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Interview conducted August 3 2019
Interview published August 14 2019

"We don't work as a classic band."

Swedish hard rock collective Gathering Of Kings visited Skogsröjet festival and Metal Covenant got to talk the band's songwriter and guitarist Victor Olsson.

Tobbe: The band's first record, First Mission, was out in January and tell me what it had to offer to the world of music.

Victor: Well, there's a peculiar history around this record, because initially we were supposed to be a whole lot of people, which we nonetheless were, but I mean even more people, and everyone was going to write some music and then everyone else would kind of interpret each other's songs a little bit. But pretty soon it became pretty obvious that that wasn't possible to go through with.

So I showed some initiative and the first song I wrote was Forever And A Day and Ron [Dahlgren], our project leader, told me that I nailed his own vision. So he said that we were going to build this whole project around that song and he showed the song to everyone else.

There were hardly any songs coming from anyone else and therefore I got assigned to write more songs and then it was decided that we were going to use my songs to be able to follow a clear thread, yet being able to get a lot of artists onboard as well. So it was going to be just a one-time project, but then it has evolved into more of a band.

So we have slimmed down the size of the band a bit now, and especially for the next record. But anyway, what it had to offer the world of music… Our vision was to make music with a touch of the '80s, yet with one foot in the present, regarding sound. It has to sound fresh and it shouldn't feel like an old vinyl from the '80s. I have nothing against the '80s, I love that, but we wanted to take a step forward as well.

Tobbe: Some of those guys are well-established artists and they must really put their trust in what you're creating musically, right?

Victor: This is perhaps what I was the most nervous about in the beginning, since I'm, at least in the beginning, the one with the least experience. Like "Oh! Is he gonna sing my song?". But it became clear pretty quickly that everybody is just a regular musician, you know, and Ron was very clear, like "This is really good. You don't have to worry.". And now I've gained some self-confidence, but in the beginning I had maybe some feelings of inferiority.

Tobbe: Later today the band, or parts of the band, will play just its second show together and can you feel the excitement, or is this just a normal gig to you like any other gig?

Victor: Oh no, it's definitely not just like any other gig. No, it's really awesome, this whole journey, you know. I mean, Nalle [Påhlsson, bass] and Rick [Altzi, vocals] and a couple of more guys have played at Wacken and those places. I have never done that, so Sweden Rock was the biggest I've ever experienced, you know. And just to meet everybody, because we haven't met, together as a band, so many times.

We met when we released the record, then we met at a rehearsal before Sweden Rock, and then at Sweden Rock, and then right now. Everybody is just writing to one another, like "This is going to be so fun. To meet you, and hang out, and to play.". So for everyone it's just sheer joy. Before Sweden Rock I was nervous, but now as we've done that first show there's just joy.

Tobbe: The Sweden Rock show was filmed and do you now plan to release that gig as a live video?

Victor: We don't really know what our future will look like, regarding contracts and stuff, so at the moment the recording from Sweden Rock is just something we've got at home, and we don't have any plans to put it out in the coming months or so, you know. But we've got it and we're pleased with the material, so if there will come an opportunity to work on that we will definitely release it in some format. Maybe it will just be some free clips on YouTube, or maybe we will make a music video out of it. Above all it's great for us to have it as a memory, you know.

Tobbe: Let's say that you will make a live video out of the material, then what purpose does a live video serve for a band nowadays?

Victor: Well, it's a little bit of both, because nowadays everything is on YouTube already, filmed with cell phones. But a live video gets the artist in control of the quality of what's released. Almost everything on YouTube is filmed with cell phones and artists would never approve that material, because it can never give you that full picture of what you hear and see live.

It could be stuff that's unfavorable for the artist and not part of the, you know, artistic ambition that you maybe have. So, it would be a good representation of what we want to represent, I think. I mean, just to share the joy that we felt for that gig. We have also filmed some backstage material and maybe it could be fun watching that too.

Tobbe: You have already started working on the second album. It seems like you truly are inspired, aren't you?

Victor: Absolutely. I really got a creative boost out of all the success we've experienced from reviews, Sweden Rock and the joy we feel when we meet. It makes me super inspired. And I have personally acquired a studio room close to my home, which I can walk to, and when I go there I go there to write and that becomes inspiring. So there has been no problem with inspiration, you know.

