If there is one band with which you are guaranteed to have a good time, that is definitely the Heavy Metal phenomenon that is Dream Evil. Both on and off-stage, the guys will make you have fun, and however much you try to resist, they will win you over in the end. Not that I needed much convincing, when I had the opportunity to interview Niklas Isfeldt and Peter StŚlfors prior to their London Underworld gig in November 04, which was definitely a success, judging from the crowdís reaction!
Ok, Iím here with Niklas and Peter and we re going to have a small chat about this tour and your latest release 'The Book of Heavy Metal'. I think that Iíve seen you something like three times in the past year here in England. Do you think that youíve finally made it into the book of Heavy Metal?
Niklas: I donít think so. I think that you need to work harder in order to get into that book Ė at least into our book!
This is the second time that you guys play in the London Underworld, which by the way, is not one of the biggest venues in the capital. How do you like performing here?
Niklas: I really like playing here, because you can really get close to the fans, not like the London Astoria where you have all those bouncers and sh*t and you only see the first rows of the audience.
It was in the Astoria though, that you opened for one of the most legendary Heavy Metal bands ever, Saxon. How did that experience make you feel?
Niklas: For me, there are three 'kings' in this world: Biff Byford, Bruce Dickinson and Rob Halford. Now that we had the chance to play with one of them, it was absolutely great!
Peter: As a fourteen or fifteen year old boy, Saxon was one of the biggest bands for me, but I missed out on this specific experience of supporting them, unfortunately. I did join the band on the Scandinavian leg of the tour, though, so I played about five shows with Saxon and they were really amazing guys.
Thatís the impression we get as fans too.
Niklas: Paul Quinn is a guitar legend. He is the best guitar player that I know. I mean, you donít often hear a guitar player with such feeling. Biff is a great singer too, and Nibbs has been in the band for something like ten years now, but everybody still calls him the 'new' bass player (laughs).
Peter: Hey new bass player (laughs).
Niklas: Unfortunately, we didnít manage to speak to Doug Scarratt, the other guitar player of the band, but I think that this was due to the fact that heís a very shy person.
I did a review for 'The Book of Heavy Metal', and I called it the 'Best Heavy Metal Party Album in the World...ever', because that was my impression from it. Is that what you set out to play?
Niklas: Yes, that was the meaning from the beginning. We want to play easy-listening Heavy Metal with lyrics you can sing along to, even when youíre really drunk (laughs).
Peter: When you put the CD in the CD player, you should start to party! Thatís the meaning of it.
Niklas: Thatís the meaning of Dream Evil. You should have fun, otherwise you shouldnít play at all. If youíre being too serious and you worry too much about things, it stops being fun anymore.
I am not a big fan of cheesy music, but despite that I really liked this album because of the fact that what you do, you do really well and there is real quality to your music.
Niklas: Right, you donít have to play really bad, or sing really bad, just because the lyrics are a bit cheesy.
Peter: Not all the lyrics are cheesy, but there are a few songs like that and there should be humour in the music.
There is an awful lot of humour in there, so, who was responsible for the lyrics on this album?
Niklas: Snowy Shaw wrote 80% of the lyrics. He is a very funny guy, and he really writes good lyrics, so if you take those two things together...
So, who wrote the lyrics to the title track 'The Book of Heavy Metal'?
Niklas: Snowy wrote the lyrics to that song, the whole fuc*ing song!
Dream Evil has only been around for three years, and this is your third studio album so far, yet you have a really good, professional stage presence.
Niklas: It funny, because when we were in Japan last time we played with Kamelot, and those guys are really fuc*ing professional on stage. They have already thought about how to put their legs in a certain way when theyíre performing. It was the keyboard player of this big Japanese band called Loudness who said that Kamelot were really great, but there wasnít really a 'live' feeling in their performance. When Dream Evil went on stage, it was a total chaos, it was Rock NíRoll, and they had fun!
How do you feel your new album differs in terms of style and would you say there is progression there?
Niklas: This album is more like the classic Heavy Metal albums of the eighties Ė more mid-tempo but heavy songs like the ones that Accept or Judas Priest used to compose. We started of as a Power Metal band with 'Dragonslayer', and have now moved in this direction.
Is that because of personal preferences, or because of the feedback you have received?
