Courtesy of our Spanish compadres at rockandrollarmy.com – aided and abetted by the nutters that comprise Märvel! – this article and interview was again originally provided by “Daniel From Hell”
CHAPTER V – INTO THE ABYSS…
In the last chapter Märvel waged war against mediocre, soulless music and won. After the world conquering tour in which the prowess of The Burgher with the four strings was put to test in the battlefield and came out victorious, it was time to put his bourgeois (b)ass into the studio. And so, in 2012 the single Metalhead was born in the cradle of Killer Cobra Records. Metalhead, Märvel’s longest song to date, coupled with the heavy stomper Ambassador Of Fantastic on the B-side. Perhaps a wink to The Ambassador persona from way back in the superhero days? Maybe. Or maybe not. Maybe we will never know.
Metalhead and Ambassador of Fantastic were not only the first Märvel recordings with The Burgher, but also two smashing additions to Märvel’s catalog, accompanied by two videos shot by Papa Bear. While Metalhead was graced with a big budget, state of the art minimalistic video of a turntable playing the A-side to the 7”, the video for Ambassador Of Fantastic bears testimony to the Märvel demolishing of the Skogröjet Festival and the mischievous deeds that took place that tour weekend.
Emil Skala (President of Märvel Army Sweden and daring tour bus driver): When we were in Finspång at the Skogröjet Festival where Märvel played last of the last at 00.00 saturday night after Doro had played a killer set. It was a really good concert from Märvel and the whole weekend was a blast. If you look at the video to the song Ambassador of Fantastic then you’ll see and hear what a great weekend it was. Especially at the end where there is a soundbite from when The King spilled my bottle of wine in the tour bus.
(The King may have a different recollection of that moment, Mr President!…)
Feast your eyes and ears upon the video for Ambassador Of Fantastic!
But Metalhead was just a first shot announcing what was yet to come. In 2013 the masked bearded guys went deep to commence work on their next opus: Hadal Zone Express which the band would finance via a crowdfunding campaign.
Before going into the studio it was time to go on the road again – enter Mr Dregen, who took Märvel on tour while he presented his 2013 solo album in November (Scandinavian summer). Ten dates in Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway where the 1976 Neoplan Märvelbus would be put under fire trial, including impromptu repairs of the brake cables by The King while the bus was running uphill. Märvel: mechanics of high energy rock’n’roll!
Dregen (The Hellacopters, Backyard Babies, brewer of riffs and Riff): I took Märvel on the Scandinavian tour for my solo album simply because I love the band and their live show. It was a great tour, and a great combo. I remember a show when Märvel’s tour bus broke down before a show in Finland, and they more or less had to get their masks and costumes on in the bus and came running on stage, just in time!
Papa Bear: I remember the tour bus of course and the tour we did as support to Dregen on his solo tour in Scandinavia. We really pushed the limits with our bus in a cold November climate…
This tour brought blood, sweat (lots) and maybe tears, who knows, but also brought together the band with new friends who will play important roles in the future of the masked trio.
Fred Estby (legendary Dismember drummer, The Dagger, Carnage, Centinex, producer, soundman and metal’s renaissance man): I got to know Märvel really well when I was doing sound for Dregen from Backyard Babies and The Hellacopters. He was doing his solo album in 2013 and the first tour he did with Märvel. They were opening up. So I did their live sound as well because they didn’t have a sound person with them. So they asked me if I could do their sound and I did and then I got to hang out with them a lot, you know, so that’s how I got to know them personally.
You know, one thing that struck me in a couple of live shows that I was in was like damn! I was gonna see them before they went on stage and just tell them “good luck I’ll be out there, everything’s fine” and it was their outfits, you know you sweat a lot on stage, right? And you’re on tour and they had their own bus then too. So it was getting cold out in Sweden late fall and they didn’t have water. So I was like, “what’s that smell?” And it was their stage clothes because they couldn’t wash them, they have suits on and those masks and hats and everything and it was smelling not like, you know, sweat per se, it was more the smell like, you know when you walk into an old second hand store with a lot of old clothes? I was like, “God, what’s that stench? What, what’s going on?” They’re like, “Oh sorry, it’s our stage clothes, we haven’t been able to wash them, we will take them to a dry cleaners at the end of the tour”, haha!!
