"Τhe song writing was much more interesting in the '70s"
Forty two years since the release of Kaipa’s debut album it would be an understatement to say that Hans Ludin is one of the most experienced and respected musicians in progressive rock music. As Kaipa are about to release their thirteenth studio album, “Children Of The Sounds” we had the chance to talk with him about the formation of the new album, his inspiration, the way he sees progressive rock music and much more.
Hello mr Ludin. Congratulations for your new work with Kaipa and for your long career in (prog) music.
This is your 13th album with Kaipa and the 8th since the band made a second start in 2002. What keeps you motivated to still write music 42 years since your debut album?
I use to say every time a new Kaipa album is recorded that this is the last album. But for some reason I use to find new inspiration and start writing new songs shortly after the release of a new album. Maybe the inspiration is coming from all the positive feedback and great reviews. So when “Sattyg” was released in November 2014 it happened again. I worked for six months writing the new songs. Since I started to play in my first band 1964 music is a very important part of my life and something I just can't live without.
"The beauty of nature is an important inspiration to me in my song writing"
Was the composing and recording process of “Children Of The Sounds” any different in comparison to your previous albums? How do you approach composing and recordings with Kaipa?
I have a basic setup with different instruments I'm normally using in my recording studio. When I hear an haunting melody playing in my head I make a simple recording of it so I don't forget it. When I open this song later and still feel that it's a good melody I can start to develop the original idea.
During the summer I use to take long bicycle rides on small winding roads in the peaceful open landscape around my home-town Uppsala. Sometimes I feel that notes are rising up from the billowing fields I pass and that words are falling like raindrops from the clear sky. I often stop and rest near some old church. Sometimes it's like if I hear music, like anthems from the past seep out through the walls from the church but it's only a new melody born in my consciousness and the seed of a new song. The lyrics to the song “Like A Serpentine” describe this feeling. The beauty of nature is an important inspiration to me in my song writing.
What really made me push the start button this time was a magic spirit that filled my whole body after visiting a concert with Kaipa drummer “Morgan Ågren” and his band “Mats & Morgan Band” in November 2014. I woke up the morning after the concert and still felt that enormous groove filling every part of my consciousness. I realized that I had to canalize all this energy somewhere so I decided to start to write some new music.
"I can spend weeks working with just one small detail that most people probably don't even notice"
One thing I can tell is that the new album has a great, balanced sound. It’s important to be able to listen clearly to what all these great musicians play. How much work does it take to get the audio result you want?
I'm very careful with sounds and details in my work and I can spend weeks working with just one small detail that most people probably don't even notice. But when you bring hundreds of small details together they are definitely important for the final result. Since 2007 and the album “Angling Feelings” I'm working with the extremely talented sound-engineer Martin Igelström at MI Sound Design. He's doing the final mix and mastering of the albums and I'm very happy about our cooperation.
Three out of five songs off the new album clock more than ten minutes, a length that is not rare in your songs in general. What does it take to write such lengthy songs? Is there a craft regarding structures and stuff or it’s just the flow of music that really decides how long a song should be?
I never decide in advance what I shall write. I just let the inspiration guide me on an unpredictable and exiting journey. This time the result was five long songs and it feels good. I always try to find one of those great and unforgettable melodies hiding somewhere in my subconscious as a starting point. I often use that as a vocal melody and the main theme of a composition. Instead of composing a lot of totally different parts and mix them into a long song I use to do several variations of the main theme. Sometimes I change the time signature, sometimes I write a new instrumental melody, using the same chords, with some fragments of the main theme included and sometimes I just change the bass notes in the chords to produce another feeling. I think this gives you a familiar feeling when you listen to the music even if you don't necessarily realize it's coming from the same source. I'm working with writing and arranging side by side recording it into a demo where I'm playing and singing everything. That's my normal way of working so I can get an overview of the songs. I have worked with the other members for so many years now so I can feel their presence and feel the changes in the music they're going to perform to create the final result.
You are the mastermind and main composer of the band, so what’s the contribution of the other members of the band when you make a new album and particularly for the new one?
I write the song and create the basic arrangement. This means that the other musicians are not involved in the songwriting but they are definitely very important to form the final result. I use to say that I'm drawing a painting in black and white and the others are filling in all the colours.
I have to say that most of anything else I was astonished by Per Nilsson’s guitar playing on the album. What makes him stand out as a guitarist in your opinion?
I met Per the first time in the late 90's when we recorded the album “HAGEN: Corridors of time”. I immediately realized that he is an outstanding and versatile musician. So when I needed a new guitar player in KAIPA 2006 I didn't have to think twice, the choice was obvious.
Especially, the fact that he’s the founding member and main composer of a metal band like Scar Symmetry makes his “transformation” even more impressive. Are you familiar with this musical side of him or maybe this music at all? Do you think there is a connection between these kinds of music?
I have all Scar Symmetry albums in my collection and I like them. The connection between Scar Symmetry and Kaipa is Per's melodic vein and playing that colours everything he is engaged in.
"There are so many talented musicians today, but for me the song writing was much more interesting in the '70s"
They say that this is the best time for progressive (rock) music since the '70s. You’ve been around for many years so you can confirm it or deny it. What do you think of the current state of progressive rock music?
Sorry but I'm not sure what to say about this. There are so many talented musicians today, but for me the song writing was much more interesting in the 70's, but maybe I'm just nostalgic.
Do you keep up with new bands emerging in the scene? Have you heard of any new artist and thought that their music is as great as back in the day?
Probably. I don't have time or interest to listen to all new music. For me everything I haven't heard is new, no matter what year it was recorded.
Is there room for a new band to “succeed” in playing progressive rock music? I don’t mean getting rich or something like that, but make a living out of it. What would you suggest to a new band that starts now playing this music?
Try to go your own way and find your own identity, have fun, listen to your heart and learn from your heroes but don't try to copy them.
I guess it’s a tricky question, but I have to ask. What do you think of Kaipa da Capo and the fact that your ex-bandmates decided to form a new band, play your old stuff and write new music with a reference to Kaipa in their name? Did you listen to the new music they made?
I think it's great that my old friends and band mates from the original Kaipa 1974 are playing together again. When they started they only played the old Kaipa songs from the 70's. But last year they decided to record an album with new material. I advised them to find a new name of the band so they could have their own identity but they refused to listen to me. I don't like that they are using the name Kaipa just because it leads to so many misunderstandings and confusion.
Are you in good terms with Roine and the rest of the guys? Is there a chance you could play together again?
They are some of my best friends no doubt about that, but we have no plans to play together again. But you never know what the future will bring.
Are there any plans to tour or play some live shows?
Kaipa is purely a studio band, that was my idea when “Notes from the past” was recorded and I haven't change my thoughts concerning that during the years.
Thank you for your time. Close this interview as you’d like.
I am now going to finish the work of remixing my three solo albums recorded during the years 1984–1989 with mostly instrumental music stylistically close to the music I wrote for Kaipa. In 2018 these three albums and two more with previously unreleased material will be released in a 5-CD Box “Hans Lundin: The solo years 1984-1989”. It's a real joy to revisit all these songs and all the memories from when I wrote and recorded them. There will be lots of analogue synths and of course my trademark the distorted solo synths that I started to develop in the late 70's. Also some Kaipa demos and several guest musicians like Roine Stolt, Max Åhman and Ulf Wallander.