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Soilwork


The Gauntlet: Alright. To start things off in a fairly typical fashion, hows the tour going so far? I know you guys have been on the road a bit now

Peter Wichers: Its very cold, and started out kind of rough in the beginning, but recently its really started to pick up. Were all getting more accustomed to the different routines of every day, but its going well. Were having fun.

The Gauntlet: And what about the early going was rough?

Peter Wichers: Ah, well. Just super cold and not a lot of people at the first couple venues. But then everything changed.

Gauntlet: Picking up steam, as it were?

Wichers: Yeah, yeah.

Gauntlet: About the cold thing: last week or so it was almost 60 degreesso about 15 celsius?and we had this spell of spring. But before that it was pretty much subzero. And during that time Id keep looking back and forth between the weather in Chicago and the weather in Stockholm and was pretty upset that it would be colder here than in Sweden. It just doesnt seem right.

Wichers: Yeah.

Gauntlet: So, it still seems cold for you guys, despite being from a country that people usually consider frosty and northern?

Wichers: Well, I live over here, but I actually live much more south. So Im not really accustomed to this weather anymore. But I would say that, probably. Cleveland was miserable.

Gauntlet: Yeah (laughs).

Wichers: It was so fucking cold. You walked out of the door and the wind felt like someone had those little tiny nails and was just throwing them in your face. Thats what it felt like. And you dont really get that in Sweden unless you go further north. The south is, Id say, more like Seattle. So it gets kind of cold, but its more overcast. It snows a little bit, but has more rain, overall. Thats the weather that southern Sweden has. Stockholm definitely has a colder climate.

Gauntlet: Mm-hmm. Cleveland can be brutal, just sitting there next to the lake, so the winds can sweep across.

Wichers: Yeah, exactly. Well, Chicago I guess is a bit the same.

Gauntlet: Yeah. (pause) It can be rough

(Laughter)

Gauntlet: Now, I know that you guys have been here and Darkane have obviously been here as well. But have you guys been here as a collaborative package before?

Wichers: Yes. We did tour together three years ago with Strapping Young Lad and

Christofer Malmstrm: (Lounging in a chair across the room, watching other band members trying to get the UFC match on Spike TV to come through) Fear Factory.

Wichers: Yes, Fear Factory, there you go.

Gauntlet: Ohhh, I had forgotten about that. I heard about it afterwards and hated myself for not going.

Wichers: That was a good package, yeah. We also shared a bus with Darkane back then. That was a fun tour, for sure.

Gauntlet: I imagine theres a different dynamic, touring with guys who are also from Helsingborg, like your own clique.

Wichers: Yeah. Weve known each other for so many years now, so I honestly dont think that Soilwork could share a bus with anybody else, because wed probably kill each other. But Darkane and Soilwork, we know each other so well, so it works out perfectly. We really love the guys in Darkane and were having a blast.

Gauntlet: Good, good. So, when the band formed, you were still living there, I imagine

Wichers: Yeah, four years ago is when I moved over here.

Gauntlet: Ok. People always like to classify metal bands on the basis of what country theyre from, and Helsingborg is about as close as it gets to Denmark. So, when you guys were starting out, do you think that there was any sort of Danish metal influence in Soilwork?

Wichers: Mmm, I dont know. Not really, because Denmark didnt really have a huge metal scene at the time.

Gauntlet: And some would say they still dont.

Wichers: Well, I disagree with that. Theyve got Raunchy, Mnemic, theyve got Volbeat. There are a bunch of bands coming out of Denmark now that definitely dont sound like Swedish metal. But I think that at the time they did, so maybe thats the reason why a lot of those bands didnt get signed. I really dont know. But we were really heavily into old rock, back in the day: Deep Purple, Judas Priest, everything 70s and 80s when we first started. And we progressed into something thats a little more contemporary, or maybeI hate to use the term modern, but we took what we had then and shaped it into what it is right now.

Gauntlet: Sure. Brought those influences together and spruced it up.

Wichers: Yeah, exactly.

