Wednesday 30 August 2023

The Soundtrack of Our Lives - Second Life Reunion: The long awaited return of the Swedish legends, Way Out West Festival, Gothenburg - Photos by Daniel Eriksson

It feels pretty surreal to find myself here at the Way Out West Festival in the middle of the huge Slottsskogen Park in Gothenburg, eagerly awaiting the return of The Soundtrack of Our Lives, some eleven long years since they bowed out with a six-night stand at Stockholm’s prestigious Södra Teatern. By coincidence, twenty years ago I was in this very same park visiting the Natural History Museum for some TSOOL related sightseeing with friends that I’d met through the band. We were hunting down the ‘pickled’ babies and stuffed lion that featured on the cover of their debut album “Welcome To The Infant Freebase” – yes, I’d already been lured into that kind of obsession by this unpredictable, non-conformist Swedish Psychedelic Rock outfit comprising six individual yet equally vital characters who, it’s no understatement to say, would put my life on an unexpected course. It’s understandable to be obsessed by a band when you’re a teenager - but as an adult, well that's not what I was expecting. As a kid I was heavily inspired by The Clash and Joe Strummer’s positive message, The Jam and Paul Weller’s socially aware lyrics, The Beat, The Specials and 2-Tone Records multi-cultural outlook, The Undertones and Buzzcocks for their unashamed melodic Pop Punk classics and The Stranglers - or most importantly, JJ Burnel’s snarling bass sound - that made me pick up a bass and start my very first band.
Then you go on a voyage of discovery – delving into the past and the music that inspired your heroes, in my case it was checking out The Stooges, The Doors, Love, Sixties Garage Rock nuggets and much more. Over the years, there were of course contemporary bands that I was blown away by, the best were often those that I saw by chance – Pixies supporting Throwing Muses, Discharge at the 100 Club, Black Flag with The Damned at The Lyceum, not forgetting bands such as The Prisoners and The Playn Jayn at the much-missed Clarendon. But none would have quite the same impact that my first experience of The Soundtrack of Our Lives had on me. I was an adult about to become as obsessed by a band again as if I was a teenager. After all, seeing The Soundtrack of Our Lives play for the first time they absolutely blew my mind as they seemed to channel all of the best parts of all of my favourite bands into their own explosive live show and sound. I don’t seem to be alone in this, as guitarist Andy Ruff had a similar story as he shares here along with his impressions of the Way Out West reunion show…

“I feel like a fan and not a fellow musician around TSOOL, ever since I first saw them at the original Concorde in Brighton in early ’97 when they were one of the support bands, that was my ‘Eureka’ moment. I was hooked. I must admit the song that did it that night was “Firmament Vacation” and when they played it at Way Out West, it was quite emotional. Helen dragged me to the front (which I never usually do) and when they played it, I immediately thought ‘I’ve made it’ as at one time, health wise I didn’t think I would be there. It was a great set but not long enough, and as Ebbot said, the guys should have headlined the show on one of the days. What a trip, it was great meeting up with the band (well 50%) again after all this time, I had an emotional meet up with Mattias, Ian and Ebbot. Although I keep in touch on and off with them via messages, it really meant so much seeing them all again, the band has been a big part of my life for 26 years, from the early days when I saw them support Kula Shaker, Gene and a few others before they started to get their own shows. We are all getting older, but the love is still there. Amazing band and people, even seeing people like Chicago, who I recognised, not forgetting all the Soundtrack followers in the VIP bar, what a great bunch of people” - Andy Ruff (Andy’s band Psychobabble supported TSOOL during their 2005 UK tour)

The Soundtrack of Our Lives appearance at Way Out West was the second of three highly anticipated official reunion shows, sandwiched between Spain’s Azkena Festival and the Øyafestivalen in Oslo. They did play a couple of warm-up shows – a ‘secret’ friends and family show at Pustervik in Gothenburg and then a low-key appearance at the arts venue Garageprojektet Hammenhög, in Skåne, Southern Sweden. Both of these were ecstatically received, and the set-lists were out of this world. Albert Lorenz, who played with Ebbot in The Indigo Children was at The Pustervik show and he compares this with the Way Out West appearance here…

