If you’re looking for some young talent in the prog world that can deliver first class on melody and head-spining rhythms, look no further than FreddeGredde, the multi-instrumentalist phenomenon from non other than Sweden. He recently released his second album (Brighter Skies) and was gracious enough to present you, the reading public with a few of his thoughts in this interview. Enjoy!
PROGULATOR: Hi FreddeGredde, thanks for being willing to interview with us. First question for you: ten years ago, what were you doing (in terms of music or otherwise) and could you see yourself where you are now?
FREDDEGREDDE: Ten years ago, I was a confused teenager who had just quit school (it just wasn’t my thing), and was generally in quite a dark place, with no idea of where my life would be going! I had started playing around with music a little bit, but it was one of many interests I had at the time. I was also trying to learn and understand programming, animation, etc. I definitely didn’t think music would become my job one day.
PROGULATOR: You happen to be in a country that has produced, and is currently producing, amazing progressive rock. Bands such as Anglagard, The Flower Kings, and Moon Safari are quite well known in progressive rock. In what ways do you feel that Swedish prog bands or musicians have influenced the way you perceive and compose music?
FREDDEGREDDE: Honestly, in no ways at all. Sure, I’ve listened to a lot to the bands you’ve mentioned, and I could also mention Pain of Salvation, Karmakanic and A.C.T on the list of great Swedish prog bands, but the fact that they are Swedish is irrelevant to me. It’s the music that matters, and it doesn’t matter if the composers are American, Swedish or Ukrainian.
PROGULATOR: Could you tell us a little bit about your latest record, Brighter Skies? What, in your opinion, contributes to its uniqueness?
FREDDEGREDDE: I basically just tried to make music that I would personally enjoy. It’s influenced by all the bands I like, but I would think it’s unique in the way that there are very few bands, even within the prog genre, that uses as much variation, changes and odd time signatures as mine, while still maintaining melody and flow. That is my intention anyway, but it’s impossible to know how I would react to my music if I didn’t already know every angle and detail of it.
PROGULATOR: Of course, but either way, it appears that the reaction from the prog community has been extremely positive. Prog Archives, for example, rates Thirteen Eight as 4.03 and your new album receives an average rating of 4.81. These are great ratings, especially by Prog Archives strict standards. Out of curiosity, how do your friends and family react to it? Have they given any sort of feedback, either from an insider or outsider perspective?
FREDDEGREDDE: Wow, honestly I didn’t know about those high ratings! Although, not many have rated them so far, so they will surely get worse as more prog fans find out about me. As for my friends and family, they were all relatively positive about my first album. They liked the simpler tracks, like “The Star Song” and “Solace Distant”. With this new album though, they’ve only said things like “well it sounds good, but it’s not my type of music”, hehe. It was expected though, as none of them are prog fans, and the new album doesn’t have any particularly radio-friendly songs. But that’s okay, they’re still proud of me, and they keep showing my Youtube medleys to old and new friends.
PROGULATOR: What was your primary songwriting influence for Brighter Skies? How was the way you approached composition on Brighter Skies similar to or different from Thirteen Eight?
FREDDEGREDDE: I wouldn’t say there is a one primary influence. I’ve just been influenced by tons of music I’ve been listening to, and I’ve tried to include all the musical ideas I enjoy. But I think I hear bands like IQ, Dream Theater, Genesis, Yes, Gentle Giant, A.C.T and Neal Morse in my own music more often than other bands.
My first album, Thirteen Eight, was basically just the first 13 songs I ever composed. There was no theme or thought, it was just songs, of all kinds. With Brighter Skies, it’s mostly compositions made specifically for this album (along with some shorter ideas I recorded ages ago), and it’s got more thought and more coherence.
PROGULATOR: What is your favorite track on Brighter Skies and why?
FREDDEGREDDE: Honestly, I like track 1, 2, 4, and 7 equally. I can’t decide. I think track 1 (“Welcome the Bright Skies”) is the closest to my intended “FreddeGredde sound”, but 2 (“The Autotelic Self”) and 7 (“Ocean Mind”) are more epic and have more great stuff in them. Track 4 (“This Fragile Existence”) has the largest amount of variation and changes, the composition is “fun”, and that’s something I’ve always loved in music.
PROGULATOR: Is there any kind of concept or story that’s related to the record? If there is, could you discuss it a bit? If there isn’t an overall concept, is there a particular song on the record whose lyrical concept stands out to you?
