Interview conducted February 03 2016
Interview published February 17 2016
"I'm not going to sit on
a bus for a month with a loose cannon on deck."
Metal Covenant got on the phone
with Marco Aro of The Resistance and The
Haunted to talk about TR's January 22nd release Coup De Grâce. Marco
is an outspoken man and he had a few words to say about former and current
members and he definitely doesn't hold back on his opinion on other musicians
or bands either.
"It was exactly as bad as
I remembered it to be."
Tobbe: Let's start this one with a kind
of tricky question. Why should someone choose to spend their money on
your new album in particular and not on anyone else's album in the same
Marco: [Laughs] I think I don't have an answer
to this. "Don't buy this crap!". Well, I don't know. I guess
it's from the good of your heart and out of interest maybe, because
we actually don't offer anything new whatsoever, besides that it contains
newly written material. It's not like we have reinvented the wheel,
you know. We have taken a deep, deep dive down to Stockholm's old death
metal scene and just letting ourselves get really drenched by it.
What do you do to create some variation in your music? It is after all
a pretty narrow style of music.
Marco: Well, as you know, the new record isn't
particularly varied. But what has been our strength up until this record
is that we have mixed the styles of Gothenburg and Stockholm. We've
had a little bit of kind of jingle metal and stuff like that, you know.
We have good songwriters in the band that make it a little bit more
exciting than what it normally is. This time we chose to do it, you
know, a little dirtier with a rougher production, because we weren't
so satisfied with the production on the previous record [Scars]. It
became so damn polished and the EP [Rise From Treason] was really so
much better production-wise, I think.
Tobbe: The new record is really direct and
besides the intro [Death March], it comprises 12 songs with a total playing
time of 36 minutes, and the average time of the songs is consequently
only 3 minutes, but did you at some point think about having a few longer
songs on the album, in order to make those songs differ a little bit from
the rest of the material?
Marco: No. The reason to why many of these songs
turned out like this is because many of the songs were initially longer,
but after we had put vocals and stuff to them, we asked ourselves "What
the hell should we do here and what should we do with this?" and
we said "This is just a pointless haul. Let's get rid of it!".
A priceless line from Jocke Skog, when we had recorded every song and
he had finished editing and he had erased a bunch of unnecessary shit,
was "Oh. Finally have we been able to at least put some fucking
kind of logic to this mess.". [Laughs]
Tobbe: Cutting down the songs makes the
album even more direct of course.
Marco: I think that it pretty much saves this
record. Robban [Hakemo, bass], Chris [Barkensjö, drums] and Glenn
[Ljungström, guitar] have written this record and sometimes they
went into some kind of artsy-fartsy period with extended bridges and
stuff that made no sense. So "Throw that shit away!". You
know, it sounded good for a while and then all of a sudden it sounded
bad and then back to good again. You know, I don't want songs like Metallica,
who has 7 different songs that start, but never end.
Tobbe: This is your second full length album
and then you have 2 EPs out and if we disregard production and what you
just mentioned, in what way do you think that the band together has developed
during this rather short period of time?
Marco: You know, we have developed a lot and
we're more patient with each other. It's been fucking turbulent in the
band for a while. We're trying to sort things out and, you know, who
has done what and blah blah blah. We've learned to be more tolerant
against each other than what we have been. This band has always been
its own worst enemy. You know, we started at the wrong end. We took
promotion pictures before we even had any songs. [Laughs]
It was like a full-fledged band before something
even existed. We didn't ourselves take this band seriously until we
heard the end result of Scars. About our development as musicians we
have kind of taken one step back. But that feels pretty good actually,
because we don't have to lay down like 4 solos and like "Who has
the best riff?". It's just "Do what you do and let's make
something out of it.".
Tobbe: Did you guys at some point think
about putting a more modern sound on the album, instead of the traditional
one you now have?
Marco: The sound picture that we have actually
started out as a joke. When we recorded Rise From Treason, which we
recorded just for fun because we didn't have a record company or nothing,
Jocke Skog was drinking some wine and just for fun put a Stockholm mix
to it. You know, an old Stockholm death metal mix. And he sent it to
us and we were like "Wow! This is what we have been looking for.".
Jeppe [Strömblad, guitar] and Glenn bought HM2's [Distortion pedals]
immediately, you know. Rise From Treason originally had kind of ordinary
power guitars. In the end we decided to stick to the mix that Jocke
did just for fun. So it started out as a joke actually
else with this fucking band. [Laughs]
Tobbe: You mentioned that there's been some
turbulence in the band, and Glenn isn't with you anymore, but he plays
on the album and, as you said, he took part in the songwriting. So what
actually happened? You know, leaving the band, alternatively is told to
leave after the recording of the album.
