Soilwork - Interview
Soilwork have accomplished many things in their career thus far. They have managed to take a giant step forward with each album earning the respect and credibility they so honorably deserve, With the release of their fourth album on the horizon, I chatted on the phone with guitarist and songwriter Peter Wichers to get all of the latest details on the past, present, and future of Soilwork!
Now your new record, "Natural Born Chaos", will be out world wide by the first week of April. How do you feel about the final product and how anxious are you to get this album out?
I think that pretty much speaks for itself you know. We're anxious to see what people think about it and I know that there is, you know, people on the net as well who do not like it but we don't give a fuck, but you know we won't comment on anything about people thinking we were gonna go back to the stuff we did before. We are just anxious to see what people think... How they're gonna respond to the stuff we're actually changing, but we are just doing that to broaden our own musicality and to evolve as musicians. So basically we're doing music for ourselves at first and if people like it that's just a bonus.
Of course, if they are looking forward to the faster stuff, then they always have Terror2000.
You guys have progressed quite a bit since "A Predator's Portrait". What aspects of your sound do you feel have been the most greatly improved since your last release?
Definitely the vocals in my opinion and the keyboards. They (keyboards) are a lot more present on this album than they have ever been before. I think that "A Predator's Portrait" was actually like a test album to see if the melodic vocals would work and I think that they worked out fine. We just wanted to take that a step further for this one, and add a lot more atmosphere to the album.
Right when people hear it, they will notice what you are saying about the keyboards. They are still primarily used for atmosphere, but make several brief appearances up front. Was this idea prompted by the new keyboardist and are these occurrences something we will see increasing in the future?
Well I don't know. I guess we will just have to wait and see. I mean he is such an amazing keyboard player. We basically gave him free hands and he pretty much did what he wanted to do for this one. His other band, Evergrey, there's a lot more keyboards on that one, but he wanted to have everything with vocals before he did the keyboards so that they wouldn't be messed up together because if you do keyboards first and then the vocals... If Bjorn has a certain idea for the vocals and perhaps he (Sven) does something completely different for keyboards and they don't blend together so its very important to have both the keyboard and the vocals on the same level so that it doesn't get too messy.
So for being in the band for the amount of time he has, how much input did he have in the actual music of the disc?
Pretty much actually! We wrote the last song, 'Song Of The Damned', together so he made the chorus riff on that one, he is also a guitar player, and then I did the verse with the melodies on top of that one and then just Bjorn added most of the stuff with his vocals melodies and stuff like that, but I think that one turned out pretty good actually.
After the release of "The Chainheart Machine", there were times where you were overheard discussing your wishes to someday work with Devin Townsend and now he is in the studio with you helping you produce your new record. How difficult was it to get Devy along for the ride?
Well he was a phone call away (laughs). Basically we wanted to do something different for this one because of the fact that we recorded all the albums at Studio Fredman and we wanted to make something different because we didn't want to record just another record in Studio Fredman cause everybody does that. So we said why not use a producer and we talked about having the guy Steven Wilson, who produced the Opeth album, but he had a lot of things going and he said he was interested but we wanted to have someone who was a definite. Then we came up with the idea of asking Devin if he was interested because he basically never produced like big albums except for his own stuff, so I just took a chance and I called my friend at Century Media and got his number. When I called him up, I asked him "You interested in producing the new Soilwork" and he was like "Hell Yea!" He is an easy going character and it was great to work with him.
It was apt that you called this a "big album" because it is, indeed, a major album with the huge choruses and so on. However, you cannot expect everyone to love the new sound.
I think that one of the things that is important about this one is that it might reach more people. People that like "A Predators Portrait" will probably like this one as well and I think that we probably expand to people that like different kinds of metal styles. Even the people like Iced Earth and the Nevermore crowd as well because that crowd is huge as well. So perhaps they can relate to this one because we have a lot more vocal harmonies on this one but we still want to keep the harsh vocals. We are always going to do that. That's what makes us original.
Yea this is definitely your most vocally ambitious work to date featuring, as you said, an increased usage of clean vocals, yet also using some of Speed's most violent vocals to date. Do you see the clean vocals being used even more in upcoming releases, or are satisfied with the level you reached on this record?
Bjorn told me that he doesn't want to go further than we have done on this one. The thing is that people were asking us if we're gonna do tracks entirely with the clean vocals...
...That's not Soilwork...
