Bandleader/guitar player Victor Olsson – Saffire
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Emil Westerdahl at Inner Wound Recordings for setting up the interview
Thanks to Inner Wound Recordings for the promo pictures of the band
Promo pictuers of the band taken by: Pontus Fagerstedt
From Gothenburg Sweden comes the metal act Saffire; led by guitar player Victor Olsson. The bands debut album came out at the beginning of the summer and is called FROM ASHES TO FIRE. The album is brilliant, and since Saffire hadn’t been featured in metal-rules.com earlier, I thought it was time to take a moment with Olsson finding out what he and the band all about. If you’re into bands like Rainbow, Dio, Whitesnake, and Van Halen, then Saffire might be something to check out. Enjoy!
Hi Victor are you ready to kick off the interview? Let’s go back in time to the birth of the band. You and keyboard player Dino Zuzic formed the band in 2006 how did the idea to form a band come up?
At the time we were playing in a funk rock band where I actually was the drummer. But I wrote so many riffs and stuff that didn’t quite fit in with the whole funk rock thing so I asked Dino if he wanted to do something different, something heavier and he sure was!
Was it hard to find members for the band? Also, was it a given from the start what kind of music the band was going to play?
It was somewhat difficult, ’cause I knew I wanted it to be a quite serious project, so I really wanted the right guys for it. Not just on a musical level but also on a more personal one. It took us about 2-3 years of auditioning with people to find the guys we wanted to. When I started the whole thing all I had in mind was to create something quite 70’s groovy hard rock thing. And everyone seemed up for just that!
Where does the band name Saffire come from? Does the name have any special meaning for you and Zuzic?
It’s a name our ex-vocalist Martin came up with actually. It’s nothing very deep about it, it’s a cool sounding name and it mixes the two key elements we want to have in our music. ”Sapphire”, which represents the more melodic and ”beautiful” side of it and ”Fire” which represents the wild and heavy side of it. I think if there’s only one of those elements then the music will be quite boring.
During 2007 the band released a demo on Myspace; what did people think of the demo?
Our first demo yes, that was when the first reactions came, and it was mostly positive. We didn’t know really what to expect, so even though the demo wasn’t very good, it was an important step for the band.
Early in 2008, your drummer, Elowson, left the band. Was his departure expected or was it as a surprise?
It was sort of expected, he was becoming a father, and already had loads of other projects, and he had to cancel a lot of rehearsals, so we sort of saw it coming. And it was for the best of both of us.
Was it hard to find a new drummer? How did Roos end up behind the drums in Saffire?
With Anton I was really lucky, almost instantly after talking to Gustav about his departure I found Anton’s ad where he searched for a band to play in. He had just won ”The Swedish drum solo championship” so I was really impressed with what he could do with the drums. And fortunately he saw something in us and joined!
And during 2010 singer Jonasson also said goodbye. How did his departure effect the band?
It came very sudden so of course it felt like a big set back, to find a good vocalist with that kind of range is really hard these days. But we never felt very disheartened by it, in fact we looked at it as an opportunity to get a fresh start, and find some new inspiration maybe.
Was it given that Tobbe Jansson was going to replace Jonasson?
After MANY hours of searching, there was only really one guy that was stuck on my mind and that I wanted, and yes, that was Tobbe Jansson. He was really the only guy I even considered!
What did the fans think of the member changes?
Some were a bit skeptical of course, as always when things like that happen, but after our first live show together it seemed as if everyone had forgotten about Martin already. Tobbe was that good.
Jansson sang on the third demo that Saffire released back in 2011, where did you send the demos? To labels and magazines?
A few labels and magazines yes, but we mainly focused on publishing our stuff online and reaching new listeners, which really helped us building a fanbase on Facebook and stuff.
I’ve read that you once said that the band is inspired by bands like Rainbow, Dio, Whitesnake, Van Halen and Black Sabbath. In what way is Saffire influenced by those acts?
Those bands are the big reason I started writing riffs and wanted to start a band. Of course, as I have progressed and evolved as a song writer, new influences has arrived, but as a band we still stand on a solid ground of those bands I think.
Ronnie James Dio was the singer of a few of the bands mentioned above. Do you remember where you were and what you felt when you got the news of his passing?
I actually do yes! I was at my parents house when a friend texted me ”Dio is dead. I’m in tears”. I had to sit down for a moment and think about it. THE best rock vocalist ever was dead. So sad. I used to dream of the (almost) original Rainbow line up to re-unite, but that dream died with Dio. His talent was really one-of-a-kind!
Which are your three favorite albums with Dio?
The original line-up of Rainbow is to me the best band ever, so I would say the first three studio albums with Rainbow and ”Long live Rock’n’roll” as my absolute favorite. And of course ”Holy Diver” is an absolute superb classic album. Vivian Campbell’s guitar playing is amazing.
