» Erik Mårtensson - Eclipse
« back

Interview conducted March 04 2015
Interview published March 14 2015

Before melodic hard rockers Eclipse's gig in Stockholm, Sweden. Metal Covenant hooked up with vocalist, songwriter and producer Erik Mårtensson to talk about the band's brand new and awesome record Armageddonize. Although this being the band's first gig on this tour, Erik was very relaxed when he showed up 15 minutes late for our appointment. Sitting right beside us during this interview was my friend and colleague Mozzy, who occasionally dropped a few questions to Erik too.

Tobbe: Let's start with the title of the new album, Armageddonize. Please explain why you chose that title.

Erik: We wanted a distinct title. There are millions of bands called Eclipse. When we started the band a long time ago, we weren't familiar with other bands called Eclipse. We searched the internet at that point and there was no other Eclipse. It wasn't a problem before Spotify came, but it's a problem now and we wanted a name that was a little unique. We wanted a hard rock / heavy metal title, but all cool titles we came up with were already taken a hundred times. We couldn't find any good ones, but we like Def Leppard and Kiss, you know Animalize and stuff. If you search for Animalize, the album is what pops up in the list of results. Our bassist (Magnus Ulfstedt) came up with Armageddon and it was a really shitty title, so I said Armageddonize, and there you have it. It has no deeper meaning, but it's really cool. We searched the internet and there wasn't any hits, but if you search for it right now, it's almost only us there.

Tobbe: Okay, let's move on to the actual music. I think that the biggest difference between Armageddonize and its predecessor Bleed & Scream is the massive drum sound that you have on the new installment. Can you expand this argument or what do you think personally?

Erik: I have become a significantly better mixer. I've made a lot of albums since the release of Bleed & Scream and I started this as a happy amateur and all of a sudden I was asked to produce a band. It all started because we couldn't afford an outside producer, you know. It just started to roll and at this point I do productions all the time. You know, if you're a carpenter you become a better carpenter along the road. You find solutions quicker and you don't need as much trial and error anymore. It used to be a big gamble and I kept going on forever to find something suitable. With this new record I mixed 2 or 3 songs every day, so it was a really quick process.

Tobbe: The music is melodic all throughout the record and most of the tracks has some kind of hit feeling surrounding them, so what do you do to try to give each song its own identity, so everything doesn't end up like one big piece of dough?

Erik: Well, I think there's an issue with a lot of albums. You listen to it and you think it's good, but you can't remember a shit of its contents, you know. Sometimes I wonder "Was that the chorus? Now this part starts again and this seems to be a verse." You kind of miss that there's a chorus really. I like it when it's catchy. The chorus should be distinct and there has to be something in the middle and at the end things should really be bound together. I like it that way, and it's just a way to write and I believe I have a certain talent to write catchy stuff, you know. The riff has to be really good. A cool riff and when the verse comes out, it should be exactly as good as the riff.

There's so many fucking songs that has really vapid and pointless verses with a chorus on top of that. Of course it's clever to make a chorus over a fucking horrible verse, because everything really comes out better than something that's useless. We often come out with verses that are strong as hell and then the bridges or the choruses have to top the verses in some way. And then you have the solo and it shouldn't be played by a guitarist who doesn't really care. Each part of the song should really have a meaning, you know.

Mozzy: The record really has a punch too. It's heavy guitars and it rips.

Erik: Everything just happened so fast. We didn't have time to think really. We did it in 3 months, from the start of the songwriting until we delivered it. It was full panic and my daddy died in September. It was made during a chaotic period, you know. Why include a filler on the album? It's just a waste, you know.

Tobbe: A lot of songs today have kind of bad verses and better choruses.

Erik: Yes, like 95 percent.

Tobbe: If you look back 35 years or so, I believe that the bands put more effort into the verses.

Erik: Yes, look at our opening track [I Don't Wanna Say I'm Sorry] and its verse. I mean, the actual verse is like a slap in the face and it's catchy in itself. Then you have the chorus and the riff and everything. One thing should really lead to something else. You should really get run over, you know. If you start to think about other things in the middle of our songs, we have failed. It's really often that I start to think about something else when I listen to something. You got to keep the listener focused. I mean, just because we think it's good doesn't necessarily mean that everyone thinks it's good. This is what we think is good parts, verses and choruses. Other people maybe think it's utter shit, you know.

