RAM – Sharpening the SteelThursday, 29th August 2019
Dead Rhetoric: In a recent video interview you did that I viewed online, you mention the lack of newer bands in the traditional scene trying to establish their own image beyond their musical stance. Can you discuss the importance of imagery in heavy metal and setting bands apart from one another?
Carlquist: I think what I was trying to say then was that of the bands showing up in what you would call the New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal label, they are trying to make that their image. Our image is that we play metal the old way – we have the old style. But that’s not an image on its own. You need to have a unique expression. You need to have an image because that’s going to be your gateway for inspiration. That’s how you are going to be struck by inspiration, that’s what will set you apart from the other bands. It’s important because you get a much more concentrated, creative outlet. You are easily recognized in what you are doing.
My advice for new bands playing the traditional style, don’t get too caught up in the fact that you are a retro band. It’s not going to be interesting for very long- you are going to make one album that can be really cool, show off, but then you are kind of lost without some kind of image. If the scene is going to develop and evolve, we need to bring new elements in it as well. The classic style is just a sound – you shouldn’t try to be any other band that came up in the 80’s, that’s very limited.
Dead Rhetoric: In the twenty years of RAM, what are some of the standout/breakout moments that stick with you to this day – be it specific albums where you knew you were doing something special, tours, or festival appearances?
Carlquist: To begin with, when we recorded the Lightbringer album. Because that was our first step into music production – since there was no studio around here that could ever understand what kind of sound we were after, and they could not focus on delivering that old kind of sound. This Tom Allom/ Martin Birch kind of production style – it was nonexistent. Everybody wanted to give us these clicky bass drums, and very digital, clean sound – so we had to do a lot of research to understand how our favorite albums were recorded. And then we had to find the studio that could supply the equipment and the kind of rooms we needed. We read tons of articles about it, and together with a friend of ours who was a very good sound engineer – so we created that sound that we wanted, we created an environment that didn’t exist and I think that was very important for us. If you listen to Forced Entry, it still has a sound that we didn’t really want, we took the extra step and made sure that we had the sound we wanted. It changed our direction very much.
And then… last year’s North of Germany, Hamburg has been very cool. It’s like our second home, we show up there and sell out shows. Those are very special shows for us, especially the Hell Over Hammaburg festival after the Svbversvm album we played there – the reception was overwhelming. So much I had to hold back tears, I almost couldn’t sing because of the overwhelming reception from the fans. After all these years, we started to get those kind of moments- and that is the reason why you started, to experience those kind of moments. They’ve taken time to appear, and now they are finally getting here. We have been around long enough for people to understand what we are doing, understand all the songs. So live performances after 2015 have been really, really cool.
Dead Rhetoric: When it comes to RAM live, what makes for an ideal performance in your eyes?
Carlquist: For us, it’s high energy. I think I pride myself for our live performances. I really believe we give a little bit more, something extra. We deliver something, we lose ourselves into the music. And that’s always been how I’ve performed. There’s this on/off switch, when I am not on stage, the switch is off- when I am on stage, the switch goes on and I’m barely in control of myself, there’s something else involved in me. A force being involved. When I turn around and see my drummer, I see the same force in his eyes, same force in the bass player’s eyes – it’s more or less supernatural. That’s a recipe for a very special live show, and something I don’t see when I go to a show very, very often.
I’m very fortunate that that is a fact. It’s not something you can create- it’s just something that happened to be within the chemistry of the band. That’s my therapy, that’s how I survive. I get up on stage and I burn it out through the show. Cathartically, just burn it out. That’s the really special thing about being in this band.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you have any favorite hobbies or passions that you like to pursue away from music to recharge your collective batteries so to speak?
Carlquist: I love nature, I walk a lot in the forest. I am a game nerd, I have loads of role-playing games, board games, stuff like that. I love to collect, but I don’t have as much time to play them as I’d like. I’m waiting for my son to get a little bit older, keeping my fingers crossed that he’s going to like to play these games so I can play with him. I paint miniature figures to recharge my batteries, I read a lot of esoteric material, a lot of occult stuff – I’ve been doing that since my teens. I will discuss that with other people that are initiated. I do some writing- there is actually a novel within certain editions of the new album, there is a short novel is published there. I’m an ice hockey fan, a big New York Rangers fan- I try to see as much ice hockey as I can on the television. I’m a Formula One fan – the European race circuit. Listen to podcasts.
Dead Rhetoric: And how important is band chemistry/ friendships for RAM?
Carlquist: It’s very good to have, but the vision is the most important thing. And we don’t always share the vision, but the person who has the strongest vision sets the rules. And that’s how it should be. Heavy metal in a way is Darwin-istic – the guy who has seen the most shows, has the most albums, knows the most about metal is the coolest metalhead, and that’s how it is supposed to be. You need to be initiated into this, and grow with it, grow within a certain level of respect. It’s the same within our band- the one who has the most passion with his ideas will get them through. And within the frames of that, we are friends, of course. But there is a lot of conflict as well. I wouldn’t see a band as a bunch of friends, I would rather see it as more or less as a business venture. Some might describe it as a marriage- which is (much) more correct. With friends, you meet them on your off time, and you want to have a good time. With your bandmates you will see them all the time and in different situations, but it’s more like your partner. You will face adversity as well as good times together – you have to be under the vision and keep your eyes on what you want to do.
Dead Rhetoric: You managed the Swedish black metal band Nifelheim – what sort of takeaways did you learn regarding the business that maybe you applied to the practices of RAM?
Carlquist: Well, I used to manage Nifelheim. That was at least ten years ago, and I did it for a very short time. Because I’m very good friends with the brothers Hellbutcher and Tyrant – and I worked with them. I got them on an opening slot tour with Venom, and we did some stuff together. The idea was I was supposed to manage them, but it turned out to be an impossible thing to do.
Dead Rhetoric: What’s on the agenda for RAM over the next twelve months for activities, tours, etc.? Are you hopeful to get some shows going in North America?
Carlquist: That would be really cool, absolutely. We need to just have a good outlet for that, we need to have a good package, something cool going on. For this year, we are doing our European tour, which is going to be extended to a lot of countries that aren’t on there yet. We are going to do 18 dates in a row, we want to make clusters with 5-6 shows in different territories, spread out over the year. We will keep on booking shows, of course. We have had a nice offer to go over to South America, which we want to do. A person stole a lot of money that we needed to make that happen – so this album is coming out sooner than we planned. This is three albums in six years – so that’s a lot of work. We really needed a little bit of rest, but due to the fact that this person stole so much money from us, we couldn’t rest. We had to get a cash flow going again.
We want to get those connections running again, so I would say South America is more in the cards than North America – but with the right offer and the right circumstances, everybody wants to go to North America. Everybody in the band, we’d love to be there.
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