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: “I don’t know if it’s a Swedish thing…” – An Interview with Tomas Haake (Meshuggah)

By on January 29, 2017

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Tomas Haake – Meshuggah

Swedish titans Meshuggah are inarguably one of the most seminal and influential bands in heavy music today. You can detect their impact on the sound and style of a myriad of newer bands on the scene right now, however rather than be pissed off about other bands apparently ‘ripping them off’, the band’s monster skinsman Tomas Haake, speaking from their studio in Sweden, is philosophical and self-effacing about it. In fact, he is more likely to take it as a compliment than get all het up about it as some of the fans do.

“You can definitely hear the influence in some bands,” he concedes, “I mean, it’s not like we keep a track of every band who plays a quirky kind of metal, so it’s not like we have a good check on what’s going on really. But some of the bands you hear it, and we’ve had some of them on the road with us, and that’s really cool, and in a sense it’s kind of humbling. It’s really cool that they see as a founding father of what they do.

“We never meant to start genres or anything, we just kind of did what we did and hopefully people would be into it.”

Virtually 30 years and buckets of influence over other bands into their career, Haake still refuses to allow himself a self-congratulatory moment to reflect on their career, that impact and their legacy as a band.

“I don’t know if it’s a Swedish thing, but we don’t really do that,” Haake states, “of course we can reflect on our own career and what we’ve done as a band, and say ‘yeah we did alright for a very niche style of music to be here today’, and making a living off it. That’s not something that we thought we could do. It’s always been like ‘how the fuck did we end up here, doing this kind of music?’

“It’s really cool that we’ve been able to do that, and we’ve been really fortunate that we’ve been able to live off of it.”

Over the course of that almost 30 year career, the band have visited Australian shores many times, and they are about to add to that as they return in March for quite an extensive tour of our nation and New Zealand, and Haake is very happy to be coming back. Aside from the ridiculously long haul flights from Sweden, that is.

“Yeah that feels great, we always love coming down there,” he says, “people always treat us nice and it’s always a nice run we do down there. We always feel good about coming down there. It’s a long long trip, for sure, but it’s always worth it.”

He promises a very satisfying setlist when they play here, one that draws from just about everything they’ve ever released. “We try to do something from most albums, I mean we don’t really do a lot of really early stuff any more, but it’s a good mix from Destroy Erase Improve onwards.”

The band have ‘only’ produced eight albums in a nigh-on 30 year career, emphasising quality over quantity in their releases. Again Haake is reluctant to agree too readily to the latter point and to be too praiseworthy of his own band.

“Yeah,” he says dubiously, “that’s more up to whoever reviews what we’re doing. But at the same time, that’s definitely how we feel in ourselves. It’s not a matter of ‘this album is better than the other album’, that’s not really how we’re thinking about it. We try to find something that’s different with each album, try to find new ways to do (pause) this music that we set out to do.”

And as for the future, he is optimistic about it, although that optimism is tempered with a sense of reality that comes with having been around for three decades. “It’s so hard to say,” he admits, when asked if he feels the band has another 10 or 20 years left in it, “we still have so much left over stuff from this last album (The Violent Sleep of Reason), we have so many musical ideas left in the band. I can only see one album ahead, I just know that there’s plenty of material for us to write a new album. That’s kind of how we take it, album by album.

“That’s something that comes into it more these days, we all have to feel like we want to do it, another tour, another album, another ‘let’s do it once again lads!’” He laughs, “and of course many things have changed over the years, you get older, and spending months in a tour bus with another 13 guys that smell bad, it doesn’t have the same allure any more. But at the same time, that comes with the job, so you learn to appreciate that for what that is.”

Meshuggah Australian Tour Dates

Thursday, 9th March 2017
Powerstation, Auckland NZ (18+)
Tickets: MJ Presents | Meshuggah

Saturday, 11th March 2017
Tivoli, Brisbane (18+)
Tickets: MJ Presents | Meshuggah

Sunday, 12th March 2017
Enmore Theatre, Sydney (Lic/AA)
Tickets: MJ Presents | Meshuggah

Wednesday, 15th March 2017
170 Russell, Melbourne (18+)
Tickets: MJ Presents | Meshuggah

Friday, 17th March 2017
Metropolis Fremantle (18+)
Tickets: MJ Presents | Meshuggah

About

Rod Whitfield is a Melbourne-based writer and retired musician who has been writing about music since 1995. He has worked for Team Rock, Beat Magazine, themusic.com.au, Heavy Mag, Mixdown, The Metal Forge, Metal Obsession and many others. He has written and published his memoirs of his life and times in the music biz, and also writes books, screenplays, short stories, blogs and more.