Robyn Vagnozzi of Screamer Magazine recently conducted an interview with guitarist/vocalist Michael Poulsen of Danish/American metal rock 'n' rollers VOLBEAT. A few excerpts from the chat follow below.
On whether fusing thrash, rockabilly, metal, country and western, punk and everything in between helps or hinders VOLBEAT's success:
Poulsen: "If anything, it's helped us, because these days it's so tough to come up with stuff you haven't heard before, but we were not even aware we had something special going on; people were talking and saying we had something special and unique. We didn't see it. When we did the first two albums people were talking all the time about how unique we were but we were totally aware of who we were inspired by so we just said, 'We don't know that; we just like these kinds of bands.' So we just kept doing what we were doing, and we still heard how special and unique we were and maybe at the same time we thought that maybe there were youngsters who really had tough times and they identified with us and I can truly understand that. We did meet people who didn't understand what VOLBEAT was all about and they'd say, 'Well, you're not 100% metal or you're not a 100% rock and we'd say, 'You're right!' We are 100% everything that inspired us so we don't need to be 100% only metal. So fine by me; I grew up with all these legendary performers of the '50s and all these heavy metal bands."
On VOLBEAT's commercial success in their homeland:
Poulsen: "Well, when we tour Europe we pull around 10,000 to 17,000 people and that's amazing. And we've been touring America again and we can see every time we come back the venues are getting bigger and the ticket sales are getting stronger. On this run, we're playing for about 1500 to 60,000 people every night and that's a really cool achievement for a band coming out of Denmark. We can see the band growing — we've got good airplay here in America, we're gaining new fans discovering VOLBEAT who seem to really be embracing the band. When we toured with METALLICA and did our own headlining shows after that; a lot of people would tell me, 'We discovered you at the METALLICA show.' We have a lot of fans who were already VOLBEAT fans but some fans discovered us solely through Gigantour. It's always an honor to be opening for legendary bands like METALLICA and MOTÖRHEAD, because it always brings new fans."
On lineup changes:
Poulsen: "Yeah, you know, it's just…ah… I don't know what it is. I don't like to backstab people, because you never get anything out of that, as you know. But being in a band is just like being in a marriage, and sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't, and when there are problems, you try to fix that, and if the problem doesn't get better, it's better that you're splitting. And it's the same thing being in a band — if the problems don't get better, it's just better for everybody that you split and go separate ways. The thing here is that Jon [Larsen], Anders [Kjølholm] and I have known each other for so many years; Jon and I over 20 years; Anders and I almost 15 years. It is a very strong brotherhood and we take good care of each other and our crew; we want everyone to behave and just be good people. Sometimes people change, and like I said, it is like a marriage where sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't, so there have been a few guys where it didn't work out in the end, and I have nothing against those guys; it is what it is and we still had a really good time with these guys and we wish them the best and there will be a day when we sit down and have a beer, laugh and remember our good times."
On VOLBEAT's new album, "Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies", which is due next month:
Poulsen: "When I started writing the first couple of songs, I could definitely sense that it had inspiration from all the old western outlaw movies that I had been watching as a kid with my daddy, so I decided now is the right time to do something about it and I started writing lyrics to fit those songs and they were about legendary outlaws and shady ladies from the 1800s and I also started getting pictures in my head of characters, so I called up an illustrator friend to talk about what I wanted those characters to look like and it turned out to be the totally right thing for us to do; the music, the cover, everything fit so well into that molded universe. I'm so proud because I feel we reached what we wanted with this album. It is a concept album somehow since you can hear in the melodies the inspiration of the old western movies, which is also what the lyrics are all about and what the cover art is all about, so somehow it feels a little like a concept album but the stories are not connected."
On the CD's first single, "Cape Of Our Hero":
Poulsen: "It's a song that's a little bit more laid back than the rest of the songs. A lot of guys can relate to the lyrics because it's about growing up and what do you want to be when you grow up — a lot of boys read comic books about super heroes and look up to their daddies as some kind of hero. So the lyrics are about this kid who has a good imagination with superheroes and he looks at his dad as a hero. So when he loses his dad, he stops believing in his superheroes too, and he has an idea that if angels exist, because they have wings, he might catch an angel to fly him up to see his superhero and get a cape to fly around and look for his dad. It's very emotional, but I'm very proud of it. It might be too much for some people and not for others, but we can honestly say we are very proud of it and everything comes straight from the heart."
Read the entire interview from Screamer Magazine.