UNLEASHED Frontman On Surviving The Music Industry: 'You Can't Really Sit Around And Count Your Dollars All The Time'
October 26, 2018
In new interview with music writer Joel Gausten, UNLEASHED bassist/vocalist Johnny Hedlund discusses various topics, including the band's new album, "The Hunt For White Christ", and the group's ability to survive in the music industry for nearly 30 years. An excerpt from the chat appears below.
Joel Gausten: When comparing "The Hunt For White Christ" to your first album, "Where No Life Dwells" (1991),how would you say UNLEASHED has evolved over the years in terms of both your musical output and what you're conveying in your lyrics?
Johnny: "First off, I'd say musically, it is only fair to say we have developed quite a bit in almost 30 years now since the start. And who wouldn't? It is a long time to keep to the roots yet try to develop things within your own style, so to speak. But I think we have done what we said we'd do way back then when we formed in 1989. The techniques and engineers have improved and so have we as musicians, of course. Just looking inside our studio today compared to the one we rented on the first three-song demo way back in 1990…Oh well, day and night, right? And hopefully, it is the same with our lyrics. I know my English has improved quite a bit, so I am naturally better at doing lyrics only considering the linguistic aspect of things. You might argue there is still work to be done there…True. I am a Swede, and I learn all the time. My native tongue is Swedish, so it is only natural. Anyhow, I think our content has improved as well since the first album. At least I'd like to think I have improved that, too, but that is for others to judge, of course. But I am well aware of the fact that the new storyline of Odalheim has drawn influence from past albums, but it is still not something I could have done back in, let's say, 1993 or so."
Joel Gausten: Being a recording and touring act in 2018 is not an easy task, especially for a band that performs extreme music. How has your professional experience as a finance director helped UNLEASHED move forward in a very difficult industry?
Johnny: "Well, I'd say we wouldn't be doing this without it. I think the word I am looking for here is 'bankruptcy' or 'financial exhaustion.' That is what happens if you use private money for your business and never see any returns on your investment. We experienced this in 1997, as we went home after years of touring worn out — the gear was broken down, with no money at all due to a shitty record deal. So, we took some time off to educate ourselves in finance, took daytime jobs to buy new gear and got together and created a plan on how to move on. Tactical and strategical plans that would make us last. And we follow them to this day."
Joel Gausten: UNLEASHED will reach its 30th anniversary next year. What has been the biggest key to the band's ability to thrive for this long?
Johnny: "I will say there are many things that have to work over time, of course, but we always had a good, solid plan for how to do things. Well, perhaps not always, but we kept to the roots and kept developing. We also agreed on helping out within the band so that all members share responsibility for the band. And what is, of course, key is to be passionate about the music and lyrics and also the live show. Death metal is live music, and you need to really enjoy this or you should stay at home. Having a really good friendship among the band members is also really helpful, or it will become too much of a job. And in the music industry, you can't really sit around and count your dollars all the time. It will kill you, for sure."
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