What started out as a project in 2012 between members and former members of such distinctive bands like Merauder, Soilwork, At the Gates, Dead Reprise and others, steadily became a full time band with two releases so far and a first tour under their belt. After a well-received 7” EP, “Santa Muerte”, back in 2014, the band started to develop more, went through some minor line-up changes, and eventually released their first full length through the label Demons Run Amok in the summer of 2016, “Through My Darkest Infernal”.
I had the opportunity to interview vocalist Jorge Rosado (Merauder) and drummer Anders Löwgren (Dead Reprise, Prison Riot) before they were about to play their second show ever, which took place in Pori, Finland, on the 18th of March. We talked about the interesting history on how the band was formed, the distance factor between the band members and their upcoming plans.
Interview by Petri Da Costa
Livephotos by Tuomas Saari and promophotos by Therés Stephansdotter
Let’s start off by talking when and how Akani was formed.
Anders: I think it was in 2012. Me and Anders from The Haunted and At the Gates were…I used to work for The Haunted and At the Gates as a drum tech, and we were driving back from Wacken Open Air, just me and him, driving to Sweden and listening to “Master Killer”. Merauder and The Haunted had toured US together, so they had already met. Me and Anders during soundcheck would jam hardcore songs, like Cro-Mags or Hatebreed. So, he said, ‘Let’s do a hardcore demo’. I said that I’d love to do that because he’s one of the best guitar players in the world. We were listening to “Master Killer”, so we were like ‘It’s a long shot, but let’s ask Jorge if he wants to sing’. I got home and texted him on Facebook and he said, ‘Fuck yeah, let’s do it.’ The ball started rolling and I asked Victor [Brandt] from Entombed AD to play bass and we started emailing riffs and songs to each other. I guess in a few months we had four or five songs, and Jorge sent us some demos. So, in the end we had enough good songs to put out the “Santa Muerte” EP, which came out in 2014. To me it was unreal to make music with these people, because I’ve been a huge fan of Merauder, At the Gates, Entombed. We were all friends, but it still was crazy to be in a band with these guys…
Jorge: Especially us being far from each other too, you know? It’s really hard to have a band like that.
Anders: Yeah, the distance factor too, but somehow we managed to do it. I recorded the drums in Örebro, Anders recorded his stuff in his living room, Victor recorded his stuff in his living room. I went to Jorge’s house in between tours, actually the first time I went there was during Christmas. I stayed there for a week and we recorded the vocals, then I sent everything to my studio, it was mixed and suddenly we have a 7” out, and it went sold out in 5 or 6 months. So, we were all like, ‘This could be something’. It was such a fun time writing with these guys.
Jorge: I guess this was kinda like, ‘Let’s try out and see what happens’. Basically, it was like that. If there’s a will, there’s a way. There are other bands out there with members in different parts of the world, and they make it work, so why can’t we? Once we did the demo and then we put the songs, we knew we had something.
Anders: We never talked about doing shows. It was more like, ‘Let’s continue to make more songs’, because the process was so much fun. Then Entombed started writing a new record, At the Gates as well, so Anders and Victor had to obviously focus on that. They had world tours booked and everything. So, we had to get other guys. Me and Daniel Antonsson have been friends for a long time, I used to drum tech for Dark Tranquility. So back then we were already talking about having a band together, we wanted to jam together because we had a good vibe. So, it just hit me that I had to call Daniel, this is it, he will fit perfectly in this band. He had no band then, he had left Dark Tranquillity and also Soilwork. He was kinda working 9 to 5 in his studio and was hungry to write songs, do something different, he had been in metal bands for 20 years. So, to do something more like a crossover, was inspiring to him. Same for me, because with Dead Reprise I always wrote songs on D, 3 chords, simple hardcore shit. But writing songs in B opened a whole new world for me, doomy and heavy riffs, groovy, kinda like Sepultura. The songs we made sounded kinda big, so we wanted a second guitar player, so then I asked Daniel [Cederborg] from Dead Reprise, we had already jammed together, so it was easy. We started to work on the full length, we made 15 songs in about 2 months I think, it was crazy.
Jorge: We all needed something. We all had stuff stored inside of us, we were all doing what needed to be done. I guess this the perfect opportunity. It took a while, but the time was right. Everything happens for a reason, it might take shorter or longer. I mean with Merauder, everything happened quick. When I joined Merauder, they had already 2 albums written, I just had to learn the songs. In 3 months, we got signed and we were touring, so this a different scenario.
Anders: We started from scratch. I mean sure, there has been name dropping around this band, but we are starting from scratch. We work really hard to make this happen and it’s unbelievable that we are all here in the same room and playing shows together.
