Clawfinger Interview

This interview was made in Lyon the 10 th of April 2003 as the band was in the European Tour. Manu and Pierre have met Zack Tell (ZT - the singer), and Bård Torstensen (BT - the guitariste).

About your last album, Zeroes and Heroes, are you satisfied with the result ?

ZT: Well, yeah, being the first album that we almost produced entirely ourselves, I think we're damned pleased with it. What we are not pleased about is the record company business. You know, that's been our major problem, our major concerned. It's not really about us getting worried about the quality of our song-writting. It's just at this time and place in the world, in the business world and in the record company business, the situation is very unstable. That leaves bands like us that are not on the top of the priority level, that sort leaves us driving behind a little bit. And we don't get the attention we need and deserve. So the album I'm really pleased with, everything else I'm not really pleased with.

Is this why you decided to produced this album yourself ?

BT: No, it has nothing to do with record company, it's just that we feel like we've been recording so many albums, like 5 albums. And why should we have a producer right now cause we can do all the parts ourselves. Let's try to do it you know. So we tried out on the new album.
ZT: And I think that I proves the point. We don't really need a producer. I mean, shit we've been doing this professionnelly for 11 years and also 2 or 3 years before we even started Clawfinger officially we were also making just stupid songs just for the hell of it so by now some of us just be good at doing studio work.
BT:We have our own studio, that's also a point. We bought the studio together with Messugah.
ZT: (talking about Meshuggah) Great band by the way, free promo for them here. Messugah, verybody should listen to Meshuggah and Clawfinger.

Clawfinger does exist since the beginning of the 90s, after the released of your last album, the guitarist Allen Otten decided to left the band, can you let us know more about that ?

BT: He just had enough you know.
ZT: He didn't enjoy all the things that being in a band envolved taking part of. I guess that touring was on of the thing that tored him appart quite a lot. He really did not enjoy touring. I guess he didn't even enjoy writing songs actually. He didn't really enjoy himself, and that's really a situation where you should quit. Regardless of what you do, if you don't enjoy it, you should quit. And he did. It took him a few years. To me it was not a big surprise, I could sort of see it coming for the last 2 or 3 years. It's a question of gathering enough courage to step out of a situation that become your day to day routine. And gathering the courage to get out of that and start something new is fuckin' hard. It's too bad but I mean in the same time because he didn't enjoy, we are probably better of without him. I whish him the best of luck with whatever he does. But he's history you know, we have to move on as long as we can make some sence out of this fuckin' band Clawfinger.

And now, how does it work ? You are only three ?

ZT: Well yeah, the line ups are sort of vague these days.
BT: Right now is like, ok it's three you know but there're also the two other guy Andre and Hanka (the drummer). They are much more into the all band thing. Being musicians.
ZT: Actually, it's the first time we are gonna envolve them into the song writing process. We've actually booked a week, we've done things really professionnaly. We booked a week in May where we're gonna bring them in the studio. We're gonna try and sit together and see what comes out of that, trying to be a real band for the first time in 11 years. That could prove to be really interesting or we'll just realize that it should only be the three of us doing the song foundation work and maybe continue bringing them live, we'll see. We'll do an interview in May sometime and let you know more about how worked out.

The album has been released for a year now, what is the response from the fans ?

ZT: Well, the response from the fans has been good. But you know, they're already fans. But you know part of the thing you always wanna do with a band is managed to reach out to new people all the time. And of course because you wanna sell more albums, you wanna make more money of course all that stuff you wanna get bigger and better. But in some ways that comes back to the record company problem. The record company is prioryting the band properly and you'll end up at the bottom of a big pile of cd's and of course they're gonna promot Annie Lenox, Outkast long before they promote Clawfinger. Because Outkast and Annie Leny are guaranted to make lot's of money for the record company whereas we are further down on the selling list. So instead of putting more time into us they put less time into us. But that's business, that's nothing new.
BT: For us you know, in our position, it's kind of stupid to be on a major. We should rather be on an Independent label or a speciallized metal label or some. Probably on the next album we'll probably have a different label.
ZT: I think we were a little bit spoiled from the beginning.
BT: At the beginning, the hit made us go into the sharts. We play the same music but it was a hit by then you know.
ZT: The first wave of cross-over rap-metal.
BT: That's why they treated us commercially that kind of way, like a commercial band. But now it's wrong for us to be in a major, totally.

So probably for the next album ?