Gauntlet: Alright. And this time around, fans are selecting the setlist. I know theres been a bit of that in the past, but has it ever been a complete set?

Wichers: Not like this, no. It was actually Dirk who came up with the idea, because he was like, Ive always wanted to do that with my favorite band. Ive always wanted to be able to pick the setlist. That would be a cool thing for the fans, since this is the last tour for Sworn. And, we always get complaints, you know, Why didnt you play this song! So we say, alright, heres your chance.

Gauntlet: (laughs) Put it in their hands.

Wichers: Exactly. So, we were willing to play everything, whether it was bonus tracks or whatever. But it seems that we were pretty dead on with what we were playing, because a lot of it is the singles and video songs that people were voting for. There were only a couple of songs that were going to play tonight that we dont usually play live.

Gauntlet: Were there any tracks you were either hoping people would pick and they didnt or were hoping they wouldnt pick and they did?

Wichers: Ah--(thinking)well, there was one song that I really thought was going to be on the playlist, but it never got up high enough. And Im kind of happy about it, because its such an extremely complicated song for guitar. But I would have played it, you know. That was the thing. Everybody had a chance. It was just shocking that it was mainly what we were playing in the set, you know. I guess its a good way of saying that we pick a good set.

Gauntlet: Got your fingers on the pulse.

Wichers: Yeah, exactly.

Gauntlet: Which song was it that youre talking about?

Wichers: Grand Failure Anthem.

Gauntlet: (thinking) Ok. Yeah, I can see that.

Wichers: That one issomewhat intense.

(Laughter)

Gauntlet: I do have to ask what the response to the Pittsburgh Syndrome is from the fans in Pennsylvania.

Wichers: That one, well. We were playing Philadelphia and they were like, Fuck Pittsburgh! Theres some animosity there, you know.

Gauntlet: (laughs) No surprise.

Wichers: I think the people in PennsylvaniaI have friends thereit feels like they think Pennsylvania circles around Philadelphia. But Pittsburgh was insane. I mean, they were really going crazy. We ended the whole set with that song and they were loving it. But then we played Cleveland and it was the same thing, We said, Alright, were going to play a song thats about a(interrupting himself)Fuck Pittsburgh! Its a shit town!

(Laughter)

Wichers: But, overall, people seem to like that song a lot.

Gauntlet: Yeah, I remember the first time I heard it; it was a breath of fresh air. I wasnt expecting something with that lyrical theme, or that glissando theme in the chorus. Interesting twist.

Wichers: Yeah.

Gauntlet: My impression is that you guys have been very successful in Sweden over the years, and seem to be making great progress in the American market more recently. As youve been coming up here, have you seen a change in your longtime fanbase in Sweden, either in their attitude towards you or the fanbase itself?

Wichers: Theres definitely a new crowd, Ive noticed, thats coming out to shows. You have the core thats been around for such a long time, but now theres a new generation thats getting interested in Soilwork that might not be too familiar with the old stuff but really digs the new stuff. That would be the biggest change that I can see. But we still have those really loyal fans that have been around for a long time.

Gauntlet: Yeah. Just walking around downstairs, this looks like one of the most balanced audiences, in terms of age and gender, that Ive seen in a while. Most of the time its the young, long-haired metal dudes, but tonight there are a lot of middle-aged folks. The younger teenage girl crowd is here as well, which is a bit of a surprise. Its good to have that diversity.

Wichers: Yeah, its always nice to have that. Thats one of the things thats most enjoyable, when you do a show.

Gauntlet: Its cool for me, too, to finally get to see you guys. The previous times youve been here and when Darkane has been here, Ive missed both of you guys for one reason or another. And right around Natural Born Chaos and Expanding Sensesthose albums were really critical in getting me into the scene, so its nice finally get to see you guys. (turns to Christofer Malmstrm, still lounging in his chair) My thanks to you over there as well.

Malmstrm: Whats that?

Gauntlet: (summarizes)

Malmstrm: Ah, the white albums.

Gauntlet: Thats right! Thats exactly it.

