Swedish melodic death metal outfit Soilwork found their mojo back in 2010 with the release of “The Panic Broadcast”. It’s a tall order to surpass that album in terms of quality, but Strid and Co. Managed to do just that with their latest, “The Living Infinite”. On behalf of the band, drummer Dirk Verbeuren gave us his two cents on the latest album, the departure of Peter Wichers, the logistics behind the band and Soilwork’s upcoming 20th anniversary.
Hi there and thank you for doing this interview. Soilwork is about to embark on a massive US tour. What are your expectations?
Thanks for having me! We’re really excited about touring again! It’s been a while. We didn’t play out as much as we hoped for after “The Panic Broadcast” was released, so it’s time to set things straight. Looking at the reactions to the new record so far, this first US and Canadian run should be pretty damn epic!
The Panic Broadcast is still a formidable record in its own right with former guitarist Peter Wichers being a big part of that. How did you guys deal with him leaving and the impact it had on what would become The Living Infinite?
Our separation with Peter was no surprise to us. On the first few legs of the Panic tour, it became obvious that he just couldn’t cope with spending months on the road anymore. We considered several options, but the split became inevitable. We all agreed to that.
As for dealing with it, well, we had no choice but to move on. And so we did. We toured with our new guitarist David throughout the years. On a human level we knew that he’d fit right in. Plus, he’s a formidable guitar player and composer too. We were all pretty confident going into writing “The Living Infinite” and it all worked out for the best. David contributed a lot of material to the album. I think the result speaks for itself!
Soilwork is blessed with multiple songwriters within the band. How did you guys go take on the creative process this time around?
We decided to make a double album about two years ago. It’s obviously a bit of an undertaking, so everyone was hands on from the get-go. We each made demos first, some of them more finished than others. Then we arranged a number of songs together in the rehearsal room, old-school style, which we hadn’t done since “Sworn To A Great Divide”. I spent quite some time working on the structures and other little details. Out of all the Soilwork albums I was a part of, “The Living Infinite” is by far the biggest band effort in the proper sense of the term. We were open to each other’s ideas and I think the diversity of the songs showcases that pretty clearly.
What I really like about The Living Infinite is the sheer fearlessness of the record. I see it as the perfect summary of what you guys have done musically the past 18 years. How do you see things?
Fearless is a good way to describe it. I mean, we really had nothing to lose. We just went for broke and that energy’s palpable when you listen to the album. If it’s a summary of some sort, that wasn’t calculated on our part. Not that it’s a bad thing—it’s just that we never sit and try to replicate old songs or things like that. The writing is natural, and so is the rest of the process.
We’re aware of what suits Soilwork and what doesn’t but at the same time, we find a lot of pleasure in developing new ideas. Songs like Sven’s (‘Memories Confined’ and ‘Owls Predict, Oracles Stand Guard’) don’t compare to any previous Soilwork material, and the fact that it’s a double album allowed us to include more of those influences. Maybe it’s all about having a confident delivery- and Jens Bogren’s amazing production doesn’t hurt either!
Generally speaking, record labels aren’t too happy when bands come up with the idea to release a double album. How did the people at Nuclear Blast react when they were informed that the The Living Infinite would be a double album?
They actually loved the idea right away. It’s uncommon for a band to release a double record so it draws extra attention when it happens, especially in our case ‘cause I don’t think anyone saw it coming. Nuclear Blast really trusted us to deliver even though “Sworn To A Great Divide” (our other album without Peter) is considered lacklustre by some. Our manager really believed in the double album concept too. Now that The Living Infinite is out, it’s great to read and hear all the positive reactions. A lot of people seem to feel that we’ve succeeded in making it a really strong record.
Over the years Soilwork has become a truly international band with members living all over the planet. How does this impact the logistical side of things and how do you deal with that as a band?
We have enough experience as a touring band that we don’t need to rehearse every week. I’m not even sure if things would be all that different if we all lived in the same town. Before a tour we’ll typically get together to rehearse for four or five days, and when necessary we do band meetings over Skype. The rest is just a matter of doing our homework I guess, haha!
The music industry has changed considerably the last couple of years which affects both bands and labels in various ways, yet it also offers unforeseen opportunities. Would you guys ever consider putting out an album independently, for instance? What are your own views on the current developments?
Putting out our own album would require us to do a lot of stuff we’re not that familiar with. It’s feasible without a doubt, just not something we feel we have the time or resources for at this point. As for the music industry, it’s been brought back down to earth somewhat. I don’t miss the swarming mass of high-paid executives throwing around millions for no reason other than that they could. And I’m very happy that there’s more power in the artists’ hands again.
At the same time, internet piracy is a serious risk. People need to reflect upon the fact that if artists can’t sell their music, they can’t keep creating it. The stock answer tends to be “you can just make money playing shows and selling shirts”. Those who say that usually have no clue what it’s like to be on the road for months at a time. As fun as touring can be, it’s not something most of us want to do 24/7. We like to spend time with our families just like everyone else. Music sales are still very important to most, if not all, bands out there.
How do you deal personally with the rigours of touring both physically and mentally?
Physically, I do my best to stay fit by working out and being at least somewhat smart about what I consume. I’m a vegetarian and I don’t drink alcohol. Plus, drummers get a workout every night! Once the tour is going, it’s not that hard for me, really. The mental part is tougher ‘cause it never gets easy to be gone from home for a long time. You spend only about 90 minutes on stage every day. I fill the rest of my days doing useful stuff, a lot of which is work related to the band or other musical projects I’m involved with. We’re also going to cut down on the long tours. You can visit a ton of places in 4 weeks or less and that’s what we’ll be focusing on from here on out.
It won’t be long and Soilwork will reach their 20th year of existence. Did you ever think the band would last that long and still be going strong?
I don’t ever think about it, to be honest. This is just what we do, you know? When the energy and the will are there, you just kind of go with the flow. And if one day you realize the motivation is gone, it’s best to throw in the towel. We’re in the entertainment business so we should be enjoying it—or else we might as well be doing something else!
Do you guys have anything special in the works to commemorate such a milestone, like a special tour with ex-members on selected dates or a retrospective box set for instance?
Those sound like some cool ideas right there! We honestly haven’t talked about celebrating the band’s 20th anniversary. Right now we’re focused 100% on “The Living Infinite”. But it would definitely be fun to do something… Maybe we’ll just release a triple album, haha!
Finally, what are the five records that changed your life? And how did they do it?
Prince’s “Purple Rain” was the first record I bought. I still love it and I enjoy a lot of the other stuff he’s done too. Beastie Boys’ “Licensed To Ill”: It’s not my favourite of theirs but it’s the album that really turned me onto rap music and hip-hop beats. Slayer’s “Reign In Blood” and Napalm Death’s “Scum” are the main reasons I started playing metal drums—two absolute classics. And finally, Fredrik Thordendal’s Special Defects’ “Sol Niger Within” is a unique masterpiece I’ll never get enough of.
I also gotta add Mr. Bungle’s “Disco Volante” to the list, that makes six but you can’t beat the awesomeness of that record!