Few jobs seem more different than those of IT consultant and guitarist in a rock band. Nevertheless, top Swedish rock star Dregen has been a frequent partner of HiQ as well as playing with Backyard Babies and Michael Monroe. We meet with him for a conversation about passionate resolution, nerds and the importance of being true to yourself.
IT IS CROWDED and sweaty in front of the stage at Trädgår’n in Gothenburg. Dregen is bent over his guitar with his back to the audience. Suddenly his thin tattooed body tenses and some fast riffs fill the hall. Dregen jumps around. The audience cheer. The Backyard Babies hit Minus Celsius thunders out of the speakers and echoes from the walls. The audience jump and roar in time. But something is out of the ordinary.
If you look more closely at the band, they are not Backyard Babies. It is HiQ’s house band HEO, the HiQ Experience Orchestra. And the audience do not resemble the average Sweden Rock Festival crowd. The look is more lambswool sweaters than riveted jackets and more brogues than Converse.
" When I got a recording contract and was living in the province of Småland, I was almost forced to move to Stockholm to make it work. Now you can be anywhere, if you have an internet connection.
This is the HiQ Knowledge Bar and the atmosphere is great. As usual, lectures and mingling are combined with rock ‘n’ roll. And Dregen likes it. He and HiQ have worked together a fair bit in recent times on internal events, client evenings, etc. And on the band, of course.
“I said to Lasse (Lars Stugemo, HiQ’s CEO and guitarrist in HEO) that if I lose a finger or whatever, can I start working at HiQ?”
Most artists play a corporate gig from time to time. They play at a conference or Christmas party when they have some spare time between recording and releasing songs and touring. They appear for a while, play a hit, make a few jokes and that’s it. It’s quick money for the artist and a memorable evening for the companies. And that was exactly how HiQ and Dregen started working together.
“We were going to a conference in Sardinia and I had heard that Dregen was a good DJ. So we asked whether he wanted to come along and DJ for a few evenings,” says Lars Stugemo.
During the trip, Dregen and the team from HiQ got to know each other and when they returned to Stockholm they carried on working together. Dregen explains:
“When we were in Sardinia, I was really taken by HiQ and the people who work there. I had such a good time! It’s probably the only time I’ve worked with a company that I feel gives me something back. And I’ve done quite a few corporate gigs. There’s a good vibe at HiQ.”
Do you actually long for an office job sometimes?
“No, never. But I do spend quite a lot of time in offices. Also when I'm recording. I can record here in Sweden and send the files to Berlin or Los Angeles for someone to mix them, and so on. You used to have to travel everywhere and be involved all the time. Now I sit at home and work. Perhaps I should thank HiQ for making it possible with the technology and that. When I got a recording contract and was living in the province of Småland, I was almost forced to move to Stockholm to make it work. Now you can be anywhere – if you have an internet connection.”
" But the last time I go and brush my teeth and look at myself in the mirror, I want to be able to say: I've done what I could.
Do you do a lot of work on your own?
“This year I am releasing both my first solo record and an autobiography and I have worked on both of these a lot on my own. But I can’t say
that I find it all that much fun. I prefer to work in a band. Teamwork. I like it. Having to do and decide everything yourself can be quite lonely. Luckily, Michael Monroe is also releasing a record now, so I haven’t just been working on my own.”
Do you make all the decisions jointly in the band?
“Yes, all the big ones. We have worked stubbornly to succeed in our own way. We could have taken shortcuts earlier in our career and achieved success faster, but success in itself was never the most important thing. There may be bands that form on a Monday, get a number one in Germany by the weekend and split up the week after. Who want to succeed at any cost. That wasn’t what we wanted. Success, of course. But on our terms. It may sound strange in the context but we have never ‘sold out’ what we are.”
When Dregen was growing up, he wanted to be an NHL pro, an astronaut or a rock star. That was all that mattered. But he understood early on that if he was to achieve any of these objectives, he would be forced to commit himself completely.
“Many of the members of the other bands in Nässjö, where I grew up, did other things as well as music. They studied or worked or whatever. To have a back-up plan if the music didn’t work out. We were quite young when we started the Backyard Babies and our aim was to do something to make it actually impossible for us to work on a supermarket checkout. So we started getting a few tattoos on our hands and things. So that we would be forced to carry on. To give everything.”
" We could have taken shortcuts earlier in our career and achieved success faster, but success in itself was never the most important thing.
Is that your style, sink or swim?
“Maybe it is. When I was at school, the head teacher said: “You are the only one at this school who only gets top or bottom marks.” “I had virtually only A and F grades. That probably says something about who I am. If I’m interested in something, I’m very interested but if I’m not, I have no interest at all.”
Almost a bit nerdy. Could you say that nerds are the new rock stars?
“Nerds are the new pros. I’ve always liked nerds. It’s fantastic when people immerse themselves in something like that. Nerds have been associated with wimps for too long. But this is changing. Look at action films 15 years ago. Then the hero was James Bond, shooting everyone. Now an IT geek saves the world. Nerds are the new heroes. But there are nerds and nerds. Everything is relative. I’m nerdy about what I do. If you like something, go for it. Get good at it.”
How important is it to be the best?
“That’s not something I think about. But the last time I go and brush my teeth and look at myself in the mirror, I want to be able to say: I’ve done what I could.”
A clip from the concert at Trädgår’n is on youtube.com/watch?v=pL3dS-aGi_8
Published in HiQ Magazine 2013
HiQ Music festival
Hello Simon Nyman, director of HiQ's annual music festival held in early November.
WHY DID HiQ START PUTTING ON A MUSIC FESTIVAL?
In my job interview I was asked whether I played an instrument. I do. And when I found out that many others in the office also played and were interested in music, the idea of organising an event was hatched. With the help of enthusiastic colleagues and whole-hearted management support, the festival started in 2006. Four or five bands said they were interested and everyone who wanted to perform was offered coaching by the band Cotton Club. This led to a few more bands being created. And although not all of them performed in the festival, one of the original reasons for the initiative was that more music fans would start to play together.
HOW MANY BANDS TOOK PART LAST YEAR?
Nine, I think. And perhaps 150 people in the audience – the atmosphere was great. We’ve held the festival each year
since 2006, and people usually bring along a friend or their family. It’s fun.
HAVE YOU GOT ANY PLANS TO RELEASE AN ALBUM? "THE BEST OF HiQ"?
Not that I know of. We’ve actually recorded the latest festivals through the mixing console, but mainly for the bands themselves. As far as I know there are no plans to release an album.
WHICH STYLES OF MUSIC ARE THE MOST POPULAR?
All of them! Most of the bands play covers, but some have their own songs, too – and in all sorts of styles: rock, metal, string quartets, electronic and fusion. The fusion band was extremely popular last year. They played East-German electronic music with Persian influences.
WHEN IS THE NEXT FESTIVAL?
In early November; the dates haven’t been set yet. The school holidays in November are usually the deciding factor, because many people go away with their families. We choose the weekend that isn’t part of the holidays. But many musicians have already started preparing. Sessions in the rehearsal room at the office are in full swing!