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Interview:Speed (Soilwork)

Pure metal...interviews

If it is one thing that you cannot accuse Soilwork of, that is being lazy. Less than a year after my last encounter with the members of the Swedish outfit, I met vocalist Bjorn "Speed" Strid once again in the foyer of a central London hotel. There, whilst I warmed myself with a cup of tea, we spoke about the bandís latest release "Stabbing the Drama", his contribution to many different side projects such as Terror 2000 and Disharmonia Mundi, as well as how he avoided getting burned while filming the bandís brand new video.

Hi Speed. It is really nice to see you again. The reason for this visit is to promote your bandís latest full length album "Stabbing the Drama" so letís get straight to that, shall we? How long are you going to be here for?

Speed: Well, we are going to stay here till tomorrow, simply because there is plenty of promotion to be done. Tomorrow we are heading off to Paris where we are also going to spend a whole day doing interviews and stuff. Other cities that we are going to visit are Milan, Madrid, Athens and then we are heading straight to the record labelís head offices in Germany, where we are going to do plenty of phoners. Itís pretty much a ten-day promotional tour that weíre doing.

Last time we met at the backstage of the London underworld, almost a year ago, while you were on tour with Mnemic. Once again youíve managed to come up with a new album at such short notice. When did you manage to find the time to record this album?

Speed: We like to work under pressure - thatís when we write our best songs. That has always been the case with Soilwork, and thatís why we always release one album every year...except this time actually. This time around, "Stabbing the Drama" will be released two years after our previous studio effort. We have been touring so much in between that we didnít actually realise how time went by. Many people have seen us so many times these last two years that they probably didnít realise it either.

The reviews that Iíve read regarding the new album, both in magazines and on the Internet, are quite mixed. Half reviewers are referring to it as your best effort to date and others are letís say not that positive. What is the feedback that you have so far?

Speed: The feedback is really great. We had an amazing response with our previous album "Figure Number Five", so we were afraid that it would be really difficult to top that one...well I think that we actually did after all. We have released six albums so far, and it is really great to know that we manage to top ourselves with every new release. We always take on the challenge when we go to the studio, because one thing that we would not like to do is to repeat ourselves.

Ok, then. Which were the main differences between your new release "Stabbing the Drama" and your previous album "Figure Number Five"? How would you describe the "new" musical direction that Soilwork chose to follow this time?

Speed: First of all riffing is back as far as the guitars are concerned - they (the guitars) are much more upfront and they sound more "naked", partly because the sound is not as polished as in our previous album. We were far more spontaneous this time when we went in to the studio. Also, there are quite a few melodic vocals in the album that mix a lot with heavy guitars - the whole album is balanced between those two elements. I guess that pretty much everything is more up front this time. I know that it will sound weird but this album is more metal and less "pop" than our previous effort. There is more extreme drumming and guitar riffing in this album, more intensity you might say had not so many mid-tempo songs. Even though our previous album was quite good, this one is even better.

What was the thing that motivated/influenced you in order to create this new album? Was the decision to record a more straight-forward album taken after you realised how soft and melodic "Figure Number Five" turned out to be?

Speed: The decision to record an album like "Stabbing the Drama" came quite naturally really. As I said before, we donít like to repeat ourselves. We have been touring quite a lot lately, and I guess that playing live was what inspired us the most. We wanted our songs to have that live feeling if you know what I mean. We also realised throughout the years that you donít have to make things so complicated and technical all the time. You can really make nice simple songs, and this is what our new album is all about: simple songs with a live feeling. The only thing that is missing from this album really is the crowd (laughs).

Would you say that the fact that you toured with Mnemic kind of influenced you to that straightforward direction? When I first listen to "Stabbing the Drama" I felt like this touring business with the Danish outfit was far more important than what I originally though that it would be.

Speed: I wouldn't say that we were influenced that much - we always write our own stuff based on our inspirations and the different backgrounds that we originate from as musicians. What inspires us the most is our own band really, itís like we have our own special source that we draw ideas from. On the other hand, we have been inspired by all the good bands that we have seen live throughout the years because we are always trying to capture in our albums the intensity of a live performance.

My next question is with regards to the albumís title. Your previous album was dedicated to all the people who are constantly run down by the society. Which is the lyrical context of this album and why was "Stabbing the Drama" the chosen title? Are you once again the main contributor as far as the lyrics are concerned?

Speed: Yes, I am the one that writes all the lyrics. This time, I decided to go quite deep with my lyrics if you know what I mean. These are the most "personal" lyrics that I wrote so far in my career as a musician. Right now am I am a very happy person, since I just got married, but I have been through quite a lot of sh*ty years in the past so it was a bit hard to try to write lyrics such as these - I had to dig really deep into myself and bring out my dark side once again. We are actually talking about all these bad experiences that I had in the past that have "stabbed" me so bad. This album is a declaration both musically and personally that I am now the one thatís "Stabbing the Drama", meaning the past, and Iím looking to the future with a more positive attitude. There is a lot of hope in my life lately.

