Thanks so much to Stefan Wesley for the interview! I wrote about Alfie some time ago on the blog, and Tore Höghielm, the band’s bassist got in touch. He then put me in touch with Stefan, who was the guitarist of the band, and he was so kind to answer all my questions concerning his band that was active in Visby, Sweden, in the late 80s. They only released one 7″ single, with two should-have-been classics, and some tapes that they sold at gigs and on demand. Online there is so little written about them, that it was a good chance to learn about them. Hope you enjoy this interview!
++ Hi Stefan! Thanks so much for being up for this interview. Alfie has always been a mystery to me, so I’m glad to get to know a bit about your band! Perhaps let’s start from the beginning, what are your first musical memories? when did you learn to play guitar? what inspired you?
My first musical memory is my mothers single- and EP-collection. It wasn’t big, it wasn’t great, but it had some records I enjoyed at very young age and that I still like a lot today. I was very much into cowboys and indians as a child, so I especially liked “Rawhide” by Eric Wilson-Hyde and Johnny Horton’s “North to Alaska”. Other favourites included Russ Conway’s “Matador from Trinidad”, Sam Cooke’s “Chain Gang”, plus instrumental bands like Johnny & The Hurricanes, The Fireballs and The Spotnicks.
++ When was Alfie formed? And had you been involved with any other bands before?
In 1980 we started a punk band at school. We changed name a few times before ending up with Castro. But quite soon I discovered The Sound of Young Scotland, fell in love with Josef K, Orange Juice, Aztec Camera and other Scottish bands like Fire Engines and Boots For Dancing. So we changed style and became more of a pop band. In 1982, I think, we translated the lyrics to English and changed name to Season’s Greetings, introducing The Sound of Young Gotland. We played our farewell gig in May 1986.
During this time, I had a couple of tape labels, CA Productions and Enjoy Tapes, releasing acts like Biljardakademien, Trumslagarpojkarna, Control Addicts, Eucalypso, M.O.M.S. and others, all including me and/or my brothers.
++ Why the name Alfie? Does it have to do with the movie?
When we started, we needed a name real quick because we already had a gig booked. So I looked through my record collection and came up with the name Too Sensitives, after an Orange Juice song. But it was too difficult for people to comprehend so we changed name to The Boy Wonders, after the Aztec Camera song. We were quite happy with that name but suddenly read in NME about a new British band called Boys Wonder, so we changed name again before “we make it big”. This time, I came up with the name Alfie and it’s of course after the 1966 Michael Caine movie, but it’s even more after the Burt Bacharach/Hal David song.
++ How did Alfie start as a band? How did you all meet?
After the final Season’s Greetings gig in May 1986, I took the bass player, Henrik Johansson, with me and started a new band right away. We had my little brother Magnus Häglund on drums but needed a vocalist. I shared an apartment with a few people and one of them was dating a guy called Mattias Ek who one day was sitting in the kitchen singing to the radio. So when we a couple of months later I remembered him singing to this song by Swedish band Ratata and that it didn’t sound that bad. So I asked Mattias if he wanted to try singing with us.
So we had our first rehearsals in June 1986 and played two songs at a local pop band competition in July (I think). Towards the end of the summer, my older brother, Kjell Häglund, said he had met a guy at a party who had good taste in music and played the guitar, so I contacted this Johan Arvidsson and recruited him to join the band. Johan had only been with us for a couple of weeks when Henrik said he was moving away for studies, so we needed a new bass player. I immediately came to think of Tore Höghielm who I first met years earlier in German class at secondary school. We didn’t hang out or anything but every time we ran into each other we used to say that we should start a band together. He already played in one or two other bands but didn’t hesitate to join Alfie.
++ What sort of music were you all into at that time? Who would you call as influences of the band? I assume the Postcard Records stuff because of the “Sound of Young Gotland” nod on the sleeve?
