Yogi Lang – RPWL 

(by Karl-Göran Karlsson)


Your new album starts with a very strong track in my opinion, “Silenced”. It has all the ingredients that I have learned to love from previous RPWL albums. An appealing melody, great arrangements and a good balance between instrumental and vocal parts. Especially I like the final part with the keyboard- and guitar solos. It is also clear that the lyrics formulate a rather serious message. Maybe you can explain a little bit deeper the intention with the text?

The main subject of the album is social critisism. Silenced for example is a song about those people who are just living to pay for our wealth. The thing is that most of us are slaves to our habits and so we are used to let people die in order to live our lifes. But I think that repression is not the right answer to the problems we caused during the last centuries. To think about those people is the least we can do. It's a first step that leads us to a change. That is what this song's about.

The next track “Breath in, breath out” is a more relaxed ballad that I think could be easier for the general public to digest (a typical single). Is this something you think al lot of? I mean, that you perhaps need these simpler tracks to not repel the audience that could have a problem with more arranged and complex songs? Or, do you just feel it natural to write these ballad-type songs?

When we start doing an album, we write songs without thinking about the finished product. Focused on the message of the song we just let it flow. In fact we've always felt comfortable with doing straight and easy songs. But that's nothing that you have in mind while you're writing a song. I think as an artist you can only do what you truely believe in.


Track number four “Masters of war” is a really great cover on an old and well-known Bob Dylan song. For me, it is much better in your version due to the dark atmosphere you create as a background to the vocals. Really impressive. How did you get the idea to do the cover and to do it in this particular way?

If you're able to add some new aspect to the original, a cover-version of a song makes real sense. We felt that the message of the song has become more important in our modern world. The economic interests of global players are more and more in the foreground when we talk about troubled regions or wars. We wanted to play the song with the emotions we feel when we talk about those "masters".  In the original version you got the feeling of cold anger at the wars at that time. We tried to add more musical dramatic and depth to the song, because the situation has become more complicated . It was a great honour for us to play and record this song.

The text is strong on “Masters of war” but is it really in line with your own opinions? I mean, the song ends with some rather remarkable statements about revenge towards those who are responsible for the wars. Is this really a message that you support? We can all see how revenge just creates hatred and new revenge and so on (look at the Middle East example).

Sure it's a song about the persons who should be held responsible for a war. It's really complicated to talk about this subject, because the modern "Masters of War" are sitting in the executive suites of companies and brands. That's what we are talking about, not about the spiral of violence. We did a song called " '48 " on our album "9" , containing our thoughts about the "middle east"-problem. Of course , if you look at this example, you can see parts of our bloody western colonial history. It's quite easy for us to look at this region and to talk about breaking through the spiral of violence. I think you always have to keep in mind that neither the soldiers, nor the terrorists are the "Masters of War" that we are talking about. The revenge that you mean is the revenge that is used by those, who are the real "Masters". The hatred that you mean is the hatred they created . 


After “Masters of war” follows then a very different track with the quite funny title “This is not a prog song”. And the text is funny too, indeed! I realise that you are sick and tired of all the very negative press that you have got for your records throughout the years. Written by people with lots of prejudice and maybe even by people who never even listened to the albums. This is common for bands playing music that does not follow the mainstream track. I remember myself when I read a really bad review of the marvellous “Wind and wuthering” album by Genesis. I really got furious. But I wonder, what is the perfect review of an album of yours that you would like to read? An enthusiastic one written by a fan (like me) or a critical one from a person not knowing much about your music? Maybe an impossible question to answer but please try?

First of all we wanted to make clear that we all should be able to laugh about ourselves from time to time. You know, the prog scene seems to be so serious! But of course it is strange when someone writes a review, who never heard the album. My favorite one was that guy writing that it was such a pity that especially on "Roses" my german accent destroyed the whole song. If I had more time I'd have talked to Ray about that problem....  But in fact, I took the worst reviews I could find and sang them, that's it!

The following track “Watch myself” is again a very relaxed and nice song with some gorgeous mellotron sections in the last part of it. But I am not sure if I understand the message here (if there is one). Could you explain your thoughts here?

I remember I met a friend and I had the feeling that he lived his life  not really being aware of all the wonderful things that surrounded him. I think we all have times in our life when we are watching ourselves being numb and passive. In the song this is the death of a personality and a start of a new born self at the same time. You're looking at your self as you had been, in peace.


The track “Stranger” is another track with a text that again has some serious anti-war meaning. At least the initial arrangement makes you feel a bit unpleasant where you here the sound of a Merry-Go-Round and then after a while mixed with machine-gun sounds and attacking airplanes. What is it you want to describe? 

Yes, you're right. The merry-go-round is meant to be the innocence  when we are born into our world. But without fail it leads into being what we are: human beings, unable to live our life in freedom and peace. In this story there are two soldiers standing face to face in a war. In the knowledge that they have to kill each other. One of them suddenly understands that he doesn't know a thing about his so called enemy: Does he have a family, does he love art or in what does he believe? Of course after this moment of clarity he can't shoot anymore and so he has to die. By the way, this is our big chance in a globalised world: knowing more about other people, having friends all over the world, all that makes it much more difficult to hate the "unknown stranger"!


I should also say that I really liked to here the inspirations from Manfred Mann in the keyboard solo in the end of “Stranger”. Have you listened much to Manfred Man before or did this occur just by chance?

He was one of my big heroes when I was young. I was not only a fan of the keyboarder, but also of the producer. The way he works on cover-songs is amazing! 


