Soilwork - Interview
In just five short years, Soilwork have released five critically acclaimed albums and progressed further than anyone could have possibly imagined. Throughout all the changes, however, Soilwork manage to continue to keep intensity, melody, and atmosphere at the top of their priority list. Following the success of last year's record, "Natural Born Chaos," Soilwork are back, without Devin Townsend, to prove not only that they can do it on their own, but that they can do it better. I recently spoke to vocalist Speed Strid on the band’s new direction, upcoming tours, their new video, and more...
2002 was an incredibly busy year for you guys. You released an album, made your first video, which received quite a lot of television airplay, toured like crazy, and ended up starting to record another album by years end. You sold more copies of "Natural Born Chaos" than all your previous records and it also landed the number one spot in Bravewords and Bloody Knuckles magazine. Congratulations on such a successful year!
Thank you very much man. Last year was hectic as you said. We did a US tour and the video recording, the European tour, and the Japanese tour as well. Somewhere in between those tours we managed to write new material and we received a lot of inspiration from Devin Townsend being in the studio with him. I think that Peter wrote like three new songs directly after the recording of "Natural Born Chaos." As long as we find the inspiration and have the time there is no reason to slow down I guess.
How cool was it to know that you have a video out there and that people are seeing it on television? Have you been able to see it on the airwaves yet?
Well, I haven't seen it on the channels because I do not have MTV2 or MuchMusic so that sucks. But anyways the video is very cool and I was very happy to hear that it got airplay on both MuchMusic and MTV2. Unfortunately, it didn't get airplay on Swedish television. They said yes but nothing happened so maybe this time. I am sure we will get airplay this time in Sweden as well.
Many people thought with the quick pace of making your new record, "Figure Number Five," that it might have been rushed and in effect would not have had a significant progression from your previous effort. How important was it to you guys, even though you felt you had found your sound with "Natural Born Chaos," not to just make the same album over again?
Well, it's hard to say. I guess we just went with the flow. We received a lot of inspiration from the touring last year and also from Devin Townsend and the recording. We also got inspiration from ourselves and "Natural Born Chaos" because it is always like that when you're coming out of the studio. You say well maybe we could have done it like this so maybe on the next album. So I guess we just went with the flow and we have rehearsed our asses off to make a great album. As long as we are 100% happy about the pre-production that we always do, then let's record it.
So in the little time that you had you didn't feel rushed at all?
I don't think so actually. We were discussing about this and we had band meetings and so on listening to the material, the pre-recordings, and so one. Everyone was 100% happy about the material so I don't think we rushed at all actually because we have released five albums in five years so I guess this is the way we like to work.
With Devin Townsend out of the picture this time how important was it to show to everyone that you could still do without him. Did it push you even harder? With the vocal performance on this record, I should say it did!
Yeah absolutely! We actually asked Devin to produce this album as well but he was on tour at that moment unfortunately. I still think it's very good that we showed to people that we could do it ourselves. There have been a lot of stupid rumors on the internet about Devin doing all the harmonies on the clean vocals and some of the riffs... blah blah blah. So I think it is a very good thing for us to show to those people that we could do it ourselves.
Plus it seems that there is even more complexity and layers that go into the vocal harmonies this time around as well...
Yeah and I think that the clean vocals are a bit more varied. On "Natural Born Chaos" there are mostly clean vocals on the choruses. On this one, there are clean vocals in the verses and also in other parts of the songs. Overall, it is a much more varied album I think with the guitars and the vocals. I think that the screaming vocals are better than before as well.
That was definitely one of the first things I noticed about the screaming vocals in particular. They seem to be a bit harsher this time around.
I actually recorded the vocals with a hand mic. I think that I should have done this before because I received a lot more power when I was recording the vocals. I could lie down on the floor and scream like hell. When you have a stationary mic you cannot move really but with this hand mic you can move around like you are on stage. So it is like a live gig so I receive a lot more power to do the screaming vocals.
