Interview with Greg Hell of Lucien

Lucien, a band with a lot of attitude, was born when the band's singer and guitarist Greg Hell moved to Sweden from Bristol UK, back in 2004, and hooked up with Vic Hemgren, guitarist of Lucien. Today, the band has two more members, the drummer Stephan and the bass player Johan. The band is ought to be an antidote to the nu-sleaze scene, a mission they might succeed with, but only time can tell. Earlier this year the band released their first album, which is self titled, but some times it's also called 'We Thought These Flames Might Set This World On Fire...' as they, on purpose, wrote that up the side of the CD case. But how does it work to try to be an antidote to the growing nu-glam/sleaze scene, and how do you get the inspiration to write books, for adults and for children, when you are a rockstar? And from where, is the name Lucien. Greg Hell has all the answers.

Q1. The release of your album seem to be a big success, how do you see this re-release and all? Is this the ultimate album in your eyes, or is it yet to come?

We first made 2 EP's that we released ourselves just on CDR 'Unholy Lords of Rock' and 'Blood Red Diary'. Then we took songs from both and made the EP 'D.I.Y Eller Dö' which was put out by around 15 different small punk labels around the world on CD and cassette - then we ended up on some compilation albums and finally the Irish label Deadlamb Records approached us and asked us if we wanted to do an album. And so of course! So the first album is both our EPs put together (listeners might notice the difference in recording quality between the 1st and 2nd 'parts') and it was great just to have it out there really. I am proud of it however; there is not a song I dislike on it.

Then this year it was really great to get it picked up by the Swedish label and distribution company Plugged. It shows we must have made a dent somewhere in the music world I guess! Now you can buy our album in the stores in Sweden and at places such as CDON, Ginza and Interpunk - we've also just signed for releases in China and Taiwan, which I'm really happy about.

Is it our ultimate album? No, I don't think so, I think we have our 'St. Pepper' still in the ether somewhere. I'm just happy to have it out there - It's 10 really solid tracks that I'm proud of.

Q2. How does it work to try to be an antidote to the Nu-Glam/Sleaze scene and at the same time being good friends with Crashdiet?

It works fine as long as I don't bring it up in conversation, ha! No, seriously I don't see Crashdiet in the same light. For me they were the inventors of the 'Nu-Glam' scene. They took a really big chance and really stood for what they believed in and they fucking made it work! When I first saw them I was working for a small record company here in Stockholm and just couldn't believe what they were doing, it was ridiculous but at the same time cool as hell. A while later I got to meet the drummer Eric Young socially and the guy was just so genuine and down to earth and a funny guy that I couldn't help but find them interesting.
The first time it really hit me how big and important they were was a while after the very sad passing of Dave (Lepard, the first singer of Crashdiet, died in January 2006) I was at a bar and someone came up to me asking if I knew the guys from Crashdiet, and when I asked why, it turned out that he was a guy who had flown over from Japan just to meet the band and try out to be the new singer! Those guys really rock but it's a shame that they have to have so many fucking lame imitators all over the place since they started making a name for themselves. Really bad third-rate acts who think if they put on some make-up and call themselves 'Wikki Dixx' they are cool. I get really sick of that shit. It's really like they haven't even thought about being in the least bit original.
All this80s decadence is fine for a laugh but when you start to take it too seriously and actually think that it's your life here in 2008 it's just a joke. Young kids read 'The Dirt' and think that's how you should live your life. OK it's a cool as hell book but you know what, Mötley Crüe already did it. If you try to be like them you're just going to end up dead or in rehab or worse, a big fat alcoholic that needs plastic surgery every year. Read my lips kids...it's not cool. If it carries on we're going to need another version of Nirvana to come along and wipe it all out again, and that's what our song' Destroy the Ark' is all about. I just wish people would try and get some originality instead of just copying all the time. 'I'm a rock &roll rebel, cruising down the strip! Sipping Jack from the bottle with my stripper chick! Out to California in my Chevrolet! Look out The Whiskey, I'm on my way!'.... or are you 4 guys from Eskilstuna who live with your mums and have only ever been outside Sweden when you went on holiday to Greece? It's almost like the UK skate-punk scene of the late 90s/early 00's when you had 5 plumbers from Birmingham singing about surfing...

I guess what I'm trying to say is that I'd really like to see more people use their own initiative and imagination. As you probably know, at least one band a week turns up that looks the same as the last ones with made-up names like 'Jizzy Roxx'...honestly. Next!