“About TSOOL, I honestly have no idea! I think they were probably great, but this gig was so unique in the way I personally experienced it. The (secret warm-up) show at Pustervik in June I enjoyed for myself, and greatly so. It was mega, a hell of a show, and it felt like everything had finally come together in the most perfect way, an "I can die happy now" feeling. But this time at Way Out West, I was just so happy for them to get such a homecoming, and also for all the fans to have the opportunity again. A friend from Barcelona came to see them just like you, other friends I'd got into the band tagged along, many acquaintances were looking forward to it... I was just hoping everything went well and everyone, band and audience, would thoroughly enjoy it. Which I'd like to think is what happened. Musically, yeah of course I can't not be biased, and I was ecstatic, but nothing compared to seeing Ebbot put his arm around Ian as I had my arm around friends in the crowd. The experience overshadowed the music, in my case” – Albert Lorenz

So, I’m at the Way Out West festival but it’s so difficult to concentrate, it’s like I’m having an out of body experience looking down on myself as I wonder what the hell it will be like to see the band again after all these years. It’s difficult not to be distracted even though I’m meeting people who I’ve known for over twenty years – some of whom have become very close friends, people who I’ve shared many TSOOL related adventures with. There are acquaintances I’ve met at Soundtrack of Our Lives or other related shows and there are people I’m meeting for the first time that I only know through the website. Of course, it’s great to be with my fellow TSOOL Admins, Daniel and Hasse – it’s so much like old times that the surreal feeling gets even stronger as the time approaches for the band to take the stage and I see myself talking to Adam Wladis and Henrik Rylander from Union Carbide Productions, singer songwriter Martin McFaul and Wallander actor and theatre director Lars Melin. There are brief hellos to photographer, former member of Psychotic Youth and curator of the excellent Kållereds Ramones museum, Roine Lundström, who’s with Troublemakers singer Christer Blomgren and there’s Elias Jungqvist, once in Ebbot’s Indigo Children, now in the brilliant Viagra Boys. It reminds me when Soundtrack played in London at their peak and their shows were always well attended by other admiring musicians from bands such as Oasis, Doves, Primal Scream and Razorlight among others. There are also fans from Stockholm and other parts of Sweden, not forgetting those that travelled from America, the U.K. and Italy such as Gianluca Torelli…

“So, let’s start, this was my third time in Gothenburg after 10 years, after the COVID restrictions and so on and this was my second TSOOL concert in total, the first time was in Bern in 2011. Then I had a couple of meetings with Ebbot in Gothenburg, thanks to Marcel Tuores and then a couple of Ebbot solo gigs with Indigo Children, first at Liseberg and then in a small and (sadly) almost empty club in Frankfurt. And in between, there was a Free Fall gig also at Liseberg during my first Swedish trip. I’ve never been to Way Out West before, this was my first time ever, and I experienced a good mood in general, a huge space and a really good festival. The band seemed in very good shape, especially Mattias, and he rocked like no other, just like in the good old days, he even threw a guitar in mid-air like a real rocker. It was such an emotional journey to listen to them live and be there in the front row, to hear songs like “Instant Repeater ‘99” and I got tears in my eyes and became emotional during “Second Life Replay”, a song that really means something to me. Hoping this was not the only gig after this unexpected and surprising reunion” - Gianluca Torelli, Abruzzo region of Italy

I feel a palpable sense of excitement fizz through the crowd as the band take the stage to the exotic strains of “Mantra Slider” and charismatic frontman Ebbot Lundberg appears, resplendent in a black and gold kaftan emblazoned with the mystical OEOC “as above, so below” symbol. The first thing that hits me is that the band all look great, and with the song’s snaking Arabic atmosphere it’s like a magic carpet ride back in time as it’s soon clear they’ve lost none of their trademark onstage energy. Guitarists Ian Person and Mattias Bärjed leap and pirouette, spitting out those familiar killer riffs to a psyched-out “Galaxy Gramophone” and a blistering “Big Time”. Martin Hederos plays his keyboards like a lead guitarist, long fringe swiping across his keys as he gets totally lost in the music. Not to be outdone, the brilliant Fredrik Sandsten twirls his drumsticks and on “Grand Canaria” in particular, proves why he is one of the best contemporary drummers around while bassist Kalle Gustafsson Jerneholm anchors it all together with consummate coolness. What we get is a perfect festival greatest hits set concentrating on their debut “Welcome To The Infant Freebase” and breakthrough third album “Behind The Music” including of course, the timeless “Sister Surround”. But of course, us diehard fans always want more as Andreas Åhs and Andreas Hedberg both admit…

