January 9, 2023

Courtesy of our Spanish compadres at rockandrollarmy.com, this article and interview was again originally provided by Daniel From hell

The year 2007 dawned with the world recovering from the excitement of Märvel’s aptly named Unleashed! covers EP. A true trial was at hand. It was time for the band to record a proper, full-fledged album overflowing with original tracks. Like mad doctors, Märvel entered the Soulmine Recordings laboratory to create the electric monster that would be named Thunderblood Heart.

Another step forward in the musical evolution of the three amigos from Linköping, this album would find a wiser, more confident band, flexing the muscles of their songwriting capabilities and exploring new territories, taking references from anything that could contribute to make a good Märvel song (including taking a peek into the book of Scandinavian action rock) and experimenting with new song structures and ideas. Thunderblood Heart was a musical step beyond.

One look at the inlay of the record and you will discover the superhero card of ‘Thunderblood Heart’, a half Greek, half Norwegian deranged guy with an electric eel through his heart and who lives underwater. The title track of the album, however, deals with a completely different type of character. Read the interview below with the band to delve into the mysteries of the creation of the band’s lyrics.

Once more the album was recorded by Jörgen Wärnström and co-produced by Märvel and Otto Leary. But who was the mysterious character named Otto Leary? As of today, no records or photos exist. Man or myth? Human being or machine? It seems these questions will remain forever unanswered as this was the last job he (or she? or it?!) undertook with the band. Did he go underwater with the character that names the album? Or maybe his remains are buried in the foundations of Märvel’s secret headquarters, Solskensfabriken? The world will never know…

Thunderblood Heart, however, was the beginning of an artistic relationship that endures to this day, as this album carries cover art by Mats Engesten. This would be the first but not the last cover art to be done by Mats for Märvel.


Mats Engesten in disguise from an unfinished music video project!

Mats Engesten: I ran into old friend Patrik Jensen (The Haunted, Witchery) in town back in 2007. He asked me if I knew about Märvel, since he knew I did comic books. I didn´t at the time but Patrik pointed me in the direction of Märvel and their manager at the time, Björn “Papa Bear” Rallare. I contacted Björn and eventually we started working together with the band. 

 The cool thing about the Märvel covers is that I’ve kinda used a different technique on each cover! “Thunderblood Heart” is traditional comic book style, pencil and ink on paper, then colours in Photoshop. “Warhawks of War” is very soft pencils without inks and with “Guilty Pleasures” it was a combination of colour pencils and computer colours. The band and I discuss each cover together very much before we arrive at the finished art.

But, alas, the twilight of the superheroes was coming. John Steen, Ulrik Bostedt and Tony Samuelsson left behind the mantles of Vocalo, Animalizer and The Ambassador, evolving like rock’n’roll pokemons into the stage personas of The King, Speedo and The Vicar, by which the (still masked) trio are known to these days. Yes, the superheroic identities of the three amigos from Linköping rode into the sunset, but with “Thunderblood Heart” they did it with a bang, or more suitably, a ka-boom!

But despite this shedding of personalities, the Märvels have not forgotten their comic book (thunder)blood, and there is at least one man ready to take them back to that universe if required at some point.

Mats Engesten: Märvel has been featured as characters in my comic book “Blodstid” (see below) which was an online book I did with Papa Bear, some ten years ago! A full comic book of the band would be cool! However, I think the guys have moved on from the superhero image they had in the beginning.

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After a release party attended by the fathers of Scandinavian action rock, The Hellacopters and Thunder Express, Märvel would tour Thunderblood Heart (including playing with members of Hellacopters and Backyard Babies at the Dreamhack gaming festival in June 2008) – but certain undisclosed legal problems would prevent Speedo from visiting stages all over the world, bass guitar in hand. Thus Ulrik Bostedt a.k.a. The Aviator was enlisted to become the second, but not last bass player in the band (The Burgher – a.k.a. Ulrik Bostedt – would join some years later as third bassist, but that is a story for the future). Ulrik Bostedt the 2nd would be interviewed in MTV Sweden’s Much More Than Muesli. The King was sick and attended via telephone and the band’s photographer David Einar joined as a wrestler.

Note: The full show is available (in Swedish) on Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-MoEM9ZkACw


Bass players full of muesli

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 Robert Pehrsson (Thunder Express/Dundertåget, Robert Pehrsson’s Humbucker, Death Breath, Imperial State Electric and main man at Studio Humbucker, among other things):

My band Thunder Express played together with Märvel in 2007. But I probably heard them before that. Sweden is small and I guess we both played in the same rock scene that was going on at that time. Märvel certainly stood out with their masks! 

