Northern Dark blues
Dead Soul is a duo from Sweden founded by vocalist and guitarist Anders Landelius and producer Nielsen. Their first single ‘They Will Pay’ was released in 2012 under Razzia Notes label, owned by Anders Fridén of In Flames. In the same year they gained popularity opening up for Ghost as a support act and from there, things moved pretty fast. After only one year the first album ‘In the Darkness’ was released and received with great reviews and nominated in the “Best Album of 2013” list and “The Breakthrough Act of 2013” at the Bandit Rock Awards. Dead Soul is a marriage between blues and dark electronics blended with gloomy atmospheric lyrics. Their second and latest studio album ‘The Sheltering Key’ released in 2015 for Century Media is another skilfully crafted record that blends doom-blues and harsh industrial. We met up with Anders and Niels on the road with Ghost during the ’Black to the Future’ tour to find out just what is behind this band, how it came to be and how they create such elegant and crushing sound.
HMA: How was Dead Soul born and do you find it easier or more difficult being in a two-piece band?
Nielsen: We are yeah, we’re the two guys and then we have one more member on this tour, so we’re three on stage. I think it’s actually much easier because it’s only two people that have to argue.
Anders: We both have been in bands for many years before, and I really ended up hating it. It can be more difficult with more members, the whole thing with getting people to come to rehearse, finding that same level of commitment from everyone and all that. People get kids, girlfriends and vacations. It’s so complicated to keep it going. When we started to work just the two of us, for me this is the perfect thing. We can do whatever we want. We can be five people if we want, or seven or eight.
Nielsen: It’s the freedom to be.
HMA: How did you get together to form Dead Soul?
Nielsen: I was producing Anders’ solo record almost ten years ago, so we started to work together on that. He’s from the Blues, Delta Blues thing and he wanted to mix that up with some more production. We knew about each other, so we tried a couple of songs and that record went really well and then we were supposed to do a follow-up to that, that’s when we kind of got into a couple of songs that then ended up on the first Dead Soul. We found that we pushed it too far to be blues, and we really wanted to explore and see how far we can take it, just doing good music. No one really heard the song, so we decided to send it to Anders Fridén from In Flames, that I happened to know since I toured with Ghost as a tour manager, and they opened for them. That’s how we got the connection.
HMA: Is the band name inspired by the Joy Division song?
Nielsen: No. We were actually explaining yesterday that we hadn’t even heard it. Now we understand that it’s good connection though.
Anders: Nine Inch Nails did a cover of that song also so people might think that we actually took it from Nine Inch Nails.
Anders: The first time I even looked into Nine Inch Nails was when someone said that we reminded him of them.
Nielsen: A lot of people have their different opinions like what we sound like.
Anders: We hear everything, from The Doors to Nine Inch Nails to Depeche Mode to people talking about dark metal. Most people will try to find a way to market it. So they need to label it and compare it to other bands and to a certain type of sound.
HMA: In the beginning, you were born as a non-performing band, just a studio band. What made you change your mind and start performing live?
Nielsen: When we decided to do the record we put out a single and I was working with Ghost recording ‘Infestissumam’ , we worked in the studio together, and I just played them a song. “Yeah, we’ve got a record deal and we’re called Dead Soul and we got to put out a record,” so they just asked, “Well, do you want to open for our next show in our home town?”. That was when they switched from Papa 1 to Papa 2, and we’re like, “Well, okay.” Then we had no idea how to do it because that’s one of the things because we are a bit crazy in the studio, so we just go for it, and then we have to sort it out later, how to actually play parts of it live. We decided to try electronic. We had no real band, but like 4 people on stage performing, 3 people I knew singing, and people really liked it. They liked that we were a different band and that we were not drums, bass, guitar, guitar, vocals, because that’s not how we sound. We did that one show and then people ask you and you do a couple of more shows and then suddenly you were on tour. Then you have to feel like some sort of a band, I mean, you come from a live background playing the blues for 25 years, and I’ve been in several bands, but I’m more of a studio guy of course.
HMA: Do you enjoy now playing live?
Nielsen: Yeah, on tours like this you can’t really complain, is loud with good sounds and everything is so good on a tour like this so I am enjoying it a lot.
HMA: You’re now signed with Century Media so I guess this is strengthening the idea of being a performing band?
Nielsen: Yeah, I guess that we took a stand when we signed with Century Media. Obviously, if they’re going to work for us, we have to provide them with something and touring is like the most important thing you can do. I’m glad that people actually really like our records and it seems to be something people really listen to. Of course, to spread the name we have to tour and we’re just going to try to do that. I mean we’re still a very small band, now on a very big tour, but I mean we have to find another band to support and continue doing tours until we are big enough to headline
Anders: Every night we gain new fans and that’s the only way to do it. The good way is, of course, to play with a band big as Ghost because there are quite a lot of people every night.
