It's been exactly four months to the day since Soilwork unleashed their fifth effort 'Figure Number Five'. In that time the band have done numerous interviews [including one with myself earlier in the year], completed both a Japanese and North American tour, and recruited a new member [Richard Eversand replaced the departing Henry Ranta].
After some confusion over the time difference between continents on opposite points of the planet, I at long last caught up with guitarist Peter Wichers to chat about the reaction to their latest album and their upcoming debut tour of Australia.
We didn't tour enough before 'Natural Born Chaos', and that was part of the reason we headed back into the studio so soon. This is what we want to do for the rest of our lives. It's not like we're making a lot of money for this kind of music. You're playing the wrong style if you want to make money. You should be a guitar player for Kylie Minogue if you want to make that sort of money! [Laugh] If we don't tour, we write music. This has been a dream for us. We are able to pay our bills from doing something that we absolutely love. And that's pretty much everybody's dream. We get a kick out of this. Working with the stuff that you love the most is the most rewarding thing that you could ever do.
- Unlike Soilwork's previous effort 'Natural Born Chaos', the recording of 'Figure Number Five' was truly chaotic.
It was a pretty hectic recording. We used three different studios just to get the album done in time. It also took a lot of planning to get things done. We recorded the guitars first, then the drums. At the same time we were recording the drums, we were doing keyboards and vocals in two different studios. So it wasn't an easy way to work. I'm very happy with the result, but while we were doing the album, I wasn't really sure it was going to be that good. We were working twenty four hours a day for one and a half months in three different studios, just to get it done in time. We were about to go on tour, so the album had to be done in time. We didn't want to compromise on the quality, and that was one of the reasons we worked in different studios. Otherwise I would have liked the band to be in one studio to get that classic feel, and more of the bands feel on the album. Not so much a live sound, but having everybody in the same place while we are doing stuff. Even when I'm recording the guitars, I like to have the other guys hanging around to come in and give their honest opinion. I like them hanging around playing Playstation until it's their turn! [Laugh]
- Although Wichers was happy with the way 'Figure Number Five' ended up, the reaction towards the album still comes as something of a shock to him.
The album has been going a lot better than we expected. The fact that 'Figure Number Five' followed so closely after 'Natural Born Chaos' also proves that the album is a success. We were a little sceptical that people would be able to take in another album so close after 'Natural Born Chaos', but at the same time we thought that if you have the inspiration to write some new music, you have to do it.
- Like its predecessor, 'Figure Number Five' also carries some distinctive title and artwork.
The artwork pretty much means nothing. It actually represents Soilwork in a way because it has some elements of the symbol that we actually use. So for us, it was more like artwork, and nothing that was supposed to be bound to the actual title. It's supposed to be something that is eye catching. When you see it on the shelves, you instantly notice it. It's not blurry, and it's pretty clean. Then there's a lot of black space, and the logo. You pretty much see the record when you walk into the store, which has always been our common goal when we do a cover. As for the title 'Figure Number Five', one aspect of the meaning is that it's our fifth album. There's another reason too. We think there are four elements to society, and then you have the fifth element, or the fifth wheel so to speak. You can draw comparisons to a car with the title. There are four wheels on a car, but you only bring in the fifth wheel when you get a flat. That kind of bounces back to the whole society thing I spoke about before. There are people that are always needed when it comes to trying to get the country working. Whenever someone gets sick, or when they feel the need to bring someone else in, that minority of people is like the fifth element, or the fifth wheel of society. So this album is a tribute to the people that are different, or a minority in society.
- Touring plans off the back of 'Figure Number Five' look set to take Soilwork once again onto the lucrative shores of the U.S. metal circuit.
