These days we have a ton of doom releases, but you won't find many as good as this one. Monolord formed about a year ago in Gothenburg as a side project of boogie rock outfit Marulk. Out of pure fun (like most of the good things) they started jamming together and soon managed to produce extremely good guitar driven monolithic riffs, that remind us on Sleep. Trio consists of Thomas V Jäger on guitar, Esben Willems on drums and Mika Häkki (The Don Darlings, ex Rotten Sound) on bass. This is an extremely heavy band, that is managing to play some of the best doom songs, which are growing into something of epic proportions and what makes them even more special is their fuzz overload, that will slowly punch you down, because you won't be able to carry the burden of their sound. And their sound is drenched with psychedelia so it easily makes their Empress Rising one of the better releases in the genre. Album came out on EasyRider Records and it's available on vinyl, CD and cassette.
Hello guys. How are you? What's happening?
Esben: Hi! All is good here and we're currently in the middle of writing and rehearsing new material for the second album. That means spending the days in a small, windowless room when the heat outside is face melting, haha.
I would like to start with some basic questions about your formation. Thomas and Esben, you were in Marulk and Mika you were part of The Don Darlings and Rotten Sound. Would you like to describe in a few words your membership there?
Esben: Thomas and I got to know each other in Marulk and we soon discovered that we had similar frames of mind regarding music. I think finding people you connect with both as musicians and friends is close to impossible, so I feel we've got a good thing going here. And when Mika entered the building it was a perfect match from day one, so we're really fortunate there.
Mika: I've always been drawn to the heavier side of music. That's the one thing combining the bands that I've played in. But Monolord sure takes the winning trophy, when it comes to heavy.
Thomas: Marulk was the band that made me ready for basically everything. From handling bad tour stuff, bad recording experiences to what you want and need when you are touring, recording and that sometimes less is really more but also that more is more (yes I am talking about fuzz).
How exactly did Monolord came together? It's funny how can a side project became more important than the main project.
Esben: We always jammed a lot on stoner and doom riffs in Marulk, so we wanted to give it a try as a side project band, a band that wasn't Marulk. We soon realized that we wanted to do more, so it went from a side project to a proper band almost instantly. At the time, Danne Palm (vox and bass in Marulk) felt that he didn't have the time or energy for either bands, so that's where Mika came into the picture.
Mika: Playing in The Don Darlings the past years really got me missing some fuzz-filled riffs, so I got pretty happy when Thomas and Esben asked me to join them.
Thomas: I´ve had so many heavy riffs in my vault for so many years and finally we could realize them in a way we could not in Marulk. Some of the riffs on Empress Rising is about six or seven years old.
Gothenburg is known for its metal scene. Since you were all from there did it have any impact on you as far as music goes?
Esben: To be honest, not that much, no. The metal scene you're referring to is far more slick and polished and hasn't got much in common with what we do. We're into dynamic, gritty and rough productions, in other words not always as radio friendly, hehe.
How is the scene now? Do you consider yourself as part of the scene?
Esben: That's up to the listener to decide. Although we play doom, our influences come from anywhere and everywhere, so we try not to limit ourselves to a specific scene or genre. If people want to label us doom, sludge, psychedelic fuzzfest or whatever is just fine with us, as long as we're fortunate to make music who have listeners.
Is there a certain mantra behind Monolord?
Esben: Only that we all three have to approve of things we do, and that goes for everything from new songs to tee designs.
Mika: And coffee... Coffee really seems to help us at the rehearsal.
Thomas: Coffee. Mmm. Yes, coffee.
How did you choose the name?
Esben: I think Thomas is the best one of us to tell that story.
Thomas: It is this guy that lost his hearing on his left ear, we always said that it doesn´t matter if his band recorded anything in stereo, he could not hear that anyway. So he is the original Monolord.
What can you tell us about your influences?
Esben: As I mentioned, we're influenced by all kinds of music, places, people and whatever else we stumble upon. Our intentions making the album wasn't that we were going to make a collection of doom songs by the book, the goal was just to make an album as heavy and fuzzy as possible.
Mika: Yeah, influences can be a bit odd to observe once you put them on the table. Different things and sounds mean different to each person. As spacy that might sound.
Thomas: This is the first time I have been writing lyrics and the first time that actually sing in a band. I found always having pen and paper beside me and with me all the time helps. I got inspiration and words here and there. When in the car (”hey sir, take a note...”), at the porch drinking coffee in the sunset, when watching a bad movie. All that stuff.
How did the first jam session looked like?
Esben: It really started as jams in Marulk and then developed into what is now Monolord. We actually became a proper band during the recording sessions for Empress Rising, so the creation of this band has been entirely different from any other band I've played in. A bit disorienting, and I like that; it's always fun to force the brain in unexpected directions.
Thomas: There was this need to just bring out the heavy. When we did, I think we gave birth to Empress Rising at the first Monolord jam session.
Was there a special songwriting process going on or it was more easy going process where you just layed down some tracks?
Esben: Our songwriting is fierce, haha! Usually, one of us has a loose frame for a song idea and then we finish it together. It's that finishing part that can be frustrating and fierce, but the good thing is that we all like the few songs that passes through. There aren't much room for compromise in that process, we all have to like what is put on an album or on stage.
Mika: Having everything set up and ready to record all the time, makes it easier to work on the songs.
Thomas: We completed the songs for this album during recording. Some of the songs had no ending, some had no middle parts. We just went with it, released the fury and figured out the lyrics afterwards.
How did you get in contact with EasyRider Records and where was the album recorded?