“It was good to finally see TSOOL again after all these years of abstinence. They had great energy and sounded really good throughout a greatest hits set that didn’t leave anyone disappointed. As a huge fan since the ‘90’s I would have loved to have heard one or two unexpected gems, but I guess a large festival as Way out West isn’t the time and place for that. Hopefully, they’ll return soon to bring that sweat soaked, guitar throwing Rock ’n’ Roll goodness to smaller venues!” - Andreas Åhs

“Seeing the band take the stage again after eleven years was magical, suddenly I was going back in time. Just witnessing “Mantra Slider” and the characteristic intro as these unique band members entered the stage was worth the ticket. It's very crowded, seagulls hover in the air, expectations vibrate, it feels like a very special evening. Ebbot opens his arms to welcome us to the special atmosphere that this genius band can create. I thought the setlist was great but too short of course although I could watch them for hours. I missed ”Dow Jones Syndrome”, “Black Star” and “Jehovah Sunrise” but which songs would they substitute? I loved that they played “Broken Imaginary Time” and jumped my legs off to “Confrontation Camp”. It was a top concert in my opinion, the first time I saw them was on ZTV live from Hultsfred in early 2000, it was really cool, so I bought the “Behind the Music” record and I was sold. My first live experience with the band was in Lund at Mejeriet in 2002/03 something. I remember watching them perform “Sister Surround” on Letterman on YouTube and Mattias was dressed in the Union Jack jacket, doing cool moves with the guitar. “Ebbot the Movie” recorded live at Slussens Pensionat really got me, I loved it, I had it on VHS tape and saw it many times. I’m so glad I took the train to Gothenburg to watch my favourite band of all time, it was a fantastic evening. Ebbot says thanks to the audience for existing in Way Out West but thank you TSOOL for existing, you’ll always be my safe point to return to!” - Andreas Hedberg

There’s an undeniable chemistry back in the band, “Nevermore” and “Broken Imaginary Time” sounding as fresh as ever and there are smiles all round from band and audience alike, the frustrations and issues that led to them splitting up in December 2012 seem to have been buried. I think the first signs a reunion could be on the cards actually came from the terribly sad news of Bruce Emms passing in 2022. Bruce was the hugely popular and likeable owner of Musik Utan Gränser (MUG) music store in Gothenburg, a loss that was felt not just by all in the City’s music community but I’m sure from all touring musicians and visitors to the shop too. There was a tribute show arranged at Pustervik which featured Soundtrack of Our Lives (Ebbot, Ian, Kalle and Fredrik) making their very first live appearance since the split and at the end Ebbot and Ian hugged, which many saw as a kind of public reconciliation. I’d like to think it could have been this moment that paved the way for the reunion. I interviewed Bruce for Retrosonic Podcast some time ago, like me he was also British, a bass player and was hugely enthusiastic about the Gothenburg scene, in particular praising one of my favourite singer songwriters Mattias Hellberg like only a true fan could. I once popped into MUG to say hello after TSOOL split up and he lamented the fact that the band had called it a day and it’s very sad he couldn’t be around to see the band’s triumphant return in the city he called his home. Musik Utan Gränser means ‘music without borders’ – a sentiment that I certainly promote with Retro Man Blog, and it can be applied to the far reaching international appeal of The Soundtrack of Our Lives too – as can be seen from the U.K. based Helen Ruff’s experiences…

“I’d waited so long to see the guys back again… and on their home turf was spectacular. The Soundtrack of Our Lives were the first band I was ever ‘into’ as an adult… the lyrics and the melodies resonate so deeply it gives me goosebumps whenever I hear them. Seeing them live after such a long hiatus was amazing. They don’t sound like they have aged at all! Ebbot’s voice was on point! And Ian’s guitar work was sublime. I just hope they will tour…. Their sound, their lyrics, their vibe needs to be heard. I hope the band will give us more. Meeting TSOOL stalwart fans was epic! The band need to know that their faithful are with them. Always” – Helen Ruff

During Sweden’s alternative national anthem, “Instant Repeater ‘99”, the crowd are going wild all around me, arms aloft and this fervour only increases with the incendiary Glam Rock stomp of “Confrontation Camp”. The set draws to a close sadly all too quickly with the emotional singalong “The Passover” and feel a lump in my throat as I look around and see the crowd joining in – there are all ages too, families, couples, friends all caught in the moment. Liselott Selander also felt the same…

“They delivered exactly as I expected, and it was fun to see that many who were probably not even born when the band were at their peak knew the lyrics" - Liselott Selander

Long-time fan Per Kristiansson, who I first encountered at one of Soundtrack’s now legendary shows at the stunning Slussens Pensionat waterside venue on the beautiful island of Orust, explains just what the Way Out West reunion show meant to him.

