Interview with Benjamin Thörnblom

Once upon a time, on a rainy and cold day in March 2013 I saw Propane Propane on stage in Gothenburg. They played good and their album was good, the album art well done and even a music video to go along with that. Now it seems that band is no more and the man behind the band, Benjamin Thörnblom, works on other projects – that sound very differently from the stoner rock of Propane Propane. We hooked up on an email interview to see what’s happened and what awaits.

I saw your former band Propane Propane on a gig in early 2013 in Gothenburg, and as many others there was impressed. But only to a few days later see on your Facebook that it was one of the last gigs you would do. Why did you split up? I remember you had a smashing vinyl and music video out at that time.

Yeah, we had just released our album Indigo and the music video for the song Rise about five months prior to that show in Gothenburg, and at the time I was really exhausted from all the work with Propane Propane. My brain had been working day and night for years and I was feed up with taking responsibility for the band and the mentality of some of the band members. Things in and outside of the band had started to take a huge toll on me. In the midst of it all I also realized that the new album we were working on was not going to be able to reach its full potential, which was basically the turn of the screw for me.

I strongly believe that the world does not need yet another underground band with a half-assed record, like countless other stonerrock bands out there today. Either the album was going to be top notch or we did not do it at all.

Fast forward a couple of weeks after that show in Gothenburg I called the quits, right on stage. I was having some monitoring and technical difficulties and as we where about halfway though the set I just fucking blew up, like an atomic bomb had been set off inside of me. I threw my beloved 73′ Gibson guitar to hell and left the stage seeing red. On my way out I almost got into a fistfight with some random obnoxious asshole who came up to me with a smirky smile on his face asking me if I was “happy” with tonights show? It accelerated my state of mind even future and as I was just about to bash his face in the manager of the bar rushed in between us and stopped me. I was just about ready to do anything at that point, so it was a good thing he did stop me. After that incident I just grabbed my guitar and all of my stuff and left the bar with my girlfriend, thinking to myself: ‘Ok, this is it. There is no turning back now.’

That was basically the end of Propane Propane.

Benjamin Thörnblom. Photo: Sanjin Đumišić.

What did you do after Propane Propane dissolved? And what did you do before forming the same band?

I just went back home and took two weeks off to think, to plan and to recharge my batteries on. Then I went right back into my home studio and started to write music again. I continued the work on Tropical Hippos upcoming album PT:UFS which I had already been working on-and-off for the last two years.

Tropical Hippo is an electronic/industrial/fuzz-rock group that I founded in 2008 and released the EP Black Star later that same year. Later in 2009, when Propane Propane was formed, Tropical Hippo sort of got set on indefinite hold, until now.

Prior to Propane Propane I wrote and produced music on my own. Back then, in 2008 I actually recorded the entire first demo (Let the Mounties Rise Again) for Propane Propane before the band even really existed. Same thing with the self titled EP (Propane Propane) in 2009, it was just all me even though the band had formed by then.

Before all of that Tropical Hippo was my one and only project.

The other guys from the band, are they up to some music elsewhere?

No, not that I know of. But it would be interesting if any one of them did do something. If so they would definitely have my thumbs up.

What is your musical background? Are you coming from a music family or such?

When I was growing up there was always a lot of music playing at home. My dad used to blast Dylan, Hendrix, Jethro Tull or The Beatles really fucking loud on the stereo. He was also the only one in my family who played an instrument (the guitar) and was a big influence on me as a kid. He was probably the reason why I picked up the guitar at the age of sixteen.

Your upcoming album – Potential Threat: Under Full Surveillance – is a conceptual one. It’s theme is grounded in the Swedish surveillance program. How do you approach the theme? Is it more of a piece of work with that frame to lift up awereness on the issue?

Even though the world already is rather well-informed on the subjects nobody seems to do anything about it. So yes, in someways I want to shift more focus to these issues. But I also wanted to tell the story of a world that I had carried inside of me for a long time and just let the listener experience it.

The album PT:UFS was planned to be like a movie where each track tells a protagonists story in parallel with all the other ones. When I was starting to write this album in early 2012 I had accumulated a lot of ideas and questions that was floating around in my head. How we get sculpted by the world and who sculpts it, the surveillance programs in real life and in our digital world, the politics, the government, control and freedom.

I’m not into the whole bag of telling right from wrong here but simply to tell the stories of people and their viewpoints of Sweden and Europe in a not too distant future.

What are your current inspirations and what are the major beacons of insight in your life?

Four years ago I lost someone very close who committed suicide and that really opened my eyes for what is important in life and to spend less time on stuff that really does not matter in the end..

As far as musical inspiration goes it could be anything from music, books and movies to sounds you pick up on the streets. Lately I have been revisiting all kinds of old video game soundtracks. Everything from Commodore to Nintendo to Playstation, that world is pretty much endless once you start to dig in it. I also love the old 80-90’s industrial bands such as Skinny puppy, Throbbing Gristle, Ministry and many more. There is something very direct, raw and honest in that type of music that really speaks to me.

Musically, how’s the rest of this year looking out for you? Any gigs or new projects coming up?

I don’t want to spoil anything but a new “fuzz-rock” album has been and is in the making. I will look into all of that later in this year but for right now my main focus is on Tropical Hippos upcoming album ‘Potential Threat: Under Full Surveillance’. It is the most comprehensive work I have ever done and I’m quite pleased with how the album turned out. The new album will be released somehow (no label or date set yet) in the summer of 2014.

Thank you & good luck! (Swedish Safety & Control Authority)

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