Joacim Carlsson – Guitarist for Face Down
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Promo Pics provided by Black Lodge
Face Down is a cult thrash band that recently re-united and released the ass-kicking new album THE WILL TO POWER. My mission was to get in touch with Joacim Hedestedt and ask him some questions about the bands past history, the album and so on but for some reasons he couldn’t do an interview so instead I had the luck to talk with Joacim Carlsson that plays guitar.
Hi Joakim, what’s up? Could you please tell the readers a bit about the turbulent history of Face Down?
I sure can! Prepare yourselves for the longest introduction ever..
The band formed with the original line-up in 1993 under the name Machine God. They wrote some songs under that name and recorded a demo which didn’t turn out as well as they had hoped, so it remained unreleased. I saw them at their first show in early 1994 (I had previously played with bassist Joakim H in another band back in 1988/1989) and I was approached about joining them on 2nd guitar. I was on my way out of my then current band Afflicted, so I gave it a try and it worked out really well. I joined the band late summer 1994.We then proceeded to write new songs, recorded our first demo, and printed it in exactly 819 copies. As we wanted to promote the band, we just gave them all away to everybody we saw who might be interested. In effect, this strategy is what got us the Soundfront/Roadrunner deal in early 95. We got signed, recorded our first album in the summer and it was released early ’96. We changed our drummer to Peter Stjärnvind during that period, and some heavy gigging and some touring ensued.
After that we wrote the songs for the 2nd album, entered Sunlight Studio in early ’97 to record some 15 songs. When we sent the masters to our new record label they turned it down, because it didn’t sound exactly like the 1st album which was what they were expecting. So after some heated conversations, they forced us to re-record the album with our previous producer Daniel Bergstrand at Dug Out Studios in Uppsala where we did the 1st album. It came out in late 1997, and by then our drummer had left us to join Entombed.
We got a new drummer, and proceeded to do some shows and set up our own tour in the UK to support the 2nd album, only to find out that it hardly was available in our best market. After that tour, we put the band on hold for a while, but in the autumn of 1998 we resumed the song writing and recorded a 3 song demo at Sunlight. By 1999 we once again found ourselves without a record deal, and at the same time Marco left the band to join up with The Haunted. So, that was more or less the end of the band. We re-activated the band about two years ago when Marco was out of The Haunted, and Joakim H had decided to leave Construcdead. I joined up immediately and we got Erik from Construcdead to play drums. We wrote our comeback album “The Will To Power” during 2004/2005 and recorded it at Fear And Loathing Studios in summer 2005. We are very pleased with the result, so much that we call this our first album because this is the first time we got to sound like we wanted. We played some shows last year, amongst them Sweden Rock Festival and the Marquee in London and were very well received. In the beginning of 2006 we once again switched drummers, so now it’s Christofer Barkensjö (Kaamos, Blackshine) pounding the skins. We have just played our two first shows with him, and it has worked out tremendously well! Right now we’re in the process of learning some of the songs from the old albums, as well as starting writing some brand new stuff.
You recently re-united Face Down, what do you think of the years FD were active (1993-99) before the split up?
We were young and had a lot of fun, needless to say. Face Down was the first band I was in that gained any significant success, even if it was quite moderate in comparison with other bands. Seems like we had a lot going for us in the beginning, but after the first album things turned on us and got progressively worse and that took the fun out of playing to some extent.
We made quite a lot of good songs back then, but I really don’t feel we managed to capture our sound on record as well as we wanted to. Especially the first record feels very restrained as opposed to how we sounded (and still sound) when we play live. As many people still remember the band from back then, it seems we made quite a dent in the scene back in the day.
How has it been going through so many member changes in the band? Has it impacted your music in any way?
The core of the band has always been Joakim H, Marco and myself when it comes to the creative output. We have mostly changed drummers, and while they have an enormous impact on how we sound when we are performing, they often don’t contribute as much musically as the rest of us. We have always had very good drummers in the band, and it seems to be quite a challenge for them to play in this band. Not that we’re the most technical band in the world by any stretch, but we demand quite a lot of power and stamina from the poor person who gets to beat the skins.
