Hailing from Stenungsund, Sweden (just outside of Gothenburg) Daniel Änghede (Vocals/Guitars/Bass) and Tomas Almgren (Synths/Production/Mixing) are the extraordinarily talented duo behind Hearts of Black Science. The electronic rockers recently released their second full-length album, The Star In the Lake, and were kind enough to celebrate the release with us. Not only did Tomas offer to chat with me, but HoBS were more than happy to bring you (yes, you!) a free mp3 download of their latest single, Gold & Dust, as well as a contest to give away an autographed copy of the latest album. Enjoy the interview below and good luck!
Q: How did Hearts of Black Science start?
A: I moved back home (to Stenungsund) after having struggled as a horror movie director in London and Berlin. Daniel’s band, Astroqueen, had just split up and we were both eager to start a band ourselves. We had made music together before, when we were younger, in various mini-projects, but nothing serious like HoBS.
Q: You don’t often see rock bands with only two members; does this ever cause any difficulties?
A: I think most bands, no matter how many members they have, are centered around one or two people that do most of the work. In many ways it’s a blessing just being two guys making all the music: it keeps things simple and focused.
We tried to work with more musicians in the studio at one point and all we ended up with was camps of egos and loads of wasted time debating what parts should be played by whom and what should stay in the song. As soon as we got rid of the extra “help”, and went back to our version of the songs, it felt right again and we finished up quite fast. However, we’ve done a few collaborations with other musicians and it’s been great. It’s who you work with and whether you have the same vision or not.
The only time we wish the band was bigger is when we play live. It would be awesome to have something like ten people with us on stage to play all the parts. At the moment we have a couple of guys that help us out with bass and drums live and it adds a lot to the songs.
Q: D you have a particular way in which you approach writing music?
A: We never write as a band in the classical sense where someone picks up a guitar and starts finding the song. At least I don’t. I think Daniel enjoys that a lot more, having been in bands before, but I’m much more the lone guy with a laptop. I need to have my head clear and focused on the sounds and the melodies. I don’t mind changing things later on, but I can’t have people hanging over my shoulder while I write. As I also produce a lot of our stuff, it’s hell to have to go back through twenty-odd tracks in a rough temp mix and exchange sounds and beats. I’d rather get all that in from square one. All my demos are fairly close to a finished mix.
Daniel hums the parts to his songs into a mobile phone – we are completely different as people and musicians.
A: We wrote the first album together to a certain extent: we both came up with songs in various stages of completion on our own, then we brought them into the studio and continued writing on them together.
On The Star in the Lake, I wrote the demos for all the songs on the album by myself. Daniel came in and we shaped and arranged the whole thing together and recorded all his vocals and guitars and so on. I would mix and produce along the way as the songs evolved. It was a good process for me. The next album might be done differently though.
Q: Did you encounter anything surprising while working on the album?
A: I think the biggest surprise, and positive change, has been Daniel’s vocals and the way he sings now. He really found his voice on this album and I think it adds a lot to the record as a whole. Some of the songs on there just wouldn’t work if he had done it in that low-key style of the first record.
Q: Compared to making the first album, did you see any differences? Was it easier, harder etc.?
A: Much easier. We’re much more in control of the sound of the band now. If anything needs to be changed in a certain way, we actually know how to get there now. On The Ghost we were guessing and hoping to a greater degree. It has to do with us being better at what we do as musicians, but also to do with us having worked out most of our differences and issues. I think we’re much more comfortable working together now.
Q: What’s your personal favorite song on the new album, and why?
A: The Procession is my favorite song out of all of them. It’s just the strangest piece of music I’ve written: so theatrical and epic and completely shameless. To me, that song represents everything this band is about and what made me want to do this kind of music to start with.
I wrote it just as we were finishing the first album, but we never released it on any of the singles, as was our original plan. At one point this sort of famous Swedish singer was meant to do a duet with Daniel on it, but it never happened. After that fell through it ended up in a folder on my hard drive. Fast forward two years and we’re having problems with this collaboration we had done with an American artist called Cybo that we wanted to use on the Star album. That also fell through after a lot of back and forth about certain missing files and suddenly we were one track short when I happened upon The Procession again. I played it to Daniel who had almost forgotten about it and suddenly it was back in play. We re-recorded all the vocals and beefed up the mix and now it’s on the album. It’s the song that, despite the title, simply refused to die!
Q: If you could collaborate with any artist or band, who would you choose?
A: I’d love to do something with Cevin Key and Ogre from Skinny Puppy. They’re my all-time fave band. Not that I’d see them being into our stuff at all, but it would be a life long dream come true for me.
As it happens, we’re in talks with the guy from Neverending White Lights about doing something together. We really like what he’s doing and there are a lot of connections between our music and his various projects. We’re excited about the prospects!
Q: What do you think of the Swedish music scene? Is it encouraging to new talent?
A: Yes and no. The only thing that seems to be working over here is this incredibly annoying teen indie pop thing that’s on the radio all the time. Sweden’s too concerned with trends to be able to expand and evolve its music scene. It’s lost some of its versatility. So it’s hard, not just for us, but for any genre outside of the indie pop scene, to get noticed. But Sweden will always be a land of musicians, I think. We produce a lot of bands so I guess we’re doing allright.
Q: Can you recommend some local bands for our readers to check out?
A: Thermostatic, Strip Music, Kent and Silverbullit are all great bands at different stages of fame here.
Q: What’s been the most memorable show you’ve played so far?
A: Hard to say. There’s one in London where we ended up playing for one fan and the bartender. It kind of sucked, but we had a good time regardless.
Our album release show this year, with our newly acquired drummer and bass player, was awesome! HoBS was back together with a new album and we did a great show. The sound was great, the new songs came out really good and we had people fly in from Norway and Germany and the US to see us. All in all, it was a perfect night.
Q: The best Hearts of Black Science moment so far?
A: Getting our first album in our sweaty palms for the first time, and knowing we had built that house from the ground up with our own hands, was and will always be a monumental moment.
Q: Forced to listen to one album for the rest of your life, what would it be?
A: Depeche Mode’s Violator is my stock answer for questions of that nature.
For more: www.myspace.com/heartsofblackscience
As a special feature for readers of The Rock and Roll Report Hearts of Black Science has made available to you a free download of Gold and Dust for your listening pleasure! That’s right just click on the link and fill your ears with goodness courtesy of Hearts of Black Science and The Rock and Roll Report!
But wait there is more! Announcing our first contest!
Sweden’s “Hearts of Black Science” know how to please you!
The duo that fuses rock and electronica in an unforgettable (and stellar) manner brings you a rockin’ interview, a free mp3 download of their latest single “Gold & Dust,” and a giveaway of an autographed copy of their latest album, “The Star in the Lake.” To enter the contest just send us your email address to be entered to win this amazing new album that will rock your iPod (I promise … and did I mention it’s signed?!)
Barbara Pavone (Your Features Editor!)