Fireworks

Fireworks Magazine Online 47 - Lake Of Tears

NO MORE TEARS

John Tucker hangs around with Lake Of Tears’ Daniel Brennare.

Stuff objectivity! No matter how old you are, or how many times you’ve done this, sometimes it’s hard to suppress the fan-boy emotions of talking with bands you greatly admire. Which is great, really; otherwise, why do it in the first place? I’ve been a big fan of Lake Of Tears for a long time now, and have never been disappointed with what they do so jumped at the opportunity to talk to frontman/guitarist Daniel Brennare. Before leaping right in, though, as an ice-breaker I mention that I’d picked up the band’s new album ‘Illwill’ on vinyl (being rather old school) and wondered if Brennare was a fan of good old fashioned records or a digital guy through and through.

“Well, to be honest, you could probably count the amount of records I’ve bought in the last five years or so on my two hands, so I’m no authority on the subject,” he laughs. “I still have my vinyl collection though, a lot of old death and thrash metal mostly, and for the last few years I’ve started to appreciate that more again. Vinyl is such a great format; nice to look at, nice to put on… It gives you such a great feeling to hear that ‘vinyl noise’ in the background; it’s real somehow, y’know? I, of course, have a lot of CDs as well, but these are mostly just taking up space nowadays!”
 
Something like four years after the exciting but bizarrely titled ‘Moons And Mushrooms’ Sweden’s Lake Of Tears are back with their eighth album ‘Illwill’. Trading the quirkiness of ‘Moons…’ for power ‘Illwill’ is a noticeably heavier beast, not sounding a million miles from the frenetic riffing of Megadeth at times; check out the fast ‘n’ furious opener ‘Floating In Darkness’ or ‘The Hating’ with Daniel pulling off his best MegaDave vocal sneers. So, the most obvious staring point was to find out what’s been happening since that last album.
 
“Yes, it has been about four years, John; there's a lot of stuff been going on,” nods Brennare. “Some of it can be heard on ‘Illwill’: Leukaemia – hospital, needles, isolation, life-death reflection, frustration etc; break-ups of long on-going relationships – depression but also liberation, amongst many other emotions; winter – these last winters in Sweden have been really long, cold and dark; less smoking and more alcohol – during rehearsals, one really has to catch that time-frame when you’re drunk enough to really have fun playing but still not drunk enough to not be able to play, if you know what I mean (it’s hard to come by, easy to lose!); a lot of time really enjoying listening to thrash, punk and black metal; playing some live shows in between; boring work; hard study; being quite miserable and sceptical towards the world in general… All kinds of usual Lake Of Tears things, in fact,” he concludes, with a laugh. “Why change a winning concept!”
 
A winning concept indeed. ‘Illwill’ received a thumbs-up in the last issue of Fireworks, and I assume that the band are pleased with the results of their labours.

“Yes, we are very pleased with it,” he replies. “We feel it’s really honest and very, very close to what we wanted to achieve when we wrote the first song. We wanted to get that raw, live feeling that you get when rehearsing. Y’know, you put your guitar on, turn up the volume, turn up the distortion… It’s loud, unpolished, and you’re creating music, not producing records. I guess some polishing is needed while recording though, to get something listenable out at the end! But, who knows, maybe next time we'll do a Darkthrone” on everyone!
 
“And,” he continues, “we’re actually not particularly fast song writers, so it all came together quite easily, I think. We wait for the right moment, and we take our time. When it comes it’s quite easy; we get an idea, we get together, we have some beers, we play… And as you can hear on this record, we don't like to think too much about whether a particular song fits into any particular genre or anything like that. If it gives us the right feeling while we’re playing it, we keep it. For this record, we really, really didn’t want to rush into anything. We’ve done quite a few records already so there was no need to have another one out ‘just because’.”
 
