The Two Lifes of Peter Tägtgren

Mastermind behind Hypocrisy, founder and leader of Pain, producer of a good half of all death metal bands from Sweden and the rest of the world… One way or the other, no one can pretend not to know Peter Tägtgren ?

On the occasion of the release of Pain’s new album (next june), whose title sounds strangely like a 1967 James Bond movie, the producer-singer-multi-instrumentalist made the trip to Paris in the beginning of May to chat face to face with the French metal media. Peter answered our questions slumped on a sofa, his cap firmly screwed on his head and with a good hangover to top it all. From Tim Burton to Hypocrisy, from the Beatles to James Bond and Jack Sparrow, Mr Pain told us everything with his usual talkativeness…

« We didn’t think we were going to get new fans by going on tour with Nightwish. It was very cool, very unexpected. »

Radio Metal : How are you doing?

Peter Tägtgren (guitar/vocals) : Good – a little hung over. I was in Finland yesterday, so I met with the management and stuff. I had a couple of drinks too many!

I wanted to ask you if you were at the Children of Bodom gig yesterday, but…

Yeah, no. If I hadn’t been in Finland, I would have been here at the hotel. How was it? Was it good?

It was great.

Yeah? Where was it?

At the Bataclan. Probably the hottest venue in Paris…

Is that the venue beside the Zenith?

No, the venue beside the Zenith is the Trabendo.

800 people or so, right?

Yeah, something like that. You devoted most of the year 2010 to Hypocrisy. How did that go? How was the tour in South America?

Oh, it was really good. It was definitely very successful, with lots of people, so it was cool. It was good to take a little break from the Pain stuff and go out with Hypo. When we were home, I was constantly writing for this Pain album. It’s great to do this thing one day, and that thing the other day, to keep your head really open.

You were supposed to record a DVD in Bulgaria. Can you tell us more about that? Why Sofia?

Because these people are crazy, I guess! (laughs) I was there with Pain, and the crowd was very, very good. The management was with me, and they said: “You should do a Hypo DVD. You guys don’t have a live DVD, only from the Wacken stuff, and that’s from 1997”. So I said yes, let’s try to do it. It really worked out that way.

When I was preparing this interview, I saw a flyer dating back to the Cynic Paradise era on Pain’s MySpace. The flyer mentioned Pain as “the band led by Hypocrisy mastermind Peter Tägtgren”. After all these years, is it really useful to remind people that you’re also behind Hypocrisy? Is Pain not known for itself?

I know! I guess the people who print this stuff are on autopilot, or something like that. Pain is its own thing, now. We grew up to reach the same status as Hypocrisy. It’s hard that they always put that in, or the “mastermind” thing. Whatever, it’s a band! It’s Pain! That’s what’s more important.

You Only Live Twice contains some of Pain’s heaviest, hardest songs so far – I’m thinking notably of “Let Me Out” and “Monster”. Why did you take this direction? Did you have the feeling that Cynic Paradise was perhaps too soft?

I don’t know… When I was writing this album, I was just thinking that I really wanted to do a couple of fast songs. Mainly, when I started writing, I didn’t write so much on the keyboards. I started writing music for Pain with a guitar. So I guess the album automatically became a little heavier. And with David playing drums on it, and with real bass, everything became more organic. I don’t know if it will sound that way to the audience, but I’m very happy with it. And it’s cool to shock people. When the first song comes on, you go like: “Uh? What the hell is this?!”

You made Pain’s new single, “Dirty Woman”, available for download on your official website. More and more bands tend to do that: allow the fans to download a couple of songs from the upcoming album for free. Is this a way to tell them: “Here’s a small gift, now if you want the whole album, buy it, don’t download it”?

No, I don’t really think like that. I just think: “Let’s get it out to promote what’s gonna come”. People can download it if they like, and if they don’t, it’s OK. Same thing with the video and stuff. As I see it, the purpose is more to say: “Here’s some new stuff, something’s gonna happen soon”.

