There has been 6 years since your latest album. What has been cooking all this time? Well, we’ve been kind of quiet lately. But we’ve been focusing on playing live. I reckon we’re among the lucky few that actually has the time to play live shows. We’re basically just doing our thing and while doing that time just flew.
During this time, have you been concentrating on making this new album, or has it been an ongoing process? It’s been an ongoing process these last 22 years! Some of the riffs on this new album first came to us as ideas like 16 to 17 years ago. The making of the riffs is always there and it is a part of our whole idea; it’s something we got in the back of our minds all the time.
So the time away from the studio doesn’t really matter, whether it’s 2 or 6 years. It’s just a question of when we decide to make a new album. Though we got into a kind of “limbo” there, as we were supposed to start in 2011 and make the release in 2012.
But the timing got a bit wrong. We got a new guitarist, Jimmy Tikkanen, and then there was an issue with the contract, that got a bit tricky. We felt that we needed a new approach to everything, so we changed producers and then I myself had a baby girl seven months ago.
Last summer we had an offer from Bråvalla Festival in Sweden, but we pulled the brakes on that one. You kind of realize when the biggest festival in Sweden, and with the say so that they actually have, and they give you a call after 5 years of absence, it means business. It felt like we could do this full time, so we said; it’s time to stop slacking around, let’s make an album!
You mentioned changing record company. What’s your view on their role in the modern music industry? Many musicians nowadays produce their own stuff, without involving labels. That’s a hell of a good question! The record companies got their natural place in all this I guess, but we got these “checkpoints”.
Say we’ve got a race, a marathon with a whole lot of these checkpoints. Then anyone can understand that it’s going to be a long trip, and that the stops at these checkpoints doesn’t necessarily have to cost you anything, just to have a drink during the race.
The label is and always will be a good partner for us, and we’ve still got the same kind of contract as the one we first signed back in 1993, so we haven’t really changed anything. It’s the record company that bought one another, and for us it’s become a natural thing, as they’ve all helped us with PR, funding for studio etc.
It has become hard for some of them to survive, but that is just something natural within this info-based society. According to me, you can’t really have much of an opinion on that, it is what it is. Some of the record companies have adapted, and the ones who have done so wisely managed to maintain their natural role within the business.
One thing that had to disappear was the unnecessary distribution; a truck hauling a plastic disc from one corner of Europe to the other, and after six months you might just hold it in your hand, Alexander laughs.
The companies that got in between just faded away. When the business was as it was before, they also had their part to play in it, but in everything that was going on, there have been a few unnecessary steps on the way, I think. Many of those actors picked up a few bucks here and there, so there’s been a reason to do it all along; that there’s going to be some middle men, supposed to squeeze money out of who and where they can.
Nowadays, it’s kind of the other way around. The music comes from me, and goes out to the crowd, and we really noticed that now, when we were on a tour of Europe last week. The first day of the tour, the album had been out for 2.5 weeks and the crowd sang along with the tracks, it all happens so quickly.
Back in the day, you released the new record, and you couldn’t play the new tracks until the second time around, then things really started to happen. Now everybody else has to adapt to the ongoing situation. By that I mean; you make music, you distribute it yourself, and the crowd gets it immediately.
That’s where the relation is! After that, people have to adapt to the artist to help him. Stroke him the right way, and share what he’s all about. So I think that the record companies have their absolute natural role in that, and other companies that didn’t fit in to that, they faded away.
What were your thoughts on the choice of producer this time around? And did you have other options besides Roberto Laghi? Yeah, we had alternatives all over the world. At least when we were looking around, thinking and considering. You have to find out if they’re available.
We checked and discussed internally at first though. And we decided we wanted to work in Sweden, we wanted to be close to home and still feel that we were doing something new, so we switched from Uppsala on the east coast, to Gothenburg on the west coast.
That also meant switching from Bergstrand to Roberto Laghi, and he’s not an unknown name within the business, so we’d known about him for a good long while before all this. So we set up a meeting to get to know him a little bit better, and he had a lot of good answers to our questions.
What questions did you ask Roberto? Well, we asked what he thought about the music industry, what he wanted to do, what kind of approach he wanted to take to the whole thing and how he viewed the band. He said straight out: I really wanna do something with you guys.
I’d like to take the whole concept apart, and redo this whole “Veil of Ignorance”-thing into something a bit more raw and basic. “I’m from the punk scene”, he said, and wanted to make the sound a bit more “punk”. We felt that this was just the way to go!
Is this how you worked with “From the North” from the start pursuing the “punk approach”? I don’t think that we really had any special kind of approach in mind. It just felt right, and that it would be a lot of fun to move in that direction.
Our way of thinking is just to stay focused on one album at the time, and to get it done. We almost look at it like a relationship: You don’t get into a new one before you’re done with the first. That’s the way it is with these songs, they’re supposed to pop up in your mind while you’re fooling around with riffs and such.
So there was no thought about making a punk record; that was Roberto’s idea. As an example he used “Rage Against the Machine” and their first record, where the band sounds really naked and acoustic. Then Zack De La Rocha steps into the picture. He’s got a really nice part in that song segment.
We just thought; yeah! That sounds awesome, we wanna do something like that. The songs now are typical of Raised Fist, potential everywhere! A clever piece of music with something going on there, nice melodies and sweet rhythms, but still with that real kick to it! Kind of like a V12 just growling, to give it that heavy sound.
That’s the nerve of it, that sound will always be there regardless of producer or what we decide to do. I also really like that “naked” sound that I mentioned. That’s something that was added on top of the stuff that we already had.
