Interview conducted March 5 2022
Interview published March 22 2022
"Inspiration is amazing when it happens, but inspiration
is also for amateurs."
Swedish heavy metallers Wolf put
out their new record Shadowland on April 1st. In early March the band
played live in Stockholm for the first time in years and Metal Covenant
captured this fortunate opportunity to talk with guitarist, vocalist and
main man Niklas Stålvind.
An interview with bass player Pontus Egberg was
published on March 12th.
Niklas Stålvind - guitars, vocals
Simon Johansson - guitars
Johan Koleberg - drums
Pontus Egberg - bass
Tobbe: A new record, Shadowland, is out
on April 1st. Tell me a little bit about it.
Niklas: Well, it honestly feels really good,
I must say. A new band, and this time the entire new lineup has been
around for the whole process of the album. The last album, Feeding The
Machine, was very personal and very dark, both because of what happened
around the world, as well as that I used it as a long therapy session
for things I had to deal with.
it was three years of therapy when I did that record. But this record
is more, like, I just wanted to write songs, just for the joy of music.
This record contains more, well, how shall I put it, mystique, like
more looking out at space and looking into your soul.
Tobbe: Your music has, naturally, developed
during all these albums over all these years. It's recognizable, yet I
think that the most recognizable factor of Wolf is actually your voice.
That's how I see it anyway.
Niklas: Well, I guess I think so too. If I think
as a musician, my rhythm guitar playing style, like my way of playing
guitar, and Wolf's riffs are also an integral part of the band's sound.
But I think that's not what people hear, but it's my voice, and, well,
it sounds like it sounds like, and it's not always so easy to work with,
but it's very unique anyway. [Laughs]
Tobbe: So, there is a Wolf sound, and by
that, do you believe that you have to find yourself inside some sort of
frame as you're composing?
Niklas: Well, it's the way it has become, as
soon as we had found our way. We started in '95 and then you weren't
allowed to play heavy metal. I tried to create something new, but it
just sounded awful. So we wrote two songs, In The Shadow Of Steel and
Electric Raga, as good old honest heavy metal, and we found out immediately
that that was what we would do.
We wanted to play the music we enjoyed, you know,
and then it has developed out of that, like from being a band with clear
influences of Maiden, Priest and Mercyful Fate to maybe on the fourth
album, The Black Flame, where I think we really had found Wolf, you
know. And then we have explored further. We have our Wolf sound, and
then we have kind of put up rules, but then you explore and in the end
you personally feel that you just want to break away from rules like
"This is Wolf. This we can't do. We must do it like this.".
The song Shadowland I wrote because I thought
that I wanted to do something completely different than Wolf. Because
that was in the final stages of the last record and that was a very
tough period. Tough recording process, people left the band, new members
came in, and even before the record was done I thought "I must
do something different. I just have to be creative, write songs, and
do something that is not Wolf. I wanna do something more psychedelic,
maybe use the Mellotron, and just do things that I can't do with Wolf.".
so I wrote Shadowland and after that I wrote another three songs. And
then we started touring with the new lineup, and the record was out,
and everything was just fine. So I showed those four songs to the other
guys, and at that point I had started to realize in some way that I
had probably written four Wolf songs, and so did they.
I have done the same thing before, like with
the song Rasputin, which I wrote for the exact same reason for about
10-12 years ago, when I wanted to do something else than Wolf and maybe
start a different project just to creatively break out from the cage
which I on my own have built myself into in Wolf.
Obviously I have now fooled myself twice and
I don't know what to do the next time. But it has been a good thing
thinking about doing something different than Wolf, and then I just
do something from my heart, and when you hear the end result, well,
then it sounds like Wolf.
Tobbe: I talked to Jon Schaffer of Iced
Earth, like, 8 years ago and kind of asked him if he had given any thought
to maybe letting his side project Sons Of Liberty sound like something
different, and then he told me something like "Well, it's just the
way I write songs and no matter which name you put on it, it will come
out pretty similar.".
Niklas: Well, that's just what happens, I guess.
When we started out I think a lot of people thought that we had come
up with some smart idea, that we were gonna do the total opposite of
everybody else, and that we were trying to be retro. But it wasn't like
that. We just wrote songs, and my ambition has always been, from day
one, that Wolf is gonna write good songs, you know.
