THE GUESTS might overstay their well in some cases but not this time. These are the ones you don’t want to leave. Anders Ekdahl ©2018
Was it hard to come up with a name? What does the name mean to you? How important is it to have the right name?
-It was not extremely hard. Initially we were searching for a name that was in the vein of The Sisters of Mercy, or Fields of the Nephilim, or The Smashing Pumpkins. I came up with “The Guests”, then our former bass player suggested to add “Unholy” (this is because he liked the song “Unholy” by KISS, as far as I remember). We thought it was cool, and suited to our state of mind and our music very well. And that’s how we started in 2002. Later, when time passed, we decided that “unholy” was somehow restrictive and did not really represent the band’s sound and image anymore, so we decide to shorten to “The Guests”. It is a universal name – you can play any style and call yourself “The Guests”. You are free!
That’s what I think is important for a band name. If you plan your band in long term, you should always be aware that musical tastes change over time, so from my point of view it is good to select a more neutral name. It may seem bland if compared with “Anal Cunt” or “Cannibal Corpse” or whatever, but if tomorrow you decide to play jazz, you will not be bothered.
Who would say have laid the foundation for the kind of sound you have? Who are your heroes musically and what have they meant to you personally and to the sound of your band?
-Well I have listed some of them above. Initially we wanted to be like The Sisters of Mercy. We all were enamored with their sound, and we are still. Then of course we have other influences, like Bauhaus, or The Chameleons, or even Paradise Lost (which I would consider as a derivative from the Sisters if we speak of influences). And on the other hand, we have bands from the grunge era like Nirvana or The Smashing Pumpkins, which have not a huge influence, but still were/are cool and impossible to bypass by people of our generation. So we’re a mix of all that!
When you play slow do you have to think differently arranging the music than if you play faster and vice versa?
-Interesting question. We always think more or less the same way. Maybe one thing you should keep in mind when writing slow pieces is try to avoid too much distortion and power chords, as this is an easy way to fall into shitrock territory. So you have to take care of synths, or guitar effects, maybe some harmonization. Whilst on the other hand you can play with simple chords and strumming on a faster song, and if it’s good, it should work well.
Will your music work in a live environment? What kind of stage environment would best suit your music; a big stage or a small club?
-I think our music works just fine live. It is obviously different, as we have a drummer for our live setup, and therefore the sound is less coldwave and more energic, maybe more punk. So when we play live we crush you to dust with heavy metal, but you still recognize our songs, and they still sound good (well, we think they sound good). So no need to worry. If you like our records, you will like our show. Satisfaction guaranteed (almost).
As for the environment, I would say we stand in the middle. We played big stages (not stadiums obviously), and we played in bars with no stage at all. Neither felt amazing (but of course a big stage is still 100x better). I think we fit well in medium sized clubs. But it should be real clubs made for live music. Not bars. I really hate playing in bars. Unfortunately we have to, sometimes. Also I hate when another band is playing in a bar when I decided to have a drink. But that’s another story.
It is very hard to be 100% satisfied. Everybody seems to be disappointed with something they have released. Is there something that you in hindsight would have done differently on this your latest recording?
-You can never be 100% satisfied of course! But our latest recording is closer to the sound we wanted to achieve than we have ever done. Maybe we could have added some tricks here and there, like double tracking the vocals, recording a true bass guitar, etc… But overall it’s in line with what we wanted to do.
Promotion can be a bitch. Even today with all different platforms it can be hard to reach out to all those that might be interested in your music? What alleys have you used to get people familiarized with your band?
-We are not very good promoters. I still believe that once you have written and recorded a song, then basically your job is done, and somebody else has to pick up with promotion etc.. Apparently this is not the way it works today. I’m not complaining or anything, we have a label which takes care of our latest release, so it’s available pretty much everywhere.
But another thing is that with computers, making music became so easy. And everyone now has internet to promote it. And then, the less you spend time writing music, the more you have time to promote it. So it’s adverse selection in a sense. Therefore, we are all drown in oceans of bad music.
To me art work can be the difference between bust or success. What to you is a great front cover? What should a cover have to make it great?
-I agree with you. Several times I bought a release only because of its artwork (well, I knew more or less the genre, but bought the CD without listening).
On the other hand, sometimes the music is great but somehow the cover is so bad (or simply does not fit in the whole picture that you are trying to draw for yourself) that you want to listen to it less. We act in a style where atmosphere is really important. To catch a good vibe in the studio is a thing. But a cover has to support the atmosphere of the release. And by the way the same applies to a song name. A badly chosen song name can ruin the atmosphere just as well.
Do you feel that you are part of a national scene? Is a local/national scene important for the development of new bands?
-We are definitely part of the national scene. We were among the first Russian bands in early 2000’s to intentionally try to play gothic rock, and actually succeed in doing so. At that time local scene was really important for bands like us.
Now times have changed, the local scene is more dead than alive. But it is a general statement which has been valid for guitar music several years already.
I could just be me but I got the feeling that the live scene is not what it used to be. Could be that more and more people use the net to discover bands instead of going out and supporting new bands live. What is you experience with the live scene?
-Besides a general lack of interest for rock music that we are have been experiencing for 5 – 7 years, I think less and less people really follow bands as it used to be 10 or 20 years ago. Now it is not uncommon to have a “favorites” playlist with 1-2 songs per artist. Or even further, you don’t bother choosing an artist, you just pick up a genre and listen to a random playlist online. There is so much music out there that less people are interesting to listen full albums or even take time discover a band’s discography.
Of course when you know 1 or 2 songs of a band, you will probably not be interested in going to their show.
What does the future hold?
-Well maybe there is actually future for bands like us. I notice that gothic rock and post punk are becoming trendy again, with bands like Cold Cave, Drub Majesty and the likes. So let’s say that the future probably holds a lot of gigs and releases. By the way we will be releasing our new EP in October. It will be called “Like The Rain”, check it out.