» Nils Eriksson - Nocturnal Rites
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Interview conducted June 6 2018
Interview published July 31 2018

"Everything must be perfect. We are perfectionists in terms of production and performance."

Metal Covenant talked with bass player Nils Eriksson of Swedish metallers Nocturnal Rites before the band's show at this year's edition of Sweden Rock Festival.

Tobbe: Every hard-core fan to Nocturnal Rites knows it was 10 years between the last two records [The 8th Sin out in 2007 / Phoenix out in 2017], but my question to you is not about that it took 10 years to put a new album out, but rather: Will it take another 10 years now before your next record is out?

Nils: I can't promise anything, but I don't think so because now we're kind of on the move. There's thousands of reasons to why it took 10 years. We have always had long-term plans, like: we have, you know, made a record, then we have been on tour, then back home again, written a record, recorded it and back out on tour again.

You know, basically done this thing since '97 or '98. We did it for 10 years in a row and after The 8th Sin we decided to not make any plans and then it took 10 years, so. [Laughs] And we lost some member along the road and so, you know. But now we're going again and it's fun to play and we have said that we're gonna start writing new material this fall, so a new record might be out pretty soon, for all I know.

Tobbe: And why did it feel right to put that record out at the time you did?

Nils: Again, it just turned out that way. 3 of the songs we recorded in, like, 2012, and then those songs were kind of in the vault. We were writing songs from time to time and we were bouncing ideas. We started recording in 2012 and finished it in 2017. And the same thing there: Per [Nilsson, guitar] joined the band, the final piece of the puzzle in a way, and we had a complete lineup.

Tobbe: When you're writing songs for a record during such a long time, isn't it tempting to just change the songs all the time? Because you change as a person, someone get a kid, new wives, or whatever that triggers you guys to change some of the material.

Nils: Fredrik [Mannberg, guitar] and I are the ones who always have, you know, put the songs together and been the creative motor in a way. We have never ever gone into a record with an idea like "This record is gonna be more melodic. This one is gonna be heavier. This one is gonna be more modern.", but we have just started writing songs that have become a theme that we have tied together for the record. Some of the songs were written already in 2010 and recorded in 2012 and I personally hear no difference between the last song we finished to the first we did on the record, so it all sticks together in some way.

Tobbe: Might Nocturnal Rites in the end be a band that stops putting out new material and just relies on the old stuff?

Nils: No, I think the band would just naturally die then. Personally I think that the actual creating of the music, and above all in the final stages where you polish it and make a record out of it, is what's really fun. It's great to go out and play live too of course, but if looking at the creative side, that's what gives me the most. You know, to do the definitive, that it becomes a record. Sometimes it might be arduous to write a record, you know, and nothing happens. There's sessions where we're just staring at the ceiling and nothing comes out, but sometimes we finish a song in one night, and some songs take 10 years to finish.

Tobbe: You guys are obviously going again, yet you aren't as active as you once were. So how important or less important is actually the music for the band Nocturnal Rites nowadays? Honestly. I mean, you guys probably got other things to do as well.

Nils: Well, I mean, in one way it's probably more important than ever, since we see it from a different perspective now and realize how few people there are that are able to do this thing. A lot of people I grew up with have played music all their life and never ever have they played outside of town or been going on a tour or, you know, have fans and release albums.

When you're right in the middle of it, when you make record after record after record, in the end it becomes nothing special about going to Japan or be on tour with some fucking band that you've listened to since you were young. It becomes, like, everyday. Well, everyday, I mean, it becomes nothing special about it. But if looking at it in another perspective, it's a fantastic thing to have done during a lifetime.

So when now having some distance to what we have done, when we were the most active, it's perhaps even more important now. But on the other hand, it's maybe less important, because I think we have a greater distance to the music now and we can do it, you know, because it's fun. We don't have any career goals. If you rewind the tape 20 years it was like "We have to do it like this… We must talk to the record company; they're not doing anything.", but we don't give a shit about that today. We just play and make music and the rest we can't do so much about.

