The Soul Exchange is fairly new for the Dutch rock and metal fans. Could you describe the kind of music you are making? What are your main influences as a band and/or members?
Hans: I would describe our music as a marriage between classic hard rock and melodic metal, that lyrically deals with the darker side of life such as insanity and evil in various shapes and forms. Someone once called it “horror metal”, that might not be too far off an adequate description. Instrumentally the songs are driven by heavy down tuned guitars, but we also pay a lot of attention to the vocal melodies and arrangements with grand choruses. Classic rock with a modern metal sound. My personal influences ranges from everything back to the 70’s hard rock, e.g. Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Rush etc, to contemporary bands such as Ghost, Evanescence, Tribulation, The Great Discord, Opeth, Evergrey, Katatonia. Hence, a lot from the contemporary Swedish metal scene.
Daniel: I’d simply say it’s melodic hard rock with metal influences and great focus on the sound. I’ll concur as of what bands might have been our inspirations.
Your bandname is quite intriguing. Who came up with this moniker, and what does it mean or represent? Or does it just sound cool and doesn’t really mean anything?
Hans: I came up with the band name that derives from a song title off my 2015 solo album. This song had lyrics written by my co-writer Jens Joel Evaldsson and describes how various people with a self-interest, would it be politicians, various religious associations or even businesses are bidding to get your soul for their own purposes. Hence, the world we live in is kind of a trading place for souls, i.e. a Soul Exchange. “We have lost, we have gained, we are servants, we are saints. Bought and sold, on the Soul Exchange.” I thought that even our music is part of that trading place and thus The Soul Exchange would be a cool band name. Unfortunately, our name is sometimes mistaken or mixed up with soul music, which is not the case at all!
Like already mentioned you’re not that well-known in our neck of the woods, which hopefully will change soon. Now you guys hail from Sweden, a part of the world that has spawned thousands of great bands in the past. How ‘famous’ is The Soul Exchange in your own country?
Hans: Not as famous as we would like to be. But judging from the number of streams on e.g. Spotify, that is the major streaming service in Sweden, we are building a following. Unfortunately, the live venues for bands like ours are sparse in Sweden, particularly in Stockholm. Furthermore, we only have two rock FM radio stations with national reach, whereof one only plays classic rock, so effectively one radio channel that would possibly play our type of music. Hence, opportunities to play live in Sweden, and our hometown Stockholm are few. Thus, we are struggling to get attention. However, we have received quite a lot of airplay in the U.S. and thus we have a following over there as well as the greatest record sales. Quite a few of our Swedish peers such as e.g. Ghost, Opeth and others, have paved the way for lesser known Swedish acts in this genre and we are riding on the wave of interest for Swedish metal bands in America. With our new record label, Pride & Joy Music behind us, we hope to also reach more people in Europe, and we want to play in every city we possibly can.
You debuted in 2017 with the full-length ‘Bloodbound’ that was recently followed-up by the EP ‘Vow Of Seth’. What was your motivation to release an EP between ‘Bloodhound’ and the upcoming new full-length album that is scheduled for a 2018 release?
Hans: I did write some of the songs for our debut album as early as in 2014, e.g. ‘Left Behind’, before the band was even formed and demos for all the songs were recorded in 2015. Hence, when we recorded ‘Bloodbound’ in the spring 2016, some of the songs on this album already had more than a year behind them and when the album was eventually released, to us, we had already lived with these songs for a long time, although new to the public. But knowing the time it takes to write and record a full-length album, and thus a new album would probably not see the day of light until sometime in 2018. As we already had a number of songs written, we thought it would be a good idea to release an EP in the meantime to bridge the gap between albums and to seize the momentum of our first record. The EP is also serving as an introduction of the slightly harder sound we intend for the next release, to make our audience acquainted to what to come in 2018.
Daniel: If you have the possibility, it’s always good to be able to ease your listeners into the slightly heavier sound that we’re going to put on the new album.
Talking about the new album, are you already working/recording it? And is there a title already?
Hans: Yes, we commenced pre-production in September and I am happy to reveal that by now we have, more or less, the entire album written. The studio is booked for the recording sessions from Christmas time through to the end of February 2018, with mixing and mastering scheduled in March. In terms of the title, we are too early in the process to have determined any title to date. Our vocalist Daniel John is currently working on the lyrics and the title usually derive from the lyrical content of the album.
On both ‘Bloodbound’ and ‘Vow Of Seth’ you worked with the renowned Swedish producer Magnus "Tank" Ljungqvist. What’s so great about working with him, and will he also be involved in recording the next album?
Hans: As I said earlier, for the ‘Bloodbound’ album, I had most of the songs already written with demo recordings before I got together with Magnus Ljungqvist in early 2016. Daniel John and Magnus go a long way back in time and thus when Daniel joined the band, it was natural to present those demos to Magnus. Before we even commenced any recordings, Magnus was instrumental in creating what would become The Soul Exchange trademark sound. Ever since, Magnus has been determined to continue to develop the sound of the band in the studio and it felt natural to continue this collaboration on the next album as well. So, the short answer is yes, Magnus Ljungqvist will produce the upcoming 2018 album too.
Daniel: For me it is so much simpler to work with a producer that I already know well and who knows what I need in order to bring my strongest performance. We also think alike when it comes to vocal arrangements and building backing vocal choir arrangements.
I think that The Soul Exchange is a typical “less is more” band. Every note seems to have a specific meaning in a song. Am I spot on here, or is there more than meets the eye you can tell us?
Hans: You are correct in your observation. Every note has its specific meaning in a song context. Usually, there are a lot more recorded than what end up in the final mix. If an instrument or a riff doesn’t contribute to, or benefit the overall sound of the song, our philosophy is to leave it out. A lot of great licks or guitar harmonies etc don’t make the final mix because it is either not adding to the overall sound or not fitting the sound. As good as a stand-alone instrument may sound if you listen to it as an individual track, it is irrelevant if it doesn’t add to the song. The same goes for solos’, the most important thing for us is to record a solo that fit the mood of the song and add something to the song composition, rather than play as many notes as possible as fast as possible just for the sake of it. If you listen to the records by the Swedish band Ghost for instance, that is a prime example how you write and play solos’ that contributes to the song composition rather than being a vehicle to show off. In terms of vocal arrangements, there’s a lot more in there than you could ever imagine, that may not be too obvious in the overall sound until you really analyse what is going on.
Daniel: Yes, you are correct in stating that every note is thoroughly scrutinized. If it doesn’t bring anything substantial, we’ll just discard it.
How does the writing process work? Is it an easy process or a struggle? And does every band member have a say in what eventually becomes a song?
Hans: The Soul Exchange consists of three principal songwriters, Daniel John, Thomas von Bell and myself with our producer also making an input to the song structures and arrangements. On the debut, I and Thomas von Bell basically wrote the entire album with Jens Joel Evaldsson as lyricist. However, on the ‘Vow of Seth’ EP, it has been more of a collaboration between myself and Daniel John, with Daniel taking over the responsibility for writing the lyrics and vocal melodies. And on the next upcoming album, as we had some tight deadlines and virtually had to write the entire album in a couple of months, we’ve basically written the album as a team the four of us (Hans, Thomas, Daniel & Magnus). We have found that this way of working to be more efficient rather than each member writing songs individually, and I think the result will show it also benefited the music. Writing music has never been a struggle for me, obviously you get more or less inspired from time to time, though. For me personally, I am either in a writing- or a playing mode. When I set out to write music, I can come up with a number of songs or ideas in a very short time span. However, when I am in the playing mode, I may not compose anything for six months but practice my instrument. Of course, every band member has a saying in which songs to record for an album. Usually this is not an issue nor a problem, as mostly already in the demo stage, it is kind of obvious what songs fit the album and which don’t.
According to your biography your music is naturally evolving, and the new EP has taken the band to an even darker place lyrically and with a tad harder sound. What does this mean for the upcoming new material?
Hans: As I mentioned previously, the EP is meant to serve as a bridge between ‘Bloodbound’ and the new album sound wise. With the new album the guitars will be even more driving and in the forefront, and combined with those doomy synth pads gives it a really dark sound that appears to come from the underworld. You can hear examples of this on tracks such as ‘Back to the Dark’ and ‘Seek the Demon’ from the new EP. Lyrically, Daniel John created the blueprint for the lyrical themes on the EP as well. However, as hard as the guitar riffs will be, you will always recognize The Soul Exchange sound by the vocal melodies and big choruses. Those will always be there, this is our trademark sound.
When you state that the band is taken to a darker place lyrically, the obvious question is of course: why? Is it inner turmoil? Problems in your relationships with other people? The fact that the world itself is becoming more and more volatile with everything that is going on right now?
Daniel: Well, I think that it’s a fascinating realm that of the human mind. That the lines between what’s good or evil, what’s sane or insane and how we justify or actions as we take them. Also, I mostly find this type of lyrics in other genres, or maybe I haven’t searched enough. But I’ll say that it will be more of a mirroring of the human psyche, than terms of comments of a world order of any sort.
When writing this interview I checked the tour section of your website, but that was frighteningly empty. Is The Soul Exchange a studio band without any live ambitions, or didn’t you have any offers yet for some gigs or maybe a tour?
Hans: The Soul Exchange is by no means just a studio band, but very much a live band. However, to be absolutely truthful, without any proper representation in the past, we’ve been struggling to find the gigs that can do the band justice in a live setting. As a sound driven band, it is crucial to us to have the means to reproduce the sound on our records also in a live situation. Either, the smaller venues have had inferior sound systems, or the bigger venues with great sound and light equipment, have been uninterested in booking us. We have played a handful of gigs this year, but by no means as many as we would like to. By signing up with our new Artist Management, Rock n Roll Agency and representation by our new record label, as well as a full-length album and an EP in our baggage, we hope that this will change in 2018. As a matter of fact, I know that our management is planning gigs in the spring and summer of 2018 as we speak. We hope that we can do some sort of package tour, or play support for another bigger act. Of course, we would like to play festivals too. That would allow us to play venues where we have the opportunity to showcase the kind of live set that would be a proper presentation of the band.
If you could choose a band to, let’s say, support on an international tour, which band would that be and why?
Hans: I know fans in the U.S. have asked for a joint Ghost/Soul Exchange tour! Joke aside, I think Ghost or any other Swedish melodic metal act would suit us well, e.g. The Great Discord or Katatonia to name a couple of examples. Really any melodic hard rock or metal band, in Germany for instance, I think bands such as Accept or U.D.O. would be a good match.
Okay, that’s it for now. Thanks for your time, have you got any messages, info or thoughts you would like to share with the Lords of Metal readers?
Hello, all Lords of Metal readers, we would love to come and play in your country, but the only way for us to do so is to have a large enough following. If you like our music and want to see us play, please spread the word and of course buy our new EP! The title is “Vow Of Seth” and it is available at all the usual platforms and as limited edition CD here, the EP is reviewed here in Lords Of Metal. Give us a like at our official FB page. Thanks for supporting us!