DATE OF INTERVIEW:
22nd August 2016
BJÖRN "SPEED" STRID; DAVID ANDERSSON
Still within the touring cycle for their tenth studio album, last year's 'The Ride Majestic', August 2016 saw melodic death metallers Soilwork release a compilation album of rarely heard tracks from their back catalogue. Constituted by material previously issued as bonus tracks solely for the Asian market, alongside all five songs from 2014's Japan-only EP release, 'Beyond the Infinite, as well as a couple of brand new compositions and other random rarities, 'Death Resonance' is a surprisingly cohesive album. It also showcases the band's musical evolution from 2005 to the present day.
August 2016 also saw Soilwork on UK shores for a small number of shows supporting fellow Swedes, Arch Enemy, as well as a one-off headline gig in London. Metal Discovery met up with frontman Björn "Speed" Strid and guitarist David Andersson when the tour hit Sheffield, to quiz the two men about 'Death Resonance', recently losing drummer Dirk Verbeuren to Megadeth, an update on The Night Flight Orchestra, and gardening! Chatting away outside the back of the venue, it's an interview intermittently interrupted by noisily descending shutters, giant bins being thunderously shifted from one area to another, and a reversing Jag. Death Resonance? This is early evening Corporation Resonance in full flow! With relative silence, I begin by asking about the new album...
METAL DISCOVERY: You have a new compilation album out, ‘Death Resonance’, with two new tracks and rarely released stuff, most of it only in Japan. It strikes me as a very fan-centric release, so had fans been demanding this kind of compilation for a while, particularly those living outside of Japan?
BJÖRN: I think so. I mean, we did release an EP called ‘Beyond the Infinite’, which was basically left-overs from the recording sessions of ‘The Living Infinite’. We only released it in Japan, and kind of pissed off the rest of the world! That’s how it started, because people seemed to be really into those songs when they ended up on YouTube and whatnot. So, that’s how it started and then we had some other lost tracks in the vaults, and two brand new songs from ‘The Ride Majestic’ recording sessions. I mean, obviously, it always starts with the label, but then we kind of liked the idea, especially since people really wanted to have those songs that were on ‘Beyond the Infinite’. Then, with everything else, we made sure we remastered the tracks and remixed some of them, to get a good flow on the album. So it’s a pretty interesting album.
(Björn “Speed” Strid on compiling Soilwork "rarities" for the 'Death Resonance' album)
"Some of them, you understand why they didn’t make it on the album but, at the same time, some of those tracks are a little bit more progressive than we were back then, so I think it makes more sense now since we’re sort of more progressive now..."
Soilwork - promo shot, 2015
Interview by Mark Holmes
Photograph copyright © 2015 - Hannah Verbeuren
Soilwork Official Website:
Thanks to Sarah Valentine for arranging the interview
Soilwork Official Facebook:
MD: All the tracks are great, but I was particularly surprised to hear just how strong the extra songs are from ‘The Living Infinite’ sessions, considering that was already a double album…
DAVID: We always had the intention to release them as well. They didn’t fit with the theme of the album… it wasn’t like crap tracks that we didn’t like; they were good tracks but they didn’t fit in with the overall themes. We discussed in what format we would release them and it ended up being the Japan EP, but it feels good that they’re finally available for the rest of the world, too.
MD: For ‘The Living Infinite’, did you surprise yourselves, at that time, by just how many fantastic songs you’d written and, looking back now, were you having to push the limits of your creativity to do so?
DAVID: We’re still very pleased with that album and I guess we had lots of time to prepare for it, and I guess having some new members of the band, like me. I’m a songwriter too, so we’re all very productive and, for that album, it was turning a page and starting something new with the band. I guess we were all really inspired, so it was really easy.
BJÖRN: It’s kind of strange how that album ended up being one of the easiest we’ve ever done.
MD: And with an abundance of material, with the extra tracks.
MD: You’ve always progressed with your music, but the album’s more of a regressive experience with the reverse chronology of the songs – you start with the two new tracks and then end with the ‘Stabbing the Drama’ era at the end. I guess that gives the collection a natural flow and structure, but was there any other reason for presenting the songs in that regressive way?
