Swedish melodic thrashers Scaar are back on the attack with their third album NEXT LEVEL OF TORTURE. I thought it was time to do an update on what is going on in the Scaar camp. Alf Johansson and bass player Mats Vassfjord agreed to answer some questions. Scaar is a band that has a great future ahead of them.
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to the band for the promo pictures
Promo and live pictures by: Patrik Hellström
First I like to congratulate you for releasing a really good new album that really kicks some serious ass.
Alf: Thanks, we’re really proud of ourselves.
Let’s kick off by talking about Scaar’s brand new album NEXT LEVEL OF TORTURE that was unleashed earlier this year. How long did it take for you guys to write and record the album?
Alf: We pretty much write all the time, but let’s say a year. That’s the writing process and recording process all together.
What are the lyrics about this time? And who writes the lyrics?
Alf: Alex is the lyricist. You have to talk to him about that stuff. I just concentrate on the music.
Mats: The lyrics are whatever came out of Alex mind, usually dark and twisted.
When did you start to record the album and in which studio was it recorded?
Alf: We started record in June 2006 and I think it was completed in October the same year. So it’s been kept in the vault for some time.
You have a pretty cruel title for the album. What was the idea behind the title NEXT LEVEL OF TORTURE?
Alf: I’m not sure what Alex was thinking of. But I’m sure he had a really good reason for it.
Mats: Next Level Of Torture is one of the song-titles on the album as well as the album-title. We just thought it was fitting, since we had a new drummer and this album is the next level for us…
Who has done the cover art-work? What do you think of it, do you think of reflects the music and the feeling on the disc?
Alf: That was done in Malmoe by a guy called Carl-André Beckston.
Mats: The artwork is pretty dark and Beckston was the one who came up with it, with some guidance from us in the band.
I think you have gone through a change music-wise on this album and have added a touch of death’n’roll and some more melodic things to your thrash music. Do you agree?
Alf: It’s nothing we decided to do. It’s just something that happens when we write. You never know the outcome.
Mats: We know what we’re capable of creatively, but like Alf said, we never really plan exactly what direction our music takes us in. Whatever sounds good and fits, we use.
Do you think that Scaar has gone through any developments when it comes to both the music and the lyrics?
Alf: I hope so. I would really like to think that we have developed in some way.
Mats: Whatever you do in life always means you develop in a certain way.
NEXT LEVEL OF TORTURE feels a little more mature compared to your previous album. It feels like the band has given even more of themselves in the writing process, how do you feel?
Alf: Maybe that’s a part of development.
Mats: It is a more mature album, since its 3 years since the one before it, The Second Incision. And our producer Daniel Bergstrand also helped bringing out the best in both the songs and the musician-ship in all four of us. He’s a really magnificent producer and knows exactly what’s needed and what’s not in certain songs.
Have you read any reviews of the album yet? What has the media to say about the album? Do you always read what is said about the band?
Alf: It’s been both good and bad. We got a really good review from a zine on the internet, what’s it called….hmmmm……. I got it. METAL RULES. Thanks.
Mats: You can’t really keep track of everything that’s being said about the band. People can think what ever they want, as long as they buy the album!
Are you happy with the outcome of the output? And do you have any favorite song(s) on the disc?
Alf: All of them.
Mats: We’re very happy and pleased with the album; it’s definitely our best album so far. Of course all the songs on there are our "babies", but Blinded and Nerve Damage comes to mind right now as two of my favorites.
Do you think that Scaar are gonna follow this musical path in the future or do you see Scaar playing any other kind of harder music in the future?
Alf: It’s hard to know what the outcome is going to be. But I hope that we are going go further down the same hard metal line.
Mats: I don’t think Scaar will start sounding like Milli Vanilli all of a sudden of course, we will always play hard metal or whatever category people wants to put us in.
But we will also progress and mature as musicians and songwriters, so you can’t really predict exactly how the songs will turn out for the next album or the one after that.
I think the sound is totally brilliant compared to your previous albums that were recorded in a different studio by a different producer. Daniel Bergstrand is a genius. How was it to work with him and what is his strongest feature as a producer?
Alf: You said it. The guy is such a genius.
