It’s a revolt. A middle finger towards a conventional
society. A contempt for following the usual norms.
One early morning in mid-May 1998, police were called to a hotel in Malmö, Swede. Several guests have complained about a loud group of guests that never seems to want to put an end to the after-party.
When the patrol opens the door, they are met by total chaos. A large hole has been drilled in the ceiling, someone has sprayed glue over the carpet and the toilet is full of debris. The floor in the corridor is covered with pills and sequins. In the middle of the mess are five disillusioned musicians in their 20s. Some of them are drawn with lines on the face. It is reminiscent of war paintings.
It is hazy outside Samskolan in Gothenburg and Henrik Berggren is unwell. He is 14 years old, known by the guys in the corridor for his destructive behavior and for dressing in a slouch hat with flowers in the brim. A freak in private school. But one day, sometime in 1988, the young dreamer found a way out. An escape from the pointlessness he experiences with pretty much everything he does. Henrik Berggren steps up to his friend Daniel Gilbert and asks: That thing about starting a group, are you serious about it?
The following year, Brother Daniel makes their first appearances in their hometown of Gothenburg. Musically, they have been inspired by bands such as The Jesus And Mary Chain, Iggy Pop and The Velvet Underground, relying heavily on distorted guitars and simple arrangements. Their lyrics have mostly centered on existential issues and youth angst.
The motto is pronounced right from the start: Brother Daniel will stand out from the heard. No one who sees the band should think that they have seen anything ordinary. The gigs are tumultuous. Instruments shatter, bottles fly in the air and singer Henrik Berggren often dances barefoot, bleeding from the shards of glass. Backstage, the members load with alcohol. Henrik Berggren drinks a bottle of wine and a quarter of vodka – before each gig. The destructiveness also follows the band off stage. Shop windows are smashed. From time to time, the members also steal a car only to drive it into a ditch a short while later. It’s a revolt. A middle finger towards a conventional society. A contempt for following the usual norms.
After the debut, Brother Daniel goes on their first real tour.
Once again, the goal is to burn as many ships as possible.
During the early 90’s, Brother Daniel developed strongly musically. Frontman Henrik Berggren is also starting to work on his appearance. He wears a sailor suit and puts on black make-up. Under his eyes he glues small gold stars: “A symbol of my romantic disposition”.
Brother Daniel quickly builds an audience and when the debut “Saturday night engine” is released, in 1995, their listeners are divided into two camps. Those who love. And those who hate them. At the same time as Henrik Berggren is seen as a black-clad Messiah and thousands of young Swedes adorn themselves with gold stars, the young singer feels exposed.
”I was always scared when walking through town. There was always a risk of being beaten. And there were always problems”, says Henrik Berggren today. After the debut, Brother Daniel goes on his first real tour. Once again, the goal is to burn as many ships as possible.
”Periodically, there has been a lot of drugs. But it is always the booze that has given us problems. Very early on we got tired of doing as we did. We agreed that there must be a change, but it just did not work out” says Henrik Berggren in the interview.
At what is referred to as Brother Daniel’s last chaos concert, the Emmaboda Festival in 1997, the guitarist Anders Göthberg is so drunk that he is forced to be carried on stage, some believe he has broken a leg. Once the music starts, the drummer Lars Malmros is constantly playing out of step and Henrik Berggren shouts to the audience: “You know nothing about us!” On two occasions he falls helplessly to the ground. When the band steps off the stage, tears flow down the guitarist Johan Neckvall’s cheeks. He will be another in line to leave Broder Daniel and will be replaced by former member Håkan Hellström, who despite dissuasive voices sees his chance to return to the band he left as early as 1995.
In April 1998, “Brother Daniel Forever”, album number three, is released. Henrik Berggren’s lyrics are darker than ever and on the single “I’ll be gone” the 23-year-old singer predicts his own death, “I’m not made to last, I will soon be gone”. A few months later, he and Brother Daniel are bigger than ever.
FUCKING ÅMÅL (aka Show me Love)
After directing two of the group’s videos, the debut feature film director Lukas Moodysson decides to include three Broder Daniel songs in his film “Fucking Åmål“. The film is a success and the band is booked for another year and a half of touring. But in June 1999, they threw in the towel.
”It became a weekday to be in this non-everyday life. We canceled the last gigs and then we did not call each other for a year. It was completely silent”, Lars Malmros said in an interview.
In the echo of the fallen monster, two of the band members choose to explore their own musical paths. But while Håkan Hellström is praised by Sweden’s critics, and Theodor Jensen wins a Grammy for his project The Plan, Brother Daniel as a whole seems to be gone.
A performance with the song “Shoreline” on TV is for a long time the only thing fans can be content with.
”We doubted a lot if we would really come back. I did not feel particularly well during that period. I felt socially isolated, and I was not going anywhere and felt like I was living in a strange vacuum”, says Henrik Berggren today. It was not until 2003 that Brother Daniel returned with their fourth and final studio album, “Cruel Town”. And in August 2005, another tour ends in front of a home audience at Bananpiren in Gothenburg.
Broder Daniel was largely regarded as an entitative cornerstone of Swedish alternative music during the 1990s, even though the band has proven to be quite unstable ever since the beginning, with members leaving the band every few years.
On Sunday the 30th of March, 2008, long time member, gutarist Anders Göthberg commits suicide. Shortly after the band announces a tribute concert. ”It will be a tribute to Anders, and a farewell to our fans”, says Henrik Berggren.
On the 8th of August 2008, Henrik together with Theodor Jensen and Lars Malmros, as well as two for the occasion picked musicians, stepped onto a stage at the Way Out West festival in Gothenburg, Sweden and puts an end to Brother Daniel’s story.
A story lined with pills, booze and sequins. But also a story about exclusion, friendship and a world that was forced to listen.
”It feels like it has been a struggle since day one. A long battle that we won in the end. No overall victory, but still a victory.” says Henrik Berggren. A battle for not having to fit into ”normal” society.
in 2017 singer Henrik Berggren released a soloalbum.