Anderson, Ola and Jerry Sahlin (A.C.T) (November 2001)

A.C.T In Tune With Imaginary Friend: Ola Andersson and Jerry Sahlin

Act - Imaginary Friend (2001)Authors of one of the most beautiful prog records of this year, Imaginary Friends, A.C.T confirm that they are one of a kind with this great interview. So let's lay back and enjoy this friendly talk.

Igor Italiani: Hi A.C.T. Can you begin the interview with a little recap about how the band started and managed to record two great CDs?

Ola Andersson: Yes of course ... so ... I, Jerry Sahlin, Thomas Erlandsson, and Jens Appelgren launched A.C.T under the name of Fairyland in 1994. In the beginning, we didn't have a bass player, so we asked a friend named Simon Niklasson to join us for gigs and some early demos. After a while Jens Appelgren felt that he wanted to develop on his own and he left the band. The rest of the members had to find a new vocalist. I and Thomas studied music in Malmö and started to look for a new singer at this school. We came in contact with the singer Herman Saming and asked him if he was interested, which he of course was. After a few rehearsals it became quite clear that Herman was the right guy to take over the lead vocals in the band. We still didn't have a bass player though, and we needed one, badly. Simon was more and more involved in his regular band. Peter Asp, a drummer who had been playing together with me on and off since we were kids, mentioned that he would like to try out as bass player for the band. And that is what he did. The band became a fact. We changed the name to A.C.T to indicate the birth of this new band.

Ola Andersson (© Asa Kristensson) 1996 was a very hectic year for us and things really started to happen. We recorded our first real demo that was sold out after two weeks and the band also participated in one of the biggest music contests in Sweden. We qualified for the finals and went to Stockholm to compete against bands from all over the country. We qualified for the last round, but left the contest without a prize. There was a minor outrage because of this, and Swedish media gave the band a lot of positive attention. In the same year, we played as support act for Yngwie Malmsteen. In 1997 we played all over Sweden and recorded a new 5-track demo. By then, the band felt ready to make a record. We started to send out our demo, but had no luck.

After quite a few discussions, we decided to make a record, nonetheless. So A.C.T rehearsed, came up with new material and rehearsed for all of 1998. A.C.T started to look for a studio and a producer that would fit their sound. Herman Saming knew the producer Pelle Saether since before and recommended his studio. The band travelled to Vasteras to record the album and Pelle proved to be just what the band was looking for.

The debut album, Today's Report, was recorded in three weeks. Three stressful but very creative weeks. The reviewers were lyrical and wrote things like "great production, talented musicians, bombastic arrangements, the perfect balance between modern pop and symphonic rock, strong material." Act - Today's ReportWe signed a management deal with the composer, manager, reviewer and journalist Janne Stark who fixed us a record deal within a couple of weeks. The record company was MTM music. Directly after the album had been released we were offered to support Saga in Malmö. The gig went great and Saga asked if we could join them on their Scandinavian tour. This was an offer we couldn't resist since we were old Saga fans.

Already in 1998, when the band was arranging the songs for Today's Report, the idea of using "real strings" on the album came up. Since there was no budget or time for it we unfortunately had to drop that idea very quick. However, when we started to arrange the songs for the second album, Imaginary Friends, we contacted arranger Johan Ederfors at an early stage -- there WOULD be strings on the second album, whether there was time or money for it! Ederfors and Jerry immediately began to work on the string arrangements and the result was astounding. I must tell you that with the album Imaginary Friends we have taken our music to a new level and feel quite ready to conquer the world [smiling -II]!!!

II: OK. Considering the unique atmosphere that your songs show, can you tell me how your writing process usually develops? Is there someone who takes the ideas to the studio or do you jam until you find the right groove for a new tune?

Jerry Sahlin: I usually have the basic songs finished ... you know ... with vocal melodies and basic bass and the basic drumbeats but everyone adds some bits here and there and we arrange the songs together when we start to rehearse them.

II: OK. Let's talk a little more about Imaginary Friends, which is your latest record. First of all, why have you called the record that and what can you tell me about the suite that covers the second part of the CD, "Relationships - The Long One"?

Jerry Sahlin (© Asa Kristensson)JS: We called it Imaginary Friends because we related the title to soap-operas on TV. People are SO into this kind of fiction-world, you know, that they really live with these characters that they see on TV. So we decided to make fun of those people who watch this shit. Relationships is a big part of this phenomena so we did our own "soap-opera" in music-form [ah, ah?simply great! - II].