Mats: I think some of his strongest feature in the studio is exactly what I said earlier: that he knows what is needed and what is not in certain songs to give them that extra UMMPPHHH!!!
What was the main difference between working with your old producer Pelle Saether and Bergstrand?
Alf: Their sound and approach to the recording process is different.
Mats: Daniel is more daring in the studio, he’s not afraid to try new things or new approaches to reach a certain goal in the music.
I understand that Bergstrand is a busy man, how did you get him to produce NEXT LEVEL OF TORTURE?
Alf: It was Alex that contacted him and I think he liked our demo. That was what happened. So we were very lucky to get him to do it.
Do you see a further co-operation with Bergstrand on the next Scaar album?
Alf: Of course. We have kept the contact. Besides he’s a very funny man and a very dear friend.
Mats: I think we definitely want to work with him again. If it will be on the next album or any after that, who knows. Right now we have no definitive plans as to where we’re gonna record the next one.
During 2005 your drummer Richard Holmgren left the band, why?
Alf: Yes, that was sad. We’re still good friends; I talked to him on the phone today. He has joined a band called Wolf. So he’s a very busy man right now.
Mats: There were no hard feelings when we had to let him go. Like Alf said, he’s still a good friend and we see him all the time.
New drummer is Kristian Huotari, how did he end up in Scaar? Has he been involved in any other bands before Scaar?
Alf: He’s a local drummer and played in some bands that we know of so the choice wasn’t that hard. He is a hell of a drummer.
Mats: We’re very proud to have found Kristian who’s been with us a couple of years now. Not only is he a great drummer but also a great driving-force in the band.
Lead singer Alex Jonsson is also the bass player in Fatal Smile and he has now left Scaar. Was the departure expected from the Scaar members?
Alf: I really didn’t think he would quit. But that’s okay. He must do what he feels is right. We wish good luck in the future, though.
Mats: When he started playing with Fatal it wasn’t a problem, but as time went by, both Fatal and we got more and more gigs, so it was inevitable that gigs would start to collide, so we really didn’t have a choice but to let Alex go if we wanted to be able to continue and move forward with SCAAR.
Are you still friends with Jonsson? And how did you take the news that he was gonna leave Scaar?
Alf: Like I said. He must follow his own heart. It’s always sad when a dear friend and a good musician leave the band but that’s how it is.
Mats: He’s been in the band since the start, so of course it’s sad to see somebody like that having to leave the band.
Have you seen Jonsson in action in Fatal Smile?
Alf: No, I haven’t yet. But I’m looking forward to it.
At the moment you have a temporary lead singer, who is he and what is his history within the music scene?
Alf: He’s name is Henke and he is from Stockholm. I really don’t know that much about his background. He plays in a band called Scarpoint. He’s a natural.
Mats: He’s a great singer and has become a good friend. He has his own band, but is nice enough to help us out when we need him.
The next couple of gigs we’re gonna try another singer though. A guy called Nicke Olsson from Stockholm.
You only have one guitarist. Has the band played with the thought of taking in a second guitarist in order to get a little more fuller and deeper guitar sound?
Alf: I read that all the time that we “only” have one guitarist. But that was Fatal smile, Black Sabbath, Ozzy, Van Halen, Pantera, Damageplan …etc…etc has as well. I have never heard any concerns about that their sound isn’t full enough. I really don’t get it.
Mats: I think when you see us live; we’ll change anybodies minds about needing two guitarists. Alf does amazing work on his guitar and I fill out anywhere needed with the bass… hehe.
Your previous disc, THE SECOND INCISION, was released by Karmageddon Media but you aren’t still signed to them. Why did you end the co-operation?
Alf: The deal was to release that one record.
Mats: We felt that Karmageddon really wasn’t doing a good job, it’s as simple as that.
Who own the legal rights to your previous albums?
Alf: That is something that we do.
How did you get in touch with your current label Alabama Records? What other artists and bands are represented by this label?
Alf: It was our manager that suggested that label. Then we had a meeting and it sounded like it was a good label for the band, so we grabbed the opportunity.
Mats: Andreas at Alabama Records is a great guy who believes in our band and is willing to work for it. So we thought we’d give him a chance with this album.
For how long were you without a contract?
Alf: For about 2 years.
Are you happy with the work the label have put into the album so far?
