Pain – Nothing Remains the SameTuesday, 27th September 2016
Starting out in the ‘90s as an outlet for Hypocrisy mainman Peter Tägtgren to expand his horizons, so to speak, outside of the death metal realm, Pain has come a long way since the first self-titled album. Building up a fanbase that rivals that of Hypocrisy, both bands now sit on equal footing and have legions of fans that longingly wait for the next output of either group. Adding more to his palette, Tägtgren also joined forces a few years back with a new project with Rammstein’s Till Lindemann [Lindemann] to add more diversity to his repertoire.
Of course, Tägtgren keeps busy between three groups at this point, but he’s also an established producer in his own right. His Abyss Studios has made a significant impact on the metal scene and still is a recognizable name in it’s own right. So when the ever-busy Tägtgren sits down to record a new album, the metal world is always tuned in. So with Pain’s latest album, Coming Home, recently arriving on the streets and taking things into new and varied directions we were able to have a chat with the legendary man himself.
Dead Rhetoric: When you started Pain as a side-project back in the late ‘90s, did you imagine that it would become as large and influential as it has become?
Peter Tägtgren: No, not really. For me, it was all about inventing a band so I could produce samplers and keyboards and shit like that. I had to invent my own band to work on it. Normally I record bass, guitars, vocals, and drums, but I felt like I needed to get out there as a producer and know what the fuck I was doing to make a name for myself.
Dead Rhetoric: So in that sense, did Pain evolve as a band as you evolved as a recorder/producer then?
Tägtgren: The first album was really just to get some music out there that really didn’t fit with Hypocrisy. It was on the edge of becoming more fluent with recording with technology with the first album. It was a guinea pig I would say – for my production, and for my music that didn’t fit into Hypocrisy. That has driven me. By writing different music, and approaching different productions skills.
Dead Rhetoric: How much did working on the Lindemann project influence what you did with Pain this time around?
Tägtgren: I think everything I work on prepares me for the future. Till and I learned a lot of things during the year and a half when we wrote the Lindemann album together. He brought in his 25 years of experience with Rammstein, with recording and writing songs, and I did the same thing with my shit. Together we taught each other a little bit that we didn’t know from the other side. That really brings me forward as a songwriter.
Dead Rhetoric: I know you’ve made some remarks about how you wanted to branch out with the new album – what do you think sets Coming Home apart from your previous work with Pain?
Tägtgren: It’s a lot more dynamic I would say. There’s more ups and downs – a wider variety of music. There’s a lot of things with guitars that I haven’t really touched ever. For example, I’ve recorded bands with acoustic guitars, but not with my own band. Once with Hypocrisy, on The Fourth Dimension, I dabbled with it, but that’s the only time. That influenced me – just bringing up the guitar and sitting with it, I kind of jammed out on the album. With the acoustic guitars it was different than my usual recording process. I could see what happens when I put layers on top of it, like violins or cello, things like that just grew out and it would start the song. Then I would go to the next riff or part in the song, and it would be like, “normally I go right at this part – so how do I go left.” So it took forever because I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and not take the easy way out. I was trying to do the opposite of what I normally do. It took a little bit longer, but it freshened my songwriting up for both me and my listeners.
Dead Rhetoric: It’s been 5 years since the last Pain album and 3 since the last Hypocrisy album. Obviously you are busy with other things as well, but is your work at the point where you can take the time to really ensure that each release stays to a certain level instead of pumping out albums every year or two?
Tägtgren: Both yes and no. I started to write a few ideas in 2013 and then Till called me up and we started the Lindemann project and I put those ideas aside. I started again in September  again and brought up these ideas and wrote 10 songs up to April. Of course, I took a break for two months while I did the Sabaton album. I was just singing in the bedroom while I was working with Sabaton – for the first month I was just staring at the microphone going “ohh, I have no fucking power [laughs].” When you are working 10 hours a day and then go home and you are supposed to write lyrics to the music you have been making, it’s not easy. I knew time was ticking because I promised Nuclear Blast I would have an album by June but it didn’t really happen that way. I had to take time with the vocals – that was another step I had to take – to really get into trying to sing and pronounce things and try to make everything clearer and better.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel that Pain gives you more of an outlet to try new ideas and really branch out from a metal base?
Tägtgren: Of course – I can turn Hypocrisy upside down and make it into something else but I really don’t think it’s fair for fans that have been around for so long – and not to the band either. It was a good savior for me to invent Pain instead of changing Hypocrisy. In the ‘90s, there were death metal bands that started going in different directions and playing in different styles. The bands, after 2-3 albums, didn’t sound the same anymore. So instead of altering Hypocrisy, I started making Pain albums.
Dead Rhetoric: The video for “Call Me” features some masks that the band wears – were the masks influenced from Genesis’ “Land of Confusion?”
