Blind rebellion. Petrichor and Swedishness
It could only be Soilwork. Here to discuss their latest album, the melancholic ‘The Ride Majestic’, Björn Ingemar and David Andersson speak about life’s journeys and how we deal with them; sidestepping the ‘existential nonsense’. David Andersson: We’re waiting for Bjorn – he’s off prettying himself. We’re what is called in Sweden ‘Looks men’ – it’s all based on looks, not music. Six beautiful handsome guys get together posing on stage.
HMA: We’re so lucky to have you looking so pretty.
Björn Ingemar: We’re so lucky to have you looking at us!
HMA: Now that we’ve all had our egos massaged… Mircea Eftemie produced the artwork for your latest release Death Resonance. He has worked with you on a number of your albums. How did this long-term collaboration begin?
BS: Well I think the first thing he did for us was the cover for Stabbing the Drama. We did a tour together before that when I was in the band Mnemic, (HMA: is that how you say it, mnemic? I always thought it was ‘nemic’? DA: yeah I always said anaemic too BS: [chuckles] you’re probably right)… so that’s how we got to know him and he’s a pretty awesome artist. It’s about connecting with somebody who gets it. He’s very diverse in his art as well. I would say comparing The Living Infinite to Stabbing the Drama – it’s very different.
DA: He seems to be very receptive to ideas; he listens to us, or tries to…
BS: We can be straight up with him and that’s why we decided to try him out once again for the Death Resonance album. He actually started doing something completely different. We gave him some keywords to start with but we didn’t really like it – we weren’t really connecting and he was like ‘Ya know, I have this painting you might like that I made a while back. That might suit better’. And that’s when he showed us the cover. We really liked it because The Ride Majestic artwork was kind of dramatic and silent at the same time and we wanted Death Resonance to have something more colourful – which sounds kind of boring compared to what we’ve done in the past. But it’s all about the aftermath of what we went through in recording The Ride Majestic. To me, it’s like a call from the other side. We had family members pass away while we were recording. So that was a really rough time and Death Resonance was almost the aftermath of that pain: sort of closure, even though we’ll never forget what we’ve been through.
DA: We wanted something more – Biblical – not that we’re a religious band or anything but we wanted that gothic, Biblical vibe…
BS: It has that existential feel to it.
HMA: The deaths you mentioned; did they impact how you view life and the afterlife?
DA: It always affects you. You think about how things are very finite and how things will end. I think about it a lot to be honest.
BS: Same here. So much (laughs). You could see it as a waste of time but it also makes me feel bad so I’m not quite sure why I spend so much time thinking about it – there are so many questions obviously that we’ll never get an answer to. So what’s the point, right? But then again it puts things in perspective when you lose someone: makes you feel grateful maybe, in a way.
HMA: The Ride Majestic seems to be about death, the afterlife, how we deal with things; the title conjures up images of Valkyries carrying off souls…
DA: That’s an interesting idea. None of us is very Viking influenced, but no-one has made that connection before. The title is actually from an old Genesis album. The Firth of Fifth from Selling England by the Pound; there’s a little lyric in there about ‘he rides majestic’. I always liked the way it sounded and Björn thought about… Death! So it ended up being The Ride Majestic, a symbol for the ride we take in life, and beyond life.
HMA: On The Ride Majestic you used two artists: Mircea and Robert Borbas: what was the reason behind working with Robert Borbas?
BS: I mean, it’s just like when you try some different producers and just wanna try something new.
DA: We had an idea for the artwork; Robert was like a tattoo artist.
BS: Yeah he’s Hungarian and I think I got him through a Canadian friend in another band. He did some stuff for them and I saw the work and it was ‘Wow’. We wanted to have something hand-drawn from scratch; just black and grey basically, so that’s how we got him.
HMA: Are there any artworks you’ve been particularly influenced by?
DA: I love the over the top ‘hypnotic’ covers from the 70s bands like Pink Floyd. I love the fact they’d have like a million pounds just for the album cover budget: the staging, photo-shoots… I’m happy with the albums we’ve done so far but it would be fantastic to have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity just to spend obscene amounts of money on doing something like flying down to the Amazon and just build up something, some ancient pyramid…
BS: Some giant volcano…
HMA: Are there any particular album artworks you like?