Then follows a very laid-back and quite track, “River”, although with some more power at the end. I actually like it a lot and I think it is one of the stronger tracks on the album. I really like when you are able to create such an enormous feeling with only your voice and a backing acoustic guitar. What came first – the melody or the guitar works? I mean, did you and Kalle Wallner create it together or was it an idea from one of you originally?

This is a wonderful example how two ideas just fit perfectly together. I had the idea to do a song about the constant river of time. Of course we are part of this river, unable to see the way it goes. Reaching a new level of consciousness means reaching the waterside, sitting there and watching the source of our life coming from above, understanding the heart of all creation. A very positive song by the way.


Then I must say that I am not totally happy with the instrumental adventure in the middle that cuts “River” into two parts. I actually think that it destroys the mood of the song and it is kind of disturbing. Why did you include it? You have done similar things in previous songs (like in “Side by side” on the “Trying to kiss the sun” album)? Do you like this experimental and improvised way of creating music? It reminds me of some of the things Genesis did on their “Lamb lies down on Broadway” album (I think the track was “In the cage”).

We wanted to create a river. In the narrowness of our existence we are not able to reach a goal without a way. So you have to join the river just like a leap in the dark. The middle part of "river" is the way that leads to the finishing part of the song, the last goal of our life. Of course this way is mysterious and unexpected, without any natural guidance! But, same as our life, this part is learning its sense by reaching the end.


The last track “Turn back the clock” is a nice end of the album with great singing and arrangements (again some of that wonderful mellotron stuff!). The title is a phrase that one often hears in a positive way with the meaning that things were better “in the good old days”. But I am not sure if that is what you wanted to express or was it? 

It's some kind of dream to get the chance to do it all again and make it better. But at the end I think this phrase is one of the most common excuses that we use. If we could turn back the clock, there wouldn't have been any soul spared. But again, I don't mean that in a negative way, it's just the way we are. 


On this track there is somewhere in the middle a beautiful keyboard solo followed by some guitars accompanied by mellotrons. It reminded me from the first time I listened to it of some Swedish folk music, a polska, which is still a popular kind of dance music in some Swedish regions (Dalarna)! I wonder, was this just by chance or where you really inspired by a polska here?

I don't think it was inspired by folk music, at least I don't know, but I had the chance to listen to the wonderful swedish band "Ritual" that played traditional swedish instruments when we toured together. That was really great to hear!


There are a few tracks that I haven’t commented here and which I maybe think are a bit weaker than the others. Maybe I wonder a bit why you did not choose to include the absolutely marvellous final track on the “9” album named “Another day”. Since “9” was a limited edition album this was maybe not so wise, or was it?

We decided to do the "9" Album because everyone worked on his solo album and it was quite interesting to hear, how the band played this individually composed songs. "Another Day" was a track from Chris' still unreleased solo album.


There is actually a much more evident link to Sweden than the possible polska inspiration on this album and that is seen on the cover. I guess that you are well aware of the fact that you have (mis-)used the logo of the Swedish company IKEA on the cover. The only difference is that it is now black and white (and not yellow and blue) and the name IKEA is replaced by RPWL. Aren’t you afraid that this could be felt a bit provocative? Or maybe it was intentional? It would be interesting to hear how this idea came up and developed? I know that you have expressed your criticism about the use of brands and logos for companies and products as a kind of replacement of religion on modern life. I guess there is a link to this reasoning also in the design of the cover, isn’t there?

I don't know what was first, kraft foods or ikea, but anyway, what we wanted to do was just reducing the band to a brand or a logo. It's interesting how much influence they have on us and our culture... driving that car, wearing these sneakers, eating this or that... in these days we define ourselves by such things.

The picture on the cover shows today's most important spiritual guides: mass media and brands.

When talking about brands or logos, I cannot resist asking you about the band name RPWL (I guess you are rather tired to hear this again but….). Don’t you think that it actually is a problem for you to have a band name that people doesn’t easily remember? Have you seriously thought about changing it sometime? Or is it too late to change now?

Then I think we have to go back to the year 1997. We just came together to make live music. In fact, there were several ideas, but at least somehow band names always seemed to be boring. When our label said that we had to have some name, because otherwise they wouldn't do the album, we took the initial letters of our names.  We started this thing because we wanted to do what we love to do and that will never change as long as we call the whole thing RPWL. 


One of the really big strengths of RPWL in my view is that you are able to write songs that are really beautiful and at the same time deeply touching through meaningful lyrics. One personal favourite is the final track “Home again” on “Trying to Kiss the sun”. It really touched me deeply emotionally. The song is about what happens in a relationship between a man and a woman when a child appears in their life. This is not always easy and I guess every couple can identify themselves with at least some problematic aspects. I have myself a very special private interpretation of that song and it is not always easy to listen to it. But I really love it. Is there a personal experience that lies behind this beautiful track, also superbly performed on the live sections of the album “9”?

Yes, my second daughter "Loumea Zoe". It was a very sad story because the assurance that the decisions I made was bringing sorrow to another one was unavoidable yet at the same time nearly unbearable. So if you want: the beginning and the end of "trying to kiss the sun" are the two sides of the medal.


Finally, I really wonder why we haven’t seen you touring in Scandinavia yet? You should have a quite large potential here if considering the great success that some of the Pink Floyd tribute bands have made here. I really would like to encourage you to add some Scandinavian gigs gigs on your tours!

We once had the chance to visit your wonderful country when we  toured with the swedish band "Ritual". So we should be prepared to have a good time in sweden!!!!!


Karl-Göran Karlsson