2013, Features, Interviews — September 15, 2013 at 1:41 pm

Marten Hagstrom of Meshuggah


“If you’re uncomfortable when you’re challenged by listening to something, if you want to listen to stuff that is something that your ear is always accustomed to hearing, you won’t like Meshuggah, and that’s the point, that’s why we sound like we do.”

From tour release: Nothing feels safe when you’re listening to Meshuggah. Meshuggah’s dense, polyrhythmic roar elevates tech-metal artisanship to such insane heights; they often build new ceilings just to smash through them. They have forged their own path and are one of those rare bands you just have to hear to believe. This is nowhere more evident than on their latest album Koloss

Ahead of their Australian tour which starts this week , we chatted to Marten from Meshuggah about the dates with Lamb of God, new music, many stringed guitars and their devoted fan base…

The last time you were in Australia was for Soundwave in 2012, now coming back with Lamb of God, what can fans expect at these upcoming shows?
I mean we’ve been out now for a year and half supporting our latest album ‘Koloss’ and the things is that it’s going to be the first time, even though we were there at the Soundwave, this is going to be the first time we are bringing the whole ‘Koloss’ production and the setlist that we have been doing for a while an it’s just going to feel nice. We were thinking, we’ve done two Soundwaves and it’s been a while since we did a proper club tour down under and when the option came to go as a co headline with Lamb of God it was kind of a no brainer. So what you can expect is an hour and a half of the best we can bring to date *laughs*

Although you were both on the Soundwave bill in 2012, have you toured with Lamb of God before?
No, never. But the first time we played with them at the festivals was in ’98 at the Milwaukee Metal Fest, so they’ve been around for a lone time, we’ve been around for a long time, we’ve bumped into each other on the road, they’re a good band and they’re nice guys so it’s going to be a great tour. The suggestion for us pairing up together for a real tour properly has come up before but it’s either been bad timing for us or bad timing for them, so it’s kind of nice to be going down now.

Koloss has been out for 18 months or so now, it’ll be your first time after its release that you’ll be here playing it, are you still excited playing these songs?
Yeah, the thing is, for every album when it comes out it takes a while to adjust playing the new stuff, then it settles in and you get comfortable with it. The feeling we have towards the material off the new album is that we were really happy with how it transmits over to the live environment, and we have tweaked our live show and we’re stepping things up a notch and we’re a better band than we used to be. The variety that the new songs that we put in the set list when we were putting the show together makes it for a more interesting show than ever before I guess. It’s still fun.

If you look back at Destroy Erase Improve, What do you feel you’re able to do now that you weren’t able to do back then?
*laughs* Well to be totally honest, that’s too long ago *laughs* I don’t even remember, that was in ’95 *laughs* well there’s a lot of things we can do now that we couldn’t do back then, apart from being in a different stage in our careers, and apart from being more experienced in general and trying stuff out, there’s more stuff accessible to us and we’re more used to being in the studio. I think the biggest change is how we approach what we’re doing, back then we were young guys and we were still chomping at the bit, there was all energy and the only thing we were really looking for was to get it out of our system, and I hate to say it but it’s the truth *laughs* we’re more mature now, we know more when we start writing an album, maybe what we’ve been lacking before, and we didn’t have that consciousness in our music back then when we did ‘Destroy Erase Improve’, back then it was still a search in finding our true identity, so now we may know more of what our identity is and we’re focusing more on how to explore it in the best way possible.

Obviously over time, technology has changed also, so do you feel that you can do musically now that you may not have been able to do back then that has helped shape the Meshuggah sound?
Well, we’ve always been working this way, the thing is if you look at the way we write music, that’s the biggest difference. Yes of course we’ve got better guitars and cooler amps and we travel more lightly and all that, that’s actually just something that brings quality to the production. What really helped us with technology through the years was that we had to deal with a drum machine and a 4 track back in the day and ping pong, pro-tools and so many steps and so much time to achieve so little you know? Now days with the computers and us writing music the way we do with Q Base and using programmed drums to send to each other to show our ideas, that’s helped tremendously. We couldn’t work at the pace we do now and with the precision we do now unless we portray our ideas to each other that way. Sometimes they are pretty close as to what it sounds like on the finished album, so now we are more representative of what we actually want, it’s more true to the idea. Technology has made it easier for us to do that, especially computers and we work it through properly and have the time to do it to get your ideas across.

I know your guitars have evolved and strings just seem to keep being added, are you currently using any new gear?
*laughs* yeah, well, we’re still working away at those eight strings that we’ve got. Me and Fredrik have released a signature series that was an exclusive and pretty limited run of replicas of our guitars, and now we are actually just about to launch what is called the M8M and it’s still expensive but it’s a more affordable version of our eight strings signature series. We’ve been trying to develop those guitars as is, so we’re not interested in adding any more strings *laughs* or anything like that. We’re running through our Ibanez custom guitars and then we’re running to the axes that we use for stage and that’s it, we have a pretty light rig, and it’s not like we’re in the works of coming up with new stuff, stuff like that usually happens by chance, we’re going to be sticking to what we’ve got, for the next record at least.

