A CONVERSATION WITH TOMAS ANDERSSON OF CORRODED
Defcon Zero isn’t just Corroded’s first new album in five years – it’s also their first release for Despotz Records, which has opened brand new possibilities for Corroded and given them the firepower to further strengthen their position – both nationally and internationally – picking up right where ‘State of Disgrace’ left off without missing a beat.
“The goal with this album is the usual – complete world domination!” singer/guitarist Jens Westin explains with a hint of mischief in his voice. While we’ll never know if he’s taking himself completely seriously with that statement, the way the band approached the material on Defcon Zero gives good measure that his words may very well ring true. The band spent six months holed up in Ninetone Records studio self-producing the new album (aside from “A Note To Me” which was produced by Pontus Frisk), and delivering eleven tracks of pure aggression combined without losing any of their melodic approach. “We worked solely within the band this time as we entered this process, with only some raw ideas without any preconceptions. From there on everybody contributed. The creative process was based on our live performances and we had tremendous fun while recording” Westin comments.
As far as the lyrical content on Defcon Zero, Westin expresses, “When it comes to the lyrics I want everyone to make up their own opinion to what the songs are about. I think that you can compare it to reading a book, and after that look at the screen version. You are mostly a bit disappointed because the characters don’t look like they did in your own mind.”
In the past, the band brought focus to themselves by creating music for the globally popular video game Battlefield, and writing background music for the television show “Expedition Robinson” (aka “Survivor”). “It’s almost impossible to understate the importance of these two possibilities that we had in terms of PR. When it comes to “Expedition Robinson”, we went from absolutely nothing to a household name in Sweden. And the same goes for Battlefield play4free, but in a much broader spectrum in terms of countries and exposure.”
Promoting the release of the band’s new album, I had the opportunity to have a healthy discussion with guitarist Tomas Andersson. I admitted that I was curious that after the excellent PR opportunities Corroded had already achieved what had prompted them to decide to hook up with a record label in Despotz records. Tomas surprised me by stating that it was actually one of the label owners that had approached them rather than vice versa. They were already contracted at that time, but kept in touch. When the band took the decision to leave Ninetone, it was an easy choice for Corroded to make. The difference with the new label was that it would allow the band to “go worldwide with all the releases. It also was very important for us to have physical albums out, I mean most of the music industry goes into making only digital releases and maybe vinyl or something, but we really wanted to go out to everyone who still enjoys a good CD or a good vinyl.” The delay in eventually signing to the label-was tied up in contract legalities, which had to be addressed and worked out before they could move on. The fact that the label were also based in Sweden where the band are from was also a contributory factor.
Corroded also needed to have someone who could help the band with the PR side of the business, the good interviews, and radio shows. Despotz had the connections, and to date the partnership appears to be working well for both parties concerned. I was actually quite surprised that with the band’s longevity and successful chart placings, that this support team wasn’t already well established. Tomas admitted that sometimes the choices that the band had made in the past hadn’t quite worked out as planned. The band’s success appeared to have surprised the former label and “they never really had the time or money or connections to keep up I think.” Another positive with their new label was the fact that they also offered the band tour support (not quite the given that people would assume from a record label deal). Tomas explained that the band realized that by only staying in their home country, it would greatly restrict their market. In addition it was also very hard to make a living solely from Swedish fans even with playing regularly live. One target that he wanted was to tour the UK/Europe. They had previously toured Europe with Airborne but hadn’t actually played on the UK dates. Before Tomas had joined the band they had actually played the UK. He realized that being big in Sweden wasn’t enough and that they actually needed to spread their wings further afield. “So we need to get the good tours, we need to be supporting the right bands. So yes we really need your support to make them happen and Despotz are totally into that. They totally know that Sweden isn’t the only market for us and to make everybody happy and in the end make some money out of this and albums, we need to get out and that’s something they are willing to invest in and that was crucial for us to the label we were going to sign with.”
My research had indicated that Jens from the band, like many musicians these days, worked a second job as a music teacher. It seems that it was increasingly difficult to sustain a full time career from the music industry. Tomas confirmed that indeed that sadly this was true. “Yes we all got other jobs. I quit my day job a couple of years back and managed so to speak to live on music, it was the best of times, but right now we all got a full time job actually, we’ve got two full time jobs. I mean the band takes a lot of time, it doesn’t pay enough just yet, so we need to have a job to pay the bills.”
