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4th October 2008
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(Stefan Zell on common perceptions of Wolverine's music)
"Everyone thinks that we are a progressive metal band, and when they hear us they’re like - no, that’s not progressive!"
Stefan, Thomas, and Marcus in the Sjiwa's basement, Baarlo, Netherlands, 4th October 2008
Photograph copyright © 2008 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
METAL DISCOVERY: Do you think being labelled as a progressive band has ever been restrictive for your band? Have you ever wanted Wolverine to be marketed in a different way to garner more widespread acceptance from the mainstream?…because effectively, bands like Muse and Radiohead are very progressive bands, but they sell out stadiums and are signed to big labels, and I think if the music of Wolverine was heard by Radiohead and Muse fans, I’m sure they would love the music. You know, ‘Sleepy Town’ could be a top ten hit! Do you think it’s restrictive being called progressive?
STEFAN ZELL: I don’t think we’ve ever thought about it, but it could be one of the things to…I mean, we never sold a lot of albums…I mean, what did we sell - 5-6,000?
THOMAS JANSSON: How much?! I didn’t know that!
SZ: …of every release.
SZ: So I mean maybe what people consider us to be is one of the things that holds us back commercially. It could be.
TJ: It could be, I don’t know, I never think about it.
ML: Something to think about!
SZ: Yeah.
TJ: Maybe we should think about it.
MD: Well, you’re at a festival called ProgPower, so it’s kinda a progressive thing!
SZ: Everyone thinks that we are a progressive metal band, and when they hear us they’re like - no, that’s not progressive! [laughs]
MD: You had the biggest crowd of the day actually, even more than Zero Hour - from standing in the crowd, there were more people there for you than any other band of the day.
TJ: I’m sure there’ll be even more there tomorrow then when we play.
ML: If we didn’t scare them away today! [laughs]
TJ: Maybe!
MD: I understand from reading on your Ultimate Metal forum that you’ve already started working on new material…or writing new material - are there any complete songs, and what do they sound like?
ML: There is new material. How does it sound? It sounds like a development from ‘Still’…we do what we do, you know, and it comes out in a way, and then it sounds….you know, it’s just how it is. And I think it’s a natural progression from ‘Still’.
TJ: Yeah, it is.
SZ: It’s hard to say in what direction.
TJ: Yeah, it might, you know, continue working on that stuff , that might change direction as well. What comes out comes out.
MD: Do you have any recording plans or studio time booked yet?
SZ: Yeah, I think we’re gonna aim for January/February, like doing the basic stuff…drums…bass…so, this Spring I hope, and maybe have it out by April or May. It depends on the label as well.
MD: When recorded, will it be released through Candlelight as with ‘Still’?
TJ: We hope so.
MD: What kind of contract do you have with the label?
ML: They have, erm…
SZ: They have options.
ML: They have options - that’s the way it is. If they want to release an album, we’ll release an album with them, else feel free to go somewhere else.
TJ: Yeah, there are other ways to go.
ML: There are other ways to go, so we’re not really, you know…
SZ: We haven’t been in touch with them for a while, so it’s been now like two years…more than two years since we released the last one.
MD: So you have no label funding for the studio time, it’s completely self-sufficient?
TJ: Things aren’t settled yet actually, because we haven’t been very communicative or…
SZ: This last year has been very non-active for us.
MD: When you signed to Candlelight, was there any Lee Barrett connection because he signed you for Elitist which , of course, he owned and he was the…
ML: He was the founder of Candlelight…
MD: Yeah, and discovered Opeth and Emperor of course.
ML: Yeah, it was a connection because at the same time that we left Elitist, he left as well. He went to Candlelight as an A & R, you know, and he brought us along.
TJ: Which was a nice thing. He’s a really good guy.
MD: Are you fans of To-Mera? I think he’s left now, but…
ML: Er…I think it’s a little bit too much! [laughs]
TJ: Everyone in the band listens to very different music and…
ML: Very different!
TJ: You know, there’s a lot of fighting going on with composing music for the band!
ML: And that’s…I didn’t do a thing! And there was a lot of fighting involved in that too! [laughs]
TJ: Yeah, and a lot of crying!
SZ: I just remember loving it from the start!
ML: There’s always conflicts, but I think that’s a part of the magic, you know, because the music comes from the compromises…and from the fights. That’s when it becomes something extra.
TJ: Everything doesn’t pass through - you know, it’s really…
ML: It’s like a filter.
TJ: Yeah, a filter
ML: A painful vibe!
MD: Writing music’s all about emotions, and if you challenge what somebody’s written then you’re effectively challenging what they felt when they’d been writing that or whatever, so you’re gonna get defensive if people say that’s not good, so…
SZ: Yeah, it’s highly sensitive stuff.
TJ: There have been occasions of offence over the years, but in the end it turns out to be good.
MD: There’s been no big fights or anything?
ML: No fist fights! No fist fights yet! [laughs]
TJ: No, no. Maybe we should?!
ML: In a way, we’re actually a pretty dysfunctional band.
TJ: Until we get out to play, and then we just enjoy our time.
SZ: It’s a painful process of writing and recording, but when we get to the end we all feel that we did the best we ever could and we’re really proud of everything we’ve put out.
MD: You can’t ask for more than that! You don’t seem to have ever got the widespread attention that you’ve always deserved from the material and quality albums you’ve produced compared to a lot of your peers. Do you think that’s down to bad promo from the labels or just bad luck of not getting your music out there to the right people?
TJ: I think it might be a part of, you know…
SZ: …us being a bit lazy, maybe the label, maybe bad luck…
ML: I think it’s a combination of everything. There have been many, many setbacks. Many things have just been coming our way the whole time, so it’s been a struggle.
TJ: And also, if we had been…we’re not very pushy. You know, if we had been pushing the label more, and pushing our…
SZ: And the title for the ‘Still’ album, the idea there was just a play on words because everything in the Wolverine camp is…before that album was very still. Nothing happened…
TJ: But we’re ‘still’ here! [laughs]
SZ: Yeah, we’re still here! [laughs] It was like…
MD: Multiple meanings!
SZ: Yeah, that word summarised us…
ML: …and we’re still alive!
SZ: …against all odds! Yeah, it’s been…
TJ: I think it’s going to be a suitable title for the next album as well!
MD: ‘Still 2’!
TJ: No, no, we have a working title - I think we announced it on…
ML: Yeah, I think we actually announced it.
TJ: And I think we’re gonna stick to that.
MD: What’s the working title?
TJ: We can’t tell you, you’ll have to look on the internet? [laughs] No, it’s called…shall I say?
ML: Yes, yeah.
SZ: It also summarises the band.
TJ: Yeah - ‘Communication Lost’. It’s a struggle!
MD: You’ve occasionally played in the UK…I think we discussed this earlier - Anathema I think was the last time?
ML: Yeah, Anathema in 2006.
MD: Yeah, how do you regard the UK scene out of interest?
TJ: Er…varied actually. But, all in all, we didn’t play that many venues. That time we played Glasgow…it was Manchester, and London, and I think it was…well, I’m a big Anglophiliac so I just enjoy my time when going to the island. And I think the audiences were nice people, you know…
SZ: I think we always have a good reception.
TJ: Yeah, even when we went there in…was it ‘03?
ML: Yeah.
TJ: …at the Mean Fiddler, also with Anathema. I would love to go there and tour, it would be really something.
ML: Yes, some more places I guess than just three places.
TJ: And it was very long distances between those places - Glasgow, Manchester, and London.
SZ: But it was good.
TJ: Yeah, it was really nice; I liked it.