Scandinavian metal group Soilwork are one of the most enduring and beloved melodic death metal bands of the 21st Century. On their first full UK tour in several years, Rock Sins’ Danni Page had the opportunity to catch up with guitarist David Andersson and founding member and vocalist Björn Strid before their show in Manchester. Read on for an extensive discussion on a variety of topics.
How’s the tour going?
Bjorn: It’s going pretty good. It’s kind of a sticky situation on the drummer front, thankfully Peter from Darkane is filling in. He filled in last night as well. We rehearsed two songs and that’s it. The rest – he just listened, but we got through it. It was pretty rough but he did a great job, considering, you know, just two songs. Other than that, the tour’s doing great. We’ve been to Spain; Madrid, Barcelona, we played Luxemburg, and some of those countries we haven’t been to for a bunch of years, like eight years, so it was really nice to go back. Paris was such a great show as well. Unbelievable. We haven’t played there since 2008, so it was a good thing to return. Bristol last night was good. Tuesday night in Bristol, you don’t know what to expect. It was pretty packed.
Have you noticed that your fan base has changed at all since your last show in these places?
Bjorn: I feel we have a pretty loyal fan base, you know, and it’s a real mix too; people that are 12 years old to people like 60 years old, so it’s very mixed people and I think… I’m just really happy that people have had patience for that long. We’ve been away from France for that long, and also Spain, so it’s a good thing that people are still into us. And I think, you know, this new album really re-established our profile as well.
We’ve heard that you’re featuring on the new Disarmonia Mundi album?
Bjorn: Yeah, I was with those guys a couple of days ago in Milan, so that was good to see them. They’ve been working on a new album and I’m scheduled to do some guest vocals on it, I think in August? They’ve said it’s pretty much going to be the same style, they’re actually sending me a couple of demos in a few weeks so I’m also looking forward to that.
It’s a bit early right now, but would you ever consider making a double album again?
Bjorn: Well, I guess we were pretty hooked on making a double album, you know, it was a special feeling, and now it almost seems boring to just record a normal album so, who knows? But then again, we need to feel it out, we can’t force it. We would have never recorded a double album if we didn’t feel that we had the material or that it wouldn’t make sense.
(David joins us)
Your song writing process, and your composing in general; is it the whole band or just Bjorn specifically?
Bjorn: It’s kind of impossible for us to have jam sessions anymore because we’re living spread out all over the world, pretty much, so we send files back and forth, email ideas. We’re so used to it now, it just works for us. We usually do some rehearsing, you know, invite people in for recording.
David: Me and Bjorn have had a few intimate sessions too.
David: Just the two of us.
Bjorn: Yeah, that actually was really cool, you know, working with David for the first time on a Soilwork album. He could help me out with some of the riffs I can’t play. It kind of works for us, but obviously it would be cool to be able to jam more together.
I understand one of the major themes in ‘The Living Infinite’ was the ocean. Where did this inspiration come from?
Bjorn: Well, basically I’ve always been living by the ocean, born and raised along the coast, and also read Jules Verne ‘Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea’ where he describes the ocean as “the living infinite” and that really got me hooked since the album was going to deal with a lot of existential questions, I felt it was a fitting title.
Elegy guitars; how’s that going? Any future plans?
Bjorn: It’s going pretty good. David was actually supposed to be playing and trying one out on this tour but my colleague, he was working with the last details on the guitar and I had to go to the airport. It’s based in Toronto, Canada. I had to go to catch a flight and he called me up, “Sorry, I can’t make it”. But everything else is great. They’re looking great, they’re sounding amazing so it’s still in the works.
Have you got anything special lined up for Hammerfest?
Bjorn: Other than the puppet show, I don’t know. I guess that’s it.
David: Yeah, and setting fire to our beards. Burning beards. No. Do you have any ideas? We might consider them.
Bjorn: I don’t know how long our set is, maybe an hour? So its obviously going to be a slightly shorter show but… We’re gonna be on fire.
What about your DVD? Are you looking forward to recording that?
