Friday, November 12, 2010

Introducing: Svarta Maria

As if he wasn't keeping busy enough, Magnus Sellergren is making music again.

You might remember the piece we did on him about a month ago when some of the art work he designed was used as a sleeve for Corporate Rock Knock-Out Magazine. His company, Sellergren Design has been putting out rock posters like McDonalds puts out saturated fat... Pretty much non-stop. His style is unique and ambiguous and his flair for creativity is indisputable, and one can see why his art work is in such heavy demand.

Example of Sellergren Design

Meanwhile he consistently finds the time to update Psykotronisk Videoblogg on a regular basis. (It's written in Swedish, to transpose it to English, click the TRANSLATE button in the upper right corner.) It in itself is a lion's roar of a project... One that would keep most people grounded to their computer for most of the day. His posts are not only heavy and descriptive, but they contain incredible imagery and of course video clips - the kind that are rare and fun to watch - and I guess my point is, being a blogger myself, I find it incredible that he can maintain a consistent presence on his blog and still keep pace with his design company. Imagine spray painting a beautiful mural on a brick wall with your left hand while simultaneously painting the Mona Lisa with your right... That's about as close as I can get to describe the equivalency of his creative ardor. "Creative drought" doesn't seem to be in his vocabulary, and somehow he keeps that push going forward with fervor and zeal, while not letting his work suffer from repetition.

Magnus Sellergren taking  a break

As if that wasn't enough to keep him in permament lock-down, somehow he found the time to form Svarta Maria (Myspace), a three piece punk outfit who share a love for a certain era of southern California punk. This golden age of west coast rebellion... Social Distortion, Circle Jerks, Black Flag, The Zeros and The Misfits... was forming pockets of sedition in high schools around the world, and it's attitude and sound has withstood the test of time. To this day the influence of these bands remain vital to the core of progressive music. Svarta Maria captures that sound and brings it to the modern level. It's exciting and fresh and has that skaters' edge.

I grabbed Magnus away from his busy schedule and asked him a few questions about Svarta Maria. I knew that he had been involved at one time with the Dialtones and to a lesser degree, the Plastiques. In fact, I wasn't even aware of Svarta Maria until I had asked Magnus what the status was of the Plastiques and he mentioned this new band to me. Immediately I searched them out on Youtube and absolutely fell in love with their sound. It was so fresh and clear, yet reminding of a sound I listened to years ago...

What I can make from the Myspace page is that you formed this summer... You are 3 piece monster group that emulates killer So-Cal style punk from the '78-'83 era?

Well, the story goes a little bit like this: In 2009 I started up a side-project called "Gå Vidare till Norrmalmstorg", which actually is a phrase taken from Monopoly ("Advance to Boardwalk/Marble Arch") and a nice kiss-off to rich kids. The band split up and I wanted to keep doing classic Punk/HC so the idea of "Svarta Maria" took shape early on. Just like I saw Sal of Electric Frankenstein stating in an interview I wanted to make classic stuff, you know like those barely-2-minute-long 7"s that came out in the US between 1978-83. The main difference between this band and the early one was an element of darkness, that I got from The Wipers. "Over the Edge" is a damn classic and I wanted to incorporate that with the energy and sheer brilliance of early Agent Orange, The Adolescents, Circle Jerks etc. With the lyrics being in Swedish I guess that whole darkness-thing is lost on people that don't speak the language but later on I'll add translations to our MySpace. Anyway, I wrote a complete album (14 tracks) over a weekend and teamed up with Daniel, who played drums in Slut På Det Roliga and he introduced me to Simon that handles guitar and we were off! I think it took little more than a month and then we were ready to hit the stage.

The name in itself is pretty funny, meaning "Black Mariah" in English and also is one of the names used for the Indian goddess of destruction, Kali Yuga. I later on did a search on Google Sweden and it turns out Black Maria also was a prostitute in the south of Sweden in the early 1900's who was sent to jail in Växjö (!!!). It's a small world I guess.

What do "Löske" and "Slut På Det Roliga" translate in English to?

"Löske" if my understanding is correct, is an old-time Swedish phrase that roughly means "White trash". Daniel says it was an expression back in the 50's for "traveling people" (my guess it was a deragotory term used for gypsies) and they thought it was a fun band name. The band lasted throughout 2006-2009. "Slut På Det Roliga" literally means "The Fun Ends" but it's a Swedish phrase that really means something like your "There Goes the Neighborhood". They were a Youth Crew inspired HC band were Daniel played drums from 2008-2009. They have since broken up.

Simon of Svarta Maria

So what band(s) was Simon involved with before taking on the guitar chores in Svarta Maria?

Just Löske.

Do you have any upcoming gigs to promote?

Our next gig is November 19th somewhere in Växjö where we live. Don't have the details 'cause our bookings are handled by the drummer.

Daniel?... Does he keep gigs a secret until the night before or what?

No, no! It's just that he takes care of the bookings in Sweden while I focus on the outside world. Actually we're in touch with a European booking agency right now that expressed interest in us but they wanna see us hooking up with a label first that can cover some of the costs. It all boils down to the Ca$H as usual.

