Clawfinger Interview
This interview was made in Bourg En Bresse (France) the 18th of April 2006.
Pierre and Manu have met Zak Tell.


It seems that you are not as popular as a few years ago, what gives you the fire to keep on doing this ?
Well, what did you think about tonight ? We still have a great time on stage. But obviously at the end of the day the problem is that there is a reality to face : we have bills to pay, we have family to put food on the table. And you know, the day we can’t do that anymore we’re sort of fucked. That’s how simple it is. Right now it’s not a very good time for us economicaly, but we’re still managing to make it work and we’re being smart with our money, so it works but it’s not easy and we’re very far from being rich rockstars you know. But we still enjoy each others compagny, we still kick ass on stage. And as long as those two things are there we’ll just try to make the other things work.

We met Ray from Downset last year in the very same place. He played in front of 200 people and said that it would be stupid not to come and play for those 200 true fans...
... Well, I mean you always play for the true fans. The hardcore fans, that known you for years. Sometimes you are lucky you have a hit on MTV or some other shitty channel and you have a big record company behind you and that’s cool when that happens. We’ve had that as well. But once again we can’t control that. It’s all about having fun at the end of the day. Sure we have a serious message but it doesn’t mean you can’t have fun and party. For me it’s perfectly natural to combine those 2 things. Even if we party on tour, we try to keep the focus right. Being able to party and doing your work on stage, which is also a way of partying.
And a lot of bands forget that you know. Because they get successful and they take things for granted. We had some of those syndromes seriously because we were big in the beginning. In some ways we are spoiled you know. We take things for granted. But I think it helped being from Sweden. In Sweden we don’t specially think of people who are more successfull or earn more money than you. It’s really based on regarding of who you are, not based on income or success. It’s based on how nice you are toward the people. Of course there are Swedens that are assholes, maybe some of us are assholes occasionnaly. But you know we’re all try to make this ship work together. But of course it’s hard from going bigger to smaller. I admit. It’s not always easy. But this is where we are, so we make the best of where we are and hopefully we’ll get bigger again.
But seriously this is the more fucked up business to be in right now. First of all there is the whole downloading thing that scared record company. 15 years old today don’t buy cds. They download it, listen to it and throw it away then download something else. I’m older, people from my generation like cd collections. I like booklets, I like lyrics, but I also download. I have shitloads of downloading music, but I also have shitloads of old music.

Is this why you inclued a Dvd with your last album. To make people wanna buy your album ?
This was Nuclear Blast’s idea. They try to add value to the cd of course. Because they realize the market is changing. So if you add a bonus feature, it makes people into buying the cd. It’s very simple. This is just some commercial tactics, it’s not wrong but it’s only commercial reasons. And I think it’s good. It’s really smart because it gives you extra value for your money. But I hope that one day we can released a dvd that is ours. A Dvd with a complete shows, all the videos instead of almost all the ones like it is on the Nuclear Blast Dvd. You see that’s the kind of Dvd we wanna do, including backstage footage, party footage, interviews. It will be cool to released a Dvd fuckin’ loaded with lot’s of informations and entertainement at the same time.

Did you participated in the making of the Dvd that is with the album ?
Well of course we approved the footage from the festival. But it’s too bad they didn’t get all the videos. It was for legal reasons because we had a couple of different record companies in our past. So it was difficult to get all the rights. So I think there is only 8 videos out of the 11 that we made. So it’s only about legal bullshit reasons that not all of our videos appears on this Dvd. But I still think it’s a great Dvd you know. And for all the people who never had the chance to see us, it’s a chance to see what we are on stage.

About the show itself ?
It is a great show, not the best show we’ve done, but it’s great. We approved it. I think there are some sound problems on it, also it’s early in the day and we had a spleepless night the day before. We played a protugues festival really late the day before. Got about 1 hour of sleep and then flew right away to this festival. But I mean it’ a luxury problem, so because I know the background and the story behind it, we were so fuckin tired on that gig, but it doesn’t show. Because once again you give everything you’ve got anyway. But don’t get me wrong it’s a good show.
The good thing about that show was that the filming was pretty well done. A lot of festivals don’t have film teams that actually have the brains to see what the band is doing and cut it differently for every band. Some people just film because it’s their job you know. But for this festival the people behind the cameras knew how we move on stage and what we did you know. I’m talking too much but I’m drunk so… (Laugh)

You were talking about the fun that you have on stage, and I think that’s really unique to Clawfinger, the people can see that you have some fun and you are able to pass your enthousiasm to the crowd. People can feel that. Not all bands are able to do that...
Especially if you like a death metal band you have to be hard ! I think it took us a few years but I think you can combine it. It’s really easy to do, it’s simple communication. I mean look at the fans that have payed to see you. If it’s necessary get down in the audience with the fans, let them sing in the micorphone. It’s very small things, it doesn’t get a lot of effort from us. Just look at the people, smile to them, try to make them have some good time to the show. And if the fans want to come up on stage it’s cool as long as they are carefull with our equipement and don’t stay too long on stage so that they get anoying. Yeah see, things are as simple as that.

