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12th March 2009
One of metal's truely innovative bands, Swedish quintet Burst have never garnered the widespread recognition for their music of which they've always been so deserving. Their compositionally diverse style and fusion of musically disparate elements seems to perpetually confuse journalists who attempt to inappropriately label the Swedes using a whole array of subgenres from post-metal and progressive to metalcore and even emo. It is perhaps testament to Burst's highly original style of skilled songwriting in that their music manages to engender so much generic confusion and, ultimately, they transcend any such labels. Half way through a co-headlining European tour with The Ocean, I arranged to meet up with them for an interview in Sheffield Corporation, the second of only two UK dates. After I'm introduced to vocalist Linus Jägerskog and bassist Jesper Liveröd, Linus kindly fetches some beers before we sit down in the Corporation's main hall to begin chatting...
METAL DISCOVERY: How’s the tour going and what’s been the most memorable show, or shows, so far?
LINUS JÄGERSKOG: The tour’s going well, and yesterday’s show was awesome, I think for all bands. All of the bands had their own crowd and the response was so good, so I think everybody had one of the top shows yesterday for all bands. Our show was super good yesterday.
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(Jesper Liveröd on Burst's more 'organic' approach to making music)
"I don’t think we really have any plan when we make music; we just make it. We jam a lot together and what comes out comes out more or less naturally...we’re just a fucking rock band who plays!"
Jesper Liveröd and Linus Jägerskog in the Corporation, Sheffield, 12th March 2009
Photograph copyright © 2009 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
JESPER LIVERÖD: So if there are twenty people tonight, we’ll accept the yang with the yin!
MD: I don’t think twenty people will fit through there actually!
JL: Exactly!
LJ: Yeah, we sold out, it was twenty three people!
JL: No, I think it’s been good; this has probably been the best tour we’ve ever been on. Obviously we’ve been on support tours for huge bands, and that’s always good, but this is our own tour together with The Ocean and, you know, I think our expectations have been exceeded.
MD: It’s a good package as well because the lineup is very diverse.
JL: Which was the point because one thing that we all hate is going to shows and checking out the same band five times. You know, I think four bands is on the verge of being a bit too many, but it works out since it’s so diverse; it’s death metal, it’s rock ‘n’ roll, it’s us, it’s The Ocean.
MD: Definitely. Do you have much of a fan base over here in the UK that you know of and how do UK audiences compare to other parts of the world?
LJ: We have definitely a fan base of some kind here because we always do good here. This is our fifth time in the UK, and…
JL: Is it?
LJ: Yeah, I think so, fourth or fifth time.
MD: You played with Opeth over here once I think, didn’t you?
LJ: Yeah. Opeth, and Mastodon, and Dillinger Escape Plan, and one more here on our own a few years back, and this one as well, so the fifth time.
JL: Oh wow!
LJ: Yeah, so we always have a good time over here. It’s hugely different playing the UK than, say, Germany. Germany hasn’t treated us that well, so basically it’s always fun to come over here because people seem to be into us somehow so that’s cool.
JL: We’ll still have to see though because we haven’t been here for three years; we haven’t toured properly for three years, so…
MD: You think people might’ve forgotten about you?!
JL: Er, yeah, we’d probably expect as much…
MD: …not in London last night though!
JL: Yeah, well London was great, and London is always good but, I don’t know, for some reason it seems that our band never really hit it off really hard in the UK. There might be some reasons; I don’t know why but, you know, these days I get the feeling that we do better in other countries actually.
LJ: Well, it’s been three years since we were here last time so we’ll see what happens.
MD: Do you ever have a night where you get bored with playing the same songs, or do you find that new audiences provide new experiences of playing live?
JL: I would say that, obviously, after playing twenty eight shows with the same set more or less, we change it a bit, you kind of get tired of it, but not really actually. I enjoy playing every night, basically, but you get tired of…you have up days and down days. Certain days you have the energy and you have the feeling of something, you have the vibe, and it’s more about that. I mean, for instance, we played a show in Italy a couple of days ago and it was basically full but none of us felt it. You know, it’s a very, very vague term to describe it but everybody just hated it for some reason; I don’t know why.
LJ: Yeah, it was a weird show.
JL: Yeah, there was a great response, it was a full house, everything was supposed to be good, but then all of us just would’ve liked to be somewhere else! I don’t know what that’s about; it’s just about how you feel on a particular day.
MD: Yeah, you’re only human so if you’re on tour and have to play night after night then you’re bound to have days where you just want to sit around watching a DVD or something.
JL: Oh yeah.
LJ: So even if we didn’t have the time of our life that night, I think the routine and the professionalism of what you do just kicked in, you know. We just did what we had to do and I think we just looked the way we’re used to. From our side that wasn’t…
JL: It wasn’t really there but, I mean, it’s always relative because playing is mostly a good time, you know, but then there’s degrees in that.
MD: I read you had some severe bad luck while on tour around Europe in 2005 when you has a minor crash on your tour bus, and then your tour bus was broken into and you had all your merch stolen, and you cancelled some shows because of that as well. Is that the worst bad luck you’ve had in the history of your band?
LJ: [laughs] One of them, yeah! We seem to have some incidents every time we go on tour, you know, but that was one of the worst because it happened day after day. We crashed the bus, and then the day after we got broken into, and then the day after that we just decided we can’t go on because they didn’t only take the merch, they took our guitars and basses, and stuff like that. So we had to drive home really slowly with a broken down van from Switzerland back home to Gothenburg.
JL: Yeah, that was crazy. I mean, by no means are we any exception from any other bands that tour, because I read interviews…
MD: I heard about Mike’s pussy purse last night.
