I just can’t seem to get enough of that sweet Scandinavian psych! Most of the loud, hard and heavy instrumental bands that I listen to are trios, but that’s not the case here and you can really tell the difference. There’s luscious rhythm guitar filling up any dead space that might be left in the airtight vacuum, spaced out synth lines slithering end exploding beneath the concrete bass and drum foundation, not to mention lead lines so mind melting they might give you the bends if you’re not careful! Sweden strikes back once again with another amazing space rock outfit, submitted for approval by the Midnight Society, I present to you Yuri Gagarin. From the moment I heard the name, I knew I was going to dig the band. Gagarin was the first man in space and while you listen to the band’s self-titled debut album you can hear why these dudes utilize so much outer space imagery. The album literally feels like you’re trapped in a rocket, orbiting the earth, dosed out on acid and slowly losing your mind in some sort of twisted sensory deprivation tank from Altered States. Hypnotically atmospheric synth lines creep cautiously behind a thundering rhythm section of heady proportions, both linked together by a lifeline of the relentlessly distorted guitars, launching sinister riffage into the blackness of space like atomic powered rockets. It’s not often you find something this dead ahead rock ‘n’ roll that has such a strong coherent electronics section either. These synths aren’t totally buried in the mix and they’re used more like an actual instrument than just accents added to the music as an afterthought or something. Not only do they add a lot to the music it sounds like whoever’s playing them actually knows what they’re doing; which is rare to say the least. There’s something here for drone addicts, metal freaks, prog junkies and space cadets, DIY fans, big-riff seekers and even those that just like some good old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll. It’s simply good dead ahead psychedelia at its finest. So, read on and discover some details, click on the link below and prepare for takeoff, in five, four, three, two, one… BLAST OFF!
Listen while you read: https://soundcloud.com/yuri-gagarin-1
What is Yuri Gagarin’s lineup? Is this the original lineup or have there been any changes since you all started?
Crille: The band started out as a three-piece with myself on guitar, Steffo playing the drums and Leif on bass guitar. After a while we felt like we wanted to add something more, and decided we wanted a synth player and added Robin to the band. After a couple of months we added Jon as a second guitarist to make the sound bigger and fill the riffage space while I play solos. The lineup has been the same ever since.
Christian "Crille" Lindberg: Lead guitar
Leif Göransson: Bass guitar
Stefan "Steffo" Johansson: Drums
Robin Klockerman: Synthesizers
Jon Eriksson: Rhythm guitar
Do any of you play in any other bands at this point? Have you released any music with anyone else in the past? If so can you tell us a little bit about that? I love playing musical connect the dots but I have to admit that I do enjoy cheating ha-ha!
Jon: Bands tend to come and go, but Steffo and I have been playing together in a band called Gloomy Sunday for many years. I also have this solo project thing called Pavementsaw that seems to go on forever, but there's no consistent plan or anything for that project. Things just seem to happen or burst out every now and then. Pyramido, a sludge/hardcore kind of band and great people also, have dragged me along on a couple of tours when their regular keyboard/effects guy couldn't make it and I contributed to the tracks for their Salt album. I'd also like to mention Modorra, where I was a member for like five years. They're better than ever now that I quit, ha-ha! There are some other loose projects, but nothing that I spend a lot of time on so I'll just leave those unmentioned for now.
Robin: I've had this project with a friend called TÖKPB since 1996 or something. It's mostly us and a lot of electronic equipment. It started out like Dadaistic noise, but has in the past few years drifted towards kraut/kosmische. We've released a couple of cassette tapes, a few digital pieces and done a couple of live shows with Joakim Nilsson of Graveyard fame or Peter Lindström, who played in Dead Man for a while, on drums.
Leif: I rehearse with a band called Nightviper but we haven´t got a solid lineup yet so we haven’t released anything yet.
Where are you originally from?
Crille: We’re all from different towns in Sweden. I’m from Helsingborg in the south, Steffo is from Kungälv near Gothenburg, Jon and Robin are from towns, Hagfors and Örebro, in the middle region of Sweden and Leif is from Östersund in the far north.
How would you describe the local music scene where you grew up?
