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Artillery's Michael Bastholm Dahl: "We didn't feel like we were put out of a game, but we have certainly missed playing live!"

Interview with Michael Stützer & Michael Bastholm Dahl from Artillery
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 07 May 2021, 2:16 AM

Heading for the milestone, that sweet number 10. Even though a band's legacy isn't measured by the number of albums it released, to reaching such a strong number of releases, each on its own is a segment of a continued legacy, it still means something. After the loss of their dear longtime guitarist, and one of the band's founders, Mortem Stützer, Artillery pushed forward in order to keep Mortem's wish. The coming of "X" generated a feeling that it is bound to be a classic, perhaps in the same proportion of the band's greatest record, "By Inheritance". Steinmetal had a good chat with Michael Stützer and vocalist, Michael Bastholm Dahl, about the new album, the feeling of the ten, new guitarist, Artillery near 40 and more…

Hello guys, once again it is a pleasure for me to have Artillery for an interview for Metal Temple, for Michael S. it is actually the third time already if I can remember correctly. How have you been doing?

Michael S.: Beside the Corona shit I have had a good time, recording, making videos and preparing the release of our new album. Also have a lot more time with the family when we couldn`t tour. And we got time to have our first ever Artillery Beer out.

Last year was simply crazy; the world came down to a version of shock with the Covid-19. 2021 may show us the way out of this madness, however, as it appears, there is a long way to go. How have you been capturing everything that has been going on with the pandemic?

Michael B.D.: I think that we just simply tried to do the best we could to keep the band going even though there was a pandemic going on. We don't really talk about the pandemic that much we just simply try and focus on the music and what we can do within the boundaries of this pandemic.

Michael S.: It´s been one of the craziest things I ever had experienced, I really learned a lot of how to get things working and still have a good life without playing.

Culture simply stopped, like every other social branch, whether its businesses or actual lives, as if the world stopped spinning around. As a band that has been known as quite active on the live scene, how does it feel? Perhaps as if you were put out of a game?

Michael B.D.: There is no doubt about the fact that not being able to play live is quite frustrating. We just simply focused on writing songs and finding inspiration in the downtime. The best you can do whenever there is something like this going on is to find other goals and other things that gives you energy and positivity. We didn't feel like we were put out of a game, but we have certainly missed playing live!

Michael S.: It´s being so awful not to be able to play, but on the other side there are people around the world who are suffering even more than us, but in Denmark we are allowed to play live again from the 6th of May, and we are looking forward so much to that.

Gladly, the pandemic didn’t stop the Artillery camp from working on yet another album, marking an immense milestone of ten albums, therefore the title “X”. Would you say that this time around the X marked the spot, similar when looking at a treasure map?

Michael B.D.: Yes, you can say that! We didn't really think about it in that way but when you say it, it actually makes good sense. as always you try to hit the bullseye when you're writing an album so using the euphemism of the X as a marked spot on a treasure map its actually quite cool.

Michael S., since “X” can be well regarded as a milestone for Artillery, looking back to your long history, has it ever occurred to you, back in the day, that you are bound to be with a tenth album in hand?

Michael S.: No, if someone back in 1982 had told me that I would make 10 studio albums and would have played in 65 different countries with Artillery, I'm sure I would have said: "Come on man, are you serious?"

I think we have done so many great things, traveling all over the world, met so many great people and have the support from our great diehard fans so it’s hard to not be happy. So, I'm really proud that I made it so far. Having all those die-hard fans around the world really makes playing music so awesome.

This is something for the newer bands that are always contemplating on their next moves, what kind of an advice Michael S. would you give them to perhaps one-day reach their 10th as well?

Michael S.: Keep working hard, believe in what you are doing, play a lot of shows and even if you are making your first album, keep pushing´ yourself with new ambitions, don´t be afraid to follow your heart and try to keep some originality in your music and at last work hard to have a great friendship in the band.

