The Night Flight Orchestra

Entretien avec David Andersson - le 16 novembre 2019

98
Tabris

Une interview de




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Tabris : To paraphrase our specialist (Merci Foule Fête) who introduced us to your band with Internal Affairs in 2012, The Night Flight Orchestra is a name that make us dream. Your universe immediately charms us with its richness, its relaxation and its enthusiasm. Tell us more about you, and what represent The NFO's music for you so far?

David Andersson : Hi, this is David Andersson, guitarist and major songwriter for the NFO. Thank you for enjoying what we do. Like you said yourself, our goal is to create a parallel universe, where you can go and hide and daydream for a while, or just live out your wildest fantasies when reality weighs you down. When we started The NFO, we felt that there was something missing from the contemporary music scene, and we just wanted to fill that void, creating music that we ourselves would like to hear.

Tabris : The NFO's music offers something very closed, personal, and at the same time, sounds unseen, new. First, we feel immersed in something extremely comfortable and, suddenly, we're on a trip, ready to be surprised. It's amazing.

David Andersson : Yes, we want to take people on a trip. Our favourite term is « Music that doesn’t exist ». That’s what we aim for. To create music that hasn’t previously existed.

Tabris : With now seven years of experience, four high quality albums and a great number of shows, The NFO tends to be well known and more and more greeted by the public and criticism. Did you expected this? What does it inspire you for next?

David Andersson : Me and Björn Strid (vocals) came up with the idea for the band when I did my first US tour as a session guitarist for Soilwork back in 2006, and did our first rehearsals with the band probably around 2010. Back then, no one was remotely interested in what we were doing, and it was really hard for us to get a record deal. Finally Björn’s friends from the Italian indie label Coroner Records offered us a deal. So no, I never expected any kind of commercial success, I just hoped that we would be able to continue releasing music, just because we all had such a great time doing it. I’d never expected us to be able to do headline tours or play at all the big festivals. And it’s extremely inspiring that there are quite a few people out there who seems to like us. It would be fantastic if we someday made it to the next level and had the money to put on a really spectacular stage show with aeroplanes, explosions and cocktail waitresses, but we’re not really there yet.

Tabris : I always thought that musicians with solid reputation had no problem developing their personnal projects. Obviously, I was wrong. How did you feel when Internal Affairs came out? And at your very first concert as The NFO? Was it like starting all over again? Or was it different, thanks to the experience you have of production and live session ?

David Andersson : As a musician, you have to realize that getting somewhere is all about branding. I hate that word, but it’s very true, unfortunately. And branding is something that gets more and more important in music since hardly anyone buys the physical products anymore. When I grew up, I knew the name of every musician that played on every record I owned, and if I saw the name of a musician I liked on a record sleeve in the record store, I often bought it. But these days, for most people, music is just something you consume via various streaming services, and, apart from the really serious music fans, people have no idea who’s playing, composing, or producing the songs, no matter how commercially successful the artist/band is. Which means that if you’ve managed to establish a brand, you can do whatever you like and people will still come to your shows and stream your music. These days, we have tribute bands headlining arenas, like the various Pink Floyd tribute bands out there, which to me is just an abomination, no matter how talented they are. It just represents the fact that music is a dying medium, and the people who have the means to pay for it have no interest whatsoever to explore new things, they just want to make sure that they spend their money on something that’s familiar and safe, with no surprises. We even have holograms doing tours these days! So if you have a brand and you use it, you can make good money playing nostalgia tours without any original members left and people will still be happy since most people won’t know who played on the albums in the first place. But if someone in Iron Maiden or Metallica made a solo record, no one would care, even if it was a masterpiece. Because without the brand, you’re nothing.

But at the same time, it’s liberating. As long as you don’t expect to get rich, you’re free to do whatever you want these days. When I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s, your music taste defined who you were. When metal bands took chances and incorporated other elements into their music, people hated it, no matter how good it was. And it was the same thing for pretty much every music genre. But these days, since your music taste doesn’t define you, people are more open-minded, and aren’t afraid to admit that they like all kinds of music, regardless of the genre. So even if the era of the rich rockstar will soon be just a memory, it still feels like a victory when you see someone in a Mayhem t-shirt disco dancing at an NFO concert.

