Switchblade interview circa ’10

Switchblade interview circa ‘10

Switchblade’s new effort has been one of the best records for the passing year. Here in Stealing the Light, we adore talking with people like Tim, drummer of Switchblade and also the guy responsible for Trust No One Recordings. Tim didn’t have any problem discussing about everything, giving us the opportunity to learn a lot for a variety of things. There are many reasons to read this interview, so feel free to take a read.

I – Change of Seasons

–      So, first of all I learned somehow that Anders is out of the band. Is that true? How are things in the band now?

Tim: Yes, it is true that Anders decided to leave Switchblade a couple of months ago due to other commitments. We respect his decision and there are no hard feelings between us at all. Anders was with us from the start 12 years ago so of course it’s a big change for us but we are already moving on. I and Johan decided to go on as a duo. But Johan is playing thru both his guitar amps + the bass amp with an octave pedal so the overall sound is more or less the same as with Anders. We are aiming for playing live as a duo and from time to time have guests on stage for vocals etc.

We don’t see the new situation as a bad thing but more like the beginning of a new exciting era for Switchblade. I and Johan wrote more or less all music on the latest album so the writing of new material will be the same as before.

–      So it’s true. You support that the writing will be the same as before. Do you think that this time is going to be easier? I mean, sometimes less is more, you know. It’s good though that this change doesn’t seem to have affected you emotionally or something, so it’s a good thing, right? 12 years is not a small number for being a member in a band in my opinion.

Tim: Well, no I don’t think the writing process will be either easier or harder. Even though it will be a bit different I think we will go on a write as we usually have done but maybe try a few new approaches to it all. Since we won’t have a vocalist in the regular line-up I can imagine that there might be even more dynamics and mood/tempo changes in the music. We will probably write the music with the idea of having it instrumental but will probably add vocals when recording.

Yeah, we have always had the “less is more” saying as a guideline in our writing/music/aesthetics.

–      You say that you will probably write the music with the idea of having it instrumental, so a major question arrives: how much important are vocals for Switchblade? Because in the new record the vocals became a major piece of the composition in my opinion; I can’t really imagine how this composition would be without the vocals. The vocals built in moments the necessary atmosphere apart from the music alone, right?

Tim: Yeah well… We have always seen the vocals as just another instrument of sorts. Kind of like a second guitar. The music has never been written as background to the vocals like a lot of other bands do. To be honest we usually try to get the instrumental music so complete that the vocals are just the icing on the cake so to speak. And often we have not heard the vocals until we are recording so we usually never play material live before we record it. But yes, on the latest album Anders really delivered fantastic and disturbing vocals that took the music to another level. No doubt about it. But at the same time, I and Johan are kind of used to practice as a duo since Anders live a few hours away from Stockholm. But I can understand that other people might experience it a bit different without vocals. Me and Johan are now practicing and doing small re-arrangements in those songs to make them work even better all instrumental.

–      I see. But there must be a reason why Andreas is screaming for in the record, isn’t there? I mean, do lyrics exist? What are they about?

Tim: Yeah of course there is a reason and deeper meaning behind Anders’ lyrics and vocals on the album; even though most of the lyrics are personal to Anders. But as I said, the vocals have always been treated as another instrument and the player behind that instrument brings his own feelings and ideas to the table and is o.k.’s or not by the other two members.

As the lyrics were entirely written by Anders, they are his to explain and to fully know the very meaning behind every word. But he always wrote in pretty abstract way so that the listener can make his own interpretation and meaning of the lyrics.

–      So, now that Switchblade is a duo, how do you see it happen? I mean, I feel there is time for further experimentation right now; a musical instrument left, another one arrives. Maybe it’s time to have a Hammond with you, what do you say? Have you ever thought of another musical instrument to play along Switchblade? Swedish bands have had a tradition in adding wonderful cellos and stuff back in time…

Tim: Well, as I said earlier, the very core of our sound will always be there but we will try a few different approaches now. And Daniel Liden will most likely be playing a bit of Hammond etc at some shows. I and Johan are in the process right now of getting the music sound complete as a duo and if/when we add something else to it that will just be a bonus.

