February 20, 2023

Once again courtesy of our Spanish compadres at rockandrollarmy.com – still aided and abetted by the nutters that comprise Märvel….

This article and interview was again originally provided by “Daniel From Hell”

2014 was coming to an end and it was time for Märvel to emerge from the abyssal depths and record new music. Point of re-emergence for the band was February 2015 at Gutterview Recorders, Mr Fred Estby’s studios, who crosses paths with the band again, this time not as a trusty soundman but as co-producer of Märvel’s new recording: The Hills Have Eyes.

(happily, up to press there is no news of Mr. Wes Craven (R.I.P.) or his estate attempting to sue Märvel for their insolence!)

Fred Estby (producer, legendary Dismember drummer, The Dagger, Carnage, Centinex, soundman and metal renaissance man):

You get to know people and you like to hang out and talk music because you’re on tour together. By that time I had a recording studio in Stockholm and Märvel were like, “yeah we want to try to record with you”, you know? I was doing a different kind of project (that never saw the light of day, mainly because I did not have the time), which was me and two of the guys doing this kind of death metal thing in my studio and then while we were recording they played me some new Märvel stuff that I really loved and I was like “oh my God I want to record this because these songs are really cool”… and those were the songs that ended up on “The Hills Have Eyes”.

So I was more or less like “you gotta come and record with me”. When they came over we had a really nice session. They’re really nice guys to work with, really talented too. By that time I already told them “You guys could record yourselves. You don’t really need someone else to do that. You are not only talented enough, but you also have a very exact mindset to how it should sound”, and also I told them that they should probably start their own recording studio. 

I told them all this because when you’ve been playing in a band for a long time, and then you decide to record with another guy to have a different angle and have a different pair of ears to listen to your stuff, that’s fine. But if you want someone else to produce it then you have to put yourself in the back seat, you know what I mean? You can’t just be controlling the situation and how it should sound when you ask someone else to do that for you. It’s kind of a contradicting thing to do, and I’ve done it myself, and I understand why people do that, but it’s always a struggle, and sometimes you just have to let go of the control. I felt like Märvel could work that way with somebody else, but at the same time they were almost in the process of shifting into doing things themselves because then you’re gonna get it exactly the way you want. If you don’t know how to make things sound the way you want, you need to find out how to make it that way… and they did. I knew they had that in them. 

I think it was worthwhile for them to go down that road instead of recording with other people and never be really 100% satisfied. Which you will not be with your own stuff anyway but, if you work with someone else you’re probably a little less satisfied and you can always blame it on that someone else, and I think sometimes you should jump in the pool yourself and see how it is. They did, and I’m glad they did because they’re really good at what they do. When they came with the demos, I was like “These demos don’t sound bad. It doesn’t sound like a crappy demo because you don’t know what you’re doing. This sounds good and you’re almost married to the sound you made happen. And now we’re doing it my way in the studio and you don’t recognize it. You know what I mean? I think it’s better for you to do it yourselves”. And I’m glad they did it. 

The “Hills Have Eyes” saw Märvel experimenting further with their music. Without losing a single spark of high energy, the six tracks that compose the EP delve further in the evolution of the band’s music, fiddling with more styles, songwriting structures and generally breaking any rock’n’roll chains. From the folky airs of the title track (the whistling! the whistling!), the fighting urgency of “One Shining Moment” to the cover of W.A.S.P.’s “L.O.V.E. Machine” (where they dared to introduce a honky piano). 

Meanwhile at Gutterview Recordings….

The song “The Hills Have Eyes” was released as an advance single for the full record, which would hit the streets in September 2015 to much praise and acclaim. To this day, the catchy whistling of the track that names the record has put it in first place for Märvel’s most “listened-to song” on Spotify.

The genius stop motion video for “L.O.V.E. Machine” was awarded with the best music video honors at the Honolulu International Film Award, and the track got lots of airplay at US college radio stations.

By the end of the year, Märvel played an acoustic show at Linköping’s Bengans record store, presenting “The Hills Have Eyes” in stripped format. 

Here is an acoustic rendition of “Bring It On”:
https://youtu.be/wOvSTQOV1zI?t=65

2016 saw the band doing their first trip to the UK for a short tour, ending up at the Hard Rock Hell festival in Pwllheli. Legal reasons struck again that obliged to drastically alter the touring lineup, calling back The Aviator in flying bass duties and recruiting the Charlatan on drums. The UK would be hard and cold, but despite all difficulties Märvel would come back in three pieces, in time to play again at the Fishbait Festival in Åland, this time doing an acoustic set featuring The King, The Burgher, Aviator and The Charlatan.

