On the eve of the band's brand new release Stabbing the Drama and a headlining tour of the US, Sea of Tranquility Publisher Pete Pardo caught up with Soilwork guitarist Peter Wichers to discuss the new album, the evolution of the band, and the upcoming tour.
Sea of Tranquility: Hi Peter, where are you calling from today?
Peter Wichers: I'm actually down in North Carolina.
SoT: What are you up to down there?
Peter: Well, I just got married!
SoT: What can you tell us about the upcoming album Stabbing the Drama?
Peter: Well, this is actually kind of a very spontaneous album, as far as the songwriting process goes. We never really thought a lot about trying to make the perfect hit for every song. We were more conscious I think of a certain way of writing in the past, but with this one we kind of let everyone more or less go at it and it really shows. It's a very dynamic album, and all the songs are really versatile.
SoT: Does Stabbing the Drama follow the same lines stylistically as your last one, Figure Number Five?
Peter: I think it's a little different, and it actually has some of the heaviest stuff we have written in a while, but it's also very melodic, so it's a mixture of both styles.
SoT: Who produced the album?
Peter: This album was produced by Daniel Bergstrand, the guy who produced In Flames, Strapping Young Lad, and Stuck Mojo.
SoT: How different was it working with Daniel as opposed to Devin Townsend, who you had produce a few of your releases in the past?
Peter: I don't know. Devin and I got a lot closer when it came to recording, but Daniel had a lot of cool ideas, and was very good with the sound.
SoT: It's probably a good idea to work with a lot if different producers over the span of a career, to see what works best for the band's sound.
Peter: Yeah, definitely. You never know, you might end of collaborating with a producer some time again in the future. You learn something new with every experience you have when you are recording.
SoT: Soilwork has changed their sound a lot over the years, starting as a very aggressive and technical death metal band, and have since evolved into a more accessible and melodic band, while still retaining your heaviness. What prompted these changes?
Peter: I don't think it was a conscious thing. It might sound cheesy but we got a little older and we wanted to do something a little different but still play metal. I think Bjorn, our singer, really got sick of just screaming over us all the time, and we found out that he has an awesome singing voice, so why don't we incorporate that. That's when we really started to take off and create our own sound.
SoT: That pretty much happened around the Natural Born Chaos album correct?
Peter: Well, we had melodic vocals on A Predator's Portrait, but not to the extent that we had on Natural Born Chaos. That was definitely a groundbreaking album for us.
SoT: In saying that, has your fan base changed at all over the years, or do you still have pretty loyal fans that have been there from the beginning?
Peter: We still have fans from the first album too, but they are always bitching to us about each new album (laughs) , that's always the process and you have to live with that, but they still wind up at the shows, digging along, headbanging and having a good time. It's all good!
SoT: Have you gotten some positive early reviews of the CD, (which comes out next month)?
Peter: Oh yeah, the response has been real good, and it seems like a lot of people have been really into it!
SoT: Soilwork has had a change in drummers over the last year-can you talk a little about that?
Peter: Henry Ranta, our first drummer, had been playing with is for 5 years, wanted to quit because of family matters, and that's something that we just can't step in between. Then we had another drummer who worked out very well in the beginning, but then the smallest problems became the biggest problems while we were on tour, so we found out that we all weren't really communicating like we should, and went our separate ways.
SoT: Who do you have playing drums for you right now?
Peter: We have a guy from France called Dirk Verbeuren, and he's just a phenomenal drummer.
SoT: Is he a full-time member of the band now?
Peter: No, actually he is just a session drummer for the time being. We are taking it easy as far as hiring someone new-we would probably hire him in an instant if he said yes, but he has been working with another band for a really long time so we don't want to pressure him into it.
SoT: You want to make sure it's the right person too…
SoT: The band has been doing a lot of touring the last few years, and you have a big headlining tour of the US coming up where you will be bringing along Dark Tranquility and Mnemic. How tough is it to be on the road for so long, and are you looking forward to the upcoming shows here in the US?
Peter: Well, it's tough because it's mostly a lot of waiting-you know, 90% of touring is waiting. Only 10% of the day, if that, is actually when you are up on stage. You have to be a certain type of person to be able to deal with it, especially in the States, where you don't get to shower very often. Sometimes you have to go three days without a shower and use baby wipes or stuff like that, and your hair is like this big pile of oil (laughs). It's fun though, and hopefully doing the headlining tour will get us some different treatment, but yeah, it's been good. This tour is going to be awesome. We were always looking to headline the States.
SoT: How long is your set slated to be for the tour?
Peter: Probably somewhere between 75 and 90 minutes.
SoT: That's not bad considering that there are 3-4 bands each night.
SoT: How well do you get along with the other bands in the genre, like In Flames, Meshuggah, Dimmu Borgir, Dark Tranquility, Mnemic, and Borknagar?
Peter: Yeah, we've met most of those bands. We're almost all like colleagues in a way, and most of us are on the larger labels, but they are all cool guys. We enjoyed working and touring with a lot of them-we still haven't toured with Dimmu Borgir so we will see if that happens. Dark Tranquility and Mnemic are all really nice guys, so there will be a lot of friends on the upcoming tour, so we are going to have the best time.
SoT: Keyboards tend to play a pretty important role in the Soilwork sound, although the band uses them more for texture rather than as a lead instrument. Can you talk a little bit about when keyboards started to become vital to your music?
Peter: We've always had keyboards, even on the first album, but I think that when they really started to stand out was on Natural Born Chaos, and that was when we got Sven Karlsson, who is our keyboard player. He really is good at coming up with small, neat little harmonies that really stick in your head, like in "As We Speak" from Natural Born Chaos. I think we try not to use it as a lead element, just in order to get it to boost the sound a bit and create that atmosphere.
SoT: What types of goals has the band set for itself as far as sales of the new CD and markets that you hope to achieve success in?
Peter: Well, as a band, you're always hoping that each CD does better than the previous one. I think that it will do pretty well, and we have a label (Nuclear Blast) that really believes in us, and that will allow us to go to new markets that we never have played to before. So far, we have yet to get to South America, so we are hoping with Stabbing the Drama that it might be possible.