Crille: Somewhere between shitty and non-existent.
Robin: I would say that the music scene in Örebro in the mid-to-late 90’s was pretty good. There were really good "retro bands" like The Strollers, The Roadrunners and Norrsken who’s members would later go on to form bands like Witchcraft, Graveyard and Dead Man. There were also big punk and hardcore scenes since Burning Heart Records, who later were bought by Epitaph, had their headquarters there and there were some good, heavier bands like Nasum and Wolf.
Jon: Non-existent. It's very small and pretty cut off from the outside world. I like the place, but as far as alternative culture goes, it's like an appendix. Almost no input and very little stuff flowing out.
Steffo: It sucked, mostly deranged Swedish Dansbands ("dance band") like Streaplers.
Leif: Kind of okay, but one of the main reasons I moved to Gothenburg was that I wanted to see bands regularly and not have to travel for ages to see something you like.
Did you see a lot of shows when you were younger? Were you very involved with the music scene? Do you feel like it played a large role in influencing your musical tastes or the way you play today?
Crille: I pretty much went to see all bands that I liked or seemed good when I had the opportunity, but it's definitely through records and such that my taste in music and playing style have evolved from.
Robin: I went to see a lot of shows but I wouldn't say I was involved. I think it has influenced me but then again I think most of the things I've heard and seen have influenced me.
Jon: Tricky question since there were almost no shows, and the “scene” consisted of a few snotty kids. But yes, I attended shows and played in some bands during my teens.
Leif: There weren’t many shows except for an annual festival and local bands so my main influences come from listening to albums.
What was your household like growing up as far as music goes? Were either your parents or any of your relatives musicians or extremely interested or involved in music?
Crille: None of them played any instruments besides my brother who also played guitar, but my parents were usually very helpful when it came to getting guitars and amps and such.
Robin: My father played guitar on a hobby level and had quite a large record collection. His record collection was my first exposure to Amon Düül for instance, but he also had the usual stuff like Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath.
Jon: My dad, definitely. He was in a band back in the 60's, and I guess some of his mentality was passed on to me. Both my parents have always been encouraging. My uncle was great too. I only met him a few times, but he sent me and my brother tapes with Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and some other stuff that I only started to appreciate much later like Captain Beefheart, Dead Can Dance and The Groundhogs. One of my older cousins introduced me to Iron Maiden, thrash and some death metal.
Steffo: Elvis was king in our house growing up, along with Johnny Cash and Lynyrd Skynyrd. My grandfather used to play saxophone in a couple of jazz bands but that´s it I guess.
Leif: My parents always listened to music, mainly jazz like Louis Armstrong but it wasn´t a strong interest or anything. My older brother was the one who introduced me too hard rock like AC/DC and such.
What do you consider your first real exposure to music?
Crille: It's slightly embarrassing, but my first memory of a particular song that really affected me was Europe's “The Final Countdown”. I was five years old at the time so I guess it could have been worse...
Robin: Music was always in the background growing up so it's hard to pinpoint an exact moment. The first band I knew the name of and liked was Europe, same as Crille. But the fist record I bought with my own money was the soundtrack to this Swedish TV-show called Macken when I was five or six.
Jon: One of my cousins dubbed me a cassette with Twisted Sister’s Stay Hungry, and that was probably the first time I felt some sort of rush out of listening to music; that and some mystery tape with a computer trying to mimic singing. I have no clue to this day what it was, we just called it "the Japanese", but it was scary and intriguing as fuck.
Leif: My brother brought home AC/DC´s High Voltage when I was six and the first time I heard it I knew my life had changed.
If you had to pick one defining moment music that changed everything for you, blew the door of infinite possibilities open and opened your eyes to a whole other world, what would it be?
Crille: That's a hard question to give a straight answer to, but probably discovering Iron Maiden at age eleven would be the most defining moment for me.
Robin: I would say it was Nirvana’s Nevermind. It came out when I was twelve and I've been a music/record nerd ever since.
Jon: Whoa, is that door open??? But yeah, Nirvana. More specifically “Lithium”. It was played on the radio and I nearly pissed my pants with excitement.
