Interview with Marten Hagstrom from Meshuggah

With their upcoming double header with the mighty Devin Townsend Project (not to mention the fantastic Periphery) coming up this Friday 03 May at the O2 Academy Brixton, Flush The Fashion had Colours To Shame guitarist Thomas Cairney sit down with Meshuggah’s guitar colossus Marten Hagstrom to talk technical metal, touring and what to expect from this blockbuster bill.

Meshuggah

So, you guys recently came off tour in the US. How did that go? Are people still enjoying the material from Koloss as much as they have been since the album’s release?
Yeah, actually we were kinda surprised, the tour we did there was considered a second market run and we changed it up quite a bit, but we still made the majority of set consist of songs from Koloss. Coming back to the States within a year, we didn’t know if it was going to do as well but we actually did a little bit better than the first tour. It’s steady rolling, we’re happy.

Which songs are going down particularly well live? 


Most of what we’ve been playing has been going over really well! It depends on where we put songs in the set list (laughs), but I mean whatever we’ve been playing has been going over better than we expected it to. But if I had to pick a couple that really stand out… well we usually feel that Do Not Look Down, Swarm and Demiurge go over really well. 

Demiurge is a fantastic opening track I feel. 

Yeah, we opened with it when we came round last time. This time in The States we actually opened up with Swarm. Demiurge is kind of a good pace setter, it’s straightforward but it’s still pretty heavy, it’s not too slow, it works out really well as a first song.


I wanted to ask a bit about Pitch Black which you released earlier this year. I believe that song was recorded back in 2003 at Fear and Loathing in Stockholm? Tell me about the story behind that track and why you decided to release it ten years later?

Well the things was, we got contacted by our publishers asking if we could record a track or if we had some leftovers that we could use for the first Underworld movie actually, to be on the soundtrack. I don’t know if we took too long or if they didn’t like it but for whatever reason it never happened. So the song was just sitting there. Fredrik and Tomas were the ones who actually started up the song then finished it off so it was really just one of those one-off, spur of the moment things. We never really felt that it had any value as a part of a whole album, so we just let it be. Then coming up to this tour we got asked by Scion who were sponsoring the second run of our US tour if we had any rare material or any live stuff that we could put out. We realised we actually had a song ready, it made perfect sense to do a quirky, one-off type of thing. 

Very interesting!

You’re playing in London alongside Devin Townsend and Periphery. That’s a huge show. How did it come about? 


It was just one of those things… We’d been looking to get a show where we could have a bigger bill than just us and a couple of support acts. I know that Devin, and even though he had his Retinal Circus thing, he wanted to support his new stuff, which hadn’t really been done in that type or size of venue. Brixton Academy being a pretty big place, it just made a lot of sense, plus we also have the same booking agent for Europe. When we started talking about it, it just made sense to join forces once again because we’ve played with Devin a lot in the past. Not just The Devin Townsend Project but also Strapping Young Lad back in the day. It made sense, we’re friends and we have a tremendous amount of respect for each other’s work so it’s cool to be able to go in together and do our thing and bring in Periphery which is a killer band too. It’s maybe a bit of an odd thing to do but I think we’ve got a cool thing happening, we’re going for a good production.

Speaking of the band Periphery, there are a lot of young bands coming through who are trying their hand at the kind of 8 string guitar, down-tuned, polyrhythmic sound that you guys have been pushing for years. Do you think this is a good thing for progressive, forward-thinking music as a whole, or do you have any negative feelings towards these bands who are only now trying to imitate a sound you’ve had for decades?
I don’t really have a clue whether it’s a good or bad thing. Generally speaking, it’s a really good thing for us. It’s a good feeling for us to know that we’ve inspired a lot of people; I think that’s a positive thing. A lot of people ask if we feel like we’re being ripped off or if we feel like people are trying to copy what we do but I mean, that’s what’s happening all the time in music. I think it’s actually a great compliment hearing we’ve influenced people in some way. Having said that, I’m not sure that this technical focus is something that we as a band are all about.

It appears that a lot of bands who seem to be influenced by us have a really strong focus on that aspect and are tremendous players, but from our standpoint it was never about that. There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s just something that we never think about. We just play, you know? 

Absolutely.

