By: Metalist NY Magazine
With: Bjorn "Speed" Strid
Everyone I guess needs a change of pace every once in a while. If you work at perfecting your art, and work very hard at it, at some point you’ll feel the drive to perfect all sides of it. It’s very easy for me to interview a band like say, Hate, who I listen to on a day in, day out basis. So when I had the opportunity to interview Soilwork, I was hesitant. I’m far from a Metalcore fan, but I saw interviews with Mr. Björn “Speed” Strid and he seemed like a nice fellow with a good head o n his shoulders so I went straight ahead. You can say a lot of things about Soilwork, but their really a band that changes between every album and album with a work ethic and live intensity that many of their Melodeath gone Metalcore buddies (looking straight at you In Flames...) fail to retain. Plus I kind of dug the song Spectrum of Eternity so…
B-Hello Speed! How are you?
Speed - I’m doing pretty good, a little bit stressed because we’re applying for a working visa in the U.S.A , so we’re waiting for the appointment in the embassy in Stockholm. It’s cold, I never really minded the cold, unless it’s nearly below zero, raining and gray, I hate that. If it’s below zero, or fairly bright, I don’t mind.
B- My opinion is that we should dig in from the old and into the new, because obviously we want to cover the Living Infinite in detail, but this is the first Soilwork interview for Metalist so I want to give a lot of content to the readers. So, for that question which is in every first interview, how did Soilwork form?
Speed - Well, we formed back in 96, well actually I claim in the end of 95. Lets say 96, it was a good time. We were just a bunch of friends that met in Highschool, we didn’t know each other before that. We were all listening to Metal and Peter Wichers, our original guitarist came up to me one day, and he saw I was a Metalhead, I had a black leather jacket with painted Death Metal logos with long black hair believe it or not, he asked if I wanted to join the band he started and do vocals. I was a guitarist but I was like, “hey, I’ll try!” We started writing demos and give them to local contacts, like Michael Ammott from Arch Enemy who was working in a record store in our home town. He sent the demo to two different record labels, Municipal Records and War Music. . Municipal records wanted to sign us first, so we went for that and then we recorded Steelbath Suicide and The Chainheart Machine for that label, we managed to come to Japan even before our second album. So we released two records on that label and then we signed onto Nuclear Blast and recorded A Predator’s Portrait. We got pretty, not very, big but steady fanbase but then we recorded Natural Born Chaos which was our turning point. We toured North America for the first time, then after for the album Figure Number Five, then we went to Australia for the first time, and things just kept on going up really, slowly but definitely going up. So then we started recording Stabbing the Drama, Sworn To a Great Divide was another change for us, then Peter jumped up again for the first time, the guitarist we started the band with and we wrote record together. I don’t think it was a bad album, the production on the album is not the best yet it has some really great songs, a lot of people see it as a grey duckling in our collection of albums. So we managed to turn them around with Panic Broadcast, our previous album, which was hinting on something new, that’s what we brought out with this new The Living Infinite. So yeah, that’s the short version.
B- how did you personally get into Meta
Speed - At the age of 6-7 I think, I don’t really talk about Bathory or anything like that, but we listened to a lot of WASP at the daycare. A lot of songs like Twisted Sister. When I was 7, my mom and I stopped at a gas station, I saw the cassette for Number of the Beast and thought it looked really cool. I asked her to buy it for me, and she did, (great parenting!-Ben,)we put it in the car stereo and that’s where my life changed. That was a huge moment for me. Then during the 80’s I listened to the Hard Rock scene, a lot of Maiden,, a lot of 80’s pop like Eurythmics , and my mom was playing a lot of Bruce Springsteen in the car, when I started Junior High I got introduced to Extreme Metal. That’s when I got my nickname Speed, because of a friend in class, he had a collection of bands like Terrorizer, Entombed and Morbid Angel, he pronounced my last name “Streed” (note: Strid is pronounced with a shirt I not an EE) and he started calling me Speed. I think that’s when I really got into Metal, I didn’t really have any plans on becoming a Metal singer, but it was a huge kick listening to that kind of music so we formed the band in highs school.
B- Another question that bites my mind is that I’ve never heard you speak Swedish, your English is perfectly American accented, how so? Are people ever surprised you’re Swedish?
Speed - I don’t know, touring obviously, since 2002 we have toured a lot in North America I also live part time in Toronto, my gf lives there, and obviously doing interviews, that’s good practice as well. I have lived three years in Toronto myself as well.
B- Also, Soilwork is quite an old band, you’ve seen the Swedish band develop into an international phenomenon, how do you feel the scene has changed and how did it effect Soilwork?
Speed - I mean we had a pretty great impact on us with At The Gates and In Flames as well and kind of like the BM scene like Emperor and Dissection, a lot of them were Norwegian but it still had a impact on us. Yea, so that was definitely big for me as a songwriter and at the beginning of our writing, we wanted to capture that and mix in hard work. Then we discovered Strapping Young Lad, III the album was something really new so fresh so crazy and so atmospheric that had a big impact. Devin’s albums Infinity and Ocean Machine also helped form my taste, we developed our sound for each album in a pretty tasteful way and it’s been really natural for us,it happened for a lot of bands in the early 90’s. It was much easier speaking of Swedish DM in the beginning of the 2000’s, because each band was a part of a scene. Now each band has it’s own sound. I believe the scene is a lot more diverse, there are a lot of new young bands as well, hopefully we influence bands in that sense too to be able to not be stuck and make the same album all over again.
