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Interview - Per Schelander (Astrakahn)

Interview with Per Schelander from Astrakahn
by YngwieViking at 23 April 2014, 3:56 PM

Per Schelander is well known for his bass playing contributions with HOUSE OF SHAKIRA / PAIN OF SALVATION and ROYAL HUNT, he formed a musical project with his brother Jörgen on keyboards , the two musician share the same passion for challenging songwriting and 70’s flavored Rock in the smartest way enhanced with a good dose of Progressive ingredients This project quickly became a real band with the complementary recruitment of Martin Larsson on drums and Alex Lycke (ex-STONE FREE / ex-VICIOUS TONGUE) on vocal , the last winning move was to add Marcus Jidell (guitarist for EVERGREY / ex-ROYAL HUNT / ex-THE RING and former JEKYLL & HYDE), the virtuoso who has taken good care of lead guitars but also the full studio duties for the album “Retrospective” as mixing engineer and producer.

Hi, Per, I’m glad to discuss with you about the release of your debut album under the name of ASTRAKHAN , can you tell us the whole inside details that lead to the recent signing of the band by Germany’s Power Prog Records 

Astrakhan started as an idea between me and my brother. We had a Christmas tradition for many years that we met at his place and wrote a song together. Back then we didn't think about genres, direction or anything - we just wrote whatever out of the pure joy of being creative and write music. We wrote samba, reggae, rock etc. After a couple of years we started to talk about writing in some kind of direction because the writing process between us was so simple and fun, compared some other writing situations we've been in. We decided to write 10 songs and make an album. We wrote the songs pretty fast but had a hard time finding a singer who matched the songs. On top of that we both became very busy with other bands and projects. In the autumn of 2012 we booked a good studio and recorded drums, bass and keyboards. In the spring of 2013 we met Alex Lycke and with his voice everything fell in place. He recorded his parts fast and everyone felt so good about the whole thing we decided to make it a band. I had contact before with POWERPROG so I played some songs for them and they loved it so we decided
to go with them.

I think that “Retrospective” is a winning release and an overwhelming album, as a fan of Scandinavian Progressive Rock, It was for me a real blast of listening pleasure…What will be your words to describe it?

It's always hard to describe your own music but Retrospective has just about everything that I miss in today’s rock scene - dynamics, original sound, good classic songwriting and a singer that is able to really deliver the words and melodies. Pretty much what every album should contain but to me, these things are rare today. I have to borrow some words from a friend of mine, who just happens to be one of the best musician I ever met. He calls me up after he listened to the album for three times in a row and tells me that you've managed to make an album that consists of 10 Bohemian Rhapsody's! Maybe a bit too much but something like that was what we were aiming for - that every song should be a world of itself to explore.

Can you tell us about you , your background as a musician…Your past or actual involvement in Other bands ! I want to know everything…Go !

I started to play bass pretty late when I was around 15 years old. I joined my brother Jörgens band back then so we kind of have come full circle now. After a years or so I discovered Billy Sheehan and I quikly became very serious and started to practice for 5-6 hours a day. I studied music for two years in Stockholm and then took of to Los Angeles and the Musicians institute. After a year I was back in sweden where I joined House of Shakira and stayed with them and wrote about 50% of the music/lyrics for almost 15 years. We did our first tour as an opening act for Royal Hunt back in -97 and in 2005 I joined Royal Hunt and stayed with them until 2009. But here I am, talking to you while I'm on tour with Royal Hunt again! I just stepped in for Andreas Passmark who couldn't make it for the first half of the tour. Anyway…Im a creative person in general and also had a band called Spyke during some years. We only released one album (Divine Decadence in 2003)but we played a lot live in Sweden, England and the US and it's still one of the best albums I've done. If you are lucky you may still find it. I think it was in 2002 I saw Pain of Salvation for the first time and fell in love with the band. I remember that after three songs I thought like "this is my band, this is everything I want to do but Im not talented enough…". When Kristoffer left Pain of Salvation I contacted them and told them this story. Two years later I was playing with my favourite band Pain of Salvation all over the world. It's hard to go somewhere after you played with your favourite band but forming ASTRAKHAN and releasing Retrospective is something that really was a progression for me both as a musician and person. I already look forward to the release of the next album with ASTRAKHAN.

You are the founding members of ASTRAKAHN and even the mastermind or the driving force behind it , do you see the things like that ? How this occurred?

ASTRAKHAN wouldn't have existed if wasn't for the chemistry between me and Jörgen. He's a dream to write with because he is always throwing something back a you. If you show him an idea he always comes up with a solution, direction or an idea that gives new life to your original idea. Or he kills it rapidly by saying "it's not good enough". We both dislike the "good enough" attitude - every song should be its own world to explore! Every song needs some sort of right to exist and if it's just good enough, it doesn't have the right to exist. So I have to say thta me and Jörgen is the driving forces behind ASTRAKHAN. Now when we formed a band around it with good people the driving force is going to be even stronger.

Can you tell us more about your erratic collaboration with ROYAL HUNT or with the band HOUSE OF SHAKIRA and with Tomas Bergsten?

Right now I’m on tour with Royal Hunt again. I'm playing bass on the European leg of their world tour since Andreas couldn't make due to family issues. He called me and asked is if could step in and it's really fun to play with them again. I wanted to play with Allan Sörensen since I met him back in -97 and now it finally happened. I was a member in Royal Hunt between 2005-2009 and I met them in -97 when my band House of Shakira played as special guests on their Paradox tour. I played in House of Shakira between 1993-2009 and we released five studio albums, one live album and one DVD. In Royal Hunt I was just playing bass but in House of Shakira I wrote a lot of music and lyrics as well. Tomas Bergstens Fantasy is a totally different story. He asked me to play bass on his songs and I recorded everything at home. When I do these kind of sessions I always try to add something so you really notice it's me playing. Tomas liked that so much so he put me as co-writer on some of the songs since thought that I added something to the song that couldn't be removed.

