Until the last breath, Dead Soul: Interview with Anders Landelius

Each time I listen to Dead Soul their music unsettle my deepest feelings. Perhaps the darkest ones, the saddest, the feelings that hurt most… the most important. Although, also they make me happy. It irredeemably occurs. It does not matters that I already have listened to their two albums many times, or that I am not one hundred percent sure of the meaning of each one of their lyrics: every time I play their songs the transgression happens. It happened since the first time I listened to them. It could be said It was a fortuitous discovery as happens sometimes in the life, a discovery like those in which nobody interfere only the luck and oneself. I was looking for the solitary album by Anders Björler on YouTube [Antikythera, album whose delicate musical exquisiteness it’s worthy of talking about it in another text; nobody should stop listen to this album], the guitarist of At The Gates. I looked for it after they blew my mind with their last album, and, in the recommendations showed in the right side of the screen, appeared a little image from the videoclip of the song «Burn Forever», which is included in the album In The Darkness [2013], apparently sold out and harder to find it than ever. I suppose this beautiful coincidence was due the fact that the album by Björler belongs to the same record label [Razzia Records] that produced the first Dead Soul’s album.. I was captivated immediately by its sound. I had not heard something similar. I was not capable to classify them. In this text they are defined as a mixture of NIN with Johnny Cash and Nick Cave, which outcome is the industrial doom blues. It seems to me that the classification makes sense and it could not exist a genre more explosive than that. More risky. Themselves are defined in their Facebook fan page:

Mayhem is not the only possible outcome of a collision. Another option could also be that something new is born. DEAD SOUL is a musical meeting where analog meets digital, logic meets chaos and machine meets man. The result? Dark electronic doom blues in symbiosis with industrial rage. Uncompromising and without excuses DEAD SOUL presents a dystopian view of the world, but always with a clenched fist and steady gaze.

The images of the video clip were selected according to the previous description and especially coordinated with the music. Its impeccable production took a captivating message direct to the heart and the mind. That was exceptional and I just could not believe that I found it in a so regular way. When I told this to my pair, she in her infinite kindness and love gave me as present their first album of this swedish duo [I do not know how she got it, but she always knows how to handle this situations] formed by Anders Landelius and Niels Nielsen [The Walter White and Jesse Pinkman of the music, according to their fans. The comparison it seems unavoidable. Of course their music it is on the level of that TV masterpiece which is Breaking Bad; in fact, this desert blues, which burns the soul, could be part of the TV serie for its deep aridness]. I already had enjoyed some songs on YouTube but when I had the CD I never felt tired of playing it one time and another time. I remember I thought: «This album is insuperable. If some day they release another album they will have a problem». I am thankful with Dead Soul who keep my mouth shut. On their second album, The Sheltering Sky, the things went up or took a slightly different direction but to get better. Perhaps less dark but deeper. Sometimes more hurtful. With more light, but the light which let see the human misery. And there is no such thing like the lyrics: it is through them the band permeates each part of my own soul. Someone of the members have to be writer or similar to accomplish such deepness in those words… and so it was. Until now I haven’t had the second album on CD in my hands. I have played it on Spotify during days, which it makes me feel thankful: listen to this band it is something that I want to do it until my last breath, just how it is named the first song of this album. So I spent the time listening to the music of these men, as a any fan until one day the doubts flooded me [there’s not many available information on the web]. My workmates asked me to interview them as a journalist, under the classic scheme question-answer. They accepted kindly and Anders Landelius, the vocalist and lyricist of the band, was in charge of answering my questions. We talk about of everything that I have written until now. The answers again overcame my expectations.

How did Dead Soul born and why? Since when? What did you [both] do before? Where did you play? How did you began in music?

