A true death metal legend, part of Death, Massacre, Obituary (the last 4 years) and of course Six Feet Under…
A couple of days before the release date of Raised Fist’s new album titled “Veil Of Ignorance”, Metalpaths speaks with the frontman Alexander Hagman about the band, their live show in Greece which was supposed to be done on the 1st of November but unfortunately got cancelled and about some general changes / standards regarding the hardcore music and lifestyle.
Hello Alexander, this is Rena from Metalpaths where can we find you at the moment?
Oh Hello! I’m at home in Sweden.
Preparing for the tour right?
Well before we start I gotta tell you that this is one of the very few times that I’m feeling kinda stressed while interviewing and that’s because you guys happen to be one of my all time favorite bands!
Oh that’s great, thank you!
So you are about to return to Greece in a couple of months so I’d like to ask you what are your impressions from your latest show in Athens? Were there any highlights worthy to remember?
Well I think we were in Greece for about seven hours. We just slept in the van and then we went to the hotel room for two hours, we played the show, then we slept for a couple of hours and then we left to the airport, so seven hours was the whole trip. We also had a delayed flight and everything so we were a bit stressed. I remember that it was really hot and I remember the place which was really crowded and really hot.
I guess that you are not pretty used to heat in Sweden right?
No, not much.
And what about this time, are you going to stay for longer? Cause as I saw from your schedule Greece is going to be the last day of touring, isn’t it?
Yeah and I hope that we will be able to get some sleep at least! The other guys didn’t sleep at all, I just went back to the hotel room and slept for like a couple of hours and then we went back to the airport.
So you were the lucky one! The countdown is about to stop in about five days and we will be in the very pleasant situation of enjoying your new record titled “Veil Of Ignorance”. I guess you’re pretty looking forward to that day, aren’t you?
Well not exactly because the album has been available for downloading before the release date so the fans already have the first impressions.
Oh really? Well I’m sorry for being so bold but do you mind if I download this? I promise to buy it on Monday though!
Sure, no problem!
And what about the title of the CD? How did you decide to name it like that?
“Veil Of Ignorance” is a very common phrase, if you type it on google you’re gonna find out a lot of stuff about that. We liked that theory and we decided to put that on the album.
In order to help the fans get a small taste about your new album, you have chosen 2 specific tracks to share and let them for downloading, which are “Friends And Traitors” and “Slipping Into Coma”. What makes those two songs so special for you? Are there maybe your favorite from the album?
Actually “Friends & Traitors” is the first song of the album, that’s why I think, we wanted to give a preview of how the album starts. For “Slipping Into Coma”, I don’t know…
Is it maybe because those two are the most representative samples of the whole album? Cause they kinda differ the one from the other! I’d say that “Slipping Into Coma” reminded me a bit of the “Stronger Than Ever” era.
Yeah, exactly! Actually they are not the most representative tracks of the album, “Veil Of Ignorance” has a big variety of songs, there are songs like “Friends & Traitors”, “Slipping Into Coma” which is more kinda oldschool song as you already said and we also have fast songs that are really close to the “Dedication” album and we even have a ballad inside.
A ballad? Surprised to hear that!
Yes, it is strange indeed but I think people gonna love this.
Your music differs pretty much from the one’s that play some common hardcore tunes for example “Madball” or “Agnostic Front” etc. How would you describe your music to someone that has never heard of you before? Is it possible to name some bands that you think are similar to “Raised Fist”? I think that, at least for me, that would be very useful!
Well, I don’t know…Let me think…
Maybe “Snapcase” would be a good comparison, at least at the vocals section. But still the music differs pretty much.
I don’t know, it’s very difficult for me to compare the band with another one cause I think I’m viewing this from a different perspective than people do.
Your lyrics are almost the half of Raised Fist’s identity. What comes to your mind when you start writing them?
There is not a deep meaning behind our lyrics, I have many lyrics written down, when something happens and worries me regarding music or people or whatever i sit down and write about it.
So you don’t write the music first and then the lyrics for the album.
No that would be enough pressing for me and it would not have the same result.
Mentioning the lyrics, what came to my mind is the part of the song “Dedication” where you say: “Let me dedicate this song to those who downloaded this song as an mp3”. Do you really mean that? And if yes, don’t you think that downloading is injuring bands and their music?
Downloading nowadays is the only way people can get to know your band. I don’t expect to make money out of my music and I think no one does, otherwise you lose the spirit. I have my own work, I don’t need to make money out of this so I encourage people to download our music in order to get to know or keep listening to us.
Tell me a couple of things that do injure the music nowadays according to your opinion. Is maybe one of these the “running man without a band who thinks he’s everything just because of a fucking tattoo?”