Malmstrm: Not intentional. (smiles)

Wichers: And then In Flames saw Darkane and Soilwork and was like, We have to do a white album, (thumps leg with fist).

Gauntlet: They did! (laughs) So you guys have discussed this, I see?

Malmstrm: No, not really. We were all tired of the black and bloody stuff. But it didnt work very well.

Gauntlet: A good change of pace, though.

Wichers: It might be time for another white album, maybeI dont know. Well see.

Gauntlet: I could see that. After the really intense color schemes youve been doing recently, it could work. Now, as one of the pioneering bands doing the clean and harsh vocal mixobviously there are dozens of questions people have asked about thisbut what most interests me is the songwriting. For you, do you really have to change your approach if youre thinking, This is a harsh section, this is a clean section. I cant use this kind of voicing here, because hes going to be singing a melody, and so forth?

Wichers: I think about that, yeah, I do. But at the same time, Bjrn is like, Do something unexpected. Sometimes he will do a screaming part over what I thought was going to be a melodic part. So I think were going to try to do something thats lessobvious for the next one. Something thats a little off the wall sometimes, but still done tastefully.

Gauntlet: Yeah. As one example, it seems that in the past few years, theres been an uprising of sections with just blastbeats and people doing clean vocals over that.

Wichers: Mm-hmm, I love that.

Gauntlet: The new Opeth album did that

Wichers: Oh, I love that album.

Gauntlet: The new Akercocke album, Antichrist, the new Gojira I think. Interesting technique. Be intriguing to see Soilwork try something like that.

Wichers: Well, were definitely excited about it as well. I was blown away when I heard the new Opeth record. Thats my favorite album of the year. So good.

Gauntlet: It actually brought me back into the fold. I fell off the wagon a bit with Ghost Reveries, but they really changed the pace with this one, a different feel.

Wichers: Yeah, yeah.

Gauntlet: On a similar bent, then. Obviously you guys are doing your own thing, but are there other vocalists that have a similar interaction with the music who have served to influence or give you a different perspective on the songwriting?

Wichers: Well, I dont think a lot of people in the band listen to really extreme metal at all, aside from a few times now and then. Therere people who love Bruce Springsteen, people who like Kris KristoffersonIm talking every kind of style. But as far as being influenced, Im not really sure. Maybe its something that youre subconsciously influenced by, but you dont really think about when you write, so thats probably a question for Bjrn more than me.

Gauntlet: Turning to the new album a little bit: Martyr and Sovereign, the Japanese bonus tracks. For Stateside fans that may not have heard them, what can you say about these songs?

Wichers: Well, its kind of difficult for me, because I did not participate on the last record, as I was out of Soilwork for three years.

Gauntlet: (laughs) A fair point.

Wichers: I just came back about six months ago, so that would probably be another question youd have to ask Bjrn. I think he wrote Martyr, so you should ask him about it.

Gauntlet: I will, if I can get a hold of him.

Wichers: Hes right over there, so you can grab him when were done with this.

Gauntlet: To that endcoming back into the foldhow has been like what youve expected and how has it been unexpected?

Wichers: Ooh (thinking). The dynamic in the band is better now than it ever has been. I would say thats what I feel, that were a very tight unit with no tension, and that the performance aspect of Soilwork is much better now than it ever has been before.

Gauntlet: I imagine there would be a cleansing period, you going away for a few years, and now coming back and approaching it with a fresh perspective. When you were away, you obviously did the Nuclear Blast Allstars, but otherwise were you developing new chops, taking a new approach to songwriting?

Wichers: Well, it was one of those things that was a lot of fun, because you didnt feel like you had to write in a certain mold. You could write any kind of music that you wanted to write. Its still metal, I mean, but it was a very diverse in terms of the songwriting, which I would probably never be able to do with Soilwork. It was nice to get that out of my system, you know. Writing stuff for Jari from Wintersun and then writing a song for John Bush, who is one of my idols since I was young. The contrasts are huge on that record and thats what I dig about it.