Leif: As I said AC/DC’s High Voltage blew my tiny little mind at the tender age of six and I knew I wanted to be in a band and become a rock star. The rock star dreaming days are over, but I still love being in a band and be a part of creating music.
When did you decide that you wanted to start writing and performing your own music? What brought that decision about?
Crille: For me it was just something that happened by itself shortly after I started playing guitar.
Robin: I tried playing guitar for a while in high school. Me and two friends tried writing a couple of songs and started a band. I think we rehearsed two times and then called it quits. I discovered synthesizers and arpeggiators at a friend’s house shortly after and it was so much easier to create something, so I kind of stuck to that.
Jon: As with Crille, it basically just happened after me and some friends got the hang of playing power chords on the guitar, some rudimentary drumming and what not. We were fortunate enough to have at least limited access to instruments in school, at the youth club and so on.
When and how did you all originally meet?
Crille: Steffo and I met just shortly after I moved here in 2001 and we started a doom band together called Stone Serpent. Other than that, we’ve all more or less gotten to know each other through mutual friends and acquaintances during the last decade or so.
What led to the formation of Yuri Gagarin and when exactly was that?
Crille: After having played with different bands in different styles of music most of which was doom, metal or punk, I decided that I wanted to form a space rock band. I felt that space rock was something that I had a bigger passion and talent for than the aforementioned genres. So I just asked Steffo if we wanted to start a space rock band and he was up for it, I asked Leif if he wanted to play bass he was up for it too. That's how it started, this was the beginning of 2012.
Is there a shared creed, code, mantra or ideal that the band lives by?
Crille: Mostly that everything should be as good as possible both when it comes to the quality of the songs, performing live, the look and quality of records and merchandise and so on.
Jon: Yeah, and I think we have a shared vision of making the songs sound just as good during the rehearsals or gigs as on any recording. It's a pretty good feeling when it sounds exactly right during those everyday moments.
I like your name more than just about any other band name I’ve ever heard! For anyone who doesn’t know Yuri Gagarin was one of the most important people of the last century. He was a cosmonaut and happens to be the first human being to have entered space when his spacecraft finished an orbit of the earth in April of 1961. What does the name Yuri Gagarin mean or refer to in the context of your band name? Who came up with it and how did you go about choosing it?
Crille: I came up with the name after we had been playing for a while. To me it was quite simple, an almost obvious thing since we play space rock and Yuri was the first man in space and had a pretty cool sounding name. Leif had similar ideas about the whole Soviet cosmonaut thing so we were on the same track with that more or less.
Leif: My ideas were Laika (a Soviet space dog who became the first animal to orbit the Earth) and Vostok-1 (the first spaceflight in the Vostok program which made Yuri Gagarin the first human in space) so when I heard it, Yuri Gagarin just sounded right.
Where’s the band currently located at these days?
Crille: Gothenburg. We all live here and have had the same practice space the whole time.
How would you describe the local music scene where you all are at?
Jon: It's great. Perhaps not quite as good as it used to be, but I'm also getting older and grumpier, so don't take my word for it, but there's lots and lots of gigs all the time, thanks to a few DIY mentality venues and some passionate bookers. The downtown venues can fuck off for all I care.
Are you very involved in the local music scene? Do you book or attend a lot of local shows? Do you help to record and or release any local music at all?
Leif: I work at a club called Truckstop Alaska that books a lot of metal, punk, psych and hard rock bands so I get to see a lot of shows, and the other guys in the band hang there.
Jon: My recording equipment is nothing fancy, but it does the trick and I do record some stuff when friends ask (most notably Haunted Trails and AIDS) and I feel I have the time and happen to be in the right mood. But mostly I just tinker with it myself.
Do you feel like the music scene has played a large role in the history or sound of Yuri Gagarin or do you feel like you could be doing what you’re doing and sound like you do regardless of location or surroundings?
Crille: We do have a small space rock scene here in Gothenburg, at least compared to other places in Sweden. That's partly how I came to the realization that people would appreciate that kind of music here. But when it comes to influences on the way we sound that mostly has to do with bands from other places.
