Take a pinch of 60's garage punk, mix with a healthy amount of Detroit punk, 70's New Wave, plenty of power pop and just a few grains of the band's homemade Happy Metal brand. Add sweet harmonies, a generous dose of humour and frantic no-holds live action. Voilá... (fanfare)
THE PSYCHOTIC YOUTH!
But, you wonder (now don't you), how did it all begin?
Well, we have to go back all the way to the autumn of 1984. Up in the tiny town of Kramfors in northern Sweden, 18 year old ex-hooligan Jörgen Westman, fed up with wrecking cars and playing guitar in mediocre new wave bands, decides to start up a new project, inspired by the then-somewhat-fashionable 60's garage punk revival. Westman recruits workmate Kent Sjöholm (who turns out to be a dynamite drummer as well as a nice fellow and all-around good guy), persuades his friend Anders Nordstrand into buying a bass, and manages to lure mad half-Dane Nils Lund-Larsen, top guitar player of neighbouring town Härnösand, into it all. The band is called the Ratfink-A-Boo Boo's, after a song by the Nomads, which pretty much tells what it's all about. The 60's punk collection Nuggets makes a handy manual; covers of songs by the Sonics, the Standells and the Strangeloves are mixed with original Westman compositions in a similar vein.
After changing the name to the Psychotic Youth and recording a flexi disc for Jörgen's fanzine Straight from the grooveyard, multi-instrumentalist Gunnar Frick from örnsköldsvik (yet another small town in the area) is brought in as a organ-player in the autumn of 1985.
Playing rock'n'roll in northern Sweden was a struggle in its own. Gunnar reminisces:
"Every second Sunday I used to get up at 8 a.m., bring the organ on the bus 100 kilometres (!) south, where Jörgen was waiting with his ratty old Opel for further transport to Nyadal, a small village outside Kramfors, where we rehearsed in the local folklore centre. Nils, if he could afford the ticket, came with another bus from fifty kilometres to the south, changing to ferry (!!) before finally meeting up with the rest of us. These days, I find it nuisance not to be able to walk to rehearsals..."
These Monty Pythonesque conditions ("My family lived in a shoebox on the motorway...") notwithstanding, the band manages to stay together and develop. Gigs in northern Sweden being sparse, the band's main activity in 1985-1987 is recording for various local labels, First out is the EP "Devils Train", and after that, notably, the aptly-titled debut LP "Faster! Faster!". Jörgen writes the original songs; Gunnar works the studio magic and try his best to keep some working discipline in the troops. Although the 60's punk revival is petering out, they do attract some attention, not so much in Sweden as on the continent, where Swedish garage punk is still considered hot. For instance, the single "Just like me/Stop waistin' my time" is released in France and Spain only. The difficult second LP "Anything For A Thrill" is not reviewed at all by the Swedish press (except for the reviews band members write themselves for local papers); nevertheless, it is released in Holland and other foreign places.
In the summer of 1987 Jörgen moves to Gothenburg, by and by luring Kent and Gunnar along.
Having tried their luck in various combos, they restart the Psychotic Youth in January 1988. Fellow exile Northlanders Magnus "Nypon" Nyberg and Erik Danielsson join on guitar and bass, and the band gains some local reputation as a fine wild live act. However, the new bass player suddenly disappears without a trace (nobody's heard from him since) and so Gunnar trades in his Farfisa organ for a Rickenbacker bass. As a four-man unit, the Psychotic Youth embark on their first real tour in November, 1988. Jörgen tells about it:
"It was totally incredible. For the first time, we were treated with respect. We had a tour manager and got to sleep in hotels! The clubs we played had real PA systems, and they gave us unlimited amounts of booze! Besides, we met with amazingly good response. There were actually people coming to check out an almost unknown band from Sweden."
