September 18, 2022

With the UK currently in mourning following the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the wall-to-wall coverage, it feels like there can be no other shocks or surprises that will penetrate that wall of sadness. How wrong I was. When the news of the death of David Andersson at the age of 47 filtered through on 14 September, it knocked me for six, I simply could not believe what I was reading. Human nature is what it is, and those natural questions will always be there. Why? How? David’s bands Soilwork and The Night Flight Orchestra both released statements with the former laying the blame at the door of “alcohol and mental illness” for the loss of David. Current Soilwork drummer Bastian Thusgaard and former drummer Dirk Verbeuren posted their own tributes stating that there was a “darkness” within David but pointing to the laughs and what an amazing person and colleague he was. Whether fans or industry, there is no right to know, there is a reason why there is a request for privacy. My heartfelt condolences to David’s family, friends and band mates because the sucker punch of David’s death on me will be a fraction of what they are feeling.

David Andersson

Only a month ago, Soilwork released their latest album Övergivenheten which was one of the 2022 albums that I was really looking forward to. Being a fan of a band and critically appraising their work can be strange and conflicting but there is some fun to be had in staying on the right side of the line and not being too much of a ‘fan boy’. I was playing the album for weeks before committing to putting any words down and publishing anything because there is a lot to dig into. The joy is the intense listening, taking in the details and diving into the song writing and talking about those that create it. Övergivenheten has major song writing contributions from David with plenty of songs where he is the sole writer and looking at some of those lyrics now and in context makes for tough reading.

The 1990s was a weird time for heavy music. There will be some writers that will have you believe that it was the worst of times and no doubt as a 1980s teenager, I will have painted a similar picture when writing about music. On reflection, rock and metal needed a kick in the ass, a change was required, and the 1990s certainly ushered in that. When Soilwork arrived in 1998 with Steelbath Suicide, I was instantly hooked, and I have been a fan ever since. David did not join Soilwork officially until 2012 but his presence brought song writing heft to the band. When former guitarist Peter Wichers left, there were many that said that the loss was huge and Soilwork wanted to prove otherwise. David Andersson arrived, and the band goes to town and delivers a double album, the incredible Living Infinite. Of course, it was not just David but having that additional song writing talent proved itself. To me David was not a “showy” guitarist, he was not Eddie Van Halen or any of the others that we emulated as kids or when we first picked up a guitar. Tearing off a solo at the front of a stage in front of adoring and outstretched hands is ok but there needs to be a song behind it. And that is what David brought – an impressive guitarist but with a song at heart. And not in one style, either. There was The Night Flight Orchestra with two members of Soilwork indulging in their love of AOR and creating a band that was impossible to categorise but one that has been welcomed into the metal community. To see The Night Flight Orchestra become a band in their own right and not just a mere “supergroup” or “side project” and to see these guys indulge and love what they do has always be a joy to witness. I know that David has not been a touring member of either band for a while and as much as we wanted to see The Night Flight Orchestra’s set close the Bloodstock Festival in the Sophie tent, even a run from Lamb Of God on the main stage would be met with not a chance of getting inside the tent. And apparently, Night Flight brought the house down. There is some poignancy to that and the fact that David’s music closed a festival on such a high.

I had both the honour and pleasure to speak to David as he and the other members of The Night Flight Orchestra prepared to take the stage for their debut UK performance at London’s Camden Underworld venue. David was warm and funny and only happy to touch upon his early life and interest in music. Nothing was laboured and no question went unanswered; nothing was too much trouble. I recall describing The Night Flight Orchestra’s music to David as driving in a sports car with the wind whistling through the hair and this had David cracking out with laughter. I was hardly trying to get in the head of an artist but listening to their music, it was a visual image that jumped into my mind when hearing his band. I actually still stand by that description, even more so that it made David laugh.

Below is a reproduction of that interview which appeared in Rock Society magazine in 2019.

Rest In Peace, David Andersson. Your music and magic will live on.

