Pain – Still Pushing Boundaries

Tuesday, 14th May 2024

It may have been 8 years since Pain’s last album, Coming Home, was released, but mastermind Peter Tägtgren, is never one to rest on his laurels. Between Hypocrisy and the Lindemann project (from which he has since parted ways), Tägtgren has had much to do over the years in alternating his bands. It’s Pain’s time to return, and the experimental industrial-laced project that was originally intended as a way for him to try out different soundscapes outside of Hypocrisy has never sounded better. Nods to the past while moving ever-forward, I Am is an explosive and fun piece of modern music that continues to push the boundaries. We spoke with Tägtgren about all of these aspects, his time with Studio Abyss, working with his son Sebastian, and much more!

Dead Rhetoric: 8 years since Coming Home came out, and the last Hypocrisy, Worship, also was 8 years afterwards. Do you tend to make sure all the inspiration is there before going forward with new material or is it more just juggling all our projects in the air to make time for them?

Peter Tägtgren: I was looking back 11 years – theres been two Pain albums, two Hypocrisy albums, two Lindemann albums, one Joe Lynn Turner album, a few productions, and three bands touring. In these 11 years, it’s been impossible to do more unfortunately. But now I only have two bands so it will be a lot easier. I don’t do many production jobs anymore because I really don’t have time. If there is something that feels really cool and good, I will definitely do a production, but not just to pay the bills. I really don’t have the time, as I need to focus on Pain and Hypocrisy, and Pain of course for the next year for touring. We are looking for American tours now, either doing support for a bigger band, or a headlining show – we have to start somewhere with Pain in America, so that is the plan!

Dead Rhetoric: Does time tend to feel like it’s going by faster with switching between bands and doing different musical projects?

Tägtgren: Time flies when you are busy, that’s for sure. From 2013 until today, it has been pretty brutal. Especially when you have three active bands in that time. It takes so much time to plan a tour for a band. First you have to learn all the songs you have made in the studio, from a riff here and a riff there. It’s time-consuming for sure. That’s why I didn’t have any energy left to sit and write. This was the maximum I could do then. Now it’s different.

Dead Rhetoric: What’s it like to work with your son Sebastian and have him writing music with you?

Tägtgren: He started off when he was fourteen and he co-wrote “Soldier of Fortune” with me on the End of Disclosure album [Hypocrisy]. We wrote about half of the riffs each. That is pretty early for a kid! He did “Mathematik” for Lindemann himself, and “Dead World” from the newest Hypocrisy album. He has two songs on the new Pain album: “Don’t Wake the Dead” and “Revolution.” He came up with the sounds himself. He did the structure and all of that shit – he produced those two songs pretty much by himself. He played all the instruments himself. It’s great! I just need to kick his ass, you know [laughs]?

He has his own band that he is working on right now and is looking for a singer, so he has like 60-70 songs for that project by himself. He’s super talented. He’s probably one of the best drummers I have ever played live with. He can handle anything: from Meshuggah to AC/DC. When you play AC/DC you need to have a good swing in it. You can’t just play 4/4 beats and think it sounds good. He’s really talented, that kid.

Dead Rhetoric: Did you kind of show him the ropes, on the production end?

Tägtgren: He grew up when I was most busy in the studio, and he always heard me complaining about drummers not hitting good enough. He’s the opposite – he almost hits too hard nowadays! He was brought up in this environment his whole life. I guess that’s how he kind of saw things as a kid, so it came naturally I guess. I waited until he was 18 to bring him on tour because all the crazy stuff can wait. In Europe, especially in Sweden, when you turn 18 you are your own boss.

Dead Rhetoric: Knowing that you don’t have any limits on Pain like you do with Hypocrisy, does it make it easier or harder to come up with new material?

Tägtgren: It actually makes it a bit easier. To just be spontaneous when you write. I have no boundaries or frames I should stay inside. It’s like it always has been for the last 25 years. It’s my own little ego trip to learn productions with other musical instruments and ways of thinking. But it’s tricky, coming from a metal dude. It takes a while, and then you have to figure things out, like, ‘how do I sing on this – it’s only bass and drums.’ It takes a while to figure things out, but I’m very stubborn so in the end I’ll try to find the best that I can get out of myself. It’s hard to produce yourself, for sure. You need to be really schizophrenic I guess, or have a lot of patience.

Dead Rhetoric: When you produce yourself, there’s less ‘outside looking in,’ and its more on you to say what things are good and bad…

Tägtgren: Exactly! And that’s the problem, because you get really unsure about things, but you have to trust your heart and feelings. Is what you hear good enough for yourself? I always write music for myself and no one else. And I always did. But nowadays, there’s more responsibility and I read a lot of comments like “this song saved my life,” and things like that. It becomes more of a responsibility for me, because I want everyone to feel good.

Dead Rhetoric: Thinking back to “Party in My Head” when COVID came out, there had to be more of an emotional response to that one.

Tägtgren: Yeah definitely. The song is still clicking. It just kept on going. It never became a one-night hit or anything. It’s been out for almost three years and it’s getting a lot of views and listens. It had it’s own life. I didn’t do any tours until October of last year with that song. It is what it is, and it lives by itself.

Dead Rhetoric: What stands out about I Am to you, as a Pain album?

