The name Priest may not be familiar for the most of you but the Swedish synth-pop/industrial/electronic trio are slowly gaining recognition ever since they revealed the mystery last year around this time via Facebook and other social media. The music, the teasers as well as the imagery got everyone wondering who they were….
Almost 1 year has passed and the project has come a long way. The band is going to release their debut album “New Flesh” next week and also preparing to play live soon. Since this is the perfect timing before the album release and also perfect timing for the fans and the new listeners to get to know the band, I had a Skype chat with the Puppet Master (band’s communicator) about the band, their sound and much more!
Hello PM! Thanks for the interview! How are you doing?
The album is going to be released soon, how are you feeling?
We are very excited and very proud of the album. We are also excited about how it will be received; we have half of the album out there already but we are especially excited to see if the people will think that the other half is as good as the first half. We think so and we hope everyone else will also think that way.
This gets me thinking… Why did you decide to reveal the first half of the album unlike the strategy of most of the bands?
We started basically one year ago and nobody knew who we were and we knew we were going to record an album late 2016. We started the real recordings in early 2017. But we had “The Pit”, it was almost done. We wanted to try the concept of building something throughout a year and ending it with the big treat, which is the album release. But how do you manage it? So our plan was to make videos and with the songs out there, we hoped that the people would be hooked. Also we can see that if you were with us from the beginning, it’s not as exciting to get the album if you already know a bunch of songs already so we have had faith in getting a lot more new listeners who haven’t heard the songs. So for them it’s gonna be a new album. But we wanted to make a slow start and build it throughout a year. We didn’t know how it would go, people could have lost interest. So we took a bet on that.
What were your expectations in the beginning within this one year period? Did anything change drastically or did it rather remain stable?
I must say our feelings and expectations were rather stable because the vision was rather grandiose. We only see this as a first step in our journey so we practically used the concept of hybrids to visualize ourselves [yourself] in a future; not like public success but success in a musical sense. We believe in what we do and we have a purpose in this world. So we wanted to walk that path and made the decisions wisely according to that.
Back to the band’s formation… Can you tell us about how Priest was formed? How and when did the idea arise?
The idea arose in Germany. One of the puppets lived in Berlin between 2010 and 2011 and exploring a lot of the underground scene. In Sweden, we have some of the good people keeping the underground vibe alive but not as much as Berlin; it comes with that culture there in Berlin. It is a more raw attitude down there so it was very inspirational to live there. That’s where the embryo of the project started. But it took us a bunch of years to make it come real; some people had other projects going which went very well and there was a lot of touring involved. Then you have to put your life on hold for a couple of years. Then you start to make your ideas come to life.
Already back then, there was a singer involved and we tried some stuff. In 2015, we decided that we needed another member and that member should be able to have great technological knowledge and insight to the underground electronic scene. We found that member and asked him and he wanted to join so there we had then the full line-up with the 3 members. We then also decided that we needed a producer to make the debut album because some of the songs were already in the making.
So did you have ideas for the songs already back then or did the ideas for the songs come with time?
Actually, “The Pit” was originally written back in 2011 and there was a demo made back then with the 2 members… with the lyrics and everything. We put it on hold and in 2015, we brought it up again and dusted it off and rewrote the lyrics. Alpha helped us with the better production. That’s how it started; we had a lot of songs and demos so we listened to everything and decided what should and should not be in the album. It’s now 10 songs in the debut album but we actually wrote 13 songs and chose the 10 songs.
The imagery is of course a very huge thing.. especially the masks were what got the attention of most of the fans. How did the idea for this arise because the masks are associated with the fetish culture… Was this an aim?
When all the masks were in place, we knew we found the right image… but the way to get there was pretty hard. We tried a lot of imagery. I like to draw a lot so I drew a large variety of potential masks and we also had a lot of discussions.
We wanted to find something that was somehow fierce and we didn’t want to look like exactly any other band wearing masks as well even if you can find similarities. But we also think like this: if you look at superhero movies or comic books like Marvel or DC comics, you can see that many of the superheros have similar outfits. What’s the difference between The Flash and Daredevil for example? Not much [laughs]. It’s basically the same character with the small difference! We have a lot of interest in comic books since we were kids. Growing up in the 80s, you love that stuff so why not? Just do it. We have seen other bands doing it so why just be another band in jeans and t-shirts when you can be so much cooler?
Let’s talk about the sound. In my opinion, the sound is very diverse and I also hear influences from many bands. How would you describe your sound?
It’s a try to show people where we come from, what our heritage is musically. We obviously love bands like Skinny Puppy, Pet Shop Boys, The Prodigy… We wanted to try to explore those styles with the same instruments they used back in the days. We borrowed a lot of old synthesizers and created an environment that was pretty similar to the environment back in the 80s. We tried to build a studio that way and also worked a lot with just the hardware.
[Regarding the diversity] We love different styles of music so we didn’t wanna make one style of music. In the future, you are gonna hear us doing a lot more diverse stuff as well. We are gonna experiment more stuff. We wanted to make this blueprint of what we love and where we come from and try to make good blend of styles that we love.
Let’s say you have a new fan and you want to recommend songs to this new fan. Which songs would you pick, which songs are your highlights?
My personal favorite is “Call My Name”. As a songwriter, I call it the Archimed, it’s standing above the other songs. But soundwise, “Populist” would be recommended; it’s a journey in another way. It may not be the best song in a songwriting perspective but it’s my favorite in a sonic way. I also love “Private Eye” because of its simplicity; we went over the top there with the sounds and everything.
