EXCLUSIVE: NIGHT FLIGHT ORCHESTRA DUDES TALK CLASSIC ’70s ALBUMS
We at MetalSucks are smitten with the hard-driving, big-charm debut album from Soilwork singer Bjorn “Speed” Strid and guitarist David Andersson’s ’70s-inspired hard rock posse The Night Flight Orchestra. Titled Internal Affairs, it’s a warmly modern and aurally retro instant classic, a reel of tired departures and hopeful arrivals shot in soft-focus and soundtracked by feel-good grooves.
And as Internal Affairs is a love letter to ’70s rock, MetalSucks charged straight at its creators to hear more about the albums and personalities that inspired it. Responding by email, Andersson and Strid (above, right-center and center) do more than just tip us to the special ’70s albums that reside forever in their hearts; they thrill us with personal memories, hilarious enthusiasm, and a fan’s frothing curiosity about the making of masterpieces — all in the unguarded tone that suggests a pint/joint with buds gathered ’round ye olde record player at sunset. It’s a must-read tag-team for Soilwork fans, br00tal dudes, and boundless music fans alike — just try not to sprain your eyes on all the exclamation points. Take it away, guys!
David Andersson, Night Flight Orchestra/Soilwork, guitars: Well, first of all, thank you MetalSucks for giving us this opportunity to elaborate on some of the many classic moments in the history of rock. I’ll have to restrain myself to not enter Nick Hornby mode and write you a whole novel:
Band Deep Purple
Album Made in Europe
Released October 1976
I’m aware that Made In Japan by Deep Purple Mk II is generally considered to be the live album when it comes to Purple, but for me Made in Europe will always be the classic one.
I first bought it on cassette when I was nine or ten years old. I was just starting to appreciate hard rock and heavy metal, and already had a few Purple albums. It was around this time that CDs had taken over the market, so Swedish record stores sold out what was left of their cassette stocks really cheap. The cassette covers added to the mystique too, since they were so small that you couldn’t really see what was on them. The cover of Made in Europe, for example, is just an ordinary live picture shot from above, but on a cassette-sized cover, all you could see were five gnomes in a sea of smoke, one of them slightly brighter than the others — which I’ve since then learned was Glenn Hughes in a white suit. Classic.
This era of Deep Purple Mk III never really made much of an impression on me with their two studio albums; I still think Burn and Stormbringer sound like content rockstars jamming away on some blues riffs just to fulfill contractual obligations.
On Made in Europe, however, they’re on fire! Despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that the album was recorded on their final tour with guitarist Ritchie Blackmore (left), i.e. a tour done just to fulfill contractual obligations, they all sound extremely enthusiastic, over-excited, and probably drunk and high out of their minds. But they never sounded better.
All through the album, the sound fades in and out between songs, so you get the impression that from the moment they went onstage, they just couldn’t stop making noise. There’s always someone noodling away on their instrument or shouting stuff in their microphone. For example, during the fade-in of “Lady Double Dealer,” Hughes (who’s not even the lead singer on that song) is shouting “Lady double dealer get out of my way!!!” while Jon Lord plays a few random gospel licks on his organ. You get the feeling that this has been going on for quite a while.
And that’s exactly the feeling I want to express with the Night Flight Orchestra, that slightly stupid but totally unironic enthusiasm, being so caught up in your own classic rock bubble that you’re totally oblivious to the fact that other people might find what you’re doing to be a bit over the top.
Made in Europe also contains the single most classic moment ever captured on any recording medium: Right at the beginning, the whole band bangs away on a G chord (I think), then it dies away and Blackmore starts noodling away on some harmonic minor stuff on the neck pickup. After a while, David Coverdale has had enough and wants to start singing about people that are laughing and women who say “BURN.” So he steps up to the microphone and mumbles “Rock ‘n roll…” and you can hear two clicking noises as Ritchie switches pickups on his Stratocaster (with a ’70s three-way toggle switch), turns up the volume knob and goes DADADADADAAAH (the main riff from “Burn”). I want those two clicking noises played on repeat at my funeral.
Band The Mahavishnu Orchestra
Album Visions of the Emerald Beyond
Released February 1975
Now, I’m aware that there will be thousands of Mahavishnu Orchestra puritans reading this who will be upset that I actually prefer a record with Gayle Moran on keyboards to something like Birds of Fire with the almighty Jan Hammer pounding away on the Moog. Well, you know what? When it comes to ’70s fusion, contrary to popular belief, it’s not about the players, it’s about the tunes. And Visions is a master class in songwriting.
