After fifteen years, Amaze Me are back, with the Swedish pair of multi-instrumentalist Peter Broman and singer Conny Lind returning with the undeniably eighties Melodic Rock inspired Guilty As Sin. With a tangled history that saw the debut Amaze Me album released after their second offering everywhere in the world except Japan, and a lengthy lay-off that would have stopped most acts in their tracks, Sea of Tranquility's Steven Reid discussed with Peter the past and present of Amaze Me, and the guilty pleasures that brought him back to his true musical love. With a brief contribution from a certain Mr Lind.
Hi Peter and thanks for taking the time to answer some questions...
Thanks for giving us the time and space!
Going right back to the start of Amaze Me, how did the band first come together?
Both Conny and I were born and raised in a small town called Mora, in the middle of Sweden. In the 70s there was a rumour going round locally about a guy playing drums with great technique who had learned to play all of Rush's songs. That was my first acquaintance with Mr Conny Lind! Then in the 80s, Conny played drums in a band we had together. We moved to Stockholm in the middle of that period, but sadly split up shortly after. At the beginning of the 90s, Conny had made a great reputation as a great singer so I asked if he wanted to sing on a few demo songs of mine. He did, but the songs were then put away 'cause I didn't know what to do with them. AOR wasn't the hottest genre at the time!! However, somehow, there was a guy that had heard of the demo and asked if he could send those songs to Japan...?
Ah, yes Japan... Initially things got a little confusing I believe; with your self-titled debut hitting the shelves in Japan in 1995 before your follow up Dream On got a full worldwide release two years later. Then your debut got a full release the year after that, leading you to promote your first album a year after your second... How did all that come about?
Yes, it's a bit Spinal Tap isn't it?! As I said, demos were sent to Japan before I had even tried to get a deal anywhere near Sweden. When the Japanese said they wanted to release an album, I said yes! I was AMAZED that they wanted to release us - and there you've got the story of our name…… An English record company had heard of the Japanese release and they then contacted me and asked if we wanted to sign with them. That's how Dream On came about. After Dream On, they then wanted to release our self-titled Japanese album….. I guess I'll need a flow chart to make this understandable!
Do you feel the way things worked out had an adverse effect on the band at the time?
Well, I've never had any big goals for commercial success with Amaze Me, so for me it has always felt flattering that anybody wanted to release us! I don't think it mattered much at the time, since we made a new album soon after that.
That, of course, is 1998's Wonderland, which was released to great acclaim. But then you guys just seemed to disappear. What happened?
What happened after Wonderland was a combination of the record company behaving in a way that made everything feel like a struggle - and my song writing career, producing commercials and writing songs for commercials - really took off. I needed to make money. We never really understood that there was some kind of buzz around the album.
So has the main Amaze Me team of yourself and Conny been working together on any projects in the mean time?
Conny has sung on a couple of commercials I've made, but that's all.
A big question I know, but what else have you two been up to musically since we last heard from Amaze Me?
For me it has been song writing for other artists, and bands, doing commercials, sound design and stuff like that…..
At this stage Conny joins us
Wow, I'd better check my timeline to answer that question. In 2000 I had my first kid, so I guess I was a little bit busy with that, though I can see in my calendar I did a lot of live gigs in that period. I've always been a live performer, and involved in many projects at the same time, as long as I can remember. I guess that is the answer as to why I've always been involved in several cover bands beside my studio projects. As a matter of fact, I've played as a full-time cover musician for over 12 years in a row. At the moment I've just finished the recording of a new album Hippophonic, with my own band Mud & Blood; that will be released on the streaming media sites in September this year.
I think that most people had given up on hearing from Amaze Me again, so where did the inspiration to start the band up again come from?
Back to Peter
Three years ago Conny called up and told me that he had been asked if there was ever going to be another Amaze Me album. I guess it was just the perfect timing for that question. I was newly divorced and I guess was in a "retrospective mood". Also, our experience with our last record company had started to fade away. But the big key to making a new album, for me, was that I needed it for me personally. I needed the boost of music I love and not having to think "contemporary hit-songs".
