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Interview conducted October 26 2019
Interview published January 11 2020

Robban's words about Coup De Grace: "We can't make such a record again. It's impossible."

Metal Covenant spoke with Treat's lead vocalist Robban Ernlund before the band hit the stage on its 30-year anniversary show for the Organized Crime album.

Organized Crime track list:
Ready For The Taking
Party All Over
Keep Your Hands To Yourself
Stay Away
Mr. Heartache
Gimme One More Night
Get You On The Run
Home Is Where Your Heart Is
Fatal Smile

* = Song not part of the anniversary set.

Tobbe: Tonight you celebrate the 30th anniversary of Organized Crime and tell me where this idea came from and why specifically this album should be celebrated.

Robban: Actually it comes from the fans. You get requests like "Can't you do this? Can't you do that?". So we started to think about it. We have celebrated a lot of other stuff and it was time for this record to get a push forward as well. And something must happen too. We have recently released, I think, two new records [Ghost Of Graceland, 2016 and Tunguska, 2018] and it's was like "What are we gonna do now?". So we're doing this, and it's fun.

Tobbe: About 4 of the songs have been quite frequently played live before and that's quite a good foundation to lean on, right?

Robban: But, you know, just imagine it. You know, just remembering the lyrics. That was 30 years ago. But it works pretty well. I have some of the lyrics on paper, [Laughs] for the most difficult parts. But music is something that gets stuck in your spinal cord. You're just grinding it in and then it just comes out of you.

Sometimes before a song starts, it's like "How do the lyrics begin? I have no idea." and "I don't know. I don't know.", the other guys say. And then the first chord comes and the words just come flowing. So it works fine actually. Today it's a very long set. I think we'll play 19 songs. Almost too long, in my opinion. [Laughs]

Tobbe: Try to be as honest as possible now. There are 11 songs on the record and how many of those songs do you think don't really have been able to stand the test of time and aren't as good as you would want them to be?

Robban: Now you're talking about my favorite record, really. What separates it from the other records is that there are very few overdubs, very few things, and I have so many fond memories from that record. We recorded it in Frankfurt and we went to Holland to mix it. So we sit in the studio and the German record company arrives and we play a couple of songs for him. He's listening and "Awesome! This is exactly what we want.".

But after 4 songs he asks the producer "What do you think about the sound? It sound terrible!". So he says "Robban. You guys are going back to Sweden and we will find another guy to mix this." and we're like "Shit. Well, okay.". So after 3 weeks they're calling me and "You're going to England and there you will meet a guy called Ian Taylor.". He did Gary Moore's Still Got The Blues [1990], for example.

I get there, and I meet Yngwie Malmsteen, who gets thrown out of the studio. He was about to release a live album [Trial By Fire: Live In Leningrad, 1989] and it was going to be mixed in that same studio. But he behaved so badly that they threw him out.

Anyway, so Ian Taylor mixes Ready For The Taking, the first song, and he says to me "How do you want the guitars and stuff?" and I'm like "Well, I don't know. Do something great.". He's like "I have a black box that Gary Moore likes. I think you'll like it too.".

So he made a complete mix and I brought it to the hotel and on the next day I was back in the studio and he asks me "What will you do with the vocals? Do you want some effects or anything?" and I go "No, nothing. I'm fine with the way it is.". So this record is the band straight off and I think that's kind of awesome.

When we play live now, there are backing tracks and stuff on some of the other songs in the set, but when you strip them down and remove the backing tracks it's like "Oh, this is music. Really nice!". Sometimes I think "Those damn backing tracks. Additional choirs and additional bullshit. Get it out of here!". I mean it, really. Of course the songs get better, but to stand there with all that mess in your ears… I usually go "Just take it away because I don't need to hear it.".

Tobbe: So what you're saying is that this record contains 11 really good songs still?

Robban: Yes, I think so. Really. And I have so many great memories too. Like with the song Keep Your Hands To Yourself. We're sitting in the studio one night. We've been drinking a few beers. I and Gary [Anders Wikström, guitar] are there and, like, "How will we start this song off?". I mean, he picks up the guitar and just noodle around and I'm saying, like, "Let me tell you a story." and you can hear how we stomp our feet to the floor.

And all of that is included in the song and that became, you know, the intro to the song. It wasn't our intension to record on that day. We were just trying stuff out and suddenly things just started to happen. Certain songs can take months to get done and certain songs are done in a very brief time.

Tobbe: Next year is the 10th anniversary of your real comeback record Coup De Grace and will you celebrate that occasion in some way?

Robban: Well, I think so. That record is the greatest success we've ever had. I have kind of a book with reviews from all over the world, where it says "97/100", and you know, "Album of the year.". So that's great. It's quite hard to get your hands on that record. But it will be re-released. I promise you, because there's a great demand for it. I've heard that you can get over $100 for a copy. That's really sick, you know.

Tobbe: It was 6 years between Coup De Grace [2010] and Ghost Of Graceland [2016], but then it was only 2.5 years to Tunguska [2018]. So when can we expect to see another Treat record out?

Robban: Pretty soon. There are already embryos to 4-5 songs. Maybe that's the next thing, that we do another one. We'll see. The record company [Frontiers] wants another one.

Tobbe: The 10th anniversary for Coup De Grace is coming already this spring, so you don't have so much time until you're there. And I would say that out of a marketing perspective it would be best to do that celebration before putting that next record out.

Robban: Well, surely. And that record became huge. We can't make such a record again. It's impossible. But when we make a new album we can't think in those terms. We think more like "It's just new songs coming. What happens happens.". Personally I think if I buy a record and find 4 great songs, then I'm super happy. That's enough, and the rest can be in between, you know. That's okay actually.

Tobbe: Good or bad, I don't know, but Pontus [Egberg] is out and Nalle [Påhlsson] is back in the band again. Tell me about this bass player change.

Robban: It's really simple. Pontus plays with King Diamond too and he more or less makes a living from playing music. And we don't play so much. This past summer we turned down 6 offers, and therefore we decided to completely take that summer off, because everyone was too busy.

And around the same time Pontus was asked to go out on an American tour with King Diamond, which would mean that he wouldn't be around for us in a year. He said "My place in the band is now available for someone else. You understand." and we were like "Of course we do.".

But I don't feel bad by having Nalle around. For example on the Coup De Grace album, people were writing about specifically his bass play, like in magazines, in reviews. He's amazing and I would say that he's one of Sweden's greatest bass players. And another thing: he plays with a pick, and to me that's a little more edgy, and I like that.

Tobbe: If or when your voice won't live up to your own requirements anymore, what kind of plan will you then put into action?

Robban: Then I'll quit. Immediately. I mean, look at Paul Stanley, for example, and David Coverdale, even if he is allowed to croak since he's a prima donna. But many of those singers get interruptions and strange lung problems. And recently that Pretty Maids dude [Ronnie Atkins] was diagnosed with lung cancer. That will never work. That's sad. But I would quit immediately. I think it's embarrassing. Why would I stand there making a fool of myself?

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