I noticed that the clean vocal styles are also a bit more mixed on this album like they were on "A Predator's Portrait." Was this a goal of yours to keep them varied and not just have straight clean singing on each chorus?
I wanted to try out a lot of different types of vocal styles on this one. I always wanted it to be like a schizophrenic record vocal wise. There are harsh melodic vocals, clean vocals, falsetto vocals, so there is a lot of different types of stuff. I guess the System of a Down (Serj) singer inspired me because he is using a lot of different types of voices and I guess I wanted to prove to myself that I could do everything. It is almost like a schizophrenic album when it comes to the vocals and I think that is pretty cool. It's pretty chaotic.
Some people thought that you had softened up and yet the title track, 'Figure Number Five,' boasts your most intense vocals to date.
I guess we wanted to do a more brutal song. I like to do those Chuck Billy vocals because they worked out really well on 'Follow The Hollow.' We wanted to take it a step further and I think it sounds great.
Yeah, overall I think "Figure Number Five" is a lot more dynamic and a bit more intense than "Natural Born Chaos"...
I actually expected the album to be a bit softer but it actually went out even heavier I think. There is a perfect balance on this new album.
What was the inspiration for writing a song like 'Departure Plan'? It is a pretty big well... departure for you guys musically.
That song is actually a song that Sven wrote like three years ago. We had a band meeting where he showed the song to everybody in the band. We thought to ourselves, "Hey! Does this sound like Soilwork? It's a very good song but... well... What the hell! Let's record it!" Now I think it sounds like Soilwork and I think it is the perfect breathing part in the middle of the album. Of course it was a very big challenge for everyone in the band to record this song especially me I guess. I am very used to having distorted guitars in the background when I am doing clean vocals. This time there was only like a Hammond organ and distorted drums in the background so it was a very big challenge for me. At first I couldn't listen to the song because I wasn't used to hearing my voice that way, but I like this song very much. I am very proud of it.
So, if it came to something like this in the future, do you think you would try something like this again?
Well yeah I think so. This song is not symbolizing that we're going only clean vocals in the future because the screaming vocals are a very big part of Soilwork. We will always keep the screaming vocals. However, we always want to have a big challenge when we're entering the studio. That is very important for us and we are not afraid to try out new stuff. We get a lot of different influences and I think we are very objective when it comes to music. I think there are a lot of people that can relate their daily lives to Soilwork's music.
The lyrics for 'Departure Plan' appear to be about a friend overcoming suicide. Is this a personal song for you?
It's very personal. Maybe it is the most personal song on the album actually. It is about my girlfriend but we are kind of more like friends. We are not really together but at the same time we are, if you understand what I mean. She has gone through the gates of hell so I am supporting her. It is not like a love song. It is more like a 'rise up' song. It is very important to me.
Then would you say that the whole album is a pretty personal record for you?
Well, I think it is like a continuation of "Natural Born Chaos." It is pretty much socially realistic and about the victims of society.
The record seems to have more of an emphasis on keeping the songs tight, short, and catchy. The average song length is a little over 3 minutes. What is the mindset when writing songs nowadays? Do you guys enjoy writing more immediate type of songs? If anything it takes me back to your earlier days when the songs were also a bit shorter.
Yeah, that is true. These days we like to make pretty short songs. If you get five minutes into it, then it gets kind of boring and bit too technical and stuff. Now we will make a short song with some technical parts. It always comes kind of naturally for us. Even though there are riffs sometimes where it is like okay this is a simple riff and then there are people who tell us, "Oh this is so technical!" We don't realize it. We like to write songs in a very easy way I guess. We just concentrate on every riff to make the best possible balance between all of the instruments. We build up the songs very equally I think. We do not like to make a part in the middle that is two minutes long with technical stuff...
Yeah that was the way it was two albums ago...
Yeah especially on "A Predator's Portrait."
