Interview: Scar Symmetry guitarist Jonas Kjellgren discusses new vocalists and new album

SCAR

When the members of Sweden’s Scar Symmetry announced they were parting ways with vocalist Christian Älvestam last year, it seemed to signal the end of the band.

Älvestam’s departure couldn’t have come at a worse time. The band had just released “Holographic Universe,” a blistering piece of melodic death metal. With the proper promotion and touring, Scar Symmetry seemed poised to ride “Holographic Universe” to a new level of success.

Instead, the band was left without a vocalist – and with a larger problem: Many of the songs on “Holographic” were so complicated vocally that they would be impossible for one vocalist to reproduce live.

Guitarist Jonas Kjellgren said, despite Älvestam’s departure, the band never seriously considered breaking up.

“It was before he left that we were afraid we were going to break up,” Kjellgren said during a Sept. 20 phone interview. “He didn’t want to do any touring at all and we didn’t want to be just a studio project.”

Faced with the problem of having to reproduce the songs live, Kjellgren and the rest of Scar Symmetry made a unique decision – they hired twovocalists, Lars Palmqvist for clean vocals and Roberth Karlsson for gutteral roars.

“It’s not so weird,” Kjellgren said. “I don’t know why the norm is one vocalist.”

With the new singers on board, the members of Scar Symmetry played a few shows, but skipped major touring. Instead, the band went back into the studio and recorded “Dark Matter Dimensions,” a melodic death metal album that showcases the band’s trademark tight musicianship while demonstrating the vocal power of Karlsson and Palmqvist.

The band’s first appearance with two singers was daunting, Kjellgren said.

“It was in Spain,” he said. “We had rehearsed one time, or not (even) one time. I was so nervous – everyone was so nervous – but it went really well and the audience went bananas.”

Performing with the new lineup is “still very nervous, because it’s still so fresh and new,” Kjellgren said. “It feels new. It feels like a new band.”

The new vocalists are not yet contributing to the songwriting process, Kjellgren said.

“It’s always Henrik” Ohlsson who writes the lyrics, Kjellgren said. “We all have our different roles in the band. Me and Per (Nilsson) write the music, Roberth and Lars get to front the band and Ken (Seil) takes care of all the groupies and liquor.

“We asked Roberth and Lars if they wanted to change the lyrics (for the new songs) and they said no,” Kjellgren said. “It would have been forced for them to write the lyrics for Scar Symmetry.”

A band with two frontmen could create problems – especially if the two compete to be the leader and try to outshine the other. But Kjellgren said Karlsson and Palmqvist are not the kind of guys who resort to diva behavior.

“It’s a really dangerous thing that could be if you had two vocalists and they’re both prima donnas,” Kjellgren said. “But (Karlsson and Palmqvist) have been in the same band before – and they’re best friends since they were kids, so it works well.”

While a one-year turnaround might seem fast between albums, Kjellgren said the band wanted to get into the studio quickly once Karlsson and Palmqvist were on board.

“We wanted to have new songs our new singers were singing on,” Kjellgren said. “Since we didn’t do much touring for ‘Holographic Universe,’ we had time to write new material.

“It didn’t feel like one year” between albums, Kjellgren said. “It feels like it has been forever, because we recorded ‘Holographic Universe’ in December 2007.”

Since the band had to dramatically curtail its touring plans for “Holographic Universe,” the group will tour extensively for “Dark Matter Dimensions,” Kjellgren said.

“We’ll start with a European tour with Behemoth and Devildriver and then we’ll go to South America,” Kjellgren said. “Then, another European tour in January and then we’ll hopefully come to the U.S. We’ll tour as much as possible, because it’s so damn fun.”

The new Scar Symmetry album, “Dark Matter Dimensions,” is streaming in its entirety on the band’s MySpace page.

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Interview: Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine discusses “Endgame”

 

MEGApic

 Dave Mustaine has nothing left to prove to the world of heavy metal and could easily hang up his guitar with his legend intact. But the man simply refuses to rest.

