Metal-Inside, May 21 2012 (Daniel)
This is an interview with Daniel for www.metal-inside.de made on May 21 2012, before the Leipzig acoustic show.
1. You'll do a special acoustic show at Leipzig early June - who had the idea for this? Why did you choose Leipzig and Geyserhaus as the venue for it?
Well, I am tempted to make a fantastic story up here, going into depths about the historical reasons and acoustic preferences that lead us to this one specific venue that we had been searching for all these years… but I'll stick to the less bombastic truth. Again. I tend to revolve and gravitate towards truth (I have tried compromising on this a few times in my life but the aftertaste sucks) but I have this constant pull towards creative construction of magic. I guess that shows in both music and lyrics, eh? Haha.
Well, to get back to that truth then - we were offered an acoustic show in Leipzig, and we jumped on the opportunity since we appreciate shows with alternative premises and promising contexts. That always proves to be a door to the odd and fresh. It also gives you the chance to redefine your music and songs - sort of like bringing all your friends to a costume party and see who dresses as what, if you catch my drift.
2. Will this be a singular event or do you have other acoustic shows planned?
Nothing else planned, so for now this is a unique event. I do have some rudimentary plans to put something acoustic together in the fall or next year though, we'll see what happens.
3. Will you record the show for a DVD/CD-release (thinking of "Be" here)?
I have suggested this actually, maybe not for DVD but at least recording the show for possible CD. I hate repeating myself (it's an allergy, together with cat and grass), but here goes: "we'll see what happens".
4. How many songs will the setlist contain?
Three-hundred-and-twelve. Eh… No, I have absolutely no idea at this point. Haha. We will meet next week and start playing around with songs and ideas and see what happens. So, any guess is as good as the other. Well, I guess it's safe to say it will be less than a hundred, so some guesses will prove to be better than others in the end. Sixteen?
5. Will you have guest musicians with you on stage?
No. Unless you count bass player Gustaf Hielm from Meshuggah as a guest? We don't, but we sure have come to a position where we want to take our time when it comes to making new bass players become full members of the band. I don't know what it is, but bass players seem to be wired a bit differently than other musicians in some respects (and I am over-generalizing a LOT here of course, but whether it's chance or not, that's our experience over the years). They have a practical side that tends to become a bit impractical for them in the long run. Less likely to rehearse in excess, to play charity gigs and to take time off other commitments. They have this weird habit of wanting to make ends meet, which is highly impractical in the music business. By the way, when you read this, it should be read with a humorous tone. Anyway, it's as if they really and truly like music, but they wouldn't give their left foot for it. Unless there's a really good plan for how to cash in on that foot, see? Hahaha. In short, they are slightly more sane than other rock musicians (again, a generalization), which is an advantage in all aspects of life, apart from that one aspect of being in a band. For that you need to be stark mad and committed beyond reason. And hey, maybe Gustaf is, but we need to spend time with him and repeatedly scan for disturbing signs of sanity.
6. Speaking of live shows: you've done some extensive touring earlier this year and in 2011 - how did they turn out? Did they meet your expectations?
Ah, you force me to get back to the practical vs impractical here. See, my way of surviving and continuing in this business, in this trade, is to focus on becoming impractical. Which is to say, I always have to pretend Wembley Stadium is just around the corner. In that respect, no show or tour will ever meet my standards or expectations. See, I am in constant and restless search for intense and unique moments. I need the hunger, I need to feel at home. Every night I walk out on stage in search for magic. Something new, unexperienced, something that touches me and moves me. Reaches me or disturbs me. I want every show to alter me, change me in some way or other. And I want it to do the same to the waiting crowd. That perfect balance between the comfortable and the dangerous.
But apart from my restless needs for extraordinary magic (which always happens a few times every tour though), we have had great tours. We played some fantastic shows on Johan's and Fredrik's last two tours, and having those shows together was a nice way of parting ways after all these years. It gave some sort of closure that helped us in the quick process of reforming the band with new members. And that injection of new blood proved very helpful for this spring's tours. We played better shows than ever and sold out quite a few places. And we could play a few songs that we haven't played in a long time or, in some cases, never. Like Iter Impius, Stress and Sisters. And vocally I felt virtually unbreakable for almost all shows, which is totally undeserved since I don't even warm up and then go out and do a brutal two-hour set over four octaves with a fair share of screaming and growling.
