INTERVIEWS: Mike Wead
It's not easy to interview a musician from a band (actually two bands at the moment) with which you have read tons of intweriews. Fortunately my interviewee's musical history is pretty impressive, so I decided not to do just another King Diamond/Mercyful Fate interview, but to dig a bit deeper... I hope you will find here some facts you haven't known about so far. Prepare for a long reading and enjoy! :)
JK: Let's start off with some historical questions. You must have answered this one a hundred times, but maybe there's still someone who doesn't know... When did you start playing music? And which band has drawn you to rock or heavy metal?
Mike Wead: As I kid I used to be a drummer and I was probably banging everything ever since I was able to do that, but I started to play drums for real when I was 8 years back in 1975. I turned to playing guitar in 1982, I actually started to play guitar earlier than that, but in 1982, the day after my birthday I bought my first guitar. Until then I only borrowed guitars from friends... The band that influenced me most of all... It was actually two bands. First of all of course Black Sabbath - I bought my first BS album - "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath" in January 1974, but I also enjoyed the old Queen albums, especially "Sheer Heart Attack" - that's still one of my favourite albums.
JK: Do you remember your very first gig as a fan?
MW: No, not really... That was probably some local act from the town where I used to live... It was probably with the guitar player from Candlemass - Lasse Johansson, because he used to be one of my big idols when I was a small kid, you know, he was a very good guitar player even back then and he had a really good band called Atom. I usually tried to go to all their shows in that town. But the first big known concert I was to... I don't remember, probably some old Kiss concert or something like that.
JK: Who were your musical influences at that time? Has anything changed since then?
MW: Yeah, today I listen to a lot more complex music, more like jazz fusion and stuff such as that when I want to listen to musical skills, technical stuff... That's probably the biggest difference. I still listen to the same records like "Sheer Heart Attack" album and the old Black Sabbath ones and I've been listening to those for ages, but also the old Rainbow stuff, the ones with Ronnie James Dio...
JK: Yeah, but I meant mostly the guitar players...
MW: Malmsteen changed my life quite much actually. I mean when he came along I had never ever heard anything like that, so he changed me... One guy who really changed me back in those days was Eddie van Halen. The albums they released in the early '80s , I really liked those, I still do... Pretty much that. And I also like some jazz fusion guitar players a lot.
JK: Are you a self-taught guitar player or do you have a musical education? Did you have any private tutor?
MW: No, as a guitar player I'm self-taught, but I had some classical training in percussion and not just the drum-kit, which is the common thing which you're used to see when you go to see a rock band, but I was taught in playing classical percussion, which are like big timpanies, cymbals and windchimes, whatever you hear in classical music, but I also had some tutoring on the drum-kit as well of course.
JK: What was your parents reaction when you started jamming with your friends? Did they ever try to talk you out of this and insist on you to get some more "serious" occupation when you told them you wanted to be a musician?
MW: Yeah, of course they did! You know, my family and relatives are all based on lawyers, teachers, doctors and stuff like that, very wealthy occupations and of course they were bothered when I wanted to play rock'n'roll guitar. But ever since I started to make money everything was fine. Then all of a sudden they realized that this is also an occupation.
JK: So when was it when you started to make any money out of it?
MW: I don't know...The big money hasn't come yet (laughing), but it was probably back in the old '80s, early '90s I started to see some kind of bigger money.
JK: The first band you recorded an album with was HEXENHAUS... But it rose from the ashes of Manninya Blade...
MW: Yeah... Actually the first album I ever recorded was the "Nightfall" album. But as you might have known the cover doesn't say I was in the band, but that was more of courtesy to the new guitar player, you know, to bring him into the band, because the only thing he played was lead guitar and I played a lot of rhythm guitar, harmony and acoustic guitars and keyboards on that album, so that was actually the first album I recorded... But the first real own album I recorded was the first Hexenhaus album.
JK: And what about MANNINYA BLADE?
MW: Well, that was a band which came from the north of Sweden first and then moved down to Stockholm, but the line-up that the band used to have in the north of Sweden doesn't really have much to do with the thing that turned into Hexenhaus. It was just me, Nicklas Johansson (voc) and Jan Blomqvist (bg).
JK: Would you reveal a couple of facts from the HEXENHAUS history?
MW: Well, we recorded four albums between '88 and '97. We had a lot of different members, I can hardly remember their names... We played with a lot of different bands who became very well known in time. We had some really interesting supporting acts, like Entombed, Meshugga, Count Raven for example...
JK: What was the reaction from fans and magazines to the HEXENHAUS albums?
MW: The reviews were always very good generally and we had some really loyal fans, but the record label didn't do very much for us. We sold a fair amount of the albums, but we never made it really big because of the complexity of the music.
JK: All but the last one were released by Active Records (which is not active anymore, I guess)... Have you ever considered re-releasing them?
MW: No. Short answer, but I don't think that would happen, because we don't own the rights for the music ourselves, I mean, of course I own the right for the songs I wrote, but not for the recording, so we can't re-release them without their consent. You probably could get the last one, the "Dejavoodoo" album, but the others are really hard to get.