ZT: Yeah probably. I mean there are not definit decisions made or anything, but it looks like that's what's gonna happened. It's very likely. It's just a question of finding the right inde label or the right alternative metal label. I mean the problem there, I mean they don't have the money for the fancy promotion work but then again maybe they have the heart to put into it and work harder. You know having street-teams or whatever. You know, you always win some and loose some but in the end I hope it'll pay off more to be on an inde label that actually gives a shit. And don't even want to released Annie Lenox or Outkast.
I mean not that there is anything wrong with them. But if your range of music is that wide at the record company, how da fuck can you be dedicated.

Can you talk a little bit about the cover of Zeroes & Heroes ?

ZT: Where da fuck does that idea originally comes from ? I guess it must have come after we come out with the song. The songs is about real heroes in society are the fuckin' hard workers. People who are putting 9 to 5, 7 days a week. Cleaning toilettes, driving buses. You name it, all the shit jobs that's fancy people don't wanna do. They are actually those people that make society fuckin' run. If these people went on strike, it'll be a matter of ours and everything will be shut down.
BT: And you know about this in France. French are the greatest strikers in the world.
The highway totally blocked.
ZT: Actually that was Allen that was there that day, he was talking about that and I gave him the idea of Zeroes and Heroes. Who are the fuckin' heroes and who are the zeroes you know. And that made us playing with the idea, let's make ourselves into these like Mount Rochemord or like statues like we become legends. And then we'll let people decide whether or not we are being ironic or we're being way to serious about ourselves. Let see how much the fans can pick up of our irony you know. But also I have to admit it's nice to see myself as a fuckin' statue. It does feel good I have to say because it's probably the only place I'm gonna see it, it's on a fuckin' cover.
BT: Of your own album !
ZT: Of our own album of course. I don't think I'll ever be in a museum. I hope I'm wrong but I don't think so.

How do you feel being back on the road again ?

ZT: I love being on the road and I especially love living on a bus. We did a few dates now in switzerland in March. You know you stayed in hotels and you drive a mini bus to evrery gigs. It's so fuckin' tiring. I hate hotels seriously. I like the bus. I have all my shit in the empty bunk, my bag and all my stuff there. I have my bed, always close by Ryan, the back loundge with a playstation, the front loundge with a playstation, films. You have all your friends. I mean you have your home with you all the time. I fuckin' love it. I mean of course you miss home and blah blah all that stuff but this is our job, and that's what we love doing so you just make it work. Or else you stay at a fuckin' bachelor the rest of your life, it's up to each member.

How long is this tour ?

ZT: This is a 2 week tour. We started of in Belgium and then it's like 10 gigs in France and then it's one gig in Germany and then we'll go home again. We've always done pretty shorts tours as well. We've never done a Metallica stuff of course; because we've never been as big. They go out for a year. I think I would go crazy if that happened. I would start being crazy and taking drugs allover the place. And none of us wanna do that. We wanna try to keep reasenobly saine. Try to keep the tours no longer than 3 or 4 weeks maximum. Because after a certain amounts of days, something in your brain snaps and something in your heart snaps. And things start getting weird. And we really want to try to keep our feet on the ground. I doesn't mean you can't have fun or you can't get drunk or smoke pod or whatever you fuckin' like, but try to keep on the right side of wrong. You don't have to do the Pantera thing where you trash every dressing room that you have. You can have fun anyway you can fucked shit up for each other instead of fuckin' shit up for innocent people.

About the new album, would you tell us more about the lyrics ?

ZT: I'm mostly the one responsible. Which song ? It's kind of hard to speak about the whole album in general. The only point that I really had is that I want to try to say something you know, most of the time. Obviously, there's a song called Bitch which isn't that serious and isn't really saying much about anything but that's just a side step from our regular stuff in some ways. Everyone have thoughts and I have the opportunity to also get them down on paper and get them down on tape. And I think it's cool to try to say something that you feel something about. Whether it's about religion or racism or all the things you think are wrong, from big things to small things. That's my basic, very simple way of writing lyrics. And there's also very much that way because I grow up lovinbg stuff like Crass and Dead Kennedy's. I've always loved the old punk stuff for the directness of the lyrics. And that always appealed to me more than poetical stuff. I like stuff that is kind of direct. If I have to choose how I got to do it, I like it to be direct. I mean I still love to listen to something that is freaked out and weird, Mr Bungle or whatever but for me I like the sort of punkness of the lyrics.

Sweden seems to be a very good country for electric music. Here in France bands like Clawfinger, Messugah, In Flames are very popular. What's your opinion about playing in France ?