Soilwork

What about the album cover? I know that Mircea from Mnemic (guitars) was responsible for it. After your previous response, the drawing that he created for these albums makes a lot more sense. How did you end up assigning to him that specific task?

Speed: We had quite a few suggestions with regards to the album cover, but the rest seemed to be more abstract and blurry than the one that Mircea has prepared for us. We wanted a simple, more direct album cover, which would fit better with our music really. This specific album cover will stand out on the shelves of a record store, because of itís simplicity. We never had a direct album cover in any of our previous releases, so it is really cool that we finally managed to achieve that.

Speed, tell us about the time you spent in the studio recording this new album.

Speed: Well, it took us about seven weeks to record "Stabbing the Drama". We started by recording the drums in Danielís recording studio, and then the rest of the recordings took place in a different location where not even Daniel had been before. This was quite a big challenge for both the band and the producers, but it ended up being a really good thing because the two parties managed to create a really cool production together. You can hear the amazing job that we did, especially on the drums, that makes it a stand out production.

In our previous interview together, you told me that you would try to avoid using so many different studios for this new release as you did with "Figure Number Five", which was recorded in three different studios. You were quite frustrated about the fact that you were under such pressure to finish the recordings on time, but it seems that working in more than one locations is almost unavoidable.

Speed: Well, if you exclude the drums, the rest of the album was recorded in one location. We were running one week late, so we had to run our as*es off again (laughs) - itís always the same case really. In a way I like the fact that there is a little bit of pain and pleasure behind our recordings. When you get your hands on the finished product and you see that the lyrics are there, and the artwork is also there, it feels really good. That pays up for everything else.

Ok, letís try to concentrate a bit on the music now. How much of a collective effort is the music thatís featured in "Stabbing the Drama"?

Speed: All of our albums are more or less products of a collective effort between the members of the band. We are a very democratic band that allows everyone to bring their blood into the music. Itís normally Peter the one that is doing most of the writing, but this time Sven had contributed to two of our songs, as well as Ola...these two guys are actually writing songs in a more different way, but all together we make quite a good match.

Any problems with drummers lately?

Speed: (laughs) yes, we had quite a few problems with our drummers, as always. Itís like weíre "Stabbing our Drummers" or something (laughs).

Have you decided as to who is going to be the bandís next drummer after all?

Speed: Well, it is actually up to Dirk (Verbeuren) to decide. We really cannot steal him from his band, and we really donít want to, to be honest. I donít think that there is another drummer that could play his parts as good as he did on the album. We hope that we will manage to find a permanent solution to that problem really soon, because sooner or later touring schedules are going to collide between his band Scarve and that of Soilwork. I am sure that we will be able to find a solution.

Back when you recorded your debut album "Steelbath Suicide" it was easy for people to categorize you as a Melodic Death Metal band. Which, in your opinion, is the right way to refer to Soilworkís music nowadays? Please do the honors.

Speed: I really donít think that thereís any need to categorise this album or the music that we produce. Just the fact that many people find it hard to find the right label for us, proves once again that our music has the power to stand out.

I know exactly where youíre coming from, but it is something that youíll have to do simply for promotional purposes.

Speed: Yes, alright. The sound is very easy to relate to. The music has many ups and downs like day and night. There are quite a lot of melodic parts in our music, but also many intense moments. All these elements when put together bring out an amazing vibe, and represent Soilworkís music, which is indeed quite healthy (laughs). It is really amazing to see how many e-mails we receive from people who say that our music and lyrics have given them strength and even prevented them from committing suicide. I am not trying to say that we are some sort of charity band, or some kind of modern healers, but we are musicians that create a style of music that people find quite easy to relate to. All of us together, we manage to create a very unique sound, that of Soilwork.

Which songs are your personal favourites of the new album?

Speed: I guess that the title track "Stabbing the Drama"..."Nerve", "The Crestfallen", "Observation Slave"...I like them all (laughs).

One question that I really feel the need to ask you. With songs like "Stalemate" and "Blind Eye Halo" you took a step towards your roots - a more old school approach if I am allowed to use that term. Many people commented on that move of yours, and most of them claim that it would have been much better if the whole of the album sounded like those two songs. What made you decide to include those two songs in the album in the first place?

Speed: It was something totally spontaneous. We generally write a lot of songs - some of them turn out that way...I guess that Peter was just in a mood to write those kinds of songs. In the beginning we were a little bit sceptical as to whether these songs would fit the album, but now that the album is finished I believe that the do belong on it. They do stand out as you correctly mentioned earlier, but they definitely belong on that album.

Ok, we all expect a new video from the band, and that will be for the same-titled "Stabbing the Drama". Is there some sort of problem between you and the rest of the band? Why did they try to set you on fire all of a sudden?

