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Interview conducted January 14 2014
Interview published January 20 2014

Metal Covenant hooked up with bass player Stam Johansson of Swedish outfit Mustasch to talk about the new album, Thank You For The Demon. Stam and I disagreed strongly on the new album's direction, but still we managed to have a good chat for 30 minutes, as I also took the opportunity to ask about the band's future plans, its past and a little things in general.

Tobbe: So what are your feelings right before the release of your new album?

Stam: I don't know.

Tobbe: You don't know? That sounds encouraging.

Stam: Actually it feels good.

Tobbe: Sounds better. Do you have a lot of work at the moment and a little stressful days?

Stam: No, not really. We had some days off during Christmas and it's mostly interviews, so things are pretty cool. On the contrary, we're starting rehearsals for the tour in a week or so.

Tobbe: Okay. We'll get back to touring later, so let's get this shit started properly. What do you think differs the new album for your latest [Sounds Like Hell, Looks Like Heaven]?

Stam: The latest record was produced by Ralf [Gyllenhammar, vocals and guitars] and I and David [Johannesson, guitars] helped out a little with that thing, since we were engineers. We recorded it by ourselves, so to speak, except for the drums [And actually the vocals as well] and then Stefan Glaumann mixed it. We also had plenty of time, since we recorded it in our own rehearsal room. We had all the time in the world to rework stuff and there were no additional costs for studio time.

On the new one, we were in a different situation. Partly due to Ralf's participation in Melodifestivalen [The Melody Festival. Swedish qualification for European Song Contest], which took longer than we expected. After that thing was done, we made an attempt to hire the producer [Dan Sundquist] that was working with Ralf on his song for that event, but that went down the drain. He wasn't the right man for the job. He is probably more a guy that simply does one single song for an artist. He has lots a gold records, but that was a while ago. It simply took too much time, so we did it ourselves.

Tobbe: When I listen to the new record, I see it as very varied within your own limits. I virtually see 9 songs that differs from each other.

Stam: Yes. I mean no. That's not the way I see it.

Tobbe: You don't? The first song is pretty fast and then you have the title track that's catchy. Later we From Euphoria To Dystopia that's heavy and The Mauler that's slower. Then we have a ballad and a kind of retro track and so on, but you don't think so?

Stam: I think it all comes together well. We started with this record maybe one and a half years ago and half of the songs were made back then. The rest of the tracks were for once actually made in the studio, because there was no time earlier. And Ralf is our main composer, to 95 percent, and David has co-written a couple of songs, I think. So those two pretty much compose the major part. I think we were in the studio for 2 months or so, because we had to rehearse there as well, since we simply didn't have enough songs. So I really don't agree. Perhaps you have a point when you say that the material is outspread, but still there's a definite theme throughout the entire record.

Tobbe: I agree to that, but at the same I think it's very varied. I guess it's up to each man his own.

Stam: But do you think it's sprawling or do you think it's varied?

Tobbe: Varied, definitely.

Stam: Well, that's good. That's better.

Tobbe: It feels like it's hard to get tired of it. Every song is like a new step and each song differs from the previous one, so it's variation all the time through the record.

Stam: When you say this and I think about it, perhaps it's not a record that you listen to from start to finish on a Friday night at a party or at a pre-party.

Tobbe: I don't know what you think, but I think you can hear things from the entire Mustasch catalogue. From the first record up until now.

Stam: Yes, absolutely. I agree on that one. And The Mauler is probably the one that's closest to our first EP [The True Sound Of The New West], when we played straight-out stoner metal, you know. There are all kinds of shit here.

Tobbe: This is your seventh album. What's the hardest thing about not repeating what you've done in the past?

Stam: Oh, that's no problem. I see that hard to happen, because we sort if something sounds too similar to something we have done earlier. What is more complicated though is that I and Ralf don't listen to heavy metal daily. We did that more when we grew up. Naturally we hear things at festivals or when other people listens to music. So the hardest thing is to not plagiarize someone else's work. We try to go through things with people that knows heavy metal well and if they say that it's cool, it is.

Tobbe: On the other hand, you guys have pretty much your own style. At least if I look in my own rack, where you're the only band playing this type of music. There are a lot of bands more similar to each other, so to speak.

Stam: Perhaps you're right. I think of us more as a present day Black Sabbath, since we have so many influences from them. But perhaps it's not like that, I don't know.

Tobbe: I don't know either, but still every band has its influences from somewhere. You release the album in 2 days. What are your expectations this close to release date?

Stam: Actually, I don't really know. I know that the single that we released, Feared And Hated, gets some radio-time. I know that it has been played very much in Finland and that the reviews in Central Europe have been awesome. But for Sweden I don't know. Perhaps I have to wait until Thursday or Friday after the release. Have you or someone else from your site reviewed it?

