Robert Pehrsson (born 13th of December 1975) is currently one of the most talented Swedish rock guitarists. Furthermore, he is an outstanding songwriter as well. It's only a matter of time until a broader (rock) audience will recognize him as what he is: a star in the making. Robert Pehrsson has worked for such diverse bands such as Runemagick, Thunder Express, Death Breath, Dundertåget, Imperial State Electric, Slingblade and also Dagger. He picked up his guitar in 1987 and started a (professional) career in 1994 (at the time concentrating mainly on playing extreme music like thrash and early death metal).
In 2013, his debut longplayer under the name of Robert Pehrsson's Humbucker was released (via High Roller Records). It was a perfect example for a contemporary “classic rock” album, landing the Swedish guitarist extraordinaire the “album of the month” award in Germany's leading independent metal magazine Rock Hard.
No wonder then that expectations for the follow-up album »Long Way To The Light« are sky high. The record contains eight brand new compositions (plus a re-worked version of the single “The Hollow In A Rising Tone”). With songs such as “Send Her My Love” or “Traveling Through The Dark” Robert Pehrsson's Humbucker carry on where they have left off with the captivating debut album – albeit with even slicker guitar playing and sharper song arrangements.
“I put so much pressure on myself so I got enough to deal with already”, comments Robert Pehrsson on the expectations surrounding the release of »Long Way To The Light«. “The main thing is to not disappoint myself and to know in the end that I did the best I could. I was sincerely happy both for High Roller and of course for myself with the great reviews on the previous album. I think the new album is stronger, but in the end, it's up to the listener and that I have no control over.”
Listening to »Long Way To The Light« for the first time, one might get the impression that overall it's a slightly poppier record compared to the debut. “It might be”, reflects Robert Pehrsson. “But it's not really intentional. I like the songs short and to the point with a strong hook. That's what I strive for always. I think people sometimes put us in the same category as more hard rocking bands and we're not really that type of band in the end. I want the freedom to do other styles as well. If I look at the old bands, I like that they were all very diverse, not playing on 10 all the time.”
D'accord, diversity in songwriting has always been the forté of Robert Pehrsson's Humbucker. But in the past, for some, this has been a dangerous road, if you look at Phil Lynott's solo album »Solo In Soho«, which for some is, well, a total mess. “I actually like a lot of that album”, confesses the Swedish guitarist. “But maybe it was wise to do it as a solo album. I'm not scared to try different approaches to both writing and recording and I think it's possible to paint with a wide brush and still be true to the overall sound of the band. I'm not talking about rocket science here and we record in a very old school fashion. But there are so many different ways to approach things and I am intrigued with these things. I'm interested in the craft of songwriting and recording.”
This approach shows on each of the nine tracks of the record. So nine songs once more (just like on the debut platter), that must be the lucky number for Robert Pehrsson indeed. “I guess so”, he laughs. “There was more material written and recorded, but I was not 100% happy with how some of the songs came together so I've put them on hold for another day. I don't want any filler material and I don't like albums that go on forever personally. Sometimes we are limited as performers. I wrote some material for this album that I was really excited about, but I just could not make it sound right this time around. I listen to lots of different music and I would like the band to be able to do diverse material.”
“The biggest difference is that we have played live since the first album”, comments Robert Pehrsson on the main differences between the first album and »Long Way To The Light«. “My approach for the writing was not that different, but I kept in mind that I want do be able to perform the songs live in their true form. I also co-worked with Joseph Tholl, Nicke Andersson and Andreas Axelsson on some tracks. So I think there is more of a band feeling to this one compared to the first album. And that was something I wanted from the beginning when I started working on this album.”
Robert Pehrsson's Humbucker have played around 40 live shows since the debut album, so the line-up is starting to gel. Robert Pehrsson: “»Long Way To The Light« has been recorded mostly by me and Nicke Anderssons (drums and bass). Joseph Tholl has also been involved a lot. I really like recording with these guys. But a lot of the players on the previous also appear on this. The live line-up has been Joseph Tholl, Jakob Ljungberg and Jens Lagergren, and they all appear on the album. It's a mixture of really talented friends from other bands: Enforcer, Imperial State Electric, The Hellacopters, Tribulation etc... We tend to do a lot of stuff together. Here's some names: Robert Eriksson, Jonas Wikstrand, Johan Bäckman, Johannes Borgström. The list goes on!”
Maybe Robert Pehrsson is indeed one the last great guitarist in the tradition of Ritchie Blackmore, Michael Schenker, Jimmy Page and Scott Gorham. But then again »Long Way To The Light« is not a "guitar-driven" record per se. So what comes first for the Swedish guitarist exytraordinaire, the song or the guitar performance? Robert Pehrsson: ”Thanks! The song is always first. I see it the same way playing live. I want us, as a band, to play together and be a strong unit. It's not about individual performances at all. I do, however, think there is quite a lot of guitar playing, but there is no room for unnecessary flash in the songs. I want the listener to feel that the solo is an integral part of the song and not just there for me to show off. My main goal is to create a solo that you can and would want to hum along to.”
There are lots of great songs on the album, for example "Zero Emotion". It's some kind of a love song, correct? “It's more of a breakup song”, laughs Robert Pehrsson. “And how you sometimes end up dealing with things like that. A lot of the lyrics are about losing loved ones in one way or another. I guess it's because I'm at that age now when things like that happen, whereas in the past I did not really have to deal with that in the same way.”
The closing number ”No I don't" is quite funky partially … so maybe the right choice for the title of ”most unusual song on the album”? Robert Pehrsson begs to differ: ”I would probably say it's rather 'Traveling Through The Dark'. It's got an 1980s vibe to it and I don't really see any other of the songs having that. But overall I think this album is more diverse. 'Pretender' also comes to mind as a bit unusual and something we have not really done before. These are the songs I tend to like the most.”