Guitarist/keyboard player Hal Marabel – Mad Invasion
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Pelle Eriksson at Border Music Sweden for setting up the interview.
Thanks to Mad Invasion for the promo pictures and the screen shots of the band.
Five years ago the Swedish hard rock act Mad Invasion released their first video for the song “Hold On” and then it got quiet for a really long time. At the end of September it was finally time for the all star act to release their debut album EDGE OF THE WORLD. The band is, as mentioned, an all star act consisting of Pete Sandberg (Alien, Midnight Sun etc), Hal Marabel (Bad Habit Sweden etc) and Mats Jeppsson (Raise Cain, United Enemies etc) to mention a few of the guys in the line up. Guitarist/keyboard player Marabel and I had a chat about the exiting new album and why it took the guys so long to release it, why the band chose to release it independently, and what the future plans for the band are….
The bands music is described as being deeply rooted in classic hard rock combined with a temporary sound and with vocal wizard Pete Sandberg you’re in for a musical treat! If you don’t believe me, then make sure to check out the videos incorporated in the interview.
Hi Hal, I hope everything’s fine with you and thanks for taking the time making this interview with me and metal-rules.com
Thanks for having me.
Well let’s take it back to the beginning, who is the founder of Mad Invasion and are all of the members old friends? I mean none of you are beginners in the business and have all been parts of various bands prior to Mad Invasion.
We have all know each other for ages although playing in different bands over the years. Since the rock community in our area in Southern Sweden has always been quite tight, it was only a matter of time before we hooked up and decided to do something together. First with Björn, Pete, Mats B and Mats J – in 2016. I joined the band in 2018, when Björn called me up and asked me if I wanted to join.
5 years ago the video to the song “Hold On” was unveiled but why did it take you guys so long to follow up that video?
‘Hold On’ was released as a test to see if there was an interest for the band and style. Although the song was well-received, it took another two years before the decision to recording an album and the current line-up was in place. The album took a while to produce since we started from scratch in forming the approach and sound over time.
Hold On (Official Music Video)
Until now the video has about 50,000 views, congrats, how does it feel that so many have seen your work so far?
It’s great… and hopefully, there will be some more exposure now that the album is out and that the song is a bonus track on the Japanese version.
Where does the band name come from and who came up with it?
I read that Bjorn, the band leader, had a band during the 80’s with the same name, how come he chose to continue on under that name with new guys? Yes, Björn had a band in the 80’s called MAD INVASION so when the new band got together in 2016, it was decided to use that name for the new band as well – since it’s a cool name… : )
Debut album EDGE OF THE WORLD
When did the band start to write the material to EDGE OF THE WORLD?
We started recording the album in 2018, so we took three years to complete the album since it took a while to create the concept and sound. Now that everything is up and running, we are already recording our next album… which will be released before next Summer. So, it will be less than a year between the albums.
Who in the band writes the music and the lyrics and what are the lyrics about?
Most songs are written by Björn, Pete and myself as we want to keep the material coming from us ourselves so that we are fully in control and flexible for changes and adjustments that need to be made.
The theme of the album is good vs evil. The fact that evil surrounds us all the time and in all shapes and forms, is a topic that has always been around. It’s real and that we all experience it in our everyday lives, where life is getting harder and tougher for everyone. Life is a constant fight constant battle between good and evil, and it isn’t always the good that wins – quite often the opposite actually. That’s why we all need to fight back… fight the good fight… to take us out of the darkness. The band are the champions of good.
Were there songs that didn’t made it on to the final edition of the album and if so why were they left out?
No, for this album we used all the recorded material.
Did you use any older songs on the album that wasn’t written with the album in mind?
Only ‘Hold On’ for the Japanese album version.
What are the longest songs “Edge Of the World” (5.20) and “Walking In The Shadows” (4.56) about?
The title song ‘Edge Of The World’ takes us back to more of a historic situation somewhere in the Middle-East or North Africa… walking around in one of the markets, through narrow passages… with merchants, beggars and thieves all around… the air filled with smells of spices, incense and animals. A cool and mysterious setting for a dark mystery that reminds us of the backdrops used in epic films like ’Death On The Nile’ and ’Indiana Jones’. The song delivers a fusion of bone-crushing guitar riffs and a led-heavy rhythm section, all mixed with multi-ethnical instrumentation and harmonies typical for the regions.
