We Interviewed Volbeat. Here’s What Happened…
Volbeat are something of a phenomenon. Officially the coolest thing to come out of Denmark since Lars Ulrich chucked away his tennis racket and picked up a drumstick, since the band dropped their debut The Strength / The Sound / The Songs in 2005, they’ve carved a reputation for themselves as modern hard rock’s premier party-bringing festival darlings. In fact, if you pop over to the mainland, you’ll find them nurturing a status as one of the biggest bands in Europe right now and, with Anthrax’s Rob Caggiano jumping ship to join the Danes last month, they’re only going to get bigger.
So why has it taken the UK so long to catch up? And how the hell did Rob end up in the gang?! We chat to frontman Michael Poulsen to find out…
You’re playing Download in June. Excited?
“Yes, most definitely, it’s an amazing festival. We played there in 2010 and we’re so happy to be coming back. We’re aware how important an event it is in the rock & metal calendar, and the whole organisation is great, very professional.
“I have to say, the crowds there are fantastic, such a positive energy, you can really feel it. And I just recently discovered that the Download of today developed from the original Monsters Of Rock event of the 1980s, and of course I saw live clips of that back in Denmark on MTV. We take it as a huge compliment to have been invited back.”
Are UK crowds now starting to catch up with Europe and the US when it comes to Volbeat?
“I think so, yes, we’re definitely starting to sense that, but we know we have work to do, and we’re comfortable with that. Of course, we’d love to be playing in arenas in the UK, and I think that’s something we can realistically hope to achieve down the line, but in the course of our careers we’ve played in venues of all sizes. Our experience is that, when you strip it right down, it’s not really about the size of your stage-show, it’s about the music and the connection with the audience. That’s the important thing. That’s where our excitement comes from. Playing in venues where you can actually see people’s faces is such a lot of fun for us, so whatever the size of the venue, arena or concert hall, we’ll keep coming back to the UK. We always have a good time there!”
You’ve become one of the festival season’s official party bands, are you happy with that tag?
“Well, I take that as a compliment… it’s not really something that we think about, and I don’t think it’s to do with the music specifically, it’s more to do with the feeling people get at our shows. If you feel loose and you feel free, then chances are you’re gonna have a good time – it’s the audience who bring the party!”
How did Rob Caggiano end up joining the band?
“Well, when you get to the point in your career where you’re making a number of albums, I don’t really see the point in putting out the same record twice. So I felt it was time to change some of our habits, because in the past we’ve tended to work in the same way, at producer Jacob Hansen’s studio…
“So this time around, we’ve come to PUK studios in Denmark and, as you say, Rob Caggiano has become involved, working alongside Jacob. The result is a new sound for Volbeat, a new vibe, although that’s not to say the songs aren’t still typical of what we are known for; it’s still 100 per cent Volbeat, but everything has been taken to a higher degree, and I can honestly say I’ve never heard the band playing so well.
“Everyone has been truly inspired by the new surroundings and the new team – so much so, that I’ve even re-written some of the songs in the studio; there were so many great ideas flying around, that it made me want to push myself even harder… and the recordings are sounding great. Nothing is mixed yet, but it’s really strong already, so my main concern is that whoever mixes the record doesn’t fuck it up! Having said that, we just heard a test mix from Chris Lord-Alge – it was amazing, so he’s now confirmed to mix the whole thing. I know everyone says this, but this IS the best album Volbeat has recorded – at least until the next one! I set myself a number of goals for this record, and all of them have been achieved, so I couldn’t be happier, and having Rob on-board has really worked out well. You know, I was really impressed with the sound of the new Anthrax album, which he worked on, so we discussed maybe working together in the studio on a couple of songs, but it’s now gone way further than that! Rob really knows what he’s doing…
“One of the things I’m most happy about this time is the contrast in the material, the range of the music; on the one side, you have the western motifs, the rockabilly / country songs, and the real emotional melodies, and on the other, some of the heaviest – actually, THE heaviest – songs we have ever recorded. There was a record company guy in the studio the other day, and he was absolutely blown away by the ultra-heavy stuff. He said he wasn’t even sure he was listening to Volbeat! Ha! Ha!”
New Volbeat album Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies is out April 8 via Spinefarm
Volbeat play Download in June