We’ve been around as a band/project since 2012. It all happened as a rather natural development of Niels producing one of my solo albums [Slidin’ Slim-One man riot] back in 2007. We really liked working together and I loved the way Niels took my songs and gave my rather traditional blues and new and exciting touch. The whole plan was to make a new Slidin’ Slim album when we started to work on my material around 2009/2010 but our mutual urge to just let things happen in the studio took us further and further away from the blues until we just decided that «this is something new and completely different». Niels knew Anders Fridén from In Flames through his work as the tour manager of Ghost and we knew that he had a record label so we sent him a couple of songs. He responded within minutes and offered us a record deal. We didn’t even had a name for the project at the time. 3 months later we release our first single and opened for GHOST when they change to Papa Emeritus II. Both Niels and I have been into music since we were kids. I fell in love with rock ’n’ roll like Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Elvis very early and was hooked for life when I first heard punk like The Ramones and Dead Kennedys in late 70’s. Hard rock and heavy metal was the influences that made me start playing in bands as a teenager. In the early 90’s I discovered delta blues and started to play slide guitar. That changed my life. I began touring as Slidin’ Slim in the mid 90’s and I’ve played all over Europe and USA as a solo act and has released a number of albums over the years. Niels, who’s 14 years younger than me is of the «computer generation» and after playing different instruments found his true love in recording (even if he always continued to play in bands too). He is a master of electronic music but bands like Radiohead and Sonic Youth has been very important for him as well. He’s produced and recorded bands since he was a teenager and has released a number of solo albums of his music over the years.

According to this note, the music of Dead Soul it’s a «dark rock sound that one could describe as industrial doom blues. Think Nick Cave meets Nine Inch Nails meets Johnny Cash and you might get an idea of what is awaiting you». I am agree with this impressive and accurate comparison, but in your own words, what would be your main musical influences?

The interesting thing with us is that we do not share any mutual influences (we both love Johnny Cash though!) whatsoever. Niels doesn’t like the music I like very much and I rarely appreciate what he listens too. But the strange thing is that we love making music together and we never discuss influences in the studio. After a song is done Niels can tell me that he thought of a certain song when he produced it while I was thinking about something completely different when I worked on the song at home. We both have been playing music for such a long time so I guess all the influences we had during our formative years are digested in our own musical brains and souls so there’s not much left that is obvious for a listener. It is also a huge strength when you make music to not be a slave under your heroes. Most bands get together because of a mutual love for a couple of bands and those bands have to struggle for quite some time to find their own voice [if they ever do]. But separately we have a long list of people we admire that has been and still are inspirations more than anything else. People and bands like Rick Rubin, Trent Reznor, Son House, Thom Yorke, Daniel Lanois, Peter Gabriel, Chris Whitley, Sonic Youth, Moderat, John Mooney, Beck, QOTSA, Tom Waits among many others.

The voice, the first time I heard it I though «there is nothing similar to this», but now I’m thinking that sounds a little bit like Eric Clapton… Do you like him? Could you tell me something more about your vocal style?

I have always loved to sing but I sounded awful for a very long time. I didn’t have have any natural ability to sing at all and for quite some time it was frustrating to not being able to do what I wanted to do. But when I discovered the blues I felt that this is something that really works for my voice. I really like Eric’s voice (and his blues stuff) but I’ve never listened to his singing enough to consider him to be an influence. But we do have the same vocal influences [Robert Johnson, Son House, Freddie King, BB King] which might be a reason why you feel that way when you hear me sing. I actually heard people saying that before and it is flattering [and I wouldn’t mind having his bank account…hahahah!].

What about the lyrics? Are they darker than the music itself? There are literature influences behind them? It’s like a big speech against religion, life, the ordinary world?

