Guitarist Mats Karlsson and Thomas Drevin – 220 Volt
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Birgitt Schwanke at GerMusica Promotion & Management for help with setting up the interview.
Thanks to AOR Heaven for the promo pictures of the band.
220 Volt is a legendary metal band from Sweden that began their journey in the metal industry back in 1979. The band made its comeback in 2014 with the album WALKING IN STARLIGHT. I had the pleasure to talk to the two remaining original members in the band today – guitarist Mats Karlsson and Thomas Drevin. Besides talking about the brand new album and the comeback we also spoke about the turmoil in the past with members coming and going. If you like music in the veins of 80’s old school hard rock / metal, you surely will like 220 Volt and WALKING IN STARLIGHT.
Hi guys, thanks for taking the time for the interview. First of all, I have to say that I’m really happy to hear that 220 Volt is back. How does it feel to be back in the business again?
-Thomas: This is what we all love to do so it feels great
-Mats: Feels really good, we do think we have a strong album too!
Why was the band put to rest back in 1992?
– Mats: We had a tricky contractual situation, so it was, among other things, also a business decision.
What was the band members up to after the band split up in 1992 and the re-union 2002?
-Thomas: Me, Mats and Peter had a project called SolarMoon. We did a whole album but we never released it.
– Mats: I also played a lot of covers for a few years.
The band with its original line-up only re-united between 2002-2008, why so short period of time?
-Thomas: It wasn’t a serious comeback, we did it more for fun.
– Mats: Yeah, it was kind of low key and also not very active between 2005-08.
220 Volt celebrated 25 years as a band back in 2009 and released the EP HEAVY CHRISTMAS REVISITED the same year. What happened after that?
– Mats: That’s not totally correct, our song Heavy Christmas had it’s 25th anniversary in 2009 not the band, hence the title.
-Thomas: Mats and I continued to write and along the way we felt that we wanted to give it one more shot, and a more serious attempt this time. We talked about it with Peter and he joined in.
Who took the decision to reform the band once again?
– Mats: Me and Thomas asked Peter if he wanted to give it another shot, and he did, so we decided to go for it.
The singer, Anders Engberg, joined forced with the band, how did he end up in 220 Volt? Were you guys old friends?
– Mats: Anders joined in 2012 and he and Peter had met before, me and Thomas hadn’t met him.
Was Engberg the obvious choice as the new singer or did you had any other names to choose from as well?
– Mats: His name came up, we’d heard some stuff we really liked his voice on. He was the first and only guy we contacted. Fortunately it worked really well, we wanted someone that could contribute to the writing, and also someone who could do the old material justice. It works perfectly.
Which one of the older albums with the band are your favorites?
-Thomas: The very first album 220 Volt and “eye to eye” for me.
-Mats: I agree, though I like a couple of tracks from the “Power Games” album too.
New album WALKING IN STARLIGHT
How long did it take to write and record the new album?
-Thomas: Almost a year, 6 months to write and 6 months to record
The single “One Good Reason” was released last year, what did fans and media think of it?
– Mats: We didn’t release it through a record company, so we didn’t really get or seek any attention from the media, but the song has worked very well live.
Did you feel any pressure of creating and releasing something extraordinary with thought of your position in the Swedish rock history?
-Thomas: No, we just did what felt right at the time. We knew that we had a really good album, probably the best we’ve ever done, but we never felt any pressure.
-Mats: It was a long time since we released a new full album, no one knew what to expect, so we felt we could do anything really, as long as we thought it was great.
How come you chose to name the album WALKING IN STARLIGHT?
– Mats: The title comes from the dialogue in a movie, it had sort of an atmosphere about it, as soon as I heard it I knew exactly what song it could fit. We had been struggling a bit with the lyrics for that one, but I think the title gave Anders a new idea and it was done very quickly after that.
Walking In Starlight – Album Teaser
Does the title mean anything special to the band?
– Mats: It’s really a bit of a fantasy theme, and about a shape/figure who can lead the way out the darkness if you’re lost or lonely, light up your way out of the dark, we’re hoping our music can make a difference in someone’s life too…you know..shed some light.
Who did the cover art-work to the album and what do you think of it?
-Thomas: The astrophotographer Göran Strand, he’s a friend and a great photographer, he shot the cover photo. We asked if we could use it and put our logo on it. His photo and the title was a perfect match. He’s taken some more great pics, check it out at www.astrofotagrafen.se He’s had his photos published on NASA’s homepage as “photo of the day” several times, pretty cool.
The band shot a bunch of clips from the work in the studio which all are available on the band’s website and facebook. What kind of response did you get from the fans on the videos?
-Thomas: I think they liked to see and hear what happened during the process
Lars Ericsson plays the bass on 8 of the tracks but who handles the bass on the rest of the album?
-Thomas: Johann Niemann from Evergrey
You threw two release-parties for the album how was the parties? Did you perform live?
