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Finally taking their time [2005-05-08]

With Meshuggahís latest album, Catch Thirtythree, the band seems to have made their best album to date. Composition, performance and production all come together perfectly to form a metallic beast that still is very metal but at the same time defies the boundaries of the genre. Drummer Tomas Haake updates musique[machine] on the current state of affairs with his band.

m[m] First of all: my compliments on the new album! I played Nothing again prior to our chat and comparing that to Catch Thirtythree (and the preceding EP I) it seems like youíre getting comfortable with the 8 string guitars.
Tomas Definitely, weíve found what the possibilities are and what sounds they can create. Funny enough, we generally get a lot of belated response about Nothing too, about how thereís much more to find there when you listen to it more often. We hope to have that effect on our music as a whole, but with that album it seems more the case than with the others.

m[m] I read somewhere that Catch Thirtythree is not a Ďrealí album as itís basically one song?
Tomas I wouldnít say it isnít a Ďrealí album, itís more that it isnít written for use in a livesituation. So in that sense it differs from the previous albums. We may or may not play outtakes of it live, but during the creation that wasnít an objective whether it would be possible to pull it off live. Although we always experimented on our albums I think on this particular one we really took some sideways. The decision to use the programmed drums comes from that approach too, although the drums wouldnít be the hardest part to do live actually. I couldíve done it live but wouldíve taken a shitload of time just to learn the parts. Thereís a lot of subtleties that you donít necessarily hear immediately. During the recording we had a certain vibe going on since the beginning that we didnít want to change. With the programmed drums being almost emotionless and steady, supporting the overlaying riffs it suited the music so well, so we didnít see a point in changing it. We of course have a lot of musicianfans and weíre definitely throwing a lot of people off by using programmed drums.

m[m] Itís almost like pissing people off on purpose.
Tomas If people are into us for technique only thatís fine by us, but thatís not how we feel about our music. Weíve never seen ourselves as a technical band. Itís all about the endproduct, by whatever means needed. Itís about how it sounds and not the tools you use. Itís a bit of a taboo of course to program parts, especially within the metalgenre, but weíre all for it, when it comes to breaking taboos. Weíve always been metal and weíll always be metal but that doesnít mean we have to fit in what people think metal should be.

m[m] m[m]-reviewer Frankco mentions influences from Bill Frisell and Derek Bailey in his review, can you hear that too?
Tomas I know Bill Frisell but I canít really see the comparison. None of us really listen to it, so I wouldnít say thereís any influences there. Weíre almost deliberately trying not to have influences actually and we donít listen to a lot of music nowadays. At home I usually feel itís too much to have music on. When weíre making albums thereís so much going on in my head already and putting on music would we rather disturbing. Thereís so much going on that thereís no space for taking up even more music. When we go on tour, thatís where we relax and enjoy listening to music. Usually no metal so not something we would take influences from. We play music by Squarepusher, Autechre, Trans AM, The Fucking Champs, The Mars Volta, all very different from what weíre doing ourselves. It takes our minds off what we are doing, particularly on a metalfestival youíll hear the hammering outside the bus going on all day and you definitely want to take your mind off of that.

m[m] You have a reputation for problematic recordingsessions, so what were the complications this time?
Tomas During the sessions of Nothing we created a lot of stress for ourselves by accepting the slot on the Ozzfest. I think the production and the vocals suffered from it. We somehow always managed to get ourselves in such situations. But this time around we really took the time needed which feels really good. We really pushed ourselves and pushed Jens Kidman to make the vocals really something special and it shows. This made us decide that from now on this is the way we should do it.

m[m] Does Jens have any rituals to wind himself up or something?
Tomas First it takes him about two weeks to get his voice sounding like it should. Then it takes a couple weeks to get the timing and everything right. And then it takes even a couple more to get the screaming anger in there. So itís a very timeconsuming job. I think we took a month and a half to two months to get the vocals done. At the same time we were piecing parts together so it didnít feel too bad. It would be tiresome to focus only on vocals for all that time. On Nothing we took a week and it shows. Although we love that album itís not what it couldíve been and Catch Thirtythree proves that.

m[m] Although cut up in several parts, the new albums is considered to be one composition. What is the concept behind Catch Thirtythree?
Tomas I wouldnít call it a conceptalbum although in a sense it is because it has this one ongoing lyric going on through the songs. As usual a lot is written in metaphors. It deals with paradoxes, negations and contradictions. Thatís why we called it Catch Thirtythree which might sound kind of weird for a metalband, but it really captures the topic of the lyrics. You can see it like a journey through life and death, going through all paradoxes in life and in death.

m[m] Do you find inspiration in reading?
Tomas Guitarist MŚrten Hšgstrom and me read a lot, but we find our inspiration in basically everything, like everyday life. You donít necessarily have to read a lot to get a vibe in a lyric. I like the ideas behind Catch Thirtythree from a philosophical standpoint but itís not a philosophy to live by or anything. Itís just a question of how things can be. Itís as much the vibe of the lyrics as well as the actual topic of the lyrics. Theyíre not pinpointing anything, itís more questioning and in that sense itís more philosophical than what we normally do.

m[m] Do you feel the aggression of the music is enough to represent these ideas? Does it ever fall short for what you try to convey?
Tomas Thatís hard to answer. The style of the lyrics does not always seem logical to combine with the aggression of the music. But we see that also as one of those paradoxes. Itís like youíre questioning something while you sound like itís your opinion. When writing we were a bit anxious about it because itís so much easier to get angry about something that youíre pinpointing a problem.

m[m] Do you feel that within this format of one song and the approach of focusing on the album without thinking about the livesituation, you can fit in more atmosphere?
Tomas Sure, thereís a couple of spoken parts that is very different for us, we havenít done that before. Using the voices and effects was really easy to do now that we took our time.

m[m] I read that this might be the last release from Nuclear Blast?
Tomas Weíre not sure yet. When we released I there was definitely a glitch in our relationship, we felt that we were ready for Nuclear Blast and wanted to help this guy out with his new label. But now we sorted those problems out and itís going better than ever. We got some good offers from other labels but Nuclear Blast has a decent proposal as well. Weíre still negotiating so itís to early to say. Itís definitely not a money thing, we consider a lot of things which should be best for the band.

m[m] The album might not be designer for the livesituation, there are several dates booked for shows.
Tomas Itís a bit of a bit of a mixed bag of festivaldates and some headline dates. Personally I donít like festivals too much either but itís an incredible exposure for us, so we have to do it. But itís very hard to get a decent sound so itís more promotional thing than anything.

m[m] Last year you had the Dutch band Textures opening for you in Amsterdam, wasnít that like having a clone opening?
Tomas No, not really. I see them as a very different band actually, they have some really good ideas going on. But maybe itís different from a listenerís point of view, I donít know. This was our promoters idea. We donít really have ideas about support acts as the band we would like to have are our size or bigger. It could be anything it wouldnít have to be metal, some very odd pop-sounding band would be a nice idea, but you donít want the opening band to get a lot of shit I guess we stick to metal. Weíre looking at getting a French band called Scarve but their drummer is on tour now with Soilwork. Darkane, also from Sweden, is another option at this point.

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