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Björn “Speed” Strid (Soilwork)

Interview with Björn “Speed” Strid from Soilwork
by Anton Sanatov at 07 September 2016, 12:07 AM

With their ‘rarities collection’ “Death Resonance” due out this month and a long road of tour dates on the horizon, SOILWORK’s Björn “Speed” Strid took some time out of his busy schedule to discuss taking trips down memory lane, facing South American crowds for the first time and the importance of good vibes within the band.

Hello Bjorn, how are you? Thank you for taking the time to speak with us; we really appreciate it.

No problem.

Would you like to get started?

Yeah, lets do it.

So, how has your year been so far?

Oh, busy…(Slight chuckle.) We started out doing the tour with Fear Factor in North America, which was a really successful one. And we’ve been doing a bunch of festivals this summer. Had a little bit of a break here in July, and we’re picking it up again, doing a few more shows, a few more festivals, and then we’re heading to UK with Arch Enemy to do three or five shows. And after that we’re going to hit South America in September, and then North America again. So… yeah, so far it’s been very busy and it looks like it’s going to be very busy all the way to Christmas.

Yes, I was actually going to ask you about South America. You haven’t played there before have you?

No, this is the first time. We’ve gotten offers before, but for various reasons it hasn’t happened yet. So that’s going to be really exciting.

Are you looking forward to seeing those legendary Brazilian crowds?

Yes, I am very much. I’m sure that it’s going to be crazy.

Is there any place in world where you’ve played that you’ve found somewhat intimidating?

Intimidating? Not really. At times it felt a little bit weird in China. We played five shows there, up by Harbin, and there was so much pollution that you could barely see. It was pretty crazy. And there were times when you felt a little bit watched as well. When we got to the hotel in Beijing for example, there were armed guards stationed outside. But as far as being really intimidated, no, I don’t think we’ve ever experienced something that creepy.

You’ve toured with some really big names in Metal, including ANNIHILATOR, NEVERMORE, CHILDREN OF BODOM, ANTHRAX, and the list goes on. Is there any band that you would still really like to tour that you haven’t done so already?

Well, I would love to tour with one of the big dinosaurs before they quit. Priest (JUDAS PRIEST) would’ve been awesome. That’s one of my all-time favourites. That would be very cool.

And you also have an upcoming rarities collection that is due to hit the shelves on August 19th. What can you tell us about that?

Well, it is basically a compilation of lost tracks, but it does have an album feel to it. It has songs from 2005 (and more), including two brand new tracks that were taken from “The Ride Majestic” recording sessions. I think it showcases our progression as songwriters and musicians. It’s a pretty interesting journey for us to listen through this album.

So how did it feel to dig through the past?

It was interesting. Some of tracks did awake a couple of memories, because at that time I was quite ‘bummed out’ that “Martyr” and “Wherever Thorns May Grown” didn’t end up on the record; because I thought that they were great tracks. Although today I somewhat understand why they didn’t make it. But at the same time, because they were sort of progressive and had a different feel to them, and we were just more straightforward in our sound back then (today we’re a little bit more progressive I would say) so it makes more sense now.

Has there ever been an instance when you’ve looked back at some of your older work and perhaps thought it to be somewhat superior to your latter output?

It happens that you find songs that make you think: “Wow, why are we not playing that song live?”  It's more like that and not listening back and thinking that we were so much better back then. I don’t really get that. So I guess that’s a good sign. And I don’t think that I’m lying one bit to myself. (Laughs) I don’t think that I’m in denial. I think that we’ve grown to become a much more interesting band; especially with “The Living Infinite” and “The Ride Majestic”. And I think we sound more unique as well. I think we’ve managed to develop as a band and as a live unit, and as a songwriting unit also.

Yes, one might say that this progression can also be noted by the titles of your latter albums - like “The Living Infinite” and “The Ride Majestic” - which are, in comparison to your older records that bare monikers such as “A Predators Portrait”, “Natural Born Chaos” and “Stabbing The Drama”, appear somewhat deeper and more philosophical. Would you agree?

Yeah; it comes with age I guess. (Laughs)

Now, being in a metal band is a journey. Which stage of the voyage would you say that you are at this particular moment?

Hard to say…I mean, we’ve managed to somehow rediscover ourselves as songwriters, and there is a great vibe in the band. And we’re still a very good live act. We’re not talking about corporate metal here; it’s not a machine. There’s a good vibe, and I’m really proud of that. And we’re also at a stage where we’re sort of sick of travelling - it’s not as fun as it used to be. But it’s always cool to tour and be on stage; because once you’re there it’s usually a lot of fun. Yet I have to say that my favourite part is still being in the studio and composing something. That’s like the greatest kick to me. But then again, taking it to the stage, that’s a different kick. And it’s just as rewarding in many ways; especially when you have a new album out and you feel that the songs are really working out very well live and you get a good response. That is obviously quite addictive. I don’t think that I could have just been in a studio band; that would’ve been pretty boring. But it is a little bit different nowadays, in many ways. Sleep is getting more important, and routines, and it’s kind of hard to find those things on tour.

