Turbonegro Drummer Amps Up the Pop With ‘Electric Hero’

It’s a pretty big leap to go from the homo-erotic punk rock of Turbonegro to Brian Wilson-worthy melodies and jangly power pop guitars, but somehow Tomas Dahl managed to make the jump flawlessly.

Dahl may be known best as the drummer for the leather-encased Norwegian punks Turbonegro, but he actually did time in the more pop-friendly band The Yum Yums before putting on his spiked wristbands.

His first solo project (and I mean solo, having played every single instrument and laid down all the vocals) is Electric Hero, under the moniker Caddy. The album is a dozen beautifully-crafted, deeply infectious power pop nuggets that stay with you for days.

Dahl spoke with Innocent Words about the album, four years in the making.

Innocent Words: Obviously many know you for Turbonegro. Do you feel like you exist in two separate worlds [punk rock and power pop]?

Tomas Dahl: No, not really. I discovered punk rock around the same time as power pop. I come from a really small place in the countryside, one hour outside of Oslo, and the music scene there was just amazing. There were a lot of talented people from this small place, playing in bands, hanging out and discovering new music together. The punk scene in Oslo was really great at that time – lots of cool bands, great venues and record shops. A friend of mine had this amazing record shop called Wild Mind in the ’90s who brought in all the good music. He had everything on garage, punk rock, power pop and alternative music. So, there was always a mix of power pop and punk rock people hanging out there. Usually there was a mix between power pop bands and punk rock bands at the shows too, so it was really easy to get into both things.

IW: Electric Hero is not at all what I expected, but I love it. Have you always been a fan of pop music?

Dahl: I guess I`ve always been into pop music. My dad was a guitarist and a singer in a band in the ’60s, and he was really into The Shadows and Beach Boys. So I was raised with melodic music. As a kid in the early ’80s, I was like most kids: really into KISS. Unmasked was the first KISS record I heard, and it has a more poppy sound to it than the earlier albums. But I guess what really got me into the world of power pop was the song “Missing You” by John Waite in 1984. I remember being totally blown away by the song! It´s a really simple song but great songwriting, and I loved how that record sounded. From there, it was easy to find bands like Cheap Trick, The Records, Rick Springfield, etc. For me, power pop from the ’80s is the definition of power pop. It was still just pop music, but it was more up tempo, guitar-based, melodic songs than the rest of the music in the ‘80s.

IW: How long have you wanted to put out a record like Electric Hero?

Dahl: I wanted to make a record on my own since I was around 16-17 years old. That`s when I picked up a guitar and learned to play it. I got really sick of playing drums. I´d done that since I was five years old! So changing to guitar really helped a lot in the songwriting process. I had ideas and songs in my head, but I couldn´t play guitar. So when I had a new song in a band, I had to sing the guitar melody, and they had to try and find out where the chords were. It was really frustrating, but after a lot of years working in the studio and learning how things work, I knew I could do an album on my own.

IW: Did you play all the instruments on this record?

Dahl: Yeah, I do all the stuff on it. I wanted to mix the album myself too, but I soon found out that I wasn’t that good behind the mixer. I get a big ego in the studio and think if I do everything on my own it will sound amazing. Luckily, a good friend of mine who owns the studio convinced me I needed help with mixing. Oh, the only guest on the album is my girlfriend, helping out with some handclaps, so I didn´t have to do 100 handclaps takes!

IW: Was it hard to find the time to work on your solo material?

Dahl: Oh yeah, it´s been a long one! I started with the first songs in 2006, I think. Some of the ideas were already written in 2005, so it`s been a lot of waiting. As I mentioned, the studio was run by a good friend of mine, and it is a really popular studio for metal bands. And since they obviously had a bigger budget than I had, I got last in line. I could be in the studio a couple of days and then it would take two or three months before the next session. But all in all, I used about three years on it… but I`m really happy about it.

IW: How did you connect with the small indie label Diner Junkie out of Buford, Ga.?

Dahl: I found Mike (Cammarata, owner of Diner Junkie Records) on MySpace actually; it still works! He liked my songs, so we started to mail back and forth and found out that we should put out the album on his label. He has a good taste in music, and he knows what to look for in this kind of music.

IW: Do you plan to tour at all in the U.S. as Caddy?

Dahl: When I started this project, I thought I just wanted to record some songs and see how things work out. I got a lot of airplay on the radio here in Norway, so I knew I had to do some shows to promote the project, even though it was not supposed to be a touring act. I gathered some friends and we sat down and took the songs apart and tried to make them more live friendly. There´s a bunch of stuff on the album that´s impossible recreate live. There’s five or six guitars on top of each other and maybe about 20 vocal tracks here and there, so we stripped it down and made them into a more classic-rock style. The problem is that I`m a drummer and have no idea how to be a front man, and it freaked me out! The few shows we did were OK, and I took it to Japan, which was an amazing experience.

IW: Do you expect to write/release more albums as Caddy?

Dahl: Yeah, I would like to record another album, but I’m not sure when. It’s difficult to get a release for a project like this, since I don`t tour and it’s a one man band. I’m so busy right now working with other bands and working as a studio musician, so there´s nothing planned. Maybe some time in the future.