Interview – In Solitude
by Mark Ashby
Photography by Jamie Hunter
We caught up with, the surprisingly quiet spoken and at times cryptic, Pelle (Hornper) Åhman, frontman with rising Swedish metal stars In Solitude backstage at Belfast’s Mandela Hall, during the band’s recent short run of dates opening for Amon Amarth and Grand Magus.
First of all, congratulations on your nomination in the ‘Best Underground Act’ category of the Metal Hammer Golden Gods awards: how does something like that make you feel?
I don’t really know. Other things I usually get happier about – but, of course, if we win it will probably make an impact because we would know that there are a lot of people who like what we do, but otherwise I am not going to know what was going on. The fact that we’re out playing, I think that is good enough, but those things are good, like an extra pat on the back.
Let’s talk a wee bit about about the influences behind the band… your sound seems to be bringing back that spirit of NWOBHM: not copying it, bringing it into the 21st Century – would you agree with that?
In the sense that we’re very inspired by how they did it, more than certain bands and certain sounds: I think we’re inspired by the intensity of what bands in the late 70s and early 80s were doing. What they were doing is very inspiring. It is others who write (about) bringing back the spirit of NWOBHM – that was not the initial plan… we’re just very inspired by a lot of what was going on in the old days. We’re very comfortable being poster boys for some sort of old school revival thing or whatever, but for sure it’s inspiring – how the old heavy metal bands did it.
This is a relatively short UK trip for you, with only a handful of dates before you head off to America: how important is the UK market to you?
It’s important because we haven’t been here before and we heard that a lot of people have been talking about us over here – and we’ve sold some records here, so it’s about time we do a tour. Hopefully we can do another one soon with a package of bands more suited to our sound.
You’re basically on this tour because of the Metal Blade connection..
Yes, and because we wanted to tour England – we’ve wanted to do that for a long time, but I think it’s a good first tour…
Is it important for any heavy metal band from outside the UK to be accepted in what is the birthplace of heavy metal?
Heavy metal comes from a lot of places, but England always seems to have been a good place for rock and pop music – I mean I like everything from Throbbing Gristle to Joy Division to Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden: it’s an inspiring place to be because of the cultural history, especially in music. A lot of English bands have been very important to us, and it’s good to see at least a little bit of it.
After this tour you’re off to the US with Watain, who are from the same town as yourselves, and Behemoth: how did that tour come about?
We’ve been talking with Watain for a long time about doing something: we have played gigs with them and then this behemoth tour offered the possibility for both of us to come along… it’s going to be great to play with people you know and respect what they do: it’s going to be a great tour – intense.
What’s your take on the current state of the Swedish music scene?
To us here in Britain it seems to be split into two camps –glam metal, such as Reckless Love and Crash Diet, and heavy metal / death metal: what’s your take on how vibrant the scene is at the moment, because it seemed to have died down for a while?
Yes, it’s like that all the time – like every ten years there’s four or five bands that do something very powerful, honest and good, and then there’s like the aftermath of it, with a lot of people trying to do a similar thing. I think it just goes in circles and it happens in a lot of countries – it’s just that in Sweden a lot people play music. At the moment, I’m more interested in the noise and power electronics scene than in metal actually, so I haven’t seen many bands recently, but I don’t think you really need hundreds of good bands – I think if you have five/ten great bands, that’s great for any place.
Does it surprise you that, given the smallness of the world today, it can take some time for, for example, Britain to catch up with what is going on in Scandinavia? For example, the ‘next big thing’ to come out of Sweden could be actually five or six years old by the time it reaches us…
Maybe, but at the same time I think I can understand it because, for example, with our latest album… there is so much more to it than the first one: I love the first one but there is something about the new one catches people’s attention in another way, I guess, so sometimes you have to give it time and when you see a lot of people talking about you know you have done something good and people are catching up on it, but it’s a natural process I guess – you have to do something powerful in order to catch people’s attention. I don’t think people are late, or slow to catch up, or anything, but when a band does something… and I think our latest album did that…
Of course, signing with a band like Metal Blade obviously makes it easier to increase your international profile…
Of course, especially when it comes to promotion and setting up tours: we couldn’t have done this on an independent label…
When the Swedish death metal scene was establishing itself, it was all about underground fanzines, tape trading and word of mouth, and it was a long slow process for a band to build a profile: today, it’s all about filesharing and social media – it’s all instantaneous. Does that make it harder or easier for a band to get to the marketplace, especially in terms of it being a lot easier to build a profile quickly but it’s also easier for you to get knocked down just as quickly?
I think so. The ways of communication back then demanded a lot more from the musicians and the listeners: I mean, it demanded patience to get your stuff across, and the people who wanted to listen to it had to work more to. But, I think people again are more into buying records and going to shows: those things also go in circles: it is so easy to go to the internet and listen to one song and say “I like that”, but you also need that patience from the old ways. To do something powerful and honest, you have to go through the same process, as you still have to communicate with people.
To wrap up then: after these two UK and US tours, what is on the horizon for In Solitude – is there a new album on the way?
Hopefully, someday, but we’re not really in a rush. We are going to tour as much as possible now and then start writing something. We’ve written some stuff in rehearsals, and so on, so hopefully there’ll be a new album – and it’s gonna be great!