II – New Levels

–      What did you think of, as Tim yourself, when you listened to the mastered version of the album?

Tim: I must say that I am very proud of the album and I’m probably one of, if not the biggest fan of the band and I do listen to the album pretty often. I know that a lot of people think that’s lame or very self centered but the goal, which I hope most other bands have as a goal as well, is to play the music I want to listen to myself and not make music just because other people should like it.

–      Well, Tim this last sentence of yours is really interesting and I totally understand and agree with that, because I am a musician too myself and that’s the reason why I am writing stuff too. You generally want to have the freedom to build the material the way you like it, not the way some people should like it.

Tim: Yeah, if you don’t write music for the sake of pleasing yourself and wanting to create the perfect music you can’t find, you should really reconsider and ask yourself if you should be making music at all.

–      So when you did start writing the material for this new release and how long have you been practicing for recordings?

Tim: We are really slow when it comes to writing new music so the 2009 album was written over a period of at least 1,5 years or so. But a lot of other stuff made it took so long. I am a father of 2 girls and the youngest was born in late 2006 so that has taken a lot of my spare time as well.

–      Congratulations for your two girls. How do you feel now being a father? Does the brought up for children affect your life and your limitations?

Tim: Being a father of two is great though it does of course limit your spare time a lot. We have never really been a hard touring band but the family responsibility makes it harder to tour for longer periods of time. Johan recently became a father as well so I don’t have to feel that we’re not touring because of me.

–      Did you change anything on your equipment/gear regarding the new material? I know from some live pictures of yours I’ve seen that Johan plays with a Travis Bean guitar. Is this the reason for this unique sound of yours? Or does the tuning play a huge role too?

Tim: Well, the only difference in gear on the latest album is that Johan uses an octave pedal for most of the heavier parts. He has been playing that Travis Bean guitar since 2003. The sound of the Travis Bean is pretty unique but a big factor of the guitar sound is how he sets his guitar amp settings. A pretty clean tone, no distortion pedals and plenty of volume does the trick. And we tune in regular E tuning.

–       Oh man, that’s crazy! I thought that you might have had a tuning of your own and you just say it’s E tuning, wow. That’s clever!

Tim: Hehe, no special tunings or anything.

–       Ok now, wait a minute. You want to tell me that Johan’s guitar is in E regular tuning and that the only thing that is between the guitar and the amplifiers (how many and which) is the octave pedal? Man that sounds really awesome!

Tim: Yes, the octave pedal is the only effect Johan uses which is being sent to a Sunn Model-T (reissue) with a matching Sunn cabinet and to an Orange OR120 with a Matamp cabinet. And now after the departure of Anders, Johan also sends a separate signal to another octave pedal and then an Ampeg SVT-VR bass amp with a Marshall DBS 412 cabinet.

–      Would you like to tell me some things about the recordings of the new album? Which was the whole procedure? There have been a lot of places where this material “traveled” in order to be ready as I have read. Did you try any different tricks this time, regarding the placing of the microphones or using special cabinets? What drums do you play with?

Tim: We recorded the basic tracks live at the very nice Gröndal studio. We spent 72 hours there and then we recorded guitar dubs and vocals at a smaller/cheaper studio called Version. Then we spent an afternoon at Gröndal again for some Hammond and piano recordings. Daniel Liden did a fantastic job both during the recordings and did mix which he did in his own studio.

Both him and me and fans of huge drum sounds and he used a lot ambience mics on the drums. I think we used a total of 22 mics on the drums. We rent for a very narrow stereo sound for the drums to really make them focused in the middle of the sound. I play a cheap Tama Imperial Star. 14″, 16″, 18″, 26″.

–       Karl Daniel Liden did a great job. Are you satisfied with his work as I am? What made you decide working with Karl? Do you know other releases in which he had done the mixing? I think this is the best Switchblade sound ever! Full, warm, analogue.

