Evolution Not Compromise
CoC chats with Anders Björler and Peter Dolving of The Haunted
by: Jackie Smit
I'd hate to be stepping on any toes with what I'm about to say here, but it's damn good to have Peter Dolving back in The Haunted. As much as Marco Aro could belt out aggressive lines with the best of them, there's a unique quality to Dolving's voice that was sorely missing from the band's creative mix right up until the release of their latest opus, _rEVOLVEr_. I recently had the pleasure of hooking up with guitarist Anders Björler and Dolving himself to discuss line-up changes, the music industry and a host of other topics.

[Note to the reader: This interview was conducted prior to the Dimebag Darrel tragedy, hence the absence of any questions relating to that topic in this article.]

CoC: The biggest news in The Haunted right now has got to obviously be Peter's return to the fold. Anders, I was hoping you could shed more light on what made you guys decide to give him a call.

Anders Björler: Well, he was one of the obvious choices. He was one of maybe ten guys that we had on a list, and we basically just decided to contact him and see how he felt about rejoining. And he was really enthusiastic.

CoC: So, Peter -- from your perspective, what was the attraction to rejoining the band?

Peter Dolving: Having a life and the fact that the band were no longer on a certain record label. <laughs>

CoC: I've heard you mention the label situation before.

PD: Everything came together in a really good way. I really never thought that I'd get to join the band again, but I'm really happy that I did get that opportunity. I'm really glad to be back.

CoC: One of the reasons why I asked is because when you originally left The Haunted, I recall a lot of media sources implying that your days in the scene were over.

PD: Well, at the time I thought so.

CoC: Let's touch on the Earache situation for a moment. It's clear that you guys did very well while you were on that label -- you won the Swedish Grammy award for _One Kill Wonder_ and the label did help you make a name for yourselves. What prompted the decision to move to Century Media?

AB: The short of it is that our contract expired and they didn't make us a new offer.

CoC: So you're telling me that they let one of their most bankable acts go?

AB: Yup. And that's their problem.

CoC: And where did Century Media come into the equation?

PD: They did make us an offer and they showed ample proof that they really wanted to work with us and that they were actually a bona fide record company, which in my mind means that you sell records by using the basic mechanics of business, like marketing and trying to actually get a band's music out there.

CoC: That's a pretty harsh assessment of Earache, Peter. If you don't mind me asking, where does your dislike of that label originate from?

PD: Well, number one: at the time that I was in The Haunted early on, I was really unstable. And I had come to the point where the last thing I needed was to be treated like a kid, after touring for so many years and doing this for so long. So, as I said, the last thing I needed was to be pushed around and treated like a sixteen year-old bimbo. And also, the last thing I needed was to be presented with a record contract that actually made me laugh out loud, because I really, honestly believed that it was a practical joke.

CoC: This was around the time when you guys were about to record the debut?

PD: Yeah, and I really thought that they were kidding, and I phoned them up and said: "This is really funny -- when am I getting the real contract?" I mean, these guys were being really friendly on one hand when you were meeting them face to face, but ultimately that doesn't really matter when you're presented with a contract like the one they gave us at the start.

CoC: It's your livelihood after all...

PD: Exactly.

AB: Basically what it comes down to is that Earache has problems with the economics: they can't afford anything anymore.

PD: And they don't have the common courtesy to communicate that in an upfront and honest manner. It's really a matter of the management of the company, so I'm not going to blame people like Dan [Tobin, Earache label manager]. Their policy in terms of how they treat their artists is ultimately going to result in that label falling apart. The way it is right now, it's simply not a viable business. You can only do what they've been doing for so long. And the sad thing is that when I was young, Earache for me represented something that was really cool.

AB: They had a great line-up of bands.

PD: Yeah.

AB: And now that Morbid Angel have left...

CoC: In the run-up to releasing _rEVOLVEr_, you were touring with a few more mainstream and commercial bands like Funeral for a Friend -- how did that come about?

AB: It was an experiment. <laughs>

PD: Yeah, that was an experiment. Funeral for a Friend contacted us through the agency and we were like: "What?!"

AB: We were told that the thing was that they were doing their last tour of the UK before going back into the studio, and they had come up with the idea that each member contact their favourite band to see whether they could take a few of them out on the road, and The Haunted was one of those bands. No one in The Haunted had actually heard them though, and we ended up being a lied to a bit -- we were told that they were hardcore. But as it turns out, it wasn't really that at all.

PD: <laughs> No, but it worked out fine -- it was fun.

CoC: What was the response like?

PD: Thirteen-year old girls screaming. I don't know if they were screaming out of fear or out of excitement.

CoC: Did you get any bras thrown at you?

