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Hooray! It's The Quill! The past is alive! But before you start throwing the "stoner rock" tag around, you better think again. The Quill's only link to the sweet leaf can be found among their tattered Sabbath vinyls. Plus, it would be unjust to pigeonhole these Swedes alongside the fuzz worshipping van addicts and bong toting doomsters. Despite the fact that The Quill champion the vintage sounds of the 70's, they exhibit sharpness, depth and grandeur that is more akin to classic arena rock than the deliberately lo-fi music that normally garners the stoner tag. The Metal Update recently took a death trip with bassist Roger Nilsson and got the lowdown on their musical taste for the old school and their occupational connections to the new school.

METAL UPDATE: 'Hooray! It's A Deathtrip' is a peculiar album title. How did it come about?

ROGER NILSSON: I don't know. The true version is that it came to me in the shower actually. We had like a bunch of different titles but we weren't pleased with any of them. So we were supposed to have this big band meeting, and we had to decide on a title. I just took a quick shower before I went to the rehearsal room, and it just came to me. I listened to Alice Cooper just a day before, or something, and the track "Hello Hooray". I thought, "Hooray, that's a cool thing." Then Magnus was telling us about the lyrics and saying that it was mainly about death. So, somehow it just got mixed up in my mind and out came 'Hooray! It's A Deathtrip'. It was a nice shower actually. (laughs) We've been together for so long. It's our fourth album. I'm the new guy in the band, and I've been in the band for 10 years. We're in it for life I guess.

MU: So, basically, it has no meaning then?

RN:: It's connected with the lyrics. Magnus always has a key subject for the lyrics on every album. I don't know why he does it, but this one, all the vocals have to do with death and stuff.

MU: Was the artist who did your cover from Sweden?

RN: Yes. That's actually a guy from the same town that I live in. It's kind of an interesting story. Our guitarist Christian just read the local newspaper and this guy had an exhibition here in town. Christian saw some of his artwork in the newspaper and thought it was cool, so we got in touch with him. He's like an underground guy, but he was really pleased to be asked to do such a thing. It's kind of cool. It's really easy to use the popular guys, but then you end up having a cover that looks like every other heavy metal cover out there. So it's nice to have people who are not in the industry doing stuff.

MU: Did you give him an idea of what you wanted or did he just go nuts? Did he design it specifically for The Quill?

RN: No, he didn't actually. We got to look in his portfolio and he had this picture, that he redid a little bit better. But he had the idea from the beginning. We just saw it and thought it was cool, so we just took it and ran with it.

The Quill band shot

MU: Did he get paid for his services?

RN:He got paid, so he's a happy guy now. He's done some t-shirt designs and stuff for us as well, so he was really easy to work with. He did some photos as well. He's like a multi-artist.

MU: You think you'll use him again?

RN: Yeah. I think so. It's really nice to have someone who can give the band something special. Where there is Derek Riggs doing Iron Maiden covers or whatever, it's really nice to have something that people can recognize. If we could get the cover in the same vein, people would probably recognize it like, "Yeah, this is a typical Quill cover."

MU: How long were you guys in the studio this time?

RN: With the previous three albums, we didn't leave the studio till we were finished. This time around we did it a little bit different. We recorded three songs and then we went home to the rehearsal room and wrote new songs because we didn't have the whole album written when we started it. So we did like three or four songs at a time. I think we recorded the first three tracks sometime late last autumn and we did the last tracks in March of this year. So, it took about half a year. We were in the studio for a couple days and then we went home for three or four weeks and went back and recorded the new stuff. It was a little bit different working that way, but when you are in the studio for three, four or five weeks, you lose focus somehow. By the end of it, it's a little difficult to take a step out and look at what you're doing. This way it was nice because you only had to have three songs in your mind, the three that you were recording. You can take a step back and listen to the stuff you did a month ago or two months ago, so it's cool.

MU: So it went pretty smoothly then?

RN: Yeah, it did overall. When you look back at it, we did a lot of stuff with only one or two band members present. If we were to do it again, we'd try to get the whole band there at the same time. You lose the group feeling of it when you are sitting there by yourself doing bass tracks for a whole week. In that sense, I would probably change that. In the end, I'm really proud of the record and it is good, so why complain?

MU: Was it produced by Berno Paulsen again?

RN: No. It wasn't. He did the recording for the vocal tracks because we decided to record in a new studio this time. So we did the basic tracks like drums, guitars and bass in a new studio. When it came to doing vocals Magnus said he was really pleased working with Berno. He said, "I would much rather go there again and do the vocals with him." Magnus really trusts Berno when it comes to singing so he really wanted to do it there again. The guy who produced it is called Rickard Bengtssen - kind of new guy. He did the latest Spiritual Beggars album, but that's basically all. He did Mortiis. You know that guy?

