A.C.T (interview)

U N I Q U E

E C L E C T I C

E U P H O N I C

P R O G R E S S I V E

INTERVIEW WITH JERRY SAHLIN

1. First I would like to ask you about the bands beginnings. When I first heard you about 16 years ago, I heard a perfect combination of neo-progressive rock and progressive metal, art rock with a strong focus on musicals and even cabaret music. Bands like Saga, Dream Theater, IQ, Marillion, Styx, Rush and Queen can be felt in your music. Which bands influenced your opus the most?

Well..it differs within the band members. If I can speak for myself I was influenced mostly by the Pomp -rock bands like ELO, 10cc, Cityboy, Manfred Manns earthband but also by Saga, Rush and Kansas. All this but also the pop bands like The Beatles and The Beach boys.

2. What do your musical path and career look like to you when viewed from todays point of view, after almost 25 years of work?

It looks really great. Im very proud of the body of work we’ve put out so far. We must Always be 100 procent happy with the songs before we release them. I havn’t listen to Todays report in a long while but last time I heard the album ( 2 years ago) , it still sounded great to me. Lot’s of good stuff there.

3. “Today`s Report”, “Imaginary Friends” and “Last Epic” had many legendary songs come out, like “Abandoned World”, “Today`s Report”, Emely (Ms Amnesia)”, “Lord Of Lies”, “Hippest Flop”, “Take it easy”, “Svetlana”, “Wake Up”, “Ted`s Ballad”, “Mr. Landlord”….Stylishly and conceptually similar records, while “Silence”, I felt, went in a little lighter direction and somehow it felt different to me from the previous albums but also from the later “Circus Pandemonium”. Is “Silence” perhaps the album where you made the musical concept completely identical with the textual concept and maybe left for a bit the territory of experimentation and of the subgenre which you carry—eclectic prog?

Eclectic prog is a brand new word for me but I understand what you are saying. Yes, The Silence album is different than the other albums we’ve made. We went into that project with a more straight forward maybe Commercial thinking. We tried to stick more to the songs and went “normal” for that album. We liked it at the time but I distance myself from it for many years after but gave it a new spin after a few years after its release. It is a more “mature” album if you like and is very easy to listen to. My favourite songs from the album is Call in dead and the Long one at the second part of the album. We all love the long one on Silence. Its got a very special vibe and the arrangements is ace.

4. Progressive rock is massively present today. There are more bands than ever before. There is literally no subgenre of rock, metal, pop, indie rock, electronic music and even extreme forms of metal and hard core, even punk, where progressive rock is not present. A big revival of neo-progressive bands, classic progressive band, alternative progressive bands, heavily metal progressive bands. Do you think the boundaries between progressive rock and music generally are completely erased?

Yeah it feels like that. We don’t care about genres really. We play what ever we want and that is why a lot of reviewers have a big problem to put us in a specific genre ๐Ÿ™‚ A good song is a good song, it doesnt matter what genre it is.

5. What are your views on relatively new, and new progressive bands and do you have some favorites?

I feel a bit ashamed here but I really don’t know what to say about this because I don’t look for new bands that much nowadays. Sometimes friends tells me about a new act that I should check out and then I’ll do it. I’m sure there are lots of great new bands out there. Feel free to share a few to me ๐Ÿ™‚

6. The style of music you play could be described as eclectic prog. With years some new names appeared, like Dear Hunter, Caligula`s Horse, Rishloo, Fair To Midland, Riverside, Satellite, Division By Zero, Black Bonzo, Coheed And Cambria (just to name a few) with an eclectic approach to their music. Do you consider that eclectic aspect to be the future of progressive music and at the same time a return to the 70’s and 80’s golden age of progressive rock, when practically every band was experimenting and exploring new sounds and, on the first look, noncompatible musical elements?

Yeah, It may be? The problem with a lot of the progressive bands out there is that they want to sound exactly like the old gigants like Genesis,Yes and since the 90’s Dream Theater. The songs MUST be 20 minutes long and guitar solos that lasts forever and a lot of these bands are really afraid to experiment with the major key and pop in general. The trick is to do a really great song with a great melody and to build a fantastic arrangement around this and make it interesting. To make a song that want you to go back and listen again and again and still find new stuff in it. ELO does this to me. I must have heard the album ‘Out of the blue’ a zillion times but I STILL get surprised to this day when I put this on. I get goosebumps and my heart beats faster haha That is a work of genius!

