Singer/guitarist/producer Chips K – Sator
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Johan Haller at Sound Pollution Distribution AB for setting up the interview.
Thanks to Wild Kingdom for the promo pictures of the band.
The Swedish punk/garage/rock ‘n’ roll legends Sator is back with a new album which is going to be released at the end of July called RETURN OF THE BARBIE-Q-KILLERS. The album is follow up to the album BARBIE-Q-KILLERS which was released back in 1994. Just like the predecessor the new album is a cover album and the band covers songs by bands like Redd Kross, Devo, Blitzkrieg Bop, 999, The Boys, White Flag amongst others. A few of the songs are in Swedish and the CD comes with 24 tracks and the vinyl version is loaded with 29 tracks. There are two options of the vinyl, one in black and one in limited colored vinyl version.
I had once again the pleasure to speak with singer/guitarist/producer Chips K about the new album, when we can except a brand new studio non cover album can be released, why it has taken the band so long to record and release it as well as how it all went down when bass player Heikki decided to air his lungs on the album. The band has an upcoming Swedish tour in September together with Danish legendary act D.A.D. If you want to read more about Sator then check out the metal-rules.com archives.
Hi Chips, it’s really nice to talk with you again, how are you doing?
Thanks for having me again.
Well let’s get straight to business, in 1994 Sator released the album BARBIE-Q-KILLERS which is a cover album, what did people think of the album back then?
I think some people were a bit surprised by it. I guess everyone was expecting us to do a ”Headquake” follow up. But we wanted to do something else. The record label didn’t like the album at first but it has since become a very popular album among the fans. It even went to number 2 in the Swedish charts. Not bad for a punk album. And in the 90’s that meant a lot of copies sold so the record label eventually changed their mind too.
How did you decide which songs you wanted to feature on the first one?
We wanted it to be great songs that deserved more attention and was written by artists that meant a lot to us when we started out. But the songs also had to work for us musically. So there were several songs that we dropped because we couldn’t find the ”Sator-way” of doing them. Most of songs were unreleased at the time. We found them on tapes and bootlegs. The album was a tribute to the punk and new wave years 1976-1982. This was before the internet so it wasn’t easy finding people. When I got in contact with Bill ”Pat Fear” Bartell of White Flag it really started to happen much faster. He knew a lot of people and helped me to get in touch with many of them. We ended up becoming close friends and stayed in contact until Bill sadly passed away in 2013. Me and Kent also ended up as members of White Flag and did several European tours with them.
Ever since the album came out fans wanted to have a follow up, is that something fans ask you about?
It has become almost a joke among the fans. You can find interviews from 10 years back that says it’s almost done.
Since it is called Barbie-Q-Killers vol 1 there have always been talk about a volume 2. We started recording songs it in 1995 already and has kept recording over the years. We ended up with over 30 songs ! So it’s a double album. There are not only American bands this time.
The bio stat “Sweden’s Ultimate rock band” do you think so as well?
Ha ha! That’s a tough one to live up to. But Sator is our favorite band of course. Or at least on the top ten list.
The new album RETURN OF THE BARBIE-Q-KILLERS
And this time around, how did the band pick and choose which songs that was going to be on the album?
It was pretty much the same procedure as the first one. Whenever we found a song that deserved “extra attention” we recorded it. This time the songs didn’t have to be unreleased since everything is available these days. And as I said it’s not only US bands this time. We even sing in Swedish and Norwegian on two tracks.
Which of the covers are your personal favorite?
That’s impossible since the reason we recorded them was that we love those songs. So every single one is a favorite in a way. But one of the most interesting songs is the Devo song, Shimmy shake. It’s from 1974 when they had yet to find their sound. So we made a demo of how we thought it would have sounded like if they had recorded it in 1977. Then we covered that version the Sator way. A quite interesting way to work. It’s also Heikkis first lead vocal on a Sator album.
If we don’t count in the pandemic why haven’t the band released an album since the 2011 year album UNDER THE RADAR?
It wasn’t planned to take that long but life happened. We have been touring quite a lot but mostly in Scandinavia. Then the pandemic stopped everything for two years. Me and Kent have also been playing with the UK punk legends The Boys for some years. When not touring I’ve been producing many bands like The Hellacopters, Bonafide, The Dogs, Hollywood Brats, Graveyard, Ricochets, City Saints, Spiders and Zooparty to mention a few. I’ve also built my own studio. So it’s been quite busy even through the pandemic. It also took time to finally complete the ”Return of The Barbie-Q-Killers” album. I had to look through a lot of old tapes to find the correct versions.