7. Do you enjoy longer tours or do you get homesick and/or annoyed with the touring quickly?
Tours always make me feel like a cat somehow, you know, perpetually wanting to be where you are not. I long to be on tour, then when I am on tour I long home to my wife and kids. Going out on the road this time around was an emotional turmoil to an even higher extent than usual, with two old band members gone, and me just having become a father for the third time around. I mean, we knew we were already balancing on the verge of insanity when I accepted the tour that was supposed to start only five weeks after the arrival of our new baby, but on top of that Morris decided to come out two weeks late, and when he arrived he surprised us with having Down Syndrome and we had to stay at the hospital for three more weeks with me going back and forth trying to handle logistics so I could be with Sandrian (5) and Nimh (2) too. It was a quite overwhelming time. And if you didn't do the maths already; those weeks ate up all the buffer we had before the tour.
On the other hand, it's always extremely rewarding to go on tour. You get to experience two warm homecomings - first you get back to your loving and devoted fans around the world, reminding you of how many wonderful and insightful people there are out there. And then you get back home, and that homecoming is totally a miraculous experience these days, with Johanna and our three beautiful kids welcoming you - I can't see how anything could beat that feeling, really. A lovely breaking of the heart. Also, we sure missed our two old band members (Johan Hallgren and Fredrik Hermansson), but we had two new guys (Ragnar Solberg from Sign and Gustaf Hielm from Meshuggah) who are extremely good musicians and nice people, so we ended up playing stronger shows than ever, full of vibrant energy, like cathartic explosions - bringing some of the songs up on a new level altogether. Some fans probably came to the shows expecting to be disappointed, but we simply couldn't give them that, haha.
8. Which shows of the tours have been the most memorable ones?
For this last run I would have to say Spain, Norway and Finland. We have played for such a long time and we are all very picky with our own standards and performing. I don't know how to say this without sounding like an idiot, but we don't play bad shows. Seriously, we never do. So the varying factor of our gigs is the relation between us and the crowd. Which is to say, the talking between the songs and the level of commitment from the fans. Those things alone will decide whether we go off stage filled up or feeling empty. And Spain, Norway and Finland were rocking out like crazy.
9. What's linking "Road Salt One" and "Road Salt Two" concept-wise?
Road Salt is a bunch of songs with some common denominators, and one longer story that unfolds over a number of those songs. You can say that the point of departure for the concept is looking at Life and every aspect of Life as roads, or stretches of roads. Your life is determined by the choices you make, and the choices that are made for you - the roads you travel. Along those roads you will reach some key points. Memorable points for one or another reason - something profound that happens to you, an important choice you have to make, or one of those points on the road where, all of a sudden, you find yourself having an overview of your life - the choices you've made and the options ahead of you, all laid out for you. As if you have reached a crest with a better view. Rewarding and alarming at the same time.
Anyway, every song and lyric in Road Salt is revolving around those key points, and almost every single lyric puts a character (or you as the listener) before a choice. There's a possibility and a sacrifice. If you want to be semantically philosophical (and annoyingly clever) about it, you can say that there's salvation, and the pain of salvation, in every song. What would you do, which road would you take? The longer story is simply some of those key points stretched out, and is based on where I found myself back in 2008 or 2009. It's about having come to a point in life where you don't know where to go anymore, where you have sacrificed almost everything for this one single goal in your entire life, and now you don't know if you have the will to proceed. Where do you go then? Sit on the curb? Trace your steps backwards until you reach safer ground? Keep walking and hope for a wider road ahead? Or thrust yourself into the wild unknown beyond the road altogether…?
In the end all of these journeys and key points of the main character is mirrored by the roads and choices of mankind. As always, Pain of Salvation is making the fractal comparison - seeing the large through the small perspective and seeing the small through the large perspective. That's the only way of making sense on larger scales.
