Interview with Alien Bass player Ken Sandin

PM. Ken, congratulations on the new album “Eternity”; it has been receiving some very positive reviews: When did you feel you had the making of something special?
“Thanks, David. Yes, we’re very happy with the response! I knew from the first reunion gigs that the band sounded as competent and good as ever. The first couple of ideas Jimmy had already played me told me we could make this kind of album, if only we could agree on what we wanted. Five individuals, different preferences, you know.”

PM. Firefest was a game changer for the band; up to that point did you realize just how much people wanted to see a reformed Alien?
“We have really dedicated fans, spread all over the world; and that we were aware of. But, meeting that many of them, at the same time/place, was of course fantastic and rewarding. The first Firefest show was totally encouraging.”

PM. Was it after that Firefest performance that you guys decided to sit down and write a new album, or was it already on the backburner?
“No, that decision really came later on. But, it convinced all members of the band that if we were to make an album, the right way to go was to stay true to our signature sound from the debut, as far as songs and style. I’m very thankful for that. Actually, Kieran (Dargan) specifically told us to bare that in mind.”

PM. Talking about the album, who came up with the album’s cover and what is the meaning/message behind the figure of 8?
“I created the album cover – artwork, graphic design and layout. The live pictures are by talented Japanese photographer Emili Muraki, and they were shot at Firefest 2013.”
“I didn’t want to have a title written in letters on the front cover really, and decided to use the ‘laying-eight’ symbol, the never-ending loop symbolizing ‘Infinity’. That title was obviously used for a Journey album, so I chose ‘Eternity’, as the symbol works for both. It could for example mean that our music, the art we create and leave behind, is eternal? The alternative front cover for Japan has the title/symbol in Kanji (永). The Japanese edition is released June 18th by the way; by Bickee Music, with a couple of bonus tracks.”

PM. It was a conscious decision to make this new album sound and feel like a follow up to the debut, as you say; but was that to sweep all the previous Alien albums aside, especially as ‘Dark Eyes’ wasn’t really an Alien album at all, just in name only.
“Well, this is the original line-up back together, so no wonder that’s what it sounds like. We only did that one album together, so it’s our natural reference. I can’t speak for the later eras, but Tony says the original line-up couldn’t be emulated; one missing piece and it’s no longer Alien.
For us ‘Eternity’ is the follow up to the 1988 debut, and we wanted our old fans now to feel they’re holding “Alien 2” in their hands. Hence the style of artwork, too.”


PM. Which songs on ‘Eternity’ are your personal favorites and why?
“I’ve been working so intensely with the production, trying to find the best solutions for every song, so I’m a bit too close to them all, still. I remember instantly getting a good feeling about “Unbroken” and “Summer Of Love” though, they just spoke to me…; as in being right on target for this album. I like the dynamic arrangements to “I Believe”; that’s really dramatic and powerful. And the single, “In Love We Trust”, of course…; a really cool vibe with those tom-pattern driven verses.”

PM. Moving onto your life away from Alien. You first started to play bass back in 1980, and then formed your first band ‘Rescue’ soon after: Why did you decide on the bass guitar?
“I’ve played instruments and sung all my life; organ, guitar and what not. Introduced to the world of rock albums by my older cousin at 10, I got totally hooked. Fascinated by complex yet melodic stuff like Queen, Supertramp, ELO, Kansas, etc, it really wasn’t easy to project that on your own playing as a young teen. NWOBHM might have been the trigger to form a band, the breaking point from punk back to basic melodic hard rock.”
“My friends only wanted to play guitar so I let them. I was always more interested in the overall picture – writing, singing, playing… and later arranging and producing. Lucky coincidence then that I had both the musicality and the rhythmical talent needed for the bass player’s role in a band. I started out singing lead as well, but while developing as a player, I let go. Our first vocalist was Mats Levén; I got kind of spoiled with great singers right away! ”

PM. You have played in bands such as DaVinci , Swedish Erotica, Kee Marcello’s K2 and provided session work with a great many bands, including Chasing Violets. Which of these have given you the most pleasure, heartache or have been the most challenging?
“I really cherish my experiences with all those bands. Kee is the most wonderful musician, and it is ten years now since we started working together! Variety is stimulating and fulfilling in any field of job, I guess. I’ve played some tricky instrumentals with Vinnie Moore though, speaking of challenges.”
“It’s been amazing to get to know (and work with) the singers in the ‘Legends -Voices of Rock’ project the last couple of years. Bill Champlin, Bobby Kimball, Fergie Frederiksen (RIP), Steve Augeri, Joe Lynn Turner, Graham Bonnet, Jimi Jamison, Eric Martin, all are artists I’ve followed for so long.”

PM. What sparked your interest in TimeCode Alpha?
“I was doing live work with singer Mads Clausen at the time, and he introduced me to the project. This guy, Peter Lazar, had all these wonderful progressive, melodic pieces and wanted Mads to sing. He knew Mads would fit, because of his vocal performances on the ‘Biscaya’ album in the early 80’s…. And I was brought in to help out with arrangements and lyrics, besides playing. For the forthcoming 2nd album, Peter and I split the song writing, and I wrote the lyrics. I love getting to use my influences; Saga, Kansas, Supertramp, etc with TCA.”
PM. Are there any plans to tour Alien or TimeCode Alpha?
“With Alien, absolutely! We can’t wait to bring our new songs to the stage. We’ll start in Sweden, doing a few outdoor shows this summer, like the ‘Sabaton Open Air’, and then we’ve got planned some club dates as well. I hope we’ll be back in the UK before long!”
“TimeCode Alpha is another story. I’m not sure whether that’ll be anything other than a writing/recording project. It’s up to founder member Peter Lazar. Either way is fine with me. I love writing and producing the TCA stuff!”

PM. And finally, cheeky one; LOL!! Do you miss your full head of hair?
“Yes and no. I can miss the looks and how to use it while performing, ha-ha; especially when looking at old pictures, that is. But it’s been so long, that you quickly forget the feeling of having your long hair… In that sense, I don’t even think about it anymore.”

Thank you for your time Ken.

Interview with Alien Bass player Ken Sandin by David Farrell.

Also check out my review of the new Alien album here

About David Farrell

General Manager and 'THE' competition guy at Manager of The Goddanm Electric, Tour manager for Serpentine, and ex-general Dogsbody at Media partner to numerous bands. Also takes photos, writes reviews and likes classic rock, with a touch of thrash to get the blood flowing.