Debut album FROM ASHES TO FIRE
Are the songs on the debut album all new or have you used any of the songs on the demos?
Most of the songs had actually been recorded on demos once or even twice in some cases. That made us more sure of how we wanted to produce and arrange the songs, we had done it before and knew what we liked and disliked about it, so in a way it was all for the best.
Who in the band writes the material and what are the lyrics about?
I usually write most of the music, although I tend to leave some details for everyone to figure it out for themselves. That way my songs turn out the way I want to, and everyone get to put a bit of a personal touch to it. The lyrics however is usually a collaboration between me and Tobbe. On the album the lyrics mostly reflects personal growth and development. Something everyone in the band have had our fair share of the last couple of years.
Is Saffire a democracy when it comes to deciding about the material or who’s in charge?
Well, since I started the band and still is the creative force behind the music, my feeling is that everyone seem to give me an upper hand when it comes to those stuff. I, however, am not comfortable in overruling anyone’s opinion, I think all opinions are valuable and should be considered, but when it comes down to it, and if someone has to overrule anyone, I would say I’m probably that guy.
Where does the title FROM ASHES TO FIRE come from?
As said before, me and the boys have all experienced a sort of personal development and change in our lives in the past few years, and the title sort of reflects the fact that some thing has to burn down to ashes before you can start rebuilding it again. That’s ONE way to read the title, we also thought of the fact that we take our influences from the past, mainly the 70s, and make it fresh and exciting again. At least, that was our intention!
Are you happy with the cover art work?
I would say we are, yes. I think it’s pretty cool looking, and it has our awesome big logo at the front, that’s pretty much all you need
Do you feel that the band has changed anything when it comes to the music of you compare the Saffire of today with the Saffire back in the start?
Oh yes. When I started the band, I focused only on the 70s rock with the Hammond organ and stuff. But as new influences arrive and you evolve as a person and songwriter, the music has become much more multifaceted. I don’t see the point in trying to make the exact same music that was written 40 years ago.
You shot a video to the first single “Magnolia” what can you tell us about the video?
I don’t wanna give away to much hehe, but the lyrics are about someone who is on a quite self-destructing path with drugs and stuff, and the video actually reflects some of that in a weird way, especially if you wait and watch ’til the end. The videos was shot in a studio in one day, with exceptional work from 11 Frames, the guys who directed and produced the video.
Are there any plans on shooting videos to any of the other songs?
We are actually thinking about it, we have a few ideas. Maybe maybe!
What have the media to say about the album? Have you read any reviews and do you care about what the critics have to say about the bands work?
Since this was my first album release, I have tried to read all the reviews that are out there. And I must say we’ve been almost overwhelmed by some of the nice things people have said about the album. To me it’s proof that we sure are on the right path here and it gives us a big moral and energy boost!
The band held a release party for the album at the club Sticky Fingers in Gothenburg Sweden. How was the party and did the band perform?
It was a truly epic night. We did play at the party, probably our coolest gig so far, with loads of people showing up, singing along with the songs and expressing their love for the album and for the band. So cool, and very humbling. It was a night we will never forget.
To my ears, Saffire’s music sounds like classic hard rock with a twist of progressive metal. How would you like to describe what kind of music the band play?
I would say you are right on the money! I always say we play hard rock, with a classic vibe and a slightly progressive twist to it.
Were there any songs that didn’t make it onto the final edition of the album?
No, in fact it was quite the opposite haha. We recorded 13 songs and intended to put only maybe 11 of those on the album. But when we were done, we couldn’t decide which songs to put aside, I guess we were all so pleased about all the songs. So we put them all in there! More music for the money right?
Both the vocal efforts and your guitar play sounds amazing on the album. Are you happy with what your band mates have achieved on the disc?
Thank you so much! I truly couldn’t be happier with everyone’s effort on this album and I’m sure everyone in the band feels the same.
I have listened to FROM ASHES TO FIRE and it’s really a great album. It grows each time I listen to it, how does it feel to have made such an amazing album?
Again, thank you very much! Really kind of you. We are very proud of the album, and we told ourselves that if this is the only album we’ll ever do, then let’s make it something to be really proud of and cherish. It was all-in from day one!
Studio and production
In the bio it can be read that the album was mixed in studio Fredman but on your website it says that you recorded the album in Fredman, what is correct?
The drums was recorded in Fredman and we did the mixing there. All of the other recordings took place in other studios.
How long took it to record the album? On your website it says 6 months is that true?
Yep, about six months. Quite a long time for songs we knew in and out, but we wanted to really thorough about everything, both with production/sound and performance.
How was it to work with the well known and very skilled producer and musician Fredrik Nordstrom?
It was great! He knows his trade, that’s for sure and he is such a cool and funny guy. We couldn’t stop laughing when he told some of his crazy stories and anecdotes.
Jens Bogren at Fascination Street took care of the mastering, how come you chose to work with him?
As said, we went all-in on this album, and wanted the best we could find. Everything Jens does is world class, so we chose him ‘simply because he is the best.
Is it correct that you recorded the album without any back up from a label?
That is true. We did the whole sending-around-demos-to-record-labels thing, but as newcomers, there isn’t really anyone willing to put in any money without a finished result so we decided to do it on our own and let the finished album speak for itself.
Label and management
How made you chose to ink a deal with Inner Wound Recordings?
Inner Wound was a label we had heard of, and had some contact with. When we contacted Emil at Inner Wound and showed the album, he seemed like a really great and honest guy and expressed great interest in the album and the music. We then decided to meet and we all felt good vibes about it, and signed a deal!
Are you happy with the work the label have put into the album and the band so far?
Yes, I would say so. The communication has been great and Inner Wound has helped us out with loads of stuff, which has been good since we are sort of newcomers to the business. All has been well!
For how many albums are you signed for?
Only for ”From ashes to fire”. We’ll see how things go, maybe we’ll do another one together!
Is the album released in North America and Asia?
From what I understand, the album has not been released in Asia. But apart from that, it’s sort of a worldwide deal.
Is it Inner Wound Recordings that’s releasing the album worldwide or do you have a distribution label?
Inner Wound is doing all of the distribution as far as I know.
Inner Wound Recordings co-works with the promotion agency Connecting Music how do you feel the co-work is going?
Connecting music is great. It allows reviewers to review and listen to the album without owning a physical copy, thus reducing the risk of our album ending up on download sites months before the actual release. So it’s all good.
Do you currently work with any management?
Not really no. We’re still in a very early stage of our career, right now we can manage to do most stuff ourselves, but maybe in the future if we feel the need for it, and if it will do us any good.
Past and present
Have you done any live shows since the release of the album?
Apart from the release party we have only done one gig, here in Gothenburg. We signed with a booking agency in June so we’re hoping things will change and we will get the change to prove ourselves more in the live scene and bring some heavy rock to the people!
Any plans on heading out on the road in the near future?
We would love to, but there are no tour planned as we speak, no.
What is your current priority – Scandinavia and Europe or the rest of the world?
Right now I would say we are focusing largely on Scandinavia and our home base in Sweden. The album is out, we’ve had great reviews but we need to get out and show ourselves on stage too.
Your website feels pretty empty, who runs it, and are there any plans to fill it with current material like videos, reviews and so on?
We run the website ourselves and you’re right, it is a bit empty, we’ve just been focusing more on social media stuff like Facebook. It’s so much easier, both for us and the fans, to communicate and get proper responses and feedback on stuff. Much more fun and rewarding. But our main website will be updated and filled with more fun stuff in the future!
Does the band think it’s necessary to be active on the various kinds of social networks?
As said above, we do put in quite an effort to communicate with fans via social networks as it is one of the easiest ways to reach new people and bring news. We do know however that every social network can be dead in a year or so, just look what happened to Myspace, so it’s important that not ALL of the focus is on one social network but to spread things out.
Do you interact with the fans on your facebook page? What’s the most common question you receive from fans?
The most common question is without a doubt: ”Will you come to my city and play live soon?” Hopefully we’ll be able to answer them ”YES!” quite soon.
Are any of the members a part of any other band or project besides Saffire?
Tobbe quite recently joined Evil Masquerade for their new album and is also involved in a few other minor projects while Anton is the drummer of AOR-band Elevener. I started up a sort of 70s rock n’ roll sounding project a while ago called Rogue Elephant together with Tobbe and Anton, but it’s more of a recording project than a live band. Dino and Magnus are both completely faithful to Saffire!
Is the band working on any new material for the next album? If so, how far have you come?
We sure are. I would say we have about 5-6 new songs, all of them are not complete yet but we’re getting there. I really like the way they have turned out so far so I’m psyched about recording them! But it’s too early to say when that is going to happen.
What do you like to say to the ones who haven’t discovered the music of Saffire yet?
Look us up! If you’re a fan of any type of hard rock with loads of energy, melodies and groove, then we’re the real deal.
Could you give the readers three reasons why they should buy FROM ASHES TO FIRE?
I would say because it’s versatile, fresh and simply rocks!
Finally, would like to share any words of wisdom to the fans and readers?
In the words of Bill and Ted: Be excellent to each other! And enjoy the experience of Saffire!
That was all for me now. Thanks a lot for making the interview possible. I really hope to see you soon on stage!!
Thanks for this interview.
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