Peter Tagtgren is a very important figure in extreme Metal both as a recording artist and a renowned producer. Following the release of the quite successful DVD/Blue Ray “We Come In Peace”, Peter decided to bring his Industrial/Electronic Metal project Pain to the UK for a handful of headlining gigs and, as you can appreciate, the moment a London date was set I grabbed the opportunity of conducting an interview with him. In a twelve minute window prior to the band’s scheduled sound check, I spoke with Peter about this latest addition to the band’s musical arsenal and his plans for the future, both in the capacity of a musician and a producer.
By Yiannis (John) Stefanis.
- Hi, Peter, so nice to finally meet you in person! Let me start this interview by saying how much I appreciate all the good music that you have been creating for us since the early 90s and wish that you continue to do so in the years to come.
Peter: Ah, thank you!
- I have to admit that when you first started your musical journey with Pain back in 1996 I was a bit sceptical about things and did not know whether I should follow you down that path. I am sure that you had many other Hypocrisy fans sharing such sentiments with you through the years.
Peter: Ah, always!
- I think that the main problem is that I was too young and close-minded to appreciate what it is that you were trying to do but I have to admit that in time you managed to prove people like me wrong and that is through sheer hard work and determination. You have seven studio albums out and we have perhaps reached that stage in the band’s career where Pain receives more attention than Hypocrisy, right?
Peter: Yeah (laughs) – what can I say? At the very beginning Pain were not to be a live band but simply a studio project – just a side thing that I had to do for myself, you know? But it seems like people wanted to hear Pain more and more as time went by so eventually I had to put a band together so as to make this happen.
- You are obviously the main man, the ‘brain’ behind any project that you get involved in.
Peter: Yeah, a little bit (laughs).
- A little bit?
Peter: Unfortunately yeah (laughs). I wish I could just jump in like I did in Bloodbath and just sing my parts and get out (laughs).
- Maybe that is why some of us felt at the very beginning that way about Pain as we saw it more as a means of you exploring musical avenues that were impossible to follow under the Hypocrisy moniker rather than a serious full-time band. Now, this little ‘baby’ of yours has grown up, so congratulations on that front. You are currently touring the UK in support of the live DVD/Blue Ray release “We Come In Peace” which in itself is an impressive feature – a band touring in support of a live release rather than a studio album. You will be playing in places like Cardiff and Glasgow this time around; are these areas that have a strong Pain fan base?
Peter: I have no clue (laughs). No, I mean, we have been here in the UK three or four times now but we always were the opening act for bigger bands like Nightwish so we had never done our headline thing which is something that we really wanted to do as we believe in the UK. These places that you mentioned? I think that if people get the chance to see us play live then they will get hooked (laughs).
- Even though I was granted access to “We Come In Peace” it was only the audio material that was available to me. I understand that both the DVD and Blue Ray versions hold a number of visual goodies for your fans, right?
Peter: Yeah, there are two live shows, a few music videos and plenty of backstage stuff that we filed during our tours at times when we were having fun, you know?
- The first thought that came to mind when I heard about the release of “We Come In Peace” was whether young people really invest in DVD and Blue Ray formats in this day and age. I mean, most of this stuff gets uploaded on places like YouTube almost instantly, right? Do you think that live shows are important to fans and they deserve to be around?
Peter: Yeah, I definitely think so. This is like a souvenir for those people who came to see our shows during the “You Only Live Twice” tour. It is the last show that we did on that tour that we filmed, it’s one of these concerts, so it should be cool for them to sit back and say “yeah, I remember how the stage looked like” and all that stuff, you know? I mean, “We Come In Peace” has sold very good, so…I am surprised but I guess that means that people still buy such stuff, you know?
- Most artists nowadays complain about illegal downloading so the success of this release is refreshing.
Peter: Most these people are ‘cry me a river’ you know? I mean, what can you do? Just get a fu*king grip, get out of lala-land and deal with it – that’s how it is and you simply have to accept it!
- So, how is it that you managed to adapt your personal philosophy to this new status quo?
Peter: I really don’t know. I think that you simply have to adapt to what is happening and if you do not adapt fast enough then you are fu*ked! In the beginning, of course, I was pissed off as well with this thing, just like everybody else, but after a while we got more exposure as a band on the Internet and even though we did not get any money it helped a lot more people to discover Pain and Hypocrisy. Some of these people now come to our shows, so it is a give and take thing, I think.
- Through these seven Pain albums that you have released one can detect both progression and experimentation and that would have undoubtedly helped bring new people closer to the band.
Peter: Yes, but sometimes it could work the other way round and we could have less (laughs). That is, if you end up experimenting in the wrong way, you know?
