One of the great things about being the Chief Editor of a metal magazine, is that every once in a while you get the chance to interview an artist that truly influenced you. A band that you will never not go see whenever they’re in town. For me personally, Soilwork is one of those bands. Last month I had the absolute pleasure to talk to Björn “Speed” Strid about his band and other projects, the departure of long time drummer Dirk Verbeuren, their upcoming rarities collection Death Resonance and life as a musician in general. If you’re one of those people still unknown with this great band, pay attention. You’ve been missing out!
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us!
How are things in the world of Soilwork at the moment?
Things are interesting *laughs*.
That much I gathered.
Yeah, yeah. I mean, I’m sure you heard about Dirk being the permanent drummer of Megadeth.
Yes, that really came as a shock here.
Well, I saw it coming, sort of. I did see them playing at the Sweden Rock Festival with Dirk behind the drums, and he was sounding absolutely fantastic. So it didn’t come as a surprise that “MegaDave” *laughs* would ask Dirk to become their full-time drummer. I’m happy for Dirk, it’s a great opportunity, and he’s a fantastic drummer. So he definitely deserves it. But obviously, it puts us in a bit of a sticky situation right now, but thankfully we have a guy named Bastian Thusgaard, who Dirk actually recommended. He was Dirk’s drum student for a while. He’s been filling in this summer, and he’s been doing really, really well. I’m really impressed. He’s only 24 years old, but he’s been really killing it.
It’s a really interesting time for Soilwork, to say the least.
Yes, I would say so too.
I think someone like Dirk is hard to replace, he truly is a world class drummer.
For sure, that’s definitely a hard task. Bastian has been doing really well, but there’s always a time you know… You come in to a band, and it’s going to take some time before everything locks in perfectly, but considering all those things, I think he’s been doing really, really well. Nobody has been complaining, and we played some big festivals in Germany for example. People were very excited, and I was very happy as well. I mean, life goes on. It could have been worse, you know? If Dirk just decided to quit music, or quit the band and that’s it. But this is all very understandable. If you get a question from one of the world’s biggest heavy metal bands, I definitely understand it.
I completely understand it too, yet it’s still a bit sour *laughs*
Where it comes to songwriting, how big was Dirk’s stamp on the Soilwork music?
He didn’t really write any music. Of course, you know, drums are also music *laughs* , so of course, he added a lot of interesting things to the music. He is a very unique drummer obviously, so of course you will miss that. But at the same time I’ll see this as a new opportunity to work with somebody new who’s very young and who will definitely develop more and more, and evolve. So it’s going to be interesting to build something with Bastian as well.
Absolutely. Let’s see what style he comes up with for himself.
In more positive news, you also have a new rarities collection coming out soon, called “Death Resonance”. What can you tell us about this release?
Well, basically it’s a compilation, but it feels like an album if you ask me. It has a nice flow to it. It’s basically lost tracks and bonus tracks that have only been released in Japan before, compiled together with two new songs that were taken from the recording session of The Ride Majestic. Together they shaped up to be a very interesting bunch of songs. You’ll be taken on a little bit of a journey, I guess. There are some songs that are from 2005, and there are some from 2015, so you can definitely tell the difference, you know? How we’ve grown as songwriters. It’s really interesting to listen to, even for me, because a bunch of those songs I haven’t heard in years.
Yeah, I bet. There were some old friends among those tracks for me as well, it was a nice mix that truly reflects your musical journey. I like that.
Also, the two new tracks on the album, Helsinki, and the title song Death Resonance. You just mentioned they’re not completely new, they’re left over from the recording sessions of The Ride Majestic. You can tell that, they have the same feel.
Yeah, that’s true.
To me these new songs breath out what Soilwork stands for, what I’d call melodic technical aggression. How would you describe the Soilwork formula at this point in time?
I think we have a way more, like playful approach to songwriting nowadays. For example, in the mid 2000’s, it was pretty straight forward you know? Intro, verse, chorus, then back to verse again, then chorus, then like a bridge or whatever. Now there are more elements of surprise I guess.
That’s how I like it, you know? I like dynamics in songs. For example, in the title track Death Resonance, There’s a break down where it almost sounds like Pink Floyd, and then at the end it’s full on blast beats, with almost like a black metal feel to it, and it all makes sense you know? It’s not just thrown in there. I think it creates something really interesting. I guess in a way it’s a little bit of a hint where we will go in the future with Soilwork musically.