Besides a lot of member changes you have also gone through a few label switches, how come and what do you think of your current label, have they done a good job regarding the promotion etc?
Black Lodge is good for us since we know them personally, and it’s a local label which makes for easy communication. We’re pretty satisfied with the amount of promotion they have done, considering they’re not the biggest label out there which we were fully aware of when we signed the deal. It’s better to be a bigger band on a small label than low-priority on a bigger label. We know all about the latter scenario, believe me. As for the previous label changes, Soundfront went bankrupt and Roadrunner didn’t want to pick up the band so we signed to Nuclear Blast. They didn’t do shit to promote us, so I figure the 2nd album didn’t sell that well so they subsequently dropped us which was best for everybody involved.
Were does the band name come from and why did you chose to call the band Face Down?
We were just looking for a simple name that was easy to pronounce and easy to remember. We threw around some suggestions and FD was the one we stuck with. No real deeper meaning behind the name.
Are your two previous albums MINDFIELD from 1996 and THE TWISTED RULE THE WICKED from 1997 sold out today? if so is there any plans on re-release them today?
Yes, I’m afraid both old albums are currently out of print. We have talked about re-releasing TTRTW, as a special edition double-CD version with both the regular album and the unreleased Sunlight Studio version of the album. That would be a really cool thing to do, there’s some pretty good unreleased songs left from that session. As we are not experts on musical law, we really don’t know who owns the rights to the old albums, so it’s on hold at the moment. Hopefully some day in the future…
How come you only released two albums between 1994 and 1999? And who owns the legal rights to those albums today?
Let’s see… We wrote the first album during late ’94 through early ’95 and recorded it in the summer of ’95. It was released in early 1996 after which we toured. We started writing songs for the 2nd album in 1996 and started recording it for the first time early 1997 at Sunlight. We had to re-record it in the summer of ’97 with Danne Bergstrand, and it came out late ’97. After that we played some shows, did a disastrous UK tour in ’98 and the band was on hold for a while. We started writing some songs and had almost a full album done by early ’99, but then we found ourselves dropped by Nuclear Blast and then Marco left the band. End of the show. As for legal rights, see above.
Do you remember what the media thought and wrote about those albums?
As far as I can recall, and I still have some press clippings to back me up, both albums were very well received by the media. The first album especially got really good reviews in all the UK magazines, and we were even in the charts over there for a while. The 2nd album also got great reviews, but as NBR couldn’t be bothered to distribute it properly it was not as widely available as it should have been.
We have always had a good relation with the press since we started.. I mean, we got good write-ups in one of the biggest Swedish newspapers on our first demo (!).
Where in the world did you gain the most success during that time?
Definitely the UK. It was great playing over there at the time. We had an album in the charts and thought we had it made.
Did you do a lot of touring back then?
We did the Napalm Death/Crowbar European tour in 1996 in support of the first album, and a couple of UK headlining tours after that. Let’s just say we got promised a lot of tours that never materialized. We were really eager to go out playing though, so we set up our last UK tour with no help from our then current record label.
FD are considered being a cult band today, what do you think of that, being a metal icon ?
I don’t know about the “metal icon” thing but it’s extremely flattering to be remembered as one of the good bands out there. We aim to live up to our reputation and then some.
What did the rest of the band think when Marco left FD in 1999 to join The Haunted? Was his leaving one of the reason you split up the band?
When Marco left me and Joakim H just felt we had enough of the whole thing. The band wasn’t going anywhere, and it just felt like the end of the road for Face Down. I think we did the right thing. I have listened to a few of the songs we had back then for the 3rd album, and some of that stuff wasn’t very good. I’m kind of glad we didn’t get a chance to record those songs. Now we have used some of the best stuff from that period for the T.W.T.P. album instead.
What have the members been up to until the release of THE WILL TO POWER?
You probably know what Marco did for a few years.. I was (and still am) in General Surgery, making some death/grind influenced incomprehensible noise which by a massive stretch of the imagination can be mistaken for music. Joakim was in Construcdead for five years and made two albums with them.
