Interview conducted November 5 2019
Interview published December 14 2019
"People who have issues about using backing tracks
probably don't understand how much it costs to operate a band."
Metal Covenant met up with CyHra's
vocalist Jake E to talk about the band's
latest release No Halos In Hell.
Tobbe: You have a new record out, that you
actually recorded quite some time ago, right?
Jake: Yes, it was actually recorded over a year
ago. We recorded it in, let's see, my son was born on November 1st,
and the record had to be done before that, so I think we recorded it
Tobbe: I guess it has been a long wait.
Jake: Yes, definitely. It has been kind of slow,
because after a while it's like old news. It's like "Okay, we have
to record a new album now. Oh, I forgot. We already have one. Never
mind.". It's kind of like you forget it, you know.
You guys could easily have made another record, if you wanted to.
Jake: During this period, yes, absolutely. I
might as well could have written another record during this time. Well,
I got my kid, you know. So that has taken all my time now when I had
time off. But otherwise it would definitely have worked. It would have
been kind of nice actually, to record album number 3 before album number
2 is out.
Tobbe: I think it would have been quite
boring for you to only talk about album number 2 when you have the next
album already done.
Jake: Yes, exactly. [Laughs]
Tobbe: So, let's get back to the new record.
In your opinion, if you speak freely, what do the listeners get when they
choose to listen to your new record No Halos In Hell?
Jake: I usually call it some kind of modern melodic
metal, or hard rock, you know. The listeners get incredibly strong melodies,
strong choruses that are easy to sing along to, and captivating songs
that stick kind of like chewing gum. Although it's metal, and I'm not
saying that the music is pop, but I say that it has a little bit of
pop vibe in terms of the fact that it sticks in your head. The chewing
gum effect, you know.
Tobbe: To what extent does this record follow
the path that you established on the first record? [Letters To Myself,
Jake: I personally think that we found our sound
on Letters To Myself. We sat down, and we wrote music together, I and
Jesper [Strömblad, guitar], and we found, you know, our kind of
way to write. Then it gets updated, naturally, as you're writing new
songs. But we didn't try to invent the wheel again, in any way, and
try to come out with something new.
The only thing I deliberately tried to change
on this record in comparison to the first is that: When we recorded
the first album we didn't know if we were gonna be a touring band or
if we were just gonna put out music on albums, you know. But then we
became a touring band, and some of the songs that we put out on the
I mean, every song works live, but to play the entire
record live turned out kind of mushy.
didn't have enough songs that could change the tempo, up or down, but
it was kind of streamlined. Which is really great if you sit down and
listen to an album. Like, if you listen to it in your car it's awesome,
you know. But I put down a lot of effort to make the new songs become
a little more nuanced, and to have different tempo structures, and also
that they would be a better fit for a live format.
Tobbe: If you follow the exact same style,
people will get tired of it. Like, if it's too much of the same. But if
you step out of your style too much, then you push your own fans away.
Jake: I totally agree. Look at Iron Maiden, as
an example. Iron Maiden has released many records that sound different,
but you hear that it's Iron Maiden. You know, it has the Iron Maiden
vibe. You might go pretty far outside the box, yet staying within the
frame, because you have the same singer and the same vocal melodies.
What I don't like is when bands suddenly get
tired of playing the music that the fans initially started to like and
make a 180-degree turn. Like, one record sounds A and the next one sounds
Z. In that case I find it hard to keep supporting that band. It's better
to start a side project, where you can experiment with your musical
fantasies, and call it something else, and not try to ride the wave
of the original band name, you know.
There are a lot of bands that try to find, like,
"Where do we have most fans?" and they make a heavy record,
a soft record, a record that sounds nowhere close to those, and then
on the fourth or the fifth they go back to what worked the best. Like,
"We have always sounded like that." and just totally lie to
their fans; right in their face, you know.
So, I think that you should keep to your style,
but of course you've got to develop. You have to try out different things
and stuff, but you shouldn't suddenly distort it into a different band.
Tobbe: What elements do you think are really
characteristic for your band?
Jake: Above all, the guitar melodies. And on
this record we have worked even more on really bringing forth, what
especially Jesper is known for, you know, those Jesper melodies. He's
the only one that has those kinds of melodies. And also my way of writing
music, both the music, vocal melodies and the lyrics. You know, that
you can recognize it.
mean, those who know who I am and have listened to my songs before know
that there comes a big chorus, there comes something that you can sing
along to, and there comes something that gets stuck in your head. That's
my way of writing music. It's very difficult for me to make songs that's
not like that. Because that's what I think is good music, and I only
write music that I wanna listen to myself.
