Nasso Ruskov of Bulgaria's Tangra Mega Rock recently conducted an interview with vocalist Zak Tell of the Swedish rap/metal combo CLAWFINGER. A couple of excerpts from the chat follow below.
Tangra Mega Rock: What's new in the CLAWFINGER camp then?
Zak: Hmm…. That's a hard question to answer, but I'll put it in a few words. What's new is that we're just trying to survive like all the other bands out there. The business is very different from what it was 15 years ago. You can't survive only by being in a band these days, so we're working and doing what we have to do to pay the rent and trying to find time for CLAWFINGER. The only plan we have for a release at the moment is a remake of "Deaf Dumb Blind" for the 20th anniversary . The plan is to re-record all the songs from that album and bring in guests. We've been talking to some of the guys from RAMMSTEIN and Peter Tägtgren from PAIN and HYPOCRISY. We've made some friends through the years and hopefully we can get them to add their own flavorings and colorings to those old tracks.
Tangra Mega Rock: So you're going to completely re-record the songs?
Zak: Yes. Because next year is the 20th anniversary since we started the band, so… it's a sort of celebration. I mean, we celebrate every time we're out playing anyway. It's also like a special treat for the fans who've stuck with us. It remains to be seen how it turns out, but if we can actually gather with these musician friends, then it can hopefully be something more than just a cheap remake that sounds more or less like the original. The plan is to make something a bit different.
Tangra Mega Rock: I was just about to ask you about RAMMSTEIN. Seeing as your drummer Henka plays in Richard Kruspe's side project EMIGRATE. are you friendly with those guys?
Zak: We actually don't have Henka with us anymore, but it's true that he did play with Richard on his solo album. I don't know how much you can actually know guys in other bands these days because all bands are busy doing their own thing. What a lot of people don't know, though, is that RAMMSTEIN supported us in 1995, when we were bigger and they were smaller. So we've known them since then, more or less. And of course they paid us back by letting us support them on their 2001 tour. I mean, there is some history there, we've done remixes for them and a bit of this and that, so there is some sort of connection, but it's not as if we call each other every day and chit-chat.
Tangra Mega Rock: back when you guys first broke big, people were constantly comparing you to RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE, saying that you were both feisty, belligerent, political bands, whose music contained elements of rock, rap, metal and even funk….
Zak: Well, I understand where that's coming from, but, to be honest, I don't hear a lot of similarities. I mean, he's called Zack and I'm Zak, he raps and so do I, but beyond that, what they do is funky, blues-metal riffs with a much more overtly political stance to the whole thing, whereas we're more… we're more square, if you like…and more German, more sort of "march" music. There's not a whole lot of funk in our music. My lyrics are maybe slightly more personal than his, his are more sort of a Che Guevara approach. I mean, I take it as a compliment, I don't have a problem with it, but I really don't see us as being very similar to each other. I've heard us compared loads of times and it doesn't bother me, but I just never understood it that much.
Tangra Mega Rock: Speaking of political, we all remember 2003 when your song "Step Aside" caused a bit of an uproar in the States with its anti-Bush stance… How would you comment the current political state of affairs around the world?
Zak: Well, politics are politics, what's there to say? There's a reason the word rhymes with polytricks as well. Otherwise that's a big question! I'm not saying that we never were political, but I guess it was much more from a personal point of view and much more from a point of view where you're looking at what's going on and making a commentary on it. I've never claimed to be left-wing or right-wing… I'd lose a political debate within minutes if I was to talk to someone who knew their shit. I've always gone more with common sense and feelings and my gut telling me what's right and wrong, good and bad. Of course, I make comments about homophobia and racism and all those things, 'cause they're things that should concern any sane human being that has feelings.
Tangra Mega Rock: CLAWFINGER has played and toured with many famous acts. Who were the coolest?
Zak: I would have to say that the best guys were ALICE IN CHAINS. I remember very clearly before the first gig we did — at Brixton Academy in London — Jerry [Cantrell] and Layne [Staley] came into our dressing room and told us that if there was anything that we felt bad about, or that if we felt mistreated, then to let them know. They wanted to make sure that we felt comfortable and that we had a good time because they had experienced the opposite when they were supporting VAN HALEN. They were exactly like Beavis and Butthead, but in a good way — they just came into the dressing room and chilled and told us these things. That was our first-ever European tour as a support, so that was very important for us. And then also the fact that we were all massive fans. When we got the call that we'd be supporting ALICE IN CHAINS on a European tour, we thought someone was pulling our leg. And it turned out to be true. They did amazing gigs, they were an amazing band… They're still an amazing band, but there's an important person missing, as far as I'm concerned. I know they're back and they're probably still good. I haven't heard any of the new stuff and what the new vocalist sounds like. But I'm old school and to me ALICE IN CHAINS were with Layne Staley. I know that makes me an old fart, but I'll have to accept that and live with it.
The entire interview is available in text and audio format at Tangra Mega Rock. It can also be streamed using the audio player below.
Bunch TV conducted an interview with Zak Tell when CLAWFINGER played the Devilside Festival on June 28, 2009 at Landschaftspark in Duisburg-Nord, Germany. Watch the chat below.