The CD version of the new album contains 24 songs and the vinyl version 29 songs which is crazy many. Was it hard to narrow the songs down?
Yes it was very hard to pick what songs should be on the vinyl only. We wanted the CD to have nice ”flow” too so that’s what determined what songs to leave out. We also wanted to give something extra to the die-hard fans who buys vinyl.
What are the bonus tracks featured on the vinyl?
I would not even call them bonus tracks. The vinyl is the real album. The CD just got too long. That’s why we cut them. Job by Soul Asylum, Fight or flight by Th’ Cigaretz, Can’t relate by The Absentees, Last of you by The Broncs and I’m a reactor by The Reactors can only be found on vinyl. All great songs that could have been on the CD too.
How did you and Kent choose which one of you that was going to sing which songs?
We talk about who’s voice fits the song best but there are no rules really. And of course Kent would sing the the Norwegian song since he is half Norwegian.
The last time we spoke you said that Heikki sang on this album, which tracks does he sing on?
He’s doing a lot of backing vocals. We added him to the old songs that was recorded before he joined the band too. He sings lead vocals on the Devo song Shimmy Shake. He’s been doing lead vocals on songs live with Sator before but this is the first on an album. We love to have another voice to work with in the band. It will happen again in the future I’m sure.
You’ve also featured some songs in Swedish, which ones and why?
The song ”Häll” by Långvård is in Swedish. A quite funny story. We saw them live in our hometown in 1980 and instantly loved that song. Långvård never made a record so we have been talking about recording it ever since. Long before Barbie-Q-KIllers. We even asked the original drummer Martin ”H-son” Hansson to play drums on the song. Martin also plays with The Boys by the way.
Last time you said that this album was going to be released in August last year, why did you postpone it?
It’s was completed two years ago already but there was no way we were gonna throw it out during the pandemic. We had been waiting for 25 years so what’s another year? But here it is now. There’s no turning back now !
What response did the band get on the singles “Brown Eyed Son” and “Get Out Of My Way” which came at the end of May and at the beginning of June?
People have been very positive so far. We started out with two ”old ones” that we have played live now and then since the 1980’s.
Why haven’t you shot a video to any of the singles?
Simple reason. We live all over Sweden and haven’t seen each other for a long time. We will probably make some promo videos when we start rehearsing for the Sator, D.A.D. and The Nomads tour in September.
The album is being released much sooner that anticipated, what’s the story behind that decision?
The pressing plant moved us earlier so we though why wait when we have the records delivered already. I haven’t seen it myself yet but they are in a warehouse somewhere. Maybe it will burn down and there will another year before it’s out?
Who did the cover art work to the album and what’s the thought behind it?
We always loved horror movies so it was a tribute to the early 80’s video explosion too. We also wanted to work with the same guys Håkan Sandsjö and Jörgen Forssling that did the artwork for volume one. They did a great job with connecting to the first album. Håkan Sandsjö has made a lot of Sator artwork. Even the logo.
Was it given from the start to name the album RETURN OF THE BARBIE-Q-KILLERS?
The name was decided on some time in the late 90’s. It sounds like a horror movie sequel. I think it’s the first time we’ve had a title before it was recorded.
I think the album is brilliant with a lots of great cover versions, in retrospect are you happy with the outcome of the piece?
Thanks. We are very happy with it and it also feel great to get it out of the system. We’ve been living with it for a long time. I don’t think there wlll be a volume 3. But who knows there are quite a few songs that we never got around to record.
Many bands and artists consider their latest release to be their best one, is that also true in your case?
I guess you have to feel like that to survive as a creative band, But you can’t really compare the albums. Slammer! and Headquake for example are totally different things. We are happy with all our albums in different way otherwise they would not have been released. The next album might be something different again. That’s like the ”politician answer”
Studio and production
Where did you record the album?
Most of the songs were recorded at Music-A-Matic studios in Gothenburg and some additional things were done at my studio Planet of Noise Recordings in Limmared.
In the last interview you said that Music-A-Matic Studio was going to close and that you were about to build a new studio, what’s the status?
Music-A-Matic studio will probably close at the end of the year when they start building a hotel I’ve been told. The pandemic stopped that project but I could not wait so I have started my own studio. I still work with Henryk Lípp and Music-A-Matic now and then.
My studio is just for Sator and my projects. It’s not like a regular studio that you can book for anything since it’s in my home. You have to be invited. Only extremely nice and talented people will get invited.
The info sheet say that the album is produced by you and Sator, which one of the members took on the majority of the production work?