JK: What happened to HEXENHAUS? Why did you call it quits after recording "Dejavoodoo"?
MW: I don't know... Maybe "Dejavoodoo" was more kind of a reunion album, because we recorded it years after we did the third one - the "Awakening" album and we actually called it quits after "Awakening" just because everybody was tired of each other. We kind of worked uphill all the time with the record label and we also had some internal personal problems within the band. I wasn't actually in this stuff, but, you know, some other members in the band really couldn't stand each other, so everything was always a mess and we just left that, it was time for us to do something else and then I formed Memento Mori. I was just so fed up with everything, so I decided to do something else instead.
JK: OK, let's hop now to '87 again... You were a member of CANDLEMASS for a short time. Can you tell us something how you joined the band?
MW: Well, I actually didn't know anything about the band at first and then through some kind of mutual friend to the band, I don't remember who it was, but I got to know that they were looking for a new guitar player and that was after the first album, the "Epicus Doomicus Metallicus" and before the "Nightfall" recordings. I just got to know that, so I sent Messiah some tapes with me playing and he liked what he heard, so he played it to Leif (Edling) and he also liked it. And then I just went for an audition, which wasn't really a normal audition, because it was more like a rehearsal or something like that and we just jammed some of their songs and they decided they wanted me in the band.
JK: So why did you leave CANDLEMASS back in '87?
MW: Because I wasn't really satisfied with how things were turning out in the studio with my leads during the "Nightfall" recordings and they weren't really satisfied with my leads either, because they thought my style was too fast for their music and I really didn't want to change my style too much just to be in the band, you know. But these days I know that Messiah thinks that that was actually one of their biggest mistakes not to keep me in the band and that's very nice of him.
JK: However you came back together with two Candlemass musicians years later... In 1993 you formed MEMENTO MORI with Messiah... Which album is your personal fave?
MW: I would say the second one ("Life, Death And Other Morbid Tales"). Most people really like the first one ("Rhymes Of Lunacy") the best, but I must say I like the second one more, because it's very well arranged and much better produced and I think the songs are much heavier than on the first one. I think everything is better - it's better played, better performed than the first one and my lyrics and guitar playing are much better on that one as well - it's just an overall feeling. But I also like the last one ("Songs For The Apocalypse, Vol. 4") - some of the songs on that one I like a lot, too.
JK: You have recorded several covers with MEMENTO MORI. Tell us something about them. Why did you choose those particular songs?
MW: OK, now I just have to try to remember... On the first one we did an old MSG song. I have always been a great fan of Michael Schenker's guitar playing and I think that "Lost Horizons" was a good song for us to play, because it's one of his heavier songs and it also suited Messiah really well.
JK: And there were some more...
MW: Yeah, of course... On second album we did the "16 Tons" track, which is like an old '60s kind of almost country and western rock song or something like that. That one we actually did most out of fun...
JK: It wasn't even mentioned in the booklet...
MW: No, it's more like a secret track or whatever you wanna call it. And on the third album ("La Danse Macabre") we didn't do any covers... Yeah, there is actually one cover there, but it's not a real rock'n'roll cover, it's a piece of classical music by Rachmaninoff from one of his concertos and I will actually redo that one one more time for my solo album.
JK: And on the fourth album there was "Animal Magnetism"...
MW: Yeah, from Scorpions, yeah... I would have preferred to do the song "China White" also by Scorpions, but we talked about it and we decided that it wouldn't fit Messiah's voice to sing that one, but that "Animal Magnetism" song really fits his voice, so we did that one instead, even though I still think that the song "China White" is much more heavy than that one, it's not like the cheesy stuff they do today!
JK: In MEMENTO MORI you were responsible not only for writing music but also lyrics... I was wondering what inspired you to write such dark, depressive stuff... Are they really personal or maybe it's just the way you thought they would fit the music best, you know, doom metal is rather about all but the bright side of life...
MW: Well, I really couldn't say that they're like autobiography stuff in anyway, because if that was a fact, I would probably not be doing this interview today. I would probably be playing my guitar in heaven or maybe somewhere else, I'm pretty sure about that! (laughing) No, it's not about me, but I mean, some of that might be, you know, small fragments in there, maybe I was depressed when I wrote some of the lyric, maybe I wasn't, but it's always easier to write depressed stuff than to write happy stuff, I think. It's always easier to write a sad song than a happy one and to make it feel right. But I mean, I really didn't try to write the lyrics that way to make them fit the music either, it's just the way it turned out... With MM everything was always very natural, just became that way... Maybe the answer is not a really interesting answer, but it's a true one. You know, people maybe thought we were trying to play very slow and very heavy and write depressing lyrics or whatever, but it's just the way it turned out, very natural thing...
JK: What's the status of MEMENTO MORI at the moment? Can we hope for any album in the future?
