I already told you how much I like Mustasch and how they’ve come out with a great new album. (Read it here ). Just to make it better, we decided to have a little chat with one of the Mustasch guys and ask him a few questions. Mustasch is Ralf Gyllenhammar (Vocals, Guitars), Hannes Hansson(Rhythm Guitars), Mats Hansson(Drums) and Mats Johansson(Bass). Say hi to the bassman aka Stam, mofos.
kvltblog: Hey Stam, thanks for hooking up with us for this intie. How’s it going?
Stam: Just fine, thanks. Sitting with my morning coffee, listening to Fu Manchu’s latest album. They’re some riffers, those guys!
kvltblog: I know the band was formed in ’97 and named after Mustasch Farm where the first demo was recorded. But tell us the details. How did you guys hook up, what were you doing before that and what happened in the 3 years till the release of that first EP in 2001? Any recorded material available from the Grindstone era? Give us the gossip.
Stam: Almost true. Me, Hannes and Ralf met the first time when we were 18 years old, and even if we started jamming shortly after that, we didn’t form the band “Grindstone” until about ’91. This band was a doomed band right from the start, and a few years later the lead guitarist threw himself in front of a subway train, and about a year after that the drummer died from an overdose of GHB. We tried another guitarist and drummer (actuaööy Mats “Dojan” Hansson), but the spark of the band was already dead, so we all went on our separate ways for a couple of years. So in ’97 Hannes and Ralf started the band Mustasch, and we rehearsed the first time on X-mas day. This, though, was with Per Helm on drums (former bass player of Union Carbide Productions), who left the band after about a month already, and was replaced by “Dojan” in early ’98. That was the actual starting point of today’s Mustasch. Hannes purchased the farm on the island Orust, where also “Dojan” moved to shortly after, and we started recording demos and playing live in Sweden.In 2000 we managed to have both EMI Music Sweden and Music For Nations racing each other to sign a deal with us, and the obvious choice was EMI, because of the close-by location in Stockholm.
kvltblog: Deep Purple, Rainbow, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Queen, Kyuss, Beatles, Monster Magnet, AC/DC, Soundgarden and David Bowie. Just some of the favourite bands of various band members. Got to love them all Stam. Who are your favourite/most influential bass players and what bands are your collective influences as a unit?
Stam: Roger Waters and Geezer Butler. I think, if they would have switched bands with each other, they might have played/sounded quite similar. But as for plain rock’n'roll bass, it’s Trevor Bolder of David Bowie. Our common factors as a band are Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd, Monster Magnet and Soundgarden.
kvltblog: You guys seem very prolific. After those demos, you’ve released 4 full lengths and 2 EP/MCDs and it’s just the 7th year running. How does the band function? What is the regular schedule of the band like? When do you guys decide to tour, record, chill out etc.,?
Stam: We have no regular schedule at all, but we always seem to start working on the next album during the soundchecks of the current album tour, and when we get home, we continue the work in the rehearsal studio. “My Disorder” from “Parasite!” 2006, for example, is one of those soundcheck-songs. But the festivals in Sweden are mostly in the summer, so we try to do our recordings during winter. Chill out time is a luxury that we have to adjust to whatever stuff the band is up to.
kvltblog: And how do you guys manage to stick with each other for so long?
Stam: Generally we don’t socialize internally in the band any longer. Just occasionally. Not because we don’t like each other, but because we spend so much time together already on the road and such. It’s a matter of self-preservation of the band.
k: Is Mustasch your full-time occupation?S: We cannot at the moment live entirely off Mustasch, so Hannes works as a carpenter at the Gothenburg Opera, Dojan is a personal assistant to mentally challenged kids, Ralf is at the moment host for a small TV program, and I do websites and work part time at a restaurant.
k: Let’s get to how the songs are written. Great drumming by the way…very musical and makes you guys groovy as fuck too. Mats has to be playing an essential role in the songwriting process and not just the guy providing the beat I bet?
S: Ralf does 95% of the songwriting, and most of the time he brings in a riff/verse and a chorus, and then we all arrange it together. Putting the Mustasch touch onto it, so to speak. And once in a while, Ralf has a complete song ready for us, with basically all the bass lines, drum beats and guitar licks, and we just adapt them to our personal playing style. (example: “Parasite” from “Parasite!” 2006) Dojan is not really involved in the initial songwriting, although he several times has made drum patterns which has become the foundation for a coming song. (example: “Dogwash” from “Powerhouse” 2005) But he is quite active in the editing and mixing sessions in the studio, which is the last part in completing a song.
k: Just curious, how schooled are you guys with your respective instruments? The music is catchy but not always simple. There’s a lot of cool intricate parts and changes going on.
