On September 26th, 2012 we had a chance to conduct an interview with Ulf (guitars/vocals) from Swedish straight edge hardcore punk band ANCHOR, well known for their massive tour treks, activism and positive attitude. We talked touring, straight edge, Swedish hardcore scene, their new recordings (!) and much more. Check it out!
Hey! Super cool to have you guys. Please tell us how’s it like to live the “Recovery” era? What was the feedback after releasing you’re your latest outing?
Well, since Recovery is the first release I’m on when it comes to ANCHOR, it’s hard to compare it to “how it was before”. Well, actually it’s both mine and Carl’s first record with Anchor, but I’ve toured with ANCHOR on and off since 2008, so I guess I can somewhat relate to how it must have been even before Recovery came out. I know this: Recovery was released when it needed to be. To do even one more tour on the Quiet Dance would probably have felt irrelevant, so it was a record that we felt that we HAD to write, with a deadline in mind. It was something new for some of us to work like that, but I enjoyed it, even though it resulted in countless hours in the practice space. Well, we all actually enjoy that too, so I’m really not complaining here. I’m just trying to paint you a picture of how urgent we were to have Recovery be something special for us and for people who had been waiting for it. I’m very happy with what Recovery has done for us so far, and all the crazy things we’ve had the opportunity to do because of it. The feedback has been nothing but positive, I’ve actually not read a bad review of it yet, and that’s overwhelming of course.
Great! As you’re an ever-touring band (which is awesome!), you’ve been promoting it heavily. Aren’t you tired? [smiles]
[laughs] I guess you could call us ever-touring. To cut it down to the basics, it’s what we live for. All five of us are restless souls with a need to get out on the road as much as possible. Not to mention all the places I’ve been over the last couple of years that I would’ve never got to see if it hadn’t been for ANCHOR. So, no we’re not tired. In fact, whenever we’re not touring, we’re constantly talking about the next tour. I guess it’s fair to call it an obsession.
You’ve been touring Asia earlier this year. What’s different and special about the scenes you discovered there?
Asia was amazing in every way. The first show on that leg of the tour was in Bangkok, Thailand. We arrived at the airport, and were actually greeted by our Portuguese friend Rafael, to our surprise – but that’s another story. We got picked up by the promotor and got in a van that drove us to the venue. I was in complete awe the whole drive. I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had never been to Asia before, and to have my first visit be with ANCHOR was incredible. That night we played one of the best shows ANCHOR has ever played, and to be there – so far from home, and to feel so welcomed, was the most rewarding and amazing experience. In Asia, or at least South East Asia, which was where we toured, hardcore is very community based, and they make you feel like family. In a way it’s a lot like shows in Eastern Europe, in countries where the regular tour packages don’t really go. Kids are so appreciative of your presence and they really know European hardcore, even obscure bands that were around for maybe only a couple of years. In Jakarta I was asked when my old band BALANCE would come to tour Indonesia, and I was just floored that they even knew about that band. At the same show one of the bands also played a cover by the classic Swedish band OUTLAST. All in all, we played six shows in Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia, and we also got to see FC FIVE in Singapore, and share the stage with them in Jakarta, as they did their farewell tour at the time. That also felt very special. We can’t wait to go back one day.
Any Asian projects / bands / zines you’d like spread the word about?
OVERTHROWN from Singapore are touring Europe with NO TURNING BACK soon. Check out that band, amazing people and they are extremely stoked to be going to Europe. It would mean the world for them if people came to see them so far from home. Learn To Trust records is a cool label run by a solid guy, Akmal, who printed our shirts in Asia and also released Recovery on tape in Malaysia. We played with lots of great bands, but to be honest, some of the shows we played with so many bands, it’s hard to remember the names. The show in Jakarta had 20+ bands on one stage, in one day. It was crazy. All the bands were killing it.
Getting back to Europe, I know you missed it last year. This time you managed to perform not only at the fest itself, but at its main stage as a Saturday’s headliner! [Ekkkhhhm] How did you like this year’s Fluff Fest? [smiles]
We actually didn’t miss Fluff Fest last year, we just didn’t play. We ended our tour in Prague the day before and hung out for the whole fest. But yes, this year we played, and even headlined the Saturday. It was crazy, I mean I can’t even put into words how special that show was for us. I was nervous as hell. We played right after NO TURNING BACK, which in itself is completely insane, considering they have been around for 15 years and being as tight as they are, but that airfield in Rokycany is a special place for us. I was trying to not watch their the NO TURNING BACK set, to avoid getting even more nervous, but I had to watch some of it, they were great. We really enjoyed ourselves that whole weekend, and I’ve rarely felt so honored as when we walked on that stage to play our set to the biggest crowd I’ve ever played in front of. Fluff Fest is a unique festival, basically all friends we’ve made through touring is at the same place for one weekend, playing music, hanging out, eating vegan food and exchanging ideas – What’s not to love about that?
How do you compare the fest to other similar undertakings in Europe? What other festivals “with soul” you’d recommend to our readers?
