Guitarist Emil Norberg and drummer Efraim Juntunen – Persuader
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
Thanks to the Persuader for the additional promo pictures.
From the northern parts of Sweden comes the power metal kings, Persuader. The band is back to attack after a long break. Their previous album WHEN EDEN BURNS came out in 2006 and they are now back with a vengeance with the brand new opus THE FICTION MAZE. I was blown away by THE FICTION MAZE and urge everyone who is a fan of well played, edgy power metal to check out the album. Persuader makes me glad to be Swedish! I had the luck to have a chat with guitarist Emil Norberg and drummer Efraim Juntunen where we talked about the brand new album, what the band has been up to in between releases, as well as what the guys think the future has in store for Persuader. Enjoy!
Hi Emil and Efraim thanks for taking the time making the interview. Are you ready to begin?
First of all I have to congratulate you and the band for making such an amazing album as THE FICTION MAZE, I think it’s brilliant. How long took it to write and to record the album?
Efraim – Thank you very much! I think we started around 2008 and worked with what we had on and off for the following years. Things went slow with a lot going on in our personal lives that had to be taken care of, so the band wasn’t a high priority for quite some time.
I’ve read that the material is both old and new. How many of the songs was written especially for THE FICTION MAZE?
Efraim – Two or three song ideas were from before When eden burns, the title track for instance. For some reason we couldn’t really finish them back then, I guess they had to marinate a bit so we could make them just right. But the songs have changed a lot during the years too, I think in the end we ended up with about 90% brand new material.
Were there any songs that didn’t made it on to the final edition of the album?
Efraim – No, it’s all on there. We’re not one of those bands that write 20 songs and then pick the ones that turn out the best. It seems like it would be a huge waste of time, better to write 10-12 songs that everyone is satisfied with from the beginning to end and then keep on working on those.
Who in the band writes the lyrics and what are the lyrics about on THE FICTION MAZE?
Efraim – In the past it’s been almost exclusively me and Jens, for this album Emil also contributed for a few songs. Most of the lyrics is about finding your way, or the truth, in life which can be like a labyrinth. What is the true truth of things and what is fiction? I mean, half of your internet newsfeed is commercial, the other half scams, sponsored messages or bad jokes. We have religious fanatics to the left and right waving guns, claiming that their God is the right one. Nature is going to hell with global warming and toxic waste, yet the people who holds resources and money tell us it’s environmental propaganda and that we should just relax, kick back and keep on consuming. It’s not a very nice world we’re passing on to our children, is it?
What have the band been up to in between the release of the previous album WHEN EDEN BURNS from 2006 and THE FICTION MAZE?
Emil – Well, in eight years a lot of things happens. After WEB we had quite a lot of disagreements with our old label. We weren’t too happy with how they supported the band with regards to touring and such. After some discussions we agreed to do one more album for them which we started to. They then suddenly decided to go out of business which made us loose momentum in some way.
After this debacle personal lives stepped in when some members started families/studied/built houses and so on. Suddenly it was quite hard to get everybody in the same place at the same time. We still wrote the occasional riff and worked on songs but things went really really slow. I can’t really believe it’s really been 8 years but somehow time flew fast.
If you compare those two albums do you think that the band have gone through any musical changes?
Emil – Sure, I think we still have had the same musical vision but we have taken it one more step in realizing it. We have always wanted to fuse together different genres and styles and make something of our own. On WEB we tried our best to do that and we have tried it to pursue that plan with TFM as well. I still think we aren’t quite there with the ultimate Persuader album yet but at least we are getting closer. Also with this album we tried a bit of darker production as well which also was a new thing for us to try.
Persuader – Son of Sodom
Did the band put out any teaser of the album on youtube or such to promote the album?
Emil - Ehh… yeah… a bit too early… I mean we’ve been so close to finishing the album for quite some time so around 2010 we started to release to snippets of the pre-production. It just took 4 more years to complete. But from the actual album we released a teaser around December featuring most songs.
Persuader – The Fiction Maze
Have you ever felt any pressure from your record label or other people to deliver something extra ordinary on THE FICTION MAZE?
