WOLF (EN)

– First of all, thank you so much for answering to our interview. And tell us, how is the band currently doing?
Niklas: The band is doing great even though were in the middle of the Corona crisis! We were just out on a European tour together with Grand Magus, unfortunately the tour was cancelled due to the virus. It was a good decision but unfortunate it had to happen. Now were just trying to get through the virus, all of us have been sick for a couple of weeks so it´s tough but I think all is finally getting better. We have also started the writing for the next album.

-You’ve got new blood in the band. How does this affect WOLF? Does it make the band go further in creative terms?
Niklas: Speaking for myself, it has given me a lot of inspiration. When I write I can hear Simon, Johan and Pontus on the songs. There also a burst of new ideas that comes with the new blood. Not only for the music, but also for the business part and the practical solutions.
Simon: I agree with Niklas, it´s really inspiring to have the new amazing guys onboard, we had a great time on the recent tour and if felt great that we work so well together in a live situation as well.

-I read Mike Wead helped you finding the new members. How did it happen?
Simon: Well, what happened is the following. Mike and I are really close friends and have been so over 30 years. Mike also work in my studio SolnaSound Recording. So, Mike and me was just talking and trying to figure out what guys we knew that would be a good fit in Wolf. Then all of a sudden, my friend Mike Wead said…. have you thought about Johan Koleberg? Mike had met Johan at a party at Pontus Egbergs house and Johan had been playing some drums during the evening. I also know who Johan is since way back but never really had the chance to get to know him in person. Mike and I decided he should call Pontus who is a long-time friend of Johan and ask him a bit about Johan. Of course, Pontus only had great things to say about him. During that conversation Mike also mentioned that we need a new bass player in WOLF, in the same sentence he also said -but you are probably to busy Pontus? Pontus response was something like…well, I´m not so sure about that. So, that single phone call led up to us meeting up with both Pontus & Johan and in the end, it resulted in them joining WOLF. Pretty important phone call is you ask me.

-I guess this might have been a little bit stressful to deal with. How have these last months been on a more emotional level for you?
Niklas: It’s been an emotional roller coaster with many sleepless nights for Simon and me. We knew that Anders Modd (bass guitar) was leaving since he told us in the beginning of 2019, and Richard told me two days before the last summer festival. So after that gig we had an almost finished album but just half a band, and we had no idea how to proceed. It all turned out great in the end and we do not dwell in the past but rather look forward.

-Do you feel this as the beginning of something? Like a new chapter?
Niklas: Absolutely. It’s a new chapter in WOLF. We are four pretty excited guys now. Change can hurt, but change is good and makes you grow. The old members seem to be doing really well with their new projects, and we are really happy for them.
Simon: Exactly, it all feels so super at them moment and we can´t wait to get out on the road more and to work on a new album together. Exiting times in that sense. I´m also very glad that everything ended in a god way with Anders & Richard and I still keep close contact with Anders.

-You’ve got a morbidly great artwork by, once again, Thomas Holm. What’s the idea behind the cover?
Niklas: That is a question for the great artist Thomas Holm actually. We had a long deep talk about the album and the songs and he came up with a interpretation of his own that completely blew our minds. This is a very good example where art cannot be explained by logic. It speaks to the subconscious, and it came from the subconscious. So far, I haven’t done a single interview without answering questions about the cover art. That doesn’t usually happens and it proves that this painting is something special.

-The new album is entitled «Feeding the Machine». What’s its significance?
Niklas: The album as a whole, if we’re talking songs here, was a personal journey I had to take. I’ve been dealing with things that happened in my youth that I really needed to go through. And also, there’s been so much things happening in the world during the writing that also affected the album. The rise of the Islamic State is one example. I was working in the area where they had recruited lots of people to go and kill, torture, burn women and children alive and execute other people for the sake of an old doctrine that should be burned and erased from history. Some of the murderers have come back to Sweden, now living of the hard working tax payers or living of crime. With new secret identities given by the government because of the possible threats to THEM. They are claiming to only been driving ambulances and baking pizzas, down in Syria. It is impossible for me not to get frustrated over such events. That was the inspiration behind the lyrics for Mass Confusion. There’s other examples as well about what is happening in the world gets me frustrated and ends up in a song.
The title song Feeding the Machine was inspired from social media and what it has become in the last years. But that’s just one take on the song. It can be interpreted in a multitude of ways, and I love hearing other people’s interpretations of the songs. Being so long since I wrote that song, I have myself seen it from completely different perspectives.

