Interview with Wolf

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Interview with Niklas Stålvind
(founder, guitarist, vocalist)

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Interview by Kira Levine

We caught up with Wolf frontman Niklas to discuss their latest album Shadowland, the band’s diverse fanbase and more.

Hello and thank you for your time. Please state your name and position in Wolf.

Niklas Stålvind, founding member, vocals and Flying V.

First of all, congratulations on releasing Wolf’s ninth album, Shadowland. How does he band always manage to find new ideas when creating new material over the years?

I don’t know… We just keep working on it and find some good ideas here and there. For every good idea there are at least ten other ideas thrown in the bin. This time we had new blood in the band and that helps with the inspiration, getting some new input on the songwriting.

What’s the story behind you forming/joining Wolf? Were you involved with any other bands before becoming a member?

Before Wolf I never played in a band of any significance. I was just an outsider that wanted to play metal in a band and found another outsider who wanted to play metal in a band. No one else wanted to play this kind of music back then, so we formed a band together in 1995.

Did you receive any advice about becoming a musician when you first started out? Looking back, would you have done anything differently in the beginning?
I talked a lot to older musicians that I looked up to. They didn’t give me any advice, but I asked them thousands of questions and was inspired by them. Regarding Wolf’s career, there are lots of things I would have done differently. You live and learn I guess. We were totally inexperienced in the music business and made a lot of bad decisions, but musically we never compromised one inch and I’m very proud of that and happy that we didn’t.

As a band that has been around since the mid-90s, what would you say makes Wolf appeal to both their early and newer audiences?

That we are always 100% genuine in what we do. We have always followed our hearts and never compromised and I think people can feel that. Our fans are very diverse with everything from old school metal heads with gray beards to young very not-metal-looking girls who have found our music in a difficult time in there life and said that Wolf’s music has helped them. I love it that our music has found its way to all kinds of people.

How are the lyric/songwriting duties handled? Are they taken care of by one person, or does this change from time to time?

Myself, Simon and Pontus are writing the music and Johan contributes with drum arrangements. I have been writing the lyrics and melodies on this album and also write a lot of complete songs on my own, but even then it’s very much a band effort of getting the album together. I live far from the other band members, so I work a lot in my songwriting studio and send ideas to them and they send ideas and songs to me as well. When we get together in rehearsals the songs are pretty much written and we just give them the final Wolf touch.

Shadowland had its release date on April 1st, through Century Media Records. Wolf have been working with them for over 15 years now – what would you say has made the working relationship between the label and the band work for so long?

They have been supportive of us from the start, but most importantly; they don’t ever interfere with the artistic side of it. We write the music we believe in and they believe in us. It’s a relief for us to have a label that takes care of the other stuff other than the writing and recording.

‘Shadowland’ cover art by Thomas Holm

Was there a particular reason for releasing the album on April Fool’s Day, or is that just a coincidence?

Who knows, ha ha! The last record was released at the time of the lock downs and that was on Friday 13th. It’s good that we’re not superstitious… Anyway, the Shadowland album was very well-received, so we are glad that people saw that it was no joke.

Would you describe Shadowland as a concept album? What influenced the lyrics and songwriting?

In a way all our albums are concept albums, because there are always one or two themes that’s on my mind during the writing period. This time I was thinking a lot about the big questions, the universe and all of that mind boggling stuff. Mankind have a limited life span and so does the sun and therefore the earth. So there’s a lot of the big questions on this album, but the answers is for each and every listener to find out themselves. The other theme I have written about is the inner universe and more specifically the darker side of it. I have always been very interested in psychology and the darker sides of our psyche is what I have been mostly writing about since we started the band.

My personal favourite from Shadowland is “The Ill-Fated Mr. Mordrake”. Can you tell our readers the story that served as an inspiration for the song?

It’s a well-known urban legend and I encourage every one interested in looking it up. A fascinating story about a man who was born with a second face in the back of his head, like an undeveloped co-joined twin and it was a very evil twin as well. I heard a song by Tom Waits called Poor Edward and I loved it. I got the feeling there must be some story behind that song and that’s how I found out about Edward Mordrake. I didn’t plan on writing another song on the same theme, but one day when I was driving my car I started singing it out of nowhere. I recorded it on my phone and knew that we had a song here, a song that wanted to come out.

How did Shadowland’s recording process go? Did the pandemic change any plans at all for this release or 2020’s Feed The Machine?