Tobbe: I did it personally, but I won't tell you anything about it right now, as I want to try and stay somewhat neutral through this interview.

Stam: Perhaps that's for the better. It's very hard for me to say what I think of this album. I mean, it's always hard to rate a new album, as it takes around 6 months to land and before I am able to see it with objective eyes. You can ask as much as like about our latest album. It doesn't matter, I know what I think. But with this one I don't really know yet, it's simply still too close.

Tobbe: You mentioned Finland and Central Europe and that things look good there, but what do you do to become a bigger act outside Sweden?

Stam: In Finland, things seem to take care of themselves a little and things go really well there. It's our second biggest market after Sweden. We have the same record company in all of Europe and actually in the whole world. Even if it's only released in Europe, from what I know anyway. In Central Europe, we have a sub-management that works for us. Prior to this, we have focused on Germany, Austria and Switzerland. In May, I Think, we will play some shows in England, Italy, Benelux [Belgium, The Netherlands and Luxembourg] and also of course in Germany. We will expand and see how things work out.

Tobbe: Will you complete the tour with a few summer festivals?

Stam: Yes, but almost nothing is confirmed at the moment. The only ones we know of is one in Finland and one in Germany, but there will be more festivals announced step by step.

Tobbe: If you look at it in the bigger picture, do you think you guys progress all the time as songwriters and musicians as your youth gradually fades away?

Stam: [Laughs] I think we definitely do. We age and probably play a little more mature music, but I guess that's hard to admit. Perhaps we don't still have the drive from our first EP, like with the song Homophobic Alcoholic. Anyway I think that our music gets better and better, because if it hadn't, I couldn't continue with this. That would just not be possible.

Tobbe: If you listen to the first EP, it's rather different from what you do now. It's more heavy to listen to and also more cumbersome, but nowadays you include more melodic parts.

Stam: Yes, that's intentional. We left the stoner genre rather quickly, already after 2 records, I would say. We got tired of it. I mean, Kyuss and Queens Of The Stone Age were awesome, but for us it was different. We like melodies, soundtracks and sound effects and so. We started to find a way home to ourselves, so to speak. I think that we're still as down to earth as we were in the beginning really, but we simply have changed and progressed.

Tobbe: You and Ralf are the sole original members. What makes you and him get along so well? It has been many years now.

Stam: We have actually thought about it ourselves and there's simply no conflicts between us. I don't want to play the guitar and I don't want to sing, and he doesn't want to play the bass. He likes blondes and I like women with big breasts and brunettes, so there's nothing to argue about. We also love what we do of course and we love the band. We were also buddies 10 years before we started Mustasch.

Tobbe: What has the band gained from Ralf's fame to the general public outside heavy metal in Sweden?

Stam: We have probably gained a little, like at a few concerts. You know, like concerts that really aren't true concerts, like in for instance Åre and Sälen [two Swedish ski resorts]. In those places, I think people maybe shows up just because Ralf is there. I don't think it really will matter much if we play in Stockholm at Annexet though. We'll see what will happen later, because we have almost not played in Sweden after his participation in Melodifestivalen. So perhaps it will be different, but I actually don't think so. On the other hand maybe his fame might help us to place Mustasch on the map and maybe a few more will be interested in what he's up to. It's hard to say though and yet immeasurable.

Tobbe: Earlier in your career you did some secret gigs and I remember that you played here [Stockholm] as Stockholm Leatherboys [Mustasch originates from Gothenburg]. Is there a chance that you will do things like this again?

Stam: [Laughs] Sure we could. I remember that that was not our own idea. It's was our booking agent's. When was it, in 2002, 2003?

Tobbe: I can't really recall, but I think it was after Ratsafari [released September 2003]. [The gig took place at Debaser Slussen in Stockholm in February 2004.]

Stam: We played a sold out gig for 700 people at Nalen and we wanted him to book one more gig and he chose Debaser with a capacity of 350 or so. He was really anxious that there would be an uproar if people couldn't enter. Like a riot outside, so he told us that we had to play under a secret name and we said "What the fuck! and then like 50 people showed up instead [laughs]. Like nobody got it.

Tobbe: I was there, but I can't recall from where I got the info.

Stam: It was something that was announced on a radio station. They hinted something about that a band, that was in a car commercial or something like that, would play. The 50 people that got it was there, I guess.

Tobbe: And you also played at KGB in the basement.

Stam: We have done that more than once and I don't know which one you mean.

Tobbe: The one I'm thinking of was right after the release of the Parasite! EP [May 2006].

Stam: Maybe we had an official after party and we just decided to played a couple of songs.