10. Are you working on a new album already? If yes, how will it relate to the "Road Salt" albums?
I haven't started "working on an album" yet. But that doesn't mean there isn't music. It only means that the actual album hasn't started to take shape yet. I didn't know which songs would end up on the Road Salt albums either, they presented themselves during the process, and some songs had been lying around for a long time, some had been in the back of my head even longer. That also means I have no idea how it will relate to Road Salt. I always need to find something new and fresh for every album (as I mentioned, I hate to repeat myself… *sneeze*). What I hope to maintain is that dry intimacy and rawness. I have become allergic to synthetic reverbs, dubbed guitars and clicky drums. And cats. And grass. And repeat…
11. What are you doing besides being a member of Pain of Salvation? What do you do in your spare time?
Whenever I have time, I try to accept a few of the many invitations I have to being part on albums by other artists and bands - I like the perspective it gives me. My biggest problem is that my brain is working in hyper speed and there's no time to channelize all that it's creating. I come up with inventions that I'd like to realize and 15 years later someone did it and probably became rich in the process; I have all these ideas for art installations I would like to do if I had the time and connections; I have all these movie scores coming to me and no outlet for them; I write entire novels when I can't sleep - but only in my head so they are never saved of course. Needless to say, all this is driving me insane, so with the years I have increasingly tried to do mindless stuff, like watching TV series. OK, it's not mindless, but it keeps your brain focused on something else for a while. Otherwise, I really look forward to some family time this summer - I have tried to fence off a lot of work for this period, to give me some time to be close, just be close, with my family and work in the garden. Maybe write one of those books during late nights? Unless there's another season of Dexter or Game of Thrones coming out on BluRay of course, haha.
12. Do you listen to music? If yes, which bands/albums did impress you the most in the last months?
I do listen to music of course, but it fills me with emptiness from time to time. Like a drug that's not really taking anymore, not doing what it's meant to be doing. I need to find new music and I need to have large variations. I have 25 Gb of music on my devices, but still I rarely find what I need at a given moment, as if there's still something out there that I am looking for. I had a huge Beatles craze a while back and bought the mono box to go with the stereo versions I already had, and even purchased some vinyls, like Revolver which is one of my big favorites. But I was never narrow enough to find that collector's mentality and learn the track order of all albums or who engineered this or that one - I get restless and bored and need to move on. So, my music collection is based on diversity a lot. Along with the more "serious" and "credible" music, you'll find your odd tracks of Robbie Williams, Beyonce, Spice Girls and Limp Bizkit. And there's a lot of 70s children's music that I grew up with and has hunted down in adult age - a lot of the music for children in Sweden during the 70s was awesome! I have said in a speech that we have gone from making adult music for children, to making children's music for adults. The music I have enjoyed the most in the last months would be Vince Gill (the Little Brother album) and Eminem. I am going through a period when I am trying to rate all my iTunes music so I can play random music based on my rating, so I just went through the entire ABBA catalogue now. Man they have done some priceless music (thank you for it *sneeze* that was my allergy to bad jokes setting in), and some real shit too. Just like Queen in that respect. The soundtrack from True Blood has some really nice music as well!
My latest purchases on iTunes were (and I am checking the receipts here) songs by Eminem (rap), Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver (bluegrass), Mory Kanté (world), Foo Fighters (rock), BigElf (vintage prog), Magnum Bonum (80s pop), The Hollies (60s pop), Gotye (contemporary mainstream), Alice Cooper (hardrock), Glen Campbell (60s pop), Crimson Glory (80s metal), and on my Squeezebox Radio in the kitchen I have all stations set to 70s pop, country music and bluegrass. Seriously.
13. Are you (still) into buying/collecting vinyl? Do you see it making a comeback with the decline of CD sales and the rise of purely digital albums?
