Latest release: Worship (Nuclear Blast)Website: www.hypocrisy.cc
Swedish melodic death metal wrecking crew Hypocrisy have been releasing excellent albums and treading the boards of stages globally for decades, well revered within metal circles and seen as a benchmark for Swedish melodic death metal. Fronted by the prolific Peter Tägtgren, who also has helmed the production chair for numerous landmark European metal albums, Hypocrisy has been understandably sporadic with releases as it is case of pursuing it when time permits, as well as when inspiration strikes.
Several years since End of Disclosure battered eardrums in 2013, the ferocity resumes with the socially conscientious and enduring alien conspiracy themes in Hypocrisy’s thirteenth studio album, titled Worship. A chat with the forthright Tägtgren is always enlightening so Loud Online took the opportunity to gain further insights into the latest album, one that is consistently tightly executed and reinforces the legacy of Hypocrisy.
Hello sir. How’s the climate there?
Look outside at the Swedish weather. It is the worst weather ever, fucking autumn, I hate it.
Ah, you did tour here not too long ago, both with Hypocrisy and with PAIN. If not for the pandemic, presumably you’d be back here?
Oh yeah, for sure. We’ve had a lot of conversations since we’ve got good contacts now, finally in Australia and New Zealand. So now we are just waiting for the right moment.
Is it opening up okay in Europe?
It is opening up slowly. America is already open but I how they won’t have another peak after all the concerts and sports events and stuff like that. So, if they can keep the curve flat then I think there is a future. But, I think that it is still too early to say. Europe, yeah, they haven’t really started yet like America has in the summer and stuff so, but see, it is pretty early still to even think about it. But, we’re doing our best to be prepared so when it opens, to get out, you know, the only problem is, everybody booked three or four bands on the same venue now because it is not enough venues and it is too many bands who have been sitting on their asses for a year and a half, or almost two, you know. It is going to be a competition from hell trying to get good venues to play in, in Europe.
Does that situation create the impetus to come back to Hypocrisy and to record new material, given it has been several years since the last album?
Yeah, I’ve been a busy man. What can you say, a lot of tours left and right with three different bands and yeah, with Hypocrisy, we never stopped touring? The last one we did was in December in 2019, you know, so it never stopped. It is just like, to get around to focus on writing music was the hardest part, you know, to get motivated to do another Hypocrisy album, you know, when you’ve done things for almost thirty years and twelve albums, it is hard to be motivated so you need to find that spark and it took me a while to get the spark and now it is back. So, that is how it goes. Sometimes it takes one year, sometimes it takes two years, now it took like seven or eight years. Well, actually, we started in 2017 or 2018 to write for the album so I mean, less than eight years but in between tours fixing up here and there, back on tours or another album that I had to deliver. Things like that, so when you’re alone, it takes a long time.
In that light, would you say that Sebastian’s [Tägtgren’s son] song, Dead World, provided an impetus or an encouragement to get moving on the project?
Yeah, it could be. I mean, we had this father and son project in 2017, I think, and we were just sitting in the studio. He had shitloads of riffs and I had shitloads of riffs and then, all suddenly, we were feeding off each other with stuff. When we were finally had eleven songs demoed out with no vocals or lyrics, then we just said, ‘Nah, let’s just move onto something else,’ ha-ha, so, I told him, I wanted to get the Dead World song out because it is such a killer tune I think, and it is really fresh for being in Hypocrisy. It is a little bit different but it is still the same. So he said, ‘Yeah, no problem, just use it,’ you know so I wrote lyrics for it and then boom, there you have it.
Same deal, I guess for Chemical Whore in the sense that it is a team effort.
Yeah, with the music, Horgh [Reidar ‘Horgh’ Horghagen – drums] wrote one riff, Mikael [Hedlund – bass] wrote one riff for that and I did the rest on the song but, you know, it is really good riffs and that is what I like with team work. It is not easy to get when I am pooping out ideas and some other people have a hard time to get it out. So, at least I got two riffs each of these two guys on this album and they are very important. They are very good and I wish that there would be more but we’ll see for the future.
Is the ability to come up with ideas, both in your production role and as a band leader, something you’ve learned to do?
I think that it is a feeling in your body that I have at least, when I have ideas my whole body starts vibrating, I know something is going on. I get very, not anxious but very unfocused and really giddy and stuff so then I know that something is in me and needs to get out. Then usually I try to find the time and space to go into the studio and whatever I have in my mind, I try to get it down to a guitar or a keyboard, depending on what it is; if it is a riff or a melody and then into the computer to keep it documented for when it is time.
This album seemed to have slightly longer introductions and more musical interludes?
Ah, maybe, I mean, there is no real ingredients on how to make a song and sometimes, it feels good to have a good intro and to build up the song, you know, it is all about the feeling I think and it is personal. It is what I feel and how I like it and it doesn’t rhyme the same for everybody but this is how I do it, you know, it needs to be exciting to hear it and how it starts, how it builds up, and finally to the punchline.