Tobbe: You have received awesome reviews for the album. It must feel great, I reckon?

Erik: Yes, it's really unbelievable. The first one we saw early on gave us full score and we just "Wow!". The next one was also a 10 and it just kept going. At first we just thought we got lucky with a great score, you know.

Tobbe: Really nice. Do you think that this record will be a little breakthrough and does it feel like this is a now or never experience?

Erik: Yes, absolutely and we're not getting any younger. If people don't like this album, if it doesn't sell, we really can't do anything about it. Most people won't hear it and that's the problem really. You have to reach outside the pond of rock. We can definitely make another great album and if people don't like it, and if people don't appreciate this one, they're probably not interested and don't like this style.

Tobbe: I guess that you'd like to see this album sell as many copies as possible, but at the same time, there's always downloads as well and do you see downloading as something entirely negative or is it slightly positive as you will be able to reach more people?

Erik: It's really a dilemma. Naturally you want as many people as possible to listen to it, but still you have to pay your bills. Especially as an author and artist, Spotify is hopeless. It's close to legal stealing and Pirate Bay or Spotify doesn't really make a difference. For me, as an author, it doesn't really matter. We have millions of hits, if I include W.E.T., on Spotify and still I believe I have earned about 3000 SEK [$400] through the years.

Tobbe: That amount won't take you far really.

Erik: It's sick. If I had went out and recycled beer cans for 4 days, I would probably have made more. It's a joke really, but as a listener, it's fantastic. I listen to it too.

Tobbe: Why should someone purchase an Eclipse album before something else in the same type of music? Why pick yours?

Erik: I believe it is really timeless. In 15 years it will still be a cool platter and I don't think it will sound dated. Well, surely in a way its sound and production will be a little dated, but I think it's a really great album and I also think that it's actually better than other albums in this type of music.

Tobbe: I agree. Personally I like the sound picture and I also believe that it will stand strong, as far as I'm concerned.

Erik: Yes, I hope so. We try to be exact with the keyboards. Guitars have been the same since forever. If you put on an album from 1983, they roughly sound the same, roughly. I mean, you use kind of similar amplifiers. The keyboards can however turn out dated really quick. A lot of bands today use modern keyboards with sequences, you know. In 5 years it's really dated.

Tobbe: In terms of songwriting. Do you personally feel any pressure to improve every time?

Erik: Yes, naturally. You always want to make something that's better than before. It's really important to have good quality. You really can't enter the songwriting process with a goal to write the best song in the world, because that's just a dead end. To some extent, we're very selective though and we throw away lots of stuff. As soon as a song doesn't feel good, we throw it away and start all over. People think that we have lots of additional songs when the albums are done, but we don't.

Tobbe: So you don't have any tapes that will be put up for auction in 30 years?

Erik: Nothing really. Most of the stuff ends up on the album. We had 11 songs and there's no point in making 30. You only need 11 good ones, you know.

Tobbe: Some prefers it the other way around.

Erik: I think it's just a waste of time. You notice really quick if a song is good or bad. If you don't like it as a simple demo, you won't like it with full production either. There's so many records to which I think "What the hell were they thinking?".

Tobbe: Self-confidence doesn't seem to be shortage...

Erik: I really don't have an excessive self-confidence. I'm just more a realist. I realize that I won't make great songs forever. It's just a fluke that I happen to make good songs, you know. Of course there's lots of work behind the songs and we're also extremely hard on each other. We just don't sit down and hope that people will like our songs. It's hard work as well.

Tobbe: I was trying to refer to the words on your homepage. I quote "The best hard rock album in 2015". What about it?

Erik: You have to be a little cocky, you know. You can't release a platter and think that it's bad.

Tobbe: Released in February and it's already decided which is the best one?

Erik: I like the sticker on the front cover too. "Eat this! A sonic blast from the masters of Swedish hard rock". It's like when you bought a collection album, with all kinds of bands, when you were young. They always had a sticker with an exaggerated message. Our sticker also has that message. Just something fun.

