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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 genre?

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.

Tobbe: 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.".

So 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…like everything 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 out first.

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.

And 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 [1995] and The Twisted Rule The Wicked [1998]]. 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 deliver?

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 [2013], 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.

Like 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 to it.

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 music?

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 time.

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.

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