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Interview conducted April 30 2016
Interview published May 14 2016

"We have never felt that we just want to be around to kind of belong to a group of people with a certain social identity."

Swedish melodic hard rockers Treat threw a lighter version of a release party, at Klubben in Stockholm, 2 weeks after dropping their new album Ghost Of Graceland on April 15th. The band played for about 75 minutes and the set contained, in 3 kind of equally large parts, songs off the new album, the last one Coup De Grace [Released in 2010] and songs off their early and sort of classic albums. A few minutes after the show the band did a signing session at the merch booth and talked to their fans for quite a while and that was pretty much it for this time.

"I think that we feel at least more cohesive than what we've been in the last 4-5 years."

A few hours before the set, Metal Covenant talked to the band's mastermind Anders "Gary" Wikström about the new release, the band's new bass player, financials and record sales, and also about the band's plans to release a DVD and a bunch of albums on vinyl.

"And what is surprising is that we all the time is being compared to our last album, because very few bands today have it that way."

Tobbe: Your new record has only been out for 2 weeks, but of course there's been a while since you recorded it, so have you been able to get any lasting impressions of it yet?

Anders: Both yes and no. Well, I guess we have. I think we wanted to make an album the way we did albums in the old days. You know, you write over a period, you record the album over a period, kind of in order to not extend the recording process too much. Out last record took a long time to complete, so with this album I wrote songs for quite some time and when we started to put things together we really went for it. But I think we have a pretty clear picture of the record right now, but we will still kind of try some things out live, because the songs are still so fresh at this point.

Tobbe: What can Treat really bring to the melodic hard rock scene nowadays?

Anders: Quality! Additionally I think that we add relevance to melodic hard rock. We have always aimed to make good records and to do good gigs. We have never felt that we just want to be around to kind of belong to a group of people with a certain social identity. Because we play so many other things and do so much other things musically. So I think it's about the quality and we would never make albums if we didn't believe they were good enough. Simple as that, really.

Tobbe: Do you believe that there are things that you do better than your, let's say, competitors?

Anders: At this point, it feels more like; we've been out playing pretty much during the years prior to the record and we did get a pretty clear picture of, partly which the long-time loyal fans are, but also of the ones who discover us now. We have people that discover us with the new album already, I have noticed.

And we have played with many bands. We play festivals and you see a lot of bands, so you are able to see what kind of quality you have and I think we keep it on a really great level. Our measure of value has always been to write good songs and to let the entirety speak. It's not like the guitar hero versus the keyboard wizard and the technical singer. We have always worked from a band perspective and we let the whole songs do the job and I think we still work that way.

It's so easy to put it this way, but when you write songs and show your song ideas, it's so easy to say "That doesn't measure up, Anders. Go back home and write something else and something better!". It may be like this, and it has been this way, so I have thrown songs away.

Tobbe: You have a new bass player [Pontus Egberg. Who is sitting just a few feet away from us.] and could he actually add something or, since he's a new member in the band, did he just played the way you wanted him to?

Anders: I told him to play the songs the way he wanted. He was on tour in the USA [with King Diamond] whilst we started to record the album. He got to listen to the songs a little bit, but we've known each other for quite a while and we have toured together. So I have seen Pontus live many times and I have seen his playing style and I know how he plays, so when we were searching for a bassist it was like "I've got to call him, because I can't visualize someone else besides me and the band on stage.

He's perfect, you know.". I believe you should give people kind of free hands and I never tell Jompa [Jamie Borger, drums] what to play either. The more free hands he's been given, the better he has started to play, I think. We have come to a place where everyone has control and if there's something you don't like or find unfitting, you just tell him.

Tobbe: So do you feel even more cohesive than you've ever done?

Anders: I think that we feel at least more cohesive than what we've been in the last 4-5 years. Ever since Nalle [Påhlsson, bass] parted ways with the band we've had a temporary substitute with Fredrik [Thomander], who's my old working partner and our plan was just to have him help us out to play live, but when Pontus entered, right from the start the deal was that he was going to be as big part as anyone else and to be one fifth of the band and set his own mark and that's why it was so important to have him playing on the record.

Tobbe: Nothing serious really, but you've changed bass players a few times.

Anders: With Fredrik it was absolutely nothing personal, but he lives in Spain and does a lot of other stuff as well, so unfortunately he couldn't do it anymore. But bassists seem to be the quandary of the band. It's like Spinal Tap. But it's funny somehow, because it's like it's the only position, since years ago, on which we've had quite a few changes.