The album is going very well in the U.S. We had a very successful tour over there with In Flames and Chimera last time. That was a totally different thing to tour with those two bands. We've been over to the U.S. beforehand when we did one long tour with Hypocrisy and Killswitch Engage. So for us, the second tour showed that we had grown as a band, album sales wise. The crowd was a lot more into it because a lot of people had been talking about us. The crowd over there is a little bit different. There were a lot of hardcore kids coming to the shows as well. It's cool to have a different type of crowd over there. The Killswitch Engage fans actually responded very well to us in my opinion. I love Killswitch Engage. They pretty much ripped off a lot of the Swedish bands as well, so that was probably one of the reasons our music went over very well over there. Killswitch Engage is doing fantastically well over in the U.S. Basically now we're touring so much, and this is where we want to go. We're pretty much road dogs. We just try and tour as much as possible, until it's time for us to record a new album. It looks like we'll be recording a new album late next year, and that will be released in early 2005. We're pretty much taking a break until the release of the next album. Right now, we have some shows booked through the summer, and then we're going to do some festivals. First off though, we're doing Japan and Australia. The fact that we're even getting a chance to come over to Australia proves that this album has been doing pretty well over there as well.
- Again, Wichers excitement about coming down to Australia to play some shows could hardly be contained over the phone line!
Finally we are coming over there! Our management called us up and said, 'Guess what? You're the first band we're managing that is going to Australia!' Everybody was freaking out over here. We always asked why we couldn't go to Australia every time we toured Japan. They told us that the flight was the same as going from Europe to Japan. So the trip from Japan to Australia was another lengthy one to say the least, and also expensive. So we're very happy to come over there. It's going to be a lot of fun to see what the crowd is going to be like. Devin Townsend has told me a lot of good thinks about Australia, so we're looking forward to it. He told us the only thing we have to do is make sure that you fly between the cities. They drove between the shows once, and they said it was terrible! [Laughs] When Gene Hoglan is sleeping in the van as well, you have to kind of sleep on the floor because there's no more room! [Laughs]
- While most bands are happy to see the landscape and culture while down here, Soilwork have their sights on something rather unique while on tour.
We're big fans of the Crocodile Hunter, so we would love to track him down and meet that guy. We think he's out of control. He also has a park somewhere in Queensland, so I think all the band would love to check that out too. He's a god, and an idol for everybody. The first time we saw him on T.V., we couldn't believe that all that jumping up and down wrestling crocodiles and picking up the snakes was real. Shit like that seemed so amazing. That man is the genuine article! I don't know if he gives an honest impression of Australian people, but if he does, then everybody is completely nuts down there! [Laughs] Usually the impression that we get from Australian people is that they're comedians. Everybody seems pretty happy all the time. [He then does a fantastic impression of 'G'day mate!'] There was this one guy we met when we were at Wacken this year, and he seemed really nice and nothing like…Germans. Not that there's anything wrong with Germans, but there's little in the way of genuine openness like in Australian people. They're very straightforward and strict. If there's any sense of humour, it's a strange one. You guys have a sense of humour, and we definitely dig that. As soon as Ola [Frenning - Soilwork guitarist] found out we were going to Australia, he started checking up on some of the animals that are there. He would point out things like, 'Did you know that they have spiders with a red cross on their back, like the black widow! They like the cities more than the countryside? Maybe we could get bitten while we are sleeping!' [Laugh] We're trying to get him to look on the bright side, but he's hard to convince! The other side is the long plane flight. They're all dreading that, but still psyched about coming over there.
- And as for the their expectations of fans here in Australia…
For us, we pretty much know all the different crowds now from all the different parts of the world. We have never been to Australia, so that's what's going to be fun. To see what the crowd is going to be like down there. I heard that Opeth did really well, and Devin also told me that the crowd is totally insane. I'm looking at the presales for the shows, and I'm very surprised to see that there's like it's almost sold out for every show. I was very surprised to see that. It'll definitely be the highlight of the year for us so far!
I would like to personally thank Peter Wichers for his generous time, and Danielle Courtney [Chatterbox Promotions Co-ordinator] for making the interview possible.