It's not too often you get to meet your musical heroes, let alone sit down and talk to them for a pretty extensive amount of time. On October 13, the second day of the NJ Proghouse Homecoming Weekend, I got to do just that and meet Swedish progressive masters Beardfish. The following includes all types of badassery, including new album news, two possible releases regarding covers of their own music and b-sides, touring the United States, being asked by Mike Portnoy to play Progressive Nation At Sea in 2014, and a whole slew of other killer topics!
Metal Injection: So I guess we'll start off with touring questions! You've played in the U.S. before. I know in 2012 you've played here [at Roxy and Dukes], but you don't really come here a lot. How has that worked out over the past few years? Would you like to play the U.S. more often?
Singer, guitarist and keyboardist Rikard Sjöblom: Yeah, we want to come to the U.S. We always have a good time when we're here. I think it's mainly… we suck at booking stuff ourselves [laughs].That's one reason, and we always wait until someone asks us. Then they do and we come! Then we're doing this thing in February, the Progressive Nation at Sea [headed by Mike Portnoy, information can be found here], the cruise.
MI: How did you guys end up getting asked to play that?
RS: They contacted us and asked us. Mike [Portnoy] actually wrote me an email and said, "hey guys, I come to you in my Don Corleone fashion and just say 'I have an offer you can't refuse,'" you know? [laughs] And that's it basically.
MI: You were supposed to play Progressive Nation 2009 right [formerly headed by Dream Theater]? With Pain of Salvation and all them but it fell through.
RS: Yeah for both us and Pain of Salvation. Basically because [label] InsideOut, they were owned fifty percent by SPV back then and SPV went bankrupt. When they went belly-up they couldn't afford the tour support. Everything just sort of fell through and it was a lot of money and we couldn't come up with the money ourselves unfortunately, so.
MI: How are the crowds here versus other countries? Are we more receptive… maybe kind of loud and obnoxious?
RS: It's always been good here. There are more sitting audiences in the States but I sort of like that actually. It's really intense listening, at least when it comes to progressive rock.
To kind of change topics here, I saw you posted a picture from a session where you were working on a new song called "A Love Song, Pt. 2."
RS: We might be playing it tonight actually!
I guess you have another record written, or at least in the process of writing?
RS: The record is basically written. We just need to rehearse it and maybe fight it out a little bit about parts and stuff because we usually do that. Then we need to record it, of course, which I think we're going to be starting in January. December or January somewhere. It will be good! When we have the time [to record]. The label wants to release it in June  so if they want to push us to do that then we need to start recording it pretty soon!
Is it going to be a continuation of [the 2006 record whose opening track is "A Love Song"] The Sane Day or this going to be a completely different thing?
RS: No it's not going to be a continuation of that album. It's more like, uh… I guess it's not really a continuation of anything! It's basically a bunch of songs that feel really good. Some of it is really fresh and I'm happy about it. It feels really good.
So is the material you've been writing going to be a little heavier like [their 2012 record] The Void? It was interesting to me because Sleeping In Traffic, Pts. 1 and 2 were these throwback-ey kind of prog things, Destined Solitaire kinda ventured into this Opeth-ey kind of stuff and Mammoth was this Rush and King Crimson type stuff, and then The Void and just… man, it was a bunch of heavy shit.
RS: I think there's some heavier stuff here as well, but there's more rock and heavy rock stuff here as well and not that much metal actually. There is one song that is really heavy though, and we'll see! Some songs can seem a bit softer and then you start recording them and it's like, "hey man, we have got to have a downtuned guitar here with lots of distortion on it," so you never know.
As far as lyrical content goes, you know Sleeping in Traffic– concept album. Destined Solitaire I assume concept album? It kind of seems like a story of growing up and thinking you know everything.
RS: Destined Solitaire would have been more of a concept album actually, if… I don't know, I kind of stopped the whole process of the lyrics somewhere along the line. I had this idea of writing a short story for Destined Solitaire but it just sort of fell through and I don't know why. It was actually meant to be that Destined Solitaire was the name of the guy… or Destine D. Solitaire or something, I don't really remember anymore. It was this guy who, whenever he was out looking at the world or whatever, he just sort of felt bad about it. I guess that's sort of a theme that goes with all of the albums basically. I hate everyone… no, I'm kidding [laughs].
Sleeping in Traffic was based off some weird you dream you had, right?
RS: Yeah! I had a dream, this is long ago because I think the song "Sleeping in Traffic" was written in 2002 I think.
Because it shows up at the end of The Sane Day as well, that little snippet radio thing.