Tägtgren: To be honest, the director, who has been doing Pain videos for 10 years or so – he knew this girl who makes all of these puppets and they looked really cool and he said they looked like Genesis and stuff like that. So he said let’s try it – it’s going to be expensive and let’s try it. So I agreed, but I didn’t really have much to do with it – I was trusting him that he would deliver a crazy video. I told him that if he was going to do something, than overdo it. If you do it normally it won’t stick out. So I told him to do it as disgusting as possible with what they had.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you think that going above and beyond, in terms of the videos, helps with getting some word around?
Tägtgren: I think people would rather listen and watch at the same time than just listen. Doing videos is more of a promotion thing, instead of putting an ad in the paper you are putting a video on the Internet. For those who don’t like the video, they can always look away and listen to the music. For me, it’s just trying to get it out there. With “Black Knight Satellite” and “Call Me,” they are the most common Pain sounds on the album. I didn’t want to give them any surprises, like we did with “Dirty Woman” on the last album. People were freaking out and thinking we were trying to be like AC/DC.
Dead Rhetoric: Over the years, both Pain and Hypocrisy have had lyrics related to aliens and conspiracy theories (most recently with “Black Knight Satellite”). What are some of the most interesting theories you’ve come across over the years?
Tägtgren: They are just theories, like I always say. You have to have an open mind – for me, I think it’s kind of fascinating what they say with this breakaway civilization with the Nazis. They got some sort of contact with other civilizations that were feeding them technology and they moved down to the South Pole and kept on doing their experiments. It’s like a breakaway civilization that kept moving with their technology. If your fantasy is big, you can go as far as you want to with this stuff. When people are saying that they are seeing aliens, they are actually seeing the Nazis – it was not anything from outside of the world. You can sit for days and discuss these things. There’s always a lot of “yeah but…” and “what about” and so on. It’s just a nice time for me to walk away from music and have something else. Some people have Harry Potter and The Lord of the Rings – I listen to all these crazy people talking about “what if” stories.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you think that ideas run a range of potential – going from those that could be true or those that are just crap?
Tägtgren: Of course – it’s like that all the time. There are so many different theories about things. For me, I think life is boring and the only thing we see on the news today is insanity all day long anyhow. It’s good to take a step away from it and get into your own little bubble. “Black Knight Satellite” is about that kind of stuff. I jumped on it because I’ve seen it come up all the time. Finally I decided to see what it was all about and thought it was a fascinating story.
Dead Rhetoric: How do you ensure a balance between Pain and Hypocrisy, in terms of your approach to writing new material and being present live?
Tägtgren: I usually know, when I really get serious about one of the bands, that it will take a year/year and a half or so. With either band, you have to kind of look at a two year window that you need to establish everything that you need to do. Even with the new Pain album, I was working like an idiot on it and put more hours in during a shorter time period, but it gave good results I would say.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you find when you release new material for one band, you have people then clamoring for your other band?
Tägtgren: That’s only for those who haven’t been around for a while – people seem to know that it will take about 2 years for the next album to come out [for the next band]. Right now, I’m hooked up on this Pain album and it’s hard to start focusing on a new Hypocrisy or a new Lindemann album. I need to get some more energy back and to get hungry again to start writing. I need about a month or so to rest.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you find to be the most rewarding part of the producing and recording end that you are involved with?
Tägtgren: I think it’s all really rewarding. I’ve been with Sabaton in the studio for two months and now you see that they are #1 in all kinds of countries. I follow the bands, even if I don’t record them anymore. I see what happens with Amon Amarth and Dimmu Borgir, and all these bands that I have worked with and that’s great. It’s kind of a reward as well. With albums that I do myself – going on the stage and playing new songs for audiences and seeing how they get into it, that’s also a really good reward.
Dead Rhetoric: Being involved with the metal community for such a long time at this point, what do you notice about it that is different now than say, when you started Hypocrisy?
Tägtgren: I think you have to give even more than you did before. Also with packages and things to sell the product. I’ve always tried to do my best – it’s always been whatever I could handle, either as a recorder or a musician. Hopefully you grow as a songwriter and producer, so my only goals are to go a step further every time I do something.
Dead Rhetoric: Pain will be touring Europe soon and will appear on the 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise. What else can we expect from either Pain or Hypocrisy in the more immediate future?
Tägtgren: Hypocrisy will take a while, like we talked before. But with Pain, we are going to tour as long as people want it. We are trying to set up an American tour right now – just waiting to get all the cities lined up. I’m not sure what the interest is there, but we’ll find out. But yeah, South America too and back to Europe to the parts we aren’t going to this time around. There’s a lot that we aren’t going to see on the first part of this European tour. Wherever people want us, we will be there.