Esben: Thomas has the full story on how he got in touch with RidingEasy Records (then EasyRider Records) through Instagram.
I'm a self-employed sound tech and producer, so we recorded everything in our tiny rehearsal space, with the exception of a few guitar takes, which Thomas recorded at home. I mixed and mastered the album.
Thomas: I kept in touch with Daniel at Riding Easy from time to time. When we had rough mixes of the album he said:
- LET´S GO!!
What gear did you use and how did you like your time in the studio?
Esben: I've never been a gear junkie, so I've never been impressed by gear or recording equipment. I'm much more interested in how whatever is available is used. I've heard brilliant albums recorded on crap and crap albums recorded in ridiculously expensive high-end studios packed with NASA level equipment, so in my opinion it's more in the hands of the executor. Good gear is just a bonus.
But for those who's still interested, in spite of my anti gear-worshipping rant, I record everything with Pro Tools. I never pitch correct or sound replace anything, so I use it more like a digital tape recorder. For the pounding, I use a Gretsch kit and Zildjian cymbals.
Mika: My gear is always changing. Every once in a while I think I might buy on to something and then I find a new bass that I fall in love with and have to change half of my gear, haha.
Thomas: I just love flying Vee´s. I cannot really play and feel comfortable with another type of guitar. Then I have this old Orange, a slave amp actually that someone did made a mess of, painted it white and put a Matamp faceplate on. So I bought it and left it with my friend Jesper that made it just awesome.
How about the cover artwork? Who made it?
Esben: Nik Dudukovic, the coolest guy! His patience with us is unparallelled. We had a very loose idea about some kind of old and evil being – the rising empress – but we also wanted a cover that wasn't typically doom or stoner. After endless sketches and ideas mailed back and forth between us he really nailed it. We couldn't be more satisfied with the cover, it's perfect for the mood of the album.
How are you satisfied with Empress Rising?
Esben: Our intention was to make a fuzz rumbling wall of monolith heavy songs and when the fans started to discover it and appreciate it exactly like that, I felt elated. That's a feeling that's hard to beat. I'm really proud of the album and I'm really proud about the fact that it's been praised by the very dedicated doom and sludge audience. Thank you all!
Thomas: We wanted to make an album that was as heavy and thick sounding as we could. I think we managed pretty well. There is always stuff I feel I could have done different and better. But I am getting pretty good at restraining myself from going back and change stuff. Then the songs transform a bit live, and I like that.
Is there a concept behind the Monolord album?
Esben: It started as a concept around a story about the rising empress, which in turn inspired us further in the direction of all kinds of rising evils in the world. It wasn't a deliberate choice to make it a concept album, but it deals a lot with the darker sides of humanity and the self-destructive ways of us all.
Can we expect something new?
Esben: Oh, yes! As I mentioned we're in the middle of the pre-productions for the second album. When it's going to be released is not set yet, but I promise we'll let you all know as soon as any plans are set.
Empress Rising was released both on cassette and vinyl. Isn't it nice to see two outdated formats back together as strong as ever? Vinyl is in my opinion way better, because it forces you to sit down and listen and it makes you feel like you actually own something, not to mention concrete cover artwork, which is missing on CD or in digital files. I admit, that digital files can be handy, but in the end that's just something up there in the clouds.
Esben: I agree that the vinyl format is a really nice piece of art. The sound is good, the artwork gets its deserved space and just as you say, it requires something from the listener. With that said, I also listen a lot to music through digital channels. Actually, that's most often how I discover new bands or artists. So all formats has their place and relevance, it all depends on the when and the where.
Mika: Same here. It's a whole different thing to take your time with a vinyl record while cooking or listening to music through headphones at work. But of course it's nicer to take your time and give your attention to the vinyl record.
Thomas: I listen to music through Spotify in the car almost everyday when I get to and from work. But when I get home I almost only listen to vinyl records. I just realized (again) the other day when I put on Mastodon´s Blood Mountain on vinyl and I just had listened to it in my car what a difference it was. I felt a warmth, had to do another fresh pot of coffee and gave it another spin.
Do you own a collection?
Esben: I'm one of those musicians who listen to and enjoy insane amounts of music, but has a pathetically small album collection, haha. But with the new wave of vinyl releases it's growing once again.
Mika: My collection isn't anything to brag about. I buy the records so I can listen to them. Not to display a certain color vinyl on a frame.
Thomas: I think I have about 500-600 vinyl records and about 300-400 CD´s. Some months I buy maybe 10-15 records. Some months one.
How about concerts or touring?
Esben: We've just started discussing a collaboration with a booking agency which is not yet official, so if it all falls into place we'll start touring in early 2015. Until then we'll work on the next album and play a few gigs in Oslo, Gävle, Stockholm and here in Gothenburg. Can't wait!
What are some future plans for you?
Esben: New album, a lot of touring!
Mika: And coffee... lots of coffee.
Thomas: As said, there are some plans of touring in the not so distant future. We are all stoked about that. And another record next year. And as Mika said, lots of fresh pots of coffee!
Is there some music you would like to recommend to our readers?
Esben: The first band that comes to mind is our fellow fuzzheads in Mammoth Storm. Kick ass band from Säffle, Sweden. Check'em out.
Mika: A finnish band called Acid Elephant. Some psychedelic desert drone grooves to listen to.
Thomas: Don´t miss out on Mammoth Storm and be sure to give Snailking a spin!
Thanks for taking your time. Would you like to share anything else with our readers?
Esben: I just want to say THANKS! to all our hardcore supporters. You are all fucking awesome.
Mika: What he said!
Thomas: What they said!
Interview made by Klemen Breznikar/2014
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