Niklas: Itís just the kind of music that I like to listen to. I was brought up listening to bands like Accept, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and Saxon, and I really donít think that this sound(note: at this point, Niklas starts to imitate the way the typical power metal drumming sounds Ė an absolute joy to the ears!), has anything different to offer Ė itís all the same.
The fact that the majority of your songs are mid-tempo, means that you, as a singer, are in the front line. That must be really challenging for you, Niklas.
Niklas: To be honest, the really high pitch vocals on the song 'The Book of Heavy Metal' are Snowyís.
When I last saw you in the Astoria, I had the impression that these were parts that you had pre-recorded.
Niklas: No, not at all.
Ok, letís get back to the album now. Can you tell us a few things regarding the recording process of the album, like how long it took etc?
Niklas: The recordings started in December 2003, and I think that we have finished everything by February 2004. We met up on the fifth of December and Snowy brought 22 songs and then we wrote a lot more and ended up with so many that we needed to decide on the best ones for the album. So, rather than having an equal number of songs from each composer, we voted on the best songs, because that ensures quality at the end of the day.
And the recording...?
Niklas: It took two and a half months, with Christmas and New Year, which we took off...so maybe it was really two months. We had fun but itís actually very tiring as well. Iím always there to show my voice, but I always tend to get flu when Iím recording...it must be the nerves. Actually, I woke up this morning feeling a bit off, but as long as I manage to warm up properly, itís fine for the show.
What kind of exercises do you do before every performance?
Niklas: Well, itís scales, something like this (note: now Niklas decided to start warming up his voice in front of us...we just couldnít stop laughing after that). I get higher and higher each and every time I repeat the scale, till I reach the very top, and then I start all over from the beginning.
How was the promotion of the new album been as far as record sales are concerned so far? Was it what you guys expected; is it better than expected?
Peter: The promotion finished after the first two months of the sales.
Niklas: The promotion was really good, because we made a video which helped a lot. There are also some small things, though, that upset me a lot, and that could have been done much better in my opinion. For instance, when you send the new album to the record stores, why not send something like a small poster with it? For some reason, record labels never do things like that. How can anyone whoís not on our website every 24 hours know that we have released a new album?
Donít you agree that now that we have the Internet itís easier for people to get hold of your music?
Niklas: Well, thatís a problem as well, because now people download the sh*t.
So, what is your stance on that, then?
Niklas: For me itís OK Ė we donít earn any money out of this anyway.
Peter: Not any money of importance anyway! (laughs).
Niklas: We donít really sell so much anyway. This record may have sold 40,000, but itís cool because if they download one song and like us, then maybe they will buy the whole album or even talk about us to their friends who will like us, etc. If youíre going to play live I think thatís really great because more people go to the shows than would have bought the record.
Peter: For example Poland, where we might have sold three copies, if we go and play there, it will be in front of 2,000 people, because they are big downloaders there! (laughs).
Niklas: This way you spread your music. This is good and bad. Itís bad for the record label of course, because they lose lots of money...soon there wonít be any record labels I think! If not, we would be putting it on the Internet to buy it for a lower cost, or maybe they will lower the cost in the record stores so people can buy it without getting robbed.
Peter: Young people, like I was when I was fifteen years old, they donít have the money to buy an album. Some of them cost a lot of money, so of course they will download them from the Internet.
I guess that you have to be really selective nowadays.
Peter: Yes, of course, so the industry should lower the prices. I think that it was in Poland that people only bought three copies...no, I think that we sold five in total, and then people brought back four of them (laughs). Basically, when they buy an album, they make a copy Ė thatís the business over there.
Where is your biggest fan base? I would imagine in Germany.
Peter: We sold the most copies in Japan, but in terms of proportion of the population, it wasnít so much. In countries that have a smaller population such as Sweden, Switzerland and Greece we sold something like 3000 copies. The last album sold really well in Switzerland and itís only about 400 people living there, I think (laughs).
Niklas: Holland and Belgium as well. Thatís why we got such a good response when we toured Ė in Germany I think that we played in seven places and each gig had about ten people, but in Belgium we only played in one place, and all the Dream Evil fans were concentrated there. For example, I think it was in Wales when we played a gig there, everyone in the audience had their arms crossed at the beginning, and then we turned up painted silver and everybody thought that we were clowns. But, by the third song, people were starting to clap and by the time we were finished, the whole audience was cheering us.
I think that this is the unique ability of Dream Evil, because we have seen many audiences for bands which remain with their arms folded throughout the gigs.
