Swedish rockers Diamond Dogs have kicked off 2022 in the finest style possible with a sprawling new double album, Slap Bang Blue Rendezvous, already out and stoving in ears in the best possible fashion via the good offices of Wild Kingdom Records; Of course, we here at Sentinel Daily never need a reason to speak to the Dogs’ heroic frontman, Sören “Sulo” Karlsson, about anything, but it’s undeniable that the appearance of a new record is a good excuse to rack up a fair few minutes on the ol’ trans-oceanic jellybone. So , without further ado, let’s dive in to Sulo’s world – which is a very exciting world indeed…
The album has been out for a few days – are you pleased with the reactions you’ve seen to it so far? “I’m very pleased. To be honest I don’t think we’ve ever had such great reviews… they’ve not only been good they’ve been amazing reviews… considering it’s a double album, and you never know what people will think. Releasing a double album in 2022 is probably commercial suicide but that’s a good reason to do it, I think!” (laughs).
I was going to ask you about that – you don’t do things by halves, do you? It’s almost unheard of in this day an age for a band like Diamond Dogs to release a double album. What was the thinking behind it? “There were quite a lot of different views on it. We went back to our producer Tomas Skogsberg, who we started out with. He’s also produced bands like The Hellacopters and Backyard Babies, and he’s a kind of Swedish Rick Rubin! It’s rare to find a producer like him these days, because he has a plan for each and every song. And when you work with him, you leave all the decisions to him because he’s kind of like a professor in his own field. We hadn’t worked with him for fourteen years; he has his place, in the countryside, he’s quite an original guy and he’s famous because he’s the biggest death metal producer in the world, the man behind Entombed and all those big bands. But he’s never been into death metal. Remember Vic Maile? He was the biggest R ‘N’ B producer in England but he got the chance to produce Motörhead, and he produced them in the same way as he produced his rhythm and blues artists, like Dr Feelgood. So Soren’s biggest influences are The Beatles and Bowie. that’s what he brings to it: “This sounds like The White Album!” or “I want a Queen Bitch guitar!”… he’s special. At the beginning of the pandemic I started sending songs to him; As you know I write a lot of songs, and all of a sudden I’ve sent him… thirty eight songs I think it was. He came back to me and said ‘let’s make a double’, because he’s always wanted to make a White Album! And I said why not. And I git the band to agree to do a double. But it’s a big effort. You need to make it interesting all the way through and it ends up being more like a piece of art than just ten songs straight. There aren’t so many great double albums around; maybe The Clash’s London Calling, Blonde on Blonde by Bob Dylan, The Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street, but there’s still some filler on that. To make a double without the filler, that was the big thing (laughs). We picked out twenty four tracks, and then we did it old school; arranged everything in the studio with Tomas, who had a plan for everything. But we had one simple rule: It had to sound like England, in 1973. If the guitarists did anything that sounded too American he took it away (more laughter). So it’s his baby as much as ours, I think”.
The first five songs on the album are the strongest first five songs I’ve heard on an album in a long time. “Thanks”. Did you put a lot of thought into the sequencing? Or was that just happenstance? As you say twenty four songs is a lot to get the sequencing right, so how did you approach putting the actual album running order together? “I did that because nobody else wanted to do it. My only thing was that I wanted to have Alright Brutus… as the starter, because I think it’s a great start to an album and quite unexpected to kick into a double album with a song like that. I then wanted to spread the different types of songs that we had. I would say the first six songs on the album are really strong because the last song on that first side of the album, A Rock In The Sea, is my favourite! But people have contacted me and said how strong the record is from start to finish, and that they expected a few fillers over the four sides but there aren’t any. It’s a really strong rock n’roll album! Obviously we have our influences, but one review in an English magazine said ‘they sound more British than the British! We even got a nine out of ten review in the English edition of Classic Rock, which we’ve never had before.”
