THE HAUNTED (Peter Dolving) INTERVIEW
Peter Dolving is a man who is never afraid to speak his mind! That is the sort of attitude that has characterised the music of the Swedish Thrash Metal outfit The Haunted since their inception back in 1996 and there is no album in the band’s career better equipped to encapsulate such feelings than their latest opus “Unseen” – an album that should pleasantly surprise most people with an ear for good quality music. Booking an interview with Peter was something that I wanted to do for quite a long time now, and I was soon to discover that it was certainly worth the wait. During our thirty minute conversation, we discussed how the band’s seventh studio album came into being, the daunting task that is life on the road as well as Peter’s special relationship with the fans of The Haunted.
By Yiannis (John) Stefanis.
• Hi Peter, thank you for calling. Shall we start this interview?
Peter: Let’s go.
• Just like many other people, I have been quite surprised by what I hear on “Unseen” but let me clarify that the surprise I am referring to was a pleasant one.
Peter: I am very happy to hear that.
• It is really so refreshing that a band of the status of The Haunted, a band that many people before have been so happy to describe solely as a modern Thrash Metal outfit has had the boldness to go out and create an album such as “Unseen”. It is also a very brave move to make. I am happy to see you try such things, since I have been following your career from day one if that means anything at all.
Peter: Thank you.
• What did most people make of the album? Do other music journalists share my excitement over the new album?
Peter: We have been receiving some really positive feedback and it feels great! Before we started making this record and we were talking about this record even before we stopped doing “Versus” (2008), we all very much agreed on the fact that we wanted to make a record that was really enjoyable to listen to. It was something that we all felt. We wanted to do a record that wasn’t as heavily compressed as the previous albums and we wanted to make something very dynamic and we wanted to focus on leading through Per (Moeller Jensen) more and we all felt that it would be cool to use more clean voice or traditional singing. Also we were all very clear in kind of a mutual sense that we really wanted to focus on song writing instead of simply trying to make another metal album. It was more important to make a record with really strong songs all the way through where every song would stand out in its own right. We had kind of drawn out the bass lines for what we had to work towards or within for ourselves and we kind of just went with that. Hard work, it took about eighteen months to get all the pieces in place. When we were just looking at the song sketches we had about forty sketches more or less but they were not very detailed; we boiled that down to fourteen songs or something like that which we brought with us into the studio. The actual recording process was quick, all in all four weeks and then we mixed it in a week and that was because everything was there, so it all went really smoothly when you look at the process itself.
• It’s interesting that you mentioned the bass lines there as, for me, the hero of the album is the bass! It probably helped the fact that you decided to put more groove into your music now than you have ever done before and you do have at least a couple of tracks on your new album which can even put a stoner band to shame. It feels like the guitarists in the band thought “you know what, why don’t we let somebody else do most of the talking this time round”?
Peter: (laughs) That’s exactly what happened (laughs)! You know, we felt that we wanted to let more air into it. If the guitars are playing thirty second notes or sixteen second notes continuously, filling up the entire sound room with the sound of the electric guitar when you can use the whole band to create something that is not only focused on…just guitars, you know, we all felt, the whole group, all of us!
• I am not sure how this is going to sound to you, but when you are used to having to use your vocals in riff-orientated compositions which are normally performed quite fast, do you feel that now that the guitars have finally moved one step back and created that free space, enabling you as a singer to bring out more elements of your voice and more aspects of your character?
Peter: Absolutely! This is also one of the things where the whole group has been most important in. Someone asked me if I was feeling very proud or accomplished with my performance on the record and I get almost shy when it comes to that; it’s not a question of whether I feel proud or anything like that – it’s something that we did together. I felt in a way that it was amazing to get to…to get to really try things that I…I mean, I’ve had ideas, but I never actually had the guts to work with them! But together, we’ve really managed to bring it forth, I guess.