Adding in acoustic instruments adds variety in the overall production so it is not a complete bludgeoning from start to finish.
True and for me it is trying to make it interesting for myself to listen to and that is probably my only role model for it and if I think it is exciting and if I like it, then it will pass the test, for me and then it is up to people whether to like it or to not like it, you know. I don’t have anything against anybody who doesn’t like it, it is just a matter of taste and the whole world is full of different tastes.
The drumming on this album is powerful. Is that a case of, ‘Get in a live room and smash it out?’ or is it all presented as prior arrangements?
I usually have all of the arrangements. I have a drum machine, just to keep it in there because I don’t want to run unto the drum heads and settings to record this shit, it takes too long. It is better to just programme a simple drum beat behind it and sometimes you take more time to do drum fills and do really overproduce the drum machine. Then I send it over to Horgh, and then he has to do what he has to do with it, to make it work.
Does the drum feel dictate the style of rhythm figure such as a gallop, thrash or death metal?
I don’t know and I am a drummer. I am not a guitarist or a singer. I am a drummer from the beginning and that is my main instrument, even though I haven’t played for a long time. But, I mean, in the past, I’ve played ninety percent of the first Hypocrisy album [Penetralia], that is me on drums, you know, ah, on The Final Chapter, I think I played on half of the songs drums and Lars [Szöke] was doing half of the other ones. For me, it is all about rhythm, you know, and rhythm in guitar riffing and rhythm in the whole feeling of the song. It is not just riffs and things, it has all got be in a good rhythm and that is usually how I start writing songs in my head. I’ll get a cool rhythm in there and either it is fast or slow, or whatever, but it gives me something, and from there on, I develop the melody and the riffs.
Does singing whilst playing guitar present any challenges these days given that you’re originally a drummer?
Yeah well, it helped me to be more divided, you know, in a left hand is doing this and the right hand is doing this, sort of approach. It is the same thing, with the hands doing one thing and the vocals are doing a different thing. So, I think it is just down to practising. I mean it is easy to write the song, you sit and do the riffs, you record them and then you go up, standing with a microphone and you sing the lyrics and try to find the right rhythm and tempo in the way that you sing the songs and the words with how they come up. But then, when you finally start practicing with a band, and you try to get those two things to work together with the riffs and with the way you sang, yeah, it can take a while. But, you know, you just have to practise.
I imagine there are many bands that you’ve produced who’ve come up with a great rhythm track and it is the same person doing the singing.
Yeah, yeah, and I remember Abbath [Immortal] had a cool way of doing his vocals and stuff; he was always standing, pretending to try to play guitar, in front of the microphone, when it was put in front of him and that is the way that he felt that he would do it live. So, he really had to do it in a certain way, which I think is really good because he knew that he had to play guitar and to sing at the same time so he thought that he better get the vocals in the right rhythm so that it works with his hands. I thought doing that was a really good idea.
Looking at Metallica, you start to appreciate the amount of talent that goes into doing that live.
Yeah, James Hetfield, holy shit man, he has got to have the sharpest picking hand in the world. Him, Gary Holt and maybe Scott Ian, they are the ones that are insanely good on rhythm and picking.
When you started early on, you were in the States and then returned to Sweden. Did you find there were two totally different scenes?
At the time when I was in America, that was when, from 1988 to 1991, which was really where the death metal started to explode in the world, you know, and I came from a more thrash band in Sweden as that was my garage band that I had from 1984 to 1987, you know. It was more into thrash and of course I was very influenced by Possessed, Celtic Frost and Destruction, things like that from the 80’s and then when I got to America, this new wave of music came up so of course I wanted to jump on that as well. But, in America, it was hard for me to find someone to play with – I had a lot of friends from Monstrosity, Malevolent Creation, and other bands, every weekend we went to a bar and saw all these great bands like Obituary. I went up to see Deicide, maybe in Tampa or Palm Springs, I can’t remember but it was when they had the release party for their first album, which was insane, you know, and it opened a new world for me. I thought, ‘Shit, I’m stuck in America, my friend at home has a studio that I could borrow where I could everything myself,’ so, it was more that thing where I said, ‘Okay, I need to go home and start a death metal band.’ So, that is how we really started.
It is amazing to think that Scott Burns [producer] and that seminal death metal scene came out of Florida which is a hot, humid climate.
Oh yeah, trust me, I was in warehouses where we were sitting and practicing without air conditioning and shit. Oh God, it was like being in a tin can and then just putting it in the desert. But we did it, we drank a lot of beers and shit and we had a great time.
Is there a particular track on this latest album that you’re most pleased with at this point?
No, I cannot define it, I am just too involved to have any outside views on what it is, and I would rather hear other people’s opinions, to be honest.
