Myth of Rock and Antonis Mantzavinos had the opportunity to talk with Robert Säll (keyboards, guitars) from W.E.T. and Work of Art, two very well distinguished bands from Sweden, on their sound and genre. W.E.T. has recently released a great album, "Retransmission", so we started our conversation with this release, then we referred to lots of other interesting topics!
First of all, how are you doing, in regard to Covid-19? Health and personal wise. Has all this situation since last year affected you in writing music, playing music and rehearsing?
Yeah, it has pretty much prevented me for doing any of that. Just recently I’ve started to write a little bit again, but to be honest, I didn’t realize I’ve missed it until I started doing it again. But it feels great to be writing again. I very much need that creative outlet, to feel content.
Having liked a lot the latest W.E.T album “Retransmission”, I would like to focus on that one. Give us some information, how and when it was recorded, about the writing process, any challenges or interesting trivia you would like to share, your personal involvement on this album, etc.
Most of the music was recorded in Erik Mårtensson’s studio, while Jeff Scott Soto recorded his vocals at his home studio in Los Angeles. I did my parts in my home studio. I played the guitar solos for “What About Love” and “One Final Kiss”. As for writing any music for this album, the only thing I wrote was the chorus for “One Final Kiss”, the rest was all Erik’s writing. Erik is the master chef, when it comes to W.E.T., so he deserves all the credits. I was more involved with the first two albums, but, over the years, it has become harder and harder for me to find time to work on the W.E.T. albums. Also, W.E.T. has become synonymous with Erik’s style of writing and no one does it better than Erik himself, so I haven’t really felt the need to contribute to the writing process on the latter two albums. The more I stay out of it, the better, haha!
This band has been created from other three different bands, of which I am a fan as well. How did this idea started from the beginning to form W.E.T. and what was your first memories forming W.E.T.? I would be really interested to know a bit of history, and how also the great Marcel Jacob was involved, few months before leaving us. How difficult is it to get connected between all you in Sweden and Jeff in the US?
Both Erik and I were approached separately by Frontiers Records about writing five-six songs for a new project featuring Jeff Scott Soto on vocals. Then, when Erik was asked to produce the album, we ditched the idea of writing separately and wrote seven songs together instead. Songs that were more in the style of the songs Erik already had written for the project. When Jeff Scott Soto heard the songs, he realized we were on to something good and we all agreed that we wanted to turn this project into a real band. Marcel Jacob, may he rest in peace, was the guy that felt like the natural choice for the bass position, once we decided W.E.T. could become a real band. Now this was, after the record was completed and we started to think of a possible line-up for live gigs. Unfortunately, Marcel choose another destiny. But I will always cherish the memory of hanging out with Jeff and Marcel during the time we shot the videos. Remember that we were massive fans of theirs and we got to spend time listening to their old “war stories” from days gone by. We were like kids on Christmas Eve! As far as being on different continents, it’s not a problem really. I mean, Erik has moved away from Stockholm so it’s not much different communicating with Jeff than it is with Erik, it’s emails and phone calls but that works just fine for us. However, it unfortunately means that I can’t really be involved in the writing process like I used to, because that works absolutely best when you are together in the same room. The two first records were really about me and Erik getting together in his studio with two acoustic guitars and flesh out the songs for the albums.
Back to the new album, it kicks off with the majestic ‘Big Boys Don’t Cry’, but the whole album is my favorite of the band, only behind the first self-titled. It seems that you guys are full of such wonderful ideas and on every album, you surpass yourselves, keep on evolving, keep on having always a fresh eye on the music you create. I would like your comment on that.
Again, all credit should go to Erik as he basically wrote this album himself!
Jeff has done a fantastic job in all choruses and overall vocals, the rhythm section is solid as ever, the guitar solos and leads are incredible, the whole bonding of W.E.T. shows a full-time band, a band playing for maybe 20-25 years, and not a group which gathers up every 2-3 years to record and play a few live shows. What’s your take on this one, and how you all manage to be so consistent, so well bonded with each other?
I really don’t know, but I’m glad you feel this way. Of course, it has to do with the fact that Erik, Magnus Henriksson (guitar) and Robban Bäck (drums) have played together in Eclipse, so they know each other very well. And I think Jeff felt right at home as the style of W.E.T. is very much inspired by bands like Talisman etc., in other words, very familiar territory for Jeff. For me it wasn’t difficult to bond with the other guys as me, Magnus and Erik went to school together for a year in 1998 and have been friends ever since. So, when the W.E.T. project came about, it just felt like the perfect opportunity to finally do something together, which was something Erik and I had talked about for years.
You play keyboards, you play guitar in Work of Art, you are a person with lots of music talent of course and many influences. Which instrument you enjoy playing more and why?
