Interview conducted May 24 2013
Interview published June 05 2013
When it was announced that W.E.T.,
the melodic hard rock/AOR group containing such prominent figures like
Jeff Scott Soto and Erik Mårtensson,
would play in Gävle, Sweden, an interview was of course in order.
The self-titled debut album was brilliant, and the follow-up, Rise Up,
is even better. Metal Covenant's Mozzy sat down with Jeff and Erik after
they came back from sound check, and it turned out to be a very pleasant,
cheerful and interesting conversation - about W.E.T. as well as related
things done by these multi-talented gentlemen.
Mozzy: So, how was sound check?
Erik: Horrible (laughs). (Jeff):
If we're gonna be honest (laughs). (Erik):
No, it was fun. We were going through the songs. (Jeff):
That's the only time we get to go through the songs, because I landed
on Wednesday and we couldn't rehearse yesterday. So that's the first
time we've played together since January.
Mozzy: So how come you're here in Gävle,
then? It's great that you're here, but it was a bit of a nice surprise
since there are not that many gigs of this kind here.
Erik: They asked us if we wanted to come. We're
playing this festival, Metallsvenskan, tomorrow, so we were here anyway.
And it's a cool gig, at a 'folk park' you know.
As you mentioned, your last gig was in January, in Stockholm. It was filmed
for a DVD; what's the status there?
Mozzy: I really wanted to go to that gig,
but it will be nice to see it on DVD at least.
Erik: It was fun, but it was still a horrible
gig for me because there was so much to do. Three days of rehearsals,
we had 19 songs and
And a lot of stress. It's different when you're a band that's been
together for a long time, or even if you're on tour and you've had
a chance to work out all the different things that happen in the course
of a set. We didn't have that luxury; we had rehearsals, which is
completely different than when you're standing in front of people.
The adrenaline is different, the whole feeling is different. So we
didn't have this luxury to already have played the set and proved
it, knowing how if flows. We basically just went up there and did
it, and everybody's thinking: "we're being filmed, we're being
recorded, do your best, play your best
" When you're thinking
too much you don't really get to enjoy the show itself, you know.
I felt like someone was aiming with a gun at me, you know (smiles).
"Do something wrong and I'll shoot", you know (laughs).
But it's going to be great, it sounds fantastic.
Mozzy: The show got some great reviews as
well. The setlist looked awesome.
Jeff: And that was another thing to concern
ourselves with: the album wasn't released yet, so we're doing a lot
of new stuff, and the people who know the band only know the first
album. So it's like "here's another new song" and another
new song, and so on. So by the time the DVD comes out, the albums
is almost a year old, so by then everybody knows the songs. But for
the crowd, it was all new territory - and for us. (Erik):
But it was a great crowd. They had a lot of patience. (Jeff):
Yeah, they treated us like a new band, like an exciting new band they
were interested to see. Compared to a band that's got hit albums and
they're only there for the hits, then it's like "oh here's a
new song, let's go to the toilet" or "let's go get a beer"
(laughs). It's kinda cool to have that feeling again, because
I mean I've been in the business for almost 30 years, and you loose
that sense of
that little tingle that happens early on in your
career. Now it's sort of resurfacing, and it's like "wow, it's
new and exciting again!".
Mozzy: What about the set tonight; will
it be similar to last time, or different now that the album's been out
for some time?
How about The Moment? That's one favourite of mine.
Erik: Oh, cool! Yeah, for me it's kind of
I liked it when I wrote it, but then I kind of forgot about it. It
was one of the last songs that were done. I don't know, maybe it would
be a great live song. (Jeff): Yeah, I
did not even think of that song, because there are other songs that
we definitely have to do, and then when you look at the setlist it's
like "ok, we have enough". But maybe that's something we
have to consider. It's like what Erik said, it was one of the last
ones; there were three additional songs at the very end that we put
in. Rise Up was one, and Walk Away was one, and in the end we heard
them more than the other ones, which is one of the reasons why we
forgot about The Moment.
Mozzy: Well, that is a good sign also, that
such a good song 'doesn't fit', so to speak.
