Interviews : Candlemass (Leif Edling) – 02/04/2009
Sweden’s Candlemass are one of the biggest bands in doom metal and the bands 10th studio album ‘Death Magic Doom’ is just further proof why. I had the privilege of speaking with Leif Edling, the bassist, founder and main songwriter of the band about all that is Candlemass.
Metal Obsession: For those unfamiliar with Candlemass, can you give us a brief description of your music?
Leif Edling (bass): Oh yeah, Candlemass is a doom metal band. We’re very slow at times but we’re also pretty metal you know. I think that metal ingredient is very important to Candlemass. It gives us a touch of Sabbath and classic 80’s metal.
MO: Congratulations on your new album ‘Death Magic Doom’. Are you happy with the way it’s turned out?
LE: Yeah, I’m fucking so pleased with it. I don’t think we could have done a better album and I’m so happy that, I mean, we’re fucking number one all over Europe now! All the big German metal magazines like ‘Rock Hard’, ‘Metal Hammer’ and ‘Heavy’ have given us great reviews. We got 12/12 in Rock Hard, and album of the month. And album of the month in the biggest metal magazines in Finland, Sweden and Norway, as well as the Greek ‘Metal Hammer’ and the biggest Spanish magazine too. So it’s just fantastic, and now I’m sitting here doing lots of interviews with people who really like the album, so yeah, it could have been worse [laughs].
MO: Was the response for your last album, ‘King of the Grey Islands’ as overwhelming?
LE: Not quite as good as this, but actually nearly as good as the white album, our reunion album. The reunion album had, I think, about 15 Soundcheck wins all over Europe and it sold really well. ‘King of the Grey Islands’ nearly had as many Soundcheck wins, it was like 12 or 13 and it actually sold a little bit better than the white album. I didn’t expect it to, but it did. So now, we expect ‘Death Magic Doom’ to do even better because the response already is just fucking incredible. So I’m sitting here with a big smile on my face [laughs].
LE: Yeah when I wrote the album, I thought very much about that. Because you cannot have the same songs on the album, like other bands have 10 songs that sound pretty much the same. I think I’ve managed to write 8 pretty individual tracks on this album, tracks that have a signature of their own. That was very important. It was also very important how the songs were placed on the album, so the album flowed well. We’ve got eight songs clocking in at almost fifty minutes, so I think it worked out perfect. I sort of thought about it as a vinyl release with, you know, four songs on the A side and four songs on the B side; having that sort of 70’s flow on the album.
MO: On the topic of song placement, most of your albums begin with the fastest song. Is there a particular reason for this?
LE: Yeah we plan that very carefully. We like to start with an upbeat song, like Sabbath do. They had ‘Neon Knights’ and ‘Turn Up The Night’ and all those, songs that people can really get into and groove with. I mean, if we had started the album with say ‘Hammer of Doom’ I think we would have put a lot of metal fans off. Whereas if you’re into metal and you hear ‘If I Ever Die’, you’ll think “oh shit, this is cool” and then comes ‘Hammer of Doom’ so you’re able to, ummm, digest it more easily. And then you have ‘The Bleeding Baroness’ and it’s metal again.
MO: I understand you’re the main songwriter for the band, but how much input do the other guys actually have?
LE: When I arrange the songs I give the guys in the band demo tracks. The demos are pretty rough and actually a little bit stiff because they’re made with a drum machine and a synth bass. So when we rehearse the songs, then they come to life and the guys all add their own things, their playing styles, their colours. I think their contribution is quite important. Robert does the same thing. He adds his voice and personality, and sometimes does things that aren’t on the demos. We pretty much follow the demos to like 95% but those last touches are very, very important.
MO: You’ve stayed with the same recording studio for the new album. You’re obviously happy there?
LE: Polar is a great studio and we know it really well because we’ve used it since our reunion album. We know the staff there quite well and we love those guys. It’s also quite expensive though [laughs] so we had to hurry up! The album takes like ten days to record, we can’t afford more.
MO: Do you have much input into the mixing and studio details?
LE: I’m kind of the supervisor. I wouldn’t say I’m a producer. Maybe I could, but I more just like to supervise everything to make sure people get there on time, and they don’t forget to change strings [laughs]. I check all the microphones are in place, and make sure people drink water and stuff [laughs]. I wander around and give suggestions, that’s my part in it.
MO: Can you give us an insight into the albums lyrics?
