DOZER: “We just play our songs very loud and kill everyone.”

Written by Featured, Interview

When you think of Sweden, you’d instantly think of huge stores full of cheap furniture with unpronounceable names. The more initiated know just how to fill these Kallax shelves with Swedish Stoner Rock© vinyl. In the early 2000s (an eternity), some kids inspired by the airy yet anvil-heavy odes to the reefer of their American elders, pictured themselves playing in the Mojave Desert. The Swedish stoner rock scene was born. And its forefathers Dozer, Lowrider, Greenleaf or Demon Cleaner nearly fell into oblivion as years passed. Yet three years ago, Lowrider delivered a new masterpiece, a benchmark record for all fans of heavy and smoke-filled music. In 2023, Dozer followed with “Drifting in the Endless Void”, reminding us who the original patentees of European-style fuzz are.

Hellfest 2023. Sunday. 16h45. New Valley stage. Dozer has just pulverized the eardrums of heavy metal aficionados and sent all spacelord motherfuckers into the cosmos. A successful challenge for these returning legends, who haven’t played in France since… Hellfest in 2014. Needless to say, this concert was a must-see. And these guys’ voice is crucial. It only took a few beers, an explanation about Tommi’s lucky shirt, a makeshift recorder on a stool and the guys being awestruck by the crowd’s welcome, we were ready to study the most unexpected stoner rock comeback of 2023.

What’s the best record in your opinion? Guns N’ Roses’ « Chinese Democracy », Lowrider’s « Refractions »  or Dozer’s « Drifting in the Endless Void »? 

Tommi Holappa (guitar): (laughing and thinking) Not to be an egomaniac, I’d say Lowrider’s album… I love it, Peder did an amazing job on it. But I know that our album is really good as well. We’re proud of it.

Johan Rockner (bass): If you can say Lowrider, I can say Dozer!

So the longer, the better? You guys have taken some time to put out this new album… Fifteen years!

Both: (smiling) Lowrider took a VERY long time!

Tommi: When we spend five hours, in Lowrider’s universe you’ve only spent one! Usually, when I finish an album for Greenleaf or Dozer, I come home and get the mix, etc… For the previous Dozer album « Beyond Colossal », we worked so hard on it, we worked too much on it and I was like: « I need a break somehow ». And then, only after half a year, I realized how good this album was. But with the new album, I felt proud right away, I felt really good.

We feel like your new album “Drifting in the Endless Void” breathes new life into the stoner rock genre. A real exercise in style, like Lowrider did three years ago. How did you do this? Is there a special recipe?

Tommi: The recipe is us four being in a room together. When we started talking about it, we hesitated and didn’t know which way to choose. We just decided to meet up in a rehearsal room. It was January 2020 and I was thinking: « What is Dozer now? What am I supposed to do? » I talked to Johan and said we’re not going more aggressive… My brain fucked me up. 

It might have been difficult not to repeat what has been done 15 years ago.

Tommi: We had like two rehearsals and it felt good just playing in a room together again, just jamming on some ideas and Fredrik came up with « Missing 13 », the last song on the album. Everybody was like « Wow, this is good! This is fresh! »

Johan: If we tried to make a new album five years ago, it wouldn’t be the same because we were not in sync with each other. The time was right for everybody.

Tommi: In the end, we have to thank Covid for having all this time to do new stuff. No one was on tour, no one was doing something interesting…

What was the one thing that brought you back to the studio? 

Johan: Corona… (laughs) No, the right question is « When was the right time to do a new Dozer album? ». We probably would have done songs anyway but not in a « make an album » mood.

Tommi: It all started long before Corona…. We kept saying « Maybe we should do something! » and it was mostly on Fredrik because he was in that job-family-kids thing, you know.

Speaking of Fredrik. Now the whole world knows that he went back to university, but did he succeed? Or did he come back to music just to be a fucking rockstar? 

Tommi: Oh yeah. He has a good job now, three kids… Now he only has a few days off to play shows so all the shows are planned. This year is already booked, and next year is almost booked.