Bjorn: Yeah, that’s gonna be exciting. It’s been a long time coming. We haven’t realised a DVD before, don’t ask me why. I feel I’m glad we waited because now is the time to see us. I bet a lot of people say that but for us, it’s actually true, and there’s a lot of people who can testify for that.
Why pick Helsinki, Finland?
David: We have a lot of connections in Finland, like the whole film team and everything. The tours in Finland are usually good, there’s a good crowd there.
Any specific set list lined up?
Bjorn: Well we’re trying to have every single album represented in this set list, and it’s gonna be, probably hard to say but we’ll try to make it a longer set than usual.
Do you have any pre-gig rituals?
Bjorn: Not really. Me and Dave usually have the ‘Classic Hour’ before the show.
David: We have a few drinks and listen to classic rock on the bus.
Bjorn: It’s a good time. Sometimes it’s actually sad that it’s over and we have to get back to reality.
David: We have another band together called ‘The Night Flight Orchestra’ with Sharlee D’ Angelo from Arch Enemy on bass, a couple of other Swedish guys.
Bjorn: We’re doing a few gigs in the summer too, like the Sweden Rock Festival. It’s a totally different sounding, late 70s style. If you’re gonna have a side project, you might as well make it completely different.
David: Most of the other guys bands are also Metal so it’s good to do something different.
Bjorn: Late 70s is kind of a hard genre to pull off as well. If Metal guys start a band that sounds completely different it’s usually early 70s, stoner/Black Sabbath. To me, this is more challenging, more unexpected of us, more French Revierra, cocaine style.
Why don’t you tell us some random facts about yourself?
Bjorn: Oh, I don’t know. Dave’s a great chef!
Really? What’s your favourite meal to cook?
Bjorn: He’s also a doctor. A real doctor.
David: A doctor of medicine.
Bjorn: He’s way more interesting than me.
David: MD-PhD in Gastroenterology and Internal Medicine
Why did you choose to be in a band then?
David: Have you ever heard the John Miles song on music? “Music is my first love” (laughing)
Bjorn: (laughing) Love the reference there.
David: That’s about it. Doctor, gastroenterology enthusiast, lovely guitarist, hobby chef…
Did you just say “hobbit chef”?
David: (laughing) Hobbit chef, yeah. I chase hobbits. I kill them, cut them up and then fry them.
Bjorn: (laughing) Cut them up and fry them! Come on you little hobbit!
David: (laughing more) Like the whole, roasted hobbits on a spit. Lovely. Curly hair on the toes. Fried and crispy.
Bjorn: The toes are the best.
Do you have a favourite city in the UK to play? Is it just London, or?
Bjorn: As long as we don’t play Underground in London. Islington is gonna be good, that’s a good venue. Too bad we’re not headlining though. I enjoy Newcastle as well.
Do you go to Wales a lot? Hammerfest is there.
Bjorn: No, we’ve only played Cardiff, so this is somewhere else… And it’s pronounced… I have no clue. We’ll have to practise that one before going on stage! Good evening porblarghblur!
Maybe just stick to “Good evening Hammerfest!”
Bjorn: Yeah. It’s always weird when you play in small places, like we played in Italy in a little town called ‘Romagnano’ and it’s right between Turin and Milan, so obviously not a lot of people from that little town come to the show so you don’t really know how to address them, because you don’t want to disrespect the town by saying something like (laughing) “Hey, what’s up Turin and Milan?!”. You’d have to say all three of them or just, yeah. It’s really weird.
David: Or you can just set fire to yourself.
Bjorn: (deep voice) “Hello!” (fire noise)
David: (laughing) “Hell.. Argh!”
So yeah, I think that’s…
Bjorn: Is that a lego phone case?
Yeah, it is.
Bjorn: That’s pretty cool. You could probably throw it at the wall and it would do nothing.
David: Have you guys ever been to Scandinavia?
No, maybe one day. What’s it like?
David: Ah, we just fry hobbits and set fire to ourselves.
Bjorn: We’re full of surprises!
David: (laughing) But it’s nice. People usually like it, I think.