Tobbe: I personally am absolutely sure that you've lost some fans during this long hiatus and in what way do you guys look at this matter?

Nils: Well, this is kind of strange, you know. I thought we had lost a whole lot of fans, because we hadn't released one tiny bit of music since 2008 and then the first single off the new album came out in June last year. We had no idea how it would be received. Were people gonna be like "What band is this? Is it a new band?", you know.

But what's fantastic about this new way you distribute music and how people consume music today is that, you know, 2 minutes after we published this first song there were comments coming from Chile, Japan, Germany, Sweden, England, everywhere, from all over the world, like "It's great to see that you're back. Where have you been for the last 10 years?". This wouldn't have happened 15 years ago, where people were gonna scratch their head, or see some ad in a magazine, or hear it on some weird college radio channel and then go buy the album in a store. Everything is instant now; it happens in a second. And that's fun and you get that confirmation and, you know, feedback right away.

And this was a big surprise, because we come from, you know, this old school where Facebook wasn't… You know, when we stopped, Facebook was kind of new. That's how fucking old we are, really. So we have never been into the social media part, where you kind of communicate in real time. In our time you went on tour and were in the magazines.

Tobbe: When the band became a name within metal, I would say you guys played straight power metal, so why didn't you guys stick to that type of music? Now it's more melodic metal and was progress more important than fame?

Nils: I really have no idea. It's the same with this. We have never ever made such a plan. If you look back at our discography, I think maybe our most non-melodic album we've ever done is Afterlife from 2000 and it was during that time power metal was on top, in a way. You know, with dragons and demons, and then we made some kind of backlash to that. We have always walked our own way and maybe because of that we've always been an outside/underdog band who has, I think, pretty good cred, but has never been, you know, a household name in a sense. But we've always just written songs the way we feel like and then we start writing a song for a record and then that one sets the tone in a way.

Tobbe: In the years after the millennium change, you guys were a pretty sought-after band in the metal scene, at least the way I saw it, and today when you have kind of all the answers, should you have worked even harder than you actually did back then to really get somewhere?

Nils: Yes, I believe so. We have never had that kind of drive. We have always had the band as some kind of a side thing. We have never, you know, dared to let go and said "Now we're gonna do this for a living! Now we're gonna tour for 300 days a year!". But we were very active there for a while and played live a lot, like around The Grand Illusion [2005] and just before that. But of course we could have put even more effort into it. But I don't know, already by then we were kind of old, I think. [Laughs]

Tobbe: If you look back at your discography, which album are you the most pleased with and proud of? You can under no circumstances pick the latest album.

Nils: Well, if we ignore the latest one, then it's probably The 8th Sin. I think everything fell into place there, regarding production and so. We put it together in a really neat way and we put down time on it and we utilized all modern techniques during the recordings. When we started out, we went to a studio that we hired for a month and recorded, but when we made The 8th Sin, technology had in some way caught up with us, like: we could track all the guitars at home, we could do the drums in a real studio, we could lay down the vocals in our own studio and really work it through.

When we made Shadowland [2002] for example, Jonny [Lindqvist] came down and sang for 12 hours, 3 days in a row, and he kind of vomited in the car when he came home, because he was completely exhausted, and that's not how it's supposed to be when you record an album.

Tobbe: So, which album are you the least satisfied with? This is worse. Now you have to criticize something you've made.

Nils: Oops. Well, maybe it isn't so hard, really. I think it's Tales Of Mystery And Imagination from 1998. The first record [In A Time Of Blood And Fire, 1995] was more of a demo, basically. You know, it was just pretending, almost. But when we were gonna make Tales Of Mystery And Imagination, it was hiring a studio and record in a specific way, like "The tape is rolling, guys.".

But we've always been that kind of band that really wants to sit down and listen. Everything must be perfect. We are perfectionists in terms of production and performance. But on that record it really feels that we're young and that we're basically playing live and we maybe weren't really able to do that then.

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