Just like the Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio fans I was stupefied reading Tomas Pettersson announced after the release of his newest album “Let’s Play”, it possibly could be the last album! The Swedish masters of ‘apocalyptic-pop’ are now active since 1993 and moved throughout different periods of artistic creation. While their earlier work was characterized by a neo-folk approach they progressively experimented with other influences, which brought them to label their music as ‘apocalyptic-pop’. “Let’s Play” again released by Out Of Line took them nearly ten years to get accomplished, but the result is their most refined and artistic creation ever. It’s a poignant and deeply artistic exposure, which might become a kind of legacy for all lovers of this music genre. I got in touch with Tomas who had a lot to say about this major work.
(Picture credits by Post-Mortem / Interview courtesy by Inferno Sound Diaries)
Q: I first of all have to say thank you for this new and beautiful album “Let’s Play [Two Girls & A Goat] ”. I’ve been touched by the artistic grace of the writing and global production, which according to me stands for the most accomplished work you have ever released! It took you seven years to achieve this album, which you also have introduced as possibly the final album of Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio. Can you give us a bit more details about it all?
Tomas:Thank you. It pleases me to hear that you are able to perceive what I see too, and what I thought I saw already years ago when the process commenced.
My work with “Let’s Play” began already back in 2010/2011 when I completed “Songs 4 Hate & Devotion”. This has always been the situation for me, to initiate the work on another album just as I complete the first. But as I started to finish my work on “Let’s Play” in 2013, after all plans had been made, video recorded, 4Play released and Out Of Line had been informed, something unexpected occurred; we got pregnant with our second child and all I had planned was more or less obliterated. We were facing two options, either we released the album despite the pregnancy (without promotional material and concerts etc…) and just hoped it wouldn’t disappear in a void of social and medial emptiness, or we looked behind door number 2 and assumed that the potential that we felt the album had, would withstand the test of time, and that we simply postponed the release till another days when the stars were aligned.
So we went with option number 2, which led to the birth of “Vision:Libertine” as a result of frustration, disappointment and personal hardship.
Whether or not “Let’s Play” will be our final album or not remains to be seen, but I doubt it. What I meant was more willingly that “Let’s Play” as I see it, is the final form of apocalyptic-pop. I can’t see how we would be able to progress further without imitating ourselves. So from this point on I feel the need to reinvent myself and Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio to prevent what we have created from becoming a caricature of itself.
Q: That being said, what have been the main difficulties you encountered in the global production process and what are the aspects making you proud?
Tomas: When I ultimately came to the conclusion that “Let’s Play” had to be put on hold, it felt a little overwhelming. To feel and accept that the best songs you had ever made were not going to be heard by anyone for years to come. I played them incessantly until I couldn’t bear to hear them anymore. But after the release of “Vision:Libertine” in 2016, I also realized that I had become a better, more competent producer, a better vocalist, and that the material I once felt was so incredibly good, didn’t live up to this ‘new’ standard. So I consequently decided to deconstruct “Let’s Play”; remix it, re-sing it and reproduce it to meet with these new and improved standards. And in retrospective it’s easy to see that this was a very time consuming endeavor, and which led to a process of successive completion which altogether took 6-8 years.
Q: The lyrical content remains very explicit although using metaphors and enigmatic titles. I get the impression the lyrics are very intimate and yet meant to tickle the listeners, but what did you really want to accomplish?
Tomas: I write texts that serve a personal purpose, texts that manifest a feeling, a vision and/or an idea; let it be sexual, philosophical, spiritual or ideological. I desire to write texts that paint the vision I see when I close my eyes; and if I am able to tickle and provoke, then my work is done. That is what I seek to accomplish.
Q: ‘Sex’ in a wider perception has been always one of your fetish themes and still very present in the imagery and performances of Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio. While it clearly concerns artistic freedom… and maybe a little bit of provocation, I can easily imagine you (at least some images, maybe clips) must have been censored. I especially think about some social media. What’s your personal experience about it and what does it say about the Century we’re living in versus artistic freedom?
Tomas: Sexuality defines us. We are our sexuality. Our preferences and provocations are directly and intimately linked to who we consider ourselves to be. I like to use sexuality and ‘explicit’ imageries as a catalyst for greater motives, to raise other questions and ideas that otherwise would be disregarded and/or shunned.
Social media is a phenomenon. An interactive judgment tool by which you are forever judged for the things you do and don’t. Years ago your accomplishments were judged and deemed worthy or worthless by alleged ‘professionals’ in ‘established’ magazines, but nowadays you are judged every day, every hour, every minute by people with an opinion. Nameless, faceless writers who seek nothing more than to slander you without reprieve and consequence. The magazines have been replaced by social forums that dictate under what conditions and censorship you are allowed to operate. I’m no longer the sole dictator of what imagery and intellectual message our ‘art’ will convey, but the social forums and even my visitors are ultimately in charge, deciding what they ‘allow’.
There has been occasional censorship, but not as much as you probably imagine. “Menage A Trois” was naturally removed by Facebook after 16 hours, which however was a lot longer than anyone thought it would be up. We were banned from performing in Berlin years ago, as I was accused of being a satanic fascist by the organizer’s friend’s fiancé. But for me, the strangest and most abstract act of censorship was posed by Facebook some 6 years ago when they closed the official Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio channel based on my publication of the “Make Love & War” cover (Rose having the gun in her mouth). For that reason only they choose to close down the page and made me start over completely.
