22 Septembre 2015


Blaster Of Muppets

Interview Erik Martensson (face to face)

Hi Erik, thank you for your time. How’s this tour going so far?

Erik : So far, it’s been a complete success, I would say. This is the fourth or fifth date and this is our first proper full European tour. Before that, we had just done a few dates here and there, in Sweden, Spain, the UK… It’s really a promotion tour for the band.

It seems incredible that you’ve just started touring because you’ve been around for quite some time, now… The band started in 1999.

Erik : We were very slow starters. We haven’t done anything really… but we made the decision to really do something. We’re trying to build it now. But it’s not just that. It’s hard for a small band to get a gig anywhere. When you’re not known, it’s just a loss of money for everybody who gets involved but it’s starting to change now… We’ve sold records and people know the band a bit more, so we’re getting booked. It’s a big change for us.

Great! Now the band started sixteen years ago. Can you tell us a bit about the evolution of Eclipse since its ignition?

Erik : Yeah, we’ve been around for a long time. Our first album was released in 2001, I think. We were small kids. We recorded and mixed our music ourselves so the first two records actually sound like demos. They have the Eclipse logo on them but we don’t really consider them as our own records. The one we really consider as our real debut album is actually the third one called “Are You Ready To Rock?” which came out in 2008.

Is that when you got signed by Frontiers Records?

Erik : No, we actually got signed by Frontiers before that… for the second album. But when we got signed, our second album was already recorded, I mixed it at home. It was a very low budget thing. With the third album, we found our own style and did the music we really wanted to do.

What was the style on your first albums?

Erik : They were a bit AOR, a bit heavy metal, a bit pop, a bit everything… it was a mess, really. We had no producers, we had no one to help us, we had good ideas but we didn’t really know where to point the cannon. We were firing all over the place. With “Are You Ready To Rock”, we got more focused and stopped trying to do what some people wanted us to do. That’s when we really became Eclipse.

And then came your fourth album “Bleed And Scream”…

Erik : Yes, there were four years between the two records because that’s also when I started to work full time producing, recording and mixing other bands. That’s why it took us so many years to come up with “Bleed And Scream”. And we also wrote a lot of songs for this one because on “Are You Ready To Rock?”, there were songs that kind of sounded like other bands and we really wanted to find our own sound this time. So, on “Bleed And Scream” I think that we really sound like Eclipse and not like other bands but it took us time to write and choose the right songs. And that’s exactly what we did for our last record, “Armageddonize”. We had a lot of songs and some were great but sometimes they sounded a little bit Whitesnake, or a little this or that, so we threw them away and focused on the songs we thought sounded like Eclipse. And it’s been successful so far.

How has Armageddonize been received by fans and critics?

Erik : The reactions have been fantastic. I think we’ve had more 5/5 than 4/5 this time. We’ve had amazing reviews… even in Sweden (he laughs)… and that’s hard to get. Swedish bands don’t usually get very good reviews in Sweden. That’s how it works, you know… you don’t support your own bands, ha ha.

Magnus Henriksson, the guitar player, and yourself have been in the band since the beginning… and you’ve got another Magnus, the bass player who used to be your drummer at some point…

Erik : Yeah, Magnus was our drummer on our second album but he’s also a great guitar player. We had good bass players but they were more like hired guns for gigs and we wanted a permanent member and Magnus is one of those guys that you want in your band. So when we wanted him to play with us again but already had a drummer, I asked him if he could play bass. So he borrowed my bass for a week and told me “Yeah, I think I could play bass!”. So then, we had a gig and before that, we had our first rehearsal and he sounded great. I then asked him “Can you walk around and play bass?” and he said “Yeah, I’ve been practising at home and it works” (laughs)… You know, he had never performed as a bass player before, it’s a totally different thing… but he’s great, it looks like he has done nothing but playing bass all his life!

Who are Persson and Becker who are credited for co-writing some songs on your last record?

Erik : They are friends and songwriters I work with. You know, I work full time writing songs and producing as I said earlier. They were actually more involved in writing "Bleed And Scream" than our last record. They’re great writers, I love working with them. Miqael Persson actually plays as a country musician. Johan Becker is a very successful songwriter, writing a lot of Korean pop and Japanese pop music.

