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Articles Home » Interviews » Sahara (Sweden) - 2002 Interview with Peter Lidstrom
 
Sahara (Sweden) - 2002 Interview with Peter Lidstrom


INTERVIEW: Sahara (Apr 2002)
Peter Lidstrom joins us for a chat about Kip Winger.. of all things!!

In The Spotlight - Sahara
Interview with Peter Lidstrom
Written by: Gdazegod (April, 2002)

Again Sweden comes up with another crystalline gem. We're not talking about the zillions of zircons found in grains of sand, as beset against the backdrop of the band name we're talking about here. You won't find too much in the way of sand in Sweden anyway, not to the level that the Sahara Desert has. No folks, we're talking about the gem of an album produced by a team of guys going under the name of Sahara. Peter Lidstrom and Ulrick Lonnqvist, two mountains standing in the sandy sea of desire. ie: a melodic crossover of AOR/West Coast. Peter is the guitarist while Ulrick is the vocalist, but also plays guitar too. Added to the mix are the other two main contributors in the band: Fredrik Winero - drums, and Magnus Eliasson - bass. I think we can assume these guys categorise themselves as such, it's pretty difficult not to, considering their sound. This outfit come from Gothenberg, so they are close to that other haven of AOR and West Coast music, Denmark. I wonder if there's a connection? George talks to Peter about a whole bunch of things.

Thanks Peter for sharing some time with us. We think Sweden is a bit of a musical hotbed at the moment. You think that's a fair assessment of the national Swedish scene?
Well, certainly it seems so. New bands are creeping up all over the place, and the general standard of a lot of these acts seems to be really high, which is always good.

How about the local scene in Gothenberg?
Speaking for myself, I have to admit I don't really follow the local scene to any larger extent. I'm more involved on trying to avoid listing to any contempararies out there, in order to find a more personal voice.

Who's big in Gothenberg that we might know of?
Not many in our genre I guess, but on the harder side, we have bands like Hammerfall, In Flames, Dark Tranquility, Freak Kitchen, Hardcore Superstar etc ... I'm sure there's tons of bands I've missed.

Let's get onto your band now .. Sahara. Fair to say it's more of a project/collaboration between you and Ulrick?
It started out like that, but after recording the album, we felt comfortable enough to take it to the next level and make it a permanent band situation.

It's obvious you guys are comfortable in a studio situation. How much emphasis do you put on production techniques for the end result, which we finally hear on CD?
We put a great emphasis on production. The most time-consuming aspect of making the album was mixing it, basic tracking went pretty fast. We initially also had a lot of things in the arrangements left from the demo stage that needed reworking which took some time. Getting back to your question though, for this kind of music to come through properly, you need to work a lot on production techniques. We put a lot of emphasis on the vocals and backing vocal production, things like getting them across properly in the mix. Also, the general audibility of the sonic picture removing things that generally 'mud down' the sound in a mix. We take a lot of cues from pop production and modern records in general, which will be more prevalent on the next album. We definitely have a long way to go, though - the budget for this album was really peanuts, and we had to scrape the bottom of the barrel and resort to some shortcuts because of that. All in all, we're pretty pleased with the outcome considering all the circumstances. But we're still along ways away from were we want to be sonically!


Sahara (2001)
Magnus Eliasson, Fredrik Winero,
Ulrick Lonnqvist, Peter Lidstrom


Kip Winger plays a big role in your musical aspirations. Why him?
The first time I heard 'Rainbow in the rose' from the second Winger album was a profound and defining moment in my life. It was as if a door had just opened wide, and I could see what it was all about! It was like a vision popped into my head. From that moment on, everything just came together - all the years of theory, techniques and training. I then knew exactly how I wanted to approach songwriting and strive for. From there on it was just a matter of fine-tuning the ideas to fit that vision, which is where the craft aspect of making music comes in.

It's interesting, years later I found an old video clip with Kip in the studio making the second album. He was on a musical creative high, and going over the arrangements of 'Rainbow in the Rose' and was talking about how he ' heard the voices so clearly' referring to his songwriting - and that's exactly how it felt for me, I could really relate to that!

Kip Winger is a genius of our time, and it's a statement to the vacuus musical climate and media that a man that like that should get so unfairly stigmatized. It's a tribute to the mans spirit and undying faith in his musical vision that he continues to produce such quality work. It proves he's in this to create a body of work in the long term, which probably explains people's confusion with him - he really goes against the grain of all that the music industry stands for these days. It's not about quick financial gain for him, there are other values which mean more - like writing serious quality music which stands the test of time.

