Kent - The Story
Kent was formed around 1989. Before that it was Jocke, singer, and Sami, guitarist, playing around together. By 1990 they had recruited Thomas Bergqvist as synth player, Martin Sköld as bass player and Markus Mustonen as drummer. Their name was Jones & Gifted.
In the autumn of 1990 they have their first gigs and in November they are played on swedish radio for the first time. It's a local radio station, Radio Sörmland, who plays their demo and interviews them.
The year after they win a rock band competition, Cult '91, in their home town Eskilstuna.
They were the only band singing in swedish.
After some time of sending out demos, EMI gets slightly interested. They comes with a suggestion. Why not write a rap song?
So Jocke and Martin writes some rap over a melody they already have.
EMI is not impressed.
And neither is Jones & Gifted.
'Den är stor, den är grön, den är hög' - It is big, it is green, it is high.
But they get a gig in Stockholm and they play the rap song. It sounded shit and they decide to never listen to what anyone says ever again. And until this day they have kept that promise.
Now it's time for Thomas Bergqvist to go into the military service and the rest of the members dont want a military guy in the band so they fire him and in comes Martin Roos as guitarist. The talk with Thomas was the hardest thing they had ever done and he took it very badly.
Along with the change they change name as well. From Jones & Gifted to Havsänglar - Sea Angels.
The name came from when Jocke and Martin sat and watched tv while drinking some beer and it was this nature show on. The name Havsänglar is mentioned and they believe it is the name of this big cool ray fish.
After a while Sami goes to the library to read a bit about it. What he founds is not exactly pleasant.
It was actually not a ray fish, in fact it was a tiny little fish with disgusting eyes popping out from the sludge. The fish is living at the bottom of the sea.
Happy and pleased, Sami confronts the rest of the band with the new facts.
But even with the new info about their name the band decides to stick with it for so long.
So in 1992 they record another demo with three songs: Håll I Mig - Hold me, Vintervila - Winter rest and Ögon - Eyes.
At the same time the swedish indie pop wave is starting with Wannadies and Popsicle breaking through.
They go to EMI again as well as MNW and it don't go too well. They learn that the people most uninterested in music are people working as A&R's in record companies.
During one gig in Stockholm they end up playing alongside Brainpool and Bob Hund. The latter had already impressed the band so much that they cover one of their songs during the gig.
During 1993 the band moves in sections to Stockholm. Now they want to really break through.
One day Jocke plays the demo to Stacka Bo (Johan Renck) and he goes totally quiet and later says that it is 'fantastic'. The word is starting to spread.
And then after a gig they suddenly change their name from Havsänglar to Kent. And they put on suits.
'We have always been very film interested. After we had seen "Reservoir Dogs" we felt we should have suits on" - Sami.
The name Kent was given by Jocke's brother, but they were quite worried about the name.
But they decide to stick with it.
'If a band's name is bad but the band is good the name becomes good.' - Martin Sköld
1994 was the year it all broke loose.
They record an 11 song demo which their friend, who worked at BMG, started playing for all the 'important' people. The A&R on BMG thinks it's too much indie. And the MNW boss started talking Radio Hits instantly, which Kent hated and left straight after.
But then after a gig with the Cardigans, BMG re-thinks and offers them a contract.
Later in the summer they play their first concert at the Hultsfred Festival. Although in a beer tent.
Liam Gallagher as well as the bassist of Blur are there watching.
They don't have pleasant words to say afterwards. Live they were still not too fit.
In the autumn they start recording their debut album. Placed deep in the swedish forests they were isolated and couldn't go outside if you didn't have an orange west on, due to the hunting season.
To kill the time they went to the local grocery shop and bought peas and pea guns and had pea wars inside the studio inbetween recordings.
'Nille Perned, the producer, refused to die. He was like a little kid 'No, I shot you first!'. He always cheated.' - Martin
After the recordings it is clear that only four of the demo songs will be on the album. The rest is newly written material from the summer and the weeks before recording.
15th of March 1995 the album is released. It is called Kent.
It gets great reviews and 4 out of 5 by both Aftonbladet and Expressen. The two biggest newspapers in Sweden.
And the first proper tour starts.
In the summer they play the Lollipop final in Stockholm. Alongside Paul Weller and The Stone Roses.
20000 people were there to see Kent. And in the crowd was Harri Mänty.
After the gig the band starts rehearsing for their second album. And suddenly Martin Roos tells the band he has had enough. He decides to leave and concentrate on a record company career instead.
They find Harri Mänty, a friend of Roos', and asks him to join. He hesitates not even for a second.
Before the first concert Harri is about to throw up, but makes it. Afterwards he is dragged into a photo shoot and the band tells him 'Now you are stuck with us!'.
Kräm - Cream/Yoghurt, is released as a single and on the same day Kent gets their first Grammy for Best Swedish Band.
Verkligen, their second album is released and gets even greater reviews than their debut. 5 out of 5 in Aftonbladet, for example.
Kräm enters as number one on Tracks, the swedish radio top list.
A massive swedish tour starts again. Kent is taking Sweden by storm.
After the tour they take two months off. And the suits are put in the closet for good.
The two months passes fastly and it is time to record the third album. They go to Belgium for doing so.
It is decided Nille will produce again but they feel that maybe they should try another one, so Nille suggests the sound engineer Zed. And he accepts.
In Novemeber Isola, their third album, is released. And the praise is once again in the newspapers and by the fans. 'Their greatest effort so far!'
In April it is released as an english version as well.
