Sweden’s the Hellacopters have recently released their seventh album ‘By The Grace Of God'. Clearly influenced by 70's punk and 80's rock acts such as The Ramones and Kiss, they have two gold albums in their native Sweden, hang around with the Hives and the Cardigans, star in their very own comic book and make the Datsuns look dull on stage. Their scatterings of UK fans have been foaming at the mouth in anticipation of their 2003 UK tour, which kicked off at London's Scala on the seventh of April. I met singer Nick Royale and guitarist Robert "Strings" Dahlviqst before the opening show to find out their heroes, their hopes, and the real story behind that comic book!

PB: You’ve had very favourable reviews in the UK music press. Has that affected you in a positive way?

NR : I don't know. I don’t read it!

PB: Well unfortunately I do! But they do seem to like you.

NR: The few reviews I’ve read are s***! They were positive write ups but they always connect us to bands we don’t like, or don’t even know. There was a few reviews comparing us to Queen – I’ve never even listened to Queen! But then, it’s not up to us to have opinions about our music. We don’t listen to us – we just play us!

PB: You’ve recorded hundreds of songs over the years, releasing seven albums. How do you keep the quality as high as the quantity?

NR : I don't know. The first thing we ever did was to put out a 7 inch ourselves, and send that out to everyone. We didn’t get much feedback, but we kept putting out 7 inches around the world on different little labels. We never really think about what songs to put on what, and that means a lot of songs on the singles are better than songs on the albums. We sometimes do covers on the B-sides. We started covering bands who were really important to us, but soon realised that doing a Stooges cover or a Kiss cover is pointless – you can’t do it better than it already is! Now we all like soul music, so we can do covers of soul in a rock and roll style. Although we did do a Ramones cover for a Swedish tribute album last year – the original's much better though, obviously!

PB: You worked with the Cardigans on their new LP 'Long Gone Before Daylight' – what happened there?

NR : Yeah, me and Pelle Almqvist from the Hives did some backing vocals. I really like the Cardigans – and their new album is really good I think. We toured with the Hives before. They opened for us. And now they’re massive! But they're good friends of ours so maybe one day we can open for them.

PB: You’ve mentioned the Stooges and the Ramones. Is there anything that’s been released recently that you listen to?

NR: The new bands that are good – they sound like old bands! (laughs) But like I say, I really like the Cardigans, and I think the Soundtrack of our Lives are really good too.

PB: Who’s supporting you on this tour then?

NR: The Peepshows. They’re from Sweden too. They’re good friends of ours on the same label, so we had to ask them really! Their new album is amazing – really good guitar based band, you should check them out.

PB: So what’s the story with the comics?

NR : Well the guy who I do the artwork with, his friend is an artist whose drawings I really like. He asked us if we wanted to have a comic and we said "Of course!" It’s really exciting – we’re really cool and we fight in space! The ending is very abrupt so we’re hoping for a second edition! It’s good merchandise.

PB: How do you feel about America?

NR: We’ve done five tours over there and they’ve all been the same. Really good tours, like in every country – some are better, some are worse. But we’re lucky because we get to play with great bands every day, bands whose records we would buy if we weren’t friends with them. But it hasn’t really taken off over there ! Apart from Sweden it hasn’t really. The hype goes up and down all the time, but we can pay our rent, buy records, play with really cool bands and drink free beer!, but not so much free beer in England actually!

PB: At the minute, it’s very fashionable to have guitars in your band. It must be a good time for a band like yourself?

S: I don't know if it’s good for us, because we haven’t noticed any change in our fortunes! But it’s good for the Hives, the Soundtrack of our Lives, the White Stripes…and I’d rather that than anything else you know?At the same time I’m very surprised because, like I said, it’s nothing new! It’s a media thing I guess, like you said – it’s fashionable to play guitar and wear ripped jeans! Hopefully it last a while though, but it’s probably just a bandwagon. It’s always the way.

PB: You do feel like there’s a lack of substance to some of the bands though.

NR : Yeah that’s it, you get good bands but you also get a LOT of shit bands.

PB: So is the UK treating you well since you got here?

NR: Not that I know of! But seriously, all we can do is play a good show…we’ve got good songs and we do a good show – we could be big! But if we wanted to be big we wouldn’t have started playing this kind of music…

S: You don’t play rock and roll to be famous; you play rock and roll because you have to!

NR : It wouldn’t hurt to sell a few more records! A cool new car would be good!

After meeting two of the most friendly musicians I could hope to, I was treated to the most high energy rock and roll experience of my life. The Hellacopters rocked the Scala with their pounding, riff heavy power rock and nearly blew the roof off the converted cinema with the reaction to their stage moves! Not showing any consideration for fashion or 'cool', these five Swedes made rock cliches look good again. Nick and Strings duelled on guitars, drummer Robert Eriksson played standing up, and the keyboard player Boba Fett was the spitting double for Spinal Tap's legendary Viv Savage - right down to the perm and drugged expression. As a newcomer to the band, I was blown away by their power, their emotion…and their punctuality! With so many 'The' bands churning out the same old garage rock formula in the hope of making a quick buck whilst it's still fashionable, it's refreshing to see a band who don't care about that side of things, who only care about sending people away dazzled by the shining brilliance of rock and roll.

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