| The new A.C.T. album might be entitled "Silence", but the result speaks
volumes of what a massive musical force these Swedish melodic prog
rockers has become. No less than 20 songs to make up for the last three
years of... silence.
And keyboardplayer Jerry Sahlin and vocalist Herman Saming are
everything but quiet as they break the silence here and now.
|I guess the question everybody is asking these days is why it has taken
one of the most prolific bands in Sweden three years to make an album?
A.C.T: Jerry Sahlin: There are a lot of reasons for that. After releasing the
"Last Epic" album in 2003, we went on a mammoth tour of Europe
supporting Saga. 35 concerts in seven weeks. A very good tour indeed, I might
add. Saga treated us really good as they are fans of us and the audience
really took a liking to us. Then all kinds of personal things happened.
Herman Saming: Like me getting married and having a daughter. All the
other members had personal stuff to deal with as well.
And it didn?t help that you all still have day time jobs, I suppose?
A.C.T: J: That?s true. Ola Andersson, our guitar player, has written a very
funny song about that on the new CD called "Call In Dead". That?s how he
feels about his job. Some mornings he fantasises about calling in dead,
rather that calling in sick (laughter).
There has been business problems as well, has there not?
A.C.T: J: Yes, our former main label, Atenzia, is more or less gone. They
still exist, but the people who we worked with has quit. So obviously we
could not stay there.
H: There was a communication breakdown there as well, as there was some
important information they didn?t tell us. It was a mess, basically.
Was there ever a risque of A.C.T. disbanding?
A.C.T: J: No, we never even said that we were going to put the band on hold for a while. This silent break just happened because of all the private
and business issues.
H: A lot of the songs on the new album was actually written before the break, so we always felt there would be a forth album.
J: The song writing process is what I find so exciting about this album. In that sence it reminds me about our debut CD "Today?s Report" from 1999, which I still like a lot. Back then we recorded a lot of old songs which had matured since we founded A.C.T. in the mid 90?s. "Puppeteers" is a song on the new CD which is three years old and another cut called "Silent Screams" is partly built on a really old song we had called "Silent Scream", without the ending "s", which we found on an live tape of a really old gig.
H: I can recall bit and pieces of the new album being performed at a gig we did in the summer of 1995. Like the verse riff in "Joanna" and the melody in "A Father?s Love".
When you released the last album, which was a massive concept thing,
Ola and Herman said there was a reason for calling it "Last Epic". That
you would step away of thinking in concepts and just put a bunch of good, freestanding songs on the next CD, not excluding strong songs just because they didn?t fit into an actual theme.
A.C.T: J: That?s pretty interesting because we where actually going to stick to that original idea and not having one of our traditional long
conceptual epics on this album. And the first demo we made was also done
without thinking in any concepts. But when we listened to what we?ve done we
felt there was something missing. And everybody we played the material
for was asking "where is the long one?". Then Graham, our manager, said
that we should just write whatever we felt like, not sticking to any rules. That made our creative minds just explode. I put the new long one, "Consequenses", together in just two weeks.
But "Silence" is still not a concept album from start to finish, like "Last Epic" was?
A.C.T: J: No, it?s more like our two first albums, "Today?s Report" and "Imaginary Friends", as you get a bunch of freestading songs and then the
epic song, in this case "Consequeces" which spreads from track 11 to 19.
Tell us a bit more about this quite complex work entitled "Consequenses".
A.C.T: H: I wrote most of the lyrics with Ola helping me and it?s based on three different stories which has in common the consequenses of everything
you do in life. But it?s not like these three stories are told separately, as you would normally do. Instead the different chapters of the three stories are mixed up in this lengthy track "Consequenses". We?re
really pleased with the result.
What are these three stories about?
A.C.T: H: They all spring from our common interest in movies. We could make a
fantastic video for "Consequenses". Story number one is about a man and
a woman having a fight and then she leaves and get run over by a car
driven by a drunk. It?s starts off being told from her boyfriend?s
perspective and then by the drunken driver and finally by the girl herself,
Joanna. The second story tells us about a man who buy a lottery ticket
and wins a million. His life changes from being lucky to a miserable
situation where everybody around him just want a piece of his money. In
the end he wishes he?d never bought that ticket. Then third story is the
darkest one about a twelve year old girl, known to be the perfect child
with good grades and everything like that, who murders another girl of
the same age. The murderer?s dad ask himself how this could happen to
his sweet little daughter and then you get his daughter?s words.
Why are the running order of the different chapters of these three
stories mixed up in "Consequenses" rather than telling them the normal way,
with the first story running from start to finish before the second
story kicks off?
H: It?s more exciting this way. From the beginning we were thinking about putting the actual running order of the stories in the CD booklet, but we think it?s cooler this way.
J: Again this has to do with us being big movie fans. One of our
personal favorite flicks is "Pulp Fiction" where different stories pops up
here and there in the movie but it still all comes together in the end.
That?s what?s make it?s interesting.
The reason why the album is so long, 19 songs, is that because you?ve
been frustated about to being able to make an album for three years?
