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Hellsmoke's Christofer Dahlman: "The chemistry means everything in my opinion when you write songs together, finding each other's strengths and being negotiable along the song writing process."

Interview with Christofer Dahlman from Hellsmoke
by Lior "Steinmetal" Stein at 25 September 2020, 4:25 PM

Seeking new opportunities and options, one of the main reasons of how Metal fans have the opportunities to get to know new bands due to the inner wish of musicians to expand their horizons, form something new in a different musical environment. Out of the countless of stories that have been happening worldwide, so is the story of Hellsmoke from Sweden, emerging at a point in time and place that helped them to ascertain a fine position along with a great lineup to back up the moniker. Showing a lot of promise with their debut album "2020", Hellsmoke are on the right path. Steinmetal talked with the band leader, Christofer Dahlman, about the new venture, new album, signing with a good label and more… 

Hello Christofer, I am pleased to have you for this interview for Metal Temple online Magazine, how have you been doing sir?

I’m fine and thank you for having me and Hellsmoke.

We have been through tough times in the past couple of months, yet gladly there have been a few shining lights within the bellyful of anguish that has been experienced. What have been keeping you motivated and energized throughout this pandemic?

Actually, for me and the band we just focused on getting things done ready to release our debut album. We postponed it 6 months due to the pandemic, so we’re really eager to get it out now. We have made music videos and that has been really fun and earlier I was working on all the artwork for the album and we have worked with some ideas for the next album, so we’ve been busy with different things.

Talking about shining lights, I was introduced to your new band, Hellsmoke. The band’s formation was an opportunity for you to express yourself in the fields of Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, with you centering the guidelines. How does it feel? Has this wish, to form the band, been with you for quite a while right before you decided to go through with it?

That’s a good question but also difficult to describe in a short answer. I started the band with a former member in 2015 and we made all songs for the first album. He left the band due to personal reasons and I respect that. The band has been through a few changes since we started writing the songs. It’s hard to find the right band members and also people around the band. I was and will always be determined to have a great band with good musicians with no big egos, great chemistry and getting along as friends, being a band with same ambition, strive and stamina getting the work done properly and professionally. That being said we have finally got a great line up now and we're looking forward to tour the album later on. We will also within shortly start to work on the second album, got a lot of material for that.

The band’s lineup is more or less, a foundation based on a team of people that have tasted the local and I might even say global scenes of both Rock and Metal. Other than the shared admiration for Hard Rock and Heavy Metal, what other connecting dots did you find between the band members that you knew that it is going to be a powerful band setup?

Well, it has taken some time finding these great guys. Roger (drummer) is a friend since way back and we’re really good friends and Roger is the best drummer I can play with, just love his playing and way to hit the drums. I got in contact with Rimbert through Anders Hahne. Anders engineered and co-produced our debut album, but he also did the first mix and mastering earlier on when we had another line up. Anders recommended Rimbert and for me that was the perfect match. Rimbert has a fantastic voice (listened a lot to him when he was in Syron Vanes) and also plays guitar really well. Micheal (guitar) is my tattooist and we became friends over time since I’ve spent many hours tattooing me in his shop. We always talk music, guitarists and listen to bands when I’m there and when he heard our first mix with Rimbert he was blown away and asked if he could join the band. Michael is a really skilled guitarist and you’ll understand that when you hear him play on the next album. Jörgen joined the band just a few months ago. We know all the guys in Darkane and I suggested Jörgen since he’s stable and great guy who knows how to play the bass and take the stage. Helsingborg has a lot of great musicians and there are some great well known bands from this town, so being local is a good thing in this case.

Recently you signed with Pride & Joy Music for the release of your debut album, “2020”. I guess it was easy for the label to pick this album, in particular due to what it holds inside. How did this relationship begin in the first place? What is your appreciation of the promotional process of the album?

We signed up with a management team, Wind Up Production last year. These guys are friends since ages ago and their business idea, drive and strive is top notch. Fredrik from WUP is also the drummer in Alyson Avenue and Sapphire Eyes and they had already established the contact with Pride & Joy music and were promoting them for us as the right way to go, so we did. We had an offer for a record deal approx. a year and a half ago, but we turned it down due to poor terms, that decision also broke up the first line up at that point, so it was only me and Roger left. We’re really happy to be signed with Pride & Joy Music for this album, for several reasons.

Simply titled “2020”, as mentioned, in a way as simple as the title so are the lyrical themes that this album follows? I know that you worked with songwriter, yet your opinion regarding the philosophies surrounding the album is appreciated and important

The title 2020 and also other things in the artwork/front cover of the album has symbolic meaning. 2020 is the year the album is released of course, but it also means Hellsmoke 2.0, start of a new era in the band. If you look closely on the compass on the front cover you’ll find something else, the “South” “West” “East” has a special meaning too. The song lyrics has in some cases personal meanings and in other cases not. Nowhere land has a very personal lyric, written by the former member and I came up with the title. It is one of my favorites on the album due to the strong lyrics and of course I like the vibe when we play it.

On a personal level, what kind of a message do you think that this album shares for listeners out there?

Regarding the lyrics, I would say “You are not alone with your thoughts and life situations”. I also believe that we will make the listener raise their fist and empower them, to do what they want to do in life. Big words, but that is my personal preference.

Is there a unifying line between any of the songs to what has been going on out there in the world concerning the chaos regarding the pandemic?

No, because the lyrics were written before the pandemic. The lyrics are timeless, at least how I interpret them.

Under the massive wall of sound that this album possesses, you guys unveil the very basics, the bread and butter, of the very thin line between Hard Rock and Heavy Metal. No complexions, no articulations, just simply honest and pounding. Since in general, the lineup has been varied in its background, whether from AOR to extreme Metal, how did that factor affect the music on “2020” in your view?