So he didn’t come back to be a rock star….

Johan: During the ten first years of Dozer, he tried to go to university twice but we kept going on tour all the time and he couldn’t do both.

Tommi: And then he was like « Okay I have to stop, I’m getting old. I need a degree! » He was 35, I think.

Johan: In 2013, it was the first time we played live after so many years. It wasn’t about writing new music back then but every time we hooked up and played all these songs live… The question about making new music came out.

Tommi: After we played Hellfest in 2014, I warned the guys that if we wanted to do this again, we had to write new music! I don’t want to do this again without new songs and not being ready! Then Corona happened.

Johan: During this time, we tried to show people we were still alive. We released « Vultures » and made a repress of our first three albums on Heavy Psych Sounds, and some live shows every year just to tell people that Dozer is alive. Actually, we are really surprised to see how DOZER still exist in people’s mind. We can see it on Spotify trends: we didn’t really disappear.

Come on, guys… You’re a cult band for a lot of stoner fans. When you come back after a fifteen-year absence, what do you have left to say?

Tommi: I really don’t know what we’ll do next, but it feels so good to do something. When we write music, record an album, put out an album, this is fun. We’ll continue as long as we enjoy doing it. We’ll probably write one more album – Greenleaf’s album is next – so maybe in 2025…

Is there a message behind « Drifting In The Endless Void »?

Johan: I think the ground meaning is that we live on Mother Earth but we don’t take care of it. Now I’m older, I have kids, we have kids and…

Tommi: At the end of the album, Fredrik says sorry to his kids.

Johan: Like, this is the place you get, this is not my fault. Human beings are fucking assholes who can’t take care of what they get.

Tommi: There is one thing he says, though: « At the end, everything’s gonna be ok. » (laughs sarcastically) That’s the final lyric on the ending track « Missing 13 ».

Johan: And we make a small chord change like this (both sing the last notes), we make a little chord change that goes minor at the end of the song, so you get the feeling that it’s not all dark.

Tommi: Fredrik wanted to do a whole concept album, but he thought it was too much work (everybody laughs). The last melody on « Missing 13 » was a thing me and my daughter had. At home, she sang something and this was really good. I played it for Fredrik and he realized it was the same key as his song… We realized it just was the perfect outro for this song. Fredrik was very happy that my daughter was somehow involved in the process because it gave much more sense to it, a nod to the whole concept of this album.

Tommi, what are the things you allow yourself with Dozer that you don’t with GreenLeaf?

Tommi: I think Greenleaf is a little bit more jammy. I think we can have a little bit more fun with the crowd. With Dozer, we just play our songs very loud and kill everyone!

Johan: Dozer is more about… dancing.

When you get an idea for a song or a riff, do you already know if it’s for a Dozer or Greenleaf song?

Tommi: It’s more simple and easy. When I have to write for a new Greenleaf album, I’m just focusing on this band. Same for Dozer. Arvid (Greenleaf’s singer) needs more chords in the verses to make it big. Fredrik needs one chord and comes up with the best melody ever like « Dust for Blood ». Arvid needs a few more notes… Arvid is a school opera singer, more from a 70s rock school, more like Jim Morrison.

Johan: But Fredrik also has something special that makes the new Dozer album sound fresh.

Are you aware of how great this new album is? We mentioned Lowrider and the level they’ve reached, and « Drifting in the Endless Void » gets very close to that, which is special enough to be highlighted. I mean, the stoner rock sound has somewhat lost its origins, and veterans like you guys just remind us what this music should sound for the next twenty fucking years.

Tommi: I’m really happy that you said this because this is what we wanted. We didn’t want to do the same thing over and over again. Like you said, it’s supposed to be fresh and I wanted it to excite me first. I’ve been listening to all this stoner stuff for thirty years now and I wanted to be fun and fresh.

Johan: But we don’t need to talk about it or plan it, it just happened.

Find DOZER on Bandcamp, Facebook and Instagram. New album “Drifting in the Endless Void” out now on Blues Funeral Recordings.

Last modified: 5 December 2023