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Thunderblood Heart was Märvel’s best effort to that date. Brilliant and uplifting, the album was brimming over with heavy sparkling riffs, thundering bass and storming drumming, and let’s not forget the celestial backing vocals of Groupie Heaven. Delving into more complex and personal lyrics (an ongoing tendency of the band) the album contains some of the band’s live classics (“Fringe of Comfort“, “Willful Non Participation” or “I Wanna Know You (Just a Little Bit Better)”). This last track would be the first single of the album, promoted by a music video with the participation of the masked fighters of Gothenburg’s GBG Wrestling (see video below!).

With this curriculum, it is not strange that this album has attracted many followers to the Märvel camp!

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Get in the ring, Mr Bostedt. “I Wanna Know You…” video shoot

 Chips Kiesby (Sator – suppliers of loud Swedish punk rock since 1981):  The one album I’ve been listening to most is probably ”Thunderblood Heart” but they are all good.

Magnus Monroe (Freedom – liberty rock from Stockholm) Märvel’s best album? Thunderblood Heart for sure. Favourite song is a toss up between the title song and “Cagney Sans Lacey”.

Emil Skala (President of Märvel Amy Sweden): My favourite album is by far “Thunderblood Heart”, and my favourite song is of course on that album – “Willful Non Participation”.  And then the difficult question of why? Why not the happy whistling of “The Hills Have Eyes” or the stone hard “TNH” with Strings on the guitar? “Willful Non Participation” has everything that a pure rock n roll song should have – a strong intro with a single guitar, bass and drums on the beats in the beginning, a killer solo and some kick ass backup singers on the chorus. That’s what gets me running. 

 Do you want to feel Thunderblood Heart’s electric eel shock? Here is your chance:

 

 

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And now, ladies and gentlemen, gather round to hear Märvel themselves tell the story of “Thunderblood Heart”…..

 DFH: Thunderblood Heart… In your third album finally Märvel sports the umlaut, the two dots above the “a”. The legend says that Nicke Royale of The Hellacopters gave you guys the idea backstage at one of their gigs back in 2002 or 2003.

The King: Yeah, it is true. I was there with our first home made copies of “Heroine Tracks”. We did four copies on CD and I came down backstage where Hellacopters were hanging out and I started handing out the CDs and then Nicke said “Marvel… it would work if you put dots over the “a””. Then Bobba came by and I didn’t have any CDs left, so he was standing there like a sad little puppy. He didn’t get a CD, haha!

DFH:Why did you not implement that idea at that moment? It took you like five years to do it.

The Vicar: I don’t remember if we actually became nervous or not for any lawsuits, but the big thing was that we felt that it was time to create a logo. We didn’t have a logo really. It was just Arial (font) or something like that earlier on. I guess it was during that time, when we were trying to find a logo.

TK: Yeah, it probably had something to do with Björn “Papa Bear” because he’s such a graphic oriented guy. We started to work with him and it probably had something to do with that. Or, I don’t know, maybe it just felt corny to put dots over the “a” or something or we felt that we didn’t need it. I don’t know.

DFH:Well, it says a lot. It’s something distinctive. I mean, it is a pain for me each time I write your name on the keyboard because we do not use these dots in Spain very much. But it is a sign of distinction which I think is very good.

Speedo: I like it too. I don’t remember why we didn’t do it before, but I like the dots. Mainly because of Motörhead or Mötley Crüe, things like that. It’s such a significant heavy metal thing to do.

TK: But maybe we also felt that it was growing bigger and was not just a joke anymore. So we wanted to make it more distinguished from Marvel Comics. But I only remember one time when someone at a gig said she worked at Marvel Publishing and said “are you really allowed to use the name?”. That was as close as we got to them showing any interest. There was never any real threat, but we of course could use that in interviews and in press releases and reviews.


Somewhere on Thunderblood Heart tour in 2007.

 DFH:Well, it is an actual word that has a meaning of its own. If you were called Marvel Comics or something similar, that could be a different story.

 TK: Yeah, but having our own comic book characters and being called Märvel, maybe that’s too much…

 DFH: Well, maybe… I’ve mentioned The Hellacopters and related to this, in “Thunderblood Heart” I feel there is more 90s Scandinavian rock stuff in terms of sound. Even if you have had this one way or another into your overall musical mix from the beginning, I think here it is more clear than in “Five Smell City”, although maybe it’s just my impression…

 TV: I think you’re right. I mean, I’m not surprised that you can pick up on that, because like The King said with “Unleashed!”, we started to understand more about doing albums. Before that we didn’t know anything about producing and recording this type of music, but at this point we had learned quite a lot and had become much more interested in this, and I think at that point we had some of the contemporary albums up there as some sort of references for how we wanted to sound, like the latest Hellacopters or the latest Turbonegro or something. So it’s definitely possible that that shines through a little bit more.

