Another band I just learnt about and as they played a few shows just recently, it was time to learn more about the Swedish. Thanks to Joakim Karlsson for answering my questions.
First please tell us a bit about the beginning of Black Bonzo!
Well, we never planned any name change or anything, it just happend when our drummer Andreas Persson left the band (Gypsy Sons Of Magic - as we where called back then).
The original idea was to just change the line-up in the band and proceed as usual with the same name and everything.
Then when we started to rehears the new material, it became clear that it was way too different from the Gypsy Sons stuff, so we figured that a name change would be in order.
Basically what we did was to rotate within the band, Mike who played keys in GSOM sat himself behind the drums and Nicklas who shared guitar duties with me took over the keys. And it worked out really great.
How do you came up with the name Black Bonzo? And what does it mean for you?
What we wanted was a name that didnt say much about the music, a name that wouldn't tip you off like "Hey! these guys must play retro vintage stuff." In retrospect we faild utterly. The only thing we get is "Hey! Black Bonzo is a really crappy name."
The name itself we kinda stole from The Bonzo Dog Band, coz we thougt that was a really cool name for a band, we lifted 'Bonzo' out of there and added some color and there you go.
As far as I know your debut Lady Of The Light was released in 2004, but only in Sweden, Japan and Brazil. Can you tell us a bit about the album? Are there plans to release it world-wide?
Of course it would be fantastic to release Lady Of The Light world-wide, but that's not my area of expertise. The only thing I know is that our American record label is thinking about it. I don't have any dates, but I think there's a great possibility of that happening in a near future.
And how came that you released the debut in Brazil? As far as I know Venezuela has a bigger prog rock / prog metal scene...
I don't know really, the thing just exploded over there, we started getting lots of attention from Brazilian fans and everybody wanted to know, if we were about to release the LOTL album in Brazil.
Then this guy writes us saying he's got a record company and wants to release our album in Brazil, after that it became record company business, but it got released and I think it did quite well.
About Venezuela, I don't know anything about their musical climat over there so I better just shut up about that.
Your latest work is Sound Of The Apocalypse. And even if I can't compare the music, it seems to be darker... At least judged by the artwork. Is that right?
That was the idea, to do a heavy, dark and beautiful album. Like a concept album in a way, we choose the songs who had most compatible lyrics and Nicklas made the cover to match the music. I think he did a fantastic job with the cover.
You had a line-up change... A new bass play you got with Anthon Johansson. What happened that Patrick Leandersson left? And how did you find Anthon?
Anthon was just to be a stand-in at one gig, coz Patrick couldn't do that particular show, and due to personel reasons Patrick never came back.
He got a new job and moved to a different city and I haven't really heard from him since.
So there we where without a bass player, so naturally we asked Anthon who at the time played guitar with an other band with who we share rehearsal space. Luckely for us he wanted it, even though he wouldn't be playing the guitar, and he has proven to be a great asset to the band.
We are really three lead gutarist in the band now, both Anthon and Nicklas plays a pretty mean guitar.
It seems that you are musically mainly inspired by bands from the late 60's and 70's. Which band do you think is the main influence?
If I only can choose one I would probably say The Beatles or Argent (I know, that's two).
At the moment it seems that many prog rock / metal bands discover their musical roots and there is a kind of retro prog revival. Do you agree? What do you think is the reason for this?
I really don't follow modern music much, so I cant really tell. In my case it's just that kind of music I grew up with. All those classic hard rock bands like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Uriah Heep... You know, but with all that crap pouring out of the radio and TV its not that hard to understand why people are looking deep into the 60's and 70's music for inspiration.
And which band(s) make you start singing/playing?
It was the Beatles, I even remember what songs, I Am The Walrus and Come Together, it just blew my mind.
What inspired you lyrically? Tell us a bit about the lyrics!
The lyrics on SOTA is just a bunch of reflections and opinions of whats going on around us, everything from love problems to burning skyscrapers, we choose to accentuate the later on the album, coz it fitted the concept better.
As far as I know you just played a small tour outside Sweden... How were the reactions?
Yes, that's correct, Black Bonzo's first trip to foreign lands.
It was fantastic, we had a great time and I think the ones who saw us were quite satisfied.
I also hear that you had to cancel the show in Würzburg, is that right? Tell us what happened!
(Smile) No, I dont think we will adress that incident here, it was just us having a little too much fun at the local clubs and later at the hotel, which resulted in us being kicked out of town by the police and town of Würzburg before we could do the gig.
I feel bad for our fans though, one guy had driven like 100 kilometers just to see us, he was pretty dissapointed and thats quite understandeble.
In Sweden you already played a few times. Is it different to play at home?
It was a little bit different from playing in Sweden, here you just play lika a 45-60 min set then the crowd looses intrest in most cases.
So we weren't really used to do these 2x45 min gigs with a pause in the middle, that was quite a new thing for us. Really refreshing to do a 90-100 min gig and people still wanted more!
There were some truly nerve wrecking moments, like when we played at Spirit of 66 in Belgium, we had done this massive set, I dont know how long we played, but we ran out of material and had to go off stage. The people there still wanted more and it sounded like they were going to trash the place when our roadmanager came backstage and told us "You have to go on stage one more time!"
We looked at each other and went on stage and preformed a cover of Argent's Hold Your Head Up totally unrehearsed, but it went really well..... Man what a great gig that was!
I saw that you will play at a festival in the US in May 2008. How do you feel about playing there? And will you try to play a few more shows there?
We feel pretty good about it, I mean it's not an everyday oppertunity and there for we are gonna try to make the most of it.
We were told that there would be a 2 week long tour after the RoSF date, but we'll see. There's gonna be a couple of dates, but I have no idea when, where etc.
This yeat there will be a ProgPower Scandinavia for the first time. What do you think about it? And do you think it will help to get more attention?
No, not really. I think stuff like that only alienates the genre more than it helps. I belive in musical intergration.
Then I also belive that Black Bonzo is more a rock band than a prog band, if you seen us live you would understand what I mean.
About playing live... Who did you play with in Sweden? Or did you play mainly on your own?
We mainley play on our own, we have had a couple of support act stuff come up, but they have never worked out.
Which band would you like to tour with? Or who would you like to work with on a song / album?
Hmmm? I would love to do an album or a song with Ken Hensley, I wouldn't mind being the support act for Queen either, that would be cool.
But there is tons of musicians I would like to work with, really hard to choose.
What keeps you busy beside Black Bonzo? Or is the band eating up all your time?
Women! They take up a lot of time, I don't think anyone in the band can argue with that...
Last, but not least... What's on your schedule for the next months?
Next thing on the agenda is to record our third album, we are in the middle of arranging the new songs, the plan is to have it ready for the presses by the end of February.
Perhaps next time more people will get the chance to see them live and it looks like we don't have to wait very long for another album...