I take it this refers to his most recent solo material, which is quite 'deep' for want of a better word. What do you make of those recordings?
For the uninitiated, you could easily compare him to a Sting or a Peter Gabriel, with classical schooling. The production values are superlative, you can really tell he's learned a lot from Mike Shipley, who probably is one of the greatest producers ever. I guarantee you, 100 years from now people will be analyzing these records trying to figure out all his varoius songwriting techniques ... His two latest studio offerings are fantastic ! There's so much emotional depth in the songs. Whatever aspect you choose to approach the music from, you'll find something new and interesting going on. The lyrics, arrangements, the songwriting - ouch - has taken a quantum leap on the new album. Kip's use of modulation is so innovative - he always uses it in the context of the song, to express something emotionally. Like the verses of 'Now and Forever' - so powerful ! The same can be said of 'Only One Word' which uses another incredibly clever techique - a sort of ostinato based thematic way of writing, where 'chord progressions' in a traditional sense are replaced by revolving modulations around one simple piano theme - Brilliant ! This man has been to hell and back, and to have the moral strength and courage to bounce back with music on this level of creativity this is really impressive and so rare today. His acoustic guitar playing is also fantastic - very innovative fingerstyle classical picking on the 12-string. I particularly like his new acoustic renditions of his older material on his 'Made By Hand' CD. Listen to the ending on 'Another way' listen to the arrangements and those countermelodies - that's what it's about, man!

Did you ever think of getting a Winger tribute band together if you felt that much affinity with his material?
I actually did that! During my music high school years here in Gothenburg we actually had a Winger tribute band performing song from their second album locally. That was great fun, back then I used to transcribe all of Kip's intricate vocal arrangements from the second album. There's so much interesting stuff going on in those arrangements. I actually re-wired my home stereo back then, to cancel out the centre channel in order to hear all the stuff going on in the background more clearly! Those were the days ...

I know you were in a Rush tribute band. They are another band which you admire greatly?
Oh, without a doubt, the music of RUSH has been a love of my life since I heard 'Subdivisions' in 1988. There's still something about 'Signals', the album 'Subdivisions' came off that just timelessly brings you into that serene feeling of 1982. I get the similiar feeling off 'Hold you fire' from 1987. It just transports you to that lucid place. RUSH is a band that embodies everything aspire to as a musician - they've pulled off the trick of holding on to total integrity while adapting to new musical trends. They're the best live band ever, in my opinion. They may not be that obvious with regards to my songwriting influences, it's more about the principles they represent. And, lest I
forget - Neil Peart is of course one of the greatest lyricists on the planet, he just blows away about 95 % of all the generic rock hacks out there. A lot of unstable people in this business would do well to look at people like Neil Peart and Kip Winger for a much-needed clue on how to live a balanced, creative life! There's so much generic crap being regurgitated and recycled - it's all starting to sound so homogenized, and it's a real shame. But I digress ...

All of you have had a start with different bands, and in different styles too. What was the catalyst that bought this group of individuals together?
The catalyst I guess was me and Ulrick's songwriting, without which none of this would be happening right now. Going back even further, I guess it was also meeting Ulrick as a new drummer for the band I was playing in at the time - back in 1994 or so. One common thread for me personally regarding this band is that I've known and played with most of these musicians before in various situations. They all have a pretty good feel for what can and will work within this context, which is always nice.

It's obvious the diversity which you all bring helps give Sahara that edge?
Exactly, knowing everybody's background and frame of reference, I saw that coming when we first got together. That's the way a band should be - an organic unit made up of various disparate elements that blend together. I can't stand these manufactured 'bands' (for lack of a more appropriate term) out there who sometimes are nothing more but dressed up , trained monkeys, assembled by corporate suits. I find that particular trend very depressing. It used to be in the old days, you could sort of spot these types of bands very easily, as it was mostly done within the harmless pop/teen genres, but now you find this kind of trend extending into rock and metal, which confuses it all!

For the sake of our readers, if I were to run comparisons and mention bands like Toto, or your countrymen Street Talk for instance, I wouldn't be that far off the mark?
Well, the Toto reference I could understand - Toto (David Paich) have certainly influenced my songwriting, and most of the guys in the band have a love for the band. Street Talk I can honestly say I never listened to, and only heard a brief clip of a song Ulrick played me after our album came out - I can't hear any simiarities whatsoever. Not to take anything away from Fredrik Bergh though, who is a really great guy - I just can't hear the similarities myself.

