Adrien Begrand of MSN‘s metal music section Headbang recently conducted an interview with drummer Tomas Haake of Swedish experimental extreme metallers MESHUGGAH. Check out the second part of the interview below (Read the first part here).
So which of the songs on this album feature the six-string guitars that you mentioned?
Haake: “The Demon’s Name is Surveillance’ for example, and “The Hurt That Finds You First”.
Oh yeah, the fast stuff.
Haake: The faster stuff, yeah. They were also not only written for six-string, but recorded on six-string guitars, so that brings out a different note. For “The Demon’s Name is Surveillance” we used an old ‘70s Ibanez guitar for that track, and I can’t remember what we used for “The Hurt That Finds You First”, but I believe it was also one of those older guitars.
How refreshing was it for everyone to go back to this old-school thrash style?
Haake: I don’t think it had that much of an impact on us as a band, apart from the fact that we just really liked how the sound came out. Hearing that in our music again is not something we’ve been doing on the last few albums. That was definitely refreshing, but mostly for Fredrik. He wrote “The Demon’s Name is Surveillance”, and you could see his eyes when he started playing that, because he loves those guitars with the thinner neck, he just finds them so easier to play compared tot eh stuff that we use for the other songs, bigger, bulkier eight-strings. So there was a certain amount of joy in that guy’s face, to be able to record and play with a guitar like that for a few songs.
“Do Not Look Down” is an interesting track, it almost feels like the band is incorporating a little funk.
Haake: [laughs] How about that? Yeah, it was one of those songs that we were really happy that it ended up on the album. We did spend a lot of time to get that groove to pop out and really be in there, so you automatically want to dance when you hear it. Like you said, it’s almost like Meshuggah goes rock ‘n’ roll or funky there. Still from the sound context it still feels like Meshuggah, but it’s definitely one of the songs that to ourselves does stand out on the album
When I interviewed you four years ago you mentioned how physically challenging the song “Bleed” was. Is there a song on Koloss that’s been just as difficult to pull off?
Haake: Not technically. As far as stamina-wise, we haven’t even tried to play “The Demon’s Name is Surveillance” as a whole band. It’s a quirky one for everyone, not just because it’s challenging physically for me as a drummer and for them as guitar players, but also because of the waltz feel that song has, it’s something a lot of people aren’t very used to playing. Playing those 16 triplets every other bar you’re leading by playing upward with the pick instead of downward, so it’s a quirky song to play for that reason, and of course for pure stamina reasons. I hope we can pull it off live, but we haven’t even tried to play the whole song through. We’ll see. [laughs]
How difficult was it for Mårten and Fredrik to pull off those riffs in the studio?
Haake: That song, Fredrik recorded all the guitars and the bass as well. Dick [Lövgren, bass] felt the same way, he started rehearsing it and practicing it, he was at it for a good few days, and he just felt it was going to take more time, so he gave the bass duties for that song to Fredrik.
So [Lövgren] played on more of this album than on ObZen?
Haake: He didn’t play on all the songs on ObZen, he only played on a couple songs I think. For this one he played on the whole album aside from that one song. Apart from that he played on everything, and we were all just stoked on how well he played and how it came out. We’re all super-happy about the fact too that he actually played on it. Last time around we were really short on time, and he doesn’t live in the same city as us, so we had a lot of issues getting those sessions to come together, but this time around he took time off from everything else and was at the studio for three or four weeks, and really put a lot of time and work into it. It really shows, and it’s a fun thing for us as a band that he was part of the whole recording process this time.
What’s the one song that really stands out for you right now?
Haake: Probably “Do Not Look Down”, for the same reasons we just discussed. But pretty much all the songs are favorites at the same time. [laughs] But that’s one of those things, it’s too early yet to tell what you’re going to like, what’s going to be your favorite songs in a year or two from now.
Fredrik’s solos on Koloss are some of most wide-ranging I’ve ever heard from him…what do you think of his work on this record?
Haake: I really dig it. If you take some of the extremes for example, the solo for “I Am Colossus”, which are basically two long notes that are slow bends, it just turned out beautiful and works really well for that, such an understatement as a guitar solo. And then you have the solo for “Do Not look Down”, that has him playing almost like a rock ‘n’ roll shredding solo, so that kind of takes it to the other side of the spectrum. There’s definitely more involvement on his side in making the solos stand out, and also the solos are very different throughout the album, to that’s something that adds a cool touch to this album I think.
“Last Vigil” is interesting, a little instrumental outro at the end…how did that evolve?
Haake: It’s one of those things that Marten has just been playing. Whenever we’re onstage waiting for people to set stuff up or whatever, he’s just kind of plinking away on the guitar, and that’s one of those things that he’s been playing for a few years. It just kind of stuck with him. We weren’t sure we were going to use it. First we were going to try to do something in the middle of the album, but once we recorded that one, we saw how much of a calmness it would bring to the album. So we decided not to do it as a centerpiece because it would just slow everything down too much. It was actually up in the air until the very final hours of mixing, and Daniel Bergstrand found this effect, this delay that worked really well. There’s a really strong delay, almost as strong as the original tone, and that made it pop out, and we really liked how that came out. So that was pretty much the last day of mixing, we decided we were going to have it on the album after all as a closer. We’re all fans of some of the old albums from the ‘80s and early-‘90s where even though it’s an aggressive album you end it on more of a quiet note. It definitely adds another dimension to it too, I think.
I know it’s early, but are you contemplating at all yet which songs you’ll be playing live?
Haake: I think the first ones we’ll attempt will probably be “I Am Colossus”, “Break Those Bones Whose Sinews Gave it Motion”, “The Hurt That Finds You First”, and “Do Not look Down”. But we don’t know yet, a few of those songs are really tricky to play, so it’s all about how well we feel we can pull it off as a band, how good we can make it sound.
Aside from the sheer immensity of the music, was there any reason you decided to use the title Koloss?
Haake: It’s not so much like a theme, like you said it’s kind of how the overall album is more towards something heavier than anything that we’ve ever done. We wanted something that had that sound to it, something monolithic, something huge. Also a few things that tied into that was the stress and anxiety that a few of us went through up until we started recording this album because of previous sessions where we felt we were doing things the wrong way. That lingers with you, you don’t want to do the same mistakes again, you want to save the mental health of a few in the band as well, try to do things another way. So it felt like a colossal thing to get out of the hat this time, even though it went smoother in a lot of ways.
Also once we knew what artwork we were using, because it’s not artwork that was designed for this album, it was an existing piece of art by this Russian artist Luminokaya, we just fell in love with the piece and we found out it hadn’t been used for anything, so we could buy the rights for it. Once we saw that, and we already had the title Colossus, we had that song in there, we just felt like this creature on the cover looks like, is it a god, is it a devil, what is it? The work Koloss just fit for some reason.
How did you find that artwork?
Haake: I don’t even remember, I think I was just looking through random art online probably three or four years ago I saw this guy’s art the first time. I got in contact with him, and initially he was supposed to do something for the album but we trailed off into other things and we didn’t stay in touch for a while. I just took for granted that the piece had been used for something already, but when I finally asked him he said no, it was up for grabs. He’s done a lot of additions and renditions and versions of it for the whole layout, so he’s spent a lot of time on it too, and we’re really stoked that we ended up using this art.
Was it digitally made?
Haake: Yeah. It’s a photoshop document of some 500 layers that took him nine months to create. [laughs] So there’s a lot of detail. It’s a shame you have to release things in CD format and not in the format of, like, a door. [laughs] There’s so much detail. So once we print real posters of that stuff, there’s so much detail you can keep zooming in and new things come up. It’s quite a mind-blowing piece when you see it in full resolution, for sure.
So do you intend to have that artwork sort of be a fold-out in the CD?
Haake: Yeah, that’s the idea. It’s going to be a fold-out poster, but I don’t love the idea because you get the creases there, but at least you can get into the details more, so that’s kind of what we’re aiming to do.