Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?!  – The Wannadies
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Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?! – The Wannadies

In Does Rock ‘N’ Roll Kill Braincells?!, we quiz an artist on their own career to see how much they can remember – and find out if the booze, loud music and/or tour sweeties has knocked the knowledge out of them. This week: Pär Wiksten of Swedish rockers The Wannadies

By Gary Ryan

Does Rock N Roll Kill Braincells?! - The Wannadies - NME interview
Credit: Alamy

1In which UK soap did a serial killer drive his family into a canal while listening to The Wannadies on repeat?

“Erm… fuck! I’ve got to get at least one right! Hang on – is it Coronation Street?”

CORRECT. In 2003, Corrie villain Richard Hillman drove his wife Gail and her children Sarah-Lou and David (and grandchild Bethany) into a canal while listening to ‘You and Me Song’.

“I never saw it and we weren’t asked permission for it to be used, but when we went viral in the UK on TikTok with ‘You and Me Song’, every 50th comment was: ‘I can’t stop thinking about the Corrie scene’.”

2Which rock icon did you once turn down supporting on a European tour?

“David Bowie.”

CORRECT.

“It’s no coincidence that my dog is called Bowie, because he’s a god. I don’t know why we decided to not support him. We must have had some sort of seizure. There was no debate  – that’s what puzzles me the most. We were in the middle of recording and building a studio and just said we didn’t have the time. Now I think: why didn’t we talk about this for weeks at least before telling him?! What sucks more than not playing with him is that if we’d supported him, I’m sure we would have had a drink or three and been able to hang out with him.”

So it’s fair to say you regret spurning the offer?

“Oh yeah! [Laughs] So much so that I didn’t even remember it until two years ago. I’d blanked it out because it was too terrible a truth to handle!”

3According to Sleeper frontwoman Louise Wener, what bizarre fetish did The Wannadies introduce her to on tour?

“[Laughs] I guess you’re referring to ‘docking’?”

CORRECT.

“You could write a book about that tour. There was us, Sleeper and 60 Ft. Dolls, and we had a third puberty touring England. We had enormous amounts of drinks, and told people enormous amounts of lies about how things are done in Sweden – including that in our home country, to show your friendship, people ‘dock’. So you have to pull your foreskin over the other guy’s penis. Which obviously we had just made up! After I docked with [someone], I remember thinking I’d contracted a sexually transmitted disease from him and had to visit a doctor in Gothenburg. The doctor said it was the strangest story she’d ever heard! [Laughs]”

For a bonus half-point: what unusual item did Louise Wener claim that The Wannadies used to shove up their bums?

“Er… Was it tampons dipped in booze?”

CORRECT. Vodka-soaked tampons.

“[Uproarious laughter] We never actually did that but we lied to her and said we did. We were so full of fun and games. We really enjoyed ourselves!”

Who were the best bands to party with?

“On our first day in the UK in August 1995, we were taken to a Camden pub and all the Britpop bands were there. It felt like Carnaby Street but thirty years later. All of the Britpop bands were fun. The problem with Oasis was whenever we met them, we couldn’t understand what they were saying. Our drummer [Gunnar Karlsson]’s English wasn’t the best, so whenever Noel Gallagher would say stuff to him, he’d just imitate Noel’s accent back at him with a load of nonsensical gibberish – because that’s how it sounded to him! Like he’d say [adopts a weird Mancunian slurry of letters] ‘Wyyyyyyyyyannnhanahhhyeaahherrahhha’. I remember [Wannadies keyboardist and Pär’s ex-girlfriend] Christina [Bergmark] calling Noel ‘an eyebrow on two legs’. Which I have to say was true!”

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4In the video for your 2002 single ‘Little By Little’, Adam Buxton plays dancer Maurice Colon. What award is he the three-times winner of?

“Awww! I don’t know that! I watched bits of that video yesterday. I like it when he says, ‘It’s the Want-to-Diet, Want-to-Dies – it doesn’t matter; I don’t know who they are’ in his strange accent. Was Maurice the three-times winner of the Dancing Toe Award?”

WRONG. But so close! it’s The Golden Toe Award.

“Genius! I’ve watched it so many times and always laugh myself half to death.”

5In 1996, which fellow Swedish pop stars, who were fans of The Wannadies, did NME upset by telling them that you, in fact, hated them?

“Was it The Cardigans? I remember sitting in a Russian bar talking to a journalist, but he’d already written the article and the angle was The Wannadies had landed to kick The Cardigans’ lame arse off the island. I was like: ‘What?!’ I called [Cardigans frontwoman] Nina [Persson] and she said: ‘We knew you didn’t say that. It’s just the English press.’”

WRONG. It’s Roxette.

“Oh! That was also a misquote because I just said: ‘Can you please stop going on about Roxette? We’ve got nothing in common!’ That got twisted into us hating Roxette. They were clever enough to reply: ‘Well, we’ve sold over a million albums. How many albums have The Wannadies sold?’ Which is a fair comment!”

Ever get into any other entertaining ‘90s feuds?