Papa Bear documented this legendary tour in “DR3G3N and MÄRVEL does Scandinavia” which, is a great contemporary record of the band and the tour….
And yes, you can check it out right here!
With the tour finished, the band joined Joakim Kärling at White Light Studios in the city of the factory of death (AKA Linköping) to complete Hadal Zone Express, which took the world by storm in March 2014. With awesome (and dark) cover art by Daniel Ljunggren, the album was yet another musical step forward for the Linköping combo in their path of constant evolution and improvement.
If Warhawks Of War established the Märvel sound, Hadal Zone Express perfected it. Elegant harmonies, sharp, catchy guitars and more elaborate yet more direct songs, with subtler and more enigmatic lyrics. The grand opening that is Baptism, followed by the declaration of principles that is Dead Rock ’n’ Roller; the evocation in My Reward; the homage to the 1980 Swedish cult movie The Charter Trip (“Sällskapsresan”); the rocker Black Money… each and every song bears a distinctive riff and is a potential hit.
However, if there is a hit in Hadal Zone Express – if we could only speak of one hit on the album – the crowning glory has to be the one and only Danish Rush. Flying like the wind, this song is up there in the Olympus of Märvel’s greatest tunes, and is a must in their live shows. And not only that, the song is guilty for having generated one of the best promo videos ever made (see the bottom of the article).
Shot by Peder Carlsson of Backyard Babies together with director Johan Bååth and producer Papa Bear, with a neverending list of surprise guests which included, among others, Dregen, Boba Fett and Robban Eriksson from The Hellacopters fame, the one and only Emil Skala, burlesque bombshell Pepper Potemkin, Papa Bear, Fred Estby and of course Olle Hedenström as the hero of the story running from a bunch of mysterious masked Danes…
Fred Estby: Yeah, yeah, I made a cameo in the video for “Danish Rush”, and that was because I was on that tour, I had just, you know, I got to know them and they just ask: “So we’re going to record a video for the song. Do you mind being a little part of it?” I was like “sure!”. I’m in the end like when we’re driving the bus and I’m helping him getting on the bus.
Curiosity might be killing you – Just what is the Danish Rush? Check out the interview for more information….
And did you know this monster of a song was turned into a Commodore 64 SID tune? Genius or madness? You can listen to it here and draw your own conclusions!
By the end of 2014, as renaissance men of high energy rock’n’roll that Märvel are, they surprised everyone and went acoustic for some shows at the end of 2014, including Artisans of Attire (fine clothing store for masked men in five smell city) and at the Ramones Museum in Berlin. Will we ever see the masked trio from Linköping go acoustic again? Check the interview at the end of this article to find out!
Märvel dressed to kill and about to strip (musically) in Berlin. Photo by Carmen Lenk.
Here is a taste of what happened in Berlin – this is VERY rare footage of acoustic stuff from the masked maurauders!
Whilst visiting Berlin, Märvel also took the opportunity to drop in to Metal Hammer Germany’s offices for an acoustic rendition of Remember…
Märvel, Metal Hammer editor Thornsten and the one and only Ben Soulseller
Hadal Zone Express… An album raised from the very depths of the ocean by the fans’ own contributions. Märvel’s best record? -that’s always a good one for eternal debate, but it’s certainly the album of choice for many Märvelites, including the following:
Peter Stjärnvind (Krux, Entombed, founding member of hard rockers Black Trip and most recently Splash Gorton Band): What’s my favourite Märvel album? Ouf! That’s a tough one! Because it changes over seasons and time. It’s all in the listeners mood that makes me change favourite albums. I did a playlist of their catalogue for a magazine, before the latest album “Graces Came With Malice” came out, and I was in agony to choose 12 songs. And now after the new album is out it would be even harder to pick a favorite! But if I had a gun to my head today, I would have to choose “Hadal Zone Express”. I have a lot of fine memories connected to that album.
Fred Estby: My favourite Märvel album? That’s a tough one. I mean I like “Hadal Zone Express” because that’s my first encounter with them. And like that album they just started playing the songs from that album when I did sound for them. So it was kind of fun to make them sound in the way that I thought that they wanted to sound live, which isn’t that weird. I mean the rock trio with a 70s kind of garage touch to it. But I, you know, it’s hard because the later albums sound way better. They’re well played and the songs are better. But I think I have to say that album anyway because it’s just the first real encounter. Because the albums before I like, but I think that that’s when they kind of found their path going forward.