And our natural way of expression is this type
of metal and therefore it doesn't sound contrived. People say, like,
"How are you able to sound so fresh when you play such an old style
of music?" and I go "Well, that is because we don't do this
because it's a wave, and we haven't jumped on a trend, but we are just
Tobbe: Well, the songs are what's most important.
Niklas: Yes, I like to believe so. Well, I have
realized, like, "Maybe I'm wrong?". [Laughs] But in my heart
the songs are everything. Without songs you have nothing. You can have
an image, or you might have a message, or be a political band, or being
good looking, or whatever, but if you don't have the songs then you're
around for a short while and then you'll just be soon forgotten.
Tobbe: I just have to say this with a smile.
No ballads on Shadowland. How about that!
Niklas: It's actually some kind of rule that
we have. It's not natural for us to write ballads. Some buddies say
"Can't you participate in Schlagerfestivalen? (The somewhat archaic
unofficial name for the domestic Swedish qualifying round for the Eurovision
Song Contest)." and I'm like "No, because that just isn't
don't oppose ballads, but, you know, to write a ballad or to write about
love, it just doesn't work for us. I can't stand up and sing that. In
the beginning, when we rehearsed, with the original lineup, we used
to play covers just to warm up, and sometimes we played Summer Of '69
and we just laughed our asses off. Just imagine how weird that song
was with my vocals. It was as wrong as it could possibly be.
Tobbe: It was five and half years between
Devil Seed and Feeding The Machine and now it has only been just over
two years to Shadowland, which actually is the shortest time ever between
two Wolf records. Actually it's just about one week shorter than gap number
two on the list, but still.
Niklas: Oh, really? In the beginning we put out
records every other year.
Tobbe: I actually had a fact check yesterday,
so I'm quite sure, you know. Anyway, what speeded up the process this
Niklas: It was partly because I wrote those
four songs as some kind of do-something-different-process, because that
gave us a good start to build on to begin with. And when the pandemic
was a fact and we were forced to cancel the tour and go home, we just
wanted to make a new record as soon as possible, you know.
Everyone in the band has other jobs and we have
families and so, and if we go out playing, then we have a lot of stuff
to catch up on when we come home with work and family and stuff, and
then on top of that you must find time and peace to write new music,
and that's really hard and everything gets kind of chopped up. But now
we just did one thing. So we wrote everything, recorded it, and mixed
and mastered it during this two year period. It was actually pretty
nice, I must say.
Tobbe: But the record was done and delivered
quite some time ago, I suspect. I mean, we're not talking about two years,
Niklas: No, we're not. We started the recordings
around Easter time two years ago and we finished the recordings about
six months later. So we kind of did it in phases, but we laid the foundation
there. At that point everything was written and then it was just the
bling-bling, the details, and the solos, and stuff like that left. It's
was nice and I think we got a creative boost by having new members in
Tobbe: I guess you also need that creative
boost if considering it has been 23 years since the first album was out
and this is the band's ninth album. So you're actually now a veteran in
the scene. How do you feel about suddenly being that?
Niklas: Well, it feels weird. In one way it feels
like I'm still 23 and, you know, is upon stage for the first time and
think it's just amazing. It has never become just a routine, but on
the other hand getting inspiration or writing new material is sometimes
know, we don't run down the alley and start writing schlager pop or
nu-metal, but we wanna write this kind of music and it is actually quite
a narrow path we're on. So it's challenging to find inspiration to new
songs without repeating yourself, but thanks to Pontus and Johan coming
in, I must say, we got a new injection of energy to the band.
Tobbe: You live in the countryside and might
open land and forests inspire you?
Niklas: Well, my studio is an old stable boy
cottage that is part of our homestead. That's my writing den. But actually
it's like: I go in there, and I get stuck, and then I walk the dog in
the forest, and then everything is let out and the ideas just come to
me. So it's a lot like that. Or when I'm chopping wood or do something
Then I go into the studio and work on it. Inspiration
is amazing when it happens, but inspiration is also for amateurs. It
doesn't work, you know. Like, "Oh, wait a minute. I don't feel
inspired.". It just doesn't work.