“No, there was talk of doing a Blur/Oasis thing with The Cardigans, but we just wanted to be friends with everyone, and we didn’t want to partake in any of the rivalry stuff just to gain press. In fact, I remember being pissed off with Damon [Albarn] being a bit of an arse in the media and to friends of mine that when he walked up to me once and said pleasantly: ‘Hey, you’re Swedish right?’, I replied: [Deadpan] ‘No, I’m Icelandic’. And commented, ‘Nice shirt’ – obviously his shirt was ugly. And I felt so bad afterwards because I was only being rude to him before he could be rude to me. And he was being nice actually [Laughs]. So we were never mean to people.”

On the flipside, any unlikely people turn out to be fans of The Wannadies?

“When I met Ian [McCulloch of Echo and Bunneymen], he was really chuffed he was the man behind ‘The Killing Moon’ and I was the man behind ‘You and Me Song’ and told me: [Mimics McCulloch’s Scouse accent]: ‘We made it, man!’. Which was funny because I used to cover ‘The Killing Moon’ in my band before The Wannadies.  At that time however, everyone was so competitive with other bands. I remember hanging out with Graham Coxon and him saying: ‘Your stuff is kind of alright’. That was as enthusiastic as Britpop bands got about each other!”

6Which Cambridge indie band performed a snippet of ‘You and Me Song’ on their 2021 tour?

“I know Supergrass are from Oxford, but Cambridge? I don’t know that!”

WRONG. It’s Sports Team.

“My 17-year-old daughter loves them – they’re on her Spotify.”

7What is the child holding in the artwork to The Wannadies’ 2020 ‘Can’t Kill the Musikk’ single?

“A knife and a pike.”

CORRECT. ‘Can’t Kill the Musikk’ was The Wannadies first new music since 2002. Your originally split in 2009, and now you’re going on your first tour in 19 years. What prompted the reunion?

“For my 50th birthday a few years ago, I wanted to have a festival in Stockholm instead of a party, so it would take the focus away from me. It was friends playing a few songs each. I played one song with my first band, and then The Wannadies played two songs, and it was so much fun. The look in all our eyes was like the look in my mum’s eyes when I visited her with my daughter for the first time. We’ve spent so much of our lives together, and have so much love and respect for each other, made so much fantastic music, and we have to do this again. Now that everyone’s kids are turning 18/20/25, they’re out in the world and we have nothing to do. So you get a dog and start rehearsing with your old band again! [Laughs].”

Will the reformation tour lead to new music?

“Yes. There’s a song I’m working on now which is very sweet and The Go Betweens-y. It’s very emotional. I sing one or two lines and then I cry a bit, because the first verse is about Christina, the second is about Stefan [Schönfeldt, guitarist] who I formed the band with, and the third is about my daughter.”

When will we hear it?

“We have a Greatest Hits compilation coming out possibly to coincide with the Swedish or UK tour, and they’ll be a new song on it. From now on,  we’ll do a gig now and again, and record a new song or two. I don’t think we’ll ever release a new album again, though.”

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8In 1997, The Wannadies played Glastonbury. Who headlined your day?

“All I remember was playing around 1pm on the main stage. To demonstrate how early it was, I’d originally planned to be asleep on stage then have an alarm bell wake me up to start the gig! We couldn’t stay for the day, but was it Primal Scream or Björk?

WRONG. Radiohead.

“That would have been a good show to watch, but we were on the bus back to London.”

9What number did The Wannadies’ 1997 single ‘Hit’ reach in the UK charts?

“20.”

CORRECT.

“As a foreign band in the UK, knowing we were possibly the ninth or 10th act coming out of Sweden to ever reach the Top 20 in the UK was an indicator of hard it is and a pat on the back. But the most important thing to us is the emotion your songs create in the listeners. Knowing that 30 years later, I’m still getting emails saying: ‘Hey, we’re getting married in Dublin in June and ‘You and Me Song’ is our first dance’ is lovely.”

Well, ‘You and Me Song’ was the 17th most popular song for first dances at Irish weddings in 2021…

“Fantastic! It was unexpected to see that Prince William and Kate Middleton had it performed at their wedding reception by Ellie Goulding in 2011. That was pretty crazy!”

10Before The Wannadies, you were a gravedigger. Which of the following musicians were also gravediggers: Joe Strummer, Ozzy Osbourne, Rod Stewart, Morrissey?

“I know Joe Strummer was. Was Rod Stewart one also?”

CORRECT. Any good grave-digging anecdotes?

“Our bassist Freddie [Schönfeldt] was also a grave digger, and the only story I have is a horrible one involving burying a couple of people in the wrong place, having to dig them back up, and it being so terrible there was puking in the graves. But it’s too awful to go into!”

The verdict: 6.5/10

“That’s pretty good because I’m having brain failure from a drinking session last night. My mum’s brain has gone and I’m stuck with my dad’s brain and that’s no good!”

The Wannadies tour the UK and Ireland from October 16. For full live dates see here

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