) and the Sugarcubes (Iceland). Very exciting for us, since we were big fans of both bands!"
October 1992 - Aquanautic
The Wannadies finish the recording of their second album, 'Aquanautic', and it is released by Snap Records, a division of MNW Records Group. Singles are 'Things That I Would Love to Have Undone', 'So Happy Now' and the hard-rocking 'Cherry Man' (featuring cover versions of 'Children of the Revolution' (T Rex), 'Lee Remick' (The Go-Betweens) and 'Blister in the Sun' (Violent Femmes).
"The video for 'Things...' was banned by MTV for it's un-pc content (a foam animal cadaver - also featured in a film by the great Ingmar Bergman - can be seen briefly in the background). The video for 'Cherry Man' was also banned!! This time it was the subject of the song, portrayed in the video by a middle-aged man surrounded by young girls and boys, that was too strong for them."
Summer of 1993 - Snap records festival at Gröna Lund & Hultsfred festival
"Bands signed to MNW's indie label Snap all played at the amusement park in Stockholm - Gröna Lund. We headlined, and our gig ended in glorious chaos! The stage was invaded by fans, singing and dancing, stage-diving and covering the stage and us with flowers! Later in the summer we played the Hultsfred festival with similar result. Hundreds of happy sweaty people pulled over the fence. In pictures of the mosh pit, you see more feet than heads! ROCK!"
November 1993 - A producer short of a recording session
Producer Dagge Lunquist's paternity leave puts a halt to the group's plans to start recording a third album.
Beginning of 1994 - Second try
After a week and a bit, the recordings are abandoned. Engineer Adam Kviman is first to be put on the sick-list. Days later producer Micke Herrström follows suit - both because of hearing injuries!!! Stefan Glaumann is called in to mix Love in June, the one song from the Herrström sessions that was finished, plus the b-side 'I Got a Right' - a Stooges cover.
Spring 1994 - Love in June is released
"With no album to release, the record company suggested a summer single. It's funny that the only song we had to choose from was the appropriately titled 'Love in June'!"
Summer 1994 - Third time lucky!!!?
During the hottest summer weeks for a hundred years, the band team up with producer Nille Perned to attempt to record a third album - and to watch football! It turns out to be a good summer for the band - and for the Swedish national team!
"It was unbelievably hot in the studio, close to 50°C, so work was really slow. To try to catch up we started working around the clock, in shifts."
The recording is a success! The result is brilliant! For the first time the band feel that they sound really good on record.
"We were always regarded as this great live band, but we never felt that we had managed to capture that on the albums... until now. We had caught the magic! The songs were glimmering!"
Autumn 1994 - 'Be a Girl'
The second single from the band's third album is 'You and Me Song'. The album is released soon after, to raving reviews.
"We had just finished 'You and Me Song' and were jumping up and down, dancing 'round the studio! Total happiness! The record company man came by, listened and said -hmmm... good song, but I'm not sure it's a single..."
Summer 1995 - Indolent signs The Wannadies
The UK label Indolent discovers 'Be a Girl' & The Wannadies.
"We were over the moon! We were actually going to release our stuff outside of Sweden! Properly!"
August 1995 - London
The band lands in the English capital for a first gig. The Dublin Castle in Camden is the venue - sold out!
"We didn't understand that people knew of us already. When we came walking up Parkway towards the venue, and saw the people outside, we thought "Good, at least some people coming to see us." How wrong we were - The place was rammed! The people we'd seen outside were the people that couldn't get in!"
Winter 1995/1996 - Touring the UK & recording in Sweden
In-between tours in the UK with label mates Sleeper & 60 ft Dolls, Frank Black and the Lightning Seeds, the band go back to Sweden for recording sessions in Gothenburg, Skellefteå and Stockholm. Producer is yet again Nille Perned, who produced 'Be a Girl'.
"We were commuting between Sweden and the UK. It was a bit hectic - but we were loving it! I guess we were feeding off the energy we got from touring around Britain." More singles are released from 'Be a Girl' - 'Might be Stars' and 'How does it feel?' and in spring 1996 'You and Me Song' is re-released and hits the charts at no 18.
"Celebrations!!! We were top 20 in the UK! It felt like we tried to have a drink in every pub in London - and were pretty close to succeeding. A journalist from the local paper in Skellefteå, Lars Andersson, told us that we were the 9th Swedish artist to have hit the UK top 20, EVER! Abba, Ace of Base, Europe, Dr Alban.... we were in good company - hahaha!"
Autumn 1996 - WAR!
The band's relationship with Swedish label MNW/soap has been rapidly deteriorating. The Band claims that the three album record deal with MNW ended with 'Be a Girl'. The record company disagrees. The fall out is inevitable.
"We were forced into fighting them. They had us caught in a classic 'record company owns the artist' old school slavery situation, and were doing everything to keep it that way."
January 1997 - new album
'Bagsy Me' (a translation of the Swedish kiddie expression 'Pax jag!') is released through BMG in Scandinavia.
"FINALLY! With the help from Hasse at BMG Scandinavia, we could start releasing the new stuff. The new album had been to Gothenburgh, Skellefteå, Stockholm, Hell and back.
Singles released in Scandinavia are 'Friends', 'Someone, somewhere', 'Shorty' and 'Hit'.
"'Hit' was the b-side wonder song that not only snuck onto the album in the last minute, but also managed to charm all of us enough to pick it as a single, ending up top-20 in the UK charts!" Spring 1997 - Drummer Gunnar Karlsson leaves the band to be replaced by Erik Dahlgren.