The whole idea is about the running man, he is always running never relaxed and always competing. And there are a lot of bands that try to focus so much on being competitive, they try to compete so much that they forget everything that is so important, they forget about how to write a good music and they forget about the artistic kind of things. That is just a really basic hardcore lyric, there are a lot of bands that we have seen that they start the band and then they try to compete, so they think that they are a cool fucking band because they have a lot of tattoos and they are running around so much with a music business attitude / make up. The running man, that was back in those days. There is not such a deep lyrical experiment, what it says is really basic, the running man doesn’t have any deeper meaning behind it and I think that someone can easily understand what it says.
How is your relationship with Burning Heart Records?
Burning Heart records consisted of friends. I mean we have been there for a very long time. Epitaph broke the whole company and they moved it to Amsterdam, they fired everyone who worked there and it’s only Peter, the Burning Heart founder who works there and he is actually our manager today so we have a really strange relationship with Burning Heart records, having the founder and the co-owner of that label as our own manager, so we’ve grown really close, he is really a good friend of ours. It’s such a friendly relationship but we don’t have the same relationship with Epitaph records, Epitaph is strictly business, they want to make business out of this music, we just gonna do this album and then we see after that. Burning Heart is history if you ask me. I have a good connection with all the guys that work there, but Burning Heart does not exist as the same way it did five years ago.
That’s cool cause usually the majority of labels lack even the typical relationship with the signed artists. “Born with an insight and a Raised Fist.” The band’s name comes from those Rage Against The Machine lyrics, right? Do you think that this band presided over a big part of the whole “Raised Fist” identity or you just liked this lyric as a name for your band?
It was our first drummer, Peter, he just brought us some lines and he said “Born With An Insight” that was a good name. Then we thought of “Raised Fist” also, both names come from the same sentence. It has absolutely nothing more to do with that, I mean if you ask some bands where do they find their names from they might answer crazy stuff, I mean you can find from fucking garbage cans to hotel lobby signs or whatever, but you will never ask them if it has something more to do with the music. We started up when RATM was really huge and everything but still we don’t have any influences in that way. RATM has been a big band and influenced a lot of people but I wouldn’t say that there has been any main influence to us, it’s not a tribute to RATM or anything that we took the name from. Actually I didn’t even know where it came from, Peter brought it up and I was like “Oh Raised Fist sounds cool”, it sounds oldschool, it sounds like all those bands that we listen to, so we took the skateboards, said “Raised Fist” is the name and then we went to the rehearsal studio and started playing. Fucking old school!
Hardcore music starts to become more and more popular to young ages during the last years. Why do you thing this is happening?
Well I don’t know but I think that everybody goes in circles, hardcore music, metal music, I mean today what we used to call “Death Metal” now they call it hardcore sometimes. There’s a new era with black hair, black fingernails and double bass drum like “At The Gates” kinda styles and we didn’t call this hardcore back in those days. When we started playing we meant oldschool, that was hardcore, nothing else. And I remember when all the other bands started playing metal kinda slow things, I mean new bands like Snapcase, Earth Crisis, they played kinda strange music and we were like “how can you call this hardcore”? A lot of bands appeared in the north close to us who also started playing this way and I could never ever call anything else than the oldschool, hardcore. I mean today if you listen to bands that call themselves hardcore, it wouldn’t be my job to say what music do they play so it just goes in circles, people change the names of styles and then just everything moves. I know there’s a hardcore movement in Germany for example, there’s an old school hardcore scene where they dress up like late 80’s – beginning of 90’s, they play oldschool and the whole attitude is just like that. I would say that there are 5 or 6 different styles that mix into this new hardcore. I think that in “Raised Fist” we have something that goes beyond those stuff, I mean we have some oldschool, we have a little bit of everything. I don’t really know what people mean hardcore. For example you are in Greece right now so I don’t really know what style are you referring to, are you referring to the new, metal “Bullet For My Valentine” style or you are referring to the oldschool late 80’s early 90’s hardcore. So I’m asking you, what kind of hardcore do the Greeks listen to?
Actually still some people refer to the classics such as “Bad Brains”, “Agnostic Front” or “Madball”, but I know what you ‘re saying cause here as well there are many people who listen to more new style artists such as “Bullet For My Valentine” and still they call this hardcore.
Yeah, yeah for sure. I wouldn’t call that hardcore in my world either because I’ve been in a generation above them so I don’t put that kind of music into my hardcore world. But everything just changes; I’ve been to two or three changes in my life in hardcore music. At least two big ones, and that was from the oldschool hardcore to more metal, you know “Snapcase” kinda things and then from that era to the more “death metal” kind of styles. For example you mentioned some more screamo style bands so in Greece also, when you say “hardcore”, you don’t know really what people mean “hardcore”. I wouldn’t say that “Raised Fist” is part of any hardcore.
The funny thing is that everyone claim to be the “true” of the kind but despite that fact they never know which is the hardcore music!