You know Mustaine’s story: After being booted from Metallica in the early ’80s, Mustaine set a goal of creating a band that would rival Metallica in power and aggression. That band, Megadeth, certainly accomplished its goal: With Mustaine as singer, primary songwriter, co-lead guitarist and unstoppable energy source, Megadeth released a string of critically acclaimed albums in the ’80s and early ’90s – such as “Peace Sells … But Who’s Buying?” “Rust In Peace” and “Countdown To Extinction.” Mustaine’s influence on legions of metal guitarists has been huge and the musical impact of Megadeth can be heard everywhere today, from the “neothrash” movement to new metal superstars such as Lamb of God and God Forbid.

After suffering a serious nerve injury to his hand in 2002, Mustaine disbanded Megadeth and could have retired forever. But relaxing is not in the man’s nature. Instead, Mustaine underwent a year of physical therapy, regained his ability to play guitar (defying the prognosis of his doctor, who said he’d never play again) and returned Megadeth to its thrash roots on albums like “The System Has Failed” and “United Abominations.”

Last week, Mustaine and bandmates Chris Broderick (guitar), James LoMenzo (bass) and Shawn Drover (drums) released “Endgame,” an album as technically precise and sonically vicious as any of ‘Deth’s major classics. In its first week, the band sold enough copies to break into the Billboard Top 10.

During a recent phone interview, Mustaine said he is still sometimes amazed by his legendary status.

“When I was a kid playing the guitar, no one ever told me I’d be the head of a multi-million dollar corporation,” Mustaine said.

Mustaine plays guitar in much the same way the killer robot from “The Terminator” blasts humans – relentlessly, with a level of aggression that almost knocks the listener down. That guitar style, Mustaine said, developed naturally.

“I’m self-taught and I don’t know a lot of theory. I picked up the guitar and learned how to play it,” he said. “A lot of guys talk about loving the guitar and loving to play it. I always thought you should punch it in the stomach.”

While Mustaine has shared the stage with many sharp shredders over the years, the recent addition of Chris Broderick to the band has been intimidating, Mustaine said.

“Chis is one of those guys whose playing is almost other-wordly,” Mustaine said. While Mustaine does the majority of the songwriting and has written solos for his sidemen in the past, Broderick proved his worth as a songwriter by co-writing “The Hardest Part of Letting Go … Sealed With A Kiss” on “Endgame.”

“”The world is full of gunslingers, but can they write songs?” Mustaine said. “I never had a guy join the band” and contribute songwriting ideas on their first record, he said. While working with other guitar players has been a challenge, playing with Broderick on “Endgame” was a pleasure, Mustaine said.

“I can swear to you on both of our lives that there was never a (Megadeth) record with me not having to talk to the other guys about their playing,” Mustaine said. By contrast, Mustaine only had to make two small corrections to Broderick’s performance during the recording of “Endgame.”

“Chris was a breath of fresh air,” Mustaine said. “He’s not caught up with the hoopla. He comes by it naturally.”

“Endgame” is an album “that needed to be written,” Mustaine said. Mustaine is especially enthusiastic about the title track, which details the abuses that could occur because of “antiterrorism” laws rushed through Congress, such as the “USA Patriot Act.”

“‘Endgame'” was necessary for me to say the (former) president signed something that was snuck by both houses of Congress,” Mustaine said, referring to the title track.

While Mustaine uses music to address what he sees as flaws in society – such a breakdown “in common decency,” he said – the ultimate goal is to please himself and the listeners.

“For me, I write music because it makes me feel good and makes other people feel good,” he said. ” … I think the funnest song to make while we were recording was, ‘This Day We Fight.’ Every single solo was a challenge, because I’d listen to Chris’ (solo) and mine and think, ‘you’re not going to (upstage) me.’

“He’s capable of doing that and he’s a better player than I am,” Mustaine said of Broderick. “My gift is as a songwriter” and front man, which is all about having “attitude,” he said.

The band has one more album on its contract with Roadrunner Records. But that’s in the future: For now, Mustaine is focusing on the band’s upcoming tours of New Zealand, Australia and Japan. In early November, Megadeth will co-headline the “Canadian Carnage” tour with Slayer, before coming south again for a tour of smaller U.S. cities, including St. Louis and Covington/Greater Cincinnati. A tour of major U.S. cities is being planned for 2010.

