MESHUGGAH Guitarist On Songwriting Process, 'Math Metal' Tag

Spiritech of Australia's recently conducted an interview with guitarist Mårten Hagström of the Swedish experimental extreme metallers MESHUGGAH. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below. "obZen" has been out for a little while now and seems to be getting some of the best reviews that MESHUGGAH have ever had. Has the stellar reaction surprised you at all?

Marten Hagström: Ah, yes, sort of. Whenever we get good reactions I kind of get surprised, because we're not that easy to digest as a band I think. For a lot of people, it's not that out there but it's still something that tends to not really be super mainstream. So the response has been awesome, but, I mean, whenever you put out an album you still feel that you've... you know, when you look at it you might be satisfied to a certain extent, but you never really gauge anything other than you have to be happy yourself. Then when other people like it, it's great. But you never know what to expect when you're actually writing it. I think the new album showcases an even more melodic and also progressive side of the band. Was that something you were trying to work into the music?

Marten Hagström: Ummm, yes and no. We didn't make a conscious decision to go in and try and be more progressive and more melodic, it's just that... what we've been doing on our previous couple of albums, we've gone through some ideas that we've had for a long time and having that out of our system, coming back to a regular song structure type of deal again, it felt like we wanted to throw a little more in the mix than we did on the past few albums. It feels like we incorporated some of our more old-school-sounding type of stuff and then mixed that with the new stuff we've been doing and kind of seen where that mix would take us. So it was exciting, but as it always is it was just more of a spontaneous thing. You mentioned the more "regular" song structures on the new album- in my view it is stronger than your last few from a songwriting standpoint, probably because of that. "Catch 33" and "Nothing" were very heavy albums and the new one is just as heavy as those two but with songs that have a strain of accessibility as well. So was it always the plan to head towards more "traditional" song structures?

Marten Hagström: Well, again, yes and no. We felt that we wanted to do it, 'cause it doesn't matter what album we're talking about, we always do what feels natural to us at that time. And I guess it's a little fresh to go for the throat on a couple of songs as well; I mean, we hadn't done that for a while and we allowed ourselves to explore the sides of the MESHUGGAH sound that we felt we hadn't touched. We got a feel for it on "Nothing" and "Catch 33", and then we brought what we learnt from those albums back; what we learnt during those recordings we brought back into a more regular song structure, but then we wanted to add something and you know, we wanted to create more dynamics within the songs themselves, but also between the songs. Where "Nothing" is pretty much a straight line, this one goes on a little bit more of an uphill/downward thing (laughs). It's more of a dynamic album I think. Okay cool. Changing topics, I read a magazine interview with the band recently and you were talking about the technicality of MESHUGGAH's music and you seemed to reject the term "math metal", even somewhat deriding MUDVAYNE for calling themselves a "pure math metal band". How would you classify yourselves at this point or is that kind of thing not important to you at this stage of your careers?

Marten Hagström: Umm, I don't know. It's definitely not important how we're classified by other people, it's just that when you get the question of, "what's your view on math metal and how does it feel being one of the bands that is at the forefront of that genre?" and I'm not aware of what that genre is. 'Cause, I mean, I could see where it's coming from, it's pretty obvious what it's alluding to but it kind of suggests that what we do is a calculated effort to try and try think music, rather than feel music. And that's very far from the truth. I mean, the effect it has on people may be that of a mathematical equation (laughs), but where it comes from on a writing standpoint it's more like funk music, you know, we're trying to create a groove but from a different point of view than your usual metal song.

Read the entire interview from

Asif Salam of conducted an interview with Mårten Hagström on September 5, 2008 in London, England. Watch the chat below.


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