Well, I'm more a melodic and technical riff oriented songwriter but with a metal style of playing and the former songwriter / band member had no background from hard rock or metal at all and came up with ideas that was certain challenging for me, as I saw them a little too simple. Both me and him found a way of making compromises and this is the result. Of course, when Rimbert joined the band and went into the studio he gave the songs a new life and in particular some songs became my new personal favorites, because he made them better. For the next album we will be three songwriters, working together, we will keep the style more or less but we will for sure elaborate and make the new songs a little bit more technical, without losing the attitude, sound and the melody hooks in the songs. Also, everyone will put their own DNA in the playing as well, so it will be really exciting to follow the process.

Was it your intention right from the start to keep the music straightforward without nonsense? Did you have any inner conflicts regarding where this album will go in terms of its musical direction?

As I explained, we were two guys who started the band, so only two songwriters and we found our way finally working together really well. The chemistry means everything in my opinion when you write songs together, finding each other's strengths and being negotiable along the song writing process. We both gave up some ideas at some points and let the other get his way and there was no problem with that, it proved to be the best solution for the songs as well. However, mine, Rimbert's and Michael's style in song writing and creating guitar riffs are different, so it will be really exciting to see what we will find out, I believe it will be great. We have a lot of material already and I like al lot of it and it feels and sounds like a naturally next step in the progress for the next Hellsmoke album.

When it comes to the surrounding markets of Rock and Metal, what elements within Hellsmoke’s music featured on “2020”, in your opinion, makes the album uncanny, special in its own way?

I don’t know if I understand your question correct, but I would say you’ll get everything from the Hellsmoke debut album in terms of hard rock and metal style - rough, melodic, progressive, power midtempo to fast songs with a lot of addictive hooks made by great vocals and pounding guitars. Also regarding surrounding markets, the song “Hellcome To The Badland” is a perfect song for a bad ass movie or tv series.

What would you say were the contributions of the other band members that joined the band, including singer, Rimbert Vahlström (ex-Syron Vanes), to the songwriting? Or was a sole effort of Torbjörn Månsson and yourself?

Of course both me and Torbjörn did most of the work, but in my opinion Rimbert gave the songs a new life and in some cases he improved the songs a lot by changing the lead vocal and adding some wicked and great harmonies, like on "Black Sun Rising". The way he changed the vocals on the chorus, both me and Roger just went crazy when we heard it, the song excelled tremendously! I even came up with a new idea for the guitar and all together it became much better. So it was a joined effort by all three.

Talking about Rimbert Vahlström, he proved himself more than a capable singer, as if he fit the band’s musical image like a glove. What is your appreciation of his vocal work?

I was impressed by Rimbert way before he began to sing with us. When our former singer went in the studio the first time I sent him a few songs with Syron Vanes to give him an idea of what kind of song style we were looking for, and who knew what a coincident that was to become. So, just by saying that, we appreciate Rimbert a lot and he’s really funny guy hanging out with too.

I mentioned the album’s wall of sound earlier, certainly it is massive, emphasizing the groove of the band, with every chord felt and carved on one’s skin. Who was in charge of this well-made studio work?

Being a fan of Syron Vanes and really liking their sound on the last album. We knew that if we wanted that kind of sound on the songs we should contact Anders Hahne, so we did. We tried some other studios before Anders, well known, but they weren’t even close to achieve what Anders could do and did. I’m extremely impressed by Anders and his knowhow and it’s really easy to work with him, humble and with a clear idea about things. We will for sure work with Anders again and we would like him to take an even bigger part in the next album, in an early stage.

Which of the album’s songs meant to you more than others, whether through its music or with its lyrical edge? Please elaborate

I must say "Nowhere land", both due to the lyrics and music. It’s a lot in the lyrics that I think a lot of people can relate to and the music, the chords, way of playing the chords gives a special vibe. It started with Torbjörn had an idea for a song but it got totally changed along the way really rapidly. His idea made me almost hear a whole new song in my head, right there and then, the chords just came to me spontaneously, we kept the chorus from the original idea. The guitar solos are recordings from that day we made the song and it’s from the first take, both intro and main solo, just improvisation and we kept it.

Currently, it is nearly impossible to perform live, rather frustrating but I see that many bands worldwide have been managing to play here and there through live streams or forming their own stage setup in an open air location. Are these options under consideration within the band or you will simply wait until it is safe to play live?

Of course, we have discussed different ways of performing live, but none of the current ways appeals to us, we want to do it the normal way since that is the main reason for playing in a band and started to play. I for sure love to be on a stage, performing and giving a great show and interact with the audience! There is nothing greater or funnier doing that, so if that's missing we don't see the point doing it.

What are your expectations from Hellsmoke in the coming years? What would you say is the main challenge that the band faces, other than Covid-19?

We hope we can tour with the album soon and create a solid fan base and build a platform for the next coming albums. We’re quite determined to make things happen with Hellsmoke and has the qualifications to do so. Main challenge is like for every band, keeping the band together and motivated. However, we have a really good chemistry in the band so I think we will manage great. The music industry changed long ago and it's hard for artist and bands in other genres than radio friendly pop music to get any kind of profit from making albums. Since we invest a lot of time and money, we also would like something back to re-invest in another great album a.s.o. It's all about loving what you do and just do it regardless, we'll find our ways.

Christofer, certainly a pleasure to have you for this interview. Thank you for creating that very much needed plate of the best mixture of all. Cheers.

Thank you for the great feedback and really great questions, appreciated it!



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