1 Jul
A Q&A with Klas Åhlund as he prepares to drop Devil's Music

I’m not sure what they infuse their vodka with up in Sweden, but the tiny nation (population under 10 million) churns out more impossibly catchy hitmakers per capita than anywhere else on Earth. From the early days of Abba to the 90s pop dominance of Roxette, Cardigans and Ace of Bass onto the modern indie wave of bands like Miike Snow, Peter Bjorn & John, Shout Out Louds, Lykke Li, The Knife and Robyn, the nation just knows how to write good damn pop songs. And the 3 mammals in Teddybears — even tho they’d shudder at being lumped in with other artists simply because of their nationality — have drunk plenty of that Swedish pop vodka. Not only have they become a hitmaking industrial farm with singles like “Cobrastyle”, “Punkrocker”, “Yours To Keep”, “Hey Boy” and “Little Stereo”, but lead Teddybear Klas Åhlund has also produced smash hits for the likes of Robyn (with whom he co-wrote most of the Body Talk series), Kylie Minogue, Kesha and Britney Spears. But for all their studio wizardry, it is live where the band excels —  their 2007 Coachella appearance personally stamped an exclamation point on the entire Festival. This weekend Teddybears gear up for the July 5th release of their 6th album, Devil’s Music, which is sure to deliver more songs to Billboard. While waiting for the imminent bomb to drop, lead bear Klas Åhlund talks to Lost In a Supermarket and reveals his 5 favorite hardcore albums from the 80s, the ass-grabbing perils of drunk girls gone wild, and the awesomeness of having Iggy Pop sing on “Punkrocker” — the song they wrote for their hero. Read our interview below…

Before you guys started ringing in the litany of hits you came from the hardcore scene in Sweden. What are your 5 favorite American hardcore albums from that era?

1. Bad Brains – Bad Brains: We used to cover “Right Brigade” in our concerts
2. Fugazi – 13 Songs: They are the Beatles/Mozart of punk
3. S.O.D –  Speak English Or Die: Inspired us to keep making our songs even shorter and more repetitive
4. Devo – Freedom Of Choice: “Girl You Want” and “Whip It” are classic songs, and we tried to adopt their machine-like cogwheel arranging style and stiff groove in our own songs
5. Judgement Night soundtrack: featured classic collaborations between Cypress Hill & Sonic Youth as well as Teenage Fanclub & De La Soul. It was just great seeing crossbreeding working that seemingly effortless and turning out that good.

Was that scene and those roots instrumental to where you are now? Is Teddybears a continuation of your hardcore roots, or did you have to completely reprogram how you approached songwriting?
Yes those roots are still a big part of what we are now, though I got to say that we were always in opposition to the confomity of that scene. We still try not to let the idea of being part of a scene restrict us in our music. I would say that the main thing that changed the way we make music was breaking up the strict band structure of guitar, bass, drums and singer. That gave us the liberty to let every song take on whatever form it needed, disregarding if it fit in an expected sub-division of genre or scene.

We let ALL the music that we listened to inspire our own songwriting and we even started to invite other vocalists to perform our songs when our own vocal stylings didn´t cut it. When songwriting became focus genre became secondary.

One of the things the Teddybears are best known for is your ability to work with a wide range of collaborators — from Elephant Man and Mad Cobra to Neneh Cherry and Robyn to Cee Lo and the B-52s. What is it exactly that appeals to you guys in collaborating with such widespread artists?
We tend to ask whoever we think is best suited to sing on any song we write, and the common thread is our love for their voices and their work. You never know who you collaborate together with well until you get in the room and go at it. But mutual admiration and respect is a good start. We find that some artists tend to relax from the pressure of their own careers and enjoy the chance to experiment when they do features with us.

Please try to articulate the thrill of having Iggy Pop sing on the remix of “Punkrocker” in 10,000 words or less.
It was cool. Really cool.