Diving into the philosophy behind “X”, Michael B., does Artillery share a form of anguish towards this new chapter in mankind’s legacy?

Michael B.D.: I always think that Artillery has had some sort of anguish towards mankind. We like to address the things that we find to be wrong in society, in the world and with people in general. Mankind is born with a brilliant mind but tend to gravitate to gravitate towards all the worst things possible. We're not just simply complaining but we are showing off our worry and concern of the future of the earth and mankind.

Through what has been going on within “X”, the inner struggle of a person, our social order that has been rattled and that constant stepping on bodies in order to reach a goal, wouldn’t you say that there is no hope for mankind? Do you think that it is evil by nature or rather waiting for a kind of salvation to save itself?

Michael B.D.: I don't like to think about it in this way but I think that you might be right that mankind perhaps is doomed. I don't think that mankind as such is evil but just simply incompetent and unable to understand its impact and the consequences thereof. But we do tend to close our eyes to the horrors that we inflict upon each other and the earth we are just simply not fit enough to exist in balance with our home and world. I would love to think that there would be salvation for mankind in the future. And it is salvation in that sense that mankind finds peace, balance and progress without the cost of others and other things. I don't think about salvation in any religious term whatsoever.

Michael S.: There is always hope

Earlier on I stated that if there is a band that sticks to its guns more than many others, is Artillery. However, listening to “X”, I noticed that there is more to it. In a way, the album is divided between the Artillery melodic and articulate Thrash Metal and a rather more Traditional Metal driven material. That fusion always had a warm spot in my heart and it worked for greatness on “X”. What is your take on this? Would you say that it is a beginning of a change, even the slightest of your musical perspective?

Michael B.D.: I honestly don't know. We always just simply write and record whatever comes out of us naturally. So we didn't aim for any specific sort of change or new perspective on this album, whatever came out came out naturally. We just simply try and write the best album possible. So, if we are happy with it it's great and if you are happy with it too it is even greater. So, whatever happens in the future musically and artistically is Everybody is guess, but I will assure you that it will be artillery!

What kind of influences were at play while you were within the songwriting process of  “X”?

Michael B.D.:  A lot of things; life, death, society, the world and the future. We also gave room for more artistic free lyrical ideas. We dabbled in themes about hell, the beast within man, the conflicts you might have with other people and within yourself. Musically I think did we aimed to move forward but also remember the past.

Nearly two years ago you officially recruited the guitarist Kræn Meier to the Artillery camp, as a replacement for the ever so missed Morten Stützer (R.I.P.). How do you find Meier’s influence on the songwriting on “X”? What new elements to the music did he contribute?

Michael B.D.: Kræn actually wrote a few songs on this album. He fits in the band creatively very well and as person a as well. He is very good at finding the right approach and musical expression. So all in all Kræn gave Artillery new material and an approach that would honour and keep Morten’s legacy in mind.

With Thrash Metal changing its face, usually going for the extreme by a larger sum of bands nowadays, what keeps you motivated to maintain your direction as can be heard on “X”? Do you believe that Artillery still needs to prove itself?

Michael B.D.: I always believe that a band must prove itself. Every time you put out a new album you will always have to prove that you are still relevant and that you still are writing good songs, and that goes for yourself and to the music community as well. When we write and record we don't think about what other bands do, we just simply follow our gut feel. There are so many other bands who are good at playing extreme metal so we won't try and copy them. We are just simply writing music we would like to hear ourselves.

Michael S.: You always have to work hard and never rely on your past efforts, not only for your fans but definitely also for yourself. We never stop challenging ourself to be better songwriters and musician.

What challenges arose while working and recording “X”? How were you able to tackle those obstacles in order to complete the record?

Michael B.D.: Losing Morten was one of the big challenges we had to face when we started recording X. He was always very present in the studio and was a wonderful guide whenever you had doubts about how to approach song. Another challenge, obviously, was the pandemic of course. otherwise, I think that the whole process went alright. We just had to find a new creative foot at one point, but looking back at it now, it was in many ways, the way we always have done it.