Which is why this album is so different from its predecessor:

“With ‘Moons And Mushrooms’ we actually had to hurry up the songwriting so as to be able to put out the record in time. Some of the songs didn’t have the time to ‘mature’ and find their real form. We definitely didn’t want to do that again. And we really wanted to have some faster songs on this one too, to make it all a little more interesting. That said, a record for us very seldom turns out the way we thought it should at the beginning. You know how it is – ‘we should have an acoustic song, we should have a fast song, a slow song etc’. Our base is pretty much ‘the way things turn out’, so anything can happen. I’m glad though that on this one some songs turned out to be fast songs; I really felt we needed that this time!”
 
Brennare’s comments about ‘what feels right’ also explains the crossover of styles as progressive, gothic and speed metal elements all bang (their heads) together on ‘Illwill’.

“As I said, we play what feels good to us, what gives us the right feeling, the right vibe. And we base our way of songwriting and playing on what we like to listen to. This is quite a lot, and quite varied, I can tell you! Some bands stay with you for ever; some for just a little period of time. Some have many great songs, some just a few. But there are so many and it would be a shame to try and sound like one of them and then stick to that sound, or formula, wouldn’t it? Music is so much more interesting than that. I really don’t understand some bands trying to sound exactly the same, song after song, record after record. And then, it’s not even their own sound but they are just trying to do what another band did long before they came along. Don’t get me wrong: I love both Motörhead and Ramones; they do their thing and they do it very well. But some other bands just amaze me in that respect!
 
“Actually, I believe, on a personal note, that every time someone tells us it’s hard to categorise Lake Of Tears – and they think that’s a bad thing! – we get a little more ‘rebellious’, so probably, next time around, it will be even more difficult to define who and what we are. Maybe, even, that’s one of the things that drives us,” he laughs.
 
So how do Lake Of Tears describe themselves?

“I’m not so sure really,” he starts. “We’re still very ‘anti’ so many things, even against much of what’s going on in the metal scene, or in any other scene for that matter. So I think that’s maybe one way to describe our music… When we were young, we got stuck with this ‘metal’ thing. From the first time we heard a metal song, we loved it, and we found our home. At the same time, as almost no-one else (and I mean the ordinary Swedish guy in the street) liked metal it was a ‘double home-coming’ – we didn't like everyone else and they didn’t like us. Then when we decided to start our own band – I guess it was death metal in the late Eighties/early Nineties that made us do it – and with drums, bass and electric guitars (very tuned down; very distorted), screaming vocals and lyrics about things that most people found not very likable, it was definitely metal, but, from there on it developed, and nowadays our sound has so many different facets.”
 
Compared to the band’s earlier outings, Brennare hears “much more energy, and much less fantasy” on the new album.

“As a very good friend told me the other day, ‘I'm so glad you changed from ‘here comes the rain…’ to ‘here comes the knife…’ – it’s much better!’ Now, even though I actually never wrote the ‘here comes the rain…’ part (it was actually ‘so fell autumn rain…’!) I do understand what he means. There is something liberating here: it’s about the time to let loose. And I can hear this on ‘Illwill’ in a way that didn’t appear on our old records. It’s more straightforward and honest than the old albums; but maybe that's just a phase though” he pauses. “Let’s wait and see what comes next!”
 
It’s certainly heavier, and a lot more aggressive.

“Well, yes… Combine what’s happened in these last four years of our lives with what kind of music we’ve been listening to, and mix all that up with our will to have some faster songs and you'll find the reason for that, I guess. All the frustration that has been building up needed to come out, and this is how it manifested itself!”
 
It appears to have manifested itself in anger too, I point out, or am I wrong?

“No,” he responds emphatically. “You are not wrong. No. Absolutely. It is full of anger and hatred, for the world in general and for some people in particular. We are getting tired of just watching and being sad about what's happening; now it’s time to act. It may sound a cliché, but our inspiration comes from the world in general, everything around us. The little things, the big things, people you meet, feelings you get …But, mostly from our own experiences of these last years. We see the world; we feel it; we filter it, and quite often it kind of sucks. Of course, we have the happier times as well, but we leave that for other things. Music for us was always a way of dealing with personal reality and harsh environments.”
 
