Action rockers can’t wait to tour Germany again: Scumbag Millionaire interviewed

You are most likely familiar with Gothenburg’s reputation as one of the best metal cities in the world and bands like Dark Tranquillity, At the Gates and In Flames. While these bands were churning out metal and drew accolades in the metal scene worldwide, a vibrant punk and garage rock scene started to rise in the city.

Building on the British 70s punk scene and adding a Scandinavian rock sound, the Nordic punk and garage rock scene was born in the 80s. During the 90s, the single most impressive concentration of bands in the scene was in Scandinavia. Norway’s Gluecifer and iconic band Turbonegro, together with the Swedes of The Hellacopters paved the way for generations of punk rock bands to come. Today, a new generation of bands are ready to take over, and just like the first wave, they’ve already caused a stir in the international scene.

Claimed to be one of the heirs of the Scandinavian rock scene, Gothenburg action punk five-piece Scumbag Millionaire released their debut album Speed in 2018. After touring Europe extensively after its release, they were about to release their second album Poor And Infamous in 2020 and had it all set for a wild tour across Europe – and then covid happened.

Two years and eight gigs later we sat down with the band in their studio in Gothenburg and had a chat about always being compared to The Hellacopters, spending lots of time in the studio during the pandemic, and why Hamburg is a second home for the band. And they also reveal there’s new music in the works.

‘Schweinerock’ from Sweden

Let’s talk action rock. The Drippers claim that they invented the genre by releasing an album called “Action Rock” but you’re allowed to use it if you pay for it.
(laugh) Let’s say they made a statement. At first, you would think it’s just too simple and that they ran out of ideas, but at the same time it’s kind of cool. No one has done it before, so why not. But action rock is something very Scandinavian, like an identity for Nordic bands playing this type of music. It’s good for promotion, people will know you’re from Sweden or Norway.

When we started touring in Germany nobody knew what it was, and we were often called “a high energy rock band”. Or “Schweinerock” (laugh), but it’s not as bad as it sounds, it represents heavy punk rock music in Germany.

Wasn’t it Nicke [Andersson, frontman in The Hellacopters] who started using “action rock” because he thought they had a lot of action in their lyrics and song titles, and then DN [major Swedish newspaper] claimed that Hellacopters was an action rock band, which they didn’t like at all? Don’t start something you don’t like (laugh).

But doesn’t it bother you when people label your music like it has to belong to a genre?
Yeah, in general it is like that but action rock has come to define something new which helps all bands from Scandinavia to stand out from the crowd. We promoted ourselves as an action punk band at the beginning, Turbonegro called themselves death punk. When you do that you won’t be pigeonholed and get stuck in a genre that’s already full of bands, and people will remember you – hopefully (laugh).

Maybe it’s even worse to always be compared with Hellacopters? In Germany, gig announcements for Scumbag always say “sound like The Hellacopters” and being “the heirs of Hellacopters”.
It happens all the time and it’s not fun in the long run. We should like it because it adds some extra visibility and probably draws some attention from fans of Hellacopters, but we don’t really think we sound like them. We’re quite sure that when people listen to our records, they will hear the difference.

We don’t really know what they mean by “heirs”. Is it because they think we sound like Hellacopters or that we represent Scandinavian punk rock and will continue what they started? But one thing is for sure; we can never do it like Hellacopters because we would need that kind of label support they had in the 90s when the music industry looked completely different, and that won’t happen today. The money doesn’t exist for doing it today.

Hellacopters didn’t invent a new sound either, they did like every other band and picked bits and pieces of older music just like we do today, and made it their own sound. All bands do it like that, building on what their role models did.

As we said, it can be too much to hear it all the time but we rather are compared to Hellacopters than bands that would sound completely different or an obscure band no one heard of. Let’s say we have few things in common with Hellacopters; of all things we’re Swedes (laugh). It’s just how it works out for bands and how you level up in the hierarchy. Maybe someone will say “Hey, they sound just like Scumbag Millionaire” in a few years from now (laugh). Actually, it already happened. Some South American bands write that they have ”influences from Turbonegro, Hellacopters and Scumbag Millionaire” in their promos. We’re leveling up!