BJÖRN: It is kind of interesting to start with two new songs and then go all the way back to 2005 and I think, in general, it’s showcasing our progression as somgwriters and musicians. It is pretty interesting, you know. I don’t know if we really had a particular reason to put them that way, but I think it is pretty cool.
DAVID: Yeah, we really want to make music that’s still interesting and relevant. We really want to stay away, consciously, from being just a retro or nostalgia band so, for us, even if we don’t make much money out of records anymore, it’s what keeps us focussed and what keeps us enthusiastic.
MD: The integrity of writing the music you want to write.
MD: Did it provide an interesting experience for you, in compiling all those tracks side-by-side, because it’s obviously the first time you’ve put them together as a compilation, and hearing just how much Soilwork have evolved as a band?
BJÖRN: Yeah, I mean, it was definitely interesting. A lot of those tracks, I haven’t heard since we recorded them… like from the ‘Stabbing the Drama’ time… it was very interesting going back and listening to them. Some of them, you understand why they didn’t make it on the album but, at the same time, some of those tracks are a little bit more progressive than we were back then, so I think it makes more sense now since we’re sort of more progressive now and our sound is more dynamic. So it’s sort of interesting how it works out.
MD: You’ve been quoted as saying the ‘Death Resonance’ artwork, by Mircea from Mnemic, captures what you “went through while recording ‘The Ride Majestic’”, as I gather you had some family members pass away within a month. That must’ve been incredibly tough times…
MD: So did you give Mircea a brief for the kind of artwork you wanted?
BJÖRN: Well, the cover for ‘The Ride Majestic’ is sort of symbolising what we went through. It’s very dramatic but it’s also silence, in a way. Then, for ‘Death Resonance’, we gave him some key words, because that was sort of the aftermath that we went through, and some kind of closure, I guess… even though we’ll never forget the family members who passed away.
MD: How do you look back on that period now? ‘The Ride Majestic’ is such a fantastic album, so did the music and your existential reflections ultimately provide some sort of catharsis?
DAVID: Yeah, I think the music became a great comfort in all of us and I think it definitely affected the way we approached our performances on that album. That’s what it was for me and I’m sure other people in the band can relate as well. It was actually a good thing we were recording an album because, if we didn’t and just had some time off, I’m not quite sure what would’ve happened.
MD: As sad as it is for you guys, I guess it’s a massive opportunity for Dirk joining Megadeth, but do you think he’ll be limiting his creativity in that band compared to what he’s already achieved and could’ve continued to achieve in Soilwork?
DAVID: Yeah, definitely, and I think he’s definitely aware of that as well. It’s not going to be the same situation for him in that band. You know, I’m sure he will have his input and he’s a fantastic drummer. When I heard him live with Megadeth, I don’t think they’ve ever sounded better.
MD: Maybe not since Nick Menza; their last really good drummer, I think.
DAVID: Yeah, I agree. I mean, we’re not youngsters anymore… even though we try to behave like young people, we’re not, so I guess it’s more about your overall life situation and, where Dirk was at, getting an offer like that, I mean, no-one can blame him.
MD: I’d compare it to something like when Rob Trujillo joined Metallica. His bass playing in Suicidal Tendencies was phenomenal, but he’s so restricted in Metallica, compared to that.
DAVID: Have you heard the Infectious Grooves album?
MD: Yeah, I love Infectious Grooves. Totally deranged! You have one of Dirk’s students behind the kit at the moment, Bastian from The Arcane Order - how’s that working out?
BJÖRN: He’s doing really well. Very impressive. He’s 24 years old, coming into this band and nailing the songs like he does – I mean, that’s really impressive. And, of course, it always takes time. When Dirk came into the band in 2004, it took some time before he locked in completely. You know, you get to know each other musically, because it’s one thing being in the studio, and there’s live, and so it takes time. But I’m very impressed and he’s a great guy as well.
DAVID: And he has that kind of youthful enthusiasm which is kind of contagious as well.
BJÖRN: It is.
DAVID: We will be even more inspired for the next album because we’re in this situation where we have Bastian; we have changes going on and it inspires, in a way. Just him being there as a session drummer, it’s kind of contagious. You get a bit more enthusiastic yourself. At least, I do.
