HELLFEST INTERVIEW - SOILWORK
Sylvain Coudret & Dirk Verbeuren @ Le Divan du Monde, Paris – March 9th, 2014
Exclusive interview for hellfest.fr
How’s the European tour going so far?
Sylvain: Perfectly. Today’s the fifth date and all of them have been frankly excellent so far. Nothing to complain about. Even in Italy where it used to be a bit more tricky in this past: this time, it was great.
Dirk: We can even notice the difference with the first leg of the tour that we did in November 2013 just after the new album was out. Everyone seems to really dig it on the current tour.
What have you been listening to while being on the tourbus? Anything that seems to content everyone in particular?
Sylvain: The very last thing that I’ve discovered and that I’ve been listening to a lot is Avatarium. I got to make Björn (Strid – vocals) and David (Andersson – guitar) to listen to it. It’s really excellent: I just love it! There’s Candlemass’ bassist in it as well as Mark from Evergrey – a top guitarist – and an unknown Swedish singer. It’s very good.
Dirk: What have I been listening to on my Ipod recently… Celtic Frost, Triptykon… As Triptykon’s new album is to be out soon, I’ve been listening to the first one a lot: I’ m a fan… So I’ve been listening to it all the time! Apart from that: Midnight, a band hailing from Cleveland that kicks arse: old-Venom and Bathory-like. Basically, rowdy stuffs! (laughs)
11/22/2008: that date rings a bell?
Dirk: Our last show in France until today, right? (laughs)
Sylvain: In Paris, at Le Trabendo! We experimented some rather crap time with the French dates at the time. 4 of them were planned but we had to cancel 2 of them. In the end, we didn’t get paid and the promoter ran away with the money. We nevertheless decided to play the Paris show while the Strabourg one at La Laiterie was transferred to Colmar without any sort of communication, promotion, posters etc. So basically the venue was empty for the Colmar show. We had to give calls to mates so that we ended with about 30 people in front of us…
Dirk: After that, the management was rather reluctant to make us come back to France. Like "France’s all crap, you know!". We had to be very persuasive and persistent with it so as to be back after all these years
Strangely enough, you used to visit Paris very regularly before…
Sylvain: A usual European tour would usually be like 9 dates in Germany, 6 dates in England, everywhere but not France! This situation was a consequence of that specific bad experience.
Dirk: Thing is, we’ve always thought that we would be coming back much early. So in interviews, we would say "Yeah, for sure, we’ll play in France this time!". And then… No fucking date! The same happened with the first European tour – Björn and Flink (Ola Flink – bass) were in charge of the promotional interviews back then. So people were really pissed off to see that we were not coming! I was pretty pissed off myself! But we’re working hard on the issue so that we can do a proper French tour as soon as possible in the future.
Sylvain: And everyone in the band will be pleased with such a perspective: the food, the vine, everything! (smiles)
The Living Infinite has been out for a year now: no regret about releasing a double album? Still the right decision, you think?
Dirk: Yeah, definitely! I think that everyone needs to develop and this represented a true challenge for us. We had never done anything as such in the past: never written so many songs, never recorded so many songs, never tried to offer something so long. So we had to work differently and I think that this is what we needed: new blood, fresh ideas. Otherwise, there’s a risk to get stuck in some kind of monotony or boredom… You see, some bands always do the same thing and what they do is always predictable from A to Z… I’m not necessarily criticising what they do as it can be good as well. But this is clearly not what we’re aiming for.
What have you heard the most so far: "the first CD is the best one" or "I much prefer the second one"?
Sylvain: Honestly, we’ve heard a bit of everything. Some people are fans of the first one, others prefer the second one. A bit of everything, really.
Dirk: Overall, reviews have been pretty good. According to me, this is probably the record that received the most positive comments since… Even before the two of us joined the band. Even if Stabbing The Drama (2005) was huge and remains the band’s best selling album, it created quite an uproar at the time.
David Andersson’s share in terms of songwriting is rather important if you consider that he has just joined the band. Even if he has worked for the band as a session musician in the past…
Sylvain: Björn and David have known each other for a while and they’ve spend quite a lot of time together at time. Time they used in order to compose, to write together… Even before we decided to release a double album, they already had many songs ready while the others had not even started. So it was like: "OK, let’s do a double album then!".
Dirk: David’s songwriting sticks very well to the band’s style. He’s very experienced in the sense that he’s already composed stuffs for many different styles. Like pop music, lyrics, etc. He’s done it for several artists in Sweden for years. To him, writing music and understanding a style is just natural. So it was very easy for him to adapt to Soilwork’s style. When we talked about the direction we wanted the album to follow, I think that he got it easily. He listened to our previous albums and was like "I know where it goes, it sounds good, it matches with what I do: it’s gonna work".
