Congratulations on ‘Nightmares In The Waking State - Part I’. The album has power, melody, diversity, it is aggressive yet very accessible. But most of all it has impressive songs. My expectations were high, yet I was blown away by it. I think this is what a lot of people are looking for in a melodic death metal album.
Thank you so much. It is always nice to hear that the music that you make gives the same effect that it does to us. As a musician we get goose bumps, a kick out of our music, we get excited when we are working on our music. It is a real pleasure to hear if others get the same sense of emotion. I couldn’t think of a better reward.
On 'For Aeons Past' the emphasis in the mix was a bit more on the vocals than it is on ‘Nightmares In The Waking State - Part 1’. Is that something you consciously looked for? If so, why?
Our roots, of each of us, are more into the more aggressive music, more in the death genre. We have the melodic influences from our past as well but in our own music career we have been part of quite a heavy, aggressive music genre. So it felt quite natural to implant that into our new album but not in a forced way; just wanted to give it space in a natural way. The creational process for this album was very free and not so premeditated. Furthermore it was Christian who came up with the idea to lessen the focus on the vocals. He didn’t want people to think that Solution .45 is all about his vocals. It is something we cannot evade in any way; Christian is a known singer in the genre and many listen to the band mainly because of him. In his opinion though Solution .45 is not only about him, or this being his project but about a band. So it was an intentional move to have his vocals not so much up front in the mix. Some people noted and a few even complaint in the comments of our first video (‘Perfecting The Void’) that the vocals were a bit low and they thought it was a mistake. It isn’t a mistake and also not a move from the instrumentalists to be more upfront. We wanted a more wholesome approach, so that you can hear everything and I think we managed to create that.
It is something probably all of the bands that Christian is part off, have to deal with; he attracts people with his enchanting vocals. His vocals are marvellous, but solely focusing on him takes away from the whole band.
You have to think of Solution .45 as a whole concept. If people are just listening to us because of the vocals, I hope they realize that without the music, his vocals can’t contribute that much and again without his vocals, with a different singer the whole picture would also sound very different. You have to see it as a unity. That is what makes the album what it is. The whole process is about making good songs, not focussing on a specific part. It´s not just about making good leads, good vocal hooks … it is all about the arrangements making the song to be at its best, instead of having one great element. I could personally not care less about if I have an acrobatic, sporty lead where I show off my skills or where Christian does his vocal tricks if it wouldn´t serve any purpose for the song itself. We want to focus on the whole concept instead. If I would only focus on the riffs and not care about how the vocals would fit in, I think I am in that case not a good composer. When I do the riffs and the music and lay down the foundation I already try to picture what Christian would do. Will he do growls here or will he do clean vocals? As we have a long history together, I know pretty well how he works and he knows how I work. It is great to lift each other’s strengths and get the best out of what we can do together.
Does it frustrate you that not everyone can listen to the music with the approach of Solution .45 being a unity?
That is always the way it´s going to be. We get our share of haters, people who don’t like it. But you know there´s always going to be people who likes what they hear and others who don´t and we are perfectly fine with that. There´s no real truths here, there´s no single truth of what is good or not just a matter of different tastes and opinions. We have a single lyric video out now (editorial: we spoke to each other, three days after the release of this video) and the majority is still very positive. But we know there will always be criticism. We knew that the vocal thing being a bit lower in the mix would create some discussions but this is the way we intended it to be. You can’t please them all.
You shouldn’t even try to do so; it would take away from your integrity …
True. It is extremely nice when people enjoy what you do. But the point is that first and most of all we have to enjoy what we are doing. If not, it would be a waste of time. We have families, we have wives … it would be very hard doing this out of a people pleasing aspect and really not so fulfilling at all, since you would only do what other expects from you and not create what you like and want. We do it out of passion and love for the music and genre.
The production was done by Thomas ‘Plec’ Johannson; how important was he for the outcome of the sound?
