Meshuggah are one of those bands that even if metal ain’t your thing, you can appreciate their talent and ambition nonetheless. Whether it’s the unquestionable tight rhythms of bassist Dick Lövgren or drummer Tomas Haake, the solid guitar work of Mårten Hagström & Fredrik Thordendal, or the abrasive vocal style of Jens Kidman; they’ve been kicking around for 29 immensely strong years now. I had the opportunity to speak with Hagström recently and discovered his love of gaming & what he would be doing if music was out of the question, among other out of the ordinary topics.
So Mårten, it’s been 29 years since the band began, do you honestly think there are 29 more years to come? Or do you think that’s that a bit of a stretch?
If there are another 29 years then I’m good man [laughs]. But I don’t know, we’ve been around for fucking ages, that’s for sure! We’ve been having fun along the way, even though being on the road for this long you start to wear, wear down a little bit physically and mentally. It’s still fun, it’s just different aspects that are fun and as long as we feel like this is exciting in any way and like collaborating together I couldn’t see why there wouldn’t be at least another 10 years in us, maybe more, you never know. But another 29 feels like probably a stretch!
Fair enough. Meshuggah’s music is so methodical, as such, does the band have any fights or arguments about certain sections or certain parts of your songs?
Yeah, I say arguments, but we’ve always known that everyone wants this to be as good as possible and that’s the main objective for everyone. From very early on we’ve been very receptive to critique, you know, like within the band. It’s not that we necessarily agree on everything, far from it, but we can always argue our way back and forth until we come to a middle ground that everyone can live with or either one guy is like 4 guys like this part and I don’t then I guess I’m fine with it. We have a pretty healthy symbiosis in the band and I’m happy about that otherwise, it would be a problem.
Good to hear! Now with so much touring over the years, do you find it hard for you to stay healthy while on tour or have you mastered that?
Yeah, I would say so. It’s not like I’m super unhealthy being on the road, but if you’re at home it’s very easy to go through fixed routines. When I’m at home with my son and take him to schools, it’s very easy to focus your life and different goals. But when you’re on the road, there’s different set times and there are certain reasons you have to be up at certain hours and everything is in a kind of flux when you’re on the road. That means it’s less easy to have routines.
Likewise, if you weren’t playing music in this band, what other occupation do you think you would have?
Well, if music was out of the questions…I don’t know. I would probably become something like working as a carpenter. But what I would want to be is a hockey player, that would be my dream occupation [laughs]. But being realistic, it would be some kind of regular job.
Well, if you couldn’t play the guitar or the drums, what other instrument do you think you would you play instead?
The cello, maybe!
Nice to know you’re a cello fan like myself!
Yeah! My ex-wife is a cello player, and she’s really terrific. I like that instrument, it’s such a sad instrument, there’s so much emotion in that instrument, and I really love that! But the obvious answer actually would be piano, I know it may sound weird, but the piano if very restricted intonated instrument and very fixed with the keys and what not. But you can do so much composing on a piano if you know how to play that.
For sure! Now, I don’t know if you’re a gamer at all, but the new Doom game has a very Meshuggah inspired soundtrack, I think.
I haven’t checked it out, but I am a gamer!
Oh, cool. Would the band ever license your music out to a game publisher? Or maybe even to a movie studio?
No, but we’ve appeared on some soundtracks here and there, I don’t know if we were in the actual movie. But I know Fredrik was about to do some work for the new Wolfenstein game. I don’t know how much actually ended up on it, he was supposed to do a lot more then but he ended up doing, but there is some stuff on there that Fredrik scored for the game. I am a gamer, but I rarely get to play anymore because like I said Meshuggah, I have a kid, and I live on my own with my son.
But I love playing my PS4 because I’m into quite a lot of different games. But I want it to be dark! I love Bioshock, Dead Space, Bloodborne and Dark souls; the depressing games.
Ahh, Bloodborne. That has been one of the hardest games I have ever played!
Yeah and that’s why I love it! Have you ever played the Dark Souls series?
No, I haven’t, but the editor of Killyourstereo.com, Alex Sievers, is a fanatic when it comes to Dark Souls! He’s got the platinum trophy on both Dark Souls 3 & Bloodborne. [That’s becuase I’m not a scrub – Alex].
Yes, Bloodborne is hard. I’m almost through it and the DLC as well. But Dark Souls, it’s so punishing, because it really doesn’t give you anything for free. It doesn’t explain anything, it doesn’t help you, it just punishes you, and it punishes you for every little mistake you make. It’s such a mind fuck, I truly love those games.
For sure! How would you describe Sweden’s metal scene right now? And was it challenging in the beginning, having so many iconic bands coming up within its scene at the time?
No, it wasn’t because of the simple fact we were from up north. You have to realise we were so early, we came before In Flames. The peers that came out around us and we toured with and the guys that were of the same age as when we came out, that was like Dismembered and Entombed and those bands. So the scene in Gothenburg was not really happening at all at the time. So the music scene was basically here in Stockholm. Up where we were the Hardcore scene was pretty big, we had refused coming out and bands like that. So the metal scene wasn’t small but it wasn’t big either. When you’re up in the sticks, up north, you’re kind of to the side. So we weren’t really in touch with what was going on down here, so we really didn’t feel that. It was like we discovered that Sweden had a bunch of bands that were coming out for the first time that was creating a metal scene. It was something new and fresh, it was really cool actually. If you look at what it is today, I wouldn’t really know, to be honest. I mean, I know there’s a bunch of bands around and there a bunch of good bands. There’re so many bands coming out in so many genres from Sweden, that I don’t really think of it having a metal scene per say.
Finally, Meshuggah receives so, so much praise from the media and the fans. But have you ever felt that the ego of the band and its members gets stroked too much and you find yourself starting to believe the media and fans hype around you? Or do you find yourself staying very humble to the fact?
That’s not for me to say I guess because it’s hard to know if we’re staying humble or not. Maybe we’re stuck up mother fuckers! The one thing that has been good with this band is that we are always so displeased with the stuff that we feel that we lack. We always strive for so much more than we actually achieve. I don’t think there is any real risk that we are getting big headed because people say we did a good album. Firstly, it’s just music. Second of all, it’s to the point where we feel like we are doing something really cool and we really love our stuff, don’t get me wrong. It’s not that big of a deal – it’s just metal.
Meshuggah are touring Australia in March 2017. Dates below, tickets here. ‘The Violent Sleep Of Reason’ is out October 7th via Nuclear Blast Records.
Saturday, 11th March
Sunday, 12th March
Enmore Theatre, Sydney
Wednesday, 15th March
170 Russell, Melbourne
Friday, 17th March