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 
and Tyr  or Magnum's On A Storyteller's Night  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.
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
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
? [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,
(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.
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
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.
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.
Tobbe: Do musicians always have to try to
benefit off their background? Like, this guy has played in this or that
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
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.
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.