So the 14 string will come on the following albums?
*laughs* exactly…

Have you already been working on new material?
Nope, the way things have been working, well always, especially the last couple of albums, we never write on tour, well aside from the odd riff here and there, we basically never write on the road. We’ll finish the touring cycle and in this case that’ll be in India at the end of November which will be the last show for this album as far as we know, then we’re going to go into writing mode as far as I know. There are a couple of left over riffs here and there from the Koloss making, and that’s always the case that there are some left over here and there, but we use those more to get our asses going again, you look at them more of where you left off and then you start anew. Most of the time those leftovers never make it to the new album, but are a good way to build and start something new, hopefully come December / January, we’re going to start writing.

Do you have a plan or idea of when you’d want to release something or has that not even been thought of as such?
That’s a long way of, but knowing how we usually go about things, say we start writing in January, it’s going to be at least two years before the album hits and that’s in a perfect world, so in a little more than two years time I would say.

In the band for over twenty years now, has there been a moment that stands out for you as unbeatable?
No, if I had been asked that question a long time again then maybe, but as you said, we’ve been around for a fucking long time and it’d be old news now. We know that there’s been a lot of peaks and a lot of downs too you know *laughs* like you said, it’s like twenty years. I’ll always say, and this is a boring answer, but I hope that the peak is still to come in the future. I don’t know, there’s been a lot of cool moments, not a single one stands out right now.

Well that’s good though that there’s more than one…
Yeah, it would be a shame if there was only one over twenty years *laughs* that’d be a pretty lousy pay off…

As far as a fan base goes, what do you think it is about the music of Meshuggah that sets people off?
I have no clue. What I hope or what we hope is that there a number of things that set people off, the combination of giving something to them, in twenty ears talking to a lot of fans, and maybe this is the way that it is for most bands, I don’t know, but what amazes me is that one day a guy can come up and talk technical, musical aspects of our music for hours and that’s what is intriguing to him, the mechanics of what we do and how it plays out in musical theory. Then the day after you’re meeting a guy that the only thing he loves is to get into the pit and get bloody and to bleed which is kind of a different approach, I would say we attract a fairly wide variety of personalities but the only common denominator they have I think is a genuine passion for music. If you’re uncomfortable when you’re challenged by listening to something, if you want to listen to stuff that is something that your ear is always accustomed to hearing, you won’t like Meshuggah, and that’s the point, that’s why we sound like we do. It’s kind of demanding something out of the listener, and people who like that experience, like to be dumbfounded and maybe sit and have to figure out what this thing they’re hearing is all about, those are the people we attract, regardless of what genre they come from also.

What about the Australian fans, how do they compare to those around the world?
Well, the thing is that we’ve been doing really good down under, the first time we came down and headlined a club tour we were blown away as we had no idea that people were into us in that way down in Australia, so for us, Australia is a good market. I would say that Australian crowds are really appreciative, and we like playing in Australia because it’s always really intense, and the crowds, they are really knowledgeable about our stuff, they know our music and you can tell when you’re playing in front of a crowd who maybe goes to shows for going to the show. Not always going to see their favourite band, the go to metal shows, that’s what they do, and a lot of people for instance do that in the states. It feels like when we play to a crowd in Australia that they really know our stuff, know what I’m saying? So, it’s an appreciative crowd and we love that.

So do you have a great memory of a previous Australian visit that you can share with us?
I think, even though we haven’t been a lot to Australia, there’s been quite a few good moments, but I’ll say that for us, the first tour we did, because playing the festivals on soundwaves are excellent, it’s great, apart from the heat but it’s great fun and just like a giant party. But the first time we came down there and I think the first show was in Brisbane and I think it was sold out, or maybe it was Sydney and we thought, ok this is weird, we’re not supposed to be selling out this type of club down here, and going on stage for the first time and getting the reception that we did, that kind of set the standard for Australia for us, so we always kind of have really high expectations for Australia *laughs*

Well, you are coming with Lamb of God, so I think we’ll get one hell of a show…
*laughs* yeah, I think it’s going to be pretty intense…

Essential Information

From: Stockholm, Sweden

Band members:  Jens Kidman – Vocals, Fredrik Thordendal – Guitars, Mårten Hagström – Guitars, Tomas Haake – Drums, Dick Lövgren – Bass

Website:  http://www.meshuggah.net

Latest Release: Koloss (Nuclear Blast)

Catch Meshuggah and Lamb of God on tour in Australia this September at the following dates:


SATURDAY 21 SEPTEMBER                 

MELBOURNE, FESTIVAL HALL – Licensed and Unlicensed areas available


THURSDAY 26 SEPTEMBER                 

Presented by Soundwave Touring.


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