A Conversation With the Truckfighters: On Fuzzorama Records, Touring, and Clint Eastwood

Fuzzorama is one hell of a record label. Headed by Niklas Källgren and Oskar Cedermalm (the guitarist and bassist/vocalist for Truckfighters), the small record label has added some heavy hitters in their line-up since it was founded in 2003—many of whom we’ve already covered in previous blogs (including Valley of the Sun, We Hunt Buffalo, and Witchrider).

Niklas and Oskar were kind enough to take a break between recent Truckfighter shows in Spain to talk about both Fuzzorama Records and Truckfighters.

Here’s the interview:

Monster Riff: I want to talk about Truckfighters in a moment since I have both of you here, but I want to start by talking about Fuzzorama. I couldn’t find a lot of information on how it was founded and its origin story. Can you walk me through that?

Niklas: Yeah. Oskar already had a name.

Oskar: Yeah, I had an idea to start a fanzine, but that quickly turned into the idea of starting a label.

Niklas: We did two demo EPs with Truckfighters, and then we got bored with sending them around to labels. So that kind of was the start.

Oskar: We also found that there were other bands in our position, so we had the idea of releasing other brands from this as well. It was not only a label for releasing our own demos. We had the idea that this was going to be a real label releasing a lot of cool music.

Monster Riff: What I like about Fuzzorama is there is a certain level of maturity with the bands on your label. There’s a sort of spectrum within Stoner Rock or Desert Rock. On one side, it gets really sloppy and turns into sludgy noise, and on the other side of the spectrum it ascends into a real art form. Truckfighters embodies that really well because there are so many layers to the music you produce. Living Ghosts by We Hunt Buffalo is another one where they’re really building a sort of atmosphere for the entire album. Is that what you’re looking for when you go to sign a band?

Niklas: I think we both hate the standard, sloppy, slow Stoner/Doom kind of thing. So, we are looking for something else. Maybe it’s more metal-based, more atmospheric, more something that is a little bit unique.

Oskar: Everyone needs to have something that’s their thing. And, obviously, that’s really difficult. We don’t know all the bands in the world either.

Niklas: We want to feel that each band has something that makes them unique and also that makes us like them. We don’t have like a formula that says a band should be like this or like that. We need to like it. We just need to like it, and that’s kind of not so common.

Monster Riff: As you hinted a moment ago, what’s interesting about Stoner Rock is that so many bands shun that moniker when they’re describing themselves. How would you describe the bands you represent? Fuzz Rock?

Oskar: More Fuzz Rock than Stoner Rock.

Niklas: This negative approach to this word “Stoner Rock,” I think it has to do with all those bands that don’t play so well and play the same riff for 10 minutes, and it feels like only the people on drugs appreciate that kind of music. I think that’s what makes some people not like it. Personally, I’m past this point where I care. I can say that we play Stoner Rock, and for Truckfighters, I think this applies to maybe the first album or the first two, but then its more Alternative Rock.

Monster Riff: That’s definitely a fair description. It’s sort of like when people say TOOL is metal. Sure, it is, in a way, but it’s also so much more than that. It’s Alt Metal. It’s Art Rock. Getting back to your bands, how many are on the label right now?

Niklas: Nine.

Monster Riff: One thing I’ve been dying to ask: Can we expect anything from Witchrider anytime soon?

Oskar: We don’t know. They’ve been saying that for almost three years they’ve been recording.

Niklas: Actually, the last time they toured with us, which was 2016, they said that they were getting close to finishing the record. They only had some things left to record. So, now they say that it’s almost mixed. So, I don’t know if it’s gonna take one month or one year. [Laughs]

Monster Riff: Well, they did that split EP with Ultima Radio not too long ago. [Editor’s note: The Ultima Radio-Witchrider EP was released in 2016] Have you heard anything else since then? Any ideas what the next record might sound like?

Niklas: It’s going to be more synthesizers, they told me.

Monster Riff: Interesting.

Oskar: I don’t know if that’s true. [Laughs]

Monster Riff: Some of your bands are international for you, like Valley of the Sun from Ohio in the United States. How did you get connected with them?

Oskar: We toured with them many years ago.