Tim: We choose Daniel because we share a lot of the same reference points when it comes to production and musical taste. He had only done the latest Dozer album and his own Vaka album and I really like what he has accomplished in such a short time as a recording engineer. I got to know Daniel quite some time before we recorded so we had everything worked out with what we wanted to achieve.

Yes we are really satisfied with the work Daniel did for us and we use him again for sure.

Yes, the production sounds very warm, open and analogue-like but it was actually recorded in Pro Tools and mixed “in the box” as they call it.

–       Now as you say that you actually recorded in Pro Tools and mixed “in the box”, I cannot really figure out why you insisted on recording the basic tracks at Gröndal studio, which I think is pretty expensive. I mean, did the place have something unique, in order to captivate the placing of the drums or did the environment of the studio have something specific? I am asking the above, because as far as I know, if you record with Pro Tools you don’t have to work in a so great studio, but maybe I’m wrong, I don’t really know.

Tim : Yes, Gröndal is one of the most expensive studios in Stockholm. Well, it’s of course nice to be able to record to analogue 2″ tape like we did with the 2006 album but this time we had very limited time in the studio and Daniel is more used to work with Pro Tools. Besides having a great sounding live room for drums, the Gröndal studio has a fantastic selection of vintage and expensive microphones and most important of all, a selection of microphone pre-amps that sounds amazing. So the medium you are recording to is not as important as the mics and pre’s. And another reason why we recorded in Pro Tools was that we filmed the basic tracking with 2 cameras, then edited the footage and synced it with the basic tracks in Pro Tools. That way Johan could watch a monitor when recording his extra guitar tracks and see the band play and sync his playing that way. It can be very hard to sync the slowest parts otherwise. Cause we don’t use a click track when recording.

–      Ok, it’s really important for some people out there to have some info regarding the equipment and stuff, because Tim there are some people out there (including myself too) whose (musical and not only) life has changed listening to your music, are you aware of that? So, that’s why I persisted more about the gear and the production habits.

Tim: Yeah, I’m really interested myself in what gear bands use and how they work in the studio.

–      So, that’s the way the new album recorded. I think that dynamics have been mastered at this release, do you agree? Do you think that this is a natural progression for the band? Was there something in the music you have been listening to that affected you while building the new composition? I don’t and I won’t tell that the whole composition reminded me of something in particular; it really didn’t.

Tim: Well, thanks a lot for the kind words. We hardly ever hear things like that and it feels weird but of course at the same time flattering. But we have always tried to not in any way put ourselves “above” the people that choose to listen to our music. The fact that people enjoy our music is just a bonus. We just play and write music that feels good to us and we put a lot of time and thought in all the details. And especially when it comes to dynamics.

–       You released the new album on 09/09/09. Did that date mean something for you or was it a good marketing trick? How did the people respond to the new release and how is the release now going regarding sales?

Tim: The date for the release felt very suiting since there is a strong use of the number 3 throughout the album both musically and visually. The response has been really good and reviews have been great as well. The sales been ok I guess. Not fantastic but I didn’t expect that either since we don’t tour that much.

–      How full is the daily programm, regarding the Trust No One Recordings, for you as the owner of the company?

Tim: I work fulltime at a record distributor and TNO is something I do on my limited spare time.

–      Alright. It seems that we covered the musical aspects of the new record. You didn’t tell me about the vinyl version of the album though. What about the artwork? Who did it and what is behind the light of the candles, if there is something?

Tim: The vinyl version was released by a German label called Denovali.

It’s a 3 sided double LP with a screen sprint on the D-side. I did the artwork for the album and have done all the artwork for our releases in the past as well.

I felt that the 3-armed candelabra was a great symbol for this cover since it’s both a very atmospheric thing and also cause fits the concept of 3 that we used a lot on the album.

–      Wow, then congrats for the artwork too man.

Tim: Thanks a lot man. Yeah, I’m very satisfied with the artwork. The printed result turned out as good as I was hoping for.

