Axenstar: Singer/bass player Magnus Wilterwild
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.
Axenstar is a power/metal act from Sweden that is back with their 6yh album WHERE DREAMS ARE FORGOTTEN. It follows up the album AFTERMATH which was released in 2011. I had the pleasure to talk to singer/bass player Magnus Wilterwild to see what he had to say about the new album, working with legend producer Pelle Saether, and the past, present and future.
Hi Magnus, how are you? Ready to kick off the interview?
Hi I’m just fine thanks, sure I’m ready!
Well, lets start from the beginning. When you first formed Axenstar in 1998, it was under the name of Powerage. Is it correct that this band was a cover band? What covers did you play?
Yes it was Peter Johansson and Magnus Ek who had started a cover band and by the time I joined I remember that we used to play “Holy Diver” by Dio and “Flight of the Warrior” by Riot, I’m sure we played many more but you know it’s a long time ago and I don’t really remember all of them.
How come you changed the name to Axenstar in 2001 and where does the band name come from? You also began to search for a new line-up, was it hard to find members to Axenstar?
Well we wanted to write our own music and we knew that there was already a couple of bands called Powerage so we needed to come up with an original name so we just sat down and started to write down words we thought would suit a metal band and finally we decided that we thought that Axenstar would be a cool name.
Yes we had some different members early on but I think that the line-up was quite easy to find and we felt confident that it would be good line-up.
Was it given from the start that the band was going to play power metal?
Yes I think that we were all very inspired by that kind of music and since all of us previously had played heavier music we wanted to change the style to power metal.
What did fans and critics think of your debut album PERPETUAL TWILIGHT that came in 2002?
We got very good reviews all over the world and metal fans started to pay attention to Axenstar. We were at one point called Sonata Arctica’s baby if I remember correctly!
What do you think of that album today?
I still think it’s a great album with many great songs and melodies, the one thing I regret though is that the mastering kind of messed the sound up but we were young and we didn’t know better at the time.
The following year the second album FAR FROM HEAVEN was released and the band also performed at Sweden Rock Festival, how was that?
It was a great experience, by far the biggest show we have ever played. The stage felt huge and we were really nervous before the show, but I think we did a great performance and we got a lot of good response after the show.
Early in 2004 you and Falconer did a European tour together, how was it to be out on the road? Was it nice to meet the fans out in Europe?
I was great to meet the fans and the tour is one of the highlights so far in our career, but if you think that touring is a walk in the park I can tell you it’s very hard and exhausting. But we had a great time with the guys in Falconer and Doomsword.
And during 2007 you teamed up with Nocturnal Rites on a few shows in Sweden. It seems like Axenstar haven’t toured much since the start, why?
Well I don’t know, maybe we have been too picky when it comes to tour offers, the shows with Nocturnal Rites were great so I’m not sure why we don’t tour more.
In 2011 the band visited Britain, how was that?
Yeah we got the chance to do a five date tour in Britain with the support of the Scottish band Ascension, we started in London and played our way up the country to finally end up in Glasgow. We had some great times meeting old fans and new ones! One guy had been waiting to see us for many years but unfortunately he got thrown out of the venue before we had started playing because he was too drunk!
In 2012 the band celebrated 10 years since the release of the debut album and threw a special show. Where did the show take place? Did a lot of people turn up?
We thought it would be a fun to arrange a special show for the anniversary so we contacted all the original members and asked them if they were interested in playing a song or two and they were all very interested and thought it would be a cool idea. We did the show at Sigurdsgatan 25 in our hometown Västerås and about 200 people came to the show so it was a really great night for all of us!
Even though the band has been active for a really long time, I haven’t heard about you until recently, why? I consider myself as a person who knows about most bands, but Axenstar is a blind spot…shame on me 🙂
Well maybe because we don’t tour that much or something I don’t know. Yes shame on you!
During 2005, Peter Johansson and Thomas Eriksson left the band, why did they leave?
