Hardcore Superstar dig a tunnel to freedom in their past

Hardcore Superstar 2015

Sometimes it can be a good thing to look back, reflect on your debut, your initial motivations, if only to appreciate the road that has led you so far and remember what makes you tick – something the years might have wiped off your mind. But aside from sheer nostalgia, the past can also contain forgotten gems – and it’s precisely in that past that HCSS, Hardcore Superstar’s new album, finds its source. More precisely, it is the result of a demo tape recorded over 20 years ago by the band that wasn’t Hardcore Superstar yet, which was brought to the attention of bassist Martin Sandvik by a crazy collector fan. This tape, full of youth and enthusiasm, was the cauldron in which the Swedish band brewed their most “free” album since their 2005 self-titled record.

Sandvik talks about the genesis of their tenth album in the following interview, which he gave us a couple of hours before the band’s show at the Ski & Rock in Sälen, Sweden. It was a good opportunity to go back to the pre-Hardcore Superstar era (which three of the current members actually witnessed firsthand) and to understand better the origins of this hard rock band that will allow themselves everything in terms of musical expression. On a side note, the bassist is also the band’s main composer alongside drummer Magnus “Adde” Andreasson, which is highly unusual in a genre mostly led by guitarists and singers.

Hardcore Superstar 2015 by Michele Aldeghi

« We were like: ‘We’re gonna be the biggest band in the world but we have to do what we wanna do!' »

Radio Metal: So you have a gig tonight?

Martin Sandvik (bass): Yeah, not tonight, we’re playing at five o’clock in like a ski village in Sweden. It’s too bad because it’s a big stage outside and it’s raining! I’m a bit sad because Imperial State Electric are gonna start playing now and it’s really, really pouring down right now…

How do guys prepare yourselves to your shows?

It’s different for all of us. I usually wanna be by myself. One hour before the show I start to play the bass, just warming up. Adde plays the drum with practicing pad. He spends almost all the time with that practicing pad. Jocke has found like a vocal coach on YouTube, so one and a half hour before the show, he always does one warm ups with that guy. And then, right before the show, right before we go up on stage, we always have like a shot of vodka.

You have a new album out called HCSS. You did a European tour in March where you played almost all of the songs off the new album, even though it wasn’t out yet. Were you eager to introduce the new songs to the audience?

Yeah, we talked about that because, usually, two of us are going to London for three or four days to sit in the record company’s office to do interviews, and two of us go somewhere in Germany, usually Berlin, and in the beginning when we got the idea, we said like:”Let’ do a tour instead of this promotion thing that we usually do. Let’s go and have a short tour and play the whole album from start to finish, not playing anything else. And the journalists can come to the shows and see the songs live.” Because I think that’s what we’re really about. We’re a really good live band. You should experience Hardcore Superstar live, I think! But when we mentioned that on our Facebook page, the fans were like: “Oh, you gotta play some old songs!” So I think we played like six or seven old songs and seven or eight new songs. And it’s also good to try out the new songs, to know which songs work and which ones don’t, because sometimes our favorite songs are really easy to play in the rehearsal room but in some strange way it never works when you play them on stage! I don’t know why! So it’s always nice to try out the songs beforehand.

Isn’t it a bit risky to include so many new songs that people haven’t heard on a setlist?

Yeah, it’s risky but we warned before going out on this tour that we were going to play a lot of new songs, to say that if you’re interested, you should come and listen. And we did it in smaller venue than when we do a proper tour. And the promotion wasn’t that massive on this tour, it was more on the internet. I think the record company sent out some press information to journalists and stuff.

Apparently the inspiration for this album all started with a fan giving you a copy of a demo you guys had recorded back in 94. Can you tell me more about this story?

It was really, really funny because me and Adde had met like two or three times in my studio in Gothenburg, trying to start writing for the new album and we didn’t really come up with anything good. And then we got this really big fan in England, he a big collector of Hardcore Superstar stuff. He sent me an email and said: “Oh, I found this old demo tape from the band that you guys had before Hardcore Superstar!” It was me, Adde and Jocke who were in that band called Link. He said: “I found it and there are two really good songs.” And he said the name of them and I was: “Oh, okay, that was a really long time ago…” I remembered the songs but I hadn’t heard them for like fifteen years! So I told him: “Could you mail them to me? I wanna listen to them!” And he did and when I heard them I was like: “Shit, this is really, really good!” You know, when you’re young, almost every note is worth your life, and it sounded like that. Then I played it for Adde and that pretty much became the inspiration for the whole album. It gave us the energy and the passion, saying: “Shit, this is what it’s all about!” It’s all about music. That’s what really triggered the inspiration for us.

How did that guy actually get that demo?

I don’t know! A couple of months back we played in Whiskey A Go Go in Los Angeles, and the day after, when I woke up, I got an email from him and he had the whole show, somebody filmed it and he sent it to me and it was really, really good! And it took like just three or four more days for him to have a CD of it. He pretty much has all the gigs that we played! I think that on the internet there’s like a community that spreads things about their favorite bands.

What were the context and the band’s state of mind back then in ‘94? How old were you actually?

I’m the old guy in the band, so think I was twenty, Adde was fifteen and Jocke was seventeen, we were pretty young… I think this demo was from ’93 actually, I know that they said ’94 to the press…It was really funny because I was actually living in the rehearsal space! We’d practice every day and we went out to this local rock bar in Gothenburg every night. So it was pretty much all about music already back then. And we were like: “We’re gonna be the biggest band in the world but we have to do what we wanna do!” Because I remember we did two showcases, one actually was for Sony, that’s the record company we’re on now, and they were like: “You’re a great band but we should get in some songwriters for you and you should sound a little bit more like this or that.” And we were like: “No, fuck it! We’re not gonna do it!” So we turned down a couple of really good record deals back then because we wanted to do what we wanted to do!

Hardcore Superstar - HCSS

« I read some reviews on the new album and they were: ‘Oh my God! They did something good, why did they have to change?!’ But we have to change and develop! »

Do you think it’s important sometimes to dive back in the past in order to remember where we’re coming from and refocus on what has been and still is truly important to us?

Yeah, I think it’s really important to, at least, know your history and the music where everything comes from. There are a lot of bands these days that wanna sound like, let’s say, Led Zeppelin or, you know, those seventies bands that were really good, and they listen a lot to Led Zeppelin and try to sound the same but it’s pretty too plastic and too… It sounds too much like Led Zeppelin and they end up doing just a pastiche of Led Zeppelin instead of listening to the bands that inspired Led Zeppelin to do what they did. So, that why I think it’s really important to know your history and where you came from. In the same way, it’s really important to…We would have never ever been able to write a song like “Fly” today. Because “Fly” was one of the songs [on the demo] and “Growing Old” was another one, and we wouldn’t be able to write these kinds of songs today because these days you’re thinking in a different kind of way. On “Growing Old”, there’s so much happening! Everybody’s playing all over the place! But it’s still a good song! And today we wouldn’t do it like that. It’s really hard to get a song together when the production is so busy, with me, Vic and Adde playing our asses off, and in those days we didn’t care about that. And if we recorded twenty five demo songs back then, two turned out good and twenty three weren’t that good, so of course you get better with time… It’s really important I think to know where you came from.

Apparently you took several songs from that demo and rewrote them. What were these three songs and how different are they now from the original versions?

Actually there were four songs. It was “Fly”, the epic ballad, and “Growing Old”… Those songs are pretty much the same as they were on the demo. The only difference is that we play much better than back then, we’re better musicians now. But in terms of arrangements, lyrics and so on, these two songs are pretty much the same, except that we did something different for the outro of “Growing Old”. Then the chorus for “Glue” comes from an old song as well; that’s pretty much the same chorus. The vocal melody line in the verses is the same as well but it’s a different riff underneath. And then the main riff in “Touch The Sky” is also from back then, but at that time it was a shuffle riff whereas now it’s a straight riff, and the chorus was totally different originally.

Actually both “Fly” and “Growing Old” have a seventies feeling to them. Does that mean that at that time you were more in to seventies music?

We were really, really, really inspired by Black Sabbath back then! I remember we listenned a lot to Black Sabbath, from the Ozzy years, and actually to Jimi Hendrix as well. We played a lot of cover songs my Jimi Hendrix and Black Sabbath. I would say that was the main inspirations back then. And you should hear the demos, you could really hear how we wanted it to sound like Black Sabbath! It’s quite funny!

Didn’t you want to put the original demos as bonus tracks on the album, for example?

Yeah, we’re actually talking about doing, at least, a CD that we’re gonna bring to the next European tour that we could sell on the merch, with all the old demo tapes that we haven’t released. I think the fans really like to… We actually put out the old demo of “Growing Old” on Facebook, like six or seven month ago!

How concretely did these four songs inspire you guys in the making of the rest of the songs on HCSS? Did you try to put yourselves in that state of mind you had back then?

Yeah, it was a little bit like that. It always has been important for us to have one song to look at, to have one song done [that we use as a reference] for the new album. And we always had something like that. For the black album, I remember we had “Last Forever” done pretty early and it became the main focus. I remember when we wrote “Cemetary”, I think that was the first song that came up. Back then we played a lot of Clash songs also, so we thought: “Hey, it would be cool if we wrote something that was inspired by The Clash and sixties rock n’ roll!” And now you can hear it in the song “Cemetary”, the verses are kind of like rockabilly and that kind of was really inspired by that. And that was what we were listening to and playing when we did these demos. For “Off With Their Heads”, I remember I read some old interviews with Geezer Butler and he talked about a lot of old music that he used to listen to, I can’t remember of the names of the songs now but we went on Spotify to listen to it and it gave us inspiration for that song. We tried to find the freedom within ourselves to try out different things with the music. It’s really, really dangerous when you’re thinking like: “Oh we’re Hardcore Superstar, we should sound like this! We gotta write songs like that!” So at the same time, when we looked back at our career with Hardcore Superstar and even much earlier than that, we developed [our music] and looked forward. For us, it’s really, really important not to do the same album every time. Some fans and people that really like us, they… Like, I read some reviews on the new album and they were: “Oh my God! They did something good, why did they have to change?!” But we have to change and develop! Because, otherwise, I don’t think we would still be around! I think that’s really important.

The song “The Ocean” sounds strikingly like it could have been a Janes Addiction song, especially with the Jocke’s vocal lines that really sound like Perry Farrell…


Was that a conscious influence?

Yeah, we listen a lot to Janes addiction! Especially Jocke, he loves Jane’s Addiction. It’s a typical melody line that they have, it’s almost like a child song. Every time we have a party in the tour bus, a Jane’s Addiction song always comes on. So we’re all really big fans of Jane’s Addiction. When we recorded that song and listened to it, we thought: “Oh shit! Is this like stealing?” It’s not the same melody but it’s really, really inspired by them, it’s the same kind of attitude.

Hardcore Superstar 2015 by Michele Aldeghi

« I’m getting so tired of all this edited music we hear these days. I don’t want to be connected at all to that kind of music. »

There’s a kind of reggae part in “Touch The Sky” where dancehall singer Etzia appears. Can you tell me more about how you ended up with that part?

Me and Adde were messing around in the studio, and our guitar tech that was in the studio with us was still in another room working on the guitars, and we were talking about: “It would be so cool to have a guest artist or something on the album!” We didn’t really know who or where or when and I think Jocke had already done the vocals on the whole song, and these were really, really good vocals. And Jacob was still working on the guitars and he played this music, and we were: “Shit, that’s a great singer! Who is this?” And he said: “She’s Etzia and she’s from Gothenburg!” “Shit, that would be cool to have her on the album!” So we called her up and she came over to the studio. We have been talking about “Touch The Sky” but we didn’t want to decide anything, we said that she should hear some songs so that she can decide what she prefers to sing on. Immediately, when we started “Touch The Sky”, she was: “Oh, this is cool! I wanna sing on that song!” And we had a blast with her in the studio. She asked to sing on “The Ocean” as well. The first part of the verse, that’s Etzia as well! But she’s really, really trying to copy Jocke, so nobody has heard it! I remember somebody saying to Jocke: “Oh, you sound good!” And Jocke was: “Well, that’s not me!” [Laughs]

There are a couple of seventies influences on that album. Having the usual 80s and 90s influences too, did you want to have the full spectrum of rock music on that album?

In some strange way, we’ve been put in the sleaze rock genre. Not that I don’t like sleaze rock or anything, I’m a big fan, especially, of Guns N’ Roses, they’re one of the best bands in the world, but we’re not listening only to that type of music. We listen to a lot of music all the time and for us it has always been important to do what we wanted to do. And this time, as we looked back at the old songs on the demo tape, we got back to listening to a lot of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, all these bands, and in some way… I wouldn’t say it was important for us to cover all the 70s, 80s and 90s but maybe that just happened because we’ve been listening to all types of music from all periods of time. And I understand the people who say there is a lot of 70s on this album, we haven’t had so much of that before. But I think it’s really, really good and if you feel like we’re covering all the time periods of rock, that’s cool!

Once again the album was produced by the band but it was this time mixed by Joe Barresi. How was this collaboration? What did he bring to the Hardcore Superstar sound?

Oh my God! He did a lot to this album! Me and Adde, we flew over and spent two weeks in Los Angeles and mixed it with him… Well, we didn’t mix it with him, we were sitting around drinking beer, pretty much, because he was doing such a fantastic job! Joe had an assistant called Philip [Broussard], and I asked him: “Is this really mixing? For me it looks more like producing!” Because he did so much when he mixed it! He put a lot of details on it that are really, really important for the album now. I’m pretty sure that we’re gonna do the next album with him as a producer because we got along so well and we’re listening to a lot of the same music and we’re inspired by the same music. He [worked on] a lot of tiny, tiny details but that are so, so important for the vibe of the songs. The whole intro to “The Ocean”, we recorded it all in his studio in Los Angeles. The acoustic guitar in the beginning of “Fly” and the outro were recorded in his studio. We did a lot of recordings because he had so many great ideas! He’s a fan-ta-stic guy! I wanna work with him again!

Is he the best producer or mixer you’ve worked with so far?

I wouldn’t say the best but I would say the one that we got along with best so far. But I think Randy Staub did a fantastic job on the last album. And Taubias Lindell, on Split Your Lip, was really, really good as well. I think it’s really important when you work with producers that you don’t work with the same producer over and over and over again, at least in our case. Because it’s always good to have a new guy coming in with new ideas and that sees Hardcore Superstar in a different kind of way. But I’m pretty happy with all the producers we’ve worked with. We worked a lot with Roberto Laghi in the beginning; I think we did like five albums with him. And we’ll probably work with him again sometime, somewhere, in the future. But with Joe Barresi, it just felt so good. We could feel it the first time we came into the studio, we were: “Oh shit, this is gonna be good!”

You called this album HCSS, which stands for Hardcore Superstar. I guess that if you didn’t already have a self-titled album you would have called it Hardcore Superstar, right?

Yeah, yeah because it feels a little bit like when we did the black album, the self-titled one which sounded like a new beginning for the band. And this album sounds a lot like a new beginning as well. We’ve found the inspiration that we didn’t… It’s a little bit more like back to the roots. It’s not that big fat expensive sound. It’s really, really like four guys playing together. I’m getting so tired of all this edited music we hear these days. I don’t want to be connected at all to that kind of music. You don’t need to play, you’re just editing songs together! And we said that to ourselves when we wrote this one and maybe that’s why, in some way, there’s a little bit of 70s in it. We said: “We were not gonna edit the music. We’re just gonna rehearse really well, record live and mix it.” And we’ve been doing that before. Split Your Lip is more or less a live album in the studio. You know, we’re getting older and it’s important for us to be true to the music in that kind of way. It’s important for us that it’s played with our heart and soul. What you hear on the album is what felt when we made it, it’s almost like speaking a language.

Jocke called the 2005 self-titled album “the most important album [you’ve] ever done” because “that was the album which decided how Hardcore Superstar should sound like.” So how would you compare these two albums? Do you think HCSS could become as important?

Yeah but I think that if this album is similar to any album that Hardcore Superstar ever made, it’s the black album. Not for the songs or the sound, but the feeling when we did this album. It’s the same feeling than when we did the self-titled album. It’s really, really: “Don’t care about what anybody say. We’re just gonna do the album that we wanna do!” Because when we were in the studio this time, nobody had heard the songs before at the record company or anything. We said to the record company: “We’re gonna finish the songs. We’re gonna finish the recordings in the studio and you guys will get to hear it when it’s done.” When we recorded the self-titled album, we didn’t have a record deal at that time, so in that kind of way, they’re pretty similar. Because the feeling around it, when we wrote the songs and rehearsed and everything was pretty much the same, I would say.

Hardcore Superstar 2015 by Michele Aldeghi

« The record companies always have a lot of stupid ideas that’s not about music. It’s only about selling music. We’ve had many arguments with record companies during all these years. »

You said that you did the record that you wanted to do. Does that mean that in the past you didn’t always do the record that you wanted to do?

Of course we did but it’s… You know, we did demo tapes and we sent them to record companies and they were like: “Oh you can have that song on, you should do this with that song, I don’t like the melody on the chorus on that one or… This one will play on the radio…” The record companies always have a lot of stupid ideas that’s not about music. It’s only about selling music. We’ve had many arguments with record companies during all these years.

We can notice a slight change in the visual identity on this album. Did you want to have that more teenage look, so to speak, to refer to your past?

No, the only thing about it is that back in the days, especially Adde but also me and Jocke, we did a lot of skateboarding. We’ve always had that type of style, you know, we have Van shoes, baggy pants and t-shirts. And we always loved all these skate bands. The guy that did the cover for us, Jerker [Josefsson], when we said that, he was like: “Oh I love that…” So he started to do that and with everything he sent to us, we were like: “Oh shit this is really good!” And when it comes to pictures, we always look so stupid! You know, when we have a big photo shoot for an album, you go to this studio with a really expansive photographer and you stand there and you feel you look stupid in those types of photo shoots. That’s not for us. So we pretty much said a couple of years back that we’re not gonna do that anymore. We always tell the photographer: “You can take pictures like three minutes before the show and directly after the show.” Those photos always turn out to be the best ones. So the photos for this album were taken like five minutes after a show that we did in Italy, I don’t remember which city it was. We really want to keep it truer and to show the people what we are. We don’t want to construct a… If you look at, let’s say, Thank You (For Letting Us Be Ourselves) photos we did, oh my God, they are disgusting. It costs a lot money, it looks stupid, you feel stupid and everything… Now let’s show people what we are all about and what we like. And I really, really like the cover of the new album, I think it’s fantastic.

When we spoke two years ago with Jocke he assured to us that you guys could someday include some death metal parts or do an album that would sound like a black metal album, and he was pretty serious about that… Is this also how you view how far you would go with your musical expression and freedom?

Yeah, sure. We actually talked about this yesterday when we traveled in the tour bus. It was like two days after the new album was released and we said like: “Oh, the next one, should it be heavier? Should we do like a thrash metal album?” If we really want to do that, then it might happen! [Chuckles] That’s actually how free and broad we are about music. But maybe not death metal. Jocke wouldn’t [pauses and chuckles]… He wouldn’t sing that [laughs], not that good at least.

Both you and drummer Adde are the main composers in the band, which is pretty unusual for a hard rock band. Do you think that being a rhythm section you two have a different approach to the composition compare to the usual guitar players that compose hard rock music?

Yeah, in some way, if Adde writes a riff, it’s not the same way a guitar player would play it. It’s a little bit more rhythmic or… Because it’s not your main instrument. So in some way, yeah, it’s probably different. I really, really wanna learn to play piano. I can play a little bit but I wanna be a good piano player, so I’ve been practicing a lot at home. And when I write songs just by myself, new ideas always come to me with the piano and I’m like: “Oh, this sounds good!” I don’t know what I play; I just play what sounds good. And that would never happen if I sit down if a bass because I know the structure of the bass: “You can do this and this, and you can’t do that.” So it’s always new, fun and different song ideas or riff or, not arrangements but chord structures that you wouldn’t play if you sit down with a bass or, in my case, with a guitar. So, I think in some way, it’s a bit different. Then when Vic [Zino] or [former guitarist Thomas] Silver took the riffs and played them, they always were like: “Oh shit, this is strange!” But it always sounds really cool when they play the riffs. And Vic always says: “Oh, this is something I would have never done!”

Do you draw influences by other bass players that are also known for they composition skills, like Nikki Sixx, Geddy Lee, Roger Waters, etc.?

Of course I listen to them and I’m a big fan of Mötley Crüe, Rush and Pink Floyd. Of course I listen to Geddy Lee and learned all that he’s done; when I was a kid and was practicing, I learned all the songs and stuff. So, of course, they are inspiring. Nikki Sixx is not that good of a bass player but he’s a fantastic songwriter. But I’m just more or less inspired by good music, I think.

Interview conducted by phone 25th, april 2015 by Nicolas Gricourt.
Retranscription: Nicolas Gricourt.
Promo pics: Michele Aldeghi.

Hardcore Superstar Official website: www.hardcoresuperstar.com.

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