Shockwave Magazine: I would like to start this interview by saying thank you Thobbe for allowing me to send you a few questions.
If I were doing an in-person interview I would see it going like this- I show up in Sweden after a long flight and a long drive through a dark thick evergreen forest to the Englund compound. There we meet in a den made of dark stained hardwood. There are lots of old books, some are printed in English and some Swedish. You show up in a crushed velvet robe and wearing a turtleneck underneath. You have a dark wood pipe that you are smoking as you sit in a large wooden chair detailed with dragons and lions carved into the arms and back. Interestingly though, you are wearing pink fuzzy slippers. I am wearing a pin striped suite that is uncomfortable as hell because I have been wearing it since I left Minneapolis 16 hours ago. I have a pair of glasses on so I look smart even though I don’t need to wear glasses. Then, we would start the interview.
I had two scenarios in mind. It was the above or the one where you meet me at a metal festival. The idea of doing an interview with metal screaming in the background sounded appealing, but distracting so, I went the more regale route. I hope that is okay.
Since this is an email interview let’s be honest, I am sitting in my lazy boy in my shorts with an episode of Cops on in the background.
First of all, I love the new album. I think what I like the most about it is that it seems to draw from so many different influences and they seem to come out in the album so reverently. Can you tell me your influences in general and for this album?
Thobbe Englund: Thanks Eric. First of all – you forgot one little detail in your imaginary description of our meeting in Sweden. On my bookshelf, I have a purple picture painted by an American elephant. Having said that let’s move on to the questions:
I am glad you brought this up. On this album, I decided to let all my childhood metal heroes that once inspired me, and still obviously do, to just flow through my heart straight into my guitar and voice. I was not aiming at yet another guitar oriented shred album, nor did I want to go in any of the directions of Before the Storm (re-released this March on double cd), which was more movie soundtrack and acoustically focused.
I wanted to make good ole fashioned rock songs that kick ass and really had that energy and spark of the old days. I came to a point where I felt so tired of today’s metal sound, you know, everything being so perfect, both in sound and timing, tons of choirs, keyboard elements and what not, that I wanted to play rough again. So, the sound and feel on Sold my Soul is an honest metal/rock album straight from my heart.
The vocal diversity on the album is huge. Did you do vocals on all the tracks? Did you write and record all the songs yourself?
I wrote all the songs myself, and also did the recording of it all. However, I decided to invite two guest singers. Nils-Patrik Johansson from Astral Doors (ex. Civil War) is doing the lead vocals on “Wounded Knee” where I wanted that Ronny James Dio sound, particularly of his heavier 90’s material. The other guest singer is Mr. Gabor Nagy from the Hungarian band Wisdom. A fantastic singer, and good friend of mine, he did a hell of a job on the song “Farewell;” reminds a bit of Bruce Dickinson sometimes.
After leaving Sabaton I think a lot of people expected you to make a Sabaton-type album on your own. Why would you encourage a Sabaton fan buy this album and what should they expect from it?
That’s what I suspected as well. But, many who have been following me since way back (debut album in 2001 with Winterlong’s, Valley of the Lost) may have spotted my diversity and vast musical influences and were prepared for something out of the ordinary. However, the newer fans might be surprised about this album. It is very far from anything like Sabaton. What I can say though is that Joakim (who is the main songwriter in Sabaton) and I share the same influences in metal music, and without going too far I think that to a certain extent Sold my Soul represents both of our influences. You know, Rainbow, DIO, Sabbath, Yngwie, Kiss, Manowar, etc. I’d encourage Sabaton fans to buy this album if they’d like to hear my interpretation of what got heavy metal of today to where it is.
Is there a track on the album that was your favorite to write and or record?
Indee, “It Burns!” That’s my favorite song, both to listen to and to play live. It’s got those brutal Phrygian modes and the Blackmore vibes all over it. I really like it. It’s of course a bit heavier than let’s say any of the Rainbow stuff.
What part music you find the most fulfilling, writing music, recording, playing live or is there something completely different you most enjoy about music?
I live for playing live. That’s where the magic happens. As a guitar player, I am improvising a lot and just a few bars here and there are written in that sense. So, when we go out and play live the songs become a little different here and there, and it all depends on the mood, the crowd, the energy in the room and so forth. I love that. And as a band we don’t use any backing, no click or pre-recorded material, which means that if I have that magic going I can extend that guitar solo or whatever, which is really fulfilling. That’s like writing music on the spot.
What’s next, is there a tour coming? Do you have plans to come to America, possibly Salt Lake City?
In fact, we’re going on tour in only a few weeks. Starting in Poland, the tour will take us through most parts of Europe. I am really looking forward to this. I am so blessed to have so many wonderful fans out there, in America as well. We’ve been talking about a tour in 2018 over there, so hopefully!
The track “Wounded Knee” stands out to me as a track that I wouldn’t expect someone from Sweden to write about? What inspired you to write and record a song about Wounded Knee?
The lyrics were actually written by Nils-Patrik for this one. Since I invited him for this song, the only thing I had in mind about the theme for it was: It has to be about Indians and their suffering, fights, and struggles. I had already recorded the beginning where I sing, or chant really, “Heyahh heyahh heyahh heyahh,” for Nils-Patrik to get the idea of where this song was going. When I later read his lyrics, I was like “Hell yeah!”
From the moment I wrote the music to it I had this idea, or vision, of what it was going to be about. And I really think Nils-Partik Johansson captured all that. Also, his singing with so much feeling, it’s overwhelming.
Is there anything you would like to add to this interview?
I’d like to tell all my fans to check out “Sold my Soul.” This album is something else I can say. Most metal bands of today, at least as it appears to me, have that same sound and touch of perfectness. I went in a completely different direction here, and what you hear is tons of one-takes and an attitude that I have been missing for a long time in metal. This is my way of saying, “Thank you for the music.”
Thanks again Thobbe. As I said before, I love the new album and look forward to making it to Sweden one day and hanging out at the Englund compound with one of my Swedish brothers. My favorite line from the new album, “Riding on and riding fast steel and thunder up your ass!”
You’re always welcome here Eric. Ha-ha, that last line in “Steel & thunder,” Somebody thought it was, “Rock your ass,” which might have been a bit less rude, hehe, but after all Metallica’s Kill’em all! Would’ve been named “Metal up your ass” if it wasn’t for the PTA or something.
Take care brother!