7. I have to admit, I was always thrilled with the lyrics in your songs, which unite poetry, superb humor, sarcasm with incredible cognitive themes, conceptual content like questioning oneself, life, people, workings of everyday up to very fantastic and chaotic situations. What are your greatest inspirationa when writing lyrics?

I have only written a few lyrics over the years but we try to write about real people and real things. stuff that people can relate to. We have never written about dragons and castles. Nothing wrong about that but there are other bands that are doing that already in this genre. We like to fool around with characters in funny or wierd situations (see Last epic and Circus Pandemonium and all the long ones). So..the inspiration comes from people we meet and people we hear of.

8. Bands like A.C.T, Shadow Gallery, Ivanhoe, Eldritch, Royal Hunt, Circus Maximus, Andromeda, Dreamscape, Anomaly, Hydrotoxin left an immeasurable trail in music. By the end of 90’s and in the beginnings of 2000s the highest standards were set, like the ones set in the early 70’s. Symphonic and progressive aspects were in my opinion brought to perfection. On the other hand, I can’t wrap my head around the fact that none of the aforementioned bands didn’t become famous globally. In your opinion, was this because of the never greater number of bands on the scene, the current trends in music, or something else?

It`s a big world with thousands of bands who fights for attention and in the early 2000, Internet wasn`t that big so we had to rely on radio and TV and that wasn’t easy. This kind of media are only interested in songs with four chords with a running time of 03.00 minutes per song. The people in power decides what the world should listen to. It’s a little easier now to “make it” I think because of social forums like You Tube and Facebook where the people are in power. If someone likes a song, that person will share the song to his friends and they will share it to theyre friends and so on.

9. “Circus Pandemonium” was in my opinion a mix of all your previous musical accomplishments plus being the only album thoroughly diving into progressive metal. Maybe “the most eclectic” record until then. Was that strengthening of sound perhaps the result of the 6 year pause between two records, the longest one you had yet?

We have never “decided” that – our next album will sound like this or that in style. It’s just a natural progression for us. When it comes to Circus, the whole concept is a quite dark theme so I guess I wrote the songs in that style to go with the concept. It worked better I guess.

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10. Anytime I’d listen to that album I couldn’t not notice the connections between its concept, the song “Separated Out” by Marillion and the famous part of the cult movie “Freaks”. Have that song and movie influenced the making of the album in any way, or are those just my associations?

I’m not familiar with any of those refereces I’m afraid. No, the Circus theme just came to me after a good night sleep. I woke up and told the guys that i have it! The concept is about an old circus and about the characters working there. Everybody agreed that this was a cool concept to work on.

11. As a die-hard fan I have to ask you a personal question: from where do you get the inspiration and ability to make songs that have such a transcedental effect on people like me? ๐Ÿ™‚ Wintery night, taking a walk on a long road right next to the forest, “Ms. Amnesia”, “Ted`s Ballad”, “Lord Of Lies”, “Take It Easy”, “Mr. Landlord”, “Hippest Flop”, “Joanna” on the headphones…or walking the seacoast with “Circus Pandemonium” in background…In those moments, the answers to all my questions came from A.C.T ๐Ÿ™‚ Seriously, where do the inspiration and ability come from?

Thank you for saying so! That means a lot to me. well..hm.. I think ALBUM everytime I write a new song. If I have already written a fast song, I begin to write a heavy one after this just to get a diversed ALBUM. just like a great movie. A great movie must have ups and downs, It must have a thrilling part, a romantic part, a scary part, a humorist part and so on. I get inspired by this thing.

12. The new album is absolutely fantastic. I get the impression the early phases of “Today`s Report”, “Imaginary Friends” and “Last Epic” are back…Were those your intentions?

Yeah, I’ve heard this from other people as well but it wasn`t my intensions when I wrote them. ‘Rebirth’ is just a little part of a bigger picture so I guess you have to wait a bit longer to figure the whole thing out ๐Ÿ˜‰.

13. I can hardly wait to find out the whole story ๐Ÿ™‚ “Ruler of the World” is the first official video you put out on which you used the same approach as on the “Trifles and Pandemonium” DVD. Do you find that the simple approach with the “band/rehearsal room/video/DVD” is the most efficient and direct one to establish a connection with the fans?

