For over 10 years, Swedish rockers Blindside have been thrashing their hardcore hearts out on stages across the world and releasing ever-evolving albums as musical fads and trends have come and gone.
musicOMH caught up with the band in London on their recent UK tour and, over a beer, got the chance to get deep with vocalist Christian about politics, faith and rock ‘n’ roll.
Having just dragged Christian Lindskog away from uncoiling leads and tuning instruments on the tiny Camden Barfly stage, yours truly is entrusted by the amiable Blindside frontman to procure him some of England’s finest real ale in a nearby watering-hole.
One sip of a Greene King winter-warming brew later, and the conversation is in full swing, with Christian happily recounting the band’s early days on tour (“we got laughed at everywhere we went – our van was so small and kept breaking down!”) and admitting that “we’ve really neglected Europe in the past few years”.
Thankfully for Blindside’s fans, the latter situation has recently been rectified as the boys have been touring solidly in support of last year’s diverse masterpiece The Great Depression. In contrast to the dejected-sounding album title, Christian explains that this has been far from a disheartening experience:
“It’s been great to see the reaction to this time – the fans have really embraced another personal record from us.”
This “personal” element of Christian’s lyrics has always been a key attraction to Blindside’s followers:
“My lyrics have to be personal to me and connected, there has to be a real emotional attachment, and as such I tend to write about what I’m going through at a given time. Yamkela for instance was written about a 10-year old boy I met in South Africa while accompanying my wife on a research trip last year. He was living on the street, his father was not around, his house had burnt down and his mother died of HIV. He had the AIDS virus too, but despite all of that he was full of joy and happiness. Amongst all that suffering and pain he was able to be happy and enjoy life. So that really hit home to me and put things in perspective in a big way.”
- Blindside’s Christian Lindskog puts rock ‘n’ roll into perspective.
Christian goes on to explain how the after-effects of the trip were far-reaching, especially with regard to his spiritual beliefs and subsequently to the creation of The Great Depression. The challenge of “perspective” upon returning from South Africa is tackled with honesty on the track Put Back The Stars:
“For me, the meaning behind [the lyric] ‘ain’t it something to know you’re lost’ is basically how I felt after I went home from South Africa and saw how things are in Sweden. I just felt lost and appreciated what that really feels like. I was looking, questioning and searching for God in all of it, not being totally depressed about it, but searching. I felt like I was on a big black sea but there was still that hope, like ‘I wonder what’s gonna be around the corner’. I felt like I was waiting for God to be ready to speak to me, but in reality it was probably me not being ready to listen!”
With Christian’s clearly candid approach to discussing the place of Christianity in his life, I wonder whether this has always been an easy topic for the band to broach over the years:
“Well no, it’s not always easy especially when the whole ‘faith thing’ unfortunately often gets misunderstood too. For example, a common view in Sweden is that Christian people are nice, they don’t lie that much, and they’re pleasant… but a little bit boring! I guess that comes from a teaching which says that you have to be perfect to come closer to God you know? And for me that’s the total opposite of what Christianity is about.”
- Christian Lindskog on why Blindside’s faith will always be integral to their music.
It is clear that the separation of faith from any area of life is not an option for the soft yet surely spoken Swede:
“It’s such a foundation to us, not only musically but just as friends too, you know, keeping our marriages together, everything. It would be impossible to separate the two – us and our relationships with God are totally intertwined.”
Nowhere is this lack of severance more obvious than in his attitude to music:
“Yeah, it probably would it be easier to keep the two separate if we wanted to, especially in Sweden, which is even more secularised than Great Britain, where something like 4% of the population is Christian. Of course it would be easier to be like any other rock band, but we can’t play games – this is the most important thing, and it’s why we’re doing what we do.”
As the ale is gradually consumed, further discussion upon the topic of faith follows, with particular reference to the disparity between the words and actions of many “religious” individuals, some of whom make a habit of continually criticising Christian and his band-mates. Despite this, Christian’s attitude on the subject is certainly commendable:
“When I read stuff on our message boards saying, ‘What is he doing drinking beer? He’s supposed to be a Christian’ – as much as I can get frustrated with that because it’s ridiculous, it’s very important not to get bitter about it all. You have to choose not to because otherwise it can get really, really frustrating!” (At this point Mr Lindskog’s rolling eyes give away much more than his words!)
Nevertheless, Christian is clear as to the result he desires from Blindside’s synergy of faith and music:
“I think the goal has always been to show that there’s hope in a hopeless world, to show that you can’t just be all glammed up and say: ‘Jesus is nice and you should just pray to him!’ It’s not all glitter, the world is a dark place – dark as hell. There’s a lot of good here too, but there’s no denying the darkness, and if we can’t relate to that, we ourselves are not relatable to anyone else.”
And with that, having defined his mission statement with bold humility, a phone rings and my interviewee is rushed off to sound-check to prepare for the evening’s “ministry”.