» Emil Norberg - Persuader
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Interview conducted February 14 2014
Interview published February 18 2014

Swedish metallers Persuader got a brand new record out, called The Fiction Maze. This outfit has been almost absent for nearly 8 years, even if the members have contributed to other things or other metal bands along this rocky road. I got on the phone with guitarist and songwriter Emil Norberg to straighten out what's been troubling them and also to see his perspective on this new release and what's up with the band in general.

Tobbe: I find this new record pretty resemblant to your 2 latest records Evolution Purgatory and When Eden Burns. What is your view to this assertion?

Emil: We've always had like the same plan, regardless of which album we're talking about. We try to combine different genres and styles to make it a mix of everything. We have of course developed with new influences and maybe changed our view on what's a good arrangement. It's the same band that has written the songs, but I think we have turned out more aggressive, both production- and song wise. The production is also different. I think When Eden Burns is more polished than what Ronnie [Björnström] did now with the new record.

Tobbe: So if should put a label on your music. You are often called a power metal band and even if there's influences from that genre, it's still harder and more aggressive than power metal. What's your opinion?

Emil: It would be a long description. Power, thrash, death, black metal. It's tough to say and it's probably better to just call it metal and skip the initial epithets.

Tobbe: Where do you find your energy to write this intensive music?

Emil: I'm not really sure, but we're pretty much all grown up with nineties death metal and things like that. I guess that we're influenced by that to some extent and we also want to add a punch to the sound. That's where we hail from anyway and we have also started to listen to other shit as well. It becomes a mix of everything.

Tobbe: Your line-up is consistent and what do you do to try to minimize the repeats to not make it all too similar to what's done before? I this something you have in mind?

Emil: No, I wouldn't say that. We have like a structure that we have followed, since I joined the band. Me and Effe [Efraim Juntunen, drummer] write most of the music. We send shit between us and try to build on each other's things and it has worked well for us. I think we write pretty different things and when we put things together, I think we get a good mix. It's 8 years since we released our latest album, so hopefully it's a rather small risk that we will sound exactly similar.

Tobbe: About those 8 years. Do you have a good explanation for that amount of time between the releases?

Emil: We traveled abroad and went underground. No, perhaps that's not the truth. No, I fucking don't really know, it was a lot of shit. It started like a year after we released When Eden Burns and we had pretty many discussions with our then record label [Dockyard 1 Records] about tours and so. They released the albums, but did pretty much nothing else. We agreed to make one more record with them before we would go separate ways. We had just started to write and we had a few songs and they decided that they couldn't be a business anymore. The boss fled to Berlin with all the contracts and I really don't know what happened, but it was chaotic back then. There was also a lot of fuss with Savage Circus for me and Jens [Carlsson, vocalist] during that time, you know with Thomen's [Stauch] departure and this and that, so we were pretty tired with record labels in general. We hadn't had much luck before this either. Later people started to get kids, build houses and study. Things that happen and time went by. It was hard to gather all guys at one time, to get anything done. 8 years is a fucking long time.

Tobbe: Do you think people still knows that you're current or that you're even active, or do you think that some people has forgotten about you?

Emil: I guess some people has forgotten us, but I think we have a solid, yet perhaps small, fan base. We've never been a big act in any way, but there's always been a demand and people that wants to know what the fuck is going on. Then we have to look at the sales and see what happens.

Tobbe: About the sales. What are your expectations within the band? I mean, what will happen now and what this record can do for your career.

Emil: Good question. We're really just happy that the album was eventually done and that it was released. It has been a rough ride before, so if things just run smoother now, we're okay. I mean, we really have to play live more and we haven't ever played outside Sweden with Persuader. Things start to calm down now and the kids grow up, so we will try to put more energy to this than what we have done. I also think we're a pretty lazy band that needs a kick in the ass to get things done.

Tobbe: About the album title, The Fiction Maze. Any meaning behind that title or did you just use the best words you possibly could find?

Emil: Yes, we just used 3 random words. No, I think it was mostly Effe's idea. He draws a lot and he came up with the pentagram on the front cover. Someone had an idea that we simply could make a maze out of it. Effe is also our main lyricist and even if there's no actual lyrical concept on the record, it deals with what we always have written; problems with religion and to think for yourself instead. You have to navigate through the maze to simply find the right way. Maybe not that profound, but still cool words.

Tobbe: I understand that you're proud of the entire album, but do you have any moments that feel a little above the rest?

Emil: The title track is a favorite and perhaps also Son Of Sodom. I think that they turned out pretty well, but not completely well. You're never fully satisfied.

Tobbe: The album has gotten great reviews and a great response from what I have seen. Do you guys check out the reviews and the fans' reaction?

Emil: It's things you keep one eye open for and it's always fun to get good response. Then there's also bad reviews that gets to you a little. Still it's fucking fun that the overall reception has been great. We really didn't know what to expect. I mean, we started with this material a long time ago and a few songs have been around since maybe even before When Eden Burns, so this situation feels really good.

Tobbe: What's fascinating in your music is that your choruses have great impacts. Even if the music is intense, you find great vocal melodies on top. Is this something you put extra effort in?

Emil: Yes, certainly. We think it should be fucking intense, but still you should be able to sing along and go crazy. So we work hard on the choruses to find the right arrangements. It should work live and not only in the studio. You don't have to create advance stuff just for the sake of it. It's much more fun to have a good vocal melody and then do more fun things in the actual music in the background.

Tobbe: We've already mentioned that you send things to each other and a little about the choruses, but how do your songs progress from a first idea and further?