When the pandemic hit I already had four songs written. When the lockdowns began we had to abort the tour we were on (we had just released Feeding the Machine) and we decided the best we could do was to stay home and write a new album. When we had the ten songs and the album felt complete we went for a quick bass and drum rehearsal and then to the recording. We recorded the bass and drums live together to get the live energy there and capture Johan’s and Pontus’ special chemistry they have as a super solid rhythm section. After that I recorded rhythm guitars and then we did the vocals. Simon was producing it all in his studio and that was super nice. We did only three or four takes and then we picked the best parts. We didn’t want to destroy the spontaneous feeling you get with the first takes. I mean, nowadays you can do 15 takes on everything and get it perfect, but usually you lose some of that initial feeling you had. Simon records his guitars by himself, so how that happened I don’t know, but I know the result was great. 

Wolf managed to get King Diamond bassist Pontus Egberg and former Therion drummer Johan Koleborg back to record parts on Shadowland, as they did on the previous album. How did you meet and end up collaborating with them? Are they both currently official members?

Yes, they are full members. Wolf has always been a band thing, even if I am the main song writer and a very strong willed one at that. We were extremely lucky to be introduced to them by our friend Mike Wead from King Diamond. He knew we were looking for a new bass player and a drummer. It was very much a coincidence. Mike had seen Johan play at a birthday party and thought he would be perfect for Wolf and it turned out Johan was looking for a band. Johan and Pontus knew each other from before and have been playing together for many, many years in different bands, so they were super tight together from day one.

Who created Shadowland’s album art? Was the concept made specifically for the music, or did the painting exist beforehand?

It is an oil painting by the artist Thomas Holm, who has done most of our album covers. He is also known for the legendary Mercyful Fate covers of Melissa and Don’t Break the Oath. When we have an album written I speak to him about the titles, the lyrics and my thoughts around them. Then he makes his interpretation of the album in a painting. We don’t tell him what to do, we just tell him if it feels right and this time he really nailed it. I love it!

Did the person who illustrated the cover artwork also design the Wolf logo?

No, the logo was designed by a graphic designer when we did our second album Black Wings in 2002. The logo has stuck with us and we have used different incarnations of it ever since.

Photo by Per Knutsson

As a member of Wolf or personally, is there anyone else that you would you love to work with in future?

Absolutely. I would like to write or co-write a song for Bruce Dickinson if I got a chance. I think that would work extremely well. I have collaborated with different people in the past and it’s great do do something else beside your normal band. You get new perspectives. I did vocal for The Doomsday Kingdom, which is Leif Edling’s (Candlemass) metal. A lot of fun and very inspiring. Wolf has also have had the pleasure to work with great producers such as Roy Z, Fredrik Nordström, Peter Tägtgren and Jens Bogren. I’ve learned a lot from all of them. Great experiences.
Do you listen to any non-metal music?

I do. A lot actually. I love diversity and contrasts and on an evening  at home I can blast Pavarotti, Slayer, Django Reinherdt, Black Sabbath, jazz, Black Metal, Accept, Demis Roussos, The Beatles, Iron Maiden and in that very order too. The one thing I never listen to is mainstream radio, of which I find 99% completely uninteresting.

Other than music, what are you interested in?

I’m interested in a lot of stuff and like to explore different topics through books, documentaries, podcasts and movies. But I don’t have any hobbies. I work on my music, work on my day job and I work out in the gym to stay relatively fit. That’s pretty much it. I’m a very boring person, ha ha.

What’s the heavy metal scene like in Sweden at the moment? Do you prefer it currently or did you enjoy a previous era better?

I get this question a lot, but I’m probably the wrong person to ask. I don’t go out much, because I don’t have time, but I know there are many bands in Sweden and many of them are really good.

Who are your favourite established Swedish bands? Are there any up-and-coming bands from Sweden that you would like to give a shoutout to?

My favourite Swedish metal bands are RAM and Grand Magus. But there are many more. Some are hyped as hell and some are more underground. I’m not extremely huge on “modern” metal though… I’m pretty old school and I can’t help it I guess.

After playing all over the world, is there still a country you would like to visit on tour one day?

Yes, many countries still. Brazil, Japan, Poland, Serbia… basically everywhere we can play at a good venue or festival.

Now that the new album Shadowland has dropped, what else is in store for Wolf? 

As much touring and festivals as we can do. We really have a good feeling about this album and want to play it live for a real audience of flesh and bones. No more live streams on the internet… We can still do that, but it’s not the same thing as seeing real people in front of you.

Thanks again for answering these questions! Would you like to add anything else?

Thanks for having us!

Shadowland is out now! Order it via
Wolf (orange vinyl + t-shirt bundle)

Wolf (orange vinyl)

EMP (red vinyl)

Century Media (white vinyl + poster)

Century Media (black vinyl + poster)
Wolf (digipack CD)