I don't know why, but hopefully this will end now. It's also because of personalities and how we function together. 3 of us have been around for a pretty long time [Jamie joined the band in 1987] and we are 4 guys who have been around since almost as long time [Patrick Appelgren, keyboards, joined the band in 1989].

It's hard to keep the band together for so many years and it's only Robban [Robert Ernlund, vocals] and I who have been with the band for 33 years, you know. Even if it hasn't been 33 years straight, since we were on hiatus for many years too [1993-2006].

Tobbe: I'm not saying that the album is old school or something like that, but at least to a small extent it partly sounds a little bit older than your previous record, even if it's definitely following today's standards as well and…

Anders: I think there's been a little misunderstanding in some kind of press release. We haven't gone back to try to sound like a 70's band. We have gone back to look at the way records were done back then, when they did entirety albums. That's the way we've been thinking. You know, you look at the entirety album as a flow.

Our last album, Coup De Grace, were made over a long time and has good, strong peaks, but is shattered, I think. Ghost Of Graceland has more in common with what Organized Crime did, because that was an album that, from beginning to end, had its style, its breathing and that was to a little extent what I was aiming for to do. You look at your whole catalogue and that's what the classic bands did, like Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple, who are the sum of all its parts, you know, and not just one album. And what is surprising is that we all the time is being compared to our last album, because very few bands today have it that way. I take it as a compliment, really.

With hand on heart, I must say, many has said "…and now you're releasing an album after the masterpiece Coup De Grace.", but you didn't say that when it came out. Regrettably, you know. There was no one writing that it was a masterpiece when it was released. It has grown over time, because we came back and made something that actually was really good. It just took some time until people realized it.

Tobbe: I actually know a few people, who had never listen to Treat before, who started to listen to the band just because of the Coup De Grace album, you know.

Anders: That's really great. Maybe that was the reason why we chose to make that record? But we had no idea where we were going to land with an album in 2010, because, you know, of the nostalgia part and surely there were fans from the 80's that showed up for the gigs, but it never becomes what it was back then since you often associate records and songs with what you grew up with.

But, you know, we wanted to make a good record and I think it has really strong peaks and the songs have worked out really great live and this is what we will keep building on. Now it feels like we have a lot to give and when we finally took the decision to make another album it was like "When you get the inspiration back, you make records. If inspiration isn't there, you don't make records, until it's back.".

Tobbe: Is there a limit to how far Treat can go within your genre?

Anders: Yes, there is. There's a clear limit. We see ourselves as a melodic hard rock band and we come from an era where we grew up with melodic hard rock bands. It's guitar based riffs and, you know, it's not keyboard based hard rock. And then I think, since I have written so many songs for other artists during a pretty long time, I have been getting back so much experience and expressions that I try to take this further, to the extent that it still works and to the extent that it works for us, as a band, to perform.

But I have already began to think forward, you know. How I can take this further. I think it's pretty nice to have a picture about what you want to achieve with record. A vision, you know. It's much needed when you're going to make rock records, if you're even going to keep doing albums in this world of single/streaming thinking.

Tobbe: Record sales aren't what they used to be, obviously, but what kind of numbers do you expect anyway? Do you believe that the new record will hit the last record's numbers?

Anders: Yes, it already does. It's going great so far and it's hitting the charts everywhere, so. And this is also something that's the harvest of us making a record which did much of the hard work last time. I believe that sales for us today is; we have a fairly large market by releasing records world wide. We don't sell lots of records in every country, but if we sell enough records to make it worth touring, it's okay.

I believe that everyone has to reevaluate what record sales are, because if you look at what the big bands" are really selling, there's no impressive numbers anymore. Maybe Iron Maiden and a few others manage to get to a decent level, but most bands, even American bands who used to be big, find it hard. You hear numbers that aren't close to even being a fraction of what they sold before. However I think it's very important that you present music in order to draw your audience, because if you fail too much in the creativity you eventually become a band that people get tired of. I know that our new record is doing great and that means that we will be able to go on tour and reach people, but as far as record sales numbers go, I really don't know.

I mean, it's cheaper for us to make records nowadays too and since we produce so much ourselves and do so much of the work, we keep the expenses down. So you kind of set a whole new level and you don't spend money on unnecessary stuff and you put it where it's needed, you know.