Bengster: I will tell you about my favourite Märvel album but I’m probably super biased– “Hadal Zone Express”, and my favourite song is “Danish Rush”. Great song, great riffs. And both the cover and the inside of the album looks nothing but great!
Okay! If you have come this far without listening to “Hadal Zone Express” yet, here is the perfect chance:
Next…..After having visited the deepest abyss, in the next chapter Märvel will climb up a hill that shall return their gaze.
And now! The band takes you on a trip to the deepest depths of the ocean on the hadopelagic zone train in the Hadal Zone Express interview……
Daniel From Hell: Before you released “Hadal Zone Express” you recorded the “Metalhead” 7” and this was the first recording of The Burgher with the band. So the question to you, Mr Burgher, is: how did you join the band?
The Burgher: I have to think for a little bit, but you guys were on the hunt for a new bass player, and The King worked with a friend of mine that I had been in previous bands together with, so he recommended The King to reach out to me. We met for a business lunch. One of many. And it was love at first sight!
The King: Absolutely. It felt like we had known each other for a long time. Just like very positive and easy. I think we only had one lunch and then we tried to rehearse together. That’s what I remember.
TB: I remember you were just done with the mixing and you were waiting on the mastering for “Warhawks of War”.
TK: That was around before Christmas, and then we played together early 2011 and we just said, “let’s do this” because we had the first gig with you in February.
The Vicar: Yes, Papa Bear started booking up stuff right away.
TK: We did some announcements of the third bass and all that. Yeah, we did a photo shoot with Speedo and you.
TV: Did we do that for the release of “Warhawks…”?
TK: Yes, that was done before the record was released. It was like saying “now we have a new member and Speedo is still in the band.
TB: That’s the only time I’ve been appearing in Märvel with my full tuxedo on (laughs) – that photoshoot and the first gig. I have this very, very thick tuxedo. It weighs like four kilos or something. Performing live with a latex mask and this huge, very warm tuxedo… That was the one and only time I brought it to a live show!
TK: We did a post on social media in February this year about this first gig because all kinds of things just didn’t go the way they were supposed to.
TB: You’re always a little extra nervous for your first time in a new context. And I mean, I am in this new band, playing with masks, a band that is somewhat established, we’re going away too soon to play at the festival, I know nothing about it…. It was a bit of a weird festival (laughs).
DFH: How did you come up with the character of the Burgher?
TB: I think we cracked that on the first business lunch, didn’t we? Or we started discussing ideas?
TK: I remember I was at work talking to you on the phone and suggesting “The Burgher” as a character. So I don’t remember if we discussed ideas but I remember calling you saying “I have this idea for The Burgher”, but I guess it had to do with the overall theme that we were the king and the priest, it just fitted naturally to have an aristocrat or some high society guy. And I remember your response on the phone was like, “yeah, that’s brilliant. I got an idea. I have a tuxedo or something like that. So it’s going to be very, very easy.”
TB: We just needed to get a hat.
DFH: And in relation to this, how did you guys come up originally with the characters of The King and The Vicar? Originally it was The King, The Vicar… and Speedo, who seems to have nothing to do with the other two?
TK: Well, that’s Speedo for you.
TV: I don’t remember if we did that together or if it was like “let’s all go away and come back with a character.”
TK: I have memories of being home looking at different pictures of the king, trying to find stuff that you could add to make it more cool, right? But honestly I don’t remember where that idea came from. We just wanted to break away from the superhero stuff and find something that gave us the possibility to have the same faces but have different characters.
TV: I think even though Speedo was the odd man out, I think Aviator was sort of created at the same time. So it really doesn’t make much sense: this is an aviator, a king, a vicar and Speedo.
TK: I think that came actually because of The Aviator’s interests in World War I, II and flying machines, so it’s just like it was just natural for him to be the Aviator. And since I was the front man, it felt natural to be the king, you know, it was like “what else can I be?” (laughs)
DFH:It seems that The Burgher was the first socially respectable bass player in the band
(much laughter all-round!)
TK: I don’t remember it being a lot of discussion. We had a lot of problems before that to come up with something because we’re just struggling to find something. We even did one gig without anything at all and no masks at all.
