DATE OF INTERVIEW:
26th April 2017
MARCUS LOSBJER; THOMAS JANSSON
Despite Wolverine's non-prolificacy during their twenty two year career, with just five albums and an EP to their name, these Swedes have always been about quality over quantity. And last year's naturally progressive and subtly innovative 'Machina Viva' is no exception. An aesthetically flawless album that's loaded with sublimely realised compositions at the core of its emotionally profound reflections and introspections, it's not only a masterpiece in its own age, but will indubitably stand the test of time through what's already perceivable as a timeless, enduring appeal.
Over in the UK for a couple of rare shows on these shores, as part of a European tour in support of said album, Metal Discovery chatted to Marcus Losbjer and Thomas Jansson at the first of the two dates, in Nottingham, about their music; polysemic themes; the argumentative democracy of their creative process; just what "progressive" means within the context of Wolverine's art; and a few other divergences...
METAL DISCOVERY: It’s kind of apt you've started the tour here in Nottingham, the home of your second label, Elitist/Earache… so, do you find it kind of weird you’ve ended up here? Almost like full circle?
MARCUS: I hadn’t thought about it.
(Marcus Losbjer on his songwriting mindset)
"I never think about genres. I think of music."
Marcus and Thomas at The Bodega, Nottingham, UK, 26th April 2017
Photograph copyright © 2017 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
THOMAS: No, I hadn’t thought about that… although, I’ve listened to loads of Napalm Death and stuff like that… so, I should’ve perhaps thought about it… not because of Napalm Death, but because of Earache. It’s not weird ending up here… it’s just nice!
MD: When Wolverine was in danger of disbanding a few years back, did you see 'Communication Lost' as a necessary catharsis before you could continue as a band? It felt like a very personal, emotional album, in that sense.
MARCUS: This band has stayed afloat, anyway, in some way. It has been in an on and off state all the time.
THOMAS: And that’s why things take such a long time to get done.
MARCUS: Life gets in the way, all the time.
THOMAS: Yeah, it’s a cliché but that’s true. Well, considering how we function and work, it maybe isn’t such an odd thing that it takes five years between two albums. It’s sad but that’s the way it is.
MD: But did it feel like a cathartic moment when you released that album… in terms of Wolverine is still here, and you’ve got this really great album coming out, and you’ve purged all the negativity.
MARCUS: There’s another aspect, as well, that it takes such a long time. It’s that we don’t want to release anything that we feel is so so, and then we argue a lot.
THOMAS: Yeah, we argue about, basically… everything. It’s like a democracy, but a painful one. But you make something work and then you’re happy you’ve released it. But, to actually try and answer your question, I don’t know if I’ve ever felt that ‘Communication Lost’ was something that helped put us back on track again, or anything like that. It was just - oh, this happened. I’m sure there has been talk about members quitting and so on, but we’re still around.
MD: The final track on that album, 'A Beginning', kind of has an ambiguous optimism in its general feeling... sort of positive sounding, but with a layer of uncertainty... is that how you felt about the future of Wolverine at that time?
THOMAS: [Laughs] I think that depends on how you relate to, and interpret, ‘Communication Lost’, the song, because ‘A Beginning’ is something that follows the “lost communication”, so to speak, for me.
MARCUS: [To Thomas] I think you described it as… because you are the one responsible for it… but I think you described it as you have to erase and destroy everything, and build it up again. You know, destroy everything and get a clean…
THOMAS: A clean slate.
MARCUS: And build it up again.
THOMAS: Yeah, something like that. And, also, ‘Communication Lost’, to me, is about how we humans… I don’t know… how we are sort of dead; that there’s something going missing because of how we live today. And it’s going straight to hell, basically… speaking of religious metaphors. And then it is an ambiguous thing. It’s a beginning, but is it a new beginning for us? Not Wolverine, but mankind… or modern society. Or is it a beginning of something that we have nothing to do with, because we fucked everything up, basically?
MD: So, it’s polysemic, then… many meanings.
THOMAS: Yeah, it could be. Because, if you just look at Wolverine… well, the ‘Communication Lost’ song has different meanings, I would say.
MARCUS: And I think that these themes continue on the new album, as well.
THOMAS: Yeah, it’s related to that.
MARCUS: We just write about the world around us.
THOMAS: How we, perhaps, perceive it. Or, maybe, it could be, of course, relations and stuff like that. And, I would say, on ‘Communication Lost’, you have the intro, ‘Downfall’, which is connected to the beginning. The downfall is what happens before you can begin anew.
MD: [To Marcus] And ‘Downfall’ was named after one of your favourite movies? I remember you recommending that to me.
MARCUS: Yeah, it is one of my favourite movies.
MD: I acquired the movie and it’s really good, but so depressing!
THOMAS: What’s that?
THOMAS: Oh yeah, it’s not named after that.
MARCUS: I named it after that… ‘Downfall’. I suggested the name.
THOMAS: Did you? I don’t remember that. It’s a good film.