MW: I don't know. That's the most honest answer I can give to that question, I think. Because we actually wrote some new songs, me and Nikkey Argento - the other guitar player. I think we did 4 or 5 new tracks, maybe half a year ago... at the time when we wrote them I thought they were really, really good, I put them aside for maybe a week or two and I didn't listen to them at all and then I picked up two songs again, listened back to them and I really didn't feel it was up to scratch, you know, with the rest of the material we've done in the past. But still... I know that Messiah is really into doing a new album, that's basically the only thing he talks of every time he calls me nowadays. So maybe, maybe in the future, if I have the time, but I really need to finish off my solo album first - that's my main priority these days when it's not about King Diamond or Mercyful Fate. So when I've done that, I will think it over and consider it, maybe even gather the whole band to find out if there is any kind of interest from the rest of the guys as well, that's very important if we're gonna do it... Time will tell.
JK: Sure. Now, could you tell us how ABSTRAKT ALGEBRA came into existence?
MW: Well, that was mostly Leif Edling's brainchild. He wanted to do something maybe not different, but with different musicians than the Candlemass guys and we put together a band. At first it consisted of me and Leif and a drummer who after a while got replaced by the drummer who's playing on the album (Jejo Perkovic). We rehearsed some songs and tried different kinds of music stuff. It was kind of a long drawn process to put that band and album together.
JK: What was the press and fans reaction to "Abstract Algebra"?
MW: I think it was very good, but the album didn't sell that good at that time, even though we had some really good reviews and some press support as well, but everything just vanished in a way, because Leif couldn't really keep the band together. Everybody left for different reasons to other bands, like the vocalist (Mats Leven) went to Malmsteen's band - Rising Force, I started to play with Mercyful Fate and Simon (Johansson) went to play with Memory Garden. And after that Leif just reformed Candlemass.
JK: I've heard you had some stuff written for a second album. Is it true?
MW: Yeah, there was some stuff, but most of it went to the first album he did under the name Candlemass again - "Dactylis Glomerata". Some of the songs went there and some of the songs we just scrapped, you know, just thrown away, I don't know if Leif will ever use them. I doubt it.
JK: In 1998 you formed HEMISFEAR bringing along some musicians you had already played with...
MW: Yeah... And nothing really happened. We actually recorded a whole album with that band, but this is kind of a long story... The band was formed in 1998 by me and Marco Nicosia - the guitar player from Hexenhaus, Tom Bjorn from Memory Garden and Memento Mori, and Sharlee D'Angelo. And I played some keyboards as well as guitar of course. We tried out some different singers, but we ended up with Kristian Andren who used to be with different bands such as Fifth Reason, Tad Morose and Memento Mori... So we basically recorded the whole album during a long recording session but I had to leave all the time because of my commitments to Mercyful Fate, you know, like the recordings of the "9" album, the tours of US, Europe and South America. I was really, really tired and I really needed to take a break from the music stuff just to refuel, to get my shit together, so I wanted to take a four month break. I talked to the label who was supposed to release the Hemisfear album about that. I actually paid back everything, the record advance I received for the recording costs of the album, I paid it back to them from my own money, I didn't want to feel the pressure from the racord company, you know, it was kind of big cost for me, but it was really a good thing to do, because I could relax. Then, when my batteries were kind of recharged and I was really into recording the album and finishing everything, the record label was not in the business anymore...
JK: Was it Heathendoom?
MW: Heathendoom Records, yeah. Actually named after one of Memento Mori songs. Anyway, the company wasn't in business anymore and after that I totally lost interest in releasing the Hemisfear album and I will probably never release it!
JK: Before I get to Mercyful Fate and King Diamond related questions, I'll dig into your solo carrier further... It's been some two years since we heard the name CATHARSIS...
MW: Yes, it's been two long years. But I've done some other things during those years, I mean of course I've been a part of King Diamond for the last year and a half and we did the "HOG" tour and recorded the "Abigail part II" album. And I also produced some stuff with other bands. I've been writing new songs and I have a lot of them !. It was only supposed to be a mini album at first like maybe 30 minutes, but I think I have at least 1 - 2 hours of music which I have to choose from and record, because with this album I really want to be satisfied. I don't care how long it will take and how much it will cost me, because this is my catharsis from everything and it's really supposed to be a great album, at least in my own taste.
JK: Are you going to record any songs you wrote for Hemisfear under the new name?
MW: I'm thinking of using maybe 1 or 2 tracks from the Hemisfear material. Maybe I'll change it a little to fit it together with my newer stuff. But I have so many songs, so I haven't decided yet. But I will see, whatever will be the best, you know.
JK: Tell us what we can expect from your new stuff... And what's the current line-up?
MW: I always have a hard time talking about my own music. It's so hard to give any kind of objective review or statement on your own music. But it's a bit different than the other stuff I do at the moment. It doesn't sound like Mercyful Fate or King Diamond or Memento Mori. Maybe it's more like a mix of everything put together. There is a lot of guitar playing going on, a lot of riffing and complex stuff, but it's not like very jazzy or anything, it's more thrash oriented. It's probably the most aggressive stuff I've ever done and probably the most complicated at the same time. But there will be something from each style in there and it's really hard to label it. The only thing I can say it won't sound like a new Memento Mori or Hexenhaus album. I think it's going to be very interesting, I hope so at least - that's my goal. And the current line-up is me and guitar and vocals and keyboards and pretty much everything.
