TARTAREAN DESIRE WEBZINE
This phone interview with keyboard player Sven Karlsson of the Swedish metalcore band Soilwork was done by Vincent Eldefors on January 26th, 2005.
The Swedish band Soilwork became one of the leaders of the Swedish death / thrash metal scene with their two first albums "Steelbath Suicide" (1998) and "The Chainheart Machine" (1999). Moving forward they began incorporating more melodies and modern influences into their music, leading up to the release of their fifth full-length album "Figure Number Five" in 2003, an album that both alienated fans of their early albums but also found them more widely accepted in mainstream media. Their latest offering "Stabbing The Drama" brings back a sense of aggression to the band but they have definitely not taken a step backwards. The album is released on February 28th, 2005.
You will soon release a new album, are you happy with the result? Did the recordings go as planned?
Very happy. The recordings were ok, we had some technical problems and had to rent the studio for another week and we worked about 15-16 hours a day the last five days. It was a little stressed but overall it was an ok recording.
Did you cross the studio budget?
No, we had some extra money for an eventual crisis.
"Stabbing The Drama" is an angrier album than your previous release. Was this something you strived for?
Yeah, you could say that. Especially when it comes to the production and the sound of the album we wanted a more unpolished sound than the last time. Both "Figure Number Five" and the album before that are very polished and perfect and large albums so we wanted to be a little bit closer to the sound, a little more unpolished, more aggressive.
Were you tired of the more polished sound?
Tired and tired..., I think those albums sound good but your taste changes a little as time goes by and I personally like more naked albums than huge productions.
How often do you rehearse nowadays?
If I am going to be totally honest, never. We are a little bit spread out at the moment, the guitarist moved to the USA two months ago so it's a bit difficult to meet down in the rehearsal room. Our session drummer lives in France and we don't live in the same city in Sweden either. We have rehearsed less and less but there are many technical solutions to that problem nowadays so it works fine anyway.
It is not difficult to plan tours?
No it's not, we meet a couple of weeks before the tour and rehearse the songs.
The cover art is very spartan and simple, was that the way you wanted it?
Yes, actually, we wanted it to be simple and direct, on contrary perhaps to the previous covers we have had.
Who did it?
The new one is made by the guitarist of a Danish band called Mnemic. We toured with them a few times last year so we knew them. I didn't know that he did graphic design as well but the record company told us about him.
You have a French drummer, Dirk Verbeuren (originally from Belgium but lives and works in France), on this album, how is his playing compared to for example Henry Ranta's?
He is amazing, the best drummer we have ever had. Henry is also a very good drummer but Dirk can play everything. He is as fast as possible. At the same time as he is blasting at 240 bpm, there is groove in it. I have never played with such a talented drummer. We are very happy.
He has still not accepted your offer to play with you full-time?
No, unfortunately not, he is a bit difficult to persuade. He has other bands, first of all Scarve which is his main band which he co-formed like ten years ago, and he has many other projects so he is very busy.
But you have no-one else in mind if he can't be there for you?
No, we want him and he has become like a member of the band now even though he has not accepted the position yet. I find it hard to think of any other drummer. He will do our first tour which is booked but then I don't know, hopefully the tours will not collide. Hopefully he can do the rest of the shows as well but if not, then we have a small problem.
How much do Nuclear Blast have to say about the choice of studio, producer etc.?
Nothing at all, we make all decisions ourselves. In that way they are great. We decide when to record, where to record and which songs to record which is very positive.
You are completely happy with their work so far?
Yes, especially with this album and "Figure Number Five" I am very happy with their work. It wasn't that great perhaps with the first albums but it comes with record sales also. When they push a band and get it back then it's easier to give more money for the next album.
You have had a lot of live experience now, which shows have been best so far?
We have done many great shows. We played at Wacken in 2003 which was a pleasant experience, more than 20,000 people came to see us. I think that's our biggest crowd ever.
Festivals are more fun than club gigs?
Nah, it depends. You reach more people at festivals but at the same time the conditions are much worse. There is usually no soundcheck so it's just to play your songs and hope it sounds good. The best experiences are however from very small club gigs.
Which countries work best playing in?
USA is nice, many countries in Europe also works well. Japan is also good, there is no country that is really bad.
Do you have any fun or weird stories from the touring?
