Interview with Zack Anderson of Blues Pills

Blues Pills

Getting Zack Anderson on the phone was difficult at first. Well, I was connected through then one question later he was gone. Luckily John (Operations Manger for Nuclear Blast Australia) saved the day, and I was back on the phone quick as a flash. Once we cleared the confusion, I apologised to Zack and he realised it wasn’t his phone running out of credit or battery, we were ready to discuss all things Blues Pills. With their self-titled album about to land in the hands of the public Zack explains how he is nervous, but excited that it’s finally happening. Zack also shares the story of how they found themselves signed to Nuclear Blast, the merits of recoding analog and how making everything sound perfect with digital recording isn’t always the best option, and a wish to tour the album in Australia.

Your self-titled full length debut is set for release in just a few days. How are you feeling about the album finally getting in the hands of fans?

A little bit nervous maybe, but I’m excited that it’s finally coming out because it took us a really long time to finally make a full album since we started. It took almost two years since our first EP come out, and we really wanted to do an album since then, but because we’re all from different countries there’s a lot of trouble to finally get together and make everything come together and work with a band.

How hard is it being in different parts of the world?

Well now we all live in Sweden so we’re all together, but for the first year or so we weren’t. Dorian was just 16 when he joined the band and he was still finishing school, and he came to live with us in Sweden for part of the time, but he had to go back to France a lot to take tests and things like that, so it was kind of complicated then, but he just finished school this past year so we’re all living in Sweden.

When you guys recorded the Devil Man EP you had a lot to contend with, what with not having a proper recording space, having to constantly move your equipment to new locations and borrow rehearsal spaces. How was the process of recording the full length album with the backing of Nuclear Blast?

That was actually kind of the reason why some of the songs on the album are songs we released before, because this was the first time we actually had the chance to go into a real studio and record. The other EPs, Bliss and Devil Man, when we recorded them, we were just recording by ourselves and they were supposed to be demos basically to try to get signed. But then once we became signed they wanted to release those songs to get the band out there and promoted, and at the time we were happy to do that, but then because this was our chance to go into a real studio and record a full album we kind of felt like those songs would have been wasted in our minds if we didn’t re-record them in a real studio to do them justice. We wouldn’t have been satisfied, and that was the big difference once we were signed to Nuclear Blast. We could go into a real studio with a professional to record us, instead of just us recording at home by ourselves basically.

I was actually going to ask why some previously released songs appeared in the album, but you just answered that. I do really like that you re-recorded them and made them new, though.

Yeah, like I said those earlier versions weren’t ever meant to be released, they were just supposed to be demos so they weren’t really complete. But then it’s kind of funny because I think a lot of fans have a tendency sometimes to automatically like the first thing they hear and sometimes they may  be a little disappointed that it’s different on the album. But in our minds the album is the real, complete thing and those other versions I guess have some charm in that they are a little bit more primitive, but I don’t think they were ever really complete in our eyes.

The first thing I thought actually when I head the album version of Devil Man was that it just sounded really definitive. Like this was how the song was meant to be all along.

It’s just the whole production and being in a studio and having such higher quality, and also we weren’t recording ourselves so we could really focus on the songs more, instead of having to worry about actually doing the recording and things ourselves. There are so many other things to worry about, like setting up microphones and things like that, but this way we could just play our instruments and focus on the song. We also had more time just to experiment a little bit with the sounds to get the right guitar tones and everything like that, where before we just set up really quick and hit record and that was it. There wasn’t so much effort put in.

I read that you didn’t like recording digitally and this album was recorded and mixed analog. Why do you prefer recording this way?

I guess it’s just more of a natural way of recording, the whole feeling you get in the studio and the workflow because you can’t go in and edit things and fix every mistake. So you’re forced more to focus on what you’re actually playing and in the end, when it’s all done, I think it just ends up sounding more natural and kind of true. When you record on a computer it’s just so easy to fix mistakes, and I think that’s a mistake a lot of bands these days have come to. Everyone wants to fix everything so it’s perfect and in the end there is no life left in the music. That’s what I like about a lot of albums from the ’60s and ’70s, you can hear little mistakes, well not necessarily mistakes, but just some weird noises that are left in the recording, which nowadays everything would be cut out and made perfect. I think it just adds some life into the music and it’s fitting for the music we make.

That makes a lot of sense, and it does fit the music you make. I definitely heard a lot of life in the album, and the sense that what you hear on the record is what you hear live.

Everything is pretty natural, but of course we do add some overdubs and things, for example we like to put some organ and piano on the album just to make it interesting because we see the studio as a whole different thing from playing live. But at the same time I think we accomplish the same feeling live.

You’re the main song writer for the band, correct? What’s your process, and how much is shared between the others?

Well it’s me and Elin who are the main writers I guess, but everyone of course adds something. The most common process, because some songs are different, but a lot of times Elin and I sit down, and I have some riff ideas, or she has a melody and make a song arrangement with the main chords, riffs and melodies, and then we also write lyrics together. Then once we have a structure for a song, usually we show it to the others and then Dorian can add solos and make the guitar better because well, he plays it really well. Then we add the drums, a lot of times though when we have a song idea we know how the drum beat should sound, so we go from there.

The band formed near the beginning of 2012, and even though earlier you said it felt like a long time until you got to make the album, you’ve done quite a lot in a short time, including two EPs, a live EP, tours that have brought you all the way to Australia. Do you find it hard sometimes to wrap your head around all of it?

It is kind of unbelievable how much we’ve done, and gotten tour even before we had an album and we just had EPs released, but…yeah I don’t know. It’s kind of strange, like sometimes I forget that the album is finally going to come out, it hasn’t really sunken in yet I don’t think. We never even really expected to be at this point that we are now, so it’s pretty cool.

I think it would take me a while for it to sink in too, and it definitely is very cool all that you have achieved, and it’s just the beginning! I’m curious now that we are talking about all you’ve done so far, how did you get signed to Nuclear Blast?

It’s kind of funny because it started with me just sending them an email, which I kept as simple as possible because someone, I can’t remember who, I think it was one of our friends in the music business, who gave the advice to just to keep the message as simple as possible when you write to labels. So I think it was just one YouTube clip and a couple of sentences just saying something like “please  check it out.” And then amazingly they got back to us, and they liked it, and then we just kept talking some more. Nothing happened right away. It took maybe five or six months until they finally saw us live when we were on tour in Germany and after they saw our show, that was when they finally offered to sign us. We were really excited to get on to Nuclear Blast because we liked a lot of the kind of vintage style bands they were signing like Graveyard and Witchcraft and Orchid and Kadavar, and so it felt good to join that family.

Aside from the moment when Nuclear Blast decided to sign you, do you have a favourite tour moment?

Well just recently, this Summer, we started playing a lot of bigger festivals in Europe, so I guess just in general this last month has been very cool for us to be playing bigger shows than we’ve ever played before and I don’t know if I have specific stories, but just at the moment it’s just generally cool to be playing these festivals and see all these bigger bands that we probably would have never dreamed of playing with before. Actually, one story that sadly happened a week ago, we played in Austria and got to meet and play with Johnny Winter and then a couple of days after that, unfortunately he passed away.

Yeah I saw the photo you guys posted on Facebook with him and then heard the news just a few days after. It was pretty shocking for a lot of people I think.

Yeah, he seemed like he was doing well, so it was a shock.

At least you did get to meet and play with him.

Yeah.

Are people often shocked when they find out how old you all are after hearing your music? Partly because you sound like a band with 20 plus years of experience under their belt, and also because of your ’60s/’70s sound.

Umm…no, I don’t know if I experience it much in real life that people are extremely shocked. I guess some people at our shows ask how old we are and they get kind of shocked. Sometimes I think that maybe they assume we’re in our thirties or a bit older than we are.

Well I know I was kind of shocked when I found out you guys were so young. Especially Dorian being 18 years old! [laughs]

[laughs] Yeah Dorian is the really young one. I mean I was shocked too the first time I heard him play. I think he was about 15 at that time so I’m sure he’s improved over the last few years, but from what I remember of that time I think he was just as good then as he is now. He just has a natural gift.

I wish I had a natural gift like that! I unfortunately missed you when you were in Australia last year, are there plans to tour the album here any time soon?

[laughs] Yeah, I really hope so. I really want to come back there. Last time it was all pretty decent shows. It wasn’t any huge concerts or anything, but I think we definitely made some fans while we were over there, so it would be really cool to come back with the album and see what it’s like then. I remember actually one show while we were there was at Cherry Fest, which was on AC/DC Lane that was a really cool show.

Looks like we’ve hit that point where it’s time to wrap up. Thanks for the interview, and enjoy the rest of the tour.

Thank you. And have a good day.

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