» Niclas/Jonas - We Sell The Dead
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Interview conducted February 28 2018
Interview published March 12 2018

"We're just a bunch of buddies and we could might as well have started a soccer team out of this."

We Sell The Dead put out their first record Heaven Doesn't Want You And Hell Is Full on February 23rd and a few days later Metal Covenant met up with guitar player Niclas Engelin and bass player Jonas "Jonta" Slättung. Add vocalist Apollo Papathanasio and drummer Gas Lipstick to the band's ranks and you soon realize that this newly started group isn't put together by some newcomers on the scene as they all have a solid past or present to rely on.

Tobbe: What kind of eras have you been looking at or been listening to in order to get the ideas to the music?

Niclas: A lot of what we have put out with We Sell The Dead is stuff we grew up with and listened to and that has shaped us. I can still put on Black Sabbath's Headless Cross [1989] and Tyr [1990] or Magnum's On A Storyteller's Night [1985] and like "I will die soon…", because that's how good it is. I think it's magical. (Jonas:) But then you process it and you're not making a carbon copy of it. The other day I heard a band, Greta, something [Greta Van Fleet], and they sounded exactly like Led Zeppelin. You know, exactly like Led Zeppelin, and it's really cool that they're able to do that, but then you already have Led Zeppelin, you know what I mean? So, you've listened to a lot as you grew up and all of that is still within you, but you don't want to do the same thing as you've already heard. You want to do something new, you know.

(Niclas:) When you've been active for a while you get your own fingerprint. You have your own type of playing and you have figured out what is working and what is not working, for you personally, to some extent and what you like, and then you're going for it, you know. But the greatest challenge for me to make the music in this was, and this sounds ridiculous, but to play so slowly occasionally. Where I've been active before, things are gonna go so fast, and quick info, but this was like "I have to keep up the interest for 5-7 minutes." and then you have to take your time to build things up. And it was really cool, because you could work more with atmospheres and vibes and, above all, the sound.

I remember when I tracked the guitars with Petter "Mellerud" Olsson, who also played the keyboards, it was a whole lot of research, like, you know, there's a D there and if I add an octave… You know, stuff like that. But what's cool about We Sell The Dead is there are no rules, but you just go with what you feel like. And this is also so cliché: We let the music take us somewhere. It's really cliché, but in this case it's really that way.

Tobbe: If someone would get the idea that you are copying someone else, what would you tell that person?

Jonas: That they haven't listened well enough to it. [Laughs] But you can say that about everything that comes out and you can probably find stuff that sounds like something else in what we have made too. I mean, like a chord progression or a riff or a lyric line that sound similar to something else somewhere, if you really try to pick things, you know. (Niclas:) Yeah, what the hell are we supposed to do? Should we put macaroni in a box and…? [Laughs] (Jonas:) Well, that's what I mean. If you really want to you can find similarities. But that's just how it is. All tones have been put after another one some time, you know.

(Niclas:) But what's cool is that everyone has contributed, with their part. I have started with a snippet and then I have sent it to Jonta, who has made vocal melodies and text, and then sent it to Apollo who has Apollofied it. And then Gas, who has put down his playing on this, and his heaviness and groove. And a thing I've always loved with Candlemass, I'm a big fan of Candlemass, is their drummer Jan Lindh. He is so awesome. Seriously, what a fucking groove. When you're listening to the Candlemass records, like, there's no BPM, but he's nevertheless there and takes the whole thing forward and it becomes a flow which in the end becomes a groove.

(Jonas:) It's easy to play the drums fast. You know, it's just practice on your speed technically and then you can play fast drums, but to play slow and make it heavy and to have a swing is really hard. It's definitely hard.

Tobbe: Did you have a clear vision about the atmosphere on the record before you wrote the lyrics, or did you have to wait for the lyrics before you could see the whole atmosphere?

Niclas: Well, it's a little give and take. The very first riff I did for this was the Echoes Of An Ugly Past riff and just hearing that chord progression, or riff, gives you an emotion. So that song was almost made by itself. You know, you drive your car, maybe you're going to mom and dad, and then all of a sudden you're there, like "How the hell did I get here?". That song was kind of like that and like "I've really found something here." and then I could proceed to the next track. And I think you felt that way too when you heard it, Jonta.

(Jonas:) That vocal line, I had written down that idea earlier, that phrase "Echoes Of An Ugly Past" and I wanted to use it in a song and then this song came and I was like "Okay, let's try this.". Because it's a rather long phrase, and not Firepower or whatever, but it's Echoes Of An Ugly Past, but since the music was slow and there was time and space to sing it, it merged really well. So then we ended up kind of like "Okay, then we're into some more serious and a little heavier stuff." and we built furthermore on that.

Tobbe: Do you think people expected a different type of music considering your background?

Niclas: I think people thought we were gonna play more direct and more up-tempo, like straightforward hard rock / heavy metal, but here comes something that kind of takes a lot to digest. It starts with the groove in Echoes Of An Ugly Past and it just continues throughout the record, with some occasional breathing points, so it's like "What's this? What have they done?", you know. (Jonas:) I think many people maybe expected a more retro sound over it, like more Heaven & Hell [by Black Sabbath] or so, but it isn't and we haven't done that, you know. But I don't know really, but those are the indications I've gotten so far.

Tobbe: I guess it's great to have the freedom to just make a record.

Niclas: Yes, absolutely. But it's nothing you take for granted. It's still like: we feel, as a constellation and a band, like "We wanna do this and if we don't get it done, we'll make it anyway.", you know. (Jonas:) And now we've reached an age where we feel like "You've gotta have a good time." and there's no room for idiots. If you're going out playing and if you're gonna hang out with someone, it must be with people you like and if you like someone you just go on, you know. There's no reason to stop hanging out if you're having a good time. But if you're gonna sit in a tour bus, you want to do it with people you can stand. [Laughs]

Tobbe: Do musicians always have to try to benefit off their background? Like, this guy has played in this or that band.

Niclas: No, and often this stupid label 'supergroup' is brought up and I'm just like "But come on. Just stop it already.". We're just a bunch of buddies and we could might as well have started a soccer team out of this.

Tobbe: So camaraderie was in fact the greatest contributing factor to why this was realized?

Niclas: Yes, pretty much. (Jonas:) At least the reason to why we have continued and reached some kind of goal. You can always play around and record some cool stuff, but being buddies takes it further. (Niclas:) You know, I'm 45 now and you want things to go smoothly then. That's the way it is. There shouldn't be any fuss and we wanna have a good time, really. Like quality time.

Tobbe: Have you thought about which market and audience this music may attract?

Niclas: You know, it's quite funny in a way. We did our first gig ever last Friday [February 23rd] on the release party and it must not be too easy, of course. So, we did it acoustically. I almost shit my pants. Because you have to rearrange the songs we choose to play acoustically, because otherwise it just turns out wrong, if you just play them as they are, you know. And in this case, six and a half minutes long, people would just leave, you know. [Laughs] So, Jonas had taken out his parts, and Apollo had taken out his parts, and me too, and it was just two shitty rehearsals, with coffee drinking and talking about hard rock, and it was like "Should we play a little bit?" and like "Let's play" and it was just there, right from the start.

So when we were about to perform, to conclude the release party, we felt really safe and we were just like "Let's go!" and it turned out really well. So, what I want to say is that there are different gears on how you interpret the music and I think this can appeal to a broad audience. You know, there's a great place [venue] on the island Orust in Bohuslän [Province in Sweden just north of Gothenburg on the West coast.] called Slussens Pensionat and there they have different artists playing every weekend. It starts in June and ends in September maybe and it's really nice and people are eating at the same time. I saw Graveyard there and it was really cool, you know. Jonta and I were sitting on the train to this place and then the ideas start to flow. There's always some talk about ideas, which is great, like "Maybe we should try to play at Slussens Pensionat?".

So I just sent them an e-mail and this afternoon they replied to me, like "Of course. The songs sound really great. How will we make it happen?". And maybe we could play an electric set and then perform the record acoustically and maybe include a cello or a violin or something like that. It would be a completely different gear and a completely different clothing, you know. (Jonas:) So, we will reach a different audience in a way, in comparison to who the record will reach, for example, and it would be nice of course if the record would reach a broader layer. And it would be cool if all metalheads would find this record appealing too. It would be fantastic and of course that's what you wish for, you know. But it's also great if other people would open up their eyes for this record, because all metal bands might gain out of getting people, that's not normally interested, into this kind of music.

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