Last time we talked, which I think was in about 2019, you were quite gloomy about the future of rock n’roll; You mentioned then that you felt music was losing it’s value. Many people I’ve spoken to during the pandemic have experienced creative reawakenings due to being locked down, and a few even felt that it might have done the industry some good – how do you feel in 2022? “If you stop something, if you stop people going to shows, then you create more of a need for it than there was before. Of course, I was extremely busy during the pandemic because I never have a lie down; besides this album I produced and wrote the Velvet Insane album Rock n’Roll Glitter Suit (lauded in these very pages by our own Gavin Strickmann – Ed), who contacted me just to produce their album but when we got down to it they didn’t have the songs so I wrote them too! I did that while we were doing Slap Bang… and also six weeks before the album came out I released a book in Sweden. I had to keep busy because I was unhappy with the way governments all over the world were treating culture and sport, and how easily people slipped into this kind of ‘well we can stream everything now on our TVs, we don’t need to go out or go to gigs’… Nowhere in Europe could we see any Politicians trying to help to save the Culture, or music, or theatres, because it was easier just to give them away. It was scary and in the end made me a bit pissed off. We wouldn’t do those horrible ‘livestreams’ that people wanted because that just kills the whole thing about live music. I think it will depend on where you are in the world as to what will happen in the future; In England, after Brexit, after the Pandemic, I think there will be a hunger for live gigs because there is a history and tradition of pop and rock music. They look at it in a different way to Sweden and other countries in Western Europe who got used to not seeing live bands and are too lazy to do it again. Maybe more people will go to smaller clubs… and it’s been cheap for the big record companies to sell music to people sitting in a lockdown, but the artists aren’t seeing any more of that money… I think America and England’s music industries will come out of this best. But Sweden, I don’t know… the government talks about the ‘music wonder of Sweden’, by which they mean Abba and people like Max Martin, but behind that, the rock n’roll scene is completely wasted. Nobody is interested in rock n’roll, and haven’t been for years, even though bands like The Hellacopters, Backyard Babies and Diamond Dogs have been great exports for the industry”.
When is the soonest you think you’ll be able to tour behind this album, all things being equal? “The first tour we have is for Spain in September, but I guess we’ll do some gigs elsewhere this (Northern) summer; we want to go to Germany, we’d really like to go to the States, we’ve been getting great reviews there for the last ten years but for this album they’ve been amazing; Talking about the future of rock n’roll, we know that there aren’t many rock n’roll bands around like us anymore, most bands are metal or hard rock – even the punk and garage bands aren’t really rock n’roll like us. I don’t know if that’s a good thing… it should be!”
It’s definitely a shrinking ‘niche’. “We were talking to Jamie Stewart from The Cult, he discovered us and is a fan; We were sending him the new tracks and asking him to help us pick the singles. He said ‘I just don’t know how you get that 1973 English vibe!(laughing again)”…
I heard a bit of Graham Parker and The Rumour this time around that I didn’t here last time. (already laughing) “Yeah, that was the song we thought would end up sounding like Elton John! But I love Graham Parker… I have everything he’s done. The reunion wasn’t that great but he’s done some amazing stuff – Heat Treatment… he became a bit ‘white soul’ on some of his stuff though”.
Last question – we reactivating a popular series we used to do where we ask interviewees to build their perfect band, living or dead, from rock n’roll’s rich history. I’d like you to be the first back in the hotseat. So, off the top of your head and with no prior notice, who would be the vocalist in your band? “Ermm…. Frankie Miller“.
Good! I was listening to (1985 album) Dancing In The Rain only the other night! I’d forgotten how good it was. “Some great songs on that album, especially I’d Lie To You For Your Love. I was watching a home-made VHS of him live in Germany with Brian Robertson on guitar, Simon Kirke on drums and Chrissy Stewart on bass and it sounded great. About fifteen years ago I recorded a single with Robbo and, for some reason, Ian Haugland from Europe! I can’t remember who the bass player was. It sounded great! I need to figure out how to release it. It was one of the last things Robbo recorded”.
Not many people will pick Frankie Miller. “Somebody said to me the other day that Steve Marriott was the best singer of his generation, but Miller for me is better. Rod Stewart once said that he was the only white guy to have brought a tear to his eye!”
Lead guitar? “Do I have to think about how it’s all going to sound together?” As I’m surprising you, probably not… “Wilko Johnson“.
In which case you don’t really need a rhythm guitarist. “No, I’ll have a rhythm guitarist, and It’ll be Dave Edmunds“.
Okay! bassist? “On bass, I’ll have Ronnie Lane“.
Drums? “Topper Headon“.
Keys? “Keyboards is trickier. So not because he’s the greatest… I think I’ll pick Nicky Hopkins”
Somehow I knew you were going to nominate him! “It’s a great band!:
It is. “I would never want to be a tour manager for them! (laughing)”…
Is there anything else you’d like to say to our writers before we sign off? “Please get us to Australia!”
Amen to that!
Diamond Dogs’ Slap Bang Blue Rendezvous is out now. Read our review of the Alum HERE