Efraim – I think most of the pressure came from ourselves, we wanted to make this one count since there was a significant gap between releases. It would have been ridiculous to release an album 5-6 years in the making if we weren’t absolutely sure we’d done our best. Our record label only pushed us to keep the deadline, creative wise they did not interfere at all.
Emil – Yeah, as Efraim say, the pressure is from ourselves… to release something we can be proud of.
In the biography it can be read that the band “Constantly continue to develop their sound, songwriting skills and performance”. Could you tell us a little more about what that statement means to you guys?
Efraim – For me I think it’s all a learning experience. You take the best parts from each album with you and use what you’ve learned to make the next one even better. Recording, writing, your instrument skill…It should all develop to some extent so you don’t get stuck doing the same thing over and over. I’m not sure if it’s something the average listener will notice but for us it is important.
Emil – Just trying to incorporate all different influences we have from all different genres of music that we like… mix it up and try to make it all make sense. There are many ways to arrange and produce music so it’s always a treat to discover new ways and making the music sound more exciting.
Are you happy with the cover art-work by Felipe Machado? What’s the idea behind the cover?
Emil – Absolutely. Me and Jens worked with him before so we new he was a great artist. We had the basic idea and we worked pretty close to make the finished product.
Is it correct that the album is a theme album? Could you tell the readers what the album is about?
Efraim – There is a theme running through most of the songs, the already mentioned search for truth in the maze that is life. But there are a couple of songs that digress a bit, like Worlds collide and Falling faster which deals with the Cthulhu mythology.
You blogged from the studio during the work with the album proceeded. What did the fans think of the blog?
Emil – I think they thought it was a joke to be honest… nothing really happened for long periods of time sadly which made many fans frustrated. I understand them totally and it’s not a mistake we´ll make twice.
Are there any plans on shooting videos to any of the new songs?
Efraim – There’s no budget for that at the moment unfortunately. Perhaps we’ll put together something home-made like we did with The hunter, we’ll see.
The media and critics have been very positive towards THE FICTION MAZE, does the band care about what media and press thinks and writes?
Emil – Of course, it is really cool to have all this feedback. It just shows that we are on to something good with the band and it gives you some kick to try even harder with future songs. To make something even better and blow everybody away.
Are there any differences in how native and foreign media writes and treats the band?
Efraim – I think it’s over all a bit better abroad, but we’ve had some good reviews/interviews here as well.
Emil – Yeah… I think Sweden isn’t too interested in our kind of music which in result doesn’t give us much space in the press sadly.
How have the fans responded on THE FICTION MAZE?
Efraim – Really well, we weren’t sure if they’d still be around after all this time but most seem to think it was worth the wait.
I think that the singer Carlsson, you Emil and Daniel on guitar did an amazing job on the album. Are the band happy with the outcome or do you feel you should have done anything in a different way?
Efraim – No I think the outcome was really satisfying. There are of course small things you discover that could have been done differently but that’s mostly production stuff that no one other than us will notice. Personally I’m extremely happy with TFM, especially since it was in limbo for so long.
Emil – I agree with Efraim. I think the only thing I more or less always have regretted with each album, being a small band like Persuader, is that the budget for recordings and production doesn’t really help the creative process. We have always recorded our albums really fast and mixed it really fast. I’d really like the opportunity to really dig in and produce and album properly some day, with a really good producer.
Personally I think that you play faster power metal but how would you like to describe what kind of music Persuader plays?
Efraim – Heavy melodic metal. There are flavors of all kinds of (metal)sub-genres and other styles of music too in the mix. We don’t really think about it, if we like the song then the supposed label doesn’t matter.
The album is quite long and clocks in on about 50 minutes. Was it your intention to do a long album or did that just happen?
Efraim – We had, for once, quite a lot of material to work with. In the past it has been a bit of a stretch to pull the playing time together but I guess we accumulated a bunch of good riffs and ideas since the last album. We could have scratched one song and still be in the clear but we figured why hold something back if we liked it all?
