Interviews : Soilwork
With "Speed" Strid
We all know that metal is one of Sweden's chief exports, and Soilwork is among the leaders of the modern melodic death movement. I hiked my ass up to Cleveland to see the show, and it was definitely an awesome experience that should not be missed if you're a fan.
The interview itself elicited some memorable answers, as you shall see, and you'll get a glimpse of a day in the life of a Swedish metal star as we had a "special guest" add some comedy into the show. Read on - you know you want to.
You were just forced to cancel some shows in Turkey due to terrorist activities, what's your reaction to that?
Well, I mean, basically it was that everybody was kinda stressed out about the tour, which was really squeezed in between two tours, and it would end up being two months, or even more touring, and some guys in the band felt really stressed and wanted to reschedule the tour instead of just going there. I mean we want to feel good about it. There had been some attacks, especially some where tourists have been the target. In the beginning it was only the tourist beach resort, but now it was also in Arkara as well. Maybe we would have been safe, who knows, but we felt really stressed about it and I felt that it was really a better thing that we reschedule, if we're welcome anymore, I don't know.. (laughs)
Turkey's going to ban Soilwork? (laughing)
Yeah, it seemed like that on the website. We really tried to explain, but they were like "Oh, you fucking pussies!"
Well, okay, then we're fucking pussies. Whatever...
How is the search for a new guitarist going?
Good. We've tried out two before this tour, and we're trying out a third, and they're all really good guitarists and great people, so it's gonna be hard to make a decision. We have to make a decision after this tour, this is the last tour with this album, so we have to start working on the album and recording it in March.
Do you have the next album written?
Well, we have tons of riffs, but that doesn't really mean that we have songs. We have to put them together and arrange them, but we have a couple of songs that are starting to shape up, and it sounds like Soilwork, it sounds great.
Sweet. What direction is it going?
Hard to say. It seems like each member of the band is going to have a lot more input on the whole sound, but I believe that it's going to kinda be a summary of all of the albums. That's really how I feel; it sounds clich?d but I really feel that way.
I know Peter was a big part of your writing process, what is your reaction to him leaving?
Well, he's still a great friend of mine, and I could only respect it. I could see that there was something there in the last year that he needed to take care of. He was always taking care of a lot of things with the band, and suddenly he just didn't care that much anymore, so there was something going on, and I hope that he made the right decision. Well, I'm sure that he did, because he never really made any drastic decisions, so luck to him, for sure.
Was it any more difficult for Ola Frenning to deal with it, seeing as how him and Peter are family?
Nah, I mean not really. He noticed the same thing. We sat down and talked, and we could see it coming, I guess he kinda repressed it, and it was kinda a shock. We sat down, and said "What are we going to do?" And we felt that we had a lot more to give, and though he was a big part of the band, it was not all about Peter. We know what it's all about, really. We have faith.
After hearing Blind Eye Halo, I've gotta ask: what's the latest news on whether or not Dirk Verbeuren is going to be your permanent drummer?
It's definitely permanent. People keep on asking me that. It's been posted everywhere, like Blabbermouth, and on our website, that he's a full-time member.
It says on your webpage that he's there, but I've read interviews where they've asked whether he was permanent or not, and you said that you didn't know.
Yeah, well that was back around the time that Peter jumped off, and that's when he wanted to join and be a full-time member.
What are the reasons for you guys going through so many drummers in the past?
Henry was with us all the way through Figure Number Five, and we also had another drummer in the first album, but he was not really too metal. He was like a mechanic coming with oil on his face, like "Oh yeah, let's play some metal." That wasn't his thing really, and with Henry, people just change and find other qualities in life. That's basically what it is, we've never kicked out any drummer.
Why the choice to work with Devin Townsend on Natural Born Chaos and not in subsequent albums?
Well, we're looking into that right now, actually. I'm gonna do the vocals with Devin on the next album, so I'm going to fly over to Vancouver and lock myself in with him for two weeks, so it's gonna be very interesting.
What have your influences been in taking your music from where it was in the Inferior Breed days to where it is now?
I guess we have more of a personal style now, and it's been growing ever since then. We made the first album, back when you had your bands that you wanted to sound like, the singer that you wanted to sound like, the guitar player. We've got a lot more integrity now. It sounds kinda weird, but I'm sure that we really got influenced by ourselves. We were inspired to take it to the next level, and since we come from such different backgrounds we have so many influences. We really kinda were channeling to the same vision in a way, and we took it two steps further and made it something different, you know? There have been a lot of influences through the years, with all kinds of music.
Wow. I would say... wow. That's a tough one. I mean I could just drop names for one hour. But I don't think that Soilwork could have existed the way that it does without Devin and his music. He's been really awesome, like when the album "City" came out, it was really a big inspiration, you know? Maybe you don't hear it, but he really triggered a lot, the album made us want to do something special, something unique.
What makes the new album different from the old ones in your mind?
It's more of a live-oriented album. It works out really well live. In the past there's been a lot of technical stuff that's been hard to pull off live. We've toured a lot throughout the previous albums, and we know what works live, and we wanted an album that sounded really raw and very upfront. That's probably the difference. It's not as atmospheric, like the previous ones. Like if you take "Natural Born Chaos" it's like "Wow!" It's so big and atmospheric.
Like the synthesizers on "As We Speak..."
Yeah, but more tasteful, in a way. I'm not saying that we'll never bring that back, maybe in the next album we will bring back the atmosphere, but you know, we just like to try stuff. You can't make the same album twice, but you kinda have to return, because the "Soilwork Sound" has gotta be there. Like compare the first album to the last album, there is some kind of trademark, even though it was different.
