Why Night Flight Orchestra made a sci-fi, feminist space opera

Night Flight Orchestra

Those of you with a passion for Swedish melodeath are undoubtedly aware of just how good Soilwork are. For two decades they’ve been blasting out slabs of savagery from the frozen north… but sometimes you need something a bit nicer and (dare we say) cheesier.

That’s where Night Flight Orchestra come in.

Soilwork’s Björn Strid and David Andersson Night Flight Orchestra project have recently released their third album Amber Galactic and it’s lightyears away from their day job, bringing forth the pomp and colour of ‘80s classic rock.

“It’s an inspiring thing to do to take vacation from the metal thing occasionally,” Dave Andersson. “It’s something we’ve always wanted to do.”

But Amber Galactic isn’t your usual bombastic AOR affair, it’s based around the concept of a future when women are in charge and they are heading out to colonise another world. This, of course, isn’t your usual tale from the burly Swedes, so we caught up with founder and lead guitarist David Andersson to find out just what it’s all about.

Do you feel that the rock world’s passion for big, fun rock songs has died in recent years?

“What has definitely died are bands that are over the top. Not humorous, but artists not being afraid to take things too far. A lot of people are very self-conscious these days and seem to be very nervous about how they come across. All the music from the ‘70s and ‘80s like Toto, ELO, 10cc, Abba, Uriah Heap, Deep Purple, it was all over the top and no-one was afraid to come across as looking flamboyant or eccentric, or sometimes stupid. I really like the whole idea of escapism and creating your own little dream world. With this album we tried to take it a little further than most bands do these days.”

You’ve previously described Amber Galactic as a sci-fi feminist space opera. Err, what?

“I’ve always been a big fan of science fiction and fantasy, and I always loved stuff like the Out Of The Blue album by ELO or the other concept albums of the ‘70s like Genesis’ The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway. I wanted to have some social commentary on there as well, even if it’s not that obvious. Considering the direction the world is going these days with Trump getting elected and a lot of right wing tendencies in Europe, society is regressing to an intolerant culture. This album is a nice utopian vision of the future where the ones in charge are females, who take care of business for us weak men.”

You say the album has an underlying social commentary. Why do you find it easier to write in metaphors about a fictional future than overtly come out and say what is happening?

“Personally I hate political music, I prefer music about love or escapism. Even if the songs are cheesy love songs set in space in the not-so-distant future, it’s nice to have a deeper thought behind it. Most reviewers or people who interview me think the thing we’re doing is humorous, but we’re dead serious about the music. We’re extremely aware that there are humorous aspects of it and that it’s likely too much at times, but the music itself is something we all stand behind. If it makes people smile then great, but we’re not trying to create a Spinal Tap parody thing, we really like the music and lyrics are heartfelt. Behind the metaphors and space references, it’s something we really feel strongly about. I still get goosebumps listening to some of the songs.”

The record reverses the damsel in distress story with a helpless man being saved by women. Why do you think we don’t we see this story in film/TV more?

“We’re living in a male-dominated culture. I’m a huge fan or urban fantasy, the literary genre, and they often have female heroines – female werewolves and vampires kicking ass – so I guess that has rubbed off on me because it’s way cooler to have a girl saving the guy than vice versa. It’s getting old having the James Bond ideal.

“Me and Bjorn talk a lot about how black metal and death metal in the ‘80s was great and that it wasn’t macho or cool – it was very sensitive, vulnerable guys trying to express their frustrations through extreme music, and that’s something that’s lost in metal these days. A lot of music in the rock genre generally has become more of a macho thing and it’s nice to have huge bearded Swedes being sensitive and singing ‘80s classic rock.”

Do you feel that that level of sensitivity has been lost in metal?

“When something is really influential, it loses some of its essence when people try to recreate it or are heavily influenced by it. If you look in the US five or so years ago, people like Zakk Wylde or Pantera were huge influences on loads of guitarists, who developed a macho image which was such a small part of what guys like Dimebag and Zakk were about. These days, with the way that the internet is making it so easy for people to comment on stuff, a lot of artists are quite nervous about how they present themselves or how they come across because there will always be people online writing negative comments about it. I think that’s part of why there’s not a lot of people taking things too far these days.”

Do you care about how you’re perceived online?

“I don’t ever read the comment sections. The people we meet on tour are usually pretty positive about us doing other stuff. For Night Flight Orchestra I do most of the lyrics but with Soilwork it’s mainly Bjorn’s baby when it comes to lyrics, but there isn’t much in the way of macho imagery in his lyrics, it’s mainly about feelings and insecurities and anxieties. For Soilwork fans it’s a big thing that we’re not afraid to come across as slightly vulnerable and it’s the same with Night Flight Orchestra.”

What does the word feminist mean to you?

“That we should be treated equally. I have two daughters and I know for a fact that they will have a harder time doing whatever they want to do with their lives than if they had been boys. Also I’ve never met a woman who hasn’t had some kind of harassment experience in her past, whether it’s sexual or power games, it’s still an unequal society. Caitlyn Moran wrote that work places should employ 50% women and that if we don’t have the 5050 rule, at least 30% of the men will be crap at what they do and they’ll just be there because they’re friends with other men, and I think that’s true.”

Are you having to answer questions from your daughters about gender roles in society?

“We already have discussions at home because they’ve started school and the rowdy boys in the class get way more attention from teachers, which takes away from their education. We try to explain to them that it’s the way things are and it’s hard to give them a good explanation as to why.”

Could you see Amber Galactic becoming taking on a visual form like a movie or stage show?

“We’d love to, but it all comes down to money ha ha. It’s not like we’re a high-profile band. If we’d been Metallica or Coldplay we’d create a mini universe in stadiums with space ships, but if we had the budget to make something more visual we’d love to do that as well!”

Amber Galactic is out now on Nuclear Blast Records.

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Luke Morton joined Metal Hammer as Online Editor in 2014, having previously worked as News Editor at popular (but now sadly defunct) alternative lifestyle magazine, Front. As well as helming the Metal Hammer website for the four years that followed, Luke also helped relaunch the Metal Hammer podcast in early 2018, producing, scripting and presenting the relaunched show during its early days. He also wrote regular features for the magazine, including a 2018 cover feature for his very favourite band in the world, Slipknot, discussing their turbulent 2008 album, All Hope Is Gone.