How come you featured a strictly instrumental song in “Dagon Rising” on the album?
Efraim – I think that one started as an idea for an intro, possibly for the whole album. But I think we agreed to have TFM kick off with a song immediately so it became something else.
I had this vision of a giant beast rising from the depths of the ocean when I worked on it. When we decided to put it as sort of an intro to the following song “Worlds collide”, which is about the Ancient ones taking over the planet, the name made sense. I love bands that have small breaks or instrumentals on their records, like Dissection or Arch Enemy.
I think it gives the whole album experience more depth.
Do you think that the hardcore Persuader fans are going to like THE FICTION MAZE?
Efraim – I think so. We have elements of the old albums mixed with a few new touches, fast and slow parts…something for everyone. The core elements are still there so I think if you like what we’ve done so far you’ll like the new one too.
Production, studio and mixing
Where was the album recorded? And who has produced it?
Efraim – We recorded most of it at our home studios and our rehearsal place and then took the tracks to mixing/mastering. We eventually decided to re-record the guitars at the mixing studio cause they lacked a little punch but otherwise it was a DIY affair.
The engineering, mixing and mastering was made by Ronnie Björnström but where was it done?
Efraim – At Garageland Studios in our hometown Umeå. The exact same place where we recorded our first demo and parts of The hunter, so it was familiar ground.
Was any of the band members a part of the mixing or mastering process?
Efraim – Yeah we shared duty on that, there was someone present at most hours to keep track and come with suggestions during the mixing. The mastering Ronnie did by himself and then sent us the finished work. He did an amazing job by the way.
How does a recording session work for Persuader? Do you all gather in the studio to record at the same time or do you drop in when it’s time to do your own parts?
Efraim – When we record demos we usually send ideas and basic recordings back and forth and then gather to record vocals and choirs. For this album we often worked in pairs, one doing his thing on his instrument and the other one recording. For vocals we all tried to be present to come up with ideas and pointers on how to make it all come together.
Label and management
How come the label Dockyard 1 that released the previous album didn’t release THE FICTION MAZE?
Efraim – They went out of business after they released When Eden Burns, so it wasn’t even an option.
Who own the legal rights to the three former albums today?
Emil – I think AFM owns WEB, but the the precedence ones I actually got no clue. EP was recorded for Sanctuary/Noise records. What happened to our contracts when they went out of business I do not know.
You have been signed to different labels on each album you’ve released. How has that been? Has it taken its toll on the songwriting or the atmosphere in the band?
Efraim – It has been a setback after each release, you have to sort of start from scratch each time working with new people and building things up again. Of course it has been troubling since we want to take the band forward yet keep hitting huge bumps along the way. But in the end we do this because we enjoy the music, not for fame or money.
Were there many labels that showed interest in the band after Dockyard 1? How come you chose to ink a deal with Inner Wound Recordings?
Efraim – We didn’t search for new partners for a long time after Dockyard1 shut down. We lost interest for some time, there was a lot going on in our personal lives with families getting started, babies were born etc…Maybe we could have scored a deal on a bigger label but we figured we had tried that and failed already so why not try a smaller, dedicated label where we wouldn’t be a small fish in a big pond?
Does it feel “safer” to be signed to a Swedish label like IWR than to be signed to a foreign label?
Efraim – It’s “closer to home”, both in distance and language so the communication is very easy. And if they fuck things up completely, we could always pay them a visit with big baseball bats!
Is it hard to get a hold of the bands older albums today?
Efraim – I think they’re all available online at least, like on amazon and such.
Where in the world is THE FICTION MAZE released today?
Emil – It is available in North America and Europe through Inner Wound Rec. and Avalon/Marquee in Japan so far.
IWR is co-operating with the promotion company Connecting Music, how do you think that’s going?
Efraim – It’s a little early to evaluate but I think it’s working out good.
You have been inked to many various labels and with all that in mind what are your opinions on the music/record industry today with all the down loading, spotify and so on?