Fluff Fest is something of its own, I can’t really compare to other festivals I’ve played or been to, but we’ve played a few that we liked. Ieper Fest was cool, we got to play with STRIFE. Voice of Art is a smaller fest in Germany we played a couple of months back and it was really cool. Actually, we played MILLENCOLIN‘s 20th anniversary festival, along with bands like DANKO JONES, THE HIVES and such, as well as some swedish hardcore bands like ANGERS CURSE and HARDA TIDER. Now even if that’s in front of a big crowd, with more well-known bands, I felt like those two nights were really put on “with soul”, as you put it. It was an incredible experience for us to be a part of celebrating a band that is fundamental to us all. Other than that, I hope we’ll get to play more festivals so I can maybe answer this question even better next time [laughs].
Ok. You’ll be headlining Stockholm’s Edge Day 2012 on October 20th. Excited? What can we expect?
We’re excited, for sure. Stockholm usually treats us excellently, and we expect this to be a great time. It’s a solid lineup. From that show, I guess you can expect a lot of cover songs singing about how drinking is wrong, [laughs]. Jokes aside, though, we plan to deliver an ANCHOR show as we usually do. Maybe with a twist, we’ll see. Time will tell.
How long have you been sXe?
Personally, I’ve been straight edge for 10 years. First claiming it at age 14, I was always sober before that, and hearing about straight edge, that just made so much sense for me. I was just getting into hardcore and I wanted nothing to do with the drinking culture that started to surround me at that age. Finding something that I could label myself, that explicitly stated that I wasn’t taking part in any of that, was really important to me, and it still is.
It wouldn’t be cool to end the year without touring, so I guess that’s why you are already gearing up for another trek: Finland and Russia this time [smiles]. Who will you be sharing stages with? Any local scenes and crews you’ll be re-visiting, in Russia perhaps?
[laughs] Yes, another tour just around the bend. We’ll be playing three shows in Finland, in Lappeenrantta, Helsinki and Turku, and six shows in Russia. Moscow, St Petersburg and Petrozavodsk are the ones I know of right now, and I feel ashamed that I don’t remember the other names but I guess that news will be posted online shortly. We’ve never been to Russia before, so we can’t really re-visit anyone yet!
You recently revealed that Andy of STAY HUNGRY is making a documentary about the straight edge in Sweden. What part are you taking in this glorious project?
Mattias has been interviewed for it, that’s pretty much all I know, but I’m sure the documentary is going to be extremely interesting when it’s finished. Some great minds with interesting things to say are involved.
Can’t wait. How has Swedish hardcore changed since you were first involved?
Well, the scene I was part of at first, the local hardcore scene in Linköping, is quite different than what we have right now in Malmö and also what we had in Lund a couple of years ago, as well as the scene in Gothenburg. So it’s a hard question to answer, but I feel like there’s more cooperation between different cities now, and people have started giving a fuck about their local bands, which is the most important thing. You don’t build a solid scene on booking tour packages, that’s for sure, and I’m pleased to say that most cities that host shows in Sweden can have a pretty decent turnout with an all Swedish lineup.
Ok, you officially started writing your next record. Be so kind and reveal some details about the writing process [smiles].
Wow, yeah we just started jamming new songs last weekend. It was amazing to start that process after more than a year and a half of touring. So far it’s going really, really well. The writing process so far has been quite interesting. Me and Mattias have met up a couple of times to present new riffs to each other and work on them, and we’ve been recording songs on our own and sent them back and forth for a while, but we’ve kept them from the other guys until we felt that we had something solid to start jamming. Our influences are all over the place, as usual, but if I was to namedrop a few bands that come to mind when we’ve played the new songs, I’d say think of a weird mix of SNAPCASE, QUICKSAND, TURBONEGRO and DAMNATION A.D. I don’t even know if that makes sense in anyones head besides mine but I’m super stoked to be playing new songs again. We have a long way to go before we can play them live though, but it’s a slow start.
Nice. Can’t wait to hear those, man.
What do you do in the meantime of your ANCHOR-and-hardcore-punk-related activities?
Some of us work, some avoid work like the plague, some of us study, some should study more. I do graphic design, Mattias is working on a book, Carl is a talented artist – even though I don’t think he likes that I call him that, Claes is trying to get Sea Shepherd Sweden going and Fredrik eats pizza and listens to CRO-MAGS.
Please do us a favor and ping your mates at STAY HUNGRY to finally move their asses and answer my questions, will ya? [laughs]
[laughs] For sure. With age comes laziness, right?
I don’t know, dude, I’m forever young [laughs]. Anyway, they should feel ashamed, you got back to me super fast! [smiles]
Cheers, mate! It was a pleasure. Feel free to add anything you want and fill this gap I certainly made by asking you so few questions [smiles].
Thanks for the interview! We’re checking the Idioteq site regularly, and it’s cool to get to be a part of it. Certain things need to be mentioned before we’re done: Show shirts worn by band members have no business being in the seat section of the van during drives. Robyn is essential touring soundtrack. We’ll be exploring our fifth continent in February/March 2013 – and we’re stoked beyond words. Also, salad is not a “warm vegan meal” – what do you think we are – vegetarians? That last thing was a joke. For the most part. Be compassionate. Be aware. Be good to yourself. Thank you.