J: No, we did talk about cutting songs out, but we just couldn?t as we all love them so much. There all great songs. There will never be a filler on an A.C.T. album. We could never live with that.
You could look at "Silence" as a double album, with he first disc being
the freestanding songs from number 1-10 and the second disc being the long song, "Consequeses", track number 11-19.
J: Exactly, that?s how I feel too. If you don?t feel like listening to 67 minutes of music in one go, you could settle for only the long one for instance. I don?t think it?s wrong to have 19 songs on an album as
long as the songs stand up. In our case I think there are lots of
different things to find out in our songs the more you listen.
Do the title of the album, "Silence", has anything to do with the fact hat there?s been nothing but silence from A.C.T. for a long time?
J: In a way, yes. We were looking for album titles and "Silence" came to me at a rather late stage. It goes hand in hand with our previous situation but it could also mean many other things.
On the album cover there are two girls, one shouting and the other one
holding one of her index fingers to her lips, demanding silence.
H: We?re not telling the exact meaning of that. Actually I don?t think there is just one meaning behind it.
J: It?s a very mysterious and spooky picture which I think goes with a lot of the musical content. I wouldn?t say we?ve done a dark album, but if you look at some of the song titles like "Truth Is Pain", "Into The Unknown", "The Voice Within", "Call In dead", "Memory To Fight"...
..."A Wound That Won?t Heel".
J: Exactly! (laughter) It?s a sort of expression we have not used
H: Some friends of us has pointed this out, that we have done a much
more mature album. Which we do not agree with.
If we look at the freestanding ten first songs on the record there is a guy called Kenny Sahlin singing on "Puppeteers". He is answering Herman, so to speak.
J: That?s my nine year older brother. Kenny has always been a guiding
light for me when it comes to music, being an excellent musician and
composer himself. He can take higher notes than any other singer I know.
H: Yes, he can even sing those old Geddy Lee things. It?s frightening.
On "This Wonderful World" it?s hard to tell who is singing what.
J: That?s me, Herman and Ola singing together. Ola is the one who is
pushed forward in the mix, with Herman in the background and me on the
H: It?s such a cool mixing job. When I first heard it, I could not tell
who the main voice belonged to. It doesn?t really sound like any of us,
more like a new member. The chorus is written by Kenny Sahlin, by the
"Out Of Ideas" is a funny title for a song from a band who seem to be never short of ideas.
H: That?s Ola?s song. He had the writer?s block for a while and was really frustrated. Why don?t you write a song about that, I suggested - and he did (laughter). Ola is the funnist lyric writer there is, I?m a big fan of his work. You have to push him though, as he is never satisfield with anything he does. That?s why he only did two songs on his own for this album, "The Voice Within" and "Into The Unknown".
J: The middle part of "Out Of Ideas" is so far removed from anything we?ve done before, it?s so laid back and on top of it Ola has laid a jazz blues solo which is just floating above it all. I think it?s Ola?s best
"Useless Argument" is also unusual for being A.C.T as it has an old straight ahead rock ?n? roll feeling.
J: Yes, it reminds me about classic Deep Purple. It?s not that I?ve
been listening to that band recently, it just happened to turn out that
H: It?s also another track with three lead singers. I?m always the one
asking Ola and Jerry to sing more, as they have such great voices. It?s
something we should take advantage of.
On the song "Call In Dead" there is a line which doesn?t sound like any of the singers in the band.
H: That?s Martin Hedin, our new producer who sings: "Where is the coffee that?s in the ad?". He has got the lowest voice you could think of.
J: That is my favorite song on the CD as it has this mega choir of maybe 20 or 25 voices. As the three first albums was recorded analog there was never enough recording channels to create this kinda massive choir.
Have you?ve been doing any other musical projects during the break?
H: Some of us has. Like I sing in a covers band on and off and Ola has a pop band with our former drummer, Tomas Erlandsson. They are doing demos and want to make an album. And our drummer, Thomas Leion, is a permanent member of prog rockers Andromeda.
"Silence" is produced by Andromeda keyboard player Martin Hedin, was
that something Thomas Leion suggested?
H: No, I think the idea came from me or Peter Asp, our bass player. It was something we for some reason started to discuss in the car from a gig. We?ve known Martin for a long time. Now, with the new album in our hands, which we are so proud of, we are asking ourselves why we haven?t
approached Martin before.
J: Martin Hedin is an educated producer and is a musical teacher at university. When we went to Martin with the idea of him producing us, he said all the right things.
What do you wish for the the newxt twelve months?
J: For this album to reach out to people all over the world. One of the biggest goals is to tour Japan.
Did you know that?
When the bands guitarist, Stephen Carpenter was 15 years old, he was hit by a car while skateboarding. Confined to a wheelchair for several months, he began teaching himself guitar by playing along to bands such as Anthrax, Stormtroopers of Death, and Metallica. Supposedly, the driver paid Carpenter a cash settlement that allowed the band to purchase equipment, but Cunningham commented in an interview that was all just "a myth about how our band was started.