Q: New clips have been made and especially “Ménage A Trois” is a deeply, artistic exposure, but still a huge success regarding the number of views. Tell us a bit more about the song and the link with the clip plus the accomplishment of the clip?
Tomas:The genesis of “Ménage A Trois” requires quite a history lesson, so here it goes. After years and years of declining all requests from Russia, I finally decide to accept an invitation from Alexey Kluyev and Arcto Poomo in 2011. We prepare, we get all the tickets and documents, and finally when we are set to depart for Moscow, everything starts to crumble. Considering the amount of money and organization that have already been invested to bring Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio to Russia, I feel obliged to go, but Rose is however forced to stay home because Julius, or oldest son, bursts out in chickenpox the night before departure, and simultaneously, Fredrik (the bass player) is also forced to stay home due to various family emergencies; so ultimately it only our former guitarist and me who depart for Russia and destination unknown. Finally in Russia we are picked up at the airport by Alexey and his sketchy taxi-driver Dragan dressed in a white suite that someone else must have stopped wearing in the 80’s and white loafers. Alexey takes us to our base camp outside of central Moscow at “Rob’s House” where we are supposed to stay with Rob and his mother between concerts. Next morning we travel 4 hours by airplane to Yekaterinburg where we are set to do our first show. An utterly bizarre experience where we are observed as mythological creatures and where female fans start to tremble and burst out in tears simply from confronting us, and finally, the rented guitar appears to be 6 metal strings connected to two assembled pieces of plywood, rather than an actual guitar. After Yekaterinburg we fly back to Moscow and are picked up again by Alexey and Dragan. We are brought back to Rob’s house and start to get ready for our second show in Moscow. At this show we have a support act; an avant-garde black-metal opera-noise act featuring renowned Russian actor Vladimir Epifantsev. Supposedly he’s a big fan of Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio, but during the show, Vladimir only comes to the club 5 minutes before the show, and leaves immediately after, so our meeting is brief, but we are also informed that after we return from Rostov-on-don, Vladimir wants to meet for dinner. So after Moscow we travel south to Rostov-on-don (the hometown of Andrei Chikatilo). We meet old friends for the very first time, have a magnificent barbeque in our host’s backyard, make new friends and play another bizarre show for just a handful of people. Thereafter we return to basecamp in Moscow and later that same day we meet the famous Vladimir in central Moscow and go to one of his favorite pizza restaurants. We eat luxury pizzas and drink imported beer, and that’s when Vladimir says to Alexey that he wants to make a video for Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio. A dialogue follows where I decline his offer to make a video for “S4H&D” (because its already out) and I suggest that its better if we make a video for the upcoming album “Let’s Play”. Alexey thinks this is very funny as says in English with a heavy Russian accent ‘Hahahahaha Tomas, you are just as much businessman as you are artist’. And it is decided, we will come back one year later for two concerts and the making of a video for a song of Vladimir’s choice.
So we go back home, work on “Let’s Play”, send the songs to Vladimir who makes his ‘surprising’ choice, and we go back again in 2012 for a four day visit to Moscow. We performed twice over two days in Moscow, and on the third and fourth day we filmed the video with Vladimir and his crew. On the first day we filmed an entire day at Vladimir’s big summerhouse outside of Moscow. Everything was arranged by Vladimir and there were several other actors from his day job (as a soup opera actor on a daytime drama series) joining us to fulfill the script. There were exploding vegetables, AK47s, Spetsnaz soldiers, blood, the drowning of his wife, Fredrik almost losing his hearing after an AK47 goes off next to his ear, me walking around all day dressed as a pantomime, Rose throwing confetti from the balcony and all this madness came to an end in a huge organized barbeque. Next day was spent in central Moscow at Vladimir’s studio apartment filming close-ups and vocal scenes, still dressed as a pantomime. After day four we returned to Sweden. I was informed by Alexey that Vladimir will begin editing and that we will receive the finished video in due time. We waited and waited. After six months I contacted Alexey and asked what’s going on, I am informed ‘Vladimir is an artist, you need to wait’. So we waited, and waited some more.
After a year I contacted Alexey again to hear what’s happening; same answer ‘Vladimir is an artist we need to wait inspiration’. So we waited some more, and some more. But suddenly, one random night in winter after three years of waiting, an email unexpectedly appears in my mailbox, moscow.mp4. It’s there, finally. I called out to Rose ‘It’s here!’ She said, ‘What’s here?’ I said ‘The Russian video. It’s here! Should we watch it?’ Rose said ‘No let’s wait’. So we waited another few weeks before we out it on. But once we did, our jaws just drop (all the way to the floor). The video was not what we recorded in Moscow those two days in 2012. It’s something completely different. ‘An artist’s personal vision’ perhaps, but not what we paid for and not what he expected. But over time we accepted it and learned to love it. It’s a fantastic video, the first of several videos we will make with Vladimir, and after all these years it is finally out, and now, another 1.4M more people have watched it too.
Q: I noticed some interesting names among your list of favorite artists, but I especially want to mention Brigitte Bardot and Serge Gainsbourg (who did some real great things together and not only “Je T’Aime Moi Non Plus”), but also Nancy Sinatra, Johnny Cash and Lee Hazelwood! What do you like in their work and what makes them special?
Tomas:I like the way the way their music make me feel. I like the musical orchestrations, especially from Lee Hazelwood. The simplicity; the complexity. They represent an interesting and aesthetically fascinating era in history. Perverted, yet sophisticated. Seemingly stupid(?) yet intellectually provoking.