For the latest in my series of interviews with great pop songwriters and producers, I got the chance to ask a few questions to one of my all time favourites. Alexander Bard is well known in his home of Sweden and by pop fans around the world as a member of the groups Army of Lovers, BWO and now Gravitonas. He also co-wrote and co-produced the first two Alcazar albums and has written hits for top Swedish pop acts including Amy Diamond, Lili & Susie and even ABBA’s Agnetha Faltskog. Here’s what Alexander had to say about the Swedish pop scene, being a talent show judge, Lady Gaga and more…
1. After your experience as a judge on Idol in Sweden, would you recommend other songwriters/producers to get involved in TV talent shows and would you do it again?
To be honest, since the vast majority of songwriters and producers actually don’t cut it well on TV, I would not make a general recommendation for songwriters and producers to go on TV in the first place. I guess I was on Idol as much as an artist, meaning I have previous experience with eating cameras for lunch, but otherwise the whole thing is down to whether to you are good at and enjoy doing TV. And TV is just a very different medium from music. Being on TV will not make you a better (or a worse) songwriter, but it will consume a lot of time and energy, so it’s just up to you what you prioritize in life. I’m happy Andreas and the other guys in Gravitonas are hard workers on their own, otherwise I wouldn’t have had the time to do Idol. And no, I’m not doing any other music TV formats, Idol is king. Although I just co-wrote a song that has ended up on the Swedish version of The Voice. Although that decision was beyond my control. I blame my publisher for that, haha.
2. Have you ever been asked to submit songs for British or American pop acts to record?
All the time. But I prefer to work with Scandinavian artists since I believe they deserve more international recognition and American and UK artists have so many Scandinavians who write and produce for them anyway. Max Martin, Jorgen Elofsson, Red One, Anders Bagge, Stargate, Bloodshy & Avant, and so many others, they all do the main songwriting for UK and American artists so well, so why would I step into their arena too? Somebody has to mentally stay in Stockholm and explore Scandinavian artistic talent too. Having said this, I should add though that Gravitonas do write a lot of songs for Asian artists. Andreas and Ben from Gravitonas for example wrote the Christmas no. 1 single in Japan this winter. And we co-write right now with Fredrik Hult who has had 23 no. 1 hits in Japan and is “the Max Martin of The East”. So Gravitonas have a permanent studio and apartment in Tokyo now.
3. Do you agree with Brian Higgins (Xenomania) that everyone can write at least one great pop song or should songwriting be left to the professionals?
I must offer friendly disagreement with Higgins. No, very few people actually have the talent to write great hooky and emotional pop songs. I believe Higgins says that merely to get more popular (who wouldn’t want to think of themselves as musically talented) but the truth is rather different and I prefer to stay with the facts and the hard truth. It’s unfortunately left to the chosen few to be talented songwriters. Genetically chosen few.
4. Who do you think are the best pop writers and producers in the world right now?
Since we are all constantly hired by just about everybody, I guess the Scandinavians dominate more than ever. But from the UK horizon, Paul Epworth has also done an amazing job lately, especially as he has had such great success with artists as varied as Adele, Foster The People, and Florence & The Machine. Epworth is the new rock mogul, the new Brian Eno.
5. Some journalists have suggested that Lady Gaga or her team took inspiration from Army of Lovers. Do you think this is true?
I would be very surprised it that was not true. But good for her, because in that case she and Desi and Franco and her other stylists and directors have great taste. And Army Of Lovers in turn of course took great inspiration from others before us. As things should be.
6. Which up and coming Swedish artists should we be watching out for in 2012?
The whole new dance scene, the generation following Swedish House Mafia, is taking off now with Avicii the obvious leader of the pack. But there are loads of amazing talents behind Avicii too, with Gravitonas working a lot with for example Adam Rickfors and Per QX. Very inspiring since these guys both take the energy from dancefloors around the world and the Scandiavian knack for writing strong and emotional melodies with them into their music.
7. What do you think was the best era of pop music in history?
I always think the best time is now or rather in the near future. Otherwise this question is the “eternal James Bond question”, which era you love the most depends on when you grew up, when you were young, what you listened to first when you acquired a musical taste to begin with. But I hope to be above and beyond that sort of reasoning, since I think believing that your own genearation is the best amounts to generationism, which in my world is as pathetic and untrue as racism. No generation is superior (or inferior) compared to any other. So look ahead for even better music, always.
8. And finally the all important question (for me anyway!): Will we ever get another album from BWO?
Gravitonas are doing just fine so it doesn’t look that way. I’m very proud of what we achieved with BWO and I count Martin and Marina among my best and closest friends, but I do Gravitonas now and Gravitonas is about who I am today. BWO was about who I was then, a person who no longer exists. Each project has its time. It’s always a good time to move on. I enjoy making music with Andreas and our crew so much, so why would I look elsewhere?
Click here to find out more about Alexander and Gravitonas.