In January 1989, the band feels ripe to get into the studio again, for the first time in almost two years. Chips Kiesbye (of famous band Sator) agrees to produce the record, originally mostly as a favor to his fellow Northlanders, but pretty soon realizing the potential of the songs. One night Chips brings his band mate Kent Norberg along to sing harmonies, and everything falls into place. The Sator laddies succeed in persuading their record company, Radium 226.05, that "this is the hottest thing since Elvis"; an additional ten songs are written and recorded at a furious pace. The single "Julie" brings some media attention, and radio man Lars Aldman, the closest thing Sweden's got to a John Peel, gets his eyes on the band. An album called "Some Fun", mixed in five days at the Music-A-Matic studio by Chips and Michael Ilbert, is released in the autumn of 1989, for the first time establishing the Psychotic Youth on the national rock scene. The label "surf punk" firmly fixed to the band, members are forced to practice harmony singing for hours and hours in order to be able to play the new songs live. The problem is partly solved by reinforcing the live act with singer-showman-teen heartthrob Per Dahlberg.
The following year, they play about 70 gigs, including the classic Danish Roskilde festival and tours all over Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Germany, Austria and Holland. There are plenty of amusing anecdotes from this period, such as "The Story Of The Wheel Falling Off The Bus On The Way To The Hultsfred Festival" and "The Story Of The Band Arriving Two Days Early For That Festival In Austria". The episodes of "Free Booze In Freiburg" and "Meeting M-Rock Of The Stonefunkers Aboard The German Ferry, Whereupon Much Frolic Takes Place" are also fairly entertaining. Oh well.
However, Radium Records proves to be deep in financial shit, despite having successful bands like Sator, The Stonefunkers, Union Carbide Productions and Blue For Two on their hands; thus, the release of the intended summer single "It Won't Be Long Before We See The Sun Shine" is postponed to February, 1991. At least there's a sunny video, made by Henrik Schyffert, shown infrequently on Swedish television.
In the spring of 1991, the Psychotic Youth start working on their fourth album, "Be In The Sun". Produced by Pär Edwardsson, who functions as an engineer and general cheer-up-guy during the "Some Fun"-sessions, this record is somewhat more relaxed than its precursors, what with everybody being older, more mature, more successful and everything. Perfectionist Edwardsson polishes the Beatle-ish harmony arrangements to an almost absurd perfection. The single "Nice Girls" is a modest radio hit, and "Be In The Sun", released in February, 1992, sells pretty well. The Psychotic Youth Tour Machine rolls on; however, by autumn its gears are beginning to show signs of wear. Guitarist Magnus starts the hardcore band Mary Beats Jane; Gunnar gets a gig playing theatre music for a stage play; Kent is building trucks; Jörgen locks himself into an old sailmaker's factory out by the sea trying to straighten out his private life. The bathing bays are freezing, the Conservatives rule Sweden and the never ending summer seems to be over. But...
In February 1993, after half a year in semi-retirement, the band gathers itself together to make a new record. Magnus resigns after five years' loyal duty, and in his place guitar player Ulf Abrahamsson, from the band Aspirin for breakfast, is brought in. Chips Kiesbye is asked to resume the collaboration and happily accepts to produce the record. However, Radium Records, now bought by semi-independent biggie MNW at this point, turns out to be thoroughly uninterested in the band's plans; the Psychotic Youth ask to have their record contract annulated, which is readily arranged.
The Psychotic Youth CD "Juice!" takes form in the Music-A-Matic studio in the summer of 1993. Jörgen Westman has spent a good deal of the last year in used record stores rummaging through the nickel-and-dime bins, searching for obscure new wave from 1979-80; findings such as the Plimsouls, Paul Collins Beat and the Knack cut-outs will leave a distinctive mark on his new songs. The first single, "Elevator Girl", gets its fair share of airplay on Swedish radio and is tried out for the national listeners' poll (alas, it's disqualified when Gunnar calls in to vote for himself, is put on the air and happily introduces himself with his name...); the band appears on a pre-teen pop music TV show, demonstrating their "beautiful" show dance routine. A second single, "MTV", is subsequently released, complete with groovy video clip.
After touring Scandinavia in the autumn and winter of 1993, the band, deciding that they'd better make hay while the sun shines, go to work on what turns out to be an eight-song "medium play" CD called "Pop". Studio wiz Nille Perned, engineer during the "Juice!" sessions and a good friend of the band, having worked as the Psychotic Youth's live sound engineer for several years, is called in to produce. "Pop" is recorded in about a week under jovial circumstances in the Swedish National Radio studio in Gothenburg, with successful results. Ulf has grown into the band naturally, and the whole record is more or less recorded live, giving it an extra amount of energy and presence. "Pop" is released in May 1994, to good reviews. The German disco band Aneka's 1981 hit "Japanese Boy" is, in the Psychotic Youth power pop version, a minor radio hit.