How many members are original members in today’s version of FD? I know that Erik on drums comes from Construcdead and Terror 2000, how come you chose him on drums?
Everybody besides Erik (and now Chris) is an original member. He actually offered his services to us when we started talking about re-uniting the band. We asked Peter Stjärnvind as well, but he turned it down due to lack of time.
Do you think that FD have developed musically throughout the years? If so how?
The main development would be in the song-writing area, I guess. We are far better and more consistent song writers now than ever before, which shows in the new album. It’s by far the most even and dare I say it, mature album we have ever done, in my point of view. It’s hard to pinpoint stuff when you’re so close to the whole process of being in this band, but I think that to an outsider the major improvement would be the song writing and the actual performance of the material.
How would you describe what kind of music FD plays?
Again, being in the band this is a very hard question. I really don’t know. Our roots are in old thrash metal, death metal, and metal and hard rock in general. We also have hardcore influences, obviously. So, all that blends into the sound that is FD today. I have never cared for the generic comparisons we get to Machine Head and Pantera though, even though we have heard those comments to death by now. It just seems like the obvious thing to say since we came out with our first album around the same time those bands were very popular.
During last year you played at both Sweden Rock Festival and 2000 Decibel also in Sweden, how did that go and did you do any other gigs outside Sweden?
Both shows went well, we were really surprised that we drew such a good crowd at both those shows. It was a great feeling to see that we had not been forgotten!
We have only played abroad twice so far, we did a release party back in November in London and in February we played in Finland. Both were great shows, and we really look forward to the next opportunity to play abroad again.
You also began the recordings of your third album at the same time, how long did the recordings take and who has written the music and lyrics?
We recorded the album over 20 days in July last year, so it was a bit hectic getting the last of the songs together for the album.. but we managed in the end. I even wrote one of the songs while we were recording (the title track), which was a first for us.
I usually write most of the music and composed most of the songs for this album as well. Joakim contributed two songs and some riffs, and Erik co-wrote some stuff as well. Marco wrote the bulk of the lyrics, Joakim wrote the lyrics to his songs and I got some words in here and there. We also had some outside help with the lyrics this time which worked out really well.
What’s the lyrics about and are they autobiographical?
Marco usually mixes about 50/50 autobiographical stuff with fiction. The music often inspires the where the lyrics will go. Aggressive music = really angry lyrics and so on.
Do you have any favorite track? if so which one(s) and why?
My personal favorite is probably the title track “Will To Power”. As I said, I wrote that during the recording under quite a lot of pressure, and I’m still amazed we pulled it off so well. So, that makes it the newest track, and it’s usually the newest ones I’m most fond of after we have recorded something. I get bored easily, what can I say?
Why did you record the album in Fear and Loathing Studio, do you know the guys in Meshuggah and Clawfinger that owns the studio?
After having done two albums in Uppsala with Danne Bergstrand, we were looking for a local studio so we didn’t have to commute. We had heard the stuff that Construcdead had recorded with Jocke Skog, and that sounded really promising so we decided to give it a go. Turned out that it was a stroke of luck since it was the easiest and most laid-back recording session we’ve ever have done. We’re definitely going back there for the next album if our schedule and theirs allow it.
The album was also produced by Jocke Skog from Clawfinger, what’s it like to work with him and what’s his strength as producer?
Mr. Skog is easy to work with, has an exceptionally good ear for guitar and drums especially, and to top it off he’s a real geek when it comes to studio equipment. That guy knows every bit of gear they own inside out, and he’s really well versed in Cubase as well which makes it very smooth when it’s time to record. There’s hardly any downtime, since he knows how to make things happen quickly. The album wasn’t produced by him alone though, it was a collaborative effort with him and us.
Does the title of the album THE WILL TO POWER symbolize anything?
It’s actually a Nietzsche quote which fit he lyrics to the title track really well, as it’s essentially about empowering yourself through making others weaker. It’s quite a fascinating as well as disturbing concept and it’s well worth looking up on the ‘net (check www.wikipedia.org for example) if you’re interested in that sort of thing.