No, I don’t really play keyboards. For me it’s more about pressing down the right keys at the right time. Again, the original idea behind W.E.T. was for me to be involved mainly as a songwriter. It was only, when we started to talk about live shows that I got the role as the “keyboard player”. Out of the three guitar players in W.E.T., I was the one who at least knew how to turn on a keyboard, haha! And the irony of this is that I represent the W in W.E.T., in other words “Work of Art”, but I am by far the least skilled keyboard player in Work of Art. So those guys are having a good laugh at the fact that I’ve become the keyboard player for W.E.T. But having said all this, the keyboard parts for W.E.T. are not more difficult than that I can pull them off live.
Work of Art has already released four great albums, the first one being my personal favorite, but all of them hold fantastic quality and musicianship. It was formed in the ‘90s if I am not mistaken, tell us a bit of the history of the band, how did you create it, its origins and trip through the years and what is the vision you have with that.
I met Herman Furin (drums) in high school in 1992. We realized that we both shared the love for AOR and started to record demos together. He had a little studio at home and we both had lot of songs already written when we met, so we had a lot of material to work on right away. Herman knew Lars Säfsund, as they had grown up in the same area and invited him to play keyboards. Long story short, a couple of years later, Lars switched from playing keyboard to singing, which was perfect for us, as we couldn’t find a singer who could sing this type of music. However, the style of the early Work of Art material was more in a Bon Jovi, Europe, Whitesnake style and Lars wasn’t really into that, so by 1996 we laid the band on ice. Then a couple of years later I presented a couple of new songs to Lars and Herman that was more in the direction Lars liked, so we decided to give it another go. Then some ten years passed before we stopped talking about doing something with those songs and actually went ahead and recorded them. Those recordings found their way to Frontiers Records, which signed us right away.
I must say that I would not strictly characterize Work of Art as a purely AOR band, in a ‘sterile’ way, as I recognize many different influences and filters in all albums. Actually, I never liked those strict ‘labels’ for bands. Which bands, artists have been your influences, since you were growing up? And also, apart from foreign influences, I would be interested to ask who are the Swedish artists that you have listened to the most, since you were a kid/teenager and you would like to share with us.
I’ve always been “all over the place” when it comes to influences and styles, but if I had to boil it down to bands that has influenced me the most for the Work of Art style, it’s Toto, Chicago and Saga. And a Swedish band that has had a huge influence on our sound, in particular on Lars vocals and his arrangement ideas for backing vocals, is a Swedish duo called Big Money. The love for their debut record was one of the first things we realized we had in common, when we first met in the early nineties. It was produced by Michael B. Tretow, who was ABBA’s producer and kind of like “the fifth” ABBA member.
It should be exciting to know, if there is a new Work of Art album to be released soon, even though “Exhibits” came a couple of years ago. Are you currently working or rehearsing on new material?
No, there are no Work of Art plans at the moment. I notice that the interest in the band has become less and less with every new album, so the idea of making another Work of Art album is not on my horizon, to be honest. We have reached a point where I feel it’s just not worth the effort anymore.
If you had to choose one highlight moment for each one of your bands so far, what would you choose?
With Work of art, the highlight was, when we got to support Toto on the Swedish dates in 2012. That’s something I will always remember with a big smile on my face. With W.E.T., it is probably the first live show we did at Firefest. One of the headliners of the festival pulled out and we got asked with a very short notice, but somehow, and with only like one rehearsal, we pulled it off and it was a great feeling being on stage together and meeting all the fans.
If I am not mistaken, you work as a music teacher in a culture school. What are the challenges a music teacher is facing and how has that helped you with being a musician? And also, how easy is it to combine a full-time job with touring, rehearsing, etc.?
The greatest challenge being a guitar teacher these days is that the guitar as an instrument has become very much out of fashion. There will always be some rock guys around, but those students are becoming more and more rare. It’s sad really. But the really good thing about my job is that it’s very flexible, if something comes up, I can always move around the lessons so I can free time, when I need. And as long as it stays that way, it’s perfect.
Last but not least, what do currently listen to? Any new band/album? Do you prefer listening to music through your stereo, or do you prefer the more digital platforms more (e.g. Spotify).
I don’t really listen to new stuff. The older I get, the more I tend to go back and listen to older music. I mostly listen to 70s stuff these days. I have a Brennan B2 CD player. It is a CD player with a hard drive, wi-fi and Bluetooth connections etc. And I’ve ripped my whole CD collection, some 2500+ CDs, to its hard drive, so now I can browse through my entire collection via my computer or iPhone, very convenient.
Thank you very much Robert for your time, I really appreciate this! Cheers, till next time!
Thank you as well, take care!