Describe the typical crowd at your shows... Are they younger kids?... Mostly dudes?... Hot Swedish gals?

We've only played one show so far and I gotta say it was a combo of all ages and walks of life. Surprisingly a lot of girls and women too!

What is the groupie mentality of these girls?

Well, the other guys are in relationships so I guess it's ix-nay on the roupies-gay for them, although Simon says some nice, hairy German men might make him stray from his fold. And me personally always thought using a band just in order to pick up women is the behaviour of a pathetic asshole. Think about it, if you just wanted to get laid you'd sure as hell would save a lot of time if you just brushed your teeth and worked on your damn personality instead of being stuck in a basement for six months in order to work up some material for a show! So after that last show I pretty much went home, had some coffee with some Koskenkorva on the side and watched a couple of chainsaw movies. Now, I'm getting into a relationship so just like Johnny Cash I'm walking the line!

Haha... I see. When will you be in the studio?

We just spent an afternoon recording our first four tracks, slated for a EP release entitled "Våldsamma Barn" (transl. "Violent Children"). Hopefully it'll be out pretty soon on a label and after that we'll hop into the studio to record our first full length.

Daniel of Svarta Maria

Based on the personality of the people in Svarta Maria, how is this band different from the other bands you have been involved in?

First off I gotta say these guys are at least serious when it comes to the band and where we are going! You'd be amazed if I told you some stories from previous outfits I've been in. But I'm not gonna talk shit about other people 'cause it's just bad form and karma so I'll state that I think we're a damn good little unit and share that Black Flag school of thought meaning you work hard and get your shit together! We are different personalities for sure so there are some clashes to be expected but nothing that serious. Live we're nothing short of amazing though!

Ok... Lets assume that you start touring the United States tomorrow... What band would you be most likely to share a bill with?

Oh man, nowadays I'm so damn tuned out it's ridiculous! Some of the acts on Dirtnap would be fun. New bands that I've heard and liked that'd be cool to share a stage with would be Social Cirkle, Brutal Knights, fellow Swedes The Regulations, Career Suicide, Direct Control among others. And OFF! of course! Shit man, are they awesome or what! Their first 7" EP should be in every "punks" record collection! Downright amazing stuff!

What is Svarta Maria's drug of choice?

Well, I'm a liberal when it comes to drugs but don't use them. That might sound weird but I think the government should lay off meddling with what a grown adult decides what to do and not to do with their own bodies. Same goes for alcohol. Meaning I can count the number of times I drink every year on my left hand these days. So I guess I'll have to go with coffee and cigarettes on that one. Simon says alcohol and "snus" (a dreadful concotion of ground-up tobacco that's kinda like snuff but WAY stronger! I think it's illegal in the European Union btw). Daniel is a plain snus man.

In your honest opinion, what is the best thing to happen to rock and roll since it's inception,and what is the worst?

To me they're actually the same; breaking through to the mainstream. When it happens it turns on a lot of kids to the really cool stuff. But - as we've seen every time so far - it also opens the flood gates for a lot of CRAP to be marketed as the genuine thing. So it goes in cycles about ten years long. Cool stuff appears then the shit comes and it goes underground for about ten more then resurfaces.

Where do you see Svarta Maria in 5 years... In 10?

Wow! Ten years seems to be somewhat of a long shot buddy! I'll be 46 then and to be quite honest, just reading the question made it hard for me to even fathom. Not too sure I'll be doing music at that age. In five years? I'd say three really good full length albums plus a shitload of great 7"s and EP's. Plus a couple of tours all over the place.

What are you going to do to ensure that Svarta Maria maintains that presence in the music scene without falling victim to the corporate mainstream where most bands start to lose control of their creativity, and in my opinion their original focus?

Man, I wouldn't worry about that 'cause I've been out of it for so damn long I wouldn't even know how to BE commercial to begin with! All the stuff Svarta Maria has produced so far was written with only one thing in mind: make good Punk Rock. And once I've written a song I just write another, without a single thought about it being commercial or whatever. As long as me and the band is happy with the material that's all I care about. If 5 or five million people buy our stuff is secondary and to be honest, I haven't spent one second even thinking about that.

I've been listening to "Monster i Sitt Huvud" over and over on your Myspace page... Great song! What does that translate to?

Monsters in her head - she's got pitch black thoughts

Her brain is a war and her heart has darkened
A split soul, so turn around and run
See the warning signs in her watery eyes
She's got monsters in her head and she's gonna unleash them on you

With chaos in her psyche she's looking for victims
A scapegoat to punish for all that's happened to her
A split soul, so turn around and run
See the warning signs in her watery eyes
She's got monsters in her head and she's gonna unleash them on you

Ok, so it's not a tribute to The Bigfoot Diaries?

Sorry buddy, it's about a certain kind of woman all grown men stumbled over from some time or another. With us being somewhat the same age I'd guess you know what I'm talking about.

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