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WOLF - Interview with Niklas and Simon
By Wojtek Gabriel,
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Wolf heavy metal band from Sweden
It's been six long years since the Swedish metallers from Wolf released their last studio album, so their loyal fanbase has been put through a tough trial, but finally, the new record is here. The awesome foursome, commanded by the singer/guitarist Niklas Stålvind have brought us a strong set of tunes, and even though the sound on the album is audibly different than we're used to, "Feeding the Machine" is so unmistakeably Wolf-ish, the first spin puts a smile on your face. The band is currently promoting their new work across Europe, and I had the pleasure of talking to them before their Glasgow gig.
You have always released albums every two or three years, but this time it took you six years to complete it. So, what was the cause for this longer than usual period between the albums?
Niklas: It took three years to write the songs, but during the time we were all working full-time with our day jobs. And also, speaking for myself, I couldn't really force myself to write quicker. Writing the song was really a therapy thing. I was going through a phase in my life, and I needed the time to really get into the songs. And also, Simon was building a brand new studio. First he upgraded his old studio where we were supposed to record, but when he upgraded it and started recording drums, he almost got evicted because neighbours started complaining. It was in a basement of a bigger building. So then he said, "What the hell, I'm building a real studio, starting from scratch." And that was a huge project, it took a lot longer time than he expected, and a lot more money. But we really wanted to record with Simon and have him produce the album. And the studio turned out to be really, really great. It was barely finished when we started recording but the live room and the control room, all the main things were finished so we could really do it.
And then two of the band members left, halfway through the recording session...
N: Yeah, we started recording drums in December 2018 and then I continued with rhythm guitars and we continued with bass guitar. Mike Wead was helping out with the bass guitar and tracking because Simon was still building the studio and working his day job. So then we just continued, you know, laying more tracks and doing vocals and more guitars and then Andy called me and told me that he had decided to quit the band and that he had been thinking about it for a long time. He was already in another band with a complete different style of music. He was a really good friend of ours so we said, "If that's the thing you really want to do, then you should do it." So then we got the fantastic new musicians in the band. It was like a fucking Christmas present. We re-recorded the drums and the bass because these guys wanted to be in the band for real. And we wanted them to be in the band and we wanted them to play on the album. They are amazing musicians. For me, when I heard the new bass and the new drums, not to disrespect the old guys, because they were great, but when I heard it I was almost crying, because this was the sound I kind of had in my head when I envisioned the next Wolf album. I think they brought the songs to life.
The first thing I noticed when listening to the new album was the different than usual guitar sound. It's raw, more organic, more '80s I would say, as opposed to the polished and more aggressive sound you've had on the previous releases. Please explain.
N: Yeah, it was a thing that we discussed. We wanted an organic sound, and it's all real tube amps miked up in a good studio with good preamps, like the old days. I mean everything is for real, and we wanted a guitar sound that was more in your face but also wasn't the typical modern metal sound with lots of distortion that is just piercing your ears and is really fun for 10 minutes but then you kind of get tired of it. We wanted to take the best from the old days sound, organic sound, and put it in modern production. Simon had a really good Marshall Satriani head and I had a really good Orange head and they sound a bit alike but they have their special sound and together when we blended them, that was the sound.
How did you get the label to finance two professional video clips?
N: It was actually the singer in the new Andy's, the old bass player's band who directed the videos. He's a young guy and he has a lot of ideas and he has a really good way of doing something that looks great and is great for the song but doesn't cost a lot of money. So we tried to use simple stuff but make it effective.
Simon: The place is actually directly under my studio, it's like a big hall underneath the building, like catacombs with arches and it's 7 meters high so it's like a perfect place for filming a heavy metal video. They actually film a lot of movies and TV series down there. It's a spooky-looking place.
I know "Feeding the Machine" lyrics have something to do with your social media experiences...