Prior to the band getting back together AOR Heaven put out a "Best Of" album in 2012 called The Ultimate Collection. Did the response to that album make you realise that there was still an appetite for more Amaze Me music?
It was one more "piece of the puzzle" that made me decide to make another album. For me it was inspiring to know that there was at least a few people that would be interested in Amaze Me.
So have you been "amazed" by the positive reaction to your new album Guilty As Sin?
Yes, for sure!!! I've been doing lots of interviews and we have had lots of reviews. Today for instance, I did a live interview with Steve Price from ARFM Radio. Such a nice guy!
Erik Mårtensson of WET and Eclipse fame was heavily involved with Amaze Me in the past; has he been part of the writing team on this new album as well?
Well, not really, "Guilty As Sin" and "With Or Without You" were written during a sequence of time when I was considering making a new Amaze Me record, about eight years ago, but as to actually being involved in the writing of them, it's hard to define. Erik and I were writing other stuff at the time, and when I got the idea of maybe making a new A.M. album, I asked Erik if he would like to sing on two Amaze Me like songs I had made. Being the very nice guy that he is, he sang on the demo but we both had too many other things happening, so nothing more came out of it. I just loved those original ideas. All the other songs on "Guilty As Sin" we're written in the last three years though.
So was the rest of the album was written completely "in-house"; were there outside collaborators at all?
Actually, my girlfriend Pernilla is involved in "Lost In A Dream", "Dying To Be Loved" and "Endless Love", so yes… It feels so good to have a relationship with a woman who has the same taste of music as I do!
The sound on Guilty As Sin is pure, classic 80s inspired melodic rock that will delight the band's long term fans. Was there ever a temptation to "update" the Amaze Me sound?
I did this album with the freedom of mind of not having to think "Contemporary hit-music", as I said. It was important for me at this time to find the true joy and love of music, the way I felt it years ago. I needed to go into this "retrospective mode" and I guess it's kind of egoistic to make an album for yourself. But I needed to write and produce from the heart only - not from a cynical brain! I love this type of music and it comes naturally writing it. I don't have to "fool" myself writing it!
You've also managed to get the man with the "Midas touch" involved with the album, with Martin Kronlund mastering the disc. How much of an impact does he have on the finished album?
I want to protect Martin's good name, since I've seen a few reviews that claim that the sound is like the 80s... I told Martin that I didn't want to fight the "loudness war", and he followed my suggestion. Back in the vinyl days you didn't kick the shit out of the limiter to get the level up. I wanted it mastered "softer" - as in the good old days when we had this very long, BIG hair!
The album sounds like a real labour of love! Is there a real personal side to what you guys have produced?
Thanks! Yes it's personal in many different perspectives; I love this type of music, the vocal is handled by an old friend, my girlfriend has been involved in the writing, it describes my life and experiences in some aspects and I'm doing it to find the joy in music.
You've been involved with writing hits for other artists and also providing some instantly recognisable pieces of music for commercials, as you said earlier. However, I wonder how much more inspiring has it been writing music that genuinely moves you, for Amaze Me?
This type of music is my backyard and Amaze Me is all about the fun in music. Making music that you can enjoy yourself, so to speak! Sadly, that isn't always the case in professional song writing. As I said - only from the heart and not from the brain!
So what are your personal highlights from the album?
"Dying To Be Loved" is particularly special to me 'cause it was an up-tempo song from the beginning and it was also "heavily produced" - which is a freedom I have when making Amaze Me albums. The song and production changed hugely from the original version and it turned out in a way that surprised me in a very positive way.
And finally, have you looked ahead to what the future might hold for Amaze Me?
I haven't given it that much thought yet but… maybe a World tour? Just kidding! Maybe a new album, within a shorter time period than 15 years?!
(Click here to read our reviews of Guilty As Sin)