There is also a bit more keyboard parts this time around. What apart from Sven's initiation into the band prompted you to want to incorporate more keyboards into your sound instead of keeping them to serve the purpose for the atmosphere only?
Well, he joined the band a couple months before the recording of "Natural Born Chaos." I guess that album was more like an experiment to try Sven in the studio but this time we gave him free hands to do whatever he wanted to do. He worked a lot with the keyboards and tried different types of things with them.
As a band though, do you still, in the future, be a little bit more protective as far as allowing them to get a little too up front or is that not a concern for you?
Well that is hard to say because we are pretty open-minded when it comes to keyboards. On this album there are a bit more samples, loops, and stuff especially on 'Overload.' We want to keep giving Sven free hands to do whatever he wants to do with the keyboards because he is a very skilled musician. He has a lot of cool visions when it comes to music.
What is the meaning if any behind the title "Figure Number Five"?
With "Figure Number Five," I am referring to the people who are the fifth wheel of society. The album is pretty much about victims of society that are not allowed to speak or have their own opinion. In general, it is like a tribute to people who always have to step aside for the upper class.
Your CD will include a bonus disc of older material for the European release. Are these tracks from the original demo or reworked versions of old songs?
They are from the original demo. There have been a lot of people asking about the demo that we got signed for called "In Dreams We Fall Into The Eternal Lake." It also includes a two-track demo that we recorded after this demo for promotion. There is 'Demon In Veins' with different vocals. That song is actually called 'Wake Up Call.' The other track is another version of 'Steelbath Suicide,' which is actually better than the one on the album I think.
Is there any chance of this bonus disc getting released worldwide?
We heard from Jill from Nuclear Blast and they are going to release it in the States as well!
What was it like recording the video for 'Rejection Role'? How funny has it been to hear the rumors of an In Flames and Soilwork fight on the set of the video?
That was actually one of the In Flames members who posted that message to make fun of the whole thing. It was a lot of fun to record the video. The In Flames guys are in our video and vice versa. The videos are similar and we recorded the live shots at the same club. We just used a different background. We act like rivals in the video. We are doing drive bys while we throw water balloons at each other. We are just kind of making fun of everything. It will probably receive a lot of attention because the videos are kind of linked together. We are making fun of the fact that In Flames and Soilwork are always getting compared. It is in response the people saying that In Flames sounds like Soilwork and Soilwork sounds like In Flames. We are very good friends so we just wanted to have a lot of fun with this. I guess we just wanted to do something different. A metal video is always supposed to be like five angry guys in a warehouse with chains hanging everywhere just like [laughs] 'As We Speak' I guess. I suppose we just wanted to make fun of that at the same time.
So is still basically a live performance video?
Well that too, but of course it is mixed with the drive bys and water balloons [laughs].
[laughs] That sounds funny. I cannot wait to see it!
Yeah it is so fucking cool...
How excited are you guys about hitting the road with Children of Bodom for the European tour? How much of the set will be dedicated to old material. Will you guys have a longer set time maybe to play more songs?
We only have like 45 minutes on stage. That means we have to concentrate on our two latest albums. Even though we will do "The Chainheart Machine" and a couple songs from the "A Predator’s Portrait" album, there will not be any from "Steelbath Suicide." There is no time to. We have to concentrate on our newest album though because it is very much about promotion as well. Hopefully we can play a little bit longer in the States.
Speaking of the States, do you guys have any plans yet?
We are coming to the States in July...
Apart from the European tour any word on hitting South America or Australia. You guys have quite a following in those two countries I hear...
All I can say is that the manager is dealing with South American and Australian promoters so I hope there is an upcoming tour in the fall. I really do hope so!
That's all I have for you today Speed. Are there any final words you would like to give to your fans?
This is our best album so far. It is a cliché but we really feel that way. It is the perfect balance between intensity, melody, and atmosphere: all that Soilwork is about. So go check out the album!
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
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