Jorge: We are not shy to work, man. We rather take our time and do something right, than just rush it. I just don’t want to get out there and play. We all wanna play, but we want something meaningful, you know? Merauder was also meaningful to me, but I didn’t start Merauder. I wasn’t involved in the beginning, I helped that band get together, I introduced SOB to Vinny. But I never really felt that I was there from the beginning, because I wasn’t. I started other projects, nothing worked, nothing was really meant to be and I kinda beat myself over the head over that because I was so desperate to do music. I never thought I’d meet the right people and here I go. I’m with dudes from the other side of the world [laughter]. It works and I’m happy to be a part of it, I know they’re happy, I feel it. This is a different approach and nothing like Merauder, nothing like we have done in our previous bands. It’s a little of everything of what we all have done.
Anders: We take our time, there’s no pressure, we just do what we want. There’s no pressure from labels or management. It’s the same thing with this tour, the timing was right. I never expected for us to do shows.
Jorge: I think that when things happen, when you are not pushing it, you are not planning it, they just…We are just doing it, we are not planning it. Things are meant to happen in certain ways and I’m not gonna do anything to rush that process. You just let it happen naturally. Of course, we wanna be successful, but we don’t want to rush it, like produce just to produce. There’s so much diversity in this band, that we are open to anything…
Anders: That’s why I love this band. No doors are closed. His way of singing or writing music…You can go slow, heavy, doomy. We have acoustic instrumental parts to the heaviest fucking breakdowns. Anything could happen in this band, and that’s what I like. Our earlier bands you had to work in the “box”, you can’t step out, but with this band we can do anything.
You talked a bit about this geographical barrier that there is. Did this created some doubts in the beginning when you were forming the band? Were you thinking that maybe this would be more like a project than a proper band?
Anders: Yeah, at least for the shows. I never expected for us to do shows. That thought was far away in my head, I was thinking ‘How can we even practise?’. [laughter] Then Meshuggah played with Metallica in Gothenburg, so me and Daniel Ceberborg, who’s a huge fan of both bands, decided to spend the weekend in Gothenburg and jam in the studio, to see how it feels. That was the first practice and that was last summer. That was the first time any of us got together in the same room. That felt great, we played 6 or 7 songs, and it felt like we had done that ten times before. We went home and started talking about doing shows, and finding a bass player for the tour. Once we had that planned and set, we started focusing and practicing at home, then we all finally go together 5 days before this tour and here we are [laughter]. The first show was pretty good in relation to the amount of hours together.
Jorge: I didn’t have any doubts. When it comes to be a musician, there’s no doubt, of course we can play, we all have been around for a long time. The thing is that it’s not about the skills, but how we vibe together, is it going to work?
Anders: On the first day we got together, the vibe was great and I felt that there was no doubt. I felt that it was going to work. The distance shouldn’t be a problem. It costs a little more money to fly him over to Europe and vice-versa, but that shouldn’t be a problem. We are willing to do that sacrifice, because it’s worth it.
You had also mentioned about the diversity of the band, some of you have been in hardcore bands, some in metal bands. When you were planning the songs, were you just seeing how things go naturally or you wanted to mix the styles? How was the approach?
Jorge: I think it was just coming out the way it came out. There was no real format, we just let it poor out.
Anders: Yeah, Daniel had his thing going, he was in his mindset, listening to his style of music, and the other Daniel was in the same kinda of “bubble”, you know? We don’t discuss if this or that song should sound like this, we just write. To be honest with you, none of the songs that were written had been changed by the other members. So, whatever Daniel wrote, the arrangement…was great, and whatever the other Daniel wrote, was perfect. I’m not a good guitar player as those guys, so they’d put some details, but the arrangements, the tempo and all that was pretty much exactly as the demos that we made. We vibe off each other.
Jorge: We just together and we have done all that. We already have almost another album written, we got so much material, but we are doing that without the full vibe, without me coming in the picture. So, now I figured, we are jamming and getting together…I don’t know how we’ll do it, but we’ll figure it out if I have to come a week earlier, but we’ll do it.
Anders: Yeah, we have about 7 or 8 new tracks already. Daniel has been writing like crazy, I have 3 tracks…Daniel Antonsson keeps telling us ‘I can’t wait to sit down and press rec’, because he got a lot of stuff in his head too. So, I think that we might have two records by the end of the year, or two Eps, however we’ll release these new material, but yeah we have a lot of new material. I have great feeling about it, but there’s no plan really, there’s no time frame.
As you mentioned before, the “Santa Muerte” EP sold out quickly. Is there any plan to re-release that eventually?
Anders: Did we talk about that?
Jorge: Yeah, maybe…
Anders: Yeah, like releasing with another artwork. So yeah, we might re-release it. Those songs are actually on the CD version of the full length, as bonustracks. So in a way, they have been re-released in that kind of format.
If you compare the recording and writing process of the EP and the full length, what was the biggest difference? Besides the line-up changes.
Anders: It wasn’t really different. Everybody wrote and recorded at home, and once again I flew and went to Jorge’s house to record in his basement. So, it was pretty much the same way of recording. Daniel Antonsson is a great producer, he has a great studio, so it was perfect for him to mix and master the whole album. He was the main guy as far as controlling sounds and putting the pieces together. We just delivered everything and he putted together and he did a great fucking job on that.