Niklas: There’s actually a story behind this. Ryan [the lead singer and guitarist] sent us a message on Facebook, like you should come and tour in the States. And then we said, “Yeah, sure, why not? You can arrange it if you like.” And then they arranged the tour. [Laughs]

Oskar: So, that was how we met them.

Monster Riff: So, they went ahead and arranged the whole tour and then came back to you and was like, “Hey, when are you coming?”

Niklas: Yeah, exactly.

Monster Riff: That’s awesome.

Oskar: That was the first time we went to the States, by the way.

Monster Riff: Speaking of, how is touring different in the U.S. compared to Europe?

Oskar: I think you have less time in the U.S. In Europe, you usually can unload at 1:00, 2:00, or 3:00 at the latest. In the States, especially the first time, it was like, you can get in at 8:00 in the evening when the dinner guests are ready and you can’t do a soundcheck. Get your shit up on stage and play.

Niklas: And then get out as fast as you can.

Oskar: In the beginning, it was kind of frustrating, but when you get used to it, it’s kind of a relief as well. You get more time during the day to do other stuff.

Niklas: When we were playing small bars, the audience didn’t have high expectations of how it was going to sound. They’re just happy the band comes to play and appreciates it. But now that we have a higher profile in the United States, we also have higher expectations on production and sound and everything. And then it doesn’t work to get in one hour before showtime.

Monster Riff: Right. So, this seems like a good point to kind of transition our focus a little bit more on Truckfighters in this conversation. One thing I’ve always wondered: Who in the band is the Clint Eastwood fan? Because I’m pretty sure it’s his eyes on the cover of The Hidden Treasures of Fuzz and then there’s definitely a Dirty Harry sample at the end of Freewheelin’.

Niklas: I think all of us like Clint Eastwood. He’s a legend.

Monster Riff: Did you grow up watching him?

Oskar: A little bit. We’re not super huge fans. I think it may have been one of our former guitarists [who was the biggest fan]. He was more into Clint Eastwood.

Niklas: I’ve gotten more into him in recent years. I think his directing is awesome. He’s a great director. But I also love the old Western movies and the music in the Western movies is really good.

Monster Riff: I saw Kurt Vile play a few years ago, and his opener was his favorite band in the world. Every song they played sounded like the music you’d hear in a spaghetti Western. I saw the coolest thing I’ve ever seen on stage during that show. When the guitarists were soloing in one of their last songs, they both reached over and played the other guys fret board without making any mistakes. They nailed it.

Niklas: Oh, cool!

Monster Riff: While we’re on the topic of live music, I want to spend some time talking about “Desert Cruiser.” It’s by far your most popular song, and the riff is iconic. Do you feel like “Desert Cruiser” is your best stuff or are there other songs that you wish people appreciated more?

Niklas: Both. I think we should be quite thankful that we have a song that people relate to our band. But from a musician’s point of view, you always like evolving. And “Desert Cruiser” was something we did at the beginning of the band. So, you cannot say it’s the best that we’ve done. Back then, we thought it was really good. But if we were to write an album now, it wouldn’t sound like that.

Oskar: I think if we’re serious, the song is the most boring song to play when we rehearse. But when we play live and you get the reaction from the crowd, you don’t care about how simple the song is because the energy that fills the room is overwhelming. So, it’s really awesome to play live.

Niklas: I think the whole Gravity X tour is a bit like that because most songs are quite simple compared to what we’ve done recently. It’s not so challenging as a musician to play the big parts of the record. But it’s fun to play it because then you can relax in another way on stage and you don’t think so much. You just appreciate and enjoy the show and the feeling with the crowd.

Monster Riff: Right, there is a certain simplicity in Gravity X, and yet there’s this certain maturity to it. But you compare that to something like Universe, which is one of those albums where you get wrapped up in its atmosphere for the hour or so that it runs. It’s much more mature. How do you think the band has evolved over the years and are there any changes in your approach when you go to write a record?

Oskar: Not intentionally. It’s more natural progress. You do songs that you think is good for the moment.

Niklas: We’ve never ever had the idea to, like, before writing a song, to decide what kind of song it’s going to be. We don’t say, like, now we’re gonna write a short song or now we’re gonna write a long song, and now it’s gonna be super heavy. We just let whatever happens happen.