-We are all feeding, sometimes unconsciously, the machinery of technology and of capitalism pretty much. What effects do you think technology (social networks, etc.) has in music? We are living in the era of immediacy, that’s what the easiness that technology brings. Does this make people to stop seeing art as such and instead consider it as a commodity to devour quickly?
Niklas: An interesting question. Yes, I think so in many cases. We want it all and we want it now. We are bombarded with information on a level that have never occurred before in the history of mankind. Everything is available with a few taps on a phone. What we don’t have in abundance now is time, and I can speak for myself here. It’s easy to get caught up in the technology and forget about the important parts of life. I don’t think many of us will lie on our death bed, wishing we had spent more time on Facebook arguing with strangers, do you?
Simon: I agree, everything has to happen directly and people are searching for gratitude and likes as life is depending on it. At least most people. No one really take time to live here and now and instead just spend time online. I can say that about myself a bit as well. Sometimes I just wake up and see I´m just surfing around on facebook or whatever, reading the same shit for hours. It´s a bit scary that it´s so easy to get caught up in the online world.
On another hand I also appreciate that the world is so much smaller and it´s easy keeping in touch with friends from all over the world and find music I never would have heard. Also if you look at the way people consume music today, the concept of an album has almost died, at least if you look at you people that hasn´t lived when you bought and vinyl and took it home and listen from the first to the last song. That´s the way you consumed music in the past…you listened to the entire album, not just one song before skipping to another artist.

-Do you have this about rapid consumption in mind when writing? As you create whole albums, having all elements in consideration.
Niklas: I am aware of it, yes. I try not to let it affect me when writing, but it probably is. I understand why many artists have ditched the concept of albums and just release songs. We like the album concept and we are lucky to be involved in a genre where most of the fans still get the whole album and listen to it as an album. Wolf is not the band that try to make one good song that will make it to the playlists on youtube and Spotify and have the rest of the album be only fillers. We create an entire album with an opening track, a title track, a closing track and songs in between that takes you different places within the album. This time, our ten song album even turned into a 12 song album, because we felt that the bonus tracks we had written should go on the album.
Simon: I don´t really think about it in that way. Just as Niklas say we write albums, not single songs. Of course we strive to make every song a hit but the main goal is to have a good album that you should listen through from start to finish.

-You bring back the days from when Metal was dangerous, from the sharp logo to the band’s name. Is it important for you to capture something else than what its just music? What is Heavy Metal for you?
Niklas: When we started the band in the mid nineties, we really wanted to rebel against all things popular at the time and make it clear to everybody that we were Heavy Metal and we didn’t make any excuses for that. We love this. This is our art form. If you don’t like it, go listen to something else. We were so completely backwards that we ended up being ahead of our time, and now there are lots of younger bands, and even older, that play this kind of music again, and the classical vein of heavy metal have many fans. Many music journalists mocked Wolf back in the early days, and they can now eat their words.
What is Heavy Metal? You can’t really put your finger on it, but you just know anyway. For me, it’s evil music that makes me happy. Raw energy, something primal.
I love it that metal has become an enormous genre, with so many branches. It keeps pushing forward and exploring new territories. For WOLF however, we stand firmly in the roots of it and our own music is classic heavy metal. But we don’t have to dress up like it’s 1983, and we don’t try to be retro or ”true”. When we write music, this is what comes out. Simple as that.

-What are some of the main ideas covered in the lyrics of the album? They look «typical» at first glance but seem to have an underlying deeper meaning open to different interpretations.
Niklas: The songs are critical to religion, society and the current times we live in. There’s also a bit of satire and dark humor as there usually is in our songs. If you completely lack any sense of humor and think that it’s ”wrong” to go beyond the given borders of metal, then you might wonder what the hell we’re doing sometimes.
You are absolutely right about the deeper underlying meanings of the songs. There is. But on the other hand we don’t want our metal to be intellectual. You can crank the songs up wave the horns and shout along to the songs, beer in hand. You shouldn’t have to get a degree from the university to ”understand” the songs. That would be rubbish, I think. So, on the surface, the lyrics are ”typical” for the genre, with lots of clichés, but on a deeper level there is something else. I love it when people tell me what the lyrics are about, because often it’s something that I didn’t think of myself.

-As I said your lyrics are approached in a very traditional way (when it comes to Metal) but they’re not just a random collection of cliches, they have a deeper, not that obvious inspiration but you think sticking to certain stereotypes is almost necessary to convey this kind of 80’s aesthetic and to provide something entertaining?
Niklas: You are absolutely right, but it’s nothing we do because we feel we have to to please the metal audience. We happen to love the metal aesthetic and it suits our music so well. I love using clichés and idioms, especially when I manage to give them a twist. And sometimes, they just sound right, like it’s a part of the rest of the music. I also write lyrics and melodies to fit my voice. My voice is what it is and it’s not always easy to work with. My voice is unique and that means, I’m not very good at singing all styles, and I’m not even interested to do so. So often, I choose the words that sound the best for me and the song. I don’t care how it looks on paper, as long as it sounds and feels right.