JK: Yeah, but who is (will be) in the band?
MW: Me! (laughter) Sharlee D'Angelo on bass guitar... On drums... I really don't know yet.
JK: And who will take over the vocals?
MW: I will do that, myself. I mean, as long as I am satisfied with the vocal performance, I will do it myself.
JK: Do you have any plans for the recording?
MW: Well, I'm writing songs and recording demos all the time. But I really don't have any plans for any recordings so far. I mean, it will take whatever time necesary and the only thing I know is that I'll probably record all the guitar tracks in Andy La Rocque's studio - Los Angered, in Gothenburg, because I like his studio a lot.
JK: Alright, now off to KING DIAMOND and MERCYFUL FATE related questions... Can you recall your first meeting with King?
MW: Yes, I can. It was 1987 in Copenhagen. It was on the "Abigail" tour and Candlemass was there supporting King Diamond and I played in Candlemass at that time, so that was my first person to person meeting, the first time I ever talked to King. And he was very nice, you know, as he always is. We had a chat, not a long one, but we talked for a while... He made a very good impression on me as a person.
JK: How did you take the proposal to join KING DIAMOND on the European "HOG" tour? Was it a quick decision?
MW: Well, yeah, for me it was, but the process to get me into the band was rather long. It didn't start like a real proposal from King at first. It was just me and King, after the New Year's Eve, talking about different things, giving Christmas regards to each other, talking about Christmas presents or whatever. Just normal conversational stuff and we started to talk about their problems with finding a replacement guitar player. And I mentioned to King that if he couldn't find a guitar player, I could do the tour. King knows that he can depend on me, that I would do a good job and I don't make too much trouble on tours. And I told him I was very much into doing the tour and he said "yeah, sure, that would be perfect" and from that point everything started to spin more and more and all of a sudden we were talking about that maybe I should join the band and he said "yeah, that would be the very best thing that could happen". For me it was a quick decision - when they asked if I wanted to be in the band, I said "yes" straight away.
JK: You didn't have too much chance to compose either for MERCYFUL FATE or KING DIAMOND... The only MF song that was ever written by you is "9"... Do you think it's gonna change in the near future?
MW: I don't know. It depends on how the songs will sound in the future. I mean it's more likely that I'll write something more for Mercyful Fate than for King Diamond, because KD is of course King's band and he writes most of the stuff by himself or together with Andy.
JK: How do you build your solos for KD and MF? Do you usually create them over a rhythm track or do you bring your own ideas and present them to to the band before hearing the rhythm track? I mean the songwriting process in bands whose members live so far away from each other must be a bit different than in bands whose members can rehearse on a daily basis... And what's the weight of improvisation in this case?
MW: Well, I usually play over the rhythm tracks, because they are usually written as a part of a song, when it's composed, so it isn't really much room to change anything in the rhythm tracks. Maybe sometimes there is, but not too often, so I just have to work with whatever is there, which is fine to me. I usually do it like this, I improvise a couple of times over the basic rhythm parts and try to get some feeling for whatever is best for the song. I usually talk to King about the vocal lines, how the vocals will end just before the lead and how they will pick up after the lead, because to me it feels like it's really important to know the vocal melodies and sometimes also the lyrics to get kind of general feeling for whatever the song is about. And then I start to build the lead and I usually do "punch ins" and "punch outs" and work my way through the lead from the beginning to the end. And then, when I'm done with that, when the lead is recorded and when we have to do the live versions of it, I just practice and learn my own leads in a way, but I usually know them by that time.
JK: Now a question that must have been asked a million times... Do you think there is any chance for the "Abigail Part II" tour (assuming that recording a new MF album isn't the next step you'll take)?
MW: Well, I really don't know, that's a tricky question, because things are kind of in mid-air at the moment. It's like juggling with balls, you throw balls up in the air and you don't know which one will get down first and to me it really doesn't matter whatever comes first just as long as we're able to do all of it, you know, to both record a new album with Mercyful Fate and to tour with King Diamond. But if you ask me which one is the most likely to happen first, I'd probably guess for a new MF album.
JK: Do you think that another double headlining tour is possible at all? Let's say both King Diamond and Mercyful Fate are signed to one label that is willing to pay enough money... Would King's voice (and your fingers!) say "yes, let's do it!" or would it be too exhausting to repeat what took place in 1997?
MW: I don't know. I mean it's much easier for me to do thing like that, but it's very hard for King to do that, because he must be on stage for maybe 3 hours singing each night. To play guitar 3 hours is nothing... But I don't think it will happen again.
JK: There were plans for releasing a triple live CD and a DVD... but there were many plans. Is it too early to talk about any official home video or DVD when you haven't got a record deal yet?
MW: Yeah, maybe it's too early... The only answer I can give to that question is at least at the moment all those plans are put aside. We'll just have to wait.
JK: What's your opinion about bootlegs? As far as I know, you are a collector yourself...
