December 27, 2022

Courtesy of our Spanish compadres at rockandrollarmy.com, this article and interview was again originally provided by Daniel From hell.

After triumphantly releasing their first album, Five Smell City the masked trio was on the prowl for more challenges to conquer. Perhaps it was the time for the (always difficult for every band) second album. Or maybe the moment for an undercover mission? And who says both cannot be done at the same time? Enter the covers mini-album Unleashed.

Apparently an off-the-track and unexpected movement (who the hell records a covers EP as their second album? – Märvel does!), this release would expose to the world one of the band’s hidden superpowers – the power to take any song, any style, from any artist and turn it into a full-fledged Märvel song. Throughout the band’s evolution over the years, the ever-growing member recruitment and even the change of masked personalities, this power would never abandon the trio from Linköping.

The masked trio

But how did the band choose this path? After the first album, the band encountered many crossroads, and everybody knows that when you need to seriously ponder things in life and make plans for the future, alcohol is the best brain lubricant, and as the liner notes of Unleashed! acknowledge, the place to plant the seed and water it with cheap beer was of course the bar…

Juju Pelle (on the brewing of “Unleashed!”): I can’t really remember, so there must have been alcohol involved. I probably paid for it. But I am totally innocent when it comes to “Livin’ on a Prayer”. My only demand was that they do “Nowhere to Run”, which is a favourite KISS song of mine. But this mini-album contains two of the best songs that Märvel have recorded, “Come In Out Of The Rain” and “Amsterdam”, the first one a live favorite, the other one for some reason blacklisted from the live setlists.

Unleashed! would smash its way into the world in 2006 with Rob Liefield inspired art by Håkan Åkerman. Six tracks invading all types of musical styles by very disparage artists, that were mutated in the laboratory into total Märvel songs, unrecognizable from any other songs in the band’s catalogue. Soul, hard rock, funk, pop, hair metal, punk, Nolan Porter, Robyn, Bon Jovi, KISS; Parliament, Etiquette Mona. Nothing was out of the reach of the band’s transforming grasp.

Co-produced and recorded by Jörgen Wärnström and released via Black Juju, no holds were barred in the studio when sticking Märvel masks on the original tunes, twisting them beyond recognition. The audacity came so far as to put bongos into “Livin’ On a Prayer”, something which, if one day came to the ears of John Francis Bongiovi, Jr., would probably have him saying “why didn’t I think of THAT?” Too late, Mr. New Jersey…

Märvel would unleash themselves live to defend the record, including at the “Where the Action IS” festival in their hometown, sharing the stage with the likes of The Hellacopters, The Ark and Håkan Hellström. The band’s rise to stardom was unstoppable. The three masked Swedes were becoming  a pop culture fenomen and would even be interviewed for the trendy comic strip magazine “Rocky”, an interview which would be conducted in one of the secret lodges of Sweden’s most prominent domestic cult… IKEA.

     But during the concoction of Unleashed! the band would make another surprising move, enlisting a new manager in the ranks: the man named Björn Rallare, who would be known as Papa Bear, head honcho behind Supercock Management (because everything is super with Märvel) and Killer Cobra Records, would play a much important part in the band’s future.

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Heroes of rock and kitchen furniture!

Papa Bear: It all started one day, a long time ago, when the singer of MÄRVEL, stepped into my office and asked if I’d like to be the manager of the band. I looked up from my desk and asked that I know nothing about the music business so why ask me? The answer was that they’d like somebody that thinks outside the box, and since I was born outside the box, I’d be perfect for that challenge.

Picking Papa Bear’s brains at the release party of Unleashed.

After the release of Unleashed!, Märvel spread their wings and parted ways with Mr. Juju Pelle, the man that made their first records possible and who forms part of the Märvel history forever. Warm, happy memories.

Juju Pelle: When I had the boys under my wings there were no crazy things going on. That started later when Papa Bear appeared with his pizza smelling roll of cash. My innocent, shielded boys were lured into Papa Bear’s honey-pot, skinny dipping in the leather lake.  But I remember fondly the happiness in crazy “do it yourself”-stuff. Screen printing merch. How do you screen print a bass drum head? Well, lets try! Can you screen print patches? Yes you can! Playing retro games on the TV. With masks on. Drinking milk right out of the carton, with masks on. It’s a good thing we didn’t do it for the money, we would probably be hating each other now. Instead we had a good time. We were in our prime, we were reaching for the stars. And most importantly, we are still friends. I am not lying when I’m saying that I interact with The Ambassador, Animalizer and Vocalo at least once a week. We still like “Dresses to Kill”-era Kiss and comic books. So no evolution when it comes to the important things!

Well, Mr. Juju Pelle, didn’t you ever think “these masked guys are totally nuts”?