RS: Oh yeah! In the first part of the Sleeping in Traffic album series too, yeah, to tie it together. The song was written very long ago though and it was based on a crazy dream I had. I can't really remember it now but I guess it's in the song somewhere [laughs]. Maybe I should read the lyrics and recollect, you never know.
I guess to switch gears here for a few and touch on new music again, someone posted on your Facebook about [a B-Side Christmas song never released] "…And Terry Took The Christmas Route" and you had mentioned you were thinking of doing something with that but nothing ever got announced, but maybe I'm being nosy as hell.
RS: No! Actually we put together an album with unreleased stuff because there is quite a lot of stuff like early takes. We want it to have early school photos of us when we were in like, fifth grade, and doing like a limited edition CD or an official bootleg or something like that. It's actually… I put together the whole CD with the transitions and everything and it's kind of neat to listen to. I'm just not sure if it's only neat for us because we were on it and if the songs actually suck, but you never know. Before we recorded the first album [in 2003] we had recorded what was an entire album, but it was just still a demo thing and this was before [bassist] Robert [Hansen] was in the band, and when I put together that one I took like, four tracks from that demo session [for the B-Side album] which is the first stuff. Then there's demos that weren't on The Sane Day or Sleeping in Traffic, Pt. 1 and also that Christmas song. For me it's a favorite from that era, but because of the Christmas-related lyrics it's sort of difficult… you can never play it, and then you have to learn it all again if you're going to play it.
Any plans to release it soon-ish or is it just an idea? I know you've got to dig up all these photos now for it…
RS: Oh yeah, I'm guessing if we're going to print it ourselves we're going to need the money. Maybe we could do a pre-order thing for it or something.
Maybe you could do like, an IndieGoGo sort of thing for it? I know that's ridiculously overplayed now with every band in existence having like, a thousand of them but…
RS: Yeah, and people doing fundraisers.
They seem to work… sometimes.
RS: We never did that actually! With The Void we did the pre-order thing which was nice because we knew how much we needed to stock up on that album, but that worked out for us.
I saw a video you posted of a kind of stripped-down version of "The Platform," which was really good for the 30 seconds it lasted. Would you guys consider ever doing a covers album of your own music?
RS: I think it would be quite fun to do that kind of thing, maybe do like an EP or something or a shorter album around 40 minutes or something. Yeah, our albums are always like, 70 minutes, which is stupid [laughs] except for Mammoth!
Drummer Magnus Östgren: We talked about that actually, because we did a gig in a library playing those songs like "Voluntary Slavery."
RS: We played "Sunrise" too and did them in relaxed versions, which was nice… but I guess we had to because we played in a library. That's, you know…
They're gonna yell at you.
Interesting you did "Voluntary Slavery" since that's kind of downtuned and all… I could see "Dark Poet" and Sunrise" and stuff like that, but wow. That's pretty damn cool.
RS: It's kind of an interesting tune to do in that fashion actually because it really worked.
MÖ: I think it worked best of all.
RS: I think it worked better than "The Platform," but that was cool too. Glad you dig it!
Of course! I remember hearing "The Platform" the first time and just being blown away and now to think "oh it's on acoustic guitars and soft drums and everything" is interesting. It's cool that the music is that versatile.
RS: It was nice, but I guess you can do that with most music in some fashion. It was cool!
All the style switches between your albums, is that kind of dependent on what you're listening to at the time? Or is it just sorta picking up an instrument and thinking "well shit, let's do this!"
RS: I think you're right. It's mostly what we're listening to and what mood we're in at the time. We listen to a lot of different music and I'm guessing that sort of shines through, you know? What's been in the player recently.
Any major influences overall?
MÖ: Probably King Crimson. All of us really love King Crimson.
RS: We actually covered a few King Crimson songs way back when!
Oh, actually before we go- I remember watching the documentary you posted on recording for Sleeping In Traffic where everyone would record the song at once as a band. Is that standard procedure for you or was it just those two albums?
RS: Nah, it has been, or it was the standard procedure but on The Void we did all the parts separately. We were all a part of everything though, Magnus and Robert recorded the drums and bass in one studio and then David and I recorded the guitars and keyboards in our rehearsal studio. That's been a cool procedure though, I love recording live. It's sort of tiring though because you have a song and you have to play it a hundred times before you nail it, but there's always one person making a mistake. You can do twenty takes where one guy is solid as fuck, you know, and then just because they've played it over and over again there are new mistakes and someone else starts making mistakes. That's how it is.