Just about the only part of my job with It’s Psychedelic Baby that I don’t like is having to describe bands to people who have never heard them before. I’m not the most concise fellow on the planet and I don’t necessarily think that music always fits into these predefined boxes and labels that we like to assign it. Rather than me making some long, meandering and ultimately confusing and awkward attempt, how would you describe Yuri Gagarin’s sound in your own words?
Crille: Basically we just play heavy psychedelic space rock and if you’re into any form of music like that at all you should just give it a listen and decide for yourself.
The more I listen to your album the more I’m able to hear influence wise. It really seems like you all have just kind of taken everything you’ve ever heard as far as rock and kraut goes and tossed it into a blender creating this delicious cocktail or mind altering space rock. I’m curious to hear who you would cite as your major music influences? What about influences on the band as a whole rather than individually?
Yuri: We all like straight forward, meditative and driving music, that's pretty much it. When it comes to specific bands, there are very few common influences.
While we’re talking so much about the makeup and history of the band can you tell us a little bit about the songwriting process for Yuri Gagarin? Is there just a lot of jamming and free exchange of ideas that you all refine and distill into a song together as a band? Or is it more of a situation where someone will come to the rest of the band with a riff or somewhat finished product to compete with the rest of the band as a unit?
Crille: I usually have one or more riffs/melodies, or an idea for a new song that I've written at home on the guitar and then we try them out at the practice space to see if they work out or not. After that everybody adds their own little things to the songs to finish them out and make them complete. It’s a slow process that usually happens over a couple of months or so.
Do you all enjoy recording? I mean as a musician myself I think that most of us can really appreciate the end result of all that hard work. There’s not a whole lot that I know of in the world that beats holding an album in your hands, knowing that it’s your and that no one can ever take that away from you but getting to that point though. Actually getting the material recorded, mixed and mastered, well that part can be a total nightmare. How is it recording for you all?
Leif: The recording of the album was quite simple, we just played the songs live and Robin added the synth tracks in Pontus’ rehearsal space. It was done in about two days. The mixing was more complicated as Pontus, who recorded and mixed it, lived in Oslo at the time and we had to send different versions of the mix back and forth for a couple of weeks. It was hard work and there was a lot of discussions about the sound of the drums, but at the same time it was fun and rewarding to see the album take shape.
Do you guys do your own recording in your own space or do you utilize studio environments when it comes to recording?
Leif: We record our rehearsals when we work on new songs with a simple recording device and the album was recorded at Pontus' rehearsal space/studio.
Do you do a lot of prep work before you begin the recording process getting things to sound just the way that you want them, compositions and arrangements just so-so? Or is there room for change and evolution during the recording process? How much if any improvisation is involved in your recordings?
Leif: First of all we play the songs until we know the core riffs and then we all start to add our individual touch to them. The songs never really reach a finished state, they change a little each time we play them.
You released your self-titled Yuri Gagarin 12” on Levande Begravd Records last year (2013). Can you share some of your memories of recording that first album? Was it a fun, pleasurable experience for you all? When and where was it recorded? Who recorded it? What kind of equipment was used?
Crille: It all went pretty fast and easy, but recording is always a bit of pain in the ass. You never play your best when you know that the record button is on because you get a bit tense and don't play as "loose" as you usually do. The album was recorded last Easter at Pontus Redig's practice space here in Gothenburg where he has some simple recording equipment. The most fun part of it was when Steffo was going to barbeque a couple of soy beefs and used wiper fluid to get the grill running which ended up with the beef getting marinated by the wiper fluid and made them taste extremely disgusting. We're just lucky nobody died from taking even a single bite of them, ha-ha-ha-ha!!
I know that you guys are running low on copies of the LP and that Levande Begravd Records is also getting to the bottom of their stash and from what I understand no reprints are scheduled for the future. Do you know how many copies the pressing was limited to? Is the rumor that there won’t be a repress true?
Crille: They pressed 500 copies of the LP. The main goal of Levande Begravd Records is to be somewhat of a stepping stone for bands that haven't gotten very much attention yet and therefore they won’t do any reprints of the album. It will probably be reprinted in the UK sometime during the summer, but at the moment it's not been completely determined.
Does Yuri Gagarin have any music that we haven’t talked about, maybe a single or a song on a comp that I might have neglected to mention?
