In the following interview you may read some things such as: “Wolf is the best Heavy Metal band of our times” or “Wolf is so close to Judas Priest or Mercyful Fate speaking about quality standards not only influenced by”. We believe every fucking word 100% and their return to Greece, now on Cretan soil for Over the Wall Festival was just an excuse to talk with Niklas Stålvind! Just don’t miss to see them live!!!
It was just before your first show in Greece in 2015 when we asked one of the coolest guys that used to write in another great metal magazine (Vic from Metal Hammer)to say a few words about your discography and he end up writing a couple of articles about every single album of Wolf! Even though the posts were huge success the show wasn’t sold out, despite the fact that Greek audience seem to love classic metal sound (generally speaking) and more specific Wolf. Many thought it was bad timing. What were your impressions from the first visit in Greece?
We had a great time and heard a lot of good things about the greek metal audience, and we were not disappointed. Great people, great food and hospitality, and most importantly; great audience! It might not have been completely sold out, but a great deal of people were there and we were very happy about it. Those who missed the first show will now have a chance to see us for the first time.
So why you are not the number one selling band in Heavy Metal? And I really mean my question as I can recall any other band that started in the late 90’s or 00’s that is so close to Priest or Mercyful Fate speaking about quality standards not only influenced by. Is it bad timing once again?
Thanks for the compliment! We do make an effort to make the very best records we could possibly make. I don’t really know the full answer to the question, but bad timing might be one factor. When we started the band in mid 90:s we were considered very old fashioned and backwards. It turned out we paved the way for a new generation of classic metal bands and a decade later people were talking about how ahead of our time we were. I guess both views are right. We were ahead of our time and also very behind at the same time. But it all boils down to this: We wanted to play Heavy Metal and we did it. The rest is not very interesting to me.
You started the band in 1995 when classic Heavy Metal wasn’t so popular. Why do you think nowadays Heavy Metal is once again popular to the younger audience?
I think it is because it is timeless music that really stood the test of time. At least the very best from the genre. I was actually listening to the Iron Maiden albums Piece of Mind and Powerslave the other day. To me it still sounds as good as it did when I was 14. 30 years old albums, but to me they sound timeless. Just like The Beatles or Led Zeppelin. So even if this genre was not very popular at all in Sweden in the nineties, there was no doubt in my mind that this music would rise again. Now with a bigger audience than ever.
Tell us about the story of Wolf’s formation. Did you know about the N.W.O.B.H.M. band with the same name?
Well, yes. In way. I saw that Wolf album in second hand stores and I liked the logo and album cover. Later, someone gave it to me actually. I can’t remember if I heard of the band before or after we changed our name to Wolf. In the beginning we were called Wolverine actually. But no one in Sweden could pronounce the name or even remember it and after a while we wanted something more simple and powerful. This was when internet was still a very new phenomenon, at least to us, and no one had heard about Google yet. It’s a great name and we love it – but it is fucking ungoogleble.
About the formation of the band… I was lucky enough to meet another guy who did not like the music of the nineties and still loved all the classic albums from the eighties and we decided we would form a band and play the music that we loved even if no one but us would care. So we did, and the rest is history.
When did you start playing guitar and writing music? And when did you realize that you could sing so well?
I started to play the guitar and write songs very early. But my main instrument was the drums. I learned some guitar from my father, who worked overtime to be able to afford instruments for me, for which I am very grateful today. I never had much toys like my friends, but I had lots of musical instruments around the house. But it wasn’t until I was about 16 I decided to get serious about the guitar. When I was a drummer I played the guitar when the other guys took a break and when I finally bought my own, the other band members thought I would wear it out in a year or so. I just loved playing the guitar and soon I quit the drumming to focus on my six string.
When we formed the band Wolf, the idea was to get a singer because no one in the band was a singer. But good heavy metal singers did not grow on trees in Sweden 1995 so I started to sing until we could find one. After all, I wrote music, lyrics and vocal melody lines. As it turned out, we found a singer and it was me. Not that I was so fantastic or had a great voice, but something just clicked with the singing. It was a way of expressing myself that I just had to do. I still have to. There’s something in me that just must get out through screaming. As soon as I started singing I lost all desires to sound like my heroes. I felt that I have my own voice and my own way of expressing myself and I had to explore that side of me.
