Bandleader/guitarist Christofer Dahlman – Hellsmoke
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Birgitt Schwanke at GerMusica PR for setting up the interview. Thanks to Pride and Joy Music for the promo pictures of the band.
From the southern parts of Sweden comes Hellsmoke, led by bandleader/guitarist Christofer Dahlman (ex-Alyson Avenue, Bai Bang), drummer Roger Landin (ex -Cloudscape) and songwriter Torbjörn Månsson. I had a shorter chat with Dahlman where we spoke about the new members in the band (singer Rimbert Vahlström (ex–Syron Vanes), bassist Jörgen Löfgren (Darkane) and guitarist Michael Åkesson (Alicate)). We also handled the history behind the debut album titled 2020, as well as what the band’s future plans are. If you like straight-shooting rock n’ roll, then Hellsmoke to appeal to you. Enjoy!
Hi Christofer, thanks for taking the time making the interview today, I hope you’re doing good?
Thanks, both me and the band are feeling great and we’re eager to come out and play for you all.
Let’s take it from the beginning. When did you, Roger Landin, and former member Torbjörn Mårtensson form the band?
Christofer: Actually, it was me and Torbjörn who started in early 2015. It wasn’t a band back then, it was only us two making music together. Torbjörn is a drummer originally, so Roger or anyone else wasn’t considered to be the drummer at that time. However, along the way I wanted another sound for the drums and suggested Roger, because he’s just the right man for the job and a great guy and friend to hang out with. I also suggested that Torbjörn could play the bass since he was quite good at it. This suggestion took some time to sink in of course, but finally Roger joined the band and that was in 2016.
Did you know from the beginning what kind of music you guys wanted to play?
Christofer: No, not at all. Me and Torbjörn had really different kinds of musical references and directions but we got along really well and we were equally self-driven and appreciated that a lot in each other. I started to like Torbjörn’s more simple riff ideas and together we started to progress our songs and they got better and better. Some song ideas took a totally different direction and some not. All in all we had a great time writing the songs and along the way we slowly found our sound and how we would like to sound on a record. The chemistry means everything in my opinion when you write songs together, finding each others strengths and being negotiable in the song writing process.
According to the biography, the band have played live here and there. Where have you performed?
Christofer: We played in Copenhagen (DK) with Pretty Maids in 2018 and another gig at a big tattoo convention in Sweden. They were some great gigs and we got great responses in reviews and from the people watching the shows. Those gigs were with the first line up and that line up didn’t last very long. The present line up has not yet been able to play due to the pandemic, but we’re planning gigs and tours for next year right now.
At the end of August last year lead singer Ivan Grosmeyer left the band, why did he leave and was his departure expected?
Christofer: Ivan is a great guy and has a cool and really brutal singing voice. It was several things that made that decision for Ivan and we saw it coming; it was inevitable. We have no issues with Ivan and we wish him all the best.
Was it hard to find a new lead singer? How did Rimbert join up’ are you old friends?
Christofer: We came in contact with Rimbert by talking to Anders Hahne. Anders mixed and mastered our album the first time when Ivan sang, so he knew us and of course he knew Rimbert from Syron Vanes, since they had played together since the eighties. I really was impressed by Rimbert way before he began to sing with us and we asked Anders to talk to Rimbert and he said yes, simple as that. We wanted a more dynamic singing voice and also someone who lived nearby; we couldn’t possibly get any better lead singer than Rimbert.
This year two more guys joined forces with you in Michael Åkesson, and bass player Jörgen Löfberg, how did they end up in the band?
Christofer: Well we needed a bass player and an additional guitar player since our songs and sound need two guitars. Michael is my tattooist and we became friends over time since I’ve spent many, many hours in his shop. We always talk music, guitarists, and listen to bands when I’m there and when he heard our first mixed demo with Rimbert he was blown away and asked if he could join the band, and later on he did. We knew exactly what kind of bass player we needed and Jörgen was definitely the one. Jörgen has a lot of experience and is a great guy who knows how to play the bass and take the stage. We had a meeting with him and after he had listened to the songs and some beers involved, we were a complete band again.
Debut album 2020
When did you start to work on material for the debut album?
