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8th July 2014
From their debut, self-titled, album released in 2001 up to 2011's very folk sounding, and sung entirely in Swedish, 'Armod', Falconer have always introduced plenty of versatility into their compositional pot. That is no exception with their latest, heaviest and arguably their best release to date, 'Black Moon Rising'. Completely different in style to 'Armod', this talented Swedish act have decided to return to their roots and have produced one of the best power metal albums you are likely to hear in 2014. Metal Discovery posed a series of questions to guitarist Stefan Weinerhall to find out more about their latest opus as well as other Falconer tidings...
METAL DISCOVERY: Your new album, 'Black Moon Rising', is a fabulous release but the thing most people will notice first is the incredible cover artwork. All of your previous artwork has been wonderful but has focussed on muted colours such as browns, greys and greens. What prompted the vibrancy of the new art because it is extremely striking and, in the download era, an area many bands seem to neglect?
STEFAN: It is my favourite cover by far. Often, I like to get the covers and it's colours are a more gloomy style but, this time, after thinking of the title and the main ideas for the cover, I thought that it had to go in red. It felt a bit apocalyptic that matched the falcon wings aflame.
(Stefan Weinerhall on new album 'Black Moon Rising')
"This time, I wanted everything grittier and rougher and less produced. Less polished in every step of the product so to speak. I didn't know how well the dirtier style with tougher riffs and even blast beats would mix with Mathias' vocals. Nothing I worry about now though since I just love the result."
Falconer - promo shot
Photograph copyright © 2014 Uncredited
Interview by Rick Tilley
Falconer Official Facebook:
Falconer (2001)
Thanks to Andy Turner for arranging the interview.
Chapters from a Vale Forlorn (2002)
The Sceptre of Deception (2003)
Grime vs. Grandeur (2005)
Falconer Official Website:
MD: Likewise, the music contained on the album is completely different from 'Armod', which was much more folk orientated and entirely sung in Swedish. Even though 'Black Moon Rising' is full of medieval and folk references, as you would expect from any Falconer release, you seem to have gone full circle and are embracing the past again. What prompted this change in direction?
STEFAN: The jolly, folky melodies we had for the ‘Armod’ album with its softer and more “beautiful” sound. This time, I wanted everything grittier and rougher and less produced. Less polished in every step of the product so to speak. I didn't know how well the dirtier style with tougher riffs and even blast beats would mix with Mathias' vocals. Nothing I worry about now though since I just love the result. I knew from the beginning that this would be a more intense album with a stronger emphasis on riffs and attitude than nice verse-bridge-chorus thinking.
MD: I've always loved the production on your albums and, yet again, you have utilised the talents of Andy LaRocque, who is almost a sixth member of the band. What is it about him that keeps you returning for more and have you ever thought about using someone different?
STEFAN: We just feel very comfortable with him. We like to know him and the studio and to not enter a studio being anxious and under pressure. Sonic Train is like a great vacation for us, a feel-good place. Just like the constant use of Jan Meininghaus for the cover paintings. It's ingredients in the Falconer product just as Martin Birch and Derek Riggs was for Iron Maiden.
MD: 'Black Moon Rising' is arguably your heaviest album to date, but also one of the catchiest. As a band, how do you go about songwriting? Is it a collaborative effort or do you write separately and bring all ideas to the table?
STEFAN: Usually, I have some input from Jimmy as well but, this time, I wrote everything myself since it was more of a therapeutical thing than before, since I had gone through some hard times personally that I just felt I worked off in the music. For the next album I'm sure Jimmy will help out again since I like to get that outside thinking, and it also helps me from getting stuck inside my own little square.
MD: In terms of lyrics, what or who gives you inspiration to write about certain things? Is the music written for the lyrics or vice versa and, specifically, what prompted the lyrical content for the new album?
STEFAN: The music is always first priority and the reason I do music. Then you just have to match a lyric to it. Any lyric can go with any music basically; I'm not too picky if there isn't a ballad of course. This album is less historical than in many years. For ‘Among Beggars and Thieves’, all lyrics were based upon true events in Swedish history, on ‘Armod’, most songs were based upon folklore and tales from Sweden. On this new one, I would say that the only reference to Sweden is the 2 last tracks, ‘Age of runes’ and ‘The Priory’ that touch the Viking era. Apart from that the lyrics, this time, are more about reflections upon mankind and society and some regular medieval made-up tales, so to speak. My style in writing lyrics is somehow in a very historical poetry or language. I try to make it sound right, medieval and poetic whatever the real topic may be. Both ‘Locust Swarm’ and ‘Black Moon Rising’ is about environmentalism but you got to tell the story in a more painting language than just telling it straight out. On the 2 first albums I think only half of the lyrics are historical.
