Speaking to a friendly guy on the phone who lives on the other side of the world, hearing him speak from his home in Sweden to his daughter who has the flu and wants attention, you would be mistaken for wondering if this genuine bloke is actually part of a successful punk rock band who are celebrating their 20th anniversary this year.

He simply sounds like a nice stay at home dad. He is the real deal, though; Erik Ohlsson, lead guitarist in the band Millencolin. Currently having some downtime during the preparations for the band’s celebration of two decades rocking together with a two day camping festival in their honour, Ohlsson takes the time to talk about the last twenty years, their upcoming music festival and their latest release The Melancholy Connection.

“I feel exactly like the same person, in one way, and in another way I do not feel the same at all,” says Ohlsson about how the band has evolved over their career. “We looked back and we heard all of these songs and it got us thinking about places we have toured and played, like with a one-man crew who was drunk all the time and we used to drive the van ourselves. We realised how professional we have become over the years.”

“There’s a huge difference in how Millencolin were back then and how we are now,” says the guitarist, “back then we were skateboarding and playing music and we were so happy that there was a record label that wanted to release a seven-inch with us. This style of music that we were playing back then, this was just underground. This music was not played on radio or TV.”

Likening their style to The Offspring, another band that rose to fame in the mid-‘90s, they were recognised as their Swedish counterparts and the mainstream success of punk rock in the United States soon transcended borders and helped Millencolin find a wider audience. Ohlsson looks back at the earlier years of the band’s career as fondly as recent memories, saying, “Everything in our career has been like a giant staircase with heaps of steps, and some of the small steps at the beginning were as fun as the huge steps that we are taking now.”

To celebrate the milestone of being together as a band for twenty years, Millencolin are holding their own celebration with the Millencolin 20 Year Festival. This two-day camping festival that is adjacent to a water park will see the band headline both nights, as well as have other Swedish bands play, most notably The Hives.

Closing both nights with a twenty-five song setlist, Ohlsson promisese “we are not playing the same songs both nights.” Adding that. “We are rehearsing for the festival, on the Saturday we have this huge LED screen as the background. I am going to do some animations for the background and we are trying to synchronise us singing to our video clips.”

The group have also just released a new compilation album of rarities and unreleased tracks titled The Melancholy Connection. The fourteen-track release also comes with a DVD containing archival footage that looks at the behind-the-scenes creative process of the band’s fourth album, Pennybridge Pioneers from 2000.

“We finished the ten-year anniversary tour for Pennybridge Pioneers and I realised I had five hours of footage from the studio sitting in a drawer,” reveals the Millencolin member, “which I had not seen since we had shot it. I said we should make a film that mixed footage from the ten-year anniversary tour and new footage of us talking about the recording and songs from the album.”

Ohlsson is the driving force behind the majority of the band’s multimedia output; he actually edited together the footage that appears on the DVD. “I did everything,” he admits, “I am a graphic designer on the side of Millencolin and I work with video and photography. I have basically done all of that for the band over the years, so it was natural that I also directed this movie. But this was the tough part because it really was five hours of random footage that I had to turn into some sort of story.”

“After this festival we need to take a little bit of a vacation and just get our thoughts together,” says Ohlsson. “Come up with new fresh ideas, maybe the concept for a new album. We are going to release a new album sometime in the future with Epitaph. We are excited.”

While the band has two new songs on The Melancholy Connection, Ohlsson let slip that there are two “really good” songs that they recorded but did not make the release. Could these two songs be the starting point for their next album or will they find their way to fans’ iPods some other way? “We need to have some cool way of releasing them,” thinks Ohlsson. “These days, music is distributed 90% over the internet, there is not really the need for a new album as there was before. But we would like to release a new album and give us a reason to tour.”

In the meantime, fans can take joy in the celebrations of two-decades of classic, Swedish-forged, punk rock.

– Marcus Roberts

The Melancholy Connection is out now through Epitaph.

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