The Night Flight Orchestra (David Andersson second left) Photo: Stephansdotter

(Not So) Sad State Of Affairs

With two brilliant albums in Amber Galactic and 2018’s Sometimes The World Ain’t Enough, Sweden’s The Night Flight Orchestra did more than just dip their collective toes into classic rock. With band members from across the heavier end of metal, guitarist David Andersson tells Rock Society how the band got together, their inspiration and how that their time is now.

David Andersson is in a good mood. At the point of RS talking to the guitarist, his band, The Night Flight Orchestra were a few hours from taking the stage for their first ever UK show at London’s Underworld venue in Camden. “It’s going to be a magical evening,” he says excitedly. For a band that has accolades pouring in and glowing reviews, it has taken a while to get here. “Yeah, we’ve not done that much touring and it’s been mainly in mainland Europe,” David reflects. “People seem to like us, especially in Germany but my feeling is that we can conquer the UK. What’s not to love?”

The Night Flight Orchestra is a breath of fresh air. It is not the first time that metal musicians have taken on a project that is the complete opposite of their ‘day job’ bands, although it is a new one where members of melodic death metal bands such as Soilwork and Arch Enemy decide to head off into distinct classic rock territory with a mixture of AOR and prog. Despite The Night Flight Orchestra’s lack of major touring, this is no mere side project, with four albums under their belt since 2012 – the latest two being in the space of a year – The Night Flight Orchestra is prolific in the song writing stakes, juggling their main projects at the same time and with absolutely no loss of quality of either.

The band – guitarist David Andersson, vocalist Bjӧrn Strid, bassist Sharlee D’Angelo, Richard Larsson on keys, drummer Jonas Källsbäck and Sebastian Forlund on guitar/congas and percussion officially began life in 2007 in Helsingborg, Sweden. “It actually started out in 2006,” recalls David. “I did my first US tour with Soilwork as a session guitarist but before that tour, I didn’t really know any of the guys. It turned out that me and Bjӧrn both liked classic rock, we were musical soul mates and we realised that someday we had to start our own classic rock band. It took us a couple of years to find the right people because we needed to have strong characters on every front and finally, we got the line up together and began rehearsing in 2009. We had the sound that we wanted, and it sounds corny but there are some revelatory moments in life as in ‘oh, this is what we should be doing” and we just kept going. Everyone knew what they wanted,” says David. “All of us are either my old friends or Bjӧrn’s old friends and now we’re all friends but back then we knew other people and we all believed that this might be something really special, we played for only one minute and it all fell into place. Maybe it was just lucky, I guess.”

Soilwork (David Andersson second left) Photo: Stephansdotter Photography

Those ‘day job’ bands Soilwork who release their stunning new album Verkligheten this month – and Arch Enemy are seriously major players in the melodic death metal world with globetrotting tours and fervent fan bases. It is interesting that trip back into Soilwork’s early albums and there is no obvious hint at classic rock influences at all where there is on their latest album but clearly David and Bjӧrn have strong ties to the classic side of rock music. “I have a very diverse musical taste,” explains David. “I started developing an interest in music quite early at maybe 5 or 6 years old I started collecting records and then there was my mom’s record collection, The Beatles, The Stones and The Kinks, all of that classic music. I discovered hard rock through Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, that is my musical foundation and as long as it has a good melody.” David practically predicts the next part of the question which is whether people who appreciate Soilwork may not appreciate Night Flight and vice versa. “My personal view when it comes to music is that if you are not able to appreciate a specific genre then this is your fault, it’s not the genre’s fault,” says David.  “My tastes are different but are not complicated. I had a very happy jazz fusion stage when I was 17 and 18 and I went to music college and studied classical music. I love all kinds of music and it is very liberating being in a band like Night Flight Orchestra because of being able to do whatever we want to do. We’re all very diverse musicians from different backgrounds and we’re not stopping at any genre. I write all of the material, music and lyrics and as long as it’s a good song, I see myself as a songwriter who happens to be the guitarist and not the other way around. A good song with strong melodies and something special about the lyrics is all that I need.” David pauses and then laughs down the line. “I think that we do achieve that occasionally.”