Christofer: That is a chapter for itself. We started to write a lot of songs in 2016 and then twelve songs were selected to be recorded. Those twelve songs were recorded in 2018 but due to a very long lead time getting the vocals done, it was finished in December 2018. Shortly after that our first singer left the band and we needed to find a new lead singer. We found Rimbert and he practically went in to the studio and executed the vocals in no time and the way he did it was just fantastic. Then came the pandemic and we were forced to postpone the album for six months. This was the very, very short version, but it’s a great feeling finally getting the album out!
Is it correct that the album was finished and ready last year? Have you done any re-writing or additional work on it since it’s been released now?
Christofer: No, the album was ready in April this year. We have slightly changed some arrangements on a few songs. I’ve added some guitars and removed other guitars and of course Rimbert has made a huge impact on all songs. We had initially twelve songs but we didn’t like two of them that much, so we removed them from the album. Those two songs didn’t sound enough like Hellsmoke and were not our choice from the beginning either.
Devils Train (Official Video)
The album contains 10 tracks and most of the songs are in between 4 and 5 minutes. Was the length of the songs anything you took under consideration or did it just happen?
Christofer: That just happened. We’ve changed some arrangements for some songs and those songs became shorter, but the initial song lengths had nothing to do with it, the changes made the songs better. I believe if you write enough great material you can have a song as long as 20 minutes without getting bored, same goes for a song who is 2 minutes long.
What are the shortest songs “Raise Your Fist” (3.51) and “Hell Adrenaline” (2.57) about?
Christofer: I don’t write the lyrics so I’m not the right guy too explain the lyrics for those two songs. We like to give the listener the opportunity to interpret the lyrics by them self, putting their life story into our songs and that applies for all of our lyrics/songs. Of course some lyrics/songs has a more clear meaning or message, like “Nowhereland” and “Common Man”, but it’s still up to the listeners to interpret what it means to them.
Who did the cover art for the album and who’s idea was it to name the album 2020? Does the title have any special meaning for the band?
Christofer: I did the cover artwork and all the illustrations in the booklet. I came up with the idea of 2020 when I did the cover artwork. Of course, it’s the year for the album release, but it also means a new start and era for the band, a “2.0” in a double sense. The S, W, and E stands for Sweden, since we are a Swedish band, simple as that.
Which bands/artists are Hellsmoke inspired by and which bands lay close to the band musically?
Christofer: That’s a complex question and hard to answer in a short way. We like traditional hard rock, heavy metal, thrash metal, progressive metal and death metal. I think you can hear almost everything in our music except influences from death metal. The influence is more a feeling of creating songs that has that gasoline infused feeling and sound, that’s the Hellsmoke sound.
I read that fans of Backyard Babies, Hardcore Superstar, Crashdiet, and Crazy Lixx are going to like the music of Hellsmoke. Can you agree with that?
Christofer: Both yes and no. The overall style probably attracts fans of Backyard babies and Hardcore Superstar, but we don’t sound alike. Crashdiet and Crazy Lixx is something totally different as I see it, but that’s up for other to decide. We’ve heard a lot that we have a “Southern American Metal” sound, from people around the world actually, so maybe that’s our unintentional sound, because we don’t write music with intention to sound anything connected to a genre or subgenre, it’s all about getting that special feeling for a song. This first album was mainly written by me and Torbjörn, but the next album will be a little bit different since it will be me and Rimbert writing it. We have a lot of great material and we will soon start writing the songs for the second album.
Nitro Woman (Official Video)
Do you think fans of the members past bands Cloudscape, Alyson Avenue and Darkane will enjoy Hellsmoke’s music?
Christofer: Maybe not the overall fan base of those bands, but certainly a lot of the Cloudscape fans, we have already got the affirmation on that.
Since the Covid-19 virus pretty much shut down the chance of touring and performing in front of larger crowds for a while does the band have any thoughts of doing a live stream etc. in order to interact with the fans letting them hear your music?
Christofer: We’ve discussed different ways of performing live but none of the current ways appeals to us, streaming included. We want to do it the normal way, playing live on a stage for a crowd of metal heads. That was the main reason for beginning to play an instrument and playing in a band and we love to be on stage, performing and giving a great show and interact with the audience! There is nothing greater or funnier doing that, so if that’s missing we don’t see the point doing it.
Well, that was pretty much all I had this time around, I wish you and the band all the best and really hope to see you live on stage soon. Do you have any final words of wisdom to share with fans and readers?
Christofer: We hope to see you and a lot of other people as well asap. As for words of wisdom – There is no absolutely truths about anything, just different perspectives. Keep on rockin’ and enjoy life wherever you are!