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Jona Tee of H.e.a.t: ‘I started growing my hair at 11 and never looked back’





What do you do if your lead singer decides to move on and try other things after 10 years with the band? Why, you get your original lead singer back, of course. That’s what Swedish heirs of 80s hard rock H.e.a.t did in 2020, welcoming powerhouse vocalist Kenny Leckremo back into the fold after four albums with former Swedish Idol winner Erik Grönwall.

H.e.a.t. Picture: Nils Sjoholm
H.e.a.t. Picture: Nils Sjoholm

Kenny, guitarist Dave Dalone, keyboard player Jona Tee, bassist Jimmy Jay and drummer Don Crash, who met in music college and formed the band in 2006, released a new album on August 5 – their seventh studio record, Force Majeure – and will hit Cambridge on November 30.

The explosive quintet, who make melodic, ’80s-influenced hard rock – with its shimmering riffs and irresistible synths – fashionable once again, even hail from Upplands Väsby, the same suburb of Stockholm as Europe, of Final Countdown fame.

The Force Majeure album cover
The Force Majeure album cover

Chatting to the Cambridge Independent from the Swedish capital, Jona Tee was packing to fly out to Portugal, where H.e.a.t were due to perform. The band also had some Australian dates lined up, supported by fellow Swedes, Crazy Lixx.

“It’s been going great,” says Jona, whose keyboard parts are essential in recapturing that glorious 80s sound. “I realise now after the pandemic that it’s so much fun to be on stage every night – it’s a blessing. We’ve been very well received, and also with Kenny who’s back in the band. It’s been really good, you can feel some sort of urgency and hunger from the crowd, definitely.”

Has Kenny’s return given the group something of a new lease of life? “I think so,” says Jona, “When Erik left, for us the obvious choice was to ask Kenny. We sort of knew that he was interested in getting back, so it was an easy choice. He’s been a great injection to the band, with the different energy levels that he had when he left the band.”

Kenny’s departure came following a conversation with the others at Stansted Airport in 2010 and, in the period when he was away from H.e.a.t, he lived in Spain, had a son and put out a solo album, Spectra (on which he worked with H.e.a.t guitarist Dave Dalone), in 2018. He also changed his lifestyle and started hitting the gym.

“He basically transformed himself into Rocky Balboa – he looks like a superhero,” laughs Jona. “He had Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, a heart thing where he would get these heart rushes, a super-fast pulse, and he had surgery for that. So I guess that was an eye-opener for him and he started eventually to take care of his health. So he’s in great shape, and sings like a beast.”

H.e.a.t. Picture: Nils Sjoholm
H.e.a.t. Picture: Nils Sjoholm

Jona says that the new album was “so much fun” to make, adding: “I’m not calling the pandemic great, but for us to start working on new music with Kenny instead of going touring that was, I guess, probably the best way to integrate him into the band again. We actually got to create something brand new and I think that was very important to launch this new arch.”

Force Majeure is packed full of great musical moments – my favourite tracks on it are Harder to Breathe, Not for Sale and Paramount. “I do love [lead single] Back to the Rhythm, I think it’s a cool track – I love playing it live – and also Hollywood,” says Jona, who also plays guitar, bass and drums.

“That chorus, especially live, when it hits, like the second time you hear [sings] ‘Hollywooood!’ you know how to sing along. I call them ‘jump tracks’ because you jump to them... I like Demon Eyes as well, me and Kenny wrote that one. We’re big Iron Maiden fans so it’s kind of a tribute.”

How do the boys normally write songs? “We don’t jam anything. We’ve never written a song in a rehearsal,” explains Jona, “but for me personally I usually think of the vocal lines. I get something in my head and then I record voice demos and I build up a bank and I rank these voice demos.

“Then when I have a writing day in the studio, I go in and think, ‘Oh, I can make something of this’ and sometimes it’s done with a guitar... Eventually I have a basic idea and maybe I’ll talk to Dave [Dalone] and send something to him and we go back and forth. Then we get together and sit down and write something.”

Jona first started listening to rock music courtesy of his older brother and got “indoctrinated” into it. “It really talked to me early on,” he recalls, “and when I decided to become a hard rocker, I was 11 or something like that. I started growing my hair and then never looked back. It was Guns ‘n’ Roses and the Use Your Illusion albums, not Appetite for Destruction.”

Jona notes that they went to the same secondary school as rock legends Europe – “but 20 years after.” He continues: “We always had that heritage and we always knew that Sweden’s biggest music export ever was maybe ABBA, or Swedish House Mafia, but at least in the hard rock genre we looked at these guys and were like, ‘Woah, they made it’.

“We looked at this documentary, Europe in America, and saw them on the road and we were like, ‘We want to do that!’ – and we got to do it, and now I’m actually in a project with John Levén from Europe called Crowne. I recorded bass with him two weeks ago.”

H.e.a.t. Picture: Nils Sjoholm
H.e.a.t. Picture: Nils Sjoholm

As well as H.e.a.t, Europe, and Crazy Lixx, Sweden can also boast Sabaton and The Poodles, among others, in the various rock and metal genres. Why does Sweden produce so many great rock and metal bands? “Everyone asks that and I don’t have a good answer to it!” says Jona, “I guess there’s something in the water, right?

“We have good music exports. More recently we had Avicii and we have one of the biggest producers of all time – Max Martin. Only Paul McCartney and John Lennon have had more Billboard number one hit singles. I guess that pride of your fellow countrymen maybe marks something, and also communities and the government maybe make it easier to get a rehearsal. It’s always been easy to learn music here.”

It will be H.e.a.t’s first time in Cambridge – and we’re in for a treat. In an interesting turn of events, Erik Grönwall is now fronting ’80s rock icons Skid Row, who came to the Junction earlier this month.

[Read more: Explosive Southern rockers Black Stone Cherry to play Cambridge later this month, Justin Hawkins of The Darkness interview: ‘We just want to rock’]

H.e.a.t. Picture: Nils Sjoholm
H.e.a.t. Picture: Nils Sjoholm

H.e.a.t will be appearing at the Junction’s J1 on Wednesday, November 30. For tickets, priced £21.50 in advance, visit junction.co.uk. For more on H.e.a.t, go to heatsweden.com.



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