It is common knowledge that each person’s environment influences the whole person’s stance in life and output. Sweden has fueled artists and creative personalities since way back. How did your hometown Örebro treat you as an artist?
Örebro is nothing special at all, but Sweden is and kids here can go to music school for free and if the parents can’t afford expensive instruments, they can hire for a good price. At least, that was the case when I grew up. There is also a system that helps with support with rehearsal rooms and other stuff if you are into culture. Just as there is a vast support for different sports, there is also some support for culture practicing in Sweden. I think this is one of the reasons there is so many talented musicians from Sweden. Big bands like Europe and Abba has inspired for sure. Also, the Sweden I grew up in was a great country with not much poverty so I guess we were a bit spoiled. We didn’t have to fight for survival, but could indulge in music and art if we wanted. So I think we were very fortunate over here.
Your discography is full of songs that were born to be singles. How easy to write a song that will be a hit without losing your musical identity?
If it’s 100% honest and comes from the heart you will not lose your musical identity even if you try to write catchy and powerful. My musical heroes were bands like Accept, W.A.S.P., King Diamond, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and the list goes on and on. If they could write monster hits without selling out, well so can we and so can anyone else. Write with passion and write without compromise, that’s my motto.
Your early album had many Mercyful Fate and Judas Priest influences. How easy to create a personal sound and leave behind the bands that made you pick a guitar and start a band?
It’s a natural evolution for an artist, I think. If you are a true artist you will find your own voice. I am certain of that. I think we all have something within us that is very unique. And I want to express that. In the beginning there’s always a phase where you imitate your heroes and learn from them. All the big songwriters, at least most of them, has gone through the same thing.
You ‘ve been working with famous producers such as Tagtren and Roy Z , how important were their help on improving your sound and Wolf become one of the greatest Heavy Metal bands of your time?
Thank you once again for the compliment! Well, the only producer who really had an impact on an album was Roy. He was very keen on participating in the process with us and it felt right to let him in. We really connected and I learned so much from him. The other producers were great and had great input off course. But we as a band had a very clear vision of what we wanted and how we wanted to sound like, so their job was to try and get that for us. We have been fortunate to be able to work with such great producers like Fredrik Nordsröm, Jens Bogren, Roy Z and Peter Tägtgren. Every album have been a great learning experience for me. Even Legions of Bastards, which was produced by the not so very well known Pelle Saeter.
Speaking about production, tell us more about your Viper Studio. Is there any new band worth to be mentioned that you ‘ve been working with?
Yes, The Doomsday Kingdom! It’s the latest band by the legendary Leif Edling of Candlemass, Krux, Avatarium etc. I recorded my vocals there. I also recorded vocals and guitars for Wolf. I have procuded and mixed some stuff in my studio for other bands, but mainly it is my songwriting studio. I write songs and record vocals, bass and guitars. I’ve also done guest appearances like on the latest Thor album (guitar) and guest or backing vocals for various bands like Dream Evil. Nowadays, if you have good equipment, internet connection and know what your doing, it’s so easy to collaborate with other musicians. I think it is so cool. A while ago I recorded lead vocals for an Iranian project and I love to be able to do stuff like that. Being a metal head or free thinker in Iran is not an easy thing so that meant a lot to me to be able to help them out.
What does Heavy Metal mean to you? Is it just a musical expression or is it a way of life?
The simple answer to that question is: It is just music! I tend to puke a little in my mouth when people saying stuff like ”those shoes are not metal!” I remember when I criticized for having a cell phone because it was not ”metal”. Off course, the same guy had a cell phone some years later. No it is not metal, it is a god damn phone, you moron! So for me, metal is about the music. I know dedicated collectors and metal heads who just look like ordinary people and I have seen so called metal heads who are just posers who like do dress up and go to concerts, but they know nothing about metal music and probably don’t even listen to it. They are more into the style itself. Not that I care, if it makes them happy.
But there is also a deeper meaning in metal for me. To be yourself, to think for yourself and be passionate about what you like. When I grew up, metal was still ”dangerous” and the whole adult world warned us about these horrible ”devil worshipping bands” and all that nonsense. I used to draw monsters, and people telling me not to. ”Draw something nice instead”. Well fuck that, if I like monsters, I draw monsters. I am still a good person. For me metal is about getting out the aggression. It makes me happier and a more sane person to get it out than to hold it in.
