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12th March 2009
METAL DISCOVERY: The lyrics on ‘Lazarus Bird’ are fairly kind of poetic and perfectly befitting of the music as well - what, or who, is the inspiration behind such words?
JESPER LIVERÖD: Er, that’s my question I guess because I’m the lyricist together with Jonas, although I guess I do the most, but…I don’t know, I just like words. I like words that sound good, and I like lyrics that sort of take you on a trip if I’m to be pretentious, you know what I mean? For the first time, I think both me and Jonas were very specific for a change when writing lyrics. I mean, before it’s been all these very abstract atmospheres and stuff we’ve been trying to describe with words, but this time we were actually thinking about certain, specific things. Like Jonas has been very furious about politics which is a very new thing for us so a couple of his lyrics, he has a direct thought behind them, and so do I. One good example of how a lyric is specific on the ‘Lazarus…’ album is ‘City Cloaked’ and that’s just basically my impressions from going to the city of Istanbul in Turkey. I was hugely affected by that city; you know, there’s so much history, and grievance, and conflict, and melancholy that surrounds that whole city. It’s so diverse, and colourful, and everything, so it just inspired me and especially the huge melancholy of that city. So that song is basically about my impressions from Istanbul, so it’s very specific actually.
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(Jesper Liveröd on guitarist Jonas Rydberg's lyrical inspirations)
"I remember actually reading one of Jonas’ lyrics from the last album, ‘Origo’ - ‘The Immateria’. When I read it I thought it...was a lyric about a relationship, or love affair, or something, but then it turned out it was his nightmares!"
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
LINUS JÄGERSKOG: ...his nightmares!
MD: From my point of view, it’s still quite abstract in a sense though in terms of it’s quite provocative in the way I read them - it could mean different things when you read them; there’s no kind of direct meaning perhaps.
JL: Yeah, I remember actually reading one of Jonas’ lyrics from the last album, ‘Origo’ - ‘The Immateria’. When I read it I thought it was like a…without talking to him about it, I thought it was a lyric about a relationship, or love affair, or something, but then it turned out it was…
JL: Yeah, his nightmares! He read a lot of H.P. Lovecraft or something.
LJ: He had his notebook beside his bed so, when he woke up in the middle of the night, he could put down phrases. He did that for a couple of nights in a row and then he had ‘The Immateria’ lyrics.
MD: Abstractness is a great quality in lyrics because it adds another dimension to the whole thing.
JL: Oh, definitely, and I think the best lyrics are the ones you actually have to figure out that actually come to mean something for you as a reader or listener.
MD: You co-produced the album with Fredrik Reinedahl - was it important for you to have a hand in the production yourselves to maintain some control over the exact sound you were aiming for?
JL: Yep, that’s true! [laughs]
MD: And how’s your working relationship with Fredrik?
JL: He’s been with us forever and I guess it’s us being undaring. It’s just comfortable because he’s a childhood friend of ours, and he just knows our band very well, and is a very talented engineer. He has a lot of ideas about sound, and he sometimes has pretty wacky ideas about sounds - we had to keep him at bay a bit, you know!
MD: That’s why you co-produced it so you could still say…
JL: Yeah!
LJ: We have left him in the studio when we were done for the day and when we got back the morning after he’s like “oh, listen to this, I’ve put some dub tracks over this!”. It’s weird how he can, you know, just put in his real weird ideas to it, so we were like - “okay Fredrik, it’s time to scrap that; let’s go and start again!”.
JL: It’s just a comfort to have somebody that actually you can save…really trying to describe a sound or what you’re after is really difficult, right, I mean you can say “oh, I want this to be more warm and kind of more like Kraftwerk/Kraut inspired”, and he will understand what that means, which is a comfort. But, then again, I guess it would be a good idea and interesting idea to actually have somebody who doesn’t know us to interpret our music as well.
MD: So there’s a sort of chemistry between Fredrik and your band?
JL: Of course, yeah, yeah. And, also, he’s talented with the knobs, you know. That’s a comfort too.
MD: The album was nominated for a Manifest award at a ceremony in February this year - is that quite a prestigious awards ceremony in Sweden, and how did it go as you were up against Opeth I think?
LJ: Yeah, there were a couple of others like Dismember, Grand Magus and someone else. It’s some kind of alternative Grammy awards for the independent labels and independent artists.
MD: It’s still quite a big thing in Sweden though?
LJ: Yeah, it’s pretty big, you know.
JL: As far as prestige goes, we were also nominated for something called the P3 Gold which is the equivalent of the BBC in Sweden - that was a huge radio awards. We were nominated for that, and then I got the same feeling the last time we were nominated and actually won it - we have nothing there to do. We’re just there to fill seats or something! [laughs] It’s a huge honour, of course, getting all these nominations and stuff but, you know, we go there, and we sit there, and they give the award, and then we stand at the party and look at all the beautiful animals, and we don’t really know how to interact with them because they’re pop stars and we’re fucking…we don’t know anyone. We sit in the corner and drink beer, and…
MD: So it’s a good night out basically!