About your new record “Hate Yourself With Style”, what was the response from the fans and the medias in general ?
It’s been very mixed. I think that has always been the case with us. Exept maybe at the beginning when we were like the cool thing. People lied in the beginning they were like “Oh it’s great” even if they didn’t care. That’s what happen when you’re really successful with something. Evereone will just hooks on and pretend to like you. And you always have about 30 % of the fans that maybe like you but don’t really understand what you’re about but because you are popular they just sort of want to hang on to this attention that you are getting. And see, that’s the good thing about not being big. The people who come are all real fuckin’ fans. That’s an upside to be a big fuckin’ band. And that’s why some of those bands choose to separate themselves from the fans. Because they know that they are so many people that are not for real. So it’s become difficult to deal with it, to go down into an audience and just talk with people anymore. Because you always have some people that just want to get your attention like “oh I talked to him and he’s like in this cool big band”. But it’s not just a thing for bands. If you are succesfull in any line of work you’ll always have people that would like to hang on to you and get a piece of you. So you know, in some ways I understand people like Metallica or these really big bands, they have to separate themselves, otherwise they’ll be eaten up. Anyway, it’s a weird fuckin business, it’s fucked up in lot of ways but also it’s the best fuckin job, so…

Since the departure of Erlend, Hanke and Andre are more and more involved in the band...
Andre has been with us since the very beginning. Hanke has been with us since 1997. I think what happened was when Erlend left, basically the last 2 or 3 years he wasn’t happy being in the band. And when one personn isn’t happy, he makes moving forward harder. It’s like having a boat trying to sell, but the ancre is still in the watter. He enjoyed being on stage, but everything around it, the touring, being away from home, the bus, he didn’t enjoyed it. Because you have to compromise. It’s always about team work. And he was the guy in the band who was least capable of doing team work. He wanted things to be by his standards, by what he thinks is good or bad. And so far there was no surprise. We saw this coming. And when he left, all the sudden we all had the same goal again. There was nothing stopping us, the whole procedure of recording and being a band together became so much easier. And it also changed the power stucture within the band. All the sudden Jocke became a step forward into the writting. Everything became more spontanious and based on just having fun. I mean life goes on. We never considered quitting when he left. But Bård, our guitar player was worried because they used to be 2 sort of x-men. For me personnaly, in all I see, it didn’t make much of a difference. Because he wasn’t happy in the end and therefor he didn’t participate much in the song writing or in the life of the band. I wish him the best with his computer writing business, I know he has a good job now, congratulations. That’s what he wanted. He wanted to have a 9 to 5, to have the security of a home, to be at home with his wife all the time. Fair enough. If that’s what you feel you have to do that you know.

Did it changed your way of writing ?
Absolutly. Like I said, it made everything more spontanious. It made the whole procedure much more relax. It’s one less opinion to care about. It means, that there is one person less whose opinion has to be taken into consideration. All the sudden we were 3 people in the song writing department. Which of course makes it easier. When we were 4 we always have to make compromises. Now, the guy who burns most of the song, finishes the song. The other guys say what they don’t like, we fix that, and it just sort of rolled on. So it became a lot easier to write songs. There will be people out there who’ll think that this album is not as good as the previous one. But that’s the way it is. And we’re having more fun than ever you know.

You released a « Best of » last year. Any word on that cd ?
No. We have nothing to say except that we were not a part of it. We were not involved in this released. It was made buy our old record company who released our first 3 albums. They did that because they knew we had a new record coming on a new label. And they wanted to ride on that wave and sell some albums. They didn’t asked us to write notes, add pictures or anything. So of course I like the release because it’s our songs, but I’m also pissed of because there is no bonus materials, no b-sides, no remixes. There is no added value for the fans. And that really sucks.

And you have those kind of materials to add ?
Yeah ! We have a lot of b-sides and remixes. I would have also love to write some notes about some of the songs we made or whatever. But they never even asked us. And for that reason I don’t like it. They should have cared a little bit more. And that’s one fucked up thing about the music business, it’s business. But what they didn’t realized is that they would have made more money if they had added some extra stuff.