Crille: We have a couple more songs than the ones on the album that we play live a lot. Two of them are available for listening on our Soundcloud page, but they’re only practice space recordings so the sound isn't very good. We’re also working on some material for our next album which will be released sometime in the future, but we don't know when that will be or who will be releasing it.
Where’s the best place for our poor US readers to pick up copies of the album at? With the insane international postage rate increases this past year I try to provide my readers with as many possible options for picking up import releases as I can! There’s nothing worse than being able to afford the album but not being able to pay for the stinking shipping…
Crille: At the moment you can only buy the record from the record company. The best solution for people in America to get hold of the record at a decent price is for someone in the US to do a reprint of it.
What about our international and overseas readers?
Crille: It's the same thing for them. Just buy it from the record company if you can afford the shipping.
And where’s the best place for fans to keep up on the latest news form Yuri Gagarin like upcoming shows and album releases at?
Crille: At the moment Facebook is the best, and more or less only, place since we don’t have an ordinary website yet.
Are there any major goals that you’re looking to accomplish in 2014?
Leif: Put on as good of a live show as possible.
Crille: And hopefully to do a lot of them. Playing live is pretty much the best thing about being in a band.
What, if anything, do you have planned as far as touring goes so far for 2014?
Crille: We are playing a couple of shows in the far south of Sweden and then Copenhagen in the beginning of February and we’re playing at the Heavy Days in Doomtown festival the beginning of May. That's all we have planned for the moment.
Do you all tour a lot of spend a lot of time on the road? Do you enjoy touring? What’s life like on the road with Yuri Gagarin?
Crille: We've only done six gigs so far here in Gothenburg, nothing anywhere else so far. So we have no touring experience so far, but we'll get a small taste of it the beginning of February.
Who are some of your personal favorite bands that you’ve had a chance to share a bill with so far?
Robin: Gravmaskin and The Exorcist. Feels like you will be hearing more from them in the near future.
Jon: What Robin said, plus Walk Through Fire, Plötslig Måndag, Pig Eyes... There are too many good bands out there for a bastard with a short attention span like myself.
What was the first song that Yuri Gagarin ever played live? Where and when was that?
Jon: It was in Gothenburg in the fall of 2012, at a small venue, called 128A nowadays, which mostly puts up hardcore and punk gigs. But the song... I have no clue.
Do you have any funny or interesting stories from live shows or performances that you’d like to share here with our readers?
Robin: There have been a few blown up PAs, amps, pedals and ripped drum skins; did I mention we play loud? But nothing crazier than that.
Jon: Technology obviously hates us. Our onstage experiment with dry ice wasn't too successful either.
In your dreams, who are you on tour with?
Robin: Acid Mothers Temple or Ghost (the Japanese one) maybe if we are talking still active bands...
Jon: Friendly people that I can get along with.
Leif: Tina Turner.
Do you give a lot of thought to the art and artwork that represents the band like flyers, shirts and album covers? Do you have a general go to person for artwork for the band? I seriously dig the artwork to the self-titled album, who did that?
Crille: Yes it’s very important to us when it comes to album covers, t-shirts and merchandise in general. Our album cover and logo were made by a guy called Påhl Sundström who plays in the band Usurpress and the t-shirts were designed by a friend of the band called Göran Nilsson.
Jon: Proper wizards, both of them. For the release party, we also received a small bunch of really neat posters from a tattoo artist named Erik.
Do you have a preferred medium of release for your music? What about when you’re purchasing or listening to music? If so can you talk a little bit about why?
Crille: I prefer vinyl both when it comes to our own releases and when I buy records since it has a better and more natural sound than a CD. I think that most of us feel this way...
Jon: I dig vinyl, CDs and mp3s alike. I think good music sounds good regardless of the format, or it's not really that good after all. Cassettes are nostalgic and pretty and everything but that's just a novelty thing nowadays, right? Unless you're heavily into noise; that's cassette country.
Do you have a music collection at all? If so can you tell us a little bit about it?
Crille: I have a smaller collection which consists mostly of various forms of rock and metal on vinyl.
