Latest release: You Only Live Twice (Nuclear Blast)
In the European metal sphere there are few bigger names than that of Peter Tägtgren, the Swedish singer, song-writer, producer and multi-instrumentalist behind the bands Hypocrisy and PAIN and a fervent contributor to the recordings of literally dozens of other acts. Last month saw the release of You Only Live Twice, the seventh album from PAIN and the first to be given direct release in the US. With Top 40 slots in three countries secured, Loud caught up with Tägtgren as he awaited the North American release of the album and happily discussed PAIN, the current state of death metal and more.
Q: So first of all, tell us all a little about the new album. What can we expect from PAIN this time around?
A: I dunno… A little bit darker and a little bit heavier than the previous ones. Maybe the heaviest one of them all I think. A lot of variety on the album. A lot of different vocal styles for different songs. It just felt natural to do it like that. Every song has its own way of a vocal style… it was just required in my brain I think, I don’t know why.
Q: And this was done completely by you alone once again?
A: Yeah. Well, when I was done with everything I had my drummer David (Wallin) jump in and do the drums for the whole thing, but other than that, yeah.
Q: What are you tackling lyrically this time?
A: I don’t think there are any different themes in it, it’s just the way I feel: the world, life, whatever! It’s just really, I think everyone can relate to the lyrics. It’s nothing fantasy or science fiction, it’s just today’s bullshit, in good ways and bad ways.
Q: Now that you’ve had the chance to step back from it for a while, how does You Only Live Twice compare with other PAIN releases, Cynic Paradise for example?
A: I think this one is more awake than Cynic Paradise. Now when I listen to Cynic Paradise and compare it to this album, this one is definitely more interesting. It’s really like a rollercoaster, and a lot darker.
Q: Why do you think it came about that this album is so much darker than previously?
A: I don’t know. The first song that I wrote was “I Want More”, and that’s a typical PAIN song I think, nowdays. I wrote also “Leave Me Alone”, which is more commercial and different than before. But then after that I just started to get into guitar riffs and stuff like that and all of a sudden it became two beats and all kinds of different stuff. I really just didn’t think about it. I was just writing cool riffs and all of a sudden a song is done. It didn’t really sound all that much of a typical PAIN song, but it felt good so I just kept on going.
Q: With PAIN being primarily you alone on the studio side of things, do you ever feel that you’re putting yourself under pressure?
A: Nah. The other guys help out a lot, they take care of a lot of the Internet stuff, they take care of a lot of the live stuff… the production of the live things. Everybody helps out in their way. Of course I am the one who writes the songs and do most of the playing on the album, but they do most of everything else that’s around. It’s not only to get an album done. There’s a lot of other shit to do when we gotta go play. So they help out in all the ways they can.
Q: Do you think metal crowds are more open-minded to bands trying new things now?
A:I think it was worse in the 90s. People were flipping out as soon as you did something that wasn’t on the same path as you started. I remember when we did slow songs and people were flipping out saying, “What the fuck is this? This is not metal!” Now I think people are a little more accepting. They’re not so narrowed.
Q: You always seem to be a very busy guy, so what else are you doing outside of PAIN at the moment?
A: Well Hypocrisy right now, we’re just sitting writing a few riffs here and there. I think we’ll do like we did with the last album and when we feel like we’ve got enough material, then we’ll start recording it.
Q: Going right back to when you first started PAIN, what was it that inspired you to take that path?
It just felt good to do something different. My brain was screaming to do all kinds of stuff, at that time. I had so much inspiration in my head and I couldn’t fit it all into Hypocrisy so I had to start another band. And plus also, because of my production [work] I was only doing death and black metal, and I just wanted to learn everything as a producer. Especially the more industrial and more… technology kind of music stuff. I just wanted to develop as a producer, so I had to invent my own band.
Q: You’ve always blazed your own trail with the music you’ve done, so do you think people were initially surprised when PAIN first appeared?
A: At that time, in 96 or 97 when it came out …I can’t remember – people were more narrow minded when a death metal dude was doing something different. The first album I did, it wasn’t really so industrial or so commercialised so it was no big deal. People were just going, “Oh, another side project from another band member.” But obviously it’s not so much a side project anymore: it’s a band now. It’s nice the way it works when it comes to creating. I do everything on my premises. I don’t really care what record label says or whatever: when I feel ready to do an album, I do it. What style it’s gonna be all depends on the state of mind.
Q: There really isn’t a lot of bands around right now that are doing anything like what PAIN does. Is that liberating for you, not to be under pressure to be creating something that’s extreme or the heaviest thing going around?
A: Well the new PAIN album is pretty extreme for PAIN, that’s for sure. No. Well, you know, people are spitting out albums left and right. Death metal is still death metal in its weird way, but today some of the new death metal bands are… a heavied-up Take That. They’re singing about women and love and shit like that, and doing blastbeats and shit. I just don’t get it! (laughs) They’re writing fucking love songs and doing death metal. What the fuck is going on?
Q: You were around when death metal really started to take off through the underground. How do you see the scene now?
A: Death metal is still death metal. Deicide, Cannibal Corpse, Suffocation and a few more of those bands still stick to what they know, you know? But I guess other bands are taking death metal further and developing it and that’s when it becomes a different kind of music style. It was the same thing when we started with Hypocrisy. Big influences, and the first album tried to sound like them and then you develop yourself a little bit and you move in your own direction from what you were a fan of. You can’t blame anyone for not doing the most extreme stuff. Everyone’s gotta develop in their own way.
Q: The reaction to the new album has been very good so far and it’s charted in several places in Europe. Have you heard much from the American side yet?
A: I think it was released this week in America. So we’ll find out next week how bad it went.
Q: Is there any new music that’s really caught your attention lately?
A: (laughs) Well no, it’s really just the same old shit for me! But then, I’m not really out there looking either. I kind of live in my own little bubble.
Q: So what is your inspiration when you go in to make a new record?
A: Usually there’s a riff I hear in my head that I need to transform over the the guitar or keyboard or whatever it is. That’s usually how it starts, when I start writing songs. I get a melody or riff or whatever in my head and I go, “Right, this has gotta go down.” And I document this, and that’s how it starts, and it could go anywhere. It all depends what my head comes up with.
Q: Is that how you work best, by keeping yourself away from outside influences?
A: Everybody loves to discover a great band. I would love nothing else to get my hands on some new CDs that really kicks my ass. But it doesn’t really happen!
Q: Do you have any idea of the size of the following you have in America?
A: I think most of the people who know about PAIN, do it through Hypocrisy. And the Internet. Because the albums have never been available there. Except Cynic Paradise, that was released one year after it got released in Europe. So everybody already knows it. There was no boom when we released it.
Q: Has the Internet really helped you then? Obviously a lot of people are very opposed to it because of downloading, but like you’ve just said, perhaps people would have not even heard of PAIN without it.
A: Well, you’ve just a gotta accept [downloading]. But if the album’s available, you should definitely buy it! But nowadays people want to buy it, but they can’t find it. That’s the new problem: those who want the album can’t even find it. Unless they want to wait two weeks on mail orders. When the album comes out, they want it. No one’s gonna wait for a few weeks.
Q: So if you are able to get on an American tour, do you think it will open some doors there for PAIN and maybe the albums will be re-released there?
A: Yeah I think so. America’s very good for that. If you go there and tour, you definitely see it in our sales. It was the same thing with Hypocrisy. We didn’t really go there, but as soon as we started going there in 2002 – 3, the sales of old back catalogue of albums doubled right away. Because it’s a big country and so many bands. If people don’t see you, then you don’t exist.
Q: What is your creative process like now? Do you ever have ideas that you feel like you need to get down even though you’ve just finished a new album?
A: Sometimes. But this time I feel quite… confident. Usually when I start to feel like that it’s usually because I feel that something is missing on the album. Your brain starts to go around and say “Oh I should have made a song like this… something is missing on the album.” But right now I just feel kinda flat! So I guess I did a good album in my mind.
Q: So if somebody was to say to you now, “Peter, which PAIN album should I listen to first?”, you’d say the new one?
A: Well, it’s difficult to say because all the PAIN albums are so different to each other. It’s more or less, “Which mood are you in?” I mean they’re not super different, but they’re different for sure.