You already put some more surprises in your music with the last album I think, like the few songs that have more clean vocals in them than you had before. How did you come up with those specific kind of vocals?
I still develop as a singer I guess. I have another band called the Night Flight Orchestra, and I think I’ve developed a lot through that band, and have really become friends with my own voice. I’ve become more confident, and I’ve brought that with me into Soilwork, and vice versa. It’s interesting, because I’ve found so many new ways to express myself vocally. I don’t go for the approach anymore where you just say okay, it’s a verse, I should have screaming vocals here. And oh that sounds like a chorus so I should do clean vocals there. I try to be more spontaneous.
You have a bigger toolkit now and you’ve got more options!
Yeah, very true! And I really give the song what it deserves. I don’t have any limitations where it comes to writing the vocal lines.
Where it comes to the Night Flight Orchestra, your other project. It’s really, really different.
How did you end up doing a project like that?
Well, it started when David joined Soilwork, we really started bonding over classic rock. I’m a big late seventies, early eighties classic rock fan. That’s the golden era if you ask me. We started listening a lot to that kind of music together. We really bonded on a personal level too, and it was like we really should start a band like this, that kind of captures that era but still makes it refreshing and new. It’s needed out there so to speak, because as soon as you play seventies style music today, it’s always like the early seventies. Like pseudo-stoner, occult kinda stuff that a lot of labels have signed. There’s no one really out there that has like late seventies, early eighties as a guideline.
That’s really how it came together, and when we found the other members and we had our first jam session and rehearsal, it was just magical. I know that sounds quite pretentious *laughs* but it really was. It was one of the coolest musical moments of my life I would say. And we felt like wow, this is going to be awesome. So we released two albums on a small italian label and then Nuclear Blast approached us because they really liked it. And I was kind of surprised by that, because I don’t think they ever signed a band like that before. I’m really curious to see where it’s going to take us. I have so much fun doing it.
I bet you do, it shows. If you listen to the album, it has this enthusiasm to it. What I like is that it’s very different from Soilwork, but you still hear a few familiar aspects in it.
Yeah I’m sure you can draw references back and forth in a way. There has always been a little classic rock in Soilwork as well, you know? There have been Bluesy elements for example, so yeah.
When you look at your style with Soilwork, you already said you developed a lot as songwriters. But where it comes to your earlier work, what changed and what stayed the same?
I think the love for melody, something timeless, something melancholic, something that kind of connects you to childhood somehow. That’s something what I always go for where it comes to melodies. I think it’s more like the structure in the songs. In the beginning when you release your first albums it’s kind of like that primal aggression, where you just pile a bunch of riffs on top of each other. Like, oh that’s awesome, and that riff is awesome, and how about this riff? Yeah, let’s throw it in there as well! *laughs* And it’s just sections, you know? But it also has a lot of charm to it, going back listening to it. There’s also the beauty of not analyzing too much and not thinking too much. There’s that too of course, but at the same time for us it’s still about making albums and then making songs, and I think personally that we’ve become better at it.
I agree. One thing I think has grown over the years, are your melodic elements. If you look at your earlier work, it’s a lot more aggressive, but the further I browse in your catalog, the more melody can be found. I really love the combination.
Cool, I’m glad. I think there’s also more presence in it too. It’s more alive in a way.
Amongst the tracks on your new collection, there’s a re-recorded track, “Sadistic Lullabye”. What moved you to re-record one of your own tracks?
I’m trying to remember when exactly we did that. Whether it was for the “Sworn To A Great Divide” recording session, or if it was for the “Stabbing The Drama” recording session. It’s definitely been a while. I think, basically, we’ve always been doing that song live, and it was always like twice as fast *laughs* as the original version. So we made the live version as a studio version so to speak. We recorded it faster. In a way it doesn’t really make sense you know, but at the same time I like it and it was fun re-recording it.
I bet! Songs do tend to evolve over time I think during live sets.
Yeah, for sure.
Is that also one of the reasons you did a few remixes on the new compilation?
Yes, there are a few tracks that have been remixed, but I can’t remember exactly. It’s a bit of a mess when there’s so many songs, and a lot of them you haven’t heard in years. But there’s a few of them that have been remixed, and all of them have been remastered to get a good flow.
In the listing it says “Overclocked”, “Martyr”, “Sovereign”, “Wherever Thorns May Grow” and “Killed By Ignition”, they are all remixes. For me these are all old favorites that got a fresh coat of paint, so that’s all good for me *laughs*
Cool, I’m glad!