When I listen to the album, I see that you are inspired by personal experiences but also from general topics like political issues for example. What were your other inspirations for the songs apart from the concepts you mentioned?
Surely watching the news does something to you. The times we live in are pretty upside down. So lyrical themes are combination of personal experiences and stepping outside of yourself and watching the world; what purpose we have in this world. Are we just supposed to focus on ourselves or are we better off stepping outside and see us as community that is able to make a change? If you were a superhero, you could make a change on your own… but we are humans and we have to get together to make a change. We have to talk, think.. it’s just those things most societies don’t want us to provide with. The message in the album is to make people wake up. We don’t know if we manage to do that or not but that’s the big inspiration on the lyrics.
Then we are taking it out into the space of course… we are always gonna end with a space song [laughs] because we are all Star Trek fans and Star Trek is the best inspiration. No racism, no sexism.. People want to get together and get to know new species out in the universe. It’s beautiful.
You also have a few unreleased material or some songs that didn’t make it into the album such as “Tria Prima”…. Can you talk about that?
Tria Prima is actually written by the latest member that joined the band. We needed a B-Side for The Cross; we didn’t wanna use a song from the album. He made this beautiful piece. He also came up with the name “Tria Prima” which was a beautiful gesture from his side; he was really stating that he wanted to be a part of the band. I have a personal emotional attachment for the song. It was his way to say I would love to join the band.
You also have collaborations in this album from Alpha and Airghoul. Was this collaboration more like a teamwork or did the composition and songwriting happen between you 3 guys?
It was a special collaboration on the first album. We had like a clock ticking; we had to make decisions that not everybody liked but we promised for the future that we would change how we work. Alpha was already connected in 2015 so we started to record stuff in his and other member’s living room to make demos… so you could say Alpha and one member in Priest did the most work on this album. Then the singer came in and worked on the album. The last member to join had small contributions on the album but he took a step back by himself to focus on other projects but you are going to hear more from his side in the upcoming releases.
What has been the biggest challenge for Priest in this one year period?
To get ready to play live… because we used a lot of synthesizers in the album. We can’t bring everything out on tour and we can’t just use backtracks only. We have a couple of good synthesizers but to programme them, to get similar sounds like the great old synthesizers on the album is the biggest challenge. We are not there yet but we will use this weekend to rehearse and do the final touches on everything. It’s not gonna sound like the album exactly but we are getting pretty close. I don’t imagine that anyone that hasn’t experienced it themselves can imagine how much work it is.
[Compared to playing in a rock/metal band] Let’s say you are playing the bass guitar. You are like “OK, here’s the song. Now I sit down and practice the song.” That’s it, just easy and get good at what you are doing.
Playing this type of music is like, “OK, I don’t know this, I have to read the manuals, I have to connect this, how does this new software work? I have to get good at it”. If you are playing in a rock band, you play with your heart but if you are playing in a synth band, you are playing with your brain. I mean, it all starts from the heart but in synth music, it goes up to the brain but in rock music, it goes down [laughs].
I have played in synth bands before but to really create something good and make it real took it a lot of time and energy. When we play live, we want to do it the right way. The easiest solution would be have everything on backtracks like most bands do but we want to give the ultimate live experience.
So what can we expect from the live shows? Any surprises, twists?
The biggest surprise is maybe to see us live. We have a great singer that can really work it at the stage. He performed in churches, sang classical music and in operettas. I have also seen him performing in the rock scene in Stockholm. So he is going to be the one that will make the live experience flourish. It’s his expertise that’s gonna be the thing and we rely on that a lot.
You already announced shows in Austria and Denmark. Are you gonna announce other shows?
We are starting out with smaller steps because we already made great effort with videos. To be able to do bigger tours, we need help since we can’t do everything ourselves. We are already in touch with people so we are gonna have a good team and crew and then we can start doing some good touring. But now we are starting out with this.
Germany would be a great destination for you as the scene here is quite big!
There’s indeed a big scene in Germany and we love the music in Germany… Krautrock or cosmic rock [late 60s/70s] which also influenced our sound. Combined with the imagery, it fits to the whole scene in Germany quite well and of course the embryo of the project was born here!
“New Flesh” is already one of my favorites of 2017. Any favorite albums of 2017 or any favorite albums that you listen to from time to time?
I love the new Fever Ray album that came out last week. I also love “Brothers in Arms” by Dire Straits. Then, the new Hällas album from The Sign Records is a really good one that I can recommend. But I personally also listen to a lot of classical music. I got this box of the collected works of Johann Sebastian Bach with the 50 CDs so that’s what I am listening to at the moment. I try to get into the melodies so that’s a really good source if you wanna make a good pop music; go back to Bach and have an inspiration for a lifetime.
So what is there in the future for you? What are your plans?
The plans are first to get ready to play live and we are almost there.
Next year, we are going to record an EP via Lövely Records and for that, we are gonna get a bunch of instruments outside of Stockholm on late November and in the island. We are gonna use one week and just make music, relax; we have a sauna there so we are gonna bring some food and wine, make music and relax. You are going to hear a complete different sonic image because that’s where the band got together before anyone else was involved. The third member that joined the last is also going to be more involved in the EP so you are going to hear a lot from him; he’s an amazing guy.
Any last words to your fans?
I don’t think that God created us in his image but I think we are creating God in our image. That would be my last words.
Special thanks to Ms. Francone and Puppet Master!