MARCUS: It’s a fantastic film.
MD: Bruno Ganz is incredible.
THOMAS: There’s a connection to ‘What Remains’, as well. You know, what does remain, when we do what we do? So, there is something tying that stuff together… in my mind, anyway.
MD: ‘Machina Viva’, then, the new one… I might be reading too much into this, but it’s the first album where the Wolverine emblem doesn’t appear on the actual disc.
THOMAS: Yes, finally!
MD: Is that symbolic of a new beginning?
MARCUS: Yeah, and a new logo, as well.
THOMAS: Yeah, I’ve been wanting to get rid of that logo for a very long time! It was made up long before I came into the band.
MARCUS: Yeah, it’s like a new era, you know. Jonas [Jonsson] is with us now…
THOMAS: But it’s also nice to… if you have a brand, you have your logo and your emblems and so on and, sure, in one way, you could keep them, but it’s important, also, to think about… I mostly think about design and what is nice for the eye, in my mind, to look at. And that’s why I thought we should get rid of that one! [Laughs] And the new logo is much nicer.
MD: The new album's like one big emotional journey through the listening experience, so did you feel you were on an emotional journey through the creative process?
MARCUS: It’s still a lot of arguing, you know.
THOMAS: Oh yeah, it’s the same thing all over again.
MARCUS: I think the song ‘When the Night Comes’ had ten revisions, or something! [Laughs] It was the first song that I wrote after ‘Communication Lost’, and it has gone through so many changes.
THOMAS: Yeah, it just didn’t do it. And then, eventually, the big change we made was putting in the chorus at half speed, and that really made the song, I would say.
MD: Do you feel like the emotional journey continues through the live performances? Do you find new emotional connections to the music, through the performance?
THOMAS: I think so, yeah… maybe. At ProgPower, which is usually where things happen, it felt flat, to us. Maybe it was because it’s the sixth time we played there. A great audience, you know.
MARCUS: Yeah, always great, but it still felt a bit… what are we doing here… again?!
THOMAS: Yeah, for the sake of the audience, maybe they want something new. Although we played a few new songs, maybe they would’ve wanted something that was…
MARCUS: A new band!
THOMAS: Yeah, not the house band! So, I think we’ll see what unfolds on this tour, actually.
MARCUS: Yeah, to see how we work as people, because we have never done a tour where we have been this close. We’ve only done short bursts. It’s like an experiment!
THOMAS: Like a lab experiment, yeah! But, funny enough, when we’re out on the road, we tend to not argue. I can’t remember us having been particularly argumentative when travelling to do a gig.
MARCUS: Because we have the songs, so we know what to play! [Laughs]
MD: Happy times ahead, for the next two weeks! As it's such an emotionally deep and emotionally varied album, do you think part of your progression as a band is how you develop in terms of discovering new ways to express those emotions?
MARCUS: All the time. You get influences from all over. It can be new music; it can be sounds; it can be imagery; it can be experiences; it can be news…
THOMAS: Yeah, all kinds of stuff.
MARCUS: It’s everything. I don’t feel there should be a boundary to where we go with the music. If we want to do a country song, we’ll do that.
THOMAS: If it feels right.
MARCUS: If it feels right, yeah.
THOMAS: And we’ve argued enough around it…
MARCUS: Yeah! [Laughs]
THOMAS: …then it’ll be a country song… or whatever.
MD: Would you say that’s the mark of a truly progressive band… a band who does find these new ways to express their emotions?
THOMAS: I would say, in one way, you could see it that way, of course… because what does progressive mean? It means you’re trying to progress and evolve. And, I don’t know… it’s difficult to say if you have a progressive metal sound that you’re not evolving, but it’s sort of two different sides of how you relate to the concept.
MARCUS: I think the most problematic thing is to set… it’s that time when you set the boundaries of “we have to sound like this”, that’s when you kill the band.
THOMAS: That’s not to say we’re not arguing about that, too! Some parts of the band want to play more metal-like stuff and some are prone to playing less metal-like things.
MARCUS: More correctly said, we play what’s good, and then if it is a slow song or a fast song… if it’s good, it’s good.
THOMAS: To us, you know… people might hate it!
MD: As you’ve progressed with each new album, do you see Wolverine's music as transcending genre, by following your own naturally progressive path? It seems that it's all about the song, rather than the genre, and you let the composition determine the style rather than vice versa?
THOMAS: Yeah, but it’s very much about sound, of course, but it’s not limited to a sound.
MARCUS: I wouldn’t hesitate to write a song with one chord in it… you know, if it’s good. It isn’t about complexity; it’s just about a good melody and a good song.
THOMAS: And, of course, a groove. You want it, sometimes, to swing, sort of.
MARCUS: And maybe, sometimes, that one chord is the only thing it takes.
MD: It does always feel like it’s all about the songwriting in Wolverine’s music, rather than it being genre-led.
MARCUS: I never think about genres. I think of music.