Tobbe: But is there actually any profit with Treat? I mean, you personally are doing other stuff to put food to the table.

Anders: Well, I think it's about break-even. [Laughs] I mean, if you play you get paid of course, but that's nothing you can make a living off and we don't have those kind of expectations anymore. However, I see my whole musicianship as my job, whether it's Treat or something else, and in the end every little thing counts.

Tobbe: It has been 10 years since the return of Treat and if you look at the expectations you had back then, and only those expectations you had in 2006, how well have they materialized?

Anders: In 2006 I didn't even know that we were going to make 2 studio albums. I had no idea that we would follow this road. Our goals were very, very modest then. We wanted to play and we were able to get a gig at Sweden Rock Festival and I wanted to put out a compilation record, because I had noticed that people were asking for one. Those were the only goals we had back then and I know that Jompa was eager to do something after so many years.

If I look back at that time now, you know 10 years, I see that's kind of how long we existed in the first place, but back then we made 5 records during such a long period of time. But that was also because we did it the whole time and you rehearsed, played and wrote songs 24/7. We do it in a lower pace today, but it has its reasons and like I said, we can not do it full-time anymore, but I must say that I'm very surprised, if I look back, because I would never have imagined us having 2 more studio records out by now. We didn't have a 5 year plan and I just wanted to go out and play.

I had been working in the studio for such a long time and I was really tired of sitting there day after day and I was really eager to play and this was really a fun thing, because in a way you just met your old buddies and did something that was ours. We didn't have to start from scratch, because we had a name already and something to work with.

Tobbe: Earlier you mentioned the word "inspiration" and a few years ago there were talks about "Treat is gonna disband" or "Maybe do a few gigs here and there", but as long as you get inspired, do you really see an end to this?

Anders: Today I'm very, very much like "I say we're not quitting.", because I don't want us to quit, if we can write relevant music. We have all reconsidered, like "If we can make good things together, it's probably a good choice to make it together too and not just shutting it down.". We don't know how many years we still have on this planet and we see our idols pass away one by one and it's not just within hard rock.

It's like "We should be thankful to be able to do this stuff and that we can do it without having rheumatism.". One day we'll come to a point where we can't play and therefore it's so important to take care of the time when you still can do it. I want to have fun as long as we still can and in the end I don't want to regret not doing things when I had the chance, you know.

Tobbe: Do you have any plans for a DVD or something?

Anders: Yes, as a matter of fact we started filming last week in Milan [at Frontiers Rock Festival III] and it will be out next year. A live album and a DVD.

Tobbe: Are we talking about live material only or will there be some biography stuff as well?

Anders: No, but on the other hand, a lot of other stuff will be out in the near future. A bunch of vinyls will be released and probably there will be a boxed set too with all albums and a whole lot of stuff, really. There are a lot of things to put together, but the companies we work with say it's time to do this now. I've been waiting for this for a long time and it's just about getting things started. So it will happen.

And at the same time we're making the DVD, but I don't really know what it finally will be like. We're filming here tonight and we were filming the whole recording of the album in the studio. We started filming in September last year and we're beginning to get lots of material now.

Tobbe: The medley you always play live, have you considered playing a number of different songs instead of the ones you're playing now?

Anders: We're not playing it tonight. We're going to make a number of changes in our set and we have put the medley to rest. We're done with it. We're starting to get into the dilemma of having to pick songs from quite a few records and there will always be people that are dissatisfied. You can never get everyone satisfied. But there will be changes in the set, of course.

Tobbe: Let's say that you will be playing 15 songs live and obviously you want to play new song too. So let's say that you will play 5 new songs, which leaves us with 10 songs from your previous albums. So which songs will you ditch, the songs from Coup De Grace or the classics, you know?

Anders: We will keep the classics and the Coup The Grace songs. Tonight anyway. [Laughs] Right now the earliest albums will suffer the most. But that's just for today, because this is a release party and we have a new album out. What I have found quite frustrating is when you end up on a festival and you have 50 minutes or an hour to play and you know that you can't satisfy people with that short playing time.

It's like "Okay. Let's do a festival set.". But right now I believe that we play what we feel that we want to play and then we will start experimenting a little bit. We have tried out and played a few old songs and sometimes it's like "This song doesn't stand the test of time, really.". Of course we play songs that we can't exclude and we must play Get You On The Run and we must play World Of Promises, but there are other songs that we can opt out.

See also: review of the album Ghost Of Graceland

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