Gauntlet: Right, not having to write under that Soilwork name frees you up

Wichers: Right, but its also one things where, you dont get exactly jaded, but youll think, Alright, how am I going to reinvent myself now? You do get a little like that sometimes. But I dont know, with this lineup now it seems that were going to try to do something a little...different sounds strange, but were going to try to take the Soilwork sound to something it hasnt been before.

Gauntlet: Have you articulated what that could be?

Wichers: I think were going to be a little more extreme, but still keep the spirit of Stabbing and Natural. Im not saying its going to be a lot fastersome parts of it, maybebut probably more technical.

Gauntlet: Hmm. Im interested.

Wichers: Yeah! (laughs)

Gauntlet: With respect to that Nuclear Blast projectwere there things that you learned about songwriting from that experience or working with those different vocalists? What was that experience really like?

Wichers: Yeah, it was fun, because Id never really written for anyone else besides Bjrn. So it was fun to see what approach all these different singers had to the songs and the melodies that they came up with. All that has definitely been a learning curve for me.

Gauntlet: When you were away, did you feel possessive at all of what Soilwork were doing?

Wichers: No. Nope. When I quit I said, I dont want to follow the band anymore, becausewhy would I do that? I tried to distance myself from it, let them do their own thing. I tried to focus on doing my own thing.

Gauntlet: Seems to have worked out pretty well.

Wichers; Yeah. I felt it was the way to do it if I was going to focus on music production and other stuff like that.

Gauntlet: As you were talking about, the dynamic of this group and performance abilityit really does seem to be one of the best lineups. And youve been working with some really talented drummers over the past handful of years.

Wichers: Mm-hmm.

Gauntlet: Just listening to some tracks you guys have laid down, its interested to see how its gone from Henry [Ranta], youve worked with Richard [Evensand] for some live dates, and now its Dirk [Verbeuren]. It was actually the syncopated snare-work in Sovereign that started me thinking about this. But going back and listening to some other songs, I didnt hear as much of a drum presence as Ive heard on a few select tracks. For this new album, do you think there will be a ramped-up percussive presence?

Wichers: Yeah. Thats one of the things I definitely wish for, because as I said, I do think Sworn To A Great Divide is a good record, but I feel like its a little safe. And I feel that with a drummer like Dirk, he can stay so tasteful without taking away from the song, if that makes any sense. There are drummers who have to play a lot of shit that will interfere with the music, but Dirk isnt like that. So, absolutely, thats something that we can expect.

Gauntlet: Good, well look forward to that. Are there different ways youd approach songwriting knowing that drums will be more prominent?

Wichers: Well, Im not saying that the drums will be the primary thing in the music. The song is the most important thing. Of course, you can listen to a song and say, Well, thats a great drummer, but the song may not be there. So I think that first the song has to be there, and then you can start adding layers of percussion, guitar melodies, vocal melodies, keyboards. Its hard to say, man. Its all going to be done tastefully, as the song is the most important thing.

Gauntlet: Mm-hmm. So when you take that approach, you are gravitating towards putting down a guitar track first, then wrapping other things around it?

Wichers: Yeah, usually if youve got a riff, you usually have a pretty decent idea of what you want the drums to sound like. So, Ill program drums to it and say that this isnt exactly setunless the guitars need to follow the kick drums or something like thatthen I usually tell Dirk, Do whatever you want and Ill tell you if I dont like it. And then Ill tell him, And on this part, just go crazy.

(Laughter)

Gauntlet: And that he can definitely do.

Wichers: Yeah, he can. A fantastic drummer. Unfortunately, hes running a really high fever today, so well see whats going to happen.

Gauntlet: Oh, no. Just some sort of flu thing on the road?

Wichers: Yeah, everybodys catching it. A cough and such. We stocked up on TheraFlu and everything, because well be going into Canada where itll be even colder.

Gauntlet: Mm. How many days are you there?

Wichers: Were in Canada for about a week. Were just going to go like this (gestures up and across) and then down.

Gauntlet: Good luck (laughs).

Wichers: Yeah, I know. I appreciate that.