So.... I only work for Crash Diet every once in a while as a roadie and it's only really Eric who is a good friend that I see outside of the band, the other guys kick ass don't get me wrong but I don't see them socially as I do Eric. Weal so work together as roadies for a lot of international touring bands and for me it's only Eric Young when he's up on that stage doing his thing, the rest of the time he's Eric my friend, co-worker and sometimes, scary enough, my boss! I'm not too sure if he wants me to tell you all this but to be fair he'll probably never read it so... Eric if you do read this, I tried to call you and stuff to see if it was ok but dragons ate my phone.

As for being an 'antidote' to the current trends - yup that's really what we're going for. I want to be able to still fit in with the scene but at the same time I do want to challenge people to not just be cookie-cutter all the time. OK, what LUCIEN creates is maybe not 100% original also and I'm sure people will be fast to point that out but at least we are not just following the herd. I see us as being able to fit in OR stand alone and that's what I would like to see more of, people pushing the envelope and creating some really great stuff. I'm sure if we changed our name to 'Luzien' and wore a lot of make-up we might even reach some more fans who are just in it for the fun but for me, I see it like this. This whole glam thing is just a fad, it died in the 80s and it will die again in a few years, the kids will all move on and we'll have something else replace it. I've seen enough changes come and goin the 20 years or so that I have been really into rock music. I don't want to be part of something that will die out. I want to play good lasting rock music.

Q3. Tell me about this book you released in 2007. What is it about and how did you get the inspiration?

Sure! It's called 'Some Zen Somewhere' and it's a 'Travel reader' or as one guy said 'A toilet book'. You know, it's great to read on the toilet. It's in 3 parts. The first part is a collection of general 'rants' as I call them - which is just me talking about whatever was on my mind when I put pen to paper, from playing Star Wars as a kid to how much I miss bands like SNFU, to lobster masturbation. The second part is a tour diary from 2003 when my old band Mr. Zippy went on a three months long UK tour and the adventures we had there, kind of like a 'get in the van' style thing. The third part is a collection of short stories. Mostly Horror Fiction, one about a guy that gets shot but cannot die properly until his donated organs are returned to his own body, that sort of thing.

It was fun to do, a lot of work, but fun to do. I guess I just always loved writing, I've done it since I was a kid, I wrote for a job for a while, I have written for many fanzines etc and just get really into it. It's a great release for me; I can really sink myself into writing and get very involved in the stories. I'm a very big reader myself and really appreciate the wealth of books, the English section in my local library doesn't really hold anything I haven't read yet. I'm working on a 2nd book right now which I intended to finish this year but Dr. Who got really interesting and it was a fun summer so, maybe2009, we'll see.

Q4. I'm a bit interested in this children's book you're going to release. Why just a children's book? Have you released it yet or when is it going to be released?

Again, this is something I have always wanted to do. I'm 33 now but I still love kids stuff for example, my favorite section in any supermarket is the toy section, I just pretend like I have kids.

The inspiration came when I was in the warehouse of Kids Concept, the company that my girlfriend runs. One of her designs for the kids stuff was this funny looking monkey with a pirate hat on. We were laughing and joking like we always do and I just came up with this whole back-story for the monkey character, all his friends, what he does etc. He was a pirate monkey from space that lives on a flying pirate ship, he has a friend who is a gorilla that can't speak so he has a wooden parrot do it for him, they eat cheeseburgers all the time and there is also a fox on board that is the only crew member who has a clue what's going on and a shark that lives in his own traveling bath tub - I just got carried away with it and created a whole world for him.

My girlfriend loved the idea and told her partners at the company who also liked the idea and so we started planning to actually turn it into a children's book. The Adventures of Captain Sam, The Pirate Space Monkey (or something like that) is still in its design stages. I've finished writing and sketching it, it will be illustrated by the fantastically talented Malena Backman, translated into Swedish and hopefully out sometime next year. I'm sure it will be fun for the kid-minded grown-up also so look out.

Q5. Do you see yourself as a writer or as some sort of music maker? What would you choose if you had to choose one of them to do for the rest of your life?

Tough question. If I was pretentious enough I'd say I see myself as a writer that just uses a different medium from time to time. If I HAD to choose one for the rest of my life, then I'd write I think. It's just me when I write and all my ideas and plans are written just for me, I never write for anyone else whereas if I write music I to tend to have that on my mind. I also find it much easier to work alone if I am creating something - music, art or whatever is usually very personal. Writing and music are both huge parts of my life but I feel in this day and age I can't always go exactly where I want to go with music. I can write and play stuff that I enjoy and I hope others do and there is sometimes a bit of a message in there as well but it's nothing to really, really get sunk into - writing can be, books and stories can be. In that medium there really are no limits and you really can go anywhere and do anything.

Q6. You're surname, Hell, is it your real name or have you taken it yourself?