Well..., last time when we were in the USA, it's not really a fun event but... We stopped at a gas station after a show, we toured with an American band, and the guitarist was attacked by three hillbillies. Then there was some waving around of sticks and iron pipes and a gun was drawn and - one, two, three - there were a million cops around.
Has there been a lot of violence on your American tours?
No, we have been spared from that actually. But there was another time on an American tour that a guy ran in front of the stage and moshed around with an axe which wasn't that nice either. Other than these two events it has been rather quiet.
Do you have time to see anything on tour is it just the tour bus?
Unfortunately it's mostly the tour bus but it depends on how you tour. In the US they are so funny, they usually just park the tour bus at a big shopping mall and then go to bed which isn't that much fun. In Japan we looked around and also in Australia we had the time to see a little of the country. Usually you try to plan an extra day before going home.
Will you mostly play new songs on tour this Spring?
It depends a little on whether it's a headliner tour or a support tour. If we'll do a headliner tour we'll probably try to included songs from most albums but if we only have 30 minutes you have to focus on the new album.
Can you make a living of your music?
Actually, the last 7 or 8 months we have been able to live off the music which is positive but on the other hand it has taken us 10 years to get to this point. It's not something to do if you want to get rich.
The album sales have increased for each album?
Yes, that's a thing which is very positive. We have never made an album which has sold less than the previous. Even though there have been no huge leaps it has been a slow but steady rise in sales.
Does it feel like this is your best album so far?
Yes, it feels so, songwise and soundwise it is the one I am most happy with. It feels as if it has the potential to reach more people and sell more copies.
You have recorded a video for the title track, could you tell us a little about it?
It's a performance video you might say with only the singer of the band so it's a bit different. There is no real story in it, he stands in the middle of a burning inferno, burning cars around him.
Will you record any other videos?
Yes, we will. For which song I don't know but we will do at least one more video. We have talked about it, song number five was in a good position but nothing is settled yet.
Which song is your favorite?
It's actually number five also.
What does the nearest future look like for Soilwork now? Is it all about touring?
We have some more vacation before touring in the middle of April. It will be our first headliner tour in the US.
How do you write the music? Do you write everything on your own separetely?
Yeah, it has become more and more like that as people have moved. Like I said we don't live that close to each other anymore. It's a lot of writing at home, then we burn it on cds and send them around and then we try to meet to discuss songs and come with ideas and suggestions. Everyone is more or less involved with the song writing process even if everyone doesn't actually write the songs.
You start writing the next album right after recording the previous one?
Yeah, you could say that. Even if it has been almost two years since the release of the last album we have had the same time to write it because we have toured quite a lot in support of the previous album.
How did you get into music from the beginning? Has it been about metal all the time?
I think it was my parents who forced me to play the piano when I was 7 years old or something like that. Then I have always been interested and I started my first band in 7th grade. It has always been metal I think, I played with a pop band for a while but it was mostly because it was friends of mine.
You have no plans to play anything else than what you're doing now?
Yes, I do, I have a lot of plans, it's just a matter of realizing them also. I have a few projects with friends where I live so we'll see if it is going to be released of if it's just for fun. What I'm focusing on most now is old thrash like Slayer and Anthrax.
Which album was your album of the year of 2004?
Hm..., Deftones, was that released last year?
What is played in the tour bus?
It is quite a lot of metal but also some country and pop music.
You will be releasing a bonus track on the Japanese edition of the album as usual, why do they always need a bonus track? What is everyone else missing out on?
As I understand the albums are a little more expensive in Japan, twice the cost in Sweden, so as to get people to buy them you have to offer them something special. What song is it...?
"Killed By Ignition".
That might have been it, yeah... Fuck, I don't remember really, it's been so long since I listened to the album. It sounds pretty much like the rest of the material, nothing that sticks out. It's always difficult to pick bonus tracks, I I were to decide every song would have been on the album.
Is there a lot of material that never ends up on the album?
Actually not, we always try to get most of it onto the album. As I can recall right now I don't think there is a single unreleased Soilwork song. I can't say anything about the time before I joined though.
That was it. Any final words?
Hm, well, eh, I hope we'll meet on tour, hehe, the old cliché. I hope there will be some shows in Sweden, we haven't done many of those. Hopefully we could play at Hultsfred, Sweden Rock or something like that.
Thanks a lot for the interview and good luck on tour!
Thanks a lot and take care! Bye.
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