John Wetton, 2000 Linda Shulman
John Wetton, 2000 Linda Shulman
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One of Sweden's brightest exports discusses the band's work and future
By Steve Nicholas
January 2001

Anekdoten With three studio albums and fans all over the world, Anekdoten have bought a fresh take on a beloved style of music over the past few years. Their sound is familiar to fans of prog, yet they have an original and powerful approach. They have always sustained a strong emphasis on deep lyrics and even deeper atmospheres. Here, the group reflects on their past efforts and some of their philosophies behind the music.

Steve Nicholas: How does the band view the musical growth over the course of the three studio albums?

Jan Erik Liljestrom: When Nicklas, Peter and I started playing together in the middle of 1990 we played covers. The first song that we started rehearsing was "Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Part 2," the second was "Lament" and I believe that the third one was "Red." We wanted to see if we could pull off playing Crimso-songs, primarily from the Wetton-era, as this was our main source for inspiration at the time. When Anna Sofi joined in August 1991 we were very inspired by the possibilities that had opened with the addition of the cello and the fact that we had bought a Mellotron.

The first album was coloured by these humble beginnings and it came to realization pretty easy. We were really excited about actually being able to compose and play this kind of music and that it in fact worked!

It was in some ways easier back then, because there were less outside distractions to the music making process. We were both rehearsing and playing live more often than today. For every year that passes there seem to be less and less time put into musicmaking. This has also to do with the fact that we are now semi-professional and have to deal with the promotion and business side of it all as well.

Nucleus was an attempt to show that we were more than a mere Crimson-clone. We felt that Vemod sounded too insecure and soft and we wanted to take our music to a more extreme level. Nucleus is in my opinion a more succesful piece of work, although the songwriting is laboured at times. This is the record that took the longest time to record and produce.

In the beginning the songwriting was largely done inbetween rehearsals, but nowadays the basic song-structures to many of our songs come out of extended jam-sessions in the rehearsal studio. I believe that this change of approach has made our music more natural and intuitive in recent years.

Peter is also more active in the melody-writing nowadays. He has a good sense of melody and comes up with many great things.

We have all developed as players and singers and we are better at listening to each other and do what is appropriate for the song. We have matured, and this is not necessarily a good thing in my book, but I hope that it's for the most part a good thing for us. So From Within is not as frantic as Nucleus, but more cohesive and "mature" - in a good way I hope.

SN: What qualities do you like to make sure go into an Anekdoten song?

JEL: There are no boundaries, apart from that all 4 members have to like it.

SN: What qualities does each member bring into the group (musically or personally)?

JEL: Nicklas is the main songwriter. He is the band's musical leader and I can't see Anekdoten going on without him. He is the one who ought to be there at all rehearsals, otherwise the rest of us would feel quite lost.

Peter is the reliable driving force. He is the most skilled at his instrument and he has also a well developed musicality. He is a master in finding innovative stuff to play that suits the songs. A few years ago we also bought a vibraphone and he often comes up with melody lines or riffs on that one. He has the main responsibility of sending parcels to distributors and he drives the van when we are on tour.

Anna Sofi doesn't contribute that much to the actual composing, but she has a great sense for atmospheres. She gives a good balance to the group and she is also a great human being and friend. Does the basic lay-out for our web-site.

I play the bass, write the lyrics, come up with some of the riffs and melodies. I answer most of the interviews and other correspondence (nowadays mostly through email). I am usually responsible for arranging the tours, doing the book-keeping, write out the invoices, update the homepage and pay our bills. I take care of business when we are on tour and try to remember what happened with all the money when we're back home. I try to keep things together in general, both musicwise and otherwise.

SN: What are some of your favorite Anekdoten songs and why?

JEL: I believe that "From Within," "Hole," "Book of Hours" and "In Freedom" are all succesful as songs.

SN: Any particular inspirations/stories behind any of the songs?

JEL: Not really. Often they have some resemblences with things going on in my own life, after passing through the filter of artistic freedom.

SN: Anekdoten is Swedish for the antidote...but what made you decide to call yourselves "The Antidote" in any language?

JEL: Anekdoten is Swedish for "the Anecdote," so that ruled out that question I guess. (laughs)

SN: Do you feel that music is a force that can be utilized to reach people and give them a more positive perspective?

JEL: Music has by far been the most important art form for me personally and it is definitely something that has helped shape my identity. Music is one of the things that keep us going.

SN: Do you see Anekdoten as an opportunity to spread positive messages to make the world a better place?

JEL: I wouldn't want to exaggerate the importance of the lyrics. Most people who listen to us probably don't consider the lyrics that much - it's the music that matters. Still, the lyrics are the best vehicle I have to come up with something of a lasting value for other people, so I do try to do my best. The messages doesn't necessarily have to be positive, but it's an advantage if I feel that I have something to say.

SN: As people who have more of a chance to reach people through music, do you feel you have personal responsibility?

JEL: We don't want to look at Anekdoten in that way, because it would kill some of the fun with playing together and the music wouldn't gain from this extra load. Of course we get people telling us that we can't take another 4 years to come up with our next album, but in the end this really has to be up to ourselves. We don't have any such obligations to our audience. We show the biggest respect to our audience if we as a band do exactly what we feel we want to do. We have to keep doing what feels good for us and hopefully others will enjoy this as well.

SN: What do you strive for when you compose lyrics? Any particular goal or message your trying to put forth?

JEL: Although the subject matters can be dark I feel that it is important to write the lyrics in a "human" way. As with the music, it is good if the lyrics makes you think. There is often a big difference between what we think and what we actually do, and this is a big problem with human nature, so becoming aware of this might be something to start off with. We know that there is something terribly wrong with the way we live, but we don't really change our behaviour much. I try to make people think about their situation and our relations to one another.

SN: If it's not too early to ask, what can we expect both musically and lyrically for the next Anekdoten album?

JEL: I think that the general feeling is that the fourth album has to be something of a new departure for us. We feel that the time is right to explore other sounds and ways of composing. We are planning to buy some recording equipment, so that we can play around with ideas and arrangements in new ways. It's too early to tell what this will all end up to though.

SN: The Morte Macabre album was an interesting collaboration between various Anekdoten and Landberk members. What other artists would the band members like to work with if the opportunity ever presented itself?

JEL: One possible contributor for the next record is a very good free-form saxplayer called Gustav Nygren. We have been sharing the same rehearsal studio and he is also a very good friend so we have just been waiting for the opportunity to present itself.

SN: What do you hope to achieve with Anekdoten?

JEL: World peace (laughs)