Soilwork – Avoiding the Predictable

Friday, 22nd April 2016

Since early on in their career, Soilwork has had to deal with a number of line-up changes. At this point, vocalist Björn Strid is the only remaining original band member, with a number who have came and went among the years. But that hasn’t stopped them from staying at the top of the melodic death metal pack. In fact, 2013’s The Living Infinite seemed to bring about a new sense within the band and ignited a spark of fresh songwriting ideas. Of which last year’s The Ride Majestic really honed in on and focused.

Having toured the States last fall in support for Soulfly, Soilwork are currently back supporting Fear Factory as they play Demanufacture in celebration of its anniversary. We were able to grab Björn for a few moments before the band’s performance in Worcester, Massachusetts. Among the topics discussed were if the band will be doing a headlining run in support of The Ride Majestic, working with Breaking Bands management, and what album would they potentially do an anniversary tour for.

Dead Rhetoric: In terms of career trajectory, how much of an impact has signing to Breaking Bands been?

Björn Strid: I think the communication especially, is a lot better than what we were used to. There’s a mutual understanding of what it is we want to do. As far as getting big tours, it’s hard for everyone. Everybody wants to be on the Lamb of God tour or the Killswitch tour…it’s hard to measure. All I know is that I am really pleased to be working with Chuck Billy, the Zazulas, and Maria [Ferrero]. We have a mutual vision, and Chuck Billy understands the artist side of it as well, which is really cool, and he knows what it’s like to be on tour. I think it’s a really nice set-up and I’m really pleased with it so far.

Dead Rhetoric: You are a part of the Fear Factory tour, in which they are doing Demanufacture from start to finish. If you were to take Soilwork out on tour and play an album start to finish, which one would you chose?

Strid: It’s hard because we have been talking about it as a band. As a band, we are not too nostalgic I guess. There have been line-up changes so it’s about making things fair with the new players, and respect our past as well. I would say either Stabbing the Drama or Natural Born Chaos…that would be cool. There’s been a lot of people suggesting that [an album tour] and we have been thinking, “No we are not going to do that – that’s what everyone else is doing.” I guess we are stubborn like that. Everything that’s predictable we don’t want to do. But I don’t know, maybe it would be cool.

Dead Rhetoric: One thing I’m sure that many fans are thinking about – you’ve been on two direct support tours for The Ride Majestic. Are you going to come back [to North America] and do a full headlining tour?

Strid: That is the plan, yeah. We’ve done a lot of headlining in the last few years, and we thought that we would do some other tours with some bands that don’t necessarily sound like us. We did the Soulflly tour and now we are doing Fear Factory. But yes, I think it’s safe to say that we will try to sum all of this up and do a full headline tour in the fall, I hope.

Dead Rhetoric: That 50-someodd date tour that you did with The Living Infinite, did that impact your perspective on touring in the States?

Strid: It impacted it in the sense that we will never do something like that again [laughs]. That was just too much. It was 56 shows in 58 days. That’s pure insanity! I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a band doing that many dates in a row.

Dead Rhetoric: You doubled the album, you doubled the tour…

Strid: Exactly…the ideal situation would be to do like 5 weeks and keep the motivation all the way through. It’s hard after 5 weeks. Our headline run, I would think would mostly be major markets and key cities, but it should be good. It’s hard to cover all of the US and make everyone happy but hopefully it will be routed well.

Dead Rhetoric: I’ve seen some pictures on Instagram/Facebook of the band barbecuing on the tour. What else do you do to keep things interesting on the road?

Strid: I usually bring my soundcard and my mic – my portable studio. Whenever I feel like recording some ideas, I do that. I’m terrible at drawing, but it’s very therapeutic so I do that sometimes too. It’s nice to focus on something that has nothing to do with music, even on the road. I try to work out and do P90x on tour…because I just feel so much better. Otherwise you just sort of lay around. Even though I’m sure you burn off a lot of steam and calories on stage, it’s still not the same. It’s not a workout like that. We aren’t a hardcore band where we are jumping up and down everywhere – that’s probably a workout. We definitely move, and I’m absolutely soaked after the show, but I really like the idea of still working out and making it as close to whatever you do at home. Which can be pretty hard!

Dead Rhetoric: The Soilworker logo itself has stuck around for a long time. When it was initially designed, did you think it would have that lasting impact for the band, or was it something that you thought, “well let’s put it out there and see how it does?”

Strid: The first time I saw it, I loved it. I knew that it was going to be something timeless. I think that’s what it is. We have a very powerful symbol for the band, and I’m sure people can discuss whether we have an interesting band name or not. It’s like “Y’all farmers?” [laughs] But I still like the band name – it’s really hard though. It doesn’t spread by word of mouth very well. Somehow people never really hear what you are saying. You really have to enunciate – like “SOIL-WORK.” Most Swedes, they just say “soulwork.” It’s a pretty weird name to pronounce.

