From Aural Innovations #10 (June 2000)
We are back. I hope you all enjoyed reading about the early days of DarXtar from the original bass player, Juba's perspective. Sören Bengtsson, the other founding member of the band had agreed but simply didn't have the time until now to answer the questions for the last deadline, so here he is now. We will start with some of the same questions as last time and then move on to the present and the future of the band. I hope you enjoy. Please refer back to issue #9 for the Discography and other part of the interview (Link at end of interview).
SH: Did you grow up in a musical family? Did you start playing guitar or piano (keyboards)?
SB: My parents were both music illiterates. However, I seem to have inherited my tonal hearing from some ancient forefather. I started to seriously listen to pop music when I was very young, 4-5 years or so and was more or less raised with the upcoming psychedelic movement that officially started with the Sgt. Pepper album.
SH: So where did you first meet Juba? Did you ever play with him in other bands like Achelieus before you two decided to make music together?
SB: I ran into him at the local second hand record shop in 1988 I think. We were both looking for Hawkwind stuff (I used to be a serious collector). I told him I was working on some songs for Steve Lines 'Acid Tapes' label and he asked if he could join me, which was nice at the time since I had lost contact with all my former musician friends.
SH: When were the first Darxtar recordings born?
SB: They were actually born in October 1988 when Robert Calvert passed away. I had picked up my guitar after several years of inactivity and felt I wanted to do some sort of tribute to him. I recorded some songs at home and made 20 copies of the cassette that I gave to fellow Hawkfans. Steve Lines got one copy and released two of the tracks on the 'Daydreams and Nightmares' compilation cassette. These recordings were nothing more than very basic demos actually. He then asked me to do an album length cassette as well and I started to work on what was to become 'Darxtar' in 1988.
SH: On the first 3 CD's, many comparisons to Hawkwind were made. Were you guys really serious Hawkwind heads, traveling over to Göteborg in 1991 to see the band?
SB: Absolutely - die hard! The second time I ran into Juba was actually in Oxford street on the way to a Hawkwind concert at Hammersmith Odeon. I started listening to Hawkwind already in 1973 and had quite a collection as well.
SH: How did you and Juba actually go about putting together songs only being a duo or did you have a drummer that you jammed with but just did not work with when recording at Terra? It must be different not really being a band.
SB: In the beginning I had my songs and he had his, apart from a few ideas we worked out together during some evenings at home. We didn't have a drummer or we would never have used a drum machine of course! Especially since I didn't really know how to program it. On the first two albums I did 90% of the recordings, partly because I was the one who had the equipment.
SH: In the liner notes on the first CD you thank a Steve Lines? Who is he? Did he play drums with you guys? The first two CD's don't actually mention a drummer or drum programming at all?
SB: I wasn't very proud of using a drum machine so I rather didn't mention it at all. Steve Lines was running the 'Acid Tapes' cassette label who released the original 'Darxtar' cassette, as well as being another active Hawkfan.
SH: I gather Live to Live from the first CD was an old number that you did with a previous band as the copyright and authorship are different? Can you comment?
SB: It was a poem by yet another Hawkfan, Trevor L Hughes, who used to be the author of the Hawkfriendz fanzine. I liked it and put some music to it.
SH: Was the lack of CD indexing on the first CD a mistake or done on purpose? I have always been curious!
SB: It was the weird idea of SPM/WWR boss Claus Kriebitzsch. He thought it should be heard in one long run - not a very commercial approach, but that suited us well.
SH: Some people might think that Bevis on the Radio referring to Bevis Frond. But if I am correct, Bevis means Proof or evidence in Swedish (it does in Danish)?
SB: During the making of the first songs for the 'Darxtar' album I woke up one night and heard 'Ear Song' by Bevis Frond on the Swedish radio. This made me believe I could make it fairly well too, as he also started out doing home recordings alone. It inspired me to parts of the lyrics to that song.
SH: It would seem to me that Huw Lloyd Langton must have been an influence on your lead guitar playing at least on the first couple of Darxtar records?
SB: Well, actually no! I always had Brock and Dave Gilmour (of Floyd) as my main source of inspiration. There are some similarities in our playing technique though, very much leaning on sustained high notes for example.
SH: How long was spent in the recording process for the first two records?
SB: It's hard to say since I spent a lot of time of my own programming the drum machine etc, but I guess the first one took some 2-3 weeks in total and 'Darker' probably even less. We spent much more time writing the songs.
SH: Darker came out pretty soon after the debut. Were most of the songs for these two LP's completed at the same time? How many copies of Darker and the debut were printed?
SB: Darxtar was recorded in 1990, and Darker was recorded in 1991. Darxtar was first released on cassette in 1990 and on CD in December 1991 in 1000 copies. Darker wasn't released until spring 1993 and in 700 copies only.
SH: Were you, and perhaps you still are, into science fiction a lot? Did you read a lot of books like Issac Asimov, Carl Sagan, William Gibson, etc?
SB: Yes. I began reading Heinlein and Asimov quite early, even before I started listening to Hawkwind. Today I don't read that much, if I had the time I'd like to start over with the Asimov books, they are very nice, especially the foundation and empire trilogy.
SH: Many claim that Daybreak is the bands' best CD? It was the first that was recorded as a band. This does seem to come across. The drums and overall production sound is more powerful.
SB: That's correct. First, we had a drummer that had the drive we needed. Second, I had better gear to record it on. Still I'm not very happy with the overall sound. It could have been better mastered IMHO.
