Keyboard player Henrik “The Duke Of Honk” Widen – Diamond Dogs
Thanks to Max Axelsson at Wild Kingdom for setting up this interview
Thanks to Wild Kingdom for the promo pictures of the band
Promo Pictuers of Diamond Dogs taken by: Pelle Mannerud
Live photo taken from the archives of: Anders Sandvall
Sweden’s Diamond Dogs is back with a new album titled SLAP BANG BLUE RENDEZVOUS which is a massive opus containing 24 new tracks and 84 minutes of music. The double album is loaded with some excellent classic English hard rock and is the second album since the restart of the band. The comeback album named RECALL ROCK ‘N’ ROLL AND THE MAGIC SOUL came out in 2019 and the band now has a new member in drummer Federico De Costa and this new album is the first one with him. The band has once again worked with legendary producer Tomas Skogsberg (Entombed, Grave, Dismember, At The Gates, Backyard Babies and The Hellacopters)in the well-known Sunlight Studio in Stockholm, Sweden. Diamond Dogs have worked with Skogsberg a few times before and now it was time again. I had the pleasure to once again talk to keyboard player and original member Henrik “The Duke Of Honk” Widen about the new album, the work with it, how it was to work with producer Tomas Skogsberg again, the new drummer, and what the band is planning for the near future. Read on to see what he had to say. SLAP BANG BLUE RENDEZVOUS is their 14th studio album, and last year the band celebrated thirty years as a band so this party machine still keeps going which is nice for all the fans all over Europe.. If you have missed this band be sure to check them out.
Hi Henrik, hope you’re doing fine today and are ready to take on metal-rules.com and some questions 🙂
Hey man. I’m alright, but I really feel hopelessness and sadness over every victim of war and oppression out there. These are surreal and hard times!
Last time we spoke the band recently released its comeback album RECALL ROCK N ROLL AND THE MAGIC SOUL back in 2019, what did fans and media think of the album?
I guess it went down fairly well, but it wasn’t an ordinary LP by our standards, so there were probably a bunch of listeners out there who didn’t expect the Sam Cooke B side, and wondered what the heck we were up to!
But it was just a great way for a new kick-off!
Besides two shows, one in Sweden and one in the UK and a smaller tour through Spain in 2019 did you do any other touring on that album?
Yes you’re right, that autumn we did two nights in a row at a friends place in Malmö, Sweden, and then two nights in a row at a friends place in Camden, London, and then off to Spain for a couple of weeks of touring, and eventually the mighty Corona Winter Blues came and shut us down.
Following year the pandemic hit the world, how was Diamond Dogs affected by the virus?
We started the recordings of Slap Bang Blue Rendezvous. Out in the Sunlight Studio we were safe from the virus.
The re-release of HONKED! ALL OVER AGAIN came 2019 was it already then plans on re-releasing any of your other albums as well?Despite the pandemic the band released a bunch of re-released music 2020 like the album AS YOUR GREENS TURN BROWN, the compilations WEEKEND MONSTER and THE ATLANTIC JUICE as well as TOO MUCH IS ALWAYS BETTER THAN NOT ENOUGH, how come the band wanted to get all these albums out during the same year? Any plans on re-release any of the later albums soon?
Yes, the whole re-releasing stuff is a well planned and ongoing process initiated by label Wild Kingdom and the Sound Pollution crew. All our previous albums will get a new world wide push, and reach all good vinyl stores within the next 2 years.
How come drummer Tomas Broman left the band and how come the band have gone through so many members changes through the years?
Thomas not just left Diamond Dogs, he actually says he is gonna quit drumming altogether! But he is a lovely guy and great friend and we wish him all the best.
The reasons for the considerable number of members throughout the years are as many as the members themselves!
It don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got that swing! Some didn’t have what it takes, some chose their own mediocre career, some have had a very demanding family, and some are dead.
How did new drummer Federico De Costa end up in the band, are you old friends?
I have played with Federico for quite a few years now, in Conny Bloom’s solo band for example. He is fantastic, and the second dandiest chap on earth, so he was a natural and brilliant choice.
I guess bass player Bellan Bellnäs is the same as Stefan Bellnäs, why has he changed his name?
He prefers if you just call him Bellan, and that’s how people here in Sweden know him. He is truly outstanding, and the dandiest chap on earth.
Besides Diamond Dogs Sulo is involved in many other projects, what about the rest of the band members do the also have other commitments?
Of course Diamond Dogs is the star of the show for all of us, but each one has side projects going as we speak. Sulo writes his books and songs for other artists, Bellan is quite often on the road with Bror Gunnar Jansson, I have the rock collective Shuffle Knights and Conny Bloom’s solo thing together with Federico, and Lars Karlsson has his beloved muscle cars.
