Sweden’s Satanic Surfers have spent the past twelve years perfecting their melodic punk sound. The band were forced into a self-imposed break soon after their last album “Unconciously Confined”, was released due to members decided that playing in the band was no longer what they wanted. Two years later though the band have returned with a band and an awesome new album – ‘Taste the Poison’ – and a massive upcoming tour across pretty much the whole world. Their new album also marks their debut on Household Name Records, at least within the UK. It seemed like as good a time as any to pick their brains about their past, present and future, and Rodrigo (vocals) and Magnus (guitar) were both kind enough to supply some answers.
LH: You guys have been going since 1993 – why keep going after all these years?
Rodrigo: Actually we started back in 1989, but never released anything until 1993, once the line up had stabilized. We went through a few singers before Erik took over the vocals and Fredrik and Magnus joined on guitar. All earlier recordings were live shows which hopefully will remain buried forever…
Magnus: As long as we have fun while playing music, we will keep going. It feels like we started off fresh again when Andy and Robert joined the band. After having a slow year in 2003 we began playing live again last year. The time spent away from touring made us all realize how lucky we’ve been, to be able to tour all over the world and actually making a living doing it. This makes us appreciate being in the band even more nowadays, and when you have that feeling it’s not hard to continue playing in the band, even after so many years. I mean right now, we’re just about to release an album that we’re very proud of followed by some extensive touring. It feels great. Even though we listen to a large variety of music, the melodic punk will always have a special place in our hearts. Most of our side projects involves more aggressive music which works as an outlet for the more crusty influences.
LH: A lot of people couldn’t understand why you moved off Burning Heart when it just looked like you were about to be “big”. Why did you decide to do this, you’ve commented on them wanting you to make a music video, why were you so opposed to this?
Rodrigo: At the time we felt that Burning Heart had lost interest in our band. They seemed to have other bands that they would rather push than us and they obviously thought that melodic punk was a thing of the past. When we went on tour to promote “Going Nowhere Fast” we noticed that people didn’t know we had a new album out. I guess that’s when we realised that we had to do something about our label situation. Björn at Bad Taste is an old friend of ours and since Bad Taste already had released “Skate to Hell” and the split CD with Ten Foot Pole, choosing what label to switch to was never difficult.
Magnus: As for the situation with the video, we just weren’t interested in doing one at the moment and Burning Heart were trying to talk us into it in ways that we felt rather uncomfortable with.
LH: Do you think in the past few years, with the rise of ‘punk’ music channels that this pressure on bands to promote themselves through music videos (rather than touring, interviews and being on comps) has increased? How do you think it’s altered the music scene?
Rodrigo: As a punk band I’m sure you can still gain a following by spending a lot of time on the road. There is an underground movement no matter what kind of punk rock you play. It’s important to build a foundation by touring. If you spend more time on trying to figure out what would sell more albums rather than writing good songs and finding an identity for your band, you will fail in the end. It’s a lot more to being a band than shooting a nice looking video. At the same time, it’s not uncommon for bands to use punk trademarks to find a big audience even if it happens to be an audience that otherwise would listen to Britney Spears or something. Even people who listen to boy bands need some more “dangerous” music and putting a punk angle on some pop songs seems to be an approach that works. It has very little to do with the punk movement though.
LH: Rumour has it you’re recording a video to promote the album this time round, why did you decide to do this considering previous comments about it?
Magnus: For us, shooting a video always seemed like a waste of money. Why spend a load of cash on something that would be shown once or twice? Having said that, we did shoot a video a couple of weeks ago for a song on the new album. What made us change our minds was probably the fact that, with the new digital technique, you can actually get a good result without having to spend a fortune. In some countries there are actually some decent music channels that show some good music and hopefully they will air the video. With the internet today there are more opportunities for people to see the video than before on our website or the website of one of the record labels that we work with. I would say that we consider it another artistic outlet and at the same time kind of an experiment, just to see what happens. It’s going to be exciting to see the finished thing.
LH: Have MP3s, and music being so freely available across the net, changed how people find new bands, and listen to music? What are you opinions on it, do you think it makes it easier for people to track down new music, or do you think it makes people treat music as being some kind of throwaway commodity because it is so cheap to come by?
Rodrigo: It definitely changed how people find and listen to music. Posting an MP3 is a great way for a band to let people know that they exist or if it’s a more well known band, that they have a new song or album out. From a promotional point of view it offers a great opportunity for a band to spread the word. For many young people, downloading music is the way they get access to music. Going to a record store isn’t an option anymore. This is just the way it has developed and I guess the record companies have to find other ways to make money.
LH: There was a big gap between Unconciously Confined and Taste the Poison, why? Do you think that’s affected the new record? Why did you decide to work with two seperate record labels (Bad Taste & Household Name) rather than just let one do all the work?
Magnus: The main reason for the long absence is that Martin (drums) and Mathias (bass) quit the band in 2002 and 2003 respectively. Since Rodrigo is a drummer we could still write and rehearse new songs, but of course we all felt that the future of the band was in jeopardy. At the same time we definitely didn’t want the band to split up and did all we could to keep it together. In November 2003 Andy, who’s also the guitar player in one of Rodrigo’s other bands, Intensity, started playing bass for us. We tried out a couple of drummers before giving our friend Robert a call in March 2004. We all knew him from touring with his old band, Adhesive. The other reason it took a while to put out the new album is that we really wanted to make the best Satanic Surfers album possible. This meant we were prepared to let the song writing take a bit longer, and we pushed back the recording a few times. The extra time between the albums gave us the opportunity to work more on the songs, making this the album that we’re the most satisfied with.
Rodrigo: Regarding Household Name; It seemed to us that in order for our album to reach people in the UK, we needed a label that was situated in the UK, and that could make sure that we would tour the UK. Household Name was the first label that came to our minds.
LH: Have the events of the past two years made a difference in terms of lyrics? Are any of you politically active as individuals? Is being in a band a political act in itself?
Rodrigo: I don’t think any of us are politically active anymore, as being part of an organization or anything like that. Personally I have never been in any such organization. I guess it all depends on where you draw the line on what is politics and what is not. Much of what we do in our daily lives is of course affected by our political views and believes, even if it’s just small things such as being vegan or vegetarian. We didn’t start our band as a political act, music has always been more important to me than politics. So I don’t see the decision of starting or being in a band as a political act in itself. However, it depends on what you make of it, what you try to get across with the lyrics and so on. That can be considered taking a political stance.
LH: Lastly what are you plans for the coming year, where are you going to be touring? Any plans for other releases (EPs, splits etc.)? Any final comments!
Rodrigo: This fall we’ll be doing two European tours plus a short trip to the UK. For next year, there are plans to go to Australia, Japan, Canada, South America. Nothing is confirmed right now, but we will spend a lot of time on the road next year. As far as other releases go, we’ve been talking about doing a vinyl 7″ to sell exclusively on tour. Even though we’re having problems finding the time to record some new songs, we’ll do everything to try to make it happen.