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Helltrain: A little bit wiser

The North of Sweden, or better Luleå, has a bit more to offer than the biggest church north of Uppsala or Gammelstad (the old city center), which is part of World Cultural Heritage. Not far from the Arctic circle you find bands dedicated to Rock Musik like Helltrain, who recently released their third album „Death is coming“ on their own initiative. Band-Allrounder Patrik Tönkvist tells us more about Helltrain and the positive sides of losing a record deal.

Hello guys, you recently released your new record “Death is coming”, how was the feedback so far?
Hi Sandy, yep after a lot of hard work we released our third record Death is coming in May, a record with 10 brand new songs that we’ve been working with for a couple of years and that we recorded in our own studio and eventually mixed it in Dugout studios with Daniel Bergstrand. Rockhard helped us a lot with boosting the release. They put our record as top news on their website for a whole weekend, where people could download the album for free. The feedback has been great, we get a lot of positive reviews from magazines, fans and friends.

It took you four years to release a new record after “Rock’n’Roll Devil”, what was the reason for it?
Yes, it took a while and there were a couple of reasons for that. We parted with our record company and we decided to build a studio, where we could record everything instead of hiring one that costs a lot of money. Since this was the first time we recorded an album by ourselves, except for the vocals which Daniel Bergstrand at Dugout studios recorded, there were many things we had to learn concerning studio work. We also needed some financial help and therefore we contacted BD pop, a regional company that offers different kind of help and support for artists up here in the north of Sweden. They really liked what we were up to and they decided to help us, so we made a co-production agreement for the album, which was really great for us.

You offer the album as a free download on your website, why?
Yes that’s right, we look at it as just one way of spreading our music. Some people choose to download our music for free, some choose to buy a cd, and some listen to it streamed on Spotify. We just feel that since people will download the album anyway, why not just give it away on our own website.

But you also offer it on ITunes or as a physical copy from TPL Records & Metalism Records, is still someone buying it when you also offer it for free?
Yes, there’s people who want a physical copy of it and when we do gigs we always sell cd:s. Some people feel like they want to support us, so they buy it from itunes. There will probably always be people who want a physical copy, a cd or lp, and everyone in the band surely want one as well, even if we are pro downloading and streaming. It’s such a nice feeling after all the work you put in to creating a record to finally feel it in your hand, take out the booklet and browse through it.

Let’s go a little bit back in time, how did it all start with Helltrain in 2002? And why did you choose the name Helltrain?
Well, in the beginning of 2000, Oskar and Pierre decided to end Scheitan. A couple of years before that we buried our death metal band The Everdawn. So for a couple of years I only played covers with different bands and constellations and was fine with that. When I stopped playing with The Everdawn, I didn’t feel like I had anything more to write and I thought it was really funny to play old rock n roll songs. Then in 2002 Pierre asked me, I think it was on the parking lot, if we should start a new band, he said he had a song and Oskar had one as well. Well, I said yes and I had one song as well so we recorded a three song demo which we sent to Nuclear Blast and got ourselves a record deal. I really liked the rock n roll type of songs they wrote with Scheitan and Helltrain felt as a continuation of that music, so that’s how it started. It was Pierre who came up with the idea of calling the band Helltrain. I don’t know exactly where he got it from. Maybe it was from the old Helltrain movie, but I’m not sure.

You are now 10 years in music business; in what way did your music develop during these years? And how much did you change as persons during this time? Are there things you regret or would do different nowadays?
Yes, we are 10 years in music business with Helltrain, but since we’ve been playing together and released albums with different bands since the nineties, it feels like 20 years in business. I think we had a quite clear idea of how we wanted Helltrain to sound 10 years ago. It would be straight forward hard rock punk metal music with a Hammond organ. We have stayed in that style and we have added synths in some songs, clean vocals in some songs and on “Death is coming” it’s a little bit more advanced guitar riffs and more drum fills.
I guess the biggest changes as persons are on the physical level, we have less hair on our heads, due to natural causes. We have more wrinkles, we’ve added some kilos and our hearing is worse. But I truly believe that we are a little bit wiser than before.
When it comes to regret things, I myself are not so much into that way of thinking. I prefer to look forward, because I can’t change what has been done, but I can affect the future. I think doing wrong and not always taking the easiest way is a good thing, because it’s a way of learning how not to act as you get older. So I don’t regret anything.

You’ve been signed to Nuclear Blast & Jimmy Franks Recording Company, why did you part ways with them?
We actually got sacked from both of the companies.

You are without a record deal now, is it because you don’t want one anymore or what is the reason for it?
When we got sacked from Jimmy Franks, we decided to do our third album ourselves. We contacted some record labels to see if there was any interest, but we didn’t get so much response so we decided to use all our experience and knowledge that we had gained during the years and do the release our way and so far it has worked very well.

You are taking care of your own business now, do you think it is still necessary nowadays to have a record company behind you as a band?
No I don’t think it´s necessary, it depends on what the record company does. It can be a good thing and it can be a bad thing. Today there’s so many ways you can choose on how you want to spread your music, we have two record labels, TPL and Metalism that print and sell physical copies of our album, but they don’t finance the actual recordings, and that is one way of working.

What could record companies do to become more attractive for artists again?
If I had a record company I think I would work with the bands in all areas. It wouldn’t be just a record company, it would be a company that books gigs, works with management and spreads the music in all different possible ways. I firmly believe that companies in the music business in the future have to act like that to be able to survive. That is the way for record companies to become more attractive for artists.

Nowadays everything turns to downloads etc. What do you think of it, is it good or bad? What would you change?
I think it’s a great thing. Since we are so old that we can compare with the situation in the 80´s and 90´s, the internet revolution is such a great thing. When we recorded our first demos in the beginning of the nineties, we had to do copies from one tape to another and then send the tape in an envelope to spread the music. Today that way of working sounds like the Stone Age. I think the most interesting thing that is happening now is the streamed music with Spotify. Eventually people will not download so much music since it’s so easy with a streamed library that you pay 10 or 20 euro for each month, and people are cool with that. People don’t want to pay 20 euro for one cd. If I could change something, it would be to build out internet, so that the music we listen to has the same quality as cd quality, not mp3. But eventually we’ll get there. The highest mp3 quality is quite good though. Otherwise I don’t think I would change anything, streamed music is the new thing that will stay for a long time and I think that’s great.

Pierre& Patrik, I guess you guys are brothers, right? What are the good and bad parts in having his brother in the same band?
Yes, we are brothers. I´m the younger one, I´m only 35, but he is 38, an old man close to 40, he he. For us I guess there are mainly good parts in having a brother in the band. We have always been able to get along with each other, we can have our differences, but on the whole it’s a solid and good thing playing together. We have often different ideas about the music, but we always manage to continue forward in one or another way.

So “Death is Coming” was released in May, are you already touring or are there plans for a tour?
We are doing some gigs in 2012 and we are planning for more in 2013, at the moment it’s one-off gigs on a couple of festivals. We really hope that we can come down to the continent and tour and do some festival gigs. That would sure be a blast. And I really hope that we can come to Switzerland sometime and play in the heart of Europe. I love the high mountains and the lovely nature of your wonderful country.

Ok, last but not least do you have some final words for the Stalker readers?
Thanx Sandy for the interview, it has been a pleasure answering your questions. Hope the autumn and winter will be great in Switzerland and that there will be a lot of hard music roaring in the great Swiss alps. Cheers and wiedersehen!
Thanks a lot for the Interview.
More Information about Helltrain:

Author: Sandy Mahrer Photos: Helltrain, (live) Mattias Pantzare
Date: 2012-09-13

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