One cold winter evening in the end of January 2007, my life took a most unexpected turn. Not that I knew it was a turn by then, of course. Some of your milestones in life come with the big drum rolls – like the birth of your children or as disasters like earthquakes and terror attacks or whatever. But some are so modest and apparently unsignificant at the moment that you don’t know until much later what impact they made on you.
This event was “nothing”, for sure. I just checked a music video out, and it was three minutes. Actually it was just a casual glance at the final acts in Swedish Melodifestivalen, the qualification round to Eurovision Song Contest. Americans have their Super Bowl, Sweden has Melodifestivalen. (Let’s say it is also ridiculed quite a lot, from rather good reasons as well, but nevertheless, it is a big TV event.) Most songs were the usual rubbish to me, with the exception of the last one, performed by well-known glam rock band The Ark. And it was something about them that got me totally hooked. Still, I cannot fully tell why, I just know that I watched and then, boom. I had to watch it some 10 times more.
The Ark were a well established rock band in Sweden but I had missed them. In fact, I had missed most of what happened in Swedish music life because I 1) had other things on my mind by then and 2) found most of it highly uninteresting, dull and mainstream anyway. So, perhaps I should have listened better, I don’t know.
But The Ark were different. They were the real deal, offered happy glam rock in the days when Oasis ruled with their stone faces and black clothes. They were very nice and down-to-earth guys without diva attitudes, and their music was terrific, the performance amazingly professional, the lyrics excellent – good poetry with intelligence and depth. They fetched their inspiration from my own old rock heroes like Queen, Pink Floyd and David Bowie. And lead singer/composer Ola Salo had a certain star quality an charisma that I had not seen since the days of Freddie Mercury.
Unlike Freddie Mercury he wasn’t dead, nor was he on the other side of the planet either. I got so curious about the music that I wanted to ask Ola about it. Actually I wanted it so much that I did it – I asked for an interview. Only problem was that The Ark were just a little bit too popular. Everybody wanted to meet them and talk to them, it was not just like giving them a call and say “hey, wanna talk for a minute?” Oh no, it was merely like trying to force your way into Fort Knox. All kind of communication had to be through the publicist or some other “official channel”. Everyone assumed you were yet another crazy (overaged) teen fan wanting to date the pretty idols. I found the whole thing both disgusting and quite degrading. To idolize people and devote to worshipping is so much against my nature, I despise that kind of behaviour. The Ark seemed to be surrounded by people (mostly women, as usual) who either were madly in love with cute Ola, or had decided he was Messiah reborn and their only and true Saviour. I was neither (ok, I admit I am a woman and not gay), I just liked the music and the show.
Of course nobody believed me. I suppose most people still don’t. Ok, so they are ignorant. I have learnt to live with that, but back then it was annoying and a bit humiliating.
There was another little issue as well: I had no experience at all from making interviews. Interviews with cool rock artist were made by self-appointedly cool journalists, and I was a total rookie in that world. Actually the whole idea was so crazy that everyone told me it was no use, it would never work, and besides … well, why did I do this anyway? This was SO NOT ME. And still. Yet. There was some drive within me that just could not be stopped anymore. I found that feeling intriguing as such.
To make a long story a bit shorter: I finally got the interview, and I was more than pleased to get inside the head of a creative artist and serious musician for a while. Ola turned out to be just as professional, nice and clever as I had hoped him to be, and to get a dialogue with him was sheer pleasure.
And … I notice even today that I have difficulties describing this strange feeling, this “drive” I called it in the paragraph above. Somehow I knew this whole The Ark thing and this interview was not about them nor Ola at all. My relation to the band was rather irrelevant. They were never the centre of my universe, rather some kind of catalyst. Because this was about me, just me. I even expressed it to Ola once, I said “I know this will lead to something more, but I don’t know what yet”.
Maybe it is rather symptomatic that he managed to describe the feeling better himself, in one of his most famous songs. I know it is supposed to be a romantic song about teen love. He probably meant that himself, I think he said so once. But … today, the lyrics describe something else to me. Some kind of love that was not about a person.
What, then? Well, this is still a blog about piano playing …