Tuesday, 17 September 2013

It's My Kind Of Interview - John Tyrrell and Bjorn Again

In a first for It's My Kind Of Scene, we were recently given the opportunity to interview not a band, not a musician, but the manager of an interesting and awesome group of musicians - John Tyrrell, who is the manager of the world's most famous tribute band - Bjorn Again! While 'Agnetha', 'Bjorn', 'Benny' and 'Frida' prepare for their Australian tour over the next couple of months, John gives us an insight into the life of the tribute act!

John Tyrrell -
Manager of Bjorn Again!
Interview by Jo Michelmore

Hi John! Welcome to It’s My Kind Of Scene. As the first ‘manager of an act’ we’ve interviewed, you’ll always have a special place on the blog, so tell our readers a little about yourself.

John: Hi everyone - my name is John Tyrrell, aged around 50 (OK - I am over 50) and I am the co-founder/manager of Supertrouping ABBA dudes Bjorn Again, which we started in Melbourne in 1988. I have two marriages - one to my beautiful wife Lisa and together we have three daughters, but also to Bjorn Again. Whilst Bjorn Again are clones of ABBA, I wish I could clone myself to help me with my busy but hugely exciting and rewarding life.

What does a day in the life of John and Bjorn Again consist of?

John: Up early and off to the gym or a brisk walk, brekky with my four girls and off to work by about 10/11am. At work, morning coffee catch up with my awesome staff, check emails and start making decisions on shows, tours, band media commitments, liaise with promoters, speak to my tour manager about tour logistics including production issues, travel arrangements, speak to the band about upcoming shows, show ideas and improvements, costumes etc, arrange rehearsals as well as running the business side of things - book-keeping, accounting, contracting, legal matters, oversee things like websites, social media, fan enquiries - the list really goes on and on and on (which is an ABBA song by the way!)

Plus on top of that do interviews like these!

A good band manager has to be a jack of all trades and has to have a variety of skills - do you know one? LOL.

Who are the members of Bjorn Again; that is when they’re not Agnetha, Bjorn, Benny or Frida?

John: What a silly question - the Bjorn Again band members are always Agnetha Falstart, Benny Anderwear, Bjorn Volvo-us and Frida Longstokin. These are real people - I don't know what you are talking about here. And don't forget that our crew - Hans Down DeBlouse, Flicks OnDeSwitch, Matts OnDePorch and Hugh Jorgan - are real people too!!

Were you actually an ABBA fan before all this started or has your love grown as Bjorn Again has grown?

John: I was never an ABBA fan at the very start, sorry ABBA and ABBA fans. I was a teen when ABBA surfaced in the early 70s but I preferred the heavy metal of the day like Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath - did you know the word ABBA is in sABBAth!  Anyway - when my younger sister received an ABBA album for Christmas that is when I first heard of ABBA. She played that album 40,000 times that day, did my head in and it became a source of tension between us for those years! I got the idea of doing an ABBA show in the mid 80s after seeing the film 'This is Spinal Tap', a hilarious parody spoof of a rock band in their declining years and we thought that a parody band of ABBA in that dry comic style would be hilarious - so we put it together and the rest is history.

An adjunct to this: My dear sister Joanne sadly passed away in 2005 from cancer aged 40, leaving her hubby and 2 young children. Her dying wish to me was as she was carried out of the funeral by my 3 brothers and I, that BA play Dancing Queen. Sorry but I am tearing up here. How the band performed that (a softer moving slower version) I will never know. The 700 strong congregation completely broke down. I even saw the priest crying. I have never seen anything like it. The power of Dancing Queen that day will be remembered by those who attended, forever.

What makes a Bjorn Again show? Why should I see a Bjorn Again show rather than stay at home in my PJ’s with an ABBA DVD...and if I showed up to a show in my PJ’s, would you let me in?

John: Good baiting question but seriously - boring people stay at home and watch a concert DVD. You need to feel and see the energy of a live gig. Get real. There is nothing like the atmosphere created by a great live band, and Bjorn Again is a great live band - even Time Out New York said we were the most entertaining live band in the world at one stage. I mean crikey, why have we been so popular and selling out shows all over the world for over 24 years? Yes we play all the big ABBA hits and have all the costumes etc - but we do soo much more.

As well as a whole host of comedic and theatric elements, we mess about with arrangements of the songs like adding Message In A Bottle (ie: sending out an SOS) at the end of SOS, Benny rapping in 'TAKE A CHANCE ON ME', and the band singling out people to sing lines of songs, having a phone conversation with 'Julia' or 'Kevin Rudd' in 'Ring Ring' etc etc etc. All this combined with over thirty of the most popular pop songs ever released it makes for a great night out. People admit to dancing and embracing with random people in the crowd because they can't help it. This rarely happens at any other band's gigs.

The BA experience needs a live crowd - so go on - throw away that DVD now.