Oh yeah? It’s true that the introduction to “I Don’t Wanna Say I’m Sorry” on your last album has this Asian vibe…

Erik : Actually I wrote that. I like that kind of thing. I always to try and incorporate this kind of melodies in my songs without sounding odd…

Do you sometimes find it difficult to approach songwriting considering that pretty much everything has already been done and that it’s very difficult to come up with a riff that has not been written before?

Erik : Yes, it’s almost impossible to do something unique now. In rock music, there’s nothing really new happening actually. When it comes to the genre, it’s like a heritage that you have to take over and you contribute to it the best you can. It’s really hard to do something completely new because it’s sort of all been done… so you’ve got to find your own way of doing things, try to incorporate different things from different genres to give it a bit of spice, you know. Your expression as a musician counts too. Hopefully, if you give the same song to five different bands, you will have five different songs in the end. It will still be the same song of course, but every band will have brought their flavour to it.

Being as melodic rock as you are, it seems to me that you’re trying to not to sound too mellow or cheesy… Is it difficult when you write some melodic rock stuff to keep a balance between what’s cool and what’s a bit unfashionable or corny?

Erik : We try our best! Of course, we use clichés. We try to use the ones that we like. I try to avoid some that I really don’t like and some AOR bands are filled with.

The thing is that as melodic as you are, you also use really punchy guitars, double bass… there is a sort of heavy background…

Erik : Well, you know, there was a time I used to listen to only thrash and death metal (he smiles). When I was young, I started with classic rock, but later, as a teenager, I really got into thrash and death metal… for ten years. But somehow, when I wrote my own songs, they turned melodic. My strength is not in writing thrash metal but in writing melodic songs. That’s what I do well.

And what do you listen to these days?

Erik : Well, a bit of everything, really. I like bands with good songs. I focus much more on good songs now. When I was young, I was just attracted to good guitar players… the guitar was the core of the song to me. I didn’t really care about the lyrics or anything else! Now, I pay much more attention to the whole songs… and I try to get inspiration from different genres and not rock music in particular. I listen to a lot of indie pop, for instance… I love the last Brandon Flowers record, you know the singer from The Killers. He’s one of my favourite singers, I love The Killers.

How have things been going with Frontiers Records? How many albums are you contracted to do with them?

Erik : We actually do our albums one at a time. We have an option for another one… it’s working really well. We have a great relationship. It’s a good partnership. I do a lot of things for them, I also write a lot for some of their artists. It’s a good label, they’ve done a lot for the hard rock, melodic rock genre.

With all this work, are you at a point in your career where you can actually live from your music?

Erik : Yeah, I’ve been doing it for about eight years full time, now. Robban, our drummer, is just working as a musician too… and Magnus is doing it a lot too but he’s lately tried to be more focused on Eclipse and got tired of playing with different bands all the time. So, he actually took a job on the side.

On this tour, there’s just one gig in France. Will you be able to play more dates in our country in the near future?

Erik : Yeah, actually, two dates were planned at the beginning but it became a bit complicated to organize so we had to drop one of them. But we have a bigger tour coming around next year. It’s already being booked and it’s got bigger venues throughout Europe. I think we will definitely come back to France, I’d like to, but I can’t really tell much for the moment because it’s in the works. And we’re gonna tour together with another band but I’m not sure I can tell about it right now… but I can tell you unofficially and you can’t write about it (NDLR : which he did… I’m not telling you, but if it happens, let’s just say it’s gonna be great).

Are you going to take advantage of this tour to record a live album? After five studio releases, it would sound just right, wouldn’t it?

Erik : We really don’t have the gear with us this time to record a proper live album. It’s not going to be possible this time, for this tour… But yes, we’ll have to do it… Now that I think of it, we did a great gig at a festival in Stockholm. It was recorded, there were seven cameras filming it and there were individual tracks for mixing/recording… and they told us we could have them. So maybe we could do something with that.

Your song “To Mend A Broken Heart” has actually been covered by Revolution Saints, the band with Doug Adrich, Deen Castronovo and Jack Blades. It’s funny because at the time I reviewed this record, I didn’t know it was an Eclipse song. Did you hear their version?