I first bought it in a second-hand vinyl store when I was about 12, and since I already had all the Mahavishnu Mk I albums, I was shivering with anticipation as I was about to play it for the first time.
And then, “Eternity’s Breath, Pt. I” unfolded before me in all its majestic glory! Starting out with Moran teasing her organ and Narada Michael Walden caressing his cymbals, after a while Jean-Luc [Ponty] and John [McLaughlin] start shredding away on their violins and double-neck guitars, and then John starts playing THE RIFF, and Narada (or Michael or whatever his first name is) starts hitting the drums like there’s no tomorrow, and just before “Eternity’s Breath Pt. II” starts, a small but significant Hare Krishna-influenced choir starts singing about how they want to Fulfill My Will. I was a convinced atheist even at an early age, but hearing that is the closest I will ever get to become religious. And had I been alive to hear it back in ’75, I’d probably be living in Tibet right now.
And the best thing about the album is that it just continues to surprise you. You get birds chirping over a mellow acoustic guitar (on “Pastoral”), adult men (and women) playing funk in odd time signatures (on “Cosmic Strut”), and McLaughlin’s explorations of his ring modulator in a chamber music context (“Pegasus”, “Opus 1”) before it all resolves with the hectic jam “On The Way Home To Earth,” where bassist Ralph Armstrong (who also plays the contra bassoon) provides a solid Rocco Prestia-like groove.
Visions of the Emerald Beyond does so perfectly what all great music should do: It seems to provide you with all the answers, but it still leaves you with even more questions. And the overall spirit of Visions of the Emerald Beyond, when you disappear up your own arse and come out on the other side, not only unharmed, but even better off than before, is something that I like to think is also the spirit of the Night Flight Orchestra.
Björn isn’t a big fan of ’70s fusion, though, which is probably a good thing. But we do share a profound passion for classic rock. We talked earlier today, and I suggested that I’d do the first part and then he’d take over. However, since we’ve been asked to talk about five classic albums, we have to share one:
Released October 1978
Björn and I came up with the whole concept for the Night Flight Orchestra back in 2006, when I did my first Soilwork tour as a session guitarist. We soon found out that we had a lot in common, especially when it came to music tastes. I’m a lo-fi kind of person though, and back then I didn’t even own an iPod. But Björn did, so he was the CRAM (Classic Rock Alpha Male) for that entire tour.
However, we did stop in a few places with a decent record store nearby, and I remember that somewhere in New Jersey I forced him to buy Tapestry by Carole King. Towards the end of the tour — we had started in Richmond, Virginia and went around the continent counter-clockwise — in Norfolk, Virginia, I went and bought Toto’s first album (since I only had it on vinyl), which Björn hadn’t heard except for the singles. And when I started playing him “Girl Goodbye,” which begins with the lines “Well I’m out on the road/And the devil’s got my soul/And I’m looking for the lord in New York City,” he absolutely loved it; both he and I knew that we had something, because that song and those lyrics sort of sum up the whole meaning of the Night Flight Orchestra.
Over to you Björn …
Björn “Speed” Strid, Night Flight Orchestra/Soilwork, vocals: Wow Dave, you leave me speechless with an immense performance anxiety. How can I top this? I don’t really have to… Just to clarify: Dave is a doctor, an insane guitarist, and probably the best chef I know who occasionally fries up a pheasant on a Tuesday. He’s also a great dad. The man is a legend. He’s also my personal doctor. But this is not about Dave, even though I could go on and on, telling everyone how awesome he is.
Instead, I’m gonna talk a bit about a few albums that have had a huge impact on my passion for classic rock:
Band Steely Dan
Album entire discography
Released 1972-1981, 2000-2003
I discovered Steely Dan pretty damn late (bear with me, I’m only 33). My only excuse, if I really need one, is that they never really made it big in Europe. How we all missed out…
Steely Dan sounded like the coolest thing to me, even though I later found out that they’re considered an elitist band for nerds and musicians with Lexicon hats and thin pony tails.