When we interviewed Devin Townsend a couple of weeks ago, he told us that he didn’t mind at all if people downloaded his albums illegally, if it meant more people could discover his music that way. Do you share this opinion?

Yeah, definitely. The same goes for me. Internet is a good and a bad thing. It’s bad because record companies don’t get any money, so they can’t invest money in bands, and stuff like that. That’s the worst part. But the good part is that more and more people become aware of more and more bands. You can discover what can become your favorite band in the future, just by clicking and checking things out.

And after that these people can go to shows…

Yeah, exactly. They buy shirts, or maybe the rest of the catalogue, because they want the physical CDs. Some people don’t care about CDs, but others do. It’s all good, I think.

« Internet is a good and a bad thing. It’s bad because record companies don’t get any money, so they can’t invest money in bands, and stuff like that. »

“Dirty Woman” was broadcast for the first time by a Swedish radio station called Bandit Radio. There’s no way something like that would happen in France, where even so-called “rock stations” will broadcast anything heavier than Led Zeppelin only once in a blue moon. As somebody who has toured the world, how do you account for the difference between countries like Sweden, Finland or Germany, for example, who seem to be very open about metal, and a country like France, which barely acknowledges the existence of the genre?

I think it’s only Scandinavia that’s more open-minded. Finland is definitely very open-minded. I guess it’s just the way the business is from country to country. There’s a lot of record company bullshit that controls it, together with radios. That’s sad, of course. But in France, Pain is huge. The fans are so involved with us, and we try to get involved with them as well. There are no other countries like that for us. We’ve got our own French website; that doesn’t happen in Finland or in Sweden or anywhere else. It’s very cool that the fans in France are really devoted. It doesn’t matter about the radios.

The official French website for Pain has a special contest going on; the lucky winners will be able to meet the band backstage during the French leg of the tour this Fall. So you’re saying you have a special relationship with your French fans and the people who run the French website?

Oh yeah, definitely. Constantly. They always ask: “Can we do this or that? Can you supply us with this or that?” Yep, no problem. Not so many people speak English in France, so it’s good to have a French homepage. And it’s good that it’s made by fans. They can push things in the direction they want to go. It has nothing to do with record labels or anything. They’re free to do all the contests they want and give away stuff.

The video for “Dirty Woman” is almost a clichéd rock video, with you showing off your tattoos, pretty ladies dancing and your drummer David literally destroying his kit in the background before setting it on fire. Was this cliché aspect intended?

Yeah! Either you do a very serious video, but it’s gonna cost shitloads of money, because you’ve got to make it right, or you make a funny video. It was an idea I had in South America, when I was sitting in a hotel. I called the management and I said: “Wouldn’t it be cool if we did a video where the three of us are very serious and cool, and in the background, David is doing his own thing, behind our backs?” From the beginning, it was supposed to be one shot all the way through. But the David started with his pyro shit and it went out of control. So we said: “OK, so we need to cut in-between, and we need something else. Oh, let’s get some women!” The song is called “Dirty Woman”, so… The nocturnal models in Sweden, we know them a little bit, so they talked to other girls about the video. We weren’t even allowed to be there, so we didn’t see anything – except for the filming guy, of course. It was cool to see the result. It’s a cheap video, but it’s kinda amusing!

At the end of the video, a screen announces “To Be Continued”. Have you already shot a new video in the same vein? If so, what will the song be?

I can’t tell you! I can tell you the song will be “The Great Pretender”, but I can’t tell you what it’s about. That one will also be funny, I think. It’s not done yet, but soon. At the end of May, I think.

« It was our management, half a year ago, that said: “Hey, let’s call it that!” And I’m like: “Are you crazy?” They thought it was cool, but I didn’t. But I started thinking about it, and then I wrote lyrics for this song, and I thought there was more to it than was it said. »

Regarding the cover of You Only Live Twice, you declared: “I really wanted a ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ meets ‘Alice In Wonderland’ kind of feeling. It really has this kinda Tim Burton feel to it.” Pain is not exactly the kind of band people would expect to be influenced by Tim Burton! Would you say this influence extends to the music, or is it visible only in the artwork?