Chips Kiesbye (Swedish punk rock hard workers, Sator): Not really sure for my first contact with Märvel but it might have been at the Fishbait festival but it could also have been earlier. It’s a bit blurry. It was a great festival. Sadly it’s gone now. Märvel are a great live band. I’ve seen them many times.

But, alas, “The Hills Have Eyes” and the UK tour would be the last missions that Papa Bear would do with the band, as he decided to end Killer Cobra Records and leave his management activities. Truly the end of an era. Why did Papa Bear take this (extremely difficult) decision? You can find more about this below and in the interview at the end of this article.

Papa Bear: It was time (to close shop with Killer Cobra and stop being Märvel’s manager). I spent almost 10 years running my label, helping seven bands in the end with graphics, music videos, booking, management and label… and I took it as far as I could. I had to refocus my life and spend some time on myself, find new challenges. The good thing is that working with Märvel kept my creativity alive. How much can one do with almost nothing, how far could I take it. And of course friendship. Even though we don’t have nearly as much contact anymore since we’re living separate lives, we had some amazing times together, and that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

“The Hills Haves Eyes” may be a six track EP, but it is no small record at all. Märvel’s first sold out vinyl and the favorite for many connoisseurs:  

Papa Bear: Oh my, that’s hard to choose. Some songs are so strong live, and many songs have great personal meaning in various ways, maybe connected to a certain tour or a certain point in my life. But if I have to choose an album it is “The Hills Have Eyes…” the last dance we had together. It will always have a special place in my heart.

The Drippers: As to my favorite Märvel record, I have to be a little boring and say “The Hills Have Eyes”. I remember the first time I heard it, it was at the 2015 Muskelrock festival in Sweden when we were partying in the Bullet tour bus with the guys from Bullet, The Scams and Enforcer. In comes Joseph Tholl (Enforcer, Robert Pehrsson’s Humbucker, VOJD, Tribulation etc) and says “guys you need to hear this!”. So he put on the song (I think it was released that same day) in the speakers. The whole bus went quiet and we just listened to it. When it was over, we just screamed at him to play it again. It was an instant hit and the party peaked right there! It’s just a perfect composition, not many bands manage to squeeze out that golden egg. This moment is probably my best Märvel moment, since it was so strong.

Yes, “The Hills Have Eyes” is a sold-out vinyl, but lucky for you, it is still possible to give it a listen and even get yourself a CD copy, here:

https://marveltheband.bandcamp.com/album/the-hills-have-eyes

****

After the top of the hill, Märvel will reach the sun and set up their factory there. Stay tuned for the next chapter!

But for now, read what the band has to say about hills, eyes, walls, ears and the forbidden use of whistling in the interview for “The Hills Have Eyes”…

____________________________________________________

The All-seeing Mountains!

Daniel FromHell: In “The Hills Have Eyes” there is a lot of exploration and forward movement not only in terms of going into different musical styles, but also the use of different musical resources and new manners of structuring songs and the songwriting. There is lots of acoustic guitar and obviously something like the whistling in the title track which ends up being the riff of the song. All these things are an expansion of your musical horizons really. And on top of that, you did an EP instead of an album which is a weird decision, at least to me, if what you want to do is experiment with a lot of new things.

The Burgher: It sounds a lot different from the other records we have made. We met Fred Estby on tour with Dregen and there the idea formed of doing something together with him in his studio. He obviously works in a different way as a producer and he has a very specific sound and that’s still the way he does things there. So yeah, naturally a lot of things are different. 

The Vicar. And then the six tracks, it’s again because of time issues, right? There was an opportunity to work with Fred and we only had six songs and we decided that what we should really do is an EP. 

The King: Didn’t we talk about that we wanted to do a maxi 10″? You can only fit that many songs. 

TV: Maybe it came from that direction.

TK: Yeah, I think so because I don’t remember having a shortage of songs. 

TV: It could have been a shortage of time rehearsing them because we could only record a specific week or whatever. 

TK: But I think we wanted to do an EP. We didn’t want to do an album. That’s how I remember it. 