Monster Riff: What is your writing process like?

Oskar: We meet and we spend like one day here and there and say to each other, OK, this day we’re writing songs. And then we write songs. [Laughs] It’s that simple as that. We’re not these artistic writers that need to find the right mold or anything like that. We just decide that we need to do a song and then we do it because it’s fun.

Niklas: We still get inspiration. Like you’re sitting at home alone and you get a nice riff in your head and then you record a riff on your phone. But then we sit down and schedule composition.

Monster Riff: So, you mainly write by sitting down together and jamming and seeing what comes out?

Niklas: Yeah.

Monster Riff: Getting back to the touring side of things: What does your preshow ritual look like? What do you do to get in the right headspace?

Oskar: I think we all have our own way of getting into the right mode. You’re finding water bottles, towels, small things that you do personally. I have a lot of things that I do exactly the same way before each show. And we’re all different. [Niklas] does things differently than I do. You need to find your own routine.

Niklas: I mean, I always do some kind of warm-up, and –

Oskar: You always forget the towels. That’s your routine. “Where’s the towels?” Three minutes before the show. [Laughs]

Monster Riff: What does the future of Truckfighters look like? A little while ago, you guys announced a sabbatical. But now you’re touring again. What’s next for you guys?

Niklas: We’re doing our own festival in December. Then we’re going to Australia in January. February, it’s the States, even though it’s not totally set up yet. We need time to get visas and stuff.

Monster Riff: Another thing I wanted to discuss with you today is who your biggest influences are. And the reason I ask is if you look at the early days of the genre and you talk to guys like Kyuss, they may have sounded a lot like Black Sabbath, but they would say they were more influenced by Punk Rock. Who are your inspirations for your sound?

Oskar: I don’t know. It seems like 10 years ago we stopped listening to specific artists. It’s more like we listen to some music here and there, but we don’t have heroes like we did when we were in our 20s.

Niklas: There’s a difference from when we started the band and now because now we don’t have any specific inspiration in that way. And I only really listen to the Fuzzorama bands, like the latest one or two albums. That’s about it. Sometimes I listen to the ‘90s heroes again. When I grew up, my biggest influences were Nirvana, TOOL, Soundgarden. The ‘90s Rock bands. And not the bands from the ‘80s, obviously. [Laughs] And when we started a band, we had a period where we both listened a lot of Kyuss and Fu Manchu. So, I think the sound might have come from there, but I don’t think musically it’s so much inspired by those bands.

Oskar: I think we dropped those bands maybe two, three years after we started our band, and then we kind of paved our own path. So, these days it’s better not to be too influenced by others. It’s better to do what you feel like.

Monster Riff: That definitely comes across in your sound because there aren’t many bands that can say they sound like you.

Oskar: We don’t sound like anyone, you mean. They sound like us.

Monster Riff: There might be bands that are trying to sound like you, but I don’t think there’s anyone that really compares. I mean, there are a lot of bands out there that are trying to sound like Queens of the Stone Age and there are other bands that try to sound like the Foo Fighters. And there are some bands that pull it off. But I don’t think there’s anyone else who’s pulled off a Truckfighters sound.

Niklas: It’s difficult. The production is a bit tricky.

Monster Riff: I’m glad you brought that up. My brother had a question he wanted me to ask you guys. I have it on my phone here. My brother says, “If you get a chance, ask the bass player how he gets such glorious fuzz.”

Oskar: It’s different. You get an idea of how it’s supposed to sound. Live, it’s usually just amp and some sort of distortion. It doesn’t really matter as long as you tune in the right combination between the amp and the distortion, and I guess on the records it’s trying to reproduce that. It doesn’t really matter as long as it sounds as you want it to sound.

Niklas: And there’s not some trick like put this plug in the line signal and you have it, but you need to know what you’re striving for and then you need to tune the right notes.

Oskar: Usually, it doesn’t take too long. Even if I borrow an amp or distortion or whatever, it usually only takes me three minutes to dial in. “Ah! There it is!” It’s something that is in my and our heads, but it’s hard to tell someone to do a specific thing. It’s more about listening to how it sounds.

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: