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Kee Marcello interview 

Kee Marcello
Submitted by Henrik Holmgren on 2018-01-25
Kee Marcello does not really need a big introduction, if you are familiar with the bands Europe, Easy Action and other act, you will know him. For me, growing up in Sweden in the 90s, Kee was a central part of Europe, playing on the albums Out of This World and Prisoners in Paradise. When got a chance to sit down with Kee, this was not something we would pass up. So, ladies and gents, withouut much further ado, the man, the legend, the guitar god: Keeeeee Maaaarcelloooo! 
Hi Kee and welcome to how are you?

K: Thanks! I’m very well thank you.

Btw, does anyone ever call you anything other than Kee Marcello these days?

K: Not very often. I moved from Stockholm to the Gothenburg area more than 20 years ago, and down here people only know me as Kee. When I meet old buddies from Stockholm or Umeå some still occasionally call me ”Kjelle”. Though I was christened ”Kjell Hilding Löfbom” I’ve changed it, and my name in the passport is ”Kee Marcello Löfbom” since many years. My wife Pia calls me ”darling”, but no-one else get to do that.

You are, on top of your singing and career as a guitarist, also a prolific writer and producer. Do you feel more at home performing yourself or writing for others?

K: I definitely feel more inspired working on my own albums and projects, but occasionally it’s fun doing music of a different style, like going all soul for writing the title track ”Shining Through The Rain” for Percy Sledge’s last album, or going alternative pop rock when writing the #1 single ”Bang Bang Boom” for The Moffatts.

How would you say your songwriting has evolved over the years? (The same question or your guitar skills and singing as well)

K: Guitar playing or singing is so different from song writing in the sense that the latter is very much like solving a jigsaw puzzle. For me song writing mostly starts with getting a melodic or lyrical idea (or both), which is a part of a potential song: a chorus, verse, bridge, mid8, etc. Once I have all the parts I can eventually turn it into a full song. This is a process that either can be immediate, take minutes, hours or even years. Some song ideas seems promising at first, but never see the light of day cause I haven’t been able to piece it together properly. The way my song writing has been evolving comes with all the experience I’ve gained over the years, I’ve simply gotten so much better at solving the puzzle! The song ideas themselves however, have always been there in the back of my mind since I started writing songs in my early teens.

My guitar playing and singing on the other hand, have both evolved due to the improvement of my technical skills. In other words, I can more effortlessly play/sing what I feel. The ”feel” has always been there though. For as long as I can remember.

Would you say that you have a favorite song or album that you have written?

K: Although I’m very pleased with my most previous solo album ”Scaling Up”, where I felt the styles and sounds all felt into place so well, I’d have to say ”That Makes One” by Easy Action. This album was my baby. Besides playing guitars and keyboards, doing all the background vocals, I wrote and produced it. I had just hired the amazing vocalist Tommy Nilsson to join the band, and the songs, the band, the production, the vocal, guitar and keyboard arrangements are so spot on to be in that era. It was released in 1986, only weeks before I joined Europe, which is why it never got the attention it really deserved.

I would argue that you are probably still most famous from your stint in Europe. Do you keep in contact with the rest of the guys these days? I know there were some acrimony a few years back.

K: Yeah, when people hear my name they often think about my time in Europe, and who’s to blame them? I was in the band during it’s glory days from 1986-1992 with multi million record sales and sold out World tours! Quite frankly, Europe haven’t been even close to that sort of success either before or after. No wonder they remember me from that era. We still have unresolved economic issues that hasn’t been properly dealt with yet, but nowadays I’m more optimistic about getting these resolved in the future. And that’s really lawyer business and doesn’t affect us personally. For instance, both Ian Haugland and Mic Michaeli showed up for my release party for ”Scaling Up” at the Hard Rock Cafe in Stockholm. But to go as far as to say that I ”stay in touch” with them is a stretch!

What do you think about their more progressive sound these days?

K: I’ve got no real problems with their sound, I’m just wondering what the hell happened to the song writing? It’s seems gone without a trace.

Was there ever a chance that you would have been in Europe these days? If so, do you
think they would have sounded the same as they do today?

K: I definitely don’t want to be a part of Europe today, but if I would have stayed in the band it would’ve sounded different. More melodic songs for starters, and more inspired arrangements. It’s too ”jammy” for my taste.

You have no idea how many times I have played your solo to Superstitious on air-guitar (as has most of my friends growing up). Here at melodic the consensus is that is one of the better guitar solos of all time. How did it come about? Did you know exactly what to play or is it just pure improvisation?

K: Thank you! The funny thing with the Superstitious solo is that nowadays it’s leading a life on it’s own. For example, I was on tour in India a couple of years ago, and during a guitar clinic I met a bunch of talented young players that loved the solo, played it by heart, but wasn’t really familiar with the song it came from!? (I guess it’s a ”Youtube effect”, where young guitar players get hooked on to musical clips by sharing them within their communities, and not necessarily by listening to the whole songs.)

After the clinic a journalist approached me and asked me: ”How does it feel to have created a solo that outlived the hit song it’s on?” I didn’t really have a good answer for that question then, but I guess I should’ve said that I’m proud. When I play it, the most part of the solo I do the same every concert, the only really improvisational part is the fast picking ”rubato” run in the end. But doing it I still have an idea of approximately which notes to use, but it’s more a matter on when to play them, and the attempt to land on that high note (C). Although I easily could rave about rubato for hours, I don’t want to bore the hell out all the not-so-nerdy readers.
But rubato is definitely one of the things that defines my guitar playing.

Be honest now: did you ever hear someone cover Superstitious and nail that solo 100%?

K: No. Some few have come close in terms of capturing the general feel, but there are so many parameters in that solo. When I listen to other people playing it, I typically hear issues already after the first or second phrase. 

Is there a solo you have recorded that you are extra happy and proud of?

K: I put a lot of effort into my solo playing, so there’s a bunch of melodic and technical stuff I could bring up, but just to mention something completely different: The end solo of ”Blow By Blow” from ”Scaling Up”. During this solo I set my fusion chops free, and play ”outside the key”, in a sort of a John Coltrane fashion, but with my own twist to it, which I love doing.

You did a Europe redux album a couple of years back. What was the feedback you got from the fans with that album?

K: Mixed! Some fans loved it, but some seemed to feel that my reasons for rerecording those tracks where questionable, like I was trying to ”steal” something. They couldn’t have been more wrong, that was never my intention. Over the years, during my concerts with Kee Marcello Band I’ve mostly played songs from my (to this date, five) solo albums, but also some from Easy Action, Red Fun and some from Europe. Over the years my versions of these songs have been taking on a different attitude and slightly different arrangements, not to mention the fact that I’m now singing them. My intention with ”Redux: Europe” was to record the versions that the fans constantly heard me do live in concert, simply because they sounded so different from the originals. I’m very pleased with how it turned out, but I’m aware that some Europe fans disliked it. On the other hand, there were Easy Action fans that didn’t approve of the version of ”We Go Rocking” I recorded on the same album. I guess you just can’t please everyone.

On that album, you enlisted your daughter Hanna as a guest vocalist. Is she still active in the business? Is this life something you would want for your kids?

K: Yeah, it was fun working with Hanna! She came up with the idea of doing that song herself (”Mind In The Gutter” from ”Prisoners In Paradise”), and I was so happy to be able to record it  ith her since she turned it into such a different song. She really had her own take on it.

Today she’s busy with her university studies and has other goals in her life, and in a way I’m glad for this. The music business is such a tough one, and you’re right, what parents would want their kids in it? But on the other hand, if she suggests another musical enterprise together in the future I’ll be up for it!

Can you tell us a bit about you Kee of Hearts project? How did that happen and is there
any chance of a second album? What was it like working with Tommy Heart?

K: The initiative came from Frontiers Records, and both me and Tommy where instantly excited about the idea of working together. We’d obviously been aware of each others careers, but a prospect like this was simply never put on the table before. It’s been an amazing experience, it now seems like we haven’t done anything else but working together in the past although we in fact never had met in person previous to this project. Without saying too much: More music from Kee Of Hearts is to be expected!

Given that you have both been in big bands and released solo albums. Would you consider yourself as a solo guy or a band guy? What are, in your opinions, the advantages and drawbacks of those two options?

K: With my Kee Marcello Band (or ”K2” as I called it for a short while) I’ve always strived for it to be just that, a band. But since this ”band” also is my solo project, it makes it difficult to answer your question! I guess what I’m trying to say is that I really enjoy working in a group environment, but I’ve never been the kind of ”team player” that shuts up and play what they’re told. In all the bands I’ve been in I’ve had a lot to say about songs, production and musical direction, that’s the only way I can see myself do it. And I’m definitely NOT a session musician. I did some session gigs for other artists early on in my career, but I never liked it. I guess I just couldn’t stand some idiot telling me what to play on a certain song!

This pretty fast lead me into being a music producer, since then I could call the shots regarding my guitar playing. Then I played the guitar on many of my productions, I felt being in charge of it was the only way I could make it work. My way or the highway! So I think I’m meant to run my own projects, and I have no desire to do anything else. I don’t even know if there’s a band out there that would make me consider joining them playing the guitar, had they asked? Maybe one of my all-time favorites, AC/DC? It would be fun for about a week, but after that I’d have to get the fuck out of there.

Can you tell us about the gear you use and elaborate a little bit on why you have chosen
that gear?

K: I’m using Marshall heads and cabinets. Mostly a JVM410HJS head. It’s the best amp they’ve built in years, it’s very versatile and has separate gates on each channel, which comes in really handy playing live. I’ve also located the old Marshall JMP that Tommy Folkesson modified and that had a custom mid boost function courtesy of Tommy, Mats ”Drutten” Grahn and myself. This amp is legendary and what I used on the Superstitious solo and all of the Out Of This World album. I’ll restore it (with Tommy and Mats) and aim to make it sound just like it did then. This is an exciting project, and the timing couldn’t be more perfect: 2018 celebrates the 30th anniversary of Out Of This World.

What is in the near future for Kee Marcello?

K: The first of two brand new videos from ”Scaling Up” will be released in February. It will be the third video clip of the album. I’m writing for a project which I’m not at liberty to talk about at this point. I’m arranging for the production of more of the very successful ”Rock The Night” shows that me and my wife Pia’s company GEM Entertainment are producing. I’ll be playing live with Kee Marcello Band, check my official FB page for tour dates. 

Let’s end with a short Q&A:

If you would have been anything other than a musician, what would it have been?
K: Dead? :-) There was never a plan B!

Tell us something that no one knows about you.
K: I came to Earth in a rocket sent from the dying planet of Krypton.

Name a song you generally sing in the shower.
K: ”Tap Turns On The Water” by CCS.

If I get caught speeding with your music blasting in the speakers, will you help me pay the fines?
K: You’ll be on your fucking own, pal.

If you could bring anyone on tour, dead or alive, who would it be and why?
K: Well, first of all I’d preferably bring a living person since dead ones tend to smell funny. On a more serious note, I wouldn’t mind doing concerts with Lenny Kravitz, always dug his style. Think the two of us would make for a great live combo.

Is there a place on earth that you haven’t played that you really feel “I have to play there
before I stop doing this”?

K: No.

To all kids out there dreaming of starting a band and making it big, what is your best

K: Stop looking into your fucking smart phones and get real! Learning how to become a skilled musician, song writer and creating a successful band happens in the rehearsal place, not online.

One final question. Is rock’n’roll really dead?
K: Oh no. It just smells funny.

Thank you so much for doing this Kee. I’ll it up to you to finish with some words to our
readers. Take it away:

Thanks to all my fans and all your support!
Hope to see you on tour in the EU, UK and SEA during 2018!