III – Conversation Bloom

–       Now, if you don’t mind, I would like to go back the conversation in 2001 and tell me what was the reason that you decided as a band to slow things down and go away from the hardcore elements of your music. I would like to tell me also some things regarding the scene in Stockholm back then. Were Breach and Switchblade the only bands playing that stuff then? I know that you have had a direct relationship with Breach, since you were recording with Breach’s mainman Anders Ekstrom. Was their release of “Kollapse” a moment of moving in lower speed and exploring the musicality further for you? Do you know by the way if members of Breach play music nowadays?

Tim: Well, we have always had some parts and songs that were kind of slow but I guess it was on the 2001 album we took a step even further away from the faster material. A big reason to why we started to write longer compositions was that we got asked to play a show that was a bit different than what we were used to, so we wrote the song that ended up as that last, long track on the 2001 album. And we felt right away that we liked the format and the way to write so we continued to write long tracks.

In a way we have always had a pretty weak music scene in Stockholm. A good amount of shows but not that many bands in Stockholm.

Well, Breach has always been one of my favorite Swedish bands and a big influence on our music up until the 2003 album but no, I have never really embraced the Kollapse album like I did with the “It’s Me God” album. So no, the Kollapse album did not influence us to play slower. In fact I played Anders and a couple of the other Breach guys the Sunn – 00 Void album just to show them how slow riffing should sound like. I know Anders was amazed and shortly after that they wrote that heavy opening track for Kollapse which I think is the best track of the album.

Yeah, all of the Breach guys still play music. Anders and Per is in NEI, Tomas has a very Breach sounding solo project called The Old Wind, Niklas and Tomas Turunen are in The End Will Be Kicks and Niklas has a Breach sounding project called Terra Tennebrae.

–       Tim, at this point of the conversation I really want to thank you for providing information about everything! Thank you so much.

Tim: No problem, I’m an information freak myself too so I know the feeling.

–      Do you like live shows in general? What do you think it’s the most important thing when you play live? Do the people attending the show affect you with their manners etc?

Tim: We have nothing against playing live shows but it is not that very often we get that very unique feeling that we get in the practice room. Of course it happens from time to time but is not that often. There are just far too many distractions I guess.

Our biggest concern and also problem is to be allowed to play our amps at the right volume for them to sound as they should. The decibel limit here in Sweden is 100 dB which is ridiculous. Sometimes that is how loud the drums are without even before the mics are up.

The audience is not that important for us to get a good feeling and experience during a show cause we are just focused on what goes on between the three (now two) of us and how the instruments coincide with each other. To me the perfect audience is just standing there during the whole show, concentrating on the music and allowing them to be engulfed in the music. And then show some appreciation when the show is over.

–        Are there any concepts in your mind as you write and play your music? Is it just a vehicle for your emotions, or are you trying to convey certain images and ideas? If so, could you give us a glimpse of what went in your mind during the recording of III?

Tim: Yes, there has always been a very focused idea or feeling both when we write and when we play our music. I guess the band has always served as a tool to both focus certain emotions and also to put music and mental pictures to it. I think all three things; emotions, music and mental pictures, boost each other. You might have a mental picture of what you would like a certain part or song to sound/feel like and that can help you finding the way to get that part or song right. It’s hard to explain really.

When you say III, do you mean our 3rd album from 2003 or do you mean our 5th album from 2009? I guess you mean the 2009 album. It does figure the number 3 a lot so I understand the confusion. Well, we wanted to write an album that was built like a trinity. And we wanted to evolve our way of working with dynamics and have the album as a journey of sorts that starts off very calm and keeps building in intensity but also be pretty diverse in dynamics, tempo and feeling; but with a dark atmosphere all the way through the album.

–       How do you handle your influences? Have you ever added drum or guitar parts in a song like a tribute to someone who has influenced you? Do you acknowledge them or just let them meld in with your own personal way of playing?

