Strength Beyond Strength
CoC chats with Marco Aro of Face Down
by: Jackie Smit
As heavy metal frontmen go, Marco Aro is about as un-rock 'n' roll as they come. A dedicated father and family man and, after a lengthy struggle with substance and alcohol abuse, proudly teetotal, he measures his answers as only someone who has been around the block more often than most would do. Currently imbibing the impressive buzz around his band's current effort, _The Will to Power_, Face Down mach two marks his third foray into the music industry, after leaving The Haunted back in 2003. And thankfully -- as I learned when I interviewed him at Face Down's recent London gig -- there's one vice he doesn't plan on shirking anytime soon.

CoC: I know you've probably been asked this question a million times, but I think it serves as a foundation for the rest of the interview that you shed some light on why you're back in Face Down, as a lot of people thought that they had probably seen the last of you when you left The Haunted.

Marco Aro: Yeah, you thought you got rid of me, didn't you? Now I'm back! <laughs>

CoC: So how did this Face Down reunion take place?

MA: When I left The Haunted, I was pretty much done with music. I didn't want to do it anymore, and I had several other personal problems that I needed to attend to. I got those sorted out, but even after that, I was still convinced that I wasn't going to do music anymore. Then I started watching TV and I'd see some of my old friends playing, like Arch Enemy and all those guys, and I started getting envious of that again, and I started feeling like I'd possibly want to get out there again. Funnily enough, around that time, our bass player [Joakim Hedestedt] called me and asked me if I wanted to sing on the next Face Down album, and that if they were going to put the band back together again, would I be interested in being a part of it. And I couldn't have been happier. I was back in the game again. We made up some special terms and conditions prior to getting it all settled, and we got our families involved in everything and basically came to a decision that it was going to be on the basis of having fun. We're going to go for quality over quantity, and that's what we're doing now.

CoC: Were you surprised when you got that call?

MA: I was, because we'd actually left off on a pretty bad note, and we had to sit down and sort all that shit out. But when that was done, we were best of friends again.

CoC: Were the bad vibes a result of you leaving to join The Haunted?

MA: A part of it was, and another part was the problems surrounding the band. We had a lot of label problems -- we got dropped from one, and after that it was like no one was going to touch us with a ten foot pole. And that puts a lot of strain on people, and it puts a strain on friendship as well, because even though you know there's no scapegoat, you always try to find one. So, we were fighting amongst each other, and that was one of the big things.

CoC: Those label problems that you mentioned, was Nuclear Blast involved in that at all?

MA: Yeah, we had problems when we were on there, but that shit is all sorted out now, and it's not something I want to go back into.

CoC: I was quite surprised when I saw the new Face Down album coming out on Black Lodge though, because it's a great label, but not exactly the kind of place you'd expect a band like yourselves to be at home at.

MA: Well, the thing about Black Lodge was that we're actually old friends with the owner, so it felt more natural to sign with them because these are people that we can actually look up and talk to when there's a problem. They're a phone call away or they're a ten minute drive away. And they promised us a great deal, and priority on the label. It's a small label as well, so there will never be any of the pressures you have when you sign with one of the bigger companies, in that you have to go on tour and stuff like that. It's good for us.

CoC: Now that you mention it, I recall the touring aspect being something that was a particular sticking point for you when you were in The Haunted.

MA: We're not going to be doing any extensive touring with Face Down at all. If we're going to do any shows, they will be done on Thursdays to Sundays, because anyone who has been on the road knows that those are the best days anyway. It's like I was saying about going for quality over quantity. I mean, in this day and age you don't really need to tour a lot to sell albums anyway. You have the magic of the Internet now to get your name out there and you get turned on to bands by people on chat forums or on websites or whatever. So word will get around either way, and as far as touring, we'll be aiming for the big cities like London or Paris, and if people really want to see us, then they can come down to those.

CoC: Was your family supportive when you told them that you were going to get back into music?

MA: It was a bit sticky at first, because my wife thought that it was going to be like the old days when I was on tour all the time and never at home. So, I had to assure her that it wasn't going to be the case at all. She's OK with it now, but at the same time I really love my kids, and I get homesick a lot. I don't want to leave my family for any amount of time at all. And you know, with this band we don't need to make a living out of it. We pretty much have it all already, so the stress factor of that is gone, which makes it possible for us to do it the way we're doing it right now.

CoC: So, if the stress is gone, and you're feeling more positive toward life -- where does the aggression on this new album come from? Because, I don't know whether you've noticed or not, but on _The Will to Power_ you guys sound very, very pissed off!

MA: <laughs> It is angry. We keep hearing that we sound like a young, hungry band and not like a band who's been around for a while. I think we are hungrier this time, because we have nothing riding on it and we can pretty much do what we want; we can do what we always wanted to do. So, the aggression comes from back when we did the first demo after we got back together. We listened to it and it sucked, and we actually had to sit down and ask ourselves whether this was the direction we were going to take. And from there on, we decided: "Fuck it, we'll do what we want." We just decided to go with it. It all feeds back into each other -- the aggressive nature of the lyrics comes from the aggressive nature of the songs. When I write a lyric, I never intend any message to go with it. I want the lyrics to suit the music, and when the music is as aggressive as it is on _The Will to Power_, then the lyrics will be about fighting and killing. But I'd also like to think that there is more to us than just pure aggression. The last song on the new record wasn't intended to be an aggressive song at all. That again is about this whole freedom of being able to write the music that we want to write and do what we want to do.