Thomas is sort of the extended member of the band. We see each other outside our mixing work as well; we are friends. Even before this was on the table we started to discuss the music. We have worked with him on several albums throughout the years with different bands. He knows our sound, he knows my guitar playing, and he knows my preferences. He has worked really close with Christian, even before I met Christian, so they have a really tight collaboration and know each other well. It feels very comfortable when we get together. We have a lot of fun. Thomas does the major parts in creating the sounds we want. He puts down hundreds of hours making the best out of it.
We deliberately made some choices along the way. We recorded the drums with Daniel Bergstrand, who has done bands such as Meshuggah and In Flames. We aimed to get a certain sound from those recordings and use his expertise. And then followed up doing the final with Thomas, in his studio. It´s a good collaboration where he does his thing with our input along the way, until we reach something that both he and we as a band can be satisfied with.
‘Nightmares In The Waking State - Part 1’ is more or less a double album. What is the reason for it turning out as an double album and why did you chose to release it as two separate releases instead of one release?
Double albums have been quite in lately. Many bands have done that and you even have some bands releasing a triple album. Everything gets bigger and bigger and more is more. But we don’t look into what other bands do. It purely comes from the fact that I did a bunch of songs and that I had more than enough songs for just one album. Christian then did the vocal arrangements and we had sort of a rough demo mix of all the songs. We came to the conclusion that there were actually no leftovers, no so-called B-side songs. We had the dilemma of what to do. Do we have to take away songs? If so, which should we take out? It felt too difficult for it would have meant we would have to throw away really good songs. That is when the idea of a double album came up. It had nothing to do with marketing. When we got the green light that it would be a cool thing to do, we thought about how to do it and decided to split it. We recorded everything at once, so that the albums have the exact same sound. Everything is mixed, mastered and ready for printing. So Part II is actually ready. We decided to split it up because everyone knows that it has been five years since we released ‘For Aeons Past’. I might add that it was never meant to be five years but because of different events in life, it took this time. So instead of giving our fans a big double album now, we wanted to make sure that they know they have something to wait for in the (near) future. We are really determined to not make it a Wintersun thing; it will not take several years until part two is released. The album is ready, the cover is done … we are just looking for the right time to release part two. We can assure our fans now that there is more to come.
You all live quite a distance from each other. How do you handle things such as sharing new ideas, the recording process, et cetera will living so far from each other?
Where would we be without the internet. It is a method I am very used to. I used to live in Sweden, where I was born and raised in Gothenburg. While I lived in Sweden I was playing in bands with members in Finland. We communicated through the internet and I travelled to Finland. In 2009 I moved to Finland, got married here so now I have members living in Sweden. So internet has been a major tool. Occasionally we do Skype, but mostly we send songs, ideas, and lyrics over the internet. Sometimes you have to come together though. We are now arranging a shoot with Patric Ullaeus to shoot a video for this album as well as a video for the part two album. Internet comes in very useful to arrange things with each other. Same goes for planning concerts. It is quite a big operation to make everything fit perfectly for all. But I think we handle these things quite well.
On the previous album was Mikael Stanne (Dark Tranquillity) was responsible for quite a part of the lyrics. Who has written them this time?
It was clear from the beginning that Mikael Stanne would not be a part of this album at all. It started out with our friend Pär Johansson from Satariel. We planned that he would write part of the lyrics together with Christian. But along the road Christian felt more and more convinced that he should write the lyrics on his own. There were certain events in his life and around him that made such an impact that he felt he had something to offer. He has always been involved in a million projects, so it becomes quite a job to come up with good lyrics for all those different bands. That is why we´ve asked other phenomenal writers to write for us because the lyrics are as important as the music for us. However on this album Christian felt that he had something that he wanted to put down into words. So in the end he did the lyrics. It is a sort of concept album. It is not an ongoing story, but a concept album in the sense that it carries the same feelings and theme in the lyrics. It is about set backs in life, traumas, and illnesses in your family, death …all quite personal matters, but written in a cryptic, poetic way. It is not too obvious whom it is about, not so direct so others can relate and connect to it was well. I think the lyrics came out great and shows that Christian himself is an awesome writer when he chooses to write.
