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Dan Berglund: Back from the Dark


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Bassist Dan Berglund became known as one-third of Swedish jazz superstar group e.s.t. (Esbjorn Svensson Trio), with CDs including From Gagarin's Point of View (ACT, 1999), Good Morning Susie Soho (ACT, 2000), Strange Place for Snow (ACT, 2002) and e.s.t.. Live in Hamburg (ACT, 2007)—one of The Times UK's top albums of the last decade—culminating in Leucocyte (ACT, 2008). The trio's steady rise in the jazz sphere was abruptly truncated by pianist Svensson's tragic death in a scuba diving accident, in the summer of 2008.

Vastly shaken by the passing of his partner and friend, Berglund retreated to Stockholm, and was left rudderless for a time. This hiatus brought him back to his roots in rock, however, but with the experience of e.s.t. in his mind and heart. The result is Dan Berglund's Tonbruket (ACT, 2010), a foray into rock, fusion and jazz.

All About Jazz: Let's jump right in—how do you pronounce Tonbruket?

Dan Berglund: In Swedish, it's Toon-BREW-ket. It's not an existing Swedish word, but we invented it, I think. "Ton," it's music, or note, so that's music or tone; and "bruket" is like a factory. [So] it's like a music factory. Our first name was Glasbruket, which is glass works. And then we changed "glas" to "ton." So it's like a sound factory. And the heart, we just liked the picture. I think, in the human body, the heart is the music factory. It's where the music comes from.

AAJ: I'm also curious about the heart on the cover. Did you pick that?

DB: Yes, we all [the band] did it together with the guy who did the artwork, and the record company [ACT].

AAJ: On another topic, I represent a lot of people who are absolutely heartbroken about Esbjörn Svensson's passing. I can only imagine what that meant to his friends and family. Allow me to extend our sincerest condolences to everyone from all of us.

DB: Thank you very much. Yes, it was a real shock for us all, of course. He was a really good friend and working partner. I learned a lot from him and I think he learned some from me as well.

AAJ: Tell me a little bit about your training and background.

DB: Well, my father was an accordion player, so I always had music in my home. You know, he would wake up the family in the morning on Saturday when I was still asleep, and he used to play and practice on his accordion, he was quite good. But when you are a teenager, you are not that fond of waking up early on Saturday morning. So it was very natural for us to have music at home every day. I started to play when I was about 11 years old. I started on the guitar, and I played with my father a lot. We had a band with some friends, and the problem was that we were three guitar players, which made it kind of one-sided.

But I started to play bass lines on my guitar; I really found it interesting and I really liked it. So my father bought me an electric bass. We played in this band, and we actually played together with my father. We were like, 12, five kids playing together [laughs]. Amazing, really. We played at parties. It was like dance music, we played old evergreens, stuff like that, old schlager songs. [From Wikipedia: Schlager loosely translates as a "hit" and is a style of popular music that is prevalent in Central and Northern Europe. Typical schlager tracks are either sweet, highly sentimental ballads with a simple, catchy melody, or light pop tunes]

We also played Swedish folk music. It's very common when you go to a dance, to dance the foxtrot—also the waltz, polka and other dances, old dances from Sweden.

AAJ: There certainly is a rock and roll influence to the album. Who are the people that influenced you?

DB: Well, I think it started with Credence Clearwater Revival, they were my first heroes. And then I went on to groups like Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin, Mott the Hoople, heavy metal, that sort of thing.

AAJ: How did you meet Esbjörn and [drummer] Magnus Öström [the other members of e.s.t.]?

Dan Berglund's TonbruketDB: Well, I come from the north of Sweden and in 1990, I moved to Stockholm. I started to play with different jazz musicians in Stockholm. Stockholm isn't that big, so it's easy to know everybody in jazz. But I started to play with a singer, her name is Lina Nyberg, and Esbjörn was the pianist. After a while, at the same time, the trio already existed with another bassist. I went to listen to them, and I really loved the band. I thought, "I want to do this too"—not the traditional [folk] songs. Esbjörn and the others asked me if I wanted to play with them at a new restaurant here, so we played there one night and I didn't know it then, but that was an audition.

They had talked about me and wanted me to play with them, but said, "Well, maybe we should try him out first." Because, at that time, I had never played with Magnus before. So off we went on a tour with Lina. One night at the hotel, Esbjörn and I were sitting in the Jacuzzi with a beer, and he asked me if I wanted to join the trio. I said yeah, and I was really, really glad. But it was not easy. In a way, it was very easy, the choice was very easy for me. But at that time, the trio didn't have that much work, so I had to choose between them and my other work, but I chose e.s.t.

AAJ: Could you explain how you produce your sound, because it's very unique. It's clear that you're sending it through some sort of sound processor.

Dan Berglund's Tonbruket Tonbruket, from left: Martin Hederos, Dan Berglund Andreas Werliin, Johan Lindström

DB: Well, it's really very easy. It's the same effects that guitar players use, that's why; sending it through a time delay distortion set-up. You have to dare, you have to like it, of course, but you have to take chances. I don't think everybody likes it; I don't know if every bassist likes the sound, but it doesn't bother me.

AAJ: It's your unique voice—everyone needs to express this. Tell me a little bit about your new album and how it came about. Clearly you had spent a lot of time with Esbjörn and Magnus. How did Tonbruket evolve from e.s.t.?

DB: It started with me and the guitarist, Johan Lindström. We used to play together about 10 years ago in another band. Actually, it was my wife and she tried to help me to get back into the music. She asked me "Who do you want to play with? If you could choose from everybody, who would you play with?" And I said, Johan. And then about two days later, I think my wife called him because he called, asking how I was doing after everything that had happened. So we hung out, and then he called me again and said, "Maybe we can play sometime." And I said, "Oh yes, yes, that's what I want to do."

I was really glad. Then we met and immediately started to write songs together. It was easy and really fun, and so we decided to get a band together. We talked about other musicians and other instruments, the kind of instruments we want to have in the band, things like that. I met the pianist, Martin Hederos; I didn't know him, actually. He was playing in a rock band, The Soundtrack Of Our Lives. I did know that I didn't want to go back and play jazz, old songs; I wanted to do something else, I was looking for other musicians that played other music. He [Hederos] had some songs that we liked—we liked everything, it was really easy.

AAJ: There are a lot of different textures in the music. Is "Song For E" for Esbjörn?

DB: Yes...yes, it is. We didn't decide it when we wrote the song, just in the end, when we recorded it, when we had to make up titles, it became clear whose it was—and just for your information, the CD lists the wrong composer for many of the songs: "Stethoscope," "GI Hop," "The Wind And The Leaves," "Monstrous Colossus" and "Waltz For Matilda" are by Johan; "Sailor Waltz" is by Martin; "Cold Blooded Music" is mine; "Wolverine Hoods" is by Martin and me; and "Song For E" is by me and Johan. We were in a hurry—everything was really very last minute.

AAJ: Are you going to be touring this record in the US?

DB: I hope so. Our manager is trying to get us some shows in Canada and the US.

AAJ: It's kind of interesting that regional sounds differ from area to area. How is the scene in Stockholm right now? What is the sound?

DB: The trio [e.s.t.] had been away from Sweden a lot, so I actually don't know much about the scene right now, I think it's more adventurous; I listened to a band last week, they're actually called ASS [laughs]. I don't know why they call themselves that, it was more experimental, it was a synthesizer, a saxophonist, a drummer and a bassist. Kind of free-form pop music, it was really interesting.

There's a big difference if you compare Norway with Sweden. They [Norwegians] are more into groove music. I think that jazz in Sweden is more traditional, and Denmark is even more traditional. So what we've done is a step out.

Selected Discography

Dan Berglund's Tonbruket, Dan Berglund's Tonbruket (ACT, 2010)

e.s.t., Leucocyte (ACT, 2008)

e.s.t., Live In Hamburg (ACT, 2007)

e.s.t., Tuesday Wonderland (ACT, 2006)

e.s.t., Viaticum (ACT, 2005)

e.s.t., Seven Days Of Falling (ACT, 2003)

e.s.t., Strange Place For Snow (ACT, 2002)

e.s.t., Good Morning Susie Soho (ACT, 2000)

e.s.t., From Gagarin's Point Of View (ACT, 1999)

e.s.t., Winter In Venice (ACT, 1997)

e.s.t., e.s.t, Plays Monk (ACT, 1996)

e.s.t., e.s.t. Live '95 (ACT, 1995)

e.s.t., When Everyone Has Gone (Dragon, 1993)

Photo Credits

Page 1: Brian O'Connor

Page 2: Joerg Grosse Geldermann/NEXT

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