Robin: I have a reasonably large collection of vinyl. I have quite a broad taste in music but it mostly consists of late 60’s early 70’s psych, heavy metal, folk, kraut/kosmische, prog and Swedish/Nordic prog which is a little bit different from the international prog. I'm actually currently in the process of selling off my CDs.
Leif: I have a schizophrenic record collection consisting of everything from Bach to black metal, plus there’s a few Klaus Wunderlich LPs
Jon: I'm a schizo like Leif.
I grew up around what I would consider to be a pretty large collection of music and there was always something cool about being able to wander over to those enormous shelves and pull something off completely at random, pop it into the player, read the liner notes, stare at the artwork and let the music transport me off to another dimension. Having something physical, something real and concrete always made for a more complete listening experience, at least for me. Do you have any such connection with physically rereleased music?
Robin: Absolutely! As I mentioned before I’m a total record nerd. It can get quite expensive though...
Jon: Not the physical format just for the sake of it being physical, but cover art is sweet and cannot be replicated digitally. The best part about LPs is the album covers if you ask me. If I had to choose between throwing away all my records or all the covers, I'd get rid of the records, no question about it.
As much as I love my music collection portability has always been a big issue for me. I love listening to music when I’m at the house but I hate being at the mercy of the radio, it seems to suck basically no matter where you are on the planet! Digital music has eliminated that problem almost overnight and when you team it with the internet you have a real game changer. People are being exposed to a whole cosmos of music that they otherwise would never have heard. On the other hand illegal downloading is running rampant and destroying what’s left of the music industry, as we know it at least. It’s harder and harder to get noticed in the chocked digital jungle out there, but it seems like the internet has really leveled the playing field for independent bands that are willing to work hard and keep up a good online presence. As an artist during the reign of the digital era what’s your opinion on digital music and distribution?
Crille: Illegal downloading has definitely changed the music industry, but in my opinion it's mostly been for the better. Of course it’s caused records sales in general to drop, but it’s also leveled the playing field like you said. Not only for independent bands, but for anybody who isn't on a major label which’s paying for commercials, music videos and air time on radio. Also as you mentioned people are getting exposed to music that they would never have heard otherwise and for me that's the best thing about it, and it’s easy. People who can't afford to buy records can just download it on the internet for free.
Jon: I don't value music nowadays like I did in the days before everything became so easily accessible, but I don't see anything particularly bad about that. Music is just sounds, it’s not some commodity. Perhaps the digital revolution is going to slowly take us back to the mentality where music was allowed to be temporary and not just an object on a shelf.
I try to keep up on as much good music as I possibly can. I spend way more hours of my life than I would like to admit listening to random music online, flipping through the bins at the local shop and mining for tips in just about every place I can imagine but there’s just not enough hours in the day anymore. Is there anyone from your local scene or area that I should be listening to that I might not have heard of before?
Robin: Uran, Goat, Hills, The Exorcist, Tross and Strändernas Svall are all great psychedelic/krautish sort of bands from Gothenburg.
What about nationally and internationally?
Crille: I recently discovered the first Ragnarök album from 1976 which is really good. I've known about the band for a long time, but hadn't heard that one before. Ragnarök is a Swedish prog band who are mostly known for their music from the 70's I think. I would also strongly recommend Bo Hansson who's an insanely creative and talented Swedish musician. He released a couple of albums in the 70’s which are all great, especially the first one, The Lord of the Rings.
Thanks so much for taking the time to finish this, I know it wasn’t short and I can’t imagine remembering all of this stuff was to easy either! Now that we’re done before we sign off, is there anything that you’d like to take this opportunity to talk about or share with our readers?
Crille: First off I would like to thank everybody who's bought our record. It would also be great if people in America who like our music could help us spread the word over there so we might be able to go on tour there someday, even just sharing links to our music on the web can be very helpful. That's about it I guess. Thanks for the interview!
Jon: Birth and death are thresholds and you're in between. Gilla läget*. (*Author’s note: Roughly translated this means, “Like the situation”.)
(2013) Yuri Gagarin – Yuri Gagarin – digital, 12” – Levande Begravd Records (Limited to 500 copies)
Interview made by Roman Rathert/2014
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