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Interviews   

Jesper Strömblad leads The Resistance


Guitarist Jesper Strömblad is not only the founding member of the now inevitable In Flames, but also has been, during many years, one of its creative forces. But it seems that the band’s orientation for the last few years, leaving more and more behind the Swedish death-metal of its origins for a more modern and “americanized” one, was the final blow for him. “When I feel that I have to go into the studio in order to be forced to write things, I think it is the right moment to move on” says Jesper in the following interview. So he packed his bags and concentrated himself on a band that would satisfy a 100% his desire.

The Resistance, whose vocalist is Marco Aro (The Haunted’s frontman), keeps a tradition of a dirty and more aggressive death-metal alive, with some hardcore influences. There is sure something liberating in this new band, but there is also Jesper Strömblad’s will to get rid of compromises.

Jesper Strömblad talks about all this, about the reasons of his departure from In Flames or what happened with his bass player Alex Lösback Holstad, with sincerity in the following interview.

« It was just really natural to write songs like this, no hassle, no preproduction, no frustration, nothing like that, just a band in the studio recording pretty quickly and getting to capture the heart and the vibe »

Jesper Strömblad: Where are you phoning from?

Radio Metal: From Lyon in France. Have you ever been in Lyon? You’ve been there, right?

Yeah, I’ve been there, with my other band and we played a couple of shows.

You’ve released your first EP Rise From Treason in January and now you’re releasing a full-length album called Scars. Was this first EP a way for you to test the reaction of the audience before the album?

Actually no. We were supposed to record our debut album a year ago, but in the middle of the working process, we realized that we were kind of forcing it to be an album, so we stopped. Then we had some songs left, so we took the best of what we had and decided to record an EP for the label and also to get something out for people to see that we’re actually a real band. We’ve been existing for so long, we did shows but we never released anything… So from the beginning we didn’t expect to make an EP, we wanted to release a full album.

The album is called “Scars”. “Scars” is often used as a metaphor for our emotional wounds. Is it the case here? Are you talking about your lives in this album?

Yeah, we do. Marco [Aro], the singer is the main lyrics writer, so the things we talk about have to do with himself, with things he had to go through when it comes to addiction, which reminds me of what I’ve been through with my addiction. So it’s very personal. All people have scars, we have scars and it’s also a lot of frustration against what leaves scars, about fights so to speak. It’s very personal and it talks especially of Marco.

You are quoting Entombed, Grave and Dismember as your main influences. These are quintessential, very influential old school death metal bands. Do you also listen to current death metal bands?

Oh yeah, I do. I would say that’s our main influence… I do love the old-school Swedish death metal scene and we wanted to reinvent it sound wise, we have a lot of songs influenced by these bands. But I definitely keep updated with the scene. There’s some awesome bands still that have been around for a long time, like Cannibal Corpse; I also newly discovered a band called Severe Torture, I think they’re nuts and I do love [them]… I try to keep updated but nothing beats the old school, those old albums. They never catch the things you had back then, but the thing is that I grew up with it, so I could never get that feeling while listening to newer bands. Although I enjoy them, I never get that feeling you have when you hear something for the first time 20, 25 years ago.

Is this aggressive vibe, this aggressive music something you’ve been missing in In Flames, since In Flames is getting more and more melodic?

Uh, I never thought about this like that. When I started writing songs, it’s what came out. I’ve always pushed my old band to keep that influence, but in the end it became too much of a compromise for me because I wanna keep it simple and brutal and dirty. It was just really natural to write songs like this, no hassle, no preproduction, no frustration, nothing like that, just a band in the studio recording pretty quickly and getting to capture the heart and the vibe in another way that’s not as polished as In Flames was, not as melodic, and I do love that, so. I would say I’m in my right element, right now, for sure.

« In the future I’m gonna write most of the songs anyway and so there isn’t gonna be progressive stuff in The Resistance. »

There are similarities between the band’s typography and Hatebreed’s, and musically as well, you’re playing death metal but with some hardcore influences, especially in the vocals. Do you guys appreciate Hatebreed’s music?

Yes, personally I love Hatebreed; they do show that less is more. You can be really super fucking heavy without doing complicated things. Their songs are not very complex but they are very powerful. So I do love that band. The logo is… I would say it’s a coincidence, we had the typography and then we just adopted it. Because you know, it looks better on shirts and on everything. Some people have said: “Their logo looks like Hatebreed’s so they gotta suck”, but you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, you know. It’s just a logo, nothing else. Yeah, there are some hardcore influences in our music for sure and I think it’s a nice blend between death metal, punk hardcore and metal from the Gothenburg’s scene on some of the songs as well, so the answer is yes.

At the beginning of the album, we can hear someone screaming “Fire in the hole!”, and “Fire in the hole!” is a warning that an explosive detonation in a confined space is imminent. This phrase is used extensively in action movies and video games like Call Of Duty or Counterstrike. Can we see this phrase as a reference to movies or video games, or was it just for you some sort of catch phrase to launch the album?

No. It was actually none of that… When I wrote the demo for the song “Clearing the Slate”, I was doing samplings and drum loops for other songs and I found that, and thought “Why not put it at the beginning?”. We thought it was actually a pretty cool opening, just “Fire in the hole!” and then the blast beat, and there you go. It can mean also that you’re having a really bad stomach, and when you’re shitting it’s “Fire in the hole!”. I don’t know, I never thought about it like that. It’s just a cool intro.