LE: There are a lot of different things on it. It’s not a concept album, all eight tracks are pretty individual. The first track is about immortality, because when you’re young you don’t think you can die. ‘The Bleeding Baroness’ is about an aging vampire that thinks of her past glory and she’s afraid of dying. Track four, ‘Demon of the Deep’ is about a sea beast, so there’s not too much fiction there [laughs]. ‘House of 1000 Voices’ is about real events, an orphanage in England where there were lots of killings in the 1940’s and 1950’s. ‘My Funeral Dreams’ for example is about nightmare, and that you can die in your sleep. So it’s about a lot of varied things. ‘Hammer of Doom’ is about depression. So there’s not too much fiction, but a lot of different themes.
MO: ‘Death Magic Doom’ is a very blatant title, and the bands recent artwork has all been fairly simple. Is this because you prefer the music to be the focus, or do you think it just fits your style best?
LE: I think it fits the style of our music pretty well. And also, on CD format when you have a cover like most other bands, like a painting or an apocalyptic theme or whatever, they blend together. Our album covers, like the white album and ‘King of the Grey Islands’, they really stand out. If you look into a window of a record shop, you’ll be able to see our albums because they stand out so much. That’s very important I think. There are so many releases that you need your covers to be memorable and eye-catching. It’s easier to have them very simplistic. Another thing is that our covers make great t-shirts and backdrops for live shows and all that, so that’s a bonus.
MO: Late last year you released the ‘Lucifer Rising EP’, why did you choose to release a separate EP rather than putting those two new tracks on this album?
LE: I wanted an appetiser for the album because it wouldn’t be out til April or May 2009. I think the writing on the EP was a good appetiser for ‘Death Magic Doom’, so that people knew that something really cool was coming [laughs]. It’s like a teaser you know, like bands did in the 80’s. It was very common to release an EP with a couple of live tracks on it.
MO: Were the two new songs written at the same time as the full album?
LE: “Lucifer Rising” was actually the first song I wrote for the album so that was really the main song on the EP. The other songs aren’t really important. On an EP or a single you just get the one important song and that’s the ‘A song’. “White God” was really just a bonus.
MO: Mikael Åkerfeldt has said a few times that Candlemass are one of his biggest influences. What are your opinions on Opeth?
LE: I really like Opeth, they’re a fantastic band. I went to see them two weeks ago actually. I’m really good friends with Mikael and Fredrik, who’s actually the guitar player in my other band Krux. So I had great time going up there and eating with them, watching the show and having a party afterwards. I have them burnt copies of the new Candlemass album and I had text messages on my phone the same fucking night, [laughs] saying “the album is so fucking good, I really love it” and stuff like that.
MO: Speaking of Krux, is anything happening with that at the moment?
LE: No, it’s just Candlemass for now. Candlemass will be the main focus for this year. Fredrik is really busy with Opeth this year as well, their tour schedule is fucking unbelievable. I think we have a window of about three months in spring next year that we can do something with Krux.
MO: Do Candlemass have big tour plans for the year?
LE: Yeah. We’re going to try and do as many summer festivals as possible and we’ll do a big European tour this autumn. And hopefully an Australian promoter will read this and bring us down there as well. We would absolutely love that, so don’t be shy people [laughs].
We were approached by a guy in Melbourne in like 2005 or 2006 who wanted us to come down and play in some metal festival, but it never happened and I have no idea why it didn’t happen. We really wanted to go, we were really psyched for it, but nothing ever happened. So hopefully it will this year. We’re definitely up for because we want to conquer some new territory [laughs]. We’ve done Europe so many times, and America so many times and we’ve done South America and all that, so it’s really only Australia and Japan left for us. So if anybody wants to book us a couple of shows in Australia and maybe Japan, they’re more than welcome [laughs].
MO: A couple of general questions to finish off. For those that aren’t too familiar with the genre, what are some of your favourite doom metal albums?
LE: I would have to say the first Black Sabbath album because that’s just fucking genuine doom. It’s not so much metal on that one, but it’s like, the masterpiece of masterpieces. The first Solitude Aeturnus album is great, and umm, the first Pentagram and Trouble albums. Yeah, I would say those four.
MO: Was there any particular band or musician that inspired you to start playing and writing?
LE: This is a tricky one [laughs]. When I was growing up my sister played me the 70’s stuff. She played Sweet, she was really into them, and Suzi Quatro. I really liked that sort of thing, and then after that I started to find music myself. I started listening to Black Sabbath, Uriah Heep and Deep Purple. I started playing guitar and got guitar lessons really early because of that. But as for actually wanting to start a band, that was more the punk wave and the NWOBHM.
MO: Alright. Cheers for taking the time to do the interview, and hopefully I’ll see you in Australia.
LE: No worries Mitch, thanks for the interview. And yeah, I’ve got my fingers crossed!
Interviewer: Mitch Booth (Mean Machine)
Interviewee: Leif Edling (bass)