Q: What happens when you move a dreadlocked Cornish punk to Sweden and introduce him to a bunch of Black Metallers?
A: You get the crusty, goth tinged punk-metal fusion that is Lucien.
Interview by Ian Pickens
Gravy: Introduce Yourself?
Hi! My name is Greg Hell and I'm the Guitarist/singer in the band Lucien (I can just hear Rik Mayall's voice echoing in the background "I am the CRAP guitarist in...")
Gravy: Lucien has been described as "Dirty garage rock" an accurate description of your sound or are you bunch of soap dodgers?
Greg: Good question! I think as a band we could pride ourselves on our personal hygiene, but only because of our truly brilliant ability to get really dirty to start off with! It's true! Well, dirty garage rock is kinda one way of saying what it is we do I guess, It certainly has that about it. But you know how labels are, people always do their best to give them to bands and bands do their best to try and avoid them, that's what makes us all so pretentious in the first place.
Gravy: Hasn't the whole Scandinavian garage rock n roll thing been done to death now? What is Lucien bringing to kick-start the party?
Greg: Well, I think it was a really good scene and one that didn't really get the chance to fully bloom if you want my opinion, I almost felt the kinda passion of early punk/underground metal scenes developing around it but...it didn't happen, I'm pretty sad about that. It's a shame that the most passionate underground bands are usually the ones that have less of an "ear friendly" sound - I can't see why one should not be able to take an extreme attitude without needing to make extreme music, if that makes sense. But (back to the question Greg) I think LUCIEN, although maybe born from that scene have definitely taken it right off on another path. If Scandi-rock was happy-go-lucky drinking party tunes, then we're more the secret gathering in the woods at night. Scandi-rock's scary little brother with something behind his back....you're not sure what it is but it's dripping red...
Gravy: I'm guessing that the Hellacopters and Glucifer were big influences on you guys but I also noticed a large metal influence, elements of Judas Priest on “Gunslinger” for example?
Greg: Yes, it's no lie or secret that Hellacopters played a big role for me. I'm a fan of many types of music yet it happens every now and again that my enthusiasm takes a lull and I can't find anything to interest me for a while, it just so happened that Hellacopters came along during one of these periods in my life and was just what I needed to hear. I could really relate to them, not only from the music but also the attitude when you take into consideration Nicke Andersson's ('Copters guitarist/singer/founder) background, Coming out of the death metal scene with Entombed and being in a lot of underground punk bands before then. Then you have bass player Kenny who loves jazz and bands like Hawkwind - the combination when put together is like a big mix of everything I loved, made into something else I loved. For me the album "HighVisibilty" is still one of the best rock and roll albums ever made and truly opened my eyes and ears when I heard it. It's a shame that Hellacopters didn't keep up that pace, at least I can boast seeing them live a few times, working for them and actually having the privilege of hanging out with them a few times. Nicke even once taught me how to play their song "Soulseller" - for such well known people they still remain 100% genuine, which is more than I can say about a lot of other musicians I have met along the way. So, back to the question again, I think we do have a bit of a metal edge indeed to some if not all of our songs, I tend to use a very metally sound on my guitar so that certainly puts the soul of Satan into it. I don't think we actually intentionally put too much metal into what we write; it just comes out that way as we get into the thrashy rhythms etc. Although it's no lie that we were born and raised on the crest of horns! \m/ we all started off listening to metal music I'm sure, myself especially started to listen to music in the 80s when bands like Metallica, Megadeth, Slayer and Anthrax were ruling the scene. I think some of our songs can be a bit....hmmm, not Technical but we can at least do more on our instruments than just thrash out chords (which we do also) but we can put more thought into what we're doing, dynamically, feeling-wise and melody-wise so I guess that brings a bit more of a metallic sound. It's a combination I'm happy with.
Gravy: There are also leanings towards the more gothic punk scene such as AFI and the Misfits, particularly in the lyrics and the imagery?
Greg: Certainly, I think a lot of what I write comes from, a dark place. Misfits have always been a great influence to me and a lot of the "Goth" side comes from love bands like that, Balzac, Bauhaus, Fields Of The Nephilim also. I lean towards then melancholy. I guess that writing comes from the heart and where as I'm not an Unhappy guy I guess I just can't write songs about drinking, driving, rock and roll in that "American" sort of Motley Crue/Poison way because that's not really how I feel, neither is it part of my life so much. I found that the main problem when punk was taking off in the 90s in the UK, a lot of it was so American influenced with bands from California talking about the sun and the beach and parties and stuff like that, a lot of UK bands took that sound and image also but I just couldn't relate to it. I'm born in Cornwall and raised in Somerset via the rough areas of Bristol . My life was slums and fields, poor people struggling, working class people trying to make it good. Bad weather and all that. So of course a lot of this comes through in our songs and especially the lyrics - everything I write is quite from the heart and 99% of the time auto biopic.
