Formed in 1993 and with six studio albums under their belt, Swedish hardcore veterans Raised Fist need little introduction. Since the 2009 release of their fifth record ‘Veil of Ignorance’, the band has been fielding questions on when to expect its follow-up. Now, in 2015, Raised Fist have appeased fans by dropping From the North. Killyourstereo.com caught up with frontman Alexander “Alle” Hagman to discuss the new record, along with his martial arts training and a possible visit to Australia.
After all the anticipation and people constantly asking about it, it must be nice to have the record done and finally released.
Yeah, it is, and I mean, we were already done with it in April 2014, so we’ve just been waiting and waiting for this moment. So yeah, we are fucking excited about having it out now.
You guys have been playing shows together and stuff, but after that long between albums, how was it going back into the studio together?
We are friends, we are brothers at home, and we’ve been playing during this time, and Raised Fist is the type of band that festivals and promoters always want. It doesn’t matter if we have a new album coming out, because we have so many things going since ’93 when we started, that Raised Fist can play eleven, twelve songs and they’ll be hit songs all the way – hit songs in the sense that they’re bigger songs. So, we had offers from the biggest commercial festivals around last summer. I mean, the last album was five years ago, five years without a release. So it doesn’t really matter what we do, we still have the momentum all the time.
We play and we get along and we just write some music, and we work with this, we work with that, we train, we start new things, new projects. I have a daughter now and she’s seven months, and that’s after nine months of pregnancy, so we’ve had things to do. And it didn’t feel strange at all, because we’ve been doing this for a long time and we know each other inside out, so it just felt like, “Okay high five, bam, give me a coffee and let’s fucking start with this.”
We started the pre-production at my house and just started in my little office here. We just had guitars and bass and just started producing and listening to what we had, so that was very relaxed. The studio in Gothenburg, when we went there; we were there for a month. That is hard; that’s like you live there, you breathe music every day. You scream fourteen, fifteen hours a day, and so physically and mentally, it’s a bit rough. That’s always how it is.
So in comparison to all the other albums we’ve made, this was one of the easiest. It felt really good. West coast Sweden sunshine, you know how that feels. So yeah, we felt good.
Had you been sitting on any of these songs for a while, or did you only really start writing when you decided it was the right time to do the record?
Some things are new, some of the music is very old. I mean, the song Depression, that was a riff that Daniel had, which I think is about sixteen, seventeen years old. That was for a band called Depression but it didn’t make it, so we had it and I noticed back then and I said, “That’s a good song, we should use that sometime.” But the records just passed by and I said, “We should use that one,” and I didn’t want to let go (laughs), and he was like, “Well, I can’t love it as much as you because I made it myself and it’s been with me for such a long time.” And I said, “Yeah yeah, I want to have it, so let me use it in some way.” We started just writing around that verse, riff, so now it’s there.
So I mean, some things are from a very long time ago. Flow for example, I wrote the music and lyrics, and that was like, I had that riff at the Sound of the Republic time, so that’s like two albums ago. But I didn’t have it finished and I didn’t work with it at that time, so I just looked at these guitar things and started working a little more to see if there was something there, and there was, we could find something.
But this time we didn’t want to make fourteen, fifteen songs; we wanted to have eleven songs, and we wanted to leave out some songs that felt like, they’re not so good. Then you know you have a good album when there’s competition with some songs that can’t make it. And also, I want to add that Daniel is a good music writer and he’s a good singer as well, and also Jim, the new guitarist, he’s a good singer and a very good guitarist and a music writer, and a front person in his band that he had before he played with us. And me, myself, I’m also a music writer, I write many songs. I’ve written Stronger Than Ever from the start and up to Flow on this album. And also, Until the End is a song I’ve written the guitars for. So, we have three main song writers and that’s unusual for a band; there’s usually one, maybe two. But we have three, so we have a lot of material before we go in and start picking what we want. So yeah, no problem there.
So, you’ve kinda got the next album done?
I think we have a lot of songs that we could release three albums at this point (laughs). But, I mean, it wouldn’t feel good because songs need to grow and you need to approach them the right way and put them in the right clothing. Sometimes you just change the drum beat a little bit and all of a sudden you have something magical. Sometimes the music is not so good and when you put the vocals on it, it starts to grow. So yeah, you have to just work with it, that’s the key. So of course we have a lot of things that we haven’t released, but we probably won’t use them either. There’s a reason for them not being on those albums, so the main part of the next album will be new things written from this day, and maybe five years… I don’t know when we’ll release the next album. If it takes as long as it did this time, it’s five years, and then we will have a lot of time to write eleven new songs.
And you’re about to head out on a European tour…
Yeah, we will head out on the first leg of a European tour on February 6. Then after that we go to the southern areas, like France, Spain – that will be happening in March and April, and then we will go play festivals all around the world in the summer. Then after the summer, in September, we don’t have anything decided yet. We don’t know, we’re talking with Australia, we’re talking with Europe, Scandinavia, and also the States. Everyone wants a piece of us right now it seems, so we’re just going to try to do what we think is the most fun.
Australia, definitely Australia.
Australia is always nice, but I mean, that’s no secret. I mean, we’ve toured at least three times there.
Because your live shows are so energetic and physical, does it take preparation before you go out on tour?