• One thing that I am kind of wondering, with any band not just The Haunted: when you start becoming known for a certain way of performing your music, almost automatically, either from the fans’ or from the band’s perspective, parameters are being set and I have spoken to quite a few artists who have found it difficult to move outside those strict boundaries. Now, “Unseen” is the kind of album that has worked inconsiderably outside such limitations and that is a very good thing… however, how do you know that you have reached the limits of your musical expansion in order to preserve the band’s character?
Peter: Well for us, we have a very defined image of our band; we can’t really…I don’t think that we can form that into words, but we do have a very clear image of where our boundaries go! We have experimented a lot along the road and not from the view of what other people think but from our own view of what we feel that we want to do in order to learn and to understand what we are as a group musically. Again, you know, with the whole parameter thing… (note: sighs)…
• A nightmare of a question to answer, right?
Peter: No, no – absolutely not! I think that it’s really interesting because we’ve talked so much about it. As you know, we made a record called “The Dead Eye” (2006) and when we made that record we were dashed immensely hard by a very small group of people, a very loud group of people out there, for almost being like these traitors (laughs) – the traitors to true metal! Literally, we were hurt, because I don’t think that you can be more metal than we are as a group (laughs)! We really represent all that cheesy stuff that Manowar talk about – we live that; to be true to ourselves and stand up for oneself and the right to be who you are and to be true (laughs)! We’ve lived in this kind of…environment for twenty years, ok (laughs)? We have lived in this world, this metal community for the larger part of our adult lives and it’s amazing to have met some of these people or to have received critique from people who have…who were in their diapers when we recorded our first album (laughs). It’s very defining and very good to be forced to, even stronger, to be forced to kind of define yourself, I think. It’s not comfortable, it’s not a good feeling, but it is an important thing as an artist because it really helps you sharpen your own image, your truthful own self-image, in words! I will say very clearly that this record is definitely as truthful an album as the first one (note: “The Haunted” 1998) in taking time…we took the necessary time to make this record and we really put our hearts and souls into it and we said “well, fu*k it; if people don’t like it, that’s a shame because we are going to have to do what feels right to us”. We are going to have to stand there in the end with the songs and if we love it and people don’t like it then it’s OK and if they do like what we do and if they feel strongly about it then that’s great too – that’s like a bonus, but we really need to continue making music for our own sake, like we’ve always done.
• I both understand and respect what you say here as that is exactly how any artist ought to approach his/her art – this is a calling first and foremost.
• Is it possible that perhaps the fact that At The Gates are active again, a band that has a very set sound and approach to extreme metal, perhaps also assisted The Haunted in creating this new album? I was thinking something in terms of an action/reaction, such as in physics.
Peter: Maybe it is, maybe…the song writing process was so much freer and so much more group orientated this time than ever before and it does feel as if we kind of lifted some type of lid off of the band and so it feels really good to be in the band right now.
• There are many great songs on the album and the notes I made while preparing my review which I am currently looking at are full of positive comments. You have already aired the song “No Ghost” on national television as far as I know; is that an indication that you consider that song to be a rightful representative of the new album?
Peter: No. It was very much that we felt that…looking at the idea of the national radio kind of Grammy award thing (note: Peter is referring to the P3 Guld Tv broadcast which the band appeared on back in January) we thought that we wanted to play something of the record that was very…earth grounded, you know – something that would stick out (laughs) in the face of all these people that were listening to all these pop bands and it felt like the natural thing to do. There are songs on the record that if we would have played them it would have been more let’s say “appropriate” (laughs) but that didn’t feel right, given the fact that we were actually invited. It felt cool that they would actually invite us, you know – that’s a nice thing of them (laughs)! We paid them enough respect not to push things in their face (laughs).
• I was actually going to say that there are many other songs on the album that you could say are more, let’s say, “commercial” in their approach than “No Ghost” in case all you cared about was to simply fit in there, right?
Peter: Oh, absolutely!
• If all you were trying to do was to achieve a positive reaction from a more melodic-orientated audience, then you didn’t do yourselves many favours there!
