Some things are just meant to be. They may take years to come to fruition but when they do magic is created. And following the release last month of ‘Believe’, their debut single, the brand new EP from Danish/US collective SANDGAARD entitled ‘On My Way’, is a four-track collection of pure hard rock alchemy. Produced by Scott Humphrey (Mötley Crüe/Rob Zombie), it kicks off with the rip-roaring title track. Propelled by a riff that has been rattling around band-leader Thomas’ head for years, ‘On My Way’ is a blast of hi-octane energy which crackles with the passion of KISS and the kind of singalong chorus that Aerosmith excel at. That explosive opening is followed swiftly by the anthemic ‘Believe’, which includes guest guitars from Phil X, guitarist in Bon Jovi, and with its thick yet agile bass and soaring melody, is the kind of thrilling pop-rock perfected by Van Halen in their prime. The blockbusting ‘Breathe Into Life’ sets its sights on the stratosphere, while ‘Love/’Hate’ shifts from punky, low-slung verses into a soaring chorus. It all sounds instantly familiar, yet brand new. The brainchild of guitar wizard Thomas Sandgaard – and featuring bassist Rich Ross, drummer Goose Lapoint and ex-Lynch Mob/Warrant singer Robert Mason – SANDGAARD take the exhilarating sound of 70s classic rock and give it a thrillingly contemporary update. Possessing a back-story that is as rich as the music they create, SANDGAARD are completely unique. Growing up in small-town Denmark in the 70s, Thomas Sandgaard worshipped at the altar of gods such as Jeff Beck, Jan Akkerman of Focus and iconic Deep Purple six-string wizard Ritchie Blackmore. He did what most aspiring musicians his age did and passed through several teenage bands, albeit ones that mostly played their own music rather than covers. “I wasn’t the greatest guitar player in the world to start with, but I learned to hang on in there,” he says. “But I knew what gets a crowd going. That was probably my biggest skill then, and it’s still my biggest skill now.” But playing music wasn’t his sole focus. He was interested in electronic engineering, and the budding entrepreneurship that led to him buying his first guitar saw him building up a parallel business organising and setting up PA systems at gigs and festivals in Denmark. He built a couple of recording studios from the ground up too. “The music was still happening, but all this other stuff was taking over,” he says. Without realising it, Thomas had arrived at a fork in the road. He could continue to pursue his rock’n’roll ambition or follow a more practical path of electrical engineering. He chose the latter and what happened to him next was something the 15-year-old aspiring guitar hero could never have envisaged. He went to college and got a degree in acoustics, did a stint in the military as part of his Danish national service, got married and started a family. He began working in the electronics industry, carving out a name for himself as a cutting-edge hotshot and a business leader. By the 90s, he’d moved across the Atlantic to Boulder, Colorado. It was there, while living in the spare room of a friend’s house, that he started up a medical company that would, through a combination of hard work and vision, become a billion-dollar concern, fighting the tragic effects of the opioid industry. But somewhere deep within Thomas Sandgaard’s soul, the itch to play music remained unscratched and things began to change in middle of the last decade. He got divorced and his business successes had given him the headspace to think about what he wanted to do with his life. At the same time, a group of guys he knew asked him if he wanted to sit in with their band. It was nothing serious, just a chance to dust down his guitar. Sure, Thomas said, why not? It’ll be fun. “We started playing cover songs at first, because that’s what you do,” he says. “We were doing AC/DC, Queen, Zeppelin songs like ‘Black Dog’. And I learned to play so much music that I’d never heard before.” The cover band only lasted a couple of years, but it didn‘t matter. Thomas Sandgaard had fallen back in love with rock’n’roll. The floodgates opened and the songs began pouring out of him. He recruited a band of all-star musicians to help him realise the music he was making, including former John Mellencamp drummer Kenny Aronoff, Bon Jovi guitarist Phil X and Jane’s Addiction bassist Chris Chaney. “I hadn’t been in a recording studio for 35 years,” says Thomas wryly. “The last time, I was building them. But it felt good to be in that situation again.” Inevitably, Covid interrupted any plans Thomas had. By the time lockdowns lifted, he’d not only become chairman of South London football club Charlton Athletic, but re-assembled SANDGAARD, now recruiting Rich Ross, Goose Lapoint and Robert Mason. “They’re all brilliant musicians, and Robert has the most amazing voice,” says Thomas. The ‘On My Way’ EP is the sound of a man whose life took him to some incredible and unexpected places, bringing together a collection of musicians who are poised to blow the doors of modern hard rock completely open in 2022.
Thomas Sandgaard: photo credit Paul Harries