M5: Your career so far has brought you back & forth from Sweden to the USA, as a session player as well as a live performer. When looking back, can you name a few of the recordings or gigs that made a difference, or were of great influence to you and why?
GW: The one recording session that stands out, is when we recorded 'A House is not a Home' with Luther Vandross. He sang the vocal live and it was an amazing experience, where we were all sitting with eye contact being possible. I remember having goose bumps throughout most of the song. Live, there are some quite different experiences. I mostly like to play in small places, where you can really feel the audience, and I have had great moments like that with most bands that I have played with. But it was also amazing to play with Simon & Garfunkel in Paris in front of 75.000 ecstatic fans (I was one of them). And practically every gig on the Steely Dan tour was a thrill, both because of the great music and the audiences that knew the music so well.
M5: You've also always been involved in writing and recording children's music, ever since the late sixties. You won awards with it. Can you tell us more about what's appealing in writing for children?
GW: I have not been so concerned with what other people would think of the music when I have written for children, so it has been easier to follow my first intuition or musical idea and not edit myself too much.
M5: At first, you seemed to be destined to become a doctor, as your were studying medicine for three years. You then became a professional musician and started your 'Made in Sweden' group, a concept that's been very influential, especially in those decades, late sixties and early seventies. Whenever you 'returned' to Sweden, you also rekindled the 'Made in Sweden' concept. I found information on the net about a re-issue and remastered version of a MiS album, in 2001. Your music was recorded 3 decades ago, but it's still and even significant in the contemporary progressive rock circles. That must be quite a compliment. Musically spoken, can you see why? And what made you decide to try a career as a musician? Did your family support you in this?
GW: It's hard for me to look at it from the outside. I think that there are many bands today that play music, which in some ways reminds of what we did, so I guess that we were innovators in a sense, at least in Scandinavia. But I don't know how much of this is because of nostalgia or of us being particularly original. We did have our own style, but unfortunately -as I now see it- not the humility to be more open for learning and developing further. And not becoming a doctor: I wanted to play more than anything else, plus I felt out of place and immature when I started to realise what was really expected from me as a doctor. My family did not particularly support it, but they mostly saw it as something inevitable, I think.
M5: Early seventies you were a Blood, Sweat & Tears member for a few years, you toured and recorded with the band. How would you describe those years now, looking back?
GW: As an important learning experience, mostly on a personal level. I was quite naive and immature for my age, and getting to live the musicians' 'rock dream' was a good education. I wish I could look back at it with total pride, but I think I had to make many mistakes in order to learn from them and mature. I also got to see most of the world, and thanks to that gig I had a foundation to work from when I returned to New York in 1978.
M5: Did winning awards make a difference for you, did it open doors?
GW: It was very gratifying to get the acknowledgements, but I don't know how much difference it made as far as opening doors. There weren't that many of us playing music on top level those days. I think those awards make more of a difference in today's world, where there are amazing musicians all over the place. Maybe the latest one I got made some difference ('Wow, is he still around?')
M5: After B, S & T you went back to Sweden, only to return to the American scene in 1978 to play in the legendary Saturday Night Live Band for six seasons. What was significant in the musical climate those days, if you can remember: about major developments, like players who made their mark in the music scene?
GW: There were some great places in NY where one could go and listen to live instrumental music. Those kind of places still do exist, but nobody in the rest of the world knows that much about them, unless they are the established 'Jazz Clubs'. I had the honor and pleasure to play with a few bands like that and I also had my own band for some years (some of the members were Mitch Forman -keyboards, Wayne Pedzwater or Francisco Centenna on bass, Dave Weckl or Buddy Williams on drums, Sammy Figueroa on percussion). I played in some bands with Marcus Miller (who at the time was 19-20 years old) and Kenny Kirkland and the guys in the SNL Band were basically (at least if I am not speaking for myself) the best in NY, including people like Dave Sanborn, Michael Brecker, the Blues Bros horn section, Marcus Miller, Neil Jason, Leon Pendarvis, Ronnie Cuber etc. We had a ball playing together.
M5: You worked with Roberta Flack, Luther Vandross, Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick. What was it like to work with artists that have 'black' roots, soul, R&B?
GW: I had always liked that kind of music and it was a huge part of working as a rhythm gtr player on the studio scene in NY. The SNL Band was really like an instrumental R&B band with 'Earth, Wind and Fire' type arrangements. A big reason for why the Blues Bros came into existence was that Belushi and Ackroyd loved the band so much. I had played with a band in Sweden, named Grapes of Wrath, we did music from James Brown, Sam and Dave and Wilson Pickett, and I always loved to play that style. As far as working with them, I guess culturally I felt a little on the outside, being one of the few if not the only white (and European) person in the group. But everyone was very sweet and including and I see it as a great honor to have had the opportunity to play with these truly all-time great artists and musicians.
Clas: In the eighties a new era for you, a Swedish musician in New York started. A lot of session work, composing-arranging music for commercials as well as a tour with Simon & Garfunkel. How was it to tour with them and was it of any influence on you as a musician? Steve Gadd was also part of the band, what was it like to work with him and who were other bandmembers?
GW: Other bandmembers were Richard T, Wayne Pedzwater, and a horn section with really good, solid NY studio guys. Unfortunately, I can't recall all their names. One was Jerry Niewood, another Fred Lipsius. Steve Gadd was somewhat of a disappointment to me, maybe because my expectations were so high, and he had a problem with drugs and was not well at the time. Later on I have had the chance to play with him many times, which has been great, since he has been in good health and played as good as ever.
M5: You were introduced to Donald Fagen by Rob Mounsey, because you worked with him in the commercial-writing business. How did you meet Rob Mounsey?
GW: Rob was one of the composers for the hippest 'Music House' in NY at the time and I had the opportunity to play on his arrangements a lot. We had a wonderful rhythm section, that recorded most of the jingles for this House. It was Rob on Keys, myself and Jeff Mironov on gtrs., Will Lee on bass, Chris Parker on drums and Crusher Bennett on percussion. Many of those sessions could easily be included in the answer to question nr. 1.
Clas: The first thing you did for Fagen was the 'Bright Lights, Big City' soundtrack, Century's End. Did he give you charts to read or how did you work? You then were on his 'Kamakiriad' and toured with Steely Dan in 1994, which is documented on the 'Alive in America' CD. How would you now describe your 'encounters' with Donald Fagen & Walter Becker and being part of that Steely Dan experience, the tour? And did you stay in touch with them or the musicians from the tour or kept track of what they did since back then?
GW: I think that he might have scribbled down some chord changes, but that was about it. Later on Walter called me to play on a couple of tunes for 'Kamakiriad'. Then he called me 3-4 months later about another tune, and then another and so on. They didn't really talk to me too much at the sessions, the focus was totally on the music and the gtr parts. On the last session Donald told me that I was the only gtr-player, except for Walter, on the CD. Later on the tour I also felt that they distanced themselves from the band, flying their own plane and often staying at different hotels than the rest of us. The gigs were amazing. Fantastic band with Dennis Chambers on drums and Tom Barney on bass. Donald and Walter would leave in their limo while we were still jamming on the encore. Then they'd show up for soundcheck with a list of what was not perfect the night before. Donald would ask me repeatedly not to play Larry Carlton's solo on 'Kid Charlemagne', but I defied him every night and got standing ovations from the audiences for it. I just couldn't imagine myself being in the audience and see some guy up there playing another solo on that song. I would have been disappointed. Later on he had me come in and play a new solo on it for the live record. I have not stayed in touch with them, even though they had me come in and play on a couple of tunes that were not included in the 'Two against Nature' album. My parting with them was somewhat disappointing. I had a disagreement with their manager regarding the pay for the live recordings. It is -even to this day- my position that their organisation did not live up to what they had promised us. I tried to explain it to Walter, but I am not sure that I got through, and in retrospect I was being naive. In Sweden it would have been natural to discuss it with them and their management and come up with an amicable solution, but in the US it is generally the people in power who are right and the thought of compromises don't easily come to mind. Most of the other musicians had the same opinion as myself, but they were smart (from previous experience) enough not to raise their voices and thus kept the good gig. I was very much torn between on the one side my love for their music and on the other side me being unfairly treated. I wish I could have handled it in a better fashion myself, since it had been one of my all-time favorite gigs and I hated to lose it, but -knowing Donald and Walter (as little as I do)- they might very well have decided to move on to another player anyway.
Clas: Besides being a session players for others, you also had a band of your own and made solo recordings, or in collaboration with Doug Katsaros. What gave more fun or pleasure, to work with others or your own projects as a guitarist?
GW: I do enjoy working on other people's projects quite a lot. I think that my broad knowledge and experience with music, combined with my intuition, makes it easy for me to make positive contributions, and in a way I think that I enjoy that more than to have most of the spotlight on myself.
M5: Back in Sweden you work with great international -jazz- artists from Sweden (such as Lisa Ekdahl) and Norway (Silje Nergaard), as a composer-arranger-producer. You also work as a teacher and run a studio in Oslo. You received awards in 2001, 2003 for your work. Do you know the Scandinavian Jazzscene thoroughly, is it familiar or is it different, because you've spent a lot of your time in the States, which means working in an entirely different culture? Can you describe the essence of Swedish-Norwegian jazz?
GW: A lot has changed since I went to the US in the 70s. The amount of great musicians is fantastic and I do like the fact that the societies here are more supportive of music. You don't have to start out with commercial success nearly as much as in the US in order to be noticed. The musicians in Norway are more inclined to find very personal ways of expression, whereas the ones in Sweden are more all-round. You can find someone like Magnus Lindgren playing one day with his big band, the next with someone like Lisa Ekdahl, who in Sweden had greater succes with her lighter pop-music. Then on another day he will play with our quartet. He is world-class in all these styles! The same goes for the guys in EST. There is no one comparable to that in Norway, but on the other hand, there is no one in Sweden who has quite the unique talents of people like Jan Garbarek, Nils-Petter Mollvaer or Silje Nergaard. The only musician that I can think of as maybe a little more 'Swedish' in that sense in Norway is Bugge Wesseltoft.
M5: Bands like EST, Esbjorn Svensson Trio also made it in the USA and singers like Monica Zetterlund (you worked with her as well) find their heirs in the younger generations, so the legacy of Swedish jazz is kept alive. Can you name a few contemporary artists we should listen to?
GW: I feel bad to say it, but I rarely have time to listen. I have seen EST in concert a few times and I think that they are great. I remember once (before they were internationally known) asking them if we could maybe cooperate or if I could play with them. Nothing came out of it, but I have the utmost respect for them. When I listen, it can be to all kinds of music. I was just given Bill Evans' (the sax-player) new CD, which is great. Reminds me sometimes of Dave Sanborn's 'Upfront'. Some serious grooves!! I must get U2's new album at the same time that I right now have to spend a lot of time on fine-tuning the mixes of a new CD with Anne Sofie von Otter (mezzo-soprano) singing Benny Andersson (of ABBA fame) tunes. As far as the contemporary artists go, I am just not well enough informed to make recommendations.
M5: One of your most recent projects is working with three very talented musicians. Magnus Lindgren (sax-flute-keyboards), Jonas Holgersson (drums) and Fredrik Jonsson (bass). You recorded a CD with them. Can you tell us something about it?
GW: It is, interestingly enough, very much music in the spirit of the first 'Made in Sweden' group. I guess I have to admit that, whatever it is, I have an affinity for this kind of expression. We all separately work with many other projects and artists, but it is my hope that we will do some touring in Sweden in the spring and summer and record another album this fall. I have a lot of fun with this group and the guys inspire me to keep working on my playing.
M5: So we pretty much covered your work, in a nutshell. To speak in longterm lifetime terms, what musicians were or are of great importance to you?
GW: There comes the impossible journalistic question. There are hundreds of answers, some that I have just listened to, some that I have worked with etc.
M5: Any wishes or plans for the future?
GW: I hope to stay healthy. I want to record another CD with the quartet. I am writing songs with some great Swedish lyricists and I hope to record an album with my own vocals. I also wish to record an instrumental CD, based on Swedish folk music, with Martin Ístergren. My partner at Stable Studio, Leif Johansen, who in spite of the name is American, is an excellent bass-player (played with Aha, 21 guns etc.) and we are putting together a band in Oslo with our friend Pete Abbott (played drums with the Average White Band and Tom Jones etc). We are going to try to play once a week at a small club/bar with a Norwegian organist. Just for fun: Booker T and the MGs, some Jeff Beck or Stanley Clarke tunes. Anyway, as you can see, there is stuff to do.