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HOUSE OF SHAKIRA: "HoS"
House of Shakira have gone through a few line-up changes lately, and are now back with renewed energy and a new album "HoS" under their collective belt. Mats Hallstensson (gt) and new vocalist Andreas Novak answered our questions. This is a tweaked 15Q with a couple of special questions especially for House Of Shakira...
1. How has the reaction to your latest CD been?
Mats Hallstensson: We had great reviews so far, we were a bit worried about the reaction to changes in band lineup and so on, but so far so good!!
Andreas Novak: Overall good reviews and the reactions to the lineup changes have all been positive – so it feels great!
2. How long did this CD take to make from start to finish, recording-wise?
MH: Well.. Major parts of the album were actually recorded twice, first time with the “old” band lineup and then with the new lineup. We started out in 2009 and the album was done in October 2011. When Novak joined, we “forced” him to write new melodies and lyrics for all the songs. So this album was a really long journey.
AN: I was handed the tracks, without melodies or lyrics, so I went elaborating at home and came back with my ideas when I felt they were god enough to record. We tried them out during rehearsal, and it just fell easily into place.
3. What kind of 'sound', production wise, did you have in the back of
your mind, prior to entering the studio?
MH: We were looking for a “classic” sound this time, the goal was that we should be able to pick up the album in ten years and.. “Hey, this sounds fresh, is it really from 2012??”. So we kept overdubs to a minimum, used the acoustic sound of every instrument and so on. No metal drums and no metal guitars… ha ha ha
4.What kind of input did the producer have during the process?
MH: We did the production ourselves as always and the new energy that the new band members brought, gave the album exactly the input we were looking for. We wanted to sound re-born and not like a dying band.
5. And are you pleased with the final outcome? (sound - production wise)
MH: Well, since I recorded and mixed the album it’s really hard for me to say.. Every time I listen to the album I hear things that I wished I had done different.. But yes, it sounds much like I wanted it to.
AN: I´m very satisfied – I think it has a live feeling to it, it does not feel artificial. It´s real and honest. But today when I hear it, I keep getting new ideas for the songs. It´s too late to add anything, so I can try those changes live and see if anybody can tell the difference, ha ha…
6. Did the producer use any (weird) experimental miking and/or recording
MH: No, we really did everything basic this time, we used old Marshall amps, standard microphones like Shure SM57. What we did do was to make sure that all instruments and equipment used during recordings were in great shape. New strings/drumheads, perfectly intonated and tuned etc.
We decided from start to use a minimum of overdubs so we spend a lot of time with rehearsals to make sure that all arrangement was perfect.
7.How did you go on about capturing your 'live sound' in the studio, or
perhaps you didn't?
MH: We recorded instrument by instrument, started with drums, than bass and so on. But since we spent a lot of hours in rehearsals, I think we captures some kind of live feeling. It felt like we recorded the album as a band, not as individuals.
AN: Yes, the live feeling on the album is what makes it special, thanks to hours of rehearsal prior to recording – instead of recording out of the blue.
8. Please inform us about your favourite songs and lyrical highlights and
MH: I really don’t have favorite songs, I think all songs is really good but.. but! My favorite verse of the album is in “Voice in the void”. You find my favorite chorus in “Changes in mind”. Favorite stick is “Endless night” and favorite guitar solo is in “All aboard”. Martin and Basse highlights in “Brick wall falling”. Anders plays great in “Out of my head” and Andreas is world class in “I’ll be gone”.
AN: All songs have their own strength, but one clear favorite is “All aboard!”. I can see the video in front of me, with people being crammed onto the Rock’n’roll train…
Lyrically one favorite is “What goes around…”, where I tell a fictive story of a guy making a mess during his summer job. Some parallels to an old Uriah Heep song can be found here.