DFH: Märvel unmasked. Oh heavens…
TK: That’s the only time we did it because we just gave up. “We can’t find anything, so let’s just do it without anything”. But it didn’t work out. We love mystery and we couldn’t really be ourselves on stage when we didn’t have any disguise.
DFH:For everybody that loves Märvel, while the masks are not the music, but obviously they are a huge part of your image and your stage presence, so it is good that you decided not to follow the route of KISS with “Lick It Up”…
TK: (laughs) We’re saving that card for later.
DFH:“Ambassador Of Fantastic”, the B-side of “Metalhead” – does it have anything to do with the Ambassador character back in the superhero days? Who’s the Ambassador of Fantastic?
TK: I’d rather not say…
DFH: Let’s keep the mystery then.
TK: And delving deeper into the “Metalhead”, this was indeed our first recording with The Burgher.
TB: I don’t really remember why we decided to do this 7″ because if I remember it correctly “Metalhead” came from rehearsal playing.
TK: No, not really. The songs were written but we recorded pretty advanced demos in the rehearsal space that we produced to prepare for the recording. So there are pretty good but still raw sounding demos that had maybe more energy than the final songs.
TB: You came with the riffs but we built the song in the rehearsal as far as I remember it.
TK: To some extent, but there was already a song with arrangements.
TB: In the end we made it a little long. It should have been 3.5 minutes (laughs).
TK: I remember it being a lot of fun just working out the arrangements and then recording it.
DFH: It works perfectly well as a long song. It’s probably your longest song. Not the type of song where you think that it sounds good but that it would have been better with two minutes less. It is great the way it is.
TV: As to why we did a 7”, maybe since we had to go for the crowdfunding for “Hadal Zone Express” we thought we could do something that would not be very costly. Something to try this part of the band.
TB: I think starting out that year we were playing quite a lot. I think we just needed a little something new to do gigs on.
TK: Yeah, 2011 was one of our busiest years in terms of playing live.
TB: We did a lot of weekends around Sweden and we also did the France, Spain and Germany tour.
DFH: Ah yes, the “Warhawks Of War” tour.
TB: I remember it as a fun recording session. It was my first time playing more classic rock music. I hadn’t really done that before. I listened to a lot of Hellacopters, but I am a bit younger than these two, and I didn’t grow up with rock music. I grew up with punk and hardcore. For me this was doing something new.
DFH:Well, it seems you ended up liking it because here you are after all these years.
TB: Yes. I am from Linköping, and Märvel was that type of band that I knew of but I hadn’t really heard, that I hadn’t listened to actively over the years. But when The King reached out to me I said “okay, let’s have a listen on Spotify and see what I think”, and I was honestly a bit stunned by the quality of the band. It was something that had passed me by throughout the years.
DFH:You have mentioned crowdfunding, which is a very particular trait of this record. How did you decide to go into this manner of funding to finance the record? Is this something that you would consider doing again?
TV: Back then we were in Killer Cobra Records and we didn’t have the financial muscles to bring up a lot of money up front for a full record. Now we have our own studio, but back then we had to pay for studio hours as well. it’s a big pile of money to record an album, which we didn’t have back then.
TK: Yeah, and we also wanted to create some interest for the album and invite people into the recording process and all that. So it was also trying to pre-sell stuff and have fun with it, really.
TV: Of course it felt like a fun thing to do.
TK: There was a lot of work also and it didn’t give us as much as we hoped, but the record came out, and we followed through which was the best about it. We did it all the way
TB: We also had Björn. He is a master of creating content and he helped out a lot with the videos and the stuff around.
TK: And we also did the tour with Dregen when we were doing the pledge campaign, so there were lots of things happening around the band at the same time so there were lots of things to build on. We recorded the album and did a lot of gigs at the same time as this pledge campaign, but then I think the pledge company went bankrupt or something, they didn’t last long.
TB: I can’t remember how we ended up with pledge music…
TK: I think Kickstarter wasn’t available in Sweden at the time.
TV: Or maybe we felt like Kickstarter wasn’t for music. A lot of records were financed at a certain point through pledge music. And what happened at some point, and I do not know how they managed the money, but at a certain point it happened that artists that were financing their records through the platform were not getting the money that was supposedly being raised through their pledge music campaigns, Shortly thereafter they went bankrupt or into Chapter 11 or whatever it was.
