Joakim Berg outside Kronobergshäktet, a stone's throw
Photo: Moa Karlberg
Kent Have Always Wanted To Be The Biggest(English translation of an interview with Joakim Berg from Påstan.nu, published 26 June 2008)
For fifteen years, the rock band Kent has performed over thirty concerts in Stockholm. On Saturday it's concert time again when Kent and Joakim Thåström play in Zinkensdamm IP.
Proposition: Kent became so big because you decided you wanted to be big from the beginning.
-- I think you're right actually. I think with any band, not just us, that to become big you really have to want it. There is an old interview with Oasis when they played in Dublin for the first time in 1994. They were sitting around eating from a bag of peanut rings and they said that they did not see the point of just making music for the sake of it, but that they wanted to sell 50 million discs or otherwise there would be no point. It was so liberating that in the middle of the mega-indie-wave here was a really good band who said "we're in it for the money." And it's true of course everyone wants to sell albums. We didn't think exactly the same way, but we just wanted to become a very popular band.
The road that's not always straight. Before Kent did you once send in an entry to a song contest?
-- Hehe, yes, but it was a very long time ago.
You tried doing a rap song?
-- That was also a very long time ago.
You said that you wanted to be the main figures in the record industry - until you actually made it. Have you always set such goals for the band?
-- At first you say such things jokingly, to see how people react. Then you realise "oops, it's true enough, this is what we would like to do." It has worked well for us to set such goals. When we started there was nobody else around, it was just about working hard five days a week until we had learnt for ourselves.
Other grandiose plans: The concert at Stadion in 2003 with 30 000 people in the audience who followed the white dresscode.
-- The great thing with that gig was that from the start it wasn't our idea. The booking company knew that there was a "foundation" for a large summer concert. And so Stadion came up and then the plans became concrete.
It is risky to try something that you know you will be remembered for.
-- Yes, indeed. We filmed the gig, for our own sake, never intending to release it but as a record for ourselves. I still haven't been able to watch it the whole way through. There is a short part filmed in the dressing room just before we go on stage and you can see the terror shining in our eyes. The whole idea of all white clothes had already become a little nauseating. We thought there would be at most 1500 people at the front dressed in white but it turned out that the whole damn Stadion was white.
That day I felt like the town had been taken over by Kent fans, people who had accidentally wore white clothes became involuntary fans.
-- Yes, the involuntary Kent-fans... The idea of white clothes came from the idea that it was nice having a dresscode at weddings, and white is neutral and it was summer. But it could be interpreted in several different ways of course.
Do you remember your first gigs in Stockholm?
-- It might've been in a place called Spaghettikompaniet which was on West Higgins Road near Stureplan. I think it is T.G.I. Fridays or Bull & Bear Inn now. We lived in Eskilstuna still, and there were some guys left alone in the audience in wheelchairs. We thought "how great that you came", until we realised that they were only waiting to be pushed out of there. Then we also played at the University of Peter Wahlbeck.
On Saturday you play with Joakim Thåström, what is your relationship with him?
-- He has been going for such an incredibly long time. He has been around since we were little. I saw Imperiet at Parken Zoo in Eskilstuna on the "Tiggarens Tal" tour, I think it was Imperiets last gig. There were 10 000 people, which was a lot for that time, for something that was not a Carola concert. Then we both toured together in 2002 when we took it in turns for who got to play last. It was quite strange that year, we made a huge breakthrough with Vapen & Ammunition. Things were so extreme throughout the year. No matter what we did we received fantastic reviews and shows sold easily. I think there was bad weather the entire summer until the tour began. It was great fun.
What's Joakim Thåström like in private?
-- He has a mystique about him... so you become somewhat amazed when you meet him. He is just an extremely nice fellow. You imagine that he would be much more serious than what he actually is, but he makes the most out of whatever happens and takes everything with a laugh.
Your guitarist Harry Mänty left the band last year after thirteen years. Did that lead to a few thoughts about whether it was time to end the band altogether?
-- No. But we did begin to think a little bit. On the one hand, we thought about what we have gained and what we've done. And secondly, what we still have left to do. We know that this may not last forever. We have been going for so long and in any case we are growing old compared to the rest of the industry we work in. Of course, it's not just about whether we continue to be successful or even do good things.
So when will the next album arrive?
-- We've actually planned to start work on it pretty much right after this tour. We have talked about Martin and I, and perhaps the whole band, going away somewhere and doing the basics of the new material.
Will your lyrics ever stop being about Eskilstuna and Stockholm?
-- Ah, it's difficult to say if they will or not. You could very well say that there are two kinds of lyrics I write. One kind is based in places and the other is based in feelings. You move between those two whether you want to or not.
How did Kungsholmstorg end up in the chorus of the single Columbus?
-- The whole idea was just about how sometimes we feel alone in the city, that it can be horrible. We thought about how it had just snowed so there are no footprints anywhere. And about when you are heading home very late in the morning. Sometimes you find yourself out like that here, sometimes when you are walking home, and it can remind you of that time very long ago. The city was like an undiscovered world back then but now we have realised that it is actually fairly small. It might not have to feel so "international" and that so many people live here compared to where you came from. We've realised now that Stockholm is not so much a big city but a small town when you look at it from a different perspective.
-- Columbus turned out to be the classic song that we had been looking for where we get to sing about a city in the chorus. This could've either been very corny or very good and it works best if you balance it very finely. It ended up working very well.
-- I watched The Line of Beauty, an English TV series, which took place in the eighties about a guy who is born into a political family. He is gay and it was just when AIDS was becoming a big issue. The series is really great. In one scene he was sitting in a car and Maid of Orleans by OMD was playing. It was a very popular song when I was young but I hadn't heard it for many years until I saw the series. It then managed to sneak into the song Columbus - the intro riff is very similar. But there's a change of pace of course so we can nearly get away with it. It definitely originated from the song but I have changed it enough. I only hope OMD have not heard it or else they might come around here in a bad mood soon.
Original Interview (in Swedish)
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