Nielsen: Ghost has an open-minded crowd as well because they were a different band when they came out. They had an image that people liked but a sound that really divided people’s opinion about them, some people loved it and some people really hated it. They picked up the crowd that is open-minded to music, in my opinion, and now we are doing the same. Is not always easy being in an electronic band in this environment of heavy metal, some people hate it because there is no drummer on stage, “why is there no drummer, like you can’t have pre-recorded,” but we don’t have a drummer on our record. It’s a drum machine, but I mean we don’t explain that we just play our thing and if you like it you can buy the record.
HMA: Ghost also toured with King Dude which again is not metal.
Anders: Exactly, I think people respect the fact that Ghost chooses whoever will open for them. I feel that the audience are quite open-minded to us. There have been very few haters so far and that’s quite good.
HMA: How do you write your music, what’s the process and again is it easier being only two in the band?
Anders: At the beginning when we started this obviously because we thought we were doing a new record for me I came up with some almost finished songs. Then I went to Niels to play them and just let him react to it, or start fooling around with it and the sounds and basically then trying producing it. Along the line, we’ve been trying to write more and more together, actually sitting down with a guitar and write songs.
Nielsen: I do have a big studio so we can just go there whenever we want, daytime, night time, whenever. So we have a freedom that can be, most of the time, very good. It takes us quite a long time to make a record. The first one took 5 years and this one took almost well over a year and that was still when we were trying to hurry up and is because we like to try so much with each song, explore like it would sound if we do a different version of the same song, because if you’re a band you kind of jam it out. We try to write a really good song with good lyrics and then we record a demo of that and then we just build it, really putting clothes on it to see, “No, no, yeah, okay. Now we have this one. Now we can continue this song.” It’s kind of a puzzle.
Anders: We like to look at every song as a new universe of possibilities, and make the kind of records that you can listen to over and over and find new things, where every song presents something new and interesting for its listener.
Nielsen: My mother always tells me that I am a perfectionist, but for me, I always know when it’s done. It’s just that I don’t always know how to get there. I’m a very patient guy; I can spend a long time on a song. As the opening track for the new album, which is 7 minutes long, it took me 3 hours to produce from start to finish. Everything just happened really quickly, but then it took a year to actually get it right. If you listen to the 2 versions, they are very, very similar, but it took over a year to get there. So I guess for work I am a perfectionist.
Anders: The good thing is that Niels and I are coming from totally different musical backgrounds, so we never argue about the fact that when it comes to the soul. Niels has his influences and his background, and I have mine and therefore we keep out of each other’s way. Niels never argues with me about my lyrics because he knows that those are really important to me and they’re personal. Then, of course, we can discuss some word or some detail. The same goes for the way Niels produces, he keeps coming back with ideas to me of course, but I know that Niels also needs to work on his own and react to it without getting disturbed all the time.
Nielsen: That’s why I’ve never been very good… When I produce other bands; I’m comfortable with a lot of people. With my own music and even Dead Soul, I have to be alone because then if you’re alone you can try all the crazy stuff, and it’s usually the crazy stuff that is the good stuff, but if you have someone in the room and you don’t really want to scream in the microphone into an amplifier, into an echo, if you don’t do that you don’t find the keys that will inspire you to actually finish the song, in my opinion.
HMA: What are your creative influences, anything that you transform into music?
Anders: Personally over the last few years, maybe the last 10 years, I’ve been more kind of influenced by books and by reading because that gives me the feeling that I want to explore on my own, and go to myself. I’m always after the emotional impact that a song can bring. I find more inspiration in literature than in music these days because there are still so many books and authors that I haven’t read. Then, of course, I listen to music all the time as well, but I find it much harder these days to find music that inspires me.
Nielsen: For me, the main thing is inspirational stuff. It can be a book, or a movie, a TV show, or just creativity itself is what gets me creative. If I watch a good documentary I just pause it and go and make music, or if I see a movie, I pause it and then I create. Always refill with creativity, reading about creative people or whatever. It’s not like a certain band is our inspiration or a certain album, or a certain style, it is more like a certain period. Even if you don’t like Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails, he does movies and he can spend 5 years doing weird noises and put it out. It might not be that fun to listen to but I can admire the actual effort to be creative.
Anders: Like always creativity is being alive. Making people go through different problematic situations. That is also a way because for me music has always been therapy, I need it to stay sane and life has a tendency to give you new things all the time to digest.
Nielsen: I do have Radiohead as my favourite band because they are doing such a cool thing. They can be just something new and as a fan, you really have to work. You have to pay attention and try many times before you get it, and that, I don’t know, I just really admire that sort of thing. I think Pink Floyd kind of did the same thing in the 70s. They probably put out records that people wouldn’t understand and then 20 years later, it is like, “Oh, they were right. It’s actually a pretty good record.”
