Don’t bother asking Meshuggah’s drummer, Tomas Haake, what the world is coming to because he really doesn’t know. One thing he is sure about though is that with their latest album, ‘The Violent Sleep Of Reason’ being more organic than previous releases and is glad they didn’t go for another “machine perfect” release. These Swedes are due to come back to Australia in March and while people may not be rushing to spend $80 for a ticket, he hopes those who come will not be disheartened. It goes without saying that this band has stuck around for the past 30 years for a good reason, and even with all the praise they have received Haake is still a very humble man, and will to talk about just about anything.
That’s what this interview is.
Hey there Tomas!
Hey Jack how are you?
I’m good, it’s 7 here so just starting to wind down for the night.
Oh yeah, it’s early morning here, still drunk from last night if I’m honest. So this should be good.
Where are you now?
I’m at the studio where we rehearse and have recorded a lot of our albums.
So it feels like home?
Yeah, definitely. We’ve been here 14, no, 15 years now it sort of feels like our place.
It’s good to hear about the rehearsal, I was going to ask about it. Even though you’ve been a band for almost 30 years, what is your rehearsal schedule like prior to going on tour?
For the Australian dates, because we’ve just been out in the UK and Europe right before Christmas, we will probably rehearse a week I would say before we come down there. We don’t really have a set schedule and we don’t rehearse on the daily if we don’t have tours coming up or if we’re not practising for a new album. In a sense, we’re spread out, Marten one of our guitarists lives up north, Dick our bass player lives in Gothenburg; we’re not in the same city all of us so it’s not something we can do on a daily. We can’t just rehearse for a half hour or hour, it tends to be a compressed thing we do the last week or two before a tour. We run through the set list and just make sure we still know our shit [Laughs].
Well by this point you’ve played the songs so many times you know them inside out?
Yea, it’s not so much that, it’s more for my sake and for Jens sake, where you have the muscle instruments if you will. So sometimes if we’ve been away from our instruments for months then we will rehearse a lot more, we will start two or three weeks prior to going out. But if the songs are kind of still in our backbone, it’s kind of just going through the motions to just make sure. With the music it’s not so much if you can play it, it’s more oh yea I forgot that and you try and get that. When we play live it’s not always the same as the albums. The songs tend to kind of end, and are you holding onto this last note and doing cymbals or are we going straight from that to next one or do we just stop? So you try and go through what you’re doing in a live set.
Now you said in a previous interview that you wanted to de-machine the album this time around so to speak. What was the reason behind this and do you see yourself doing it again next time around?
The music that we grew up with, the music we always thought was awesome, the songs that we love, the songs in metal that got us going, it was never perfected. In the sense that you would take something and make it machine like perfection and then you add guitars on top of that and so on. That has always been our goal, we always wanted to record everything live, but for different reasons, for time reasons if nothing else, for a bunch of albums we just never had the time for it. If you take ‘ObZen’ or ‘Koloss’ I didn’t really know the tracks we had rehearsed them as a band, so you’re really familiar with them. You go to yourself, this is the fifth time I’ve played through this song, maybe I’ve got this right and that’s that status when you’re recording them. We never really wanted to do that, we always felt like we should know everything as a whole band and try and do it like we did in the early days.
Everything in the last fifteen years has been mapped out as far as release date and all that stuff so we’re like “Oh fuck we’ve got to be done with this”. This time we just took our time, we said we had to be done with the songs by new years of 2015/2016 and whatever we had at that point we would be like “Okay let’s start rehearsing, we’ve got to do it right”. So we had at least 2 months of rehearsal so we could actually play it as a band, which it has been a long time since we’ve been at that juncture when we record an album, so in that sense it was different. We really tried to do it as a band, it’s still to a click track, and it’s not edited or done anything with it to make it sound perfect, so you can hear the flaws in it. You can hear the human beings in there and to me that makes a big difference, to me you can hear that it’s organic, you can hear the intent and intention with the music.
For many people that love your band, they’ve seen you guys at least once when touring Australia. Do you have anything special planned this tour that people should know about? Because I know for a lot of people once they’ve seen a band once or twice they aren’t in a rush to spend $80, $90 or even $100 dollars.
Well yeah. People who have seen us in the last few years will know what to expect, it’s not like we’re going to make big changes to that. We try to put on a show, we definitely know it’s not just about the music. You’ve got to put in the effort with the light show and everything that isn’t the music. With that said I hope people will be satisfied with that; we try with every album not just musically but with the live show to do something new and different every time. So I think that people who show up will not be too disheartened with what they see [Laughs].
I’m not saying that’s my opinion because sometimes a band brings out an album and it’s not until you see it live that you understand where the band was coming from and what they were trying to do with it.
Yeah, that’s something we try and put effort into as well!
Your music is something that requires precision when executing live. When something goes wrong, how do you counteract that and do you feel like you’ve let your fans down if you don’t give 100%?
Yea to some degree definitely, you definitely want to perform at your best and you want the show to run smoothly. We’ve been fortunate enough, knock on wood, not many time we’ve had to stop the whole show because something goes wrong. There’s a lot of chance that something could go wrong. Everything runs on a computer that runs not only the click tracks for the songs but all the guitar sound changes and that are all programmed now. The guitarist doesn’t have to stamp on pedals to go from this sound to the next, it’s all programmed into midi. It’s definitely a sensitive set up.
A lot of bands are now going to the route of VR/360 videos and you have done one for Nostrum. I think the song is a killer track but the video takes away from it. Would you be more creative if you chose to venture down the VR path again? And who was responsible for the decision to release this one?
Yeah, the thing is, it’s kind of a new thing with labels now, what they call it is a visualizer instead of a video. So you don’t put a ton of money into this or that and make the old school MTV video of it. The label wants to do what they call the visualizer for a bunch of the songs for every album. So you don’t really put the effort into it like you would a normal video. For us too, because we’re kind of old school it’s like “oh okay… what you mean visualizer?” It’s still a video but you just don’t put the effort in so to speak. This was also the case for some of the things we did for this albums. It’s not really a video, it’s just something visual to go with the track. Don’t ask me why the world has turned into this but that’s kind of what it is.