PD: No bras, but we did have some really good mosh-pits -- they had some really good circle pits going. But ultimately it's an audience that we would otherwise never be able to reach, so it was fun. It was bizarre though.

CoC: You not-so-subtly point to the fact that you have evolved with this album, but in what ways do you specifically see that as having happened?

AB: Well, it's always a big step when you get a new member and particularly when you have to incorporate a new singer. Of course, this time it was an older singer...

CoC: That must have made the transition a bit easier.

AB: Well, it didn't really have all that much of an influence on the actual music of the band -- it had a lot to do with the actual chemistry within the band.

PD: Yeah, and in that way it has affected the creative process of the band a lot.

CoC: Peter, what was your contribution to that process then?

PD: Myself coming back took us to doing what this band was doing when we started. I mean, initially it was just Anders and Jensen and the guys doing their thing and they were lacking a singer, and that's how they came to asking me to sing for them way back when. And when I left -- Marco does what he does really well, but he had a different attitude toward writing music. He saw himself more as a singer -- end of story. Which for me, I really enjoy being part of a band.

CoC: Didn't I read somewhere that he used to record his vocals separately?

AB: Yeah, and he wasn't part of the rehearsal process. We would basically mail him the tracks for the songs, and he would do his thing, which made for a very complicated song writing process.

CoC: Now, Marco left the band because he said that he wanted to spend more time with his family, but Peter -- you have two kids at home as well. Do you see that being a problem in the future? Do you think you're going to be able to survive being on the road and being away from your family for such extended periods of time?

PD: I don't see that as being a problem, because I've had my musical career and I've been playing music since I grew into some kind of semi-adulthood. But that's what I do -- that's my job. My kids were born with me, and they know their dad in that way. If the touring gets so extensive that it will affect my family, then they'll come out, because if we tour that much then we'll have that extra money and we'll sort something out. But it has a lot to do with attitude and my family is in on that. I've always been a touring musician, and to my kids -- they've grown up in a van and in studios, so to me that's not a situation that's very complicated, and not for my family either. I mean, I'm sure it is a complex thing, but I honestly don't see it as being any more difficult than having a normal job, where you wake up at six in the morning, and you go away all day and by the time you get home you're so tired you can not communicate with your kids. So, you send them off to bed because you're too tired to play with them, and you try to have some sort of social interaction with your wife, and then you get up at six in the morning the next day until Friday when you get smashed. I'd rather live like this.

AB: I think that one good thing about this situation is that it gives you a chance to spend more effective time with your children. You have sometimes three weeks where you're doing nothing. And as for touring -- it's all a matter of planning ahead.

PD: To me, I really enjoy this. The other really big difference for me is that myself and my wife have a lot of friends -- a really supportive group of people -- and we always help each other out with kids and things like that. I think that was one of the major problems for Marco. His wife's parents are gone, as well as my wife's parents, but the big difference is that we have a really big network of people around us. For anyone to take care of a bunch of kids all by themselves -- that's not going to work for anyone. You need the support. You need the network.

CoC: How about you, Anders? I don't see any ring on your finger.

AB: I'm single.

CoC: Does it make things a bit easier?

AB: Yeah, it does.

CoC: Coming back to the album -- I know that this is a point that's being argued over quite a lot, but as far as I'm concerned you have taken a lot more chances on _rEVOLVEr_ than you did with for example _One Kill Wonder_. Was this something that you would ascribe to natural progression, or did you intentionally set out to make a record that showed off a different side to the band?

AB: It just came out the way it did.

PD: It's one of those things -- we have a really open attitude to making music and the band as such has grown over the years to an entity that's strong enough by itself to not have to worry about what would happen if we strayed an inch or two from the sort of strict path, you know?

CoC: So making a song like "Abysmal" -- you're not scared that you're going to lose "666 trueness points"...

AB: Not at all. I mean, that song in particular reminds me a lot of Pantera or _Seasons in the Abyss_. In terms of changes to this album, I just think that it's a much darker and more atmospheric album -- both with the music and with the lyrics. It's definitely not the sound of us wimping out. The album is certainly far darker -- for me, at least -- than anything on _One Kill Wonder_.

CoC: That's something I wanted to ask you about as well. Even though _One Kill Wonder_ was really well received, you did start catching some flack from people saying that you were repeating yourselves.

AB: I do think that _One Kill Wonder_ was a step in the wrong direction. I think that the production is too harsh and the music in general was too brutal at times.

CoC: Lyrically the new record also strikes me as being more grounded and in tune with the first album. Peter, did you have a hand in that?

