Interview: AC4's Karl Backman

posted January 3, 2011

by Corinne
Photo by Petter from Malmö

AC4's Karl Backman

How are you?

I'm fine thank you, right now I'm working on some new lyrics.

Let's start off with your recent tour. You posted a diary of the tour on your MySpace page and it certainly doesn't hold any romantic notions of what it's like touring as a punk band. Is that diary a real reflection of what it's like and what you expected going into the tour? And if so, what keeps you doing it?

Yes, it's a real reflection of that particular tour. With all our old bands we've done tours a hundred times worse too, so we usually have pretty low expectations. The AC4 tours are all very nice compared to what it was like with both Refused and The Vectors in the '90s. The reason why I posted that thing was mainly for our friends at home, to show them what it's like, because all they see are the tour schedules and the odd newspaper article, and they always go 'wow, Italy, man, lucky you,' thinking we're pop stars on a paid vacation.

We keep doing it because we love our music, and we do have a lot of fun together, even in misery. You get to see new places, and meet new people. If it wasn't for Italy the last tour wouldn't have been bad at all really, and even nights like the one in Schio is an experience. When you have stupid shit like that happening, you still know that by next week it's just gonna be another funny tour story.

In the top 10 list you contributed for PlugInMusic.com, you mentioned how strong a connection you felt, "approaching 40," with these young teenagers. The music scene's so different today from technology than it was even 5 years ago. Why do you think the connection was so strong with that particular show and lacking in general elsewhere?

Oh, it's not always a complete lack of connection, but yeah, I know what you mean. I think with that gig it was more a geographical thing than anything else. Umeå is a small town, and Lycksele is even smaller. Both are sort of isolated. I think kids in places like that remind us of ourselves as kids, and maybe they pick up on that too. Also, they have no idea what any of us have done before this, to them we're just AC4. They like us for the right reasons, for what we're doing now. They're a lot more fun than the 30+ straight edge virgins standing in the back with a clipboard, hoping to find some fault with us they can blog about, you know. That said, you can get a good crowd anywhere; in Southampton we had 55 year old punks and skins dancing up front. I like it when you get the football hooligans with the Made In England tattoos going 'we're all Swedish fans tonight.' It's usually a draw between Sweden and England anyway, so that's fitting.

You guys aren't exactly inexperienced musicians and you've each got various projects you're involved in. So what was the catalyst that brought AC4 together?

Me and Jens first met in 1975 when we were just children, then he moved somewhere and I started my first proper punk band in 1982, when I was part of a group of squatters. Five or six years later we met again, when Jens and Dennis had a punk band called Afro Jetz. That eventually became Umeå's first straight edge band Step Forward. They were great. David used to go to their gigs too, though we didn't know him at the time. In 1990 Jens joined my band The Vectors when we were squatting an old cinema, and we even did a couple of gigs there with Dennis on vocals, as the Steppin' Cretins. When we started our own punk club Raw Power, Dennis took over my bed sitter, which was next door to David and his parents. That's how they met. Jens and Dennis fell out over Jens' new found love of beer and Step Forward broke up one night at the club. David had previously drummed with the metal band Pain so he and Dennis started a new band called Refused. Later on Jens toured with their side project Final Exit. After Refused broke up in 1998 David produced some of The Vectors' records, and Dennis did the same with Jens' other band Regulations. They guested on each other's records and Jens played with David's one off project Volyo. Dennis and David always talked about doing a hardcore punk thing together, and one night when me and David were drinking at his house we sort of started it. I wrote some songs the next day, ran into Dennis at Scharinska and apparently told him we had a new band. It was always gonna be Jens on drums, no-one else can do what he does. That was in April 2008, and we did our first gig at yet another local squat in early May. Even if AC4 is a new band, to me it's really just a part of something that's been going on for the last 35 years. That's the context in which we exist.

From the videos I've seen online of the band performing, the band is singing along and it looks like, regardless of everything else, you guys are having fun onstage. Since AC4 isn't the only band for any of you guys, how "serious" do you all take the band?

Yeah, we do enjoy ourselves on stage. I'm glad that shows too. We're four old friends who started a band to have fun together, and we all take having fun seriously. You should, shouldn't you? At first we would just hang out at Dennis' house, knock out a few songs, have a few beers, watch a Champions League match on TV, listen to a couple of records and then maybe run through the songs again. That was it. Then we did some local gigs, and people got interested, and it gradually became sort of bigger. That's great. We're very serious about our music, only cowards treat their music like a joke. Things are only interesting if they're for real.

