Enforcer – Running Free…For LifeSunday, 31st January 2016
Awfully refreshing to chat with a gent like Enforcer main dude Olof Wikstrand. He’s forthcoming, honest, and ultra-bright, which is what you’d expect from the leader of one of Sweden’s brightest young (?) metal bands. And yeah, it’s hard to call Enforcer “young” or “fresh” at this stage in the game – they’re now a full decade into their career, with four albums to credit. But when chatting with Sir Wikstrand, you get the sense the band is just getting started, especially over here in North America, with this particular being only their second jaunt, the first coming in 2009.
The chat you’re about to read took place during the band’s co-headlining jaunt with Warbringer, bringing along Cauldron and Exmortus in support. Quite the fancy-pants bill to kick off the year, obviously. When this scribe caught the show in Pittsburgh, it was Enforcer who owned the night, putting on an actual “show,” while reeling off one true metal gem after the other, even if “Banshee” (from last year’s From Beyond) was omitted from the set. Before the band’s set, we snagged Mr. Wikstrand on the bus, not before waxing nostalgic with bass player Joseph Tholl, who was just waking up from an afternoon nap…
Dead Rhetoric: How’s the tour going?
Olof Wikstrand: Very well. We haven’t been here for such a long time, so we didn’t know what to expect. It’s all been positive so far; we’ve been overwhelmed.
Dead Rhetoric: How did “Banshee” get left off the set list?
Wikstrand: I don’t know. [laughs] I’m happy with all the songs. I would want to play all of the songs live, but at some point, you have to take the ones that stand out compared to the rest of the material. It’s a song that sounds like some of our earlier songs, but maybe we’ll pick it up in the future.
Dead Rhetoric: This is a nice package tour…
Wikstrand: It seems so! The Cauldron guys are our brothers. It definitely feels that way. That crazy US tour we did brought us together in a way…there was so much crazy shit.
Dead Rhetoric: Enforcer started as your solo project. Here you are nearly ten years removed from the band’s formation and you’re touring and doing albums. Has the band’s progress surprised you?
Wikstrand: No. Things have been slow, actually. We don’t think about it.
Dead Rhetoric: Why would you say that?
Wikstrand: Some bands make it after a few years, but we’ve been around for ten years. As a touring band, we’ve been around since 2008. That’s quite a long time. It’s not an overnight sensation thing like, look at me, here I am! You have to develop gradually and have new goals. It’s hard to see where we are sometimes.
Dead Rhetoric: The jump from Heavy Artillery to Nuclear Blast had to of helped. Have you noticed any difference?
Wikstrand: I don’t see any difference. Heavy Artillery and Earache worked pretty well for us. They got us on tours, we got different budgets to record albums with, we had a decent publicist. I don’t think it matters if it’s Nuclear Blast or Earache. If you’re talking about how well your music and band is being spread, it doesn’t matter. It’s about what you do. If things can be a sensation overnight with YouTube, then you can make it. What has the most views on YouTube? Cats meowing, right?
Dead Rhetoric: Who doesn’t like that?
Wikstrand: You know what I mean. But if you have good music, you can make it even without the label. Back in the day, A&R and the labels were good on seeing what would be popular. Now, they can see what is popular. That’s how things have turned a little bit.
Dead Rhetoric: Even now with Nuclear Blast having so many good, high-profile bands, you don’t worry about getting lost among them? Do you care?
Wikstrand: No, you don’t see it that way, I would say. I don’t mind. As long as they do their job and do it perfectly. We get everything we want.
Dead Rhetoric: You seem like a low-maintenance band.
Wikstrand: At the same time, we are quite a hard-working band. We do all of the videos, all of the photo shoots, all of the shit ourselves. We are passionate about what we are doing. We are quite the self-going band. We ask for money, they send it over, and we do what we want with it.
Dead Rhetoric: I always thought the traditional metal tag was wrong for you. Does that annoy you?
Wikstrand: It annoys the fuck out of me. I think that’s more limiting…being bunched together with these shit, poser bands, and the media tags us with them, so people stay away with them. Like, an 80s tribute band, so people think we are not serious, but what we’re doing…it’s not tongue and cheek. And I get the feeling we are not being taken seriously by people like the media, business people because everyone wants to put this fucking tag [on us]. In my opinion, we are the most modern band around. It’s wide-spread. And we’re not following any stupid trends. If we would do an album like an occult, Goth-inspired, or grow out our beards and stoner shit…do what is trendy in 2016. Would we still be an old-school band? You’re not bringing anything into the scene. We do the shit we want to do. I think we push the metal genre forward.
Dead Rhetoric: Your songs are accessible, but not simple. Lyrically, you’re not using the clichés most other bands use.
Wikstrand: You seem to get the idea.
Dead Rhetoric: It’s hard to ignore that stuff and be isolated from it.
Wikstrand: I try not focus on it and we do our thing as much as we can.
Dead Rhetoric: Let’s not forget you put on an actual show. Does it drive you nuts when you watch other bands who just stand around?
Wikstrand: You see modern metal bands, my opinion, it’s not metal. What people call ‘modern metal,’ who the fuck wants to see that shit? When you see the old metal bands…it’s not a fucking show. I’d rather sit at home and listen to my records.
Dead Rhetoric: It’s called “stage loitering.”
Wikstrand: A live show should have the interaction between the band and the audience, and the more you do that, the better.
Dead Rhetoric: It seems like a lost art.
Wikstrand: Exactly. It’s just the way I see live shows – it should be intense with a flow of energy between the band and audience.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you worry about what will happen when the big headlining bands like Maiden and Priest go away?
Wikstrand: I don’t give a fuck – I’m not into idolizing bands, or whoever is a legend. We’re all human. I’m more of a fan of records than actual bands. I’m not a real diehard fan of any band. But I’m a diehard fan of specific records that I can dig myself into.
Dead Rhetoric: Like which ones?
Wikstrand: It can be anything. Like a Scorpions album, and get really immersed into a record. Now the Scorpions are a case where I like almost everything they’ve done, but if you take Iron Maiden, I love Number of the Beast, but I don’t enjoy much of their recent stuff. Iron maiden fans, being very picky, that kind of stuff, I wouldn’t say I’m an Iron Maiden fan; I’m a heavy metal fan. I’m not much about idolizing these things. As a musician, I know you can have a certain flow when you write an album, then it could be gone the next.