PD: Absolutely. I'm very pleased, because the guys gave me a free hand and told me to write the lyrics, which for me is incredible. I really like doing that. I think, stepping back into the band again: I've done that with a much greater conviction and a more decisive approach this time around. And actually, in retrospect, I think I'm really happy that I did leave the band for a little while, because I think that having the opportunity to try out a bunch of different things that I really wanted to try out -- now I can bring into the band a different and more interesting attitude in terms of lyrics, for example. I wanted to do a bunch of stuff and I had unfinished ideas swimming around in my head before, but I didn't know how to reach it. But now, I'm really happy and I'm really comfortable and I know how to get all that stuff done.

CoC: Sticking to the lyrical side of things, there is a distinctly hardcore flavour to a lot of what you're saying on this album, and I know that you [Peter] have a great fondness for that sort of stuff. Given that Lou Koller from Sick of It All sang on this album, I think that sort of underlines it as well. How did Lou's involvement with the album come about?

PD: I have this tiny little office where I work with a network of musicians that help each other out over in Gothenburg. And I was sitting there listening to the track ["Who Will Decide"] in a very crude version from the rehearsal room, and I kind of had this idea that it would be really cool to have two vocalists doing that song. My idea was to actually have Jonas sing on that song and have like a call and answer thing going. Then one of my friends suggested that I call Lou Koller, and I thought he was crazy. I mean, why would the guy have any interest in singing with our band -- he is from an entirely different scene. But anyway, we asked one of our friends at a distribution company in Sweden who knows him, and it turned out that he really loved the band, so she got in touch with him and he was up for it, and as luck would have it they were touring in Europe while we were doing the album. So when they came to Gothenburg, he came to the studio in the afternoon and did the song -- very simple, very quick.

CoC: It must be an amazing thing meeting people you have admired for so long telling you that they like your band. Anders, have you had a similar experience?

AB: Yeah, but it's been that way for a long time -- ever since At the Gates, really; meeting old favourites. It started on a small scale and we were meeting people like Morbid Angel, and then with The Haunted we met bands like Slayer and Testament.

CoC: So, who would you regard as being the most personally influential person you have met in your career so far?

AB: Kerry King.

PD: One of the first things that happened when I rejoined the band was Kerry calling us saying that he was really happy that I had come back. <laughs>

CoC: Given that The Haunted is being mentioned alongside what can be referred to as the leading acts in metal right now (Lamb of God, Shadows Fall, etc.), where do you feel the future of this music is headed?

PD: As a business, I don't think that the major labels are going to matter all that much in the next five to ten years. I think bands will matter much more.

AB: It's going to be all about playing live...

PD: Yeah, and whether you have your shit together or not. That's really important. And I think that is the natural progression of things. Major labels have had their day. They're not relevant anymore. The thing is with them -- and this is my reason for saying what I have said -- that the traditional structures that bands have always had behind them has already started to change. That change will progress even more quickly now, and that has a lot to do with the Internet of course. When it comes down to the nitty-gritty, a record company is nothing but an entrepreneur. They're an intermediary between people who create and people who want to buy; that's all they are. And the Internet will spread that product very quickly depending on the quality or the popular demand, and in that structure, it gets very hard for those traditions to function, because it's really difficult to create the idea that something is good or bad. It's so easy now to check that out for yourself through the Internet, whereas in the old structure you could only find that out through the media which was being manipulated by the record companies. So, by that argument, it means that the old ways of doing things can't function anymore -- it means that they're going to be extinct. Now, if they do change -- and they will change -- then they will most probably become something quite smaller, and in that sense I think that the majors stand to learn a lot from the independents. It will definitely be really interesting to see what happens to music in the future, but to be completely honest -- who cares? For The Haunted -- we just want to work with somebody that likes us and likes the music and wants to work with us.

(article submitted 31/12/2004)

11/13/2014 A El Naby 6 The Haunted - Exit Wounds
3/28/2011 A El Naby 4 The Haunted - Unseen
10/5/2008 J Smit 8.5 The Haunted - Versus
10/5/2006 J Smit 7.5 The Haunted - The Dead Eye
9/23/2004 J Smit 10 The Haunted - rEVOLVEr
6/30/2003 A Lineker 8.5 The Haunted - One Kill Wonder
4/12/2002 P Schwarz 9 The Haunted - Live Rounds in Tokyo
10/25/2000 A Bromley 9 The Haunted - The Haunted Made Me Do It
10/1/1998 A Bromley 9 The Haunted - The Haunted
12/2/2005 J Smit The Haunted / God Forbid Absolution Not a Frozen Room
2/28/2005 J Smit The Haunted / Martyr AD / Dead to Fall (So Very) Dead on Arrival
6/8/2003 A Lineker The Haunted / Stampin' Ground / December Marco Aro Dances for the Cat People
5/13/2001 D Rocher Nile / The Haunted / Carnal Forge / The Forsaken At the Haunted Gates of Vengeance
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