Seal the Senses
CoC chats with Andreas Sydow of Darkane
by: Jackie Smit
Broken equipment, flooded film sets, injuries -- it's all part and parcel of the Darkane recording experience. But vocalist Andreas Sydow and his musical cohorts take this all in their stride. After all, this is a band whose guitarist went on tour with a back injury that rendered him virtually immobile. Speaking of which...

CoC: During my last interview with Klaas [Ideberg, Darkane guitarist] back in 2003, you guys had already begun work on _Layers of Lies_. Why has there been such a delay in the record actually coming out?

Andreas Sydow: Several reasons. First and probably the biggest reason is that Peter [Wildoer, drummer] developed problems with his wrists, and this is something that had been ongoing for quite some time. I think it started in early 2003 when he was rehearsing with Time Requiem, who he was playing with at that time as well. They were going on a tour of Japan, and while they were rehearsing he strained his wrists quite badly. It generally started growing worse and he began to hurt while he was playing, and when we finally did the tour with Death Angel in 2003 it started to get really bad. So he went to a doctor -- several doctors, actually -- when he got back from the tour, and no one could really find what the problem was. He tried all kinds of different medicines and all sorts of alternative remedies; anything really to just try and get the problem resolved. Finally someone found out that he had an abnormal bone growth in his wrists, and it wouldn't be a serious problem, provided that he let it rest for a considerable amount of time. So he had to stop playing for about six months, and then after that he had to start building up everything again. That happened last summer and he started practicing with us and getting in shape to do the album. That's one reason, and the main reason as I said. It was good that he was alright again, because it was a very difficult time for all of us -- none of us knew whether he was going to be okay again.

CoC: Did the thought ever cross your minds that you'd need to find a new drummer?

AS: Yes and no. It's almost impossible to find someone to replace him, because here in Sweden, where we live, all the good drummers are already busy with other bands. Also, Peter is not only a drummer, he is a huge part of the band. He created the band's sound, and he is so involved in the song writing and producing, that it would be almost impossible to go on without him. So, it's great to have him back.

CoC: And this isn't a problem that he would have to get ongoing treatment for and that could affect his playing on tours?

AS: No, it doesn't seem that there will be any problems. Since last summer he has been playing regularly and he hasn't experienced any pain or any discomfort, so hopefully it's all a thing of the past.

CoC: I have to say though -- first Klaas with his back problems and now Peter with his wrists; Darkane seems pretty prone to misfortune.

AS: <laughs> It's not only members, it's also equipment. It does seem to be a typical Darkane thing. We haven't seemed to be capable thus far of making a record without something weird happening in the studio, or things breaking down or amps burning up. There's always strange things going on.

CoC: Let's talk about the process that you went through in recording this album, because I know you worked at your own studios, which obviously afforded you the luxury of having far more time than you'd have at a place like Dug Out. How did you enjoy working in this way? Is it something you will be repeating in future?

AS: Absolutely. I mean, first of all, we started writing songs long before we started recording this album, and I think that the first riffs were written back in 2003 on the No Mercy tours in Europe. So of course we had a lot of material when we started, and therefore it was great to record in this way, because it's as you say: we didn't have the time pressure. We could record something, go home and listen to it, and then come back the next day and change things the way we saw fit. That was one of the benefits of doing things the way we did. But, of course, there was also the insecurity of never knowing when it's good enough, you know? We could have gone on and on without every knowing for sure when the songs and the album as a whole had been worked on enough. It's always difficult when you work like that to decide: now it's good enough, let's get to the next song. For the drums, I don't think it was much different from when we record at Dug Out. We were still building our studio when we were recording this album, so we didn't have all the equipment that we needed and that meant that we had to borrow stuff from time to time.

CoC: Was it the loaned equipment that broke down?