FREDDEGREDDE: There is a concept, and I would say that the album is a concept album. Not a story exactly, but the tracks discuss one direction each of what can make us all happier in life. I have never cared much about lyrics, as it’s the music itself that has my full attention, but this time I tried to make something that could be interesting, and I’ve tried to not make it too cheesy, but hehe, it’s hard!
PROGULATOR: Could you tell us a little bit about the creative process behind your newest album?
FREDDEGREDDE: I decided early on that I wanted 7 tracks on it, and what type of songs they would be. And after that, and I just collect a few themes/melodies, and then start from the beginning of a track, improvise and go into unexpected directions, and then use the old ideas and reuse them throughout the track until it’s all tied together at the end. It comes kind of naturally for me, but I admit I also rarely discard an idea, because music is so subjective, and if I’ve come up with something I think “yeah, this seems nice!” about, there must be some quality to it that makes it worth keeping.
PROGULATOR: I understand that you play and record all the instruments on your albums? Do you ever consider turning your project into a band or do you prefer working solo?
FREDDEGREDDE: I do play and record everything except the drums. And there’s also a guest flute on track 5 on the new album. But yeah, I much prefer having full control, and stay independent. I’m also not a big fan of doing concerts, but if I’m convinced it would be a good idea in the future, I have a pretty good idea of who to ask to join me on stage to perform my stuff! But as for composing, I want to do it on my own.
PROGULATOR: If I’m not mistaken, you started off doing music on your Youtube channel and became the number one Youtuber in Sweden. Could you tell us a bit about the transition from doing music on Youtube to recording your own prog albums?
FREDDEGREDDE: There wasn’t much of a transition, because I started posting original stuff on Youtube pretty early on, like “Beside Me”, which got quite a positive response. It doesn’t come close to my medleys and covers of course, but I didn’t expect that either. Unfortunately simpler music will always be more popular among the mainstream, but as time has passed, I’ve become unable to make more covers and simple stuff, because that’s just not what I enjoy. Prog is the type of music I love, so I’m having more fun now, even though it isn’t very successful.
PROGULATOR: What was the first album you bought and how have your musical tastes evolved up until today?
FREDDEGREDDE: The first CD I can recall buying myself is some live album by Aerosmith! I didn’t care much about music until I was around 13-14, and Aerosmith, Metallica and the Offspring were my favorites. I then heard Dream Theater when I was around 15, and got into prog metal thanks to that. Five to ten years ago, my tastes had shifted more into prog rock, old 70’s acts and stuff, and that’s where I am today, taste-wise!
PROGULATOR: How did you get into listening/playing progressive music in the first place?
FREDDEGREDDE: Like I said earlier, I’ve always wanted to understand and learn things. Figuring out how to play songs by the Offspring got easy quickly, so Dream Theater was a whole other world, one that I wanted to understand! Also, I just enjoy prog more than most other music, as it keeps me focused, new things keep happening and so on.
PROGULATOR: If you could put a band together of players from any prog group, combining them, mixing and matching them together, and have them play a concert in your backyard, what players would you put together?
FREDDEGREDDE: Unfortunately, my experience with “super bands” is that they don’t really work as you want them to. The “wrong” features from each member gets highlighted, in my own opinion of course. But, I like John Petrucci’s way of composing and adding depth with his riffs, and I like Jonas Reingold’s bass playing and way of composing in general. Mike Portnoy has a good knack of putting together a band I think, playing on everyone’s strength, and if Daniel Gildenlöw could collab on the song-writing, he’d be great as the front man. Then I only need to add a keyboardist, and I think I’d go with… meh, let’s be boring and say Neal Morse, because of his vocals and general prog-composing, as long as he doesn’t get TOO much influence, as it can get kind of predictable these days, as much as I like him. (I’m realizing this is very close to the Transatlantic lineup, but I hope that Petrucci and Reingold could change things up and make the music more intense and less 70’s inspired.)
PROGULATOR: Very cool. Well, that about wraps up the interview. On behalf of Progulator.com I would like to congratulate you on your new album as well as thank you for your willingness to participate in an interview with us. Is there anything you’d like to mention in closing for our readership? Perhaps a glimpse into the future of FreddeGredde?
FREDDEGREDDE: Thank you, and you’re very much welcome! I want to make more prog music at some point, and try to take my own sound further and be more experimental, but first I will take a break from it all, travel a little, and possibly make something more commercially viable to make ends meet. But I will definitely make a third prog album, especially if there is an audience for it! So I hope that you all will give Brighter Skies a chance, and that you’ll enjoy the music!