Peter: No, no, and that’s the point too; we were not trying to…there are some songs that are very catchy and very…I am sure that a lot of people that would not listen to the type of music that we represent wouldn’t mind at all but that would feel kind of like a giveaway and it wouldn’t feel quite fair with our fans or who we are as a group, you know? So it felt like “No Ghost” was the right tune, like “that will give them a stir”(laughs) and indeed there were several fourteen year old girls in the audience with a look of true and honest fear in their eyes (laughs) – an absolutely, remarkably and duly wonderful experience. We didn’t traumatise them – it was enough to be simply kind of a scary experience for them (laughs).
• Peter, I need to ask you a question regarding two specific compositions which absolutely blew my mind from the moment I first heard them, one of which was not a major surprise to me but the other one was. I was quite surprise by the effect that the second one had on me as it is not the type of song that I would expect a) for The Haunted to have recorded and b) for me to like that much. The first song is “The Skull” and that has to do with the fact that when I listen to the multi-layer vocal performances on it, the first band that springs to mind is Queen.
Peter: See? Yes! Someone is picking up on it – it’s “Bohemian Rhapsody”! The whole song is homage to “Bohemian Rhapsody” (laughs loudly). I am very glad that someone noticed! Cool – cool! I mean, we will never, ever come close to their skill but it’s fun to…I don’t know- musical references are wonderful and beautiful and there is a kind of a nudge to Queen. We started working with the intro part and it was all about experimenting and daring and we had no idea where we were going, like with every song on this record – we had no fu*king clue what we were doing, but we kept going and suddenly we are standing there with this song that is truly amazing.
• I actually believe that it is one of the best songs that you guys have ever recorded!
Peter: Thank you, thank you! You make me very happy saying this! I get a great feeling over my whole body (laughs), thank you very, very much!
• The other song that I really liked and which truly surprised me was “All Ends Well” – it has an amazing groovy and a truly catchy chorus/refrain. It’s the kind of song that if you asked me fifteen years ago what I would make of I would say “no way”, but now, being of a certain age and far more experienced in all things music-related, this song makes absolute sense to me. It kind of comes across as a statement of intent from the band – especially with regards it’s quite caustic lyrical context.
Peter: Alright! That’s cool!
• Can you tell us a few things about how this song came to life?
Peter: Oh, wow… Jonas (note: Björler/bass) came up with this sketch of a song and he called it “metal boogie” (laughs) and…I was just baffled when I first heard it and then I e-mailed him back moments later telling him “this is one of the greatest choruses you’ve ever written” and he didn’t understand a word of what I was talking about! There were no lyrics on it and there were no vocals on it (laughs) – I heard it all in my head!
• So, you instantly got a vision of how the song would end up sounding?
Peter: Yeah, I heard the music and then I literally heard the melody in my head (laughs).
• Wow, that’s what people call chemistry I guess!
Peter: Yeah, it’s so cool and it really turned out as one hell of a song! It’s…it really comes off as some kind of monstrous…boogie somehow (laughs), but it really is a statement. The bridge at the end kind of underlines the full understanding and direction of what the song is; we’re here – we’re here now and we can enjoy that or throw it away! It is a good song!
• I believe that the most important thing about it is that it kind of proves how well this band can combine a very melodic theme with your classic sounding heavy riffs – more so now than in any other period of the band’s career! You have been quite daring with it by incorporating more “commercial” sounding elements in it but the end result is absolutely spot on!
• Many people will have the pleasure of seeing the band performing live within the next few weeks as I have seen that you will be dong a north European tour, playing in countries like Denmark, Finland and obviously your home country, Sweden. Then, you move to central Europe for a few shows before heading off to Japan and Australia…you will be playing pretty much all over the world. That is quite a busy schedule – are you excited about the prospect of being on the road again after so many years doing it?