MU: Yup.

RN: I think he did one or two albums with him. He's sort of new and up and coming. He has his own studio on the west coast of Sweden. He's really nice to work with. He's playing in bands himself, so he knows how it is to record and he's really easy to work with.

MU: What is your favorite song on the new album?

RN: I don't know. When we started and through the whole process, I was really fond of "Hammerhead". But now that the album is released and playing live and stuff, the track "Come What May" is becoming my favorite song. It's a bit melodic. It has some melodic chords. That's the song that people have found on the album that they really like. It's kind of interesting because that song, when we recorded everything we were like, "Ahh, don't like that song. We will probably leave it off the album." But it was a good thing we didn't. I think "Come What May" now, but in the beginning it was "Hammerhead". But those two were probably my favorite ones.

MU: The Quill has a naturally vintage sound where a lot of other bands often sound forced. What older bands are you guys influenced by?

RN: Oh my god, how much time do we have? (laughter) I listen to, of course, all the gigantic ones like Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple. I also like finding more different stuff, more obscure stuff from the sixties and seventies. Lately, I've been listening to quite a lot of soul and funk like Stevie Wonder and all that stuff, but Captain Beyond is really good. Nowadays, I listen to a lot of ZZ Top actually. I'm really happy to see that they released a box set now with all the old tracks in the original versions. I don't know if you know, but when you buy the early ZZ Top albums on CD, they are all completely remixed. They sound terrible. But now they finally made a box set with the original mixes, so it finally sounds like it should. But Rainbow and all that stuff. I really like Whitesnake, all those Deep Purple spin off bands.

MU: What bands do critics normally compare you to?

RN: Quite a lot of Soundgarden, because of our singer.

The Quill 'Hooray! It's a Deathtrip' CD cover

MU: That's because of Magnus, yeah.

RN: Yeah, and also Badlands, Ray Gillen.

MU: That's what I really hear. I was gonna ask you that next. I think he sounds a lot like him, but I also think you guys as a band have that same sort of feel.

RN: Yeah, I think so. Badlands was definitely a band that we all enjoyed and Soundgarden as well. You pick up stuff here and there listening to other bands. As you said, our singer sings in a similar way. I think that's probably why we get a lot of those connections.

MU: Yeah, he's got an amazing voice. I think you guys are definitely lucky to have him.

RN: I think he brings something different to the table. There's quite a lot of bands playing the stuff we play, like old 70's stuff, but there's not that many singers that can sing in that sort of school - like the Ronnie James Dio or Robert Plant school.

MU: Exactly. And I think that's what gives you guys the edge.

RN: Yeah. It's kind of interesting. Once we got on a bigger European label, people are pulling his arms all the time trying to get him to sing on different stuff. So it's kind of interesting. It's kind of fun, I think.

MU: So, obviously, having a good vocalist is one aspect of the band, but also the songs on your albums are very diverse. Do you purposely write an album with song diversity in mind?

RN: Yeah, I think so, to a certain extent. We always try to have a couple of different ones - like one track without drums or something. I think it's really important, because if you just put 10 rock and roll songs on an album you grow tired after a while. We always try to have high points and low points, slow parts and really intense parts. I get really tired when I listen to an album and you have 10 songs sounding all the same. You have to have breathing space every once in a while. I think that's what Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath did so well. There's nothing that is as heavy as when you come from a really mellow part and then you just crank a really heavy chord. If you play heavy all the time, then it becomes boring and tedious, but if you come from something soft and get into a heavy part it gets so much heavier. Dynamics is the word I'm looking for.

MU: You guys definitely have it.

RN: Thanks.

MU: What percentage of rock vs. metal would you say The Quill is made up of?

RN: I think 75% rock and 25% metal. We're always bringing something different to the table in the band because. . . like Christian, our guitar player, is totally into old blues players. He only listens to old guitar players from way back when. And George, our drummer - he's still stuck in the L.A. scene like Motley Crue and all that stuff. Magnus is more into singer songwriters like Neil Young and Rickie Lee Jones, but also old stuff like Dio and all that stuff. Myself, I listen to everything from Bach to jazz to classical music to Slayer to Ministry. I think the ones bringing the metal element to it are Magnus with his singing and me and George a bit. I think Christian is more the blues player in the band.

MU: Do you see yourselves as being successful?

RN: It depends on what you compare with. If you compare to Audioslave, we're not successful. If you compare to all the other bands playing in Sweden, we are really successful - like a good deal with a good European record label. In that sense, we are really successful. We're able to get out and play our music all over Europe, and, hopefully, we'll get to the rest of the world as well. But I think at the end of the day, you just want to make albums you're pleased with. In that way, I think we are really successful because we are always pleased with them.