I don’t really remember any specific influences, as we always listened to everything and anything. But I remember sometime in 1986 or 1987 when I really discovered all those new indie bands like McCarthy, Jasmine Minks, BMX Bandits, Primal Scream, My Bloody Valentine, The Pastels etc. Don’t think they changed our music though, but maybe a little.
++ You were based in Visby back then. Are you still there? And what were the places to hang out or catch a gig in town?
Yes, we were based in Visby. When Alfie quit, it was because three of out members moved to Stockholm. I tried to maintain the band with my brother Magnus, writing songs and recording demos, and Mattias came on visit to add vocals to the demos, but it didn’t work.
I still live in Visby, and so does Johan who came back after a couple of years of studying. Magnus lived here until a couple of years ago when he moved to Gävle. Mattias and Tore lives in Stockholm.
Visby in the late 80’s had no specific scene for catching bands, but the local music association Roxy arranged some concerts. A new café/pub called Schenholms also had bands playing.
++ Were there any other like-minded bands in town during those mid and late 80s?
Nope, not a single one.
++ What about in Sweden in general? Did you like any bands then? I’m always curious about that period of Sweden, it seems it was only in the 90s that there was a much more known explosion of guitar pop bands, but I always find, after digging a bit, obscure jewels from the 80s!
The 80’s was mostly into the dark side of post punk and you never heard bands like Orange Juice and Aztec Camera (that I tried to sound like with Season’s Greetings). But in the late 80’s bands like This Perfect Day and The Wannadies started to pop up and then came the explosion you mentioned. But I liked a lot of the Swedish music in the 80’s like Reeperbahn, Di Leva and garage bands like Pushtwangers and The Stomach Mouths.
++ You released the one 7″, with “Play On” and “Fool to Fall”, if you wouldn’t mind, would you tell me the story behind these two songs? What are they about?
There’s not much to tell, really. “Play On” was written a couple of years earlier and when we started Alfie and had our first gig just a few weeks later we needed a simple song to start with. And it can’t be much simpler than “Play On”. And “Fool To Fall”… I can’t remember anything from writing it. When we went to the recording studio, we had maybe five songs and these two we thought would be best.
++ Also, what do you remember of the recording session for the single at Sandvike Studio?
My brother, Kjell Häglund, worked on an album with Biljardakademien, and suggested that we could go there a weekend to record a couple of songs. There were place left on one of his 24 channel tapes we could use. Today, the studio is in Visby, but back then it was way out in the middle of nowhere. So we went there and recorded the background tracks the first day, slept over and then recorded the overdubs the day after. Not the most interesting story, guess we were a quite boring band.
++ And how did they creative process work for Alfie?
It always started with me sitting at home with my guitar trying to find new melodies and chord progressions. We rehearsed maybe once a week were went through our repertoire and then testing some of my new ideas. I guess I had a new song almost every rehearsal. I also used to have an idea how everyone else should play. Sometimes it worked, sometimes not, but we completed each other very well so it usually turned out quite ok, even if it sounded different in my head.
++ Did you ever consider making songs in Swedish perhaps?
No, we didn’t. As no one in Sweden were interested in our music, maybe someone was it abroad. But there wasn’t.
++ The record was released on a label called Enjoy. Who was behind it?
It was my (and Magnus) tape label’s only vinyl release.
++ On Discogs there’s a live tape listed. It’s a tape with a bunch of songs from a gig at the Roxy in Visby from March 11 1988. Was this tape sold? It says too that the whole B side was just encores! You must have had a very good following!
As all Enjoy’s tape releases, it was made on demand and we didn’t do much to sell it. So I have no idea how many copies we sold, but maybe 50. We liked to play a few covers as encores and the audience used to like it as well. It was songs by anyone from Depeche Mode to AC/DC, all played in a special Alfie style.
++ Were there any other tapes, or perhaps releases, or even compilation appearances by Alfie?
