Soilwork's Bjorn 'Speed' Strid: The Need For Mystery

You've eaten your porridge, now wash your bowl...

How is Soilwork’s vocalist Bjorn ‘Speed’ Strid travelling? He’s “doin’ awesome” – and was, at the time of this interview, in Sweden. He’s just had his oatmeal – give the poor man a break – he’s only been up an hour.

But there’s no time to discuss breakfast items. It’s straight into questions with Metal As Fuck on Death Resonance, the new album, albeit a mix of a few new tracks and rarities. Tell me things, Mr Strid. He does. “It’s a little bit of a compilation of lost tracks but it almost has an album feel, which I think is important for us rather than just digging up a bunch of left-overs. It does show case our development as musicians and song-writers so it takes you on a little bit of a journey/trip down memory lane. Some of the songs I haven’t heard since they were recorded so it’s really cool to go back and listen to those tracks even though some of the songs are very different to what we’re doing now.”

So it’s more a compilation of rare gems as opposed to a greatest hits album such as The Sledgehammer Files (2010). So did it feel like a bit of sentimental journey for yourself? “It did in a way; I realised I was still bummed out that some of those songs didn’t make it onto the albums – for example Martyr and Wherever Thorns May Grow – but I was also really happy that they were finally coming out, ten years later.”

And Soilwork will be all over Europe and Brazil this month. “Yeah, we’re doin’ all of South America for the first time. It’s pretty exciting.” But alas, no Australia dates – well, the band were here at the start of 2016 for Ride The Majestic (2016) so no chance of revisiting Australia for Death Resonance? Bjorn is sad but honest. “No, probably not. In the good ol’ days we actually came to Australia twice on one album; I think it was 2004 or 2003? We did one headline tour and then toured again with Anthrax [it was 2004] – but maybe we’ll get into song-writing mode later in the year and release a new album by the end of next year? Meanwhile we’re working with mine and David’s (Andersson) other band called The Night Flight Orchestra which is classic rock so that would awesome; to come over with Night Flight Orchestra.” He cheekily slips in a little plug for the Night Flight Orchestra, whose album looks set for release around April 2017, for those of a more ‘classic rock’ bent. I have to ask if it’s easy to slip between the melodic death metal of Soilwork and the classic rock of Night Flight. “It is pretty easy for me because they both mean so much to me. I’m very much a metal-head but I’m also a rocker so it’s a pretty smooth transition between the two. The fact that David is playing in both bands makes it easier too, I guess. Even though they’re both such different musical styles, they do tend to cross over, especially with melodies because Soilwork has always been influenced a little bit by classic rock. It’s just a different expression, I would say. I’m really happy being in two bands that are so different yet cross-over in a way.”

Mr Strid, please speak forth on Helsinki and Death Resonance, the two new tracks on Death Resonance. He does so, in a most eloquent fashion. “Those two tracks were both a part of The Ride Majestic recording session and they’re both really good songs but they just didn’t fit on the album for some reason. Listening to them now, I still think they’re fantastic – and maybe they give a little bit of a hint at where we’ll take our music in the future – they both have a rather playful approach and there’s an almost Pink Floyd break in what’s almost full-on black metal. It’s pretty interesting and it makes sense, and that playful approach, it’s something we’re gonna develop even more in the song-writing. Also we like to think about how the songs will play live because we spend so much time on the road.”

It’s important to maintain that sense of playfulness, and the band has been going twenty odd years; so it’s good to see that you still get excited and passionate about stuff. It’s easy to get jaded with the industry, aye? “Oh yes, of course! There are a lot of things that I didn’t sign up for!” He laughs, adding “It’s inevitable with the crap of the business side – I’m a lousy business man and I’m kinda proud of that – I’m still very focussed on the music and if I started becoming more focussed on something else, I think I would have forced myself to quit. I’m still very excited and I get really excited about writing songs and the creative process is still really exciting for me.” He admits that sometimes it’s not fun being on stage but overall it’s pretty fucking sweet. “Australia is a good example; it’s a hassle getting there but once you’re there, it’s so much fun and it’s always a really good time.”

We turn to the beast that is social media, a nebulous land where everyone has an opinion; how does he react to criticism? “There’s nothing you can really do about it as there are so many on-line magazines and blogs. It’s almost impossible to keep track of everything, but everyone has an opinion and there are so many forums and so many trolls all over the place. It is what it is and so I don’t read that much of it and I try to stay away from it. I try to keep our fans updated on social media but at the same time, I try to keep a bit of distance. In this day and age of social media it’s constant updating with Instagram, Snapchat and so on and I think I’d go crazy if I focussed too much on that; it has its pros and cons as it brings you closer to the fans but the mystery is gone. As a kid growing up listening to metal, I really liked that there was some distance – and mystery – between the fans and the band but that’s gone now. You’re too close to the artist somehow – and that’s not me saying that we’re superior to anybody else but if I was a fan, I would want that mystery.”

I ask where Soilwork will go next and Bjorn mentions the recording process of The Living Infinite (2013) where everyone in the band contributed to the song-writing process. They learnt a lot and re-discovered themselves as song-writers and developed the sound with The Ride Majestic, albeit with a darker atmosphere. He sees the band creating “pretty melancholic melodies but somehow uplifting too” – check out the new album for some hints on where they might go…

And drummer Dirk Verbeuren has gone off to play with Megadeth so Bastian Thusgaard is filling in; will he become a permanent member? According to Bjorn, Bastian is doing a “fantastic job” so it’s a possibility. But who can tell in the fickle world that is heavy metal? We shall have to wait and see. I leave Bjorn to engage in the very Zen act of washing his porridge bowl. He’s a nice fellow, is Bjorn, and the new album is out now. Check it out.