MU: What do you think has attributed to your degree of success so far?

RN: I think. . . I don't know. . . I think the songs and playing live and all that stuff. We get people's attention from playing live. The Wacken festival - I don't know if you've heard of it - we played kind of early on Saturday around noon. From there, we got a tremendous amount of response. So, I think seeing us live is really important.

MU: Are you guys still working other jobs to pay the bills?

RN: Yeah. You don't have to remind me. (laughter) We're three teachers, believe it or not.

MU: Music teachers?

RN: No. None of us, actually. All of us except George, the drummer. He's a carpenter. I teach history and religion and geography and social science. I teach kids from 13 to 16 years old. Magnus as well. He is working with kids the same age. Christian has kids from 10 to 13 or something. So it's kind of interesting once you have to go on tour. You have to be a really good friends with the headmaster of the school - give them gifts and stuff.

The Quill chillin'

MU: Well, it's good that they are letting you do that so far.

RN: It's difficult. Time-wise, it's something you could work with all the time, but the money is not there. So you can't really do it 100%. You have to have something on the side. You have to put food on the table. It is getting better. When we did the first couple of albums, we hardly had any budget at all, but now SPV has provided us with some good money, so that's cool.

MU: So you're happy on SPV?

RN: Yeah, really. No complaints at all. So far they have been doing a great job. We're doing a support tour with Monster Magnet all over Europe for like six or seven weeks.

MU: You're pretty excited about that, right?

RN: Yeah, that's going to be really cool. It's quite a large tour. For doing seven weeks in Europe, it's quite unusual to tour for that long.

MU: That'll be a good thing.

RN: Yeah. I don't know about Monster Magnet in the States, but over here in Europe they are quite popular. I think they've always been more popular in Europe than in the States.

MU: They're even pretty big around here too, though. What are The Quill's strong points vs. weaknesses?

RN: I think the strong points and the weaknesses are probably the same. I think that is because we've been playing together for so long that we are like brothers. We fight about everything actually. When it comes down to something, we are really tight as a group. That's also a weak point because we have to fight about everything. There have been periods when we haven't spoken to each other and stuff like that for a couple of weeks or months. In the end, we are like a family. In the end, someone is always calling the other saying, "What's up? Let's go to the rehearsal room and jam for a while." I think that is both our strong points and weaknesses.

MU: OK. What other bands are you in besides this one?

RN: For now it's only Spiritual Beggars. I did an album with Firebird as well and was a member of the band for a couple of months or something. But it was too difficult to do three bands at the same time. We had shows coming up at the same time with both Firebird and Spiritual Beggars, so I had to make a decision. I decided to go with Spiritual Beggars. I've done some stuff with Arch Enemy as well, but that was a couple of years ago filling in doing bass for a North American tour. I think there was a show in London as well.

MU: Who can drink the most in the band?

RN: I think Magnus. He's the one who always finds the strangest drinking partner. He's really weird. He's the one when you get to a place, and you have a guy who's all by himself drinking, once you get in there you know that in 5 minutes Magnus will be there. And by the end of the night they will be the best friends. So, he's probably the one who can drink the most. I think the one who's drinking the most is George the drummer, but he can't tolerate too much. His body reacts kind of weird when he gets too much.

MU: He's the guy who gets in trouble?

RN: I don't know. I wouldn't say in trouble, but he's the one on the dance floor with his pants down to his knees. He does all this weird stuff and then the next day he doesn't remember a thing about it.

MU: So despite you guys being lumped a lot of times in the stoner rock genre, you guys aren't smokers right?

RN: No. I mean, it's not that common here in Sweden. We have pretty strict laws about it here, so it's quite unusual actually. Once you get down to Germany, Austria and the Netherlands, it's much more common there than here.

MU: Do you have any chance of coming to the States any time soon?

RN: I don't know, actually. We talked about it - just trying to come over and do some showcases or something - but so far the key thing for SPV is to get us on this tour in February with Monster Magnet here in Europe. And once we're done that, we'll sit down and see what comes next. We're talking about it, but there's no 100% plans. Hopefully. I had a blast playing in America with Arch Enemy, so it would be cool to come and play with The Quill as well.

MU: What are some other future plans for The Quill?

RN: There's the tour right now, and then we are doing festivals here in Europe during the summer. We already started writing songs for the next album, so I think we have three or four new songs for that one. We'll just have to wait and see what the tour brings and what else may come our way.


review of The Quill 'Voodoo Caravan'

review of The Quill 'Hooray! It's A Deathtrip'






Interview: Scott McCooe [ ]
Editor: Brant Wintersteen [ ]
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