And in fact, for this reason I don't really like the band performing on TV as it's four people simply singing an ABBA song. It needs the audience.

As for turning up in PJs - look at the BA girls in their white stain kimonos that are basically PJs - so yes come down in your PJs as you will fit right in - even on stage!

As manager of possibly the most famous tribute show I know of, what an awesome career you’ve made for yourself! Did you ever dream that one gig would turn into this and at what point did you realise this became a career?

John: I don't know what tribute band would be more famous than us - but yes we certainly have an awesome career and abba-solutely LOVE what we do. Most importantly we don't take it for granted. But it's lots of fun travelling the world, playing at the biggest venues, playing at corporate events, festivals and amazing private parties and weddings, meeting lots of celebs etc, and having people go nuts at every show and saying to us they have never had more fun at a gig - I mean what's not to like? But we never thought it would get this big and go for 'So Long' (another ABBA song by the way). We started out trying to be a cult type act playing at grungy original band gigs as that's what sort of people we were. We were never trying to be cABBAret type act. We actually presented an ABBA show the way we wanted to - ie: more parody and send-up than tribute - and the whole world jumped on.

Where is your favourite and/or the most unusual place Bjorn Again has taken you?

John: There are many, but a few come to mind:

- a show to ten UN soldiers in a truck container on a hilltop post in The Falklands
- a private show in Russia to Vladmir Putin
- playing 'MONEY MONEY MONEY' to Bill Gates at a Microsoft function in LA
- a show in Bundaberg, Qld where the majority of the audience were BORN AGAIN Christians misreading the promo posters!
- a billionaire Indian oil baron's private home in Mumbai
- we also got asked by Dave Grohl to play at his wedding but we were already booked!

Who’s your favourite member of ABBA? Come on, everyone has a favourite.

John: I personally like Agnetha as I think she has the most under-rated female voice in pop history and no-one can pronounce her name or remember her surname.

Tell us a secret about Bjorn Again not commonly known...and tell us an ABBA secret as well!

John: Gee you love goss don't you!

ABBA Fact: In 2000, ABBA were offered one billion dollars (sounds like Dr Evil from Austin Powers) to reform for a one hundred show global tour.

BA Fact: After ABBA said no, we called the promoter and offered to do a billion shows for $1. They declined.

What’s your favourite and least favourite ABBA songs and what’s your favourite ABBA cover or sample?

John: Best song: 'The Day Before You Came' - the most under-rated ABBA song, and FYI Paul Kelly's fave ABBA song - he told me!

Worst: 'Two for The Price of One' - seriously Benny and Bjorn what were you thinking ... what a shocker.

Are there any current artist/s you think could one day be like ABBA is to Bjorn Again? Could you see yourself managing a ‘What Makes You Harry(?)’ One Direction tribute show sometime?  

John: If you're getting the gist of what sort of person I am from all these answers then it may not come as a surprise that I don't like tribute bands. We started BA as it was a cute, clever and fun way of sending up ABBA and the 70s in a non-disrespectful way. We never set out to make it a full time globally touring band, it was never a money thing. Like many successful things it started out as a pure bit of fun and it caught on. And please note that as manager of the most successful tribute band, I have had just about every tribute band ask me to manage them and 99.9% of them are terrible. The only one I have ever taken on is an awesome Foo Fighters tribute called The Faux Fighters - hard, high energy pumping rock, great songs - love it.

I often say that if I wasn't involved with BA, then BA would probably be the only tribute band I'd go and see!

I’m the manager, you’re the blogger. What do you ask me?

John: Why does BA have fans such as Dave Grohl, Robert Plant, Rowan Atkinson, Paul Kelly, Russell Crowe, the band Metallica, the list goes on - if it was just a simple ABBA show?  That's because it is NOT. Why did NME/Melody Maker UK - the coolest pop/rock mags - devote a whole editorial in 1992 to Bjorn Again?

I urge you to come to an upcoming gig and do an honest and open critique on your experience - we'd welcome it. I remember when we did a 60 Minutes feature a few years ago and Liz Hayes was completely blown away by the whole thing once she saw a concert and interviewed the band and myself at length. She said she did expect it to be like it was, and could see why it has been so successful. So will I see you at a gig????

Thanks to John for answering some questions for us and you can catch all the fun of Bjorn Again as they tour Australia at the following places...

Friday October 4 - Sydney Enmore Theatre tickets here
Saturday October 5 - Sydney The Concourse tickets here
Friday October 11 - Newcastle Civic Theater tickets here 
Friday October 18 - Canberra Theatre tickets on sale soon
Thursday November 21 - Nambour Civic Centre tickets on sale soon
Friday November 22 - Gold Coast Twin Town tickets here
Saturday November 23 Brisbane QPAC tickets here
Saturday December 14 The Palms At Crown, Melbourne tickets here

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