S: Ralf took piano lessons for a few years as a kid, that’s it. We all learned our instruments ourselves. Trial and error, you know.
k: What is your approach to bass playing Stam? And what are the first bunch of songs (covers) you learnt to play?
S: I’ve tried to remember some covers from when I started to play bass, but I can’t. I started playing 20 years ago, and got in a band right away, so I guess I started with our own songs. When I’m not playing the same as the guitar riffs in Mustasch, I try to be a link between the drum rhythm and the guitars, sort of helping the drums to work with the guitars. I also like to add an occasional harmony to the present ones in some songs, and sometimes just roughen things up, like in the choruses of “The Heckler”.
k: ‘The Latest Version Of The Truth’ is brilliant. It’s probably unfair to the earlier albums because both the songs and the production are hands down the best so far. Throughout your discography, there is a definite evolution but this album is definitely the peak of it all.
S: Thanks a lot!
k: How different was the writing and recording process on this one?
S: The writing process was the same as always, but the recording was another matter. Our new label Regain Records didn’t need to hear a pre-production demo, so we practically made our own luxurious demo in the studio. Then, when we got the “feel” of the songs, we re-recorded the parts that wasn’t good enough. I, for instance, recorded every bass line at least twice. The vocals were also all written in the studio. At first this was all a bit nervous not knowing which form the songs would take, but eventually we all got convinced that we were going in the right direction.
k: Nice and warm production. It’s not clean, compressed and mechanical sounding like a lot of modern
S: Credits here to Tobias Lindell! He was our producer on “Parasite!” 2006, and he was the obvious choice for this album as well.
k: Also, drums are mixed brilliantly too. Did you have any reference points for the tone/sounds?
S: I have no idea of how Tobias mixed the drums, who’s home studio is Bohus Sound by the way. All I know is that soundchecking the drums took him less than 20 minutes(!). Although, I do know Tobias wanted a drier sound on the drums in the mix, but Dojan fought for his life for some more reverbation. And he won. Neither we, nor Tobias, had any reference points about the sound. we tried a lot of different amps and such, but never compared the sound to any other record. Not even our previous ones. This was a concious decision, though. We didn’t want to copy anyone else’s sound. Just to do the best we could with nothing but our “sound memory” as a guide.
k: Great strings, very unique. One of the site guys (Kaustubh/Crypticmyth) was saying that it reminded him of some James Bond soundtrack. Good to hear a (metal) band not using strings/keyboards in a conventional way.
S: It was all part of a natural evolution for us. We started with strings and horns already on “Powerhouse” 2005, but this time we wanted them to be more in the foreground. And they are all real. There’s not a single keyboard or synthesizer on this album.
k: Guitars are roaring. Love the tones.
S: We used Mesa Boogie’s Stilletto and Lone Star in the studio, which Ralf is now endorsed by. Hannes is endorsed by Hagström Guitars, me and Ralf by Schecter Guitars, and Dojan by Pearl Drums and Sabian Cymbals. No custom guitars here, but we do enjoy our Skull Strings endorsement. A great feel and a cool looking package! Instead of the conventional E-A-D-G on bass, I use C-G-C-F and sometimes Bb-G-C-F. The same applies for the guitars, tuning the additional two strings two notes down each.
k: Ralf is yet another awesome guitar-slinging metal frontman. He’s brilliant. Was he always a vocalist or decided to take on the duties when a vocalist in the past decided not to turn up for band practice thanks to his slutty girlfriend? Quite a good range and variety he shows there. From the gruff to the classic heavy rock. Also could you tell Ralf that I love those simple first person themed lyrics? He’s got a great attitude.
S: He was a keyboard player until Grindstone started up (due to his piano background, I believe). He was actually encouraged to sing in Grindstone by singer Ebbot of “The Soundtrack Of Our Lives”. He told him that the only place for a guy with his personality, was in front. If you’d ever catch us performing live, you’ll see that Ebbot was right.
k: How did you end up finally with Regain Records? How is it going so far? You’re a unique band in their roster. What’s the touring and CD distribution/marketing plans?
S: After “Powerhouse” our contract with EMI was fulfilled, and the people that liked Mustasch on that label wasn’t still there, so we decided to look around for a new label. “Parasite!” became our demo for that purpose, and Regain Records seemed to be able to be fill our needs. And they’re doing great sofar. As far as I know,”Parasite!” and “Latest version Of The Truth” has been released in all of Europe and also in the US. A japanese release is also to be awaited this autumn. I don’t know yet about the abroad touring. We are quite busy doing Scandinavia for the time being.
k: What are the lessons learnt from the past that you’re going to correct as far as music “business” goes?
S: Double check everything your business partners does for you, unless they’re working for a percentage!