TK: I remember there was some kind of problem getting paid in the end, but finally we got it. We felt a bit lucky that we got the money from them.
DFH: We were all lucky. “Hadal Zone Express” came out. Did the Märvel Armies help with this crowdfunding process?
TB: I don’t think we used them to a great extent.
TV: I think we used the facebook Märvel army groups… Those were established already, weren’t they?
TB: We didn’t do any president collaborations like we’ve done for “Double Decade”.
TK: I’m sure they helped out behind the scenes. But there wasn’t anything that we did actively with them.
DFH: And how were the Märvel Armies really put together? There’s been so many versions about this throughout the years, including that in each country people have to fight to death to earn the title of President of the Army, so let’s get the official record straight.
TV: Ben Soulseller started it and the idea was presented to us at some point.
TK: I think it was Papa Bear and Ben. Ben started it and talked to Papa Bear and they started designing logos. I don’t think we were that involved. I mean since there is a KISS army, I remember talking about it and saying that we shouldn’t have an army because there’s already a KISS army, so let’s try to find something else. But then Ben did it on his own and we just said, let’s support that. If it happens naturally, we shouldn’t be the ones opposing it. It’s the greatest compliment if someone starts a fan club in your name, you just accept it and be proud of it. So, it was an organic thing that people started in several countries and Ben was just very good at picking that up and molding it. But yeah, it all happened by free will I would say.
DFH: And it is quite cool too. So you got the money and you managed to record “Hadal Zone Express”. How were the recording sessions? That was the first full album that The Burgher recorded.
TV: The first thing that springs to mind when I’m trying to get my head back to that time is the recordings of all the pledge videos in the studio. It’s the most well documented studio session we’ve ever had.
TK: You can relive it. If you go to Märvel Army Sweden on facebook and scroll down to 2013, you can see all the posts like “hey, this is the new promo video, you can just see the whole history and the timeline. And for the recording we set off like a week or 10 days or something like that because I think we were all there and I remember the first day we went to the music shop and you tried out different cymbals, Vicar.
TV: True. I also remember talking about evolving and it felt like this time around we had an even better understanding. In “Warhawks of War” we finally knew how it was to be a band and what type of music we were doing and how we exist as a band, and we were quite confident with that. This is where we started to have all the arrangements. We made big lists of all the things that were supposed to go into each song, what instruments and what each of them was supposed to add to the song, and recorded the songs with a lot more with vocal arrangements… stuff like that.
TK: Yes, from the start we had a much clearer idea of what we wanted to do. If “Warhawks…” started this type of production now we were more in control and knew what we were after.
TB: So it was very well arranged and planned in that sense.
TK: I remember it being very easy going and fun because I don’t remember any big fights. It felt like we had a lot of time as well. We did a lot of playing around and I have photos where we are like in front of a guitar amp, we put a long tube, like a rolled together piece of rug or something. It’s like three meters, so the sound from the amplifier goes through this long tunnel before it hits the microphone on the other side. And we chained different amplifiers together just to get this monstrous sound.
TB: We borrowed a couple of amplifiers from friends.
TK: And there was one amplifier that sounded like it was burning. I don’t remember what the song is, but there’s one of the songs with a really aggressive weird kind of solo sound.
TV: We played some congas in Black Money, so here we are again with the congas or the bongos.
DFH: The record opens with “Baptism”, which is a short but very powerful and intense song.
TB: I remember when The King came with that demo of his. So he said “yeah, I piled these bits together. We should extend this into a song” and I said “No, no, no, it’s, it’s done. Don’t extend it. This is it, this is perfect.”
DFH: It’s not even a minute and a half, with an opening statement for the rest of the record. It’s like a pledge of allegiance to high energy rock’n’roll both in terms of music and the lyrics. So it’s a great introduction and you’re right. You do not need anything else for that song.
TK: And I also remember when I realized where I got the riff from, it was my alarm clock on the iphone, you know.
TV: So it’s a wake-up song.
TK: Yeah, it is really, it’s like, hey, it’s the first song, wake up! But it took me a couple of years before I realized it was the alarm clock.
TV: Inspiration can come from the oddest sources.
