Interview: Tomas Haake (MESHUGGAH)

Interview: Tomas Haake (MESHUGGAH)
Coming in fresh off a month break taken after a hectic Europe/US/UK touring run, Meshuggah are stopping by some dates starting off this weekend in support of their recent release, The Violent Sleep Of Reason. I spoke to drummer/lyricist Tomas Haake in relation to their approach to writing their 8th full-length album, it’s overly positive global reception, and why they won’t show signs of slowing down anytime soon.

I don’t know how much you guys are aware, but you peaked at 9th on the Australian ARIA charts for the release week of The Violent Sleep Of Reason, which, in my mind, is insane regarding how Meshuggah’s music might not be the most accessible to many. Has the band been able to take in the success and reception among all the hectic touring you’ve been going through?

Not really … I mean, it’s one of those things where you hear about it and see figures from Australia and we go ‘holy shit, that’s fucking amazing’, and the label and everyone is stoked but at the same time, those things are really hard to put your finger on. You hear about it and say ‘okay, that’s really awesome’, but at the same time, you’re focused on what you need to do (in terms of tours). Like you said, especially with this niche music that we’re still doing, it’s fantastic to have any kind of response like that, and to have an album be something that means something to people … and that’s something to us. That’s very humbling and cool.

Regarding the album, how far in-between the completion of Koloss and the seeds of this album take place, whether through your lyrics, riffs, or drum patterns …?

Everything on this album is definitely new. We did have some leftovers after Koloss, and we do have some leftovers from this album too. You feel like you’re gonna do something with those riffs for the next album but you change as a person over time as well, and when there’s 3-4 years between each album, you kinda want them to represent what you’re feeling right now. It tends to change with your own change as you go along.

With your approach to recording Violent Sleep in a more live and organic setting, was there much difference in the ways you managed time and mentally approached the recording process with this as opposed to Koloss?

Everything about this album was done differently than Koloss and Obzen. For example, both of those albums were recorded and produced completely by us at the studio we have here, and we felt an almost desperate need to get away from that with this album. For this one, we kind of wanted to take a step back to how we used to do things early on, where we just focus on the music and have someone else record it, someone else mix it … all the things around you know, instead of doing it all on our own. We actually wanted to record every album this way but due to time issues and the fact that not all of us live in Stockholm, have kids and so-on, it just didn’t end up like that. This time around we just felt that we had to, no matter how long it would have taken. Even if it would delay the album or whatever. We would learn all the songs as a band and record it as a band.

With the saturation in modern metal these days of low-tuned guitars and polyryhtms, it begs me to ask if there’s been any external influences to Meshuggah’s writing these days or has it always been the same process the band has endured over the 25+ years?

In most ways, in the musical aspect, it’s been the same … our standpoint has always been the same from the first album by just trying to do something that at least we ourselves haven’t heard before. That’s the main goal to try to find little new ‘grips’ with every album that you can deal within the context of what is still ‘Meshuggah’ as a band. We do understand that there are limitations and we apply limitations to our music, definitely. We don’t wanna go the Opeth way where all-of-a-sudden everything is kind of calm, laid back, and relaxed. We still feel like we wanna punch people in their throats, and that’s been one of the driving forces in the band. We write what we can and we can only hope people will enjoy it.

It’s definitely showing through in those recent figures, you guys must be doing something right!

[laughs] It seems so! I guess must be doing something right. People still come out to our shows and pay for tickets to come and see us and we do understand that it’s not just about the music. We have to put on a show as well, so we put some extra effort and money into lights and make it a show, which is a huge aspect for any band these days. Yeah, you can be the best fuckin’ musicians in the world and no ones gonna care about you … you have to have something.

We use that as a guide, you know … We try to not only perform the songs but also try to make it a night that people are gonna remember.

It would be awesome to have you guys back here for those few days and I can’t wait to see you guys. It’s been great talking to you man!

Thanks a lot man, I appreciate that!

Interview: Tomas Haake (MESHUGGAH)
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