Yeah, nice mix. Do you still have any other surprises for us left in your Soilwork vault?
I know that there’s one song, I’m kind of wondering why it didn’t end up on this compilation. There’s this song called “Bursting Out” that was a Japanese bonus track for Figure Number Five. That song I have not heard since 2003. I think I’m going to look it up. As soon as we hang up here I think I’ll look it up, but that might be the only one. Of course there might be some scraps here and there you know, some ideas that we recorded in the studio, but I think this is pretty much it.
Does everything you record usually also make it onto an album, give or take a few bonus tracks?
Yeah, pretty much. I think that the first Demo that we ever did wasn’t released, and that was under the name “Inferior Breed”. So that’s definitely the rarest of them all *laughs*
I actually found that one on YouTube!
Oh, you did? *laughs*
Yeah, I’m a bit of a fan *laughs*. How’s the tour going so far? And how do your fans respond to your latest album “The Ride Majestic”?
I think they really like it. There’s a bunch of songs on that album that are working out really well live. I love to perform “World Of Pain” for example, it’s super heavy. It might be one of our heaviest songs ever, I feel. I love to perform that one, and the crowds seem to love that song amongst others. So the response has been really good I think.
So it’s fun to play the new stuff?
Yes, yes. I love to play the new stuff.
Where it comes to how it plays live, is there a difference between the current album and the previous one, the double album “The Living Infinite”?
Not that much difference. I mean, there still a lot of songs that we haven’t played live yet from The Living Infinite. You know, there’s 20 songs, right? *laughs*
*laughs* yeah, it’s a lot.
We’ve been living spread out all over the world, but maybe now we can start… I know that Bastian when he was filling in, he asked “Guys, do you want to do some other songs that we haven’t done before? Because I’d love to do that. Just tell me, let me know and I’ll rehearse the songs so we can try them out when we’re together”. So that’s kind of refreshing that we live so close to each other. He lives in Denmark, and that’s right over the bridge from Sweden, so maybe now we can start jamming more, you know? That would be fun. We only have one guy that’s living outside Scandinavia and that’s Sylvain who lives in France. But that’s not *that* far away, so we can make it happen.
It makes things easier, I can see that. Where it comes to your live sets, for the ones that have not yet seen you play live, how would you describe a Soilwork show?
It’s very intense. And as serious as our music and lyrical content is, I think it’s always a party you know? It has a party feel and it’s a celebration, and that’s something I always wanted to do. There is some really serious stuff, and some really painful memories lyrically, but it’s almost like when I’ve done it, recorded it and put it on tape, that I leave it behind. I make it a celebration instead. I think going to a Soilwork show is, I think we’ve grown a lot as a live band, and we’re fun to watch. We’re a way better live band now than ten years ago. For sure. It’s hard to describe it you know? Being the band, how it’s being perceived, really. But a lot of people have been really excited to see us and they think it’s fantastic seeing such an intense live show. You can watch the DVD as well, that’s also a pretty good example of a great live show I’d say.
Yeah, I loved the DVD, but it was a bit disappointing it wasn’t recorded at the show right before, the one I attended *laughs*
Oh yes, that was a killer show, I agree. I wish we recorded that one as well, it could have been a double DVD! Yeah, agreed.
It was an amazing show. There’s always a lot of energy at your performances. I’ve already mentioned it many times to many people, you’re one of my favorite bands and I think grossly underrated. If you look at your pro’s, you’re on a big label, you keep cranking out great albums, you’re on tour a lot, you sound great live. Yet you are still in the small venues and usually on the smaller festival stages. What’s missing there? *laughs*
I don’t know. I guess I’m willing to agree with you that we are a pretty underrated band in many ways, but if you would have asked me ten years ago, I was way more frustrated about that. Now I’m more at peace with it because I’m so focussed on the music still, you know? Maybe I’m not a good businessman, I don’t think I am. I think we made some poor business decisions in the past, and it’s about timing. There are so many things that need to click you know, in order to make it real big, you know? But I’m proud to say that we’re one of the few bands out there, coming from this genre and this time when we started this band, we’re still a real live band, you know? We’re a very fun band to watch, and we still make sense when we release records. Releasing a record has never been an excuse or a tool for us, in order to go on tour and survive. It always starts with the music. Something that we want to do and feel excited about.