Talking about gigs; Scumbag is something to experience live and you usually play lots of shows. Didn’t you do about 60 gigs in 2019? How tough has it been to not play live the last two years?  
But we spent lots of time here [rehearsal space] instead. Something good coming out of the pandemic is that we also have put lots of time on how to write music and we’re loads better songwriters today. Before the pandemic, we just did simple pre-productions and recorded it all in a studio but today we work harder on the songs and record it here.

We have released zillions of split singles the last two years and there’s more to come. Quite many singles are delayed because we need to line up to the vinyl pressing plant. Too many bands and labels have cued up and it will take time to get the last three singles out.

Seven inches seems to be a genre thing. All action rock bands release lots of seven inches
Most definitely! That’s just how it has worked out for a very long time. You do like your role models did once and release music on the same format. Just take Hellacopters; they started doing it because Ramones did it.

We released quite many seven inches before we even started to record our debut album. It’s an easy way to get music out. Albums are better though because you can earn some money on them – you really don’t get anything for seven inches, it’s for promotion and building a reputation – but it takes lots of time to write and record albums, and to find eleven or twelve songs that fit together.

But we try hard to keep them apart and don’t use our seven inch songs on the albums if we don’t release an official single as a seven inch. Didn’t we release five singles from our debut album? When you feel that every song is awesome you want to release them all as singles, but it’s too expensive. But we try to get as much out as possible on seven inches. It would be super cool to release a full album as seven inches and then bundle it as a box, isn’t it an awesome idea? (laugh) The problem is to write b-sides as well; all our b-sides are exclusive and you can’t find them anywhere else, not even digitally. We have something like thirty songs on Spotify today but have released sixty songs when you count exclusive releases. Fans like it because it becomes collector items.

It’s also good for us to release music in between albums and not stay completely silent for a long period until there’s an album ready for release. I don’t get bands that release one or two singles between albums. They’re not visible at all. Our fans will get new Scumbag music quite often instead.

A new album in the works

Unlike many bands during the pandemic, Scumbag Millionaire didn’t postpone the release of their second album Poor and Infamous. The catch? Needless to say, the live scene has been in lockdown for almost two full years with few chances to play the album live, and for a band like Scumbag, going from around seventy gigs in 2019 to eight in 2021, it’s not enough.

But rather than dwelling in misery and spending the lockdown on the sofa, the band bought new studio gear, learned how to produce and record music in their rehearsal space. And you know what? They reveal that they have a new album in the works.

The latest album Poor and Infamous was released at the height of the pandemic in 2020. Do you feel like you lost the opportunity to get attention for the album when you couldn’t play it live?
Maybe a bit but we rather look forward than dwell in misery. We did a few shows last year when we supported Hardcore Superstars, but far from what we’re used to. But it’s not that we haven’t done anything; rather the opposite. We bought studio gear for our rehearsal space and started to learn how to record music ourselves. That was an important move for keeping ourselves busy.

We had a discussion about whether we should’ve waited to release the album or not but even the label said “Go for it”. Our contact at the label pointed out that people listen more to new music than ever during the pandemic and that it would be good for us to take the opportunity, so we did.

But it feels weird to not have played the songs live much at all. At this point, some songs would have been played to death, but at our gigs last fall it was awkwardly painful to realize “Fuck, we’re a bit slow and rusty” (laugh). But we didn’t add that many songs from the album to the setlist anyway. Scorpions don’t do it, why should we? (laugh)

How many shows did we do? Eight all in all? We’re happy that we got gigs at all, but when we don’t play as often as we’re used to, we don’t find the momentum and get to the point where it all happens automatically. We’ll get back to it, it’s just a matter of time until it restarts.

You say you’ve used the pandemic lockdown to learn the recording process and to release some split singles. Does it also mean that you’ve had time to work on a new album?
Yeah, but we’re not releasing any album before the summer. It’s in the works and we have a studio slot booked for recording it, but we don’t know when it will be released at all. As we said, it’s a massive line to the vinyl plant and we don’t want to release anything until we have a physical copy to release.