As for the NFO, our first concert was a very low key affair, and no one had really heard of us. And since we were all experienced musicians, we weren’t really nervous. But there was a sense of anticipation, just like being on a first date with someone you don’t really know. Once you’ve done a few tours, you sort of establish certain patterns on stage, and you know what to expect, but when you play in a new constellation for the first time, you don’t know what the chemistry’s going to be like, or if it’s going to be there at all. But you know that you’ll survive the evening.

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Tabris : Sometimes The World Ain't Enought is already one year old and a touring followed this release. We had the pleasure of attending some of your sets this year and at the end of 2018. Tell us more about this tour, how was it ? And what did you think about the audience compared to previous years?

David Andersson : Yes, we did a European headline tour at the end of last year and played a bunch of festivals and some other shows this year. I think it all went really well, and it’s great to see how our audience is growing and becoming more diverse. When we did our first shows, the audience mostly consisted of Arch Enemy and Soilwork fans who were a bit curious, but these days we have all kinds of people coming to our shows; everything from extreme metal fans to old AOR fans to young people with no obvious connection to any scene who just seem to enjoy the music for what it is. And that’s fantastic.

Tabris : Key moments during this tour ? Did you have time in your trip to visit places and meet people ?

David Andersson : To be honest, I always find questions like these really difficult to answer. When you’re on tour, everything sort of becomes a blur, and you don’t have much time to explore or experience the city you’re in. And not being especially young anymore, we don’t do any crazy stuff on tour. It’s more about the overall feeling of the tour, how you get along as a band and if it all feels worth it. You can have a crap show in a city you love and vice versa. And you can meet really nice people, but you know that you’re soon heading for the next show. For me, these days, the best thing about touring is the detachment from the real world, the occasional magic show, and those late night conversations on a moving tour bus that you that wouldn’t have had anywhere else.

Tabris : You share your time between The NFO and Soilwork. How is this going? Is it difficult or pleasant to switch from one to another?

David Andersson : It’s a bit difficult trying to schedule in everything, I also have a day job working as a doctor in a hospital and I have kids, so for me it’s extremely difficult sometimes. But at the same time I’m extremely fortunate to be able to play with two great bands and also having an interesting day job, so I don’t want to give any of it up, even if it can be exhausting at times. I’ve had serious health issues in the family, so I have had to have a replacement guitarist for some of the Soilwork live work these past few years for that reason, but I’ll be with them again for the Asian/Australian and Finland tours we have coming up this fall/winter.

But on an artistic level, to me it’s all music. Of course you have a different attitude when you play metal compared to when you play classic rock, but I don’t find it difficult to switch styles playing live. The songwriting, however is quite different. When I’m writing songs for Soilwork, it’s usually based around some sort of guitar riff, whereas with the NFO, the most important part is the vocal melody and the harmonies, and then you buid the rest of the song around that.

Tabris : With singing, the guitar give de « A », drive the emotions (and your playing is superb, rich, exciting, there is passion behind, and the search for harmony). So, as a guitarist and a composer, what does this intrument represent for you? What does it provide to you ?

David Andersson : The guitar has huge symbolic value for me, and there was something about it that attracted me at an early age. My first guitar was a Les Paul copy, but my hands became to big for Les Pauls, so as an adult, I’ve always played Strat models. I’ve been endorsed by ESP for a few years now, and I have an assortment of metal and classic rock guitars that is quite fantastic.

I think that when I’m composing, I’m quite unusual since I think about the guitar more as a piano. Most guitar players always focuses on the root (1st), whereas I like to create songs with various slash chords, with the 3rd or 5th or other scale tones in the bass position, which is more of a piano thing. And I always focus on the vocal melody and the lyrics. If it’s a crap song, you can’t disguise with a good guitar part. Though many have tried…

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Tabris : How do you feel when you get ready to play The NFO on stage? How are you preparing? Do you have mojos? And after the show?

