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Soilwork | Stabbing the Drama | interview | Bjorn Strid | metal | Lollipop

Soilwork

Stabbing the Drama (Nuclear Blast)
Interview with vocalist Bjorn "Speed" Strid
By Martin Popoff

The hardest working band in Swedish thrash is back, and the production sophistication and songwriting prowess evidenced on, well, all those damn records, is in full force, Soilwork stabbing the drama of all the seriousness and subgenre-ness around them and just playing. Live. Relentlessly. Personable, sincere, prolific, and enthusiastically in love with metal, Soilwork have passed other bands of this ilk to perch unassumingly on the edge of big rockin' biz.

What are the differences between Stabbing the Drama and Figure Number Five and Natural Born Chaos?
This album, in general, is more metal and less pop. It's more riffy and the guitars are up front again. The whole thing is a little bit more dry; the sound is more naked. For example, the guitars are following the double kick drums a bit more. And the clean vocals are little bit different; not too many harmonies, and you can actually hear more of the shape of my voice. So both the vocals and the guitars are more naked, more dry, and I think it makes the album a bit more catchy.

Yes, it sounds close and intimate, not so wide-angled.
Yes, and not too many effects, and not too polished.

When you do the clean vocals, how many tracks do you use?
Usually two. I used to use a lot more. When you do a harmony, you put two more, so you've got four, and sometimes more. And usually we'd use a lot more effects, like delay and reverb. Now it's more dry, although there is still a little bit of reverb, and sometimes a bit of a dirty sound like a radio voice. But it's normally really upfront. Especially in a song like "Crestfallen," in the break, in the C part, so to speak, there's this little moody part where you can hear the vocals really close, and that's something I've never done before. It was a real challenge for me as a singer.

How about a little contrast between the last two albums, Natural Born Chaos and Figure Number Five? What are their personalities, now, after a few years has hopefully caused them to settle?
It's always hard to compare the albums. I like all the albums. I mean, if you compare Natural Born Chaos and Figure Number Five, Natural Born Chaos was a bit more metal. But Natural Born Chaos was a very atmospheric album, tons of harmonies, lots of delay all over the place. It's a different side of Soilwork, but the Soilwork thing is always there - the riffing and the melodies - just in a different shape. Figure Number Five was a bit more poppy, more midtempo songs and not so metal. It's almost a rock album to me, sometimes. I mean, it's still metal, but I think there's a lot more intensity on the new one.

Does this mean that there was not so much production-wise brought forward from what Devin Townsend might've brought to the band?
I think we brought the confidence forward. He made us very confident and he made us really believe in what we were doing. He really brought out the best of every musician in the band.

How about a few comments on the first three albums? What is the first half of Soilwork's catalogue like compare to the second half?
The arrangements are more chaotic on the old stuff. I mean, we're still pretty young, but we were even younger back then. We were influenced by what we liked. Then we opened up and became more objective with music in general. The first albums are more like thrash to me, but still with a lot of melodies. There were a lot of solos on those albums. I think we actually started the new Soilwork sound, so to speak, even though characteristics were there from the beginning. A Predator's Portrait started the clean singing, and more midtempo songs. There were tons of solos on that album, and that's something I guess we've learned from. Sometimes, it was overkill. Even though there were great melodies on the guitar, sometimes you don't have to put the solo in, just because.

Why this title, Stabbing the Drama?
It's kind of a declaration. We really want to stab the musical drama, because everything is so overdramatized with all the subgenres. It used to be the Gothenburg sound, but people don't talk about this much anymore. Now it's the New Wave Of American Heavy Metal. I think we have a lot more to say, rather than just being in the genre. I know it sounds cliché, but we really do have a very personalized sound, and with this title, we really want to show that we stand alone, stabbing the musical drama.

What are a few of your favorite lyrics on here?
The title track, of course. In general, the lyrics are very personal. I've never been this personal, and sometimes it was really hard to write. I mean, I'm a happy man nowadays. I got married Sept. 4th, and it's kind of weird when you're so happy (laughs) to be able to write lyrics. There are probably a few people who can do that, write these happy lyrics and do it in a way that really matches the music. One of them is probably Devin Townsend. It's really hard. I have my way of writing lyrics, and I have to dig really, really deep sometimes to bring up old demons. So it was really hard to go through the lyrics. But it was worth it.

So are you saying there are happy metal lyrics on here, or is it mostly about your demons?
It really shows the dark side of me. I've been dealing with stuff that I really didn't have to. But I always have a little bit of hope in my lyrics. They're not totally depressing lyrics, like "please kill me, someone!" It's not like that.

