An Interview with Simon Axelsson of Oh Hiroshima
Oh Hiroshima is a post-rock group hailing from Kristinehamn, Sweden. Their newest, In Silence We Yearn, is their second album and was released on Fluttery Records in 2016. Simon Axelsson, Oh Hiroshima‘s bass player, graciously agreed to an interview with Somewherecold. He answers questions on the formation of the band, the recording of In Silence We Yearn, and a bit on what it is to be human.
Hello Simon. Could you please introduce yourself to our readers and tell us what you do in the band?
Hello there, readers! My name is Simon Axelsson, and I play the electric bass guitar in Oh Hiroshima.
How did Oh Hiroshima form?
It started as a sort of a duo, a musical project, between Jakob and Leif in 2007. One day they bonded over mutual musical favorites and such in school, and must have really hit it off. So they started making some music together, and recorded a couple of EP’s themselves with some help from friends in the neighborhood. It stayed that way until around 2011 when Oskar and myself joined the band, and Oh Hiroshima had a complete line-up for the first time. Since then it has been the four of us. Four kinds of different individuals you could say that just really enjoy making music together.
How did you get your start making music? What inspires you to do it?
I’ve been around music all my life, but I really got into it in my early teenage years. I had some older friends who kickstarted my newfound interest and lent me hundreds of records. I’ve always thought it was something really special about experiencing live music and took almost any chance I could to go see a band play live. I was also lucky enough to be surrounded with people who picked up an instrument and just wanted to make stuff.
I’m pretty sure I could get awfully pretentious here when describing what inspires me to make music. I do believe though that one of the main things about what is means to be a human being is to create and to create together. And for some reason, music is my tool of choice when it comes to being creative. Music is a very direct way to express yourself. And it’s not only direct, it can hit you incredibly deep, right to the core. For me, it’s almost like nothing else, in the way it is able to evoke feelings. Truly good music, you don’t just listen to. It makes you move and makes you imagine, and it makes you want to make something yourself because it has helped you envision something else that may or may not be realized yet. Music has surely been the catalyst and the fuel for a great deal of things in my life.
So, what is the music scene like there in Sweden? Is there a larger Post-Rock movement there or are you unique among your musical colleagues?
Sadly, it’s not. But we’re not unique nor alone either. There are a couple of really great bands from here! Some of them you may have already heard of, like pg.lost, Immanu El and EF. Or maybe you haven’t, then you have some great moments ahead!
Can you talk about how you go about songwriting and the recording process as a band? How have these processes changed or stayed the same between Resistance is Futile and In Silence We Yearn?
This one is kind of tricky for me to answer, since I joined right after the other guys recorded and released Resistance is Futile. But it was certainly very different this time around since we now have the four of us who can get together in a practice space and just hash out some new ideas and explore some new territories. When it’s just the two of you, and both happen to play the guitar, you get kind of restricted pretty fast. We also put more time into making In Silence We Yearn, mostly because we wanted to make sure we’ve made the songs into the best version they could be at the time.
What attracts you to certain sounds and sonics in your music? How do you go about picking and choosing tones for particular moments in your compositions?
I’m all about the grit, haha. I love it when I get to make riffs and parts that are rhythmically oriented, and pretty dirty. Like the song ”Ruach” from ISWY, it’s a favorite of mine to play live. I’m also very fond of ”Drones” because, if you listen closely, I get to really play around the beat with my parts and serve more like a melodic instrument in the first half. But in the end, it’s all about making sure that you’re serving the song. Like ”Ruach”, again, that song demands something really rough and stern from my part. So I make sure that I hit the strings in a fitting way. But on a song like ”Aria”, I have to take a few steps back, and dial it all way down for most of the time. It’s more about the approach and the attack (or the lack thereof), than dialing the exact tone. At least that’s what it’s like for me. I’ve played in a few bands before I joined Oh Hiroshima, but we (I) didn’t put to much thought into it when it came to recording. It was more like ”Yeah, that sounds like a bass, let’s go.”
In Silence We Yearn is this brilliantly cohesive piece of work. Would you talk a bit about the theme of the album and why the track order is what it is on the album?
Thank you so much for your kind words, we really appreciate that you’ve taken your time to get into this record!
At face value, with a couple of songs, we felt like they had their place cut out for them from the start. Like ”Drones”, it’s not really a leap to say that it sounds like an album closer. It really breaks down at the end. It’s kind of the same with ”Ellipse”, we felt like that track would serve really well as an album opener, since it showcase a lot of what is to be expected of the rest of the record, and it does that in just a few minutes.
I can say this about the composition though, that with RIF, the idea was to compose the songs together and build almost like a long, continuous song. With ISWY on the other hand, we wanted to make each song stand for themselves almost and really have their own character. All while still being cohesive enough to make up an album.
Lyrically on ISWY, the songs talks a lot about not being sure what to make of the world and all that is going on at the moment, both collectively and individually. We live in a totally different world today than for, let’s say, just hundred years ago, in that regard that we’re connected to the whole world at once. And it can almost feel like all that we ever hear about the world is that it’s going downhill, and fast. But with ISWY, we want to say that we believe that there’s still something good left in the world, and that it’s worth striving for. So, we yearn. In silence. Well not really, it’s a pretty loud record at times.
I like to ask bands about specific tracks on albums to get a little more in-depth on the recording and writing process as well as inspiration or particular songs. Can you talk a bit about writing and recording “Ellipse”, which has this incredible guitar tone in it, as well as “Aria”, which is a very different sort of track?
I vividly remember the night when we wrote the crescendo for Ellipse. It was really a spur of the moment kind of thing, and we just looped that part forever it seemed. We also got really excited about making that into a really short but sweet song. Especially it being some kind of a post rock song. Sorry to say, it has been a while since we wrote that song, so I don’t really remember much more. I can say this about the guitar tone though, that we just wanted it to sound really dreamy and airy. We’re happy if that came across!
Aria was an idea that Jakob had carried with him for quite some time. To be honest, I was kind of unsure about that song at first (almost reluctant), since I thought it stood out quite a lot from the other songs that would come to make up ISWY. But now it’s obviously clear that I was in the wrong there since I think it really found its place on the record. Jakob has a truly beautiful mind. And a big shout out to Ellen Hemström for her magnificent contribution to both ”Aria” and ”Holding Rivers”! They wouldn’t be half as good without her.
For our gearheads, can you talk about which equipment you use both while in the studio and while playing live?
Sorry to disappoint anyone out there, but none of us are really that into gear. Just as long it’s not broken, and preferably with a new set of strings, we´re fine! Both of our guitarist play Telecasters though. They also both prefer VOX AC15, or any amp in that spectrum. Regarding effect pedals, it’s pretty straight-forward stuff, like overdrive, reverb, tremolo, and of course delay. Our drummer, Oskar, has a very simple set up as well. Nothing you haven’t seen.
As for myself, I use a P-bass, all black with a maple neck. The neck resembles a ’77 (I think), i.e. just a tad slimmer than a usual P-bass neck. I only really use one pedal, which I wholeheartedly enjoy, and it’s a Darkglass BK-3 overdrive pedal. It’s easily the best bass overdrive I’ve ever played with, it has an incredible amount of grit, without losing any low end (Hey Darkglass, please sponsor me). And that’s as gear head’y we’ll get!
A short disclaimer to whom it may concern, if you’re interested in gear, that’s great! Please continue exploring.
What artists influence you as a musician? This could be musical, written, or visual art.
I listen to a lot of different styles of music, and that’s the way it’s always been, but if I have to pick one band or artist in particular I have to mention Thrice. They manage to combine great songwriting with both clever and thought-provoking lyrics, and they just keep on exploring new territories with each new release. They’ve done so many different styles through the years, without losing what makes them Thrice. Maybe I could give the readers a recommendation? If so, I’d encourage you to listen to the song ”The Long Defeat” from their latest album, To Be Everywhere Is To Be Nowhere. It’s a great song, that’s all.
What’s next for Oh Hiroshima? Any new recordings coming? A tour?
We all have quite a lot of other responsibilities, like most people. We’re working in a slow but steady pace. But we surely won’t take four years to make the next record, like it did between the last two! We’ve been incredibly encouraged by the great reception we´ve had for ISWY so far, and we´re eager to get back in there and make some new music. To get to work on new ideas is my favorite part about playing with these guys.
But we may have some exciting news coming up, it looks like we´re getting to go to Russia this December for a couple of shows! That’ll be a whole new experience for us.
Any other comments for our readers?
Be kind, and make stuff.
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