Jeff: Well, there were even a few songs that
didn't make the album that I personally really like. (Erik):
Yeah, I listened to them when we did the DVD. Because apart from the
DVD, there will be a double CD as well, with just the audio. And we
put in two additional tracks from the recording of the album. It was
the first time I listened to them since I mixed them, and I was like
"this is a great song!" (Jeff):
I love Numbing The Pain. And the heavy one
Yeah, it's great! It's going to be a bonus track in Japan. It's more
power metal, sort of. (Jeff): Yeah, I
find it as a cross between something I did with Yngwie early on mixed
in with something like Scream Of Anger, the early Europe. It's that
kind of vibe. Our label freaked out (laughs). (Erik):
Actually, the label did not like the album at all. Really, they were
so disappointed with the album. And everyone of us was so angry (laughs).
I could not talk to the label, "I'm not gonna speak with you,
because if I say something now I'm gonna regret it" (laughs).
(Jeff): I think they wanted us to be
a little more AOR-sounding. More pink and fluffy. Which is like
have enough of those elements not only on the first album but even
on the second album. But I like that in the song-writing, Erik focused
on making sure that it had edge, that it had power behind it. Because
you can take a really nice, commercial song and
with a song
like 'Broken Wings', we were worried that it was going to be too light,
too pop-sounding. But he found ways to manipulate it and make it fit
in with the other songs. But it still has a heavy undertone to it.
And I think that was a problem; there was too much of a heavy undertone
to this album for them. (Erik): But now,
they say things like "oh, we love the album". I think the
new album has done even better that the first one.
I really agree that the songs have an edge, with some heavy guitar and
so on. It's not really typical AOR.
Jeff: Yeah, Erik did a lot of tweaking and
changes. I mean, I have early versions of the songs, the tracks they
sent me. And when I heard them later, with my voice mixed in and everything,
I was like "what happened to this?" He changed a lot of
things, but for the better I think. (Erik):
We wrote the songs really fast, and then we quickly did demos with
basic ideas; basic melodies and structures of the songs, and sent
it to you (Jeff). I did not put too much effort in it. Then your vocals
were sent back and I sat down for a day and arranged the whole song.
I saved that work until after the vocals were done. (Jeff):
Yeah. When you first hear it, though, you think that's the direction
it's gonna stay, even if things are going to be re-recorded and added.
You think the overall structure is going to stay the same, and then
you go "what!?" "It started with a keyboard, and now
there's guitars and a lot of things that make it different, but it's
Mozzy: I agree, the songs have punch to
Mozzy: As for the song-writing, is it you,
Erik, that is the main writer?
Erik: I guess I am the main writer, but we've
written most of the stuff together. I always write with different
people, as I think it's nice to write with others. Even if I do most
of the writing, I write different with different people. If we two
sit down and write a song it's going to be different than if I write
with someone else. (Jeff): And Erik pretty
much sends me
I'd say 90 to 95 percent of the melodies are already
there, because he gives me the basic structure of the melody of the
song. When he writes a song he doesn't just write chords underneath,
he's already got the whole vision of what it's going to sound like.
But of course, when I sing it I don't sing it the way Erik would sing
it, so that's kind of where I mould it to put my own style into it.
Plus I wrote a lot of lyrics for this album, compared to the first
one where I did not write any lyrics. So I got to put in my own thoughts
and emotions in some of the songs as well, which I also find important
for the growth of the band. (Erik): I
think that's a big step for us: it sounds more like a band instead
of a project. Even if the first album evolved from a project into
a band, I think the second one is more so. We had a discussion of
what we wanted to do; which songs we liked on the first album, which
we didn't like and so on. We tried to make it sound more W.E.T., so
to speak. So that's a big difference.
Mozzy: Yeah, I would say this one is a bit
Jeff: Well, the good thing is that now that
it's more like a band, the next stage is that we will have a really
bad fight and then we'll break up and in five years we'll get back
together (laughs). (Erik): Yeah, the
drummer is going to come into the song-writing. Actually, Robban (W.E.T.
and Eclipse drummer) asked "maybe I can be involved in the writing
of some Eclipse songs?" I was like "oh no, Robban, you know
when the drummer comes into the song-writing, the band is fucked"
(smiles). (Jeff): (loud laughter) Somebody
tell that to Phil Collins!
As I understand it Erik, you're really into metal as well?
Mozzy: So I guess that influences your writing
for W.E.T., Eclipse and so on, too?
