Stockholm in the early 90's was throbbing with prog. Numerous
bands played small clubs and pubs in Sweden's capital. Most attention was paid to
Anekdoten letting their mellotrons soar over heavy distorted riffs, to
Änglagård trying to evoke the ancient Nordic gods and to Landberk
picturing dreamy landscapes of Scandinavian woods and mountains.
The Bass player of Egg at the time was Stefan Renström who upon joining them immediately had sensed the band's potential - Egg had no respect for the limitations of their abilities and during a very creative period the band penned some very intense and original music.
So far so good.
But when Stefan wanted to be more serious about the band's music, that is; put it on record, the other band members strongly hesitated. Furthermore some friction arose within the ranks as Stefan was more and more taking over as the prime song writer.
Furthermore, his personal life started to collapse around him. One thing led to another and at the end of 1993 Stefan, very unhappily, left both the band and Stockholm.
He moved home to his native Falköping in the rural parts of West Sweden. A small town, population 16,000, where either you were into sports or into music or you were probably dead. Here, in spite of the small population, there were quite a few good musicians, many of them keen on progressive rock. Stefan was determined to put a new band together under the name of Simon Says to play his songs, both the ones written for and the ones refused by Egg and some new ones.
Around Christmas '93 he made contact with a then very young Daniel Fäldt, singer of experimental outfit Leifs Hyvel (where future Simon Says drummer Mattias Jarlhed was a member). Leifs Hyvel concentrated on extremely intricate rock, full of twists and turns and somewhat in the vein of Frank Zappa. They made quite a few appearances on the local circuit, but was perhaps more admired for their technical abilities than for what they really deserved: their songs.
After a brief audition and some discussion things were settled: Stefan would provide the music, Daniel would sing and Simon Says was to be a project with the two of them as the nucleus. They would concentrate on vocals and melodies, rather than flash. The choice of drummer was already made: Ola Johansson, who had played with Stefan in pop group Space Age Cavemen. Ola had already played with a lot bands in Falköping and thus had a lot of musical training beside his natural talent. He was at the time also a big fan of Genesis. Ola immediately said yes to join the project and rehearsals started in a little cottage just outside of town, just bass, drums vocals and sequencer.
In March '94 Stefan and producer Kenneth Magnusson started working on Simon Says' first album. However, the recordings on a farm in the countryside were sparse, two months might pass between one session and another. But slowly, slowly the record took shape. Still without a guitarist, though. Roger Nilsson, who had played symphonic rock in the same band as Stefan all through the 80's, was the one intended. But he never did practice on the songs and eventually was sacked, not very surprised.
Nils Stenström, also from Space Age Cavemen, had been asked to play the piano parts. Now he was asked to rescue the situation - the guitar sessions were coming up in only two weeks time. Stefan, who had played with Nils for two years and known him even longer, knew that he would manage - Nils had listened to prog since he was a little kid and had shown talents both as a guitarist, a piano player and a songwriter as well as a classical composer. Stefan gave him a demo, told him what parts were fixed and which were not and was assured the result would be fine. With Nils as the guitarist the line up was complete, but not to burden him too much it was decided that Stefan should play the acoustic guitars himself as well as some electric.
Ceinwen album cover
In August 1995 Ceinwen was released on Bishop Garden Records, owned by producer Kenneth Magnusson, and was met by good critical acclaim - the first edition even sold out before it was manufactured. But things were stirring in the Simon Says camp. Ola Johansson was sacked from the project due to friction between him and Stefan. Nils Stenström moved to Gothenburg on the west coast of Sweden and quit the project.
Daniel was determined to continue, though, gathered some musicians around him and presented to Stefan a complete live-act: himself and Stefan, drummer Mattias Jarlhed, guitarist David Andersson, bass player Per Fällström and keyboard-player Jacob Cederquist. All had played in Leifs Hyvel one time or another and knew each other both musically and personally.