Thomas had lost the spark so to speak, he really wanted to do things his way and when he lost the inspiration he decided to quit the band, it was really sad not just because he’s my brother but also because he was and still is a very talented guitarist and songwriter. Peter left the band during the same period because he wanted to focus more on his family and he felt that he couldn’t put as much time into the band as he wanted to.
Joakim Jonsson then joined forces with you, how did he end up in Axenstar? Was he the obvious guy to join the band?
Well Joakim had been playing bass with us on the Falconer tour because Magnus Ek wanted to stay home during the birth of his first child, and we knew that Joakim was a great guitarist so it felt pretty natural to ask him if he wanted to join the band.
Pontus Jansson and Magnus Ek left the year after, how did their departure effect the band?
Well it was more or less directly after recording of the “Final Requiem” album that Pontus and Magnus decided to leave the band and me and Joakim was on our own, but we never thought about giving up so we stared to look for a new drummer and bassplayer.
Thomas Olsson and Henrik Sedell joined and left pretty fast, did it ever felt hopeless to maintain a solid line-up?
After Henrik and Thomas left I must say it felt pretty hopeless but me and Joakim still wanted to continue and we wrote and recorded the “Aftermath” album as a two man band!
Jens Klovegård and Adam Lindberg later joined the band and if I got it correct are you the only remaining original member in the band?
Yes I am, it seem that it’s hard for me to give up on this band haha!
Since 2008 you handle the bass, previous to that you played guitar. Why did you decide to take on that task?
Well actually I was playing keyboards up until 2005 when both Thomas and Peter left and then I played the guitar until 2009 when we recruited Jens as the rhythm guitarist, just because it was much easier to find a guitarist than a bass player.
Are you friends with all of the past members in the band?
Yes we are, there are no hard feelings between us, I hope haha!
The band was formed in a town called Västerås in Sweden, do all of the members live there today or?
Yeah most of us live in or around Västerås, so we hang out from time to time.
Is the current line-up a solid one do you think?
I certainly hope so, since we’ve been together for some years now I think we know each other very well and know how to get along.
Are any of the other members part of any bands or projects besides Axenstar?
Joakim is also the drummer in Psychopunch and Skyfire, Adam has a band called The Tower where he sings and plays the guitar. I have been doing some guest vocals on a friends project and I have also started to re-record some songs from an old thrash band that me and my brother Thomas played in previously.
What has the band been up to since the release of the previous album back in 2011?
Writing songs most of the time actually haha!
Have you done any live shows recently?
Not that many, I would guess we have done about 10 shows during the past 3 years so that is something we need to change!
How long did it take to write and record WHERE DREAMS ARE FORGOTTEN?
Well I would say it took us about a year and a half to write the songs and then we recorded the album in three weeks or something like that.
On this album Jens has written the most of the music and I have taken care of the lyrics, but musically we have all been involved and everyone has had the chance to make their opinion heard.The lyrics is as usually in Axenstar about everything from the battle between good and evil to relationship problems to wars and misery.
Where Dreams Are Forgotten [album teaser]
Were there many songs that didn’t made it on to the final edition of the album?
No not really we try to take care of every idea and turn it into something we can use, so of course there are a lots of ideas that didn’t make it but not a whole song.
Where does the title WHERE DREAMS ARE FORGOTTEN come from? Does the title have any special meaning to the band?
The title comes from the lyrics of the song “Sweet Farewell” and it has no special meaning to us, we just thought it was a cool title.
Are you happy with the cover art-work?
Very happy! I think that Felipe has done a great job and this is our best album cover so far I would say.
In the bio it’s said that Axenstar felt it was time to step up the game, is that how you felt when you wrote the album?
Yes of course you always need to improve and I really think that we have done so this time, all the songs are great in my opinion and I think we have taken a step in the right direction.
The album clocks in on about 50 minutes, was it your intention to create a long album or was it just a coincidence?