Regarding new bands and new music, could you perhaps list us some of your favourite new bands that have emerged over the past couple of years? Are there any new acts that you personally enjoy?
The funny thing and maybe the sad thing is that being in this band, we’re pretty slow when it comes to producing stuff and getting albums together. Whenever I go in to writing and recording mode which is like a two, some times two and a half year process for us, I never listen to other metal. Not deliberately, it’s just that basically, I don’t want to listen to any music at all when I’m writing, I just want to focus on my thing. But there is a lot of cool stuff that’s been coming out, though the last band that I thought were really really cool are an older band now, that’s Gojira. I really like them when somebody first played them to me in France, I think back in 2006. So that’s quite a while ago (laughs) but there are a lot of cool bands out there, we’ve been bringing a couple of really cool bands along with us.

I mean we’ve had Animals As Leaders and Intronaut out for this run. The last run we did in the US we had Baroness and Decapitated. These bands have totally different styles but are all really good at what they’re doing. That’s what I think is most important about music, do your own thing, do what you know and do it well, those bands I mentioned definitely do that. There’s tonnes of music out there, people always ask me “Have you heard these guys?” or “What about these guys?” and honestly, I don’t have the time to check it all out (laughs).



[Laughs] Cool! When you’re not writing, do you listen to a lot of different styles of music outside of metal? Because to me, although very heavy and experimental, Meshuggah aren’t necessarily a metal band, you incorporate a lot of varied influences into your sound. Does that come from you yourself enjoying and listening to a lot of styles of music, not just metal?

Definitely. I think that goes for all of us. Actually, none of us listen to metal exclusively. I would say that all of us listen to metal but it’s a pretty small portion or percentage of what we listen to. We all have very different tastes though. The thing is, going back to what I said about bands doing what they do best, I think it’s the same with music in general. I don’t actually think there’s such a thing as a bad genre or a good genre, it’s just bad or good artists. I can listen to a lot of really cool shit that’s totally out of the box and far removed from what we’re doing, but if it’s done the right way with finesse, heart and emotion and is delivered in the proper way, I can listen to a lot of different stuff.

meshuggah interview

You mentioned you were out with Decapitated recently in the states and you’re heading out with them again through Europe next month. How does Europe compare to the rest of the world when it comes to a Meshuggah show?
It’s hard to say. When we go to the US, even though say, San Francisco is different from New York, it’s not as different as Barcelona is to Warsaw. You know what I mean? Because of all the countries, the cultures are divided so the crowds are more noticeably different from country to country than they are when we go from state to state in the US. The same goes for when we go down to Australia for instance, there’s not a big difference between an Adelaide crowd and a Brisbane crowd. Europe is just more diverse.

meshuggah martenDo you have any favourite countries to perform in, any countries that have maybe been particularly good to you over the years?
Yes we have, it’s not really a surprise but we’ve been doing pretty good in the States. We always get a great reception and feel very at home there. We like the crowds. The UK is another place we really enjoy playing. It seems to us that people in the UK are more open to the progressive style we do than some other slightly more conservative countries. Italy’s good to us. Australia’s really good to us, I would also say Holland has been good to us. So we do have a few places that we really enjoy playing. Russia deserves a mention as well.

What can we expect from Meshuggah for the rest of the year and even into next year? Are you still focusing on heavy touring for Koloss?
For this year it’s more touring, like you mentioned we’re going out for this European run, then we’re taking it to the festival circuit. Though I hope and think we’re going to be pretty light on that this year, we’ve been out doing the festivals for five summers in a row so we’re going to ease back a bit this time. Then we’re heading over to Australia again for the second time on this album’s run. I think with a little bit of luck we’ll hit South America before the end of the year. After that I don’t know, we might do a couple of shows here and there but I’m thinking that we might look towards starting a new album.

Thanks! It’s been a pleasure talking!

Meshuggah play the O2 Academy Brixton on 03 May. They’ll be joined by The Devin Townsend Project and Periphery. Tickets are available from www.ticketweb.co.uk.

Check out Thomas’s band Colours to Shame here

Editor of Flush the Fashion and Flush Magazine. I love music, art, film, travel, food, tech and cars. Basically everything this site is about. You can follow me on Twitter HERE or on Instagram HERE

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