In fact lyric-wise some of the songs are pretty dark but that raw energy of your music conveys a somehow positive, victorious feeling. Where does this contrast come from?
Niklas: That is heavy metal to me. It’s dark, but it gives you positive energy in a strange way. I think that’s one of the interesting aspects of art, the contrasts. I love it how Mercyful Fate manages to sound evil and happy at the same time, or how Ozzy sings ”oh yeah, baby” in Bark at the Moon. Completely wrong, but so right. Some narrow minded people seem to have a problem with this, but it’s their loss, I say. Contrasts make things more interesting.

-The production here is «modern» and powerful. You aren’t one of those bands that sound traditional and get that outdated production. Why this approach to your sound? Anyway the sound here is rawer than on «Devil Seed».
Niklas: We just write and we just play. What comes out is straight from the heart. We don’t need to dress up like we’re going to an 80’s masquerade and we don’t feel we need to copy the sound from a glorious era of the past. We don’t try to sound either retro, neither modern. What’s interesting to us is the music.
After Devil Seed, we felt like we had done that ”expensive sounding” thing and wanted to get a more raw and in-your-face sound, so that was really intended. When Fredrik Nordström of Studio Fredman mixed it he wanted to give it a bit of an 80’s touch and yeah, it sounded right. But the sound was already there from Simon’s production in SolnaSound Recording, his studio, where we recorded. We’re pretty old school when it comes to recording and use real tube amps and real acoustic drums in a real room. It’s about taking the best from two worlds, the old analog and the modern digital. We haven’t been touching up everything to make it perfect, like the crap you here on the radio. When you edit everything to perfection you suck the life out of it.
Some bands seem to try and sound exactly like in the early eighties, and sure, it can be cool if you do it right. That’s not for us. Did Martin Birch spend his energy on wishing he had a time machine, to go back to the glorious days of Abbey Road, when producing Iron Maiden’s Powerslave? I don’t think so. I imagine he was just trying to capture the band and the songs the best way he could with the technology they had at the time.

-I think we all already know Metal tends to be a quite nostalgic «community». When Simon Reynolds researched on the cult of retro on «Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to Its Own Past» he wondered if: “Is nostalgia stopping our culture’s ability to surge forward, or are we nostalgic precisely because our culture has stopped moving forward and so we inevitably look back to more momentous and dynamic times?”. Applied to the Metal world, what’s your opinion? Do we use to look back because we feel there’s something missing on most of today’s music?
Niklas: History is important. Roots are important. It helps us understand who we are, where we came from and why we’re here. But the future is also important, because that’s where we’re heading whether we like it or not. There is a strange contradiction here. It’s like when we started the band in 1995… We felt we didn’t belong at all, and went back to the music that really inspired us and grabbed us when we were in our early teens. But it wasn’t just to be ”retro”. It was because truly in our souls, this was the music that was within us and this was the music that we wanted to play. It just happened to be totally out of date for the time being, at least in the public opinion.
However, I think metal is a good example of a genre that have now been able to keep it’s roots and at the same time moving forward and in many directions. It’s now an extremely broad genre, and I’m sure it will keep expanding.
But speaking for me, there is something about certain sounds from the past that just hits you in the right spot. I think it’s timeless. The modern tools are great and convenient, but they are more often than not trying to emulate old analog gear and sounds, without getting all the way there.

-Anyway, isn’t this «retromania» in Metal opposed to the rebeliousness it is supposed to be about?
Niklas: Ha ha, yes that’s an interesting thought. In our case, being ”retro” in 1995 was the most rebellious thing you could do in metal. Especially in the late nineties and early 2000 I thought a lot of metal was sounding a certain way because it was ”right” and people were afraid to go beyond that. Now I think we are past that and that’s very good. People realize that more distortion and a brick wall of sound might not make the songs interesting. Nothing wrong with that though, but the dynamics is often what makes the music interesting.

-All this about «Feeding the Machine» beind said; how could you describe it in just 3 words?
Niklas: Heavy Fucking Metal. Oh, no! That’s another cliché, but it works.
Simon: Straight forward Metal!

-And before we wrap this interview up, what are now your near-future plans?
Right now we are trying to get well since all of us got sick directly after coming home from the Grand Magus tour. We’re also planning more tours and festival shows. Besides that we have already started writing songs for the next album and we will try to use as much of this Corona period the get things together for the next WOLF album.

-That’s all from our side, thank you once more for answering our interview. If you’d like to add some final words; feel free to do it.
Let’s take a break from the digital realm and meet in the flesh to feed the metal machine. We´re looking forward to see you on future tours. Thank you for the support!

Tania Giménez
tania@queensofsteel.com

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