Yes, two more tapes actually. About a year after the single we started recording an album called “Home Again, Finnegan”. We never finished the recordings but a rough mix of it was released on cassette. And after the band split up, I made a bunch of demos with Magnus and had Mattias coming over to do the vocals. We released the demos on tape as “Welcome to Alfieville”
++ There’s also another song, “Another Girl”, that appears on a CDR compilation called “Recycled:Inhouse”. I’ve tried finding it, same as the single, with no luck, the label didn’t reply my emails. How did this song, recorded in 1989, got released many decades after? Also on this compilation you contribute with many other bands. Perhaps this compilation is the real Sound of Young Gotland?
Once again, I’m the one to blame. I was planning a website about the old tape label, but what’s the point when you can’t hear the music. So I was thinking about different ways to make the music available. I really wanted all to be free and downloadable, but at the time this alternative was quite expensive. So I found this on demand manufacturer and decided to make CD’s. The “Recycled: Inhouse” collection features music by me and/or my brothers.
Sorry to hear you haven’t had a reply on your email. A couple of the email addresses have been hijacked and locked so that could be the reason. But the CD is still available in the web store and it’s also available as download from various digital stores.
++ There’s another song mentioned in the label page, “(A Lovely Day for) Goalkeeping”. It says it have been thought to be lost. What have happened to it?
The song was made for a tape compilation but didn’t make it. It was the last song Alfie recorded.
++ Now I wonder, were there many more Alfie recordings done in those late 80s that never got to see the light of day?
Only the unfinished album and the demos I mentioned.
++ Have you ever thought of releasing perhaps an Alfie compilation?
Yes, it was the plan when I started Bendi ten years ago, and it still is. Next year it’s time, I think!
++ Now time to talk about gigs. Did you play many of them? What cities did you play? What were the best and worst gigs that you remember? and why? Any anecdotes would be great!
Can’t say we did many gigs. We only played in Visby and a couple of other smaller places on Gotland. We were quite good live, I think, since the audiences used to like us, even if they hadn’t heard us before. But we were probably quite boring as well since I have no anecdotes to speak of.
++ And what about press, radio, that sort of thing, did you get support from them? How easy or difficult was back then in Sweden? Was there any sort of scene going on?
The local press wrote about us a few times, and they are always positive. We sent the single to music papers etc but no one bothered to mention us at all. It would probably have been easier if we was part of a scene, but we were the only happy guitar pop band around.
++ Then what happened with the band? When and why did you call it a day?
Most young people on Gotland leave for Stockholm or some other place to study or work, and so did three of our members. It was in 1989 I think, leaving me and my brother Magnus in Visby.
++ Were you all involved with music afterwards? What did you do?
We have all played in various bands of various kinds and quality. Tore played with Swedish legend Henrik Venant for a while, and Bendi released an album with his band Solicium. Magnus was one half of Kill Squad vs Doubleheader who released a couple of EP’s on Superstudio. I made an album as The Luckiest Citizen Of All a few years ago.
++ And today, are you still making music? Any other hobbies that you enjoy doing?
Tore is the only one playing regularly. I wish I had more time to make music! I’m involved in a couple of bands that only rehearse when we have a gig every second year or so. But I have a lot of plans for various projects.
There are so many fun things to do! I’m a part of a TV and film blog called tvdags.se. And for the last year I’ve been involved in local politics for the Feminist Initiative party. Notnas a politician, but behind the curtains.
++ You used to run a blog too, Unga Moderna, what happened to it? Are you still writing?
Everything takes time… I can’t remember exactly, but something else became more important at the time. Nowadays I only write a very little about TV on tvdags.se.
++ I always ask about the touristy side of things… I’ve been to Sweden a bunch of times, never to Visby though. Perhaps you can point me out what to do, what to try and what to drink that is really traditional in your town?
Visby is an old Hanseatic town and the whole island is a giant tourist attraction. Actually, there is so much to write about so I suggest you check on Tripadvisor, Virtualtourist or just Google. It’s a tourists paradise in the summer and very nice all other seasons.
++ Has it changed a lot since your Alfie days?
Not really. Of course it has changed, but not more than any other place.
Alfie – Fool to Fall