Writing has always been very important for me and I love the process of sitting with a blank paper and fill it words and sentences. I’ve always been a reader and I always have 6–7 books going at the same time [in a question that I asked later in this questionnaire Anders mentioned some of his favorite authors — I cannot deny that I was touched knowing that I read most of the same books that he have read; in a some way I understand his huge sensibility — : Jean-Paul Sartre, Franz Kafka, John Fante, Hermann Hesse, Charles Bukowski and his biggest heroe: Albert Camus]. I even wrote a book myself a couple of years ago and that is something that I’m not done with at all. There will be more! For me honesty is the most important factor of everything you create. It is very hard to write without experience and knowledge and the only way to get that is through living. As I’m getting closer to 50 years old I’ve been around the block a few times and, like most people my age, I’ve experienced very difficult and painful things. You get to know death and you’ve seen people that you love more than life suffer. By writing about my feelings and what I’ve been through it gets easier to cope with and even leave behind. That’s actually one of the main reasons why I keep doing this. I need it to stay sane. Writing music and lyrics and perform is the best therapy I’ve found so far. I’ve always found myself being somewhat «disconnected» to the world and I have to work quite hard to not see everything from a very dark point of view. There’s so many things in human behavior that is very depressing not to speak of how we’ve treated mother earth for so long. Greed and religion causes so much harm. But, I work hard on focusing on the good things that is out there, the good people. And thanks to my family, friends, music and literature I can feel hope enough to get out of the bed in the morning.

In The Darkness [2013].

The art of your album In The Darkness make me think in Dante. In a black metal album cover. Please tell me something about the work that you made with Papa Bear [and something about his work], the concept behind it.

That was just what we wanted and in many ways I think that it turned out very good even if wasn’t a perfect match for the music [some people did expect black metal…]. The constant battle between good and evil [both externally and internally] and the fact that very few doesn’t reach a point in their life when they have to pay for what they’ve done in the past was the theme. I’m not a religious man but I do believe in Karma and I’ve been quite an expert of giving myself «hell» whenever I’ve done something wrong in my life. Papa Bear [real name: Björn Rallare] is a local guy who’s doing a lot of cover art for both books and records. He’s fantastic. He did the cover for the Yngwie Malmsteen’s biography a while back.

Please tell me something more about the composition process of both albums, which are the main differences between one and another?

Due to the reason that we thought that we were working on a new solo album for me when we started out with, what later became, In The Darkness I wrote the basic parts of most the songs on my own and Niels came in a bit later arranging and producing the songs. On the new one Niels wrote more and we wrote more together. Maybe also as a result of that we had a clearer idea of what Dead Soul is all about. I still need to write all the lyrics on my own.

What does it mean for you to be in Century Media? A label specialized in metal music.

We were skeptical at first because we’re so different to every other band on the label but that has turned out quite well. We’re the purple cow in a bunch of regular cows so to speak! They really like what we’re doing and has done a great job promoting us so far. [Century Media settled down in México easily. I suppose it is a matter of time to see around here the second album of Dead Soul].

The Sheltering Sky [2015].

What about the lyrics, art and influences behind The Sheltering Sky? [In a later question, Anders let me in clear that, of course, the title it is based on the novel by Paul Bowels, which is named El Cielo Protector in spanish. He accepted that the movie by Bernardo Bertolucci made him looking for the book. I admit that I haven’t read it and that the album was what motivated me to buy it.] Personally I enjoy it a lot more than In the darkness, even when I thought that nothing could overcome it. It was a great sensation. Does It happens to you? Did you have in mind to make another album? Did you have in mind to make a better album that the first one or it’s only a natural consequence, or it’s only different?

First, thank you! I’m glad you like it! I guess I answered a little bit of this question in the number but there’s always very hard to follow up an album that you’ve put so much blood, tears and time into as In The Darkness. Especially when it ends up being so loved by so many people. I had a hard time even thinking about making a new album when the label asked us to get back into the studio and do a follow-up. For the first 8–9 months I couldn’t come up with much of value so Niels worked a lot of his own. But, the trick is always to forget about the previous album and try to find the joy in making music and let that joy work for you. You can never think about how the listeners will react to your new stuff while you’re in the process of creating it. The most important thing will always be to make an album that you would want to hear yourself. It was very hard from time to time and Niels did an amazing job in the studio sometimes doing 10–15 different mixes on a song before he was satisfied. I also felt that I finally figured out what I wanted to write about and the themes feels like a natural follow up to In The Darkness. We’re equally happy with both the albums.

