DATE OF INTERVIEW:
22nd April 2011
In a long and varied career that has, thus far, seen Swede Peter Tägtgren found and front melodic deathsters Hypocrisy for the past twenty one years as well as establishing and running famed recording studio The Abyss in Pärlby where he's notched up a mightily impressive CV of production credits for the likes of Children of Bodom, Dimmu Borgir, Immortal, Dark Funeral, Amon Amarth and Celtic Frost, he's also the autonomous creative force behind PAIN. A side-project born from his own psyche fifteen years ago as an outlet to experiment with a fusion of metal and electronic elements, apart from occasional guest musicians, Tägtgren has remained a true musical auteur with PAIN's studio based output, opting to perform all instruments himself as well as producing and mixing the six albums to date. Forthcoming new album, 'You Only Live Twice', seventh under the PAIN moniker, is set to be released this summer, and will see the established PAIN aesthetic progress into a slightly more organic territory with the use of more actual instruments and David Wallin from the live lineup performing all drums. Further, the music is harder-edged than ever before with a more aggressive sound and a darker vibe throughout. However, it remains PAIN in essence and may very well be the album that finally elevates Tägtgren's unique musical vision to a globally wider audience and mass popularity. Metal Discovery spoke to the multi-talented Swede ahead of the album's release to learn more about his latest slice of industrial metal mastery...
PETER TÄGTGREN: Hey Mark, this is Peter from PAIN. How you doing, man?
METAL DISCOVERY: Fine, yeah, how you doing?
(Peter Tägtgren on the origin of studio PAIN vs its live counterpart)
"I set out in 1996 to do my own ego-trip and mainly just in a producer’s hat aspect as I started with the PAIN shit. There were no bands that had drum loops and shit, and crazy keyboards, so I had to invent my own band to produce...I really want to keep it to myself but still have a solid band live."
PAIN/Peter Tägtgren - promo shot
Photograph copyright © 2011 Heile
Interview by Mark Holmes
PT: Good, alright.
MD: The new album is absolutely fantastic; I’ve been listening to it all week. As a whole, it’s a lot more diverse than any other PAIN release in terms of all the different styles on there. Did you set out to make a more varied record this time round?
PT: No, not really. I just wrote music as usual but I guess it just came out different. I don’t know how to explain; it’s really hard when you just write music and sometimes you’re in the mood of certain things, you know, and you just start writing in that way so it’s not really anything planned. The only thing I knew was that it was gonna be a heavier album than the past ones, for sure.
MD: Yeah, I was going to say that it’s got a much more aggressive edge in general like on certain tracks such as ‘Monster’ and ‘Let Me Out’, it sounds like a bit of Hypocrisy creeping in there almost, you could say…
PT: Yeah, maybe a little bit like that.
MD: So do you compose discretely for Hypocrisy and PAIN or do you always have a pool of ideas that find their way into both?
PT: I don’t know, for me it’s more or less like when I’m in the mood from the beginning, even before I touch the guitar or whatever, I pretty much set out in my mind what I’m gonna write for. Sometimes, of course, not often but sometimes something doesn’t fit to one band that you think so you have to rearrange it a little bit to fit to the other band. But it’s not often that happens though.
MD: Do you find it easy to switch focus between working on PAIN and Hypocrisy albums then?
PT: Yeah, I mean, because I had one third of, or almost half, PAIN music written for this album while I was working on the Hypocrisy album. After ‘Virus’ with Hypocrisy I started writing a little bit for ‘A Taste of Extreme Divinity’ over a four year period and the same thing with PAIN, you know, after the last album I started writing right away. So it’s just constant writing. Sometimes you’re in the mood for doing it one way, and it really represents where the last album stopped and…usually, some ideas grow out from listening to the album when it’s done and it’s like, hmmm, it’s missing this kind of song, so you start writing that kind of song. So it’s kinda weird.
MD: So if you’re writing for a Hypocrisy album and come up with a riff, do you ever stop and think that might be better for a PAIN song?
PT: Yeah, sometimes, like I said, but not very often. Most of the time I know already before I start writing the song because, usually, I have some ideas in my head or something like that.
MD: You’ve filmed a video for ‘Dirty Woman’ from the new album which I was watching on YouTube, a great video, and there are a lot of comments on there with people comparing it to AC/DC…
PT: Oh yeah, and also Slipknot…that fucking riff is not even close!
MD: I didn’t get the Slipknot thing at all.
MD: I think Rammstein a couple of people mentioned as well. I was like, have these people heard these bands before?!
PT: Yeah, of course. I mean, this is just a rock ‘n’ roll song. The only thing, if I were to sing like normal, what I do with PAIN, I think the song wouldn’t have that kind of impact. It’s fun because that song sticks out on the album and I wanted to start with that, and everybody’s like, “no, no, no, don’t do that; do something like a sure card, like a sure thing”. I’m like, “fuck that, let’s shock people!” I think PAIN fans will definitely love the album, that’s for sure, but I think in going out with this song first, maybe it will open eyes for other people as well.
MD: When I first heard it for the video, I really liked the song, and I saw the video just before I heard the whole album actually, but my initial reaction was – ah, you’ve taken PAIN in a different direction. But when I heard the album it was like, oh no, that’s just a one-off sort of thing.
