Without a doubt, Hardcore Superstar are one of the most exciting bands that have appeared on the metal scene these last years. After freeing themselves from a record company which wanted to turn them into something they didnâ€™t want to, they went the opposite way and released their self-titled record, the one which would be what they truly are. The result? A very honest and strong album. Hardcore Superstar have also shown that hard rock, sleaze and glam rock are music styles that arenâ€™t carved in stone and that are part of the future.
Street Metal is the name given by the band to their music: a mix of sleaze for the melodies and heavy thrash for some particularly â€śin your faceâ€ť riffs. After eight years and three records following their self-titled album, Hardcore Superstar are back with Câ€™mon Take On Me which stays true to their opened, inspired and full of energy line of conduct.
Weâ€™ve talked about all this with Jocke, the bandâ€™s frontman.
“When you look at us, you can say: “Oh! These guys love MĂ¶tley CrĂĽe!” and we do! But we also love bands like Slayer, Anthrax and Suicidal Tendencies.”
Radio Metal: Your new album C’Mon Take On Me is probably one of the most diverse the band has done. Was there a desire to show how wide the band’s musical spectrum can be?
Joakim “Jocke” Berg (vocals): Yeah. When you listen to the album, it has a lot of different genres in it. This time we even got influences from the grunge era. If you listen to the song “Stranger Of Mine” you can hear a little bit of Stone Temple Pilots in it. If you listen to the last song on the album, “Long Time No See”, there’s a little bit of a band called Mother Love Bone. So this time around it’s not only a mix of sleaze metal with thrash, we’ve also been influenced a lot by grunge.
Actually, it looks like grunge is comming back, with the return of bands like Alice In Chains, Soundgarden, etc.
I love Alice In Chains and I also love their last album. But I think, grunge is more a clothing style. It is not as much the music. Because, if you listen to the music, it’s just pure rock’n'roll. So for me, grunge is more about what they wear, you know. I don’t understand why grunge is coming back. But I think it was a really good period. Especially in my life. I mean, I love Alice In Chains, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. So that makes me happy! (laughs)
There’s a song in two parts called â€śWonâ€™t Take The Blameâ€ť. Why two part? Whatâ€™s the story behind that song?
When we first did part one, the original song, we were in the studio having a few beers and having fun. We thought like it was a big statement saying “I won’t take the blame”. So, for the fun of it, we thought that a cool thing to do would be to make a part two to that song where we only hear the lyrics in the chorus. Plus we had the feeling that we weren’t finished with the song, the part one, so we thought that making a part two would be cool and round things up.
The album begins with a pretty unusual introduction called “Cutting The Slack”. What’s the idea behind it?
Actually, it’s a friend of ours who did it, a Swedish guy called Anders Ehlin. We even called him for our self-titled album and the one after it, Dreamin’ In A Casket. So we told him that we wanted it to sound like a creepy circus, a little spooky.
On C’Mon Take On Me there are some pretty heavy moments in the title song, “One More Minute” or “Are You Gonna Cry Now?”. These remind of the album Dreaminâ€™ In A Casket which was unusually heavy for a hard rock / sleaze album, weither it’s in the riffs or in the “in your face” production. Could we say that Dreaminâ€™ In A Casket is the reference when it comes to heavyness in Hardcore Superstar?
Yeah, I never thought of it in that way but you’re right when you say that. Dreamin’ In A Casket was more thrashy and heavy metal orientated than the other albums we’ve done. So yeah we can hear that also in those songs in particular.
“Thrash and sleaze come from the punk scene in the end of the 70′s. [...] I think they’re like brothers and sisters, in some kind of sick way.”
No other Hardcore Superstar release has sounded in its globality as heavy as Dreaminâ€™ In A Casket since then. How comes you didnâ€™t continue further into that direction, except for some songs here and there?
