Entries in Sweden (4)


Loud Rock at KGLT - playlist analysis and demographics

Ever since I began doing my radio show at KGLT, I've been collecting playlist data and coalescing it into a spreadsheet. I've been interested in analyzing that data to answer some questions about my listening and playing habits. Early on, I just didn't have enough data to evaluate, then life got busy and I didn't have time. Now that my steady show at KGLT is no longer, I wanted to analyze the data (over a year's worth) and see what it tells me.

I've often made the claim that a "lot" of the bands I listen to are from Finland and Sweden, however, I've never quantified that. That's one area I wanted to investigate using my KGLT playlist data. I also wanted to look at my data in the context of some of the "metal demographics" maps that are out on the web. They typically show Scandinavia, especially Finland and Sweden as contributing a disproportionate amount of metal to the world per capita (see Demographics of Metal). Of course, my analysis will only be one view of the problem, specific to the music I play at KGLT, but I still think it's interesting to analyze it in the context of the bigger picture.

My data is arranged to show every band I've ever played at KGLT and how many times I've played them. The simplest version of the spreadsheet sorts that data from most often played (#1 Nightwish, #2 Amaranthe) down to all the bands I've only played once. Right off the bat, I see hints of what I already suspected: in the top 10 most played bands, 3 are from Finland and 3 are from the United States. However, Sweden only has one band in the top 10. Looking at the top 20, Finland and Sweden each show up 4 times but the US is there 5 times. So, at the simplest level, yes, I do play a lot of Finnish and Swedish bands, but not at any obvious cost to the US.

However, the US starts showing up in heavy numbers in slots 21 and below, quickly establishing a higher play count overall than even Sweden and Finland combined. In fact, the US swamps everyone else with 462 plays, with Finland the next closest at 86 and Sweden following at 77. That, however, feels a bit distorted to me. I'd spent many months reviewing the entire KGLT Loud Rock CD collection and had played any band that got my attention. That collection is fairly weak in imports, so the pool I had to pull from was a bit skewed against Finland and Sweden. Many of the bands during that library review period I only played once. With that in mind, I decided to trim down the data set and regenerate my charts. I ended up with charts just like the original except restricted to 3 or more plays, 6 or more plays and 8 or more plays. Only the most restrictive (8 or more plays) chart levels the tables, showing Finland in the #1 spot followed by the US and then Sweden, but all in comparable numbers. Clearly, when push comes to shove, the music I like to play the most is, in fact, biased towards Finland and Sweden.

I also have claimed that I lean toward new music, playing lots of recent releases and bands from the 1990s and 2000s. To test those claims, I rearranged the data to look at number of plays per year the band was formed. I was pleased to see the 669 of the songs I played were from bands formed in 1990 or later. Only 223 of the plays are from bands formed prior to 1990. Being disappointed by the prevalence of "Classic Rock" stations and the dearth of new music on the radio, I was happy to see that I've been doing my part to reveal all the recently released heavy music out there in the world.

Having confirmed my suspicions at a very high level, I started to wonder how that relates to the population size that's generating these bands. I was highly suspicious that the main reason the US dominates the overall list is based on population size. I've seen the "metal demographics" maps and know how small the Swedish and Finnish populations are compared to the US. In addition, given my own knowledge of variation in metal style between states here in the US, and relative populations, I was curious about how things would change if I treated states as comparable to countries elsewhere in the world.

The first chart I generated considering states as countries showed something that won't shock anyone. The entity that generates the most plays on KGLT is California, immediately followed by Finland, Sweden and then the state of New York. Also, as no surprise to anyone, England and Germany land in the 5 and 6 slots. The next 10 are mostly states, including a number that I would have guessed (MassachusettsFloridaGeorgia and Texas). I don't know that I'd have guessed New Jersey and Illinois would be this high in the list, but Washington makes sense considering Seattle's contributions to music. Those of you outside the US will be pleased to see Canada at #8, the Netherlands at #12 and Australia at #16, immediately followed by NorwayItaly and Greece.

I was still a little surprised to see California dominating the list but once again remembered all those single-play bands from my library review efforts. We know that California, especially the southern part of the state, churns out a ton of bands, so it might still be simply the result of excess availability relative to imports. With that in mind, I decided to try looking at bands with higher numbers of plays. Even at 3 plays, the playing field levels quite a bit, with California leading at 88 but Finland in the same ballpark (73) and Sweden at 56. Being even more restrictive and looking at 5 plays or more pulls Finland into the lead at 63, with California at 61 and Sweden at 44.


I also wanted to look at the cities spawning most of these bands. Now, at this point my data is a little less robust, since the Wikipedia, where I gathered band information, is a bit spotty on how it describes where bands are from. Places like New York City and Los Angeles often are credited for bands that were formed in a borough or nearby city. Even so, I think the table is interesting, keeping in mind that Los Angeles and New York City probably have higher numbers than reality. It's definitely interesting to see Gothenburg as contributing the second largest number of plays and Helsinki in the #4 spot (note I'm skipping the true #1 in the list which is "undetermined").