“Gigantour,” which Mustaine created as a way to give listeners “a festival where you don’t feel” ripped off, will also return next year, Mustaine said. But for now, Mustaine said he is extremely pleased with “Endgame.”

“Megadeth is one of those bands that is not going to stop until it’s time to stop,” Mustaine said. “There’s one more record on the Roadrunner contract … Do I think we’re going to top “Endgame”? I honestly don’t know.”

You can hear “Endgame” in its entirety on Megadeth’s Myspace page. Also, here’s the video for “Headcrusher.”

I’ve been away for a while

I haven’t posted much lately: Frankly, I’ve been tied up with the daily grind.

BUT, I’ll be back next week with interviews from Scar Symmetry’s Jonas Kjellgren and Megadeth’s Dave Mustaine. So check back then.

Also, congrats to Brian Fulkerson of Owensboro, who won himself two passes to see In Flames on Sept. 30 in Louisville. A big thank you to promoter Terry Harper for providing the passes.

I’m gonna go see the Megan Fox horror flick “Jennifer’s Body” now, and follow it up with the new Death Angel DVD, “Sonic German Beatdown.” Hmmm, Megan Fox in a Death Angel video … that’s something I’d like to see …

Have a happy weekend.

Is Dokken Rokken Your Chicken?

I first saw this over at MetalSucks. While reposting is lazy, this is simply too good not to share.

Question: Why is Dokken slumming for Norton Antivirus? It makes no sense to me … except for the fact that a paycheck is a paycheck.

Nevertheless, this is pretty hilarious.

Later, I dug through my CDs and found my copy of Dokken’s “Under Lock And Key.” It’s dated, but has aged better than most 80s hair metal. Don Dokken could actually sing and George Lynch had some guitar chops. I wouldn’t listen to it daily or even monthly for that matter, but it’s diverting and brings back memories of the ’80s. Oh, youth.

Anyway, here’s the vid for “In My Dreams” from “Under Lock And Key.” The quality isn’t great, but what do you want from a video that’s 24 years old?

So there’s a new metal sub-genre, it seems

So, Canadian band The Agonist released a video for the song “Thank You Pain” yesterday on the PETA2 YouTube channel.

A link on the channel refers to the song as “Vegetarian Metal.” Is that a new metal sub-genre? Is The Agonist gonna hit the road with Cattle Decapitation on the “Meat Is Murder Metal Tour?” I should copyright that name before someone else snatches it up.

Anyway, I’m all for bands taking up political causes. If Dave Mustaine can scream about how much he hates the U.N. on “United Abominations,” I don’t see why The Agonist can’t advocate for animal rights with PETA. Metal, by its nature, questions conventional thinking, so bands that take uncompromising positions on animal rights issues fit with metal’s rebellious attitude and its “discard what you’ve been told to believe” mentality.

All that is well and good … but the jury’s still out on The Agonist for me. The songs are well-crafted, the musicianship is certainly solid and singer Alissa White-Gluz has a dynamic vocal range … but there’s something not quite grabbing me. I’ve heard scores of bands that are worse – and you have, too: But while I can appreciate that the members of The Agonist are competent, they don’t exactly inspire me as yet.

Which brings me back to “Thank You Pain.” Frankly, I can’t decide if I really like this song, or I just enjoy watching White-Gluz pose in different gothy outfits. It could be the latter. I’m not above such things.

I’m waiting to see if repeated listens grow on me. But here, decide for yourself.

For the heck of it, here’s the band’s vid for “Business Suits And Combat Boots,” which should win a prize for “most original song title.” If you like the band, you can also hear more on their MySpace page.

Dimmu drama continues, as Shagrath and Co. fire back at canned band members

Earlier this week, Dimmu Borgir members Shagrath, Silenoz and Galder fired keyboardist Mustis and bassist/clean vocalist Vortex. And the fit, as they say, hit the shan.