TK: But it wasn’t conscious…
DFH: And you also have “Danish Rush” in this record, which you have to name when you talk about Märvel’s greatest hits. But what is this song about?
TK: The song came from a jam. It was just written when we warmed up for something else. Then when it came time to write the lyrics, I just remembered an old discussion that me and Speedo had about the Danish version of the Canadian band Rush. We thought, how would a Danish version of the band Rush sound? (laughs). It didn’t have anything to do with the lyrics later, but that’s where that phrase came from. Then you know that in our neighboring countries, there’s kind of a fight going on. So between Sweden and Denmark there has always been some “fun” tension. Things like Danish people only drink beer and eat hot dogs, and they are always drunk. So there’s a lot of things to play with here.
DFH: The video for the song is a lot of fun, with many musicians (and even a Märvel Army President). How did you manage to get all these people in the video?
TK: Well I guess some of them were people we were friends with and met through the years. And a lot of them came up thanks to Papa Bear who produced the video. You also brought some friends, Vicar.
TV: Yes, the guys talking in the corner? That was Septekh. I used to work together with their drummer.
TK: And I remember Olle from Dead Lord. He saw that Papa Bear put out an ad saying “We’re looking for the lead character in the video, who must be hairy and fat” and he said “that’s for me!”. We had of course Fred, who we got to know during the Dregen tour. Dregen as well. It was just people that were around.
TV: There were… But there were kinda weird ones as well, like Patrik Arve, singer in Teddybears STHLM.
TK: It’s on Spotify and Youtube, but you can download the actual SID file if you want to play it on real hardware because you can play it on a Commodore 64. It was an old childhood friend of mine (FetaOst) who did the SID cover and another friend who did the pixelart animation (Klött).
DFH: Where does the title of the record come from? The title track, if you take the lyrics, seems to be some sort of statement against mediocrity, the people that are not ready to take the risks to be what they want to be.
TK: There was some kind of take on “Highway to Hell”. A general feeling of things crashing. Kind of a dark theme I guess. But the song in itself sounds pretty happy. There are a lot of major chords in there. I think that’s always an interesting contrast when you have a very moody lyric together with an uplifting beat. At first glance, it sounds like it’s happy go lucky, but when you start looking into it, it’s not. I think it had to do something with the fact that we got a new government in Sweden and we said “oh fuck, this is going down the drain”. But it was really a take on “Highway to Hell”, but going deep down instead. You know this is of course the deepest part of the ocean. And the funniest thing is that we were later contacted by a podcast run by two researchers that actually are spending a lot of time down there and I guess we talked about that earlier.
DFH: They played that song in the Marian trench, right.? That’s so cool. Not many people can say that their songs have been played there.
TV: They just played “Master Of Puppets” but swapped it for “Hadal…”. They recorded it and sent it back to us as proof.
TK. Yeah, they did a video where they are sitting in the sub playing the song.
TV: We also did a guest appearance on their podcast. That was a different kind of scene for us. And they were going to have James Cameron in their next episode, right?
TK: Yes, and the Prince of Monaco.
TV: Nice company.
TK: James Cameron is obvious that he has an interest in the deep ocean. Prince of Monaco… I wasn’t aware of his interest.
DFH: OKay, let’s talk about riffs. In “Hadal Zone Express” each song has a specific characteristic riff to it. Sort of the leitmotiv for the song. The characterization of the song via the riff, in addition to the rest of the music of course. You go to your other albums and it’s not like there are not riffs, but in “Hadal Zone Express” you realize each song has its own distinctive riff and I don’t know if that’s simply because that’s the way it turned out or it was something that you consciously decided to do for this record?
TB: I don’t think it’s something that we really discussed for the album. To me it feels like it just ended up that way.
TV: I don’t know if we ever discussed it, but it feels like at least earlier we tried to have a riff in the songs, right? Or a riff part or something, not necessarily the defining part of the song, but still there was supposed to be a riff there, could be like right through the verse or whatever. But nowadays, we don’t necessarily maintain the same amount anymore. I don’t remember that album being specific or different in any way.
TK: Me neither.
DFH: I don’t see that in “At The Sunshine Factory”, for instance, I don’t get that impression that the riffs are so distinctive for the songs.