...And that's not Soilwork exactly. As I said before, that would loose our trademark because of the fact that I think that what Devin worked with very much for this one was to try to make Bjorn sound more American and make his English better. All the screaming vocals are not as high pitched as they are on the other albums so I think that he cut almost every word just to make it perfect.
Your new record starts off with probably one of the heaviest numbers you have done and ends with one of the most melodic. Was this something you planned?
Not really. 'Follow The Hollow' was actually the first track I wrote for the album and it might seem that it's a little bit misleading for the album because it starts off very heavy and then it diversifies into different kinds of songs. But I also think that because of that, that creates a little bit of a chaotic impression cause of the fact that it skips with the dynamics so much and that's kind of cool I think because then there is so much on the album that you can relate to. If you like the heavy stuff, there is a lot of heavy stuff and if you like the soft stuff, there is a lot of soft stuff so there is a little bit for everybody you know what I mean?
That's what I like about Opeth as well because the fact that they incorporate almost like pop choruses in their death metal music...
Yea in a certain way...
...Yea... In a certain way you know. It's not entirely pop but it's like spaced out LSD pop...
Yea maybe just in a metalhead's point of view because you cannot go up to like a 13 year old Spice Girl fan and say this is pop...
Oh yea. She won't probably like it...
She would cry...
One of the first things I noticed when listening to your new record was the fact that you eliminated the thrash elements that were present on all of your previous efforts. Was this a decision that was made before hand or one that just worked itself out when you finished the songs and tried them out?
I think that the reason for doing an album that was a little bit slower was to, you know we spoke about that, and we said we're gonna try and do an album that is more groovy and more heavy so that's what I think that we have done for this album. We tried to work out songs that would work very good live because of the fact that all the fast songs; its cool to play a few fast songs live, but then also have a lot more groovy songs so then people could sing along with the choruses as well. We noticed that when we went to Japan that "A Predator's Portrait" worked a hell of a lot better than "Chainheart Machine" because everybody was singing along with the choruses and that's when we said "that's what we're gonna do!"
Yes I agree that when you have a sound with a bit more kick than your average tedious thrash beat being played over and over again; it adds a little something extra.
The thing is that Henry was like a very fast drummer at one point and he's still a fast drummer, but he's also an amazing drummer when it comes to playing slow. If I have a drummer that can play slow, I mean I'd like to do music that can fit to his kind of drum playing. I think that he does a great job on this one incorporating his almost like 70s fills, but he is very influenced by that kind of drum playing with a lot of snare fills and stuff like that and that's totally Henry's way of playing.
You and Ola pull of some pretty interesting effects on the guitar on this album. There is more stuff on in the background as well. What were some of the types of guitar equipment and effects you used on this album?
Ola's very happy about his wah-wah pedal. He uses that one quite a lot. I don't know if you noticed but on 'The Bringer', in the beginning, where I play the more clean guitar and then there in the background it sounds almost like a synthesizer, but that's also guitar. It's played with an old 70s guitar instrument called an Ebol which is like a magnet that you put to the string and then that one creates a sound and you don't have to hit the string because then it can just glide on the tones and Opeth uses that for their entire album so I thought it would be a cool thing to just incorporate on like one or two songs.
I am very interested in hearing a little bit about the cover art for the album. Travis Smith I believe did that. Whose idea was it to have the butterflies coming from the mouth and does it tie into the concept of the record at all?
The only thing that I wanted to have is like an album that would look a little bit chaotic and then Travis just said "lets try to do it with butterflies" like they're flying like a 3d effect coming out of the tv screen or something like that and I said "Yea we'll try that out!" I was a little bit skeptical about the butterflies in the beginning, but he sent the sketch of it, I was like "Yea! That's cool!" The album is white and I said "Hell yea!" because that one is gonna stick out in the record stores. Usually all the albums are black, blue, and red. Nothing bad about it, but we just wanted to have something different so that people will notice it when they come into shops. Everything is thought out because of the fact that Carlos did a lot of sketches for us as well and a couple of them were really really good, but I said that I wanted to have like a more light color. After he had done a lot of test ones he said well it might be better for you guys to just try someone else. Then I talked to Travis and you know it took him a while as well to come up with the idea that we got going right now but you should see the booklet and everything; it's gonna be beautiful.
I can't wait to see it!...
Like with Mikael from Opeth on "A Predator's Portrait", you have Devin trading vocals with Speed on the track 'Blackstar Deceiver'. Who would you personally like to see have a guest spot on the album next time around if the opportunity showed itself?