Marco: You know, Glenn has never went all the
way with any band. We were on a festival in Germany and I said to him,
drunken as we were having lots of liquor, "I really have to ask
you, Glenn. Why the hell did you leave In Flames?" and he said
to me "Do you really want to know? Because I thought that it would
never become anything bigger.". How about that? [Laughs] And then
Dimension Zero. He left because he wanted to be at home instead. And
kind of the same reason with TR. He recently had a kid and he'd go "I
hate to fly.". And I'm like "It's gonna get pretty hard when
we're gonna go to Japan then. Maybe you can ride a bicycle?".
In the end we asked him "Do you really,
really want to continue with or us or do you want leave?". And
he said "Well, I want to leave.". And we were like "All
right. That's okay, because then we will keep our friendship and that's
much more important.". And the same with Claudio [Oyarzo, former
bass player]. We chose to keep our friendship. If he would have stayed
in the band, our friendship would be no more.
Tobbe: It's probably for the better, to
part ways before things get ugly.
Marco: It's just like pulling the leash on a
dog who doesn't want to walk. It's not that fun, you know. So that's
why we decided to regroup a little bit. The decisions were made in consultation
with everyone. Claudio understands why he was told to leave. He's actually
not a bass player. He's a guitarist. When we started to listen to live
recordings, we were like "Dude, what are you doing? Do you even
play the same song as we do?".
Tobbe: A few of you guys are, or have been,
playing in kind of well-known bands and out of that aspect, how are you,
with The Resistance, trying to benefit from it?
Marco: Actually not at all, because for promotion
of the band it's always like "Ex this" and "Ex that"
and "Current member of
whatever". But this is a separate
band and it's starting to get a little bit tiresome really. Even if
Jeppe has played with In Flames, that band has never sounded like us.
But I understand of course, because people have a need to draw parallels,
but for us it's absolutely not important whatsoever, because we're a
separate band from all the other bands.
Tobbe: So what else do you do to draw attention
to the band?
Marco: Right now we've been laying low for a
while, because of all the turbulence in the band. That's why we named
the album Coup De Grâce, because we didn't know really, as we
felt that this was going to be either the death-blow to the band, or
to our friendship, or to something else. It's really just recently that
we've been starting to see what the hell we're gonna do later. We've
been getting some offers, from festivals and things like that, that
we're looking at, but we still have too much shit that needs to be sorted
And that's what's unfortunate with starting a
band at the completely wrong end. We knew each other, but in kind of
different ways. I and Jeppe knew each other in one way. I and Christopher
have known each other for a long time. Jesper and Glenn know each other
in another way. And then you have to put everything together to one
camp and that doesn't always work out fine.
Tobbe: Would it have been easier if you've
been like 15-20 years younger?
Marco: Absolutely. Much, much easier. Because
now we have, which I suspect that you're looking for, families and jobs
and all kinds of shit. And then there's somebody who is kind of living
outside reality, you know. Like "Why can't we go to this or that
place?" and I'd go "Because I have a stressful job and I can't
go!". And then it's like I am a fucking jerk, you know.
Tobbe: Is it still as fun and "exciting"
to make records or is it just simply a routine procedure at this point?
Marco: It's absolutely still fun, and especially
with TR there's nothing that follows the same routine. If we compare
The Haunted and TR with UFC. You have 2 UFC fighters and one is GSP
[Georges St-Pierre], who's a pure fighter and every strike lands exactly
where it is supposed to. Kind of like The Haunted. And then we have
Tank Abbott, the old street fighter. Anything can happen. Sometimes
he's biting and he does a little bit of everything and that's a little
bit like The Resistance. What's making it exciting and fun is that anything
can happen and quite frequently it does too. You know, like Glenn is
getting locked up on the ferry to Finland. You know, things happen.
regardless which band you make records with, the actual creativity is
what is funniest and how you personally maybe develop with baby steps.
I'm really happy with my own performance on this record for example,
but this performance would have been nowhere near good enough for The
Haunted, since with The Haunted it's more well-thought-out and refined,
you know. But I love to scream my lungs out. I think it's really fun
and I laid down my entire vocal parts for this record in 6 hours.
Tobbe: You've been active with record releases
for over 2 decades now and how do you think that you have developed your
vocals during this time?
Marco: Let me put it like this: It's really
hard to listen to Made Me Do It [2000, The Haunted] and the early Face
Down records [Mindfield  and The Twisted Rule The Wicked ].
I don't know if I have ruined my voice or what I have done, but I like
it more now than back then. But it's pretty fun to listen to the transformation
from being 22 or 23 up until when I'm 44.