A lot of preparation, yes. You have to be in good physical shape, everyone is in good physical shape in Raised Fist. I mean, if you try to come out of shape, you will regret it really fast, because you’ll be moving around – and not only moving around, you have to have the cardio to also play. But it’s gotten better in the last year. We try to play better now than we did before because before it was just fucking crazy. It was just like, we’re gonna smash our fucking bodies to the ground, the energy’s gonna blow and I don’t care if I die on stage tonight (laughs)… when you got out there and played it was just jumping around. You can’t play guitar when you’re up in the air and singing when you’re totally tired. So we tried to focus a little bit more and I don’t think anyone noticed this, but the thing is, what we say right now within the band is like, we have to play better, because it’s getting bigger and bigger – we’re playing 35,000-capacity festivals. I mean, if you move around there far, far away on this small little space, you can’t see anything and all you hear is just fucking shit, Raised Fist jumping around… we have to adapt to these bigger stages and the smaller club shows, because at the smaller club shows, that’s where you can go berserk, but when you play big festivals, you have to play so everyone can hear what you do. So we have to adapt a little bit.
Considering the band’s longevity, do you find you have a wide range of people at your shows?
Yeah, definitely, we have all people coming into the shows. I mean, people who listen to death metal and metal heads and metal hardcore kids and everything. Everyone just comes to our shows. We’ve done it for a long time, and I don’t know why, but we get respect from all the genres. There’s no one coming up to us and saying, “I can’t listen to you.” People respect us. The drummer [was in] Dark Funeral which is a black metal band, and we’ve always been moving around in metal and death metal, music wise. So I think they’ve seen that these guys know how to fucking bring on a blast beat and actually overrun the fasted black metal band we have on the planet. So it’s just like, they have respect for the musical skills that we have. And that’s basically a big part in metal music; they like it when people know how to write and play their instruments. So yeah, we have a lot of respect and all types of people come to the shows.
When you’re not busy with the band, I remember reading that you run a web development company and martial arts school. How did you get into those areas?
Well, I started doing designs. I worked with designs and graphic designs, and when the internet grew I just started doing a lot of web designs and graphic digital designing. But I also worked at a computer company where I was an art director, but I couldn’t stay there because I had to go on tour now and then, and then be on tour a month and then come back, and it didn’t work, it didn’t work for anyone. So I started my own company, just freelance design. And that went pretty good, so I worked freelancing, and then I got some bigger clients, some really big clients. And I started my own business, and all of a sudden I had my first employee, and that just went along until I had ten, fourteen employees. So that’s just how it’s been. I can be going on tour and I don’t have to worry about anything. I’m my own boss, and also I have Daniel working with me, and also Josse, the bass player, working for me, so we have a really good thing going where we can work when we’re at home, we build the things that we have here, and when we go on tour, we can just let go and let it run by itself. And when we go back home, then we work… so we have a solid thing back and forth, that’s why we did it.
The martial arts school is just like, I trained in martial arts since I was a young kid, and I really liked to instruct and I have an eye for detail and things like that, so I just started to teach a little bit. And the years passed and I think it’s been thirteen years since I started the school, so now it’s grown and it’s one of the biggest martial arts schools in northern Sweden. And I train myself six, seven days a week, so I just love martial arts, and that’s just what I love. I’m always at the gym so I thought, “Why not?” So what I basically do in the daytime is, I’m at home until it’s afternoon, then I go to the martial arts gym to work out, then I come back, play with my daughter and eat and have the night time activities with my family. And it’s just another day. And then one day a week I go into the computer office and just overlook the business. And then I’m waiting for a tour. And when I’m on tour, it’s just easy. So the setup is really nice right now.
Yeah, definitely. When I read about the martial arts and stuff, I thought about that kick you do on stage.
Yeah, but I didn’t learn that from martial arts, I did that before I had the school. I’ve been training since I was a small kid, but I didn’t do kung fu, like Van Damme martial arts. I did boxing, my father taught me when I was a young kid, and that was the first thing I did. And then I’ve also done a lot of Muay Thai boxing, and now I do a lot of MMA, like jiu-jitsu, wrestling, Muay Thai and boxing, so I haven’t really been the Taekwondo spinning kick kind of dude – that’s what I do on stage sometimes, but it doesn’t relate to my martial arts background really.
So how did you learn the kick then?
(laughs) I don’t know! I just did it. When I was a young kid I wanted to do the highest always – I wanted to do spins, I wanted to jump from rooftops, all these kinds of things… so it’s like a combination of something, I don’t know, it’s not like I train in these kicks. I did them not too long ago on a pillow that you can train kicks on. I tried that kind of spinning kick and they didn’t work out as well as I thought in that kind of environment (laughs). But in life, on video and on stage they work really well. Actually they work better there.
I know that you also used to sing in a choir?
Yeah, I was a young kid and when you go through music school in Sweden, you have to go and try different things. And I had a teacher and she thought that I sounded really good, so she positioned me in the choir, she put me in the perfect place in that choir. And so I went there and thought, “Okay, this is kinda cool,” and then I went to a baptism and I was singing there, and I thought, “…This is nothing I will do ever again.” (laughs) So I started playing music, I went to guitar and drums instead.
Yeah, I was just wondering because of that background, if you’ve experimented or thought about experimenting with other genres?
Yes and no. I mean, Raised Fist, if you listen to the other albums, there are some small areas where I sing. I’ve been singing all my life and so Raised Fist is just a scream and it’s a pitch that I use. But on the other hand, I write a lot of music for other artists and for myself, and that’s like regular singing. But as it is right now, I don’t want to do that; it gives me nothing just singing regularly. When I do the music I want it to be fucking art, otherwise I don’t want to do it. That’s how I feel today.
Just to wrap it up, after you’ve done the touring for this record, do you have any idea what’s next for the band or are you just going to see what happens?
Just going to see what happens, day by day. I don’t have any goals with the band, we are not doing this to achieve something. I mean, where we are today, just travelling all around the world and getting paid for it is just far beyond the goals we had when we started the band. So we have just been reaching goal after goal after goal, and there’s no point in chasing goals. Just live life. My goal is to have every day as nice as this one, and then when I die the music will live on forever.
‘From The North’ is out now via Epitaph. Read our album review here.