Erik: Yeah. Especially the production. The
songs are really poppy, but then you bring that heavy metal thinking
into it. But when you have these melodies anything will be very poppy
and melodic. (Jeff): I think there is
a nice balance. When it has a really heavy undertone, you still have
the overall song itself; you have the melodies, a hook and something
you want to sing along to. So it doesn't matter that it's heavy underneath,
because the song is still soaring and is still taking you where it's
supposed to take you. Whether it's heavy or poppy, the song is still
there. You have that edge to it that maybe at the festival we're playing
tomorrow (Metallsvenskan, a metal-oriented festival), they won't throw
knives at us (laughs). (Erik): We discussed
Journey with Dean Castronovo as a drummer before, and we preferred
Journey with him because he gives it that edge. Otherwise, I think
it's too light. He gives it that hard rock edge, which makes it a
better band for me.
Mozzy: Your new album with W.E.T. has received
great reviews. Were you confident ahead of the recording and the release?
Jeff: We stopped thinking about it. Of course,
there was big pressure to follow up such a great first album. On the
other hand, if you think too much, the album is going to sound calculated,
like we thought too much. One of the things we spoke about early on
was "don't think about it, just do what you do". And we
do what we do, and we know what it's supposed to sound like when we
do it together. We already proved that with the first album. So we
did not think about it and it was a great result from that.
(Erik): Yeah, I've read very few bad reviews.
Maybe some. (Jeff): From the ones we
forgot to pay (smiles). (Erik): Yeah
(laughs). And it went to number one in the Swedish hard rock charts
as well. "We're number one!" It was amazing. When was the
last time a melodic rock band were there?
Mozzy: About the lyrics, you wrote a lot
of them for this album, Jeff. I sat down a couple of days ago and read
all the lyrics while I listened to the album, and it struck me that there
is a really positive tone to the lyrics, like in Rise Up and Learn To
Live Again, and so on.
Jeff: Yeah, overall it is. There is actually
a song, Still Believe, which had a negative side of what's happening
in the world. It's about gang shootings and stuff like that, a lot
of negative things that are going on. As you said, we tried to take
that negativity and turn it around, and show that there is something
to dream of. There is hope, ´there is a pot of gold at the end
of the rainbow´, type of thing. And I think we tried to stay
on a positive side, because there is already enough negativity around
us. This is happy music, in a general sense, so I don't think we're
really interested in doing something that is too dark or something
that is going to make somebody go shoot themselves (laughs). (Erik):
I think the start of the lyrics, especially on the first album, was
thanks to a friend of mine, Miqael (Persson). He is always writing
these positive lyrics, it's impossible for him to write about something
bad. But it always turns out good in the end.
(Jeff): He's like Steven Spielberg. The
happy ending. (Erik): Yeah. (Jeff):
And in Brothers In Arms, you know, it's the same kind of thing. It's
about the state of the world today, and if we bond together we can
get through all this shit. (Erik): It
can be difficult, but if you can get the listener in just some kind
of feeling of what the song is about then it's good. (Jeff):
Yeah. Two of the lyrics on the album I actually wrote about Marcel
(Jacob). It's Living On The Run and Shot. Both of those I based on
what he might have been thinking before he took his own life. And
again, I took the negative side of what he might have been going through,
and tried to put a different spin on it to say that there is another
way out, another way around than what he ended up doing. So it's
you know, I try to take real-life situations and things that happen
in my life, that I see, and my personal experiences. I think the best
lyrics come from that. You can easily write about something that is
happening that you're getting information from TV or the news or something,
but if you actually live it, you can dig a little deeper emotionally
behind the lyrics.
Mozzy: Interesting. I have to read the lyrics
Jeff: Yeah! And the funny thing is, with Living
On The Run, when I first heard it I was like "oh my god, this
is the Talisman song that never existed!" To me, as soon as I
heard the first riff I thought it sounded like a Talisman song. That's
why it was natural I wrote it about somebody that was in that
it came to me in that sense. "It sounds like a Talisman song,
therefore I'm going to write about something that had to do with Talisman".
And it worked out great.
Erik: When I did the riff, I was like "oh,
it sounds like Talisman, but that's ok, because we have the singer
from Talisman. We can get away with it!" (Jeff):
Mozzy: Speaking of Talisman, some reissues
of the albums came out a while ago.
Jeff: Well, we are not really too involved
in that. It's Christer Wedin that is responsible for these re-releases.