David Andersson : We usually sit around and listen to music to get in the mood, and have a few glasses of sparkling wine (wish I could say Champagne, but it’s usually cremant/cava/prosecco/sekt, depending on where we are). No mojos for me, but we have a pre-show ritual where we wish each other bon voyage. For me, playing live is all about escapism. On a good night, you can slip into this rock star persona when you forget about everything else and you feel invincible.

But it’s a quite difficult thing, being an ageing rock musician and still trying to retain some dignity on stage. I think about that a lot. If you’re 44 years old, bald and overweight, how can you possibly try to get away with sexy poses onstage? I’ve stopped banging my head, I’ve stopped trying to pretend that I’m a young rockstar. I’m just a middle-aged man playing music that I love, and I might throw a face or a pose every now and then, but it’s with the utmost modesty, and with me fully aknowledging that it must look stupid at times.

Because let’s face it, the era of rockstars is long gone. Music is just another medium for entertainment, along with games, films, books, social media etc. It’s sad, but it’s just the way it is. Music will never be as important again as it was to me, growing up in the 80’s and 90’s. I think that there will always be a subgroup of enthusiasts really liking music and buying physical products etc, but for most people in the future it will just be something you consume song by song on playlists that are being recommended to you. And of course I think it’s sad, but at the same time it’s all a part of the hyper-accelerated evolution that we’re all a part of that will hopefully evolve into something completely different and even more exciting.

Tabris : We are some big fans of your first albums (Skyline Whisper is my favorite). Alas, some titles are rarely played. How did you made your setlist choices? Did you plan to play some of the past titles again (the melancolic "Transalantic Blues" and the overpowering "Heater Reports", the haunting "Stilleto" and "I Ain't Old I Ain't Young", not to mention the indispensable "Internal Affairs" ... among others)?

David Andersson : I’m still very fond of those first two albums, and we always play a few songs from them live, but I think a lot of people still hasn’t heard them since they were released on a smaller label and didn’t get much attention back then. However, they’ve since been re-released on Nuclear Blast, so hopefully more people will become aware of them. Personally, I really like the epic progressive songs like "Heather Reports", "Transatlantic Blues" and "The Last of the Independent Romantics", and they’re among the songs that I am most proud of having written, and some day I’d like to play all of them live. But we do tend to have a bit of a party atmosphere at our live shows, and when we become to epic and proggy, the party tends to die a little. But I’m sure they’ll pop up in our set again in the future, just like the other songs you mentioned.

Tabris : Many titles deserved to be highlight. So rich in colors, clever in details. It makes me wonder about the composition. How do you do ? From the initial idea to the final composition of each title. What are the contributions of each member of the band ? Your working method ?

David Andersson : I write most of the songs, and then Björn and Sebastian usually add a few songs as well. These days, we’re mostly doing demos on our laptops at home, and then we just add some real drums etc in the studio. We often keep a lot of the demo parts, because they’re often more spontaneuos and interesting.

Tabris : You have a talented live musician (playing guitar at Bang your Head Fest and bass in Copenhague). Who is he?

David Andersson : His name is Rasmus Ehrnborn, and he’s an incredibly talented guy who’s actually a drummer from the beginning, but can play anything. He’s filled in for us on both bass, guitar, percussion and keyboards, and he’s also Soilwork’s touring bassist. He’s our saviour, and a really good friend.

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Tabris : We have seen you gradually change to endorse the NFO Air concept, made of colorful shirts, deliciously beautifull air hostess and a charismatic captain at the controls. How was borned the idea, and do you intend to evolve this staging, or do you have other projects for the future?

David Andersson : We always wanted to expand our live sound, so we started looking for female back-up singers a few years ago, and were really happy when we found Anna Brygård and AnnaMia Bonde. They just fit right in. And Björn came up with the concept with air stewardesses and NFO air, and we’re hoping to develop it even further in the future. I think they’ve really added a whole new dimension to our live shows.

Tabris : What became the owl of your's that sat on stage? It disappeared the last time we saw you.

David Andersson : We found that owl backstage at the very first show we did, in a small town in Sweden called Lidköping where our drummer Jonas Källsbäck lives and where I also lived for a few years when I was young. So it naturally became our mascot. We try to bring it whenever we can, but the Owl is a nocturnal animal and a late sleeper, so sometimes it misses the plane.

Tabris : Retrospectivly, what do you think about your four albums ? How do you evaluate your past work, studio and live rendering and what do you want to improve now ?

David Andersson : I’m still proud of all our albums, and they all have their specific charm. When we entered the studio to record our first album, Internal Affairs, we were all about unsure about how it would turn out. We knew that we had some good songs, but Björn had never done an entire album with only clean vocals before, and as a band, you never know if the magic you experience in the rehearsal space will still be there when you record in a studio, since it’s two completely different things. But it turned out quite well, and for the 2nd album, Skyline Whispers, we were a bit more sure of ourselves as a band and experimented a bit more in the studio. And I think we started to really find our identity as a band on that album. On the first album, we still had a lot of 70’s classic rock vibes with Hammond organs and blues-influenced guitar riffs, which I love, but there was a whole new wave of new bands coming up at that time playing fuzzy retro 70’s rock with flared trousers and a whiff of marijuana scent around them, and we realised that that’s not our thing. We wanted to create something more sophisticated and adventurous, and combining all those classic elements in new and exciting ways. More champagne and cocaine than weed and beer.

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So when we got our deal with Nuclear Blast, we had a pretty clear vision of what we wanted to do for Amber Galactic and Sometimes the World Ain’t Enough, which was to build this parallel aural dimension with great songwriting, catchy choruses, an underlying Scandinavian melancholy, but to also create soundscapes and lots of production details that also make it interesting enough for repeat listenings.

One of the things that have allowed us to evolve organically as a band is that we’ve never had to involve outside producers, we’ve always recorded and produced everything pretty much ourselves, so our method of working has pretty much been consistent ever since the first album, and I also think that’s a huge reason why our records sound a bit different compared to most other bands, we all have quite distinctive styles as musicians, and there’s never been anyone there trying to tone our strange quirks down, we prefer to enhance them and let everyone just develop their own ideas and take them as far as possible.

Tabris : Does The NFO allow you to go further in a more personal and complete way as musicians? I will take the example of Björn Strid and his work on singing, so amazing. So different from what we know about him with Soilwork. With The NFO, he's transfigured, and it's impressive. Such a voice and such an expanse register ! Does The NFO offer each of you an exploration ground, an opportunity to deepen your sound and your savoir-faire, maybe to discover news qualities that you can now fully improve and exploit?

David Andersson : I cannot speak for Björn, but it’s pretty obvious that he’s developed as a singer since we started the NFO. He’s doing things with his voice now that I didn’t think any human was capable of.

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Tabris : About video clips. You have chosen, on one hand, the very kitsh 80's style with, for example, "This Time" and "Turn To Miami" (a risk-taking, as much as a form of self-mockery) and on the other hand, you embark us on a sideral comics-oriented world with the highly addictive "Gemini" and also "Lovers in the Rain". What is the master idea behind theses videos? And do you have plans to continue in this direction?

David Andersson : I don’t think about the kitsch 80’s style as self-mockery, it’s more of a tribute to that era and the way people weren’t taking themselves too seriously and weren’t afraid to go a bit over the top. In our case, we’re always deadly serious about the music, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. But we’re moving away from performance videos in the future, it’s just not that interesting to watch a bunch of aging Swedes playing air guitar. As for the animated videos, I provided the basic scripts and storyboards for them, and then Elia Cristofoli, a very talented guy from Verona, Italy, made them come to life. We don’t have any more animated videos planned right now, we’re heading in more of a cinematic direction.

Tabris : People are more than ever hungry about accurate scenarios to follow, visual inventions. Our world is surrounded by pictures. That must not be easy to manage, to make choices, compose a video that will catch the audience while staying true with the music ?

David Andersson : I think about videos as short films these days, trying to capture the feeling of a song with moving pictures. And like I said, to me performance videos are dead. You have to accept the fact that people aren’t interested in seeing you anymore.

Tabris : I can not help but think about Soilwork, "Stålfågel"'s video clip too, which also has this same comic's style inspiration. Soilwork's sound also changed this past years, with some discreet tones of The NFO. Does what you have discovered and developped with The NFO have any influence on your works elsewhere ?