TV: One thing I remember which is different here and in relation to what you talked about the use of acoustic guitars and the whistling and all that in our evolution, is that this time around, we did not have any strings attached to the rock’n’roll scene in that sense. Here we just cut everything off and just followed the songs. At least that is how it was for a few of them. That’s what was on there. And it also helped that Fred was encouraging us in doing that. We knew that we wanted to do “The Hills Have Eyes” and we felt like it was a fantastic song, but having him there, there was never any discussion on it having to be more “rock” or whatever in any way. He understood that part from the beginning. 

TB: He played a much more active role as a producer than we were used to from earlier sessions. 

TV. We never really had a producer before and Fred was maybe not acting as a producer fully either, but more than others in the past. 

TK: We sent him rehearsal notes and then he wrote some comments back.

TB: I think he joined us in our rehearsal space also? 

TK: No. That was somebody else. Fred was never in the studio. 

TV: But we had meetings, talking through songs and so..

TK: I don’t want to be the judge here but I think he did that through the forum (the band’s message channel). But we knew him by that point, it was easy to communicate through text and then do a four or five day recording. 

TV: I struggled a bit with the recording of the previous album but with this one there was no stress involved. I don’t know if it was because it was a shorter thing. We did it in Stockholm, so it was easier for me and it wasn’t even a full week, it was just four or five days and then there were just some minor add-ons afterwards…

TK: Yeah I recorded all the solos at home except for one, and some backing vocals. So it was pretty similar to “Hadal Zone Express” for me. I remember doing all the lead vocals in one day. There were six songs and I was totally exhausted after that. I felt a lot of pressure because there’s a lot of stuff that we just hadn’t  worked out exactly what I was going to play. So it was a little bit of trying things out and that can be stressful if you can’t find the right thing. But Fred had a lot of experience and was very supportive. So it was very positive. And fun. 

DFH: I can tell you he holds you guys in high regard, both as persons and as musicians. 

TB: That’s really nice. So good to know.

DFH: He also acknowledges that you sweat an awful lot when you play live (laughs), but I think that everybody that has seen you live can vouch for that. It’s curious that on one hand he’s a death metal musician ultimately and then the album that you guys did with him is this jump in experimentation but certainly not into the path of metal.

DFH: Speaking about the lyrics, as we have discussed for previous albums, these get more and more enigmatic. You know that, you write them. In the title track, I have always wondered, who is this “river girl” that is mentioned in the first verse and at the end of the song?

TK: It was just tying the story together, going full circle. It’s funny because that text was in my drawer for a few years, actually. It felt like some kind of folk music. I didn’t know what to do with it. And then I just went “what’s this?” and started playing it and it just came out the way it was and I felt it was something new that we hadn’t done before. It felt a little bit folky or acoustic, but the thing that struck you was that it was immediate, even though the lyrics are quite long and it’s a lot of words, but it still feels direct and that’s what I liked about it. And you get some images from it. I mean, there’s lots of things you can imagine in the lyrics 

DFH: It tells a story, rather than feelings only or impressions. So it’s got a different structure. Not only the song, musically speaking, but the lyrics themselves. 

TK. Yeah, they do. And then of course, there’s a reference to Monkey Island in there. The monkey head was a reference to Monkey Island. A three headed monkey! Look out behind you, there’s a three headed monkey! 

DFH: Let’s talk about the “L.O.V.E. Machine” cover. Yet another example of you guys transforming every other artist’s song you touch into a Märvel song. In this case that’s got extra merit, because W.A.S.P. songs sound very much W.A.S.P., they are very recognizable. But after this cover this song is also a bit yours now. And my question is why did you choose “L.O.V.E. Machine” instead of “Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)”? It is also a very beautiful love song? 

(much laughter all around!)

TV: The King and I have been listening to that song since childhood and hold that song in very high regard. I don’t know when we started talking about it, but when we did it felt like that was a song that would work for us. I don’t think “Animal (Fuck Like a Beast)” would do that for us. 

TK: Just searched my mailbox and I found an email from Vicar from 2011: “May I come with a suggestion? Could we put “L.O.V.E. Machine” on the repertoire as a cover? We probably could do it in a fun way. I was first thinking about DIO’s “Straight Through The Heart” but I don’t think we can make that justice.” And my answer was “A W.A.S.P. cover? Absolutely fun. Let’s try it. It’s a hell of a song.” So it started already when we did the first gig with The Burgher. 

