FINAL COIL is a band that impresses me with every new album. Anders Ekdahl ©2020
We live in strange times right now. How does the whole world shutting down affect you as a band?
-It’s a real mess, and it’s difficult to articulate because, of course, everyone’s caught up in this thing; some to a very serious extent and some less so. In the great scheme of things, the effect on bands is nothing compared to those who have become ill, lost loved ones or businesses, but it is difficult for us. On a practical side, we can’t practice at all (except independently), which is incredibly frustrating to a band used to playing and rehearsing regularly. Not being able to play live is a particular issue, not just because most of our merch is sold at shows, but also because playing live is the lifeblood of any rock band.
However, that’s not to say that it’s all bad. I love writing and recording, so I’ve made good use of the time producing new material. It really helps that Rich and I have the same recording software, so we can swap files pretty much seamlessly. So, although the world has stopped, Final Coil is very much continuing and we’re going to have a raft of new material when we’re finally allowed out, blinking into the sunlight!
What was it that made you want to be in a band in the first place?
-Well, although I listened to a lot of music from when I was young, it was the arrival of Nirvana that changed everything for me. Nirvana was the band that made me want to pick up a guitar and play. The music was just so primal, and it spoke to me in a way that nothing had until then. I remember getting hold of the Live! Tonight! Sold Out! Video and just wanting to capture some of that frenzied energy. I didn’t care about the crowds or anything like that – it was what was happening on stage that was so adrenaline charged. Nirvana redefined music for me and, from that, I discovered Sonic Youth, The Melvins, Mudhoney, Alice in Chains… the list keeps going, but Nirvana started it all.
I so desperately wanted to feel that explosive, untamable, indefinable energy that seemed to blaze from the stage and after that I focused my energies into creating music. It’s a love affair that has lasted right up to the present day.
I am extremely fascinated by people that create things from nothing. How does it work, what triggers you to create new songs and lyrics?
-It’s a really hard question and I tend to find inspiration in so many different things.
Although I have found that literature is a big influence, because reading is such a gateway to the imagination, when writing The World We Left Behind For Others, I focused largely on stories I’d heard from (and about) my grandparents. Reading still played a part, as I filled any gaps with books and articles on history and social / political development, but the album as a whole was very much rooted in the experience of my late grandmother. I’ve often found that having a concept really drives the creative process, so anything can spark creativity, but literature has often provided a basis.
Once an idea does start to form, I tend to hear it in a remarkably complete way, so the challenge is to try to translate what I hear in my head into reality. It’s not always easy, either, because if you take a song like Keeping Going, I had to figure out how to create the weird, bifurcated riff at its heart. It’s really fun to do and I fail as often as I succeed, but the one thing I can say with certainty is that, if you try to force the process, it definitely won’t work, so I tend to jump at any song that starts to form in my fevered brain.
What is a studio experience like? How do you handle being together in a small space for a period of time?
-Well, the thing is I love being in the studio. It’s just magical to me. And, having been in the studio on a number of occasions, I still find it magical. Right from the moment you walk into a studio, you can feel something in the air – some sense of expectation about what’s about to happen – and regardless of how mundane a specific task or element may seem to be, there’s still an almost physical sense of excitement that comes with being in the studio. I love everything about it and, if I had the opportunity, I’d happily bury myself in the studio for life.
Perhaps because I record at home, even the aspects that should be tedious, like editing, I just find them fascinating and I have learned so much watching the various engineers with whom we’ve worked. Everything, I think, can be a learning experience and I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to do it, because it’s helped me in my own recording so much and I know that I still have a huge amount to learn.
As for the band experience, you’d imagine that it would have been difficult, given that Rich and I were in a car together all the way over from England (a journey that took two days), in the studio for a full month, and then we had to drive back to the UK at the end – but it was brilliant. We’ve been friends for years, and it was a great chance to reconnect and do something that not many people get to do. Far from finding it stressful, we had the opportunity to camp in the Alps, drink wine in the middle of a river, view some of the most beautiful scenery the world has to offer and listen to endless episodes of the Navy Lark. It was a magical experience and it’s one that I wouldn’t have missed for the world.
How important is the way you portray the band in art work and promo shots etc.?
-It’s essential. If you’re in a band that writes albums, as opposed to a collection of songs that happen to share disc space, then you have to create an entire package. I am incredibly careful over what goes out and I really try to make sure that everything from the artwork to the promo shots and videos adds to the story. I can’t imagine putting all that effort into making a record and then ignoring the visual side.
For the photo shoots on both albums, we worked with the legendary Ester Segarra, who is one of the coolest, nicest people on the planet, and yet an absolute demon behind the camera. She helped us so much and yet, at the same time, she made the experience fun and I very much hope that we will work together again.