B- Is Metal more accepted in the Swedish mainstream?
Speed - I think it’s becoming really accepted a lot of kids today listen to Metal, even kids that don’t look like Metalheads. In Flames are really huge in Sweden, and they definitely guided the way for a lot of other bands in the Swedish scene. I think Metal is really accepted in all kinds of media in Sweden, we talked about it before. There were a lot of bands and no fans, now there’s really fans as well so the shows are a lot more packed and there’s a much better vibe. Not like back in the day when everyone was crossing their arms and making notes about the band onstage fucking up. I think now it’s a lot more fun.
B- how do you feel you’ve developed as a musician after all these years? Not only is the change noticeable in the scene, but also in your music- how did the band develop into what it is today from it’s MDM roots?
Speed - Well in the beginning it was about primal aggression, no plan, you let it all out and didn’t think too much. I guess that’s what happens, you start thinking a lot more, you get to know yourself, you get to express yourself, and you become better at putting words to emotions, and that comes out musically as well. I think that’s what happened with Soilwork I don’t think we could’ve ever recorded the same album twice. People might think as soon as we started to do clean vocals, we wanted to sell out. I didn’t want to sell out, I wanted to not be limited and be able to express myself, I feel that the transition are way more natural now between screaming vocals and clean vocals, so it makes more sense, that goes for the music as well. We’re able to pin point what we wanna say and really write it down, I think we’ve been working a lot with dynamics and it’s been a really long journey to be able to find a good balance between melody and intensity. This album is a really good statement about that.
B- What are some of your favorite albums from over the years? What are the albums you’re most proud of?
Speed - The Chainheart Machine was our Thrash masterpiece, and the way we mixed in Bay Area feeling to it mixed with Swedish DM and Melodic DM especially so that was kind of the first album I’m proud of. I’m proud of that one and it stands out. The second one would be Natural Born Chaos because it was touching something new and was ahead of it’s time. It received a little bit of a cult status a few years later, I don’t know if we were even aware of what we were doing. That album has definitely influenced a lot of bands, especially in the Metalcore scene. Again I’ll mention the new album, it’s definitely the mark of a new era.
B- also, your vocal capabilities are of some fame, how do you time yourself? How do balance between the two?
Speed - Well, how do I switch? It takes a lot of practice, a lot of touring I’ve been singing and practicing a lot of different types of vocal styles and that has given me a lot. The transitions are way better now because I use a lot of different voices, everything from natural melodic vocals to low screams to really breathy vocals, sometimes really mellow as well, it’s great for me to be able to express myself in many different ways. You can change the vibe a lot with that.
B- if you were to describe Soilwork’s meaning to you, in life, what would it be? How big of a part is the band of your life? How much do you draw on your life and bring into the band?
Speed - Nothing! Hahaha No but it’s taking up a lot of my time, I also think that, Soilwork , I believe I put so much of my time and emotion into it musically and it feels great. To be able to leave this world and leave a little bit of a legacy, my voice will still be here when I’m gone. And also scary in a way. It definitely effects my daily life and it has become my job, it used to be a hobby and an interest, sometimes you’ll need to fight to not let the whole business side effect you. I managed to be really focused on the music rather than the business, though it’s a necessary evil. I always think music, I’m thinking melodies, and I think that’s really important for me to make timeless melodies which I believe we have done, so it’s definitely a big of me.
B- Now, lets jump into the future (back to the future pun dudududdunununum) you’re on the brink of releasing one of the first Melodic Death double albums ever!
Speed - Well, we wanted to create something bigger, we needed to create something more epic. We needed that challenge, we didn’t want another album with 10-12 songs. Because we have so many other great songwriters in this band, after Peter quit we wanted to prove that we still have a lot to say. We wanted to create something more interesting and I don’t think we would have been able to fit it on one albums.
B- How do you feel about The Living Infinite?
Speed - I feel really proud about it, it’s something that will last for sure, and keep in mind that it’s almost been a two and a half years, so that’s been a productive time. We’re proud of the production as well, it sounds organic like a band playing, it sounds true to what we sound like, yet really hard hitting and very detailed, the songs will definitely take you on a journey and it breaks down in interesting parts with acoustic guitars and some mellow songs. There are also of course some really intense songs, and I’m most proud of that, it’s been a band effort. Every band member contributed with the songs and lyrics. The flow is really interesting it doesn’t really get boring to me.
B- what are some of the lyrical themes on the album? What’s the meaning of the name?
Speed - The general theme is about existential questions, I’ve been studying and thinking about those things. I feel it’s been occupying too much of my time, I wanted to come to terms with it and express that in the lyrics, finding acceptance to not always getting answers. You can’t really get an answer to those and that’s my way of dealing with it.
B- how was the experience different than making any other Soilwork album?
Speed - It’s been a while since we were all together in the studio building a whole album from scratch, we’ve been recording a lot of our albums in different studios. It was important for us to hang out , cook together, and build the album together. Obviously creating that many songs, we had to be really focused, we were located in the middle of nowhere, so we had no distractions.
(it’s a this point we had to wrap up as Speed’s time was up, so that’s why it might look a bit shortcut)
B- Any last words regarding Israeli fans before we hang up?!
Speed- We never played Israel so that’s something we would love to do, we were booked once and it didn’t happen for some reason. Hopefully in the near future, there’s a lot of bands from this genre going down there so it’s definitely possible, so please invite us.