Both you, Patrick Gardberg and very recently Christian Älvestam became a parent. Needless to say it has changed you as a person. Does it somehow effect your music as well?
For sure. It will absolutely change and effect you in some way. The first aspect is that it takes up time on a daily basis. When you are on your own, you can pretty much do whatever you want, you can stay up as long as you want and can write music whenever you want. That is obviously the first thing that changes; with a family you can’t do thing whenever you like whenever you like. It has changed us all on a personal level. You get huge responsibilities of being a dad and really important to support your other behalf. It is the first child for all of us. You start to see things from a different perspective, your priorities changes, and gives your life a whole other sense of purpose. Music is fun, but it is nothing compared to seeing your own flesh and blood. In my case, to see my daughter evolve … she is soon about to learn how to walk, just to see her learn new things ... it is so amazing. I couldn’t even have expected it to be like this. Christian has told me the same things that his priorities have changed as well. Patrik says it has changed him as well .It has definitely changed all of us in a profound way. In my musical writing, and I can only speak for myself now, even though I might write some darker music with quite aggressive elements, it has nothing to do with my personal life. It doesn´t really tell you much about me as a person. I’m actually not a sad person and I don’t walk around with destructive thoughts. Even with lyrics about death, doesn’t mean I walk around with the subject constantly on my mind. Quite the opposite. We are all quite happy guys and I consider ourselves as positive people who enjoy life. I´m actually happier than ever before, but I still produce dark music. It is just a way of expressing art in a way I like to do.
Solution .45 has not played many live shows. Will that change in the (near) future or should the fans accept that Solution .45 is more or less a studio project?
One thing that needs to be set straight is that Solution .45 was actually never meant to be a studio project. It was always meant to be a live band. When the debut was released, it was actually meant that we would go out on the road to support that album. It was never meant to take five years for album two to be released. Things just happened; departure of band members, private situations. The main idea was always that we would like to play live. When we entered ProgPower in September 2012 that was an affirmation for the band as well. It was really something of which we all felt that we want to do. It is something we are really going to change now. We want to show people that we do more than just cool studio albums. We are planning on making tours. It won’t be possible around the release of part one in November for Christian just had his son quite recently. But we are in negotiations with different booking agencies and are looking into what is the best possible partner to work with. We aim for touring the festival season next summer and then try to work something out with the part two release for a decent tour. Let us just hope it works out and doesn’t come across other bad conditions. People seem to have made assumptions that we are a studio project because we hardly played live. But there are other reasons that we couldn’t foresee.
I saw that you are expanding your horizon a little. You will be doing the cover art of the new ‘Black’ EP by Sorcerer. Was this a on-time thing or can we expect to see more (cover) art coming from you?
Art is something that I have been doing for my own amusement for many years now. It is sort of a side hobby. I am doing some photography as well as art design for the metal scene. I have a website under construction and I have a Facebook page for it: Jani Stefanovic Designs. It is actually something that I have been trying to get going, to get a bigger audience. My goal is to do serious work for bands that are looking for cover art, merchandise or whatever. It has been growing slowly and is definitely something that I want to do more, alongside with music. I am also in the planning stage to launch my own studio as well. Take it out of the bedroom and doing it in a more serious way.
It is probably something for you that keeps working in music and the music itself fresh?
I have been working with music for many years now, but the music industry is competitive and it is quite hard to make a living on just making and selling albums. That is when you have to start inventing other resources to put food on the table. That is where minor mixing jobs, graphic design and taking photographs come in. Many of us have a regular day job as well. You just have to be creative in order to be able to provide for yourself.
It seems the future could have nice things up ahead for you, Jani. It is time to end our talk. We should definitely look into an update on this within a couple of months or talk about it when ‘Nightmares In The Waking State - Part 2’ is being released.
We should definitely do so. Thank you so much for the talk, Patrick.