On Friday I played some songs at a pub in town, just to try out some of my new songs. Actually it was a test for me as a solo artist for the first time too. I haven’t played all by myself before and this tiny little pub gig in front of friends was really fun and I really look forward to get a new chance to do it again soon – wherever the occasion may turn up.
I have actually been fronting a band in the past. But that was way back in the nineties when I had a band together with my brother Kai Saaristo on bass and drummer Christer Nyström. We were a punk band badly timed between the first wave of punk music in the late seventies to early eighties and the second one in the mid-nineties. We couldn’t identify that much with the second wave and somehow our anger grew into other kind of creativity. For me mainly in becoming a journalist. But looking back at it, we didn’t have enough anger to be a successful punk band. Well we might have been angry, but not at anything specific. Well of course, the establishment, an unjust society and the normal teen rage against our parents’ generation. But we were just as much annoyed by other punkers whining about different band’s lack of “genuine punk values”, whatever that may have been.
In 2001, back in Gothenburg after a couple of periods of studying and working in other places, I started playing with Hanif. They needed a bass player at the time and they got me who never had played the instrument before.
Hanif, was formed in the middle of 1990s, and had been discussing record contract with many of the major labels represented in Stockholm. The mantra though was “get back to us when you’ve got a hit!” That hit didn’t appear, and by the years the band’s sound evolved from pretty much REM-sounding soft rock to more americana sounding alternatice country.
And when I joined we had not much hope of a record contract. Instead we started our own record label, Krusty Stills, that gave the band legitimity to make records instead of demos. And that was quite an insight – not only creatively, we started to produce finalized music instead of prospects – but mainly because people started to look at Hanif as a “real” band and not a possible future band asking for attention. Instead we defined ourselwes and didn’t ask anyone of anything. We just did what we wanted to do.
Looking back at it I think Hanif could have got a lot further than it did. We had a constant overflow of good songs, we were a very tight band knowing our strengths and weaknesses. We got quite good at producing ourselves, after making our first albums with established producers (Björn Olsson and Paul Bothén). But I think we never had the patience of growing on our own. The backlash of not making it fast even if we had an own record label, turned into some kind of dead end, instead of an opportunity to slowly grow an audience. But that’s of course a simplfied version of ten-fifteen years of a band’s intrigues and the friction of tight relations developing in different directions.
Last time I was on stage before Friday was in January this year, when we played some songs with Escalator to nowhere at the same pub. That time we were three people playing, Andreas Magnusson singing and playing acoustic guitar, Pelle Hedeblom playing upright bass and me on the electric guitar. With that set, mainly me and Andreas, and various musicians, we made a couple of gigs only the last few years.
Escalator to nowhere was theoretically the chance to do the same thing as Hanif but the way me and Andreas wanted it. There was no such things as “too country” or “too soft”. But somehow it all became a side project overruled by other, more easily digested creative projects.
That’s pretty much why I wanted to try this on my own now after all these years. Some of my songs originally adressed for Escalator to nowhere opened up for a new field of creativity, to try it on my own. And now I have at least tried to perform on stage on my own. And that was quite a relief.