Of course you can’t release an album that is only 25 minutes since you want the fans to get as much music as possible when they buy the album but on the other hand you can’t let something like that be important when you write a song, you need to focus on the song and make sure it turns out as good as possible.
The song and video “Fear” was released before the album, what did the fans think of the video?
We have only heard great things from the fans, they think the song reminds them of the “old” Axenstar sound and they seem to like it a lot!
Fear [OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO]
At the end of November the lyrical video to the song “The Return” came out. What can you tell us about the video?
Yes it was our label Inner Wound Recordings that suggested that we should do a lyrical video for the song “The Return”, and I think it turned out great!
The Return [OFFICAL LYRIC VIDEO]
What’s the purpose of doing lyric videos?
I’m not sure haha, it seems to be popular nowadays so we thought what the hell why not! I guess it is good for the fans to get a chance to read the lyrics.
How would you like to describe what kind of music Axenstar plays?
That is a hard question! I usually say that we play hard and fast melodic metal and then people can make their own minds up.
Do you think that old fans of the band are going to appreciate WHERE DREAMS ARE FORGOTTEN?
Yes I do, because some of the songs have that vibe of the “old” Axenstar sound. And we have tried to pay attention to what the fans want to hear while writing the songs so I’m sure both old and new fans of Axenstar will appriciate the new album.
Did you throw a release party for the album? If so when and where was the party?
We had a release party at Bankiren in Västerås on the 21st of November. It was a great night and the place was packed with fans!
Have you read any reviews of the album yet? Do you and the band care about what critics have to say about your work?
Yeah we have read quite a few of the reviews and most of them are great I think the majority have rated us between 7-9 on a scale of 10 so that is for sure great news. But you need to remember that a review is just the thoughts of one person so you can’t put too much energy in what a review says if it’s a negative one.
Do you feel that it’s any difference in how foreign and native media writes about the band?
Well usually we get better reviews from foreign magazines and websites, I don’t know why really but I think that is a common thing at least for bands from Sweden, it’s hard to get recognition in your own country.
Many bands and artists think that their latest album is their best one, do you think that WHERE DREAMS ARE FORGOTTEN is Axenstar’s best album so far?
Yes I really do, of course you can’t say that well the new album is good but our previous ones are better then no one would buy the new album, but I am completely honest when I say that I think the new album is the best we have done so far.
I think that your vocal is brilliant on the album but also the guitar play by Klovegård and Jonsson is worth to mention, are you happy with the outcome of the album?
Thanks! Yes we are very happy with how the album turned out, I think that all of us is on the top of our game and we have done the best we can.
Studio and production
You once again recorded in Studio Underground, how come you returned there?
Well we feel very comfortable in Studio Underground and it is located in our hometown so we don’t have to travel to another city and that is something we really think is important.
The well known producer Pelle Saether produced the album with the band, how was it to work with him and what’s his strongest feature as producer?
Since we have recorded all of our albums at Studio Underground we feel as I said before very comfortable there and also we know Pelle well so we can be very honest with each other and really say what we think.
What is so special with Saether that you work with him all the time?
He is a close friend and we know that he really wants to make the album sound as good as possible. We trust him basically and that’s why we return time after time.
Saehter also engineered and mixed the disc, was any of the band members part of that process?
I think we were all involved in every part of the recording process more or less.
Daniel Beckmann did the mastering at Ridge Street Studio, how come you wanted to work with him?
It was Pelle that suggested that we would let Daniel do the mastering and he did a great job and we are very happy with the result.
In the beginning was it hard for the band to land a record deal? I know you inked a deal with Arise Records but why did you end your deal with them?
Not really, we got a few offers right from the start but we decided to sign with Arise Records and it was the right choice for us I think because they worked hard and we released three albums before they went out of business.
Then you signed on for Massacre Records but only released one album with them, why?
Yes we signed a one record deal with Massacre Records and released the “Final Requiem” album. After the release of that album we had many changes within the band so I guess that’s why neither we or Massacre felt that there was any point in continue with another album.