Dead Rhetoric: Going to The Ride Majestic…I know it was written/recorded during a time of a number of tragedies within the band’s personal lives, yourself included. Did that make it an easier album to personally relate to than some of your other releases?

Strid: I would say so. We didn’t know all of it [the album] to the extent we would take it. When we entered the studio, we were really excited about the material – it was going to be pretty melancholic but pretty intense. It was going to have a dark atmosphere running through it. But when all of these tragic events took place, it was like, “wow, this is crazy.” Within a month, all of this went down while we were in the studio. I’m kind of happy that we were in the studio, because I don’t know what would have happened if we had a year off or weren’t doing anything. That would have been even more rough. The old cliché that we got closer as people – I think we really did. I think it really affected us, and how we approached our performances on the album. It felt even more real, as the album was going to deal with a lot of existential questions and the darker aspects of it in general. It’s just interesting how that worked out. It felt all the more real, and I think you can tell listening to the album. There’s this certain nerve and passion in it. I know when I was recording vocals, I’ve never felt more focused. I really felt every word that I was recording on that album. It was a special time for sure.

Dead Rhetoric: Does it then make it a harder album to then eventually follow-up?

Strid: In a way, I guess. But there’s always something that motivates us. I think we found something new with The Living Infinite. Making a double-album was quite an experiment and brought out some new songwriters in the band. It really mixed very well, so I think there’s almost a new era, musically, for Soilwork. We took it a step further with The Ride Majestic, and we definitely are not slowing down. It’s pretty damn intense if you compare it to mid-2000s Soilwork. It’s fun that we still have that energy and can create something that intense. The dynamics are even better I think. We’ll just keep doing what we are doing right now. When you listen to The Ride Majestic, there’s something really interesting there that we will be able to develop around.

Dead Rhetoric: At this point you have 10 albums – how hard is it to come up with a 50-minute setlist like you are doing right now?

Strid: It’s pretty hard. We are promoting The Ride Majestic, but we want to blend in some of the older material as well. It’s not our tour, it’s Fear Factory’s tour. We are the special guests and everything, but I feel like there are a lot of people out there who have not heard of us before. It’s a good thing! But it makes it harder to be up on stage since you feel more like the underdog. But I think Soilwork works really well when we are the underdogs. I think we have managed to convert a lot of people on this tour already. It’s a good setlist – there’s stuff from A Predator’s Portrait from 2001, some stuff from the new one, from The Living Infinite, from Stabbing – a little bit from every era of Soilwork.

Dead Rhetoric: When you get back to headlining over here, are there any songs that have gone below the radar that you would be interested in pulling back out?

Strid: A lot of people request “Distance” from Stabbing the Drama. “Observation Slave” as well, and a bunch of others that I actually thought about…

Dead Rhetoric: “Needlefeast?”

Strid: Yeah, we haven’t done that one in a while! Maybe it could be cool…

Dead Rhetoric: You’ve got Ronny Gutierrez filling in for David Andersson on guitar. How’d you select him and how has it been going so far?

Strid: He’s doing a terrific job. He’s a fantastic guitar player and a very nice guy. We got to know him from when we did the Death Angel tour, as he was playing in Bonded by Blood at the time [doing session work]. He does a lot of session stuff. He’s the guitar player for Shaggy…you know, THAT Shaggy. Which is really cool actually. So we have stayed in touch with him and we knew he liked our stuff. Sylvain has mostly been in touch since they like to talk guitars and tech. So Sylvain suggested him and it was like “yeah.” We saw some videos and he was really good, and we kind of knew him from before so it was more of a natural thing. David is home right now, being a doctor. He just changed jobs so he needed to not take time off right away, but it will be easier for him to take time off later on. So there’s no weird thing going on [with him].

Dead Rhetoric: Being the only original member left, how does it feel to have twenty years of Soilwork under your belt?

Strid: It’s just hard to grasp. I’ve changed so much, but at the same time, I’m the same person. It’s weird. It’s been such an interesting ride, musically and on a personal level, and I’m really proud of just about everything we have released and that we have been able to develop our sound. We have grown a lot as songwriters even though there have been line-up changes. There have always been people who brought something new to the table. We have been able to develop our sound and still sound like Soilwork. We never forced things, and when there have been line-up changes we haven’t done things like “oh, can he write like Peter, does he sound like Peter” for example. We’ve been a democratic band and we have always been open to new people writing and so far it has been working really well. For me, it’s a lot more fun too since I have been there since the beginning and people throw me some new stuff. I don’t know what to do with it initially, and through that I have developed as a singer, in having to step outside my comfort zone. I really like that challenge.

Dead Rhetoric: You bring up a good point – I think that Soilwork is one of the few bands that when you hear there is a line-up change, there’s no one going “oh no, the band is over.” There’s almost intrigue at that point in how that shift is going to spin the sound around.

Strid: I think so too. It’s cool that people can actually be objective with it.

Soilwork official website