Michael S.: For me personally it was really tough not having Morten here anymore, but I promised him to keep Artillery going and the guys in the band were really supportive as they also were missing him and luckily Kræn our new guitar player did a good job.

Once again Søren Andersen treated you with a massive wall of sound, maintaining the strong Artillery sound that once again shows the cohesion between the power of the material and the band’s sound identity. What is your appreciation of the sound of the record? Is this what you consider as pitch perfect?

Michael B.D.: Yes, in many ways! Søren Andersen is a wonderful guy to work with in the studio and he makes such great sound! We love the sound on the new album, so I guess you are right, this is pitch perfect!

Michael S.: Yes, the production is in my ears, the best he has done since "When Death Comes". He is a great guy to work with, always trying to do the best for the songs, and knows a lot of how to work with drums, vocals and of course guitars as he is a great guitar player also. Beside that he has a great humour and loves good jokes.

The main riff of “In Your Mind”, as simple as it sounds, it was heaven for my ears. The tune has that old school Heavy Metal feel with a kick. Its inner battle within a person also interested me and upgraded the experience. What is your relation with this track musically and lyrically?

Michael B.D.: I think that lyrically we aimed to ride a direct song since the riff is also very direct. very often when you have an inner conflict or a conflict with another person, the best way to solve it is to talk directly about it. You have to face your fear, anger and frustration in order to move on. So basically this is a song that you can listen to whenever you have a situation you need to solve either with yourself or with another person.

Michael S.: In fact, it´s a song written in mid-1990´s and will be our second video out at the same time as the album. It has that old school feel that we love to play.

 “The Ghost Of Me”, even though not similar musically, made me think about your classic, and my beloved song, “Don’t Believe”. True that “Don’t Believe” is angrier, but the musical sense for at least has several similarities. What can you tell about this track and its creation?

Michael B.D.: We never aim for writing a ballad for the sake of having one. Lyrically I wrote this song together with a good friend and that gave another angle to the subject of the song. In many ways, this song is about the fear of losing someone you love and the fear of losing yourself as well.

Talking about “Don’t Believe”, if there is something peaked my interest is to listen to a version of the song with Michael B. on vocals, in the studio. Would you say that there is a chance someday soon, especially since just last year it was 30 years for “By Inheritance”?

Michael B.D.: It would be so cool to make some sort of special celebration for "By Inheritance". Re-recording some songs of that album would be really cool!  So hopefully that will be something we could do in the future.

Michael S.: You never know; next year we have 40 years celebration of Artillery so let´s see what happens.

When it comes to a benchmark, when you put the iconic “By Inheritance” and “X”, generally, how do you summarize the strengths of “X” that makes it closer to the former classic record?

Michael B.D.: Even though By Inheritance in many ways is the album that people refer to when it comes to Artillery, we never try to write a By Inheritance Part 2. But we do know that there are some things that people really like off that album that we need to keep in mind. I think when it comes to the strengths of X, it is in many ways the same strengths that you might find on By Inheritance. Not that I'm trying to compare these two albums, but that the band is still doing the same things now 30 years later. We are still trying to move forward and maintain our identity at the same time. Write the best music we can do.

How do you find 2021 in regard to plans for live shows or did you rather let it go and you will be waiting for 2022 just to be sure?

Michael B.D.: No, we want to go out and play as much as possible as soon as possible. So we do have live shows planned for 2021.

Michael S.: We are just going to play as fast as it´s possible.

Guys, I wish to thank you very much for this interview and for your time, “X” sounds great, it shares your legacy and maintains its grandeur. All the best.

Michael B.D.: Thank you so much for having us Lior!

Michael S.: Thanks a lot Lior, thanks so much for the support.



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Edited 04 June 2023

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