Soft Machine A history of Teddybears, as told by Jocke Ahlund: The history of Teddybears began when Patrik Arve and I met at an art school in Stockholm where we decided to form a grindcore band named Skull. When Skull needed a guitar player we invited my brother Klas Ahlund and changed the band's name to Teddybears. At the time Klas was heavily into Experimental Neo-Jazz, though, so he was forbidden by the other members to touch the strings of his guitar while playing. This led to a lot of frustration and gear smashing, which was in fact one of the key elements to the band's musical style in the early period.
The reason we decided to call ourselves Teddybears is actually because Phil Spector had a band in the 50's called The Teddybears. They had that big hit "To Know Him Is To Love Him." He has always been a great inspiration to us as a songwriter, producer and arranger. It's an homage kind of thing. We love guns same as him too, although we're more into toy laser guns and the sounds they make.
When we started out we had pretty much the same musical influences as today; we were always listening to a lot of very different stuff - Dead Kennedys, Romanian gypsy brass bands, NWA, Bruce Haack, Bad Brains. This cocktail went through the Teddybears-blender and came out sounding like some twisted kind of hardcore-punk with a DJ making extra noise on a pair of turntables.
After a while our drummer left the band to pursue a career as a sculptor, and so we learned that cheap drum machines, electric guitars and vocoders could be a deadly combination. Nowadays, there's not a lot of punk in our music anymore I guess. We get some outlet for that kind of frustration in other areas of our lives, like painting, skateboarding and Nietzschereading. Besides making music and having Teddybears together, all three band members also direct videos, short films and commercials. We got into the film business by making our own videos and eventually started getting other assignments as well.
We are also involved in other bands: Jocke is a member of the Caesars, Klas has an old school punk band called Suspiria, and Jocke and Patrik have a horror-jazz outfit called The Diamonds. We have our own little studio in Stockholm where we record most of our music, and we sometimes also have time to produce other bands.
We don't consider Teddybears a rock band or an electronic outfit. In general we don't care much for dividing music into different genres, and we really don't feel that we belong to any particular scene. There's fantastic as well as crappy music being made in every genre today. But we like to mix it up and we don't want to feel that we have to limit ourselves to any specific style.
If we come up with a good tune or riff, we don't ask ourselves whether it's a dancehall beat or a rock song... that's something we might maybe figure out in hindsight, if then even. Obviously we get a lot of inspiration from bands like Kraftwerk, Suicide, Neu, Can, Silver Apples etc. But we hold Slayer, Yellowman and Public Enemy in equally high regard. When people have asked us what made us collaborate with Jamaican MCs like Elephant Man or Mad Cobra, we always say it's the same thing that attracts us to their style as to ESG, Spacemen 3 or Boogie Down Productions- it's great music! We don't discriminate; we regenerate.
Around the beginning of year 2005, Teddybears started feeling it was about time to make an album for the North American continent. This was achieved mainly through luck, very hard work and lots of absinth. Originally Patrik was the singer in the band, and he is a wonderfully gifted singer of punk rock music, but as our musical style moved more into other territories his duties shifted more towards writing, producing, DJ-ing and synthesizer playing. With the change of the music, though, we started to incorporate other kinds of vocals, and we have invited some very special friends as guest vocalists on the album.
Neneh Cherry is an old friend of ours and we've been sharing many a late night at her house and in our studio recording stuff that actually turned out to be intelligible the next day. The stuff that ended up being the vocal on this track are the bits and pieces from those sessions, pieced together by her and us. We think we managed to make some sense of it. Then Annie flew over from nearby Norway and helped us out with the other vocals on the song.
Iggy Pop heard the "Punkrocker" track through a mutual friend of ours and agreed to do the collaboration, so we went to Miami and co-wrote and recorded the song in a day. There is a tip of the hat from Iggy to Joey Ramone in the lyrics. When Iggy showed up in the studio, he proved to be a perfect gentleman as well as probably the nicest person we've ever collaborated with. Also, as ever being the best dressed chicken in town, he wore one flip-flop sandal on his left foot and nothing on the other and if you listen closely, you can clearly hear his bare foot tapping the beat against the studio floor.
Elephant Man is MC-ing on the song "Are You Feelin' It". In the studio, he insisted on keeping the guitar solo in the end real loud although we wanted to take it out at first. He kept shouting "Turn it up man!" and doing some psycho version of the Duckwalk, playing airguitar. It seemed like he got a big buzz out of doing his thing to a rock beat, and we couldn't have been any happier with the result.
Ebbot Lundberg from The Soundtrack Of Our Lives is, as everybody knows, the psychedelic shaman-master of the apocalypse. A genuine modern day Alistair Crowley. He spent the first two hours in our studio reading out loud to us from some weird Kabbalah book, all the while insisting that the three of us sit completely still on the floor. He wouldn't let us start recording him until we had freed ourselves from all our "petty bourgeois mind frames." He insisted we tracked his vocals without background music. We ended up with 52 channels of chanting and mumbling in complex harmonies and we built the track around that. Needless to say it was a very rewarding and enlightening experience for all parties involved.
We sometimes used Jamaican star MC Mad Cobra's "Press-Trigga" acapella over rockabilly jams when we were DJ-ing or playing live. We sent Mad Cobra tapes of it and he dug it and agreed that we should try and mess about and play together and see what we could come up with. We had this really nice and retarded garage rock riff that we ended up using with his dancehall-style vocal on and it was just instant sweet harmony.
Daddy Boastin' is another guest on this album, perhaps a little less known to the American public. He is a guy from the West Indies that we kept running into at clubs, jams and gigs in Stockholm. We heard him on the mic a couple of times and liked his style, so we invited him down to our studio. He is now more like a second father to us all.
Working with Mad Cobra or Elephant Man was just as crazy fun and rewarding as meeting and working with Iggy Pop or Neneh Cherry. We are just really happy and grateful that they're all on our album. And now, Soft Machine is finally finished and ready to launch at the unsuspecting Yanks in the summer of 2006.