You don't want to cover "The Final Countdown" on your next CD or anything?
(laughing) No. Not exactly.
Because that would be awesome.
What's your reaction to the backlash of your change in style over the years?
There's this guy, who as soon as there's anything Soilwork-related on Blabbermouth, is always saying "That doesn't matter because blah blah blah. Soilwork went downhill after Chainheart machine." He does that every time. It's like dude, get a life. Fucker.
He sits there on the computer ready to pounce, like refreshing the page every fifteen seconds waiting for something Soilwork-related.
(laughing) Yeah, it's crazy. Anyways, I totally respect that people only like the old style, but I do believe that most of our fanbase is really growing with the band. I find it very interesting because we always surprise our listeners, and even ourselves, with the outcome. I hope that people respect that too, that we don't want to make the same album twice. It's still gonna be Soilwork, it's not going to be something completely different.
What are some of the differences between working with Devin Townsend and working with Daniel Bergstrand?
Well they work in different ways, as far as editing and stuff like that. It's kinda hard to compare. They've been working together before, and all I can say is that they're both great guys and they both know what they're doing. I would say that Devin is a bit more focused though, like, really passionate.
I've read that you worked as a social worker with children in Sweden, what led you to do that?
Well I always felt that I needed to do something important, not just standing in a factory working for somebody else. I need to do some real shit, something that gives you some feedback. It was really quite an abrasion for me as well, I learned a lot about myself.
Is there any chance that you'll go back to Sweden and do that when you're done?
Maybe, who knows? I need to make something important, something that can change people, and music can change people.
After you're a huge star, you start the Speed Strid charity or something?
Yeah, right. (laughing)
You've worked with Mike Akerfeldt from Opeth, done a video with the guys from In Flames, and Mike Amott from Arch Enemy helped you guys get your start. What are some more bands or musicians that you'd like to work with in the future?
I guess my first guy would be Steve DiGiorgio. You know there are so many, many people I would like to work with. I guess those "metal heroes" from the '80's would be really interesting too. Maybe someone from a different generation, some kind of singer collaboration thing.
Ronnie James Dio, David Coverdale, though he's got kind of a seventies style, that would be interesting for sure. Halford...
Yeah, the baldies!
Nothing wrong with being bald!
No, no! It's a good look.
The bald and the facial hair works well, it's the contrast!
"The frame!" (pointing to his beard)
Some of the lyrical meaning to your songs can be a little tough to decipher, I'd like to throw some of the more cryptic songs at you and have you go over them... Brickwalker.
Brickwalker... I'm gonna tell you a story about how I usually write lyrics.
Just to give you an idea. I usually take two weeks to write the lyrics once the songs are finished. I buy a lot of booze and sit for two weeks straight and write lyrics. Sometimes I'm in a state of mind, where the next day, when I wake up, I can't really remember what I was thinking, you know? It's interesting in that you have to figure it out afterwards and maybe get a new view of it. Brickwalker, I'm trying to remember. We haven't played that song, and I haven't heard that song in 3 years. I think what I meant is that it was about people who use other people to make their way, like they're walking on bricks. There may be more of a deep meaning, but that's what I thought of that.
(cellphone goes off, Speed looks down and doesn't pick it up)
What I meant with that song is that you're always waiting for something, like there's always something missing. You're going to go through life and there's always going to be something missing. That's kind of like a fear, you want to feel whole, but there's something there.
Figure Number Five.
That's really about people who are like the fifth wheel in society. In Sweden they do that a lot, and the government just tries to sweep them under the rug. I guess it's even worse in the States sometimes.
Nerve. That's really about going your own way, and not being manipulated by other people, and think for yourself. There are a lot of those people, I don't want to sound paranoid, but there are. You really need to make your own decisions and not let certain things affect you too much.
(cellphone goes off again, Speed picks it up and says something in Swedish)
It's a drunk fan from Sweden that somehow got my phone number...
Black Star Deceiver.
That's about women in general. I've had some really bad experiences with women. I've found the perfect wife now, but at that time, I just felt betrayed in a way that when I met those girls and we started a relationship, they saw me as kind of a cold and tough guy, whatever, I don't know. But that's what they saw and they didn't appreciate my other side. I felt kinda betrayed in a way that "Oh, it happened all over again." Finally I found somebody that really appreciates the gap. You know what I mean.
Yeah. Not everyone is "The Big Rockstar." Now for something completely from left field: If you took over the world, what would your first executive decision be?
Wow. Well there are probably a lot more important decisions to make, so I'm just going to pick a silly thing and make alcohol available everywhere in Sweden. There's like one store that you can go to get it, and I'd make it available everywhere. (laughing)
Sure! Starving children in Ethopia, or beer in Sweden? (laughing)
Well, of course I would prefer that, but there are so many important decisions that I'll just take the silly one!
(cellphone goes off again)
Fucker, calling me again. I told him that I'm in an interview...
Any final words?
Final words... Wow... Well, we've really got faith in the new album, and in the band in general, and I'm sure that people are going to be really happy with the next album for sure, so have patience.
(cellphone goes off)
It's going to be out in August, Spetember, or something.
(cellphone goes off again)
And thank you, Mr. Drunk Douchebag from Sweden that called repeatedly during my interview. As much humor as it added, you really couldn't have waited until afterwards? Come on.
Anyway, as I said, the show was awesome, and I got the chance to hang out with a couple of the guys in the band afterwards. David, their current touring guitarist, is a very cool guy, who actually has a job in Sweden of helping to find a cure for colon cancer.
Good guys, good show, good interview, is there anything that Soilwork can't do?