VOLBEAT – Jon Larsen

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I’ve been following Volbeat for a long time and have interviewed them more than once. This is not the first time I’ve come across Jon Larsen, perhaps one of the hardest ones of the group to interview. Jon is the typical drummer. He doesn’t get involved in lyrics, cover artwork and such. Too much pain! But interviews must be done, so I tried to tease him as much as possible to come up with a vaguely discreet interview. This is the best I could get from a reserved Danish rocker who is now used to a life as a musician, where playing and talking about music has become more of a job than a passion. My twenty minutes are summarised here, between my curiosities and small provocations to the Scandinavian drummer, maybe a bit tired and not very passionate, but always an ace behind the skins…

Let’s start from the album cover and title. What does this person inside a fake body represent, and how can we connect this to the title?

It’s actually Michael’s idea. For me it’s kind of that we all are servants of our minds, as the title suggests. When we go to sleep and have dreams or nightmares, our minds keep on going working, and everything we do is slow down our memory and mind.

What’s inside the lyrics? This time the theme seems not to be a concept or not even connected to a particular story.

Well.. there are many different ones, it’s not a concept, like you said. “Wait A Minute My Girl” was written to Michael’s fiancée, “Shotgun” was inspired by something spiritual in his house, but that’s all I know about that. “Lasse’s Birgitta” is a real story about the first witch who got burned in Sweden, many many moons ago. Then we have one about Satan, but I actually have no idea which one it could be, ahaha! I read something but then I forgot.

Guests are very important to you so we have some again. Stine Bramsen: can you introduce her to us? We also have piano and sax guests, namely Doug Corcoran and Raynier Jacob Jacildo from JD McPherson’s band. They both worked with you on “Die To Live”.

Stine is the lead singer of a Danish band called Alphabeat, and they had some pretty big hits with their pop music. Michael wanted a female voice for that song (“Dagen Før”) and we thought that she could fit perfectly. We got in touch and she responded soon. So she came to the studio and we recorded it together. The guys from JD McPherson’s band, like you said before, they worked with us already for the “Die To Live” track, and for “Wait A Minute My Girl” it was kind of the same vibe. We thought that it would be really funny to have them again. Their sound fits perfectly in our music and they recorded the tunes pretty fast, doing an amazing job.

“Becoming” is a tribute to LG Petrov from Entombed. You guys had a chance to meet him and to be on stage with him in past. What memories have you got of him and why this song for him?

Well, it came about a tribute for him when we were releasing this song. In the real beginning we wanted to catch that Swedish old school death metal sound and put it inside the track. The riff itself is a resemblance of those bands’. We thought also to tribute it to him as he was a great fan of ours and we had a great feeling. It was for us like saying “Goodbye, LG. Wherever you are”.

The whole sound of this album is deeper, more obscure than others before, and more aggressive. Surely more groove-metal or even doom sometimes. Did you have to go back more to your original sound, as your fans were asking for? Was your last album maybe too soft?

The previous album was a more rock album, made for stadiums and bigger audiences. In this case, this new one came obviously with a new inspiration and some songs where more riff-based, not focused on the melodies. People say it is more aggressive, but I think it’s just more kind of a throwback to the beginning. It‘s just the way it came out this time.

There are a couple of cover songs on the bonus CD, from Wolfbrigade and The Cramps. How did you get to these choices and how important is it for you a cover song in general?

A cover song can be very funny to do but it can also be a pain in the ass, because it all depends on how you suppose to do a cover song. Should it be done closer to the original or more in your way? I guess we are somewhere in the middle, keeping the original elements of the song but we also want to do something that reminds of our sound. We were pretty quick in the studio and had enough time to do some more songs. We’re not that kind of band that plays twenty songs and picks up just twelve of them. If we have thirteen songs, then we record thirteen. Record companies and fans want more stuff for the business market and we thought about adding some cover songs. Michael and Kasper really love The Cramps – both of them – and “Domino” was the one we could give more justice with our sound. I didn’t know the song at all and I had to listen to it and then record it. It was the same with Wolfbrigade. So I listened to it on YouTube a couple of times before getting into it and trying to do something. It wasn’t a completely original cover song and that’s what also happened with the Metallica song.

Exactly what I wanted to ask you now. You had the chance to be a part of the Blacklist black album tribute album with “Don’t Tread On Me”: a great responsibility for such a celebration. What can you tell me about the black album, and did you decide to cover that song with your sound and trademark?

The Metallica song was kind of different. When we got into the studio, the management called and explained to us that Metallica were searching for artists who could play cover songs from the black album for this new cover album. Like you said, to celebrate it. We were not sure about it. Covering Metallica is surely very funny but it’s not that easy and we didn’t want to touch any of the big hits of this album, like “Enter Sandman” or “Sad But True”. What was still available was “Don’t Tread On Me” and another one that I can’t remember now. We took some time to understand if we would be able to do it or to reject the offer. The following Monday we were ready and we tried it a couple of times before recording it, and sent the rough tape to the management and they really liked it a lot and they were enthusiastic. Surely the original one is much better but most people seem to like our version, too and that’s cool.

You are one of the original members of Volbeat. How has the band changed through the years, since the very beginning, and how do you feel today to still be a part of such a successful band?

Well [ride – NdA], if I’d known, I would have quit the band and become the manager! I guess over the years we just evolved through different line-ups and different times. We grew up as musicians and we grew older, so hopefully we got a little bit wiser. I think it is just kind of a natural evolution. Since when Thomas joined the band and later when he left and Rob arrived, we had slight changes and so happened when Kasper joined. He added his things, too. Basically, I hope that we turned out to be better musicians.

The last live album followed the songs played during your last tour and, from what I can remember, you had a slower sound compared to the beginning. Why do you guys play slower on stage? Bands usually play faster on stage.

Ahahah, well, we grew older.. what would you expect?! Ahhh well.. really… people sometimes criticise us if we play too fast live, and we probably do. In the last couple of years we spent time not only practicing songs but also practicing with tempo. It’s not uncommon to play faster, because of adrenaline, on stage and so we pay more attention to details, try not to be so fast as we used to in the past. On YouTube sometimes I understood that we were too fast, losing some details. When you listen to the Ramones, in my opinion they were too fast and they probably lost a lot in terms of feeling and melody, yelling the lyrics. We try to pay more attention – with some songs we use the click track, so we need absolutely to hold a certain tempo. So sometimes you can be slower or faster. It depends. And surely we all really grew older and we needed to slow down as well.

So we are going to close the interview, Jon. So tell me: what are your future plans? When will we get to see you again, either faster or slower, on stage?

Ehhh.. well, surely we hope we can go out again soon on stage because we are ready and we want to play right now. No more sitting at home. We need to go to work and for sure we want to come back to Italy.


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