Speed: (laughs) The original idea was to record the video as a whole band, but the film company had a different idea, which only included me as a character. It is not a very common thing to see extreme Metal videos where only the singer of the band is featured, so we decided to go for it. I guess that we wanted to make something new to that extent as well. The recording process of the video was indeed a very interesting experience. There were a lot of burning car wrecks, and there were quite a few occasions where I almost caught fire as I mentioned in our website, but I was so into it that I really didnít care. I was wearing this knitted shirt, and people were throwing gallons of diesel over the burning cars something like one meter behind me. I could feel the fire being so close to me, but I really didnít care. I guess that it was quite dangerous but there were a lot of firemen there just in case. This was a really cool experience indeed.

Where was the video recorded, and how different was the whole process this time?

Speed: It was recorded in Sweden just before Christmas Eve. It was ten minus when we started filming... I was so lucky that they had burning car wrecks in the video so that I could feel a bit warm from time to time (laughs). It was a bit different having to record something like this all alone, but it was a bit easier too because I had more space to move around this time. Normally the producers take individual shots from each member and then they mix them together, but now they had only me to concentrate with so I guess that it was much easier. On the other hand, I was more relaxed because I did not have the rest of the guys watching me all the time - I was not that nervous (laughs). This is definitely a very interesting and intense video - you must watch it.

Do you believe that Soilwork need videos in order to promote their music better?

Speed: Yes, I do believe so. Itís great that they have quite recently started to show more Metal videos on the music channels. Five years ago, you could only see Pop and R&B videos. I think that videos do good to the whole of the Metal music scene.

Which are the countries that you plan on visiting for the promotion of the new album? Have you guys made any plans yet?

Speed: First of all we are going to make our first headliner tour in the United States, which is a really exciting thing. We also plan on doing a lot of festivals and visit once more countries like Australia and Japan. Then we are going back to the States for a few more days before November, when our European tour is starting. We would really like to do a two-week UK tour or something like that. That would be really good for us because the United Kingdom is a great market and we have a lot of fans here. Hopefully we will also visit South America and places like that which we have been unable to visit so far. I know that there are a lot of people there that really like to see us live, and we promise to do our best so as to visit them and play stuff of our new album for them.

Any specific band that you would like to tour with this time?

Speed: We will have Dark Tranquillity with us on our US tour and thatís really cool because they are really good friends of ours. The bill also includes Hypocrisy and Mnemic - a great package indeed! Great bands and also great friends of ours...I really cannot wait. I would also really like to support Judas Priest on their upcoming tour. I have e-mail contact with Rob Halford, and I know that there is a chance for us to finally achieve that...letís see.

We have spoken before about the "Metal God" and his admiration towards your bandís music, so I donít see why this should not happen.

Speed: Of course Judas Priest are much bigger than his previous band Halford, since they play arenas and all and I think that it would be a great business for us to open for them. Rob said that there should be no problem, but I need to get in contact with him first because he is really busy at the moment.

Soilwork

Which parts of the world have a better understanding of Soilworkís music?

Speed: When we are on tour we get a lot of good responses that vary according to the country. Each country reacts differently to our music. The first time that we went to Australia we did a headline tour and there were a lot of people there to see us live - now that was fantastic. You never know what to expect when you turn up to some places. There are a lot of Soilwork fans out there in the world.

Are you working on any other project apart from Soilwork at the moment? It seems that there are people out there that prefer listening to you in your projects rather than in Soilwork. I have to admit that I havenít listened to anything like that yet - would you care to tell me a few things about it?

Speed: The band is called Disharmonia Mundi. They are from Italy and theyíre really good friends of mine. They just asked me to do the vocals on their album, and I like music, so why not? I plan on doing that again really soon. I am going to go down to Italy and record the vocals for their upcoming album. Iím not really sure exactly when this is going to happen - I guess sometime in May. I also have my side project Terror 2000. We intend to record our new album, the third by the way, at the end of February.

I think that the first Terror 2000 album was released something like six years ago, right?

Speed: Yes, thatís true. Our first studio album was recorded six years ago. I really concentrate on Soilwork and when I get some free time, I will concentrate on Terror 2000.

I would like you to comment on the words of a music journalist who said, after listening to "Stabbing the Drama" that maybe itís time for Soilwork to take a big break and really concentrate on their next release.

Speed: Someone actually said that about the new album?

Yes... It is amazing how many different opinions you can get from people.

Speed: ...our band doesnít work that way. We need to work under pressure. If we all of a sudden take a short break, we wonít be able to write a thing. We need to fell the pressure that makes us more spontaneous. If we take a years break before we record our next album, it will end up as a disaster.

Soilwork

Can you picture yourself in the band after letís say five or six years, or you donít like to plan so far in advance?

Speed: Itís really hard to look so far in the future. Weíll keep on writing good music, but we do not have a clue ourselves how this whole thing is going to turn out. We just try to write good music and thatís it.

Ok Speed - thank you for doing this Interview for Get Ready to Rock. The last words are yours.

Speed: I really wish that we will be able to make a full UK tour soon, and visit places that weíve never been to before.


Interview © 2005 John Stefanis

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