Efraim – The industry is sure changing, if you’re not one of the biggest bands you don’t really make any money on record sales anymore. Vinyl has had a comeback, which is really cool, but I think the only real income for smaller bands these days are from merchandise and live shows. Streaming services like Spotify is a good concept to get music out for new unknown artists but needs to have another payback model, the bands don’t earn any way near enough from it.
I think in the future we’ll see on one hand a handful of huge bands that can survive on their own and on the other a plethora of smaller artists that struggle hard. The gap between keeping a band as a hobby and making a living from it these days is widening. The only way to survive economically with a band as your income is spending all of your of time promoting it, getting out there touring vigorously. Which means that at some point you have to give up your day job, take a huge setback financially and hope for the best. A leap of faith not many will be able to do.
Is it possible to download the album legally anywhere?
Emil – Sure, it is available on iTunes, Amazon mp3, Spotify, eMusic and most other international legal music platforms. great huh?
Are there any plans on re-recording the old Persuader albums anytime soon or re-release them again?
Efraim - If we could somehow get the rights to all the old material then I suppose it would make sense to make some sort of deluxe re-release but I don’t see that happening any time soon. It’s a financially uncertain project for a band of our size.
Does the band work with any booking agency at the moment?
Efraim – We are looking into possible agencies, but nothing is decided right now.
Could you tell us some history of the band like when and where the band was founded?
Efraim – We started out back in 1997, getting together and playing just for fun. I remember there weren’t that many bands like us at the time in Umeå, there was Nocturnal rites and a band called Hollow, otherwise mostly death/black metal bands and of course the mighty Meshuggah.
We had this local municipal rehearsing place that you could book for a couple of hours a week, equipped with barely functioning instruments. That’s where it all started. It was me on drums, Pekka and a guy called David on guitars. Later on Fredrik and Jens joined the lines and that was when we started to get more serious with writing and rehearsing. Music engineer Mattias Eklund was hired to oversee the recording of the demo Visions and dreams in 1998 which got great respons and landed us a deal with Loud n proud records.
Was it given from the start that you were going to play this kind of music? Who were your biggest influences back then?
Efraim – We started out playing a little more melodic, stuff like Wasp and Helloween. We wanted to make music with great melodies and cool riffs basically, it evolved naturally from there. But we liked all kinds of music, a lot from the Gothenburg scene like early In flames, Dark Tranquillity, At the gates and so on. Soilwork, Darkane, Yngwie Malmsteen, Dissection, Hypocrisy, Scanner, Iced earth, some Blind guardian…the list goes on. There were so many good bands on the rise.
The band got great respond on the 1998 year demo VISIONS AND DREAMS. How did that feel?
Efraim – Unreal, we had no idea that anyone would pay attention. Internet was fairly new but we sent the demo to all bigger metal sites that we could find (yours included). It was exciting to get new snail mail with response every now and then.
Your debut album THE HUNTER from 2000 won the “Best Newcomer Award”. Was that expected and how was that?
Efraim – Not at all, it was a great surprise! We didn’t know what to expect, we had only been a band for three years or so, so it was an honor absolutely.
The album was going to be released by Loud N Proud but something happened, what?
Efraim – The guys behind the label were more fans than businessmen, to say the least. I think they simply were too much in debt to continue.
Is it correct that the album only was released in France?
Efraim – To my knowledge, yes.
How was the mood in the band when that happened?
Efraim – Major bummer, of course. The label had promised this and that, everything was looking good but then suddenly they were hard to get hold of, didn’t answer mails or phone. We had contact with a few other bands that had the same problem and finally it was clear that they were more or less bankrupt and that we had to move on.
Where does the band name Persuader come from? Does the name have any special meaning to the members?
Efraim – I took it from an old computer game called Syndicate. You played as a hired gun and you had this device called a persuader. You used it on your target to make them follow you without resistance. Silly perhaps but it was a bit different and I thought it had a nice ring to it. It has no greater meaning other than “Follow us. Or die.”
Do all of the members live in Umeå today?
Efraim – In Umeå, or the neighboring towns. We all have jobs in the city though so it’s easy to meet up these days.