9. Any overall theme of mood that you're trying to capture while writing
MH: What comes out comes out.. Sometimes I’ve tried to.. “Hmm, I would like to write that kind of song”, but It’s always a failure and ends up with something totally different. So… writing songs for the charts is not my cup of tea I guess.. ha ha
AN: Lyrically, half of the time they´re just fantasies, the other half is based on my own experiences. Still, there´s always essence in the lyrics, even though I might be the only one to understand them… Melodies must feel good somehow, and when you get that special kick of it, it works. I sing and record hundreds of ideas at home in my little studio, where only one or two might meet the standards of what I consider being a good melody.
10. Does your vision for coming up with music get affected at all by
MH: Yes, sometimes (sadly very rarely) I hear new music that I really like and think- “This is what it should sound like”. But that’s not me, I am what I am and the music that I’m inspired by is there and can’t be deleted so once again.. What comes out comes out. But I think that we have change a lot since the first album “Lint”, every album is a new album with lot of new influences.
AN: Well, 12-13 years ago I wanted to do “difficult” music that demanded a lot from the listener. Now it´s totally opposite for me. Music must be fun for us, and easily accessible for the listener.
I don´t need to show off, I just want people to enjoy what they hear.
11. Did the record company interfere with anything on your "sound" and songs?
MH: One of the reasons that we stick to Lion Music is that they never interfere with our music, they always let us do what we want and support everything (mostly) we do. I’m not sure that I would bear with a company trying to make us something that’s not us.
AN: Yes, we did not feel any pressure from Lion to meet any demands, so that was never a problem.
12. Are there any 'crazy' behind the scenes anecdotes from these sessions
that you can share with us?
MH: Well, every minute of a session recording Anders Lundström is kind of crazy.. ha ha. He always come down to the recordings, nervous like hell and convinced that he’s going to perform worse than Spinal Tap or Bad News but it always ends up with a splendid result. But you really have to be there to understand, seeing the fountains of sweat shooting out of his hands every time you say.”Ok, I push the red button now!”
AN: Ha ha, yes Anders is funny! When I joined the band, he told me he was a terrible guitar player. That´s hilarious , cause nobody else ever complained, and his work always sounds great. It was a relief to hear somebody say that when I was new in the band, cause then I wouldn´t have to worry if I happened to sing out of tune at rehearsal…
13. The band has been going through some big changes lately, could you
shed some light into it and let us know what happened and why?
MH: We realized that the band was dying and had to make a decision to letting it go or try to shake things into life again. We really needed a huge change of blood and realized that we had to make the biggest change we could think of… changing the front man. That was NOT an easy decision but if we didn’t, we knew that HoS was dead meat. Later on, Per and Tony left the band because they didn’t have the joy anymore. January 26 we held the release party for the album and all former members showed up. Everybody was happy and we are still friends, no hard feelings what so ever.
14. Andreas Novak sounds like a great recruitment, how did you find him?
MH: We knew about Novak and what he did in the past, his voice was exactly what we wanted but could he be a part of the song writing? We handed him a few new songs, music backgrounds without vocals and asked him to write melody and lyrics. A few days later he came back with the result and that gave him the job. Anders and myself was really amazed of the result Novak brought to us. He was exactly what we was looking for.
AN: Fortunately, they found me. I wanted to find a new band and I´m glad I was available when they needed me. I could have been stuck somewhere else… Everything worked, and the new songs were a pleasure to write.
15. It seems to me that your previous album "Retoxed" somewhat slipped
thru the radar. What are you going to do to ensure that "HoS" doesn't?
MH: “Retoxed” was produced by a band that entered the first stage of dying, everybody in the band gave everything with making “Retoxed” but I guess it was too late.
It is different this time, it’s fun being a band again and therefore we will not let “HoS” slip through the radar. We can’t wait to play the new songs live on stage and that’s what we’re aiming for right now.
AN : I wasn´t around then - but Yes, I really believe in this album. We´ll make sure to do everything we can to not let this album slip thru any radar out there.
Interview concept by: Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
The questions 13-15 by Kimmo Toivonen
Photos provided by Lion Music.
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