-Thomas: Yes in Stockholm and in our hometown Östersund. No we did not play live, it was a listening/signing party. We played the album, socialized and drank a lot of beer. ha!
In my opinion, you guys play hard rock but sometimes your music is described as heavy metal, how would you like to describe what kind of music 220 Volt plays?
-Thomas: I’m not sure. I think we’re a mix of it, with a slice of AOR on top. But if I must choose one style it’s hard rock.
-Mats: I think classic hard rock / melodic metal.
Do you think that your old hardcore fans are going to like the new album?
-Thomas: Yes I do. Walking in Starlight is different from the other albums but the 220Volt spirit is definitely there.
What are the lyrics about this time?
-Mats: Anders wrote most of the lyrics, so he could give you a better answer, but it’s about things in general, good love, bad love, stupid people, fast cars..stuff you can relate too. 😉
You shot a video to the song “Walking In Starlight” which now has over 14.000 clicks, what’s the video about? How long did it take to shoot and where did you shoot it?
– Mats: It took about 4-5 hours to shoot the video, it’s the same place as we rehearse at in Stockholm, we just fixed the place up a bit.
Walking in Starlight video
Are there any plans on shooting videos to any of the other songs?
-Thomas: Yes, we have plans for some more videos, one pretty soon.
Where was WALKING IN STARLIGHT recorded and who produced it?
– Mats: The album was produced by the band, it was recorded at several different locations, drums at one studio, vocals at another..and so on, I think 5 different places. Thomas also did some stuff at home that we re-amped later. It’s all in the booklet that comes with the CD.
The album’s got some great reviews which I congratulate you for. Do you care about what critics have to say about your work nowadays?
-Thomas: Yes of course, especially when the reviews are good. hah! We’ve had some really good reviews throughout Europe, I hope that will gain some new fans out there.
Label and management
You are signed to AOR Heaven. Are you happy with the work the label has put into the album and the band so far?
-Thomas: Yes I think they’ve done a god job so far
How did you chose to ink a deal with them? Were there many labels that wanted to sign you besides AOR Heaven?
– Mats: It actually started with them contacting us a few years back, at the time we didn’t do anything really, so we got back to them with some demos when Anders had joined and they liked it.
Are you afraid that AOR Heaven, which is a small label, isn’t going to be able to reach all corners of the world with marketing the album properly?
-Thomas: We’re on different labels for different markets. AOR Heaven is Europe only.
What do you guys think of Spotify and other free music services? Are they a threat to the music industry when it comes to selling albums?
-Thomas: I think the free music services is a threat to way music industry doing business, not to the music industry. We’ll have to find other ways to do business.
– Mats: It’s a fact that album sales has dropped big time since Spotify and similar services were made available. Since record companies are part owners of Spotify it’s good for them, but it actually does suck for the artists if you look at what you get paid.
Are there any plans on re-releasing your old albums? Who own the legal rights to the old discs?
– Mats: Sony owns the recordings of the first 5 albums, we finally got them to get the material out on iTunes and Spotify, so at least they’re available again, but I seriously doubt there will be a proper re-release. We own the rights to everything else from Lethal Illusion and on..
Is WALKING IN STARLIGHT going to be released on vinyl?
-Thomas: Not for now but you never know.
You’re co-operating with the booking agency Triffid Productions, are you satisfied with the co-operation?
-Mats: This is the first year we actually have a product to promote, so we’ll see how it turns out.
The albums have been released in Japan, does the band got a lot of fans in Asia?
– Mats: We know our albums have been released in South Korea and Thailand and more places in Asia before, today we don’t really know if there are any fans left.
Is the disc also going to be released in North America and other territories?
-Mats: Still looking for a decent deal in some territories, so we’re working on it.
Are there any plans on heading over to America or Asia to tour?
– Mats: Japan would be the most likely in that case, the album is doing good over there according to the record company.
The band is going to perform at Beast Of Rock in Sweden next year, are you excited?
-Mats: Yeah, it’s going to be really cool!
Are there any plans of do some shows or tour in Scandinavia or in Europe next year?
– Mats: There will more shows during next year.
Are you going to do more festivals shows during the next summer?
– Mats: There will more shows during next year, festivals too. Can’t say too much at the moment.
Is 220 Volt here to stay this time?
-Mats: We’re very serious with our music and will keep doing this as long as we can or as long as we think we can come up with strong material.
What would you like to say to the ones who haven’t discovered the music of 220 Volt yet and could you give them three reasons why they should buy WALKING IN STARLIGHT?
-Mats: If you like hard rock, melodic metal, then you should get this album because: It’s got some awesome songs and riffs, super vocals and a high level of musicianship just about anything you could wish for if you’re a hard rock fan!
Well, that was all that I had for now. I wish you guys and the band best of luck in the future. Do you have any words of wisdom to share with the readers and fans?
– Mats: Well, thanks! Hope to see you many of you at the gigs next year.