The band entered the Metal Gods Competition which you won, tell us about that competition? What was the prize?
Emil – It was cooperation between the major magazines around Europe like Sweden Rock magazine, Metal Hammer and such… where bands from each country sent in a demo to compete amongst themselves country-wise first and the move on to a Europe-wide competition where three finalists were selected to compete with a live performance in Bochum, Germany. We won of course… but… I guess now that when its 11 years since this… Noise called us up before the final and said that they were signing us either way so we did’nt really need to play the live show. But it was a fun gig and we met a lot of cool people!
The prize was to record an album with mighty Piet Sielck behind the wheel of his mighty Powerhouse Studio. Also a great experience which eventually led to the formation of Savage Circus as well…
The band went through some line-up changes back in 2004, who left the band?
Efraim – We decided to continue without Pekka in 2000 because of personal differences. Jens knew Emil since they went to the same school and knew he was quite capable, so we asked if he would join us, and he did. A few years later Jens decided to hang up the guitar and focus on vocals only so we enlisted our old time friend Daniel Sundbom to pick up the guitar duties. It has been a very stable line-up since then and will hopefully stay that way.
You Emil joined Savage Circus back then. How did you end up in Thomen Stauch’s band?
Emil – Oh long story… but he was searching for guys to form something new in the vein of old blind guardian and as he knew Piet and had heard us through him we got together.
How was it to work with Stauch?
Emil – He’s a great guy, great drummer and a really cool dude to work with. He´s really good at what he does, arranging drum patterns and always making the most of his playing to work for the music and the song.
What’s the status in the Savage Circus camp today? Is the band alive or put to rest?
Emil – Couldn’t really say. Me and Jens aren’t involved in the band at the moment but I know Thomen wanted to carry the torch on.
Are you still friends with Stauch today?
Emil – Absolutely. We talk now and then and as for myself I’d really like to do something with him musically in the future again.
You Efraim recorded an album with Guillotine how was that and was that planned?
Efraim – It was great fun and nice to do something a little different. Guillotine is, as you may know, a full onslaught of thrash metal and mostly fast, and I like to play fast. Fredrik Mannberg had a lot of material written and wanted to resurrect the band since they weren’t doing anything with Nocturnal Rites at the moment. So he and Nils asked me and Daniel to join for the recording of Blood Money and a bunch of live shows. This was at the time of Dockyard1′s downfall so Persuader was on hold which left us available. We’re all easy going guys so we had a lot of fun playing together, I’d love to do another record with them soon.
Is Guillotine alive and kicking today?
Efraim – No, Mannberg and Nils are busy trying to finish the new NR album so Guillotine is on hold until that album cycle is done, I think. There are a lot of material written and partially recorded so I’m sure we’ll see another awesome thrash album in the future.
Is is correct that you during this period had problems with Dockyard1? What were your feelings when the label went bankrupt?
Efraim – Yeah that’s right. Well it didn’t encourage us to be productive, that’s for sure. It’s out of your hands, there’s really not much else to do other than pick up the pieces and continue onwards. At the same time DY1 hadn’t done a whole lot for the band except put out our album, so…Maybe it was for the best.
A few of the members are also involved in other bands besides Persuader, do you see any problems in that?
Efraim – No, Persuader is not an all time job for us so there’s time and place for other bands and projects. Nothing has clashed, so far at least. If anything it’s more promotion for Persuader, not a bad thing.
Emil – As Efraim say it is just for the better. Also I think it´s great that all members can do what makes them happy which means Persuader is happy.
You haven’t had many changes in the line-up since the birth of the band. How have you managed to say so solid?
Efraim – Drugs? Haha, no I think it’s because we enjoy playing together. It’s what this band is about, having fun making and playing music we all dig. If you let the business side take over it’s easy to become enemies. We share everything equally in the band, small (if any) incomes no matter who writes what and to what extent. We’ll continue as long as we enjoy playing, if we ever call it quits I hope it’s because we feel we can’t do anything more with this type of music and not for any other reason.