Juju Pelle: No. Never. Because they’re not nuts. They are lovely persons bursting with inspiration, and perspiration. Pumped full of funny ideas and a talent for always getting things done, by professionals who agree to do stuff for free, even if they shouldn’t. 

As of today, Unleashed! is the only Märvel album that does not have a vinyl release, but beware folks, because sooner or later, one way or another, it will get its revenge on the world…

Here is a link for you to lend an ear to “Unleashed!”: https://marveltheband.bandcamp.com/album/unleashed

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Now read what the band has to say about “Unleashed!”

Unleashed! – The interview:

Daniel Fromhell: Unleashed may be a covers album, but it does not matter what styles or artists you cover because the result sounds 100% Märvel. I will not ask why you cover this or that song because you explain everything in the liner notes of the CD (a reading which I recommend). What I am surprised about is that you chose a covers EP as your second album. Seems like a strange strategic choice.

The Vicar: I think one of the reasons why it is only six songs, as far as I remember, is that we wanted to get something out quick and we thought it was easier if it was not too many songs. And then I guess we wanted to do more covers because “Come In Out Of The Rain” went so well on the “Five Smell City” album. I don’t know…

Speedo: I guess when we were choosing what covers to record we really wanted not to do just old rock ’n’ roll classics. We wanted to show that we like different kinds of music. But as to why we chose to do a covers EP as the second release, I have no idea.

The King: I have some memory of Juju Pelle challenging us with the Bon Jovi cover maybe. It could have been him that asked us to do a covers EP.

SP: He has requested a piano ballad for 15 years.

TK: I thought he got it with “Angela” (note: last track from “At The Sunshine Factory” – 2017) but he didn’t agree.

                                  
Tony Samuelsson playing bongos at Soulmine Recordings

DFH: Speaking of “Living On A Prayer”, whose idea was to put bongos into the song?

(everybody laughs)

TV: It was probably all of us. The bongos were pretty close at hand all the time in the early years. They were everywhere. Well, not everywhere but there are a few probably in “Five Smell City” and in “Thunderblood Heart” also. It was a percussion instrument that we used quite a lot.

DFH: This puts a bit of a Santana feeling into the song, which is weird because you probably would never associate Jon Bon Jovi with Santana, but it works very well.

TK. When doing covers, our philosophy has always been that a good song is a good song, and if we can’t make it our own then we don’t record it.

TV. Yeah. We would never do just a straight up cover of something. It has to sound like a Märvel song.  

TK: Just like the KISS song. It has a different energy from the original for sure. And it’s totally unknown. But it wouldn’t make sense to make a classic KISS song, so we had to choose one that was a little bit more obscure. It has to be a song you like, though. Doing something for just the sake of being different it’s not fun.

DFH: This record is again co-produced by Jörgen Wärnström but I see a difference between the production here and the production on “Five Smell City”. “Unleashed!” is more brilliant and polished and there is more cohesion, maybe because “Five Smell City” takes songs from various places as you mentioned before. Anyway, production here is more powerful, more direct and for lack of a better word, bigger.

TK. We learned a few tricks and we started to come with ideas that the producer didn’t have. We started to get into producing this kind of music. To know how to have an acoustic guitar on top to make the bright parts shine and stand out, and to have a second guitar. Maybe we were starting to move away a bit from everything having to sound just like it sounds live.

TV: Yeah, that’s the thing. In the “Five Smell City” sessions that was our approach. Live there are only 3 persons so we should sound like that on the album as well. I don’t remember but I think here and there we even removed a bit of guitar during guitar solos. But moving into “Unleashed!”, it’s much more layered, with more instruments and different tones.

TK. That’s the only album that does not have a vinyl release yet…

DFH: That’s one of the things I wanted to ask: when is this going to be released on vinyl?

TK: The Sign requested it. They talked about including it in a super box thing with every vinyl in a box. It would be like a bonus thing, but we haven’t talked about that for years.

SP: How about a ten-inch vinyl?

TV: We’ve been talking about doing that, but it’s so expensive.

The Burgher: I think we were also discussing that for “The Hills Have Eyes” and ended up concluding that you will get a lower quality product for a higher price. It’s still cool, though.

SP: We could get it as a flexi disc.

TK. I’m sure it will come someday.

SP: Could we squeeze them into a 7”?

TV: Maybe, but probably not just one 7″.

SP: A double 7”! Gatefold! It’s probably also very cheap to manufacture.

DFH: That would be pretty cool. And if you put some more songs into it then it would be great.

SP. You know, when I think of “Unleashed!” I have not listened to that album in a very long time. I don’t really know if it’s good or not. I do know “Come In out Of The Rain” is really good…

TK: “If I could Only Be Sure” I think is also good.

SP: Oh, yeah. That’s on it too. Yeah, that’s a really good song.

TB: That one we played on the anniversary shows this summer.