Which in ‘Illwill’’s case is topped off with a bleak image of a body hanging starkly from a tree.

“It took a little time, but it was important to get the right image. At first we had a discussion with Björn [Gustafsson] who did the cover artwork and told him what kind of emotions we wanted to express with the record and that we wanted a matching cover. He then came up with an initial sketch, which we then worked on. Actually,” he corrects himself with a smile, “he did the work, we only gave input, until it came out as we wanted. We wanted a kind of ominous feeling; an expression of how cold, dark and evil the world can be, right? And also an eye-opener as well; something that gives you a feeling – good or bad, it doesn’t matter: better to feel something than nothing at all. And we think it came out great!”
 
The cover image also ties in with the sadness of a lake of tears. The band’s name is pretty much self-explanatory, but at the same time it doesn’t really mesh that well with their contemporary sound. Begging Brennare’s forgiveness for asking the same old question that he’s heard a million times before, I wondered how the name came about.

“It is an unusual story,” he starts (probably just to humour me!). “Back in the beginning, when we did our first demo, we needed to have a name, so as you do we just sat down and tried to come up with something. Since we’d started to play a little slower (and darker perhaps) by then, and moved away from the death metal that we started with into what most people would probably call a goth/doom direction, we finally decided that Lake Of Tears would be a good name. I still, even today, wonder if this really was the best choice,” he laughs. “Honestly, we want to change it every time we do a new record: it sounds like shit! I wouldn’t probably even listen to a band called Lake of Tears nowadays! What a name! But we’re somehow stuck with it now and this is us!”
 
Realising that despite the ‘anti-everything’ stance and bleakness and hatred of ‘Illwill’ Daniel has a great sense of humour I decided it was time to lighten the mood. So, who would Daniel rather be – James Bond, Indiana Jones or Luke Skywalker? A moment’s pause...

“A man with a gun, a man with a whip, or a man with a light-sabre? Hmmm; hard to pick one. Probably James Bond, as there’s something about guns and women!”
 
OK, your Norwegian neighbours have lots of fjords; as a Swede is this something you are jealous about? He laughs a lot at this one.

“Never really thought about it actually; though I guess it might be nice to have a fjord around the corner? Norwegians talk quite funny though, so I wouldn’t want to be one!”
 
And how, bringing things back down to earth, would Daniel like to be remembered?

“Hmmm, that’s a tricky question…” He sounds genuinely stumped for the first time. “Maybe as someone who has been an inspiration to people to think ‘outside the box’… And not to believe everything they tell you.”
 
Finally, to indulge my love of trivia I ask Daniel to give me two things the average fan might not know about the band.

“OK, well, here’s two things I know the other guys will hate me for saying. Johan, the drummer, once had a really bad, broken drum stool. While he was sitting there drumming (and it was a hot summer’s day, so he was sitting there in only his underwear, the weirdo!) the top fell off the seat and he got that thick metal thing right up his ass. That was really funny! And another nice thing is about Fredrik, the guitarist, our newest member. His name is Fredrik Jordanius, but on flight tickets we like to change it to Jordianus which means ‘earth-in-ass’ (jord-i-anus): he really hates this, but we love it!”
 
Aware that as a big fan of the band I might easily overstay my welcome, I wrap things up by asking if there’s anything more he’d like to add.

“Beware,” he laughs, “one of these days, we're coming to get you!” Which is great – it would be fab to see Lake Of Tears in the UK sometime. The food’s rubbish, the weather’s crap and everyone moans, but we’d love to see you. “Sounds like a fun place,” Daniel laughs. “Let’s hope we can get there soon!”

John Tucker

Lake-Of-Tears-Interview

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