Niklas: Thatís right because we spread some...
Niklas: Yes, maybe (laughs).
To get back to the video which is fantastic, including the way it was filmed, which shows you as some sorts of giants or gods.
Niklas: At the beginning it was meant to be like stone giants, but we didnít get enough money for that (laughs). We wanted to climb over the mountains and I would take the hammer and crush the mountain and then some helicopters and fighter planes would attack us (laughs). We didnít get enough money for that though.
Peter: Fredrik dropped his guitar pick, and many people were trying to lift this really heavy stone pick up (laughs).
Niklas: There is also one mountain near Gothenburg, where Dimmu Borgir made their latest video, where the idea was for Snowy to drum on it. We asked Dimmu Borgir if it was OK for them to be part of the video, by being inside the mountain while Snowy is drumming on it (laughs).
It sounds like you guys had plenty of good ideas, but the end result is still really good.
Niklas: Yes, we have to be realistic as to what we can achieve here (laughs).
Whose ideas were these for the video?
Niklas: These were Fredrik and Snowyís ideas, really. It was Snowyís idea to dress up like Mad Max...and as we couldnít be big Snow Giants, we had to be Iron Man...something you can make Barbie dolls of !(laughs).
Do you have any plans to release special dolls of yourselves then??
Niklas: Well, I think we should make the image a bit harder and make the figures like transformers, so that my hammer can turn into a dildo...
Ok, well you obviously enjoyed making this video then!...
Niklas: Yes, it was really good, but we shot the whole thing one at a time Ė we were never together and if you look at the video, each frame only has one member of the band in it at a time.
I know for a fact that that video has won the hearts of many of your younger fans. Where is it being shown? I would imagine Germany again, but we definitely donít see it shown here in England.
Niklas: I donít know any specific channels, but I believe that they show it on all music channels all around the world. MTV Europe for example.
What are your plans for touring, following these shows? Are you planning to play any of the big music festivals next year like Wacken for example?
Peter: Yes, of course, if they want us! This is the last gig for this year. Then we will take it easy. In January Iím going to get married, and in February weíre going to Japan again and then we will start composing some songs for the new album which we plan on releasing in the autumn of 2005.
Have you got any songs ready for it yet?
Niklas: Some ideas...drunk sh*t ideas (laughs). I write some really good stuff in my basement, but I can only write parts of the songs, so I start with the beginning of one, and then move on to the next one (laughs).
Peter: The things that are really important are the riffs and the vocal lines.
Niklas: I do the drum sh*t with the drum machine, itís total crap, but some good things will come out of it I hope.
If we see you at Wacken, that would be a fantastic experience, especially with all the drunken Germans in the audience.
Niklas: Yes, and I hope that we donít have to play the small tent, the Wet Stage. I want to be huge (laughs).
Peter: Me too (laughs).
How has the departure of Gus G affected you or the bandís musical direction? Any hard feelings?
Niklas: No hard feelings at all. He didnít participate that much in the last album as he had already taken the decision to leave by that stage. Itís hard when the members of the band live in different countries like Greece and Sweden. It costs a lot of money to travel back and forth, itís hard work.
Peter: And I think that he wanted to put his time into Firewind more.
Niklas: And I think that he wanted to be more serious. When we wrote really funny lyrics, he would say: 'You canít sing that! This will destroy my reputation!'. He wants to be a little bit more of the boss in the band, he wants to decide more things, and for us itís always the five of us who vote on everything. With Firewind he can decide everything because itís his own band. We have a democracy in our band, and it should be like that, but the main thing was probably that we were living so far away from each other.
Peter: But he is a really good guitarist.
I think that was all my questions, but my main interest for tonight was: what is the meaning of life, the universe and everything??
Peter: aaa....42!!(laughs)....I lost my Hitchhikerís Guide in the Tourbus somewhere! Do you like it?
Of course! Itís the kind of humour Iím not surprised you guys like!
Peter: My girlfriend actually woke up in the night because I was laughing so much! And the rest of the guys in the band love that kind of humour too...
At which point the conversation turns into a general discussion on whales, vases and Red Dwarf...
Ok, let me guys let you go to get yourselves all silvered up...just a quick message to you fans, if you will...
Niklas: Have fun and.....be Evil?!
Peter: Yeah, have fun and Be Evil...
Niklas: Be Heavy and be Evil?...etc.
Interview © 2005