TV: But if you go backwards…
DFH: Warhawks…” maybe. This is to me your heaviest record, not in the sense that it is a heavy metal record because it is not, but it’s your densest, hardest record. Very monolithic in itself. “Hadal Zone Express” is the next step and without losing any energy, actually it has even more energy or electricity, it’s faster, it’s sharper but lighter too. I don’t know if that has to do anything with the riff thing anyway, because this is just a personal sensation.
TK: I’m sure you’re right, but I can recognize it when you say that riffs were more important earlier and then this has slowly faded away. It’s not like it’s not important now, but it’s not like it’s needed all the time either. So I think we’re working more with playing together now than we did in those days. There is more thinking things through, so to speak. And it could be anything that makes it specific, it doesn’t have to be a guitar riff. It could be the combination of the bass and the hihat or the bass and guitar playing something together or the vocals getting in front. So it’s more for the song and maybe earlier every single thing had to stand on its own. Now we’re more trying to play together in a sense.
TB: Yeah and I guess that also can be a bit of a contributing factor. I mean you’ve mentioned that this album feels a bit lighter. You, Vicar, and me, right off the bat we started playing very much against each other. We talked a lot about that: how do we want to intertwine the bass and the drums?
TV: That’s definitely something that’s different in this one from the other albums. And you maybe will recognize this as something lighter, more airy, I don’t know. Speedo as a bass player is all over the place most of the time and he’s not doing just the AC/DC basic thing, which Burgher is not doing either, but when we started, for me it made more sense to follow and work with The King on the rhythm guitar. So in the early albums the drums and the rhythm guitar were much more aligned rhythmically than the bass and the drums. And then when Burgher started it came much more naturally for us to do that together and find that foundation in a way. So that’s definitely changed how we played together.
DFH: Some bands have the rhythmic base and then guitar and voice on top of that, and that is not what you guys do. It is not superposing layers of things. Your instruments blend together. Plus the way you play, Vicar, is far from simple. Quite the contrary, it is complex.
TV: I guess it’s just part of the whole thing that we played like a trio and were not holding back. That’s also something that was more true in the beginning than it is now. Now, there’s much more laid back drumming and bass playing on “Graces Came With Malice” for instance, in some songs, which makes it actually a bit harder for us to play them live because you don’t get that instant energy when all of us are doing a maximized version of our instruments.
DFH: In terms of lyrics, these get more complex and personal as you record the albums. This is becoming a constant. With this growing complexity in lyrics I wonder, King, if when you write these, you want to put personal matters out there for people to listen and understand or you want to put these matters out but in a sort of more enigmatic manner.
TK: I think I understand what you mean. And I think it’s all of that. It has to work as just sounds to the song for people that only listen to how it sounds and the melody and the energy of the song. So it has to work for them. It is personal and it is kind of therapeutic, but on the other hand it also has to be poppy and something that you can get hooked on too. And it depends on what you want to do with it. But for me it’s like a combination of all those things being hooky, being personal and being interesting and trying to cover all the bases I think, because I couldn’t write something that’s too simple. I wish I could, but just if it’s too simple and I get bored with it then it feels like it’s not interesting enough. But if you just want to do hit songs maybe you have to push yourself into being really simple. But it depends on the genre as well. It is kind of complex. And the most important thing is of course that people should be able to build their own opinion. People shouldn’t sit and read a diary, or something, it should be something you can relate to and put your own life into somehow.
DFH: I was going to say that you took the easy response when you said “all of it”, but you really gave a full explanation.
TK: Yes, I did. Sometimes it’s just that you want to complete the song and then after some time you realize that you were actually writing about a friend or personal issues or just a feeling, trying to capture just a feeling. So I can’t say that it’s some scheme or anything. It’s just different every time.
DFH: Understood. Then you guys did this tour with Dregen in your infamous bus. Any memories that you want to bring to the table?
TB: It felt like a lot of stuff happened. It was a split up tour, so it wasn’t a whole segment. Three or four dates here and there.
TK: Yeah, three or four weekends, I don’t remember. Mostly very positive memories. It was a lot of hard work and of course we weren’t backed up by some fancy label. We had to do a lot ourselves and some gigs weren’t that well visited. Dregen was struggling as well to become a solo artist of sorts because Backyard Babies was having a time off… At some gigs there weren’t even 50 people as I remember it.
