MESHUGGAH Guitarist On Songwriting, Touring And Influencing Younger Bands

October 6, 2008

Michael O'Brien of Australia's The Metal Forge recently conducted an interview with guitarist Mårten Hagström of the Swedish experimental extreme metallers MESHUGGAH. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.

On the response to the band's latest album, "obZen":

"We're really happy with it so far. It seems to be doing really well and the response has been really overwhelming. You know, it's a declining industry and we're doing something kind of on the fringe so it's really nice to see that it's doing good. I mean, there's always a fact that when we release an album it's always kind of a divider, it seems, you know? There's a bunch of people that really don't like it and bunch that get it and gets into it. Then it's just a matter of how many are on either side and it seems to be a lot of people are liking this album so we're feeling good about it. And as far as we feel about the actual material, you know, it's just about to sink in; we're just about to gain some perspective on what it's really about because it always does to tend to take a while. There's always things that you'd like to change but we're feeling pretty confident that we hit as close as we could to the mark."

On the band's songwriting process:

"Sometimes when you come up with stuff, you can hear three riffs in a row, and you're coming up with one thing, and you're trying to put it down, and in the process of doing it, you're coming up with what should come next, and then you build it, and then all of a sudden you have half a song or maybe even a song but most of the time it's just like one riff here or there, but the whole process of writing it is kind of making the blueprint because I sit down and program the drums, record the guitar and record the bass in the computer, so when I present an idea to the other guys it's presented in band form pretty much the way I want it to be. So at one point or another, we might change out the arrangements over a fill or maybe a choice of cymbal or maybe moving something a little bit but we stick true to the general idea pretty much; it's not a lot different. On some songs we actually restructure a lot but it's rare."

On whether there is anything he would like to experiment with musically that he has not had the chance to yet:

"I guess pretty much everyone has some part of them that would like to try out something different. I know that Fredrik did his solo album where it's not a far leap from what MESHUGGAH does but it's still something different. It might not be that any one of us wants to sit down and sing campfire songs all of a sudden, but you know, there's always that different thing that you maybe feel might not be 100 percent correct for MESHUGGAH as a band but still is good stuff for what it is on its own right. We mess around with some different stuff but it's nothing that we really focus on; it's more or less a byproduct for most of us and as far as within the band, whenever something comes along, it just comes along. Whenever an idea is born, it's just what happens and we've learned not to try to push it, because then you do a lot of stuff that may not work out, it has to be intuitive on a level."

On influencing new bands:

"I really don't know, basically it's a good thing. It's hard to sit down and think that apparently we're inspiring all these bands, it's fucking great. It's not something you think about. It's kind of nice to see that people, especially musicians you know, being a musician you know that a lot of musicians when you start out you try to browse the type of music that's out there and if you've done something that makes people think that wow this is a cool thing, this is how I'm going to approach my music, then that's flattering in a way but that being said, I don't really know how to gauge a thing like that."

On touring:

"We shouldn't complain. I mean, there's bands like IN FLAMES who tours like 260 shows a year or something like that, so, I mean, that's brutal and I guess that's what you need to do if you really want to build a big fan base but it's just brutal. We're a band that looks at maybe 140 shows on an album and while that's a long time to be away considering that you fly out to do press and you fly out to a bunch of other shit as well it's still manageable because while the backside of being in a band is being away from your family a lot and trying to cope with that fact it's also a fact that when you're home you can spend a lot of time at home so it's a double-edged sword."

Read the entire interview from The Metal Forge.

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