Gustav Hjortsjö Interview
8th July 2020
Q: Gustav, you’re at home in Sweden; are you in lockdown?
GH: No we’ve never actually been in lockdown. We got really strict recommendations from the government.
Q: The town where you live, Växjö; how do you pronounce that?
GH: (laughs) It has an impossible to pronounce sound for English dudes. As a matter of fact, none of us actually live in Växjö anymore, we live outside it and I’m outside – outside, way out with no neighbours. The way I usually behave is becoming more socially accepted these days in that I usually stay at my place and not meet anybody.
Q: So your gigs in Japan last year, that was your first time out of Europe…
GH: Yes if you count Russia as Europe and I guess you do.
Q: …and you almost didn’t get in. We were all pacing up and down a bit at the airport. (The band did not get their visas finalized before they flew to Japan)
GH: Yeess…(laughs). It’s because we are stupid and naïve and lazy bastards who hardly do anything right without a tour manager. Everything gets confused, everyone else thinks everyone else did everything and nobody does anything. (laughs) but I was really happy and surprised by how well they handled it at the airport. They were so polite and they actually helped us getting into the country. They treated us very respectfully and I’m glad it wasn’t into Russia or the USA. Anyway, we learned our lesson and next time will handle it at the embassy in Sweden.
Q: So other than the efficiency of the airport staff, what were your impressions of Japan?
GH: I really liked the country and would really love to go back. It was a country full of contrasts in that the cities are filled with all this highly modern architecture and then if you just walk a few hundred metres or even a few metres off the main street, it was like being in a small village somehow with old temples – that was pretty cool. The people are so polite and respectful and calm but then really flipped out sometimes so all the time you have these two sides of everything and I really like that. It makes it interesting all the time.
Q: How were the gigs?
GH: It was good! It was pretty much the size of the gigs we are used to. We do bigger gigs in Europe of course but we also do small ones so it was a format that was comfortable for us. Next time we hope it will be a bit bigger with more people of course but for a first time in a new part of the world, it was just like home and it was great to meet fans on the other side of the globe.
Q: You got very good reviews. I have to confess I had never seen you live – not even a video – and I was very impressed how tight you were. No signs of jetlag or tiredness at all.
GH: Yeah I guess that’s one of our strengths. We can be upside down with everybody in different moods but the circumstances don’t bother us form the first second that we are on stage. Something just happens and the machine kicks in.
Q: It must help having three original members and coming up for twenty years together.
GH: Yeah I guess…me and Hampus and Dag.
Q: Before you got together, what did you listen to; what were your influences?
GH: I grew up with a lot of music at home. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and stuff like that and then as a kid I got into Europe and I was a really big Guns ‘n’ Roses fan when I was nine or ten years old. From there I got into the harder stuff, Pantera, Sepultura and then into a lot of Progressive Metal as a teenager and then it all came around to Classic Heavy Metal. You know, you take The Rolling Stones and Slayer and somewhere in the middle you’ve got Judas Priest. There was all the NWOBHM bands as well and a bit of Country and Blues.
Q: It was a jaw-dropping moment for me when you started playing the Angel Witch song Dr Phibes at the gig as I was in the audience with Dave Dufort who wrote it.
GH: (laughs) Yeah that was kind of jaw-dropping for me as well! It wasn’t planned in any way as we had no idea that he lived there let alone would be at the gig. That was a really nice coincidence and it was really good to meet him. It’s funny because we always wanted to do an instrumental part in the show where the singer can go backstage and have a drink and take a few deep breaths – or a few deep breaths through cigarettes which is what our singer does (laughs). So we were talking about what kind of style or piece that would be and we tried to write some instrumental stuff but we never really got it good and I think it was Hampus who was laying Dr Phibes to us saying ‘We should do something like this’ and I suggested we just forget the writing and play that part. So we just tried it and it has stuck with us.
Q: It’s also a great film. Are you a TV/film person or do you prefer books?
GH: I hardly ever read books. I wish I did but I can never concentrate so I’ve read almost no books in my entire life so more of a TV/film person but more than that, a Podcast person. I like podcasts because then you can do other stuff.
Q: We’re opposites. I read obsessively and I’ve probably only ever listened to two or three podcasts in my life. I just can’t get into them. Maybe I just listened to the wrong ones.
GH: Maybe. Sometimes you need two or three episodes before you get stuck; the same as a TV series.
Q: Yeah but my tolerance level isn’t that long. If I don’t like the first episode of a TV series, the second one I won’t bother with and that would be the same for podcasts. Let’s move on; Bullet have their own bar…
The Bullet bar, beer, vodka and mustard
Q: How did that come about?
GH: It’s part of another restaurant and a nightclub and they are run by Gustav our bass player. The bar that is now the Bullet bar is actually they original place he opened himself with his brothers and some friends. It was first a café that turned into a restaurant which got a bit bigger and became a fine-dining place. Then they bought another place there so there was the original restaurant and they had to do something with it so we made it a Rock bar. We used to have really cool Rock bars in Växjö when we were growing up but now there is no place, only dance places and restaurants and chain pubs which are the same everywhere so we wanted a little, charming place with personality; A place where you can go and talk and have a beer and listen to music. It’s a really narcissistic idea as well as a very unpretentious idea…it’s our brand and it says ‘Bullet’ everywhere but the vibe is very laid-back. We have friends coming over and playing records and it’s a place to chill or drink.
Q: How are the rest of the guys doing by the way?
GH: Gustav is working a lot as always with the restaurants and everything. I guess they’ve been hit a little bit by the coronavirus but they seem all right. I think they are even opening a new place next week. Dag is the one I meet the least, he’s working a lot and on vacation now but we’ll see each other a bit more after that. Hampus is the one that lives closest to me and Alex lives pretty close and we see each other sometimes. I live in the middle of them and Hampus is ten miles (sixteen kilometres) one way and Alex ten miles the other way. My place is really nice; it’s from 1887 or something and there are no neighbours. Let me see if I can show you…(Gustav then gives me a video tour of his house and garden .It is beautiful, rural and rustic and everything you would expect from a Swedish home).
Q: Let’s get back to Bullet. You’ve branched out into condiments as well; you have your own Bullet mustard.
GH: Yes and ketchup and some flavoured vodkas. We have our own beer as well.
Q: I’d like to try that.
GH: We didn’t bring the beer last time. I guess it’s hard to bring on aeroplane. (laughs)
Q: Well the next time you come, bring a bottle for me and I’ll put it in my Guest House. Stay a while longer as well.
GH: That would be awesome! I would really like to stay longer next time. Hampus and Gustav stayed a bit longer last time and next time I’ll do that as well.