DFH: When Dregen came over to Madrid with his solo tour, I don’t know if 100 people’s attendance was reached.
TK: We got to play a lot of nice places like Pustervik in Gothenburg. It was a lot of fun, yes. The bus provided a lot of adventure.
TB: It’s the gift that keeps on giving…
TK: We don’t have to get into that. But it broke down a couple of times.
TB: We almost missed the ferry also, right?
TK: Yes, crazy stuff like that happens, especially if you have a 50 year old bus… I just remember it as a fun time.
TB: Yeah, we had a lot of fun. And also, being an opening act, you don’t have to finish up the shows so you have some time to hang out and do stuff together. I remember it was a really, really fun tour.
TK: Dregen and his band were really easy going and supportive. The first gigs were in Finland. Right?
DFH: Yes. You also did some acoustic shows after the album was released, like the Ramones Museum in Berlin and also at Artisans of Attire, the clothing store in Linköping.
TB: Berlin was three shows in a day. But Linköping was not connected to any promotion for any record. We just did the gig there.
DFH: Have you considered, not a full acoustic tour, but doing some acoustic show once in a while? It’s not that often that we get to see that, and it works out quite well from what I’ve seen in the videos from these shows.
TK: We all enjoyed it.
TV: I think we talk about revisiting that now and again. I like the idea of doing that. Even recording it or whatever, but it stops there.
TK: I guess it’s a matter of time.
TB: If we had an infinite amount of time I am sure we could do everything. But right now we’re more focused on the electric.
TK: It requires us to rearrange the songs to take some time if we want to do it. It’s not just playing them acoustically. You have to do an arrangement that works. So instead of putting time into that we just spend the time writing new songs for recording. I guess it’s just priorities.
DFH: I’m just saying that a four song 7″ in acoustic format would not hurt anyone.
TK: That’s something for Ghost Highway. Some EP next year. Hmmm…
DFH: That would be quite good… if you guys actually find the time. Anyway, with today’s perspective, how do you see “Hadal Zone Express”?
TB. I think it still stands strong. I’m proud of it. And as you said, people every now and then tell us that this is the best album for them. It’s a stable part of the back catalog. And it’s the album with the best cover. It looks so good with the vinyl gatefold.
TK: I think it’s a good album and I’m proud of it and I think we really stepped up our game. It was just moving on all fronts like improving songwriting, production, social media, touring… For us it was becoming more professional, I guess.
TV: I agree on everything. And the only thing to add, I remember it being a bit of a hard period to get down to Linköping to do the recordings, similarly to what Speedo was talking about for “Warhawks of War”. I don’t know if it was like this or if it’s just a feeling I have, but for me it feels like I struggled a little bit more getting this recording into my everyday life.
TK: When did you move to Stockholm?
TV: I think I was already living in Stockholm by that time
TK: I seem to remember you guys coming here pretty often, just the two of you driving down south to me. This period was easy to find time and rehearse because you didn’t have any kids. It was like you had each other, so traveling was much easier.
TV: During that time we were driving down to Linköping after work from Stockholm…
TK: Yeah. Just for the night rehearsing and then going home again.
TB: Yes, I remember you talked about you doing a lot of weekends for “Warhawks…” and we didn’t want to do that for this record. So therefore we booked a full week and then just one revisit the studio to not have this dragged out, spending all your weekends for it.
TK: We had a session between the 16th and 22nd of September 2013 and then I recorded a lot of backing vocals and solos at home. After that we revamped stuff and had a weekend together 19-20th of October and then there was just some more additional backing vocal stuff from home in November. But it was much more like you said, this time we did a lot more together.
TV: I think for me it’s the whole overall thing, with the Dregen tour and all the things we had to do for the pledge campaign, like everyday stuff, and then keeping up your job while going down for rehearsing… the whole feeling of it. But I do remember the actual recording sessions as this bubble you want to be in.
DFH: An intense period by the sound of it?
TK: Yes, and all of it is actually very much colored by Papa Bear, of course. He was the mastermind behind a lot of the stuff that happened at the time and kept pushing us. He wasn’t included in producing music at all but in everything else around. I’m proud of that period. We did a lot of things that we hadn’t done before.
DFH: And yes folks, after all such praise here is the video for Danish Rush – Enjoy!
In the next chapter….well, you’ll just have to wait and see!