- So which would you say is the target audience for Pain in the year 2013?
Peter: Our audience is a great mix of all kinds of different people with varied musical taste. You can find in our shows anything from whole families to women, to metal guys, to women, to families, to women (laughs)…there’s sh*tloads of different kinds of people. I mean, the ages involved are from young kids to people being sixty five years old! It’s a wide-range audience and I think that this is cool, you know?
- If you look back at the time when you released your first Pain album back in 1996, you have been very busy recording with both bands and on top of that you have been the producer of a large number of albums of various prestigious bands. How do you manage to find time to sleep at all?
Peter: Well (laughs)…these last couple of months I haven’t been sleeping properly but my reward is that I now have a whole month to relax and recharge my batteries, after the tour is over, of course.
- Being the main composer behind both Hypocrisy and Pain means that at times you will have found yourself working on ideas for both projects simultaneously. How do you manage to decide which melodies and ideas will be used by each of the bands in question? Have you ever found yourself in the position of using an idea on one band when that idea was originally intended for the other?
Peter: Yeah, sometimes that could happen, I mean, I am only human, you know? I try to separate these ideas as much as I possibly can but…take the last Pain album, for instance. Ok, you had there songs like “Dirty Woman” that doesn’t not sound like Hypocrisy at all but it does not sound like a typical Pain song either. Then again, you have other songs that are getting a little closer to Hypocrisy and that makes me believe that Pain will always be unpredictable – it will most likely continue to be a rollercoaster ride for the listener. On the previous album (note: “Cynic Paradise” – 2008) we had a song called “Have A Drink On Me” which featured both steel and slide guitars so the sky is indeed the limit with us when it comes to trying out new things (laughs). I don’t set any rules or hit on any breaks on anything; if I come up with a crazy idea I will try to record it as long as I think that it sounds good and I am not shamed of it, it will find its way into our album.
- I guess that with Pain you are far more flexible when it comes to working on new and strange ideas than with Hypocrisy.
Peter: Oh yeah, definitely. I mean with Hypocrisy I definitely want to keep things in the frame of Metal.
- I understand what you say but it is not like Hypocrisy is the most conventional of Death Metal bands either, right?
Peter: No it is not at all a conventional band but I like to be fair to our diehard fans, to give them the kind of music that they would expect from the band. Like I said before, I am not trying to re-invent the wheel here (laughs). All we focus on is writing better songs.
- So “We Come In Peace” is doing really well sales-wise and all eyes are upon your next step already. Have you made any decision yet as to what that would be – the next challenge that you will have to face as an artist?
Peter: No, I do not have a clue – when it happens it happens, you know? It’s not like I sit down and carefully calculate my every move. Things just happen naturally.
- As far as the production side of things is concerned are there any projects that you are scheduled to undertake in the immediate or near future?
Peter: I just came back from helping Children Of Bodom with the production of their new album and before that I had worked with Amorphis on their latest album (note: entitled “Circle” and scheduled for April). Right now I don’t yet know what is going on for this year as I am going to be pretty busy being out on tour and stuff like that, so we’ll see. I do have two bands that I am trying to fit into my schedule but we will see what happens.
- How do you manage to work with so many different bands, some of which are as commercially successful as Dimmu Borgir, Amorphis and Destruction and manage to avoid making them all sound the same in terms of sound?
Peter: I don’t know. I just get into each band’s mentality, so to speak and think of how it is that I would like to make then sound, you know, and then I just go for it. That’s how it goes; it is not any harder than that. I mean, of course it is hard to achieve the sound that you have in mind each time and also agree on that with the musicians involved as it is their band whose music you are working on and not yours. At the end of the day what you are trying to do is make these guys sound as good as possible, you know?
- While working in the studio with people like Schmier from Destruction did you find that, as a producer, you have learned a few things that you could then apply to your own bands?
Peter: Yes, of course. In these cases you are not only the producer but you are also a psychiatrist. Your aim is to push these musicians as much as you can but you cannot push them too much or they will eventually break. You need to be able to find out what is each person’s limit and that will help you establish how much you can push and help them do their thing. That goes for all people and the same thing would go for me if I had to rely on the assistance of a producer. He would have to find out how far he could push me before I would go “Fu*k that sh*t, I am not going to do it”, you know? It’s all about finding this fine balance.
- I understand that you have a sound check to attend to so sadly I will have to wrap things up here but I hope that in a month’s time when you visit London again with Hypocrisy we will get the chance to speak some more. Thank you very much for your time – I hope you enjoy the show.
Peter: Thank you.
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