With "Pop" under its collective belt, the band again feels ready to reach outside the Swedish borders, but Nonstop Records is lacking international distribution and connections. The band promptly decides to buy out the master tapes of "Juice!" and "Pop" themselves releasing a wholly new record with the best songs of the previous two CD:s for distribution outside Sweden. This record, called "Bambozle", is released in the summer of 1994 by Jörgen's newly founded label Blast Records.
After their "1994 Summer Festivals-Swimming In Every Lake In Sweden-Tour", along with a couple of visits to Denmark and Norway, the band once again seems to fall to pieces. Jörgen joins the band William while the other band members start to engage in other projects; Gunnar is playing pedal steel with honky tonk heroes Gillis Jordan & The Bad Lovers, along his work as a theater musician; Ulf is recording a CD along with the band Wish and Kent has gotten a big shot job at the car factory. The endless summer seems to be over, and at this point in the late 1994 the Psychotic Youth are closer than ever to throwing in the towel. A week later they appear on a national TV show playing a couple of songs from the /???/, along with their announcement that from now on the Psychotic Youth is only considered a hobby project for the band members. But no peace for the wicked...
Just days after their announcement the band is contacted by German label Wolverine Records who wants to take a license on the "Bamboozle" CD. There's also a demand for a tour. The distributor SPV makes the CD available all over Europe. So the band makes new plans. A German booking agency is hired to set up the tour in the spring of 1995. It becomes the last trip for rhythm section Kent and Gunnar, who both already have decided to leave the band but come along on the trip to Germany for old times' sake. In the autumn of 1995 they are replaced by Dennis Staaf on drums and Johannes Kagelind on bass guitar.MNW Records and the band decide to co-operate again since the back catalogue of the Psychotic Youth is now under MNW's label. First out is the greatest hits compilation "Small Wonders 1985-1996", then the twin-CD of "Faster! Faster"/"Anything For A Thrill". MNW also releases a double CD of "Juice!"and"Pop" filled out with some B-sides and outtakes. A split-CD with the American combo Surf Trio is released on the German label Wolverine Records in April with all previously released material, followed by a two week tour in May/June with the Surf Trio, which becomes 'hombres' with our boys. In Brazil Natasha Records arranges for the song "Japanese Boy" and "MTV" to be a part of the 80,000 printed copies of Showbiz, a magazine with attached CD. Serious efforts are also made to break into the huge Japanese market, but no luck.
In August 1996 new bass player Johannes tells the band he's moving to L.A. to attend a music-collage (eh...?) so the band turns to their old pal and Gothenburg rock scene veteran Crippa Elvis Odin, who in September joins the band on bass. By the time of early summer 1996 MNW approaches the band and ask if they are up to signing a new record-deal. Enchanted by this offer Jörgen again starts to write new material to present to the label by the end of September. Since MNW soon starts to show great instability, the band decides to withdraw from the offer and instead go for the German market by releasing two new songs on a split-CD along with German band The Richies. Burned by the failed MNW deal Jörgen goes whacko and buys his own 24 channel studio. New songs are recorded in the autumn of 1997 and winter of 1998 in the cold rehearsing room by the band's live sound engineer Rune Johansson, who lends out his bedroom for recording the vocals. The new album "Stereoids" which is planned for a February 1998 release, isn't finished until the end of August.
In mid September 1998 the "Stereoids" album is released over Europe by license to the German label Wolverine Records. Avoiding to do the same mistake again, the band decides to manage the tour themselves, a decision that at first seems right, but soon proves to be a blunder when the booking agency runs away with the money and never show up to see the band perform. Thanks to swag-man and roadie Martin Olsson's market skills, the band finally manages to get back to Sweden. A cold and hungry band arrives at the docks of Gothenburg one rainy morning in October 1998.
