» Jeff/Erik - W.E.T.
« back

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.

Mozzy: As you mentioned, your last gig was in January, in Stockholm. It was filmed for a DVD; what's the status there?

  • Erik: It's been delivered, so that's a good feeling. There are some things left for the cover, we need to take some photos.

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… (Jeff): 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. (Erik): 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?

  • Jeff: It's all covers tonight (laughs). (Erik): We had to do every song that would fit live on the DVD. We had 19 songs - so many songs. We have shortened it a bit now because I think 19 songs is a bit long. We took off some songs that we felt we could take off. But it's kind of the same setlist.

Mozzy: 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…Victorius. (Erik): 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…we 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.

Mozzy: 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 great!"

Mozzy: I agree, the songs have punch to them.

  • Jeff: He (Erik) is one of the few people I trust (Erik laughs). Even if he says "I've completely changed the song", I will be "OK, I'm sure it's gonna be good". (laughs).

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 more consistent.

  • 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!

Mozzy: As I understand it Erik, you're really into metal as well?

  • Erik: Yeah, I'm more into metal and hard rock. I'd pick W.A.S.P. over Journey any day (Jeff laughs). I like Journey, but I can't stand listening to a whole album. Sometimes it can be too… polite.

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 again now.

  • 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.

Mozzy: Cool.

  • 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): (laughs)

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… there's 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.

Mozzy: 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… it's 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 from Talisman?

  • 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?

  • Jeff: It's my personal anniversary, yeah. I started professionally with Yngwie Malmsteen in 1984. So in 2014 it's been 30 years, Jesus…

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…

Mozzy: Well, you never know. Look at the old bands, they're still doing it.

  • Jeff: True.

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 in there.

    So in that sense, it's cool, but the autobiography…I'm 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? (Erik laughs)

  • 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): Cool, thanks.

See also: review of the gig the same night

Related links: