Rock Impressions

INTERVIEW WITH VIOLENT SILENCE reply Johan Hedman (italian version)
by Giancarlo Bolther

Can you give us an introduction to your band with the history of your group?
This constellation of the band has been going since about 1999 when first Bruno and then Phillip joined, but me and Hannes has been writing songs since we were in high school together. The sound of the band has changed radically since the early days as we were much more metal and used much more guitars than we are now. Björn is the newest member and has been with us since 2004.

Can you tell us about the songs from the new album?
This time we tried, consciously and unconsciously, to make the songs more eclectic tempo wise. The first album had more of a mid- to uptempo feel to it. This time the tempos between the songs are all over the place with some really fast stuff like Kinetic and some really slow numbers like Sky Burial, and some in between. Harmonically it´s also quite varied with the difference between the tender harmonics of Subzero and the slightly dissonant verses of Quiet Stalker being the most obvious example perhaps. We also wanted to have a real intro and outro this time and if you listen carefully you´ll notice they are actually the same song with more or less the same musical and lyrical themes but done a bit differently. We originally recorded them on guitar but when we heard the finished result it just felt to out of place so we re-recorded them on keyboards instead. The new album also has a slightly darker feel than the first album but paradoxically the lyrics are in some cases much more positive, inspired in part by the faster tempos perhaps.
Quiet Stalker was the hardest song to get right. Hannes has had the basic framework (verses and choruses) for the song lying around for ages. Long before the first album, but we´ve never worked on it properly until I had the first draft of the lyric which meshed perfectly with the dark and spacey mood of the song. I knew what I wanted the rest of the song to sound like and what the basic arrangement should be in order to work with the lyrics but it didn´t come easy. The song was about five minutes long when we seriously started working on it and everytime we tried to finish it it felt truncated, so it kept getting longer and longer everytime! The instrumental middle part was the main culprit. We were actually starting to panic when we realized it was still unfinished less than a month before we would start recording. It all came together when we set that main drum rhythm to the main melody, which was taken from another unfinished arrangement of the song. The rhythm has been around for ages. Suddenly it worked like magic and really opened things up.

Where do you find inspiration for writing your lyrics?
Lyrically, the songs on Kinetic are all related in that they were inspired by a journey to East Asia I went on with my girlfriend. But at the same time they are quite different between themselves. The embryos of Morning Star, Torrential Rains, Homesick, Kinetic and Sky Burial came to me when we were in China and Tibet. The first three are basically written for my girlfriend. Torrential Rains was inspired by a very rough and and quite scary bus ride we were on that I have tried to describe as vividly as possible. Everything that the lyrics portray has actually happened in real life. Kinetic is just an energizer to boost the sense of self in a sometimes quite hard and hostile world. Sky Burial is a celebration of my dead father and was conceived in a moment of clarity on a mountain side in Tibet, overlooking the so called “rooftop of the world.” It was such a beautiful and tranquil place that it made me think about some stuff in my life.
On the other hand, Subzero and especially Quiet Stalker were inspired by visiting the Khmer Rouge´s torture center Tuol Sleng in Cambodia. That visit made a huge impression on me. I´ve never been to Auschwitz or any other death camp that was built during World War II but from accounts I´ve read from other visitors there they too felt a heavy sense of anger, emptiness and sadness. Quiet Stalker is generally about the dangers of human lemming mentality and the absurd notion that the only way of thinking, acting and behaving is confined within one specific community, whether political or religious. Although it was inspired by a specific place and time I wrote it so it could easily be applied to any severe political or religious hardship in human history. Subzero touches on that too but is more about political and/or religious hypocrisy. All I can say is that whether you are a Muslim, Christian, Buddhist or Jew; wherever you are on the political scale or whatever color of your skin you will always be welcome to sit down and have a beer with me. I might not agree with you in some matters but you will get the respect you deserve.

How do you go about the process of composing songs?
Hannes almost always writes the lions share of the notes so this should probably be answered by him as well. Usually when we write, the basic framework for a song is established quite quickly, but some details and sections might require a bit more work. We both have a lot of unfinished musical ideas and pieces of songs that just have to wait for the right opportunity to be used. Sometimes these bits and pieces don´t really fit into the song you´re writing at the moment for different reasons so a lot of really good bits and pieces that could easily have been worthy of inclusion on the album didn´t make it, for now anyway. Sometimes the songs are constructed around a specific lyric and then we try to arrange the song to match the mood of the lyric and sometimes it´s the other way around.

How much tradition and how much modernity there are into your music?
That´s hard to answer. I do consider us a band that´s very much aware of and likes much of what is happening in music right now. Whatever we like we get influenced by to a certain extent I guess, whether it´s older or newer stuff doesn´t really matter as long as we like it. We just try to write and then just see what happens. Also, if we thought a song like Quiet Stalker, which is 18 minutes long, would be a better song by just keeping it within five minutes we would, or if we thought Kinetic would sound better as a piano ballad we also would. We are always the most concerned about what a particular song needs in order to be the best it can be to us. Whether it´s one or thirty minutes long; straight ahead or complex or slow or hard or mellow or this and that doesn´t really matter. Not much is planned out beforehand and if you asked us what our next album is going to sound like right now we probably couldn´t give you a very straight answer. Mainly because we haven´t come that far in the writing process yet.

Your new album is very strong and dark, which is the message that you want to say?
Thanks! I don´t know if the songs in themselves carry any specific collective message as such, but that is up to the individual listener to decide perhaps. If you are asking if it´s a concept album I would say that it´s not intended that way but I guess it can be if people want it to.

How are going the responses?
We are quite amazed at the controversy we seem to be generating. Most reviews have been very positive, and some reviewers have been absolutely raving and have even stating that the album is a modern classic, which to us is slightly bewildering but obviously very nice to hear. Other reviewers have completely missed the point and have gone the opposite way completely and really hate it. The most surprising thing is that so many focus very hard on the fact that we don´t have any guitars. We were quite surprised by this already when we released the first album so we were a bit more prepared for it now but still it´s quite odd. Some reviewers have even stated that the music is good and very original but since we don´t use guitars they rate it lower than if we would have had guitars, which to me is very strange. It´s like complaining about the absence of ukuleles in Black Sabbath or the absence of death metal growls on The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway but still liking them. We suspected that musically, Kinetic and Quiet Stalker would be seen as the two most controversial songs on the album for different people and so far we seem to be right.

In your opinion, which are the hitpoints of the new album?
I am very satisfied with this album on all levels – from the way that all the songs came out to the overall production and the individual performances. It´s very hard therefore to single certain moments out as being better than others especially as the songs are designed to make a unified statement. At least musically, and the record goes off in all kinds of directions, both harmonically and stylistically. They all add something to the pot. But special mention must go to Sky Burial which probably is the most personal song that I´ve ever put my name to, and Bruno sings it absolutely beautifully. Kinetic is another highpoint to me because it´s quite different from what we have done before. We have tried to write a really fast song for years but it hasn´t really worked until now. And of course Quiet Stalker which is the first time we´ve made a really long and extremely shapeshifting epic. Torrential Rains is another highpoint for Bruno, when we played back the finished track with the fresh vocals in the studio everybody´s jaws dropped to the floor. I didn´t think he had it in him to sound like that! Well, I´ll better stop here before I´ve mentioned every song on the album.

In your opinion, which are the differencies between your studio records?
Besides being a collection of shorter songs than the ones on Kinetic, the first album has a rawer and sparser feel. Which is mainly due to the production and the limited keyboard sounds we had at our disposal then. Since then Hannes has stacked up a little arsenal of keyboards which has opened up the writing quite a lot for us.