I met you while I was watching the videoclip of «Burn Forever». Could you tell me, please, something about the story behind its construction, and behind the other videoclips, like the one of «The Fool»? How these videos built an image of Dead Soul? When I saw it for the first time I thought in Walter White for Breaking Bad… Do you like that television serie?

We’re a low budget band and we use the talent we have around us when it comes to different things like videos and photos. Burn Forever were made in just a couple of days and the we played with ideas of good and evil and that things might not be what they appear to be. Niels priest for instance as well as my character too. It’s turned out pretty nice but the best way to watch is to just make whatever you want out of it. The Fool were made in Niels studio using Iphones and Ipads. We had no budget at all so we thought that the best thing was to do a simple performance video with a lot of energy and feel to it. Niels did a great job editing and making it look good despite the material. It is hard to say how these videos help to create and image of Dead Soul. Maybe it shows that we’re creative people doing our best with what we got? We’re not an image-band like our friends in Ghost, we just want to make the best music possible and in the very end we’re just a couple of guys who’s loving to do what we’re doing. What you hear/see is what you get. Niels have been a fan of that show for a long time and I finally got to see it like a year ago. I watched it during a short period of time so it was a rather tough journey to follow poor Walter. There were no thought of making people think about the show when I started to use my hat [that has been with me for a very long time…] at our first show back in 2012 though. But we look kind of the same and a lot of people like to call me Walter White these days.

You were touring with the famous band Ghost. Please, tell me something about your relation with them, how was to be on the road with them? Do they have similarities with your music? Do you like it? Is it a boost for your career?

The whole connection is simple. Most of the members in the band comes from the same region as us and we have known them from before the Ghost days. Niels worked as their tour manager during the first album cycle as well as a producer made the connection even stronger. Like I said, we did our first show with them and then we’ve been touring with them on and off since then. To be on the road with friends is great. We’re like a big family and we get the best treatment possible. I can’t find anything to complain about at all. The only similarity in our music is that Ghost is also a very song oriented band and they also have dark elements to it. Other than that we are very different in most ways. The great thing is that the combo work so well. We’ve been getting very good reactions from the their audience from the very beginning. I’m not a big fan of «horror»-rock or what would be the best way to describe them BUT they sure got some fantastic songs and they are so professional in every little detail of their show. It is extremely entertaining no matter what you think about the music. We will be forever grateful for the opportunity to open for them. During the last long tour we did like 50 shows in 17 different countries. Who can ask for a better boost than that?

Are you thinking in other audiences like spanish-speakers [like me, or speakers of other languages]? Your CDs are so difficult to get… Do you plan to visit some countries in Latin America, like Mexico?

We’ve been getting so many nice letters/messages from fans in Latin America that wants us to come and play and of course we would love to. But it is difficult to set up a tour on our own so we just have to wait and see if we can support a bigger band in the future. We have also waited for a long time to see if our record company could find a way to make our albums available in Latin America but nothing happened so now we’re selling them directly to the buyers. We’ve just shipped a truckload of stuff to countries like Brazil and Mexico!

What Dead Soul want in the future, in the musical scene, inside the industry? Do you want to be famous, to be a recognized band around the world or you only want to be heard by some persons? In that sense, which are your goals? [Personally I wish you success, you’re a great band].

One thing I think that we’ve both has learned over the years is that nothing is more important than feeling joy towards what you do. There’s no money or fame that ever make up for lack of joy. Therefore there will only be a Dead Soul as long as we enjoy doing it. I’m writing and playing music because I love it and need it. If people wants to listen and go to our concerts I’m a happy man and if the music can take us around the world to meet new people and experience things I never would’ve experienced if I stayed at home I’m even happier. What more can a man ask for?


Texto publicado originalmente en Kaja Negra. Traducción: César Palma.

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