That’s definitely the right mindset and goal, absolutely. I do have to say that maybe you’re a bit more of a big deal nowadays?
*laughs* Well we are maybe a bigger deal. But it depends on how you measure it. Like, moneywise, or…
Well it is true that with the last few albums, you have become a bit bigger where it comes to the spotlight I think. There’s more attention on you. So in that aspect you are a bigger deal now.
Yeah, let’s just say that *laughs* Sounds good.
Would you say there are areas of the world where you are perhaps more known than in my part of the world? I’m in the Netherlands by the way.
Yeah I know. I’d say, Australia, that’s always been really good for us. We’ve done six tours in Australia and we’re doing really well there.
I think in this day of age it’s hard to be a creative, and to be able to keep doing what you love. How do you look at the current music industry?
Now that we’ve witnessed everything that’s going on behind the curtains, some of those things you wish you never saw. When I became a musician I never really signed up to be a businessman. Like I mentioned before, I still think I’m a terrible businessman, probably because I’m not very interested in it.
Most creatives have that problem *laughs*
It’s kind of inevitable, you know? You kind of need to become somewhat of a decent businessman, in order to survive at all. I just don’t let that guide me. I’m not saying that in a pretentious way whatsoever, it’s just how it is. And I’m glad that’s the way for me.
You’re a real productive band as well. If you look at The Living Infinite, it was a double album in 2013, then you released Beyond The Infinite in 2014, The Ride Majestic was released in 2015 and now two new songs this year with a new compilation. Where do you find your energy and inspiration?
I think we get a lot of inspiration from playing live too, and, this might sound weird, you also get inspired by yourself, you know? You make an album and you’re happy about it, and then you can’t wait to develop the thought you had in the studio at that time. You want to develop everything you did.
That doesn’t sound weird at all.
No, it doesn’t. Maybe it sounds like “No, I don’t get influenced by anything else, I get influenced by myself, blah blah blah”. That was more what I was referring to. But it really is like that. When you release an album it’s like wow, we managed to create something new. How can we take this to a new level, you know? You keep evolving. I think that’s what makes it really interesting.
Absolutely. Where it comes to your most current creative processes, for the last two albums, what specific things did you learn from those recordings that you wish to develop further in the future?
I think we brought back the Swedish melancholy a little bit, especially in the melodies. I think that’s something that was missing for a while. I think we got influenced by our past, in a way, but it’s so different now still. So I think that’s one of the elements that we brought back, and we found a new way of expressing it.
I was really blown away by your 2013 double album at the time. There was just so much material and it was all equally strong, it must have been very hard to pick favorites for the tour there.
Yeah, very hard. But then again, like I mentioned before, it’s very hard. You can talk via email like “how about this song? Nah, I don’t really like that song. And how about this song, can we just try it out? No wait. You live in Los Angeles and we live in Europe. Fuck.” *laughs* So yeah, it is hard. But as you mention, it’s a very interesting album, it has a good flow and there are so many good songs on it, and there are still a bunch of tracks that I’d love to try out. Like “Vesta” for example. I know it might not be everyone’s favorite out there, but I think it’s a really cool track, that I hope will work live. I picture it, but you never know if it works until you try it.
No, that’s true. That’s one of the weird things playing live. You never know what works before hand. Where it comes to your Soilwork songs, how do they get born. When you’re writing stuff, who does what creatively?
Where it comes to me, lately I’ve picked up the guitar again and I wrote a lot of songs on The Living Infinite and The Ride Majestic. Personally I sometimes just seek time off where I just sit down and write songs. Usually something comes out, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. It doesn’t really work for me to wait for some kind of inspiration to come flying. It starts maybe with one idea. Then I collect the different ideas and then it’s like, okay on tuesday I’m going to sit for like, eight hours or whatever, and I’ll do that. Usually it works, but if I hit a wall, I don’t push myself too much. I just leave it then.
It’s hard to force creativity, I think.
Yeah, it is. But sometimes you just need to invite yourself to create.
Yes, you do have to be open to it. That’s where it usually starts. We already mentioned, you’re not only the singer of Soilwork, you’re also a member of Night Flight Orchestra, you’re a guest vocalist in multiple projects. Where do you find the time and the energy to do all that? Are you a bit of a restless soul?