I don’t know. When you look at us, you can say: “Oh! These guys love MĂ¶tley CrĂĽe!” and we do! But we also love bands like Slayer, Anthrax and Suicidal Tendencies. I think, you know, it wouldn’t be fair to ourselves to only play metal songs like “Are You Gonna Cry Now?”. That’s why we like to combine the styles thrash and sleaze. So when you listen to “Are You Gonna Cry Now?”, you hear thrashy riffs but the melodies are more sleaze. We just prefer to mix the styles rather than doing a full blown metal record or a full blown sleaze record.
You have often claimed playing what you call street metal, which you define as this mix of thrash metal and sleaze rock that you were just talking about. Are these actually your two main influences?
When we recorded an album called No Regrets in 2003, we went on a long tour and on that tour we ended up so fed up by the music industry and everything around it that we took like a year off to just think about what we should do or if we shall do another record or quit the band. We did that to go against the record company. They wanted us to sound like The Hives, for example. So we sat down and we talked and we told each other that this time around we ain’t going to listen to any fucking record company. We are Hardcore Superstar and they aren’t Hardcore Superstar. So we thought: “Why not mix thrash metal and sleaze metal and do it with our own style?” And the drummer in the band came up and said “Oh! And we can call it fuckin’ street metal!” That’s why we ended up doing this. And I think it’s kind of unique and thanks to that we really got our own style.
Would you say that these two genres have more in common than people would think?
I think so because both thrash and sleaze come from the punk scene in the end of the 70′s. If at that time you played punk, when the punk era was over, you either stayed and played punk or you got heavier or got more attitude in a sleaze way. I think they’re like brothers and sisters, in some kind of sick way.
The album came with a press release that mentionned that you “had the balls to marry two styles that grew up hating each other”. Do you think that the hard rock and metal audience tend to have too much internal â€śgenre fightsâ€ť where instead they should be united no matter the hard rock or metal style they listen to?
Yeah, I think everyone should be friends! (Laughs) Of course, it would be better if they were united.
I heard that your guitar player Vic could play anything from jazz to death metal. Would you go as far as including jazz and death metal elements in Hardcore Superstar some day?
That’s the good thing about Hardcore Superstar: you never know! Maybe the next album will sound like a black metal album! (Laughs) But, you know, I won’t ruled out anything. You never know which way Hardcore Superstar is going to go.
But do you really think that Hardcore Superstar could someday include some death metal parts?
I’m definitely sure about that!
“Maybe the next album will sound like a black metal album! (Laughs) But, you know, I won’t ruled out anything.”
The album was produced by the band itself and mixed by Randy Staub. Why not handling also the mixing yourselves?
We went into this studio in Gothenburg for five months. Like you said we recorded and produced everything by ourselves. But when came mixing time, we thought that we wanted a big sound. So who’s better than an American to get a big sound? Martin (Sandvik, bass player) came up with the name Randy Staub, who’s of course well known. It was quite funny because our manager was friend with Randy’s manager. So they met each other and Randy said he wanted to do it, because he had heard us before and liked our music. So we sent him our tracks. He mixed one song and then sent it back to us. Randy was just doing the mix on the album and had no final decision or anything. We were the bosses.
Appart from its impressive collaboration list (with Bon Jovi, Metallica, Nickelback, Alice In Chains, etc.), what made you decide to call Randy Staub for the album mix? What made you think he could be the perfect guy for the job?
We like Dr. Feelgood from MĂ¶tley CrĂĽe and he did that one. We also love Metallica’s Black Album, for example. So we wanted a mix between those albums. But if you listen now to these albums together, if you listen to our record and then listen to Dr. Feelgood, you’ll hear that we got a much better sound! (laughs) We were pretty much satisfied with the outcome.
Apparently you guys wrote four songs for James Durbin from American Idol. One of them was chosen for his debut album on which Mick Mars played. How did that happen?