MW: Yeah. I really don't care about the business side of bootlegs, because Live-bootlegs are always very limited in pressings, it's always very few copies made and there is not whole lot of money in it. I mean the band doesn't loose that much money and the guys who make the bootlegs don't make a lot of money either. But that's just a personal opinion of mine. Bootlegs can be really bad especially if they're made from original albums, because that will draw some money away from the band. That's not just bootlegs, that's actually piracy and it's close to stealing. But if it's a concert then it's a different thing, because usually the guys and girls who buy bootleg records from the shows already have all the original albums. I collect live bootlegs myself, so I really can't speak against those. But I know there are some persons in business who don't like those either.
JK: Probably a lot of your shows were recorded from the soundboard... If a minor distributor asked you for some live material, offering to share the profits with you, would you agree to give him some recordings to put on disc?
MW: No, I would not. I have some original DAT tapes with Mercyful Fate shows and it's actually not that many shows recorded. I have maybe 10 or 12...since '96. So most of the bootlegs you find out there aren't soundboard recordings. They're usually made by small bad tape recorders or mini-disc players...
JK: What's your opinion about the Roadrunner KD and MF remasters? Do you prefer the old or the new versions as far as the layout is concerned?
MW: I think they did a good job with all the bonus pictures, the small stories around everything and stuff. Very nice package, but that's as far as the layout itself. I like those remasters a lot, especially "Don't Break The Oath" - I think the remastered sound on that one is much better than the original Roadrunner CD, because I've got them both and I've compared them to each other. I'm not sure about all the King Diamond remasters, bacause I don't have all of those.
JK: Yeah, the stories are really great, and I like all the King Diamond remasters a lot, but I can't say that about the MF ones, because in my opinion someone messed too much around the pictures - all those computer effects look just cheap and take away some atmosphere...
MW: I haven't thought about this like that. I've just read the words and I like them. There is some really cool stuff about the past there, you know, when King talks about the recordings and tours, the old BBC tapes, and when they all went with those really small cars or busses and had their guitars in their laps, just all crammed up...
JK: There have been 2 King Diamond and 2 Mercyful Fate tribute albums. Have you heard all of them? What do you think of those cover versions?
MW: I have the Polish one - "The Unholy Sounds Of The Demon Bells", because I contributed with one song myself - the "Black Funeral"cover. It's really hard to talk about favourite songs, when they are cover tribute versions. But on the other one... you know, I don't remember the name, it was probably the French one...
JK: It didn't have any special title, it was on Listenable Records...
MW: Yeah, I don't have that one myself, but I've heard it a couple of times. There is some good stuff on it, but mostly it isn't good. I like the Snowy Shaw version of "Evil", because it's so totally different from the original. I think there was a good version of "The Dangerous Meeting" done by Gardenian, I think, on that French one. It was a really cool... I think that's the best one except for Snowy's efforts.
JK: Yeah, and there were 2 KD tribute albums, one of them was on Necropolis, the other - "Church Of Satan" - on Dwell Records...
MW: Maybe, I haven't heard either of them. I haven't heard a single song, so it's hard to say...
JK: OK, now a couple of more general questions... Mike Wead is not your birth name, but you've been known under it for many years. When did you decide to leave your real surname and why did you choose "Wead"?
MW: It's a very long story, you know, it was probably because of this guy Lasse Johansson, the lead guitar player of Candlemass these days. He had a band called Wead (or "Weed") and I used to follow them to different concerts and different festivals and stuff like that, because I was very much influenced by his guitar playing when I was younger. And I met some people and they didn't know my name, but they knew I was a friend of that band. They called me Mike, but they didn't know my last name, so it was like Mike, you know, the guy who's with Wead and it stayed like Mike Wead. So it was kind of a weird story, but that was actually the way it happened. It was just a nickname for me and when I decided that I really wanted to get some "artist name" or whatever, I thought it sounded cool, it got some narcotic references to it, but it's not the case. It's actually not a common American or English name, but there are some guys who have that name, I know that.
JK: What kind of guitars do you use and why do you prefer that particular type?
MW: I used to play Schecter guitars, the C-7, seven string guitars, but the necks were too wide for my hands, because I've got small hands in a way. My hands are wide, but fingers are short, so it started to hurt my hands when I played a lot of stuff, especially my own solo work, because the guitar work on that album is much more advanced than anything else I've done in the past, so I had to do some weird stretches with my left hand and it started to hurt so bad that at a certain point I couldn't even take normal chords. My fingers hurt so much I couldn't press the strings at all and I got really terrified at first, because I thought that something was wrong with my hand and I wouldn't be able to play anymore. It was very, very painful, so I decided to leave the seven strings guitars to see if it would change, because I had this kind of a suspiction that it might be because of the wide neck. So I went back to the old six string electric guitar again and the pain just disappeared straight away. I will probably use some seven string guitar in the future as well, but not as much as I've done in the past, just because of that pain, I don't wanna have that again, so I usually play my old ESP Custom Strats. It's not a guitar you can buy in any store, because it's made from separately bought ESP guitar parts and then put together by a guy here in Stockholm, so they're kind of specially built for me. Really nice guitars. Expensive as hell, but worth every penny.