After a deal in 2011 with Rock It Up Records you’re now signed at Inner Wound Records, how come you inked a deal with them and are you happy with the work the label have put into the band and the album so far?
Yeah we got in contact with Inner Wound Recordings and signed for them and it feels great. They have done a great job so far and I can’t see any reason for that to change.
IWR is based in Sweden, does it matter today where labels are based do you think? What’s the benefit with having a Swedish label?
I guess it doesn’t matter if you consider how easy it is to communicate with whole world through the internet but on a personal level I think it’s easier to have your label in the same country as you live because it’s very easy to call each other and talk in you native language.
No the album is not yet released outside Europe and USA.
IWR is working together with the promotion company Connecting Music, are you happy with the co-operation?
Yes we have nothing to complain about.
Are there any plans on releasing the album on vinyl?
We have been talking about it but nothing is decided yet, I guess it’s a matter of if the demand is big enough.
What are the main differences in how IWR works towards the previous labels you have been signed to?
I’m not sure since we don’t have that much insight in how the labels work but I think that IWR has put a lot of energy in promoting on the web and that is of course very important nowadays.
What is your opinion about a lot of artists say that the music industry is dead because of the illegal download on the net and spotify which makes people doesn’t buy albums anymore?
It’s a hard question, I don’t think that the music industry is dead but I do think that they need to find new ways to work around the illegal downloads, and I think people need to realize that if everything is free who wants to put all their free time and money on writing and playing music if you don’t get anything back?
Is it possible to download WHERE DREAMS ARE FORGOTTEN legal and is it possible to listen to it on Spotify?
Yes the album is available on all the big legal download sites.
Who own the legal rights to the old albums today?
The band owns more or less all the old albums.
Are there any plans on re-releasing any of the older albums soon?
We actually have released all the albums digitally not that long ago but I don’t know if we will ever re-release the albums physically.
Does the band currently work with any management?
No we don’t, we have some connections with booking agents but we don’t have a management.
The band is active on some of the various social forums, do you think it’s important to be active on the internet and connect with fans?
Well that’s how you have to work today, if you don’t have a website or a bandsite on Facebook you don’t exist haha!
Who runs the bands website and the facebook page?
We try to share the work between us, so all the guys has the possibility to update and change our sites.
What’s the most common question you get from fans?
“When will you come to my hometown?”, that’s probably the most common question.
The band played in Västerås and Stockholm a while ago how was it?
It was great! It’s always fun to play and we enjoyed every second of the shows!
Any plans on doing a longer tour or some shows now that the album is out? Any plans on touring in Europe maybe?
You know we are always willing to go on tour so if the right offer comes along we will for sure tour, but nothing is decided yet. Hopefully we get the chance later this year.
Do you have any festival shows scheduled for the summer?
Not anything that we can make official at this time but I hope everything goes as planned.
Are there any interest for the band in USA?
Yeah I think so, we have been working on coming over to the US for some time now and I hope we get everything sorted out as soon as possible.
Is Axenstar here to stay this time?
What are the plans for you and the band for 2015?
Try to play as many shows as possible and start writing new material.
What would you like to say to the ones who haven’t heard about the band before?
If you like hard fast melodic metal you sure will love Axenstar and if you don’t well that’s your loss!
Could you give the readers three reasons why they should buy WHERE DREAMS ARE FORGOTTEN?
Great melodies, great musicianship, 50 minutes of pure bliss!
Are you happy with what Axenstar have achieved so far?
Yes of course, not every band that get the opportunity to release six albums so I’m really happy and proud of the band.
Finally do you have any words of wisdom to share with readers and fans?
Remember to always support your local metal scene, and don’t forget that every musician has put a lot of time and work into their songs so if you like the music buy the music instead of stealing it!
That was all for me. Thanks again for making the interview and I wish you and the band all the best in the future. Hopefully I’ll see you on stage soon 🙂