What are some of the other lyrics about?
Take, for example, "Stalemate." That's really a little message to bands nowadays. It's pretty much all about hype, that we really want to stab that hype. There are a lot of bands out there that just take worn-out riffs and make it on hype. They're just so cool and they have no distinctiveness in their music whatsoever. It's a message to those guys, telling them to really go try find their own sound.

Do you think a lot of them are stealing the Soilwork sound?
It happens. Sometimes, it's an honor. When they do it well, I think it's great. I'm not saying we had our own sound from the beginning; it takes time to find your own sound and not be so focused on being so tough and so metal.

What is the oddest, most experimental track on here?
"If Possible" is quite a progressive track. I actually didn't have any ideas for the vocals for the chorus before entering the studio, so I just elaborated a bit, started recording, and it turned out really fucking good. There's a really dark vibe over the chorus, and I must say that I haven't ever used my voice in that way before. I'm really proud of it.

Who writes the music, and has that changed over the last couple of albums?
Peter's written like eight songs, and Sven two, and Olla's written two as well. Something like that. Peter's always written most of the music. I've written a bit as well. I do the melodies for the vocals, so I think we work really good as a team, even though we're not sitting together. Sven sits at his place to write his songs, and he has a different way. Olla, the same. He's more bluesy and maybe more groovy. Peter has his own style. It's a really great package when you put everything together; it suits the Soilwork material perfectly. And then I put my vocals on the songs, and it goes really well together.

Anybody in the band personally touched by the tsunami disaster?
Well, my sister, her close friend and family are. As you know, Sweden was pretty badly affected. There are so many people missing that they'll probably never find, which is just horrible for relatives. To never know, that's the worst.

Does anybody in the band still have regular a job? Or are you all full-time with the band?
It's pretty much full-time with the band. We have monthly salaries. It's not a lot, and it's hard when we're not touring. Olla works sometimes. It's not like a full-time job though, just every now and then. I know when I come back from touring, and we don't have a tour for two months, just sitting here, when life has been so intense on tour with so many impressions, it's really hard to deal with it. So I think I'm going to get myself at least a part-time job. So it's going back again. At first, you're so happy: "I don't have to work anymore!" But in a way, it gets boring.

What've been one or two of the biggest business lessons you've learned?
You get promised so much from labels, management, all of the people out there. And, you know, business really stinks, usually. I played hockey for 10 years, and I was almost on the junior national team, but I thought even that was too much business: People standing around and noting in their notebooks and stuff when you're on the ice. It was getting not that much fun, just business. That's pretty much when I quit to play music. (laughs) It's getting more and more business-like these days, and that's the boring side of the scene. But you have to learn to deal with it, because it's a very important thing, to make a living. So one thing I learned is to really confirm things, at least three times, with labels or whoever.

Any crazy tour stories?
That's Flink. He'll get his own chapter on the DVD. He has a tendency to get naked and put vacuum cleaners, like, (laughs) in places where you're not supposed to put them. He's always getting naked and going into gas stations and running around and having sex with stuffed animals. There's always something happening. Sometimes you meet crazy people on the tour and they're saying like, "Speed, can I touch your head, please?" "Yeah, sure, rub it." "Oh my God!" And they're shaking. I really don't understand what's up with that. So yeah, that's pretty cool. A lot of crazy stories, of course. You can't remember them all. But I've finally found the best tape. We did some great footage on the first European tour we did, the first big one with Nevermore and Annihilator, and that was really great. That was so fucking chaotic. Horrible bus, but we liked to party a lot more then. Flinky was probably setting a new record in drinking. It was insane. Like six bottles of beer, one bottle of wine, one litre of vodka, two pina colladas, and two Irish coffees. He was still standing. But then he was, like, in the middle of the restaurant, I was holding the camera on him at the time, and he just dropped. Timber! The people had to carry him out of there. He was fucking poisoned. I got a little bit scared there, but now it's pretty funny.

Do you ever wonder, when you do that, are you going to function the next day?
He always functions, somehow. He's the first guy up in the morning, "Hey, wanna eat breakfast?"

Do you do anything to make sure your voice stays in good shape?
Not that much. I usually party pretty hard on tour, but I have my little spray that I order from Tour Supply in America and it's called Entertainer's Secret. Wow, how about that name? I really don't know what the contents are, and I really don't want to know... You wake up in the morning, you've been screaming to AC/DC all-night, cranking it so fucking loud, drinking whiskey straight, and you wake up and you can barely even speak. You do the soundcheck, it sounds horrible, and you're pissed off. And then, like an hour before the show, you take this spray and you sing like fucking Pavarotti.
(www.nuclearblastusa.com)
 


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