SH: How are the electronics different between the first two and 'Daybreak' and 'Sju'? It seems that the synthesizer feel is richer somehow? Does the band use vintage synthesizers or modern or both?
SB: We always used anything with keys on it. My all time favorite must be the Korg MS20 that we used extensively on the first 3 albums. On 'Daybreak' and '7' we worked more with chord structures that gives a richer sound. And I've always liked to mix different sounds and process them to the limit with various effect boxes. On 'Daybreak' the main keyboard (apart from the Hammond) was a Korg Trident, and on '7' it was a Roland Juno 106. Nothing beats a real analogue sound for sure!
SH: It was during this time (Daybreak release 1994) that the band played its first live concerts in Sweden as well as a few dates in Europe. What was it like finally bring the material to life on stage?
SB: Great of course. I just wish we could have the time and money to do it properly some time.
SH: Sometime after the Europe tour Juba decided to leave the band? Why?
SB: He was sacked. He's a difficult character and I just couldn't take anymore of him.
SH: Sju (Seven in Swedish) was actually the bands 4th record? Why '7' for the title? Also, I noticed that there were no song writing credits? Were the songs your compositions or band compositions?
SB: During the recording of 'Daybreak', drummer Patric showed us a painting he had made - "it's the cover of our next album", he said, "it's called 7"! In the end it was called 'Sju' and the original painting was stolen, never to be found again. '7' was the first album we made as a real group. We came up with different ideas and weaved them together in the band.
SH: I think "Obstakel" caught a lot of people off guard when they first heard it, thinking the band had gone really progressive? There are a lot of influences woven into Sju though, such as the Pink Floyd like passage in "7"...
SB: Our mission is to do whatever we feel like. "Obstakel" was just a jam session that we arranged a bit, sort of a kick in the butt on the prog nerds. "7" is definitely a Floyd tribute - why not? Without Floyd's innovative early years Hawkwind would never have happened.
SH: Do you have your favorite Darxtar compositions?
SB: Well, they vary from day to day. Actually I think it's impossible to choose from your own compositions. Off the records: My faves are "7", "Eastern Wind", "Into the Unknown", "Eternal War", "Visitor?", "Metal Fatigue" and "The Distant Sun". "Eastern Wind" was a surprise. I thought most people slept it through between the rockers on side two of "7".
SH: How did you guys hook up with Nik Turner from Hawkwind? I am curious how this happened, as he has now worked with the Moor, Dark Sun, and 5.15 here in Scandinavia?
SB: Evert Wysell was planning to organize a gig with Hawkwind in 1995, but I told him they were far too expensive for him and maybe he should consider bringing over Nik Turner instead, who had recently done some good gigs in the US playing old Hawkwind stuff. I told him we could provide the backing and since we knew the songs it became a reality. I think Nik was rather pleased with our performance that night.
SH: Did you ever go into the studio with Nik Turner and record tracks or was it only live performances?
SB: We had no interest whatsoever to use Nik in our recordings. he's good at what he does and we're good at what we're doing. He can manage without us and we can manage without him. Besides, we were getting pretty fed up with the 'Hawkwind clone' label that was put on us and wanted out of it ASAP. The reason we played with him again in 1998 was that Evert wouldn't give up asking. It was of course a mistake to do it.
SH: Did you guys play any concerts between the Europe 1994 tour and the Swedish Progressive Rock festival, and Jönköping in 1995 and 1998?
SB: Not much. A gig here or there maybe. We're all grown ups and we have to make a living for our families. So far I have paid my way through the music business.
SH: Getting back to the Hawkwind sound everyone seems to compare you guys to. I have always felt that while you guys made space rock and Hawkwind were the originators, that you have always had your own type sound that has really just become more solid over the first three records and deviated some with the release of 'Sju'. Can you comment?
SB: As I said earlier, Hawkwind was a main source of inspiration, but so was Floyd and numerous of other psychedelic bands. We tried to get rid of that comparison with "7".
SH: You guys will have had 5 records out on 5 different labels soon. You never have really good record support? How important is this to you? The band does not seem like it is in a position to go out and tour for a month at a time. What other music projects are the current members involved in?
SB: We never compromise. Either they release it the way we want it to, or they don't release it at all. This business stinks. We don't care much for fancy talking. I've seen and heard too much to care anymore. The important thing is to have it released by people who likes it themselves and don't care about the profits. I wouldn't mind touring, but who will pay the bills? I did some stuff for Don Falcone's 'Spirits Burning Space Project'. Patric does some blues gigging when time permits and Marcus has his own heavy trio. 'The Last Laugh' with albums out on the Record Heaven label.
SH: Who is the current lineup of Darxtar?
SB: The line up on 'Tombola' is me, Patric, Marcus, Sören Mårtensson, Fredric Sundqvist on violin and Björn Jacobson on guitar and vocals.
SH: How do you describe the new CD? Is a progression from 'Sju' or more spacey? What are the song titles?
SB: It's completely different from the others, but still typical DarXtar. Since there are 13 tracks I think we'll skip the titles until it's finally out.
SH: Do you ever dream of going into space or traveling to another planet? Clearly, many of the Darxtar lyrics are based on traveling in space and getting lost and seeing new worlds?
SB: As an old sci-fi enthusiast you tend to lean to that direction. Many of the lyrics do have double meanings though. You just have to read between the lines.
CLICK HERE to read Part I of the DarXtar interview with Juba that appeared in AI #9.