Pain - Off to a fresh start
At the end of last year the American tour of Hypocrisy was finished and the famous frontman and producer Peter Tägtgren could now put his energy in his solo project Pain in which techno, industrial and metal is combined; already successful in his home country Sweden. With his latest effort, Psalms of Extinction, Tägtgren wants to take things further in the rest of the world, a number of guest musicians appear on the record and a new label was found. With this new record there was plenty stuff to talk about, but also other questions about his and Pain’s background were kindly answered by the driven musician.
I was pretty surprised when I heard Pain was signed to Roadrunner, how did that come together?
‘Obviously it didn’t work out with a major label (Universal). In Scandinavia it was a huge hit and they did great work, but outside of that they didn’t do anything. It was really frustrating to see that after working 2 years on an album there wasn’t a CD available in the stores. Now I see a big difference; Roadrunner's got a totally different approach, like this ten day promo trip I’m doing now.’
'I don’t know yet, they’re still working on it. Roadrunner has a worldwide deal except for America, so right now the management and labels are talking. We don’t just want to get it out; we want to get a good label, because I don’t want to get the shit we had with Universal.’
Can you tell how the collaborations on the new album came together?
‘I got stuck with some songs and needed some help; I was doing the ‘Zombie Slam’ song, which is kinda more rock ‘n’ roll-ish, and the drums weren’t what I had in my mind. Two years ago Mikkey Dee (Motörhead) came to a Pain concert and said he would love to play on an album so now I was like I should give him a call. He came a week later and got the right vibe what I was looking for, it was really cool to get some help.’
Was it the same situation with Alexi Laiho (Children of Bodom) on ‘Just Think Again’?
‘Yeah, I did this slow song that I composed from many different orchestral parts, which were all written in different time periods, and when it was finished it was eight and a half minutes long. I couldn’t release a song with this length because Pain is more about four minute songs which are in your face, like AC/DC. So I cut out a little bit and when I was doing the vocals there was a part where I couldn’t think of anything and figured out that a solo would do real good. If I would do a solo it would be boring, I needed someone who could really pull it off and Alexi is a good friend of mine so I asked him whether he wanted to do this. The song grew more and I decided that I should keep it on the album.’
And Peter Iwers (In Flames) got to do the bass on two songs.
‘That was a funny story, because Peter found out that Mikkey Dee was recording on my album and he was like I also want to fucking play on your album! So I said sure come up, and ‘Save Your Prayers’ fitted really well to what he does so it took him about ten minutes and then we were like what are we going to do now, because he drove five hours for this. So we decided to do another song.’
How did you come up with the ‘Play Dead’ cover of Björk?
‘I’ve always liked Björk because she has a weird aura, her melodies are so different and when I first heard the song in ’93 I was stunned. Somehow I always wanted to do a cover of it and I didn’t want to change too much of the song, I just made it darker and heavier. The hardest part was doing the violins and orchestra, but it turned out pretty good.’
It was not the first cover you did, on Nothing Remains The Same you covered Eleanor Rigby, could you tell me something about your musical preferences?
‘I listen to all kinds of music, from really brutal metal to Beatles, Frank Zappa, Led Zeppelin, Kiss; for me it’s always good to be open-minded, because I also try to do that with the music that I write.’
Which bands/acts did inspire you to start Pain? Were you listening to a lot of electronic, industrial types of music?
‘No, not really, I was hooked on Goatrance and I tried to write that stuff but I just didn’t have the right tools to do it. It sounded pretty stupid when I tried it, so I just started to add layers of guitars and real drums and then this rolled out.’
Would you ever consider letting someone else produce an album of yours?
'Yeah, if I find someone who could bring some new ideas, I would definitely do that.’
Max Martin (i.e. Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, Celine Dion) produced the song ‘Just Hate Me’ on the album Nothing Remains The Same, how did that came together?
‘It came from the guys of the record company and they asked in a meeting whether I wanted to sing on a song of Max Martin. It was fun to see how real professional people work.’
