Hypocrisy – Interview With Peter Tägtgren
By Peter Atkinson
The touring gods have not been kind to Sweden’s Hypocrisy of late. On the eve of the band’s headlining run of North America in early May with Arsis, Krisiun and Aborted, the band were forced to bow out when it became apparent their work visas were not going to be ready in time. Even worse, while Hypocrisy were headlining a tour of Europe a month earlier, Sławomir “Mortifer” Archangielskij, bassist with Polish death metallers Hate, was found dead after a date in Stuttgart, Germany, prompting their direct support act to leave the tour. Autopsy results would later reveal that he died of “heart rhythm disturbances.”
So so far, so bad for the launch of Hypocrisy’s 12th studio album End Of Disclosure, which was released in late March. But after more than 20 years in the extreme metal trenches, both as an artist and producer, founder and frontman Peter Tägtgren has learned to roll with the punches – indeed quite literally in one case when he and other members of his industrial-minded second band Pain were assaulted by a gang in Germany in 2008.
And as Tägtgren spoke on the phone from Pärlby, Sweden, the village northwest of Stockholm that he actually owns, it seemed Hypocrisy’s luck already was changing for the better as another U.S. tour opportunity had emerged for later in the year. And instead of sitting around feeling sorry for himself, Tägtgren was already busy with another project that would tide him over until the band’s upcoming European festival dates.
I know, had things gone as planned, you were supposed to be in Oakland, Calif., today wrapping up your tour here. But since they did not, what are you doing with your “spare” time?
Peter Tägtgren: Right now I’m actually mixing the new Sabaton DVD. I wouldn’t have started until after the tour, but because we could not go, I didn’t want to just stay home and stare at the wall and go insane. So I started a little bit earlier and today I’m doing some extra press, so I’m keeping busy, getting things done.
I wouldn’t imagine that keeping busy is much of a problem for you, given the amount of work you do already?
Peter: No, somehow it always finds me (laughs). I enjoy it, it’s not really work. It feels like it’s a hobby, I’m still like a kid when it comes to sitting in front of the mixing board, you know.
Do you have plans to try again to do a tour of the states?
Peter: Yeah, definitely, it’s going to be announced soon, the new tour. During the summer, we’re going to go to the embassy and get our visas, because we have them already. The problem [with the tour Hypocrisy had to bow out of] is we would have to send our passports in to get the visas and it would have taken too fucking long. Plus, the interviews, they’re totally booked. I’ve never seen anything like it.
Plus, the Boston bombing totally fucked everything up, for everybody all over the world who wants to go to America. All the embassies got orders to do everything different after that, which slowed everything down. They are telling the embassies to thoroughly go through everything and then it takes so much longer than it normally takes for for applications and stuff. It took forever to get the invitation from America itself to come over, we have it now, but it would have been June before we get our passports back and the tour would have been over.
So you don’t have to start at the back of the line again and do everything over, you can just keep going through the process you already were in?
Peter: No, not at all. We’re picking up where things left off. There is a notice of action that we have, from the Department of Homeland Security, that was sent to us saying that we were welcome to go to the embassy and get our passports stamped. So we have all that stuff and we’ll keep to the schedule.
We already had the appointments and now we’re going to go there in July, because now we are not really in a hurry. We have another tour lined up that is really good for later on.
After the festival shows in Europe over the summer anyway, correct? Any info you can divulge about the new tour?
Peter: Yeah, we have a few festivals and also we will be doing some stuff that we didn’t do during the European tour, like Eastern Europe and Southern Europe, and then we’re going to go to America and open up for a big band, which will be really good. I can’t say anything about that yet, since it’s not us who’s headlining. We have to wait for them to announce it, but it should only be a couple weeks before they go out with it. So we’re definitely coming back.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time you’ve run into problems coming to the states. Was it the same sort of thing the forced you to cancel the tour in 2009?
Peter: That was different. I’ve been I don’t know how many times to America both as a civilian and having a working visa, maybe 20 or 25 times. And last time there was some skeletons in the closet that had to be fixed (laughs) and when it was we were able to come back in 2010, so everything was fixed.
My girlfriend is from Poland. She is here on a work visa and all the paperwork and stress that’s involved with getting things renewed and going through Customs at the airport when we’ve traveled out of the country makes you wonder if it’s even worth trying to come here?
Peter: When I used to live in America from ’88 to ’91, my girlfriend was Swedish and she wanted to come over and visit me and they actually in Customs told her “Nope, you’ve gotta go back.” Because they thought she was gonna work when she was here. So they put her back on the plane.
