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Ten Questions with...

Janne Stark

Guitarist Janne Stark is very rare in that he can play an instrument and be a music journalist at the same time on Sweden Rocks amongst others (plus writing two Swedish rock encyclopedias!), plus playing in Locomotive Breath, Overdrive & helping out MTM Classix. Thanks to Batttttty for the contact.

1. What are you currently up to?

- I've just finished recording an album with the band Zello, which I'm a part member of. They're in the vein of Kansas meets Magnum. I'm also making the cover for the album, which will be entitled "First Chapter, Second Verse". I've also been guesting on released and forthcoming albums by Faith, Blinded Colony, Audiovisions, VII Gates and The Rod Chappell Band (Lightspeed bass-player).

We (Locomotive Breath) have recently recorded a very heavy and groove-oriented version of The Sweet's "Into The Night" for a forthcoming tribute album. We are also working on new material for our third album. Besides this I'm working for MTM Music and their Classix-label, digging up Swedish albums for re-issue, plus making some of the covers/booklets. I'm still writing for Fuzz Magazine and Sweden Rock Magazine, so I'm keeping kinda busy. Oh, almost forgot, we re-united Overdrive a few months ago for a one-off gig. This turned out really well, so we have another gig in December, plus we will be playing the Headbanger's Open Air Festival in Germany, next summer.

2. What has been the highlight(s) and lowpoints(s) of your career to date?

- Highlights... hmmm, I guess when Overdrive got the deal with Planet Records and recorded the debut "Metal Attack", which sold around 20.000 copies.

Low point... has to be the aforementioned Planet Records that never cared about paying us any royalties and we almost had take them to court. My career has however had very few low points, I'm happy to say.

3. How did you first get into the music business? Who have been your main influences on your career to date?

-I started playing around with my mother's old Bjarton guitar at around 7, which was kinda the first rendezvous with me and guitar. The first "real" band was Paradize in 1979, when we recorded a 7" (now a collector's item) which felt like a "big" step in the career... at the time anyway.

My first influences were The Sweet, Nazareth, Status Quo and Slade, then I got into Montrose, Judas Priest, Sir Lord Baltimore and the heavier bands. Guitarwise I was early on a big fan of Pat Travers, Leslie West and Snuffy Walden (Stray Dog), then came Randy Rhoads, Michael Schenker, John Sykes, Gary Moore and in the 90's Ty Tabor has become one of my favourite guitarists.

I'm not really into the shredders, it's often fun and impressive for 20 seconds, and then I get mentally numb and lose interest.

4. Locomotive Breath - What has been the highlight so far? How hard is it to keep a band going especially when members rely on other avenue for their income?

The first highlight was of course when we were signed by BlueStone for our first album. Another highlight was when we found singer Mattias Osbäck, whose voice really gave us the "edge" we needed. I think it's actually easier in a way keeping a band at this level, as none of us are forced to make a living out of our music.

Those who have music as their only income, have a much harder time staying in a band that doesn't make enough to live off. We all have regular jobs and do this for fun, which enables us to do whatever we want ourselves.

5. What style will the new studio album take? Which songs are you most proud of and why?

Well, we've actually gone into a new phase. As Mattias joined just before the recordings of "Heavy Machinery" he was never really involved with the writing process. This time he is very much involved and so is our new drummer Ted Wernersson and of course bass-player Ulf Kronsell.

This time, instead of me bringing in the finished ideas, we all contribute, bounce things back and forth, try different ways and really work on the songs. Plus Mattias is very good with melodies and harmonies, which also has changed our way of writing. The first couple of songs we wrote were in the same vein as "Heavy Machinery", heavy, riff-oriented, slightly quirky at times. However we suddenly got into this Shakra, old Dokken kind of mood, but keeping our heaviness.

The new material is a bit more straight ahead, more melodies, stronger choruses, but still with our sound. Suddenly we have so many songs and riffs, which we had put on the shelf before because they were not really right for the time. We have currently finished 7 new songs and have another 7-8 in the can. We'll write around 20, then pick out 12-14 and record them early next year.

My own favourite Locomotive Breath songs are "Naked To The World" - I like the groove, "High And Mighty"- I like the power of it and "Dream v/s Reality" - I... just like it. Lyrically I'm quite proud of "Reign Of Terror", which is about child abuse and was quite hard to write being a father.

Also "Evie" was a bit special. It's about a woman who is abused by her husband, but finally rises up and puts him away. Not long after the album was released, it turns out a person who was my friend for 20 years has been abusing his wife for 10 years and we didn't know anything! She finally gets the strength to contact the police and he was later sentenced to prison. Scary.

6. How did you come up with the idea of writing the two Swedish rock encylcopedias? Where on earth do you start with such a vast project?

It all started when a friend and former editor of Backstage Magazine, Lennart "Phantom" Larsson, asked me to list all Swedish releases I had in my collection. Being a man of order, I of course have them all listed in my computer, so I simply started sorting out all non-Swedish. Then when I had a list of all my Swedish releases I thought it would be kinda simple to add info on members, home town and a short bio and compile an encyclopaedia. I contacted a friend at a record mail order, who immediately encouraged me to do it and he would pay for the printing.

Then I got in touch with Roger Holegård, singer of Neon Rose and Wasa Express. It turned out he worked at Premium Publishing, who specializes in music books. They then took over the project and they are very professional. The first book (released in 1996) was written by me and the layout done by John Carling, while Volume 2 was all written, layout etc by me. I even scanned every f**king cover and band photo! I started out by going through my own (quite big) collection, contacted other collectors I know, went on to musical contacts, local record shops etc. I've actually already started working on Volume 3!

7. Who would be in your fantasy band line-up and why?

Jorn Lande on vocals, Randy Rhoads and Zakk Wylde on guitars, Bob Daisley on bass and Brian Tichy on drums.

8. What do you enjoy most about reviewing music? And what are the bands you suggest to look out for in the future?

I'm still like a kid at Christmas when there's CDs in the mail! I love finding new bands, preferably bands no ones ever heard of and help spread the word. I still have a great passion for music. I probably listen to music 70% of the time I'm awake, in the car, at the office, at home, and never to the radio, but the music I choose.

There are some really good Swedish bands I think can go far; Fuelhead, Punchline, Dogpound and Hellfueled. I'm still waiting for the big breaks for Freak Kitchen and A.C.T, two bands I think really deserve all attention they can get!

9. What do you do in your spare time outside of music?

My what? Well, I do get some spare time now and then, and I enjoy fishing (I used to work as a mechanical designer at ABU Garcia in the 80's).

10. Message to your fans...

-Well, I hope you're well, both of you ;-)

Interview © 2004 Jason Ritchie/
Format and edit: The Music Index.

All rights reserved.

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