“The first time I saw TSOOL live was, I believe, in 1997, about a year after I’d been listening to their knockout debut album over and over again. Since then, I must have enjoyed around 30-40 gigs, perhaps ten were at Slussens Pensionat and others at various venues. Most of the time, the band were amazing and beyond, so with this history and a true love for the band, I had quite mixed emotions as I walked through the entrance to Way Out West. How would it be to see them back together once again? Do they still have the mojo...? Well, T-minus 30 minutes, standing in the front row and just watching them do the soundcheck, I knew this was going to be an unforgettable and awesome evening. And so, they went on stage… Fredrik started the drumstick intro of "Mantra Slider," and I just screamed out loud! They opened with one of my absolute favourites and totally nailed it, just like back in the day! Next up was "Firmament Vacation", followed by "Galaxy Gramophone" and I felt like I had been sent back in time. The rest is history. The lucky souls who attended got to witness the best band in the world back on stage! Looking forward to the next 30-40 gigs!” - Per Kristiansson

I can only hope that the heartfelt reaction and huge smiles on the band’s faces as they take a well-deserved curtain call, paves the way for more of their stunning live shows in the future and of course, being greedy now, the hope of new material too. Now that really would be something special. Well, I guess it’s fitting that I leave the final words to Daniel Eriksson, after all, Daniel ran the original Soundtrack of Our Lives web-site, forum and Mega Society fan-club and was the catalyst for introducing me to many other TSOOL fans around the world from not only the U.K. and Sweden but as far afield as Peru, Italy, Scotland, Norway, Finland, America and more… Daniel had the vision of taking the band’s music out into the International stratosphere, truly a case of music without borders.  

“A present from the past… Everyone was there... The whole of Soundtrack of course, but also families, friends, stage workers and hang-arounds from the past. The fans that were there from the beginning, but also a whole new generation... It was like they’re bigger than they’ve ever been before?! The desire for this Rock and Roll machine is a fact. They sound at least as good as they always did. 11 years have passed, but it’s as if time has stood still. Everyone just got a little bit older. With all dignity intact, they delivered eleven explosions, a ballad and finished with a sing-along. In hindsight it feels a bit surreal, did all this happen? They came, they won... But what happens now? Everyone wonders, not least themselves. At least one thing is certain, if there is more, there is a great embrace of love from the outside world that wants to embrace the magic that these six gentlemen can create together. We hope for more because this is Second Life Replay ‘Yeah, I feel alive. Cause I came back stronger than I’ve ever been before…’ " – Daniel Eriksson

Daniel Eriksson is also the official Way Out West photographer so I have him to thank for contributing the superb photos you can see in this feature. With sincere thanks to Hasse and Liselott, Mattias Bärjed, Georgios at Livenation and of course all the fans who kindly contributed their experiences and words to this feature. The offcial TSOOL Facebook page is here. For news on all the band member’s solo music, collaborations, other bands and side projects, TV and soundtrack scores, upcoming gigs and record releases please follow, like, subscribe to Retro Man Blog here or at Facebook and Instagram. Subscribe to Retrosonic Podcast for free at Spotify, Soundcloud or iTunes/Apple Podcasts as we have lots of interview specials with various TSOOL band members and other Swedish bands and musicians that may be of interest, all still available in the archives. We also have a YouTube channel with loads of related live videos. You can also join the TSOOL fan’s Facebook group here to communicate with other fans around the world, to share your own memories, experiences, photos and videos and to be kept up to date with all that is happening with the various band members music. Plus, you never know, one day there might well be news of more Soundtrack of Our Lives activities… we can but hope!

All photos copyright Daniel Eriksson at Rock My Lens.

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