She was in America for like six hours and they found the first fucking plane they could and threw her on there, with guards until they closed door on the plane. And that was before 9/11 and all that shit. So it hasn’t gotten any easier.
It’s still a mystery how that system works because it seems like the people who should get in cannot and they ones who shouldn’t do?
Peter: I know, but since America is so attractive to people from other countries, you’ve gotta keep it tight. Even so, you can’t keep some people from slipping through. But that’s how things are these days, so you have to roll with it.
On your European tour there was more bad news with Hate losing their bass player, that obviously must have been quite a shock?
Peter: For sure. We tried to support them as much as we could. Losing a band member on tour is not something you ever think is going to happen. All of us, everybody who was on the tour, was really crushed. It was really a bad situation. They went home and a couple of days later we actually went to Poland, we had a scheduled gig there, so they came up on stage with us and did “Fire In The Sky” with us.
We helped them out with some economical issues and stuff like that because they had to stop after a few gigs. We tried to help them as much as we could. We’re in good contact with them, we’re good friends and I can only hope they get the show on the road again because I think that’s what he would have wanted. They’re really cool guys, really nice guys.
Unfortunately, it seems like these kinds of things seem to be happening more and more, accidents and deaths on tour?
Peter: Sometimes shit happens. It was sort of the same thing with Decapitated, we were out with them [in 2006] and then afterward all of that shit happened [drummer Vitek was killed and vocalist Covan suffered a traumatic brain injury in a bus accident in Russia in 2007]. It’s like, “Oh my god, are we cursed with Polish bands or what?” And I have so many Polish friends, so it’s even worse. It’s like “what that fuck, is it us?”
To completely change the subject, since you are home now, and you own the town you live in, what kind of responsibility does that entail?
Peter: Yeah, I have seven apartments that I rent out, so I have to be a landlord. I have a couple houses and I sold a couple of houses as well. A couple of houses I actually tore down to make it nicer here. It’s right beside the lake. From the beginning, when I bought the place, it was eight houses or something like that, so it’s no deal. It’s like a small, redneck place (laughs). A village inside another village, outside another village. No big deal.
But if someone calls at 3 in the morning because their toilet isn’t working …
Peter: Yeah, that’s my problem (laughs).
Are you writing any music as well now, or is the mixing work keeping you busy enough until you guys start playing out again?
Peter: I need to start writing some Pain stuff now. It’s usually when you feel it that you have to do something. It was the same thing with Hypocrisy, I felt like “Oh shit, I have to do it,” because there’s something happening in your body and your brain.
Can you basically flip a switch and go from Hypocrisy mode into Pain mode and vice versa?
Peter: One inspires me to do the other. For a while there, Hypocrisy inspired me to do Pain more brutal again, if you listen to the last album [2011’s You Only Live Twice] it’s a little bit heavier, it’s not so industrial or techno anymore. It became more metal, more guitars than keyboards. In the past, it’s been the opposite.
I have no clue why things happen in my brain, it just happens. So I don’t know what the next Pain album is going to be, maybe it’s going to go back to being more techno or industrial, I have no clue yet. As soon as I know what I want to do then I’m going to start to write, before that I don’t really want to touch it. It’s the same thing with Hypocrisy, when you’ve done so many albums you have to think: “What do you want to do? What do you want to accomplish with the next album?”
Yeah, with as big a body of work as you have with both bands, it’d be real easy to go into autopilot.
Peter: That’s also why it’s important to take some time between albums. I can spit out riffs and melodies all day long, but at the end nothing new is going to come out. I want to take another step all the time. I don’t know in what direction, but I don’t want the same album twice.
With all the work you do production-wise with other bands, does that end up inspiring your own music at all, or do you try to keep the two things separate?
Peter: I think you are what you eat, kind of. If you sit with a band in the studio for a month, it’s going to get stuck in your head whether you want it or not. And there is a buffer zone in there where just the best things come in. I think all of the bands that I work with influence me somehow. Same thing with radio. If you listed to Top 40 or classic rock a lot, it influences you somehow. I was brought up on a really wide variety of music, anything from The Beatles to whatever was brutal at the time, so to speak. So I think that is a positive thing for me as a musician, not to be a one-track mind.
Since you’re surrounded by so much heaviness and brutality in your work, what do you listen to for pleasure now?