On our last interview, you said that being on a major label wasn’t the right thing for Clawfinger. Do you think you have found the right label with Nuclear Blast ?
That’s hard to say. Because we haven’t been to Nuclear Blast very long. And they are still a major label. The difference is that they are one major label which works with one gender of music. So at least they are working within a territory they know about. Actually we are very different from most of the bands on that label. We’re probably one of the more commercial bands. Compare to some of the stuff they have, we are very easy listening. But still, it’s a metal label, they know the metal scene. They have street teams, and other stuff. We can say that they have a more down to earth approch about the music. And I think it helps. I’m still not sure if it’s the right label, I’m not even sure if we should be on a label. Maybe we should start our own label. I don’t know it’s too early to tell. But so far it’s been good. Ask me again in 6 months.

What is hidden behind the name of your new record “Hate Yourself With Style” ?
Basically that’s what we do as human beings. We pretend to be something we’re not. We try to live up with somebody’s expectations. But we don’t show it to anybody. We have these stupid masks on and try to pretend that we are happy and sometimes we’re fuckin’ miserable. That was my idea with the tittle. But maybe for some people it could mean something completely different.

This time you produced the whole album by yourselves. Why such a choice ?
Well, we’ve talked about it since the second album. We just never had the balls to do it. It’s basically the answer to the question. Jocke, our keyboard player, has done some good work on production for some swedish bands. We’ve done remixes for Rammstein for years. We know how to do this shit. It’s just the question of having the faith to believe in yourself enough to do it. And for this album we decided it was fuckin time. There’s no big secret behind. That was it. We just felt that after all these years, we were mature enough to do it.
It’s really different from our previous albums, more basic, less keyboards, but we’re really happy with it.

So you think you made the right choice ?
Yeah I think it was the right choice. The thing is that you’re never totaly satisfied with your own productions. As soon as you finished it, you ear things that you would have like to change. But you have to live with that. And try to make better next time. That’s what keeps you going also. It’s a bit of a cliche but it’s also true you know. Never being totally happy make you wanted do always better.

You were talking about the kind of Dvd that you would like for Clawfinger, do you have yet any plans about one ?
It just have to be the right timing you know. And I don’t think this is the right time. We’re still trying to get back up a bit on the ladder. I hope we’ll be around long enough to release a full packed Dvd, but only time will tell. Now isn’t the right time anyway.

Your lyrics are very strong, do you consider yourself as a spokesman ?
No ! I’ve always liked bands like Dead Kennedys, Sex Pistols, Public Enemy and a bunch of other bands who have always been very outspoken. That’s the way I do it. That’s the way I love writing. And of course it’s probably based on where I grow up, in a hippy communauty. It’s not pre-planed, but I don’t know any other way to do it. I just like to try to say things, things that are in my mind, things that are anoying me. Wether it is homophobia, racism, things that concern me. The problem is not coming up with a topic, the problem is writing a lyric that I feel is good enough. That’s the problem because I’m never satisfied mostly.

Last time you were talking about the fact that french people always make big strikes. What was your reaction about the lattest events that happened here, strikes and riots ? I think you saw that on tv...
Yeah ! It was on the news everywhere. I think it’s great but in the same time it’s strange because french people seems to be very relaxed, very sort of laid back, they drink some wine, smoke a joint, listen to reggae music, rap. They’re like “hey men, cool !”. And then you have this history of being revolutionnaire. And I think it’s great. Sometimes I doubt that protesting is the right way of doing it. Me and Jocke did this big protesting a month ago in Stockolm against the fact that there is no control about all the weapons that are sold all over the world. And it turns out that there was nobody there. We were supposed to be there and showed are as celebrities or whatever you want to call it. They planed this thing for month but nobody went there. Maybe that’s the problem, because it’s planed it sorts of backfires. Whereas here it’s just improvises, go out and fuckin protest. I didn’t mean that the people didn’t feel anything about weapon control, but it was too planed maybe. Here you’re fuckin burning and you’re so pissed of that you go out there and trash things. But I’m a bit in the middle because sometimes I think that the best thing is a non-violent approch. Because it’s necessary, it has to be this way. So it sadness me when it has to go through violence. So I hoped it made a difference. But it’s too sad it has to go this way. But I was happy when I saw it on the news, because it’s so for real. There is no big plan behind it, no mastermind. It’s just based on raw emotion from a bunch of people that are fuckin dissatisfied about the way things are.

Let’s get back to Clawfinger, have you ever played in the United States ?
No. It doesn’t work there because we have a song called “Nigger”. That fucks it up because we’re all pink guys, none of us are browns. Maybe it can happened now because it’s so long ago that song was released, so maybe it wouldn’t make a difference. But I mean the racial situation there is so much balck and white and so much complicated.

