Guitarist/vocalist Michael Poulsen of Danish/American rock 'n' rollers VOLBEAT was interviewed on the June 13 edition of "Whiplash", the KLOS radio show hosted by Full Metal Jackie. A few excerpts from the chat follow below (transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET).
Full Metal Jackie: Obviously, VOLBEAT's sound is unmistakeable. What makes [the new VOLBEAT album] "Seal The Deal & Let's Boogie" different but still sound familiar?
Poulsen: "Same band. Almost the same thing. No. But we pretty much found our style on our first record, so it's not like we've been looking or searching for that sound. We had the VOLBEAT sound already from Day One when we recorded actually the demos [before the first album]. So, basically, what we've just been doing is progressing, being better songwriters. And a lot of touring has been helping us playing together. But the most important thing is being inspired — keep on being inspired and keep on having fresh ideas. And I constantly have songs and melodies running in my head. It can be good, but it can also be quite irritating. But I'm just very thankful that I can still find inspiration to continue writing VOLBEAT songs. I think when you have the sound early on, it's also more easy to keep on writing."
Full Metal Jackie: But some bands try to sound different from third, fourth, fifth record than they [did on the earlier albums]. You guys have obviously evolved in terms of your music, but when you hear a VOLBEAT song, you know it's VOLBEAT.
Poulsen: "Yeah, we try to mix it in a way that people, as you said, they can always hear that it's VOLBEAT. So we like to stick to some of the elements that we have been doing since the beginning. But at the same time, we're also very curious when it comes to what kind of doors can we open for the new VOLBEAT record that is the stuff that we haven't done that we're really passionate about. We always find stuff to do. This time we have a gospel choir with us on one of the songs. That's something I really wanted to do way back; I just couldn't really find the right song to work it out, but this time we have a gospel choir on a track called 'Goodbye Forever'. We have a female backing singer called Mia Maja, [who] is on five or six songs. And it came very natural. I was just in a small club in the city I live in, and I was listening to a guy called Tue West. And he had this female singer, and he sounded so good. So when we were in the studio, me and Jacob [Hansen], the producer, we were talking about [how] it would be nice to have kind of a Phil Spector thing going on in the background. And instead of bringing a lot of people from the outside, I said, 'I just heard this amazing singer in a small club. Let's give her a call.' And she sounds amazing. So that's something we haven't done before, but it still sounds like VOLBEAT. We pretty tune up almost all the songs up in E. It makes it a little bit more fresh, and it sounds like the melodies are even more wide open this time. So we still managed to progress, but at the same time keep what is VOLBEAT."
Full Metal Jackie: There's always been a storyline with VOLBEAT. How does the ongoing storyline that links VOLBEAT albums continue with this new record, "Seal The Deal & Let's Boogie"?
Poulsen: "There's this one song called 'You Will Know', which is the last chapter of a story I started on the first record, which has been continuing on the previous albums. It finally ends now; I'm done with it. [Laughs] But it's always interesting, because it means something to the fans; they like stories and they like the characters, so it's good to be able to finish that chapter. But I'm always inspired by old stories. It can be from the 1800s. The previous album, 'Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies', was more about the gun-slinging characters. This time it's a little bit more wide open; there's many different characters. So it's not just one theme or one story; there's a lot of different stories, like 'Marie Laveau', which was the voodoo queen of New Orleans. And 'Mary Jane Kelly' was the last victim of Jack The Ripper. There's a song about Ishtar, the Babylon queen. The song is called 'The Gates Of Babylon', and no, it's not a RAINBOW song. I love RAINBOW. So there's different kind of characters, but the characters had actually been alive, so there's a lot of history in it too. And the other songs are more my impact on life or my experience with life or loss, or whatever it could be."
Full Metal Jackie: Anders Kjølholm [VOLBEAT bassist] left the band last year. What's the hardest thing for you when VOLBEAT changes members?
Poulsen: "Of course, it's not always fun to change members or lose a member or whatever happens. We always try to stick together, but sticking together as a band, it's the same challenge that's being in a marriage or something like that. Some people are meant to stay together; others really have to work on it. And it's the same thing with bands. Sometimes it works; other times, you have to fight for it. We do everything we possibly can to stick together, but, you know, we have one life and everybody needs to do what they have to do. We are away from family, friends, children, wives, dogs, cats, birds, cows, goats — everything — and we just have to decide how we wanna spend our time, and there still needs to be that thing that we share together. And sometimes it's just not easy, and everybody just has to move on."
Full Metal Jackie: VOLBEAT lyrics tell vivid stories. Will writing lyrics someday lead to writing books and movie scripts?
Poulsen: "Who knows? It definitely sounds interesting. We actually talked about it since the 'Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood' album, because there's still a lot of stuff… We've been talking a little bit about maybe doing a big comic book with all the characters. Maybe we'll try to find the time to do that one day. But I don't know. Everything is possible. I guess it's more about having the right time to do it."
Full Metal Jackie: You played the Roxy in Hollywood [in front of] five hundred people, then almost a hundred thousand people two days later at Coachella. What makes playing opposite-size shows equally enjoyable?
Poulsen: "We just like being on stage. Of course, it's a great accomplishment to be able to play the big stage, the big festivals; there's a great challenge in that. Of course, being able to do something like that is something you cannot take for granted, because it's a lot of people really dedicating their time to VOLBEAT. And seeing all those people gathered at one place, sharing the same love for the same band, that's amazing. And we're just as thankful going into a club, because it's pretty much the same thing. The stage is just smaller, but the appreciation is pretty much the same."
Full Metal Jackie: We were talking earlier about fans that travel around the country, around the world to see you. How does it feel to have fans like that that are willing to go the distance?
Poulsen: "It means everything. You know, that's what the whole thing is worth traveling around, being away from the family and girlfriends and wives and kids. That you know there's people out there waiting for you. And it means something to them. Just today, we have been using a couple of hours with the fans, hanging out with them at the Rainbow [in West Hollywood, California]. That's always nice. They still show up, and some of them have been to close to a hundred shows, just following us. It means everything, because meeting them again on every tour, it kind of feels like that second family. And you need family. Family is important."
"Whiplash" airs every Monday night from 10:00 p.m. to 12:00 a.m. on the Los Angeles radio station 95.5 KLOS. The show can be heard on the KLOS web site at 955klos.com or you can listen in on the KLOS channel on iHeartRadio. Full Metal Jackie also hosts a nationally syndicated radio program, which can be heard all over the country.
To see a full list of stations carrying Full Metal Jackie's show and when it airs, go to FullMetalJackieRadio.com.