With all those questions answered, I still had a nagging curiosity. How much do the large populations of California, Germany and England help them generate large numbers of playable bands (for my show). So, I made one more table, scaling the number of plays by the population of the state or country.It's impressive that California has so many plays that it still lands in the #4 spot despite its large population. Sure enough, Finland and Sweden, with their smaller populations and large number of plays land in the #2 and #3 spots, but what about #1? I had to laugh when I saw it. I love Tyr and a played them a number of times, but they had never generated an entry anywhere near the top of my tables before this. Thanks to the tiny population of the Faroe Islands, however, it lands in the #1 slot. Basically, I can conclude that the Faroe Islands, per capita, are the most effective country for generating music I like to play on the radio. Go Faroes and Go Tyr!!

In the end, the data simply reinforces what I already know. I love Finnish and Swedish metal. Those two countries are highly efficient at creating new bands that I like, and at the same time generate a wide variety of sub-styles within the metal umbrella. The United States and California, where I was born and raised, clearly generate a ton of listenable heavy music, and I should not overlook many parts of the US for their contributions to the overall metal pool. Sadly, Montana does not even appear in the data. Perhaps I can take small solace in knowing that Oregon does not appear in the data either, and Portland is currently a lively music center. So there's always a chance I just didn't get around to playing that one metal gem from Montana.


You Know You're Not In Bozeman When… (Swedish Edition)

Having taken a couple weeks off from blogging to fully enjoy our vacation in Scandinavia, our return to Bozeman has helped highlight a number of distinctions between our experiences in Sweden and our daily lives in Bozeman. In today's article I will explore (in no particular order) some clear signs you are in Sweden, not Bozeman.

- You encounter water craft taller than most of the municipal skyline. In both Stockholm and Gothenburg, on any given day you are likely to see massive cruise ships that are unbelievably tall, in many cases dwarfing the city's buildings.

- You pass Amon AmarthIn Flames and Katatonia T-shirts in less than 5 minutes walking around downtown. Yes, I know folks in Bozeman that might have at least one or two of those shirts, but I've only seen a concentration of serious metal T's at local metal shows (e.g. Agalloch at the Zebra Lounge).

- You wander along a tourist-packed street in the old town, check out the first record store you find and more than 25% of the selection falls under the "Heavy/Death/Black/Thrash/Doom" section. I'm not knocking Cactus Records, but Sound Pollution in Stockholm (on Gamla Stan) is about a quarter the size and has nearly every band I'd every want to play on my radio show.

- You can ride a roller coaster and see Amaranthe within a few hundred meters of each other, on the same day. To be fair, the first half of that is sufficient, i.e. you can't even ride a real roller coaster in Bozeman, but even if you relax the comparison, in Bozeman, you can't ride any amusement park ride and see a heavy metal band at the same venue, not even at the county fair.

- You go for 7 days without noticing a single pickup truck or SUV. Nothing but Eurovans of all sizes from any number of manufacturers (e.g. Mercedes, Ford, Opel, Citroen, Fiat).

- You look through the "services offered" flyers at the local record store and see Deicide and Iced Earth's guitarist offering up lessons. Yes, you're right, Ralph is Italian-American, but point being, he's offering guitar lessons in Stockholm, not in Bozeman.

- You stumble onto multiple flyers for local metal bands you've never heard of. Or artists like TriviumNikki Sixx and Soulfly, headlining big shows in the next month. Truth is, it's rare to see flyers for -any- metal bands in Bozeman. Maybe in Billings or Missoula...

- You see a British woman playing a percussion instrument you've never heard or seen before (Hang), and she's hanging out with about 10 guys from Chile with long black hair, shades and Wacken 2012 T-shirts.

Our visit to Sweden was great. Three generations of the Hearst/Reynolds clan, three cities, two countries and two weeks. Lots of scrambling to figure out public transportation, frantic searches for WC's and many great meals. All in all, an amazing experience!

Before I sign off, I want to thank Thomas at Roaddust for his hospitality and wonderful conversation. We had a great time at Liseberg and really appreciate everything you did to help us plan and carry out this trip. In Helsinki, I was talking to Kiley (my daughter) about what she enjoyed most during the trip and she said "...especially seeing Amaranthe and meeting their road manager, who's really, really awesome."

Next time, Finland...



The Quest: the metal heartland

As I mentioned not long ago in my article about my next project, I'm striving for something new. The ingredients for my next album need to be fresh and unique, yet still completely aligned with my love of heavy, melodic music. Although I have recently become friends with a number of metalheads here in Bozeman, the common theme amongst them leans too heavily toward death metal and guttural vocals to be the right fit for me. I need the contributors for this next album to come naturally to melody; they must be forceful and graceful all at once. And, as I previously mentioned, the most sensible place to look for those musicians is where most of my favorite bands come from: Finland and Sweden.

