Straight Outta Örebro: The Desert Rock of Truckfighters

Among the throng of stoner rock bands to come out of Europe over the last ten years, one band that has set itself apart from the pack is undoubtedly Truckfighters. Continuing the desert rock sound that bands like Kyuss helped form years ago, the Swedish trio have crafted a sonic assault that is equally great on wax or on stage.

Tracing their lineage back to 2001, the band released a number of splits and EPs, leading up to the release of their debut album, the fan-favorite Gravity X. Touring primarily in Europe until 2011 when Truckfighters made their way to America, the band won over crowds time and again with their stunning live shows. Jump to 2014, Truckfighters released their latest album, Universe to critical acclaim, solidifying their place in the upper echelon of stoner rock bands—while doing things their own way and not following a traditional formula for the genre.

On the final day of the Psycho California Festival, I had a chance to sit with Ozo, Dango, and Enzo early on before things kicked into high gear. The subdued discussion in no way prepared me for their superb set that was to come later as their performance was one of fest’s most electrifying.

So you guys just got in. Did you come over straight from Sweden?

Ozo: Not really. We did two shows before this.

Yeah? how did those go for you?

Ozo: Really good. We did Oakland and San Francisco.

There’s been some amazing music here this weekend.

Niklas “Dango” Källgren: You’re not used to these kinds of things, either.

I know! Fests like this one don’t happen that often in America. There have been smaller stoner and doom fests here and there, and Maryland Deathfest will have some mixed in through the lineup, but nothing of this size that can compare to Roadburn and shows like that.

Oskar “Ozo” Cedermalm: You’re picking up on the European standards! [laughs]

So what’s your take on the rise of metal festivals in the U.S.? Do you feel like the U.S. is catching up to where Europe is already at?

Dango: Why not? People seem to like it, so there’s obviously reasons to do it.

It’s taking a while to catch on.

Ozo: I’m not sure, but if they still keep booking good bands, then yes. A lot of festivals in Europe make the mistake of getting bigger, then they book two big bands, like mainstream bands that charge a couple of million, then the whole festival just dies, because they need to have the touch for booking good underground bands as well.

I’ve always thought that the booking at some of the European festivals was so odd because you would have a black metal band playing just before Limp Bizkit. It’s a little bizarre.

Ozo: I guess it works for a few festivals, but a lot of festivals, especially in Sweden, a lot of them burned out because they did some weird booking.

What’s one of the big ones in Sweden, Graspop? [Graspop is actually in Belgium. —Ed.]

Ozo: No, we had Hultsfred, that was really big. It was a rock festival, and they booked really cool bands from the start. Then, last year, I think they booked 50 Cent or something like that.

Umm, ok?

Ozo: Yeah! I think they wanted to become more mainstream and get bigger.

Dango: They lost the rock fans, and the mainstream fans didn’t come, so they screwed it up.

Sounds like they lost sight of what the festival was about.

Dango: Yeah, three or four of the best Swedish festivals did the same thing. It came to a point where it couldn’t get bigger for the rock audience, then they started booking these mainstream crap bands, but they just couldn’t get many people coming.

Wow, that’s unfortunate.

Ozo: Yeah.

So you have welcomed another drummer, Enzo, to the band. How are things going with the band so far?

Axel “Enzo” Larsson: It’s going good! It’s been a crazy one and a half years of just touring, trying to get into the band, get to know each other.

You feel like you guys are gelling pretty well?

Enzo: Yeah, it’s always like that when you start in a new band and jump in, you have this period of learning songs, spending a lot of time together and getting to know each other, but I think it’s working out good.

Ozo: You think so? [laughs]

Uh-oh, this just took a weird turn. [everyone laughs]

Dango: It’s getting better and better.

Tell us a bit about the last album, 2014’s Universe.

Dango: Probably the best album so far. Hopefully. I don’t know. When you release an album, every time, once it’s finished it’s natural to think that it’s the best thing you’ve ever done. Then, you do a new album, and this is the best thing.

Ozo: It’s so boring because all the bands think the same way, “Aww, we’ve done the best album ever,” but we think it’s the truth with Universe.

I don’t know that anyone is ever going to come out and say, “You know, this one just didn’t live up to the last one. We could have done better.” 

