Air Raid – Raising ThunderThursday, 16th February 2023
Passionate about heavy metal since starting in 2009, Swedish act Air Raid fly the flag for classic riffs, stirring choruses, and twin guitar action through their discography. The latest album Fatal Encounter continues the reliable songwriting plus soaring vocal performances that make you think of acts like Iron Maiden, Yngwie Malmsteen, Hammerfall and others. We reached out to founding guitarist Andreas Johansson plus vocalist Fredrik Werner to discuss the multiple studio approach to recording the new album, the latest rhythm section that opens up possibilities for the group creatively, important records from the late 90’s forward in heavy metal, special memories of festivals/tours in Germany, Japan, and Brazil, and what the future holds for the group.
Dead Rhetoric: The new Air Raid album is Fatal Encounter – where you worked in a couple of different studios in Gothenburg for a variety of reasons. Where do you see this set of material sitting in the discography of the group – and how do you think the multiple studio situation worked out for the final product?
Fredrik Werner: Because of the whole COVID situation, it was natural for us to work separately. We also invested a lot in getting a good setup for specifically vocals, guitars, and drums in one studio. We really had the time to pick the right tools, the right rooms, for every piece of the recording.
Andreas Johansson: It was also to try some new methods. I recorded my guitars alone, and the other guitarist Magnus did it on his own. The bass player Jan also, as he’s from another part of Sweden. This makes it much less stressful. What can be negative is that you get too relaxed, and you do things over and over again. The discipline is something you have to have. In the end, I think this is the best method we have used to record so far – most comfortable.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you think COVID changed things? Did it allow you to be more critical of the material you were working on, and develop deeper details that you normally wouldn’t be able to do for a record?
Johansson: For sure. We had the time, and with that time you start to think. Naturally. We also decided to not rush anything. We didn’t book any shows, only to work on things relating to the album. It is more thought through this time, even more than before.
Dead Rhetoric: Were there any surprises or challenges that came up during the songwriting or recording sessions for this album?
Werner: Once you are done with an album, you kind of forget the whole process in a way.
Johansson: I don’t think there was anything out of the ordinary when I think about this album. There is a lot of work involved.
Werner: With every recording, there’s always something totally unexpected. It’s hard to recall, because you are so into it once you are doing it.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you see the latest members for the rhythm section fitting in to the style and chemistry you’ve already established for the band? Do they bring any unique skill sets/techniques that open possibilities for the band?
Werner: Both Jan and William are highly skilled musicians. With them on board, we really have no limits. This of course has been very helpful in the songwriting process. We can do whatever we want to do, because they can pull it off. We’ve known these guys for a long time, they are real pros.
Johansson: They are more like working with music. Jan is a music teacher, and William does a lot of session work. Very smooth to work with them, very easy.
Dead Rhetoric: Where did you want to come across with the lyrical content for this record?
Werner: The songs usually begin with a title, and then you go forward trying to build around that. Sometimes you will start with a scratch melody, some gibberish. You find something, this can be a title, build around it to make something meaningful.
Johansson: We never have a concept first, and then write music. We write the music and get the feeling from there about what it should be about. Then we continue with it, it builds.
Werner: Each song is like you set sail. You don’t know where you are going to end up.
Johansson: Nothing really ties together lyrically for this record. It’s not a concept album in that sense. It’s more specific for each song what we feel.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel about the cover art this time – was it worked out between the band and artist to come up with the final idea?
Johansson: I contacted this guy Jarred Hageman from Chrome and Lightning in the USA. He does artwork in an airbrush style. We were exchanging some ideas, we came up with this crazy idea of playing guitar with cannons, explosions. That’s heavy metal, and it sounds good.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you feel about the support and work that High Roller Records have done for Air Raid? Do you believe you have the proper team behind you to push your music through the best promotional channels based on your traditional heavy metal style?
Johansson: In my opinion we have worked with High Roller for a long time, we don’t have much to compare to, but I don’t think we could have a much better label than High Roller. They are extremely supportive. The deal we have is very good, they have contact with promo guys, we have a publisher. It’s a whole team.
Werner: We are being taken care of so we can focus on the music.
Johansson: We don’t do much more than the music part.
Werner: When you are starting out, you don’t have this help. Being a musician is like taking care of a business. And it’s more business than it is music sometimes. With High Roller, we feel that we can make music.
Dead Rhetoric: When it comes to playing live, what do you want to get across to the audience with your work – and what have been some of the more memorable shows, tours, or festival appearances that Air Raid has done so far?
Johansson: For me, since I’ve been there from the beginning, I would say the number one show we did was in 2015 at the Rock Hard Festival in Germany. A beautiful place, beautiful area, a lot of people. It was in an amphitheater, outdoors. And of course, the second one is maybe, when we played in Japan. I love Japan.
Werner: I think live, we come across as high energy. That’s what I think people should feel, and we try to get that across. Getting across the songs as well with a lot of high energy. I loved the Japan shows, Brazil of course, that’s very exotic. There’s been a lot more touring going on when I joined the band in 2017 until COVID hit. It was a very intense period of time.