Have you heard the Danish band/duo Toys Of Joy? I reckon your music is a deadringer actually..
Never heard them, sorry ...I like DAD though!

While we're talking about Denmark, are there any musical references of stuff coming out of that country?
In Sahara's music - no musical connections to my knowledge! Me and Ulrick are big fans of early, heavy Pretty Maids though - that was the stuff!

You initially went to MTM to pursue a songwriting deal. Is this how your deal came about?
Yes, pretty much - Ulrick had been in contact with Magnus at MTM for a while in hope of landing not a songwriting deal, but a record deal. Magnus forwarded our material to AOR heaven who made the jump on us.

The album came out in September last year on AOR Heaven/Point Music. That Georg.. he can sure pick them. Are you Ok with the media and public response so far?
The media and public response has been fantastic - overwhelming to say the least! We really didn't know what to expect, so the reaction has really been a surprise, albeit a pleasant one!

Of the songs, it's a lovely smooth piece of music. What are the highlights for you?
As always, after working so hard on an album, you find it hard to listen to afterwards, but I would have to say 'Time is a healer' still stands out, as it's also the first song we recorded for the album. I'm also partial to 'The Night'. The two companion songs 'The Fire' and 'Silent Rain' are pretty personal, and consequently mean a lot to me.



What if I said to you that 'Time Is A Healer' is my standout song of 2001. What would you say to that claim?
Well, who am I to disagree? ;-) A lot of people have picked that as their favourite. I agree that it's a song that really came through and seems to work on all levels. I guess it's also a pretty good representation of the band's approach and future direction. We are really trying to echew the generic AOR cliche's while striving for a modern sound. Our next album will really show this direction, now that we've found our feet, so to speak.

Some of the material on the Sahara album goes back a way. How many songs did you have to choose from for the album?
For the first album we had a quite large batch of stuff to choose from, around 20 plus songs, although obliously a lot of the older material couldn't be used, as we were cogniscent of our need for fresher sounding stuff. Still some of the songs as you point out, are considerably older, like 'Over and Over' dating back to me living at home and writing in my bedroom on keyboards back in '94! If you listen closely, you'd probably be able to pick out the newer tracks, like 'Time ...' 'Stranger', 'Dreams', and 'What is Love'.

The guitar solos in particular have a lot of sting in them. What six stringers have you used as a reference point over the years.
Thanks! I draw inspiration from a lot of different players, I started out with copying everything by Ace Frehley, and quickly moving into the Yngwie/MacAlpine mould in the late 80's. Classical music has also meant a lot to me throughout the years, as an inspiration for melodies. Nowadays my favourite players are guys like Paul Gilbert and Reb Beach - players with good clean technique, solid music roots, feeling and personality! A lot of guitar playing is so boring these days, with so many players stuck in the pentatonic rut. It's important to try to be innovative, instead of rehashing the same old clich's. Brett Garsed is incredible. Old George Lynch is never wrong either!

Being project based, is it easy enough to get out and play some gigs locally? And with spring and summer on the way, it would be nice for the band to get out and play to some audiences. Agreed?
Yes, indeed - we can't wait to get out and perform ! The sad truth though is that we had to cancel all our touring plans behind the first album due to my accident in January. We unfortunately couldn't postpone touring til after my recovery, if we wanted to get a new album out in reasonable time.

I know you're a busy man, but somewhere in there you'll be wanting to spend time writing new Sahara material?
Yeah, due to the accident , I suddenly had a lot more writing time on my hands, so I guess something good came out of it. We're all writing on our own at the moment, and we'll reconvene in april to start arranging the material, and hope to enter the studio around summer. I'm really excited, we have so many arrangement ideas for the next album, and production techniques we'll be using. We're going for a much more modern sound, without sacrificing the melodies and openness. We'll also be drawing from a much larger writing pool now, with everybody contributing. I really can't wait!

What does 2002 hold in store for the band Peter?
Record the new album during the summer, have it out in the fall, after which we'll plan to head out in support of the album!

Well, we'll do our best to publicise your cause. Best of luck, and thanks for your time!
Thank you - this was a great interview! - Peter

Footnote: This interview was initially earmarked for December 2001, but due to Peter's accident and subsequent rehab, we've only just managed to complete it now. Thanks again Peter.. - George

Resources:
Visit on yonder to Sahara's website: www.saharaweb.org

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