You also have a quite controversial figure on your album cover, can you tell us what’s the cover artworks all about?
The cover concept ties in with the title track as a sort of very loose “concept”, if you will.
The song is based on domination and empowerment, seen through the eyes of a serial killer, who essentially is able to tell right from wrong and chooses to commit these actions out of his own free will in order to make himself feel powerful.
We were looking for a “symbol” to visualize that kind of disturbed behavior, and through that searching we came across Carl Panzram who was one of the most vicious and sadistic serial murderers to ever walk the earth. Truly one of the worst ever.
So we used a lot of Panzram-quotes in the actual song (the chorus to the song is a Panzram quote, slightly modified), and the cover and the booklet itself has a lot of them as well, along with his picture (well, only half of his face) on the actual cover. In this day and age, I really don’t know how controversial this kind of stuff is, but to me it still stands as something quite interesting to write about. The world will always have their share of fucked up people like Carl Panzram, I guess.
You have featured three DVD tracks on the limited edition off the album, why so few songs when you think of the price that a limited edition costs?
Those songs were all the usable material that came out of that show. Naturally, we would have put more on it if we could but those songs were the only ones that came out sounding good enough to release. We also had planned to put a “making of”-documentary about the album recording on there, but that didn’t work out either due to some technical difficulties. So, we did the best we could with what we had. However, I do think you get your money’s worth when you get the limited edition because of the two bonus songs, the slipcase packaging, poster, sticker and XL booklet. It’s definitely value for money.
Have you read any reviews of the album? What have the critics to say about it?
The reviewers are mostly very positive. Almost all of the reviews I have seen rates the album as 4/5 or about 7-8 out of 10 which is fair enough in my book. The day I make a 10/10 album is the day I quit playing music. I don’t see that happening in the near future though.
What do you think of this statement that can be read in your bio, “Face Down is back and their purpose is once again to put Stockholm back on the metal map. So just sit back and enjoy”?
Well, it tells me that it’s about time that Stockholm gets some recognition again. Enough of this melodic Gothenburg stuff already. I think we have managed to do just that to some extent, and we’ll keep trying for sure.
Do you have any favorite metal acts from Stockholm and Gothenburg?
Stockholm favorites are Fingerspitzengefühl and Sayyadina. Gothenburg acts.. can’t really remember any at the moment. Grotesque maybe?
How’s the climate for playing thrash today?
Quite good. Better than it used to be in 1997 when we released our 2nd album when you weren’t really worth shit unless you sounded like Dimmu Borgir or Hammerfall. Thrash metal is a lot more popular today than it’s been in a long time, maybe even since it’s heyday in the 80’s.
Are there any plans on going out on the road now that the albums out?
No, not really. We won’t do any long tours, but we’re trying to do as much festival shows as we can get along with weekend shows.
For how long do you think is the band is going to last this time around?
Hopefully for a couple of albums more at least, we still have a lot of music in us that needs to be written, performed and recorded. I look forward to doing a lot more with Face Down, especially with our new line-up.
When can we look forward to see another new album from Face Down in the stores?
We are hoping to record the next album during autumn/winter 2006, so my guess some time in early 2007 if everything goes as planned. Stay tuned for another dose of down-tuned savagery and verbal abuse.
Do you have any other projects/bands that you’re currently involved in besides FD?
I still play guitar in General Surgery and we’re releasing our first album “Left Hand Pathology” on Listenable Records on the 27th of May. Buy it if you’re into blood-soaked death/grind. Check us out at http://generalsurgery.nu Chris plays drums in Blackshine as well and they are looking to release an album soon as well.
What’s the plans for the band for the rest of 2006?
Play some more shows and festivals, start writing some awesome new material, and finally record a new album. I can’t wait!!
Thanks a lot for answering my questions and is there anything you would like to say to the readers and fans out there?
Thanks for supporting us, be sure to get yourselves a copy of The Will To Power. I assure you will not be disappointed! Looking forward to seeing you on the road someday, somewhere. Thanks Anders for the interview!
Read the CD review of there new album here
More info about the band: www.facedown.nu