Dead Rhetoric: Where do you see the state of classic or traditional heavy metal between the old guard and the new breed of bands? Do you believe there is an equal amount of support and acceptance to gain audiences globally for both camps – or do you feel it’s a tougher climb to gain support being a relatively ‘newer’ band in this style?
Werner: It feels like there are heavy metal fans wherever you go. It feels like this is a global community thing.
Johansson: I think there’s a lot of support for younger bands, actually.
Werner: The genre is very special in this case. I can’t speak for many other genres, but I think we have a special thing going on in the heavy metal community.
Dead Rhetoric: What would you consider three of the most important albums that have been released for the metal genre from 2000 forward? And what is your favorite concert memory, attending a show purely as a fan – plus what made this show so special to you?
Werner: Can we stretch this to 25? (laughs). When Hammerfall came around for young people in Sweden, it was a game-changer I think. This was the music that was pretty much dead in the 90’s.
Johansson: Glory to the Brave – Hammerfall in 1997. It brought back everything that had been dead in the 90’s. That’s my favorite metal album, power metal of that time. I would say also – I love Yngwie Malmsteen, Seventh Sign. And Renegade for Hammerfall also.
Werner: Renegade was one of the first albums I got when I was 13, as I was born in 1987. And then I remember a concert that was a big game changer was AC/DC on the Stiff Upper Lip tour. A new experience, it may be a weaker album but it was a big concert.
Johansson: Concert-wise for me, it’s definitely my first heavy metal concert was Yngwie Malmsteen in 2003. We are young, and we like those bands later in their careers.
Werner: Another great concert memory is in 2009 attending the Sweden Rock Festival, they have a lot of old school bands. I’m a big Foreigner fan – on the same day both Foreigner and Journey played after each other. When Foreigner first came on, it was raining – then the sun came out, it was like magic when they appeared. Sometimes it’s the circumstances that can create a magical feeling.
Dead Rhetoric: In a previous interview we did for Eternal Terror webzine, you mentioned your love of European football (which Americans refer to as soccer). Are you still active in this sport, and do you follow your home country/players on a regular basis?
Johansson: I haven’t done it for a couple of years. I watch football a lot on television. It’s an extremely popular sport in Sweden – all of Europe actually. You can’t avoid it. It’s football and it’s hockey. I don’t like the Swedish team – we have some hometown rivalries. In the 1990’s it was extremely popular as kids to trade hockey cards. We know about the Boston Bruins because of that pub O’Leary’s.
Werner: William our drummer, he’s a major Colorado fan. He watches every game for the past fifteen years.
Dead Rhetoric: What would you consider some of the biggest challenges currently facing Air Raid at this point in your career? And how would you define success for the band – has that changed from the initial start of the group to where you are at today?
Johansson: When I started the band, I literally didn’t know any person outside Sweden that was involved with any hard rock or metal. I was just trying to build something up and get some gigs. When we got the first gig, it was a big thing. Now if you get a gig in Gothenburg, it’s nice but it’s not amazing. It was about getting out to tour to prove yourself. Write better music. The thrill of a tour is not exactly the same when you have done it a lot of times. It’s very fun, I wouldn’t say to tour it’s our main thing. It’s all about the songwriting, I would say.
Werner: How do you measure success? Do you measure it by physical sales? That’s one thing. And you can look at the digital side with streams, that kind of thing. It’s not always even. And it can be about how many people attending the shows, being active as a touring band. There are a lot of factors.
Johansson: The only place you can’t fake things is being good at a live show. You can’t tell a hundred people to be crazy if they don’t love the music. You can see how good the band is for real. Success for me is that I’m happy with what we’ve done. That’s enough for me. Popularity, I don’t even think about it.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you see as some of the worst advice you see or hear other people giving fellow musicians regarding the music industry? And were you ever given some bad (or good) advice during the career of Air Raid that you applied or made sense to you in hindsight?
Johansson: (laughs). Not really advice, just something you learn from your own mistakes. Going on tour, how to make the deals, the small details. You play shows where you could have gotten paid more because you are not used to the deals. We have played some shows that we got way less, but now with years you have an understanding of your value.
Werner: It’s a lot of trial and error. My advice I give is to focus on the music, versus getting everything else right.
Johansson: Younger bands ask me for advice. My biggest piece of advice is for them to find their thing, their sound.
Werner: That can be hard. And that can take time.
Johansson: When you are young you want to be cool among the group. If you step out of that and write straight from the heart what you are doing without external tricks, you will succeed. People can hear it straight away if you are doing things for real versus a copy or reproduction of other bands. It happens automatically when you write like that.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the horizon for any activities related to Air Raid over the next twelve months or so to support this release?
Johansson: We haven’t really thought about it so much.
Werner: We want to see if the album can grow its own wings, see where it takes off. We will deal with what is thrown at us.
Johansson: We haven’t planned any gigs or tours yet. We are laying low at the moment, relaxing a bit. It was a lot of work (the record). It’s on Spotify, there will be physical sales.
Werner: Let the music do the talking, at the moment.
Johansson: I would love to play in North America.