Surely that must be extremely frustrating for an artist to make or seem to make a few steps forward only to then subsequently have to restart afresh. Tomas agreed stating that the band are all very determined, admitting that many other bands would have already quit. They had faith in their own ability and retained a positive mental attitude that eventually all the hard work would pay off.
Corroded are currently promoting a new album release, so I wondered if the new label and positive mental attitude had directly impacted on the album recording itself. Tomas informed me that it had been recorded while the band was with their former label. So no feel good associated factor then? It does however mark the recording debut with Corroded for Tomas. Their former label owner had not liked the change in direction and basically left the band to its own devices during the recording process. Not being technical experts they just learned “on the job” so to speak as they progressed with the recording process. Tomas was happy to share the band’s work methods with me.
“Yes, that’s exactly how it worked. Back then we had Peter with us as well, he was the original founder of Corroded, he jumped ship a couple of years ago before the album come out. But he was in for the whole album process, and me and Jens and Peter who are the guitarists, who were the guitarists, we played … of course we came with the riffs first, I mean we always have a riff first whenever we come with a song idea or something it will always come in the end. But the important thing about this is we jammed the record. We started out with a couple of ideas, we arranged it into I don’t know about 13 songs or something like that, and then we recorded it, we listened to it, and we could pick out the parts we didn’t like and we started working on the songs again. A couple of new songs came in and a couple of the old ones got out and everything and then when we had recorded the second time, we listened to it again. And then it became what it is today the third time we recorded it, it sounds like it does today.” He was very keen to stress that songs were recorded completely live with all band members being present old school actually in the studio at the same time.” This natural approach is in total contrast to many bands in modern times who instead swap audio files through the internet. I certainly personally prefer the fresh transfer of ideas and creativity with a band jamming so to speak in the same room. It’s difficult for the band members geographically to actually meet up but they were prepared to conquer any travel issues as apart from pre tour rehearsals for a couple of shows a year they otherwise only meet when Corroded are out actually playing shows.
I always find that it is difficult for musicians to single out individual tracks following the recent release of an album. So it also proved when I put that question to Tomas. Instead of picking particular songs he instead preferred to focus on the overall positivity of how much he still actually enjoyed it. The album artwork was devised by the well known artist Tomas Lacke. Tom also had much more than just a new musician role on the album as he was also responsible for the initial album artwork idea. I returned to asking him again in an attempt to press him to pick a particular album track as a favourite.” I can hear the songs, yes. But I still love them all I think. I think Retract and Disconnect is a song that really … I really like the groove, it’s got great melodies that I’m really, really proud of so I think Retract and Disconnect. If I have to pick one song that would be the one. And also I like Carry Me My Bones because it’s kind of different to what we used to do, it’s very long, you’ve got all this acoustic and piano stuff in it, and that brought in another element when initially I wrote the lyrics for the song, so that’s another favourite.”
Returning to his art I was keen to find out if he had actually solely created the album cover. It was a famous Swedish artist however responsible for the final piece. Tomas though had created a personal artistic representation of each album track which he had showed at a fans event to promote the album release. “They could buy them, so now I have two paintings left and I’m selling some prints, smaller prints as well. This was for the fans, so I’m really glad that the fans got to enjoy it.”
Songs only come alive in a live setting so Tomas informed me that the band would be heading out on the festival season including some major ones including Sweden Rock. He explained that Corroded wanted to try to get a couple of European tour support slots which would allow the band to finally get to break into different countries and markets. Tomas summed up “that’s the end goal of everything you do, is to come out and play live for arena audience. And I mean we had a great run the last time with Airbourne, we got a really good support from all the fans, well their fans actually. They really liked us, so we have a lot of European fans and we want to get out to play for them all of course.”
In conclusion, I feel that the Corroded album illustrates quite a diversity of sound and is currently on repeat in my sound system. As I receive a lot of music on a daily basis the fact that it is still being regularly listened to even after completing this interview a few weeks ago is just recommendation. Go and experience yourself — you will not be disappointed.