Four years after the tremendous success of ”ObZen”, the Swedish masters of heaviness and claustrophobia Meshuggah, return with their seventh full length entitled ”Koloss”. Guitarist Mårten Hagström tells us all we have to know about this release and makes us understand why Meshuggah is easily one of the best bands in the world.
First of all, we’d like to know how the ”Alive” dvd was received through the whole world. Many fans that haven’t seen Meshuggah live were waiting for a sample of how they sound in such a situation.
Well as far as I know its been great. I guess people have been waiting for it.
Back to your studio works, ”ObZen” was released four years ago and you seemed to enjoy it very much as an album, as you toured very much for it. How do you see it as an album now that a new one is done?
Pretty much the same now as then. It is an album where we use the sound and approach we’ve developed through the years but applied it to a mix of tools from the past. So it was kind of a mix of everything we’d been doing up until then.
Your new work is entitled ”Koloss” which means colossus in Swedish if I’m not mistaken. Is it a statement that you’re satisfied with your new work, or was it just a catchy title fitting in the whole mood?
Yes it does. I guess the title implies a bit of both. But mostly we felt the album was very heavy and big so it was a fitting description of the music I guess.
Tell us a few things about the creation of ”Koloss”. How long it took you to create it, production/mixing issues and how did you decide to work with Daniel Bergstrand once again, 14 years after ”Chaosphere”.
We felt like we wanted some outside input and help to make sure we did the material justice and we knew Danne was going to do the trick aswell as being a guy we like and trust. The making of the album spanned two years but we stopped a couple of times to tour and do other stuff so its hard to say how long it really took.
This time, mid tempo tunes seem to dominate the album, with some outbursts here and there. It’s like you enjoy very much this suffocating atmosphere you create and the groove gives the album an extra boost. What was the mood during the recordings?
We had a good vibe going. There is always an element of stress but thats needed. Yeah we really like to get stuck in a groove since we feel that its a very improtant part of our music and the mid-tempos generally make for better songwriting and the added benefit of the more intense stuff to stand out even more.
It is amazing that a few years ago, none would dare play like Meshuggah and since ”ObZen”, more and more bands try to reproduce your sound. This whole movement was named ”djent” by some people. How do you see it as an outsider? Are there any bands from this style that are fond to your liking?
Honestly I’m very out of synch with that whole scene. I don’t know exactly which bands are “Djentbands” or not. Its cool though that we’ve been able to inspire.
As a guitarist, it would be very enlightening for the fans to know your influences when you started playing. Since the years have passed by, are there sounds that inspire you in your playing or ideas for songwriting? Which bands would we find in your cd player recently? Could you tell us some of your favourite guitarists and what was the vibe they would put in you?
Alex Lifeson,James Hetfield,Scott Ian were some of the guys that inspired me very early on. A strong rythmical sence of timing and great songwriting was what attracted me. Eddie Van halen also made an impression on me as a kid. Even though I appreciated lead playing it was always the though of being able to write and play cool songs of my own that drove me. And tose guys were my heroes in that department. And with Alex Lifeson I think that the way he utilized his writing and guitar-playing to get so much out of sometimes very little was really special to me. Thats why I really like Dominic Millers work. It is subtle, beautiful but though pretty slimmed down says so much.
Could you tell us a few things about the lyrics in ”Koloss”? Mainly Tomas is responsible for this stuff. Do you know where he mainly attracts inspiration from?
Not really. He wrote 7 of the lyrics for this album and I wrote two. I guess nowadays the inspiration comes from life in general rather than a specific source of inspiration. As for “Koloss” there is no general theme but all the lyrics deal with dogma in one way or another.
I know you’re going to do a tour with Baroness and Decapitated in North America at first. Which are the plans for the next months? Will your fans see you in summer festivals this year?
Well first we tour Australia. We leave next week. Then we kick off the “Koloss” touring cycle by playng the UK in April. Then we go over to the US for the tour you mentioned and after that its time for European summerfestivals. We plan to do Europe proper in the fall. Thats as far as I know.
I had the luck to see you three times in different conditions each time. What was always the same was this energy pouring non-stop out of you. It’s like you turn on a switch that also makes the fans move like you do on stage. I cannot forget the fact that while playing ”Bleed” on Brutal Assault 2010, the whole festival was going up and down to the rhythm. Also, your last performance in Greece was phenomenal, does it make you feel better to know you gave your fans this extra dose since 2008 ”Rock’em All” festival, where being not your fault, you played quite a little set?
Yeah I think that it was a little like coming back and showing what it is really about. It felt really weird at “Rock ’em all” and we really wanted to bring the real deal when we came back. It was a great show for us.
Music industry has changed a lot. At this current moment, we have the closing of many sites concerning music downloading. Do you agree with this? Also, sales have decreased a lot. What would you advise some people that want to start their own band? Which things sould they be aware of and how much independent could they be from record companies that might try to lead them to a certain way of playing?
The downloading subject is too big to start discussing here. But suffice it to say that I don’t think closing down sites and arresting people is a good way to go. And I’m very opposed to the ACTA treaty. But people downloading should know that they are not only hurting the “evil” record indusry. They are in fact stealing from the bands aswell. Period. But I’m alltogether against the censorship that Western governments and big commercial interests are trying to instate. It really sucks… Advice to bands… Hmmm follow your heart and don’t accept being pushed around. But then again thats just me. Its easy to say that you should not listen to outside pressure but.. And it is hard making it without no support from labels. Most bands starting out don’t know how much really hard work it is.
Last but not least, we want to thank you very much for this interview. We wish Meshuggah the best, as they are one of the very few unique sounding bands of all time and what they achieved so far, they surely deserved it. Add anything you’d like to mention and leave a message to Metalpaths readers and Meshuggah fans in Greece and the whole world.
Yeah I hope we can come back to Greece soon. Last time was awesome. Thanks.
Interview by: Aggelos “Redneck” Katsouras