MD: So, what about the live show? Having this young, energetic guy behind the kit, does it make you up your game a bit?
DAVID: Yeah, I think so. I mean, at least for me.
BJÖRN: I agree..
MD: Is this current touring kind of like his audition for the job, or is it too early to be thinking about a permanent replacement for Dirk?
DAVID: We haven’t made any decisions but, for now, he’s our live drummer.
MD: And how about Darkane’s Peter Wildoer? He stood in for Dirk back in 2014, so was he ever a consideration for a temporary replacement?
BJÖRN: Yeah, we did talk about him. He’s a fantastic drummer. I think he’s more of a progressive drummer. He’s very good at that; I mean, he auditioned for Dream Theater. He’s a great friend and I know he has so many obligations. He’s also studying to become a teacher right now, so I don’t think he could’ve done it, anyway.
MD: Do you see this as a transitional period for the band at the moment, what with Ola leaving last year, and now Dirk… kind of like new beginnings?
DAVID: I guess more of a continuation. I mean, we talk a lot, these days, about where we want to go with the music and what kind of direction we want to head in, and I think that’s very continuous. We already have plans for the next album and what kind of direction we want to move in, so it’s more of a continuous thing with some new energy, I guess.
BJÖRN: I think that’s interesting because we’ve never really done that; like, discussing where we’ll take our sound. It always just happened and this is a kind of interesting direction… discussing it, you know. And there’s so much talent in this band, songwriting-wise and everything, so I think it can be good to discuss as well.
MD: Am I right in thinking you’ll soon be recording the third album for The Night Flight Orchestra?
BJÖRN: Yeah, correct.
MD: Arch Enemy’s Sharlee is in that band as well, isn’t he?
MD: So are you taking the opportunity to have a few jams on this tour?
DAVID: Not jams, just a few drinks and some general discussion!
BJÖRN: We started in spring, doing some basics, and we’re hoping to be finished sometime early next year. It’s gonna be interesting.
MD: How’s this album shaping up compared to the other two?
DAVID: So far, it sounds really promising. We have an abundance of songs and we have to pick and choose which ones we’re gonna record.
MD: Do you find it refreshing being able to express your musical talents in a different guise, away from Soilwork?
BJÖRN: Yeah, very much so. I think I’ve become a better singer in Soilwork because of it and, also, singer in general. Having The Night Flight Orchestra… I’m a metal guy, for sure, but I’m also a rocker, so it’s 50/50, you know. So, it’s been very good for me, as a singer, to have that band so I don’t have to cram in all my influences in one band. It’s been a very good thing for me.
MD: [To David] How about yourself?
DAVID: Yeah, I like it too. I mean, we all have very broad influences and it’s kind of liberating to have that outlet, doing The Night Flight thing, and then, when you do Soilwork, you focus on not necessarily being the hardest or fastest metal band but, when we do Soilwork stuff…
BJÖRN: …it’s a certain atmosphere.
DAVID: Yeah, we’re looking for atmospheres and stuff but, before I was in the band, at least in the late noughties, it felt like, sometimes, there was a need to cram in other influences too, because they didn’t have an outlet. But, now, we can focus on the atmospherics of Soilwork and, if we come up with a great Foreigner-type riff, we can…
MD: My final question then, a ridiculous one to finish – how are you actually working with soil?! Are you keen gardeners at all?
DAVID: I have a few pots on the balcony, but they’re dying.
BJÖRN: Same here, actually, yeah.
MD: Because you’re on tour so much that you’re unable to water them?
DAVID: You’re away during the festival season when they need tending lots, and you come home and they’re dead! Once we’re retired from music we’ll have gardens and [to Björn] your balcony will be like the Garden of Eden!
MD: [To Björn] Are you a keen gardener at all?
BJÖRN: Sometimes, I wish I had a big garden. I’ve not got one; I don’t have time for it. It’s just one of those things. It would’ve been nice.
DAVID: I love growing edible things. Not just flowers, but stuff you can eat.
MD: Some nice herbs, maybe.
MD: Right, thank you very much for your time.
BJÖRN: Thank you, sir.
DAVID: Thank you.
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Review of Soilwork live @ Sheffield Corporation, 22-08-2016: