Tucked into a dressing room somewhere in the bowels of Camden Underworld, OneMetal’s Nicholas Cleeve sat down with Engel bassist Steve Drennan to chat about the band, their plans for the future and Steve’s willingness to slap on a lot of sparkly makeup for the sake of the band in the video for the lead single off their latest album: Blood of Saints.
OneMetalSo, how are you?
SteveTired, stressed and, uh, getting there. Looking forwards to tonight, of course ‘cause it’s London and for me it’s my hometown and specially because it’s, I guess, big. My family are coming down and a lot of friends and considering we haven’t played in London for quite a few years I guess, yeah, it’s gonna be a big deal. Hence all the extra stress and stuff today. But apart from that, everything else is swimmingly fine.
OneMetalAwesome, how’s the tour been going so far?
SteveThe tour’s actually been brilliant. I mean it’s certainly our first time doing a headlining tour which is, y’know we’re used to always being a main support, which has always been great for us, trying to get exposure out to new fans that may not be familiar with Engel. But yeah, it’s kinda good. We had one slight hiccup obviously, which was a hell of a stressful day also, which was when one of us got quite sick and we had to actually cancel the show, which was the last thing we ever want to do, y’know we always want to be out there and performing. But it was one of those circumstances we couldn’t avoid and we had to get it fixed. So for the show the following day that actually all happened… that was kind of a big thing as well and since then everything else has been fantastic. Just a lot of driving! [laughs] Very tiring but brilliant, yeah.
OneMetalSo how’s your spare time? I saw you were in Cro-Bar last night…
SteveOh you did? Well last night was a bit of an adventure. I mean, we drove all the way from Stuttgart after the show, it was an over 900 kilometres sorta thing but the plan was that we wanted to maybe give ourselves an evening off and some of our tour crew haven’t been to London before. So we started off in The Ship in Wardour Street, introduce them to some decent beer and then Nandos which is another big thing. There’s no Nandos in Sweden so we had to try that. Then Garlic and Shots because that’s where we get Bloodshots; there’s a Garlic and Shots in Stockholm as well which we’re used to. So that was the other big thing and then, of course, we ended up in the Cro-Bar which was on the way home. But that was just to sort of wind down the evening. It was a fun night and that was actually the only spare time we’ve had and probably that’ll be it until the end of the tour. I think we have one more day off in Hamburg, which will be nice but I think by that point it’ll be good to have a calm day and just relax. But other than that it’s just been pretty much full on. Last night’s adventure was brilliant but [laughs] I won’t say more about that…
OneMetal[Laughter with hints of curiosity and fear]
SteveWe behaved! We’re very respectful when we go out and drink.
SteveIt was nice to…we haven’t really had a chance as a band to really socialise since…I can’t even remember the last time we actually all sat round a table for a beer. So, yeah I guess that was the extra incentive last night – to actually have a chance to do it. So that was cool.
OneMetalI was gonna ask, do you usually get spare time to sample local delights?
SteveHardly any at all, to be honest. Usually it’s the same routine for all bands, y’know by the time you get to the venue…we’re quite hard-working so we have to set up and obviously take care of business and then by the time we’ve literally finished soundchecking usually it’s time to eat and then maybe get ready and just warm up and stuff and then it’s showtime. Then, the minute we’re done it’s off to the next place so we don’t have to luxury of getting to sightsee and do stuff like that. Not yet anyways, so maybe when we’ve become a lot bigger and obviously we have a lot of crew and then we have a lot of downtime. Maybe that day will happen but at the moment we’re happy with how it’s working, we see enough. But London last night, of course, was good.
OneMetalBlood of Saints seems to be a lot more electronically influenced than the past albums, was that a conscious decision while you were writing?
SteveNot really, going back to even the first album, the one that I’m not on…I think one of the things Niclas [Engelin, guitarist] and I share in common is that we have a love for great 80s synth bands, even from the early new wave influences and we’ve always tried to have a lot of keyboard/industrial influences on there. I think on the new album maybe it’s a little bit different because of the kind of samples we used or the synths we used were more dubstep orientated. But it wasn’t a deliberate way of actually thinking “This is cool, let’s use it.” It just seemed to…when we put the tracks down – just guitars, bass and drums and everything, it has that raw feeling so we always look to have something really cool going on in the background as well. It was our friend Pontus Hjelm who was helping us program keyboards; he said “Why don’t you look at this.” The minute those tracks went with everything else it was just “Wow!” But the electronic things have always been there, it’s maybe more prevalent in this album just because of the nature of the tracks we use. Some bands class us as being electronica, which is kind of funny. Everybody’s always trying to put a label onto a band…coming from Gothenburg of course we have the Gothenburg death metal thing but we’re not really in that mould. Sometimes we are, sometimes we’re not. Sometimes we are melodic metal, electronica…for us, if you ask me and Marcus [Sunesson, guitarist] we just like to think of ourselves as a good metal band which has leanings towards…I dunno, other things. [laughs]
OneMetal‘Question Your Place’ had one of the best videos I’ve seen ages, looked like a lot of fun to make. How did it go?
SteveYeah, it was actually spectacular. Kiggs, the video director, it was the first time he’d worked with us. More or less how it came about was he’d written to us a while back before recording the album with the view of maybe making a video and we thought “Of course…it’s cool” y’know? Once we had the album recorded and we were looking to put out the single we knew which single it was going to be and we approached him and said “Look, we’d like to have a really cool concept for this album, we didn’t want to do the typical standing there, playing thing. We’ve done a lot of videos where we do that and for ‘Question Your Place’ we wanted to create a dark club, very underground and he put the storyline together. We managed to use one of our hometown venues in Gothenburg: Sticky Fingers. We got permission to use the club and then we just put a notice out to friends and stuff saying “Do you wanna be in a video? Come down, hang out, be in the video and then we all go for drinks after.” But the whole process, it was kinda hard, obviously, filming during the day because we had different times with different lights in the room…it was at the end of it and I was thinking “Hopefully it’s gonna go well.” We have a policy of not spending a lot of money on making videos. We think, obviously if you’re creative enough and you work with the right people you could actually really keep a budget down which we pay for, we don’t ask for outside help for financing these things. I think most people would be shocked when they realise exactly how little money we actually paid for it. But it’s not to say that we’re cheap, it’s just to say that we think that money should be spent well, at the right people. I remember seeing the first treatment he sent me, I was blown away. He made it look so big and on the day I remember him going around with just one camera [laughs] and working with sound crew and stuff like that. But the guy was absolutely amazing and the thing for the video was a little bit dark as well, for myself and Marcus, more… [laughs] I got to be the transvestite I guess.
OneMetalAnd punch a man in the face!
SteveYeah, it’s always nice to punch a drummer in the face now and again I think. But Magnus [Klavborn, vocalist] of course, he’s stunning in the video, he looks so evil. It’s the perfect role for him. When we saw the final video it was… epic for us and it turned a few heads and it made a big difference for us; I think people started to see us as more than just a Gothenburg band, y’know maybe an international band…and that’s, of course, the direction we’d love to be in, we just don’t want to be stuck as being a Swedish thing, we want to be an international thing in all markets, certainly here in the UK as well. Why not? Other bands have done it; I guess it’s our time, hopefully. We want it to be our time and we’re going to make it our time.
OneMetalDo you feel like ‘Frontline’ shows a distinct, different aspect of the band to ‘Question Your Place’?
SteveI think that because the song, in its nature is a bit more mainstream metal…there’s still the electronic thing going on in the verse which is covered a lot by my bass. Again it was the same director Kiggs who put it together. We did various festival shows and again it was almost nothing. It was all footage we’d made apart from stuff we filmed at Metaltown this year. It was put together so quickly and he made us look…it wasn’t just us playing the song, it was nice that he actually threw other aspects of, y’know the personal things like meeting people afterwards or the warm-ups, stuff like that. I think the key thing is that it actually shows that we do have a good time on stage and there’s a lot of smiles in that video. I think that’s nice, it’s not like saying “here we are…” Obviously again we wanted it to look big, we tried to use the best out of different shows over the last year or so. But I guess different people, some people love ‘Frontline’ more than maybe ‘Question Your Place’. I guess we can’t ask people to choose a favourite, we just hope they like anything we do regardless. I guess there’s different markets for different things, but sort of shows maybe us as a band having diversity. It’s still…you take away the electronics or you put the electronics in; it’s still Engel, it still sounds like Engel and that’ll never change.
OneMetalHave you got plans for the future yet? Is 2013 marked out?
SteveOh yeah, for us it’s never really… sit back and enjoy how things are going at the moment. We’ve learnt in the past that we can’t afford to do that. So in 2013 we’re gonna be putting on shows, talking about plans for future tours. We’re always looking at, y’know we’re happy with this album, even though it’s just been out this year we’d love to have more releases coming up at a later stage. I mean, there’s always this huge chain of thought “Ok we’ve done this, we’ve done this. What’s next, what’s next?” Because I think…even as a band we have to have a goal and we have to have a focus of what we’d like to do next. We’d love to go back to Japan and now we’ve got the album released in North America. That’s also been a big dream for us for a long time just to go out there. I think the American market haven’t really, they’re not lucky enough to sometimes get to see all the European metal bands. but we’d love to follow in other bands’ footsteps where they’re carved out a niche for themselves. But I think the kind of music we have… and with the shows I think the North American audience would really love it…and of course let’s not forget South America and all those other territories. But that’s one of the things we’re certainly looking into, I think that’s one of the big projects as well. Obviously UK again it’s… although today is London we had a lot of fun last time we were here getting to play some of the other cities and we’d love to go back to those places as well and actually give them the same show. Tonight’s show we’ve pulled out all the stops, so it’s going to be a great one so…no compromise!