Mid-Period Simon Says - L to R: Per Fällström (bass and backing vocals), Mattias Jarlhed (you can't really see him)(drums), Jacob Cederquist (synthesizer), Stefan Renström (keyboards), Daniel Fäldt (vocals and percussion), David Andersson (guitar)
Simon Says looking like they were growing into a band, started to rehearse in an old hotel, focusing on the longer songs from Ceinwen and in writing new material (the clavinet part, the choruses and the quiet middle section from "White Glove" plus the opening verses of "Paradise Square" were conceived during this period). The band was offered quite a few gigs but Stefan, still the leader of Simon Says, turned almost all of them down, only accepting free gigs for charity. The reason was the Swedish prog audience both disillusioned and bored him. These politics may not have been the best, but at the time they were for good reasons.
The project was eventually put on ice in 1996. Stefan wasn't happy with the way Simon Says sounded and when both he and Daniel moved they suddenly were too far away from each other to be able to continue anyhow. Daniel started studying philosophy, then drifted off to India and the Middle East for two long periods. Meanwhile Stefan focused on his role as bass player in his other band, Wagnerian heavy space rockers The Moor, with whom he cut Flux in 1996.
Knut Gerwers at The Moor's gig on the
'97 Space Fest in Hamburg, Germany.
Nik Turner in The Moor's tour bus
during the '98 Chaos Abundant Tour in Germany and Belgium.
So, while Daniel was studying sitar in India, Stefan and The Moor toured Germany and Belgium with legendary singer/flute and sax player Nik Turner of Hawkwind. On stage with The Moor was German poet and video artist Knut Gerwers, with whom Stefan decided to record an electronic album. Tons of music was programmed and a demo was made, but the project was abruptly dropped. The reasons were two: Stefan decided it wasn't good enough and deleted all the files but one who he still keeps for the future. And all along he had continued working on symphonic material, just for fun, until he in March 2001 discovered he had music for a full length CD.
Then things went fast. Stefan tried to locate Daniel, whose family told Stefan that Daniel probably was in Benares, but also that he checked his e-mail from time to time. Stefan sent an e-mail saying he was reforming Simon Says - as a band, not a project. Eventually Daniel, who was unsure he was ever going to return to Sweden or not, got the mail and bought a one way ticket to Sweden.
Guitarist Jonas Hallberg was Stefan's stand-in on bass in The Moor and an obvious choice for the new band. Stefan knew since before he was very talented and loved symphonic rock, phoned him and asked two questions. The answers were "Yes, I want to join the band" and "No, I don't have a Les Paul. But I guess I'll have to buy one". He did.
Ulf Nylén, drummer of The Moor, was the next choice and so the line up was complete. Recordings of Paradise Square started in July 2002, but it was soon obvious Ulf, though a very skilful and tight drummer, didn't understand Stefan's music. Drum sessions were coming up in four days and the drummer was dropped. Things seemed bad.
Then Jonas and Stefan bumped into Mattias Jarlhed, now a member of proggers Valinor's Tree with whom he has cut two records. Mattias wondered why he hadn't been asked in the first place. That turned out to be a very good question - Mattias got a demo and four days later waltzed through almost every track.
Recordings were finished in August (2001), after four intense weeks in a boiling hot studio where Jonas' clothes were dropped more than once during solos. The CD was mixed and mastered sporadically during the autumn and winter and in February 2002 Stefan at last could send some demos which Galileo Records immediately liked and a deal was struck. Paradise Square was released in July (2002) and was met by rave reviews.
One of the many immediate responses came from Finnish magazine Colossus who wanted Simon Says to contribute with one new song on the Kalevala album, a project where 30 prog bands interpret the Finnish national epic. Simon Says got seven minutes and recordings were made in August 2002.
In August 2002 it was decided that Anders Lindgren, bass player of Valinor's Tree will support Simon Says on live gigs.
News (3/10/03): Simon Says are invited to play on the next Kalevala release, an interpretation of Sergio Leone's The Colossus of Rhodes. The band will contribute with 25 minutes of new material.
Last Updated 8/25/03