BT: Well we just started so it's hard to tell before the tour is over. We've always had very good shows in Paris.
ZT: It's been a long time though. It really has been a bit too long to be able to say. The last time we did a real tour here was like in 1997. And we've been supporting Rammstein and it's like 35 or 40 mn set. And the croud aren't there to see us. So it's been so long and it's really hard to say. And if we see a fan base here that's really cool. The experience we've had in the past have been great. But I would say that in any country everyone ask that question before of course the people that come to see us are fans and they're always good. I can't really say that I have experienced anything in France that has been more spectacular than in any other country. I always whish I could say something really cool about each country.
BT: I think that all over the world people are kind of the same you know. You have certain group with a certain mentalety or a certain group that has preference for this music or this kind of music and they connect. They behave the same.
ZT: I mean, put it this say. We're a bunch of stupid guys, we play music, we've been able to make a living out of it for 11 years. We have people who fuckin' pay to come to see us. That rules you know. I don't really care which country it is. They pay to see us stand on stage performing songs that we've written. That's a pretty good fuckin' pay back regardless of which country you're in. It's like thaks guys you didn't had to but hey cool ! hope you had a good time. The whole world is our stage, at least the whole europe is our stage. We haven't managed to take on the whole world yet. We got to work on that.

You've got many very good songs among your album. Which do you think is the more popular for the fans and which one do you prefer ?

ZT: Actually that does change a bit from different countries.
BT: I guess "Do what I say" is the one that is the most popular because it's a weird thing to do to bring a child for the myrics to do this kind of music. Not only metal people might like it because it's something different. And also "Nigger", because it's provoking.
ZT: It was the first single on the first album. It sort of become some sort of a classic.
A trademark would be a better word, it's one of the typical ultimate Clawfinger song. Another song like "Two Sides" that I've noticed have reached out to people that don't usually listen to Clawfinger much but they because it has a different bit to it and the oriental vib on the chorus so that people that wouldn't really listen to our music would go hey that's a cool song. But there all types of different songs.

When you play "Do what I say" do you use a sample ?

ZT: Yeah, sorry man, but I can't sing that good ! That's just a reality.
BT: It would be to bad to bring a kid on tour.
ZT: Yeah you don't bring a kid on tour. We could have some effects on the voice but it's easier to use a sample. We've always liked using a lot of samples. We always mix it up with having a really good live band. We've always used as much technical stuff as we've had available, because we have Jorke who is the keyboard player and he's a technical freak ! He really loves doing all the sampling stuff and the drum programming, finding weird loops.
BT: But in some ways we always do it some kind of way so it's possible to play it live. It's not like a tape or anything like this you know. He has all the samples on the keyboard and if it goes wrong we can do it over again. So it's some kind of way live anyway. And when we do "What I say" the chorus of the child is on the keyboard. But I mean you make a point with a song and you bring that out loud with a sample. So it's cool to use it for that.
ZT: Yeah you know, fuck all the rules, there are no rules. It's not as if everything has to be live to be real, that's just being oldfashion. That's like saying you have to use old marshall amplifiers to be a real rock band or blah blah whatever you know. That's feels kind of outdated to think that way. Also some bands take pride at doing it, go ahead but it's not for us.

Which are your favorite 5 albums of all time ?

- Jerry Lee Lewis "Live at the star in Hamburg"
- AC/DC "Let there be rock"
- SEX PISTOLS "Nevermind the bollocks"
- ALICE IN CHAINS "Facelift"
- LONESTAR "Firing on ball six", that's a hard rock band from england that never made it. It's a fuckin' brilliant album that they made but the thing is that punk rock just arrived
Five ! I made it !!!

ZT: Let see, how da fuck you just limit down to five ! Ok,

- PUBLIC ENEMY "It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back"
- DEAD KENNEDYS album, there gotta be an album but which one ? well I guess "Fresh Fruit for Rotting Vegetables"
- ZAPPA "Apostrophy"
- The first John Lenon solo album
- NWA "Stay out of comptent"
Oh fuck that was five already right. There's to many, I love the first Mr Bungle, I would have to say ALICE IN CHAINS Durt for me; I fuckin' love Faith No More album King for a day fool for a lifetime, eventhough it seems that so few people think it's one of the best but personnely it's my all time favorite of theirs. Anything by Tom Waits.

After eleven years of touring, have got any fun story or anecdote to tell us ?

