ELVIRA MADIGAN

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TARTAREAN DESIRE WEBZINE

This e-mail interview with Marcus Hammarström from the Swedish one man band Elvira Madigan was done by Vincent Eldefors in November 2003.

After having spent some time in local metal bands Ethnocide and Andalucia, Marcus Hammarström decided to form his own solo project in 1995 under the monicker Elvira Madigan. The concept was easy - to combine the best of visual and audial arts and create something out of the ordinary. After two releases on his own label Northlore Records he has now signed a deal with new-born Swedish label Black Lodge, in-house label of one of the biggest music stores in Sweden, Stockholm's Sound Pollution Records. Marcus took sime time to answer my questions.

Hello, how are you?
Hi! I'm fine! I'm taking a break right now and diving into these questions of yours. I suppose You've heard the expression "management by fear", well I am currently "mixing by rage"!. A rather unscheduled mixing session have sneaked into my agenda (remix of the album "BlackArts" in honor of the rerelease on Black Lodge) and one song just won't come out right! I have listened to it a thousand times by now and I just hate it!!

It has now passed two years since the release of "Witches - Salem (1692 vs 2001), what have you been up to during this time?
Oh! I'm extremely happy You ask me this. I know it might seem like I have been doing nothing, when it is actually quite the opposite. So much has happened these last two years that I'm not sure where to begin! As I had just finished recording "Witches - Salem (1692 vs 2001)" in December 2001 I was completely burned out. So I realized I needed some sort of break. Instead of not just doing anything I decided to record a covers album with songs I knew would fit the Elvira Madigan agenda. It was the perfect opportunity to also reload my batteries for the next original album I am currently recording which is going to be a huge concept and the biggest journey of art I have ever embarked on. Now, the covers album was finished in january (although it still awaits it's release), and after that I rebuilt my studio completely to accomodate my current recordingsessions. During all this time I've been very busy promoting and making props for my photosession I finally got around to do. My negotiations with other record companies also take up much of my time. So basically, we have two new releases to look forward to with the first one beeing "Angelis Deamonae - Wiccan Aftermath", the awesome covers album!

How come you have now decided to leave your own Northlore label behind to sign with Sound Pollution's label Black Lodge?
Well, it's because of many things really. As I am writing this I haven't yet signed their deal to be honest since we are still negotiating the terms for future releases. We have already taken care of the albums I have released myself "license-wise", so as soon as we reach an agreement we will proceed to release that covers album. I have given this matter a lot of thoughts and weighing things agains eachother trying to find pros- and cons- to signing a normal record deal. And if I get my terms through then I feel it would be better for Elvira Madigan and myself in many ways. I get full distribution, they do all the promotion and pay for it as well and they also take eventual financial risks as that is the way record deals are formed basically. I get less for each copy sold but on the other hand, I will hopefully sell more. I am a quite stubborn individual and I'm sure the guys att soundpollution have noticed that already and my terms for signing away Elvira Madigan mostly concerns the fact that the artistic freedom must never be compromised upon. Now, I can of course not really discuss every point in the deal but if I can make sure Elvira Madigan still will become as I want her to - or even better with more funding then I find it to be benefitial to sign a "normal" deal. The people who run Black Lodge and Soundpollution are truly devoted to what they do and do it because they love Metal and not because some slick suite upstairs runs everything and that's really important. They are really great guys indeed and do respect my oppinion. So I have no problem in letting Northlore Records stay dormant a while to see where I might head with this deal. As far as I can see, both parties really want to do this and really respect each other and that is very important to me. And besides, it enables me to work completely devoted to the art and music and not having to set aside time for trying to find space in media and other practical matters of running a record company that might consume a little too much time.

Before forming your solo project Elvira Madigan you played bass and sang in a heavy metal band called Andalucia, could you tell me about it? When was the band formed? How come you split up in 1995?
The band formed in 1992 if I'm not mistaken. I'm a little bit uncertain about time here since we started out jamming in the drummers basement just for fun and everything sort of evolved without anyone knowing it into a band where we all dreamt about "making it big" (and before that me and one of the guitarists jammed for quite some time just the two of us). We were all individuals with far too different views on where we wanted the band to go so in retrospect those dreams were kind of futile. The drummer liked "hair bands" like Warrant, LA Guns and most cheesy eighties (early nineties) hard rock, one guitarist was into Kiss and AC/DC, the other guitarist wanted us to focus on thrash and I was hellbent on Yngwie Malmsteen at that time. We weren't much into compromise and we couldn't seem to find that fifth member to be a singer. So after a while I picked up the microphone in order to just try to get us somewhere after having rehearsed for a couple of years. I ended up taking the role of band-leader since I had the most musical input and represented a sort of "middle ground" in this ocean of different wills. Soon my own ego got a little too big and the band split up in 1995 after having just played three gigs. It was a period consisting of more trouble than was needed with meaningless discussions beacause of hard headed members as well as a lack of interest from some. I was pretty down for a period because I had really hoped Andalucia to be that vessel in order for me to be a professional musicial one day and suddenly I had nothing. But it proved to be the very best thing for me since I had my own personal revalations after that. I just tore every composition apart and kept the best riffs, I threw away all the lyrics which I felt lacked in originality. I gave up my juvenile dreams and locked myself in with my art and just poured everything into what is now Elvira Madigan. So one can say that Elvira Madigan was born after the fall of Andalucia, but one can't really compare them both since they approach music in a completely different way.