I am a bit of a restless soul I would say, but a pretty happy one at that, for the most part. Whenever we have time off with Soilwork, if this would have been 2005 I would just have thought oh I have one month off, I can do whatever I want. I can eat kebab every day, and watch movies, and just hang, you know? *laughs* But I’m so bad at that nowadays. I want routines and all those things. I want to go to bed like normal people *laughs*
*laughs* quite important.
Yeah, it has become very important to me, so I think it’s a good way of staying busy, and after all it’s not that stressful. I have my home studio. Obviously it’s also a good way of staying alive financially, whenever we don’t do anything with Soilwork. I’m trying to save up some money to buy a house one day maybe.
That would be nice. Do you have other outlets for your creativity, other than your music?
Well, I’ve been trying to find a hobby that doesn’t involve music, and it’s really hard. I work out, I do yoga and stuff, but I don’t know. I like antiques. *laughs*
Antiques? As in furniture and stuff?
Yeah, but you need a lot of money. Well, you don’t need a *lot* of money to do that, it all depends of course. You can go to a lot of flea markets. That’s one hobby that I love, to go to flea markets on Saturdays and Sundays, that’s a lot of fun.
Just stroll around and find some hidden gems. Sounds relaxing! With Soilwork you’ve already been around for over twenty years. What would you say are your biggest accomplishments so far?
I think we were a little bit ahead of our time with Natural Born Chaos, but I’m really proud of that album still, because it really stood out in the scene back then, and it has grown to become quite a cult album in many ways. Also, being a part of Ozzfest in 2005 was a really big thing for us. It was almost like the neverending summer. It was a perfect lineup with all the Swedish bands, and a lot of friends. It was like this summer camp, you know? One that never ended. The weather was nice every day, and you could watch Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath every day as well *laughs*, it was just, it was wild. There’s a bunch of moments, of course.
You mentioned Natural Born Chaos. Next year will be the fifteenth anniversary of that album. Are you planning anything special?
We haven’t planned anything, but maybe we should do something. I know that we’re stubborn like that, because we feel that every band out there is doing albums in it’s entirety, and we’re not gonna do that, because we don’t want to be predictable *laughs*. We’re stubborn like that I guess.
Unpredictable? Do it in reverse! *laughs*
Yes! There you go! Perfect.
Where it comes to your band, what’s still on the bucket list?
I always wanted to do a tour with one of the big dinosaurs you know? Priest or Maiden. I mean, we did Ozzfest when Maiden played on the festival, but we were not really supporting them. We did support Metallica, sort of, in Madrid around 10 years ago, that was awesome. But I’m a big Priest fan, so that would be very cool.
Yeah, that’s also a great band. One of the classics. And if you look at the road so far, what’s your favorite tour related memory?
Coming to Japan for the first time was very special. And I did mention Metallica, that was very special. Having James Hetfield on stage, watching your show and then shaking your hand afterwards.
Yeah, that must be amazing. That’s another of my favorite bands.
Also, being able to bring my dad to the Australian, New Zealand, Japan, Korean tour that we just did in February, I always wanted to do that, and that was definitely the perfect trip, you know? Before he gets to old, and it’s a really long trip, obviously, going through New Zealand and everything. We got a lot of dates up there, so it was really cool to experience something like that with my dad. For as much as he knows about my band, he still had not experienced what it is I do every day. It was really cool to share that with him.
That was a really cool experience, definitely. How did he like it? Did it strengthen your bond?
Yeah, he loved it, and I think it did, yeah. In many ways.
That’s an awesome thing. How is this year going to look tour wise? I saw you’ll be back in my part of the world next year at the earliest?
Yes, that is correct. We are going to do some more festivals this summer in August, then we’re going to do the UK with Arch Enemy and then we’re going to do South America for the first time in September, and then possibly a North American headliner tour in the fall, then in February we’re going on the road with Kreator and Sepultura. After that there might be a break, I hope. *laughs*
*laughs* A small break to stroll around some flea markets.
Yes, there you go. Right! *laughs*
That’s about all the questions I had. The last one we always ask is, do you have any last words for our readers?
Well, I’m sorry it’s going to take us that long to get back to Holland, that’s a while from now.
Our readers are not only in Holland, luckily, we’re a very international magazine. Many of our readers will have earlier opportunities to check you out.
Yes, very true. Well, thank you for being so loyal. The latest years in Holland we’ve had better shows than we’ve ever had I think, so that’s really cool.
It’s always a pleasure seeing you live.
Thank you. Cool.
Thank you so much for your time, and I’ll surely see you out there on the road! Metal On Loud!