I definitely have a soft spot for vinyl. I was given three crates of old vinyls that were forgotten in a friend's basement (he works as a janitor), and there were original vinyls with Jimi Hendrix and lots of old stuff. I found the Rio Grande Mud by ZZ Top in there, which was one of the milestones in the Road Salt sound and approach. But if you listen to the CD (I bought it on CD as well) it sucks, it really does. The sound it totally different with ugly reverbs and all contrasts taken out of it. The soul is totally killed. So, suddenly I am back to appreciating vinyls again. The thing is, it's impossible not to respect a vinyl. You take it out of the sleeve, feel the static electricity as it slides out into your hand, and you place it on the player gently and silently lower that needle, getting that gritty sparkle as it hits the groove and then wait for that initial noise to subside into semi-silence before the first track starts. Magic. And you sit there with the sleeve in hand, reading the lyrics, watching the imagery. Smelling the faint smell of the individual part combined into a special scent that can only be referred to as "vinyl playing" - you have the electricity of the machine, the vinyl itself and the materials of the inner and outer sleeves. Try to get that with a plastic jewel case and a 12x12 cm booklet. Or from a digital download? I can honestly say that I am totally unable to relate to downloads as compared to vinyls or even CDs. The albums I have bought on iTunes are abstract to me, there's no real connection. I care less, I know less, I am less introduced. If a vinyl is sweaty sex and a CD is making out, then a download is a quick absent-minded masturbation before you go have a snack at the TV. It's a function. It's standalone content without context or story. At the same time, I love being able to hear a song on the radio and just Shazam it then buy it on iTunes 10 seconds later and instantly have it available on all my laptops and hand devices. That's my problem, I am equally drawn to myth and legend as I am to brainy technology.
14. What do you think about the current discussion of legal vs. illegal downloading, dropping CD sales, and the likes? What's your stance as a musician and as a fan towards it?
You want the truth? (You think you are entitled to? You can't handle… *sneeze* …sorry.) Ok, the music industry is suffering enormous blows due to downloading - that's not an opinion, that's a fact. The big companies will always manage somehow, as will the big artists. And the smallest and oddest ones might as well, since there will always be a demand for the truly odd. And any 26-year old sitting at home in his parents' house making crap music on his computer sees a world of opportunities now. So, we'll end up with the huge mainstream and the crappy amateurs running the show for a while, seeing the middle ground give way as every time in our increasingly polarized society. Music becomes entertainment or marginalized art. The skilled move more and more into commercial areas in order to survive financially and keep doing what they like: music of some sort. Left defending the middle ground is a few companies and artists that bleed through their noses trying to defend what they believe in and love. The non-practical angels of persistence that will end up giving up or becoming bitter. And since I seem totally inapt in the art of giving up, it's fairly obvious what my lot will be.
The problem is that most people raising their opinions in these matters have no idea about the everyday of musicians - their opinions are not based on experience, but on want. And honestly, who wouldn't WANT to get stuff for free? You know how they say in the beginning of DVDs "you wouldn't steal a car" - well, the sad truth is that if they could do it secretly with the push of a button, I think most people would. When I meet my old classmates at reunions they are all fired up and excited about me being such a successful and famous musician, while they dropped out of school and got themselves "ordinary jobs" - but at the end of the day, they own their houses and cars, they have a pension plan, and they have more money than most musicians I know.
I hope this will change, that we are just seeing an uncomfortable transition into another workable solution, but the truth is, we have seen the exact same development in the other art forms in the past. A polarization into easily accessible entertainment and marginalized serious art for those helpless suckers who can't help needing to do what they feel is right, even if it means not getting enough food on the table for themselves or their families. That's why we see so many awesome visual artists working in advertisement and so many good authors writing crime novels.
15. Wise words in the end?
I think I have already squeezed in more wisdom than any forum containing the word "metal" can muster, right? Hahaha. Well, I just want to apologize for clustering all that heaviness towards the end, but I stand behind every word of it though. I have heard so many stupid arguments regarding these issues the last decade, so I am easily triggered. It's just that I am allergic to stupidity, and if I don't react I will start sneezing instead. And we wouldn't want that to happen, now would we? Haha.
Thank you for your time
Thank you, Lars