It is difficult to use the word ‘frustrating’ positively but there is one aspect of NFO that is and that is in how to describe the band to others, classic rock/AOR/prog hybrid does not quite cut it, there is this inert need to use a band as an anchor “That’s actually a great compliment,” exclaims David, “that’s what we’re trying to do. At the end of the day, we want to create something that hasn’t existed before. Of course, you can talk about all of these influences, and they are there but we’re reassembling them into something new. Who says that you can’t have Soilwork and a Led Zeppelin fusion at the same time?” Fair point but it is quite common to see ‘for fans of’ and that will give someone an idea. In a way this is what makes The Night Flight Orchestra so much fun, and David finds it quite hysterical that the RS review of the latest album described it as a record where it could be imagine driving down highways in an open top car with the wind whipping up the hair, the sonics of NFO gave that feeling but it was a tip of the tongue moment as to who this band sounded like. So, the question is are there any really strong influences? “Yes, there are,” says David. “When I write songs, it’s more of what I can’t do, it needs to have that strong melody and interesting harmonies and it has to have certain melancholic undercurrents, it can’t be too happy. The best Abba songs, they sing about love and happiness, but you know that they are miserable at the same time [laughs], crying at the discotheque. We take that melancholic thing which I think is quite unique so even if we try and if we to write a classic AOR song, it will still have that Swedish melancholic thing so driving down the highway with the love of your life beside you and the wind in your hair but still you know that it’s going to end.” Touché, sir.

The Night Flight Orchestra released their more recent albums Amber Galactic and Sometimes The World Ain’t Enough in 2017 and 2018 respectively and considering the band’s other commitments, that is quite a work rate. “Since the last record, it’s become serious I guess,” explains David. “We’ve had some commercial success; this means so much to us. I have a day job as a doctor back home and I work in a hospital, so I have quite a busy life, but my recreation is sitting at home with no-one around with my guitar and just writing songs. That’s what I do to relax, and I am constantly writing, we have other songwriters in the band, so we have a huge pile of material just waiting to be recorded. When we have a chance to have a few days or a week to get together in a session we do it because we all have a great time hanging out, the recording sessions are always fun, we produced everything ourselves and it’s a very organic affair. It’s not like we are in the studio 2 months to do an album, it’s a continuous process and we always have new songs, it’s ongoing, we never stop and as long as it’s fun, we will continue.”

In November 2018, the band’s label Nuclear Blast reissued the band’s first two albums Internal Affairs and Skyline Whispers originally released in 2012 and 2015 respectively on Coroner Records. How does it feel to compare those albums to your most recent material? “It was a whole new experience for us,” says David. “We weren’t sure what we were capable of, and I suppose that we were too afraid to stray away from the rock format, so I love that first album, it has some great songs. I think that with Skyline Whispers is where we noticed that we can branch out more and it’s a constant evolution. I’m still really proud of those albums and songs and we would not be where we are now without them. After Skyline Nuclear Blast reached out and offered a deal and it’s like ‘ok, this is actually working.’ Like you said before, we are a hard band to categorise and at the beginning, that was a blessing and a curse because labels say ‘it’s great’ but [they] don’t know how to market it, this strange AOR hybrid. At the same time, we’ve emerged at the right time because now people fully appreciate the whole blend of retro futuristic thing and it’s fantastic. Now, we’re performing it across Europe, and we have metalheads dancing.” There is a burst of laughter on both sides of the telephone line. “When we did our first real festival show in Germany, we had people in [Polish death metal band] Behemoth shirts dancing disco and crying [laughs]. I mean, I am not religious, but I almost became religious when I saw that!”

With The Night Flight Orchestra being nominated for a Swedish Grammy, things are looking up for a band with a retrospective glance musically but are clearly looking forward.

The Night Flight is ready for take off, ladies and gentlemen; please take your seats, because it will be the smoothest of rides…