JK: Do you remember your very first guitar?
MW: Probably some crappy Fender copy or something...
JK: How many hours a day do you usually practice?
MW: Well, theses days I don't practice too much because of different things going on, you know (laughter). I mean, it really depends, I am always working with music and it depends on what you call practice, because I usually play a lot of guitar, but sometimes I'm only just jamming by myself and not really practicing. But let's say, maybe something between... when I'm really active playing guitar - 1 to 4 hours each day, but it's very up and down. Some days it's much more than 4 hours and once in a while it's less than 1 hour as well. When I'm in the recording mode or the recording situation or rehearsing for something, then I play probably all day, all the time. It differs a bit depending on the situation, but let's say 1 to 3 hours usually.
JK: You are also a producer and sound engineer... What other recording stuff do you use?
MW: It depends on the situation as well, because I usually use different studios for different projects. The last professional stuff, I mean the last record I produced and engineered was the Meduza record which is entitled "Now And Forever". It's going to be out on EMI-Toshiba in Japan and Massacre Records here in Europe. We mixed it in Andy's studio, but we also recorded one bonus track with my own gear at my own place. And I usually use just PCs and Protools, and some different recording programs. When I'm working in the PC environment I prefer Protools. I think it's a very good system.
JK: You have worked with a lot of bands. Would you name just a few?
MW: Yeah... Meduza is one. I worked a lot with Memory Garden, I like their records a lot actually, it's a really heavy band, I worked with some unknown bands as well, some rock bands from Stockholm, black metal bands, thrash and speed metal bands from here...
JK: Being around the industry for as long as you have, you must have watched it change. What are the main differences between the '80s, '90s and the nowadays scene?
MW: It's much easier to get a record deal these days, because there are many more smaller companies. If you're a really small band it's easy to get a record deal. Back in the '80s it was kind of a big thing if you got a record deal. Today it's not. And it's much easier today also to distribute your own music because of the Internet. You've got lots of different sites distributing music such as the Mp3.com where you can put your demos or records out on the 'net, so people can download it. So that's a good thing... Musically everything has changed, too. It's been changed over the years and will keep on forever changing. The music has become much harder of course. Much more aggressive than it was back in the '80s. Back then the hardest stuff you could get was Slayer and Metallica and maybe Mercyful Fate to a point and some other bands like Destruction and stuff like that. With today's standards it's nothing. I remember the first time I've ever heard the Metallica album "Ride The Lightning" with "Fight Fire With Fire". I thought it was really fast and aggressive song. I mean, if I listen to it today and compare it to some of the other stuff out there today, it's nothing, it's like a rock ballad almost, even though I still think it's a good song. So the attitude in the music has changed a lot, too. But the business side... I mean, there's a lot more record companies these days and it's not easy to sell many records today either, because there's so many records coming out all the time. Back in the '80s it wasn't that many releases... That's a big difference.
JK: The Swedish metal scene has been one of the stronger, if not the strongest one for many years in my opinion. Sometimes I've got the feeling it's like some big family...
MW: It's such a small country, that's the thing, so everybody knows each other, I guess, and people are playing everywhere, you know. If you search really hard between all the bands, the connections between all the bands, probably everybody's got some connection to each other, maybe just far away. We have had many good bands and still we have some really good bands coming from Sweden. As I see it now it's not like it's on a downhill or anything and I think Sweden will stay in this position as - at least to me and my taste - one of the leading countries. And that's not just because I'm Swedish I say that, because it has nothing to do with that. It's just because I hear so many good Swedish bands, I like so many Swedish bands too, like Messuggah, Opeth, The Haunted, Arch Enemy, Witchery etc etc... There are so many really good bands of different styles.
JK: When you compose, do you usually do it thinking of a particular band or do you just write/play and then decide whether and where you're gonna use those tunes?
MW: I usually compose for whatever purpose. If I'm about to do a new Memento Mori album, I would try to keep my thoughts and my music aimed towards the MM thing, not to make it to confusing for myself, I even try to make it stick within the same kind of style, not to get too far away from whatever band it is. But sometimes I just compose stuff as well just for the sake of it, because I really enjoy writing songs and then it might turn out to be whatever, you know, weird thing.
JK: What gives you more joy: composing and working in studio or playing live?
MW: Two different things... they're so different from each other. It's good and bad sides to everything. I really do love to compose and record stuff, but there is a back side to that too, it's very tedious and everything takes a lot of time, you know, it's very time-consuming and sometimes it's really frustrating, because it feels like you're never getting done with anything and all of a sudden you're done, but you don't feel that in the middle of the sessions. Playing live... it's really cool to be able to perform music in front of people and meet very nice people on tour. But it's a back side to that too, you spend a lot of time away from home and from your friends and family and it's a lot of hard work being on tour too, because it's just maybe 2 hours on stage and the rest is like boring travelling and hotel rooms...
JK: Do you prefer stadiums or small clubs?