David Andersson : The "Stålfågel" video was also made by Elia Cristofoli, with me providing the idea and basic manuscript. And of course, it’s inevitable that what we do with NFO influences Soilwork and vice versa. Personally, I don’t see it as a problem. In both Soilwork and the NFO we always try to evolve and take our music to new and interesting places, and even if there might be a few classic rock elements sneaking their way into Soilwork, at the same time we’ve also developed Soilwork’s extreme elements, There are more blastbeats on Verkligheten than on any other Soilwork record.

Tabris : I do not know Soilwork as well as The NFO, but I really enjoyed listening Verkligheten.  Sure, the approach is very different, Soilwork is dark, corrosive, vindicative, while The NFO is dreamy, romantic, pleasing, but there's a shared idea, these parallel worlds we build ourselves. Could you tell us more about this idea ? How do you architecture the music around this ? And how do you imagine these parallel worlds ?

David Andersson : I do believe in building worlds, but I guess a lot of peple misses out on this. These days, what matter is to get songs on playlists. For The Amber Galactic/Sometimes the World Ain’t Enough, I created this whole pro-feminist science fiction back-up story, but I guess a lot of of people just missed it. The same goes for Verkligheten, which is a dystopic view of the world where the only means to escape come from within yourself, and finding the alternative worlds that we all have within us.

I believe in building frameworks where people can create their own worlds, because we all have unique internal landscapes. That’s why I’ve always preferred books and music over movies, if you have a busy mind you can create so much with just one or two of your senses being stimulated.

Tabris : I do love your logo. This winged satellite. And on the artwork of the song "Satellite", it's really nicely stylized. How was born the idea?

David Andersson : I’ve always loved the idea of incorporating the organic with the mechanic, which probably also comes from reading too many sci-fi novels. But the basic idea was mine, combining the iconic Russian satellie Sputnik with a pair of black angel wings. It’s still my only tattoo, but I love the imagery.

Tabris : The single "Satellite" suggests an output in the tone of Amber Galactic and Sometimes the World ain't Enough. Can you tell us more about your future album?

David Andersson : Our next album is currently being mixed, and we plan to release it hopefully sometime around Feb-Mar next year. "Satellite" is a nice and catchy song, and we wanted to release something before the summer festival season as a special treat for our fans. Our new album will contain all the classic NFO elements, but I think it’s a bit more dramatic, epic and diverse, with a few unexpected twists. If you like what we’ve done so far, you won’t be disappointed. The new album will be more of a statement, with all the songs being tied together. Although we have catchy songs always, thr album is meant to be listened to in its entirety.

We just released a teaser for the new album, called "Cabin Pressure Drops". It’s a tiny soap-opera, and you can also listen to the instrumental track on all streaming services. People usually post pictures and interviews from the studio, but we wanted to give people an idea of the themes and imagery from the new album, without being too obvious.

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Tabris : Internal Affairs and Skyline Whispers were very colorful, with a variety of inspirations, ranging from 70's sounds ("Demon Princess"), to jazz ("Heater Reports"), or american country rock tones ("1998"). Do you intend to use this kind of element again?

David Andersson : That’s the great thing about playing in and writing songs for The NFO; nothing is forbidden. We’re able to play pretty much any genre, and if we have an idea, we’ll try it out, however strange it might seem. I love all kinds of music, and we’ll always incorporate all kinds of elements in our music, so keep on expecting the unexpected. I’m a big jazz/fusion fan, and I’m working on a solo instrumental fusion album that’ll hopefully be finished sometime next year.

Tabris : Can you tell us more about this personnal project ?

David Andersson : I love the idea of improvising and being able to stretch out a bit more. I really like that powerful feeling that you get from playing rock and metal, but at the same time I get easily bored, so I want to do something that’s a bit more out there. There are probably only a handful of people that will listen to it, but still. It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do.

Tabris : Concerning lyrics. For some, they are delectable sensuality, sweet suggestions, and at the same time, slips an idea of escape. There is always somewhere a kind of fever. What inspires you the lyrics of your songs?