Alf: Yes. It feels better to have a Swedish label than a Dutch. You can get a hold of people faster and clear things out.
For how many albums are you signed to at Alabama Records?
Alf: Just this one and an option on the next one.
Is NEXT LEVEL OF TORTURE released world wide today? If not is it gonna be released world wide soon?
Alf: No, unfortunately I have to say to our international fans the LEVEL OF TORTURE is only released in Scandinavia and Great Britain. But we’re working on a worldwide release.
Andreas Nyström at Alabama Records says that to get such an established act as Scaar to join the label was a confirmation that the label does a great job and that they get things done. Do you agree with Nyström?
Alf: Sure. Nyström rules.
Who distributes Alabama Records? I have searched trough many records stores but haven’t found your album anywhere. What do you say about that?
Alf: Dead Frog Distribution (Scandinavia), Firebox Oy (Finland) and CD Baby (USA).
Mats: Are there any record-stores left in this world? Ha ha
You held one release party in Stockholm and one in your home town Eskilstuna, how was those events?
Alf: Pretty big happenings.
Mats: We had a blast and we had a really good turnout as well and people were enjoying themselves which was the main reason why we wanted to throw a party in the first place.
Scaar played live at the release parties, what did the crowd think of your new material?
Alf: I think they enjoyed it; I really would like to think so anyway.
What were you up to when you lacked a contract?
Alf: Writing new material and looking for gigs.
Mats: We always work and do stuff, like write songs or do PR for the band or play gigs or anything we can to push us forward. It’s always important to not stand still!
You are signed to SSG Management, are you happy with your management?
Alf: Thomas is our Peter Grant. He gets things done.
If you look back at your two previous albums, what do you think of them today?
Alf: I think that they are great in terms of the Scaar saga. It’s hard to start at the top; you have to work your way up. I wouldn’t like to be without them. It was a nice time to record at Underground.
Mats: We’re very proud of both The Second Incision as well as Scarred For Life. Both were recorded at Studio Underground in Vasteras and we liked both writing and recording them.
You are gonna open for Pro-Pain in Gothenburg and Stockholm, what are your expectations on those shows?
Alf: Pro Pain is a very good band. It’s going to be a hell of a time to watch some of our heroes.
Who is gonna sing in Scaar during those shows?
Alf: That is Henke that will do that.
Scaar has been active since 1999, have you done a lot of live shows and touring over this years?
Mats: I wouldn’t say a lot. But there have been gigs and there been gigs that could not have taken because of other reasons. We have had our share. But we are looking forward right now on the gigs that are coming up this fall. Checkout our new website: www.scaar.net for future gigs.
Where in the world do Scaar has its biggest fanbase do you think?
Alf: I don’t know. I think they are scattered all over the place.
Do you get a lot of fan-mail? And what are the most common questions you get from fans?
Alf: It’s mostly the good looking guys in the band that gets them, me not included.
Where does the band name Scaar come from?
Alf: That was our first guy on bass that came up with it and it has stuck ever since.
Does the band have any common idol or musical hero that you all look up to and get inspired by?
Alf: Rambo, Arnold, Donald Duck just kidding. I think we gather round bands like Exodus, The Haunted, Slipknot and stuff like that.
Mats: We all have different musical backgrounds since we didn’t grow up together, so we all take with us some of that to Scaar when we write music.
When can we see Scaar on the road on a proper support tour?
Alf: It’s in the pipeline. We get offers all the time.
Mats: Hopefully real soon, we can’t wait to get out there.
Give me three stunning reasons why the readers should go out and buy NEXT LEVEL OF TORTURE?
Alf: The sound of the CD, The songs and the great package.
Mats: Because it’s an album that we are really proud of and I think if people give it a chance they will like it too.
We only need ONE reason for people to buy it: It’s fucking AWESOME!
Well, that’s about all for now Alf. Thanks a lot for taking the time to answer my questions. Do you have any final words of wisdom for the fans and readers?
Alf: Don’t just have one beer, cheers.
Good Luck in the future and I hope to see you live soon.
Alf: Thanks Anders. See ya.
Mats: Thanks, hopefully we can come down and play to the Southern parts of Sweden soon.
Read Scaars Cd reviews in Metal-Rules.com
More info about the band