Dirk Verbeuren (Soilwork) interviewed

First of all, are you crazy? A double album in 2013?Dirk Verbeuren: [Laughs] We kind of thought that at first, too. Speed [Strid] had come up with that idea. That’s something he had wanted to do. In his head he’s like, “I wanna do a double album.” When he first told us he wanted to do that during our summer festivals in 2011—David [Andersson] was already on board—we told him, “It’s never gonna work, man.” Eventually, we warmed up to the idea. The material just came together, so we thought, “Let’s do it.” It’ll be a statement. We were having a blast making the record. Everything went so smoothly.

So, the idea came before the music?
Dirk Verbeuren: Yeah, it wasn’t the case where we had a bunch of music. We had to come up with a bunch of interesting songs to where we could make it good. If that wasn’t the case, then we would’ve never done a double album.

There’s not really a dead song on the album. Pretty impressive.
Dirk Verbeuren: Hopefully not. [Laughs] Everyone will have an opinion about that, I guess. We tried to make it strong and interesting throughout. A rollercoaster kind of thing. I personally like albums where there’s surprises happening. Especially with a band like us it’s a strong point of ours. With a double album, there are songs on the album that might’ve not made the cut if we only had an option to do an album with 10 or 12 songs. Sven’s [Karlsson] songs, which are “Memories Confined” and “Owls Predict, Oracles Stand Guard,” are pretty different from what we usually do. Same thing with the instrumental.

The last five tracks on disc 2 are really strong. Was there a lot of time spent on sequencing?
Dirk Verbeuren: Absolutely! That was, in our mind, a really key thing to do. Speed made up a list. Then, I started working with it. That’s kind of what we settled on. I find, for myself, when you’re part of the recording or creating it’s hard to figure out what people are going to get into. “Parasite Blues,” a lot of people they like that song. It’s second to last on the album. Position 19. The most important thing [is] you can listen to it without falling asleep. Some people probably will. What are you going to do? [Laughs]

There really isn’t a lull. A rollercoaster, as you said.
Dirk Verbeuren: Well, we finished 25 tracks. One of the things we wanted to see when putting it together was atmosphere. That’s why some of the tracks are tucked aside for the time being. We just wanted a nice ride; things keep happening, things keep [being] interesting. When we wrote this album, we really had an open mind. That started on The Panic Broadcast. We were like, “Fuck it! We’re not going to have any limitations or pre-conceived notions of what is or isn’t Soilwork.” With this one, we took that to the next level. We included everybody’s stuff. We have Sven’s songs on there. Sylvain [Coudret] has a different writing style. Hopefully, it makes for a really good thing.

But it’s still completely Soilwork.
Dirk Verbeuren: It’s our ninth album. We have to be able to go to different places. But we do have a strong identity. As musicians, we have strong identities. But if you have a good song and Speed puts vocals on it, it’s going to sound like Soilwork. Like a song “Owls Predict…” pushes the boundaries of what Soilwork is. That’s really good.

Right. There are different things happening. Counter melodies, atonal sounds, different textures, stuff that’s pretty harsh for Soilwork. Is that Scarve coming into the songwriting picture?
Dirk Verbeuren: Yeah, well, with The Living Infinite I had the most creative freedom I’ve ever had. A lot of the Soilwork demos were very unfinished. David’s demos were very unfinished, mostly just guitars or programmed drum beats. He’s like, “He’s my stuff. Add what you want.” All [members of] the band were very open to me doing what I do best. It allowed me to go, “Ah, I’ll put this beat there. That beat here.” I had that in the past, but not to the same extent. Peter Wichers would write songs that were almost finished. He’s very good at programming drums. He has a clear vision of the songs, so you can’t really go in and change his vision too much. This time around, there was a lot of more input from myself, and a lot of the other band members, which is probably what you’re hearing.

The added features or input from other members are very subtle. They blend in. It adds a lot of depth to the sound.
Dirk Verbeuren: That’s definitely what we were going for. Having layers. If it didn’t have a purpose it wouldn’t be on the album. That’s how we felt. We had an open mind. There was a time, admittedly, when certain members of the band—who are no longer with us—pushed for a very radio friendly sound, “Let’s tone it down a bit. Let’s be more direct.” Shorter songs. I, for one, grew up with pop music, but my favorite band is Napalm Death, so that tells you something. For me, I never wanted the radio friendly thing to be omnipresent. I wanted things to be happening, crazy drums and all that. I’m a lot more comfortable with what started on The Panic Broadcast.