Since the "Stereoids" album is in need of Scandinavian distribution, Jörgen turn to his friends at Dolores Records who offer to handle it all. The album is released on November 11th 1998. After a short while Dolores breaks the contract with their distributor and leaves the Psychotic Youth without any distribution throughout Scandinavia. In the spring 1999 the band makes some gigs in Sweden, but family responsibilities force the band to abstain from any further activity. After a couple of years of hard struggling with no success, last remaining original member Jörgen Westman finally decides it's about time to let the fat lady do her thing. A show is booked to end the band's career in a decent way: the Höga Kusten festival up north in Kramfors, where the band once started. The Psychotic Youth play their last gig on June 25th 1999 to an enthusiastic crowd. The gig is recorded on tape and gets released on the US and Japan version of "Stereoids". A couple of years later the whole concert is released as "Alive under the Midnight Sun" on Japanese label Target Earth Records
Finally, the Psychotic Youth seem to get a worthy end of their career in 2000 by landing a deal for the "Stereoids" album on classic American independent label Bomp Records.
So that would be it...? I don't think so!
The Psychotic Youth make a couple of appearances during the first decade of the new century, once again a quintet with Gunnar Frick back on the organ: "I never was a bass player anyway..." The sole purpose of these few gigs is just to have a laugh, and the 20 years anniversary gig at Gothenburg club Sticky Fingers in December 2005 sees old and new band members Jörgen, Gunnar, Kent, Nypon, Per Dahlberg, Crippa, Ulf and Charlie Claesson unite on stage for the encores. "I didn't make it to the rehearsals, so the night of the gig was the first time the lineup with me, Jörgen, Nypon and Kent was in the same room since Nypon's last gig back in februari -93", says Gunnar. "And I suppose we all needed that break..."
However, years pass between gigs in the 00's, main man Jörgen having his focus on rockabilly band the Buckshots. Gunnar happens to be in the right place at the right time and in late 2005 accepts an offer to join the touring band of British Kinks-legend Ray Davies, whose song "I Gotta Move" the Psychotic Youth had recorded on their first album. "When playing New York City the first time with Ray, he had googled me and presented me on stage as a former member of the Psychotic Youth. That was actually one of my coolest moments ever, and for the first time in ages I felt a bit proud of my old band", says Gunnar. In March 2009, Bonnier Amigo releases "A Real Cool Time Revisited - Swedish Punk Pop And Garage Rock 1982-1989". It's a follow up to the collection "A Real Cool Time", a crucial record in the days of the first garage rock boom in the eighties. The Psychotic Youth are represented with the track "Love Machine" from their first album "Faster! Faster!". "That song used to be a standing joke back in -89", remembers Kent. "Coming home from gigs at five o' clock in the morning, death tired and hungover, carrying the heavy Marshall cabinets up the stairs to our rehearsal room, Nypon always suggested we would set up the gear and play that song - ten times in a row!"
Late 2009, the Psychotic Youth's first bass player Anders Nordstrand, who left in 1987 (remember him folks?), makes a serious effort to put the original lineup of the band together again after some 22 years. Surprisingly enough, all five members are up for a 25 year anniversary gig and get together to perform at Folkets Park, Kramfors in may 2010. "It was exactly like back in the Eighties except for us not being totally pissed on stage like in the old days", tells Jörgen, "..and maybe a few more kilos and a bit less hair..."
Despite members being a bit spread out - Kent, Jörgen and Gunnar living in Gothenburg, Nils Lund-Larsen in Stockholm and Anders in Kramfors - The Psychotic Youh decide to dig up the corpse, take a step forward by taking two step backwards and re-invent themselves as a 60's garage band again. "These days I can relate much more to the early rhythm n' blues/garage rock stuff than to the surf punk thing", says Gunnar. "I was watching Bob the Builder on TV with my kids a couple of years ago, realizing the theme song sounded a bit like Psycho in the early 90's... 0 but I guess we'll throw some highlights from our later years into the live set, as soon as we get time to rehearse it."
So folks, maybe it's not like when Velvet Underground, the Sex Pistols or the Beatles got together again in the 90's. But in these days the Psychotic Youth are not looking for world domination, rather the good fellowship and having a crack. Just like it once started.