So you don’t see yourself as a professional?
‘Yeah of course, but on a different level, it was just a good experience to do it. I liked the song when I heard it and Max called up and said: “You don’t have to write my name on the album if you find it embarrassing”. I responded that I never regret anything I do; besides, he has a metal background anyway.’
I read that when you produce someone else’s record you feel it when someone hasn’t got anymore to give and that you can’t feel that in yourself; then when do you decide that your record is ready?
‘Usually the record company jumps in after a year or two. It’s easier when you work with a band, then you focus on them and the songs that they bring to the studio. When I start with a Pain album I start with nothing; then it’s just a few ideas in my head. It could be anything, from a guitar riff to a melody and then you add layers of things and just build it up until you have like fifteen seconds and then you decide what’s coming next. After four minutes and very many working hours you’re like: wow, it went that way. Sometimes I have an idea of a whole song in my head, but usually it goes out a whole different way.’
As an artist and producer you already achieved a lot, but are there any specific goals that you want to reach with Pain?
‘Just to get out and play bigger festivals, more people and just do everything a little bit more.’
Your MySpace says you want to be the biggest band in the genre…
‘Well, I actually don’t know what genre, because it’s my own mix of things. It was more like I want to make the best record ever, with the best production for my own ego. For myself I want to be the best.’
How do you measure that? Just by your own judgement or also people’s reaction?
Mostly my own feelings, I’m very satisfied with Psalms of Extinction and the cooperation with Roadrunner and if people don’t like the album I can accept it. I get pissed off when you make a good album and people can’t get a chance to listen to it, then the whole album doesn’t get a chance.’
Time for a lame question then, what was the sweetest pain in your life?
‘That would probably be in one of the sex games.’
We don’t want to hear anything more about that now do we?
‘No, I don’t think so, haha! It’s also when you have your revenge, that’s also sweet pain. Pain in general can be so much; going to school, working, not having any money for instance. Life is pain and everyone can relate to that.’
In what state-of-mind do you write songs for Pain and when are you writing Hypocrisy stuff? Is the writing process divided or does it cross each other?
‘Sometimes I sit down and I’m going to write a Hypocrisy guitar riff, sometimes I just sit in the studio doing some crazy drum loops and all of a sudden it grows out to a more industrial song. I don’t say next week I’m going to write a Hypocrisy song or a Pain song, things just evolve in a different way. On this album I wanted to put in a part of which I later realized it fitted Hypocrisy much better, so then it ends up in the Hypocrisy folder so I could do something with it in the future.’
Why don’t you use a keyboard player live?
‘I used to have it before and it was such a fucking hassle, because there have to be three or four keyboards for the many things that have to be played. So we put just everything on backtrack.’
Don’t you think that it’s way better to play it live on stage?
‘Then there would be three or four keyboard players, because of all the layers.’
But you don’t have to play every layer live.
‘That’s true; we indeed don’t put all the layers on live, only the necessary stuff.’
Then what’s the problem with having just one keyboard player?
‘More space on the tour bus, hahaha! It also feels more comfortable to be more rock ‘n’ roll.’
What are the upcoming plans?
‘Doing a lot of festivals, but the problem is that the album comes so close to the festival season that it’s really hard to get slots at big festivals, but we’re going to do the festivals we can and do a tour in September, probably opening up for a bigger band through Europe. After that another of such a tour will probably take place, we’re simply trying to build things up again. We will play kick-ass all the way and hopefully we will get better festivals slots next season.’
As a finisher a non-Pain related question: Is there ever going to happen something with Bloodbath again?
‘It’s so weird that Swanö isn’t in the band anymore and I thought that three guys were writing some songs each and do an album together, but I think some of the guys had more plans to do a touring band but Swanö doesn’t have time for that, neither do I. Sure, if they ask me to do the vocals on another album I’ll do it, because I love Nightmares Made Flesh, but I have no idea what their plans are.’
Any last words?
‘I hope people will like the album, check it out and I hope to see everybody in the summer at the festivals.’