David Andersson : That’s probably the best summary of my lyrics that I have ever heard! But yes, what moves me is the idea of hopeless romance, the need to escape reality and create fictional inner worlds, and those rare epic moments of feverish passion that you perhaps might only experience a few times during a lifetime, if you’re lucky. The perfect lyric incorporates all that, but it’s still vague enough to spark unique daydreams in the mind of whoever is listening.

Tabris : Which albums, books and movies would you recommend ?

David Andersson : That’s a whole interview in itself. I’ve always loved reading, and read probably 5-6 books a week, and they’re all inspiring in their own way. When I was young, I was a bit more serious and read all the 19th-20th century classics like Sartre, Hesse, Tolstoy, Céline etc, which I guess have shaped me in lots of ways. These days I read mostly just for pleasure, so it’s mostly urban fantasy, sci-fi, chick-lit, food books or music biographies.

When it comes to music books, some of my strong recommendations would be Meet Me in the Bathroom by Lizzy Goodman, Music from Big Pink by John Niven, Hotel California by Barney Hoskyns, The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones by Stanley Booth, The Dark Stuff by Nick Kent, Le Freak by Nile Rodgers. They all capture the excitement of playing music, but at the same time have that melancholic undercurrrent that’s always there, knowing that one day it will all be over. And anything by Rob Sheffield and Chuck Klosterman, of course. And Viv Albertine’s books are fantastic.

As for urban fantasy, Seanan McGuire’s October Daye series, and anything by Amanda Carlson, Sarah J. Maas, Christina Henry, the Sandman Slim series by Richard Kadrey, the Archangel series by Nalini Singh, the Kitty series by Carrie Vaughn, and I’ll stop there because I could just go on and on forever.

And the Absolution Gap books by Alastair Reynolds are a must when it comes to Science fiction, and Kevin J. Anderson’s Saga of Seventh Suns.

My music taste is very eclectic, but some of my favorite and most influential albums of all times would be:
Black Sabbath – Sabbath Bloody Sabbath
Tommy Bolin – Teaser
Mahavishnu Orchestra – Visions of the Emerald Beyond
Deep Purple – Made in Europe
Joni Mitchell – Blue
Toto – Hydra
Tribal Tech – Illicit
The Band – The Band
Entombed – Wolverine Blues
Rolling Stones – Let it Bleed
The Beatles – Abbey Road
10 cc – Deceptive Bends
ELO – A New World Record
King Crimson – The Power to Believe

But I think that women are the future of pop music. Some of my favorite recent records have been made by Weyes Blood, Jenny Lewis, Ellie Goulding and Carrie Underwood.

I don’t watch much films. When I do, it’s either sci-fi/fantasy/superhero stuff like Star Wars, X-men, Marvel. Or romantic comedies. To me, movies are just light entertainment. If I want something to think about, I’ll read a book instead.

Tabris : Manufactured cigarettes or rolling tobacco ?

David Andersson : I’d accept any cigarette, as long there’s only tobacco in it. I don’t get along very well with psychedelic drugs.

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Tabris : Does music leave you the time to live your private life fully ? To share the best with your loved ones ?

David Andersson : To be honest, no. Balancing a day job as a doctor, with a research career on the side and at the same time being a father and playing with, writing songs for, co-directing videos for, writing press releases for, coming up with artwork ideas for two bands, i.e. Soilwork and The NFO, makes my life insanely complicated. But I guess I’m what you’d call a highly functioning depressive, so I need to keep busy and have that creative outlet, and as long as I have that, I’m quite happy. When I don’t have any ongoing creative project, I just shut down, so I try to stay busy. I heard somewhere that sharks need to keep swimming, otherwise they’ll drown.

Tabris : A last word for your french friends ?

David Andersson : I love France. I love the French culture and French food, and I studied French for quite a few years at school, so I understand French quite well, but whenever I’m France and try to speak French, they give up and start to speak English with a French accent instead. So I think all you French people should be a bit more patient with us foreigners trying to learn to speak French. You already have the food and the wine, so it’s not as if you’re in a hurry.

Tabris : Thanks a lot for this exchange, hope to see you back in France soon. We wish you the best for future projects







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