Emil – Yeah, we’ve always had a good time writing and playing music, and also privately, just swinging some beer and talking shit.
Past present and future
The Persuader website doesn’t contain much info about the band who run it and will it be more stuff featured on the site soon?
Efraim – I don’t know..Do people really visit websites, isn’t it all kept on Facebook these days? But yeah, it’s pretty basic. We’ll try to add more things there in the future for sure.
Do you think it’s important to be active on the various social forums that’s available today?
Efraim – Absolutely. Can’t say we’re the best at that, but we’ll try to keep in touch with people.
What’s the most common question you get from fans?
Efraim – Hmm…”Please come play *insert country*”
Emil – “Please send me a CD to review”
Have you had any respond on the new album from the Japanese and American fans yet? What do they think of it?
Efraim – Yeah, it’s been surprisingly positive everywhere. Emil?
Emil – Japan… I tried to check that out, but I can’t read Japanese!!!
Where in the world do you have the biggest fanbase?
Efraim – No idea…I heard we have some sort of Brazilian fan club a few years ago, maybe there?
Are there any plans on heading out on tour or do single shows now that the album is out?
Efraim – Absolutely, that’s what we wanna focus on now. We’ve got a huge itch for getting out and playing everywhere possible, we’ve been away for so long.
Do you have any festival show booked for the summer?
Efraim – Not so much this summer, no. We released the album a bit late for the festival season this year, everything was booked already when we started fishing around for shows. Maybe this autumn, we’ll see.
At the beginning of April it said on your website that you were going to look closer at some tour options, anything you can tell us more about?
Efraim – Still in the works, keep your eyes on our Facebook page and we’ll announce it when it’s ready.
Are you happy with what Persuader have achieved so far? What are the plans for Persuader in the near future?
Efraim – Music wise, yes. We’ve been rehearsing extensively lately and it’s actually starting to get hard to pick what songs to play, guess that means we’ve got a decent library of tunes. What I can be unhappy with is that we’ve never been able to get a longterm plan going for the band with all the label bullshit going on. I really hope we’re done with that and that we can build something long-lasting with IWR.
Emil – We’ve always put out solid albums which have been really well received but we haven’t played abroad in 14 years… that is one thing thats really uncool that I’d really like to see change. Not too easy these days regarding how the industry works now.
When do you think that the next Persuader album is going to be out in stores? Does the fans have to wait 8 years for the next album?
Efraim – Hehe, well who knows…No, not 8 years, that would be a total disaster. We have a lot of good ideas for new songs already so I’m hoping within a two year period or something like that.
Emil – Yes, we have a plan. But it is a secret plan with a really cool expensive production and a lot of heavy riffs.
Are you currently working on material to the next album if so how far have you come?
Efraim – We’re writing riffs and sending stuff to each other so..it’s in the works. Just lose ideas at the moment but the flow is good so I’m not worried.
Emil – Yep, some stuff is brewing for sure. As I said earlier, the driving force at least for me is to top ourselves so I’m really thinking hard how to re-invent the Persuader sound for a new album. The stuff so far is heavy!
What would you like to say to the ones who haven’t discovered the music of Persuader yet?
Efraim – What are you waiting for, check us out dammit!
Could you give them three reasons why they should buy THE FICTION MAZE?
Efraim – 1: It’s a great album with all killer songs. 2: It’s got power, lot’s of it. No half-assed falsetto crap or tired riffing. 3: It will probably get you laid.
Before we sign off do you have any words of wisdom to share with readers and fans?
Efraim – Thank you very much if you’re still paying attention, hope to see you out there in the real world someday. Also huuuge thank you to Metal-rules.com for supporting us since the start! And kids, remember to floss. You will thank me 10 years from now.
Emil – And use condoms and read a lot of books as well. Physical books, not on your iPad!!!
Thanks for doing the interview. I wish you and the band all the best in the future and thank you for making such an amazing album as THE FICTION MAZE!
Efraim – Thanks, this was BY FAR the longest written interview we’ve ever done! Glad you liked the album, take care guys!