MW: It's also different, it's two sides to it too, but I would prefer mid-size clubs, I think it's my taste, where you can play to a lot of people, but you still have contact with the people, because when you play arenas and stadiums, the audience is always very far away because of all the security stuff and you don't have the same contact as you have when you play in a small club, but the mid-size clubs are the best I think, capacity from maybe a 1000 to 2000 people, that's really good, because there's still a lot of contact with the crowd. That's probably what I like most.
JK: Could you share some interesting stories from the life on the road? Any funny events or maybe some disasters?
MW: Well, I'm always getting sick on tours, especially when it's wintertime tours, because you're constantly moving from very warm and hot places like the stage or the backstage area to very cold ones and that's not really good for your health and that's not funny at all. But any real disasters...? On the "9" tour we were actually involved in kind of a car accident with the bus. It wasn't a severe car accident, because we were only involved in like a third part of the accident, I think it was somewhere around Oklahoma city... We were riding really early in the morning and pretty much everyone was asleep in their bunks, it was maybe 8 o'clock and we had an all-night drive and there was a big semi-truck that got hit by a small pick-up in front of us, so it was bouncing on the freeway and struck our bus so bad it almost tilted over, but then it went back on the wheels again. It was really scary, because I woke up when we were hit and we were hit at the same side as I was sleeping! Of course we stopped right away and King came running from the back launch and we went outside to look what happened. All the side of our bus was badly scratched and dented. So we had to stay somewhere for maybe 4-5 hours to fix the bus. It was a lucky shot that that nobody got injured and even the guy in the pick-up wasn't badly injured either, but that was really close to being a real disaster. But there have been so many cool and funny things... We have had a lot of nice parties and met nice people, like the Nevermore guys. We played this festival together with Nevermore and Metal Church and some other bands. There was a lot of free booze and beers, everybody was really happy, it was like one big family, especially with the Nevermore guys, because they're such great guys! That was the night before we played Wacken Open Air in '99, so the night after, when we had to play, my head wasn't in the best shape! I was really hungover and I mean that wasn't funny, that was close to disaster, but the night before with the aftershow party was really nice! Stuff like that happens once in a while, it's not really often. And we also get to see some very nice places on tour... When we did the second South American tour with Mercyful Fate, we had a lot of free time in Brazil so we could do some actual tourism, we went to see the Statue of Christ among other things, it was cool, we had a really good time.
JK: What was the most peculiar request that you heard from a fan?
MW: Hmmm... I know that King once signed a guy's leg at a show. And the night after that or maybe a couple of nights, the guy came back again and showed us his leg and then he had made a tatoo out of King's handwriting, so he actually has King's autograph on his leg, which was kind of an odd request, but it was cool.
JK: Have you ever thought what would you do for living if you didn't become a musician and sound engineer?
MW: I would probably have become a cook, because I enjoy making food and I actually went to school for a while learning to cook, so that would probably have been my profession, but I'm happy it didn't happen, because then I would probably have been much fatter than I am today, so... (laughing). Because I like good food... especially ice-cream!
JK: Yeah, I've noticed (laughing)! OK, let's say you're sent to a desert island... What would you bring with yourself?
MW: A boat to go back!
JK: That's good, yeah, but let's say you're not allowed to bring a boat with yourself, you're just sent there, but you have the opportunity to choose...
MW: Just one thing?
JK: Well, maybe not just one... A couple of things...
MW: That's a tricky question... I really don't know. I mean, there's so many practical things you really want to bring, like matches and stuff like that... Knives of course... Cigarettes, yeah, that's very practical to have (laughing)! No, but if you put the practical stuff aside and just go for whatever, you know, more interesting stuff, it would be easy for me to say: a guitar, an acoustic guitar, because I guess there wouldn't be any electricity on a deserted island...
JK: But if it was and you were allowed to bring some albums, CDs with you, which ones would you choose?
MW: Oh, that's really hard... Hmmm, probably a little bit of everything, some jazz-fusion records, probably some kind of classical records and maybe a pop record, blues stuff... And from the harder stuff, I would probably bring some old '70s hard rock, maybe some old Rainbow stuff... And some newer, more aggressive stuff like "Destroy, Erase, Improve" from Meshuggah, Opeth "Blackwater Park" and some Swedish albums like the LOK albums, that's pretty much it. Maybe I would bring some of the older Mercyful Fate albums like "Don't Break The Oath" and King Diamond "Them". Might sound a bit silly, but I still listen to those albums, so why not...?
JK: What do you think about the Internet?
MW: I think it's a very good thing on one hand and on the other hand it's a very bad thing. Because you can do very good things with the Internet. I learn a lot from the Internet about different recording techniques and stuff like that and you can keep up to date with whatever you're interested in, video games or sports or bands... But on the other hand it's also very bad, because it's really easy for people to distribute bad things like child pornography, which is something I very much despise. I'm not against pornography in any form as long as it's made without threats or any violence. If women or men like to show their bodies in pictures whether it's like in sexual situation or if it's just posing pictures, that's fine with me - as far as it's done with consent from all parties involved. But child molestation makes me just sick. And the Internet can be used for distributing other things like racist propaganda and even really bad stuff like how to make bombs and such and it's too easy for kids to find it. It's very easy to find wierd things on the Internet... And it's also a place for rumours and a lot of bullshit and that's a bad thing.