Did you record any demos? If so, when and what were they called?
No we didn't record any demos that were intended for sale. As soon as we split up though, the "thrash" guitarist and I thought it would be nice to document the songs we had so we started recording them with drummachine in my Madigan Studios which I had just recently bought back then. We didn't get all the tracks on tape and most of those who were recorded didn't get finished. But I'm not sure whether it is much to hear. It bares little resemblance to Elvira Madigan although my riffs can be spotted here and there.

Who were the other members of Andalucia besides yourself?
There was a drummer called Oskar, one guitarist called Roberth and one called Joakim. Roberth was replace by a guy named Fredrik. These members are not active musically today (and by that I mean playing in bands or writing in order to record). They all persue different things today, so I need not list their full names (I actually don't know how they feel about that to be honest, so it's best to play it safe). The only ones I keep contact with are the two initial guitarists since we were friends before Andalucia.

Before Andalucia you played in a local death metal band, what was the name of the band? When was it formed and when did you split up? Did you play live?
It was a band I joined after their current bassist quit. It was called Ethnocide and we played basic death metal with a little more emphasis on Metal. Concerning live performances we did play a few of those. Can't quite remember how many, but Death Metal was new during this time and small gigs here and there were quite frequent although most of them were and youth clubs where alcoholic beverages were not sold, but strangely that didn't matter much to the crowd at that time! It was a great period indeed where one went all over Stockholm to bang heads to garage acts. I remember one gig in particular with Ethnocide where we jumped in to replace Opeth who were support act to Agressor of France (this was before Opeth hit it big).

Did you record any demos? If so, when and what were they called?
We went into a studio to record a demo but it had to be rerecorded beacause of some technical difficulties and before we went into the studio again, I quit. So they did in fact release a demo without me and when they decided to quit is information I unfortuanly do not have. I didn't keep contact with the other members after I decided to split. I departed from that act because I didn't feel I got even 10% of my ideas through but mostly because I weren't really part of their group of everyday friends. I felt it was vital to at least spend some time together outside the band just hanging out or whatever, but we didn't. Maybe the other members did - that I don't know, but as soon as I quit some of the members wanted to "burn bridges" to put it mildly so there was no interest whatsoever to keep contact. Extremely ridiculous if you ask me. It would've been nice to hear that demo they got out since I had a few details of my own (such as riffs, a bass solo and some lyrics as well). I don't know what the demo was called or if it even had a title. [Editor's comment: the demo was called "Tearful"]

Who were the other members of the band besides yourself?
I don't recall all of their names, but none of them are active musically today (that I am aware of). One guitarist had a porta studio at the time I was part of the band, where he recorded techno. Since that is an area I have no interest in whatsoever I can't tell whether he is active in that field or not. As far as I know, he might even be the Britney Spears of Techno! It sounds a little as if You're hoping to fish up any names one might know of in the metal of today (seeing as you asked the same question regarding Andalucia). That period in the early nineties spawned quite a few acts, and even though we all shared the same gigs and shared drinks as well, I do unfortuanly not have any contact with the fellow bands of that time. But I remember playing "Master of Puppets" with the drummer "Equimanthorn" of Dark Funeral at our common school, and bands like Amon Amarth and Opeth all came from the same basic area and were people we shared gigs with or who had the same associates. But as I said eralier, I have no contact with them whatsoever today. After schools out alot happens I suppose...

Why did you choose the name Elvira Madigan for your solo project?
It's a neat name! I am a sucker for band names who don't really mean anything or that is obviously not in English. "Tiamat" and "Hexenhaus" are both extraordinary names and I just stumbled upon Elvira Madigan somewhere in the past (I can't give You a precise moment unfortuanly). But since Elvira Madigan was to feature songs in Swedish in the beginning it felt stupid to have a band name in English and since I would devote the project to art regardless of genre it would be stupid to have a typical dark or destructive name. Elvira Madigan suits me better than I could ever have hoped since it actually turns out to sound better in English now that things are taking off a little bit more.

Many people, including myself, have made comparisons between your music and Cradle Of Filth, are you afraid of being classified as a Cradle clone or are you proud of this comparison?
I do strongly believe that people in time will come to recognize the huge difference there is between me and Cradle of Filth. I do understand that people need to have reference points to describe something that is relativiley new by saying "oh, it sonds like this or that". It is just the way one communicates. I suppose teh comparisons spawns out of the fact that I use my vocals the way I do that people draw lines to Dani's throat, and that I can accept. But I am starting to get a little bored when people say that Elvira Madigan is very much like CoF musically as well, because here - I disagree. I do for one thing not even consider my music as Black Metal. Not becuase it hurts me in any way, but because it is unfair to the acts that really play Black Metal. I have no interest in the Cradle of Filth horror or "borderline to the disgusting or tasteless" image they covey. I focus on art and do things that are far more emotional to anything Cradle of Filth represents. I do songs that might not even be considered as Metal at all! I have more blues and AOR influence and work more with Folk as well. To be honest, if people would compare me more to Blind Guardian then I would feel that to be more normal! It's all due to my vocals having somewhat of the same range as CoF and also because I am fairly new and CoF has released quite many albums. I like to compare this situation to what Crimson Glory went through after releasing "Transcendanse" in -89 or -90. Queensryche had released "Operation:Mindcrime" and everywhere Crimson Glory went they had to hear that they sounded just like Queensryche. Looking back at the two acts today, it is obvious that they sound quite different.

