Interview: Erik Hassle – Singer and Songwriter

Posted: November 2, 2009 in interview, music
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Erik Hassle

Date of Interview: 11/02/2009

© 2009 Clayton Perry

Although Erik Hassle hails from the small town of Katrineholm, Sweden, his music has slowly crept into virtually every corner of the globe.  Like ABBA, who rose to fame fifteen years before Hassle’s birth, Erik is determined to cement Sweden’s place on the musical map.

In August 2009, Erik Hassle released his debut album in Sweden under the Roxy Recordings imprint.  And following the success of “Hurtful,” he landed an international recording contract with Island Records and Universal Republic, which will allow him to repackage Hassle in 2010 for international audiences.  The re-release will be entitled Pieces.

Upon review of Pieces, Erik Hassle managed to squeeze some time out of his busy schedule and settle down for an interview with Clayton Perry — reflecting on his mother’s influence, the reason behind Hassle’s title change, and his transition from a drummer into a singer.

Clayton Perry: I read a feature in the The Sunday Times that stated that your mother was a comic actress, as well as an amateur singer. What kind of early influences helped prepare you for life in the entertainment industry?

Erik Hassle: Well, both my mom and dad were big influences. We moved to the countryside in Sweden. Included in the house that we bought was another house in the middle of the gardens which they made into a venue, basically. They started to invite other comedians, bands and musicians. Every weekend, every Friday and Saturday night during the summer, they invited the whole district to come to the house. There was almost always someone visiting my family who worked with music. So I started to perform myself in that venue in our gardens. So yes, they’ve been a big influence.

Clayton Perry: I also read that you picked up your first drum stick at the age of five. What made you gravitate towards the drums? At what point did you move from the drums to singing?

Erik Hassle: I always wanted to play drums. My mom had me playing the violin when I was three years old. I didn’t think that was much fun. I had a Russian violin teacher. I could barely understand her when she spoke. All I wanted to do was to hit the drums. I kept on playing violin for a while, and then I said, “Mom, please let me play drums.” So I got to play drums.

Clayton Perry: At what point did you make the transition from being a drummer into a singer?

Erik Hassle: When I applied to high school I changed over to singing. I started a band with some friends in the 7th grade, and my best friend was playing the drums, as well, and he was just better than me, so I took the vocals.

Clayton Perry: Growing up, you were heavily influenced by the vocals of Wilson Pickett.  Considering your age and location, I’m curious how you become acquainted with his work.

Erik Hassle: My friend, who played the drums as well, his dad had a blues band and they had their rehearsal studio in their house. My friend and I used to hang out there all the time. One day we found a box of LPs and in that box we found Wilson Pickett’s vinyls. So we just started to listen to them and wanted to play the same stuff.

Clayton Perry: Which song from his catalogue stayed in constant rotation?

Erik Hassle: Well, I have covered “I’m in Love,” which I think is one of his best songs. But I really like this song called “Danger Zone” as well.

Clayton Perry: This past year, you released your debut album in Sweden.  And very recently you signed an international recording contract with Universal Island Records, after the international success of “Hurtful.” As you look back on the early years, what reflections do you have about the long road to success?

Erik Hassle: I realized quite early that patience would be a very important thing for me. I had my parents, of course, wondering whether I was going to survive or die because I didn’t have any money and I kept on just eating their food basically. They were always extremely supportive but also worried what direction it would take because it’s so hard these days in the music business. I guess it’s just about risk-taking. For me, I wanted to take that risk and I wanted it to take a long time, as well, because I was so young. I knew that it would be a long road of development for me before I would feel ready to release anything.  I didn’t have any problem with being patient, except that I didn’t have any money at all. I was discovered in my college by the person who is my manager now. He has a Swedish label called Artist Company Ten. It’s a very small label, so it’s a very close-knit business. These are the guys that I started to work with, and I trusted them with my whole life. So, I felt very safe being in the studio and taking that risk, as well.

Clayton Perry: Although the Swedish version of your album was entitled Hassle, when it’s released in America it will be titled Pieces. What’s the inspiration behind the title change?

Erik Hassle: We didn’t believe it was right for release in the U.K. and in the U.S. I have a song on the album called “Love Me to Pieces,” and from that I took the word “pieces.” It felt like a good name for the album and the whole process of the album.

