Interview with Martin Larsson of At The Gates


Interviewed by Alan Daly (Journalist/Writer/Contributor) Myglobalmind Webzine

Photographs by Alan Daly

Alan: Welcome to Dublin!

Martin: Thank you!

Alan: This is your first time performing in Ireland as At The Gates…

Martin: Yeah. First time for me personally. I think most, if not all, of the rest of the band have been here before with other bands, but I haven’t. I’m super stoked to be here myself.

Alan: Do you know why At The Gates have never made it to Ireland before?

Martin: I think it’s as easy as we didn’t have any offers; that I know of, at least. So it’s long overdue.

Alan: And how’s the tour going so far?

Martin: It’s been brilliant. The reception has been so good. Both for the album and for the shows. We’re just delighted that everyone seems to like it so much.

Alan: What’s been your highlight in terms of gigs so far, since the release of the new album?

Martin: It’s hard to single any out. The first shows in Finland, because it was the premiere and it was so well received, and also obviously the Swedish shows because of the home crowd and they were really enthusiastic. But it’s been so good all over.

Alan: Can you tell us what was the primary trigger or incentive for At The Gates to reform? It’s been a few years now, but what happened? Did you all wake up one morning and think “Yeah, let’s go back and play together again”?

Martin: I actually don’t know. It just happened. I think mainly it was the twins having The Haunted as a main income; a proper band and job; they didn’t want to risk that. But then I guess all of a sudden the urge became too strong and we have been good friends all along. There was some bad blood right when we split up, but that quickly faded and we’ve been friends during this long hiatus, so it was pretty natural just playing together again. I haven’t really thought about it. Maybe when I go home tomorrow it’ll just strike me. I don’t think there was any obvious trigger. It was more like a gradual process. And all of a sudden it just tipped over.

Alan: What’s it been like being back on the road again?

Martin: It’s fun! Tom from Triptykon was probably joking, but he said that they always try to release albums in the spring time so they don’t freeze their ass off on the road. Because we started in the UK, and playing the UK in winter time is severely cold.

Alan: This coming from someone from Sweden?

Martin: Yeah, but we’re used to proper heating everywhere! The venues are freezing in the UK, and that’s just the way it is. I’m sure people are used to it, and we’re used to in-house heating. But it’s not a complaint. It’s been fun. And the reception was so much more than we ever could have hoped for. It was such a boost. We gladly take any calamities, since we’re here to play the shows for the people and that’s all that matters.

Alan: As a member of a band that has broken up, gone on hiatus, and come back; are there any bands that you would personally like to see reform?

Martin: Well, there’s one band that’s closer to my heart than any other because they’re my folk firstly; and maybe it’s weird to you, but I started listening to Slade when I was a kid, and I never saw them play at all. But if I could see them today it would be with the two song writers not being there, so it would be like seeing The Rolling Stones without Mick and Keith. And it would probably suck if they did because they’re in their sixties or seventies now. But to see Slade in their prime; that would be special to me. And I saw Voivod; they’re one of my absolute favourite bands; but it still pains me that I never saw them with a complete and proper line-up; the classic line-up. I saw them with Piggy the guitarist, but without the singer Snake first. And then the guitar player died, and I saw them with the proper singer but with a new guitarist. The new guitarist is doing a fantastic job, but I never saw the classic line-up. I can’t think of any others right now. I’m sure there are plenty of others, as a huge music fan myself.

Alan: It’s always disappointing when you’re introduced to a band after they’ve already broken up, and the sudden realisation that whatever I can buy now; that’s it! There will be no new music and no new tours. And then there’s the excitement when a band reforms, and I think that might be part of why the At The Gates reunion got such a great reaction?

Martin: Yeah, yeah… Come to think of it, I have seen a couple of great reunions. Swans for instance. And Autopsy. Two bands that I had been into for a really long time. Swans I did see before they broke up, but not Autopsy; they never came to Sweden back in the day. I saw them in Norway when they had just reformed, and it was such a cavalcade of hit songs. Not hit songs, but hit songs to me. Just classics. That was perfect.


Alan: Cool. And on the flip-side of that question… Are there any bands out there, that you think “You know what? You should have called it a day after this album…”?

Martin: I actually can’t think of any, and I’d be graceful enough not to say if I though of any! But honestly, I can’t think of any at the moment.

Alan: Fair enough! So we mentioned the new album, At War With Reality, and the decision to record it after the band as a whole had previously come out and said “No, we’re not going to make a new album. It will only disappoint people after our last album Slaughter of the Soul in 1995”. What suddenly made you think “Actually, we can do this”?

Martin: The way Anders put it, as the main song-writer, “One day I woke up and wrote a song, and it turned out good.” Maybe he’s over-simplifying it. I don’t know. But it’s a process. It’s not a defining moment or anything. We honestly believed, firstly back in 2008, that we would do it for that summer only. Then we had some more offers, and we kind of felt unfulfilled, because we were naive to the demand for us. We felt that we only scratched the surface of the places that we wanted to go with that limited time in just one summer. So we booked some more shows a couple of years later, and said let’s do it by-and-by and see what happens. But there was still no talk of doing a new album. But then this good feeling never wore off and there was no notion of quitting any time soon, and it felt more and more that we were a proper band. And proper bands make music and record albums. So I think it was a gradual awakening and the creative urge just became stronger. It just tipped over eventually.

Alan: Right. And you said Anders was the one who wrote the first new song by himself. What was the writing process for the rest of the new album?

Martin: Anders and Tomas are the two main driving forces. It’s different now compared to way back because it’s so easy with the internet and sending files back and forth. So Jonas and Anders wrote all the music, and Jonas kept feeding Anders with riffs and ideas, and it all went through his filter. All of us were presented with demos and ideas and we all had our say and input in the arrangements. But at the same time there has been this really intense emailing back and forth between Anders and Tomas.

Alan: So after you had the demos ready, how long did it take to record in the studio?

Martin: The actual demo filtering process took almost a year, and then when we finally went into the studio, it was all so meticulously arranged, and also we rehearsed for two weekends just to make sure that everything was playable. Because it’s one thing sitting at home playing to some computer drums or whatever, and it’s another thing to play things live. So we just played through the songs, troubleshooting, and then the actual recording process was four or five weeks.

Alan: And was it a fun experience being in the studio again?

Martin: Yeah, but it was hard work too. But sure; creating music is definitely a rewarding process.

Alan: Back to what Jonas is quoted as saying; that you didn’t want to disappoint people with a new album. And obviously it didn’t disappoint, because it got great reviews and ranked highly in best-of lists in 2014. What was your proudest moment in terms of ratings or reviews of the album?

Martin: I don’t know. Just the massive great response! The most important thing with making a new album was making ourselves proud; proving to ourselves that we could still do it. We always said from the get-go that if we didn’t like it… It was all very secret at first… It took a long time before we presented the notion that we were recording and writing. So we had this safety net that if it turned out crap, we would just bury it and never talk about it!

Alan: Haha! So did this happen before? Maybe there’s another At The Gates album that was buried and never heard of?

Martin: [laughs] No. Not that I know of at least! Not to my knowledge!

Alan: You mentioned the internet. Since your last album in 1995, things have changed incredibly in the way people share and consume music in that that time. How have you embraced the changes, and how has it affected you, comparing how Slaughter of the Soul was released and sold, with the new album?

Martin: Well it’s a double-edged sword definitely, but I benefit as much as anyone from the accessibility of everything. I download huge amounts of music myself, but to me it’s ok because I still buy insane amounts of music as well. I prefer buying at the shows from bands directly. That’s easier now, and it’s easier to check stuff out beforehand. And it’s easier to find new bands. On the other hand, the downside is that it’s hard to sift through everything to find the pearls in the filth [laughs]. I don’t know what the English word is, but I definitely feel “information stress”. Now that everything is within reach, it’s stressful because I don’t have time to take in everything that I want to take in. And that also means that some of the magic is lost, because a lot of things were kind of mythological back in the day. You found out something from a friend of a friend of a friend, and you didn’t know anything else, and all you got was rumours and it just snowballed until everything was weird and strange and mystical and now you can find out anything you want to know just like that.

Alan: Yeah, from my own experience in the early nineties of spending a big chunk of my pocket money on a new CD, and I would listen to that album to death, and would appreciate it much more…

Martin: Yeah, I miss that a bit; just really sinking into an album.

Alan: Now you have thousands of songs on your player and you don’t really appreciate them as much unfortunately. So what’s next this year for At The gates?

Martin: Touring, touring, touring.

Alan: What about festivals? I know you are lined up for Hellfest. What else?

Martin: We’re mainly doing weekend shows up until Summer festival season, and then festivals. We have plenty booked in the first month of Autumn. Some is public and some is about to be publicised. The festivals are going to be fun, because we really only played one festival last Summer because of recording the album.

Alan: You’ve played at Bloodstock in the past. Is that on the list this year?

Martin: No, I think we played there 2 or 3 times already. It feels a bit like we did that. I think there may be some other UK thing coming up, but time will tell.

Alan: OK… And what about the bigger picture? Do you see another album on the horizon?

Martin: We’ve learned the hard way not to make these statements! [laughs] But the only thing I can say is that we have no immediate plans of quitting, so there’s a good possibility of another album, but we’ll find out with the fans together, if there will be more music.

Alan: You briefly mentioned that you’re performing mostly at weekends at the moment. Is that because you guys have family commitments now?

Martin: It’s mainly because our bass player and singer have the most proper jobs in the band, and they’re still working part time, so that’s why we’re playing at weekends. And I think that’s a good thing too, because we want to take the “job” out of playing and keep it as something that inspires us and is still fun. If we depended on us making money through the music it would probably take the inspiration and fun out of it. Maybe not, but we don’t want to risk that.

Alan: I guess doing these short weekend gigs works out more expensive for you guys because when you’re doing a long tour, it’s cheaper to keep the train rolling, but starting and stopping is more expensive.

Martin: Well yeah, in a way, but we do cover a lot of ground. Maybe it’s not the most economically sound way to do it, but it fits us.

Alan: I suppose it’s better than getting burned out too. Well, thank you for taking the time to chat today. We’re really looking forward to seeing your first Irish show ever tonight.

Martin: No problem! Thank you too!

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