Tobbe: With this second record, will you
now go for specific markets or will you seek success, like, everywhere?
Jake: In many bands that I've been with before,
we have felt kind of like the world is what's most important and home
ground has always ended up suffering. What I have realized now is that
you have to clone yourself to some extent. You have to go all the way
around every time.
Let's say that we start in Sweden and you stop
somewhere else, then you have to go back to Sweden immediately and start
over again. Then you maybe go on a different route the next time, but
you always have to start from the same place, so that you always cover
the map, because people's attention span is pretty short and there are
a lot of bands out there. It's like a relationship; you have to constantly
maintain it or it will fall into oblivion, you know.
Tobbe: And how will you then be able to
maintain a relationship with your family if at the same time trying to
go across the globe?
Jake: My goal is to eventually come to the point
in my career where my family actually are able to come along. Obviously
there's school and stuff, you know. My daughter is 6 now and she starts
to think that this is fun. We played in Gothenburg and she played a
drum solo. It was, like, 500 people there, and she was like "I'm
gonna play a drum solo!". She stood beside the stage with those
giant ear protections and she walked up on stage right at the moment
when the drummer (Adde Larsson. Fill-in for Alex Landenburg) was gonna
start, like "Now it's my turn!".
And to be able to give this to your kids, I think
is an incredible thing. I will never ever push her to be a hockey player,
or a musician, or whatever there is that I think is fun. But to have
her with me, that she is able to get this life experience of getting
to see what no other kids get to see, would be really cool, you know.
it's tough sometimes. I don't envy my partner during these periods when
I'm away and she has to take care of the kids. But at the same time
it's a privilege that when I'm not on tour I'm at home all the time.
No one else is doing that; everyone is always away. So I think that
I'm able to spend more time with my kids than other parents do.
Tobbe: You're an international band
Jake: Yes. We have a German [Alex] who lives
in England and we have a Finn [Euge Valovirta, guitar] who lives in
Riga [Latvia]. [Jake and Jesper are from Sweden.]
and might that sometimes cause
Jake: Well, this is funny. I think we did 70-80
gigs during the cycle for the first album. Which is quite a lot for
being a debuting band, you know. And we have rehearsed one time. When
we were going out with Sabaton, we actually hired a theater, in Kungälv,
outside of Gothenburg. We were there for two days and we really didn't
rehearse the songs so much, but we more rehearsed so all our gear would
If you're gonna do this on this level, you must
have the right gear, so we had to buy new stuff. Everything must work.
The crew must be functional. They must know what to do, like when guitar
changes are happening, and preferences for the guitarists' strings,
string changes, you know. We rehearsed stuff like that. But after that
we have never rehearsed, but we have used our soundchecks to, you know
We recently did 8 gigs in Sweden and Finland
and before the first gig, in Helsinki, we went there a few hours earlier,
and that was the first time that we played the new songs live. It works,
you know. [Laughs] Everyone in the band is a professional and everyone
has done their fair share of touring, you know.
And we also have a substitute drummer who plays
with us now and then. His name is Adde Larsson and I must give him some
praise as well, because he didn't even record these songs. He was with
us there in Finland too, because Alex was on tour with Kamelot. Adde
nailed those songs too. Really great to see.
So you guys have the experience, but do you see any problems with putting
together established musicians, because you kind of want things your own
Jake: Not at all. And this is interesting: The
band is a miscellany of people. We never had the intention to make it
a supergroup or an all-star project, but when I and Jesper put the band
together we just asked a couple of buddies to join us. What was most
important to us wasn't that they were the most skilled people in the
world on their instrument, but what was most important was that they
were mentally stable people who didn't have the biggest ego and who
functions in a group.
Because it's very common in the music industry
that people have too big of an ego and that's destroying their whole
career, you know. So that's why we recruited Alex, Euge and Peter [Iwers,
former bass player] and we have never ever had a fight.
Tobbe: You're the one that comes up with
most ideas in the band and the one that brings stuff forward, right?
Jake: Well, I am. But I never do something without
consulting with Jesper or any of the other guys in the band. But it's
my and Jesper's band, and I would never do something that Jesper wouldn't
wanna do, and the same goes for Jesper too. And it doesn't matter that
Jesper has taken time off now from touring, he is at home taking care
of himself, because he is still working with writing songs and taking
care of other stuff. But Euge, our other guitarist, unburdens me incredibly
in certain office stuff that I sometimes don't have time for. And he
also brings forth a lot of great ideas.