TV: But we never played it live before. 

TK: Yeah. We did it in Finland, 2012. In that Oil and Vinegar place we played. I actually have it on video (laughs). 

TV: Did it have the same arrangement? I guess it did.

TK: I think so. 

TB: “L.O.V.E. Machine” is a song in shuffle and we combined shuffle and straight tempos and made it work very well for us, I think. 

TK: It was something just for fun, I guess. We did not have a grand plan for it. I was just like “this sounds cool”. 

DFH: Well, it’s turned out to be one of the staples in your shows. 

TK: Yeah. And it got its own life when we did the video. Alfred (Lindahl) and Papa Bear did the video, but we were all involved because we did the movements for the guys, recorded on our own with our mobile phones and then he tracked our movements for the animations. So we are actually in the video!

TB: That was impressively made, that they could reproduce our movement. 

DFH: You are very recognizable in the wooden dummies and that’s part of why it works so well. Then it also has a lot of imagination and it’s so fun. Best video at the Honolulu Film Awards 2016. Anyway, going back to the title track and that whistling that is sort of the riff to the song, How did you come up with the idea of the whistling? I remember I read something that you were trying to find a horse to do the whistling and I always wondered if you found one and whether he got his first share of royalties each time the song is played. But when did you say “this song needs a whistling here”? 

A whistling horse! (a phrase that Michael Berryman probably never pronounced) (Photo: Vanguard)

TK: It was in the original demo. It was, I had a thing for combining guitar with voice and falsetto and stuff just to make it sound like one sound out of several things because you don’t really want it to sound like a guitar and not like a voice. And you know, whistling has always been a major “no, you can’t whistle in a song, that’s totally forbidden” because we have a guy in Sweden who has made a career out of whistling and that’s just horrible. So I guess that was what intrigued me to do it, because it’s forbidden. And  that’s interesting.

DFH: It works so well. And you well know, this song is your number one song in this place that I hate but that many people listen to, Spotify. 

Memories from Åland, local Märvel Army included.

TK: I remember when we played the Fishbait festival in Åland, a Finnish Island, and Imperial State Electric were there as well, and we had just released the song and Nicke said, “oh, I heard you guys did a song with whistling and I was very upset, you can’t do a song with whistling, but then I heard it, and was like oh yeah, of course you can do it like that”. So it was approved by the master. And the best review we got was from Viktor from the Drippers. He described it very well, when he first heard the song and it was at Muskelrock and somebody ran onto  Bullet’s bus with the song and played it and they just kept it on repeat. 

DFH: I only say, a song like “The Hills Have Eyes” deserves to be the main theme in a movie. It’s soundtrack material. Anyway, this was the last record that came out on Killer Cobra Records, which then Papa Bear closed and he also stopped doing management work. How was all this?

TB: He’s always been very all or nothing in the way he does stuff. When we worked with him, he was very much 100%. And when he didn’t feel that he could do that anymore, then he went to 0%. 

TK: Yeah, exactly. 

DFH: That says a lot about him.

TK. He’s very categoric. It’s like “Oh, I did 10 years of music business, now it’s over”. He had a big issue with it because he really did not want to stop. But his concern was that if you can’t do it to the fullest, then better not do it at all. 

DFH: I respect that.

TK: Yeah, but it was hard for us because we were used to having him around as a fourth member, doing everything. Always there at the gigs, always approachable, always up for ideas…. But in the end it was very good for us because it made us grow together as a band also, and get on top of things and start doing more things on our own. So it was a good lesson also. 

TB: Yeah, indeed.

DFH: Nowadays you manage yourselves basically. 

TK: Yeah. Of course we work with The Sign, but that’s different, more about promoting the albums and putting out the album has nothing to do with managing. 

DFH: You do not need a manager anymore today. I’m not saying that it would not help, but you do not really need it.

TK: Of course we do, but it works for what we’re trying to achieve I guess. I’m sure that it would be helpful. There’s lots of things that you can put on somebody else to deal with, and the business parts and other stuff. But when I say you don’t need it is because it is not necessary for you to function. 

TK: If we wanted to have a (professional) career in music then we would need it. Picking the right gigs, doing the smart things… But we’ve always just done what we want to do, I guess. 