DA: I love Roger Dean’s work for Uriah Heep, with all the colour and the fantasy themes. For Soilwork albums, it’s The Ride Majestic because it’s very different and it’s done by hand.
HMA: Is there a theme behind the tracks chosen for Death Resonance?
BS: It’s just a collection of tracks that didn’t make it on previous albums. I haven’t heard some of these songs in ten years. Some of them I can’t remember anything about – I mean as far as what I was thinking about throughout the lyrics. So it is kinda interesting for us as well as going back and listening to those songs.
DA: Certainly the last two albums have had a theme…
BS: I would say that’s just been very existential. The Ride Majestic is more focussed on the darker aspects of life. Existential nonsense…
DA: [In grandiose tones] From the Beginning of the Word, feeling immortality…
HMA: Do you think your music would be less melancholy, more vibrant or colorful if you wrote in a different location?
DA: Growing up in Sweden we grow up with melancholic melodies. Most of the time, for nine, ten months of the year, Sweden is a melancholic, grey place and that affects you – the way you perceive music and everything. Not that we’re a depressed people. We kinda like that melancholic undertone. I personally find it hard to listen to music that’s just happy. [Laughing] It needs to have some kind of undercurrent of despair and misery to be able to like it!
HMA: Your song, Petrichor by Sulphur: how did you come across the term Petrichor, as it’s not commonly used?
BS: I don’t know if I was watching the Discovery Channel. It might have been. But I always wanted to know the word for that smell after rain.
HMA: Now that you have more life experience, are there any tracks you’d like to rewrite the lyrics for?
BS: Probably. I mean, I’d let sleeping dogs lie I guess. It’s hard to go back there and capture exactly what it was I was thinking, what I wanted to express. Though I’m sure I could have expressed myself better writing them today. But then of course that’s also part of the charm…
DA: I’m sort of like resigned and accept stuff now. I don’t think we’ve grown softer – probably more reflective; more introverted. The music compared to a lot of other bands that have been around for a long time, I mean we try to keep the edge musically. But the lyrics aren’t blind fury anymore. The thing I like about the early albums, there’s a very rebellious streak in the lyrics, the angst. ‘I hate society, I hate religion, I hate…’ In a way, at our age, you don’t hate stuff with that intensity; with that blind rebellion, with that kind of aggression. I wish I still had that in me.
HMA: How do you feel your writing style or your lyrics have changed over the years?
BS: That’s a good question. I mean in the beginning it was really hard to express myself, I was still… my English might have been pretty decent but it definitely takes time. Sometimes it’s easier to express yourself in Swedish. Other times it’s actually easier in English. We’re so used to it as well so… sometimes you almost start talking to yourself in English. But there are certain things that are hard to describe in English.
DA: I mean we’ve grown up with English, American English music, but some of the things you want to express within a rock medium or metal format you can’t really express in Swedish. I mean you’re so used to hearing some stuff in English. If we want to express ourselves in a song we just don’t sound the same. Of course, we’re not native speakers but at the same time I think there’s something interesting about writing in a foreign language because we still have some Swedishness in us when we write lyrics in English. Which I think some people appreciate as well, especially when you listen to Metal bands from America – their arts are often quite, they’re not that interesting cos they’re a bit too comfortable with their language. They have all the clichés already, whereas we don’t have, and we don’t use that many clichés when we talk; but then when we try to express stuff, when we try to express Swedish stuff that American bands have never thought about, when we have to write – sometimes it’s more interesting for a native speaker.
HMA: From what I’ve counted Björn, you’ve had 33 collaborations with different musical artists. Is there anyone that you’ve particularly enjoyed working with, and why?
BS: Holy hell, I’ve never heard the number! Though it’s probably more than that. I normally get hit for a lot of Metalcore and it’s been with some really good bands, but one of the most challenging ones was this band from Pennsylvania called Aura Blaze and it was like the late ‘60s / early ’70s almost like psychedelic flowery pop. Really good stuff!
HMA: How did you get involved in that? Is there anyone, in particular, you’d like to work with if you had the opportunity?
BS: They approached me. It was really cool to do. If I had the chance to work with anyone I’d like to do something with Justin Sullivan from New Model Army. He’s one I’d like to work with.
Interview by Sable – Copyright 2016 © Heavy Music Artwork. All rights reserved.