Metal is a particularly ‘emotionally demanding’ genre of music – especially is the work is truly personal – and a lot of the songs require you to go to a rather dark place. How do manage such a feat on a day-today basis when you are touring? Do you have some sort of preparatory ritual to get into that mind state?

This might sound sort of shallow, but I’m actually most focused on the lyrics when I record them and when I actually write them. That’s where my biggest focus lies. Then, when we take it to the stage, no matter how dark the lyrics may be, or how serious we are musically and lyrically, I still want it to be some kind of a celebration. I’d rather look at it as being as a celebration or a party. I know it sounds very shallow, but I think it would just consume me if had to go up on stage and constantly ‘go there’; given that I do feel the lyrics and I know where they’re coming from. But it’s almost like you get some closure when you put them on an album and you take them to the stage.

So, moving onto some, perhaps, easier topics. Why vocals?

Well, I don’t know…(Slight chuckle.) I was a guitar player and I became a singer overnight, basically. I started in high-school, that’s where I met Peter, and he could tell that I was into Metal. And he just came up to one day and said: “I can tell that you like Metal” and “would you like to sing in this band that I’m about to start?” And I was like “well I play guitar, but I had always wanted to try vocals, so let’s try it out”. So that’s how I came to sing. So there was no master-plan behind all of this. I guess I was curious. So it’s pretty interesting how life works out sometimes. I’m happy that he came up to me that day and asked me.

So it was fate?

Yeah, I guess so.

So if there was any other position within the band that you would take up I suppose that it would be the guitar?

Yeah, I play a lot of guitar, I write songs. I wrote eight of the songs on The Living Infinite and I believe I wrote four on The Ride Majestic. So I’m still playing a lot of guitar, but I could never pull it off live. I’m just so much better at singing. But I like playing guitar, I like playing bass too, and I like playing drums as well…(Laughs)…so all of the instruments. I really suck at piano though. I can’t pull it off at all.

And if you could front one of your favourite bands, even for one night, which one would it be?

(Pauses in contemplation.) Hmm…I think…well I like GHOST; I think I would’ve been a great Papa.

So is that one of the newer bands that you are into right now?

Yeah, I do like them, I really like their songwriting and I think that they put on a hell of a show too. I love TRIBULATION as well; especially “The Children of the Night” album. There are not a lot of band that tickle my interest in the current Metal scene. But when I find one that I really like, I always try to promote them…because it rare nowadays.

And are there any other artistic mediums beyond music - such as literature, film or art - that influence the writing of the albums?

I’m not reading enough books; I really should. I know that this may sound kind of boring, but I guess that I do get influenced from daily life. After all, I’ve been in this band for 20 years, and you make a lot of sacrifices in your private life and relationships. You don’t get to have the same routines as “normal people”. (Laughs). So that will create some interesting scenarios, generating feelings and thoughts that probably wouldn’t have occurred if you lived a 9 to 5 sort of life. So I do get inspired from that. I do watch movies but I wouldn’t really say that I get that much inspiration from movies. It’s more of a personal thing. I channel all of my existential questions and thoughts through the music. That’s one way of dealing with that. Given that you’re not given answers to a lot of those questions, it’s better to channel them through music.

You guys have been a band for over 20 years now. Do you have any advice to the younger bands out there regarding longevity?

We’ve been a very democratic band the whole time. We share everything equally and I believe in that. I think that’s how you keep a band together. And maybe for some bands it works better to have a dictator who will get you further, but then again you will never have the same kind of vibe in the band if you were to share everything equally and work towards the same goal. And it lies in everybody’s interest to take the band further. And I really believe in that. I’m not going to lie, sometimes some people in the band don’t write any songs and I write a lot of songs, but I still get paid the same, and that can be frustrating at times. (Laughs) Because I’m always the one who is expected to be available overtime, because I am the frontman. But I’m sharing everything equally, and I very much believe in that. And the most important thing to me is the friendship in a band and having a good vibe when you are away from home. I really enjoy that. Personal chemistry is so important. So I think it is paramount, from the get-go, to find a formula that work for you, so you won’t have to ask those questions later.

Is there anything you would like to add?

Did I mention the NIGHTFLIGHT ORCHESTRA?

No, I don’t think so.

Oh, well I have another band called the NIGHTFLIGHT ORCHESTRA together with David, who also plays guitar in SOILWORK; and it also features Sharlee D’angelo from ARCH ENEMY. It is basically late 70’s, early 80’s Classic Rock. We’ve recently been signed by Nuclear Blast and the new album is going to be out in the spring of next year. It’s completely different from SOILWORK, but I think people will enjoy it, so keep your eyes open.



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