Interview with: John Sijbren Leonard (guitar and vocals)
The Swedish rock’n’roll band Dictator Ship released their debut Your Favorites a while ago. Upon falling in love with the full-length and that raw rock’n’roll sound, I decided to get in touch with the guys to learn more about the history of DICTATOR SHIP, the album as well as their thoughts on the current situation.
Hello guys! Firstly thanks for taking the time for the interview. How are you doing in these crazy times?
We are doing fine. We are keeping it together and planning great new things.
Since Dictator Ship is a ‘new’ band for many people and listeners, could you tell us about how the band was formed and came alive?
We are a new band for most listeners I guess but we have been a band now for about five years. The band started out as a collaboration between the two inseparable Viktor Henriksson and Petter Heinemann when they wanted to start a new band. They asked me to play bass for the band since Petter was playing guitar but Viktor quickly changed that to wanting me to play guitar and sing. So then we had to find a great bass player and for about over a year we kind of asked around and discussed among ourselves and finally realized that David Ericsson was a great fit, since me and Viktor had played with him before and really thought his personality and playing style would suit the band.
Congratulations on your debut album, “Your Favorites”, it is fantastic! Could you tell us a bit about how the album was shaped and how the ideas came alive? Was it a rather fast process or did it develop over the years?
The process of the album can be described as a three-part venture. First we
rehearsed our asses off for about 3 years, we really wanted the songs to be
like running water for us and there is no shortcuts to make there we believe, just a lot of hard work. Then the actual recording took I think 4 days or so. We were visiting my studio at the back of my boyhood home in the woods of Värmland, Sweden. So that was quick, but then the mixing and mastering process was longer, I think the better part of a year. So all in all it was a long journey but I can say with confidence that we are very happy with the end results, especially with the fantastic artwork by Afshin Piran.
One strength that you guys have, in my opinion, is this collaborative force. For instance, everyone participates in vocals. Is this also the case with songwriting/composition?
In some instances we are collaborating greatly, in other cases we are not. The greater part of the songs are written by Petter Heinemann, some by me and some by all of us. But the songs don’t come together until we get into our rehearsal space, there we arrange and finish them together. The only song that was not endlessly rehearsed when we recorded was Gunner Man which was only half finished. We were thinking of scrapping it altogether the last day of recording and then I wrote the lyrics during dinner with the family. So that was more spontaneous, but that is rare, we usually put A LOT of time and effort into making the songs just right.
Rock’n’roll is a vast genre so what are some of your favorites? Which artists/bands shaped you as a person but also shaped the band?
We have a lot of different favorites in the band, we are quite different when it comes to music, but some of the ones that we all like are Little Richard (may he rest in peace), Chuck Berry and of course AC/DC. The album Powerage had great influence on me during the time of recording the album. On a personal note on what has influenced me the most is probably Santana’s early years (think Santana III and Borboletta) and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon.
I would normally ask about your tour or gig plans but since we live in these strange times, are you planning any online gigs or streams?
We are pondering the situation greatly. We don’t want to play any gigs that
are not doing us any favours by being of crappy sound quality, awkward stage performances and generally of a desperate nature just to be able to show ourselves. We don’t work like that. We always plan and rehearse and want to do lasting performances and before we know that this will be the case with a live stream we will not do that. But of course we are planning like hell, so keep your eyes peeled.
COVID situation affected many bands and as a journalist, I am also curious about its impact on bands. How does/did this situation affect you as a musician but also as a human being?
It has of course affected me. All of the band members have other jobs to bring in money and I lost my job back in early April so that is a bummer, but we are keeping together and planning ahead for great things.
You guys also launched a webshop recently, called Dictator Shop (nice play of words :D) Can we expect any other surprises in the future?
You can expect a lot of surprises in the future. As I said , we are planning
great things, and I hope the world is ready.
Any last words to the readers before closing the interview?
Keep safe and chilled, don’t get over-excited by the crazy world we
live in, act responsibly, but keep your wits about you, use that old grey lump
in your skull and think for yourself a bit and don’t give in to fear and hate.
And most important of all, don’t take yourself too seriously, have a drink and listen to great music. Over and out!