Like the Russian cosmonaut who they are named after, Yuri Gagarin‘s space rock is out of this world. Before they headed off to play Desertfest, I got a chance to speak to guitarist Christian about the band’s origins, music, their relationship to Mr Gagarin and playing Desertfest.
Jack: Hey guys, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. How are you doing?
Christian: Well, thank you! We are really stoked for Desertfest!
Jack: How did you form as a band?
Christian: Me, Steffo and Jon were in a metal band called Vålnad and things were going very slowly. One day I started thinking about what it would be like to have a spacerock band, and then I thought why not just start one, so I asked Steffo if he was up for it, which he was. Leif and Robin joined in with us pretty fast and Jon joined the band after six months or so.
Jack: When you formed did you all want to play space rock?
Christian: Yes, that was the main idea. It seemed like we all had pretty much the same idea of what space rock is supposed to sound like too luckily.
Jack: Does being an instrumental band grant you more freedom?
Christian: It does. It gives you a lot more room for improvisation and there are less rules, so to speak. You can also play really long guitar solos without pissing off the singer, which is nice of course. [Laughs]
Jack: What bands have been the biggest influence?
Christian: For me it was bands like Hawkwind, Pink Floyd and space rock bands from the 90’s like Farflung and 35007 to begin with. I’ve started listening a lot more more to instrumental bands like Earthless, Electric Moon and Tangerine Dream since we started the band, which have had some influence on me as well.
Jack: Do you think being from Sweden has had an influence?
Christian: I guess that’s where the more heavy aspect of our music comes in. Sweden is known for being a country with a lot of metal bands and different kinds of heavy rock. I’ve always been in bands that play downtuned and with a lot of distortion before, so it kind of continued down that path with this band, but in a way that’s a lot more psychedelic.
Jack: Why did you decide to name yourself after Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin? Did the name come before the music?
Christian: No it didn’t. I was just thinking about what we should call the band one day and Yuri Gagarin came to mind. I thought that his name kind of sounded like a band name and thought that it was somewhat weird that there wasn’t already a known spacerock band out there named after him.
Jack: Is Yuri Gagarin someone’s life you are interested in and have studied?
Christian: I’ve read quite a lot about him since we started the band. I didn’t know very much about him before, besides that he was the first man in space. We were to the Space Museum in Moscow when we were in Russia and got to see a lot of things from the early space travel era including the capsule he orbited the earth with, which was very cool to say the least.
Jack: Do you think humans will go to the Moon again or Mars in our lifetime?
Christian: Don’t know about the moon, but I hope that the Mars One projects will happen so that people will go to Mars in a little more than a decade. That would be really exciting.
Jack: You released your incredible album At The Centre of Infinity two years ago, are you happy with the response to the album?
Christian: Yes definitely. We were very surprised with how well the first album was received and the new one has gotten even more attention, so we’re very happy with that.
Jack: The album seems to be doomier than your previous releases. What was behind this decision?
Christian: There was never really a decision behind that. It just happened by itself I guess. I write a lot of the riffs for the band and it might have to do with how life changes from time to time. So if you’re in a slightly darker period than you were before, the riffs that you make might get a little darker as well.
Jack: The cover art is amazing, who did it and what does it represent?
Christian: The artist is called Påhl Sundström. He is a graphical designer from Uppsala in Sweden and plays in the band Usurpress. I’m pretty sure that he just continued on the same theme that was used for the cover for our first album. For that one we just asked him to make a cover with an astronaut in a psychedelic enviroment with colorful, but not to “happy” colors and then he made this amazing artwork. And the cover for the second album looks even better than the one for the first album.
Jack: What was the recording process like?
Christian: It was quite different from the first album. We recorded it in a real studio instead of a practice space using more professional equipment. Most of the stuff on the album is recorded live with all of us playing at the same time. Afterwards we just did some patchwork on the guitars and bass and I did a retake of one or two guitar solos. We recorded the Sea of Dust EP at the same time as well which was quite tedious since we recorded eight songs in total instead of four, which was the case for the first album.
Jack: You’re playing Desertfest next month, will this be your first visit to the UK?
Christian: Yes it will. We have been wanting to go to the UK and play for a long time now and to do so for the first time during Desertfest is going to be awesome.
Jack: What are you looking forward to the most above Desertfest?
Christian: I haven’t been to London for over ten years so just getting back there and to Camden will be great. I guess having some British lager or ale is the first thing that comes to mind! [Laughs]
Jack: Do you think festivals like Desertfest are the future of festivals?
Christian: In a way, yes. I really like this kind of larger indoor festivals which works very nicely for the kind and size of bands that are playing there. It’s also great with this kind of festivals since you don’t have to have them during the summer because it would be too cold to have them outdoors here in the north of Europe.
Jack: What are your plans for the future? Will we see any more UK dates?
Christian: We have nothing planned at the moment, but hopefully this gig will increase the demand for us to play there so that we can make a proper tour of the UK.
Jack: Finally, what is your best space rock album?
Christian: The best of all time is probably Space Ritual or Warrior on the Edge of Time by Hawkwind. The best at the moment is Giöbia‘s latest album, The Maginifier.
Jack: Thank you very much for your time and have a good show!
Christian: Thank you! And Thanks for the interview!