Tägtgren: Before I start writing or thinking about what I want on the next album, I started listening to the last album, Coming Home, and I felt like it was kind of sleepy. I was in that mood at the time: a lot of David Bowie and Ziggy Stardust feelings into it. That was what I set up Pain to be – an experiment for me to try different things that I didn’t think I could handle.

After listening to that, I decided I wanted some distortion and industrial shit, so the first song I wrote after “Party in My Head” was “Push the Pusher.” That made me go back to more industrial stuff. Every album represents how you were writing the album and your influences and thinking. Every Pain album so far has sounded different from each other in some ways. The only thing that has been the same is my voice. But I tried to expand on my voice as well. I have tried more variety with my voice – either really high or really dark and deep or you name it. I try to do what is best for the song itself.

Dead Rhetoric: How do you continue to push that vocal envelope at this point, knowing that you have been using your voice for so many years? What sort of experimentation can you try?

Tägtgren: I don’t know. That was the same thing I was thinking before I started this album [laughs]. I think it might feel natural after a lot of trials. For me, it’s an adventure. It’s not just a job, it’s an adventure. You don’t know where your thoughts will take you when you actually start to try to sing on a song that you haven’t before.

Dead Rhetoric: In terms of the sound of the album, I can hear some hints at the first few albums, but like you said, there’s an accumulation of everything else. It sounds a lot different than your first few releases.

Tägtgren: It’s really hard to explain, but it’s just a journey of writing and producing to get what you had in mind when you had this melody in your head and you tried to visualize how the song will be in the end. For me, anything goes. It doesn’t matter what musical style it is, but the most important thing is really that you are happy for yourself and it feels fresh for you as you write.

Dead Rhetoric: Peter Stormare is in the “Go With the Flow” video. How did you end up collaborating with him?

Tägtgren: We’ve been friends for about 15-20 years. So we have known each other for a long time. I brought him in on the Lindemann project on a few videos, and we always send songs to each other. He writes music, and when I do new Pain stuff I send it to him. He’s not really too into Hypocrisy, I think it’s too brutal for him. When I send him Pain songs, he gives me his thoughts on it, and I give my thoughts on his stuff. We’re just good friends who love music.

Dead Rhetoric: Studio Abyss is about 30 years old at this point. What are you most proud of accomplishing with your own studio and producing over the years?

Tägtgren: I would say doing this for 35 years, without having to go out and get a normal job as well. That’s my diploma. I’m not a rich man, but I pay my bills with my work as a musician, which is not easy. For me, that’s an accomplishment. I never planned on it – doing my own stuff, then some people heard it. Some small bands came in, and then some bigger bands heard them and it was a big snowball effect.

Dead Rhetoric: Is there any band that you hear that you think about and say, “I could have really done a fantastic job producing an album from them if given the opportunity?”

Tägtgren: You always think you can do better than what you hear, but when you sit there [laughs], it’s a battle. But course, I would love to give Metallica some distortion on the guitars! You’ve got to aim high! I have no specific things that I dream of producing, it’s like, when it comes it comes.

Dead Rhetoric: What keeps you going and excited about music after being a part of it for so long? What goals do you still have to achieve?

Tägtgren: There are no goals in that way. It’s just trying to write better songs. It has nothing to do with styles – a song is a song in my world. If it has distortion on it or not, it doesn’t matter – a good song is a good song. To see an idea that you have in your head, like a melody…I guess it’s like a gardener planting a seed and watching as it grows bigger and bigger. That really fascinates me. I think that is what keeps me going. It’s exciting to start from a cool melody that you like and start thinking that you like it and how the other parts go around it, and hearing it grow into a song.

Dead Rhetoric: If you could teach a class about something that isn’t music, what would you teach?

Tägtgren: I would say respect. That’s what I would teach. Learn to respect other people’s ideas of life. Everybody has so many different ideas about things like that, and I think everyone has the right to have those things. Nowadays, it’s always about if you are left or right or blah blah blah. For me, it’s not about that but about human beings. Everyone has the right to feel good. It doesn’t really matter where you come from, what you feel that you are, or how you are. Just respect each other. Everyone has a right, and that’s something that politicians seem to forget. Then you make a huge thing out of smaller things, which shouldn’t be. Nowadays, everybody is looking for something to argue about, because they don’t think like you do. It makes the world vibrate a bit in the wrong way. You can feel it. When it’s harmonic and it flows good, I’m optimistic about it at least for the future.

Dead Rhetoric: I know it’s not the time for it, but is there any consideration right now for Hypocrisy?

Tägtgren: We are writing riffs and collecting right now, Mikael [Hedlund] and I, on different parts of the world. When we have enough, we will start putting it together and making new songs. In between all these Pain gigs in the future, we will be doing riffs for Hypocrisy. It will not take 8 years, I can promise that, but I can’t tell you if it will be next year or the year after that. I don’t dare to say.

We are focused to go everywhere with Pain. We are planning a headline tour in the US because we can’t find anyone to play with. If we can’t find anyone to support, then we will play by ourselves. If we have to play at Joe’s Bar, I don’t care. We have to start somewhere. Pain isn’t established, and a lot of people in America have no clue about Pain. So we have to let them know.

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