It was basically me keeping the project together but we are a quite democratic band actually where everyone has a say. If someone didn’t like a song we would drop it and everyone brought in their ideas.
Was it fun to produce the new album and what do you think are your strongest feature as producer?
It’s mostly hard work doing records but there were also times of pure joy.
I think I’m pretty good at getting the best out of people. I don’t have a standard way of of working. It differs from what the artist needs. Some people need encouragement and some needs a kick in the ass. Whatever it takes to make a great album. I’m also quite quick to grasp song structures and know what has to be done to improve them. I’ve made over 100 albums now so I think I’ve learned the craft along the way. I think I’ve done the ”10 000 hours” bit it will never get boring. Still love it.
Henryk Lipp did the mastering/mix took any of the members part in those processes?
We’re always part of the whole process and we’ve been working with Henryk a long time so he know that we like.
How long did it take to record the album overall?
It must be some sort of world record. It took 25 years from the first to the last song ! It was long breaks between the sessions so we haven’t been re-doing anything really. We just kept on recording when we found a new song. When I collected them all a couple of years ago I found out that there were over 30 songs songs recorded. I called the other guys and said ”We have a problem. We don’t have an album, we have three albums. What are we gonna do?”
The band is still signed to Wild Kingdom, are you happy with the work the label have put into the band and the album so far?
We are actually on our own label Planet of Noise Records. It’s a license deal with Wild Kingdom/Sound Pollution. We have known them for a long time. They are good friends and people who really like music. So it’s working really good.
The album is released on CD, black vinyl and turquoise vinyl, how many copies are printed in the turquoise version?
Only 500 copies. The black is an unlimited edition so that might be millions. (Or very limited too)
Is the album going to featured on Spotify?
Yes. The short version will be released digitally as well. On several platforms.
Do you have any idea on how many listeners the band got on Spotify?
Right now it seems like we have 100 000 listeners a month. It usually goes up when we’re touring.
What’s your opinion regarding the various streaming services that’s available online?
I don’t really regard it as real releases. It’s good for bands that tour be cause it generates interest in the band and you get more shows. But for an artist that don’t tour it quite worthless. There’s also a lot of fake going on where artists buy streams to make them look bigger. We don’t do that. Streaming services is a double edge sword I’d say but it’s what we have to work with.
Last time you said the band wanted to release STEREO and MUSICAL DIFFERENCES on vinyl and CD, is that going to happen?
We’re still working on that. We don’t own the rights to those records but hopefully we can make it happen. We would love to release ”Stereo” as a double vinyl with bonus tracks. And with the artwork it was supposed to have from the start.
You also said that you wanted to release an album including all of your compilation tributes, is that in the pipeline anytime soon?
That will happen but maybe not right now since it would be another cover album. We also have lots of unreleased songs from the whole history of the band. We might release as a ”best of the unreleased” album one day. We have 30-40 unreleased completed that for various reasons was left in the can. Some are actually great but the timing was wrong. We always wanted to write new songs when it was time for an album. A bit stupid I guess since those songs would be new to the fans but that’s how it goes.
Are you a fan of the vinyl format and what’s your thoughts on the vinyl hype that’s been growing strong during the past few years?
Vinyl is the best format ever. I think it’s here to stay for a long time. But I like CD’s too. Especially compilations and re-releases of 50’s and 60’s stuff with lots of bonus tracks. And since my latest Volvo doesn’t have a cassette player (A disaster!) I play CD’s in the car instead.
Your birthday was on the 25th of June, congratulations! Did you throw a party?
Thanks, No I don’t really celebrate my birthdays if I can avoid it. I was at the Tons of Rock festival in Oslo this year. I got a birthday beer and an ice cream.
Sator was supposed to perform at the Time To Rock Festival at the beginning of August but it was canceled, what happened?
It was a re-scheduled show because of the pandemic. The Boys are booked at the Rebellion Festival in Blackpool this year. We tried to find flights so me and Kent could get back in time but it was impossible. It’s such a chaos now with flights and airports. We’ve had several flights cancelled recently. We will do Time to Rock in 2023 instead. We’ve played in Knislinge before and we loved it.
At the end of August you’re scheduled to perform in Sollefteå Stadspark ( a town in the northern parts of Sweden) is that the first live show Sator does since the restrictions was lifted? Are you excited?
Yes we are very excited about that. That’s why we will drive 180 Swedish miles for just one show. We have promised not to play south of Sundsvall this summer because of the September tour. With us are Velvet Insane a band that I have wanted to see live for a while now.
And in September it’s time for Sator, D.A.D and The Nomads to do a tour through Sweden, and a few extra shows has been added, how does that feel?