March 21 is getting closer. On that day, you’ll be recording your very first live DVD. Why filming it in Finland?
Dirk: That’s my idea from the start. We’ve been talking for years about doing a DVD and I have always wanted to do it in Finland as there is a huge metal fanbase there, and the fans have always been great to us. Whatever album we had out, whatever the tour was – even if it was a crap tour – it was always great to be in Finland. Just don’t know why but that’s the way it is…
Sylvain: It’s all about metal there. People breathe with metal. Metal is the music you listen to the radio. Metal is their music.
That’s a choice that comes from the heart, right?
Dirk: Exactly. And we’ll have the opportunity to record other DVDs, I’m sure. But filming the very first one in Finland was the right thing to do.
It may sound a bit provocative but what’s the point of still releasing albums when it gets rather difficult to sell them? So as to make a living out of music, isn’t the best to stay on the road and do as many gigs as possible? Many bands tend to space out releases and to focus on tours, anniversary tours for instance? Releasing a double album was quite a challenge in that respect. Do you intend to release many albums and/or double albums in the future?
Dirk: Certainly. The old system is still more into place than people think. Labels are still active whatever people may say. Some have disappeared, that’s right, and many things have changed. Budgets have dropped but we still receive royalties from older releases and that’s for life, you know. Touring is nice, you sell t-shirts, you get some money as well but when the tour is over, then that’s it. On the contrary, with a proper contract, you’ll be paid all your life thanks to it. In 20 years time, We’ll still receive money out of The Living Infinite… I mean, I hope! (smiles) As long as the whole system does not change too much… We have obviously thought about releasing our music ourselves… I experimented that a bit my my side-project Bent Sea… And this si definitely not the same figures in terms of sales! (laughs) But that’s grind music we’re talking about there! It’s only a side project and I was not thinking about selling tons of them. Considering that, I think that releasing albums via the old system is still the best way. It is still the safest system even if the environment keeps changing. It actually changes a lot but… Digital sales are going up as well…
I don’t download music so it’s not something I’m familiar with…
Dirk: Me neither. I think we belong to a generation that is still being attracted by physical products. Mp3 files do not interest me, unless for the Ipod, which is practical. But that’s a natural practice for youngsters. The percentage of digital sales is getting higher and higher year after year. So in the end, releasing an album is still something to be done.
There’s something Soilwork doesn’t do much: covers. Apart from covering Deep Purple and Mercyful Fate in the early days. Not interested by doing it again, for a couple of bonus tracks for instance?
Sylvain: Somehow, that’s an issue we often talk about…
Dirk: I usually veto as I’m not a fan of such things…
Sylvain: I’m OK with it as long as we do it our own way, you know.
Dirk: Right! Like when we did Led’s Zeppelin’s "Friends" with Scarve. That’s an acoustic song that we turned into a powerful song. That’s the way I like it.
Sylvain: Copying the original is useless.
Dirk: Sorry to mention it but Björn often mentions some pop songs to cover and covering pop songs and turning them into metal songs is something I just hate!
Somehow, I think that this is something that could suit the band though…
Dirk: But that’s not something we need, you know! (laughs)
I definitely agree but I’m still thinking about it as a bonus track…
Sylvain: Yep ! If that’s something that can be done in 10 minutes in the studio… Quickly done, nearly improvised with a some positive energy, if it sounds cool, then why not keeping it, right… But the idea of spending hours working on covering a song while we have plenty of our own songs… I don’t see the interest of it: I just don’t care.
Dirk: It’s useless. It’s been done and re-done…
There seems to be a black sheep in Soilwork’s discography: Figure Number Five. You were not part of the band when the record was actually released so what’s your opinion regarding that album?
Sylvain: Personally, I’m a true fan of A Predator’s Portait which is – to me - the ultimate Soilwork album. Figure Number Five: I don’t like all tracks but some of them are truly excellent. There are some killer songs on it actually, that’s for sure.
Dirk: I remember the period when it was out. I was not part of the band yet and I was writing stuffs for Hard Rock at the time. And I gave the album 19 out of 20! Does it gives you an idea about how I liked it? (smiles) I loved that album, I was really into it. There’s something pop-orientated about it, it’s quite repetitive but it’s very efficient. Very efficient, yeah.
Can Soilwork still be considered as a Swedish band in 2014?
Sylvain: The roots of the band are Swedish. But today, everyone lives his own life, here and there. So everyone lives in his own country or abroad and we get together when it’s time to tour or to record an album. But Soilwork remains Swedish as well as a band that created its own music genre. Dirk and I have only been part of it for a little while. We brought in our own touch to the band but these guys have created the whole thing 15 years ago.