New album SLAP BANG BLUE RENDEVOUZ
When did you and the band start to work on material to the new album, who writes the material and what are the lyrics about? Where was the album recorded and how long did it take to record it from the beginning to end?
It all took place in the Sunlight Studio, in the Baltic archipelago, 100 km north of Stockholm. Sulo brought some clear song ideas, and then a long arranging session together with producer Tomas Skogsberg started that lasted for about 50 days.
Several of these songs actually have lyrics about human behavior during the pandemic. Sulo always wants to have a relevant input lyrically, even if our musical preferences are from another time. The whole process of arranging, recording and mixing took place in about 100 days over a period of a little more than a year.
Were all of the members gathered at the same time in the studio recording their parts or did you come and go during the summer?
Most of the time we were there together.
How was it to live in the studio cottage annex during the recording sessions?
Very nice, and hard!
When did you decide to that the album would become a double disc with 24 songs?
The very first day.
Are all of the songs to the album newly written or did you use any older material you had laying around?
It’s only new stuff.
Were there any songs that didn’t made it on to the final edition of the album?
We rejected a few pieces already in the first days, before we started the recordings.
What are the longest songs “What If I Knocked” (4.16), “Everything’s Fine” (4.16) and “Suicidal Idol” (4.01) about?
What If I Knocked is about a guy in desperate love. Everything’s Fine is about the frustration of having your soul imprisoned during the pandemic. Suicidal Idol is about a fast burning rock’n’roll entertainer who wears his heart on his sleeve.
Do you think the band has gone through any musical changes if you compare the new album with the prior one?
Not necessarily any musical changes, however, this time we have sharpened the production idea and tightened up the framework so that the expression of the artistic whole has been fully stylized.
Personally I think your music sometimes leans towards the country genre and with that I think of the songs “Slap Bang Blue”, “Vanity Villains” and “Lose To Get By”.. what do you think?
We prefer to think of the songs as sounding very British from the year of 1973, but on the other hand, I believe those Brits back then tried very hard to sound American, so you’re probably right!
Do you think old hardcore fans of the band is going to like SLAP BANG BLUE RENDEVOUZ?
Yes, I can’t see why not!
Did guitarist Slim Martin, Bellnäs and De Costa contributed with any material?
Slim came up with the idea for the song Rocket Ricochet, plus other parts here and there on the record, and the same goes for every dog! Each member had their individual input on each song, but always under the supervision of Tomas Skogsberg.
Please tell the readers about the female choir, who are they? They sure do an amazing job on the album.
It is local women from farms and villages surrounding the studio, we invite them over for sessions every now and then.Yeah, they are superb!
Besides the ladies did you feature any other guest appearances on the album?
Nope! …well yes, a couple of horn players, now that you mention it.
Where does the title SLAP BANG BLUE RENDEVOUZ come from and who came up with the title?
It was me and Sulo, just playing with words.
Who did the cover art to the album?
The amazing artist Charlie Granberg, an old and dear friend.
Do you think the length of the album may scare away the fans who want a short and powerful listening experience?
I think you will be happy to have a long, deadly swinging and entertaining evening without the need or desire to change records so often. A luxurious and powerful thing!
The album was given 3,5/5 in metal-rules.com, are you happy with that rate or were we a bit cheap? 🙂
Haha, you tell me!? Maybe it’s because it’s not really Metal?
Yes of course we are very glad you like it.
Have you read any reviews of the album in media and do you and the band care about what critics have to say about your work?
Yes, I read the reviews I get, and it’s definitely a good feeling to hear that the latest album in the band’s thirty year long life has been so well received. And when you also notice that the reviewer knows what he’s talking about, you get extra happy.
How have the fans responded on the album?
So far, our followers have seemed satisfied, as far as we know.
Wikipedia lists your music as rock/hardrock/bluesrock/glamrock/soul, how would you like to describe what kind of music Diamond Dogs play?
That sounds correct to me! But I do not think any of us or anyone we work or have worked with has or has had anything to do with that text on wikipedia, so I can not vouch for the rest of that content.
This is the bands 14th album so far, could you ever imagine when you started that the band would put out so much music?
In fact, I’ve always pictured a career similar to the Rolling Stones.
The info sheet states that Diamond Dogs leaves the listener feeling like they’ve been somewhere momma told them not to go, but knowing that they’ll soon be visiting again… what’s your comment on that statement?
It means that listening to Diamond Dogs can be risky business, easy to overdose, and you are likely to develop an unhealthy habit.
Producer Thomas Skogsberg say that the album is his masterpiece, his White Album, that’s quite a recognition from such an experienced producer, what do you feel when you read his words?
Skogsberg is my mentor, and together with my father Sebastian and my uncle Staffan, he is one of the three cornerstones of my artistic development. So sharing this with him, an album experience that he also considers one of his career highlights, makes me proud as hell.
Personally I think the album is a well written classical English hardrock album and I really enjoyed every single minute of music on it, in retrospect are you happy with the outcome?
Thank you very much! Yes I also think it’s a very good record, and I hope it reaches as many ears as possible.
Studio and production
The band once again returned to Sunlight Studio and legendary producer Tomas Skogsberg, how come you wanted to work with him again and what’s his strongest feature as producer?
Every time you involve Tomas you know that you will get a unique sound without any compromises, he is an absolute dictator, but he is always very kind and gentle throughout the process, so you will not notice his many manipulative moves while it happens. It is a kind of self-torture, but based on a positive spirit. When you eventually leave the studio, you are a wreck, but the result is brilliant.
If you compare how it was to record the new album with when you recorded the debut album HONKED from 1992 and the third album TOO MUCH IS ALWAYS BETTER THAN NOT ENOUGH from 2001, what was the difference to record in Sunlight this time…if there were any?
It is always the same!
Did the pandemic have any affect on the recording?
No, not really, apart from you can find it in some of the lyrics.
Did Skogsberg also mix and master the album?
Not the mastering.
Are you happy with the work your label Wild Kingdom put into the band and the new album so far?
Oh yes, they are the best!
The band have been linked to a few labels through the years, what’s your opinion regarding labels in general?
It’s like in normal life, to function well you have to get along with the guys you’re in a relationship with. We’ve had our ups and downs, but it’s usually very fun and stimulating to work with a large crew for a common goal.
Who own the legal rights to the bands previous albums today?
WK releases the album on CD, black vinyl and limited blue/yellow vinyl, how many copies exists of the blue/yellow version?
Sorry, I’m not informed of these things.
Are the band members fan of the vinyl format?
It feels really great to have the old catalogue on vinyl, it gives a different and finer kind of pride when the record looks the same as when you were a little child.
Why aren’t all of the bands albums available on Spotify and do you have a lot of listeners there?
I’m not up to date on Spotify at all, I’m afraid, but I think this issue is being resolved soon, and I still prefer people buying our records.
Past present and future
You and Sulo formed the band, how has it been to work with Sulo for so long?
He is like a brother to me, and we’ve not had one single quarrel between us so far.
Last year marked the bands 30 years celebration, any plans on involving the fans in any birthday party or anything like that?
Haha, good idea, but a little late for that now! We must keep that in mind for our 35th anniversary celebrations!
Why are there only three members featured in the video to “Alright Brutus I’m On” that came in November last year?
Haha, we were in a hurry, that’s the simple truth! And it’s actually me holding the camera.
Alright Brutus I’m On (Music Video)
The band isn’t very active on Facebook, why? What do you think of all the kinds of social forums that available online these days?
We put up the most important things there, I guess, but I fucking hate social media, and the internet in general as well, it makes people ignorant.
Who run the bands FB page?
How come there’s not much info about the band and the members overall online?
That’s how we like it.
At the moment the band got about 41000 followers on FB, do you think the release of the new album is going to increase that number?
Any plans on heading out on tour or do single shows in 2022?
Yes, we have quite a lot in the pipeline at the moment, but we are not showing any dates yet, and listeners will for sure find the info on our Facebook when it’s nailed, haha
Rocket Ricochet (Music Video)
The band got a bigger fanbase in Europe compared to Sweden, are you heading out on tour in Europe this year?
Most of the touring outside Sweden will happen in 2023, but we’re off to Spain in September, and perhaps also the UK later this year.
Robert Strängen Dahlqvist that tragically past away in 2017 played on the 2004 year album BLACK RIVER, do you have any fond memories of recording that album with him or on tour?
Absolutely sweet memories, most of them are maybe a bit hardcore and of a private nature, so I will leave that topic by just saying that he is one of the most gentle and sensitive persons I have ever met, so fragile yet so powerful.
What would you like to say to the ones who haven’t heard the music of Diamond Dogs yet?
It’s only entertainment, and it’s nothing new. But it’s my gift, and I give it all to you
A Rock in the Sea (Music Video)
Could you give them three reasons why they should buy SLAP BANG BLUE RENDEVOUZ?
Let’s just say it’s great value for your money, and you will have loads of fun for a long time.
Well, that was all for me and metal-rules.com this time around. Thanks for taking the time making the interview, I wish you and the band all the best and I really hope to see you all live on stage soon. Do you have any words of wisdom to share with fans and readers?
So, just for the record… The additional singers Angelica, Ulrika, and Janet are actually not local farm girls, but very skilled musicians that we have worked with many times before, and the fabulous horn players Bo and Martin are carefully hand-picked to fill the shoes of the late Magic Gunnarsson.
Thanks, see you!
// The Duke of Honk