Actually, he’s a big fan of Hardcore Superstar and he once said that he had two idols: the first one was Steven Tyler and the second one Jocke from Hardcore Superstar. And I was like: “Oh! Wow! Thank you very much!” I was very flattered when I heard that. So, yeah, he’s got that song called “Outcast” on his album. It was actually Adde, our drummer, who came up with the whole idea. Maybe it was originally for Hardcore Superstar, I don’t know. I did the vocals first on it and then he did his vocals and I think he did a really good job.
Were the three remaining songs used for the new album?
Some parts, I think we used some riffs but not as songs. But maybe they’ll be released on the next record, if it doesn’t end up sounding like a death metal album. (Laughs)
Martin and Adde, respectively bass player and drummer, seem to be the main composers in Hardcore Superstar. Thatâ€™s pretty unusual in hard rock in the sense that it is a very guitar driven genre. Do you think that this gives a different approach to the composition process and a different result compared to if just a guitar player was mainly composing the songs?
I think that rythm sections, bass player and drummer, don’t have too much ego problems, you know. Guitar players and singers as well, often have big egos. It feels like the rythm section is standing on solid grounds all the time. Martin and Adde are really good songwriters. I think that contributed a lot to our sound.
Hardcore Superstar exists since 1997 and many Swedish bands have followed in its footsteps these past years, like CrashdĂŻet, Crazy Lixx and others. Do you have the feeling that you are at the origin of a new tendency, that you have motivated this new scene?
Yeah, I think so. Like you said, we’ve been around since 1997, so of course we influence a lot of new bands. I think we’ve done a good job as, you know, parents for all the bands. (Laughs)
“You have to give yourself at one hundred and ten percent: full blown power in the voice, that’s what I like.”
More than any other band these past years, Hardcore Superstar has contributed to update sleaze rock. Do you think people are begining to realize that this music style is not a matter of 80′s revival and that there’s an actual future for it?
I think so yeah. Look at us: we’ve been here for fifteen years. If you got quality in your music, then you’re here to stay. If you want to work hard, to reach goals, you’re going to stay here. There are so many bands that are more into image than the music. Of course, the image is very important as well. But first of all, it’s the music. Second, it’s the image. And if you do it that way, you’re going to be around for a long time.
This is something we recently asked Martin Sweet from Crashdiet, but I’m asking it to you now : because so many respected glam and sleaze band are emerging from Sweden lately, can we consider Sweden as the California of Europe?
Yeah (laughs). I think so! I don’t know why it is that way. Sweden is pretty far from California. But there are so many sleaze rock bands in Sweden that you can almost say that you live in a cold California, with snow.
Your self-titled album seems to have defined in good proportion the way Hardcore Superstar sounds today. How important is this album in your eyes?
It’s the most important album we’ve ever done. That was the album which decided how Hardcore Superstar should sound like. Of course, every album is important but that album changed everything for Hardcore Superstar for the better. The album happened because we were all pissed off, like I said before. Pissed at the record company who didn’t listen to how we wanted to sound. The best thing about that album is that we didn’t think that much. We just did what we wanted to do and we did it for the love of music. That’s why, I think, it turned out that good in that well known genre.
Your singing style is very intense. Is this the key to a good rock singing: to not hold it back?
Yeah (laughs). I remember that one journalist once asked me if it was difficult to sing like I do. I answer: “Yeah, maybe for you”, I mean, this is my voice. I’m not doing it to, like, fool around: I just sing like this. For me, of course, you have to give yourself at one hundred and ten percent : full blown power in the voice, that’s what I like.
Who is your reference when it comes to rock singing?
I got many. I love Steven Tyler and Jason McMaster, the singer of Dangerous Toys. Paul Rodgers, also.
Interview conducted by phone on February, 26th, 2013 by Metal’O Phil
Hardcore Superstar’s official website: www.hardcoresuperstar.com
Album C’mon Take On Me, out since March 1st, 2013 via Nuclear Blast Records
This post is also available in: French