TB: Yeah. We’ve always been very, very aware of what we want to do, and what we want to do is being able to control and have a say in everything, but on the flip side it would be nice to (have management). I mean there’s a lot of manual labor, that is not standing in the rehearsal space or doing live gigs, that we have to deal with. Which would be nice to have some more support for.

TK: For the corona years we only did like office stuff online together (laughs). We didn’t play much for a couple of years or something. 

TB: It was more like having a startup company together!

TK: Yeah, but it was also something that helped us go through the period. It was nice to have something outside the family… 

TB: And keep some kind of continuity going. 

TK: Yeah for sure, I think it would have been really hard to… maybe we would have given up if we didn’t do that. 

DFH: That’s saying something!! 

Lock up your beer, England. Märvel is coming! Aviator, King and the Charlatan

It was by this time with “The Hills Have Eyes” that Mr. Charlatan joined you guys for live duties starting with a UK tour that ended with the Hard Rock Hell gig. I would ask if this was again due to legal troubles getting out of Sweden in this case for The Vicar… 

TB: Both me and The Vicar had legal issues… 

TK: Yeah, that was the first time it was just me and I had The Aviator on bass and Charlatan on drums, but actually it was the three of us (The King The Burgher and The Vicar) that were booked to do that for like half a year in advance and then we had to change plans. 

With the late, great Frankie Banali at Hard Rock Hell

TV: Both The Burgher and myself came across legal problems almost at the same time, which collided or were close to that gig. So that was the thing, but it was booked so well in advance so it’s kind of impressive that we were able to muster up a second line up. 

TK: Both The Aviator and The Charlatan are very professional and easy going, so it was a fun tour except that I had a cold immediately when we arrived in England, and by the time we did the Hard Rock Hell Festival, I could almost not speak. And the English festivals, they are so cheap, you couldn’t even get a cup of tea. It was like, “no, we don’t have that”. Anyway, actually Papa Bear was on that English tour as well. 

TB: That was the last thing with him.

TK: Yeah. And he filmed the whole thing with several cameras and he planned to do like a short movie about it, but then he never got the final film material from the festival crew, so then he decided not to do it because it was like hundreds of hours of work putting that together. So we have a hell of a lot of material that probably never will see the light of day. 

Against all odds. Triumph in Hell!

DFH: That’s too bad because you don’t have any sort of officially released audiovisual, and maybe something can be done out of that. Maybe not a full show recorded show, which would be just nice anyway, but maybe you could do something in the style of The Hellacopters documentary “Goodnight Cleveland”, which is not a full show recording, but it’s a recount of a tour. So maybe something like that covering also the history of the band could be done, but that would entail a lot of work.

TK: It would be really cool, but it would require someone externally doing that, yes. 

DFH: Also this year you released the split with the Chuck Norris Experiment via Ghost Highway where you put the song “Mothefucker”. How did this collaboration with the Chuck Norris Experiment guys come into place? They started as a band more or less at the same time you did. 

TK: Yes, they did. We never played with them and I don’t think we met them but have been in contact a few times. I guess it was Marco from Ghost Highway contacting us, asking us to do a split with them as I remember it. And that song was a leftover from the “Hadal Zone Express” sessions. It was something that we had had lying around and it was something we did because we always liked Ghost Highway and the things Marco did. So it was cool to be part of that. 


Good things come in trios. Märvel and the three-color edition of the 7” split with the Chuck Norris Experiment 

DFH: So, with today’s perspective, how do you see “The Hills Have Eyes”?

TV: I rarely return to the full EP, but I do of course with the songs we play live all the time. So there’s a couple of hidden tracks in a sense there, which makes it kind of a gem. Like it’s a nice, odd bird. 

TB: In hindsight, it’s a bit sad that we didn’t include I mean two more tracks on that album since we ended up not doing a 10” record because we found out that you would get a less of a good sounding record for a way higher price by printing 10” instead of 12”, and we had a hard time getting reviews on the album as I remember it because people looked at it as an EP, six songs, so it’s not really an album… I remember we struggled earlier a little bit with the promotion for the record. I agree with The Vicar that it is an odd bird.

TK: However, the reviews that we got were really good. It was a lot of eights and nines, so I think it was well received, and I really like the artwork! 

TV: It was this Finnish woman, right? 

TK. Yes, Anu (Bring). 

TB: She painted it in coffee!

Back to that whistling…The Hills Have Eyes!

In the next chapter….Again, you’ll just have to wait and see!

*****