MESHUGGAH's MÅRTEN HAGSTRÖM On 'Djent': 'We're Very Sorry For Creating That Genre; We Didn't Intend To — Our Bad'
July 23, 2018
Rauta conducted an interview with MESHUGGAH guitarist Mårten Hagström at last month's Tuska open-air festival in Helsinki, Finland. You can now watch the chat below.
Speaking about the fact that MESHUGGAH is widely credited with having pioneered a genre called djent, a style of modern metal characterized by staccato, palm-muted guitar riffs through high-gain amplifiers, virtuosic tapping on guitar (and often bass),and tight, aggressive, usually triggered drums, Mårten said: "First of all, we're very sorry for creating that genre; we didn't intend to — our bad. No, but it's actually… I think it's a misconception, that djent thing. I think it's kind of hilarious.
"It's our lead guitar player, Fredrik [Thordendal], being drunk back in the day, talking to one of our old-school fans, trying to explain what type of guitar tone we were always trying to get, and he was desperately trying to say, 'We want that 'dj_,' 'dj_,' 'dj_,' 'dj_.' And that guy was, like, 'What's he saying? Is that a Swedish word? Must be. Sounds like dj_, maybe 'djent'? Maybe something like that.' And that's where it comes from. A drunk misunderstanding, as always with MESHUGGAH."
Asked how he would define MESHUGGAH's style, Mårten said: "Heavy, experimental music… I don't care if it's progressive or not — it's heavy. And that's the most… But the thing is, trying to define things… Either it gets into that math-metal, djent subgenre type of thing, that's for other people to decide. We play aggressive, experimental music, and that's basically it."
Hagström also talked about MESHUGGAH's critical and commercial acclaim, despite the fact that the band's music is considered to be an acquired taste. "It's not mainstream music — it's music not made for everyone," he explained. "It's not something you hum along to. It's not something that sticks in your head straight away; it takes adjustment. I mean, it's not music for casual listeners going to the gym, drinking their smoothies at five in the morning going in to crunch numbers at a bank. We're not that type of band. We're not Avicii, we're not Madonna — we're not even the equivalent of us in metal. So I would say that I'm amazed at the success we've been having. I mean, our last album came in… I don't know… [No.] 12 on the Billboard [chart] in the U.S. And for this type of fucking music, I would say that's way more than we expected."
Asked what keeps MESHUGGAH inspired to stay on the road of creating fresh, experimental music that breaks down conventions, Mårten said: "I would say that probably the reason we're still on the road is that we're able to be on the road. And what I mean by that is our first and foremost… Being a bunch of guys from in the sticks up north in Sweden, growing up as kids, we weren't part of any partying culture or any Stockholm sound scene or anything — we were just messing around on our own — which meant that, for us, the most important thing ever, being in this band, has been the exploration of music and what we can do together. And as long as it feels like, 'Okay, new challenge. Challenge accepted. We made it. Are we still having fun with this? Hell yeah. Let's go.' So as long as we feel that we have created a direction that the five of us can agree upon and feel that it's worthwhile, that we're taking it someplace and not just stomping around on the old ground, then I think that's the key to why we're still doing it. I mean, that's been sole focus all the time, and as long as it keeps being the sole focus, I think we'll be around. The day that we start to look at other things, apart from our creative process, as the most important reason for being in a band, the band will be dead."
MESHUGGAH drummer Tomas Haake recently said that fans shouldn't expect to see a new studio album from the band before "2020 at the earliest."
The experimental Swedish metal group's last disc, "The Violent Sleep Of Reason", came out in 2016 and resulted in a "Best Metal Performance" Grammy nomination for the song "Clockworks".
"The Violent Sleep Of Reason" was produced by the band and was engineered by Tue Madsen of Puk Studios in Kaerby, Denmark.