100% HEAVY / 100% Free / 0% Spam

[INTERVIEW] Meshuggah

Share This:

MESHUGGAH just set Australia alight with the announcement of their Australian tour in March 2017.











Meshuggah Interview

By Kris Peters

“I guess I would be lying if I told you that we didn’t care at all what people would think because if that was the case we would never release anything,” laughed Marten Hagstrom, guitarist for Meshuggah, when pressed about their new album The Violent Sleep of Reason.

“Every new album is one of those things where it is a mental rollercoaster,” he continues, “You go into the writing process and then the you try to stick through that and not get too set up and have some distance to the material so you know what you are actually doing. Then when you actually record it and come out the other side it feels like you’ve been fucking pummeled! It always takes me a year to know what I even think of the album and that’s always been the case.

“In saying that there’s also a bit of anticipation waiting for it to be released. People might think it sucks, people might love it, but we’ve been around the block a couple of times now and there’s nothing you can do about it. I’ve learned to just say ‘okay, we’ve done our job, we’ve done the best we could, we’ve tried to make a really cool fuckin’ album, now it’s up to the eternal powers to see what it turns out like when it finally hits our fans.’”

The Violent Sleep of Reason is a title which not only reflects one of the songs on the album but also has a more in-depth meaning in the general scheme of its music and its evolution, with Hagstrom arguing that the actual title of an album is something that Meshuggah don’t take lightly.

“It’s actually a spin off from the title of a Goya painting named The Sleep of Reason Produces Monsters.” he says.

“While we were discussing different ideas for the title there were a couple thrown around that seemed cool at the time but when it came time to actually pick a name we tossed all of those out the window and we wanted something that would tie in to the music and the lyrics – we always try to do that – so it has something to say about both. The Violent Sleep of Reason basically just points to the fact of how we as a species, with all the technology and all the knowledge and all the media and all the information that’s out there and all the propaganda; put all that into a mix and the result is the way we are lulled into this false sense of being. There’s no one who can take in everything.

“It’s how we as a species are lulled into indifference by the sheer amount of stuff that’s going on and all the information coming at us and how it lulls us into a sleep and what the consequences of that are. It’s not trying to be political or anything. It’s not trying to point the finger any which way it’s just a description of a collective mental process. Also, it ties in a bit to the music because when you look into the whole process you realise it’s going to be like a chaos theory type thing. All of the over the top ideas that came out we let have free reign. We didn’t censor it at all so it’s our violent sleep of reason too. The music is violent and the sleep of reason is us not censoring ourselves.”

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xtO3VCu5wv4&w=560&h=315]

Meshuggah have a well-earned reputation for releasing a more intricate and technically infused style of music, with their precision playing in particular a common area of discussion amongst fans of the band and the genre.

While not downplaying the significance of this aspect of their music, Hagstrom says it is not something that interests the band members during the writing or recording process.

“In my mind it’s easy to make tricky stuff,” he explains modestly. “What I mean is it might be challenging to play but the hard part for us – and I don’t know whether we succeed or not – but is to have a red thread and have a groove and style that reminds you what a normal pop song is like when you listen to it, but still have it be all over the place. To go through all these odd riffs but still feel like you’re listening to a song nonetheless. It’s a fine line; sometimes we go for the chaos, but it’s a fine line to not keep that red thread to mix things up but from a writing perspective it’s always about, at least for me, going for an original idea that comes from nowhere.

“It’s nothing you choose, it just comes into your head and then you might work on it and arrange it and write other stuff to accommodate that verse or those first few riffs so it has to be kind of a natural process. I never sit and try to come up with intricate stuff just for the sake of being intricate. I’d rather have our music be really simple and straight forward but with the expression we’re trying to achieve and what we’re being influenced by. The way we perceive ourselves as a band it just turns out that way. It’s not by choice it’s just the way it’s always been.”

While achieving considerable underground success in their nearly three decades in the music business, Meshuggah have never quite scaled commercial heights, much to the amazement of many in the industry. Most bands strive for this acceptance but according to Hagstrom, Meshuggah is content with their standing of underground notoriety.

“I’m amazed that we have gotten as much recognition underground as we have,” he admits, “I know there’s plenty of extreme stuff going around but we’re a bunch of old dudes these days, we’re all in our forties most of us. We’ve been around and we’ve been doing this awkward shit for a long period of time and we’ve been chipping away at our own style slowly but surely and stubbornly, maybe a little in our own bubble not caring too much about what’s going on, so we’re not gonna expect much in the way of mainstream success for what we do.

“That type of music is not meant for people to sit around and listen to while they’re having dinner and it’s not meant for families to go and check out – not a regular family anyway. There is a time and a place for everything and our time and place is in the dark to the side, in the corner where people who like to look in dark places look.”

After such a long and distinguished career, it is feasible to wonder if the band’s thoughts have yet turned to retirement, but Hagstrom says age and their ailing bodies are the only things that have the potential to slow things down.

“I don’t think any of us have contemplated retiring,” he assures, “in the sense that maybe we’re through and maybe we’ve covered what we can cover within the confines of this band musically and we don’t feel that we have. We believe we have at least a few good albums left in us because we’re still feeling like we’re in a creative motion so to speak. We’re moving some place still and we’re curious still and we’re excited about coming up with new stuff still so there’s no retirement plans per se but we are older now.

“We’ve been around 30 years now and if you look at 15 years down the road….. A lot of us have physical issues these days. Tomas has been in a bad state and he had surgery a couple of years back for hernia and his hips and shoulders are shot. I’ve got arthritis in my shoulders and I have some bone splints in one shoulder and I’ve got some back issues. It wears you down eventually the touring and doing it for so many years. Even though we do work out and try to take care of ourselves it can turn into a grind with all the travel and such so there might be a limit to what the body can take because we’re not playing lounge jazz. We are aware that there might come a day in the not too distant future where we don’t have a choice.”



Discover more like this on HEAVY:

Our Picks.

Get the HEAVY

Get the HEAVY Digi-Mag in-boxed weekly. 100% HEAVY / 0%SPAM.