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Devil's Tail Erik Bäck: "The right atmosphere is everything, I think that this is something that we have in our blood here in Scandinavia, thanks to our old folklore and its music"

Interview with Erik Bäck from Devil's Tail
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 13 August 2022, 5:13 PM

New beginnings, new opportunities, searching for better ways to express one's self can be quite challenging, and through the extreme form of music, freedom can be achieved. Of course, it is always dependent on the person. Starting a new journey of extremity, another formation of the Black Metal hand, there is the newcomer, Devil's Tail. Essentially a one-man show, which has evolved to a duo and now even preparing its live version, recently issued its debut album, "Desolation". Steinmetal had a good talk with Erik Bäck, the one behind the riffs, about the experience of creating a new band, a new album and more…

Hello Erik, it is good to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how are things going on your end?

Hello Lior! Things are just fine here, vacation is going towards the end here in Sweden, and I’ve had a great one this summer, with album release and everything that comes with it.

Formed two years back, and Devils Tail is unleashing its debut full-length, sharing a one-word title, “Desolation”. First things first, with you two, as a duo, being fairly new, what can you tell about your acquaintance with your partner in crime, Jimmy Nilsson?

Me and Jimmy had been spoken about doing something together quite a while before Devils Tail started, but since Jimmy was busy with his former band ”Total Inferno” there weren’t any good opportunities, but that band was put on ice and there were our opportunity, my first thought was to lay down the vocals myself, but this is so much better. Jimmy is also extremely easy to work with and he has become a good friend with my entire family. Jimmy is writing 95% of all the lyrics and vocal-arrangements.

On which basis was Devils Tail formed in the first place? Sure that there is an admiration to the Scandinavian Black Metal pattern, nonetheless, it would be interesting to know, and understand, the foundation of the band

Devils Tail started out as a one-man studio project from the beginning. I had just built a studio and my idea was to record whatever comes out when I’m sitting down with a guitar, and since I have grown up with and always been listening to this genre I guess it just came natural. I have played in a lot of small bands through the years but I’m always coming back to black metal, especially the Norwegian black metal-scene, it’s like home to me. Also I had never produced and recorded all instruments myself, when I had built my studio it was so much easier to do what I wanted musically, and it is very liberating to play this kind of music, black metal for me stands for artistic freedom.

I know that both of you were in Metal bands in the past, yet were either of you involved in something that is most recent, other than signing into the new entity called Devils Tail?

Yeah, both me and Jimmy have been playing in several bands before Devils Tail, I used to sing and play bass in Shattered, we released one album back in 2004 called ”Wrapped in Plastic” that was released by Black Mark Productions. Jimmy has been a bit more active recent years in the bands ”Total Inferno” and ”Mordant”

Signing with the Dutch boutique label, Non Serviam Records, was a great choice by you two, and of course that your Metal subgenre fits well with the options that the label has to offer. What can you tell about this signing? What have been your expectations from this relationship?

Signing with Non Serviam Records just felt very natural for us, we know some of the bands that are signed to Non Serviam Records, and when we got to know each other and Ricardo told us about his vision with his label it just felt very right for us. We feel that the label always got our back, and the support from the label is total! I can tell you that I have had a lot of stupid questions, I can write him with one of these questions at 02:00 and when I wake up there is always an answer. We feel that it is very important to Non Serviam Records that we feel that we have our artistic freedom intact, and I think that just this was our expectation, and these things Non Serviam Records deliver to 100%! Total dedication from our label!

Debuting with “Desolation”, there is a strong sense of pessimism, a kind of gloominess, that remains deeply rooted within each of the songs. I wonder, what made you choose such a title as “Desolation”? How did it fit the album’s philosophy?

Well it wasn’t easy to come up with a suiting album title, we thought about it for a long time. But if I remember correctly it was Jimmy who came up with the title, just simply because of how the album sounds and feels.

I mentioned philosophy, can you elaborate on that? Other than creating this atmosphere that is practically a doomed sort of feel, what does the lyrical aspect of release tell the listener in your view?

I’m glad to hear you describe the album the way you do! The right atmosphere is everything, I think that this is something that we have in our blood here in Scandinavia, thanks to our old folklore and its music. Jimmy, who is writing the great part of the lyrics is listening to the music and writes to what he is hearing. For me good lyrics lets the listener create his / hers own images to the music and Jimmy’s lyrics is sort of an extension to the music, quite dark and apocalyptic lyrics.

With the negative vibe being constant, and persistent, throughout the listening session, even so, in your view, is there something that might keep a person uplifted, even for a bit? Is a way out of the darkness and into a new form of light?

Yes, absolutely! Listen to the bass guitar for example, compared to the music in general on Desolation the bass is quite “uplifting” I take a lot of inspiration from the sixties funk-era just when it comes to bass, and it is a very important instrument that sadly often is getting too little space in music in general I think. But other than that, I guess the album has a negative vibe, and that is how we wanted it to be, and much of this also has to do with the great work with the mixing of the album that Heljarmadr did.

I must say that I found the artwork to be quite interesting, as if a painting with a painting, a multi-layered featured art, in particular with the humanoid images in the middle, and the wolven shape coming from the side, as if part of a different picture. What can you share about the vision behind this artwork? How do you find it related to what this record expresses?