BT: Well, we played in Chili on the Monsters of Rock tour in south America with Alice Cooper, Ozzy Osbourne, Megadeph, Therapy… And so we went to Chili. And our bass player, he has this weird thing like he put his pants half way down while spinning around on stage you know. He did that on the show, and that was shown on tv and stuff. The morning after the show some of the crew of the tour came and told us that we just gotta get the fuck to the airport and left the country because they are after you. Just because the bass player showed his ass on tv. And you couldn't do that in Chili, you could be arrested for that. So we went to the airport and took off, but the police was after us you know.
ZT: Actually it was double problem bevause Andy the vocolist in Therapy he showed his cock to the audiancfe afterwards. But that's not actually the funniest thing I remember from Chili. Shortly before we went on stage I remember that Dave Mustaine came to me and he said : So guys, is it your first time in Chili ? That was our first time. So he smiled at us and he was like, good luck guys. So we were like what da fuck is that ? He had the smile on his face, and you see that he knew something that we didn"t know. So we got up on stage. And as soon as we started, people started spitting at us. Apparently it's an old thing since the punk days that they still do in Chili. So they were like spitting at us for 30 minutes. And you couldn't do anything about it. You could try to move far back on stage as possible or you could just say fuck it and stay at the front and be spitted at. And it was out of love you know. So anyway, it was fuckin' ugly but anyway we did the gig and I had a shower afterwards obviously. Then when Megadeph went on stage, it turns out they had 2 hugh fuckin' fans on each side of the stage that were pointing out towards the audience.
So when they spit, those two fans just blow the spit right back in their faces. They've been their before, they've done the routine before. That's why Dave Mustain was loughing, and during our show, he was standing on the side of the stage and loughing his tong out. Fuckin' bastard he could have told us. That was a once in a lifetime experience.
And I don't want to experience it again.

So, no more gigs in Chili ?

ZT: Well, I hope so. But you know I wouldn't cancel a gig because of that. Let's hope that maybe it has changed a bit since then.

You've been touring a lot with Rammstein. When they just started you took them out on tour, like you discovered them.. And then when Clawfinger wasn't working so well whereas Rammstein was, they took you on tour with them. Can you talk a little bit about that ?

ZT: Yeah but I wouldn't go as far as saying that we discovered them. But at the time we were bigger than them, and also because they choose the producer that we worked with on our first 3 albums, I guess that automaticly gives us some sort of connections. They liked our guitar sounds, they wanted to work with him. And we heard their stuff, we thought that was cool. And one thing just lead to another, but they didn't do that many gigs with us, just 5 or 6 gigs. So I guess when they took us with them, they felt that they were paying back in some ways.
BT: That's what they told us : We know that you are releasing your album, we are going to play stadiums, do you want to join us.
ZT: It was a great fuckin' tour, you know what I mean. Because we had that old link, they treated us so fuckin' good. And we got to play for their audience which was like 30 thousand people for some of the shows. That was fuckin' cool. Even if it was only support and the croud wasn't their to see us, you know, we needed it right at that time. At least to get the chance to try to convience some of those big audiances, hey guys, we're still around, we're still called Clawfinger and we still kick some ass, you know. That was definatly a lot of fun. And we are thanksfull for them to given us that chance, definatly. They are cool guys, they are a bit weird but they're cool. (lough!)

What are your projects for the next months ?

BT: We are going to finish this tour, for about 2 weeks. Then in May we're going to play I think 3 festivals, 1 in Switzerland and 2 in Hungry. And between them, there's a week that we are going to start song writing. So that's the plan for the next 2 months.
ZT: And I mean also that song writing session is to get the new album started. It's like a test week. We'll see what comes out of it. It's definatly time to start to think about the new album. It is. That's the vague plan.

Do you have one last word to conclued ?

ZT: I don't know men. Check our shit out. Go to the record store, check our lattest and oldest releases and if you like it, buy it.
BT: One thing, what is going to happen right know is that, in may, our three first album are gonna be re-released, like remastered. There's gonna be all the b-sides from the respectives albums and also the videos. So the message is by !
ZT: If you don't have them already or if you want the extra material, then buy them. If you already have them but want the extra material then fuckin' download it from the internet or whatever. I don't know, last but not least, be yourselve, be cool you know. Remember that music is about an orgasm and not about a 3 minute video on MTV with stupid girls with thongs and bikinis. Peace out.

On the website we also have a section about tattoos, is it ok is we take a picture of yours ?

ZT: Well, I have 2, most of the other guys have none and our bass player has quite a few
I mean if it's interresting, no problem. Sure I don't think we are the coolest tattoo band in the world though. One of my tattoo is a ten year old Frank Zappa that I got when I learned that he died. And I'm sure the metal fans are gonna thrilled when they see out the Frank Zappa tattoo The other one is a very ugly cartoon guy, it's like a totall bastard cartoon figure. So that's it, that's me !. So we got to get hold with the bass player afterwards because he is the one who adds credibilety to our band.

Interview By Manu & Tataye
Translation by Tataye

Copyright Hammerock - Spiritribe 1999