Would you work your ass off every day for someone else while on a monthly salary?
k: What bands have you guys toured with?
S: El Caco, Gluecifer, Entombed, Motörhead, Dozer, Hellfueled, Sparzanza…
k: Where have you had the best shows? (Any chances of a live DVD soon?)
S: Opening for Gluecifer in Munich, Germany in 2002 was a good one. We had a great tour start of the new album in Göteborg in May. Not to forget the Roskilde Festival in 2002 (voted the best show that year in Denmark). Yes, there will be a live DVD released later this year.
k: Do you guys follow new bands and the current scene? I’m not talking about metalcore and other trendy shit but what new bands/albums are you guys listening to? What were your recent purchases and what are some of the upcoming bands that Mustasch fans should look out for?
S: My most recent records are Tool – 10 000 Days, QOTSA – Era Vulgaris and Fu Manchu – We Must Obey.I’m sorry to say there’s not much time to actively search for new bands, so we have to recognize the ones that are in our path. On the other hand, you get extremely pleased when you discover a band that you’ve never even heard of before. Such as Mastodon, who played after us at the Metaltown festival in Göteborg last weekend, and their record(s) will definitely be among my next purchases. Mastodon may not be what our fans will be looking for, but what the heck, good music is still good music. Other bands are Sparzanza and RAM (both Swedish). Sparzanza is about the same style as us, and if you enjoy Judas Priest, you should really check RAM out. Volbeat from Denmark is another band worth attention.
k: If you have a Mustaschfest at your backyard, what bands you’d get to play? Both disbanded and the current crop, go crazy.
S: If we could get Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd, that would surely be enough! But support for them could very well be Soundgarden, RAM (see above), Tool, Union Carbide Productions, Kyuss etc. etc. Naturally, we wouldn’t play at all. We would just sit back and relax, while sipping on our Jack & Cokes.
k: I can see this band has a sound that can appeal to the 70s and 80s hard rock/metal audience and the bands in the sabbath school of music (you know, stoner rock). What kind of audience usually attends a Mustasch live show?
S: About 50-60% of our audience are guys between 20 and 30 years old, 10-20% are girls of that same age, and the rest is divided evenly between old time rockers and bikers.
k: Cliche question Stam. But I’d like to use the internet (p2p) to download and check out bands. I of course then buy the album if I like it and when I can. (For the record, I’ve bought over 500 cds in the past 3 years and most of this wouldn’t have happened without p2p). I also spread the word (on the internet and otherwise) about any new discoveries and those guys do the same. It’s kind of a PR, like the underground tape trading from the 80s. I can understand when people are against it, If I could afford to take the risk and spend money and buy whatever I want to check out before listening to it, I would. But right now this is the way to go for a lot of us. What is your stand on this issue? Are we doing ok or are we ripping you guys off?
S: You’re doing just fine by us, but I do think you are ripping the record labels off. An artist of today that sells, let’s say less than 100 000 copies, gets relatively little money from its label for that. What they do get money from are their concerts. A German study from a couple of years ago, showed that the record sales had gone down 25%, while the concert ticket sales had gone up the same percentage. What goes down, must come up (somewhere).
k: Also, what do you think the ideal pricing of an album should be? Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails has recently ranted against his (major) label overpricing his albums (over AUS$30 in Australia). What do you think is the ideal price where everyone wins? The fans, the newcomers, the distributor, the label and finally the band.
S: Supply and demand changes constantly, so in my humble opinion, an ideal price cannot and will not exist.
k: Oh also, do any of you guys have any side-projects that we should be aware of?
S: Hobbies yes, but no side-projects.
k: Would you like to come out to India and play some live shows if given an opportunity? Mattias ‘Ia’ Eklundh has come here a couple of times. First time with Jonas Hellborg for a few mindblowing shows (Incidentally we had a cool interview with him from that time on the website). Then he brought Freak Kitchen the next year and the audience totally loved it. Mattias is a great guy to hang out with, so is the rest of the band. El Caco also played the same festival that year. They had lots of cool riffs.
S: Yes, we’ve played with El Caco both in Sweden and in Norway. They’re a great band and they have a great sound too. Sure! We’d love to come to India. And no, I’m not kissing ass here. For god’s sake, you have tigers and elephants! I mean, touring Poland, Austria or Greece is just about the same as touring Sweden. Roughly the same kind of people, religion, wildlife and scenery. But India, New Zealand, Africa, Japan and South America, that’s another story. Unfortunately I have difficulties seeing Mustasch touring Africa in the future, but who knows? The lightning could strike…
k: Finally, thanks for all your answers. I think this has come out fine. Any message to our readers?
S: Download our album, and if you like it, buy it! Heavy Metal In The Night!