Interviewed by Mark Dean (Journalist/Writer/Contributor) Myglobalmind Webzine
Myglobalmind: Scar Symmetry has been described as one of the best modern era melodic death metal bands going today. The combination of deep cunning lyrics, powerful and melodic guitars and that natural progression from the Gothenburg death metal sound of harsh vocals and clean in parts have paved the band’s stamp on the genre. Can you describe the band’s success and it’s progression from the early beginnings of “Symmetric in Design” to now?
Henrik: Uhh I don’t know we’ve only been doing our thing and for some reason people liked it. (Henrik) No really it was a thought out plan first album was pretty basic (Per) No you’re lying we we’re drunk when we formed the band then we didn’t know what to do so we made an album form riffs that we didn’t know what to do with and it came up pretty good and we took it from there. But I guess we have refined our sound as we have gone along.
Myglobalmind: How do you describe the band’s sound in 2013?
Per: Is based in Death Metal and Atheist Hard Rock and those are the extremes, and then we ground up all the stuff that’s in between as well. Henrik: Yeah we are mostly in between.
Myglobalmind: Henrik in The Unseen Empire and it’s dark lyrical concept, the lyrics in a way are an embodiment of today’s society where the few powerful run things behind the scenes and everybody else goes through life like sleepless drones if you will. What topics in particular inspired you guys to tackle on the writing idea behind The Unseen Empire?
Henrik: Yes The Unseen Empire is totally based around conspiracy theories, about the New World Order, The Illuminati and stuff like that. I basically checked out all the theories out there and wrote lyrics inspired by everything. All kinds of stuff but it all relates to the New World Order concept and theories.
Myglobamind: Talk to me about the change of singers when Dark Matter Dimensions came out, adding Robert and Lars to the mix? How was the transition and how has the fan base accepted it the new vocalists?
Henrik: Some have and some haven’t is always like that especially when you change singers, I think it was hard at the beginning but when the fourth album came out people realized that the band was still good, and when we when on tour and kind of proved ourselves that we we’re even better live.
Myglobalmind: A lot was made at first when the band parted ways with Christian your former vocalist, the obvious difference of musical direction was said to have been the tipping point. How do you manage a situation where the singer did not want to tour etc etc. Looking back at it now for the band’s own existence, it was the best decision you could have made?
Per: It was basically the only decision we could have made. Henrik: Otherwise the band wouldn’t have existed today. Per: I mean for different reasons he didn’t want to tour anymore and he wanted to dictate things for the band all the business stuff as well as the songwriting then we had before, in a way I felt he wanted to take over things, in a way that no one could accept in the band. Henrik: Because there were problems even for the beginning but a level where we could tolerate it and compromise but then it escalated it and got worse and worse. And it came to the point where we couldn’t really stay friends anymore and be in the same room anymore, it was super frustrating for him as well because he had his agenda as what he wanted to do and we wouldn’t let him, and it came out as super unfriendly times. Henrik: If we wouldn’t have kicked him out, the band would have fallen apart.
Myglobalmind: The production as usual is top notch on Unseen Empire, as are a lot of your albums. Explain the production process to get the best sound out of your work and be able to hear all the instruments and layers of structure in the band’s complex sound? How crucial is this to the band’s sound?
Per: Well I guess that to have all the layers of sound that we use, you have to have someone, you know, with really genius talents; we have that guy in the band. Jonas Kjellgren is a terrific mixer and producer.
Myglobalmind: How difficult is it to replicate that sound on the albums when you perform live?
Henrik: It helps that we have prerecorded keyboards and all the strange sounds and all that; that’s basically what you can do with it. It is a different situation live, so… I think people are aware of that. Per: It differs a lot from song to song because some songs are easier to do live and other songs are just impossible, we could never do it because people have ten different vocal parts at one time and four guitar parts and no is not gonna happen. Henrik: the real fans are going to recognize the real songs and sing alone no matter what, they don’t really care if it sounds exactly like on the album, it’s a rock and roll album. Otherwise they can just listen to the cd instead.
Myglobalmind: Any favorite tunes from The Unseen Empire? Both of you guys can answer this one if you like.
Henrik: Yeah well I think all the songs are good on that album. Per: My favorites are “The Draconian Arrival” which we played tonight and also “Illuminoid Dream Sequence”.
Myglobalmind: But that probably varies from night to night and it obviously changes as well.
Per: It varies yes…..
Myglobalmind: And does it change on live reaction from the audience etc etc?
Henrik: I mean if the audience likes the song it’s a better experience for us to perform the song. Per: I mean sometimes we pick up a song on the setlist we do it a few nights and feel like some songs just work great on an album but not so great live but live they don’t catch up for some reason we may take it out.
Myglobalmind: Do you go home and listen to your own music?
Per: Yes all the time, I love it. Henrik: No not really.
Myglobamlind: Is it a case where you listen to it, you recorded it and you’re done and move on?
Henrik: The thing is if I listen to it a lot and we play it live so much that I don’t have to listen to the record much at all anymore.
Myglobalmind: What do you listen to?
Henrik: All kinds of stuff, mainly rock based music you know.
Myglobalmind: Per I read somewhere you are a big Steve Vai fan as well as other instrumental guitar gods, how did his guitar playing influence your guitar playing in Scar Symmetry or just overall really?
Per: Well back in the day I was a big shred guitar fan used to listen to all the shrapnel records, Marty Friedman, Greg Howe, Paul Gilbert, Yngwie Malmsteen, Steve Vai you know all those guys all those instrumental guitar albums. Henrik: Angus Young (Laughs). Per: No, but that was incredible and something I listen to a lot and practice too often.
Myglobamlind: Did that influence you today in what you play?
Per: Yes absolutely that’s the foundation of my style, along with all the metal bands, the rhythm and guitar stuff, Megadeth and Metallica, later on when the death metal bands came long in the early 90’s. It’s a mix of influences between those.
Myglobalmind: Per you have also released some guitar instructional videos, as a guitar virtuoso yourself what tips do you give for up and coming guitar players?
Per: Yeah I teach a little bit online every now and then I’ve been working a bit off and on as a guitar teacher in my hometown and I do enjoy doing it sometimes.
Myglobalmind: What’s the craziest thing you have seen while performing live on stage?
Per: I saw a funny thing from a friend of mine the guitar player from Entombed he showed a video clip when they we’re in the Chez Republic and this guy came on stage and he didn’t have any legs and only had one arm, and super crippled and he rolled around stage a couple of times to headbang and roll around a few times more, pretty devoted fan it was amazing.
Myglobalmind: Best gig you have ever played at with Scar Symmetry?
Henrik: Summer Breeze last year was one of them last year or the year before that. Per: We we’re supposed to play in a tent stage thought it was going to be a crappy stage but when we came there it was awesome. It was 20,000 thousand fans and it was packed.
Myglobamind: Big fucking tent? Laughs
Per: Every single person in the audience had their hands in the air, it was the day before the festival and it was incredibly experience and they were all super excited about metal music.
Myglobalmind: Your take on the digital age of downloads as oppose to the golden days of record sales?
Per: Well you can tell the royalties are not really coming from cd sales anymore, I mean a little bit but it’s really more towards digital sales now. Henrik: I mean it is what it is what can you do? It won’t ever be the same as it was in the past. It will never be the same.
Myglobalmind: Did you guys buy a lot of vinyl records in the past?
Per: Yeah go down to the record store and put on a vinyl in the store and listen to it. Henrik: Analyzing Iron Maiden covers with all the details and everything. But the kids now a days they haven’t done that they don’t know how it used to be, a whole different generation.
Myglobalmind: Do you guys have any pre show rituals before you hit the stage live?
Henrik: Not really we just hang out before the show. Have fun
Myglobalmind: You guys don’t pray before shows do you?
Myglobalmind: Well I interviewed Michael Sweet from Stryper earlier today and they pray before their shows.
Henrik: They pray because they are Christian metal band.
Myglobalmind: That’s why today has been a total mindfuck interview Stryper and then listen to some Death Metal from Scar Symmetry. (All laugh)
Myglobalmind: What are your plans for the band the rest of the year?
Per: We have a couple of UK shows after this tour we are doing the Tech Fest. Also we are doing a show in Finland and Metal Fairy/Cruise coming up in April.
Myglobalmind: Thanks to the guys form Scar Symmetry both Per Nilsson and Henrik Ohlsson for taking a few minutes after the Belfast gig to answer some of our questions.
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