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Bjorn Strid Soilwork - Interview
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Bjorn Strid Soilwork

Soilwork are one of the top melodic death metal bands around and their ability to blend aggressive heavy music with melody is one of their strongest aspects. The band's last album "The Living Infnite", a double album full of great songs was received very well but as we found out, the band did not tour a whole lot in support of it due to some issues which we discuss at length. But the band are set to return in August with a brand new album titled "The Ride Majestic", a very focused album that is sure to continue the band's success. We speak to the frontman better known as "Speed" to discuss the new songs and what the band have been up to since the last album.



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Andrew: The first thing we should talk about is the new album that's coming out, "The Ride Majestic". I just heard a preview of the album and it's sounding fantastic, tell me a little about how the album came together and some of the songs that are on there.

Speed: As you know, we released a double album and we did some touring but not half as much as we should of done and unfortunately we ran into some troubles with our management at the time and that kinda killed the fun a little bit and we actually started focusing on writing the new album. We wanted to pick up where we left with "The Living Infinite" because we really feel we really discovered ourselves as song writers with that album, I think we have to really step outside our comfort zones because it needed to be diverse and to remain interesting all the way through. I think something really happened there and I think we discovered something new and I think we wanted to develop that. This new album is even more focused on the melancholy that we found with "The Living Infinite" and I feel that the extreme parts are even more extreme and the softer parts are actually a little bit softer but it creates a really interesting dynamic. But we approached the album being really playful about it and not just focusing on having traditional song structures, we were just being more spontaneous with it as well.

Andrew: In that sense because of the success of "The Living Infinite", was there any pressure to top that or outdo it in any way?

Speed: I did feel pressure and I think the rest of the guys did as well but I think it was a healthy pressure if you will because we felt that as I mentioned before, we found something new. We found new confidence in writing that album, that we can pull off writing a double album and that we can find other ways of expressing ourselves. So I think we felt really excited even though the pressure was there, we knew that we found something new that we could develop.

Andrew: A couple of things that are noteworthy on this album are that you have a new bass player and you have guest vocals on there. How did the new bass player work out on the new album?

Speed: Well here's the thing. Ola (Flink, bass) jumped off the band a couple of weeks before entering the studio and before that he kinda disappeared for about 3 months and nobody could get a hold of him so we speculated that there was something going on. And then when we got a hold of him he told us that he didn't feel motivated anymore, and we kinda saw it coming. He's been with us since the very start and I think he came to a point in his life where he really had to choose, if he wanted to do this for the rest of his life or get a normal day job. And I think he's more of a classic working man who likes to get up in the morning and I think routines are very important for him, I don't think he had any big dreams of being a professional musician and I guess it took him 20 years to find that out. Which happens because it's been a really fun ride, he was a huge part of Soilwork and I will really miss him because he had some big shoes to fill as well. It's all kind of hopeless for the time being when we get to know that he was not going to make it and decided to step down and I was doing some brainstorming and at the time I felt kinda like, 'Well is there a point to continue?', because I felt that Flink was a big part. But then I came to think about Markus Wibom who is a really good friend of mine and to the rest of the band as well, he's worked with us as a guitar tech before. So I knew he was perfect personality-wise, he's a very unique character and a really funny guy and super positive. I knew he played bass guitar and keyboards and stuff like that but I didn't really know how good he was at playing bass so it was just a matter of finding that out. He was not on the album because it was so close to the album (recording) so we thought, whoever is writing the song can put the bass on there as well which turned out really good in the end. We gave him 2 months to rehearse the songs with the 3 shows in Scandinavia this spring and he really nailed it, we're really happy because he's the perfect guy for the job and he's going to be great asset to the band. I think he's going to really put his touch on the new album live as well because he is a great bass player as we found out, I'm really grateful so it feels good. It might look a bit chaotic from the outside but sort of natural, when you're in a band for 20 years things like this will happen for sure.

Andrew: I guess for the touring side of things, did he [already] know a lot of the Soilwork stuff at all?

Speed: He knew some of it, yeah. He's been on tour with us before so I don't know how much he knew but I know he's very familiar with a lot of the songs so it didn't seem that hard for him to pick up the different songs in the end.

Andrew: The other thing as well is the guests on the album so how did all that come about?