Yes, I belive so. It was Ola’s idea to do a promo video and it was a good idea. Our fan base has grown a lot since it’s release. It’s amazingly stupid of us that we haven`t thought of this before. We’ve been around for over twenty years and this is our first promo video haha There will be more in the future I can tell you that ๐Ÿ™‚

14. I would single out “Digital Affair” as my favorite from the new record, which is a record made entirely of fantastic songs. Do you have any plans on making a video for that song?

I have brought this up to the guys as an idea and we might do that. We have recorded ‘Running out of luck’ on video but we haven`t released that one yet. We’ll see.

15. What are your top picks when deciding on what to play live?

Same thing as I told you before about writing a new album. The set has to have all parts of who we are and what kind of music that we do. There must also be at least one song from each of the albums we’ve made and a couple of new ones. There are a few top picks that people seems to like, like Mr.Landlord, A truly gifted man, Manipulator and Waltz with mother nature.

16. You opened for the mages of progressive rock, Canadian Saga, Fish, Ray Wilson from Genesis. You played in Europe and America. Are there any future plans for a big tour which would encompass Japan, South America, Australia and eastern Europe including Slovenia and Croatia?

No, there are no plans for a big tour at the moment but we are opened to play anywhere where people want us. Go ahead and book A.C.T! ๐Ÿ™‚

17. Will you be releasing the early demos from Fairyland phase?

There are no demos from the Fairyland era I think.. There is a full show on video when we played at a big festival in Sweden 1994.

18. With what band would like to go on tour (to open for or headline)?

Oh.. There are so many great bands out there. Hard to pick one so I pick two. Reform the bands ‘City boy’ and ‘It Bites’ so we can jam together ๐Ÿ™‚

19. What music do you listen to the most recently?

Most recently? Let’s see..Random music from the sixties last night and before that I listened to Styx album ‘Pieces of eight’ and before that I heard the new live album by Kansas because I wanted to check out their new singer.

20. It’s interesting that you can’t find the name of the guest singer on the “Trifles and Pandemonium” DVD, alongside a few songs on the albums, anywhere…?!

There are two guest singers on the DVD. It’s Linnea Olnert who sings on Landlord, Everythings falling and A Truly gifted man and Sara Wendelford who shares the lead vocals on A Mothers love.

21. Do you plan on recording a few more fun videos from rehearsals and album recordings? Was the mystery of the haunted building solved? ๐Ÿ˜€

Haha so you’ve seen that? Yeah, I guess that was solved. There is actually one more video from that time featuring Peter asp as a ghost but we never released that one.. I don’t know why really. It was funny as hell ๐Ÿ™‚ . We are a bunch of crazy dudes so there might be more of these in the future

22. If someone offered you a ton of money and first spots for big commercial musical top lists in order to make a “trap/hip-hop/autotune/pop/dance/rnb” record, and if you had the opportunity to make tens of millions of dollars, would you take it? 

I have been offered this already (not the millions of dollars) actually but I said I got to think about it. This offer was to get me and big guy in the music industry to write some tunes together but we’ll see if this will happen.

23. If you could take 5 records on a deserted island (let’s say there’s a working power outlet on that island), what would those records be?

Out of the blue – ELO, Greatest hits – The Beach boys , Alive 2 – Kiss, Silent Knight – Saga and Abbey Road – the Beatles

24. Let’s say that one day you make music for a kids cartoon about animals in which you perform drawn as animals…what animals would you choose?

A Squirrel for sure! Because a teacher at school ones told me that I looked like a Squirrel haha

25. ๐Ÿ˜€ Ylvis or Weird Al Yankovic?

Yankovic!

26. Are you glad the 80’s are slowly returning to mainstream music?

Yeah, why not? There are some cool sounds from that era and a lot of the songs makes me smile.

27. Is there a question I haven’t posed and you would like to answer it although I haven’t posed it? ๐Ÿ™‚

Don’t think so.. maaanโ€ฆ this was a massive interview haha

28. Thank you very much for the interview, as a fan and a journalist ๓ฐ€€ Any message for fans and readers of Vision Rock Metal in Croatia and region?

Thank YOU very much! You had so many great and interesting questions. thumbs up! Croatia eh? I have visited your beautiful country once and I fel in love with it so I’m probably going back this summer with my family for some rest and some beers ๐Ÿ™‚ Take care! Cheers! // Jerry Sahlin

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Dalibor Mladenoviฤ‡ / Jan Sohr

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