After all these years and all the experiences made, do you still feel nervous before a live performance, or before a release? I don’t really. I mean, it’s been a roller coaster ride with the band, and to perform live, but now we know that we’re top notch. Perhaps it sounds narcissistic, but that’s the way it is. I’ve never seen or heard another band do what we do, and I’m 40 years old.
So when I saw the boys in Hamburg this last Sunday I said to them after the gig “God damn boys, you’re good!”. It’s strange when I’m standing off to the side drinking water; I just want to be there with you! I’ve seen many different acts all over the world, in the shoes of the ordinary music consumer, but I’ve also played with a lot of different bands; at festivals, with opening acts, and I’ve never seen anyone else that even comes close to what we do.
That must be a fantastic feeling? It is! It’s not just my thing, it’s the whole band that does it, we’re a team. When we’re pumping out a song live, there are so many emotions. Sometimes this uncontrollable “charge” just builds up, not every time, but those special times when it happens, it’s just fantastic!
Now, I’m not saying that everybody feels this way. Of course someone standing 20 meters away out in the crowd is getting a whole other feeling than the one I’m getting up on stage. So it’s not like I’m saying that we’re the best live band in the entire world, no, no.
What I’m saying is that I’ve never gotten the impression that anyone else that I’ve seen or played with has had the same kind of energy on stage that we do. When I feel all that, I don’t get nervous, I just think “Hell, now we get the chance to show what we can do. It’s gonna be a lot of fun for the people here!”.
And after the gigs, we get that feedback. The ones that have seen us for the first time just get carried away.
If you were to compare “From the North” to earlier works, would you say this one is more complete? I think it is. The later works of Raised Fist, like “Sound of the Republic” had that “complete-thing” going, but it had its flaws that you aren’t really satisfied with, but overall I think it felt complete.
”Veil of ignorance” was a bit out of line in my opinion, but then again, many people think the opposite. This time around I think we scaled a bit off, gone a bit simpler, straighter, clearer, but that’s also an art. Everybody know that it’s not easy to make something simple sound good, it can be quite complex.
Nowadays, people also flip back and forth between particular songs, take Spotify as an example. This makes a compilation, which an album is, a bit obsolete. That general impression, the whole picture that an album could be all about with its cover, its weight, the feeling of holding it in your hands, you know.
I think that “From the North” as a complete album, from the first track to the last is a really pleasant trip. I’m really happy with it, and I would give it 5 out of 5, and I would give our last album “Veil of Ignorance” a weak 3 out of 5, I can be that honest.
Have you ever thought about releasing an album as a solo artist? Sure, I’ve had the thought, but I’ve never been thinking about it seriously. I’m not that keen on being the front man, weirdly enough. In Raised Fist I just kind of fell into that role.
I went from being the drummer to being the singer. Instrumentally we were fine, but the singer wasn’t delivering so I decided to take the microphone and set things straight.
After that, it just became my thing. But I do feel I need the other guys in the band to be complete. In other words, it would be one hell of a transition for me to go solo, and then there’s the question of what am I going to do? I mean, I like all kinds of music, from Beethoven to what we in Raised Fist do.
On the new album I’ve written “Flow”, but I also wrote “Gate”, and these songs are worlds apart. This is the heaviest song on the album, and one of the softer, rockier ones. I couldn’t settle for just one type, and I think this is part of what Raised Fist is all about; to do different kinds of music. On top of this, I write songs for other musicians as well, so if anyone should be interested, I got a few things lying around.
Before this interview, I mentioned to my sister that I was going to talk to you, and she said: “Did you know that Bruce Dickinson aired Raised Fist on his radio show?”. Hell yeah, I know! He played us several times on the show, I also know he’s a fan! It’s a reality check.
It’s one of those little things that make you think “wow, this gives us a little place in the history books”. As you yourself listened to Bruce as a kid, and now he’s listening to your music, that’s pretty cool!
There are many other artists in the spotlight that are influenced by what we’re doing. It’s primarily the new metal core bands that have mentioned us.
Give us some highlights from the road. Well, I told you a few, and a lot of the time you’re not sure what you’ve seen and heard. But now just last week, there was one guy from the opening act-band who got his finger stuck in a cabinet.
He was going to open a cabinet to some towels, and the little peg was gone, so there was just a hole in. So he puts his finger in there and starts poking around, but got stuck. His finger started to swell, and no one was around to help him. It took quite a while before someone went backstage to discover him stuck there.
But after a time a few people noticed him, stuck in that damned cabinet. So they had to go get some saws to get him loose. I doesn’t sound like that much fun, but when I saw his face, I mean he had been standing there for quite a while, shouting for help while others sound checked! Haha!
Another classic takes place in Canada. Our bass player Josse disappeared while on stage. I kept hearing him playing but he was nowhere to be found! One and a half song goes by before he shows up again, sweating like hell. I lean over to ask him where the fuck he’s been. “I nearly shat myself” he said.
Apparently he’d caught some stomach disease and had been puking and squirting the brown in a trash can behind the stage at the same time while also playing the bass. He could do that since he had a wireless system.
Otherwise it’s just fun stuff. Here I’m sitting with a badly scarred back from four days ago, courtesy of Jimmy’s’ guitar. I had to make use of a whiskey bottle backstage to disinfect the wound before I could take a shower and get properly cleaned up.
It still hurts though, so I think it might be infected. I’ll have to get it checked up later. One time I managed to jump the stage apart, so I fell through, cut my leg open and had to get stitches. There’s almost an infinite amount of stories, you just need to dig through the archives.
This kind of thing is just not done around there. So when we go out on tours, that is what keeps us together.