Sweden is famous for its meatballs, and Swedish sleaze band Crashdiet plays meaty glam metal that flaunts cast iron balls. Decked out in studded leather, eyeliner, long spiked hair dyed either menacingly black or scorchingly blond, and playing flashy anthemic rock undercut with a sleazy, sneering punk rawness, this foursome could have just as easily erupted from the Sunset Strip’s 80s glory days as from their native Stockholm. Formed in 2000, and enduring tragedy and lineup changes, the band (newest singer Simon Cruz and guitarist Martin Sweet, who both offered insights for this interview, bassist Peter London and drummer Eric Young) has stayed the course and propelled themselves beyond setbacks. They’ve built a following by sidestepping the cheesiness often associated with 80s-style rock, and playing, singing and writing with flair and razor-wire sharp chops, while still maintaining bad-boy exploits behind the scenes.
However, Sweet acknowledges that none of this would have been possible without founding member Dave Lepard, who helped rocket their 2005 debut album, Rest in Sleaze, to number 12 on the national charts, and who, stricken by depression, committed suicide at age 25. “Dave, may his soul rest in peace, founded Crashdiet, he founded the name,” Sweet says, adding with a fond chuckle, “I don’t think he knew what it meant when he invented the name. He came up with the name when he was totally drunk. And then he couldn’t remember where it came from in the morning. But in 2004 we got signed to Universal, a major label. And everything was fine until Dave committed suicide in January of 2006.”
The remaining members were so devastated they couldn’t continue as a band, until a deluge of fan sympathy spurred them to forge onward. In 2007 they hired a new singer, H. Olliver Twisted, and released their second album, The Unattractive Revolution. The album reached number 11 on the Swedish charts, but possibly even more exciting to Sweet was that his hero and major influence, Motley Crue’s Mick Mars, co-wrote and played on two cuts, Alone and I Don’t Care.
“Motley was in town the summer of 2007. And I was told that he was willing to write with other people. So his management called me up and was like, ‘Do you wanna write with Mick Mars of Motley Crue?’ And I’m like, ‘No way,’ ” Sweet deadpans, then laughs. “Of course I want to! I didn’t believe it until he showed up in the same room. I was scared [laughs]. But as soon as he entered the room, he was very polite — a very human guy. I thought he was inhuman, like a monster or something. But he’s really, really nice. He’s a really sweet man. So it was a great experience. I actually wrote songs with him. It still feels unreal to this day because it went so fast. It was like, one day of writing songs and then he left.”
Mars wasn’t the only musician Crashdiet saw come and go quickly. A year after joining, singer Twisted was ousted from the band. But when one set of vocal cords closes, another one opens, and in 2009, Cruz took over as lead singer. “I lived in London for a while, and then I moved back to Stockholm and started a band — we were called Foxy. And just as I moved back, I saw a poster with these guys [Crashdiet] in a club I was at, and I was like, ‘What the fuck? What are these fucking idiots doing?’ ” Cruz describes with a laugh, then becomes serious. “I was sold straightaway. I thought it was fucking awesome. And I met these guys a couple of times at the clubs, so after they kicked Ollie out I called Martin and said, ‘Maybe you should try something else.’ And we did, and it worked out.”
The guys also turned out to be a perfect match as songwriters. “I think the writing process is one of the greatest things,” Cruz says. “When I met the band and we tried the songwriting together, something happened there which I hadn’t really experienced before. It was a cool thing. And that happens still when we write songs together.”Sweet agrees, with a compliment about recording with Cruz. “He’s a real singer. It’s for real. You don’t have to put autotune on him [laughs].”
“That’s when the magic happens,” Sweet agrees.
Cruz reminisces about their early adventures as a band and again, Stockholm sounds like a separated-at-birth twin of the Sunset Strip. “It was this upcoming thing that had started — a lot of sleazy kids running around town and just making a mess. And we were all a part of that scene. It was like a big, fun family. We had a special club that we went to. We started out with just every other Friday. But then every Friday it started to [become] more and more nights like that, and everyone was meeting there. It was like spandex, big hair, lipstick — full on. It was crazy parties. The guards didn’t care. You could do anything. You could jump out of the windows with drinks, and it was mayhem. It was fantastic. The best time I ever had.”
As four good-looking guys with a huge female following, the mayhem continues. “They throw knickers [panties] and bras and stuff onstage,” Sweet says. “But the funny thing is, sometimes they try to not be groupie-ish and they’re like, ‘I don’t wanna be a groupie, but can you give Simon Cruz my number?’ ”
Cruz, however, can’t be coaxed into giving any details of debauchery. “We meet some nice people sometimes,” is all he’ll innocently divulge, “and they join us and we have fun.”
When talking about Generation Wild, Crashdiet’s third album (released in 2010), and the first to feature Cruz’s vocals, he easily opens up about the recording process. “We didn’t have a lot of time in the studio, so we had prepared all the songs. I remember us carrying out big bags of empty beer cans all the time, so I think we had a good time,” he recalls with a laugh. “It was pretty rough for me because the drummer, he set off all the songs in a day or two, and the bassist did it pretty fast. Then it was my turn and I was gonna sing straight for four or five days. I had trouble with my throat at the end and had to go to the doctor and take some medication. But it was still great fun.”
Ever since then, they’ve been “touring our asses off,” according to Sweet, and have been detonating decibels almost everywhere, except Asia and Africa, while juggling the recording of their fourth album, due in January 2013. Crashdiet is already doing presales for that CD, and the first 300 will be emblazoned with their autographs. “It’s called Untitled,” says Sweet, laughing. “Actually, we don’t have a title yet. We just started recording a few months ago. So we’re in and out of the studio between tours. It’s difficult to get that feeling, the vibe you play onstage, to get that in the studio. But I think this time we’re getting close. It feels good. We’re a really tight unit now.”
Weaving recording sessions between tours has other perks too. “We’ve played some of the new stuff live,” Sweet says. “We play it once, and then it leaks on YouTube, and then everybody knows it. So at the next show it’s gonna be a good response.”
Sweet reveals that the fourth album still has its middle finger held proudly aloft with attitude-filled song titles like Anarchy and Shithead, but that the band’s studio process has had an overhaul. “On the first three albums we often recorded the drums first, and then we put on some bass, and then some guitar. We weren’t really playing like a four-piece. But now we’re actually playing the full song, so we try not to cut and paste like we’ve done before. We want to do an honest album.”
Just to make sure Crashdiet keeps all generations wild, Sweet says, “We want to tour everywhere. I’m sure Canada’s gonna be on our next U.S. tour — it’s gonna be in the same package. And the same thing about New Zealand. Next year is gonna be the big touring year, so we’re gonna try to be everywhere.”
“We’re happy to play music for you,” Cruz enthusiastically concludes. “And we’re happy that you listen. We’re very proud of our fans.”
Photo Credit for “live” photos: Glen Willis