TK: Yeah, and we could have had the first album sound more like that as well if we knew what we were doing. But of course we also had the approach that it should sound like a three piece band, so… But yeah, we had “High Visibility” and maybe “Scandinavian Leather” as reference albums. And “Rock And Roll Over”. Those were always there when we mixed.

 In terms of the lyrics, I see these to be more elaborate and subtler than in “Five Smell City”. I see the subject matter of relationships or interactions between persons is very much present here in “Thunderblood Heart”.

TK: Yeah, it’s much more personal, my own and friend’s relationships and stuff like that. There’s not one song about a superhero, but there’s still fun things like “Code Of The Road”, which is about lots of bands that think they are tough going out on the road, just don’t speak about what’s happening on the road and that’s just so dumb. So there had to be a song about that.

SP: That’s the Backyard Babies thing…


            Some things should simply stay on the road… Aviator grabbing a snack in Germany.

 TK: Yeah! And the song “Thunderblood Heart” is about an old music teacher of mine, who had the chance to play in ABBA as a drummer, but he chose to stay in a little town and be a music teacher instead. So it was starting to become more personal stuff like that.

 Yeah, that’s the feeling I got. But still you have the fun stuff. I mean, just the main character “Thunderblood Heart”. He is a half Greek, half Norwegian guy with an eel through his heart and lives under water. So there’s still a lot of fun, but then you tell me what the song is about and I could not have imagined that…

 TK. It was pretty serious. He was pretty tragical character, but at the same time he chose that life. I think that was finding something real and then turning it into something else. You can pretend that the superhero was a real person that was a music teacher that could have been in ABBA and yeah, I like that kind of mix when something is personal to you but it also could mean something completely different.

 I also get the impression that you were sort of experimenting a lot musically, in the way that you play the instruments and the chord progressions and everything. Like you were trying lots of new things. Like in “Girl, Where’s My Amulet?” which is probably your song with the slowest tempo, and it sounds kind of druggy at some points. That’s just an example. It looks like you were trying new things without caring very much about boundaries.

TK: I think you’re right. We were exploring more and getting more secure. I remember, when we recorded, Jörgen Wärnström said “You’re playing at the top of your abilities. You’re pushing it”. He was a bit annoyed that we were so ambitious and we were so thorough, so picky about the details, and we were raising the bar so much. But I felt really proud when he said that.


Thunderblood Heart was initially released on CD by Killer Cobra Records and on vinyl by Siren Recordings.

SP: We were trying to sound as good as possible. That is maybe a bit of a difference because as you said before, the idea with at least the first Eps was to do it easy enough to be able to perform it live and move around while playing it live, so it should be fun to play live also. And on purpose we made the recordings sound like something that we could actually do with only three people and for “Thunderblood Heart” we wanted to make the album and the songs as good as possible instead and use the possibilities you have in the studio, and also make a more dynamic album with different kinds of songs.

TK: And for those fans of the Scandinavian high energy rock scene, I think this one is the favourite because it’s not too complex. It’s still high energy rock and roll, but it has a lot of pop qualities.

SP: I think it’s maybe my favourite too. I would say that your latest album is a very good album too. That is a completely different thing and it’s very, very good. But of the ones that I’ve been involved in, I think it’s my favorite.

TK: Yeah. I think “Thunderblood Heart” and “Graces Came With Malice” are my two favourites actually. 

Now I remember “Girl, Where’s My Amulet?”, that text came from, I think it was your birthday, Speedo. We went to Stockholm to see The Hellacopters and Gluecifer and Flaming Sideburns, I think it was, and there was a really pushy girl who had an amulet around her neck and I said “that looks like my amulet”. So it’s really just a girl we talked to at the party who had an amulet and a Mountain (the band) T-shirt. But I was really proud that I managed to rhyme on “bourgeoisie”.

SP: I love the line “I’ve been looking for it my whole life, using the compass of my Rambo knife”. That’s just one of my favourite lines ever written. I love that. Oh, a lot of good songs came from that party.


Would you entrust these guys with your amulet? Gothenburg, 2007

TK: A really fun story about the song “Mind Over Matter”. When we did The Sign Fest some years ago, there was a guy who asked me if that song was about the Danish philosopher Martinus. And I was like “whoa, you are the first ever to realize that”. So that was really fun because you don’t know that people listen to the lyrics, but obviously he did, and the reference is not super obvious.

We also have talked in other interviews about albums where we play a lot of songs live. Here we have “Fringe Of Comfort”, “I Wanna Know You (Just A Little Bit Better)”, “Thunderblood Heart”, “Willful Non Participation”, “Code of The Road” which we have played quite a few times, so this album is also very strong on that part.