Anders: I’m pretty sure that I probably would have not spent all my life doing this without the Ramones. When I heard them I was like 8 or 9 years old, I saw the cover of Rocket to Russia and it was the coolest band that I had ever seen and I wanted to be like that. They were so cool and I still love them. I keep coming back to them also as I still think they are one of the most perfect bands. You don’t agree on Niels?
Nielsen: No, it’s a good combination. Bang your head and Ramones.
HMA: Niels, besides being in Dead Soul you are a producer and have also been Ghost tour manager. Do you plan to continue doing production and managing parallel to your music career?
Nielsen: I stopped being Ghost tour manager as I was working recording and then I tour managed for the first year plus some months and then I quit because they were taking off in the US and it was too much as I had to work in Sweden and then go to the US all the time. I stopped that and went back to the studio and then Deal Soul came up and we kind of joined forces. About recording, I have a studio. I started to record when I was a kid. I was more into that than actually being in bands but I always made my own music so I was the guy and all. I started to record my friends and my friends got record deals. Then, of course, being that guy in a small city in Sweden where Ghost comes from. Now we have a label as well so they give me pretty much everything to mix and master when I have time. I do anything, pop music, rock music, metal, hardcore, punk, lo-fi, whatever.
HMA: Do you like and listen to metal?
Nielsen: Yeah, yeah. I come from a metal background; I grew up with black metal in the 90s when that was becoming huge and especially the Norwegian stuff. I then switched to death metal after a while, because everything got so dorky with the black metal. Then I was just expanding from that. I went into electronic music and find that, because I hear electronic music can be very brutal, not in a death metal way of course, but it can be really haunting and dark, then I even went into pop music for a while, because when you record music you cannot say no to music, you have to let it in and then do the best. If I was to produce Justin Bieber’s next record, I don’t like Justin Bieber, but if he’s in my studio I have to like him, and I have to make him sounds as good as possible. I’ve trained myself to love pretty much all.
HMA: You talk a lot about noise, do you like bands like NON, Boyd Rice, Death in June, Scorpion Wind, Psychic TV?
Nielsen: On this tour, a lot of people have told us about similar bands, but I don’t know them. I’ve written down a bunch of bands that I have to check out, but that’s also a problem when you work with music all the time, play live and I toured as a crew for a couple years and all my friends are making music so I only have time for them. I don’t have too much time for other bands.
HMA: How is it touring with Ghost for the second time?
Anders: It’s really good, we’re good friends, we respect and help each other. It’s a big family and it has to function as a family because 6 weeks or longer on the road is a long time, and sometimes you don’t have dressing rooms or what not and you have to share everything.
HMA: Do you also share the bus on this tour?
Nielsen: Not this time as we did the whole tour on trains actually. The bus was full so instead of driving ourselves we decided to try something else and actually see Europe. If you drive you’re only in traffic all day, then you have to play and then you have to leave. So we did everything on trains and that was a thing on its own, we’ve been on a journey and on a tour. Thinking about it is really weird actually to go home tomorrow, to just go home to your own bed.
Anders: I’ve been touring for a long time and this is the best. At first I thought that Niels was crazy about the train journey but then it kind of grew on me and I was like well, let’s try it. It’s been great because you can sleep, read, go and take a glass of wine and you get rested to the venue.
HMA: Do you have any new material and which are your future plans in studio and live?
Nielsen: No, we don’t. We did have a couple of songs that we didn’t put on the record but we never use what’s left over because it’s so made for that album, and if it’s not good enough we’ll scrap it or maybe use an idea or something, but we have to set our mind to what’s that specific album is supposed to be and how should we approach the songwriting and then we do that. Almost everything we write ends up on the record; otherwise we just stop working on it or throw it away. Right now, we do have just an urge to go home and do some new music, but still we have to stay focused on touring for quite some time and see.
HMA: How do you choose your album artwork and how involved are you in the process?
Anders: The first cover came out pretty good, but we didn’t feel that it was right for it. When it came to the second one we were extremely happy because the guy that did it is one of the best in Sweden. He does a lot of book covers and he’s been doing a massive amount of records for a long time. When we talked about what we wanted the artwork to be he kind of understood pretty fast and came up with this idea.
HMA: Did you give him the music so he could get inspiration?
Nielsen: Yes he could listen to the music and we had pointers, like it should be like this and this and this, but we didn’t tell him “put some sharks on this guy.” The whole shark thing is really his idea and we’re just really happy. I think we’re going to try to work with him because he just got it. That one drawing he gave was the first, he gave us like ten options, but the first one did.
Dead Soul, The Sheltering Sky is out now on Century Media.
Interview by Manuela Mattera – Copyright 2015 © Heavy Music Artwork. All rights reserved.