What bands influenced ASTRAKAHN?

I find it hard to pick specific bands. ASTRAKHAN is just 100% me and my brother. This is how we sound when we let go of everything and just write and play music. One thing that struck us though during the recording process of Retrospective is how much we actually thought about the music in pictures and stories. I realized that Im probably more influenced by musicals that I thought I was, since I generally don't like musicals. I love Hair and Jesus Christ Superstar but apart from that…But I'm somewhat attracted by these big pretentious stories and records like Operation Mindcrime, Passion and Warfare and so on. I think both me and Jörgen are influenced by any music that tries to tell a bigger story - where the music fill in the blanks in the lyrics and vice versa.

Your career spans over more than 15 years. What are you the most proud of? Do you have any regrets?

I'm very proud of everything but two things that sticks out is Retrospective with ASTRAKHAN since it's 100% me - from start to finish and it became a great album. The other thing that sticks out is that I played with my favourite band(Pain of Salvation)for a couple of years.

Can you tell the inside story concerning the recruitment of the virtuoso Marcus Jidell?

When Jörgen and I discussed who would be a suitable guitarist for the album Marcus was the only guy we could think of. Apart from being a really good virtuoso he is also one of the best overall musician I've met. He is open minded and mastered a lot of styles so he was an obvious choice.

Please , could you tell us if he still a official member of ASTRAKHAN?

Marcus has never been an official member of ASTRAKHAN. They were on their way to release the Avatarium record bout the same time as ASTRAKHAN so he is just playing guitar with us. He is really hard to find a stand in for but we managed well when we played at the Sweden Prog Fest. Then we played a kind of unplugged set and Andreas Rydman joined us and played lapsteel which worked perfectly on the songs.

Do you plan on touring in Europe?

Right now Im busy with Royal Hunt and Alex is doing the leading role in Jesus Christ Superstar playing in Turku this spring. We are booking dates in Sweden and Finland right now but we also had some questions coming in from Belgium and Holland for shows. We'll see how that works out. We really want to go out and play the songs live. the shows we've done in Sweden has went down really well and Alex is a phenomenal singer and frontman.

What do you feel about of the state of the market in 2013 ! What is your opinion concerning The Digital downloading legal and illegal?

The business has in way always been a bit fucked up. This digital thing has been going on for fifteen years now and most of the bands are still around. It's really depressing how music, that so many need in their life, is taking for granted and something that should just exist but never should cost something. We have no problems buying a cup of coffee at Starbucks that only lasts for some minutes but our will to pay for music that sticks with us for life is very low. I'm a part of this myself in some ways. As a consumer I love Spotify and I gladly pay for it. As an artist, the statements you get from them is ridiculous. One thing that bothers me though is how music sounds today. So many productions sounds absolutely crap today. There is no dynamics, no headroom and it's compressed to death leaving you with sore ears after three songs. Sure it sounds impressive the first minutes but then your ears are just aching. I also find it scary that so many people are actually listening to music through the speakers on their phones… We said no to this and hired a good studio and made everything right from the start, no cheating or no shortcuts.

Tell us what we have to expect from your side in the future to come?

When I get back from the tour we will start the serious process of writing for the new album with ASTRAKHAN. Me and Jörgen has a lot of ideas or almost ready songs that feels really good. I think it's going to me a bit darker this time.

Do you plan on touring intensively to promote the new album?

We will try to tour and play live as much as possible. As I said earlier, the shows we've done have went down relly well and Alex is like a dream on stage.

What is the last CD you have purchased ? Or are you still addicted to your Vinyl collection?

The last one I bought was Courtesy of. It's Swedish guy who have made an album with lounge versions of Thin Lizzy songs. Some songs are recorded in Prague with the symphony orchestra. It's great album with a killer production. Most of the time I'm Spotify guy since I rarely sit down at home and listen to music.

Please let us know your SWEDISH TOP 5?

1. Pain of Salvation
2. Opeth
3. Robyn
5. Kent

Please let us know your Alltime TOP 10?

Top ten records…? Ok, in no particulary order:
1. Long live Rock n roll(Rainbow)
2. Remedy Lane(Pain of Salvation)
3. Live and Dangerous(Thin Lizzy)
4. A hundred miles or more(Alison Krauss)
5. Isola(Kent)
6. Jesus Christ Superstar(original cast)
7. Hair
8. Nightwalker(Gino Vanelli)
9. Houses of the holy(Led Zeppelin)
10. Whats going on(Marvin Gaye)

Now it's time for the Chinese portrait aka Le questionnaire de Bernard Pivot, which is inspired by Marcel Proust but This questionnaire is probably more familiar to English audiences as the one that journalist James Lipton asks at the end of the TV show "Inside the Actors Studio."

What is your favorite word?


What is your least favorite word ?


What turns you on creatively, spiritually, or emotionally?


What turns you off?


What’s your favorite curse word?


What’s sound or noise do you love?


What’s sound or noise do you hate?

Drilling machines

If not Yourself , who would like to be ?


What’s the profession would you not like to do?


Who would like to see on a new bank note?

Yngwie J Malmsteen

If you reincarnated as some other plant or animal, what would it be?

An Elephant

If God exist, what you like to hear him say at the gates of Heaven?

I love you.

I wish you the best of luck with the new album and on the musical path ahead. Anything else you want to share with the Metal-Temple’s readers out there ?

We want to come out there and play for you and you can make it happen! Mail or phone your local promoter and get us to your town, you won’t regret it.


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