Emil: It's a fucking long process sometimes. It usually begins with that I or Effe has an embryo, so to speak, and maybe a pre-verse and some riffs here and there. We send those things to each other and see if we can add something to his or my work. When we have like a half or three fourths of a song done with a chorus and so, musically, Jens, Effe and I sit down together and brainstorm the song's melodies and lyrics. We try some basic arrangements and work the vocals up to its chorus and then start to work with that to get a hook or something. We try to build a song as it goes and we work a lot with vocal harmonies and different choir arrangements. What the hell do we do then? It just continues, we finish the shit. Sometimes it's easy and sometimes we change riffs thousands of times. Anyway it's very fun when things come together and worth all the time spent.

Tobbe: You earlier told me about trouble with labels and other things, so what do you guys personally do to make the wheels spin as much as possible again?

Emil: We sit on our couches and drink wine and wait for better times. No, we have started to plan a European tour that hopefully will come to life during this fall. Perhaps we're a little late, but we have started to look for some booking agents for festivals. But it is like it is, like with most people. We have jobs and other shit to take care of and we haven't got so much time and in particular no money to be away for 8 months on tour in a van. We will have to try to compress our schedule as much as possible and simply go to the most important places, and play the shit out of people.

Tobbe: So the main reasons that you never became a touring band are both trouble with record labels and your personal situations with families and stuff?

Emil: Yes, certainly. It becomes like damned if you do, damned if you don't. You can't quit your job and go on tour if you don't know if it will pay off and vice versa, it's fucking tricky. I don't really know, but maybe we had some bad luck in the beginning. In 2003, 2004, everybody had like an unrestrained life, so if things had went smooth with Noise [record label], things perhaps would have been different, but that's life.

Tobbe: About festivals, there are a lot of them in Sweden nowadays and summer is still actually pretty far away.

Emil: Yes, exactly. Hopefully we will be announced for a few here and there. It feels like every small village has its own metal festival nowadays. In best cases, we will be able to play Friday and Saturday on a pair of festivals.

Tobbe: I think that there's probably a somewhat strong demand from some fans. It's been awhile.

Emil: I think so too. The response have been pretty great. It's hard to say from what I read on the internet and our facebook page. We will see around springtime how the sales have been. But it's associated, you've got to go out and fucking play to sell records as well.

Tobbe: Yes, definitely. Let's go back to the album for a while. Why should someone choose Persuader's new release in this nowadays enormous jungle of competition? It's a tricky question.

Emil: Well, I would say that it's a really great mixture, when compared to many other bands. If you like heavy music and if you don't mind that we sing tones and not only scream, which we also do occasionally. It's a mighty record if you want energetic metal.

Tobbe: It's heavy with melodies and not all bands are successful on that matter.

Emil: No, that's the charm. We do music that we would want to listen to ourselves. We're fucking all grown up with Entombed and Dismember and those bands and we try to get it heavy and raw, but still have melodies present. I believe it's a great combination that everybody doesn't have.

Tobbe: If you see this in the bigger picture or on longer terms, do you think you gain or lose from illegal downloadings? You get more publicity, but no cash in your pockets.

Emil: It depends. At this moment, when we're not on the roads, we don't gain anything from it. If we would tour more, it's an advantage if we have reached out to as many as possible, who comes to the concerts, buy merchandise, tickets and so on. It's a tricky question, this one.

Tobbe: Would you consider to play as support act to a more established band if you land a few gigs?

Emil: Yes, indeed. I don't think no one expects us to headline a tour. These things with buy-ins and shit, like if you tour with Helloween or such likes, is very hard to land financially. The best deal would probably be if we find a band in the same size that plays a slightly different type of music, so we can cooperate to reach more people.

Tobbe: Unsurprisingly I have a few questions about Savage Circus. It's definitely bad timing when Persuader's record is brand new, but I got you on the line right now. So what going on with that band at the moment?

Emil: Well, it really didn't turn out the way we expected. Jens and I won't participate on the next release, the way things look now. It was bad timing. A few years ago, we started to talk about reactivating the band. Thomen was eager to write and get the record done quickly, at the same time that Jens and I focused on the Persuader record. He will probably try to find other people to work with, but we're on a friendly basis, so there's no drama, just really bad timing. We had a few great songs that we had written. Hopefully he will find people to control things better.

Tobbe: Isn't there a reason why you go separate ways in the first place? Don't you have that in mind when you start talking about reactivating the band?

Emil: It was a fucking hassle at the time he left Savage Circus for the first time. It wasn't because he was a bad person in any way. This time we had different conditions. A lot of the hassle was connected to the record company and that they stuck their nose in too many things and Piet [Sielck, guitarist, producer] was a co-owner. The conditions were good at first, but then the business side sort of fucked up.

Tobbe: Piet also said some unflattering things in the media. That he had to do most of the work himself and so on. What are your thoughts?

Emil: I can't really say that he was wrong. To be honest, he almost wrote the entire second album by himself and I can't say that we were that encouraging. It eventually became like a joke, you know with hiring Mike Terrana, that plays with everybody that pays him. He's a studio drummer, that's just the way it is.

Tobbe: Okay, back to Persuader. Have you talked about the future plans with the band?

Emil: Yes, to some extent. There was some skepticism before we finished this album, but now it's more positive. We have started to find some riffs and song ideas for another album, that hopefully will release quicker than this one. Then we have talked about tours and festivals. We always have a lot of fun when we're out playing. Definitely something to look forward to.

Tobbe: How do you see your situation, being a band that has been absent for a while, with booking agents showing you shitty deals? What are your expectations?

Emil: We don't have the possibilities to go out and play just for fun. It's as simple as that. They could show us low deals or whatever and then we will have to consider what's offered.

Tobbe: If we ignore your facebook page. Do you have metal's worst updated homepage?

Emil: I believe we actually have. We're working on it with a programmer, so within 1 or 2 weeks we will have a whole new layout though. It's been a little embarrassing.

See also: review of the album The Fiction Maze

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