Tim: I think that we have always let our influences shine thru here and there but always had our own touch to it. But I don’t think we have ever sat down and thought about doing a tribute of sorts to any specific influence.

–      How much of your songs are jamming and how much planned? Were there moments when you’d planned a certain way for the song to evolve, and then something happened while playing it and it changed direction? Do you have a strict song-writing process?

Tim: We have always had a very strict song-writing process and no jamming whatsoever. Every little note is planned out in detail and is there for a purpose. So even if some of our parts might come off as pretty relaxed and improvised live, they are certainly not. We are all control freaks in the band and need to have everything worked out. I guess it has its ups and downs but that’s the way of writing and playing that is natural to us and we will probably continue to work that way in the future as well.

–       Which is the most exciting moment in Switchblade history so far?

Tim: Hmmm, that’s a tough question… There have of course been some key moments over the years. A few very special shows and so on. Opening for Converge and getting signed to Deathwish was of course a great moment. Opening for Sunn O))) and Boris was another great night. There is probably plenty of great moments for us that might sound petty to others. Every time we finish a new album is a great feeling as well.

–       Why doesn’t Switchblade have song titles? Is there something specific behind that?

Tim: We just felt that song titles were useless to us. We always have other working titles for all songs that we continue using and we have never been a band that make things easy for people outside the band so we just decided to stop using titles.

–      Are Switchblade into black metal and what bands do you listen to?

Tim: Yes, I do listen to a lot of black metal of different sorts. Some bands that I frequently listen to are: Craft, Watain, Urfaust, The Ruins Of Beverast, Hellhammer / Celtic Frost, Negative Plane, Tangorodrim, Deathspell Omega, Necros Christos, Nifelheim, Aura Noir etc. etc. The list goes on and on.

–      What about drone music in Sweden? Are there artists like BJ Nilsen that play noise music and is there a scene in Stockholm, regarding the noise music?

Tim: There is an ambient/drone/noise scene in Sweden with Stockholm and Gothenburg being the centers I guess. The Fylkingen venue in Stockholm does most of those shows in Stockholm and in Gothenburg Ideal and Koloni arrange a lot of shows in that genre. If I can do some shameless self-promotion here, I’m also in a dark ambient/drone project called “All Hail The Transcending Ghost” together with the prolific figure that is Henrik “Nordvargr” Björkk (Maschinenzimmer 412 amongst others). We have an album out on Cold Spring and are slowly trying to get material together for a new album.

–      Which Swedish bands do you propose to check out? Are there good relationships between Swedish bands (at least for the doom bands) at Sweden?

Tim: Hmmm, Swedish bands to check out… I guess that most bands that are worth to mention are already known outside of Sweden but some of them are: Abandon, Ocean Chief, Vaka, Kongh, Terra Tenebrosa, Saturnalia Temple. Since the doom scene in Sweden is pretty small band-wise most bands know each other so there is a relationship, yes.

–       Future plans?

Tim: Me and Johan are currently rehearsing and making the tracks from the 2009 album sound great as a duo and at the same time we’re trying to write some new stuff. We will start doing shows again in a few months and have a few shows booked for September and October in Holland, Germany etc. Hopefully we can get some new material together soon that we can record for a split 12″ with Kongh.

Get Switchblade – III @ www.trustnoonerecordings.com

Visit Switchblade @ www.switchblade.se

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~ by Θ. on 2010/03/14.

6 Responses to “Switchblade interview circa ’10”

  1. Great article. Bummer about Anders, his Bean bass will be missed! Nice studio shots in this article!!

    hank

  2. Thanks for the kind words Hank!

    We are really into the documentary regarding Travis Bean Guitars, hope to watch it when it’s finished!

    Credits to Tim for the studio shots though, thanks again!

  3. Yep.. the Travis Bean doc is still moving.. slowly, but surely

  4. I own that TB bass now. And we´re all looking forward to the documentary.

  5. Superb interview!

  6. thanks indy

    your blog is beautiful, thanks for checking!

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