Dirk: I’ve lived in France, in the States but I’m still a Belgian person, that’s somehow similar to that.
How do you explain that extreme music is so popular in Sweden?
Dirk: There’s nothing else to do there! (laughs)
Sylvain: And it’s freezing too! And for a while. It’s dark and you need something with a certain pace… So as to get warmer, right! (laughs) More seriously: it has a real impact. Winter is very cold and is quite long so there’s some kind of a depressive atmosphere that can settle in. And obviously, there are some consequences on the music, that’s for sure.
Dirk: Sven (Karlsson – keyboards) and Flink live in Malmö which is Sweden’s third biggest city. And Malmö’s population is about 250,000 people… Stockholm and Goteborg are a bit bigger but the third city only hits 250,000 so…That must give you an idea: there’s not much people can do. But as music is quite well subsidised, many people give music a go… That’s because of Entombed, isn’t it! (laughs)
Sylvain: Many styles have been created up there, you have to admit!
Dirk: Sure! Abba for instance!
As you mention it… Here’s a little card with Swedish symbols that I had planned to tease your Swedish bandmates with in the first place… And Abba is one of these symbols. More seriously: I’ve always felt that Swedish musicians – whatever extreme their music is – usually have a massive respect towards Abba. Is that your case?
Sylvain: Not really on a personal point of view but a bit nevertheless: when I was a kid, my mum used to listen to Abba.
Dirk: My parents were massive fans as well.
Sylvain: But you’re right: Swedish people have a massive respect for Abba. Even black metal guys must be dancing to the music of Abba when they get back home in the evening! (laughs)
Dirk: Even the guys from Watain? You really think so? (laughs)
Let’s talk about Hellfest now. We’ll take about the line-up later. What’s your view regarding Hellfest: a festival apart? A festival among others?
Sylvain: A festival on its own for me, being French myself. The festival has manage to grow and to offer what other festivals used to offer 15 years ago but in a much shorter time of development. Now Hellfest is a well known and well respected event.
Dirk: It pleases me. For example, Decibels – the magazine I read on a monthly basis – is a sponsor of Hellfest and does reports about it. Among all festivals, Hellfest is the one they have chosen to sponsorise: that’s cool!
Sylvain: Before Hellfest, there was not much respect for the French metal scene. Apart from experts, nobody knew there was a metal scene in France. Hellfest gave exposure to it and now it’s just building up. Everybody knows Hellfest worldwide now and people talk about the French scene. That festival has become huge.
Dirk: And we’re looking forward to playing there!
And what about the running order? Here’s a poster.
Dirk: Excellent! Let’s check who’s there with us!
Sylvain: Can we keep it? Cool!
Dirk: Repulsion! Yes!
Sylvain: We’re on the same day than Black Sabbath and Soundgarden: that’s cool! That’s killer! I saw Emperor in 2007 at Hellfest and that was excellent. Good that I was under cover! (laughs) Annihilator: cool as well.
You’re planning to stay for a few days?
Sylvain: Unfortunately we won’t be able to, as we play somewhere else on Friday. Can’t remember where…
Dirk: In Norway.
Sylvain: That’s it: in Norway. So we’ll spend Saturday travelling… I’m gutted as I really wanted to have a treat and stay for the whole 3 days. And I’ve known for a few days that I won’t! (smiles) Can’t do it anymore! (laughs)
Dirk: That’s going to be amazing. Good stuffs all along. I would have liked to watch Godflesh but that’s the way it is…
If you were granted with unlimited financial resources so as to set up your own festival, what kind of concept would you like it to offer?
Dirk: That would be a grindcore festival ! (laughs)
Sylvain: Mine would be less extreme, although… Probably more diverse. That would go from stoner rock to black metal. Like Hellfest, basically! When I go to a festival, I like when here’s a bit of everything! From groovy stuffs to much less groovy stuffs! (laughs)
Last word is yours. Anything to say to people who are going to read this?
Sylvain: Well… Have a look whether there are many spelling mistakes! (laughs) As everyone seems to be bitching about spelling mistakes on the Net these days! (laughs)
Hey! Ho! I think I should censor this!
Sylvain: OK, OK, you may cut that out! (laughs). So, I hope many people will come to Hellfest this year and…
Dirk: I think that this will be the case anyway!
Sylvain: What? Already sold out?
Dirk: So come and bring your friends to watch Soilwork! We will kick your arse!
Sylvain: A good kicking with Swedish, French and Belgian boots!
Many thanks to Valérie and Isabelle (Nuclear Blast)