I have heard of The Emperor’s New Clothes but I am not familiar with THE SHADELESS EMPEROR. But that will change after this interview. Anders Ekdahl ©2017
When you release a new recording does it feel like you have to start a new a couple step back because so much time has passed and so many new bands have entered the scene since the last album or do you just pick up where the last one left?
-Since it’s the first album we released, we had the majority of ideas already practiced, pre-produced and rehearsed a lot. Additions and experimentations occurred in between but the main ideas were already crafted. We are very susceptible to change and influence. So if new records and bands happen to impress us in any way, I am sure that they will affect our flow of ideas as well. There is a blend in general. But we always move forward and more focused than before, especially now that we write new material. We do not have a helpless syndrome at all with all the vastness in Metal Nowadays. On the contrary, we are very happy that people are creative and what they produce along the way. Beautiful question by the way.
Do you have an aesthetic that you keep true to from recording to recording (i.e. stylistically same art work, lyrical theme etc.)?
-Yes indeed there is a theme we like to demonstrate, both lyrically and musically. I can’t really say much, because art is fluent and ever changing after all, but at the moment we want all the works to focus, on the influence and impact that the elements of nature have on things. Every work will have two major participating elements whereas all the rest will coexist and all of them will affect, in a smaller magnitude, the concept, lyrics, music and aesthetic. For instance, in Ashbled Shores, there are two key elements taking part. Shadows and Flames, meaning Darkness and Fire. Those two co-exist with water, wind, earth, light and all the other sub-elements around us. But those you’ll mainly feel, see, hear, read about in the album, are the major two ones aforementioned. Artworks will be inspired by the aesthetics of the co-existence of those two main elements in every album to follow. As Ashbled Shores shows, the main chromatic elements are black and white, whereas the only coloured feature is the flames on the boat. Frankly, I can go on forever in regards of the nature’s elements and how big an influence are in our work.
How hard is it to come up with lyrics to the songs? When do you know that you have the right lyrics?
-It’s not an easy process, that’s for sure. Sometimes they just come. Sometimes I “venture on a quest” to find the right story to share. Reading is an activity that helps a lot. Travelling and wandering around nature are very important to extract the important materials and reanimate them into lyrics or music. Also, music helps a lot. You know you have the right piece when you are already building up music around it. We usually start with the lyrics first and then adorn them with the suitable music. Sometimes we will assemble a track having a story in mind even if the lyrics do not exist just yet.
But the main factor that keeps us venturing towards finding the appropriate lyrics and music is storytelling. I believe every musician is a Storyteller. People forget this nowadays. You are an explorer in your fantasia, you drift away as a voyager in your dreams, where in there lays almost every little secret and untold story. Stories that you weaved or you’ve learned, read, seen or maybe you’ve been told or shared with. You are obliged to share this story with others as an artist. That’s what I believe. You don’t see that too often nowadays unfortunately.
I am old school. I like really cool album covers but from what I’ve gathered some bands tend to spend less on art work because people don’t buy records, they download songs. What are your feelings on this?
-I am old school as well! I NEED a good artwork. What’s the purpose on creating music if you are not capable of supporting your music with the suitable aesthetic and art? I really appreciate the effort a band puts on music, lyrics and art. In most of the cases, the Front Cover attracts people to listen to an album, they would never have heard or get in the effort of doing so. Personally, when I see a good Front Cover I will straight forwardly listen to the album. If I like what I hear, I will buy it with no second thoughts. After all you always judge a “book by its cover” because by judging it, you will end up experiencing the interior of it. You have an opinion after that experience. That’s what matters in the end. A good artwork is as IMPORTANT as the lyrics are in music. Unfortunately, as you stated, people will do something for exposure and not because they want to express and share their feelings. People are not that eager to go out on that venture I mentioned earlier. They will visit a bar for pleasure, instead (figure of speech). People should at least spend the time and money for a good cover art. Downloading music is just a motive, a cause, not the reason. The reason is that people do not really find art important, and they do not value it as much as they should. Good artwork, even in digital form, should always be welcome.
Do you ever feel that you get misinterpreted because of the music you play?