I really don’t care. My love for Steely Dan is unconditional. In the most fanatical way. To start with, the lyrics are brilliant. I’m not gonna claim that I understand everything Donald Fagen is talking about, but who can’t embrace a song like “The Fez” (“Never gonna do it without the fez on”), or “Deacon Blues” (“Drink scotch whisky all night long/And die behind the wheeeeel”)? In the same song Fagen sings “They got a name for the winners in the world/I want a name when I lose.” Brilliant. That’s why Steely Dan is so awesome to me. Insanely funny and insanely catchy, despite the technical craziness. I don’t really care about Steve Gadd’s famous drum punctuation in the coda of “Aja.” It’s just a combination of many things that are way more abstract but so damn genius.
Released March 1976
Like so many other people, I love this album. I’m still not tired of the solo in “Detroit Rock City.”
I really love when Kiss sounded more symphonic and even when they sounded more disco. Confession: I still get goose bumps everytime I hear Peter Criss “delivering the mail” on his jungle-toms in the break of “I Was Made For Lovin’ You,” but yeah that’s on Dynasty, so let’s leave that there.
I love ”Sweet Pain”, I LOVE “Flaming Youth.” “King of the Night Time World” … sooooooo awesome. I love the organs, the strings, the piano in “Beth,” can’t get enough. I love Starchild going “And higher and higher and hiiigheeeeerrrr” in “Flaming Youth” sounding like he has a sandwich stuck in his throat. And back to “Sweet Pain”: How awesome is the gospel break??? “Sweet Pai-he-he-he-heiiin…” It’s so awesome it HURTS!!! And how about the guitars in the intro of “Shout It Out Loud,” that make the milk in the fridge turn sour??? Genius.
Released July 1976
Boston is another band that didn’t really make it big in Europe. This album is one of the biggest selling albums in rock history. Brad Delp, one of my biggest heroes, how I wish you were still alive. I’m listening to the album as we speak and the high pitch scream in “More Than A Feeling” just hit me and I got goosebumps big as mommy-nipples and almost passed out. I’m not shitting you, it does that EVERY TIME. It almost brings me to tears to think of Delp, killing himself by carbon monoxide poisoning and leaving a note attached to his shirt saying “Mr. Brad Delp. J’ai une ame solitaire. (I am a lonely soul.)” I wish you didn’t have to go, Brad. This album is SOLID. Oh here we go, the twin guitar outro on “Piece of Mind” just passed by. I LOVE it …
Album Down To Earth
Released July 1979
You might be a bit surprised that I bring this album up out of all the Rainbow albums. Don’t get me wrong, I love all the other Rainbow albums too. I just think this album deserves some attention. This is Graham Bonnet’s best performance in his career, second to MSG’s Assault Attack. The man was pretty damn unique; after all he once strutted out during a Alcatraz show wearing aviator Serengetis, pulled out a metal comb, slicked back his Grease-like hair and said: “You know, James Dean was a fine young man.” I wonder how Yngwie felt about that…
Anyways, this album is pretty damn solid and many people have said that my voice sound like Bonnet’s sometimes. He sounds like no one else, so I don’t know, a very unique voice, not really known for holding back. Great melodies on this album; Ritchie is doing one of his best performances for sure. Cozy Powell is one of my favorite drummers. His kick drum is larger than life and always goes “four on the floor” making whatever albums he played on have a nice strutty feel. I loved the guy ever since I saw a pic of him wearing a racing shirt and a parrot on his shoulder.
Released April 1979
Yeah I know — “He had to, didn’t he??” Here’s the thing: As long as Americans connect only “Dancing Queen” to Abba, I will keep on raving about them like a typical Swede who points out a Volvo in the streets of New York while on vacation with his family and shopping for Tommy Hilfiger polos.
This album, ladies n’ gents, is amazing: The intro to “The King Has Lost His Crown.” The song “If It Wasn’t For The Night” is probably the best song ever. “Summer Night City” is epic. The intro to “Chiquitita” makes me get a full-on banana and makes me tear up a bit at the same time. What makes it a bit weird is that I still connect that song to a horse. I was growing up right across from a farm and they had a horse named “Chiquitita.” I still refuse to believe that ABBA wasn’t singing about that horse. All I see is a horse. Something that could prove me right is the fact that Anni-Frid Lyngstad (ABBA’s red head girl) is living in the same small village I’m living in, and pretty damn close to where that horse used to run around … Intriguing. Oh shit, I forgot to mention the intro strings in “Lovers”!!!! CLAAAAAASSIIIIIC!!!!!