UNLEASHED Frontman: 'If You Do The Same Exact Thing, You're Going To Become Obsolete'
January 19, 2020
Music Of Destruction recently conducted an interview with frontman Johnny Hedlund and drummer Anders Schultz of Swedish death metal veterans UNLEASHED. You can watch the entire chat below. A few excerpts follow (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
On their Viking and Scandinavian history-themed lyrics:
Johnny: "I'd say we've done a little of both, but yeah, obviously, the Viking tradition type of lyrics is a major thing in our themes from way back then until now and it still is and probably always will be. But I think the choice way back then was to make a mixture of things and we just felt that there's got to be something in it that's valuable because if you pull politicians or anyone you talk to in a society, they really didn't like this. So, for us, it was kind of natural. We just wanted to step things forward. Again, we wanted to step things up. If they think this is dangerous and is something you don't want to talk [about] and is something that is not good, for us, it's, 'Okay, there has to be value in this.' We started writing lyrics about it and we felt the power of that. It's something that comes from our history. Obviously, if we were born, let's say, in Mexico, we would probably sing about a much different topic. But, we would probably feel the same way. Now, since we're Scandinavians, this is our topic and this is what we feel we wanted to move forward with. I guess that's how it started."
Anders: "I have to agree. Exactly that. It's actually something that exists. It's our history. It's part of our history and part of our heritage, and, also you can intertwine this with this kind of music. It can also be dark and aggressive using this kind of stuff. Plus, nobody had really done it before in death metal, so why be like everybody else? We can actually do our own thing now, which is also intertwined with our heritage. It's just perfect. To me, it makes sense and it's the only way to go, really."
On keeping the spirit of old-school death metal alive in UNLEASHED's music:
Anders: "That's the most important thing, in a way. How are you going to keep true to your roots and still make something new? That's the tricky part, isn't it? You try too hard to do something completely different because you want to evolve, but then you lose track of your background. The hard part is walking that fine line where you're still being true to what you did, so you can't stray too far and freak out and write something new or whatever, or something completely [out of the norm] and still be new. To evolve within your own kind of thing is the tricky part."
Johnny: "Absolutely. That's exactly it. To just allude what we just spoke about minutes ago about brands, I mean, if the entire thing with brands are that even if the new digital world is coming at you and you think, 'Oh, okay. This is really what I expected and blah, blah. It was better in the '90s and so forth.' See, if you are strong enough of a brand, you're going to make it out there. And, all things considered, I think that's the key. If you're strong enough of a band, if the brand is good enough, your music, your live performance and everything, you're going to be fine.
"We could name-drop a good number of bands that really know how to do this because even if they started in the '70s or the '80s or the '90s, there are good number of bands that know exactly how, like Anders just said, how to keep to their roots and keep developing and get better. If you do the exact same thing, you're going to [become] obsolete. If you do the exact same thing but you keep changing enough to become better and you put some new stuff into it all the time, make it more interesting and you find new ways of just getting better. Getting better doesn't mean you sacrifice your roots or something that you did before. It doesn't mean that at all. It just means that you get better with keeping what is strong with your band. I think that's been our thing ever since day one, to be honest. That's the one thing that we first agreed with. I would say that's the one thing we first agreed with in the band, that we would always try to develop and get better. But we will not start playing another music style. We are a death metal band. Like Anders said, that's a tricky part, to keep developing but still be a solid act that people can recognize. If you want to buy a new UNLEASHED album, that's supposed to be an album that you already know is going to be good. But it has to be a little different than before. If it's too much different, you don't want to hear it because it's not UNLEASHED anymore. Again, it's a tricky part, man. That's the thing. That's the job, but that's also the challenge."
On whether UNLEASHED played an "integral" role in establishing the Swedish death metal scene in the early 1990s:
Anders: "I don't know. That's not something I would think about. Maybe we did. This is what time tells you after the fact, but at the time, no. Of course, we were doing our thing, other people were doing their thing and everyone was just going at it. At the time you didn't feel this at all. You were just doing what you were doing. But in the end, maybe it shows that we were, but this is something you can look back and say, 'Yeah, this was a major part of this that or the other.' At the time, we had no idea what the hell we were doing, not that it was going to be a big part like this. We were just doing what we were doing and trying to do it as well as we could and as much as we could. That's it. There was no like scheming about, 'Hey, we're doing a big thing about this or the other.' You go at it. You still do. You still go at it. You don't really think about where your part is in a bigger role or this kind of thing. You have to do your own thing and kind of go for it, not to separate yourself too much from everything. At the time, we weren't thinking about anything like this. We were too young to think we were going to be part of a big thing. We were just doing what we were doing."
Johnny: "Looking at it now, if we're going to modify our thoughts a bit here: You look at it 30 years back in time now…obviously, my thoughts of this hasn't been the same all those 30 years. There's been some changes, but like Anders said, when we started out, it was all in. It was all in. Metal. Obviously, the more I started to develop my way of writing lyrics, for example, I have had thoughts of trying to make a bigger impact on people with my lyrics. I think that's a challenge. That's something that I really, really enjoy. And I think it's the same with the music. Why wouldn't you want to make an impact along the road? It's not something that you think about, that we thought about in 1992, obviously. But as we go along, I think that's something that is really wonderful that you can make an impact on someone that you haven't even met. Then when you actually meet them and they start telling you stories about what your lyrics mean to them, then that's just, I mean, that's incredible. That's having an impact on me, that's for sure. I think that has meant more to me now that I get older than it did when I was 25, that's for sure. Now that I know that we can actually make an impact, then things get more important."
UNLEASHED's 13th full-length album, "The Hunt For White Christ", was released in October 2018 via Napalm Records.