So we complete each other very well in this band,
I must say. But sure, I am the one who is often the first one to start
things up. I am also the one who starts the songwriting process in the
songs. I often do rough outtakes and send them to everyone else and
if I get stuff from the other guys it is I who dissect it and produce
it to a song in order to become us.
Tobbe: About Jesper's health issues: In
what way do you look at this within the band? From experience I know that
when Jesper has left bands before it has started with him being away for
a while. Are you guys worried about him leaving?
Jake: Not the least. I won't talk shit about
other bands, whatsoever, because I don't know about their background
story. But the way I see it is that Jesper hasn't gotten enough support
for his problems. In our band he has 2000 percent support and he has
done everything he can. He toured with us for a year and he really felt
like shit, because he suffers from social stress, for instance.
suffers from depression, he has problems with open spaces and crowded
places. He has a hard time with traveling and not feeling that it's
home. He has made one hell of a journey and has become free from all
those drugs and alcohol and stuff. I don't think anyone can comprehend
how bad he feels and how bad he's been feeling. Obviously it's been
up and down. But I would never put pressure on another person, like
"You're gonna do this now, okay!".
What we have said is that this is our band and
he does his part. He writes songs, he's playing with us, he's doing
videos, you know. I mean, to the extent that he is able to do so, you
know. But to put pressure on someone will only knock it over in the
end, I think. And I think a big reason for him leaving bands is that
he has put too much pressure on himself, started drinking again, made
the band angry since he has screwed things up because he has tried to
suppress his anxiety with alcohol or other substances, which makes gigs
go straight to hell.
Now he's in a program where he's fighting to
get rid of these problems, you know. He has our full support. I'm not
worried at all. If that day comes, he will come to me, instead of reaching
to a point in a band where somebody makes a fool of himself so that
you look stupid. This band means everything to Jesper as well. He loves
this band. If Jesper would say that he won't play with us anymore, he
would say "Well, I'll step aside.", under controlled circumstances,
if you know what I mean? Which of course I hope will never happen.
Tobbe: You use quite a few backing tracks
Jake: Yes, we have no bassist, we have no keyboarder,
we have no string section, so we need to have it, you know.
Tobbe: A lot of rock bands use backing tracks,
but I guess the difference is that they claim that they don't.
Jake: You know, I absolutely see no pride in
having some kind of tough statement about not using backing tracks.
People who have issues about using backing tracks probably don't understand
how much it costs to operate a band. Everybody who has an own company
knows what it costs to just pay out one salary. If I'm gonna hire some
bloke who plays the violin because there are violins in two songs, and
a piano for 3 notes played somewhere, to enhance the live experience,
then we can't play, because then we can't afford to play, because everybody
needs to get paid.
professional musicians, you know. If we would have been a rockabilly
band and going wild on the piano, naturally we would have a pianist,
but if I put strings in the background on a ballad, I do that to enhance
the atmosphere of a song. So if I have made a piano ballad, should I
bring a pianist on the tour, who only plays that song? I see no reason
to that whatsoever, you know.
And the reason why we haven't acquired a new
bassist is that we're very keen on that this band must be friends, we're
gonna be blood brothers, there should be no conflicts, we must strive
in the same direction, and we will build this band, like I usually say,
to be the biggest band of the world. Because that's my goal.
I won't acquire a bassist just because of having
a bassist. We will have a bassist in the future, but it has to be the
right person. It must be a person that works and I won't have an audition
for a bassist, because in that case that person won't even play a note.
That person would hang out with us for 3 weeks in order to see how that
person would work with us on a social level, because that's what's most
important to us.
But I don't know if you have time for that, like
"Do you wanna come with us out on tour and just hang out with us
and see if we like you?". When that person comes, that person will
reveal oneself. Just like Marcus [Sunesson] did. It
wasn't like we were searching for Marcus. We just happened to be in
the same place as Marcus and just realized that "Hey! We like you.
Wouldn't you want to fill in for Jesper when he's not with us?".
But about backing tracks: I don't think there's
one band that doesn't use backing tracks, in one way or another. Every
band is playing with a click nowadays, if you're not a rock 'n' roll
band. I would say that Hardcore Superstar is a band that doesn't use
backing tracks. But they are a rock band, that is built on guitar, drums,
bass and vocals. In that case you don't need backing tracks, because
you don't have any backing tracks to play.