Do you have a distribution there for your albums ?
No. Actually our last album is distribuated there because it is on Nuclear Blast and they are pretty big there. But you know, I don’t really think much is gonna happen. First of all, to make it over there, you have to go there and tour your ass off. And the problem is that we’re getting old. The majority of us has families. And it would get probably 3 or 4 months of touring there to even get noticed. And until somebody told us that we can bring our family with us, nobody are gonna sacrificed our families that much anymore. That hungry we are not anymore. We can not do that. I can not live with not seeing my son for 5 or 6 months. I can’t do that anymore. Sorry. If that’s the price I have to pay for the States, I say fuck the States. If it has happened in 1995, I would have done it without a blink of an eye. But not now. But I still loved to go over maybe to New York, or couple of other places. And I think that people there would be pretty surprised to see what we have to offer. Because american bands have this attitude of being rockstars. Whereas we don’t really have that thing going for us. We’re not really good at being rockstars. I think that would be an intersting thing to experience. So I would loved to go over there, but touring and touring and touring, no ! Its too late, I’m too old !

In the past I’ve never been into Rammstein music too much. I discovered it last year. But when I listen to them, I think they’re using a lot of Clawfinger stuff in their music. Do you think you had an influenced on them at the beginning ?
I know that we have an influence on them. They even told us so. They even choose our first producer because they liked the guitar sound on our first album. It’s not even a secret. I think what they do is very different from us when it comes to the musical aspect. But when it comes to the guitar riffs and guitar sound, especially back in the days, it was very similar. They’ve choosen a much more risky approch, singing in german, uniforms. They’re really provoking feeling. They’re using it and I think it’s intersting. Because in the past, germans have not been allowed to talk about their past, and say things about the second world war and of course the whole nazi thing. And these guys are using a lot of that simbolysm and are forcing people to react. So I think it’s really intersting and that they are doing it really fuckin weel. Sometime they go over the boarder, over the limit to what is tastefull. But well, I know for facts that those guys are the opposite of being nazis you know. That was the first thing we checked out when they supported back in 1995. We had there lyrics translated, we checked out what these guys were about. Because obviously we didn’t wanted a support band that was a nazi band. And we quickly understood that they were playing around with this symbolism. Those guys grew up in east Berlin, so they truly are the opposite of being nazis. I don’t know why they actually did it, but it was of course to create reactions.

It looks like what you did with your “Nigger” song...
Yeah in some ways. But even more provocative. At that time, we weren’t smart enough to realize that we were provocative. I was more a case of being honest, saying exactly what we were thinking whithout taking into consideration if it could maybe offend people you know. Maybe today I would have written those lyrics differently. I’m not sure. But back then, I wrote the lyrics in 1991 or some, that was the way I did it. I grow up loving bands like Public Enemy, NWA, all sorts of rap stuff. I always asked myself why they are using this word ? And I guess some people think it’s stupid for a white guy from Scandinavia to have those feelings and those thoughts. But that was just the way I felt, so I wrote those fuckin’ lyrics. There you go. We know what we’re trying to say so there is no problem. If people misunderstand it, we explain it to them and they realised we’re not racist.

Did you had a bad experience on stage when you played this particular song ?
I would say that 99 % there hasn’t been any problems or what so ever. I would say that there has been a couple of gigs, out of the 700 or whatever we’ve done, I don’t keep count. Back in the days in Sweden there was some skinheads in the audience and when we said it was an anti-racism song, they through out bottles at us. But they didn’t hit us, there wasn’t a big problem. So there have been times where people were like “what the fuck is this song, what are you saying ?” But the funny thing is that there are always been white people, not black people that seemed to be offended buy this song. And as long as you know what you’re trying to say, it’s always easy to have conversation with people who misunderstand you. So to answer the question, there has been a few occasions where things went wrong, but not many. Which proves that most people have brains, and can read lyrics.

So to finish, what are your planes for the next months ?
Well, we have 10 more gigs in France. Then we’re going home for like 10 days. Then we’re doing Russia, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, for about 3 weeks. And then a few vacation with some festivals surrounding there, in Switzerland, Germany… Not as many festivals as I would have done. Maybe a few more will pop up really soon. And then we’ll see, maybe we should tour more, or start recording new songs. It all depends with what will happens commercialy. So we’ll just wait and see !

I hope that you will work on a new album soon !
So what you say is that you hope this album don’t sell much then ?! (Big laugh) I would love to record a new album but at the same time I would love that this album sells more so that we can tour more. The best thing is to do both I guess. But it’s hard to find time to write songs on tour. Because you’re always in dressing room, in buses, doing sound checks... There are not many times where you could just sit back and really focused on song writing. Some bands can do it. We can’t.

Do you still have some ideas for your next record ?
Well of course. You always have some ideas, lyrics, guitar riffs, drum beats. But finding the time, on tour, to put them together is hard !

Interview Manu & Pierre
Translation Pierre

Copyright Hammerock - Spiritribe 1999