Where do you find inspiration for your music and lyrics? What do you do in everyday life when not composing music for Elvira Madigan?
I draw inspiration basically everywhere. Now that Elvira Madigan has had quite a few songs released and recorded it is easier to draw inspiration from oneself at a larger extent than before. But if I get a kick out of some particular band at a certain point in time it might very well spawn something "simular" in Elvira Madigan. Say that I listen to "Hedningarna" or "Subway to Sally" and gets blown away by it, then it is quite likely I focus on Folk melodies while writing, and the same goes for Slayer or Behemoth who might trigger a nerve within focusing on more extreme and fast music. I suppose I am more or less unaware about the huge impact Blind Guardian have on my writing regarding structures and such. Even though they are completely huge, they do really deserve it. But as I said, alot of inspiration might come outside of music as well, just as long as it tickles some creativity or emotions within. I might play Playstation 2 RPG (Role Playing Games) from Japan and just go nuts! I might read a good Manga/Anime Graphic Novel, poetry, folk lore or study art by Brian Froud or get sexual stimulation (ehh... let's just leave it at that) and Elvira Madigan might be infected graphically, lyrically or conceptionwise. It is rather sad to say that practically everything I do has some reference to Elvira Madigan! And as a fellow Swede I take it that You understand how our cold winters breathes stimulation into writing this kind of dramatic emotional music.

How did you first get into music? Do you think you could ever live without it?
I got into listening to music through Saxon and Pretty Maids. Taking up the bass in the late eighties was prompted by inspiration from Steve Harris and Cliff Burton. From there a cascade of different bands and musicians has helped me evolved inspirationwise. Kind Diamond, Iron Maiden, Mekong Delta, Magnum, Marillion and Hexenhaus are all acts that has helped me broaden my perspective and dive deeper into music. Could I ever live without music? No. I could never live without it. And I'm sure it sound just as cliché as when every other person says it. But music is for me the ultimate art and the ultimate way of feeling. And I couldn't do without either feeling or being creative. Before music I have always been highly creative. I never played sports in any way when I was a child but spent my time drawing, writing stories, building lego, collecting and painting figures for Role Playing Games (although I never played real RPG:s) and just dreamed myself away. Music is the ultimate form of expression and it just burst out of every pore of mine so whether Elvira Madigan sells or not, or if I am even allowed to release my music in the far future - I will always make music and listen to it. It's rather wonderful how something like sound can send shivers down one's spine, leave one ghasing or just feel like burning off all ones energy in a total frenzy of headbanging and airguitaring in the living room wouln't you say?

What are the nearest plans and goals for you?
Nearest plans are to finish with the remixing of "BlackArts" that I am currently doing in honour of the rerelease on Black Lodge. And the next CD is obviously my top priority. The next CD will be fully concpetual with a story told much like a King Diamond album or a Rock Opera. Rock Operas are mostly concepts that fail lately and that is pretty sad. I really hope I will be able to tell my story so that anyone who hears the album will understand it and care about it. It will be entirely in English since it is wather stupid to change language in the middle of a tale. I do have a working title for the album and that is "Regent Sie" but as far as it comes to new releases then I suppose the covers album I mentioned earlier is a card worth focusing more on. I promise, this covers album sounds just like an Elvira Madigan release and not like any other covers album out there. It has instrumental songs and is highly dramatic and emotional. It features among others a trilogy by Chris DeBurgh about armageddon where I sing with my normal singing voice practically throughout the entire songs. "Angelis Deamonae - Wiccan Aftermath" also features tracks by Nordman, Toria Amos and Scorpions. A coverimage by Luis Royo will also be an issue. Other than this I have small plans here and there but my plans always seem to change along the way so less told about those, the better.

Have you ever thought about taking Elvira Madigan live and assemble a full band line-up?
Yes I have thought about it. It is of course highly possible to play the songs live but at this current situation it is not something that will happen in the very near future. One would have to gather musicians who were devoted enough and when it comes to a drummer, he will have to be quite skilled if it should work.

Any final message to our readers?
Yes, sure! I'd like to give my honest praise to You Vincent! I'm eternally grateful for all those reviewers who have supported me from such an early stage! I could never have dreamed I would be treated so kindly after deciding to go my own path. This also goes for anyone who have send or wants to send me emails through the elviramadigan.com site. I always read the comments and I do reply to them as well. Heck, it's the least I can do!

Thanks a lot for this interview and good luck with Elvira Madigan and everything else in the future!
Cheers!


Links of interest:

Elvira Madigan
Black Lodge