TK: I think “Amsterdam” is pretty cool too. “Livin’ On A Prayer”… I’m not sure about that one, but I remember that song being the one people reacted to most.

TV: For sure. That was also the one that was the hardest to make our own

SP: And then did we feel like we wanted to have at least one, “guilty pleasure” song or like a well known song? There’s Robyn and there is KISS.

TV: Robyn was very contemporary and I guess big at that time.

TK: I emailed her management asking if we could do it, and at first they said no, but then they realized it was just an indie release and said “Don’t tell anyone but okay, do it. She’s just going to release the song in America and we don’t want you to disturb the release.”

SP: We took all the spotlight from her…

TK: Sure we did (laughs)

DFH: Other than “Living On A Prayer”, which is popular culture nowadays and pretty recognisable, the songs in “Unleashed!” are like new Märvel songs. I mean, they are covers, but they are either deep cuts or not so known to the rock listener, so I think you made a good choice going for all the other songs. And you made them your own. I have listened to Parliament’s original “Come In Out Of The Rain” and it is great, but my favorite is the Märvel version. Pretty much like when I watched The Simpsons dubbed in Spanish for years when I was a kid, and one day I got to listen to the original voices in English and it’s good, but I stick to “my original” in Spanish. And I am sure this is what’s happened to a lot of people with the “Unleashed!” songs.

TV: That’s nice to hear and that’s sort of what we are after. We see a song and then feel like a sort of sense that this is a song that has potential to become a Märvel song, and apparently this has worked for some people.

DFH: You know, there’s this one thing in the liner notes of the album when you say that if the record is played backwards a ball of light is produced that grants to the listener the power to eat his own weight in cotton or lead, but then you decline all responsibility if anybody engages in such activities. What the hell is that?

TV: I don’t even remember (laughs)

SP: I have no idea (laughs). What do the liner notes say about “Amsterdam”?

(Note from DFH, the sleeve notes read as follows!)

“Swedish punk band Etiquette Mona were active in Biblical times. We are way too young to have had the chance to discover them while they existed. Märvel came in contact with their music through local historical organization, “The Church of John Doe”. By picking up the Motala Punk’s masterpiece “Amsterdam” we hope to help more people discover the band and their music. We also urge those of you who don’t speak Swedish yet, to learn enough of the language to understand the lyrics. It’s so worth it. And finally, we urge all of you to go directly to Amsterdam as it’s not only a cruel party hit, but also a city in Belgium.”

(everybody laughs)

SP: But it is in The Netherlands! There is the mistake in the liner notes, so you need to correct this… Nah, it’s supposed to read Belgium. That’s the joke (laughs).

DFH: And about the covert art…

TK: The cover art was done by some tattoo artist that Björn “Papa Bear” knew.

SP: It’s not Mats?

TK: Nope.

DFH: It’s Håkan Åkerman. The style is pretty much in the line of superhero comic book artist Rob Liefield. So how do you see the album “Unleashed?” from your perspective today?

SP: I do not see it very much as an album. I think it was just a bit of fun in between things.

TK: Yeah, more like a learning thing, I would say, but it started something for us, the way to handle covers. But you’re right., I don’t really think of it as an album, and I think we should have recorded a couple more songs and released it as an album. It doesn’t work commercially, and reviewers don’t review it. It’s stupid. It was fun, and we’ve always done stupid stuff, so it’s perfect in a sense, though.

TV: I do return to it now and again, but mostly to the KISS cover. I don’t know why. It’s probably because it´s one of the best KISS songs ever done, and every time I listen to that I remember covering it sometimes. I need to see what it sounded like.

TK. I found that someone posted it on the KISS FAQ a couple of years ago, and some people say “Oh, I really love the different arrangements” and some people just write the puke emoji, so it’s like 50% really like it, 50% think it’s garbage (laughs).

DFH:That’s probably the hardcore, ultraorthodox fans that ultimately don’t like that anyone does a cover of their band, so I wouldn’t worry too much about that.

TK: No, but it’s interesting to read.

TV. Other than that, it’s kind of a mishmash of songs and it’s because of the Robyn song that it feels a bit like it hasn’t aged that well, because all the other ones are classics in a way or another but that one is just thrown in there as the contemporary thing.

TK. It would have made more sense if we would have done a couple of more songs like that and it was 10 songs. But I remember the riff in “Bum Like You”: I kind of regret that I wasted a really good riff on a cover. I should have written a new song on it instead.

SP: You can still do that.

TK. Hehe. Of course.

SP: I really need to go and listen to “If I Could Only Be Sure” again because I remember that one as a really good song.

TV: Yes. It was really nice to get the organs into it. A really John Lord-ish thing.

Märvel: unleashed and unhinged

Young fan playing air guitar and miming to “Living on a prayer” cover from Unleashed.

*** In the next chapter Märvel will meet the mysterious… “Thunderblood Heart” ***

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