JK: You're wearing a cross around your neck... What's our opinion about religion(s)?
MW: I really don't support any religion myself. I don't think I'm an atheist either, I don't know what I am... I am not a satanist, not a christian, but... I think, you're kind of your own god in a way, maybe... Because you create your own life, I mean, at least to a certain point you do and you can change very much just by believing in yourself and believing in others and stick to that faith... But on the other hand, there might be something else somewhere, but I'm not sure anything is in control of our destiny, over our lives... The cross is not a symbol for Christianity for me, neither anything else. It's more a symbol of faith, like faith in something, you know, yourself, your friends... But I'm not religious in any way like that.
JK: Do you believe in the supernatural, reincarnation and stuff like that?
MW: Yeah, maybe... I don't know. I really don't believe in it like I think it's something that really happens, but it's really hard to say it's not, you know and if it happens, I'm not sure if it's like a religious thing... It's a tricky question... It doesn't necessarily have to do with religion, it might be something else... If we really are reborn in one way or another, it might not be because there's a guy up there with a big white beard who decides about that... It might just be the way of the Universe or whatever you wanna call it, the way of things... But no one can answer that...
JK: Are you a bit superstitious?
MW: No, not really...
JK: OK. now a couple of short questions... What are your favourite books?
MW: Usually Swedish detective novels. I like those a lot, because I know this town the best. I have a very good knowledge about the streets of Stockholm and when they name a street I can imagine what's going on and I know how the street looks and so on. But I also read everything from the author Douglas Adams, the guy who wrote "The Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy". I love his books, they're really funny and intelligent.
JK: Your favourite movies...
MW: That's a hard one... When I was younger I used to really love what I used to call "rubber monster movies", like cheesy American movies with a lot of splattering blood and stuff like that, you know, ordinary horror movies. But these days I'm more into different stuff as well. Everything that's well written and well performed and well directed... Actually pretty much everything from Steven Spielberg, I mean, he's done so many good movies like "Forrest Gump" and "Schindler's List" which are more mature movies.
JK: Your favourite food and drinks...
MW: The drink - that's really easy: orange juice and beer. And water. I can have a drink once in a while, like a cocktail, but I don't drink hard liquour anymore, except for maybe a cognac with some coffee and some very nice chocolate to it. Favourite food... that differs a lot, it depends on the mood. I like Italian food and I like Chinese food a lot. But if I had to choose one, I would go for the Italian food.
JK: The things you hate...
MW: Dishonest people. I just don't mean lying people, but also false people who are pretending to be something they're not... And I don't like people who hurt other people, like child molestors... I don't like people who are kicking on defensless things, whatever it is, a child or animal... That makes me sick! And I really don't like how things sometimes are run in society, whatever happens in society. Like here in Sweden we have some problems with racism. It's growing bigger and bigger and at least in my opinion the government is doing everything wrong to prevent it. I don't want to get too political about it, but it's one thing I don't like.
JK: 3 adjectives to describe yourself...
MW: Honest. Impatient. Creative. I think... Yeah, that's both good and bad stuff in them.
JK: The worst thing about you...
MW: I don't know... It's hard to tell. I smoke - that's a bad habit at least. I don't know if it's the worst thing...
JK: Your biggest dream...
MW: I really don't know what my biggest dreams are... Living a good life, you know, the usual stuff, money and love and health of course. But that might be everybody's dream. So I really don't have a big dream, because it's not like I'm dreaming about joining Metallica or Kiss or anything like that, to be in the biggest band - I left all those dreams behind, because I'm really happy with the situation I'm in right now, doing own stuff on the side and having Mercyful Fate and King Diamond as priority bands. Just usual stuff, you know, I'm an ordinary man, a simple man...
JK: Your biggest fear...
MW: I don't know... My biggest fear is probably to be left behind and to become alone, not like spending time alone by myself, but being left behind by friends and live in solitude, that's something that scares me very much.
JK: Now give your comments on the following:
- Halford: Metal God,
- Manowar: baby oil,
- Celtic Frost: old school,
- Witch: (confusion) old sins,
- Dio: the Voice,
- Venom: black metal,
- Nevermore: good friends,
- Bathory: not my cup of tea,
- Ozzy: Black Sabbath,
- Metallica: pioneers,
- So called nu-metal: I don't know what it is...
JK: Is there anything you would like to add?
MW: Keep your faith in both King Diamond and Mercyful Fate, especially these times, when everything is kind of slow and quiet. I mean, things are happening all the time. Stick to the faith, because that's not the end of either KD or MF. I'd like to send a big thanks to all the guys out there, like Tasos at the U.B.B. and the Greek Coven and Renzo at the Coven Worldwide for doing all the great things they're doing without getting anything out of it, you know, like money or anything, so they're just doing it because of their love for the music of these two bands. And that's a fucking great thing that deserves all the respect we can give them. Also big thanks to all the fans for their faith in these two bands!
Stay in the shadows...!
Stockholm, June 4th 2002
Copyright by: Jowita Kaminska