What's the balance with writing, both lyrically and musically, within the band? And, with strong, opinionated lyrics, how important is it for everyone within the band to agree on the lyrics?

We all write. With the first album, and the EPs, me or David would bring the music, with some lyrics for the choruses and hooks, and then Dennis would write the verses. Dennis wrote other songs as well, of course. With the new songs both me and David have written most of the lyrics too. It's gonna be a more topical and, for lack of better words; political record. Jens usually brings a couple of riffs, and then we arrange them together. Everybody contributes to all songs in some way, that's why they all sound like AC4.

Yeah, you need to have lyrics everyone in the band can relate to. Like, "Let's Go To War" was an old song I had, with lyrics about a mate of mine on steroids and cheap amphetamine, and a game of cards in prison that turned ugly. I wrote new verses because I knew Dennis wouldn't relate to the old ones. In the end I think it turned out better that way. He's a great singer. It's not that hard to find common ground, I mean there are so many things we all hate; cops, any and all authority, and, well, most of the world population really.

How much of a coincidence is it that there's an AC4 song and a David Sandström Overdrive album both called "Pigs Lose?"

David brought that song to us, because Overdrive couldn't find a way to play it, but they kept the title for their last album.

Are there any chances of AC4 touring the US in 2011?

Yeah, maybe, there's a lot of tour offers; Australia, the US, Brazil. We'll see what happens. So far we've just gone on tour whenever there's been a week or two when we're all free to do it. The when and where have become too random. We're gonna try to do things smarter now. Plan ahead a little.

What's up next for AC4?

We're probably gonna hang out at Dennis' house and watch European football matches. If you mean musically, we're focusing on the next album. The general plan is to work on the songs in December and January, then record in February, and hopefully have the thing out before the summer.

What's up next for other project you guys are involved in?

In 2011 I've got a solo exhibition of my new paintings at the Museum Of Porn In Art, in Zurich, and me and Jens will finally have The Vectors "Sucking The Cocks Of The Parasites" released too. David should have his secret solo synthesizer CD out, and rumour [sic] has it this is the most pretentious thing he's ever done, but you know, that's why we love him. Dennis will do a few guest appearances with Italian dance act The Bloody Beetroots at selected festivals. He's on their forthcoming album too. Check it out.

Do you have any influences you think listeners would be surprised by?

I guess people don't expect me to listen to Diamanda Galás. I saw her Songs Of Exile concert last year, that was a truly impressive and powerful performance. My favourite [sic] Galás LP right now is Saint Of The Pit. The things she can do with her voice are scary. Nina Hagen is another brilliant vocalist. I saw her back in 1984. It was crazy, because there were all these cops on horses, riding back and forth through the crowd, trying to hurt random people in the audience. She was great though. Everybody should own a copy of the Unbehagen LP.

Who are some underrated bands that you think we need to check out?

I think a lot of the '80s Oi! bands from the UK have been deliberately overlooked by most punk historians. The 4 Skins were great. Barbed Wire's first album. Almost anything by The Oppressed or Condemned 84. Red Alert. Last Resort, Crux, The Ejected, Blitz, Crash, Violators, and all of the early Oi! compilations. Most of the original Oi! and skinhead bands have been treated like either a joke or some suspect right wing thing, when the truth is that they were neither.

What have you been listening to recently?

The last five records I've played at home are The Skeptix - So The Youth LP, Riot Squad - No Potential Threat LP, Sex Pistols - Never Mind The Bollocks Here's The Sex Pistols LP, V/A - Bullshit Detector Two DLP and Antisocial - Official Hooligan EP 7". I'm a man of impeccable taste.

If you could have written any song what song do you wish you had written and why?

David has actually written a good new song called "Francafrique," I wish I had written that one, so that I could keep calling him absolutely useless. 90% of our rehearsals are spent putting David down. I think he likes it, too. In fact, I know he does.

Anything you would like to add?

To anyone who recently tried to contact us through our MySpace page; sorry if you haven't heard from us, but MySpace have severely fucked everything up with their new version and nothing works. There will eventually be a Facebook page for the band. We have top men working on it now. You can still visit us at: www.myspace.com/ac4hc and both me and Dennis are on Facebook already.

Thanks very much for your time!

Thank you