Nowadays there is nothing strange with a metal head who has short hair and is a professor. Or a long haired professor for that matter. I actually know one and he is indeed a very dedicated metalhead. He named his latest scientific discovery after Lemmy. Another one after King Diamond. Metal is something that’s in your heart, not just something you wear on a black t-shirt. But, please buy our new t-shirt – it’s metal as fuck! Ha ha.
Which is the album you’ve released that you are the proudest of? I really can’t decide which one is best as Evil Star-Black Wings-Ravenous-The Black Flame are equally brilliant to me!!!
It varies to me from day to day. But The Black Flame is a favorite for sure. That album also made us known to a bigger audience. Bruce Dickinson was raving about it and telling people on his radio show to go buy it. Stuff like that means a lot to me.
Who’s responsible for the lyrics and how important are for Wolf’s sound?
I write almost all the lyrics since The Black Flame and forwards. But I did write most of the lyrics before that as well. I think the lyrics are very important for the sound. Even if you don’t care about what I sing on the albums, the words have sounds that make the song what it is. The sound of the words are important as well as the meaning. And I also write lyrics to fit my voice. I always write songs that have a deeper meaning underneath the sometimes cliché sounding metal lyrics. I can’t sing words that just sound cool but have no meaning to me. For instance, the song Shark Attack was inspired by the cardinals of the Catholic church, but you don’t have to know that to appreciate the song. You can have a different interpretation of the song than I do. That’s the beauty of music and art.
Actually, when I think of it, the lyrics have become a more and more important part of the writing process instead of just something on top of the music. When I look back I really started as a guitarist and I was thinking and writing as a guitarist. Now I have become more of a singer and that has change how I write music.
Why do you think Sweden has produced so many great metal bands?
As I said earlier, Sweden is very supportive of young musicians in all genres. I think that has helped a lot. I can’t answer to why Sweden seem to stand out in the metal genre, but there is lots and lots of musicians over here. I hope that trend will hold true even in the future, but I’m not sure of it. The young people today have so many distractions like video games and easy access entertainment. When I grew up we did not have that and it was an easy choice to practice an instrument instead of watching boring TV programs. I know I really sound like an old fart, but there is truth in it. I hope that some of the kids today feel like they really want to get extremely good at something, an instrument for instance, and are willing to put in the huge amount of time of practicing it will take.
There’s also the legendary Uriah Heep on the billing of the festival. How does it feel sharing the stage with living legends of Rock?
We are very honored! I couldn’t foresee this in my wildest dreams when I was a kid, banging away on my drums or playing my dad’s guitar. This is extremely cool. I am very much looking forward to see them live.
What should we expect from your performance in Crete?
We play a longer set than we usually do, to fit in songs of all our seven albums so I think that everybody will have something from their favorite Wolf album no matter which one it is. We also brought our own lightning engineer to work some magic and really make the songs visual for the audience. Other than that: an intense, energetic heavy metal show the way we do it. We don’t have any special gadgets or tricks – the show is just us interacting with the audience. You are also a part of the show, not just the band. That’s when the magic happens.
One more thing: we made some new merch just for this show. Very old school with just the logo. That’s the way I like the shirts myself. Maybe some lucky guy or girl who sticks to the end of the show get my own shirt for free!
Any special add on your setlist for your fans in Greece?
Yep, since we do a much longer set now than we usually do, we added the epic K-141 Kursk that we don’t usually play live. Also some songs from the very first Wolf album for the old school metal heads.
What are the band’s next steps? What does the future hold for you? Are there any announcements you can make through Metal Invader? Your last record was out in 2014. How soon should we expect a new effort?
We are currently writing on the next album and we’ve come a long way. This fall, it will be our main focus to write the remaining songs and wrap the whole thing up. We are extremely excited to bring you the next release!
The closing is yours.
Huge thanks for bringing us to Crete! Everyone who bought a ticket to the festival – you made it possible. Thank you! The reason that the metal genre have survived and grown is you, the audience. You are the best.