In terms of video, we work equally hard. Before each video we discuss some sort of narrative or visual element that we want, and we build it up from there. Jola and I created storyboards for each video, and it took hours, but it was worth it, because everything you see on screen was considered ahead of time. The clip for Convicted Of The Right, in particular, not only involved story boards, but also a shooting script, and a lot of time was spent buying or scrounging all the elements you can see scattered around the squat. Those little details matter to me, and I think they matter to the fans too, and it’s been wonderful to see the positive feedback for the clip.
What would you say influences your lyrics? How important are they?
-Lyrics are amazingly important to our albums and I can honestly tell you that I labour over each song to get the lyrics to flow in the way that I want, whilst expressing the core theme. As our albums tend to be conceptual in nature, it’s a challenge, because the story has to flow across the entire album. So, it’s not just trying to get each individual song right, but also making sure that there’s a narrative that runs effectively throughout the entire piece.
In terms of influences, each album is a little different. Persistence Of Memory was not a concept album as such, although all the songs were linked by themes of communication and what happens when it is lost. The second album is a much stronger assertion of those themes and the narrative structure is that of my grandparents looking back upon their lives and questioning how their actions and experiences influenced the generation that followed. It was inspired both by the socio-political turmoil of Brexit and the death of my grandmother, with whom I was very close, and the idea was both to question how the world had become so divided and to pay tribute to her. It was a hard, hard task to write some of the lyrics, and it was emotionally draining at times, but I believe that the honesty of the lyrics fed into the music, and the feedback I’ve had is that the themes really resonated with a lot of people who listened to the record – as a songwriter, you can’t really ask for any greater compliment than to hear that you’ve managed to take a very personal instance and translate it into something more universal.
I get the feeling that with the change of listening habits individual songs get much more attention. Is the album as relevant today as it was in the 70s and 80s?
-If your idea of relevance is commercial viability, then I would agree that the album has lost its way; but I don’t believe it has fallen as far as people believe in cultural terms. Certainly, the market is skewed towards streaming, but it’s arguable that the same people who stream exclusively today, only bought albums in the past for specific, popular singles, thus artificially boosting sales. Take, for example, the sales of Appetite For Destruction or The Black Album – as much as they’re great records, it’s highly likely that as many people bought them as a result of an unrepresentative single like Nothing Else Matters or Sweet Child O’ Mine and never really listened to the actual albums in any great depth. As such, all streaming has done is to make it easier for those people who were never really that bothered about albums to access the tracks they want more effectively.
So, yeah, I’ve never believed The Album to be dead in artistic terms (after all, it is my preferred medium) and I think there are still a huge number of people out there who believe in, and relate to, the importance of a well-structured album; but the glory days in a commercial sense are almost certainly over.
What does a record label do that you cannot do on your own? How hard is it to let go of the control of what you have created into the hands of a record label?
-The biggest thing that any label brings to the table is perception. A record label does very little, in practical terms, that a band cannot do. Yet, there remains that belief that a signed band somehow has more ‘value’ (it’s up to you as to whether you ascribe commerce or art to the notion of value) than an unsigned one.
There is no doubt in my mind that more people took us seriously as a result of our signing to a label, and I am truly grateful for everything they’ve done for us. But if we hadn’t signed, we’d still be in the studio, we’d still be working with people to get the best art and photography for the covers and we’d still make an effort to get our music to the widest audience possible.
Touring and live gigs are all dead right now. Do you feel that it will all get back to normal once the pandemic is over or has the way we interact changed forever due to Covid-19?
-That’s a million-dollar question isn’t it? Right now, I don’t think there’s enough clarity as to what will happen, especially in the UK where the government has proved to be criminally inept. Clearly, the fallout from Covid-19 in political and economic terms is going to be severe. If you put aside the health issues, you have a massively damaged global economy with a corresponding drop in the disposable income, the closure of venues, a surge in nationalism; with all the resultant issues of visa regulations, racism and xenophobia; and restrictive governmental guidelines (different in each territory) with regards to social distancing. So, people are definitely going to have to get creative in how they deal with this.
What we’re seeing now is essentially fire-fighting, as bands try out a variety of different options of varying quality. In the current climate, fans are willing to accept pretty much anything; but that willingness will slowly decline, and bands will have to reassess how they reach out to their fans. In the short term, I think it’s going to be very difficult for live music to return in the form to which we’re used; but, over time, I have hopes that things will return, if only because I have a hard time believing that a future could exist where live music just doesn’t happen anymore. I guess we’ll just have to keep re-evaluating the situation as things progress. One thing is absolutely certain – on the day live shows return, it’s going to be one hell of a party!
What lies in the future?
-Regardless of what happens in the wider world, we’re writing and recording a new album – a sequel to The World We Left Behind For Others. I can’t give too much detail at the moment, suffice it to say that working on new ways to reach out to our fans and interact with them is the most important thing for us. I’m incredibly proud of our accomplishments to date, but we have a lot still to achieve with Final Coil, and we’re here for the long haul.