It’s only in the artwork. And it’s good, because now we can do a really good stage set with it. It was just an idea I had after watching “Alice In Wonderland”. Everything is so spaced out and weird, and I wanted to have that too.

Speaking of influences, did the title and the song with the same name come to you by chance, or are you a James Bond fan?!

I am a James Bond fan, but the title has nothing to do with it. It was our management, half a year ago, that said: “Hey, let’s call it that!” And I’m like: “Are you crazy?” They thought it was cool, but I didn’t. But I started thinking about it, and then I wrote lyrics for this song, and I thought there was more to it than was it said. So then I was like: “Yeah, maybe we’ll keep it…” But it’s just a title. For me, covers and titles don’t mean much. The main thing is the music; that’s what I really care about.

In December, you appealed to the fans on your official forum to help you decide which song to play or not to play during the upcoming tour. Why did you do that? Are you afraid the people who come to your shows might get tired of hearing the same old songs – pun intended?

(laughs) No, it’s more that people pay money to come and see the show, so they should be able to get what they want, instead of what we think people want. That’s mainly why we’re out on stage: we’re playing for people. I think it’s good to have a good relationship with the people who are going to pay 20 euros, or whatever it costs to come and see the show, and to get the songs that they really want.

You founded Hypocrisy because you were a great fan of Deicide, among other reasons. But when you play with Pain, you sometimes play in front of an audience who’s more into Nightwish! Doesn’t that make you feel a bit schizophrenic? How do you deal with it?

No. I mean, my mission is to conquer the world, one fan at a time! (laughs) We didn’t think we were going to get new fans by going on tour with Nightwish. It was very cool, very unexpected. We wanted to give it a try, and it worked out very well, I think. Especially when we came around to the second tour: we saw people with flags and bandanas in the middle of the crowd that said “Pain”, not “Nightwish”. We were like: “Uh? What the…” There were Pain shirts in the front… It really helped, for sure.

And then there was the shooting of the “Monkey Business” video in Paris…

Yes, at the Zenith. That was crazy. The French homepage asked people to bring flags, do this and do that. Everybody was crazy, and we were like: “Holy shit!” Obviously, there were 5,000 people there both nights for Nightwish, but we thought: “Man, if we could do that as headliners, that would be great!” It’s a very good feeling to see all these people putting in the effort to be on the video. That was cool.

What about your activities as a producer? Does your involvement in both Pain and Hypocrisy leave you the time to focus on producing other bands?

No, not really. When the next six months are over and I’m done promoting and touring with Pain, I’m going to produce again next year. Next summer is gonna be lots of festivals, and then I’ll go back to producing stuff. I’ve got so many ideas now as to who I’ll be producing. Mainly next year will be a producing year, I think. I’ll also write some new songs and take it easy, and we’ll play whenever we’ll get a chance to.

In 2002, the album Nothing Remains The Same featured a cover of “Eleanor Rigby”. Were the Beatles an influence for little Peter when he was dreaming of becoming a rock star himself?

Yeah. Mom and dad listened a lot to the Beatles when I was a kid. This song has always had a sort of melancholic feeling to it. I did a happier version with Pain. I don’t know… It just felt like: “OK, this is a good song to cover in my own way, and make it very Pain-ish”.

This will be my last question. It’s a silly one: in 2003, the world discovered Johnny Depp as Captain Jack Sparrow, and many people started to think the double beard thing was very sexy. Since you have the same facial hair yourself, has your sex-appeal increased?

(laughs) I don’t have any sex-appeal! No, not really. I know people say we look the same, but… It doesn’t bother me, but it doesn’t make me go: “Ooooh, cool!” either. I don’t really care.


Interview conducted by Saff’ on may the 3rd, 2011.
PAIN’s website : painworldwide.com

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