Mustis fired off a statement to Blabbermouth and other metal media sites, claiming he was fired via text message out of retaliation, after asking that he receive credit for songs he’d written. A day later, Vortex stepped into the fray, claiming Mustis was the “true creative force” behind the band for the last decade.

Well, that wasn’t going to go unanswered, so yesterday, Nuclear Blast issued  the following long, loo0oong response, from Shagrath, Silenoz and Galder.

The statement is posted in its entirety, but I’ve bolded the especially damning statements.

“Man, what a sh*t storm response!

“Too bad all the sh*t is thrown in the wrong direction.

“Oh well, what else could we expect? We don’t blame you as you still haven’t heard the other side, the band’s side. We have put up with unprofessionalism and bad live performances for years. This couldn’t be ignored anymore as we firmly believe the fans deserve the best on both records and shows.

 “First of all, a big thank you to those who still have their own mind intact and believe in the music of the band and not only judge by what is falsely accused in statements posted on-line by recently fired members based on their ignorance, bitterness and greed. A quite normal human response when being disappointed but we hope you kept in mind the saying that goes: ‘Those who scream the loudest have the most to hide…’

 “but:

“‘Only when we’re calm we’ll be able to listen.’

 “We have a feeling, judging from some of you and your ‘jump to conclusion’- type of comments and responses, that some of the reasons that are about to be explained might as well end up as too much for you band member ‘fans’ to grasp the magnitude of, or to handle. We’ll give it a try. The true fans of the band and its music already have shown their support and understanding without us having to explain it to them in detail. But for the rest, anyways, here goes:

 “Let us give you a few things to chew on – perhaps especially to those of you that have already taken sides. Some of it concerns both Vortex and Mustis collectively; some of it is separately based issues. And yes, it might come as a surprise to some of you but they were fired with a reason.

“To make it seem less of a soap opera and less embarrassing, if this is even possible at this point, for those it concerns, we’ll keep things simple and straight-to-the-point. On a side note and in comparison, just keep in mind that people have been fired for way less in this and other bands before. So for those of you who think we didn’t try and make this work and did this out of anything else but what we thought was best for the band, please think again and consider the following written words below carefully.

 “At the same time, as we hate to ruin the idea of how some of you guys perceive this band and its members both in a positive and negative way, those of you who care deserve to hear the truth and here are a few excerpts, out of many, we might add.

 “Let’s put things in perspective for a second: For someone to be in a band, on any level, first there’s got to be commitment and dedication, a drive and urge to do what you do, whether you’re part of the song writing process, planning the touring part, business part, the administrative part or simply just the performing part – doesn’t matter which one you’re mostly involved in. However, you need to be involved in some of it to a certain extent to be considered and treated as a member and you have to show some sort of level when it comes to responsibility, not only for yourself but for others around you as well.

“Over the course of 10 years period, there’s also something you either develop the comprehension of or you don’t (most develop this basic approach way sooner), called ‘understanding of how things are run.’ We know it sounds blunt, but it’s important that this is being enforced on behalf of everyone involved within a band and its working partners. After time, you’ve got to know and accept your place and what role you have taken and your ability therein; the sooner you do this, the better. Remember, you still – at the same time – have to continue to earn your place and work for it, respect it and nurture it like a child, even after years of success. It doesn’t come for free, it doesn’t stay for free and it doesn’t leave for free either. We’re all replaceable.

Are you part of a band for the right reasons? And do you really want this? What are your thoughts on the aspect of being away from home over shorter and longer periods of time performing for your fans? Are you aware of the sacrifice you have to still do after all these years to be able to continue this and are you aware of the workload and the sacrifice not only the other members have done and still do, but also people working with the band in other areas have done over the years, while you haven’t? You need to do your part, or at least do an attempt to be given a fair chance of survival, even if it’s not as much. Certain simple basic things, which are spawned out of common sense, those are the things we expect from you. That’s if you want to be looked at as a member of a music group and be taken seriously. The things mentioned above are all obvious factors and basic principles you need to be square on and aware about; if not, you’re wasting yours and other people’s valuable time.