Peter: I feel very…troubled with regards touring! I am a dad, I have two kids and I love them more than anything in the world, so I think that it is painful to go on tour! I think that it’s painful not only because I…the older they get, the stronger our connection gets and the more I miss them! Also, the physical ordeal that is touring is something that most people don’t understand. All we see in the kind of spectacular grand illusion that is the whole rock n’roll thing is fairly romanticizing about something that is very, very not romantic! Going on tour is basically accepting that I am going to be shuffled around like cattle, I won’t be getting enough sleep, I won’t eat well for another year (laughs) and I will be submitting myself to extreme (laughs) extreme pressure. There is only one reconciling factor and that is the fact that, at the end of the day, you get to go on stage and do a show and that is as damn near close to anything that is magical in the world! It’s better than sex! Absolutely; that, or I just haven’t met the right partner just yet – I don’t know, but so far for me its better that sex! I almost managed to combine both at some time but that was my Iggy Pop moment (laughs). If it wasn’t for…I cannot imagine of any business man that is travelling as much as we do, as we travel around one hundred and fifty days per year and that has been happening for the last ten years! We travel more than we play shows and that is one average a hundred and fifty shows per year. It is heavy – it’s heavy, you know, but as I said the shows are…as close to a religious experience as you can get! I dearly love it! As I said, it’s harsh (laughs).
• One thing I always respected about you as a person, and I hope that one day I will get to say that to you face to face, is that you are never afraid to speak your mind! God knows, the music business is a very…weird environment and I have seen many times people presenting themselves in ways that are not truthful for the sake of achieving whatever goals they have set in their minds. Well, you have always been brave enough to speak your mind an there were a few occasions in the past when the messages you were trying to convey were either not received at all or were misunderstood. Is it still important for you as both a person and a musician that your messages are properly conveyed and appreciated by the people who like your music?
Peter: (note: with a very serious and determent voice) Yes, absolutely! Hmm… (sighs)…I have to live with myself and I cannot change that fact. I will never be able to change that fact and I will live with myself until the day that I don’t (laughs)! I am really fond of what life has given me over the years – I didn’t choose to be as enthusiastic about this thing called life before but I really am now. I am really grateful and I really enjoy it… (sighs again)…and being truthful…is good, because it has given me a fair…over the years it has gone better – I get the respect back from people, and that is something so enjoyable and it is something that gives that quality to my everyday life on a level that I am just…I am just overwhelmed by it. I never knew that it would give that part; I did it because I had to live with myself and it’s giving me that and I…well (laughs) the effects are…it is truly a good thing and an important thing!
• In a hypothetical scenario where you would wake up tomorrow morning and somebody would say to you “you know what, you can be in The Haunted for the rest of your life, you can release as many albums as you like, but people will only really get to enjoy the music and not the message behind it” do you believe that you will feel motivated enough to continue as a member of The Haunted?
Peter: Given that I can still do what I do…I don’t think that people enjoy The Haunted because I think that I am already there (laughs), you see? I really think that I am already there! That people actually take time to listen to what I have to say and agree or disagree, is just a bonus – a positive side effect! It’s something that comes as a special little bonus, you know, and…yeah – at least it feels like that (laughs). The Haunted fans are very clear with that; if they do agree with me of if they don’t agree with me, they let me know! And a lot of people don’t really say anything, they are like “Ok, you go on, you go on and talk, whatever, that’s Ok – I don’t have to like what you have to say to love your music”. Yes, I believe that I am in the privileged position (laughs).
• Well Peter, what can I say; “Unseen” is an absolute belter. It’s the kind of album that creeps into you straight away and then stays for a long time. It has worked like that for me and, based on what I see on the net, it has done the same to many other people so far. Once again, “well done” from me, I wish you every success with it, the upcoming tour and any other plans you have made for the immediate future and I hope that one day we will be given the chance to meet each other in person and allow me to convey my thanks in a more appropriate fashion. Thank you for your time.
Peter: Thank you for your time, you take care, alright?
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In this two hour special David Randall plays a selection of the GRTR! reviewer choices for ‘Best of 2019′ and announces the results of the popular poll. First broadcast Sunday 22 December 2019.
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14:00-16:00 AMBERLY CHALBERG Hi-Line (indie)
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ANCHOR LANE Dead Run (R7 Records)
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