Oh exactly, this is really hard. I think hardcore for me is more attitude, less music. I mean if you have an open mind, if you are educated in the sense that you know what happens around the world, if you wanna fight for the weaker ones, I think that’s the hardcore spirit. That’s what we had left. That’s the most hardcore in “Raised Fist”. You said that the 50 % of “Raised Fist” are the lyrics, I think that this is one of the things that are most hardcore in the band today and our attitude also towards the world and the business and I would say that “Raised Fist” is about as true as it can get. We proven that for 17 years and people know us and they know that we will never let them down. We will never do anything that we can’t stand for and I think that’s very important.
Remembering from the last time you were in Greece you are not really the type of guys who someone could characterize as “party animals”. Do you follow the straight edge way of lifestyle?
No, absolutely not! The straight edge has never been anything for me, people that are straight edge I really don’t know why they call themselves straight edge, I mean if you wanna be sober then you can be sober and you don’t have to put a tag on that way of life. I mean if I was a very sober guy and If I didn’t want to touch any drugs or any alcohol for that reason, I still wouldn’t call myself straight edge, it has never been my priority to put name tags on my lifestyle. You can be drinking a couple of beers when you are at home at Friday watching TV and then you go to bed and then you can be working to charity from Monday to Friday and you can be working as a volunteer in Africa helping children every winter and you can be putting millions of dollars every week into Greenpeace accounts, but still you drink these fucking two beers and watch TV at home. So if you put it at that context, I don’t see any reason why should I go out and call myself that way. Much more energy can be put in other kind of things. I remember when I was younger, people that also played in “Raised Fist” happened to be straight edge back in the days and that was more like an image lifestyle when you were young and you couldn’t buy alcohol in the store, so it was very easy to call yourself that way. You can’t be in places where they serve alcohol, you have to be more than 18 in Sweden, so it is simple when you’re 14-15 to call yourself straight edge, because you can’t buy any beer and you can’t go to night clubs so it’s not like it’s your lifestyle or something. “Raised Fist” has never been straight edge and in contrary I like going out and enjoying life. I wouldn’t call myself an alcoholic and I’m very strict with the partying when I’m on the road. I want to stay healthy when I’m touring, you know the live shows take a lot of energy from us physically and mentally so I just want to stay healthy when I’m on tour.
Yeah otherwise how can you be able to play the next day..
Exactly and it’s just such a physical demanding show I carefully do, but I promise you the last day of the tour which is going to be in Athens I’m gonna drink some ouzo with you!
That’s great, I keep that promise!
Yeah, yeah for sure!
A lot of musicians have moved from their places and went to live in your country to gain some more opportunities. Is it true that Sweden’s government helps and encourages musicians?
Well I don’t know, we have a good social lifestyle in Sweden, I mean we have good schools and we have a good health-care system and also in schools we have this opportunity to put some extra hours in the week to go and play an instrument that you can choose when you are young and we have rehearsal studios in here but I don’t know if it’s compared to other countries. In Germany for example I see the same kind of setup.
Well I think that someone has to learn that to the Greeks as well!
Yeah but Greece is like the start of everything, of all the European culture foundations, you should know what I’m talking about a bit.
But unfortunately things have changed a long time ago and especially now with all this economic crisis, there’s a big problem with works and salaries and stuff and people are enough busy with their jobs to spend time on a hobby, like to play an instrument for example. No spare time for any activities and the school doesn’t push you to this direction at all.
When people don’t have a work they have a lot of time to go out and play. I mean when you’re pour or homeless guy of course you can always sit down and sing. And if you’re unemployed you have a lot of time to go out and play music etc. Sweden is a good country for cultural things, we have a lot of theatre and we have a lot of bands…
Yeah I remember that, I was in Sweden when I was younger, co-operating for about 15 days with a Swedish school, follow their lessons until a specific time and after that we were staying with the local kids doing sports and everything. The school provided so many cultural activities and that was totally different from our schools because we just had lessons and nothing more.
That’s a big difference; we have a lot of sports and music yeah, definitely.
I really tried not to ask about your setlist but I couldn’t stop myself! Is it going to be more based on the latest releases or maybe more on the “Veil Of Ignorance” album?
There will be a couple of songs from “Veil Of Ignorance” and there will be maybe 5 songs from the “Sound Of The Republic” and the rest will be just random songs from the previous releases. I don’t find a reason to play a whole set from the new songs cause people haven’t heard them. You know, probably we’ll play the “Friends and Traitors” song or “Slipping Into Coma” or maybe one or two more, but except from that we will play many stuff from the previous albums.
So before we close, any words to the Greek fans before our so-expected appointment?
Aspro, mavro, travaw malakia! (Common Greek street phrases)
Oh my god, who told you these words??? (laughs)
I have a Greek friend who owns a restaurant and another one who works at him, they’re both Greeks so they just teach me bad words all the time!
Those were the last things I would expect to hear! Thank you so much for your time Alexander, can’t wait to meet you and good luck with all of your shows!
Thank you and I’ll see you in Athens soon.
Definitely! Thanks a lot, good night!
Thank you, bye!
Interview by: Rena Koutsou.