No, of course it is not my real name. I was going to call myself 'Gezzy Rixx' but...ha ha! The name Greg Hell started when I ran a club back in the UK called 'Hell' and it just stuck. But it also kind of stands for a few personal things. Where I believe I have been and what I have seen in my life has been hell, and hell is where you can end up if things fuck up bad. So it's like a constant reminder of where I have been and fought to get out of and what I could go back to and why I should be so happy for where I am and what I do today. So although it might sound a bit scary and evil it's actually a really positive thing.

Q7. Why did you move to Sweden? There's got to be an interesting story somewhere behind it, because you just don't move to a small country somewhere up north, far away from the rest of the world without a good reason?

Ah, well there is quite a boring story behind it. But it was one of those things where I took a big jump off a cliff just to see if I could fly.

I didn't by the way, it took me 4 years before I learned to do that.

Q8. You've lived in Sweden for 4 years now. Can you speak any Swedish or do you only speak English? And if you don't speak any Swedish, doesn't it bother you to not always know what people are saying?

I speak English with most of my friends but I can speak Swedish too although I'm not really very good at it. I used to have a job where I spoke Swedish all the time and then I became quite good at it but I haven't done that for a few years now and I've gone a bit downhill since. I understand like 70% of what's being said depending on who is speaking and the subject at hand. But if it doesn't concern me I'm quite good at switching off and letting it just become static noise for a while. Of course I would like to be better but it's just a case of finding the time to sit down and study it and practice it. I'm just about to move in with my girlfriend and she is insisting on speaking only Swedish every second week so let's hope that I can become a bit better then. She has the infinite patience required I'm sure.

Q9. Back to the music. Which is your favorite song on your album and why? Is it your favorite song because of some personal reason or because it have a good beat?

Every song on the album is personal, apart from 'Alright' where Vic wrote the lyrics and 'Gunslinger' which is based on a Stephen King book, as that's what I write about - people have said that my lyrics are quite dark but again this comes from what I said earlier. I can't really write about the typical rock & roll stuff like cars and girls and sunset strip and crap like that as it's not my life or my experiences, I just write about what I feel and know. So almost each song is like a little personal journey and part of my life. I love the song 'The Plowman vs. The Wind' - I think that's my personal favorite as it sums up a great deal of my life and experience and best defines what I'm all about, it's also my favorite to play. It's about how sometimes in life you put yourself through a really big struggle and if you examine the real root of why there is none. Sometimes we are driven just to progress but have no real motive, we hate it but we also could change it at any second should we just enlighten ourselves to the real truth of our situation. A lot of people live their lives like this, I a guilty party at times. So that's a real song about personal liberation which is my ultimate goal for me and everyone else in the world.

Q10. What's the best live performance Lucien ever made?

Hard to say - we seem to be getting better each time we play and ever since our new bassist Johan joined the band we have become better still. A good on form Lucien show is a good on form Lucien show that we all enjoy - so I couldn't really tell you the best. I could however tell you about some of the worst! A little while ago, we travelled 9 hours across Sweden to open up a badly organized festival and played at Midday for 3 kids and the sound tech.

Q11. What can we expect of Lucien in the future?

At the time of writing we are waiting to hear back for a support slot with Dia Psalma and Lillasyster which should be a fun show! We are also working on new material that should surface quite soon. Our plan is to make a Vinyl EP (old skool!) from the new stuff, which will include the songs 'The X and the Enemy' (a song about the late, great radio rock DJ's John Peel, Tommy Vance and Alan Freeman), 'Beautymeetbeast' and a cover of the Duran Duran track 'Planet Earth'.

Q12. How come you chose the name Lucien?

Actually I have a really nerdy yet kinda interesting answer for this one -LUCIEN is a character in Neil Gaiman's 'Sandman' books. The main character is called Morpheus or Dream, he is the entity in charge of everyone's dreams. He lives in a big castle and in this castle is a library, the librarian is called Lucien. The library holds all the books that have been imagined or dreamed but never actually created. So, back in the early 2000's when I was in Mr. Zippy I was dreaming of a new dark rock band that I was gonna create and writing songs in my head for it and I wondered if Lucien might also have a CD collection for all the albums dreamt up but never created - and that's why it seemed totally fitting.

Q13. Some quick questions...
Sleaze or Goth?
Goth... totally.
Sweden or United Kingdom? Both have their good and bad points, but where as the UK gave me all it could, Sweden now opens up more doors for me all the time so...I have to say Sweden.
Vodka or water? Vodka of course! What kind of wacky question is that?
Cat or dog? Officially I'm a cat person but I've just gained a really nice dog called Abbey that is making me change my mind about the whole spectrum of canines.
Winter or summer? Summer for the fun and winter for the cozy times of course. Probably summer though.

For more information about Greg Hell and Lucien, please visit: www.myspace.com/lucien or www.lucien.cjb.net

Interviewed by Johanna Salo