Tobbe: I actually listened to the Mindfield
CD the other day, just because I knew I was gonna talk to you and your
performance is quite different in comparison to what you do now.
Marco: It even has some clean vocals. I had
almost forgot that. The band was formed in 1993, I think, and we released
a demo in 1994 and then we got a record deal with Roadrunner. That was
fucking sick. Face Down was initially called Machine God and when Roadrunner
signed us we had to change our name to Face Down and you know what?
Robb Flynn [Machine Head] had to approve our demo before they signed
us. So fucking ridiculous. So silly.
Tobbe: Is there a possibility that Face
Down will be revived at some point?
Marco: Well, we tried in 2005 when we released
The Will To Power, but then we found out why we split up in the first
place. It was because we hated each other, you know. [Laughs] No, actually
it wasn't that bad, but we were 4 guys that normally never would have
been socializing together if it wasn't for the band.
Tobbe: Without being patronizing, is there
really a real market for the type of classic death metal that you indeed
Marco: I don't know really and actually I don't
give a damn about it either. We've never cared about what others think.
Jeppe and I started this band and we want to play music that we grew
up with and music that we haven't been able to play with the bands we've
been involved with. I'm not counting Ceremonial Oath, because I think
nobody does. I anyway just had to listen to Ceremonial Oath before their
gig at Hellfest , to see if I had missed something good, you know.
I put it on and found out that I hadn't missed anything at all. It was
exactly as bad as I remembered it to be.
So the reason to why we put this band together
was to get that outburst that we personally got when we first listened
to what we grew up with. We have actually never really cared, you know,
and regarding a record deal, it took quite a while before we got signed,
because we didn't really work on it either. So I really don't give a
shit really if there's a market for our music, because the market today
is still only oriented to Bandit Radio [in Sweden], 6 million riffs
in one song and a drummer who's playing so technically that there's
no groove in it whatsoever.
the drummer in Fleshgod Apocalypse [Francesco Paoli]. A really great
drummer, but he can't put swing to his playing even if his life depended
on it. It's just the way it is. But if you listen to Christofer Barkensjö,
he is able to play a fast two-stroke, yet still coming out with a swing
Tobbe: You told me that you play the music
that you want to, but do you feel that you have at least something to
prove with The Resistance?
Marco: You know, if we would have something
to prove, we wouldn't have chosen to play this type of music. As I said,
we haven't reinvented the wheel or anything. It's more like; When Robban
sent over this stuff, we were like "This is really cool. This is
what the last record should have been like.". We're not really
looking for some sort of acknowledgment, because if we were, we would
have put a lot more effort to it.
Tobbe: Even if The Resistance and The Haunted
have some tiny resemblances musically, the bands differ quite a bit. So
how do you emotionally change when singing to these different styles of
Marco: To me it's probably more the lyrical
content that makes it more emotional or more aggressive. Especially
with TR where everything is cliché. I mean, it's metal, not a
fucking therapy session, you know. But with The Haunted however I write
a little bit more personal stuff and the music has more room for making
it a little bit more fun personally. And then you have Patrik Jensen
[guitar] and Jonas Björler [bass] who in the end don't accept everything
either. [Laughs] But actually it was harder in the beginning, with Jonas
and Anders [former guitar player and Jonas' twin brother.].
When we recorded Made Me Do It, Anders woke up
in the morning and "We have to record that part one more time."
And we were like "Why?". And he's like "I've had nightmares
about that part.". I guess you understand what I mean. It's on
a whole different level. With TR it's pure aggression really and it's
supposed to be like "I stand 1 inch from your face and scream so
that your eyeglasses are fogging up.".
Tobbe: How are you able to combine The Resistance,
The Haunted, your daily work and family life?
Marco: It's a matter of priorities. You know,
everyone is involved in kind of the same camp. The Haunted, The Resistance,
you have At The Gates, you have Lik, Adrian [Erlandsson] with Paradise
Lost as well. We all have access to a big calendar, where you kind of
lock up your dates. If you have a date booked, it's your date until
you say otherwise. Of course, if The Haunted has a huge thing coming
and TR is going to play a small club, we will talk about it, like which
is the most relevant and maybe you are able to compensate for it another
Tobbe: You're doing a US tour this February
with The Haunted and you mentioned a little bit about touring with The
Resistance, but still, wouldn't this be just the right time, when the
album is brand new, to go out on a tour with The Resistance instead?
Marco: Yes, exactly, but still we have to make
things clear to each other, because we have problems with addiction
in the band and things like that and I'm not going to sit on a bus for
a month with a loose cannon on deck. That's pretty much what is holding
us down right now.