At the end of a song of the album, we can hear someone screaming “Fuck you!” just as if it was a musician that played very badly a song in rehearsal. Was it that actually?

I don’t really know what happened, I think it was just the vocal producer who got some outtakes. It was probably just that Marco did a mistake or something and was frustrated, so he was like “Ugh, fuck you!” So he had added the thing in at the end of the song and we thought: “We should keep it, why not?” He’s really angry, you can hear that he’s really angry so we thought that it was pretty cool and we kept it on the song.

That’s a cool way to show what’s going on during the recording of an album or in a rehearsal room!

Yeah, that’s how he is. He’s very intense when he’s singing. It’s like his brain’s going to explode when he’s singing. I’ve never heard someone screaming so loud, like, acoustically. It’s a lot of fun rehearsing with him.

On another topic: why did Alex Losbäck Holstad leave the band?

Because he was [pauses/hesitates]… He was pretty much an asshole that ripped the band off. He stole from us, he stole money from shows, he did a lot of illegal stuff so when we all found out, we couldn’t keep him. We said: “Fuck you, you are fucked, you’re out of the band and you’ll be glad that there isn’t more money involved”, because otherwise he would be in jail right now. He was just… We couldn’t keep him. He’s an asshole and he just belongs in jail. I’m sorry to say that, but that’s what happened. I don’t wanna say too much because he’s not here to defend himself. That’s our side of the story but we have it on paper and that’s what happened. But we are happy; we have a good bass player now. He became a permanent member a few weeks ago.

Yeah, about that: your new bass player is Claudio Oyarzo, guitar player in the progressive metal band Minora. Did his progressive influences have an impact on the writing of the album?

No, not at all actually, because he joined the band after the album was recorded. So I did all the songwriting myself, and me and Glenn shared the bass duties on the album recording, so… No.

OK, but is it possible that he could bring these influences to your music?

Uh, no. I mean he’s just… I wouldn’t say he’s just a bass player of course, but he uses The Resistance as an outlet because he’s from the hardcore school from the beginning, so he really keeps separate the bands. We haven’t written songs together, probably in the future I’m gonna write most of the songs anyway and so there isn’t gonna be progressive stuff in The Resistance.

(About leaving In Flames) « […] it was also because I was done with where the band was going and where it took me, both musically and personally. […] I would have quit anyway, even if I didn’t have drinking problems or whatever. »

You composed in 2012 the original music for the Swedish movie Isdraken, directed by Martin Högdahl. Can you tell us more about that movie and that experience?

Yes, it was a quite successful movie actually, it won a lot of prizes, so we’re really happy. It’s a kid’s movie and the director is a huge metal fan, so he approached me and set us up together with a producer called Daniel. We did the whole score for the movie. It was a very interesting experience because I was forced to make some other things, not only metal: there was some orchestrations, there was some hip-hop stuff in there, we did some dubstep stuff, we had to learn how to do that. I also learned how powerful it is to set a mood in a certain scene in a movie. As a musical director in a movie, you have numerous possibilities to set the right mood for the right scene. It was challenging but we pulled it off really well and I’m really happy with the result.

Did you enjoy writing music from very different genres than the ones you’re used to?

Yeah, I did! I enjoy that and I did other non-metal stuff that’s gonna be out there, so for me it’s great because I like to explore every musical territory, and not just to be a metal guitar player. That’s my main thing of course, that’s where my heart belongs, but it’s very fun to explore other areas of music. So it’s perfect. I have my studio and I can work here all day, I have a band, we can choose what we play so I’m where I wanted to be for a long time. That’s also why I quit In Flames. I didn’t want to be on the road so much. I want to be in the studio because that’s the process I like the most.

You also quit In Flames in 2010 in order to continue receiving treatment for an alcohol addiction. Can I ask you how are things going?

Yeah! It’s going great. It was not as dramatic as it sounded actually. I was never in rehab or anything, I just needed to quit this big kind of circus that surrounds to be in a big band. I was burned out. I just took a year off, I stopped drinking and now I’m fine.

OK, but actually Anders Fridén stated in an interview that his relationship with you wasn’t going well. Does this mean that your departure wasn’t just for the reasons you just gave me?

No, I’d say it’s the official reason, but it was also because I was done with where the band was going and where it took me, both musically and personally. I’ve got a lot of experience touring around the world, but yeah, we never really managed to get along with Anders and when I feel that I have to go to the studio and feel forced to write stuff, then it’s time to move on. That’s the main reason I quit. I would have quit anyway, even if I didn’t have drinking problems or whatever. It’s just everything summed up, it was too much for me. I needed to take a step back and get my passion for music back, because music had always been my driving force, it’s never been fame or money. I just want to play music in a band I really love and that’s what I do right now, so I’m super happy with the situation.

Interview conducted on Monday, May 20th 2013 by phone by Metal’O Phil.
Transcription: Chloé
Introduction: Spaceman

The Resistance official Facebook page: The Resistance

Album Scars out since May 10th 2013 via earMusic



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