We are so pleased with how the artwork came out! It is made by Vilhelm Thoresson, who doesn’t have worked with metal before, but when we saw his work we knew we just had to ask him, and he agreed to do it. The vision from our side was minimalistic with much information… we wanted the viewer to get a cold and eerie feeling looking at it. Vilhelm listened to the album a lot and created from the feeling he got both from the music and lyrics. We came along very well with Vilhelm, and we worked very close with this artwork. Be sure to check out his work!

Sticking to the early 90s Black Metal, as it is the core foundation of “Desolation”, but it doesn’t end there, quite the opposite. The atmosphere created within the old school driven energies, let in a haunting spirit that maintained the feel of forlorn, quite enchanting I might add. What can you tell about the musical vision that created what became “Desolation”?

I started to listen to black metal around 1992, and when you are that young (I was like 12-13 years) and get affected by something it tends to stuck with you for the rest of your life I believe, so that is the core foundation right there. The haunting spirit that you describe I believe comes from our nature, of which I got most of my inspiration from when it comes to writing music. I’m using old school effect-pedals for creating eerie soundscapes. My vision musically is to let the feeling I got at that very moment lead the way.

Other than the atmospheric vibe of the album, that started something that is different than the usual old school, second wave, approach of the early 90s, what other elements, in your perception, were used on the record that created a unique form of monstrosity?

For me it is very important to be open minded when it comes to what I let myself be inspired by. I listen to, and get inspired by a lot of different music, not just metal. I believe that it is important to just make the music that you want, let the guard down so to speak, and I think that we have done that on Desolation. That and the fact that we feel such great support regarding our artistic freedom from our record label I believe have made Desolation to what it is.

Recently, you parted ways with your drummer, Johan Karlsson. From what it appears, you recorded the drums yourself for “Desolation”. Since you were already a busy bee, recording the guitars, and bass, would you say that, perhaps at first, recording the drums was somewhat a burden or rather it justified the needs?

I can tell you that Johan is still lurking in the shadows; he is rehearsing with us for upcoming live-shows. When I started Devils tail my intention from the beginning was to record every instrument myself, and so it became (except vocals). I feel very satisfied by recording everything myself and I think that is how we’ll do it on the next album as well. I have never seen the drums as a burden I must say. Johan is also working as kind of a “drumconsult” for me when I stumble across some problem.

Diving into the songwriting sessions of “Desolation”, what can you tell about the way you two worked on the songs? What form of influences led you forward as the songs were written? What is your approach towards how a song should be written?

For Desolation I had written most of the songs already when Jimmy entered, he laid down vocals on like 13-14 songs,  he made the great part of the lyrics and arrangements at home, and we recorded and made some final changes at my studio, then Heljarmadr gave his input on which songs that he thought had something special, which songs fitted good together etc, we came to this conclusion that you can hear all three of us, I believe it is good to take help from someone who not have been involved in the songwriting process, someone who is able to listen in a critical way. This was a great way to work for us.

Dark Funeral’s vocalist, Heljarmadr, engineered, and produced, “Desolation”. Going towards the opposite of the modern sound, you persisted on sounding old school, and you did quite nicely. What can you tell about Heljarmadr’s contribution to the direction of sound that you were seeking?

Ahhh yes indeed! Heljarmadr’s contribution on this album became so much more than what it was meant to from the beginning, to start with he should do the mixing and mastering, but in the end he had also co-produced the album, he also played additional guitars on the track “Master of salvation” which added a very nice flavor to that song! One of the first questions he asked was how we wanted it to sound, and just like you say -old school but with a modern twist in some way was our answer. The end result became so good, and it also became quite unique we think!

Talking about the sound of the band on the album, I wonder, what makes the old school sound of Black Metal, in light of the end result of “Desolation”, to overcome the rather cleaner, and smoother, modern based sound, which also a lot of bands of the subgenre use?

Good question! I don’t know really, I think this sound is the sound it should be on this album in particular, it simply fits the songs and the atmosphere. With that said we are not afraid to try a different direction sound-wise on our next album, who knows? It depends on the songs and the whole package so to speak.

Following the release of “Desolation”, looking back at the beginning of the process, when you first started writing the record, and up till its completion, what did the experience teach you?

Ohh it has thought me so much! To start with it has taught me to operate in a studio and everything that comes with it. It has also taught me to be a little bit more patient, I tend to go ahead of myself when it comes to music, to let a song grow and not being afraid to change things.

I could understand why you chose “Power From The Dead” to be one of the album’s singles, this is what I talked about earlier, with the haunting atmosphere. This song in particular grasps attention with its oblivion styled riffing, a kind of riffing that is hooking, no less than a glue to one’s state of mind. What can you tell about this track?

Wow! Thank you! Power from the dead is one of the last tracks I wrote for Desolation, my idea was to make a song that would be suiting to have as the last track of the album, with its slow intro and outro and with the lead guitar that lays on top of everything almost the entire song I feel like it is kind of wrapping up the album nicely. The female choir at the end is actually my wife singing. Glad you liked it!!

Since Devils Tail remained a duo, is there a plan to complete the lineup in order to become a live band?

Yes! We are rehearsing with a full line-up right now and it is going really good! So our intention is of course to be able to play live, but the core foundation will still be me and Jimmy.

Erik, I bid you thanks for your patience and time for the interview. I believe that old school Black Metal received another token of appreciation by your efforts. All the best

It was my pleasure! Thank you so much for this interview Lior! Really good questions! Best regards/Erik Bäck


 



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