PT: Yeah, exactly. It was the same on the last album with ‘Have a Drink on Me’. But it’s great, for three days the video’s been out and it’s almost over 50,000 clicks already…you know, in just three days, or three and a half, I think.
MD: That’s incredible.
PT: Yeah, that’s really good so any talk about it is good, even if it’s negative or positive. But when you get a snowball rolling, I think it does something good, even if it’s bad reviews or good reviews. You know, it doesn’t matter, at least it’s started getting people to know there’s a new album coming out.
MD: And you might get a whole load of AC/DC fans suddenly into PAIN!
PT: [laughs] I don’t know…I mean, PAIN is like AC/DC, kind of. It’s groove with the drums all the way. That’s what AC/DC has but PAIN is with a more modern way of doing it.
MD: When I first heard the title track on the album, the first thing that came into my head with the opening melody is it kind of sounds a bit like Ennio Morricone, like ‘The Ecstasy of Gold’ kind of thing…
PT: Yeah, I heard about that too! [laughs]
MD: Was that accidental?
PT: Yeah, it’s just a melody, you know. Sometimes you step into other melodies but you try to step out real fast at the same time. It’s not a hundred per cent exactly the same but it has that vibe to it which is good, though, I think.
MD: Definitely. There was an article online last month with a tracklist for the album which is slightly different to the actual album that’s coming out. I think it listed ‘The Dark’ and ‘Sleeping with the Dead’ as differences…
PT: Well, ‘The Dark’ is actually ‘Feed the Demons’ and ‘Sleeping with the Dead’ is actually now ‘Season of the Reaper’.
MD: Ah, so you’ve just changed the titles kind of thing.
PT: Yeah, because that was from the listening session, I think. I said there will be a few titles that are gonna change because it was in the nick of time that I just bounced the songs down and just went over to Finland and played them for thirty people. So that was the only way; you can’t just go, “oh, song number five, whatever it’s called”! [laughs] So it was more like working titles.
MD: So did you record just the nine songs or were there any other tracks that didn’t make the album?
PT: No, there’s twelve songs. Right now, actually, I’m trying to put on vocals and write lyrics for the remaining three songs. One, I think, is going to be for iTunes downloading and either one or two of the other ones are gonna be on the digipak. I haven’t really made up my mind but I have until Monday and then they need all the titles for the bonus CD! [laughs] It’s gonna be filled with live stuff, remixes and shit, but I wanna get these bonus songs on there as well.
MD: The cover art’s great as well with the Painhead character which I’ve read you’re planning on having an inflatable version of him for live shows like Maiden’s Eddie?
PT: Yeah, well, something’s gonna happen. We’re not sure yet. I mean, we’ve spent so much fucking money on this tour that’s coming in October now, just for a stage set, so it’s gonna be really cool. But we’ll see how much inflatable stuff there will be. We already blew our budget anyhow…[laughs]…but we wanted to do something really, really cool this time with the stage show. People should definitely come out and check it out.
MD: Definitely. And I read you were aiming for a Tim Burton kind of vibe with the artwork?
PT: Yeah, well, I told the guy we have this mascot, Painhead, that’s been with us for five years, I think, or something like that and I just wanted to do something with that thing and combine it a little bit with a not real life surrounding kind of feel. Well, yeah, Tim Burton movies where everybody looks like freaks or trees and things are oddly shaped and shit, you know. So that was the only thing I told him and that’s what came out. It’s actually a clay model he made to get a photo of and paint it.
MD: So are you gonna have a big backdrop with some kind of Tim Burton-esque artwork for the stage show?
PT: Yeah, probably the cover but bigger and more on the side that you don’t see on the album cover. But, also, some cool stuff. I can’t really tell you yet because it’s not a hundred per cent how it’s gonna look yet.
MD: From memory, in the ‘Just Hate Me’ video from a few years ago, the Number One robot in there is a little bit like the Painhead character maybe. Am I completely wrong?
PT: Yeah, well, no…he looked totally different though.
MD: A similar face maybe?
PT: No, not even close! Look at it again and then you will go, “okay, yeah”!
MD: Okay, that’s just my bad memory then, of course! So apart from using a drummer for this album and somebody doing some programming, you did everything else yourself?
MD: So there were no guest musicians this time?
PT: It was just me who did everything and David, our live drummer, did the drums on it. And yeah, it just feels better to have real instruments. Before, there was fifty per cent program, fifty me playing drums. Most of the time it was keyboard bass but this time I just put bass on everything. Everything becomes more alive, I think. You know, it’s a little loose here and there, and that’s how it should be to become a humanised album. Before, it was a little bit too stiff.
MD: Would you say there are pros and cons to working in that solitary kind of way, you know, out of a band context and having less people to bounce ideas off in the studio?
PT: Yeah, it’s both good and bad. I mean, I set out in 1996 to do my own ego-trip and mainly just in a producer’s hat aspect as I started with the PAIN shit. There were no bands that had drum loops and shit, and crazy keyboards, so I had to invent my own band to produce and that’s really how PAIN came out. I really want to keep it to myself but still have a solid band live.