Interview by Nathan Hernandez
In the eyes and ears of some people, Swedish quartet Enforcer may be deemed throwback-driven with their denim-and-leather clad old-school heavy metal, but in the 12 years since their formation, they’ve brought high-class and deadly precise musicianship, to go with the kind of quality production that decorates some of the most celebrated timeless classics in hard rock and heavy metal history. But they’ve proven themselves to be far beyond mere revivalists, bringing an undeniable sense of freshness with their pristine, full-sounding albums and putting on live shows that exude captivating energy. No amount of praise is excessive when it comes to this band. Enforcer released their fourth full-length album ‘From Beyond’ via Nuclear Blast Records in 2015, and completed a highly successful North American co-headline tour with Warbringer last winter. They’re returning to the continent for a tour with Dark Tranquillity, and are gearing up to write the next album. Our writer Nathan Hernandez spoke to vocalist/guitarist Olof Wikstrand to talk all things Enforcer. Enjoy the chat below and make it a point to check out this band if you haven’t yet.
How are you doing, Olof?
I’m doing just fine, man.
This isn’t really a question but more of a statement, and I’m curious what you think. Enforcer is always put under this tag as ‘the new wave of traditional heavy metal’ and trying to relive the ’80s, which I think is bullshit. To me, Enforcer is doing something that is completely new and fresh. Enforcer to me are also just playing real metal. What are your thoughts?
Yeah, well that’s the idea, you know. It’s a thin line between being true to your influences and also bringing something new to the table. At least that’s the goal: to do both. We are a metal band in the sense that we are true to that influences and do whatever we want to do. But at the same time, we really want to push the entire genre forward.
Let’s talk about some recent stuff before we go into some deeper Enforcer history. ‘From Beyond’ is a masterpiece. Really, I do believe people will be talking about this album in the years to come like we do about albums such as ‘The Somberlain’ or ‘Storm of the Light’s Bane’. I think you guys took it a step further on this album compared to ‘Death By Fire’, which totally kicked ass as well. How do you think ‘From Beyond’ is different from the other records?
You develop all the time as a songwriter. I mean, for every album that we did, we wanted to push things further, and of course on the last album is the album we pushed it most far. From an album perspective it’s inspired by the classic albums, these albums containing lots of different elements. To be honest with you, I think it stands up pretty well to all the classic albums that I’m inspired by. I’m not saying this to brag or something, but on the other hand, it would be quite useless for us to do a record that we didn’t think was among the best things ever, you know. If we weren’t happy with it, then it would be useless to release it. This is our version of how we want metal to sound like. To be honest with you, we are really happy with the way it came out and I think it stands up to most classic albums from rock and metal history.
I always enjoy your solos. When you guys are writing the song, does it come out organically or do you plan it?
It’s a little bit different, actually. Some are more improvised, some are more written. It depends a bit on the context of the song.
The production on this record is also phenomenal. It sounds very organic and real, not fake-sounding. Is this a goal for Enforcer every time you guys enter the studio?
Of course, we’re aiming for a good sound. I think the production is an instrument in itself. You can create atmospheres, feelings and emotions with just the way you produce things and how you make it sound. It’s very important, both me and my brother Jonas who’s also in the band we are sound engineers and producers. We’ve done everything ourselves on this album. We spent a hell of lot of time getting where we wanted to be with the sound and everything. I think we spent like fucking half a year mixing it or something.
It sounds amazing, so your hard work paid off.
I’m super, super happy with the way it sounds.
OK, let’s go back to pre- Enforcer. Except for Jonas you guys were all in Corrupt. How did Enforcer start?
We’re from a city pretty tiny city, all of us in the band. You know, back when we were early teenagers we were in lots of different bands. It’s not only Corrupt, we had like tons of different bands we played together in. Me, Jonas, Joseph, Tobias and all the guys from Tribulation were involved in this scene which eventually led to the creation of Enforcer and Tribulation. I would say these two are the only bands who are still around and made it to some point I would say. We were jamming in lots of different bands back in the day and eventually led to the creation of Enforcer. I don’t know what more to really say about it but it started out as a thing I did. I wrote a couple of songs, played and recorded it, and it got very good reviews right away. So we decided to create a real band out of it and just start playing, and that’s how it started.
When did you start to record the first three Enforcer songs ‘Evil Attacker’, ‘Black Angel’, and ‘Mistress from Hell’?
They were not recorded at the same time, actually. It was like a half year between them or something. The first version of ‘Evil Attacker’ was recorded, if I’m not mistaken, September or early October 2005. ‘Mistress From Hell’ was like December 2005. ‘Black Angel’, the first recording of that one was like 2007 or something. So like one-and-a-half year between them. Those were the first three songs before the full-length album. We did a demo in between, with the songs ‘On the Loose’, ‘Speed Queen’, and ‘Curse the Light’. But it never really saw the day of light and we used it more as a pre-production demo.
On ‘Into the Night’, Joseph Tholl was playing bass. When was it decided to get Tobias on the bass?
We were jumping between positions in the band a lot in the beginning before we found a way. Tobias wasn’t in the band at that point. After we recorded ‘Into the Night’ we realized we needed two guitars. Before that we were only using one guitar, one bass, drums, and one vocals when we played live. Since we sort of developed our sound while recording ‘Into the Night’, lots of harmonies, lots of twin guitar stuff, we sort of figured we needed a second guitar player. So Joseph, who’s originally a guitar player, just started to play guitar and we brought in Tobias, which was a very natural choice for us since we’ve been playing together for such a long time.
‘Diamonds’ is actually the album I first discovered you guys. Well technically, I heard the demos first on the ‘Speed Kills’ comp. You guys took it up a notch once again with songwriting. This was also the last album with Adam Zaars. Can you tell us a little bit about this record and this era of the band?
It was a very short era, I would say. For the first album it was pretty much only my songs, my ideas, the concept and everything was mine. I wouldn’t say ‘Into the Night’ was a success but it brought us somewhere, you know. People were starting to open their eyes to us, and from that it gave the other guys in the band a lot of inspiration to do things for the band as well. It was really developing and all of sudden we could bring in five people’s perspective on things, which led to the creation of the second album. It was a very short period but I think we wrote the entire second album in a month or two. And with all the ideas we had, we created thse songs. I remember all of us were going for like a weekend or something to Joseph’s mother’s house in the middle of the forest, just putting up our gear and brought everything we had to life. It was a rather short era between when we started to write for this, which was the summer of 2009, until we released it, or until Adam jumped off, which was like a year or a year-and-a-half.
This leads me to my next question. When he left, did you guys try to get a replacement or was it automatic for you to start singing and play guitar?
Well, we had a few ideas, actually, and I asked a few people who were unfortunately busy in other bands. So, instead of advertising for a new guitar player or bring in someone we didn’t know, we decided that I could learn to play and sing at the same time. After all, most of the songs we had at that point were riffs that I had written anyways, so it was like not a big deal. That’s how we proceeded naturally. When I see videos, it took some time to before we got back to the level we were before, with the way we got used to how we sounded live and the kind of chemistry we had on stage.
I was looking up online, but on ‘Death By Fire’ it credits you as the producer. Did you mix this album as well? Is this the first album you produced with Enforcer, or had you produced or mixed previous albums as well?
Previous Enforcer albums as well. The first album is totally self-produced, it’s not mixed by us but it’s more or less produced by me and Jonas. The second album I co-produced with an external producer. Then I don’t know, sort of just wanted to go back to the roots of being in control of everything, and since ‘Death By Fire’ we weren’t really leaning towards any other person for the creative process.
I always wondered on the ‘Mesmerized By Fire’ video, whose idea was it to film you guys from behind in the first part of the video?
I can’t remember, I think it was actually the video producer’s idea. I think the original idea was to start with very big shots then go slower and slower and show more and more of the faces, like something is coming closer all the time. But why not? I think it’s a cool idea.
I was lucky enough to get the ‘Live by Fire’ boxset and it’s an awesome package. When did you guys decide to put out this live record? It’s obviously from the ‘Death by Fire’ era, so was it in the archives or was it intended to be a live record?
Yeah, we had this idea for a long time, actually. We started to talk about it already after ‘Diamonds’ that we wanted to do a live record, mostly because we were or I wasn’t very happy with how the production sounded on the first two albums. I figured I want to get more energy in the songs and I want to do a live record of the songs. That’s sort of where the idea started. We recorded a show we did in Athens back in 2013 that we wanted to release sort of straight off, but things got in between and we started to work with the new album instead and it just turned out to be forgotten until we recorded this show. We came up with an idea to do something involving both the video performance and this particular show that was filmed, together with the Athens show. It’s really hard for a small band like for us to sell a live album straight like that. It’s already hard with record sales like they are. So it has to be something exclusive for us to sell it to be able to get money, to get an advance so you can afford a cover, have it decently mastered, and all these things you have to spend on a record. It’s really hard to get if it doesn’t sell. We had to figure out something that would be nice to the fans as well.
Is there any footage for the show in Athens or just the audio?
Actually, I know one of the songs is filmed and it’s on YouTube. There’s a few others, but the one we put up was the best. There’s three other songs filmed from that show. We’ll see if we release that in some sort of way. This one was the one that looked the best and sounded best.
What are your favorite live albums?
I don’t know, I like the Lizzy Borden live album ‘The Murderess Metal Road Show’.