Gravy: Yeah the whole 90s SoCal punk scene got boring pretty quickly but it was even worse when it was done by a bunch of inner city kids from Birmingham who hadn't ever seen a beach, is there any way back?
Greg: I seem to notice it a lot more nowadays that a lot of bands and "fans" latch onto a scene and very soon it just becomes like a clone factory fashion-fest. On the other hand I'm sure there are many out there doing things just for the love of music and just to create something to share, which is the best way. A true underground and a hardcore nucleus, no matter when scene it's from, will always exist I hope. I think that going "back" is not an option, even though things repeat over and over. When you need is something new to come along and change things. I'm not sure what the next big thing will be, we wait eagerly....right?
Gravy: You cover The Misfits “She” live right?
Greg: Certainly do! We did it right from our very first gig - I've always loved that song, and once again The Misfits are just great. I want people to remember (as I know you will agree) that they were a BAND and not just a logo. She is a great tune as well, one of my favourites - but there are so many to pick from right! We've toyed with a few covers to do live and this was just the one that we stuck at. We've just started playing "Planet Earth" by Duran Duran live also and are toying with the idea of an Alice Copper tune; both Vic and I love early Alice Cooper.
Gravy: Oh early Alice Cooper is the best, what song were you thinking of covering?
Greg: It was Muscle of Love, we've ran through it a few times, sounds real good!
Gravy: Do you feel disappointed when he trots out the kind of Republican views he's been presenting in the music press over the last few years or do you draw a line between an artist's musical work and their politics?
Greg: Hmmm, interesting question. Of course when a band put forward a view it will change your perception of them. For example it should be impossible to listen to a band such as Skrewdriver purely from a musical viewpoint. But sometimes you just gotta respect people's opinions. True I feel less about Michael Graves when I found out that he founded a "Conservative punk" movement but then that's his views and opinions and on the other hand he has done lot for some great worthwhile causes such as the WM3 campaign. Plus he's got a great set of pipes and brought the Misfits onto a whole new level. I tend to like bands more when they share my views on stuff or if I think they have an interesting mission statement but it's not important for me. Lucien stands a completely apolitical band, within our members would get a lot of different views on a lot of different things but then we've had very different upbringings. But we rock together to quote 7 Seconds!
Gravy: How did you end up playing in a Swedish Punk/ Metal band? You're originally from the UK right?
Greg: That's right yup; I ended up living out here in 2004. I moved from the UK then as it didn't really hold much more for me. It was a big jump but sometimes you have to take these big jumps to see if you can fly right? I first came to Sweden in 2002 when I was on tour with Mr.Zippy and I came back as a tourist in 2003, by 2004 I was living here - I guess I just fell in love with the city. I wish I'd been warned about the winters though!
Gravy: How does the Swedish Punk/Metal scene compare with the UK ? Things have been pretty stale in the UK for a while now?
Greg: It's much the same if not worse, at least in Stockholm where I live. A lot of people are quite stuck in the 80s and this has become even more so since the return of glam rock here. When I first moved here I thought it was kind of a fun thing that people were still kinda living life as if Nirvana never happened and long hair and rock was everywhere, but since living here for a while I've noticed that most people just play it safe and don't try to explore music very much. You ask a cross section of people and you'll get big name bands each time, you know really "top 10" very little diversity. There are of course exceptions. Places here as well are quite strict on ages for shows so there is very little youth scene, which is a shame as the younger kids seem to be the more explorative. Finding places to play is quite hard also - this is one of the reasons why I started my own club in Stockholm . Trying to fix a tour in Sweden is certainly not easy, its very lazy and apathetic - I do miss the days in the UK when kids started to say "ok there are no shows in my town, I'll do my own!" and you had this great touring circuit. From what I can gather Sweden WAS like that at one point, but not anymore. But what can you do? Again, one of the reasons why I started my own club, if you can't find what you want...make it yourself!
Gravy: Do you think the DIY ethic is dying out?
Greg: Like I said earlier, it will always be there, somewhere. There is not so much of it here I guess and it does seem to be a little thin on the ground of late - hmmm, I hope for a uprising soon!
Gravy: You were a long time member of the relatively successful Mr. Zippy; was the apathy in the UK the main reason for leaving the band?
Greg: Actually at the time when I left it was when I feel punk such as Mr.Zippy played was at its strongest. I was smelling a rat though, something was wrong. I guess I could just sense that this wonderful punk scene that we seemed to have around the late 90s to early 00's was somehow getting worse and worse and would eventually be flooded with "major" influences and MTV rubbish and thus would become watered down and ruined. And I guess that's kind of what happened. One of the main reasons I left Mr.Zippy is that I was really looking to take it as far as I could but I didn't feel the same passion or enthusiasm from my band mates. That's not to say they were not passionate it's just that I felt that I was trying to run while they were trying to walk as it were. The band are still going now but at a much smaller pace, I think they are very happy with what they are doing though. Some members are married and having children and finding good jobs and I guess, growing up. And they are happy with what they are doing and in the end that's what counts. They should have a new album out soon, the first one since the last album I played on in 2002, released in 2003. From what I've heard it will be worth the wait!