-Sometimes yes. We don’t really mind though. People will ask why don’t you have clean vocals or “your music is nice, but I can’t understand what are you talking about”. We may be playing Melodic Death, Extreme Metal, but above anything else, we are artists. And unfortunately you can’t please everyone. But there will definitely be people out there who will share with you the same ideas and emotions and your music will attract these people.
I get the feeling that fans that are true to a band, is a lost thing with the easy access to music these days. Do you feel that this is a bad thing or are there any positive aspects of it at all?
-You will not find bands nowadays with as big an impact as the “bands of Olde” have. Therefore people will still be fired up on the upcoming shows of Metallica or Iron Maiden. Which makes total sense. The unfortunate thing is that new bands will never truly experience this glory nor the fame of these Classic old Bands. There are many new bands Like Gojira, or Opeth, or Mastodon that have built their names in equality with all these major bands, but In order to make such a big impact and to build up a huge fanbase around you, you need to be a Game changer. Not many bands do that nowadays. And there are a million of bands out there. That’s not necessarily a very bad thing, but musicians will still need that small recognition and acknowledgement in order to participate in larger stages, venues, and festivals. There are times that you question the existence of your band and your music entity due to the millions of bands in the game. That’s at least overwhelming and tiresome. A few people even abandon their musical careers due to this fear of recognition and the fear that all their efforts will be in vain.
Can’t see anything bad here, in my opinion. More bands mean more creativity. More bands, more emotions. And you get to increase your collection in an indefinite amount of records. Yes there are indefinite “chuckles”.
Back in the days you had to trade tapes if you wanted to hear new unheard of bands. Today you are just a click away from discovering new acts. Do you feel that this development in some ways will do more harm than good in the long run, that it will eventually kill off music as we know it?
-Another brilliant question! There is so much controversy on this subject. I won’t be able to answer the question with a clear mind as I am a victim of this one click-away behaviour. I tend to listen to bands from Spotify and Youtube rather than purchasing the album first and then have a proper solid original reaction on the album itself. I used to do that when I was younger. Unfortunately I was not around in the tape trading era (well I was but I was very young) to experience the true difficulty of finding new music. I can see and understand how beautiful this must was, with all the passion that people had on collecting new music and experiencing new ideas and emotions. That’s what we lost. The difficulty of finding and searching, thus experiencing the spoils of your efforts. Tape trading was not just a past time activity, it was a way of life. Even 10 years ago people were more active on sharing CDs than today. Buying that new Arch Enemy record, a band you never heard of before, listening to it for the first time and feeling a different breeze of Sweden all over your face. That’s what new generations may never experience. On the other hand, as a musician, we ought to thank the Internet for being around and helping us out spread our wings. It made our lives easier and fun. You can listen to your favourite and new artists in just a click. Save them all under the same folder or playlist and come back again for more. That’s not bad at all. There is enough for everyone. Although, a true fan always buys the physical copy. I do if I love what I see and hear. That’s the way it works nowadays I think. First you listen and then you buy.
I get the impression that today’s touring scene is most made up of festivals or multiple band line-ups. Is it harder/tougher to tour today?
-There are limits and requirements. You need a solid budget to play around your country or go abroad. It’s nor tougher or easier. It is competitive. As discussed earlier there are too many bands around and thus the scene is quite strict on which bands will end up playing in festivals or even supporting bigger names around your area. Due to the financial crisis and the crisis in the music Industry as well, many bands form big line ups and tour together for ridiculously cheap prices or on the other hand ridiculously expensive tickets. As far as the band’s plans are, we will see in the near future in regards with that.
If you were to decide how would the stage show look like?
-Hmm… Nice one. I haven’t thought of it thoroughly. We are currently working on our performing image. I can’t give out enough info on that just yet. As for the background stuff a few pyrotechnics and nice lighting would be lovely *laughs*. Can’t afford them yet. So we will stick with a good solid performance, some banners and a lot of love and passion.
What does the future hold?
-Loads of Work!! The future may be dim but A few Shows around Greece for now to promote Ashbled Shores, a forthcoming second release and a few more shows, is what we currently have in mind. We may travel abroad as well soon. Hope to see you one day. Take care and Enjoy music and art. Support your local Acts and Artists and read Battlehelm.com. Wonderful Questions my friend thanks again. It was a pleasure.