CoC: From that point of view, was it easier to write and record _The Will to Power_ than say, _One Kill Wonder_ or _The Haunted Made Me Do It_?

MA: Yeah, it was, because there wasn't that pressure to exceed or surpass the old album -- we could just go with it. With The Haunted, I put a lot of pressure on myself, because the guys I were playing with were tremendous musicians. I mean, they're riff gods -- they can come up with three or four songs a day if they wanted to, and basically one twin tells the other twin how to play it and it's as though it's just always been there, if you know what I mean. Jensen too. He goes on these "riff-camps", as he calls them, and he just disappears for a week and writes riffs. And that made me feel like I was out of their league. I couldn't hope to come close to their creativity. That's what makes the current situation easier. These guys are great players, but the way we all see things now -- if a song isn't finished, or if we don't know where to take a song next, then we just say "Fuck it", and we get back to it at a later stage.

CoC: A very common thread that seems to run through your lyrics -- even though you say you don't have a message, you do seem to be very pissed off at the judicial systems in most of the Western world. Am I wrong?

MA: No. I'm fascinated with serial killers and how they work and how they're a product of society. They're not born that way, for sure. They're turned into that. When you read things about guys like Carl Santram -- he's a fucked-up guy, and you're amazed at how cruel someone can be. But at the same time, it's quite intriguing to take a few steps into that world and to try to make a lyric as personal as you can get it, without getting in too deep or too close.

CoC: A lot of your songs seem to express the anger that the victims feel, which I find a very interesting angle to take.

MA: That's great that you say that, because even though it's not always the way I feel when I'm writing the lyrics, I do try and keep as many doors open as I can and let people interpret it as they see fit. Every lyric I write is fifty percent me and fifty percent fiction. I write about me, because I know myself and I wouldn't be able to write about anything else. If I suddenly started writing about politics, I wouldn't know what the fuck I was doing. That's not something I really know anything about, or even care about. And a lot of bands seem to do that: they go off on the deep end about shit that they don't know anything about and they seem to hide behind the one or two quotes that they do know. We're never going to do that.

CoC: You've spoken out in the past about your drug problems, and I was wondering when you mentioned the stress you felt in The Haunted, whether that was a contributing factor to making that problem worse.

MA: I was doing drugs before I even joined The Haunted, and the problem was that basically some people are meant to tour and others aren't. Nick Barker, who used to drum for Dimmu Borgir and Cradle of Filth, that guy is made for the road, and he hates being at home. I'm not like that. I'm homesick all the time. And when you're on the road, you get all these "helping hands" that provide you with shit all the time and they become your best friends. The big problems start when the tour joins you back at home; my wife didn't know how bad my problem was until I just broke down one day and told her everything because I couldn't take it. And that's when we decided to get help, and I was convinced that I was sick and that I needed to cut away the thing that was making me sick, and that band had to go. I tried to do a world tour sober, and it's horrible. Because it's not about staying clean by yourself; the old drug pals are there and they don't understand that you don't do things like that anymore. I've been drug-free for three years now and I'm damn proud of it.

CoC: Is it a different sensation playing shows now?

MA: No, we were pretty much always sober on stage with The Haunted. I never did drugs before a show. It was usually the after-parties that got carried away. It doesn't differ that much now. In the beginning in The Haunted, I was drinking a lot and I tried doing a few shows semi-drunk, but it didn't take me long to realize that the people who come out to see us pay what is for them quite a lot of money. And I decided right then and there that I was never going to mix pleasure with business.

CoC: So with you being back in Face Down -- I guess this is a question you've been asked many times, and if you don't want to comment on it, then that's fine -- but what did you think of the last Haunted album?

MA: <laughs> It's very good, and that's all I'm going to say.

CoC: Was it difficult for you to see the band move on without you?

MA: Not really, because they're all very good friends of mine, and when they were in Stockholm I actually had the opportunity to do a duet with Peter on stage on "Godpuppet", which was very cool. At first I thought it was going to be like watching your girlfriend fuck another guy, but it wasn't because I had pretty much closed that chapter when I left. We ended off on a really good note, I explained everything and they were OK with it. It might have turned out differently if they had struggled to find a new singer and they hadn't released a great new album.

CoC: They did go in a different direction musically as well with _rEVOLVEr_, and in many ways it seemed as though they shut the door on the "Marco Aro chapter" as well.

MA: Yeah, totally, and that’s a good thing, because Peter is a hell of a lot better singer than I am. <laughs> I just know how to yell really loudly, and Peter is completely different because he has a bigger range and he can do proper clean vocals. I think the new album was a really natural next step for them.

CoC: So what about Face Down, then: where are you guys headed in the next couple of months?

MA: We're pretty much exploring our options at the moment. We've just signed with a booking agent who understands our situation and what we want to do, and we'll just see how things work out with him. Everybody has good ideas at the moment and we're all really enjoying ourselves; whatever problems there were in the past, we've cleared the air and we're better friends now than we ever were. And as long as we can keep it on this scale and on this level, there's no problems at all.

CoC: Good stuff. Thanks for your time, Marco. Is there anything else that you'd like to add?

MA: Buy our album -- it's worth it! <laughs>

(article submitted 15/11/2005)


ALBUMS
10/24/2005 J Smit 8 Face Down - The Will to Power
1/1/1998 P Schwarz 9 Face Down - The Twisted Rule The Wicked
GIGS
11/9/2005 J Smit Face Down / Panic Cell The Power of Four
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