"In Conversation" - Nad Sylvan talks to TWR about his career and revisiting Genesis with Steve Hackett. Interview conducted by Alan Hewitt. Photographs by Alan Hewitt, Jo Hackett, Lee Millward and Nad Sylvan.
So, at last we manage to catch up with Mr Sylvan for a brief chat about his career and find out what its really like to work with the likes of Roger King! Over to you, Nad…
TWR: You were born in the USA but raised in Sweden, how did that come about?
NS: My father is American and my mother is Swedish. They decided to move to Sweden five months after I was born. After they split up one and a half years later, my father moved back to the States.
TWR: Growing up in Sweden, what were your first musical influences?
NS: Swedish bands like The Hep Stars (Benny Anderson of Abba). The Beatles, The Rolling Stones etc…
TWR: According to the info in the Genesis Revisited tour programme, your first musical performance appears to have been memorable for all the wrong reasons…?
NS: Well yes, maybe so. I threw up on the keyboard when it was time to perform my very first composition. I was seven I think.
TWR: Have you had any other occupations other than as a musician?
NS: Indeed. I have been a consultant in the telecom business for many years. I am still employed but on leave now. God knows for how long!
TWR: Having got off to a somewhat tentative start in music, what inspired you to pursue a career as a musician?
NS: It is just a way of life. Initially it was fame and fortune like for so many others. But gradually I just realised there is no other way I would want to live. This is it. I am in the circus now. It can’t get any better than this.
TWR: What was your first band?
NS: “The Hooks”. I was eight or nine. It was a short-lived thing with my school mates.
TWR: Your musical CV certainly contains an eclectic mix of artists. How did you get involved with such a varied mix of individuals and do any stand out and why?
NS: Eclectic? I don’t know about that! Of course REDNEX stand out because they were so successful albeit a big fake. I did some backing vocals and choral arrangements for them.
TWR: When did you first become aware of the music of Steve and Genesis?
NS: When I was sixteen and working in a music store. A workmate played me The Lamb… and I have been hooked ever since.
TWR: You contributed to the Unifaun project, how did you become involved with that?
NS: One day in 2003 I was browsing through the forums on the official Genesis website. A Swedish guy “Bonamici” had posted a link to a song he had written and recorded called “Tribute To Genesis”. I contacted him and the rest is history.
TWR: You have been involved with Agents Of Mercy with another marvellous guitarist, Roine Stolt. How did that come about and can you tell us what other musical projects you have been involved with?
NS: Roine had heard of Unifaun and went to have a listen on our Myspace page. He liked my voice so much that he suggested that I sing a couple of tunes on his forthcoming solo album, as he was taking a break from The Flower Kings. After some time he decided it was more like a new project and named it Agents Of Mercy. Subsequently he asked me to sing more and more songs. We cut the first album in 2009 and have done two more after that.
In the Seventies I had a band called Avenue where I played keyboards and sang lead vocal. In the Eighties I was in a band called One By One, we cut two singles but split up in 1988. As I mentioned before, I have worked with Rednex off and on between 1994 -2000, not really my thing but I liked the people a lot and we had a blast doing it. I have also been doing some stuff with Michael B Tretow (engineer on Abba’s albums) but mostly I have been busy song writing in my little den for years and years.
I have done a couple of solo albums, Unifaun was the most important step for me as it started to take me places but it wasn’t until 2009 that I began performing on a regular basis with Agents Of Mercy. A lot of things have happened since then.
TWR: How did you get the gig with Steve for Genesis Revisited?
NS: I was recommended by Win Voelkein who is managing The Musical Box in Europe and also is the mastermind behind the Night Of The Prog festival in Loreley, Germany. He is a huge Unifaun fan too. One day I got an email from Brian Coles - Steve’s tour manager - who suggested that I come over to England for a vocal trial. Little did I know that I already had the gig before that! I suppose we needed to check each other out, so here I am!
TWR: How do you go about preparing for a gig such as this?
NS: First of all, learning all the lyrics. The music I already know. Then I toy with what I can do onstage and also hook up with my tailor in Canada for what to wear. It is constantly evolving as I get more confident with what I can do as a performer as we go along.
TWR: What is the touring lifelike with Steve and the guys apart from Roger - we all know how grumpy he can be (laughs). Have there been any particularly memorable gigs?
NS: Roger isn’t grumpy, he’s just Roger! (laughs) .A very precise and well articulate person whom I respect and like deeply. He is Steve’s right hand man in many ways and so I tend to talk to him a lot. Other than that it is a very friendly easy going group of people. We have a lot of fun on the road but it is important to leave space so that we don’t wear each other out. It’s all working really fine. Memorable gigs? Yes, the Hammersmith in London and Kawasaki in Japan for instance. Truly inspiring moments in my life.
TWR: Have you been pleased by the audience/critical reaction to the shows and your part in them?
NS: Yes absolutely. I even liked the bad critics because when they have a problem - it is still THEIR problem and not ours/mine. What they say usually says more about them than us and it cracks me up. I did get some flak in the beginning but that has slowly started to change. Of course, that puts a smile on my face.
TWR: What does the future hold for you musically once this tour is over?
NS: I suppose I go back and make another album with Agents Of Mercy. I am also keen on singing with other people and even may make another solo album. I haven’t done one in a long time.
And there we have it folks. My thanks to Nad for giving up so much time out of his busy schedule to speak to TWR.