Clayton Perry: Gotcha.  Based off of “Hurtful,” I had a crazy idea running through my mind, like a broken heart smashed into a thousand pieces! [laughing] Give me some insight into “Love Me to Pieces.”

Erik Hassle: It’s a song about being together with someone where the entire relationship has become as cold as ice. It’s about being together with someone, stuck in a relationship, when in fact you should let it all go and move on because it’s not giving you any positive energy.

Clayton Perry: Several of your songs deal with love and relationships. What kind of advice would you give to anyone that’s currently in a relationship?

Erik Hassle: Stay in relationships that make you happy. I don’t personally have time to do that at the moment. I’m working so much. I don’t have time for any girls. My advice would be to work less and have time for girls.

Clayton Perry: Most of the songs on your debut [Hassle/Pieces] were recorded between the ages of seventeen and twenty. How did the album evolve over time? Which songs are the oldest? Which songs are the newest?

Erik Hassle: The whole process has taken a long time, as you said. I started out in Stockholm when I was seventeen. I met three guys that I became friends with and we started out by writing a song together. After we wrote the song and recorded it, we felt that it might be something. We instantly took a liking to one another. I continued with school, but also dropped into the studio sometimes to do some more collaborations with these guys. I graduated from school that summer. I immediately dropped my day job as a waiter and basically moved into the studio. We started to write many songs together and become good friends. The album was the product of discussions we had about life and love and having your heart broken. I think the first song we wrote together is a song called “Back to Bed.” The second song we wrote together was my first released single – which is now becoming a single in the US and UK – called “Hurtful.” Because we didn’t sign with any label until about six months later, we wrote very sporadically. We didn’t have a plan. It took a while before we decided to sign a contract and release the single. The album has been finished for a year, so I’m not really sure about which songs are new and which ones are old. It was such a long process. I know that “Don’t Bring Flowers” was written quite late in the process – my contemporary single in Sweden, right now, and my first setup single over here.

Clayton Perry: I would like to talk about “Hurtful,” for a second, which is the first single over here in the U.S. One day, to my surprise, I stumbled across two videos for the song: one that was recorded in 2008, and then a newer version. What was the decision-making process behind the re-shoot?

Erik Hassle: Did you see the one with me and girls? [laughing]

Clayton Perry: Yes. I saw that one last. The first one I saw, you were in a studio sitting in a chair. The second had you in a bed with a variety of girls.

Erik Hassle: There’s a third video as well! [laughing] I made three videos for that song, actually. The first one was the one with the girls – which turned out looking like an American Apparel ad. That was supposed to be my official video for “Hurtful” in Sweden, and it was, for a long time. But it was blocked on YouTube and banned on MTV because it showed too much skin. We had to make a new video that could be shown during the daytime. I’ve now made a new video for the UK and the US release of the song. Honestly, we weren’t 100 percent satisfied with the first video – that’s why we had to redo it, but also because it was banned from YouTube. That’s a big channel for people to see me, and it would be bad if they couldn’t see my video.

Clayton Perry: Well, that’s the beauty of the Internet. Even though certain outlets blocked the video, it is still possible to showcase your work through alternative channels. There are very few Swedish singers and songwriters that have made it on the international scene. How does it feel to be mentioned in the same sentence as ABBA? That must be mind-blowing to a certain degree.

Erik Hassle: Yeah, it is. It is, for sure. I’m not really sure how to tackle that stuff. Right now, I’ve moved to London, and I have the opportunity to do what I love and to love it. I’m trying to do as much stuff as possible and just enjoy this time of my life. We’ll see if it’s going to be comparable with ABBA in a while.

Clayton Perry: One thing you have on your side is the rock star look.  A few outlets have noted that you have the best pop star hair of recent times [laughing]. Your hair color is naturally red, of course, but is it consciously styled in a particular way?

Erik Hassle: No, that came very naturally [laughing]. When I was ten years old, I never thought that my hair could do anything good, basically. No one liked my hair back then, except for my old lady. All of a sudden, it was longer than it had ever been, and it was something that people recognized. And then it became something about me, with my hair. But it was a very natural thing. No way I’d cut it now! [laughing].

For more information on Erik Hassle, visit his official website: http://www.erikhassle.com/

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