‘Walking In The Shadows’ describes the constant battle between good and evil… where more often than not – evil wins. It’s about how lonely it can be when you feel overwhelmed with despair and dark thoughts… when it seems like there’s no way out. In that darkness is also where the demons appear, haunting and taunting, in all shapes and forms… The band represent the champions for good in a world where evil is always close and lurking. The video was partly filmed in Prague and the dark story is emphasized by the elements of this classic city, with all its dark history. This video is also special in that this is where the ’Fallen Angel’ is born… the angel in white who went from an innocent little girl to being turned by the dark side. This happens in the ending part of the video, after a massive song outro, building towards the final climax. Variations of her final transformation, showing when good turns to evil – has become a signature trademark for the band, being used at the end of several videos as well in marketing material…
How would you like to describe what kind of music Mad Invasion plays?
We focus on 70’s and 80’s classic rock, since we all grew up with that kind of music. One of the more typical traits back in the day was the organic approach to the sound, arrangements and production… the songs sounded more ‘alive‘ back then and there was an energy in the music that you could really feel… The guitar riffs were also a lot cooler, not so mechanical like they often can in modern rock and metal. This really still appeals to us so we decided to have this as our base.
What bands will you say lies close to you when it comes to the music?
If you take a fistful of BLACK SABBATH, a pinch of LED ZEPPELIN, and a dash of DEEP PURPLE… and add some extra flavours modern tech contemporary soundscapes – then you have the essence of MAD INVASION.
The info sheet say that the band combine classic hard rock with a contemporary sound delivering a distinct and different listening experience that makes you stand out, could you elaborate a little bit what that sentence means?
Today it’s often hard to distinguish between different bands, many tend to sound quite similar. Mad Invasion try to avoid that with our hard rock combo by adding elements to the songs and sound that typically wouldn’t be there, contemporary seasoning from other influences, as an example. This has allowed us to establish a signature sound that is somewhat different.
Which bands/artists have influenced the music of Mad Invasion?
There are many bands that have influenced us as musicians, which also contributes to the diversity in our sound. Our musical tastes range from the classic rock bands like Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Whitesnake, Nazareth, etc… to more modern bands such as Gemini Syndrome, Love & Death, Asking Alexandria and Annisok.
You, Pete Sandberg, Mats Bergentz and Mats Jeppson all been part of other bands before Mad Invasion and do you think fans of your old acts Bad Habit Sweden, Alien, Opus Atlantica, Raise Cain, 69 Hard and Silver Mountain are going to like the music of Mad Invasion?
Yes, we hope so… all bands have the same classic rock foundation, although the flavours vary.
What can you tell us about the video shoot to the second single “Devil’s Calling” that was unleashed in June? How was it to shoot a video during a pandemic and where took the shoot place?
The band had an idea about filming this video in a castle and the local Trolleholm Castle seemed like a good choice since the environment there fitted well with the band´s concept of classic rock and the song´s theme of demons and angels. As in several of the band´s other videos, both the evil and good angel appear to illustrate the constant battle between the two forces. The fortune teller is also part of the story, warning the band about bad things to come and that these can come at any time. For the intro of the video, the band wanted a reporter to be part of the story, desperately trying to interview the band – but without success.
Devil’s Calling (Special guest Mikkey Dee)
Mikkey Dee makes guest appearances in three of your videos, is he also playing the drums on the songs on the album?
Mikkey is a special guest on the videos but doesn’t play on the album.
What did Bergenz think of not being part of three of the videos?
Mats B was cool with the idea, it was fun for the band and of course also helped in promoting the band.
Since I’m a big fan of Pete Sandberg and his previous work I was thrilled when I heard he was once again singing in a band, his voice sounds as good as ever, what does he think of fronting a band again?
Yes, he is in great singing form. One important factor is also that our songs are in the right range for him, lower than in his previous bands. This suits his voice and style very well and he can really emphasize and push the melodies well in that setup.
Do you have a favorite song on the album and if so which one and why?
As far as the favourite song on the album, I think that most of us agree that his is the title track ‘Edge Of The World’. I felt that this one was special already from the start, everything from the ultra-heavy guitar riff, heavy groove, irregular beats in places – to the multi-ethnic instrumentation that was added to build on the Middle-Easter flavour tonalities in the guitar riff. We are also very happy with the video, which captures the feel of the song well. Other favourites include ‘Scream’n Shout’ (up-tempo and in-your-face rocker), ‘Walking In The Shadows’ (captures the dark essence of our music well), ‘Destruction’ (monsterously heavy and groovy song that pushes the right buttons), ‘Crazy & Wild’ (the perfect party rock song).
Crazy & Wild (Special guest Mikkey Dee)
Have you read any reviews in the media yet regarding EDGE OF THE WORLD? Do you and the band care about what media and critics writes about you?
Yes, we’ve read some of them. Most are very positive but of course, views tend to differ so the feedback also varies.
How have the respond from the fans been on the album?
So far so good… many waited for the album for a long time so they were thrilled when it was finally released.
Studio and production
Where was the album recorded and how long did the entire record process take?
It was recorded in our own studio while pre-, parallel- and post-production was done in my studio. The full production took three years, from building the concept, writing, recording, and producing the songs, as well as preparing all supporting materials.
Did you record any of each parts separately or were you all gathered in the studio at the same time laying each part down?
The writing and recording process typically starts with Björn laying down some basic guitar tracks in our studio, to try out a new song idea. Next Pete will get introduced to the song and some ideas for lyrics and arrangements. Once the he has a feel for the song he will write the lyrics and the vocals are then recorded. This part of the process is a bit different since Pete likes to record his vocals just to the guitars and a click track – without any backgrounds or effects in his listening. After the vocals, I (Hal) come into the picture and transfer all recorded tracks onto my computer, where the actual music production project is officially born. I will then add keyboards, sounds and effects, as well as working with the rhythm section and overall arrangement of the song. At this point the final bass guitar and background vocals are recorded. Throughout recording and production process, the songs are continuously iterated within the band for input and ideas until all feel satisfied with the result.
Is it you and Dahlberg that produced the album?
Yes, we produce together. This works very well since we have the same background and outlook for the band, as well as the fact that
we complement each other well as musicians and people.
Who did the mixing and mastering?
Björn and I handle the entire production process, including mastering. I handle the digital aspects.
Had the pandemic any affect on the recording process?
No negative effects, rather the opposite as far as the production goes… since it allowed us to take our time and not have to stress with finalising the album.
Label and distribution
How come you chose to record and release the album on your own with no help from a record label?
The concept of a record label has become more obsolete since the digitization took over. People don’t buy much CDs anymore but we still felt that we wanted to give the record-buying fans what they are used to. Not everyone is digital, it’s a mix today. Releasing ourselves also gives us both the control and freedom that we appreciate, when making decisions for the band.
Is the band going to continue to release albums independently in the future?
Absolutely, we now have our entire music production eco-system fully set up and rolling… and this is the way to go for us.
Border Music is distributing EDGE OF THE WORLD in Scandinavia, are you happy with the work Border Music have put into the co-operation?
Our partnership is new for this album and since it was just released, we will se how things develop and evaluate the collaboration based on that. We probably need to allow for 4-6 months to have enough information to have a view on this.
On the Swedish record store Bengans are all of the versions of the album sold out and on the other online store Ginza there’s only a few copies left of the CD, what do you think of that? Doesn’t that make it hard for fans to purchase your work?
That sounds strange… we know that the LP is delayed due to the whole vinyl industry lagging due to effects of the pandemic, but the CD should be available as the distribution was carefully planned. We will of course look into this.
How many copies of the limited special edition vinyl version did you print and besides the fact that it’s numbered and signed what’s special with that version?
We are printing 200 copies of the limited LP edition. What separates this version from the standard version is that the cover has the logo embossed and that the cover is both signed and hand-numbered.
In Japan it’s Marquee/Avalon that’s distributing the album, are you happy with their work?
Yes, Marquee/Avalon are a solid business partner. They know their market well and are very professional to work with. We will see how the album does in that market.