N: Yeah, I started noticing in 2016 that something was different, about Facebook for instance. I always used Facebook and social media to promote the band and to keep in touch with fans and stuff like that, and I always felt it was a very positive thing. But it kind of changed a lot over the years and it's like now Facebook is using me. And that was before everybody started talking about the algorithms. Social media is a tool but you are also a tool when you're using it, you are the one that's getting used. I started to think a lot about that, and I also did some research and started to listen to what people a lot smarter than me have experienced, and people working with these companies. They are really smart people who are trying to get Facebook and other social media as addictive as it possibly could be, and we are wired to be addicted. You know, that's our psychology as human beings. But also it's a very open song. It could be about a lot of different things and I've heard other people have totally different interpretations. I think it's really interesting and that's the way I try to write. I don't want to write something, you know, right in people's faces.
S: It's like that the "Shark Attack" song from the previous album, which people are always asking, "Oh, is this really about a shark attack?" If you think it is, maybe it is, but you can have your own interpretation.
Thomas Holm home did the cover artwork again, and it's very detailed this time. Was it your idea?
N: No, it was completely his idea. When we kind of have an album concept ready and we have you know, all the lyrics ready, all the titles, we have the kind of sound and the vibe and there's a theme going through the album, then I call Tomas or email him and we start to discuss, usually we talk on the phone. And we do that every time, he comes up with something, sometimes he asks and he shows us sketches and then we find a concept that we go with.
S: But this time he nailed it directly. On "Devil Seed" he did like three or four different drawings, which were all good. But this time it was only this one.
N: Yeah, as I said, I was going through a phase in my life when I wrote for the album and he was actually going through a phase, where he ended up painting a series of paintings. It was like a catharsis thing for him, like therapy, and this was actually one of the paintings that he did as a therapy for himself. It wasn't finished and he came up with the idea, why not use this and I said, "Yeah, sure sounds really interesting." So he finished the painting, it's a big oil painting so it takes a lot of time and effort to do, and then he sent it to me. And at first, I was looking at it and I was almost shocked because it was so different from what I would have imagined. But then it started to grow on me. I was so uncertain about it at first that I didn't even show it to the others, but then when this painting got me I showed it to them and they loved it straight away. And the record label loved it as well. I think it's a very interesting cover, and people ask me to explain it, but it's not for me to explain at all. It's his take on "Feeding the Machine."
The album was out on Friday the 13th. Coincidence?
N: No, I think it was very thought out, ha-ha!
You've got eight studio albums out. Will you be releasing a live album or a DVD at some point?
N: Actually, I feel with this band, with Pontus and Johan maybe now is the time to make a live release. We did a live rehearsal and recorded it and just threw it out. But it sounded pretty good, it's a solid sounding band.
OK, the next two questions are not about the band. You've been posting a lot of pictures of your cool drawings recently...
N: Yeah, that was also the thing, when I went through this phase, I went back to my youth when I did a lot of drawings. I was an aspiring cartoonist, and I started to get published, and that was before I entered a dark phase in my life. And so it was like going back to the drawing thing made me, you know, connect to the young Niklas. I have a lot of drawings. But I had to decide when I started to work on the album, either my brain is on pictures, or it's on music. It's too much for me to mix the two. So right now I just focus on the music.
You also post lots of photos of your chickens. Which one's your favourite?
N: Well, I think my favorite one is probably Alice Cooper. He is a cock, and he doesn't have any feathers on his neck, he has a naked neck, and he looks really cool. And then I also have another favourite, Vince Neil, and she has like a genetic fault, so all her feathers are turned the wrong way. So she looks very glamorous, and she behaves like a grumpy old lady. She's really cool. And sometimes she even sounds like the great Vince Neil.
OK, what's next for the band after this tour?
N: Well, we are writing new material, and we have a few songs already, and there's a lot of ideas within the band, so that I think is gonna be our main focus.
S: It won't take six years for the next one. We're working on that both song-writing wise and planning. We're looking to tour in the fall as well, but we're going to record pretty soon probably. And hopefully there's some more tours as well on this album, and some festivals this summer.
Interview by Wojtek Gabriel
Photo by Therés Björk

Official Wolf website: www.wolf.nu
Wolf on facebook: facebook.com/officialwolf
Tags: Wolf, heavy metal, Feeding the Machine
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© 1997-2020 Wojtek Gabriel. All rights reserved.
Unauthorised use of any works published on this website is prohibited.
Materials may not be reproduced in whole or in part by persons, organisations
or corporations without the prior written permission.