 And what does “Musta Fresta!” mean?

 TK: I love that. It’s an expression from my grandfather when he saw a woman with big tits, he said that. It’s like a power expression.

 SP: But it is not real language, right?

 TK: No, no. I don’t know where he got it from, but it was something when I was a small kid, he would say Musta Fresta! and he would laugh. It was just some adult way of saying “oh, there’s a woman with big tits”.

SP: I have to say “Fringe Of Comfort” is probably my favourite song.

TK: The intro was of course inspired by “Detroit Rock City”. A lot of fun.

TV: The story revolved around a person who was living in a cottage and after breakfast went out to this shed, grabbed a chainsaw and started chopping down trees or something in anger, I don’t really remember.

TK: It gives it a bigger feeling when you have an intro like that. And of course there was this time when we had a guy with a real chainsaw on stage, in Märl, Germany, a year ago. The guy with the green goblin mask.


Speedo, The King, The Green Goblin aus Märl and The Charlatan, November 2021.

TK. What I also remember about that album is the release party that was really a brilliant night. We held it in a small club together with our label mates at that time, La Fleur Fatale, and Papa Bear had arranged for some wrestling guys to be hidden in the audience and, all of a sudden, they tore off their shirts and started fighting and crushed bar chairs against each other’s heads.

I was going to ask you how you got involved with the guys in GBG wrestling for the video for “I Wanna Know You (Just a Little Bit Better)”, but I think you’ve already answered that.

TK. When we recorded “I Wanna Know You…” that was the first time we worked with them. Papa Bear was friends with some guys in GBG wrestling and he arranged the video shoot and everything and when we did the release party, he reused that contact and had two guys fighting. And of course we had Strängen and Robert Pehrsson with Thunder Express playing at the release party as well. And we had The Hellacopters, all of the members, in the front row banging their heads. It was really fun.

TV: Strängen and Robert were DJ-ing I think.

SP: I covered for them for like an hour. They just gave me the CD flipbook (laughs).

TK: I did not know that…

TV: That was a really nice party.

 
Hellish autogyros in the first row

 This was the third and final album you co-produced with Otto Leary. How do you sum up your recording experience with him?

 TV: I don’t know how to sum it up… Playful and learning experience, a learning chapter.

 Will we ever know the legal issues that prevented Speedo from touring outside Sweden so that the Aviator had to step in at some point?

 SP: No you won’t (laughs)


Thunderblood Heart tour at Hive Club in Zürich, Switzerland. Photo by Basil.

So how do you see “Thunderblood Heart” from your perspective today?

SP: One of the ten best albums we’ve ever made, easy (laughs).

TV: I have positive memories of making it because it was really satisfying. We were in charge in a way that we were not before and everything was just joyful, going down and actually creating stuff and having ideas and bouncing off each other’s ideas to make the best album. I think I haven’t listened to it in a while, but if you remember what we said about “Unleashed!” that it didn’t really feel like it was an album… this is the opposite feeling. If I think about it in hindsight, it is something I’m proud of looking at, and it came out as a really good product.

TK: We got in contact with a guy in Germany who did the vinyl release (Hey Ritchie!). A crazy man who hand-engraved 500 albums with a needle…. There’s a lot of positive memories.

The Burgher: That was the first album that I really listened to when I came in contact with the band and joined you like 100 years ago, so it really holds a special place in my heart as well.

TK: But did you hear it before you joined?

TB: I knew of the band. For me it was one of those bands that you knew of, but back then and this was like 12 years ago -I’m a bit younger than you guys- I was very tied to the hardcore punk scene in Linköping so that was kind of the only music that I was heavily exposed to. So that’s why I was shocked when I listened to “Thunderblood Heart” after we had had our first talk and I realized how good of a band this actually was.

SP: How did you get in contact with each other?

TK: It was through a mutual friend. When I had lunch with The Burgher I just felt, “oh what a great guy, we gotta try him out” and we did, and then it was just instant love.

SP: Yeah, you hit the jackpot, seriously.

TB: You are too kind…

SP: I really mean it.

TK: The thing is that I really enjoy playing with both you guys and The Aviator as well, because there’s so many different styles and it turns out different every time. So that’s great.

TB: It was really challenging starting out picking up your stuff, Speedo, because you play so different from the way I play. Challenging, but also fun.

TK: Right back atcha. I have tried some of your stuff….

TB: Oh yeah, we’ve done it back and forth by now. It’s a nice bass community we have in Märvel.

SP: Lovely.

Do you want to know Märvel better? They wanna know you a little bit better too…

In the next chapter, Märvel will go to war!

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