The plane tickets are purchased, my family's summer has been scheduled. In mid-August we will embark on our quest, combining the goal of seeing Amaranthe perform in their home territory, with my own goal of making the first round of connections I need for the next album. Earlier this year we had hoped to accomplish the family goal, and see Amaranthe at the House of Metal festival. Nancy, Kiley and Zane are all crazy about Amaranthe, and we were immensely excited until we learned that the House of Metal show was not all ages; neither of the kids would make the 13 year old cutoff. Those were sad days in the Hearst-Reynolds house but they planted a seed that continued to grow. A few months later, while preparing my Amaranthe blog article, I was looking at their website and noticed a show planned for August at the Liseberg Stora Scenen. Being part of a family-oriented amusement park, I quickly contacted the park representatives and learned that, yes, there will not be an age limit. With that information, the quest became reality.

Centered around the Amaranthe concert, we will spend a week in Sweden and a week in Finland. I hope to make advance contact with various studios and engineers in HelsinkiStockholm and Göteborg. I'm attempting to find someone that can act as a champion and coordinator for the project, someone that I will pay for their responsibilities but who will also immerse themselves in the vision. Ideally, this person will be able to assemble a collection of musicians, a drummer, a bass player, a keyboardist and a singer, that are perfectly suited to this project. Then, the coordinator/engineer/producer will help me establish the monetary and temporal logistics for the project. I hope to visit with various engineers and producers, and tour their facilities, so that we have enough opportunity to recognize the right fit when it shows itself.

As a family, there will be more to this trip than architecting my next album. We will see the sights, experience the culture and, hopefully, spend some days outside the city, most likely exploring the Finnish wilderness. But, for me, the trip really hinges on my quest. I will strive to gather enough data to make the path to the next album clear. I will also endeavor to gain enough familiarity with the cities and their music scenes so that I'm prepared for a potential return trip. I suspect, budget-wise and time-wise, it will make sense for me to track guitars here in Bozeman, however, I do think that it makes sense for me to take part in as much of the other tracking as possible. Depending on scheduling, perhaps I can be present when basic tracks and vocals are being laid down.

We will see how it all comes together. If you are a heavy musician in Finland or Sweden and have an interest in the project, please contact me. If you are a recording engineer, producer or studio owner in Göteborg, Stockholm or Helsinki and think you could help me accomplish my vision, please let me know. I would be happy to communicate before and to meet with any and all of you in August. If the vision seems still a bit nebulous, you are right, I'm trying to leave a lot of room for it to define itself, based on the creative people involved. I firmly believe in the magic of collaboration and that "my" vision is really more of a catalyst than an exacting road map. For more information, clarification and questions, please do not be shy, I'd love to hear your thoughts.


The Next Album

As I mentioned in a recent article, I've struggled to find the right musical outlet here in Bozeman. This has become more of an issue now that the Danger, Ltd. album and the Scattershock album are complete. I no longer have those projects and their corresponding goals to keep me going and as a result I'm going a bit nuts (yes, even more so than usual...). That, in turn has spawned another one of my "big ideas."

I need a new project, a goal. It needs to be music and it needs to be original songs, not covers. And it needs to be music that's stylistically close to my heart. I listen mostly to melodic sub-genres of metal, e.g. power metal, goth metal, emo/screamo/alt. metal, nu metal, metalcore. It's what I gravitate toward naturally. It's not an intellectual thing, it's about gut instinct. And yet, I've generated very little original music that fits that collection of styles. It's time for that to change. I need to create something that comes naturally, from inside.

I need a band and yet the longer I live in Bozeman, the less likely I think it is that I'll find one here. I need other musicians that live and breath the same musical styles that I do. I need a drummer, a bass player, another guitarist, a vocalist and maybe a keyboardist, all of whom need to have musical instinct in the same rough vicinity as my own. We don't all need to think alike, we just need to have enough overlap to focus on a common goal. I'm beginning to think I need to assemble that band in the heart of the world's best melodic metal. Sadly, that's not here in Bozeman and more and more I think it's not even here in the U.S. Most of the bands I listen to hail from Finland and Sweden, and maybe it's time I acknowledged that.

So my working plan, my slowly crystallizing vision, is to record my next album in some combination of Finland and Sweden. If I can pull this off, I'll identify musicians in Scandinavia that are interested in playing on the album. I will need to develop a budget for this project, because I'll need to pay the players, pay for my own travel, pay for studio time and, most likely, pay someone in that neck of the woods to coordinate things for me. I'm thinking that last role is the key. I need an "associate producer" or "facilitator", someone that has connections in Finland and Sweden and can help me assemble the right musicians for the project and can help oversee the project. If I can find that person, then I think the rest will come together.

To be clear, the songs have not yet been written. That's on me, at least the music. This time around, I'm also thinking that I need to contribute lyrics, unless somehow I get lucky and find someone who's interested in a collaboration, something more than a simple studio musician role. I need to start writing again and at the same time, I need to start making contact with studios and engineers in Finland and Sweden and see if I can find the right fit. There are a lot of challenges that need to be overcome before this becomes a reality, but it gives me something to strive for. A new dream that can pick up where I left off after completing the Scattershock release.

Are you a musician in Sweden or Finland that would be interested in contributing to this project? Are you a recording engineer that can record and mix this project for me? Do you know musicians that would be interested in playing on the album? Are you elsewhere in the world but find the project interesting enough that we should talk? I'm very open-minded about how this comes together, so if you have ideas or suggestions, please get in touch!