"We didn't audition anyone. We knew Erik from before and thought that he would be a nice guy to have around... hahaha! Why Gunnar left? You have to ask him. We still don't know for sure... guess he liked hanging out in Skellefteå better than anywhere else in the world. Erik flew into London only a couple of weeks after joining the band. First appearance - playing 'Hit' live on TFI Friday, a huge (something like six million viewers) TV-show in the UK. Mjukstart!? hahaha!
Winter 97/98 - STRIKE!!!
The boys and the girl have still not given up on the idea of having a good and honest relationship with the music business... good luck!
"It was getting stupid. We had just sorted out the Swedish mess when we realised that we weren't supported by bmg UK, and no-one was being straight with us. We thought - fine! We don't want to be on a boy band label, anyway. Go on, drop us! Did they drop us? Of course not. -We love you guys! -We're behind you all the way! ...yeah, right. STRIKE! We felt that we needed to clean out the Wannadies house of music, properly. And if we had survived one battle - we could survive another!
Spring 1998 - 'Skellefteå'
The compilation of the best of the first three MNW/soap albums is released in Scandinavia, followed by a tour.
"Whilst waiting for things to clear up in the UK we hit the Scandinavian roads. We started out in gothenburgh - a fantastic jazzhuset packed with happy people, sweat and kisses - went from west to east, south to north finishing in.... Skellefteå!" Autumn 1998 - Chateau De La Rouge Motte, Normandy, France
A 10 day recording session with legendary record producer Mike Hedges.
"Good food and wine and food and wine and food and food and wine, wine and wine! A beautiful house and a beautiful studio and the beautiful String Song was the result after some finishing touches at Abbey Road studios back in London. We were slowly learning how to spend the Bertelsmann money.
Winter 1999 - NYC!
The band start recording their fifth studio album in Electric Lady studios in New York City. Producer is Ric Ocasek of the Cars.
"We had been told by some friends in the music industry -You spend too little money! If you want to know if they're (the record company) behind you or not, spend loads of money! And where was better for spending the German (hehe!) dollar than - New York, New York! the city that never sleeps!"
"France, London, Stockholm, New York, London again - we were enjoying ourselves! - if you look at the sleeve notes, the list of studios is half a novel... hahaha!"
Autumn 1999 - Yeah released in Scandinavia, followed by a tour
"Some great reviews, but also a feeling of being a bit misunderstood. Did our fellow Swedes think the recording of 'Yeah' in New York, with big name producer Ric Ocasek, was a sign of hubris and found us guilty of breaking the law of jante!? (law of jante = don't ever think that you're anything!) We wanted to get away from the music biz gossip. Wanted to find a place that would be like Skellefeå was for us in the late 80's. Somewhere to get excited about things and evolve, where no-one knew who we were. New York was that place. Plus, we needed to spend some of BMG's money... hehe.. The tour was fantastic! Debut band Eskobar joined us and decided to consume beer and kiss girls like there was no tomorrow... or at least like this was the only tour they were ever going to do. Best of all - we finally got to play Varberg! Ulf & Sofia, the best promotors the world has seen!"
Early spring 2000 - Yeah released in the rest of the world, apart from the USA.
"Yay for the UK!! Single of the week, album of the week, sold out tour... People were loving it! ...everyone apart from BMG, that is. They decided to bury the album before even releasing it - not so yay... The Americans didn't even give it a catalogue number - even less yay :( When asked if they would allow someone else to release it, they said no... :P Good thing though - our friends were right. They finally agreed to release us!"
Spring 2000 - The second UK tour this year is cancelled!
Summer 2000 - FREE AT LAST, FREE AT LAST!!
...May the fun begin!
Free gig at the Astoria in London.
"To make up some for the cancelled UK dates we played a free gig in London, two o'clock in the afternoon!? Explanation? Afternoon in Europe is evening in Japan, and this was a live-Japanese-satellite-TV-link-music-evening-show-thingy-magic! To celebrate weirdness we invited some people and hit the park! An afternoon picnic in the sun is not your normal after-show procedure..."
Festivals-a-go-go. Glastonbury, Reading/Leeds, T in the park festivals in the UK. Roskilde festival in Denmark. Hultsfred, Arvika in Sweden... And finally - a mini-tour of Japan! "It promised to be the most fun-filled ten days imaginable, and it was... apart from the last two. Bananas, i believe, are fruits that describe it well. It started with a Swedish mid-summers eve party, in London. The day after we headed west to play Glastonbury. Day three, we got on a plane to Japan. Day four - Let's go Tokyo! First time in Japan and it was pär's birthday!! Day five, Astro Hall club, sold out & loopy! Afterwards the promoters took us out for a very nice, long dinner. Day six, let's do it all again! During the day we had bumped in to Sofia, from Varberg (see Autumn 1999) and convinced her to join us for dinner. Day seven we got on the super speed train to Osaka. Gig the same evening at the Club Quattro. Brilliant! Week 2 - day eight; A looong flight back. Week 2 - day eight, and still midday (!?) oh, the time difference... Let's get on the sleeper bus. Day nine - Death!
"We had arrived in Roskilde, our favourite festival, well rested and in party mood - only tobe told about the main stage disaster the night before. We had long talks in the band and with representatives of the festival about whether to cancel or not. The Roskilde festival's advice was for all bands to play as planned to avoid any more craziness... so we did."
Winter 2000/2001 - Let's make the best album in the world!
The making of the band's sixth studio album - first you build a studio...
"We had a plan and Nille had a plan - and it was kind of the same plan..."
Members of the band, Nille and friends are building doors, making walls, sowing, painting, fitting in windows - and recording.
"It was more of a building site than a studio when we started recording. Building was taking longer than expected, and we couldn't wait to get going so we set up drums and amps in the dust for a first recording session - punkrock! hahaha! What was planned to take three-four months ended up taking one and a half years.
to be continued...