An interview with

By Beppe Colli
Nov. 24, 2005

The Zappa connection had obviously been the first reason I had decided to listen to the music by the Swedish duo called Mats & Morgan, but it had been their music that had made me interested enough about the rest of the story. Check their first album, Trends And Other Diseases (1996), the "time travels" featured in Radio Da Da (1998) and The Teenage Tapes (1998), and especially the double CD titled The Music Or The Money... (1997), which in my opinion is still the best introduction to their music.

In 1999 I had the possibility to interview Mats & Morgan after the end of a Swedish tour, the line-up for this occasion being a quintet. Other albums have been released since then: Live (2001), the live "in a controlled situation" On Air With Guests (2002) and the recent Thanks For Flying With Us, released under the name Mats/Morgan Band.

I had the opportunity to chat (via e-mail) with Morgan Ågren: the drummer, occasional keyboard player and co-composer of the group.

The first album to be released after our previous conversation was Live. Did you think that the live dimension would be more appropriate to the group's material than the studio?

Mats/Morgan Band is first of all a live band. However, to do stuff in a studio opens up other worlds than the live situation. I like both.

The first track on Live is called Hollmervalsen. Is it the homage to Lars Hollmer (Une Hollmer Waltz) you told me you had just written the last time we spoke?

When I wrote the piece, there was one part that just happened to sound a bit like Hollmer. It was not something I tried to do, I just realized it after I wrote it. And all songs needs a title, so... why not a little homage to Lars!

On Air With Guests - another live album. What was the reason behind this choice?

It was a good opportunity. In 2001 I was asked to teach drums on National Swedish TV! The TV show was called Trum. I taught drums, showed albums that had inspired me while growing up, and we played live with Mats/Morgan Band in the TV studio. Every other program, I had a guest in the TV studio as well. Amongst others, Fredrik Thordendal - the lead guitarist from Meshuggah. 10 episodes were recorded, on multi track. The TV shows were later remixed for CD and released as On Air With Guests.

If I'm not mistaken, you were part of a "special edition" of Frank Zappa's 200 Motels that took place in Holland in 2002. Would you mind talking about this?

The orchestra, the percussion section, the choir, the whole organization of the festival including the actual venue (Carre) itself... all of it was great. And the stage was really impressive. An extra 2nd floor was built for the percussion with the choir underneath. 174 microphones on stage (!), 10 meter long mixer console etc., and a lot of nice people: Ali Askin, Todd Yvega, Harry Adronis, Gail and Diva Zappa - even Rutger Hauer was there (who was actually supposed to have a role in performance)! We did some of the repertoire that wasn't in the original movie or album. Ali Askin found stuff in Frank's vault that was written for 200 Motels but never ended up in the movie/recording. Some of these parts were my favorites!

In the liner notes to your new CD, Thanks For Flying With Us, you thank Guy Segers and Daniel Denis of Univers Zero. Why?

They are both good friends to me, and UZ has always been an inspiration for me. But Daniel and Guy have also tried to help me with Mats/Morgan Band, suggesting Mats/Morgan Band for concert promoters etc. They needed to be in the liner notes, as well as anyone who gives good energy.

Same question about Todd Yvega. (Of course, he was the "software ace" on some of Frank Zappa's late releases...)

Todd is a another positive source, and a friend of us. He was not connected to this CD, but he helped us on our US tour 2004. I am a nice guy, so I put him up in the liner notes as well.

After many years and many CDs on your own label, UAE, you now have a CD out on Cuneiform. Why?

I have known Steven Feigenbaum (the owner of Cuneiform Records) for some years now. We had been in contact through e-mails until last year when we finally met. We played with Mats/Morgan Band in Paris at the Tritonales Festival and Steven came to see us. It was a good gig, a lot of people in the audience, members of French cult band Magma were in the audience, AND Steven Feigenbaum! So we met for the first time after our concert and talked. Shortly after that, Steven e-mailed me and said he wanted to release us! This was a good moment for me. I started my own record company Ultimate Audio Entertainment in 1996, and I have released 17 titles to date, and I am happy with it all, but I am sooooo tired of being responsible for all what it takes to run a record company... I really want to leave the paper work now. I knew Cuneiform since many years back, mainly through Univers Zero's CDs who Steven has also released. Anyway, we are very happy that this is happening. Steven is a super nice guy, he wants to release our music, on a label that I respect, and these kind of things are quite rare today I must say.

The last track on the new CD, Ivan, is a demo for the Drumkit From Hell. What is it?

Drumkit From Hell is a software device connected to a computer through midi. All the drums and cymbals are played on rubber-pads. This tune Ivan was placed as one of the four bonus tracks on the CD. This recording was initially made to demonstrate this DFH software. We liked the way it came out, so we used it as one of the bonus track. You can see the video demos at - it is an impressive tool!

I really wanted to work in the studio with the Thanks For Flying With Us album. I worked a lot with vintage tube amps and tube microphones this time, moulded into the modern utilities of today. Digital 24 BIT, 96 KHz, good A-D converters etc. It took us about two years to make the CD, so it is a big relief when it is finally done. I also recorded this incredibly instrument called Klaviharp, which is a custom-built instrument. It is like a mix between a cembalo and a clavinette. We used it on a track called Softma and it sounds very much like nothing else. And this guy Ismet Demirhan from Turkey, who plays Turkish reeds. That was an experience too. He is actually the world record holder in "circular breathing". You know, when you blow a note "without" breathing... He keeps a constant note for ever...! Anyway it was great to have him on our CD too. The title Thanks For Flying With Us came from some guys having said to us after seeing us live "feels like flying when I listen to you guys"!! - so we had to use their metaphor! We are dressed up like pilots on the cover, and of course Mats was given the role of the main captain. A blind pilot is kind of cool, don't you think? I think that Ray Charles drove a car a few times, in the desert... But a blind pilot is even a bit better.

I'm curious to know about your music projects outside the Mats/Morgan Band.

I am a happy father. So my main "project" along with my music is my son Alvin! He is in fact more important than everything else! Other than that, I record with people sometimes. I am trying to finish my upcoming DVD. The DVD will feature live-clips with Mats/Morgan Band recorded from 3/4 years of touring, all over Europe, USA and in Japan too. Plus studio footage, and some stuff will be used from my two old VHS videos Live In Magic and the TV show Trum. Some unreleased material from Trum might be on the DVD as well.

I just got a request to participate in a Magma/Christian Vander tribute album. So, we will do something! I met Christian a few years ago, and it was a nice meeting! And I have enjoyed Magma's music as well. Anyway, we will probably do an Offering piece for this CD. Klaus Blasquiz, Benoit Widemann, Didier Lockwood, Jannick Top amongst others will be on the CD as well.

How do you see the current state of music when it comes to indie labels operating outside the mainstream?

Well, my hats off for all activities outside the coca cola world. There are of course major labels that have released good music, even if the bigger labels won't do it today. I mean, if Brittney Spears would only sell 800.000 copies she would be fired from her big company, and... So, smaller independent labels will most likely focus more on the musical values.

© Beppe Colli 2005 | Nov. 24, 2005