Ozo: “It kind of sucks!” [laughs]

Dango: For Universe, the process to make it was quite different compared to the other ones.

What was different?

Dango: The time. We spent like, three years on and off for both writing and recording. That made the mixing very hard—to get everything into one unit—to feel like one album. We’ve spent so much time and energy on that, we almost went crazy in the end.

Do you feel like taking your time with the process might have paid off in the long run?

Ozo: Yeah, absolutely. You should always try to do your best and let it take the time it needs, otherwise you’re kind of just half-doing things. We’re not like that.

You did a limited vinyl release for Universe. Do you usually release your albums on vinyl?

Ozo: Yeah.

Are you personally fans of the format?

Ozo: Not super-big, but I’m a fan of it. It’s nice. I just bought a really good vinyl player, so I’m picking up some old stuff.

Did you grow up listening to vinyl?

Ozo: Yeah, a little bit.

What’s one album you remember from when you were young that was big in your life?

Ozo: I would probably say In Rock, Deep Purple. That just came into my mind.

They’re classic.

Dango: The album that affected me most, but I don’t have it on vinyl, was Nevermind by Nirvana. That was when I discovered that I really liked music.

I remember, I was in high school and was a metal fan at the time that came out. It changed everything, the entire landscape changed. [To Enzo] How about you?

Enzo: I remember my dad had a limited edition of the White Album by the Beatles that I listened to a lot when I was a kid. That was huge.

Oh, absolutely. Revolver was the Beatles album that hit me hard when I was young.

Enzo: Oh, yeah. They’re all amazing albums.

I think anyone over the age of probably, 20, has some kind of Beatles memory. Whether you hated them or loved them, they still had an effect on you.

Ozo: Yeah. They made some really good songs. A bunch of them.

Now that it’s been a couple of years, and it’s had time to settle in, give us your thoughts looking back on the Truckfighters documentary.

Dango: [laughing] I think it’s a really entertaining movie and I like it very much. For us, we weren’t really involved in the production of it, it was Joerg [Steineck] and Christian [Maciejewski] who were the producers. They did it on their own initiative so we just helped out how we could, and then it was a movie.

Ozo: When you look back, it would have been fun to have those movies every two years or so, from the real beginning. You know, one in 2003, one in 2005, 2007…

Be able to track back, like a family album?

Ozo: Yeah, yeah.

Dango: This was focused a lot on the years 2008, 2009, and 2010. It’s a short period of the band where most of the things in the movie take place. Then, of course, there’s a little bit of history, a look back and stuff. It would have been really cool to have more footage from the early days. Now, it would be very fun to do another one, maybe do 5 or 6, a box set. [laughs]

Was it kind of weird, during the making of it, having these cameras following you around all the time? Did you tune it out and live your life, or were you always pretty aware of having a camera on you at all times.

Ozo: We didn’t really realize what the deal was. They said, “We’re coming out and filming,” and we didn’t really think, 100%, that this was going to happen and be a full-length movie. We were like, “Yeah, sure.” [laughs]

There was a little bit of disbelief there.

Ozo: Yeah, there was. A lot of people talk in the music business, “Blah, blah, blah, blah, we’re going to do this or that.”

We definitely didn’t understand how serious the project was, at all until we saw the first rough cut of it. 

Ozo: It was like one and a half hours, an almost finished movie, and I was like, “Wow.”

Was it pretty strange the first time you saw it?

Ozo: Yeah, wow. It was really good.

Are you going to hang around the U.S. for a bit longer, or are you heading back to Europe?

Ozo: No. We’re playing Seattle on Tuesday, then straight back home on Wednesday morning.

Okay. What’s next for you after that? New album, touring over in Europe?

Ozo: We have the summer booked with festivals, and we’ll try to finish a new album this year.

You have material written already?

Ozo: A few of them.

Dango: In the making.

When do you think that will come out?

Dango: 2016. Definitely not 2015.

Taking your time again, right?

Ozo: Yeah.

Dango: Well, it has to be the best album ever made, right? [laughs]

Ozo: In the “universe!”

Truckfighters will be hitting the festival circuit in Europe through the summer. See a full list of tour dates here.

Truckfighters Official | Facebook | Twitter

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