Voices from the Darkside recently conducted an interview with UNLEASHED vocalist/bassist Johnny Hedlund. A few excerpts from the question-and-answer session follow:
Voices from the Darkside: I read in another interview with you where you said death metal is not something you can do casually and that it needs passion (which I wholeheartedly agree with) so after the break, was there any one event / thing that made you decide to reform? Was it at any time difficult to get the other three UNLEASHED members to reform?
Johnny Hedlund: "Well, we took a three-year break from it all. And we would have done so with or without the business at stake. We needed to get the energy back after eight years of hard touring. Perhaps with another record label pushing us we would have come back sooner, but we really started to make music for 'Hell's Unleashed' in the year 2000. So it was just the touring part that took a little longer. We also took some time to talk about the future organization of the band, who to work with and what we could do better in the coming 15 years. You will see from now on we are making progress due to this. Things happen for a reason. The break was a well-needed time out and got us to where we are now. There was never an issue of not coming back."
Voices from the Darkside: In hindsight, again as suggested in the book "Choosing Death" (by Albert Mudrian),the brief "lull" in death metal seemed essential for the genre's survival and it seems that traces of death metal can be found in many other genres and non-death metal acts (i.e. KILLSWITCH ENGAGE, SLIPKNOT, SOULFLY etc.),which showed death metal's influence in other forms of music — so, in your eyes, can a band have death metal influences and elements but not be a death metal band? When reforming was there any temptation to modernize your style? Do you think death metal can be progressive and still be death metal?
Johnny Hedlund: "I agree. And yes, they can have influences but not be a death metal band. I can't see why not. Most bands have influences from others, whether we like it or not. So do UNLEASHED. I think we all get influenced one way or the other by stuff we like. I personally think it's very much possible to develop within death metal and not go outside. Some elements are essential though. Aggression, horror-like riffing, darkness, and whatever you need to get that drive to make it rebellious. But hey, just because there's a thrash like riff in a song it doesn't mean the band is not a death metal band anymore. One must listen to the whole package with vocals and all. As for UNLEASHED — I do believe we are a band for the future of death metal. I think we have what it takes to take this to the next level. We are well prepared, both considering our organization and partners and the ideas for music and lyrics in the next 15 or so years."
Voices from the Darkside: Considering how successful the first two records were, why did UNLEASHED move away from using Waldemar Sorychta to produce the band's future records? Your guitarist Fredrik Folkare is credited as both engineer and producer on the previous two UNLEASHED records, "Sworn Allegiance" and "Hell's Unleashed" — do you think it is important to keep all duties within the band? Have all the albums turned out as you have heard them in your head? I have to say that Fredrik Folkare did an amazing job on the production and mixing of the previous two records and managed to create crystal-clean clarity but not lose any heaviness in the process.
Johnny Hedlund: "Thank you. Well the switch from Waldemar was a well-needed one. We wanted a different sound, that's all. The truth is Fredrik is my man these days. He is our engineer and producer. He comes up with all ideas and creations concerning the sound quality of the albums. Naturally, all band members have a huge 'say' on all things before we complete for mastering. But still, it is his creation and hours upon hours of hard work. He could do any band and any style these days. That's how good he's become if you ask me personally. And to answer your question about the turn out… hell yes! The albums come out even better than my own expectations so we have no need for an external person to do this job."
Voices from the Darkside: There was a rumor floating around that NIRVANA used to play a cover of "Onward Into Countless Battles" at their rehearsals — is this true?! If so, did you ever hear the song?! As a death metal songwriter was this an insult or compliment? Surely this confirmed for you and proved that you write great songs?!
Johnny Hedlund: "Ha-ha, yeah well, I would take that as a compliment. Why not? I can't say I know this for a fact though. Anyhow… they should have sent me a copy!!"
Voices from the Darkside: A lot of members from bands that formed around the same time of UNLEASHED are now are married with children etc. — it is easier, harder or the same playing in a death metal band in your 30s and touring the world? Do you have more responsibilities you have to be aware of? As you have gotten older, have your goals and priorities changed now being an adult?
Johnny Hedlund: "I would have to say it is of course a different story these days since there are more bills to pay and more responsibilities. I personally work part time as a finance director and it takes a serious engagement of course. On the other hand it has never been more enjoyable to play live than right now! I don't worry all that much any more about amps that can break down, crew that don't do a good job etc. I just enjoy the hell out of the fact that I have a good number of friends all around the world that scream along with our choruses when we come and play, just like they always did in the past. Amazing!! Things like this makes you go on year after year. People who get tired of sex should try death metal!!! I like both but fuck it's an amazing feeling to go on tour and meet our fellow warriors out there."
Read the entire interview at www.voicesfromthedarkside.de.