One aspect that got me was the twin harmony guitar parts which seemed reminiscent of Metallica. Namely, the opening figure on the first track on …And Justice for All, that is in there, and with that tone. Does that make sense?
It could, I mean, I was a big Metallica fan in the eighties and I think that with Hypocrisy, I always put on harmonies and melodies. I did that in the past, in the 90’s as well, so, it is nothing new for Hypocrisy but this album is not about reinventing our sound or style or anything. It is just about getting a fat production and good fucking songs in the traditional Hypocrisy mode, as you wish, you know, but yeah, for me it is just all about writing good fucking songs with good production.
Production is a different beast to song writing. When do you swap hats to do those tasks?
I think that I always had a little producer in my head, you know, no matter what I have done. I have always had a vision of what I would like to have and I have not always been able to do it. But now, within the last ten to fifteen years, I feel that I can now get it out, what I have in mind. Now it is always like that but bands record their albums and then it is like, ‘Woah, this is not what I had in mind but that was cool,’ or, ‘Nah, this is shit,’ you know. While I am recording I am still producing so I try to keep it under observation so that it doesn’t go sour in the end when you have to mix it later.
Are there any difficulties working with the Lindemann project in working with someone of that stature?
Ah, it was fun and we [Tägtgren and Rammstein vocalist Till Lindemann] have been friends for a long time, since the end of the 90’s, you know, and I saw his band just grow and exploded but we are still friends. In 2013 we said, ‘Let’s write some music,’ because he had some time off. That is really how Lindemann started and we always saw each other as equal. We were just banging out song after song after song. There was no stopping as we had so much inspiration building, so, that was easy. The studio was the easy part, put it that way.
You’ve also done live guitar slots for bands like Marduk. Also, you’ve had Alexi Laiho contribute guitar for your band.
Ah, I first met Alexi in ’97 and we brought him on tour. That was Children of Bodom’s first major tour and we would always talk about it still, to the day he died. It was his highlight, he thought, it was fresh, it was new and they got to open up for a few bands, playing in front of people and getting out of their rehearsal room in Finland to go out in Europe and stuff. We stayed friends forever after that and we met up, many times, you know just hanging out. I stayed in his apartment in Helsinki, just drinking and talking shit, just two philosophers just blabbing it out, you know, that happened many times. It was a really hard hit. He sent me even the demos a couple of weeks before to play the Dissection song [Where Dead Angels Lie] that he did a cover of as he wanted my opinion on it. Also, the other original songs that are on the mini album [Paint the Sky with Blood]- it was just sad that it went [clicks fingers] and he was gone.
Did you immediately notice he had a unique talent when he walked into the room and starting playing?
Well, we never really talked about talent and shit, we were just friends. We didn’t really think about what he was doing or what I was doing. Of course, I produced their Follow the Reaper album which was one of their highlights and I was fortunate to do, of course, I produced his vocals on Blooddrunk because he really wanted me to help him to bring the best out. So, that was a great time. He was a wonder kid when he was younger, you know, and not only could he play a solo, he could write music as well. He wrote most of the shit, he was an amazing guy.
Indeed. The Hypocrisy discography is vast. Do any albums stand out for you where you might say where you nailed it?
Not really, it is just learning by doing, every time. Give me half a year or a year and I hate this album, because I will find some flaws in it. So, that is normal.
Your studio set up is impressive. Do you favour newer gear or like to tinker with older equipment like an SSL desk?
I’ve got a lot of vintage compressors and pre-amps, shit like that, but it all goes into a card into a computer so, first it is analogue for it to be documented on wav files. When I mix, I run it through outboard gear as well, and bring it back into the computer but the computer is amazing, you know.
The only thing I hear for the last five or six years is the laptop productions that you hear now. It is very stiff, it is very cut up and for me, some of them do not have any soul, you know. It fits perfectly for PAIN and for that kind of music but with Hypocrisy I wanted a more human touch to it, you know, some more soul and heart into it. So, therefore, I didn’t trigger the shit out of the drums, I didn’t line the guitars into a plug-in, I kept real things and for me, that was important.
It is definitely audible that the latest album wasn’t constructed on a laptop.
Yeah, I mean, nowadays, I see a trend that people are trying to go back to record on analogue tapes and things like that. So, let’s see but I mean, the development of the music business and all the gears and stuff like that, is just exploding so vast that, well, let’s see. I think that is going to peak in a way, with doing laptop things and then it is going to come down to try to come back to the soul, so to speak. It is just development in technique.
Finally, what are the tunings on the guitars? The sound is very heavy but the clarity is great.
I think that pretty much on all of the songs, we have the same tuning as we have had for ten to fifteen years, I would say. But, Dead World, we kind of dropped that tuning that we had so I think that is in G sharp for that song. But the other songs are all in A sharp, I think. It has been like that for up to fifteen years but maybe the sound of the guitars has gotten a little bit better so that it makes it feel a little bit heavier than it has been before. Yeah, definitely that clarity is in there.