AS: <laughs> No, actually it was our own for the most part. I mean, the whole album is recorded on a computer and we had a lot of problems with that, especially in the beginning. But we solved that, and so getting back to the recording of the drums -- that took a week. The other stuff, we could go much easier on. Of course, we all have day jobs, so we had to work on the album on evenings and weekends. So for effective recording time, I guess you could say that we didn't spend much more time on the album than when we are at Dug Out. But the benefit is that you don't have to push out everything over a limited number of days, and you can spread it out over a couple of months. For the vocals, that was fantastic, because when we did the vocals for _Expanding Senses_, we did that in about ten days. That meant that I was behind the microphone for sixteen hours a day sometimes. Obviously that places an extreme strain on your voice, and so recording in this way is much better for my part, because you can sing for a few hours and then you can rest. You can also take a piece with you and give it a listen and decide what you want to change, and then just do that. Also, the way we do the vocal parts -- normally we'd have Peter and Christopher [Malmstrom, guitarist], who can write lyrics without having a song. So they just write the lyrics on a piece of paper, and we try to put it into a song later on. I can't do that. I have to have a song to write the lyrics to. Also when we do the vocals, we process it quite a bit and we produce it fairly heavily, and again, this way we had the opportunity to really spend time on all those things and really let the good ideas come out, without pushing it and making do with what happens.

CoC: I wanted to mention that, actually: one of the big differences on this new record is the shift away from the "one-note sung" style that you had on _Expanding Senses_. Did the fact that you had more time for the vocals on this album contribute to that shift?

AS: Yeah. I was never really happy with my vocals on _Expanding Senses_ and it was actually only Christopher who liked the style of singing. So, since we are a very democratic band, he lost the vote on that. There are some shorter parts on _Layers of Lies_ that have that style, but we tried to vary it because I'm more comfortable with it and because Peter likes it more.

CoC: Just out of curiosity, what's easier on your voice when you're touring and playing live: the one-note style or the way that you're doing it for this album?

AS: Probably the way I'm doing it now, because if you use your voice for different notes, you're using different parts of your vocal chords. One note singing means that you're placing strain on one particular area all the time.

CoC: You mentioned earlier the strange occurrences that plagued you guys in the studio. Care to shed some light on that?

AS: Well, we had severe troubles with the computer as I already mentioned. That's something that we've learned from and next time round we will definitely have a different setup. Another thing I remember happened when we recorded the video clip for "Secondary Effects". This happened while we were mixing the record, and we were using a room next to our studio for the shoot. We had been to the room with the film crew the day before and checked out everything and decided how we were going to do things. Then the morning that we were going to do the shoot, when we got to the room it had been flooded and the room was filled with a good ten inches of water. So we had to start our day by getting rid of the water; and after we had done this and we had gotten our gear all set up, we were just about to start shooting when the fire department walked in. As it turns out, they had been called in because of the flooding and they were supposed to clean all of it up. So, that turned out to be a long day. <laughs> Otherwise, the really strange things were just down to guitars breaking down for no apparent reason or amps burning out or whatnot.

CoC: Was _Layers of Lies_ easier to make than _Expanding Senses_?

AS: In a way, but at the same time it was also very difficult because we were doing everything ourselves. As I mentioned before, there was always that insecurity of wondering whether we were on the right track and whether we could trust the sound in the studio. This was the first recording that we did in a studio that we built ourselves, so you never know what's going to happen or what it's going to sound like, because you don't have anything to hold up as a reference. It also felt to us sometimes like we were never going to be finished, because the weeks just seemed to fly by, and we knew that sooner or later we'd have to set a date for Nuclear Blast where we could deliver the master tapes to them, so that they could start to do their thing with it. We pushed it back at least two or three times anyway, because the record turned out to be more work than we had previously anticipated. We'll do it the same way next time though, although maybe we'll just let someone else do the mixing, because we found that to be most stressful part and probably the thing we felt most insecure about. We have a lot of friends in the music business and these guys could help us to listen to the music with an objective ear -- the biggest example of which is probably the Soilwork sound guy, who used to work in studios himself. Of course, Klaas has worked in studios himself as well, but it was good to have these people around to tell us what was working and what was not.

CoC: So now that the record is about to be released and the reviews are starting to come in, what are your feelings toward the response that the album is receiving so far?

AS: It's been fantastically good. You never know, when you release an album, what people are going to think -- especially with Darkane, because we always try to bring out something that doesn't sound like the previous album. We try to go into new directions and expand ourselves all the time and experiment a bit. The big difference for me on _Layers of Lies_ is the sound of the production -- the sound is much more direct and much more straightforward. It's not as produced and compressed as _Expanding Senses_, which in my opinion was quite blurred. Oftentimes on that record I don't think that you can really discern what the guitars or the drums or whatever are playing. That was something that we intentionally worked on changing with this new record, which may be something that people don't really like, if they were into the Darkane sound before.