 “Further down is a couple of things Vortex and Mustis simply ‘forgot’ to mention in their previous statements respectively. Also the fact that Mustis’ statement(s) not being written by himself but by someone else means it is false accusations and have been registered as such by our lawyers.

 “Lesson number one, the obvious one: Don’t forget to bring your instrument when you’re about to play a festival in which you’re going to perform in front of thousands of fans that have travelled far and paid money to see you play. Maybe you haven’t been into it so much the last couple of years and it’s – on top of that – an early flight; you feel things are a bit tedious – no worries, we all experience this from time to time but we know the deal by now after so long, and so many years. Or, so we thought.

“But, we shouldn’t have to remind you to bring your own instrument to a gig. For that there’s no excuse, neither will we accept one.

Lesson number two, a less obvious one and can easily be forgotten while under the influence but still: Don’t hurt yourself in an alcoholic rage smashing a glass to your forehead putting yourself, your band ‘mates,’ crew, not to mention the show(s), in jeopardy. Remember, the money you care so much about getting, compared to the minimal of effort you put in won’t be paid out to you or anyone else in the band if the show(s) doesn’t happen. You have responsibility. We suspect this weren’t part of your calculation, obviously none of us are perfect but as a grown up person, we expect more.

“Luckily for you, the make up covers the cut from the smashed glass on your forehead onstage. You did manage to get away with general bullshit, classical cocky rock star attitude and carelessness – this time too. You wouldn’t get away with it at home around your family so what makes you think it’s fine to behave like an assh*le around your band members, your family away from home? On-stage equals posing, off-stage it’s a no-no.

“But, contrary to other times in the past, there simply won’t be another chance and you know so godd*mn well why you’re not given yet another. Suddenly, we’re the bad guys because you expected another shot out of mere habit, just because we were too nice in the past to grant you another one and another one. Your stage sound and set-up we won’t bother to address anymore. Your stage performance lately we won’t bother to mention either. You know why you’re not part of this band anymore, don’t make excuses and make it look like it’s someone else’s fault when you very well know it was you alone who put you where you are right now.

 “Now, auctioning off your band’s most recent album on eBay, only signed by yourself, can’t be looked upon in any other ways as pure greed, not to mention mockery, towards the rest of the members of the band that you’re still in, AND the fans. Attempting to sell a CD of the last album (which you can still get hold of in shops) with only your signature on it for the highest bid is a remarkably low act.

“Instead of getting hold of some work to do, if money is what you so desperately seem to be needing (while you actually maybe rather should be considering working on ideas for a new album if you’re so concerned about being credited correctly), you rather believe the easiest and fastest way to money must simply be to start a blackmailing procedure against the other members in the band holding important files as ransom – files that are the band’s property which we need for future projects that would bring you money later eventually, in one way or another. Now it won’t. Not a very smart and thought out thing to do. Not to mention the fans now have to wait for these special releases because your ego for some odd reason is hurt and in total control.

“These files, which we handed over to you in good trust over a year ago as a band member and what we’d consider a brother despite your lazy ass, not surprisingly you haven’t even touched it as part as bonus features special of a re-release campaign including certain albums.

“Instead, you threaten to sue your fellow band members for neglect and not treating you right monetary wise. Isn’t it typical? You both want to harvest the fruits, but putting labour into it yourself is not so important. See how long that’ll last in real life. Ironically, it lasted this long with the band, finally now that time is over.

 “This shouldn’t be acceptable. So what do we do? We don’t accept it. After all these years wiping people’s asses and feeding their mouths, we’re forced to take on another strict angle, like you do with kids when nothing else works. To be forced to almost constantly spend energy on dragging someone to practice for instance and be part of a unit – a force, is tedious for the rest of us. Always an excuse not to do what’s expected of you.

“To the best of our efforts, we’ve tried to explain over and over, again and again how the business side of things work, but when ignorance is bliss and the people it concerns fail to even meet at band business meetings, later not understanding and realizing because of the obvious fact that they weren’t present, the deal is then suddenly we’re ‘hiding something’ and ‘I must get ripped off, there’s no other logical explanation!’

“Sounds familiar to some of you readers?

“But on the contrary, we’ve not been afraid of encouraging the use and exploration of talents of other members elsewhere while still being in the band. We have even handed over major projects on a silver plate but to not even bother replying to such offers speaks volumes. We can’t do that job for you too. What about the talk of a certain ‘solo’ project for the last 10 years? Where is it? Talk, that’s what it is. Talk and no action.

 “Still complaining, not trusting your partners for the last 10 years when receiving a pay check, worth way beyond your song ‘writing’ ability and what you’re already credited for is fair in your eyes. It’s amusing and at the same time sad to see how little reflective and humble grown people can be sometimes; or in this particular case, most of the time.

Stop acting like composers and song writers until you have written and released something on your own that’s worthwhile and we’ll see how well you do. To quote Vortex in his very own statement; ‘I have really enjoyed the ride!’ Sure you have, it’s been for free! Either because of lack of interest, dedication, understanding and capability or all of those.

“So a word of advice: For those of you who’d wish and would want to work with either of these guys in the future, please be prepared to discuss business first since the art of music comes secondary.

 “We believe there’s no need to go into further details; it’ll be highly embarrassing. It already is for the rest of us and most sane people get the point by now. If you feel you haven’t been appreciated, this goes for both, then why did you accept the large sums of money all these years that has been handed out to you? It was convenient, wasn’t it?

For how much longer should we accept a service on stage that has slowly deteriorated over the last few years which we know other bands wouldn’t tolerate, seeing as your performance simply wasn’t good enough and your self critical view was like zero. Explain that.

“But you wanted the cash, pretty typical. Give someone something even if they don’t deserve it just to keep everyone happy and they want more of it. Don’t take credit for something you haven’t written.  If you knew how to arrange and write a song, you would have already, just like the rest of us. But no, your lazy ass is too ‘busy’ complaining about not getting what is ‘rightfully’ and ‘legally’ yours.

 “Funny then, how the new album is halfway finished written already by the rest of us without any of these guys’ input, still having all those elements we’re known for. Even having obligations and work with other bands simultaneously on the side.

 “But those who still believe in the band and its music, and not in recently fired members’ bitterness, greed and fear of what’s around the corner, will understand this when the next opus is out. We could write a book about previous members’ and their separate reasons why they’re not in the band anymore, but we believe you don’t want to hear most of it by now.

 “This wasn’t an issue of the typical ‘musical differences’ bullsh*t statement either. Other bands cover up their sh*t with that worn out excuse, but musical differences is exactly what makes this band sounding unique. Sadly, some of the members lost the focus along the way; some people close to the band will say they did that a long time ago, and for that there was simply nothing we could do anymore. We can’t force people to do something they obviously don’t want or care about. We tried – but they didn’t. Our patience and goodwill is not everlasting. So for those of you who still think we owe them more than a phone call or an e-mail letting them know their ‘services’ are no longer wanted and needed, think again. We just had enough and for that we’re not sorry. We’re only sorry it didn’t work out in the end.

” And to those who think greed played a part in this, so absolutely, and now you know whose careers are run by it and whose isn’t.

 “See you soon,

“Galder, Shagrath & Silenoz.”

Whew! That’s quite a load of serious accusations. Crappy performances? Drunken head-glass smashing? Forgetting instruments? Blackmail? Whoo boy: I’m sure Mustis … or more likely, Mustis’ lawyer … will have some words to say about that later on.

So who won this round? I’d have to give the point to Shaggy, Silenoz and Galder, who brought a nuclear warhead to the on-line flame war.

What this means for Dimmu Borgir overall, however, is hard to say. I imagine the band will simply hire a new keyboardist and “clean” vocalist and go on. What else can they do? Keyboards are a large part of the Dimmu sound, and they need a clean vocalist if they ever wanna perform anything from “Death Cult Armageddon” or “In Sorte Diaboli” again.

As far as Mustis being the main creative force, we’ll see on the next Dimmu album, won’t we? If Mustis is such a big songwriter, I guess we’ll be hearing about a solo album in the near future. If we don’t, maybe he wasn’t as important as he says.