'Why in english? I don't know. To be able to play abroad. We didn't have to prove anything there. All was ahead. Nothing to lose.' - Sami
'We hadn't have a free time for several years...And then we decide to record the record in english. It wasn't healthy thinking.' - Markus
'Almost all believed it was the record company pushing us, but they actually said it probably wouldn't give anything. Lyrically it was awful. English against swedish is a fucking job. Nothing to recommend. ' - Jocke
After the release of the swedish album they head out for yet another massive tour. And straight after they go out to take Europe in May 1998.
'Some idiot sent out a PM in England saying that we were Sweden's answer to Radiohead. That was a neck shot. All wrote that and suddenly we were less interesting in the british eyes. And to play in London is to play in Stockholm x10. Incredibly stale.' - Martin
They do a bunch of gigs in England and then in February 1999 they go across the ocean to USA. As support band to their old friends the Cardigans.
Radio stations in USA has started playing 'If You Were Here'. The 2-3000 people they play to every night responds well to Kent and they feel it is going their way.
Martin Roos is back in the band. He has gone tired of the record company buisness and Kent asked him to be their manager.
'The problem in USA is that they expect a cigar smoking fat bastard. Due to me looking as one in the band I had to dress up in a suit again.' Martin Roos
During a stop in Minneapolis Harri goes out late in the night for buying a pizza. After eight hours of driving someone looks into Harri's sleeping booth in the bus and finds it empty.
He meets up with the band two days after.
'The Harri incident? I can not take care of him sleep walking. They are adult people.' - Martin Roos
After a few weeks in Sweden they go back to USA as support band to Papa Vegas.
This time the tour wasn't fun at all. They were tired and worn out. They then understood that America is rather big.
'Most people in USA have no idea. 'So you're from Sweden. That's up north right?'
But it's also nice when they don't have any before made opinions from where you come from.' - Sami
'I would never want to go back there if it means my private life gets lost.' - Jocke
The tour is anyway rather succefull and the major cities have their ears and eyes open for Kent.
Most likely they should have gone back in the autumn. But then Kent would probably be no longer.
Instead, they are back in Sweden and plan their fourth album already. While playing lots of festivals in Sweden. They discussed what they should do and due to it going so well they didn't wanted a vacation. Even being so tired and messed up.
So Kent goes to Denmark and records 25 songs, most which had come out from the touring in USA.
The goal was to make it dancey and easier. It turned out to be the opposite.
The mixing and selection of songs are made in a Stockholm studio.
The album, Hagnesta Hill, goes straight into the number one spot in the swedish charts. Again they get raving reviews.
And again they make an english version of the album, along with some bonus songs.
They are ready to really take USA this time.
The tour starts fairly good. But then suddenly the american people stops calling.
Probably realising it will be cheaper to break through with an american band that didn't have any demands on equipment, instead.
'In USA we should have chosen an Indie Company. Then you can be played on different college radiostations who might dispise a band being on a big company.' - Martin
'What went wrong? Who knows..maybe Kent should have had an american manager? We met a few people but it didn't work. RCA didn't really know how to promote the band.' - Martin Roos
9th March 2000.
The high point on the Hagnesta Hill tour. In an outsold Hovet in Stockholm they play a rousing gig with the Ark as support band.
In the summer they make a mini tour with Teddybears STHML and Sahara Hotnights. After that they decide to take as long vacation as possible.
The greatest decsion they have made 'til this day.
In November 2000 they release a double B-side collection though. But no concerts or anything. Kent is out of the media circus. The album gets amazing reviews 'as usual'.
Kent plays two concerts in 2001. A Globen special for companies. And a special concert at the Hultsfred Festival. But other than that, nothing.
Until the autumn of 2001. Jocke has started getting down songs again. It's time to think about a new album. Their fifth one.
Kent is hungry again.
So in April 2002 they release Vapen & Ammunition.
A 10 song album with all potential hit singles according to the band itself.
'In some ways it would be nice to make a real flop even here at home with this record. It is starting to get a bit awkward with all these good reviews. We can't have slept with all journalist could we? - Sami
'We have talked about that it should be time to even flop here at home because it has gone too good before. But totally honest - the record is fantastically good. If the swedish people doesn't like this - then it is the ultimate proof that all others are completely dumb in their heads.' - Jocke
He has not to worry. When the record was released and reviewed it was called the greatest swedish rock album ever. As the band is praised as the greatest swedish rock band since Ebba Grön.
They are currently starting a tour which will take them through Sweden and parts of Europe this summer.
Ironically alongside the old lead singer of Ebba Grön, Joakim Thåström.
The future looks only bright.
Kent has always been compared with Radiohead. Especially in their early years. Because strangely enough, their first three records have all been very similar. Even though beeing made around the same time.
As Kent, their debut, was angst youth pop-rock, so was Radiohead's Pablo Honey.
As Verkligen, was the perfection of pop-rock, so was Radiohead's The Bends.
As Isola, was a further step in the spaceiness and refined work inside Kent, so was Radiohead's OK Computer.
But where Radiohead slipped deeper and deeper into their own self observed minds and hatred against 'the mainstream', Kent refined and polished what they had made with Isola. They go slowly towards perfection of their sound and their spirits and thoughts about music.
And as Vapen and Ammunition fades out in your ears, you realise that Kent has found their meaning.
When Radiohead has in some ways lost the plot.
With Kent, Verkligen, Isola, Hagnesta Hill and Vapen & Ammunition, Kent have made the strongest consecutive list of albums in a row in swedish rock history. And all the albums would be able to fit in a top 10 list of swedish rock albums.
So what is there more for Kent to do now? Well, to make the list even longer.
Being alongside Ebba Grön as the two bands who refined and made swedish music what it is today.
And for a very, very long time to come.