» Ralf Gyllenhammar - Mustasch
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Interview conducted August 2 2019
Interview published August 17 2019

"...and that's a whole lot cheaper than giving away 80 percent of your royalties to some damn slackers that are sitting in a nice downtown office and pretend to work."

Right before hard rock/ stoner unit Mustasch's show at Skogsröjet festival in early August, Metal Covenant met up with the band's founding member/ guitarist/ vocalist Ralf Gyllenhammar.

Tobbe: After being active for about two decades, is Mustasch soon about to become part of a group of classic Swedish hard rock bands?

Ralf: Well, are we? It's hard to say when you're in the eye of the storm yourself. It would be better to ask someone on the outside, I think. I actually can't give you an answer to that question.

Tobbe: In a couple of years it's been 20 years since you released the first EP [The True Sound Of The New West, 2001] and how will you celebrate that?

Ralf: Well, I don't know. I guess we'll have to do something. We'll have to appoint a party planning committee. That's what we're going to do. I can promise you that. It's best to appoint people around the band, like roadies. And maybe I should call Yngwie Malmsteen. He usually likes to party. And especially now when our bassist [Stam Johansson] is dating Yngwie's ex-wife [Erika] since maybe 6 months.

Tobbe: You've made 9 records and a couple of EPs now and have you come to a point where it's hard to distinguish one record from another?

Ralf: No, actually not. But sometimes I feel that the records are too spread out. Maybe we should try to make a more homogeneous record the next time. But that won't happen of course. I play the piano as well and the other guys say "Let's use some piano in our music as well." and I'm like "What? It won't work.". But I like playing the piano, so let's see what happens. Tonight I'll be playing the piano on stage.

Our manager suggested that we should cool things down in the middle of the set. I and David [Johannesson] can't play acoustic guitar. We're completely useless. So it was like "But you can play the piano! Let's pull out a grand piano on stage.".

Tobbe: Your last record Silent Killer was out in April last year and when can we expect another full-length record out?

Ralf: We don't have a record company anymore. We have our own label. We should have done this a long time ago, we now realize. Nowadays we decide what to do and that's really great. We have released 3 singles now [Blood In Blood Out, What Is Wrong and Where Angels Fear To Tread]. The record company would say "You can't do that. It would confuse the consumers.". But that's not the case, as we have increased our listeners on Spotify with 80000 since the first of those singles was out. People like new music.

Even my neighbor, Rolle, who's 62, thinks "This is really good!". You can find so much and one thing leads to another, so it feels like the record company way of thinking is gone. It's just making music and put it out. But to be able to tour in Germany we must put out an album. They must have albums, otherwise… Well, they're Germans, simple as that. They think in a German way.

Tobbe: Even if the whole music industry has changed, hard rock and heavy metal bands have often taken pride in putting out full albums and not depending on singles, but now you step outside of that concept.

Ralf: The thing is that it takes so long for a record to really grab a hold of you. When we released Testosterone [2015] the first single was Be Like A Man, and when I dropped off my kids at school the dad's told me, like "The new single is so good!", but then they referred to Thank You For The Demon, which was released one year earlier. They thought that that song was the new single. So it's better to put out stuff little by little and then you put them together for a record, giving people time to get familiar with the songs.

The record companies work like this: You release an album and then 20 days later you go out on tour, and no one knows the songs from the album. I think we released the song Blood In Blood Out in April and now we notice that people recognize that song. We have put out 2 more singles since that, but people don't really know about them yet. So it takes time. But we will win the war, as Winston Churchill said.

And we intend to do like this as well: To count as a full length record it has to contain at least 30 minutes of music, and therefore we will release an album that is 30 minutes and 2 seconds long, which means 7-8 songs, which makes people have the energy to listen to the entire record.

When I look at my favorite records they are 32-38 minutes long. And then the CD came and the record companies raised the price and forced their bands to work harder, so that they would be able to get more money out of it. The bands weren't getting anything more. A good example is Superunknown [1994] by Soundgarden: No one I know has ever heard the 4 last songs. It's just too much music. I mean, 35 minutes is enough.

And now with Spotify you can choose which songs you want to have in your playlist. So there's no reason to turn yourselves inside out to be able to make 15 songs. 8 is good enough. And when you release that record, within 5 months you will have another new single out for the next record.

Tobbe: When you started your own label, you were quite vocal about it, like "It doesn't work. We're not getting any help from them. We might as well do it ourselves.". Did you really have to be so vocal about it?

Ralf: But that's how it is. You know, they lend you money to record an album and then they want us to do all the work, like "You must take pictures when you're on tour.". - "Well, hire us a photographer.". - "No, that's too expensive.". And when we released the last record there was nothing on Sony's homepage. When you enter that page the first thing you ought to see is "Mustasch releases new album!", you know. It was like "Linnea Henriksson will play live in 4 months at Skansen." and I'm like "What?". You sense that they don't want to do anything, but when Hank Von Hell was playing in L.A. the whole office went there and went to an NHL game and stuff. Bloodsuckers!

Tobbe: So you're not really getting so much more work to do personally?

Ralf: The thing is: You hire a PR consult for 6 months who charges you 30000 [About $3100 or €2800] and that's a whole lot cheaper than giving away 80 percent of your royalties to some damn slackers that are sitting in a nice downtown office and pretend to work.

Tobbe: Is anything good with the music industry?

Ralf: Well, Spotify is good. Sony told us that Spotify didn't want to talk to the artists because they would find it boring. And then we had a meeting at Spotify and it went fine. Spotify is kind of also turning into a record company, but in a different way. They get the music out and why would we need a middleman when we can go straight to the Spotify office?

Tobbe: Is there even the slightest possibility that things can go back more to what they used to be, you know?

Ralf: Yes, just look at Sabaton. They were supporting act to us 11 years ago and now we're their supporting act. And the same with Volbeat. Maybe we have been lazy. But it's funnier now. You know, we've had a management and a record company and it's been like "Why should we go out on tour? We don't make any money off it.". But they made money from it, you know.

Tobbe: Speaking of Sabaton. They played both main stages at the same time at Wacken yesterday. So it's going great for them.

Ralf: Yes, but it's Pär [Sundström, bass]. He's crazy. Our drummer Robban [Bäck] was in Sabaton for some time and he has told us that Pär works 24/7. We have never had a person like that in our organization, but each and every manager and everyone else have thought that things will just happen by themselves, like "Mustasch is so good. It will just start to happen by itself.", but it doesn't.

You have to have someone like Lars Ulrich [Metallica, drums]. He took a Greyhound bus across the U.S.A. to do one interview. And Rammstein's manager has become gray-haired in two years, I've heard. [Laughs] He's working so hard, you know.

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