Erik : Yeah, I usually say something about that song on stage because it’s one of the first songs we wrote that we thought sounded like Eclipse at the time. It was a new style for us. And now, they did a cover and even released it as a single! Their take on the song is kinda similar but Deen Castronovo is going absolutely nuts on the drums (laughs). I like it… it’s an honour they covered this song. I think Jack Blades actually said it was his favourite song on the Revolution Saints record.

As you said earlier, you don’t just write and play for Eclipse, you also compose and produce for other bands or projects and you’re part of W.E.T. the AOR band featuring Jeff Scott Soto… How does it work for you? Do you find the time to equally invest your efforts in all your different projects?

Erik : What I do is that I work one project at a time. I don’t try to do everything at the same time. If I want to be good at what I do, I focus on one thing at a time. If I write a country song, or a pop song, I focus on that… I don’t try and write an Eclipse song on the side. I try to write the best songs possible, I don’t save the best songs for myself for a future Eclipse album… Otherwise, there’s no point in asking me for a song, right? And I do this full time. Five days a week… or rather seven days a week!

On some riffs that you or Magnus Henriksson write, I sometimes hear things that remind me a bit of old Ozzy Osbourne records, the ones he recorded with Zakk Wylde in the late 80s/early 90s. I was wondering if you liked these albums and Zakk Wylde and if they had been influential on your writing?

Erik : Yeah!! When I grew up, I had “No Rest For The Wicked”. I listened to it a lot back then. I grew up listening to it and I loved it. It’s true that if you listen to the “Miracle Man” riff or stuff like that, you can imagine that we could easily rip that off and make an Eclipse song out of it!

I love the riff on “I Don’t Wanna Say I’m Sorry”, for instance, that’s exactly the kind of riff I was thinking about for the previous question… did you write it or was it Magnus?

Erik : I wrote that one but the inspiration for that riff comes from a totally different place.

Really? Where does it come from?

Erik : From “The Sun Always Shines On TV”! (he smiles)

Oh… A-ha!!

Erik : Yes, it’s the same riff! I stole it (he smiles). I heard the song on the radio and thought “Hah!! That’s an Eclipse riff!!”… And you know, that’s what I tried to say a bit earlier, if you take too much inspiration from classic rock records, it will sound exactly like a classic rock record. When you take ideas from different genres, from The Killers or from A-ha for example, you will have something different because they do things and think a bit differently… and if you make hard rock out of it, then you get something a little bit different. I don’t usually go around and steal stuff but I kinda copy A-ha for this one… I’m giving all my secrets away (laughs)! And “Stand On Your Feet” is very Killers inspired… you know, “When You Were Young”…

Oh Yeah, I love that song! Now that you’re telling me, I can see the relation between these two songs but I had never thought of it before.

Erik : Yeah, it’s a great song, “When You Were Young”… I would love to have a song as great as this one!

Let’s talk about your heroes now. Who are the people who made you want to become a musician?

Erik : The first record that made me pick up the guitar when I was a kid was “Flick Of The Switch” by AC/DC! It’s still one of my favourite albums because, you know, what you hear as a kid sticks with you. I had listened to other records and liked them but that was the one that made me say “Wow… the guitars!!!” Before, it was just music. It was the first time that I actually paid that much attention to the guitars.

Are there people you haven’t had the opportunity of working with but would love to work with?

Erik : Yeah, there are lots of people I would like to work with… I would love to make a record with David Coverdale. I think David Coverdale is one the coolest rock singers ever, he’s got it all. I would love to sing like him but it’s not possible… Also Eric Martin from Mr. Big… or Brandon Flowers! I would love to work with them.

Will you do another W.E.T. album anytime soon?

Erik : We’ve been talking about it. But right now, I’m busy with Eclipse, Jeff Scott Soto is doing his own thing. We’re open to it but we’ve got things going on at the moment… we’ll see what happens.

What’s next for you right after this tour?

Erik : I’m gonna finish another project for Frontiers with a Danish singer… which I really can’t tell you anything about… except that’s it’s going to be great. You’ll hear about it soon, when the record is done.

Thank you very much for your time Erik, it’s been great talking to you. Have a good time tonight... and a great tour!

Erik : My pleasure. Thank you very much for your support, I hope you’ll enjoy the show.