Gauntlet: Well, weve talked some about the upcoming album. How far along in the process are you with that? Obviously youre still touring now and may still be focused on Sworn

Wichers: Well, this is the last thing for Sworn, and then were going to go home, take a long break, and then start writing. Thats the plan. Its likely that we will hit the studio at the end of this year and not before that, I think. It seems like we need to take our sweet-ass time and just write the best possible record we can.

Gauntlet: Well, I look forward to it.

Wichers: Yeah, so do we.

Gauntlet: Are there any other points youd like to put out there for fans who might be reading?

Wichers: Just keep checking out the website. We were thinking about maybe doing something cool for a studio diary, so keep checking back on the Myspace and website. And thank you for the support.

Gauntlet: Alright, and thank you as well. Its been a pleasure.

Wichers: Yeah, man. A pleasure.

Part II: I managed to get ahold of Bjrn for a few minutes after my chat with Peter. What follows is the discussion we had in the bands dressing room, where Dirk Verbeuren and Sylvain Coudret were also relaxing before the show.

Gauntlet: Alright. You guys have been cited for many years as real pioneers in the mixing of harsh and clean vocals, and rightfully so. Are there other guys who are doing this style now that are giving you a new perspective on that approach that you may not have thought of before?

Bjrn Strid: Mm (thinking). Well, there are a few. Mastodon is using clean vocals in their special way, which I enjoy, and Opeth are definitely sounding unique. As far as the rest of the scene, there are some bands that are really good, but there are a lot as well that dont pique my interest at all, as far as the metalcore scene and whatever. Even though Soilwork has been doing the screamed verses and melodic choruses, weve always done it in a unique way, I believe. And now in the scene its just becoming too predictable.

Gauntlet: Mm-hmm. One of the things that Peter mentioned was that for the new record, you guys might try to take it in a way that was more unpredictable. And Im definitely looking forward to that.

Strid: Yeah. Yeah, it will be good, man.

Gauntlet: The origin of the nickname Speed is now pretty well known, but it seems that in recent years youve pulled back and slowed down in some cases, like on Exile, for example. How much of the speed freak is still alive and kicking?

Strid: Well, its definitely still there. Im just really open-minded to music in general. I would definitely say that my spine is made of metal

Gauntlet: (laughs)

Strid: --but theres so much other stuff that catches my interest. Im just a music freak, but still do not mind that speedy thrash metal at all.

Gauntlet: Hah. Good to hear. To turn to a thrash metal band from Sweden, do you like The Crown?

Strid: Yeah, thats one of my favorites. And The Haunted is another one.

Gauntlet: Mm-hmm. Heres a question that Peter suggested I ask you. On Sworn, the Japanese bonus tracks are Martyr and Sovereign

Strid: I believe Martyr is on the US limited edition

Gauntlet: Yes, indeed. For those US fans that have the regular edition, though, or havent heard these tracks, what could you tell them?

Strid: These are a some pretty progressive songs with some elements that you might not be used to hearing from Soilwork. They are definitely two interesting tracks and theres not really any big reason why theyre the bonus trackstheyre just as good as any other track on the album. Thats what I feel. Im proud of Martyr as well; its a good lyric that I wrote together with Devin Townsend. It means a lot.

Gauntlet: That leads me to a couple things, actually. One is the lyrics. You guys seem to have a real focusDarkane as well, in facton psychology and neuroses, things like that. The darker side of the human mind.

Strid: Yeah. I would say that Darkanes lyrics are probably a little bit darker and more focused on neurotic, psychotic

Gauntlet: The pathology of it.

Strid: Right. Serial killers and stuff like that.

Gauntlet: What draws you to this realm?

Strid: Well, for me its just been personal experiences and things that Ive gone through, and am still going through, that Ive channeled into lyrics. I mean, as a person Ive only gone through so many traumas, so Im not trying to repeat myself. When Ive got all my feelings and traumas out, I like to focus on creating certain moods. Ill put sentences and words together that suit that mood and create that entire atmosphere.