Is that something that will continue on follow-up albums?
Dirk Verbeuren: If I have a say, yeah! [Laughs] Even more! I’d like to push the boundaries. Some people have said The Living Infinite is encompasses everything we’ve done before and if that’s true—it’s hard for us to see that though—then we should now move ahead. That would be my logical thinking for the next one. We’re not going to alienate anybody. I’d like to explore more.

Most bands by their eighth or ninth album want to constrict. To play slower or more economically. The Living Infinite feels like the opposite of that. It’s consistent but not an easy listen.
Dirk Verbeuren: We’re regretting that now. We have to play that shit live. [Laughs] We’re not getting any younger. “Oh, great! Now I have to play these parts live. Awesome.” As far as drumming is concerned, I’m always wanting to play the craziest shit possible. When you’re writing or in the studio, you’re experimenting. Sometimes, it’s like, “Holy shit! How am I going to play that?!” But that’s how you get better. It’s a challenge.

Were there areas you didn’t want to go in?
Dirk Verbeuren: No, we really tried to finish up everything that came up.

Like the acoustic intros and stuff like that?
Dirk Verbeuren: Some of that stuff came in later during writing process. Those intros I discovered after I got the final mix. I had a bunch of shit going on, so I wasn’t in the studio with the rest of the guys after I did my drums. As far as the music or songs go, we had 27. We cut one at one of the last rehearsals, just before I started recording. It was kind of lackluster. Another, I recorded the drums for it, but we didn’t end up finishing it. Some people weren’t feeling it as a Soilwork song. We recorded 25 songs.

So, 25 songs. That’s three albums! Does The Living Infinite count as more than one album on your contract?
Dirk Verbeuren: It’s one album, you know. They [Nuclear Blast] were really stoked about that idea when it came up, which we didn’t how they’d feel about it. They instantly felt it was a spotlight on the band. They really trusted us. Peter wasn’t in the band anymore. He was the main songwriter. But they trusted us. As far as the format is concerned, it’s something that sets us apart, which can’t be a bad thing in this day and age. Anything to set us apart. And it wasn’t a forced thing either. The recording session wasn’t difficult. It was intense. But we were having fun the whole time.

Any covers?
Dirk Verbeuren: Ah, no. Even though I’ve done covers in the past, I don’t think Soilwork should be doing covers. Personally. We shouldn’t be doing that now. A lot of metal covers are cheesy. Sure, some people in the band would be pushing for something different, but not sure it’ll work in Soilwork. I mean, one of the first albums I ever bought was Prince’s Purple Rain. I was probably 9 years old, at the time. I’m a huge Prince fan. I went to see him live a few years ago for the first time. So, I can see the idea of covering a song, but we have our own thing going on.

So, 25 songs. No covers. No filler. Pretty incredible.
Dirk Verbeuren: I’ll be honest I had my doubts when it first came up. I didn’t think we could write that much good music for a double album. It’s not easy. David was really prolific. Speed worked his ass off on writing. Sylvain and Sven brought some songs in. I wrote a song, which is one of the bonus tracks. That’s the first time I had written a Soilwork track A-to-Z. We all just started working. David is amazing. He’s an amazing guitarist. He has a lot of experience writing music and lyrics for different genres in Sweden.

You kind of reined in the Helloween factor, if you know what I mean.
Dirk Verbeuren: I agree. The vibe from the earlier records is back. There’s melancholic guitar work. Speed and David have that vibe. That kind of got lost along the way.

More Americanisms were being put into the music.
Dirk Verbeuren: Yeah, that’s where we were at. You know how it is in bands. There’s always different opinions. But it was time to refocus. I’ve always been one for—look at Scarve!—busy guitars and crazy drum breaks and what not. It’s the album I’m most happy with. Even though I do like Stabbing the Drama for what it is. We have absolute anthems on that record. If we don’t play the title track live people would kill us. At the same time, it’s good to be back.

Given double the work, do you have double the expectations?
Dirk Verbeuren: [Laughs] I’m realistic. It’s a tough industry right now. We’ll see what happens. The fact that I can go on the road and play anywhere is a big reward for me. We had heard that were #60 on Billboard [Top 200], which is amazing. That’s the highest Soilwork has ever been. That’s great! It’d be nicer to be bigger. At the same time, I’m not dissatisfied with where we’re at.

** Soilwork’s new album, The Living Infinite, is out now on Nuclear Blast Records. Order it HERE or I’ll come to your house and play “Gangnam Style” on repeat. Clockwork Orange style.

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