II: The first two tracks of the album are really strange ... they are laid-back but at the same time complex ... I don't know if you are familiar with them, but the songs remind me of the great music played by US band Echolyn!

JS: Is that so? I haven't heard Echolyn so I can't answer to that question, but maybe you tell the truth ... in fact this is a good description of the songs.

II: The main aspect of the A.C.T music, in my opinion, has to be considered the choruses. They seem influenced by the ones of the great Queen -- what can you tell me about that?

JS: Sure, both Ola and myself like Queen a lot. However we prefer Freddy Mercury's songs. We like how they work with vocals and backing vocals as well.

II: With "A Supposed Tour" you embrace a more prog metal influence -- are you great fans of the prog metal scene started by Fates Warning and Dream Theater; or you prefer the good old prog rock of myths such as Kansas and Yes?

JS: I think we like both. We like our music to be both soft and really heavy for some parts. We like all kinds of music, everything from classical to metal as long as it contains great melodies.

II: It was a dream come true for you to record with a real orchestra on the record, wasn't it?

JS: Yeah it sure was and we are really hooked about the thing now, so I think that every A.C.T record in the future will have real strings on them. As we said before, we wanted to have real strings on Today's Report as well, but we couldn't afford it back then.

II: I know that you've just returned from a small European tour. Do you think that you'll be able to touch such countries like Italy in the next few months as well, and what can you tell me about the dates you've already done?

OA: We supported Fish in Germany and it was also a great opportunity for us to promote our album Imaginary Friends. I think I speak for everyone in the band when I say that this was one of greatest things we have ever done together. We love to perform live, it is an amazing thing just to look at all these people who are really into our music. They give us energy to act and play like we never thought was possible. Hopefully we will reach Italy sometimes in the near future, maybe next year, when we have released our third album. We have a couple of guys working really hard to promote us at the moment. And if I know them right, they will make it happen!

II: Considering we're talking tour, I have a fun question waiting for you: Who uses the toilet on the tour bus most?

OA: I think that would be me! Peter is always making fun of me about that. A glass of water, and I have to go. That's how it is and it's always been like that. But when it comes to "doing the number two" I think Peter himself is the winner. He is widely known for his one hour visit.

II: Ah, ah, ah... OK, continuing with strange questions - what was the first song you were able to do as A.C.T (maybe some cover)?

OA: We have never played any covers with A.C.T. We had all been playing in cover bands before we started A.C.T and we were so bored of it that we promised ourselves to never do a cover again, not in A.C.T anyway. The first song we rehearsed was "Lost In Space," a nice little song composed by Jerry.

II: OK, return to normality. What are the future projects for A.C.T? Are you working on new material or what else?

OA: At the moment we are working on new material for our upcoming album. We will record it sometime in March/April next year. Even this time we will be working with Pelle Saether in his Studio Underground, we understand each other and work very well together. The next album will probably be a concept album revolving around a couple of odd characters all living in the same building. I cannot give you any details regarding the plot, so long it is a well kept secret. But I can tell you that we are planning to let the orchestra become a bigger part of the sound.

II: However I've seen that your Imaginary Friends has received great reviews almost everywhere (I gave the CD 90/100, for example) -- from a selling point of view, are things going as well as the reviews?

OA: Yes, both Imaginary Friends and Today's Report got great reviews, but it doesn't seem like great reviews are equal to increasing sales. Not for us anyway! But things will soon start to happen, I can promise you that!!!

II: Another great question -- what's your biggest "rock star" dream to fulfill?

OA: I will have to give you a rather boring answer to that question. We do not look at ourselves as "rock stars" and we will probably never do so, either. But we have dreams, of course. Somewhere in the future it would be great if A.C.T was the band that turned the whole music industry upside down. Both regarding image and music, unique and original.

II: OK, A.C.T I think that's enough. There's something else you would like to add to our progressive audience?

OA: Do not let the commercial music industry take over. It is time for a change [you're strongly supported by me!!! -II]!!!

II: Thank you very much. All that's left for me to say is that I hope to see you here in Italy soon. Goodbye and good luck for the future!

OA/JS: Thank you very much and we hope to see you in the future. We would love to come to Italy!!! Bye!!!

Today's Report (1999)
Imaginary Friend (2001)
Last Epic (2003)
Silence (2006)
Circus Pandemonium (2014)

Added: November 25th 2001
Interviewer: Igor Italiani

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Language: english

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