Gauntlet: The other question I was led to earlier deals with Devin Townsend. Obviously, hes another one of those guys whos been mixing the clean and harsh vocals for years and doing it in a unique way. Your relationship goes back for quite a while, so how has that shaped you as a vocalist, or even a lyricist?

Strid: He has really inspired me in the way that hes always being very brave as a vocalist and isnt afraid to go away from the norms of metal and use a lot of unique stuff that youre not used to hearing. Ive been inspired by that and I believe that Ive put my own touch on it as well.

Gauntlet: Mm-hmm. A friend of mine (Adam L. of Deadtide) did an interview with you about a year ago, probably in Cleveland. You guys had gotten on the topic of your social work, in fact, and you said something to the effect of: I need to make something important, something that can change people. And music can change people. I imagine you still feel pretty similarly?

Strid: Absolutely.

Gauntlet: Do you think you might return to that social work scene, or are you still exploring new avenues in music?

Strid: Music is such a beautiful tool. Well, I dont know if you could call it a tool, but its a great way of channeling your feelings and sharing it with others. As far as being a social worker, which I was before, I can see myself doing it again. It made a difference, and I did inspire people, and I did feel good about it. Even though it was tough sometimes, I felt that I was doing something that had a purpose, you know? Thats what its all about.

Gauntlet: Yeah. And its a good example to set. People often have the perspective of metal guysfans as much as musiciansas selfish asses who really arent thinking of the larger world around them, so to set that example for people is very well done. In that same interview, you also mention a couple people that you might like to work with: Steve DiGiorgio and Devin Townsend. Have you made progress towards that end?

Strid: Well, that was all about a project that we were planning for a while, but Im not sure its going to happen. We were in talks about doing some kind of a singers album between me and Devin with Steve DiGiorgio playing bass. Im not sure its going to happen, but it would be fun.

Gauntlet: I can definitely assure you that a lot of people would be very interested.

Strid: Yeah, I would, too.

Gauntlet: Quite a trio, there. In terms of creating Sworn, Ive read that you guys were as a collective more involved with the recording and production aspects than you had been in the past. Would you say thats accurate?

Strid: Well, we did record pretty much everything in our hometown, in Sweden, also with the Darkane guys. And it was taking too much time to record that album; it was about half a year to get that thing together. And the feeling we had was that it was slowly going into the hands of Ola Frenning [guitar], who is no longer in the band. That it was almost in his hands by the end and that there were a lot of issues during the recording. There were really, really good songs on there, but it was just. Its a long story.

Gauntlet: (laughs) Sounds like it.

Strid: But, yeah, in a way we were all involved in the songwriting a lot more than before. Afar as the studio goes, it waspretty chaotic, but it turned out good.

Gauntlet: Then, having been more involved with the songwriting, has that changed how you might approach the next album? Not just from the lyrical or vocal standpoint, but also having that perspective on how the rest of the song comes together?

Strid: I think were going to give Dirk a lot more room for the drums. There were a lot of things going on, people going in and taking out drums. Im generally speaking about Ola Frenning there as well, who wanted things to be a lot more straight, more basic. But, to me, thats not Soilwork. So I really want Dirk to have a free hand

(Lying on a couch across the room, with eyes closed, Dirk sticks out his tongue and grins)

Strid: --and also Sylvain and Peter just tearing it up and going fucking nuts. Because thats what Soilwork is about. But we always make a song out it. We never cross that line. I believe we have the knowledge to create a song even though we might be going nuts.

Gauntlet: Definitely. That echoes a theme that he was talking about as well and thats great to hear. As I said to him, listening to the bonus tracks for Sworn really made me think about the drummers that you guys have worked with, and how its a really remarkable pedigree. Hearing more from that department I think would be fantastic.

Strid: Yeah, Im looking forward to it.

Gauntlet: Thank you for taking the time, it was great to get perspectives from both you and Peter. I appreciate it.

Strid: Yep. Sure, man.


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Tags:  SoilworkPeter WichersBjrn StridPeter Wichers, Bjrn Stridinterviews

    February 21, 2009

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