If you need to go back and do rehearsals, don’t let us keep you.
David: Nah, we’re drinking. This is ‘Classic Hour’. We need to get some food actually. Know anywhere around here?
I don’t know, there’s American food if you fancy that. Burgers…
David: Is there anywhere that does authentic British food?
Bjorn: Eel pie? Fancy an eel pie?
Bjorn: Isn’t that classic British food? Eel pie?
Bjorn: Yeah, I’ve seen it everywhere! Eel pie.
Bjorn: EEL. Like the snake, the fish.
David: (laughing) “The snake, the fish”.
Bjorn: (laughing) That’s the next Soilwork album. The Snake, The Fish.
David: (laughing) With an eel on the cover. Wasn’t that your dream? The eel dream?
Bjorn: Yeah, on the tour bus, last tour, I woke up… and I thought I was an eel. (laughing) I was still moving, like (does eel impression) “What the…”
Erm… Like any Manchester bands?
Bjorn: I like a bit of Oasis… Who else comes from Manchester?
David: Happy Mondays, The Stone Roses. I really like Doves, their second album.
Bjorn: My favourite British Band is New Model Army, they’re from Bradford.
David: Their singer did guest vocals on our latest album, Justin Sullivan, on ‘The Windswept Mercy’.
Bjorn: You should definitely catch them live if you have the chance. I think they’re out on tour in April? Make sure you see them. They’re just, wow. It’s a hell of a show. His persona on stage is unreal.
I still don’t know where you can eat…
Bjorn: Fancy a kebab, eh?
David: I just can’t wait for the ‘Classic Hour’ to begin.
Bjorn: Yeah, that’s how I feel sometimes on tour because at home, eating is like the biggest part of the day, like “What are we gonna have for dinner?” but on tour it’s just like “Argh, let’s get it over with so I can fucking drink!”
You can always just go and get a kebab and bring it back?
Bjorn: Yeah, but it’s that thing where if you start drinking like now, before eating something, it’s gonna kill the buzz, and then you need to work really hard to get it back.
David: Do you know we’re leaving here at five tomorrow?
Bjorn: I can’t sleep when the bus is standing still. It’s so hard for me because you can hear everybody snoring. I can sleep when it’s moving, that’s when you kind of get rocked to sleep, there’s a lot of sound like the engine. You can’t really hear all the farts and snoring.
Do you like being on the tour bus?
Bjorn: Yeah, I like being in motion, feeling like you’re going somewhere and doing something. It’s a comforting feeling. Not much privacy. Sometimes you need it. It’s a really nice bus though.
David: There’s no shower room, and you can’t poo.
Bjorn: You have to get off to poo.
David: That’s the biggest problem. (laughing) In the morning, nothing’s open, the bus is moving.
Where do you shower then, if there’s nothing in there?
Bjorn: At the venue.
There are showers at venues?
Bjorn: So far there’s been a shower in every venue here. It’s getting better. Not like in the States. It’s a nightmare.
David: You can go weeks there without showering.
Bjorn: They don’t care. We have to make stops at the truck drivers stations, but you have to pay something like $10
David: You’re happy if you have even a restroom at the venue with a door that closes or flushes. It’s that bad.
Bjorn: Yeah, really bad standards.
But the American fans are good, right?
David: Oh yeah! We really like America.
Bjorn: Long drives though too. It’s insane. The drivers have completely different rules over there compared to Europe, they just (in American accent) “haul ass!”, like drive for 24 hours straight. It’s kind of scary when you think about it. I guess they just drink Mountain Dew all night, snort a little coke.
Do you have a favourite English ‘thing’?
Bjorn: I’ll tell you what I absolutely worship, which I shouldn’t worship, and that’s Thornton’s Toffee. Brazil nut toffee and fruit n nut toffee and ughhh. That’s my all time favourite English thing. I’m a big sweet tooth, it’s bad.
David: And Finnish liquorice.
Bjorn: Oh yeah! But you have some good liquorice here too.
Soilwork’s current album The Living Infinite is out now on Nuclear Blast Records.