On the full length you had Chris Beattie, from Hatebreed, as a session bass player. Was there any discussion to get a full time member to play bass or was it just easier to get someone to play?
Anders: We talked about it…That whole thing with Beattie was that I was working for Hatebreed, I was with them on tour in the States. Beattie was really interested in the band, he’s an old friend of the guys in Merauder, so I just asked him and was excited to have him try out. But the time wasn’t right, we tried to record…He had to learn and record the songs in the back of a bus during the tour. That tour schedule with Slipknot was crazy and out of our hand, sometimes we had soundcheck at two in the afternoon, sometimes it was at five. There was no structure, so it didn’t work out. I’m happy that he tried, but it just didn’t work out, so Daniel Antonsson just recorded the bass in his studio. If we do shows in the States, I’d love to have Beattie to play bass for us, but we are not really looking for a steady bass player. We want to keep this between the main song writers. If we find the right guy, then it’s good, but we are not looking for a bass player right now. When we do shows, we obviously need a guy, so we have Tobias [Janson – No Saving Grace] now, but I’m happy with the four of us. The vibe between us and the writing is good, so we don’t need another guy.
Talking about this tour, you guys had rehearsals about a week before the tour started. Did you feel that was enough time to rehearse or did you feel that more would have been better?
Jorge: More is always better [laughter].
Anders: We went more bowling and drinking beer than practicing. I think we played the set six times or something. To me it felt enough, more than enough because everybody was responsible and practiced at home, so that time was more to put the set together. We all knew the songs, we just had to get the right vibe.
What about the set list, how did you guys decided on that? Because as a band, you have about 20 songs total, so was the idea to concentrate more on the full length and not play a lot from the EP?
Anders: We are playing the strongest songs from the EP and the strongest ones from the full length. You know, I’d always make mix tapes, sometimes I’d DJ at rock bars back home, so I like the dynamics of different songs. To me is important for the live set to start strong, blast really heavy, then make it really complicated, going to slower and darker tracks, then bang again heavy tunes…
Jorge: So it’s never flat, you know?
So, this first tour is about two weeks long, then you have a gig in Sweden at the end of April with Hatebreed and Dying Fetus. Are there any plans for a more extensive tour in Europe or in US?
Jorge: If it gets offered and if it’s worth doing it. We all have a lot of things we are doing, plus children and things like that, but we are in it to win this. So, if opportunities come and they are right for us, we are going to take them.
Anders: If we need a 6 month break, then we’ll take a 6 month break. We are not forcing ourselves to go on a shitty tour because some label will tell us. There’s an offer for a European tour in November and December, with a bigger band from US. We haven’t got any details yet…and we had some festival offers, but we haven’t confirmed them yet. We have been talking about doing something in the US, so realistically we could probably do a long weekend in the New York area in the fall, but we’ll see, we are still talking about a few things.
Jorge: There are talks and interest, so that’s the most important thing right now. So, let’s see where it goes. We know this band has a lot of potential, so it’d be good to show to the rest of the world.
Anders, we talked about before the interview something about the set list, the fact that for many, Jorge is associated with Merauder, obviously, so maybe there are going to be people expecting to hear maybe one Merauder song, but you don’t want to do that, right? You want to keep Akani separated from Merauder….
Jorge: I won’t do it.
Anders: This is a different band…I mean, do you want to hear Soilwork, Dead Reprise songs? This is not a cover band. This is Akani and we wanna do our way.
Jorge: This is a new thing, it has nothing to do with other stuff. If I want to do Merdauder, then I’ll play with Merauder, plain and simple. It’s usually drunk people that are ‘Oh hey…play that…’. I don’t mean to be insulting, but at the same time you are insulting us by asking that. This a new band, it has a different name, it has a different thing going on, if you like this new stuff, then don’t come to the show. When we started this band, we wanted to do something different. But yeah, there’s always gonna be a heckler in the crowd, but whatever, we are not listening to that, we’ll do what we wanna do.
The previous night was the first official Akani gig. So, how do you feel after playing with Akani for the first time and how was that experience?
Anders: [pointing to Jorge] I think he was the most nervous…
Jorge: It’s pretty awkward…I always get nervous before a show, it’s not a kinda of “bad nervous”, but more like ‘Alright, let’s get ready’. Yesterday was different…once again, this is totally different from what I’ve been doing. I was little bit nervous during the night, and I was cool until Mikael came up to me and said ‘Let’s go, you gotta go on’. That was when reality kinda hit me…’I’m going on now’. I went to merch area, I froze man…My chest came out, kinda like an anxiety attack, breathing heavy…But I wouldn’t have been like that if I didn’t care.
Anders: We did great, I think…It’s good to have out of the way, now I feel really relaxed about tonight and the rest of the shows. I think we were all stressed out about yesterday, but we managed to pull it off.
Well, thanks the interview and the time.
Anders: Thank you.
Jorge: No problem.
The official AKANI site