Ingmar Bergman once said some great words, which
he stole from someone else, "An artist can only be praised for
his diligence.". That's what he taught his students, and that's
also my own motto, because when something comes to me that I feel is
awesome, then I often feel that I can't credit myself for it and that
I've come up with it, but it's more that I have been disciplined and
then been honest for something that is there and wants to get channeled
So you must kind of turn off your head in some
way and write music from some place else that is not the intellect.
Of course it helps the more musical knowledge you have, and you get
experience and learn how to solve things, but somehow the discipline
to just do it is what counts.
it's very tough when nothing good comes out, but then self-discipline
is even more important. But suddenly things are coming. It's the same
with authors. They can't just sit there and wait for inspiration and
it's like "Sit down in front of your typewriter and get started!".
Tobbe: I just have to ask about The Doomsday
Kingdom. Is that band still alive?
Niklas: We all think that we should do a second
album. The whole band wants to do it. You know, Leif [Edling, bass]
was going to do a solo project and then he hired us musicians. Marcus
[Jidell, guitars] to do pre-production and Leif came with his songs
to Marcus first and then Marcus sent a demo to me with Leif's vocals.
But as we started playing and the songs grew,
we all felt, like, "Wow! This feels like a real band!". I
asked Leif what to say during interviews and he told me to say that
it's a band. But then Candlemass took most of his time again. I have
talked a little bit with Leif, but it's all up to him, because it's
still he who is the band. Although it feels like a band, Leif writes
everything, and he has all the ideas about artwork, and he is actually
doing everything. It's the way he works, you know. [Laughs]
Tobbe: And in the mix he threw in some delusions
of grandeur too by calling himself The Doomfather.
Niklas: Well, Leif is Leif. But it was really
fun to do a project. I have never before experienced that it has been
so easy to record an album. The Wolf albums have been monstrous and
I have almost hit the wall on close to every album. But with Doomsday
Kingdom I had all the material. I got a demo with Leif's somewhat crappy
vocals, which was really great for me because I could understand what
he was looking for and I was able to have so much more freedom to do
my thing, which was what he wanted me to do.
If I would have gotten a demo with a great singer
on it, then it would have been harder for me because it would have shown
me exactly what I would have to do, you know. So it was a very fun project.
We'll see if there will be more. It's up to Leif if he wants to do it.
Tobbe: Might something else come from you
someday? And maybe something that wouldn't be considered metal?
Niklas: Well, it could happen. I started writing
together with a guy named Ragnar Widerberg. Ragnar and I had about five
songs and we were gonna do something that is a little more psychedelic,
yet with my vocals so it will sound pretty metal and Wolf, yet not really
metal and Wolf, if you know what I mean? So we'll see if we ever will
get it together.
won't do a solo record called Niklas Stålvind, but then I will
work with Ragnar or something. He's amazing with coming up with snippets
and has ingenious riffs, but he is not a songwriter, and if I hear something
then it's easy for me to write songs. We work very well together. And
it's really fun too. We will see what might come out.
Tobbe: And what about a side project where
you wouldn't personally sing?
Niklas: I would actually think that that would
be fun. In the very beginning I was a drummer, although I always felt
like a guitarist, really. The reason that I started singing in Wolf
was because there weren't any singers around. I prefer either singing,
or playing guitar. I still think it's fun to play guitar and to be able
to focus on one thing, you know. So I wouldn't have an issue with playing
guitar in a band and being the guitar player and not being the frontman,
you know. Not at all, really.
Tobbe: It's actually quite difficult to
play guitar and sing at the same time.
Niklas: Yes, it's really difficult. Especially
with the songs that Wolf has, where, you know, stuff happens, and there
are odd beats occasionally, and then you're gonna sing a melody that
goes completely against that. Well, it's really messy, you know.
In the beginning I thought that I wasn't gonna
be able to pull it off. But then I started doing it, you know. I saw
an interview with Geddy Lee and he's a genius and sings, you know, pretty
advanced vocals, and he has an extremely advanced bass play, and plays
keyboard, and also with his feet. But he said that it doesn't come naturally
for him, and he needs to practice and get it together in his head and
get everything to function.
And it's the same with me and I have to break
it down into components. And when everything finally gets together then
you just have to preserve it.