This is going to be great. We have known both bands for many years and it feels like a very good line-up. And it seems like the tickets are selling good. Malmö has added two extra nights. We won’t add any more extra night now. There’s no time for more shows this year.
Sator and D.A.D. is going to co-headline, which band starts and for how long do you play?
The Nomads will open but all three bands will do full sets. So it’s like a mini-festival. D.A.D. will be last since they have all their carousel-stuff and tricks. It makes sense with the change-overs. We make fun of them by saying we’re not a circus we’re a rock band so D.A.D. can go on last. Just teasing. We love their show.
If you have three words to describe a show with Sator for some one that don’t have seen you play what will you say then?
Full-on rock’n’roll! Does that count as three words? We’ve seen that the streams goes up on weekends and holidays so I guess we’re ”a party band” That’s three words.
Any plans on tour more on the new album?
Not this year but we are talking about next year. There are still some postponed gigs to do. We will also do Finland and Norway hopefully in 2023.
What does the rest of the band think of that you, Kent and Heikki has Sator Trio going on?
They think it’s great since both Hans and Mikael has ”real” jobs. So they can’t tour as much we want to. The Sator Trio is also very different from the full-band. Both things are equally fun to do.
How many shows do you do with Sator Trio per year?
It’s been quite slow the last years for obvious reason but there will be more when we have time. We have also recorded half an album with the Trio so far. So there might be an album too.
Last year L-G Petrov (Entombed, Entombed AD) and Hank Von Hell (Turbonegro) tragically passed away, did you know the guys and what did you think and feel when heard about their passing?
We’ve met them both on many occasions over the years. It’s always sad when we lose a great artist. There’s been so many dying lately.
Could you ever imagine Sator was going to be alive and kicking 35 years after you first started the band?
Absolutely not ! And I still don’t understand how that happened. The wonderful thing is that we are still friends so we might continue for a few years more.
When can the fans expect a follow up to UNDER THE RADAR from 2011? Isn’t it time for a new studio album with original Sator material soon?
We have started writing so there will be a new album one day. We will hopefully start recording some time next year but who knows how long it will take. Maybe 25 years ?
What have you and the rest of the members been up to during the pandemic?
I’ve been working in the studio. And building the new studio took some time too. Heikki has been playing with Byråkrat and Mikael released an album with his other band Satisfactory. Sadly their tour was cancelled. It’s been a lot of waiting around for the restrictions to end. But it wasn’t all bad.
The info sheet say Sator has a super dedicated and supportive worldwide fanbase, do you consider that true? Do you have a big fanbase outside Europe as well?
Yes we do have fans from all over the world. We don’t tour that much outside Scandinavia anymore. It’s too complicated and expensive. When we all had kids we stopped doing long tours for many years. We didn’t want to be the parent that missed the kids growing up because we were abroad. Now the kids have grown up so we can tour again until the grandchildren comes along.
Many with me have been a fan of the band since the very start and I remember seeing Sator perform at Hultsfreds festivalen in Sweden at the end of the 80’s, how does it feel to have such a solid fanbase?
It really touches your heart. When we did the Stock Rocker Nuts and Headquake album nights at Pustervik in Gotheburg a couple of years ago you could feel so much love from the crowd that it was hard not to cry a little tear. Or maybe it was just sweat. We are tough guys. Ha ha!
When the pandemic slowed down and countries started to get back to normal routines the war in Ukraine started, what’s your thoughts on the Russian war and do you have any friends that’s been affected by the war?
It’s absolutely horrible. You would think that humanity has learned something from history but apparently not. I hope that every politician that can’t stop war ends up in hell if it exists. It’s never the people at the top that dies. It’s the common people that gets killed. We don’t have any close Ukraine friends I think but it affects us all anyway.
For those who, for any uncertain reason, have missed to hear the music of Sator (one of the best bands in Sweden ever) what would you like to say to them?
Check us out. It’s not that hard anymore. And if you can come and see us live in real life do that. You will have good time I’m sure.
Could you give the readers three reasons why they should buy RETURN OF THE BARBIE-Q-KILLERS?
If you like the punk and new wave years between 1976 and 1982 you will love this album. It’s made with lots of love for the music. There are quite w few great songwriters on this album too!
Well that was all for me and metal-rules.com this time around. Thank you so much for taking the time making the interview. Congratulations to a stunning album in RETURN OF THE BARBIE-Q- KILLERS, and I would love to hear some original music from Sator soon 🙂 do you have any final words of wisdom to share with the readers and the fans?
Thanks. Be nice to everyone ! Music is the best thing to bring people together.