CoC: You mentioned earlier that you guys all have day jobs. What do you occupy your time with outside of the band?

AS: I install AV equipment and I do some live sound every now and then for local bands. Klaas works in studios and he's currently studying to be a teacher. He's actually been doing that for a couple of years now, so I don't really know when he plans on finishing. <laughs> Also, he has Terror 2000 and Defaced, which takes up quite a bit of his time of course.

CoC: You guys do seem to have your fingers stuck into a lot of pies, musically speaking.

AS: Yeah, we had quite a bit of time to ourselves last year. Jorgen [Lofberg, bassist] is a computer engineer and he's currently working in Portugal, and Christopher works at a local culture centre as a caretaker, and Peter is a teacher -- he teaches drums and math.

CoC: Drums and math? I suppose considering his style of drumming that makes sense. Do you ever get frustrated when you're recording and your day job has to take preference over your work on the band? Do you feel like that interferes with your ability to be creative?

AS: It's not really a problem at present, but let me say it like this: up until now, we haven't had any trouble making time if need be. For the recording this time, it was no problem of course, because we had weekends and evenings to work on it. But when it comes to touring, then it can become a bigger problem, because you can end up being away for several weeks at a time. Up until now, we've always managed to solve everything. I have quite a flexible job, as does Jorgen. Klaas has no problem because he's studying, and Peter can almost always get a replacement in school. So, it hasn't been a problem, but if we land the tours that we want to land for this record, then we're going to have to sit down and have a think about things. Up until now, we haven't really ever done more than two weeks' touring at a time, and that was mostly European tours, and then we'd play one-off shows in other countries. Hopefully with this record it's going to be different. We're going to do a European tour as soon as possible, and then we want to follow that up with a North American tour. So if we do, say, three weeks in Europe and then four weeks in the US, then it's a lot more time than we have vacation to use. Hopefully it will all work out. I mean, when you start playing music when you're a kid, you would ideally like to be able to live off the music -- you want to be able to tour all the time, and drink beer and do stuff like that. But we've reached that age now where we're all over thirty; we have houses and we have families and we're used to normal jobs with normal pay cheques. It's not easy to just give that up and go and move into a camper, which is something you can do when you're 18, but you can't do it when you're at our age.

CoC: But in an ideal world, is becoming independent of your day jobs something you'd hope that this album could do for you?

AS: Absolutely. It would be fantastic if this could happen, although it's something I won't dare to believe. It has to happen first.

CoC: There are rumours flying around at the moment of a Darkane DVD coming out. What can you tell me about that?

AS: It's not likely to be out anytime soon, but we're working on it. We've been working on it for quite some time. We had plans to release it almost a year ago, but we thought that we didn't have enough great material to release, and to bring out something with less than an hour's worth of footage to fans is not enough. We're just waiting and getting some more material together. The recording of this album, we filmed quite a bit of that, so we have a lot of material off that. Hopefully we'll also be able to record at all the summer festivals that we go to. I mean, we have footage of all the albums that we've recorded, so the DVD could end up being like a best of Darkane type of deal when it finally comes out.

CoC: Andreas, thanks very much for your time. I think, rather than ending this interview off with the usual questions, I'd like to ask you if you have any tips for aspiring singers out there.

AS: <laughs> Well, I get this question sometimes, but no -- not really. I'm totally self-taught, so I don't know what I'm doing. Just do what feels right, because if it doesn't, then it's not good for your voice. Then also take care of yourself, don't drink too much liquor.

CoC: You don't have any secrets like honey or mint tea or something like that?

AS: I've tried so many things and none of them work. What I do know however, is that it rarely works if you've been out drinking the night before, so on tours I'm quite slow on the booze. I'm the designated driver. <laughs>

(article submitted 20/6/2005)

1/25/2004 J Smit Darkane: The Will to Overcome
8/12/2001 P Schwarz Darkane: Dark Insanity
5/31/2005 J Smit 7.5 Darkane - Layers of Lies
8/12/2001 D Rocher 8 Darkane - Insanity
8/12/1999 D Rocher 10 Darkane - Rusted Angel
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