I know one of my all time favorites is actually Dimebag (laughs). That would be cool just to get him to do something really crazy on the album, but that's too far away. I don't know... I think that we have the best guitar player in the world playing one solo on every album. Mattias from Freak Kitchen, I mean this guy is crazy. That took him half an hour to do that solo and I can spend like three hours on one solo. He just comes in... He never heard the song before and he's like "Okay roll the tape" and then (weird guitar noise) and then he just leaves.
He's beyond amazing!
You just shot your first video for the track 'As We Speak'. I was wondering how that went for you guys and when we can all look forward to seeing it?
America is gonna get it very soon I hope. I know that Nuclear Blast records is working extremely hard to get it out on mtv-X or something like that. That would be cool to get it out so that people could see it on airplay in America to see some real metal on the tv screen! I don't know actually. It all depends on the American office. Keep bugging them and they'll probably end up putting it out on their website or something like that.
I heard you guys are playing the New England Metal Festival in America in April. What are the chances of us getting a full blown tour over here in the US!?
Pretty good actually! We're planning on doing one in the fall. We're probably gonna go out with In Flames. That is what they're planning right now so we're gonna do like a full European and American tour with In Flames. I don't know yet, but that's what they're planning right now, but that all depends on the management of In Flames as well.
Besides the American festival though, do you have any other tour dates planned yet say for Australia, or Japan?
I just got in touch with a promoter in Japan so we might end up going there in June.
For the new shows how much of your set will be dedicated to new material?
I don't know. I think we're gonna play about four or five tracks off the new one in New England, but its only been out for two days when we come there so we're gonna play all the favorites like 'Bastard Chain, Chainheart Machine, Needlefeast'...you know stuff like that...
What about 'Grand Failure Anthem' and 'Possessing The Angels'!?...
Everybody keeps bugging me about those (laughs)
I heard that you recently made a guest appearance on the upcoming Terror2000 cd. Is that true?
How does the record sound!?
It's a very good album! A lot more retro than the other one actually!
Now I know you guys have probably buried this deep in your past, but is there any possibility of making your demo 'In Dreams We Fall Into The Eternal Lake' available to the fans or is that something you would rather keep locked away?
I don't know actually! I mean we might do that but its a crappy demo! I don't know why people want to listen to it. I was like 16 or 17 when we recorded that one. Compared to now, everything is like way way way worse! I mean it's really bad! So I dunno! Perhaps in the future ... who knows!
A question I have been hearing a lot lately deals with your Japanese bonus tracks and cover songs. Is there any chance you would consider putting them all together for a special e.p. or something?
We might do that actually! I mean because of the fact that we ... we might do that for umm...
Yea perhaps for 'Asylum Dance'. I dunno because it takes like two years before we can release it in Europe and in the States because they own the rights to that song for two years. Then after that we can probably do it on a mini cd or Nuclear Blast will probably put out a cd with all the bands that they have that did Japanese bonus tracks. That's usually what they do.
Well that's about all I have for you Peter, any final words you want to say to the fans or anyone else reading this?
Look for the album when it comes out! I hope that people will still end up buying it even though everybody has downloaded it from the net! (laughs)
The Ride Majestic
Beyond The Infinite
The Living Infinite
Let This River Flow
The Panic Broadcast
The Sledgehammer Files: The Best of Soilwork 1998-2008
Sworn To A Great Divide
Stabbing The Drama
Figure Number Five
The Early Chapters
Natural Born Chaos
- Black Altar - Deus Inversus - Jun 05
- Kirkebrann - Deus Inversus - Jun 05
- Death Courier - Necrotic Verses - Jun 05
- Sarpa - Solivagus - Jun 05
- Sanctifying Ritual - Sanctifying Ritual - Jun 05
- Front - Antichrist Militia - Jun 05
- Blight - Temple Of Wounds - Jun 05
- Exhumed - Twisted Horror - Jun 05
- Gruesome - Twisted Horror - Jun 05
- Witching - Vernal - Jun 05
- Witches - The Fates - Jun 05
- Haken - Virus - Jun 05
- Solemnity - Through Endless Darkness - Jun 05
- Woodscream - Варево - Jun 05
- Hanging Garden - Against The Dying Of The Light - Jun 05
- Horizon Of The Mute - Voidscope - Jun 05
- 16 - Dream Squasher - Jun 05
- Mordhell - Graveyard Fuck - Jun 06
- Eisenhauer - Blessed Be The Hunter - Jun 06
- Terrestrial Hospice - Indian Summer Brought Mushroom Clouds - Jun 08