Speed: Well it was kind of a spontaneous thing because I just recently moved to my old home town which I actually never really lived here but I grew up here. I was playing hockey, I was playing soccer, I started my first band here. But then I moved to Helsingborg...I was born in this small village between the cities that I'm in now...and I decided to move to Helsingborg and that's where I started Soilwork, but then I felt that I needed to reconnect with the city because I had been living in 5 or 6 diferent places in Helsingborg and I came to a point where, 'Well I want to try out something new'. So I reconnected with the city and I met with some really old friends that I started...I used to be in a black metal band with this guy who is on the album, Pascal (Poulsen)...and reconnected with all these people as well and it was really a lot of fun. And I recorded the vocals for the new Soilwork myself, I produced them in my hometown at a backroom at a friends house so there was really a local feeling to it. So it was really a spontaneous thing when I just asked Pascal because I knew he was a great singer and it was a cool way to reconnect as well, to do vocals on "The Phantom", so that's how that happened. We also have Nathan (Biggs) from Sonic Syndicate as well who is a really good friend of mine and we were discussing a couple of months back when I was doing some guest vocals for Sonic Syndicate about the new Soilwork album and I pictured him being a guest for this song "Father and Son, Watching the World Go Down" and I think he added something really cool. I didn't want to have too much of a trade-off thing going because I believe we have done that in the past and we also did it with Pascal in the other song "The Phantom" so I wanted to do something different with him. I think he added something really nice to the chorus and we did everything together instead of doing trade-offs.

Andrew: OK cool that sounds pretty awesome. It's always interesting to see bands having guest vocals and looking at the reasons why and I guess you have to look at the songs themselves and wanting something different there I guess.

Speed: Yeah exactly! Sometimes it's really nice that it's spontaneous and sometimes it doesn't really turn out that great but for the most part it does. I would never bring anybody in to the mix who I didn't really know or felt comfortable having on there and I think Nathan is a really great singer and we go way back. I actually did some vocal coaching with him back in Manchester in I think 2005, and that's how we met and I was really shocked by his vocals, the fact that he was really good and talented and I think he really developed and then I was happy to find out later that he joined Sonic Syndicate as the singer. I think he's doing great and he's a really good friend as well.

Andrew: OK cool. Well the new album is coming out later this month so what have you got planned as far as touring and all of that kind of stuff?

Speed: We have some festivals in August in Europe and then the album comes out on the 28th of August, at least here in Europe. And then we're going to do a North American tour with Soulfly and Decapitated in October so that's a month's worth of touring right there and then we'll do a headline tour in Europe and that will take us up all the way to Christmas.
[Editors note: Soilwork announced a headlining Australian tour for February 2016 after this interview was published, details are below].

Andrew: OK well it's been about 2 years since the last time that you were in Australia. I managed to catch you guys on that tour and they were a great bunch of shows so you must of had fun on that tour.

Speed: Yeah it was a great tour for sure! I feel really grateful, we've been to Australia for I think 5 tours so I feel grateful to come to Australia that often.

Andrew: Yeah it's always good to see you come back. Now you guys have been pretty prolific as far as putting out albums, I mean you have pretty much been putting out album every 1 to 2 years. What's the motive behind all that? Do you like to keep putting out stuff consistently or is that just the way it's been?

Speed: I feel that's just how it's been, it's hard to say as we don't really plan things. We just kinda feel it out and like I mentioned before, we had some troubles with our management after "The Living Infinite" and that killed the fun a little bit and we ended up only doing 1 North American tour and 1 European tour and we did Australia as well and that was about it. So we probably could of toured more for that album but we felt we needed to channel some of the fustration and decided to just focus on writing a new album, so that's how it happened this time. But I don't know, I guess touring gives you inspiration in a sense as well to write songs, and we've done 2 years of touring for an album [so] you're kinda feeling that you want to focus on writing a new album.

Andrew: So what do you think is the worst part of touring then?

Speed: The travelling, I mean personally I'm not a big fan of flying to shows. Australia works out really smooth when you check in and everything, you go through group check in and it's all smooth, but in general doing flying shows is really rough because you never really get any sleep and too many airports! I like being on a tour bus, you're on a tour bus for a month, you have your bunk and your little place there and you can decide on when you want to go to sleep and when you want to wake up. I would rather be in a tour bus than fly to shows.

Andrew: Yeah totally understandable! I just got 1 more question for you which I've always been intrigued by because you are a great vocalist. So who is your biggest influence on the vocals?

Speed: That's a really good question, I mean there's a lot. I like everything from Tom Araya (Slayer) who has always been a good inspiration as far as screaming vocals, I thought he always had a really nice tone in his voice and he's really good at pronounciating the words which I really like. I'm not a big fan of screaming vocals where you can't really hear what they are singing.

Andrew: Like death metal?

Speed: Well it depends on what it is. If it's really gory, just blast beats, I don't really care but when there's more structure and melody in it, I think it's really important that you can hear. After all there is a message there so why not be able to hear it. So there's that and also obviously classic singers like Ronnie james Dio and Rob Halford and David Coverdale and even Phil Collins if you will. There's lots of different singers, Devin Townsend is a really big hero of mine as well.

Andrew: OK cool! Well as I said the new album sounds fantastic and I'm sure the fans are looking forward to hearing it so thanks for your time today, it's been an absolute pleasure!

Speed: Thank you so much!



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Interview by Andrew "Schizodeluxe" Massie on July 16th 2015