Is EDGE OF THE WORLD going to be released in USA/South America and Canada?
For a full physical release, we will see but multiple outlets have the CD available, including Amazon. Digitally we are of course fully global.
How many hits does the album got on Spotify so far?
We have only checked the song results and things are going well, for a new band. It take time to build a base when you’re new to the market. The three released videos are also doing well, especially the latest one ‘Edge Of The World’. We will release four more videos for this album, with a month in between them. The next one is ‘Walking In The Shadows’ which will be released on October 22.
What do you think of all the music streaming services that’s available these days, do they benefit bands and music in general?
With the entire music business model changing to platform-based, with everything that this includes – it’s much harder for performing artists today. This is a shame since a lot of work goes into writing and producing music. The industry should do something about this in order to allow more people to fully make a living on music. It will be interesting to see how things develop.
You have been in the music industry for quite a while a now and of you compare the industry today and when you first started out is it better or worse releasing albums nowadays?
Things were definitely better in the previous set up, where the artists and producers had better compensation for their efforts. Today, the platforms run the show which in many ways is a good thing, especially considering the possibility to effectively distribute music digitally. However, the financial compensation for performers is a joke. It’s a shame that the record labels didn’t pick up on the digitalisation in time… they ‘missed the train’ on that one.
Past present and future
Mad Invasion has a really nice website, who runs it?
Thanx… we run it ourselves, as we appreciate being able to be more flexible in managing our information and assets.
And who runs the bands Facebook, Instagram and Youtube channel?
We run everything ourselves since we want to both have our own control but also full flexibility of all our material and communication.
Do you get a lot of mail from fans and what’s the most common question they ask you?
As a new band, the correspondence is starting to build but it will take time to build a solid base and position for us on the music market. We look forward to growing both our audience and our contact with them.
This can be read on your homepage “Join the mad invasion and become a believer….” what does this mean anything special?
Yes, MAD INVASION is about more than the songs… it’s a concept and a movement, where we invite our followers to dig a bit deeper into band and brand. The invasion has just started and will continue…together with our fans – current and coming.
Currently Mad Invasion got about 1200 followers on Facebook, do you think the numbers is going to increase with the release of EDGE OF THE WORLD?
We hope so… but it takes time to build a base for a new band so we are patient and will continue with this according to plan.
Edge of the World (Special guest Mikkey Dee)
The album was released at the 24th of September, do you have any plans on hosting a release party?
Not for this album, since we want to build a more solid foundation for the band before we start playing live.
Any plans on heading out on tour or playing single live shows now that the restrictions here in Sweden has been lifted?
We will start playing live after the release of our next album before next Summer.
How excited are you and the rest of the band to come out and play the songs live?
Playing live in 2022 will be awesome, to perform the songs in front of an audience and also to tell our story in a different format.
Has the pandemic have any affect on you and the band in general?
Not really, it gave us more time to finalize the album, which was a good thing. All of us have also been healthy through the pandemic.
Is Mad Invasion a band or a project?
Definitively a band… we’re building a solid base and are here to stay… : )
I read on the bands Facebook that you’re currently working on material to the next album, how far have you come?
Yes, we started on the new album right after the current one was finalised. We are halfway through the production at this point.
Do you have any idea on when the next album are ready for release?
Yes, it will be released before next Summer… less than a year after the first album.
Could you give the readers three reasons why they should buy EDGE OF THE WORLD?
The album is heavy and groovy, the songs are great, and it has a distinct and different sound.
What would you like to say to the ones who haven’t heard the music of Mad Invasion yet?
The album is all about classic hard rock with a modern, fresh and distinct sound that makes the band stand out in the hard rock genre. The musical approach is pure and energetic, in a way that will hopefully get classic rock lovers going.
Well, that was all for me this time around. Again, huge thanks to taking the time making the interview, stay healthy and safe. I wish you and the band all the best and I really hope to see Mad Invasion live on stage soon!! Do you have any final words of wisdom to share with fans and readers?
Thank you… we hope that the listeners will like the new album… and continue the MAD INVASION journey together with us. If they like what they hear, we are already in production with our next album… which will be even bigger, better, darker… and a full concept album… :