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Interview conducted July 30 2022
Interview published November 10 2022

"I think the years just pass by nowadays. I kind of start losing track."

Swedish melodic hard rockers Treat made an appearance at Skogsröjet this summer and Metal Covenant spent some time with guitarist and songwriter Anders Wikström.

Tobbe: I saw that you had some technical problems on stage. What generally lies behind that kind of stuff?

Anders: It wasn't so much technical, but guitars that changed tuning in some mysterious way, which actually could happen to anybody. After we were running through what we were doing, there was nothing strange. So, new strings and temperatures.

And the guitars should really be out in the heat for a much longer time, in order to become acclimatized to the conditions, which we don't have time for on a festival like this one. Everything just goes quickly in and out. So, that's usually a reason. But it wasn't so bad. I'm so used with such things.

Maybe it looks like a big problem for a while, but it's just don't care about it and switch to another guitar if there's time for it. I'm the only guitarist and if I stop playing and switch guitar, you can immediately hear it. If there are two guitarists, it's never a problem. But I overlook these things. It's cool. Things like this happen.

Tobbe: Now, with about 4 months distance past the release of your new album The Endgame, what might you tell me about the record, that you maybe wouldn't have told people around the time of the release?

Anders: Well, we put out a couple of singles and we made some videos, and our idea was to keep this record alive a bit longer, and we're still thinking like that, because we believe that there are still some songs left that must be given a chance. With album releases nowadays there is such a short attention span, so as you release the album everybody is really interested and you quickly end up in, like, "Okay. Next.".

As an artist that's kind of sad, because you put so much effort into it. I've heard bands saying that they have to push their product to a greater extent than what someone would think because the time people focus on an album is so short. We have songs, you know, that we would like to release and make a video for, or maybe go in and change stuff, or whatever.

But, we have a Plan B for this album as well, because we have our 40-year anniversary next year, and, even if we haven't announced it yet, we have made sure that we have even more music recorded. We have also talked a little bit with the record company, and we will try to keep the album alive, but, we also have to add music, and that we will do, for sure.

Tobbe: Someone told me that during an interview before an album release, he was asked when the next album would be out.

Anders: That's stuff that we joke about, you know. I must admit that that is a bit annoying, like, "But we have just released an album" and people ask, "When will the next one come?". It's like it's completely insatiable, you know. But I understand, if you're a fan you want as much as possible. But it's also the work, like, you know, the time and the effort that we've put down on an album.

I mean, of course, right now, it's okay, but when you're in the phase of doing an album for two years, then we're like, "But please. This is what's current now. We have in fact pulled ourselves together and put down work on it.". And we're an album band, and we haven't really embraced the thing of releasing a song each month, like the Spotify way of thinking. But we notice that the more separate songs we put out, the more we're getting added on different playlists and stuff like that.

And honestly, it's taken us a pretty long time to embrace that whole way of thinking, if we have even done that yet. You know, we started way back, like, "Okay, now we're gonna put out an album.". And then we actually have an audience who likes to buy vinyl and even CDs, which we are incredibly grateful for, because that gives us a possibility to get a decent recording budget.

But there are downsides with that as well, because people think that there are too few vinyls for sale, and people ask, "I can't get my hands on a copy." and we say, "That's for the record company to decide.". And now it's difficult with the pressing of vinyl, because factories are going through difficulties, and the waiting times have been very, very long, and there are a lot of people in line, and the biggest companies get to cut the line.

But we're hanging in there. We actually had a rather good meeting recently, about how we're going to keep working with this album, and that's actually the first time that has happened to us since we reunited, that we actually talked and took a Step 2, you know. And not like, "The album is out. This is the first week. And now it's over.", because that's no fun, and we will go out and play, and keep things alive.

Tobbe: It's probably a good idea to put out singles now and then. But the problem is, for people like me, I have a hard time following that process. I want my bunch of songs on a CD. That's easier for me, but perhaps I'm not representable for your fanbase.

Anders: I have seen many times in the last couple of years that bands start to release songs for an album, where they eventually end up with 7 or 8 singles before the album is out, just to build things up. And many different approaches to launch an album have been examined. And then in the end they release a full album. But at that point there's not so much to explore anymore and you have almost heard every song on the album, you know.

And as a fan, when I went down and bought an album, I had maybe heard one song and, like, "Now I'm gonna concentrate and listen to what they've done, and see the entirety.". And that thing is partly gone now, if you release too many songs as singles in the beginning. But I understand the marketing way of thinking of it too, so.

Tobbe: And things continue to change. We're still kind of in the early days of this.

Anders: Yes, that's how it is. Everybody is trying to find a new way to kind of affect that, you know. And there are many other different parameters involved as well, like it's important to get on playlists, because that's stuff that generates a lot of streams and stuff.

But that might be pretty misleading in terms of how popular an artist is, because it's the quality of your streams, from your hardcore fans and followers, that means anything. Because those people are the ones that will come down and be there when you're out playing later. If you end up on a playlist at a gym somewhere, it doesn't say much about your popularity, really.

Yes, it's still in an early stage, to recognize what is popular. And someone told me that music styles have become typical, like hard rock has to a greater extent its own department, and pop has its own department, which is large and broad. Different music styles kind of have their own list nowadays. It's used to be like everybody fought for places on the same chart, which doesn't mean as much today, because they aren't based on some greater sales numbers, you know. But they still exist, and it's a PR thing, so it's always great to get your name on there.

Tobbe: As a musician, and especially as a songwriter, it must be difficult sometimes, because, I mean, you guys obviously dig every song on the album, but has there really been an album, ever, that only has awesome songs? I mean, I can't name one album that has 10 super great songs out of 10.

Anders: I agree with you, because it's like this, if I may be a little bit fault-finding, that there are albums that come very close, but there's always 1 or 2 songs that's like, "Well, this one drove down the ditch a little bit. It doesn't have the same quality as the other songs.". But they are always there, on those albums.

And I don't know what the deal is. It's been the case with every album I've chosen as a favorite album throughout the history. There's always a song I don't like. And, you know, I'm talking about albums that I have truly worshipped, like albums, like, "Wow! This is in my top 5. Yet there's a song on the album I don't like.".

So I agree. You've got a point. And I think that some albums that were released during the greatest times of the CD era, where suddenly albums had 15 songs instead of 10, were like, "Well, those 2 or 3 songs shouldn't have made the cut.". Because the album would have been greater that way.

But, you know, it's easy with hindsight. And this goes for albums that we have made as well. There are songs that shouldn't have been on the album. You know, when I look back at it thoughtfully, like, "This album is great, but it would have been even greater if we had removed those 2 songs.".

Tobbe: Maybe sometimes it's for the better that a song or two aren't so great. Those songs kind of work as a breather.

Anders: Yes, because how will you be able to appreciate the best songs if there isn't one who's a little bit worse than the others? I mean, you can't win every time, and you can't pile them up one by one. But if an album is so good that it only has a few songs that's not great, then it's usually a strong album. And usually, different people think differently about good and bad songs, you know.

And when the band kind of democratically is going to pick songs for the album out of the songs that we can pick from, then I'm like, "Okay. Not so many of the guys like this song. Kind of strange. I think it's really strong. But, okay, 3 or 4 guys out of 5 don't like it, so it won't make it to the album.".

Then some time afterwards, they come to me, "We should have recorded that song. It's really great, you know." and I'm like, "Yeah. Why didn't you say so when I sent it the first time?". But that's life. Things like that happen. So they have listened to it again, given it a new shot, and listened to it maybe with a more interested ear, you know. And the same goes for me as well.

It also depends on which mood you're in, like, "I'm not open to this one today.". But then I get to listen to the song on some other occasion, and then I'm like, "This song is really good. I didn't see it like that the last time.". I sometimes find that I change taste, you know. Like, I give it an additional chance and all pieces come together.

Tobbe: I occasionally go back to maybe listen to more, like, '70s, so I guess it's nothing strange with preferring a little bit different music from time to time.

Anders: I grew up with the Black Sabbath album Sabbath Bloody Sabbath, because my sister had that one, and I think it's totally amazing, you know. So, let's say I had that one, and then some other one, when I was little, like Paranoid, but there were several of their releases I didn't check out.

But in later years I started to check out certain albums. I recognize a few songs of course, because, like, "This one is so well-known, so it's impossible to miss that one.". So I listened to more of it, and, like, "Oh yeah. This is great.". But concurrently I picked up a lot of other influences back then. There wasn't room for everything, and I found my bands that I could in some way identify to, like, "I think that is cool. They make a cool thing.".

And why? Probably because they also looked cool. Like Kiss, you know, who combined rock and image. You know, everything in one package. That was cool, so I gave them a shot. But there was also a lot of British hard rock that was fantastic. Really good, and really honestly made, and for real, and everything.

In that era British music was the best, you know. There weren't so many American bands with that certain quality back in those days. But then other times came, with different styles. The '80s came, you know.

[Bassist Nalle Påhlson is in the same room, jumps a minute back in the conversation, and chimes in]:

Nalle: You know, about removing a couple of songs from an album, to make it stronger. I clearly remember the first time I really noticed that, and I was thinking, like, "This is a really long album. Does it ever end?", although I thought it was really good. That was Def Leppard's Hysteria. Like, "Doesn't this album ever end?". [Laughs]

(Anders:) That's a perfect example. And it's really long. It's 73 minutes. [It's actually 63 minutes.] I had that one. Well, knock on wood, I got it on an advance cassette. I wasn't even allowed to write on it that it was the new Def Leppard album. I got it from a girl. We were on the same label. She knew that I was into Def Leppard. I think Pyromania is such an amazing album. So I wrote "Top secret" on it. [Laughs]

And I remember, "Damn, this one is long. Such long songs.". It was really like, "This one needs quite a few spins to get into.". But it's awesome, because they have done stuff that they hadn't done before. It was innovative stuff. But I immediately felt, and I can point out 2 songs in an instant that should be removed from the album: Love And Affection should be gone. And there's another one…

Tobbe: Excitable.

Anders: Excitable, yes. If you remove those songs, the album is absolutely fantastic. Those 2 songs are totally unnecessary. I mean, they don't say anything, they don't make the album better, they don't add a color, or anything, you know. But on the other hand, I don't feel this about Pyromania. There is one song that is in the margin, and that's Action! Not Words. That's the only one. Otherwise, I think that that album is fantastic from start to finish.

Tobbe: It's quite funny. It was, like, 4 and half years between Pyromania and Hysteria, and that was like an eternity back then. Today that's not so unusual. Different times, I'd say.

Anders: You know, there was so much talk about that record, like, "It took 4 years to make it.". I remember their discussions in the media, but that was just because they wanted to fill that time with stuff so they had something to talk about. You know, "The drummer lost his arm.". Well, that was a huge deal, during the recordings. There were several other things that happened during the recordings, that they gladly tell about.

And, I'll tell you what, I actually met them during the recordings. We were actually recording in the same studio compound as them. They lived in Holland then and when we were there, they were in the studio every day working with B-sides to singles, which they recorded with a different technician, because Mutt Lange wasn't there anymore. Phil Collen was in our studio several times and listened to our stuff.

And I got to meet Steve Clark. Bless his soul. And I mean, Jompa [Jamie Borgir] was playing a soccer video game with Joe Elliott all throughout the day. It was a good time and I have fond memories from that summer. But anyway, 4 years was a really long time. But as you say, today no one cares. It's actually kind of scary. I think the years just pass by nowadays. I kind of start losing track. You know, like, "Okay. 2 years just disappeared. Oh yeah, that's the case.".

I'll tell you what. I had my guitar fixed for the Organized Crime 30 years show and I was like, "I did that last year, right?", but, "No, you did that in 2019.". It was 3 years ago, you know. So, what were we doing? Well, we have at least been active. We have made the album. Writing songs, rehearsing, and stuff like that. So we had stuff to do, but everything was kind of on hold anyway. And I think you can see that in people's faces. You know, people are starting to look worn out. [Laughs]

I mean, come on, this has gotten deep into people's minds. This thing is a psychological wringer to get through for people. Hell, you can't just get through this and, "Okay, let's now just start over again.". No, it doesn't work that way.

Tobbe: My concern is whether fans will come back. I mean, quite a few people are just now comfortably being at home and will maybe never come down to the shows again.

Anders: Of course a lot of people think it's great to go out and see bands again. But, there are quite a few who don't do that. Let me put it like this: I'm pretty glad that we didn't go out on some kind of club tour in May. I think that it would have worked out rather poor, honestly said.

We got some indications already last fall, where we were like, "Let's maybe book a tour! The album will be out in the beginning of April." and all the promoters in Europe just said, "Forget it! It won't happen. You can't play. It's already fully booked since 2 years back.". It's already booked, and they just postpone the gigs.

And now we have kind of a plug, as everybody is out playing, and fighting for the same little space, and people have less money. You can't make that work, really.

And we'll see what happens, because we haven't really seen the end of this yet. We will see who is able to go through this, you know. And maybe you have to reconsider. I know that many people do that, like having fewer employees, this and that, and changing stuff to make it work.

And now I'm talking about the ones who have music as their livelihood. We don't have that. But I mean, there are people who are very dependent on touring and who even have people employed.

Tobbe: And not only is it the pandemic. I'm also thinking about us going into a recession in various places over the world, with interest rate increase, rising costs, and this will also affect the prices of concert tickets. The whole situation is kind of alarming.

Anders: Yes, we haven't seen the end of that either, if I may say so. [Laughs] But of course. And it's also highly uncertain if you can make extended planning, even if that depends on who you are, you know. But it's really difficult for, like, mid-level artists to schedule it.

But you're right, and this might hit back on you in whatever shape or form, and maybe we will experience a snowball effect. If somebody starts to hesitate and says that they can't do it for whatever reason. But we'll see what happens soon. I think it's safe to say that we soon will.

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