The video for “Weed Ina Rizzla”, plus a stream of their first singles “Cho Cha” (w/CeeLo  and The B-52’s) and “Get Fresh With You” (featuring Laza Morgan) below. And hit the Jump to continue reading our Q&A with Head Teddybear Klas Åhlund as he contemplates Iggy Pop’s bizarre sartorial decisions… and follow LIAS on Twitter and Facebook, we’ll always make you our Little Stereo…

Teddybears – Cho Cha feat. CeeLo Green & The B-52’s by Big Beat Records

Teddybears – Get Fresh With You feat. Laza Morgan by Big Beat Records

“They would probably cast Nick Nolte in a bad wig as Iggy. I wonder who would play me? I hope they would at least consider Johnny Depp…”

He changed the lyrics around quite a bit — was that something you suggested, or he just did on his own?
We wrote the song about Iggy and when he agreed to sing on that version it was first of all a flattering recognition of the song. It was almost as if we first wrote the unauthorized biography version and then revised it together with him.

Iggy has always been one of our favourite lyricists and the reworking kind of changed what the song meant into being something deeper in a cool way.

Were you in the studio with Iggy when he sang it, or was it one of those deals where he did it on his own and sent you the vocal track?
We went to Miami to cut the vocal with him and the first thing that seemed unusual was the fact that he only wore one flip-flop and had the other foot bare. It makes a distinct sound on the vocal track when he pats it on the floor of the vocalbooth in time with the song. We tried different approaches to the vocal styling, but it all fell into place when he did it in his low Berlin-era voice for some reason.

It was goose bumps and neck hair standing way up throughout the control room.

Definitely one of those magic moments that always look cheesy fake when they re-enact them in bio pics. They would probably cast Nick Nolte in a bad wig as Iggy. I wonder who would play me? I hope they would at least consider Johnny Depp.

Anyway he was a good sport and showed up for the video shoot and all, when it came to that. Thank you, sir!

Have the giant bear masks ever gotten any of you in any predicament? On stage? Airport? Album signings? Vet’s office?
For some reason the mask brings out the mischievous side in everyone else but us. We will be standing dead sober and bored not hearing or seeing a thing in the middle of a sea of ass-groping drunk girls gone wild. The masks are one long predicament from blind/def/mute-start to papiermaiche-collapsing end. The only mitigating circumstance is not having to endure the humiliating hair and make-up before photo sessions.

“For some reason the mask brings out the mischievous side in everyone else but us. We will be standing dead sober in the middle of a sea of ass-groping drunk girls gone wild…”

Do you take any pride in Sweden’s long history of impossibly successful hit-making producers and bands, or do you see yourselves as outside of that world?
Every time you try to make sense of things by lumping things together in categories, the über snob in me cringes to the bone. I hate a lot of the stuff that would be considered from the outside of Sweden as being part of a collective Swedish scene, as I would expect maybe Fugazi would disapprove of being named together with Kenny G as American songwriters.

I violently cascade vomit in the general direction of most of the music business not only the Swedish, thank you.

You guys are bad ass live. This is very uncommon for “producers” — do you credit your hardcore roots to this? How important is this live aspect to the Teddybears as a band?
It’s kind of the only situation where you get to see people’s reactions in real time to the music we slaved over. If you strip away all the waiting around in locker rooms, trying not to drink too much from paper cups and the being hungover in airports, it´s still one of our favourite thing to do.

What is it you’d like to accomplish with Devil’s Music, what’s the impetus of doing this album — other than collecting a grip of more radio hits?
I am a second language english speaker so I don’t really know what “impetus” means but we are super proud of the music on Devils Music. Compiling songs into albums is more about meeting the needs of the commercial side of the industry. We see the process more like a string of songs written and recorded and collaborations that excites us.

Lastly, if you were lost in a supermarket, in what aisle would we find you?
That would be by the honey, wouldn’t it?

The cover art to Teddybears’ Devil’s Music… and for staying with us till the end, here’s a secret link to a free download of the bonus track “‘No More Michael Jackson”, not found on Devil’s Music. Who says we don’t love you and treat you right?

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  1. […] an exclusive interview with lead bear Klas Åhlund on LostInaSupermarket.com where he reveals his five favorite hardcore albums from the 80s, the ass-grabbing perils of drunk […]

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