[ED: The “pussy purse” story refers to an unfortunate 'incident' involving The Ocean’s vocalist, Mike Pilat, in London the previous night when he was on his way back to the tour bus after the band’s show at the Camden Underworld and was mugged by a "crack whore". He managed to detain her until the police arrived, during which time she concealed his money in....well, I'm sure you can guess!]
LJ: Yeah! [laughs]
JL: Oh yeah, yeah! [laughs] That’s fantastic! That’s a great story though! I mean, our stories aren’t as hilarious as that, or as sad as well, but I read interviews and all bands seem to have bad luck now and again so I don’t think we’re an exception. I remember the last headlining tour we did over Europe on our own was in 2006 and we were driving from Switzerland again actually to Munich and we got caught in the worst blizzard of the century in central Europe. So we were sitting in our…it was a pretty big van, a very comfy van, but the heating suddenly disappeared. We were sitting in minus ten degrees in the worst blizzard in European history apparently and, I don’t know, that’s not maybe bad luck; it’s just not so fun, I guess!
LJ: You know, so stuck in the blizzard traffic there for six hours or something, so when we finally got up on stage it was after midnight and we just played with all our jackets and hats on! A weird show! Freezing!
MD: To kind of counter-balance that, what have been your best memories from touring?
LJ: The awesome shows.
JL: Of course, the awesome shows. And it’s such a cliché when you talk about touring because it’s always like, yeah, it’s twenty three hours of boredom and then one hour that makes it all worth it, and everybody says that, you know, but it’s true. That’s what it’s about, you know. I think we all get really weary of touring. Sometimes I wonder how these bands that do this for a living, you know, they tour three hundred and sixty five days a year, how they can do it because it’s so harsh at times. I mean, even now when we’re on this huge sleeper bus, and everything’s comfy, and somebody drives us around, and we get this fantastic catering wherever we go, and there’s lots of people - it sounds really rock star and good, but it gets fucking hard! [laughs] I don’t know what it is!
MD: Your band used to be called Dislars until 1999...
JL: Oh my god!
MD: …which you label in the website as a pre-Burst spoof band. Out of interest, in what way was that a spoof?
LJ: Well, we weren’t that serious! [laughs] You know, we saw a show a hundred years ago and just decided, hey, let’s put a band together and play some fast crust-core thing. Lars is a Swedish name, and just a stupid renaming of Discharge.
JL: We were trying to be Discharge but we were trying to be fun, and instead of having the ‘charge’ we put ‘lars’ there. We were teenagers and had a bad sense of humour! I guess we progressed and started to learn how to play our instruments and realise that maybe we can do something with this and, all of a sudden, here we are.
MD: Yeah, definitely. That kind of leads me on to ‘Lazarus Bird’, a phenomenal album…
JL: Thank you.
MD: …absolutely phenomenal, and you’ve kind of further progressed your sound from previous albums - is it important for you to keep progressing as a band as much as writing music that is regarded as progressive?
JL: Can you say that again, sorry?
MD: Hang on, I’ve confused myself with that actually!
JL: [laughs]
MD: Well, kind of like you don’t do the same thing with each album so you’ve progressed with your sound, but you kind of write music that is progressive as well - is it important for you to keep on doing something new each time rather than…like Opeth, for example, they kind of progress a bit, but also have the Opeth sound. Is it more important for you to do something different each time?
JL: I don’t know. I don’t think that progression for the sake of progression is any…there’s no point to it. I mean, at the end of the day, I think we all just want to make music that we feel in our guts and our hearts, you know what I mean? I don’t think any of us are interested in showing off our musicianship or being the stuff that we talked about in the beginning like the musician musicians. I think it’s just a matter of trying to keep our own interest up, you know. I mean, if we would repeat ourselves too much I think that we would all lose interest really quick, because I mean I notice that when we make songs. Like if something touches on something that we’ve done before then it’s just scrapped because we’ve done that before, and it’s old and uninteresting.
LJ: Yeah, so the Opeth thing, I don’t think we have a Burst sound in the way that Opeth…Opeth are Opeth and they have to be Opeth, you know, because they’re so…Opeth! [laughs]
MD: Your sound seems to be...within the album, every song is unique as a song I think. It’s kind of…
JL: That’s great. We can sit here and say so many things like what we intended but, the truth is, I don’t think we really have any plan when we make music; we just make it. We jam a lot together and what comes out comes out more or less naturally. I mean, we talk a lot obviously about what we want to do and so forth but, in the end, none of what we’ve said in the beginning when we start writing an album, it never turns out that way. You know, it just turns out the way it does because that’s the way it sounds when the five of us play together. I mean, we could sit here and think up a grand concept - yeah, we were thinking about putting music to these abstract thoughts about this and that - but it would be a lie. What we actually do is just…we’re just a fucking rock band who plays!
MD: There’s no formula to your music; it’s just you play because that’s the vibe at the time.
JL: Something like that, yeah. And also, I mean, the term progressive these days - I really don’t know what it means anymore. There’s sort of a genre which is labelled progressive and you connect certain things with it - it’s musical; it’s very technical maybe. There’s also other kinds of prog like the old seventies bands - King Crimson; Pink Floyd…
MD: Yeah, they were called progressive because they were progressing something at that time.
JL: Yeah.
LJ: Yeah, yeah.
MD: I differentiate the same as you - there’s progressive as a genre and then music that’s genuinely progressive.
LJ: So what kind of progressive band are we?!
MD: I think you’re kind of everything. You’re progressing everything that’s gone before as a good progressive band should do, but I hear a lot of the old kind of prog in there…but in a progressive way, I think!
JL & LJ: [laughs]
MD: Do you know what, that’s a progressive kind of answer as well, isn’t it! I’m answering my own questions here!
JL & LJ: [laughs]