MD: I guess it's difficult to commit to touring when Mathias is so busy, but there are many people who would love to see you live more often. As full tours are pretty much out of the question, is it a possibility touring the festival circuit every couple of years?
STEFAN: We have actually never been a real live act, but more as a studio band that happened to get some shows in 2002 and then continuing to take a show every other year or so. The main reason was that Mathias has a schedule as a musical artist that doesn't allow him to take time off an ongoing show to do gigs or tours for free with a hobby thing. Musicals and theatre is his living. Later on, when the rest of us got families and mortgages and other grown-up things, we're quite satisfied with having a laidback attitude to the band. We won't set everything at stake to maybe “make it” with our 8th album as 38-42 year old geezers. We had plans to play live in 2014 but it was a bit too late for the festival bookings so I decided to push it into 2015.
MD: Of course, the lack of touring has certainly held the band back in some respects. Do you ever regret not being able to gig more, even though you have obviously found your perfect vocalist in Mathias?
STEFAN: I am sure we would have been much bigger if we would have taken all gigs and really worked to tour more and so on. I think we are an underrated band since the music is bigger and better than the name is. Anyway, there's nothing we're gonna do anything about now after the 8th album.
MD: Have you ever thought about organising a special, one off, gig and capturing it for a DVD/BD release? Obviously these things aren't cheap but it would be fantastic to have the full live Falconer experience to hand, to watch again and again?
STEFAN: People often say that and I totally get the meaning. It would be a substitute for live shows but, then again, how fun is a band on stage that usually is not on stage? I mean, you don't become Iron Maiden by sitting in the rehearsal room looking at the fretboard all the time. Run around make all kind of stupid poses just fucks up the music.
MD: Mathias has his acting/theatre work but what do the rest of the band do outside of Falconer, and what hobbies and interests do you have that are not connected with music?
STEFAN: I am the supervisor for 6 cemeteries. Jimmy is studying to become a carpenter. Both Karsten and Magnus are self-employed. Karsten is a farmer and Magnus is in the ventilation instalment. With all of us having families leaves less and less time to commit to music which, basically, is a hobby. Apart from music my main interests are my kids, history and working in the garden.
MD: As for the current music scene, are there any recent bands that have caught your ear and do you try to keep up with what other bands, especially in the genre of metal, are doing?
STEFAN: No, not really. The only one I can think of is Blood Ceremony, which I love! I don't know much about the present music scene, I tend to still listen to bands from the 70-90s.
MD: As Falconer predominantly rely on album releases rather than the live circuit, what are your thoughts on the ever growing problems of illegal downloading and bands earning such miniscule royalties from streaming sites?
STEFAN: It's utter shit! Downloading is exactly the same as shoplifting but you just need to lift a finger and it's done. If you tour you can sell merch that the fans buy but, in our situation, you have to rely on the albums. Less units sold - less in the recording budget next time - less means to make a good album.
MD: With that in mind, how do you see the future of the music industry and do you think it will be able to sustain itself, especially when the bigger bands such as Iron Maiden, Metallica and AC/DC have disappeared?
STEFAN: I don't know. There are always means to earn money if you want but, if the music itself is free on the net, I hardly see the future as bright. On the other hand, I can't say how much the business has deteriorated in the last 5 years. As long as we can make records I'm happy, we don't have any rock star dreams, but if someone wants to sponsor our hobby and some people love the music we do we are quite happy.
MD: Finally, what do you hope the future holds for Falconer?
STEFAN: Hopefully we'll hit some stages again next year if everything turns out as we hope and, after that, I guess we would start looking into some new material. But, before all that, we might have a little treat for the fans.......more on that later on.
MD: Thanks for your time, continued good luck with 'Black Moon Rising', which is certainly going to be one of my top releases of the year, and I very much hope to see you on the road soon!
STEFAN: Thank you very much!!! Cheers to you all!
Northwind (2006)
Among Beggars and Thieves (2008)
Armod (2011)
Black Moon Rising (2014)