Gravy: Were you already looking to put the project that became Lucien
together at this point?
Greg: I most certainly was, I even wrote songs and rehearsed them with some friends while back in the UK ; Lucien has been a long time in the making! There were times when I was struggling with being in Mr.Zippy. Just before we got our record deal and things went good for a while I was searching all over for another band to join or trying to start my own. I recorded with ANGELFUCK the grind band and even almost got to play in Marky Ramone's Speedkings. Boy am I sad I didn't get THAT gig! I recorded a whole demo for Lucien by myself, some of the songs we still play in the current "version" of Lucien today.
Gravy: But the band finally crystallised in 2004?
Greg: When I moved here yes, I'd already been speaking with Vic (guitarist) over the internet about forming a band when I lived in the UK still. When we finally met and jammed it was pretty magic. I'd previously been in Stockholm and left posters in all the record shops asking for band members knowing I was about to move to Sweden , Vic answered my call and we built from there. I had a lot of material and a lot of ideas and so did he, together it really worked.
Gravy: Tell us a bit about your debut self titled album; it's a combination of your first two eps right?
Greg: That's right. We recorded one before the other. It was always the plan to do so. With both EP's we let various labels, especially D.I.Y tape labels and CDR labels etc use our songs to release or to use on compilations etc before we put together the whole "package" for an album. We were about to release it ourselves before Deadlamb from Ireland stepped up and offered to do it for us. And bless them! They have done us proud.
Gravy: Which part of the album was recorded first? Some of the shorter punkier songs are the last ones on the album with the more progressive metal songs earlier on which seems contrary to the way most bands evolve?
Greg: If you see the album its split into "Part One - And from the tree the seed is fully grown" and "Part Two - The devil will find work for idle hands" part one was first. But we wrote all the songs around the same time, some people said our 2nd EP was a lot different from the 1st, but as I said, it was all written around the same time. Although the song "Shelly & Pollodori" was written in the late 90s.
Gravy: I felt the faster, punkier songs stood out as the strongest on the album; is this where the band feels more comfortable or do you see yourselves pursuing the metallic influences?
Greg: I think they both will go hand in hand. Yeah maybe the punkier songs is what we slip into most as we come from fast-playing roots with punk and death metal. And you can't ever take the punk out of us as it's in our hearts very much - even more so now with our Johan our new bass player who is very much set in the punk scene. As I said above I think the metal will always be there, as will the darker sides - we've not put any limits on what we will or wont do - I can say that the newer stuff we are coming up with is very rock, very dark and still punky metal!
Gravy: The rest of the band had their roots firmly in the Swedish black/death metal scene; how do they feel about Lucien's punk leanings
Greg: It's been a little hard to try and relate the DIY punk ethics of the UK over to them at times yes, but both scene share so much also, especially when you get to the more grind/crust side of things. Fanzines, Tape-Trading etc. Both scenes exist and a fuelled by "fans" to let the scene prosper simply out of love for the music. I'm a huge fan of extreme metal also, especially grindcore and crust/hardcore bands. Our guitarist Vic was a big part of the underground black/death metal scene here in the early days. There has just been a book written called "Swedish Death Metal" which charts the whole scene from its start to current day and he pops up in it a lot. So we both share a lot in that aspect, the passion comes from the same place - and its love of music in the end that keeps all the fires burning.
Gravy: Has the internet been the primary means of getting the bands name out there or have you relied upon more conventional methods such as touring and zines?
Greg: It's certainly been a great help, especially with sites such as Myspace etc. As I think I said above, touring has been a little hard although we have played as much as we can. Fanzines have been a great help. But webzines even more so, it sadly seems that printed 'zines are becoming fewer and fewer these days which is a shame as I love them! Nothing better than a journey with a bag full of fanzines! But yes, the internet has been good, although it's not as effective as it used to be, I guess there are so many bands now getting themselves out there with the net that it saturates everything more and more. Especially when sites like Myspace etc have so many bands trying to get you to vote for them to be on such and such and such...what happened to just being good?
Gravy: It's a double edged sword?
Greg: Certainly, because anyone who farts down a microphone can put it up on Myspace and be a band (See ANGELFUCK, my grind project for a perfect example) On the other hand it is great to promote and discover great bands out there. It is a little too diluted for my tastes though.
Gravy: Have you had the opportunity to play outside of Sweden ?
Greg: Indeed, we played a small UK tour in 2006 just to see what would come from that - we do keep promising to come back, and we will its just time and money and sorting it etc
Gravy: What's next for Lucien.
Greg: Well right now we are working on songs for our next album with hopes to get that out this year if we can - there is plans for another UK tour and much speak of other countries, it's just a case of fixing it. I'm quite excited about the new stuff we are coming up with though.
Gravy: How can people get in touch?
Thanks to Greg for taking the time out to do this interview.