Peter: Actually, for the first time in my life I got into David Bowie. Of course I knew who David Bowie was, but I really started to listen to The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and Hunky Dory, I’d never listened to that shit before and now I’m stuck (laughs). But I think it’s good for me to get something else for an influence, I try to go to these different periods of listening to totally weird shit and hopefully somehow it can help me keep going with my own stuff, taking it in different directions instead of just standing still.
Do you do as much production as you used to? For a while it was almost like an assembly line at Abyss Studio.
Peter: Yeah, I know. Usually I only have time for two or three bands a year because we tour so much more than we ever did before. With Hypocrisy in the ’90s, we would go out for three weeks per album, that was it. So there was plenty of time at home for the studio work. Now we tour like three or four months per year, and in between that you need a couple of months to write and record music, and that’s with two bands now, so there is not much room left over to do production for others. But I still do it, and if people ask me and they can come when it’s good timing where I’m not touring or writing and recording my own stuff, then I do it. And if it makes sense for me to see if I can help them or not.
Do you work any differently when you’re producing someone else’s work than you do with your own?
Peter: With my stuff I take more chances, I think. Because I know if I fuck up my own shit, it’s only me who’s going to suffer. If I fuck something for another band, then it’s a lot of people who are going to suffer. But it’s good, when I do my shit I can experiment and do all kinds of crazy stuff and therefore I can learn and bring stuff into other bands.
I’ve been reading your comments about going back to basics in the new album, were you disappointed with how the last few albums turned out?
Peter: Virus and the last one [A Taste of Extreme Divinity] were really good, but it felt like we kind of lost the Hypocrisy in them. That’s why I wanted to strip it down and make it more simplified, because that was the only way we knew it in the past. And the simpler the music is, the simpler the melodies are, the easier it is to understand it the first time you hear it.
I kind of missed that because we tried to show on the last two albums a little bit more that we can play our instruments (laughs). But since I never really practice, I pretty much play what I write, that’s my limit. So I just figured, let’s go back to the easy, simple things. Not because I can’t play but because that’s what I want and I think that’s what the fans want as well.
Plus, you have such a dynamite rhythm section now that keeping it simpler just plays to your strength.
Peter: It’s like AC/DC, you know, that rhythm section. You’ve got Mikael [Hedlund, bass] and you’ve got Horgh [drums, also with Immortal] in there, they don’t make mistakes, they are like machines. They are the foundation of our band. The same thing if you look at Judas Priest, the bassist [Ian Hill] just standing there and the drums just going straight, I think a little bit that’s how we are.
I love how the new album starts. The title track opens it kind of slow and creepy like, then “bam,” “Tales of Thy Spineless” just rips you head right off.
Peter: I didn’t want to start with a fast song this time, I wanted to start with something that people would understand right away. I didn’t want to come out with a surprise and when we went out with the video [for “End Of Disclosure”] on YouTube people were like “Oh, what the hell? We thought this was going to be something different,” but the thing is people want that shit. They want it to sound like Hypocrisy.
Same with me when I get an album from a band, I don’t want something different, and if it’s different then it’s got to be really fucking good. And when you open the album, it should feel familiar, it should feel like home.
Along with the new album, your first two albums are going to be released in like a box set format, is that something you were involved with or was that all the record company?
Peter: Actually, I was just involved to find the bonus tracks for it, some live stuff from here and there. Jonas Kjellgren from Black Lounge [Studios] and Scar Symmetry, he mastered the whole thing so it’s remastered. Nuclear Blast told me, “There are no more fucking CDs of the first two albums on the market, should be just keep pressing them or should we do something special?”
And I said the sound on them wasn’t really all that good, maybe they should be remastered to get the sound a little bit better, so they said, “Yeah, let’s do it.” So we put in some bonus tracks. Why not? Make it a little more special. We should have done this a long time ago, but I’ve just been so busy with everything else I just didn’t have the time to find the live stuff.
Since you’ve been involved with projects in the past, do you have anything else going on outside of Pain or Hypocrisy?
Peter: Not any side projects, just my two main bands because if I want to produce and have my own bands going, I can’t really do anything else. Of course, if people will ask my if I can put some vocals on some stuff, if it makes sense and I have the time, then I’m happy to. Like when I did it with Lockup, I just put vocals on there, I said I didn’t think I could ever go out and do any live stuff because I don’t have the time. Same with Bloodbath, I did it because they needed a singer at that moment.
But, of course, both bands were like, “Hey, go out on tour with us.” But I’m like, “dude, I don’t have time, I have to think for myself first.” And they know it, but of course they want to ask in case I change my mind or something, because you never know.