Tobbe: This is the first show on this tour. It will pass through Sweden, the UK and Spain.

Erik: And then it's Italy and Norway.

Tobbe: What are your expectations? It's around 15 gigs.

Erik: There will eventually be more. We have around 35 booked now.

Tobbe: All right. I was going to ask if there would be any additional gigs. So what are your expectations on this first part then? Will people come down to see you?

Erik: I don't know actually. We've never really been on tour. If we should tour anytime, that time is now. It would be foolish to wait for our next record, when things are going great now. Of course it's important that people show up for our gigs, since it's a way for us to show that people want to see us and then we can raise our fee and promote our album

Mozzy: We were talking about this issue last year during the W.E.T. interview. You didn't get any good deals, but maybe things will start rolling now.

Erik: Yes, things have started to roll, especially with Eclipse. Earlier we have played a few gigs, but we haven't had a booking agent and people haven't been able to reach us. At this point, people want to book us and earlier we were in a position where maybe festivals wanted to have us. The more we play, the more people want to book us. We have to build this from the start and travel around in a van.

Tobbe: So this is what you guys think you personally can do to become a bigger name?

Erik: Absolutely. That's the only thing we can do. We can't afford a full page in Expressen [Swedish newspaper], you know.

Mozzy: Have you gotten any offers from any bigger festivals?

Erik: No, not really. It's Väsby Rock Festival [Located just North of Stockholm]. Well, in Tampere [Finland] we will play a bigger festival [South Park Festival] with Def Leppard, Accept and Helloween, but as usual there's not even a sign from Sweden Rock.

Mozzy: Well, they don't even offer any money anyway, but for the bigger acts.

Erik: We got an offer last year, but it was very late incoming. Some band canceled, but we couldn't make it, so that wasn't actually a real attempt to book us.

Tobbe: How do you see Eclipse in 10 years? Have you toured yourselves to death or have you become the greatest band in the world?

Erik: I have no idea. I really don't have such long-term plans. We will continue to make albums, simple as that. But if nothing happens and if people don't show up, then we have to talk about it. If people show up, we just have to ride on the wave and of course we want to play bigger places, no question about it.

Tobbe: About your bass player, Magnus Ulfstedt, who used to be your drummer. I definitely don't question his talent, but isn't there a reason to why someone quits the band in the first place?

Erik: Well, back then the band wasn't a band really. Things were a mess and we had issues with the record company and everything was just in a muddle. Melodic rock was completely dead as well and people thought that we were complete idiots to play that type of music. What happens now could never have happened in 2004, you know. It wasn't even on the map. Even Whitesnake couldn't sell out this venue then. We were declared as idiots and our first 2 records are just crap. We had no budget and we had no confidence in the music we made, since everyone thought we were morons.

Tobbe: What do you do to try to develop your guitar play?

Erik: Mange [Magnus Henriksson] plays all the solos, so I'm the rhythm guitarist really. I play solos as well and surely I play a lot and I use the guitar to write songs. I also play with Åge Sten Nilsen's Ammunition and there I play all the solo guitars. I'm more a rock 'n' roll guitarist than a shredder, you know. When I met Mange the first time, I thought he was a great guitar player and immediately asked him to form a band together. That's the way it all started.

Tobbe: What's the status of W.E.T. at this point? I mean, right now it's all about Eclipse naturally, but anyway.

Erik: Yes, now it's Eclipse and Jeff [Scott Soto] is out now touring with Gus G. But I don't know really. I guess it's up to all of us and how Jeff thinks about his Soto thing. I'm absolutely up for the challenge to do another record.

Tobbe: Yes, Jeff released his solo thing in January. Not really what I thought that he'd do. It wasn't really his style, but I liked it anyway. It's more metal.

Erik: His plan is to go out with that one and not to do melodic rock. Right now it fits everyone's schedule well. You know, we're doing Eclipse and I have Ammunition as well. Robban [Robert Säll] has released a Work Of Art album rather recently, last fall, and he's going to have a kid and he's pretty busy at this point. I have talked to Robban about doing another record and we'll be set to go later. I will talk to Jeff tomorrow and we'll see what happens.

See also: review of the gig the same night
See also: review of the album Armageddonize

Related links: