The Psyke Project
The Psyke Project released one of the most dark records I’ve heard last year: Guillotine. And now they’re coming to a city close to you to spread said darkness… Time to see who’s responsible for this uncoming threat. I had a chat with singer Martin Nielskov. We had to overcome some technical difficulties, but after we covered that, he almost seemed human… Here’s what he had to say.
Hi Martin, I’m not going to waste any time here, but start right with your latest album. It was released almost half a year ago. How do you look back on how it has turned out?
I’m still very proud of this album. It’s actually one of my favorites! I like the dark sound we created with our songs on Guillotine. This is how hardcore sounds in my head. All the publicity we got for this album and how often we’ve been asked for concerts after this album has been very good! We played a lot of festivals over the summer.
That’s good to hear man! I really appreciate Guillotine as well. As I liked it that much I was curious to your older albums and checked them out as well. I seem to notice a trend as every album is a bit darker than it’s predecessor. What is wrong with you people?
Hahaha, yeah. We’ve been talking about that as well. We started this band back in 1999 when we were only 15 years old. We came up with our first album in 2003, I think. So, a lot of years have passed and we’ve developed musically. Both as individuals, me as a singer, or the guys on their instruments, as well as a band. The things we hear in other bands that we like, we try to integrate that into our sound. So through the years that helps develop our sound. That’s why every album is different from the others. I do feel that there’s still a clear connection between all our albums though. Our change is not that drastic! But it’s definitely getting more dark. Also, I think we’ve become better songwriters. We’ve learned to not try to be smart when writing, but to keep it simple. Our riffs are less complicated, but pack more punch. That’s why it sounds darker and more… brutal!
This development, is this something you’ve planned? Do you strive to make each album darker and darker?
No, this just happened. It’s not something we talk about. We don’t come together and say: “Let’s do a dark album now!”. Mikkel and Christian, our guitar players come up with the riffs and the rest of the guys fill in their parts naturally. I said, when we started to write Guillotine, I want to focus on the negative aspects of life, instead of the positive aspects, a focus I had in the early years. So our lyrics are darker than they used to be. I guess this influences the total sound as well.
We’ve learned to not try to be smart when writing, but to keep it simple.
Your previous albums dealt with historic events and Nordic myths. Can you explain a bit about the subjects you deal with on Guillotine?
Yeah, sure! Guillotine is about the human beings a specie. I enjoy writing about humans as I see them. On Guillotine I tried to focus on humans when they are not being nice. This is the negativity I mentioned earlier. I’m intrigued by this force we have inside of us. A force to create and to destroy. We use this not only to destroy each other, but also ourselves. This is what Guillotine is all about. How we destroy, build up and then destroy again.
Ah, and where do you find you’re inspiration? The people around you, the news or perhaps fiction you read or see?
Ah, it’s mostly reading. I read a lot! But next to that it’s me reflecting on the human race. My ideas of what’s going on in the world and our role in it. I see us a sort of bio-robots. We are here for 100 years, don’t know what the fuck we’re doing and then we disappear again. Only our legacy will remain. So it’s up to us to do something that remains, that makes the world a little bit better than it was. Unfortunately you see that this fails a lot of the time.
Now you mention making the world a better place. How does that fit in with the negativity expressed in the lyrics?
Well, I truly believe in the good in people. I really think that, well, most of us at least, want to do something good for others. What happens though, is that plans don’t always work out as people see it. Just look at the mess in for example the Middle-East. I don’t want to get political, but that’s an example of how things just don’t work out.
We’ve already talked about how your albums are getting darker and darker. This makes me wonder: how do you look back on those records? Can you still enjoy them, or do you think: “we should have done this different!”?
For my role in the band, as a singer, I can always look back at those songs and think to myself: “why did I write about that?”. But you have to keep in mind that this was what I wanted to write about at that period. For example, my favorite album from the past is Daikini. I feel that Daikini and Guillotine fit together pretty well. Both have that dark edge we’ve talked about. On Apnea and Dead Storm we were more concerned with building clever songs based on riffs. Now, don’t get me wrong, there’s some pretty good songs on those albums, but the approach we had on Daikini and Guillotine make that my favorite albums.
I’m intrigued by this force we have inside of us. A force to create and to destroy.
I noticed you’ve switched producers for Guillotine. You’ve worked a lot with Tue Madsen from Antfarm studios. Now you’ve worked with Jacob Bredahl. What’s the story behind this change?
Yeah, we’ve worked with Tue Madsen for our first couple of albums. He’s a good guy and we love him a lot, but he’s more into that metal sound. Now for our last albums, the split album Ebola and Guillotine we were more inspired by the French hardcore sound from bands like Celeste and Time To Burn. They have a more… ruined sound. But we already tried something different for The Dead Storm. We recorded that in Gothenburg. After that we did the split with As We Fight, called Ebola, which we recorded with Jacob Bredahl. He was pretty cheap at the time, so we said “this is only a split, let’s give it a shot!”. So we recorded there and he was brilliant. He perfectly understood how we strived for a destroyed, ruined sound, but still wanted to sound good. So when we were going to record Guillotine we talked with him about our vision and asked him if wanted to try this. He said “yeah, let’s go do this!”. I think we spend two out of the seven days we recorded on finding the right sound. We specifically focused on finding the right guitar sound. We tried a lot of things and had a pretty rough time recording, but we are really happy with how it turned out. If we make a new album, I think we could record there again.
Well, I can only say that in my opinion you’ve topped those Frenchies in creating that ruined sound and still sounding great! Guillotine sounds massive and dense. It takes you’re breath away when you first listen to it!
Thanks man! That’s what I love about hardcore. It has to take your breath away for a second. You have to be able to feel the music! I mean, that’s why we listen to this type of music.
You mentioned “IF we write a new album”. Anything you want to say about that?
Well… I can say we’re not going to write a new album in 2014. We’re empty now. We do have a lot of concerts planned for Guillotine. We are in this band together for 15 years now and we still love what we do. We are not going to stop the band, but right now, we just don’t have the energy to do something new. We’re taking it day by day now.
Well, you better get some energy back, as you’ve got a tour ahead of you! What can we expect? Are you going to play a lot of new material?
We’re definitely going to play a lot of new songs. I think 80% of the set will be Guillotine songs. Next to that we will select a couple of old songs that match with the vibe we have on the Guillotine songs. So prepare for some pretty brutal and dark concerts!
Alright! I always ask this to band who tour a lot. Do you have any exiting tour stories you want to share. Or don’t want to share, but will tell me about anyway?
Hahaha, well… We always have a blast when we’re on tour! For the past two years we’ve done a lot of touring in eastern Europe. We did two tours there, fourteen days each. It’s so much fun playing there. The kids are very dedicated. It’s amazing! We’ve played at farms, churches… Places you’d never expect to hear a hardcore concert. They’re scene is small, but they do whatever they can to make it work! Other than that, the last time we were in Holland we played a festival (Distortion). We had a good party with Papa Roach. We were neighbors backstage. We decided to crash their party. But we played 2,5 hours before they went on, so we already had our party going when they were still drinking coffee. I just hope that their singer and drummer drank not too many beers before going onstage! But we had a very cool party with them, they are good lads!
Haha, brilliant! This makes me wonder though: did you play any concerts where you shared the stage with a band with a very different sound and you see the audience wonder: what’s up with this band? What are they mad about?
Well, that sounds like a festival show. You’ll play for a very diverse audience there from all different parts of the metal scene. We try to be (and stay) open minded about combining different styles of music. For example, we played with a folk band after the release of Apnea. We know our audience and we try to open their eyes for other styles of music. We took a song of this folk band and made it more hardcore and they took one of our songs and made it into a folk song. This was a very fun creative process to be involved in.
first, you have to do it yourselve!
Talking about being open minded, I’ll confess to you that I just listened to a French pop album from Zaz. That’s really one of my guilty pleasures. Do you have guilty pleasures like that?
I’m a big fan of Lady Gaga actually!
Haha, you wouldn’t expect that!
No, but she’s awesome. She came out to the pop scene and added a bit of punk mentality to it. Which I think is pretty cool. Other than that… I’m not sure if want to admit this… Alright, I’m a big Coldplay fan. They write great songs and Chris Martin is an awesome singer!
Really? Does he inspire you, you don’t exactly sound alike?
Hahaha, not like that, but in other ways…
Alright… What I wondered: The Psyke Project has been around for 15 years now. What you see in hardcore is that a lot of bands exist for a couple of years only. You listen to their one album or EP and think: this could be it, their next album will kill! And then they disband… You managed to avoid this trap. Do you have any pro-tips you want to share with those young bands?
What took us to the next level was that, instead of staying in our rehearsal room, writing songs and waiting for something cool to happen, we did it ourselves. We set up concerts etc. What Rasmus, our drummer, did for example, was to invite Swedish bands. No, really, at the beginning we invited a band from Copenhagen to our part of the country. In return they invited us to play with them, which was awesome. This was what we did it for. Then we invited bands from Sweden and Germany. We invited Burst over after they released their first album for example. That’s how we built a name for ourselves. If you do this, don’t think about the money, don’t get mad if you play for only a couple of people, go out there and play like you’ve never played before! For us, that was the start. Then after a while you get to talk to record labels and stuff like that, but first, you have to do it yourselve!
Talking about record labels, when I look at Guillotine, it’s released on a lot of different labels. What’s the story behind that?
Well, that’s again a plan of Rasmus. He’s the puppet master behind the band, I think. The idea is that, instead of one big label behind the album, we contract a lot of small labels. This has a lot to do with distribution. We contracted a small Russian label and they make sure we cover some ground over there. We do this in different regions. This is a good way for us to get physical albums out in Russia for example. So this has mainly to do with distribution.
Cool! I’m pretty sure you can not live of The Psyke Project. That makes me wonder: what do you do outside of the band and how do you manage to combine your day to day lives with something time-absorbing as recording, touring etc?
Yeah, there’s family, there’s work… One player is a fireman, one’s a film-producer, I’m in marketing. So yeah, we have jobs, but when we started those jobs, they knew we were in a band. When I started my job I mentioned playing in a band and we discussed being flexible to match touring schedules. It’s all about timing the tours and making sure we plan it way before it actually happens. But that’s the reason we tour only three weeks a year. We just can’t go on a two month tour anymore. What we try to do is connect family and music. For example, when we play in Iceland, we combine playing there with a holiday. Instead of going there, play one show and leave again, we take our girlfriends with us, go for one week, play a couple of shows and spend the rest of our time with them. That way it’s easier to combine family and the band.
Allright, I’ve got only one question left. The main man behind Some Will Never Know, Pim, is a big fan of Batman. Last week was Bruce Wayne’s birthday, so to celebrate that occasion I want to know: if you could ask one question to Batman, what would you ask him?
What, to Batman? Haha, well, let me think… Can I ride your car?
Ha, that would be a pretty cool ride! Alright, that’s it for me. Anything you would like to add?