Tobbe: The intention is to include the single Heaven On The Run on the next album. It was released about two months ago and only four months after your first record was out, and isn't four months a very short time between a debut album and a single from the next album?

Victor: Yes, that might seem a little bit odd, I guess. We started to record the first album three and a half years ago and, I mean, the songs were written three and a half years ago, so to me this was just like "Yes! I'm finally getting to write new songs.". So those songs are very old to me and we felt like "Let's put out a new single before the first gig, to spice it up a little bit more.". And also to get that spark to begin working on another album, you know.

So about the next album: We have one new singer, and maybe another new one, though not carved in stone yet, who's name I can't reveal. I have a bunch of new songs and I'll keep on writing in August. So, we plan to record the next album this fall.

Tobbe: Your first record was First Mission and musically, even if it's going to be called Discovery, will the new record become, you know, Second Mission?

Victor: You know, I have no aspiration to find something completely in a new direction, but we will keep doing what we did on the first album; what we liked. So it will contain kind of the same elements, but of course there will be some new stuff, because you don't want to do the same thing twice.

Tobbe: Many bands or projects that start out with a lot of members, similar to this one, usually go through a number of stages after a while. Like, for instance, stage 1: Fewer artists are involved in the project, and that step you've already taken. 2: It becomes more of a band of it, and that's where you are right now. And usually step 3 is that the band members in the end go separate ways. So, do you have a strong argument to why this isn't going to happen with Gathering Of Kings?

Victor: I think it's important that you talk business very early, because if you have, especially, a project, you often have different tasks. For example, I am the songwriter. We don't work as a classic band. We don't sit in a rehearsal room, jamming and working together, but it's more like "Your role is to play the bass. Your role is to do that." and my role is to write songs. So, it gets very divided into tasks, and of course therefore the piece of the pie might look different in the end.

But we've been very clear with this and that we must talk about it, because if things are starting to happen and things just explode, then that situation might happen, that you're starting to disband a little bit. Like with Ghost, without drawing any parallels, but that's in the end the worst that can happen, that there are no contracts, that there are no deals about what is what and who owns the rights to what, and all of a sudden money starts rolling in and people don't know where the money is. So that's a good argument, that we've been very clear with the fact that we must talk about it. No one wants to encounter those situations.

And, I mean, we get along great. We have played live now and hung out and there's only positive feelings about everyone. And there's a mix between old and experienced, and young and naïve, so we can learn from one another. I bring some youthful enthusiasm, but I might be a little bit unexperienced, and then we have Nalle and Rick who have experience from the industry, who you can learn from, and maybe they get spirited by my energy as well.

Tobbe: And personally, since you write the songs, how do you feel about being in the limelight? It's like you're all of a sudden the main guy now. Like, all eyes on you, you know.

Victor: I don't know if that's the case, really. But some people have noticed that I write the songs, and that's really great, because I love to write music. But I have no intentions at all to call this, you know, Victor Olsson's Gathering Of Kings or something like that, because we're nonetheless a band. But it's great to get cred for the work I put in. So, it's great, that people like yourself, understand that.

Tobbe: Now when Gathering Of Kings are starting to get bigger, will your other band, Saffire, suffer from that?

Victor: I certainly don't hope so. That's not my intention. Well, it's a long story now around Saffire, but we faced some trouble in the band last fall, that forced us to take a break this year, in order to recharge our batteries a little bit. We were contemplating "Are we going to continue or not?". But this whole thing around Gathering Of Kings has made me even more hungry for it actually, because, you know, it's where I started in a way and in that band we have been in the rehearsal room doing stuff time after time. So we definitely want to continue. I can reveal that we have a new drummer, but I can't mention who it is, but soon enough, so.

Tobbe: The word Kings in the band name: Don't you think that's setting the bar kind of high?

Victor: Well, let's just say that it wasn't my idea. [Laughs] But it is setting the bar high, but I think it's kind of rock 'n' roll to do that. That's kind of what rock 'n' roll is about; to kick hard and to kick high.

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