He was the president of our label from the second album until the
fourth of fifth album. He was involved with us because he had his
own label and we were structured with him, in Stockholm. He was one
of Marcel's best friends, and part of Marcel's letter that he left
behind before he took his own life was exactly that: he said that
he wanted Christer to take care of all the business, and make sure
that we were taken care of; the rest of us, as a band. We've known
him for so many years and we trust him as much as Marcel did. So he
decided he was going to buy all the rights back and put everything
in one Talisman camp. We got all the rights back for all the albums,
the videos and everything that has to do with the band is now all
in one camp. (Erik): So you've got everything?
Cool! (Jeff): Yeah. He got a cease and
desist for any future releases from anything else that
a lot of different companies, a lot of Mickey Mouse-deals here and
there, and he stopped them all and brought it all back home. So that's
why he wants to release it just to show that it's all in one family
now, as opposed to "oh, what's this issue, or this reissue?"
It's one of the reasons we did this.
You did a tribute gig with Talisman a couple of years ago.
Jeff: Yeah, well that was more of a memorial
gig, after his funeral. We haven't done the proper one yet, we're
discussing doing it next year, because it will be the five-year anniversary
since he passed, and he would have been 50 years old, so
kind of a milestone, and next year is also my 30th anniversary as
a singer and artist. So we're kind of putting all these milestones
together and planning something big next year.
Mozzy: So there will not be any new music
Jeff: I don't think so, I'm not really interested.
Now I understand people like Queen, for instance, when they don't
want to continue. I'm not comparing myself or ourselves to the size
and the grandiose of Queen and Freddie Mercury, but I can see why
they don't want to release new stuff with a singer that sounds like
him just for the sake of doing it. It either has to be right or I'm
not interested, and that's how I am. Just because we have these surviving
members, I don't want to do it just to bastardise the name and make
money. We can all do that with our own careers. The only thing I would
be interested in doing is like the guys from Thin Lizzy have done;
to get back on the road. We have such a body of work that I'm so proud
of, you know, that I would love to go back out and do it someday.
Mozzy: So it will be your 30th anniversary
next year, Jeff. What are your thoughts on that?
Mozzy: Yes, I was little then of course,
but I remember that, and it's 30 years ago now. Quite amazing
Jeff: Yeah. So there are a few things we're
discussing on my solo front that might be happening next year. Again,
I'm speaking prematurely now because it's all ideas and whether they
happen or not
I would like them to happen. You know, you can
only celebrate one milestone when it happens, and I don't know if
will be here doing this stuff when it's 40 years, so
Well, you never know. Look at the old bands, they're still doing it.
Mozzy: You have an autobiography coming
out as well, right?
Jeff: It's already out. It's out on e-book,
you know. That's the status right now. It's not really an autobiography;
it's more of a biography of my career. It talks about all the sessions,
all the albums, bands, projects - everything that I've ever done.
It's all in there: from demos that I did when I was 14 years old until
the Rise Up album by W.E.T. So it's very complete, and it's really
for the Jeff Scott Soto aficionado; for the nerds who want to know
everything: background singing on this thing, and that thing's that's
not released, that no-one has ever heard of, and so on. So it's everything
So in that sense, it's cool, but the autobiography
really waiting on that one. To do a proper autobiography, you naturally
throw people under the bus, because if you're going to do it, you
want to do it truthfully. You want to speak the truth, and I'm not
one to sugar-coat things; I don't want to make it all nice, pink and
fluffy because life is not all that. But sadly, when you're talking
about things that happen in your life, it might hurt other people's
careers, or their feelings. So naturally, I would probably hold off
on something like that. I don't even think I would want my mother
to read some of the things
Mozzy: From the days with Yngwie, perhaps?
Jeff: Exactly. I'd rather wait until when I'm
in my 50´s or even 60´s to do something where I can actually
talk about things and get it out of my system, finally. I'm not really
interested to do it now, just to sell some books.
Mozzy: I got the Yngwie book by Anders Tegner
some time ago, but I haven't read it yet. I also went to a seminar where
he talked about it, and he showed some great pictures too.
Jeff: Oh, yeah! I read Anders' book on the
way here, on my Ipad. I wanted to see the sections I submitted. He
got a couple of things wrong: he said I moved from Puerto Rico to
Los Angeles, but I'm only Puerto Rican by family. I'm not from there,
I was born in Brooklyn, New York, and we moved to California when
I was eight.
Mozzy: Ok. So, that was all I had. Thanks
so much, guys!
- Jeff: Ok, great! (Erik):
See also: review
of the gig the same night