A Different Swedish Sound

Hard work, intense touring, and keeping loyal to fans is all a band needs to make it big, right? Yeah, OK, stop laughing. With the massive radio successes of crap like Brittany Spears and N’Sync and a whole lot of other bands of the like, it’s more obvious now than ever that a good publicist will take a band way beyond any talent they possess.

But does this apply to metal bands, too? Let’s take Meshuggah, Swedish metal-deities. The band has released a number of impressive albums over the past few years. Their 1995 smash Destroy Erase Improve made them a name all over the world, but somehow, their flame never caught onto America. However, for some reason, their latest disc, the aptly named Chaosphere , has blown up in the press and media. Rolling Stone mentioned them as one of the most important metal bands of the ’90s, magazines like Hit Parader , that usually don’t cover extreme bands, are including them in their usually Korn and Manson-doused issues, and their unique musicianship has earned them various features in major guitar and drum magazines. Not to mention an especially coveted slot opening for Slayer, an opportunity most bands would kill for.

Yet as impressive as Chaosphere is, it’s not too different from Destroy Erase Improve . I was able to catch rhythm guitarist Marten Hagstrom on the phone for a quick little interview, to gain a little bit of insight on what they’ve done different this time around to get the buzz up on them.


How was it being on tour with Slayer?

Marten Hagstrom : Man, the tour was awesome in every respect, the only problems we’ve been having is with the parts on the RV breaking down a couple of times, but the actual shows have been going way over expectations. The Slayer guys and their crew were great, and so was Sick Of It All.

How about the crowds, were there a lot of Meshuggah fans at all the shows?

Yeah, it surprises us that there are so many people out there wearing our shirts and screaming for us and buying our stuff, we’re amazed and it’s really fun.

So why do you think Chaosphere has taken off so well? Destroy Erase Improve was an awesome record, but Chaosphere is just blowing up!

The first thing that you can contribute that fact that when we released Destroy Erase Improve , we had a big hype going on in Europe, we were opening up for Machine Head in 1995 a couple other European tours. All in all we concentrated a lot of our work then back home, and that was mainly because we, at the time, were licensed by Relapse records, who were running Nuclear Blast America. By the time we were really intending to do extensive work on that one ( Destroy Erase Improve ), both labels actually stopped working together. It wasn’t really anyone’s fault, just bad timing.

I was able to get Chaosphere almost right when it came out, but except for mail-order, I can’t really find Destroy Erase Improve anywhere.

Yeah, I know. It’s always been a problem, but on the other hand, now doing what works for us, when we released Chaosphere, it was way better to come over with a bit more focus.

So what do you guys think you’ll be doing on the next CD? The step from Destroy Erase Improve to Chaosphere wasn’t too major, and some people are wondering what else there is left to do on the Meshuggah sound.

Every time we write and record something, we just do what sounds and feels right at the moment, and I guess it’s going to show. When we stop touring this album, that’s when we’re going to start writing songs again, we never write while on the road or anything like that. By the time we feel we’ve finished off the touring for this record, we’re going to start writing new material, and then it’s going to show, the new direction we’re going to take. But I think as far as the aggression, this intense style that we tried to incorporate in this album has reached the top, I don’t think we can do a more intense and in your face album as this one.

So what kind of music do you guys personally listen to?

Tough one, it kinds of depends on who you’re talking to in the band.

How about you? What kinds of styles influenced you?

I listen a lot to different styles. I like to keep an open mind. Like some days I can listen to Ol’ Dirty Bastard or Wu-Tang, and another day I can listen to Sting or Devin Townsend or soundtrack music. But I would like to say that inspirationally, way back when I was younger, I listened a lot to Anthrax and Rush, bands that were, to me, doing something that I could like.

Something you’d like to perhaps play?

Yeah, exactly. But to me, every genre has something good in it, except maybe country. You know, it’s like there’s something in there in everything, if just you give it a chance, and the older I get, the more I learn to listen to different kinds of music.

So what are you guys going to do after the tour? Write new material, right?

Yeah, that’s the plan right now. The actual plan now is to finish this tour — it stops May 1st — and fly home and relax a little bit, or actually rehearse a bit. And then we’re going to go down and play the Dynamo Festival in Holland, along with Metallica and Fear Factory.

Planning to go to Milwaukee Metalfest again this year?

I don’t think so, but I won’t say anything for certain. We’re going to be hitting the road this summer opening for S.O.D. in Europe, and hopefully doing some festivals apart from Dynamo. So we’ll be doing some shows back home in Sweden, and then we’re going to look at the option of coming back here this coming fall.

Will you get to play more songs this time?

Well, if we come back it’s not going to be the same trip as this one. This is a first, we’re the first band out of three. I would say that next time around, we’ll perhaps go on a small club headlining tour or open up for someone big again.

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