Do you are happy about the recording and the promotion of the first album?
I still love the individual songs and we still play most of them live but the production could have been better in some instances. But that was all we could afford at the time so basically I have to say I feel it came out very well considering the circumstances. Record Heavens´ promotion on the other hand was completely non-existent due to a turbulent change in management at the label. The first Violent Silence album was actually the last album ever to be released on the label, since it is now defunct. If it hadn´t been for Musea Records who stepped in and did at least some promotion noone would have heard it. Thankfully we now have a completely different situation with Hansi Cross and Progress Records who absolutely loves the band and has done so much for spreading the name of Violent Silence.

Can you tell me more about the meaning of the band’s name and why did you choose it?
I think I came up with the name during a break from school, an Easter break If I remember correctly. I was listening to a lot of music as always and several of the albums I was listening to right then had some lyrics that rhymed violence with silence so I just put the two words together. It just seemed to work with the music we were writing back then and the name has stuck ever since.

What do you think about the actual progressive scene?
It seems quite healthy, at least regarding the number of bands. But too many bands seem to lack distinction from each other, although that is just my own irrelevant opinion. I personally prefer to listen to bands that have more of a personal touch.

In your opinion who is that wrote the most important music in the progressive rock history?
I think I can speak for everyone in the band when I say Genesis. They were so consistent and inventive, especially the records with Peter Gabriel, and really mows down any competition. Also, they really wrote actual songs that that you could separate from each other and that stuck in the memory, which is something that is not always the case in the flashy world of progressive rock perhaps. This is something Violent Silence has at least tried to learn from. Frank Zappa, Yes, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, Marillion and Voivod also deserves special mention. All great bands and artists and a huge inspiration for me personally.

Which are the countries nowadays were the prog music is most vivid both for bands and audiences?
I don´t know really, Violent Silence seem to sell most records in mainland Europe and different parts of America.

Fans of the old school of progressive rock tend to consider the bands of today as "regressive" because they lack of innovation and creativity and they don't look to the future but they look to the past..what do you think about?
I agree with that to some extent, but the people who feel this way might be looking in the wrong direction. Bands like The Mars Volta, Coheed And Cambria, Paatos, Khoma, Mats & Morgan Band, Enslaved, Tool, Massive attack, Bob Hund, Mastodon, Fireside, System Of A Down and Portishead sound very little like the 70´s or 80´s progressive bands, but to me they do carry a large portion of the spirit of those bands.

How do you live the day-to-day reality outside the band? What kind of person are you as men and as artists?
The city where we live, Uppsala, is a university city so most of us are either studying different subjects or working.

Which is the greatest satisfaction happened to you in your musical carreer?
Just having had the opportunity to release two records that I am immensely proud of and playing with people I really admire and appreciate being around.

What kind of music do you listen to? What are your favourite bands actually and what are your inspirations from the past?
An impossible question to answer straight up. I am a real music addict and listen to every imaginable style there is. But I´ve grown up foremost with Progressive rock, Metal/Hard rock, Pop/rock, Reggae and classical so those types of genres will always remain really close to my heart. Some of my favourite artists though are Genesis, Black Sabbath, Slayer, Voivod, Pink Floyd, Igor Stravinskij, Mercyful Fate, Frank Zappa, Metallica, Depeche Mode, Iron Maiden, The Cure, Yes and Steel Pulse.

What can you tell me about the musical scene in your country?
It´s quite lively with a lot of bands in different genres here but there is not that many places to play, especially if you play slightly odd stuff like we do. Progressive rock is generally frowned upon in the press here so you don´t play it unless you really have a passion for it.

These seem to be very dark times, in your opinion which is the most important thing to change as soon as possible in our world?
The most important thing to change is also the hardest I think. Namely the perception peoples from different backgrounds and from different parts of the world have of each other. What strikes me most is that the lack of communication between different groups has grown worse in recent years. People from different lines of thought and religions are getting more confrontational, more prejudiced and more afraid of each other and they do things that are extremely counter-productive to all of us. I of course can hope this changes but I fear it never will, it´s such an integral part of the human psyche.

Reviews (in italian): Violent Silence; Kinetic; Slottsskogen Goes Progressive 2005
; Twilight Furies

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