I haven’t heard that. I’ll have to check it out.
Yeah, check it out. It’s really amazing.
In the booklet, there is a picture of a t-shirt that’s the cover for ‘Live by Fire’. So when did you guys decide to use that as the cover? Was that from the Athens show?
Yeah, sort of. That t-shirt print was made for our first Greek tour and since the audio was recorded in Greece we sort of wanted to use it as a tribute to the Greek fans.
That’s really cool. It seems the Greek fans are die-hard in general when it comes to metal.
They surely are. They’ve got good taste when it comes to music, you know. Up here in Sweden people are very concerned. People here and the metal scene up here, people are so fucking busy liking what everyone else is liking. So incredibly soulless metal scene here. One day, one thing is super popular, next time it’s something else. Down in Greece they are more genuine about what they like. They like music with passion instead of just liking something to be cool like people here do.
Would you call it trendy?
Yeah, especially Stockholm is extremely much like that. People listen to music to be cool, not because what they like.
That’s pretty lame.
It’s lame as fuck. I hate the metal scene in Sweden, that’s why we never play here.
Why listen to music then? The whole point is to enjoy it for yourself.
Yeah, exactly, exactly.
On the live album if you got the box set you got the actual record for the ‘Speak the Tongue of Heathen Gods’ EP. Were these tracks you had before ‘From Beyond’ that just didn’t make it onto the record? Or were they composed after ‘From Beyond’?
Both were made after. Completely exclusive songs. Some riffs are old, some are new but it’s basically built for just this release.
The first time you guys toured the United States was I believe in 2010 or 2011?
Oh, I’m a few years off, then. Well, recently you guys just did a co-headlining tour. How did it differ from the past and how was the reaction this time around?
Oh man, that’s like day and night. The first time we just released our first album and nobody knew about us. Neither us nor Cauldron, nobody knew anything about it. We had like three people at most of the shows, except for some shows in bigger cities that were pretty good. We were a completely different band back then. Now we have lots of experiences touring. Like this last tour we were working with professional people, professional booking and professional labels. I would say this last U.S tour was really, really fun. Also, I would say it was quite successful. Lots of people at most of the shows. We were surprised to see so many people coming out to the shows.
How was the South American part of the tour? It looked pretty crazy, in a good way obviously.
People are so incredibly passionate the more south you go. It’s pretty much like that. This time it was incredible. Most of the shows we had between 500 and 1000 people. It was really crazy, you can’t even compare it to tours anywhere else.
I hear only good things about South America. I know they are maniacs down there.
It’s amazing for real metal. Obviously it’s amazing for everything, but we were totally blown away, man.
Last but not least, are you currently in the writing stage of any new material?
Yeah, we are trying to write. We want to write the best album ever written. So we have some quite high expectations of ourselves. I think we’re going to take a little bit more time for this one, just to broaden our perspectives as much as we possibly can.
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Enforcer North American tour dates with Dark Tranquillity, Swallow The Sun & Starkill:
11/04/2016 – New York, NY @ The Gramercy Theatre
11/05/2016 – Worcester, MA @ Palladium Upstairs
11/06/2016 – Philadelphia, PA @ Trocadero Theater
11/07/2016 – Silver Spring, MD @ The Fillmore
11/08/2016 – Clifton Park, NY @ Upstate Concert Hall
11/09/2016 – Montreal, QC @ Foufonues Electriques
11/10/2016 – Quebec City, QC @ Le Cercle
11/11/2016 – Ottawa, ON @ Mavericks
11/12/2016 – Toronto, ON @ The Opera House
11/13/2016 – Westland, MI @ Token Lounge
11/14/2016 – Pittsburgh, PA @ The Altar Bar
11/15/2016 – Cleveland, OH @ The Agora Ballroom
11/16/2016 – Columbus, OH @ Park Street Saloon
11/19/2016 – Minneapolis, MN @ Triple Rock Social Club
11/20/2016 – Saint Louis, MO @ Fubar
11/22/2016 – Denver, CO @ Bluebird Theater
11/25/2016 – Vancouver, BC @ Rickshaw Theatre
11/26/2016 – Seattle, WA @ El Corazon
11/27/2016 – Portland, OR @ Hawthorne Theatre
11/28/2016 – Reno, NV @ PB&J’s
11/29/2016 – San Francisco, CA @ Slim’s
11/30/2016 – Anaheim, CA @ City National Grove Of Anaheim
12/01/2016 – San Diego, CA @ Brick By Brick
12/02/2016 – Las Vegas, NV @ LVCS
12/03/2016 – Mesa, AZ @ Club Red
12/05/2016 – Dallas, TX @ Trees
12/06/2016 – Mcallen, TX @ Cine El Rey
12/07/2016 – Houston, TX @ Scout Bar