Tobbe: It was fun, all right. A fucking narrow and crowded room. No stage and you were standing on the floor.

Stam: And close to the bar too, so I was served drinks all the time by the bar manager.

Tobbe: Awesome, I like that. Okay, enough of this. You have a new album coming out, so perhaps this question is out of bounds, but do have any long term plans or at least any plans for a few years ahead?

Stam: Yes, we have so far-reaching plans that we will die doing this. We will be like the new Motörhead. That's us and we will play in wheelchairs. We don't know anything else, so what should we do, you know?

Tobbe: My supplementary question was actually if there was a plan B if your popularity decreased.

Stam: No, there's nothing, just a plan A, so we just continue.

Tobbe: You will continue to the curtain falls, no matter what.

Stam: Until our eyelids fall.

Tobbe: All right. I was thinking of David. He has been a member for 5 years now and he's not really a newcomer anymore. What do you think are his strongest contributions to the band?

Stam: First and foremost, he is tremendous on stage. He's a fucking powerhouse. You know, it's hard to say. But he's a good drinker, better than me. He's from Värmland [A province in Western Sweden], you know. He also write songs for instance and he's a great guitar player. He's a good guy all through. It's really a tough question to answer.

Tobbe: And I was thinking of following this one up with a question about Jejo [Perkovic, new drummer] and what his strongest capacities within the band are.

Stam: His primary contribution is that he presented Averna to the band. It's an Italian herbal liqueur and that's his primary contribution. The second thing is that he has double bass drums and the third is that he is damn good with his drums. That's simpler, because he hasn't been in the band that long.

Tobbe: If we move on to you. Do you at any times feel like throwing your bass in the nearest lake and say "Fuck this shit!"?

Stam: No, not really. You have your ups and downs, but what are my options?

Tobbe: I don't know. I'm asking you.

Stam: There are no other options. Luckily, if I would throw my bass in the lake, I have a few more, so no harm done.

Tobbe: If you look back a little, do you have any worst career move?

Stam: In hindsight, you mean? We probably should have left EMI earlier. It was our first label and we did 4 records with them, the EP and 3 full lenghts. We should have left earlier, because they didn't really know what to do. They were good at first, because they are a big machine, or was a big machine at least, with a huge impact and so. We should have walked or own ways or different ways, perhaps one record earlier, or two. They handled things good in Sweden all the time and actually in all of Scandinavia, but they were not good in Central Europe unfortunately. They put us as support act on tours that were chosen badly. Their network, especially in Germany, was not suitable for us. It's a mainstream company and they should have sent us through underground channels or through a sub-label.

Tobbe: So the best career move then?

Stam: Perhaps it was that commercial we did with Toyota? The band got some recognition. We were safe there, because the EP was already recorded before we recorded the commercial, so there was no moral conflict. Furthermore we read in the paper Helsingsborgs Dagblad: "You do remember the band's name, but which car was it?". The theme was commercial flops of the year. I guess it didn't help Toyota, but it was good to us.

Tobbe: Which of your albums would you recommend for a person that has never heard your music?

Stam: I have to peek at the records for a while. - It must be Latest Version Of The Truth. Not because of the song Double Nature, but I would say that it represents the best overall average. The option would be the best of album The New Sound Of The True Best. That would actually be the best choice and you would get more songs too.

Tobbe: When you play live nowadays, you play a mainly hit oriented set. Is this how your gigs will look like in the future or will you play less known songs as well?

Stam: We will rehearse songs now that we haven't played for a long time. Obscure songs don't work, you know, because people doesn't know what it is. We can't do like Bob Dylan and play songs that nobody wants to hear. It would be stupid. On our last tour, we played the entire new album from start to finish and then we played the hits later. That was a good approach, but I don't know if we will do it now. We haven't decided yet and we haven't started rehearsals.

Tobbe: Do you think it's hard to pick songs for your sets? You have 7 full lengths, 2 EPs and a couple of songs more.

Stam: No. The more records you release, the more good songs you can pick. It was fucking hard in the beginning when we had an EP with 6 songs. We had to play a cover song and play songs twice. It wasn't that great.

Tobbe: I remember when you played at Sweden Rock Festival and you only had the EP and managed to play for a full hour. You did a good job there.

Stam: I think it was Thursday [Friday June 8th 2001 to be exact] at noon. We were the first band to play and we had to jam, drink a beer and just chill in between.

Tobbe: I believe that was pretty much it for this time.

Stam: If you're satisfied, I am too. If you have more questions, let's go, won't be any trouble.

Tobbe: I'm good with what I got. Okay man, thanks for these 30 minutes. Good luck with your new album and your tours and shit.

Stam: Great. Thanks Tobbe.

See also: review of the album Thank You For The Demon

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