Max works at a vinyl plant and knows how it works out, and maybe we can use him to cut the line a bit shorter for us. If it doesn’t work out maybe we can use some of his contacts and do it somewhere else. You know, it’s at least a six months waiting line. That’s really annoying.

But will you continue to work with Thomas Skogsberg on the next record as well?
No, not this time but we keep the door open for future collaborations again. We like to change partners between records to get some sort of variation, even though Thomas is awesome at what he does.

At first, we thought it would be impossible to get a chance to work with him, he’s some sort of semi-god in the punk rock scene, but then The Drippers recorded their first album with him. You know, someone with a reputation like him wouldn’t have time for us or be too expensive, but you never know until you try, do you (laugh). And you get the feeling that he loves to work with smaller bands rather than bigger labels’ bands that tell him what to do.

Thomas has this amazing ability to squeeze out that raw sound you want. In fact, just walk into Sunlight and you’ll get that gritty and noisy sound he’s known for. It’s like working with the mad professor with all the gizmos and weird effects (laugh). He’s just one of a kind.

We’ve always been open to collaborating with different producers to get input on our ideas. When you have worked on an album for six months you need someone to listen to it with fresh ears, someone with new ideas.

“Hamburg is like home to us”

With several tours in Germany, Scumbag started to grow in popularity across the country and today they have a devoted German fanbase. And there are lots of German gigs coming up in 2022. First, the band embark on their postponed club tour just to return a few weeks later for festival gigs. Most important? They’re playing at Weltturbojugendtage in Hamburg this year again. Hamburg, be aware.

After two years of nearly no live shows, it seems to be a lot going on this year. You have lots of gigs coming up.
Yeah, June is pretty much fully booked and we’re going to Germany for a postponed club tour and play gigs that we were supposed to have played two years ago. But it’s a bit tricky because some shows have changed and we’re going back and forth between Sweden and Germany. That’s just how it will be this year for most bands having postponed shows to play combined with new festivals bookings.

Germany seems to be the most important scene for you.
It turned out like that, that’s where most people know about us. We have a great booker in Germany who’s always on top of things, but it’s also easy to get down to Germany. It’s not far from Gothenburg. And we love Germans, they’re so fucking organized (laugh). There’s a system for everything, from signing copyright papers to getting decent food backstage. The clubs don’t need a license to sell food to serve beer like in Sweden. That’s why they have a lot more clubs even in smaller cities where we can play. In Sweden, the bureaucracy does whatever it can to kill the rock club culture.

The best with Germany is that you can tour on weekdays even for a band of our size, get decent paid, and get people to come out for our shows – even on a Wednesday night. In Scandinavia that’s impossible. We can’t play in Skövde [minor Swedish city a few hours from Gothenburg] on a Tuesday and expect to get paid to cover our expenses. People won’t even come out on a Tuesday because they need to work the next day. It’s also expensive to buy concert tickets in Sweden and most people can’t afford to go to more than three bigger gigs a month because you also need to buy super expensive beer (laugh). Something is wrong up here (laugh).

To wrap things up; how about Weltturbojugendtage in Hamburg? Is that in your plans as well?
We’re actually playing this year but not officially, we booked it ourselves [edit: they have been officially booked to the festival after a cancellation]. They booked us a few years ago at Molotow and it was an awesome experience and the year after we booked our own gig during the festival just to be there.

We were kind of pissed off when they didn’t book us, weren’t we? “Why the fuck didn’t they book us”? (laugh). But we called the booker at Menschenzoo and asked him if we could play there instead, and he was just happy to hear from us. Menschenzoo is like a second living room to us and we’ve learned to know some really great people who invite us for home parties when we’re in Hamburg.

Hamburg is like home to us but we can’t live there. It’s too risky for our health (laugh).


Photographer: Richard Bloom 
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About J.N.

Music researcher with an unhealthy passion for music and music festivals. Former studio owner, semi-functional drummer and with a fairly good collection of old analogue synthesizers from the 70's. Indie rock, post rock, electronic/industrial and drum & bass (kind of a mix, yeah?) are usual stuff in my playlists but everything that sounds good will fit in.