Kling had never written a book before the publisher Kalla Kulor came along, pledging him to write about one of the most successful Swedish rock bands ever, Europe. The research skills of the rock scientist Kling was bound to produce some closet skeletons, a fact which made Kee Marcello’s manager threaten with lawsuit.
Rock Science wanted to know more about the life of this professional rock scientist, so we got a hold of Mattias for an interview!
Mattias Kling grew up with the thrash scene of the 80s. But he abandoned his typical young boy rock star dreams in favour of another dream. He sold his musical instruments to finance journalist school.
Since then Kling has lived up to his reputation as one of the top rock and metal journalist in Sweden, writing about metal and punk for Close-Up Magazine and Aftonbladet. Close-Up is the oldest still active Swedish music magazine with a focus on extreme metal and punk/hardcore, while Aftonbladet is the most circulated tabloid in the country.
RS: Rock and metal fans often become obsessive collectors of knowledge about and releases from their favorite artists. They end up being “scientists” in their chosen fields. They have what we’d like to call a “scientist mentality”. Would you say that you belong to that crowd?
– I would definitely say so, especially when it comes to the bands and the music that’s been as important as the air I breathe to my physical and mental well-being over the last 30 years. At the same time, I don’t see myself as a scientist obsessed with details, but more like a fan thirsting for knowledge. And like one of those I have, shamefully, some knowledge gaps that become apparent when you play “Rock Science”. I’m totally off on Jimi Hendrix, the Stones and Iggy And The Stooges – which in a way compensates for my expert knowledge when it comes to metal from the early 1980s and onwards.
RS: Which bands have meant the most to you throughout the years?
– To do this question justice, you’d really have to write a book about it. It somehow depends on how you look at things and what actually can be defined as “meaningful”. An example: Venom is the reason I got my eyes up for extreme metal in primary school, a passion which later led to a deep-dive into the thrash scene, which at the time was very vital. Would that have happened even if I hadn’t heard Venom? Probably. And as such I don’t count Venom as one of my major favorites. But to the 8 year old Mattias Kling, that became the beginner’s course while waiting for more challenging things. Kind of like you should master addition and subtraction before moving on to multiplication.
– But if I were instead to list the bands which have all in their own way formed my life, we have a collection that is just as well-known as it is obvious: Metallica, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Slayer, Judas Priest, Bad Religion, Morbid Angel – and the list goes on.
RS: You’ve said that Europe is an interesting band to write a book about because of their exciting story. Still the idea to write the book came from the publisher. Which other bands do you think have the most exciting stories worth telling?
– Yes, the idea itself was not my own. A bit embarrassing, but that doesn’t make it less true. Probably mostly because I’d never even thought about the idea of me writing a biographical book, which also meant that I actually turned down [the publisher] Kalla Kulor’s attempts to recruit me. Twice. The stubbornness of the publisher to have me in the project probably became the boost of self-confidence I needed to dare taking the leap and sink into the anxiety-void that writing books basically is. And for that I am deeply thankful.
– I’ve had many questions about what the next book could be about, something that I too have been thinking a lot about. I really only have one requirement: I do not want to go through the same journey as with the Europe case once again. Even if it’s been instructing and rewarding to put so much time into exhaustive research as I had to do with “Only Young Twice…”, I’m not sure if I have the energy to do the same thing all over again. Which has made me drop the plans for my imagined follow-up – a book about Yngwie Malmsteen. Partly because it would signify for me yet another un-authorized and (surely) intensely discouraged product. And partly because I will be overrun by Anders Tegner, who is working on the same book right now. That book will be a joyful read. On the positive side, I’ve had other requests from people wanting help telling their stories. None of this is final yet, so exactly who and what this is about I’ll have to return to at a later stage.
RS: Do you remember seeing Europe for the first time?
– Like for most others people, my first contact with the band was when they won the “Rock-SM” [the Swedish Rock Championships] in December of 1982. However, I have to admit that they did not really excite me so much at that time – or with the debut album released the year after. Instead, I think the pieces started falling into place with the follow-up “Wings of tomorrow”. By then it seemed that the band could seriously take on international competitors.
RS: Europe do have some internal conflicts, especially when it comes to the question of finances and who’s got the rights to what. Kee Marcello had threatened you with a lawsuit for writing the book – was this something that affected your attitude towards releasing it?
– A small correction is in place here: Kee Marcello never personally threatened me. It was his manager Gerry Helders who strongly opposed the idea of me writing a book, for diffuse copyright reasons. But after checking into the legalities of his demands I realized that he could not stop my work, other than stopping me from getting in touch with Kee. So I wouldn’t say it was a direct obstacle, on the contrary, it encouraged me to keep on going.
RS: You’ve made a career of your musical interest as a journalist and writer, do you play an instrument yourself?
– No. Embarrassingly, no. I’m basically too bad at it. As many others in my field of work I’ve done some awkward attempts at it, played with some more or less hopeless groupings in Kalmar [on the southern east coast of Sweden] in the 80s, but later had to sell my instruments and such to afford my journalist studies in another town. Which probably many ears are thankful for.
RS: The book is in Swedish, are there any plans to translate it? Where can the Swedish Europe Scientists get a hold of it?
– There are plans of an international launch, yes. I see Japan, South America and, for example, Italy and Spain as obvious markets myself, but exactly how it goes with licensing agreements abroad I don’t know. However, the book will be released in paperback in the end of May through [the publisher] Pocketförlaget. So soon there will be a lot of Europe on shelves all around the country.