JL: Yeah, it is! Somebody gives you free champagne!
MD: Who won the Manifest award actually?
JL: Grand Magus did, and In Flames won the radio award.
MD: Grand Magus over Opeth?
LJ: Yeah, yeah.
MD: ‘Watershed’, for me, is the best thing they’ve done in a long time.
LJ: Really? You think so?
MD: Personally, I think so. It’s better than ‘Ghost Reveries’. Probably their best since ‘Blackwater Park’.
LJ: For me, it’s just a new Opeth album, really. I think both ‘Blackwater Park’ and ‘Ghost Reveries’ are a lot better than the new one. It’s good, but I expected more…
MD: More progression?
LJ: Maybe more progression, but the death metal parts are good.
JL: Maybe they’re the new Slayer and they’re gonna sound exactly the same on all the albums in the future! Who knows?! I don’t know!
MD: I can hear a lot of old prog-rock influences in your…particularly in your later material, but incorporated in the songwriting, like I said, in a very progressive way in itself…whatever that means…
JL & LJ: [laughs]
MD: I’m just talking shit here, aren’t I?!
JL & LJ: [laughs]
MD: Was it a conscious decision to move in that direction or did the music just evolve in that way from the music you’re influenced by?
JL: The music, large parts of it…large parts of the skeletons, the basic ideas for melodies and riffs and stuff are created by the two guitarists. Burst is a very guitar-oriented band, and those guys are huge fans of old prog-rock like King Crimson; Yes; Camel; Van De Graaf Generator, and all that stuff.
LJ: I think they stopped listening to music after ‘85 or something!
JL: Yeah, I think so too!
LJ: They only listen to the old stuff and, you know, they’ve had that background with them when they make the skeletons and all the melodies together, and it’s just how they sound.
JL: Obviously since they’re responsible for a lot of the basic ideas that’s gonna be where a lot of the inspirations are but, then again, I think this time we were actually thinking of making a more metal album than with ‘Origo’. ‘Origo’ was very like…we were aiming for some sort of huge, proggy, atmospheric, psychedelic, space-rock thing…
LJ: Vast!
JL: Vast and huge! But this time we wanted to make a more dense and heavy album but, I don’t know, I guess there’s a lot of prog-rock in there anyway, so we can’t kind of escape it somehow!
MD: It’s a good mix. I understand that all band members contribute to the song writing - would you say that accounts for the diversity in your sound and are there ever any conflicts or differences in opinion when you’re composing?
LJ: All the time. Yep, all the time, of course. Making songs in that rehearsal room is going to war…somehow! [laughs] Everyone in the band has their specific background; everyone likes to put in there somehow this part of making these songs, so there’s a lot of discussions going on, and we try so many different ways to find out what’s suitable. That’s exactly how the result of how we sound because all of us with so many different ideas trying to put in there somehow.
JL: Everybody’s really opinionated about everything, you know, and I can promise you that every fucking note on this album is put under scrutiny from five strong wills. Obviously you have to compromise sometimes - I might hate something and the others might think it’s really good, or the other way around.
MD: So you think that diversity comes out of the conflicts?
JL: Yeah, I mean there are conflicts as Linus said but they result in something good. We have learnt to realise that these aren’t conflicts that will drag on forever; these are conflicts that actually bring with them something good in the end. They actually amount to something, you know. But sometimes I really love not to have all these fucking debates about every detail. God!
MD: I’ve read that you never have an excess of material when recording an album, like what you’ve recorded is what you release on an album. Do you have concentrated periods of writing material before you enter the studio or are you constantly coming up with ideas between albums and whenever.
JL: Some songs aren’t finished when we go into the studio, but we finish them while we record them.
MD: So the conflicts are still going on?
LJ: Yeah, I think so. We think we have something ready and while in the studio we might discover that it wasn’t the best idea so…we alter stuff while in the studio…well, sometimes, so there’s a lot of experimental things going on as well, when we actually have the time to do that. I think the song’s done when we just press the Rec button because there’s so much going on before that. Yeah, something like that.
JL: What was the question again, sorry?
LJ: If the songs are ready and done before going in.
JL Oh yeah, okay.
LJ: Most of the songs, of course, are ready before we go in but there are always details we are working on in the studio as well.
JL: I think there are two dimensions to this band. I think one of them is that we are in fact…I know he hates being in the studio but a lot of us actually like being in the studio because it’s a very creative environment, and you can fiddle around with effects, and weird instruments, and this and that. Three fifths of us, at least, really like being in the studio because of that, you know. There’s so much possibility to evolve all of these songs, and to dress them up in different ways, and try out things, and I like that. In that respect, as Linus said, they won’t be ready until we actually put them on tape forever.