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Exclusive! Interview With Hypocrisy Vocalist/ Guitarist Peter Tatgren

By Brian Davis, Contributor
Thursday, January 1, 2004 @ 5:15 PM

Close Encounters of the Hypocr

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You must be asking yourself: “What am I about to read?” Well, that’s a good goddamn question and I wish I had a specific answer. Is this a concert review? Well, yeah, sort of. Is it an interview? Yeah, that too. Kinda. Is it an editorial? I suppose that works as well. I don’t know exactly what to call it, except one hell of a learning experience and a reality check. They say that you have to take the bad with the good, and that’s an irrefutable truth. Nothing ever goes completely the way you’d like it to -- certainly not in the music industry. So just like any other facet of life, you gotta roll with it and make the most of the moment.

I got my first real education in that reality on November 30th when I attended the Hypocrisy/ Children Of Bodom/ Nevermore/ Dimmu Borgir show at Seattle’s Showbox theatre. It had all the indications that this was going to be a hell of a good time. Not only was one of my absolute favorite bands, Hypocrisy, back in the States for the 2nd time in less than a year, but I was slated to conduct my first ever in-person interview with one of my all time biggest musical heroes -- Hypocrisy songwriter/guitarist/singer/producer Peter Tatgren. This guy is a monster in Metal, infamous for his constant involvement in the music industry. Be it writing, playing, singing or producing, he lives and breathes music. Not only has he kept Hypocrisy a well-oiled, constantly-evolving machine of pure Metal since he started the band in 1991, but he has also been or is currently part of numerous other bands such as Pain, Lock Up and The Abyss. Now add to the mix the fact that he produces all of the Hypocrisy albums personally, as well as having done some extensive work as a producer out of his own Sweden based “Abyss Studios,” having produced such big name Metal acts as Dark Funeral and Amon Amarth. So I reiterate -- the guy is a machine, having made music his life, and by achievement alone deserves a profound amount of respect.

Now, as far as my perspective as a writer -- I’m a fan first. Always will be. My writing is a tool by which I am able to give a little back to the bands and people that have inspired me throughout the years. So if I have an opportunity to shine a little bit of the spotlight on the bands I believe deserve recognition, then I’m all over it. Therefore, when I heard that Hypocrisy would be back in the States touring, I felt there was no better way to “get my feet wet” with my first in-person interview than by interviewing Peter Tatgren. Thus began my education in the realities of the music industry.

Things started off quite well -- with the unwavering support of your very own over-worked and under-appreciated editor, Sefany Jones, I was put in contact with Hannah, a representative from Hypocrisy’s record label, Nuclear Blast. I informed her of my desire to interview Peter at the show. She was both friendly and helpful, and with just a little correspondence she got me set up to do my interview before Hypocrisy’s set, which happened to be the first of the bill. So far, so good, I’m stoked: Another youthful dream is about to come true… I actually have the opportunity to make a list of all the questions I’ve ever wanted to ask this guy, and I get to sit one-on-one and get the full scoop. I don’t care what you say, that’s fucking awesome right there.

So the interview is set up to officially take place at 6:00 pm the night of the show. That’s one hour before the doors open and two hours before Hypocrisy starts the show -- plenty of time to do a decent interview. I was given the cell number and name of Hypocrisy’s tour manager, Jez, and told to contact him when I arrived at the venue -- that sounded simple enough. So the day of the concert I arrive around 5:30 pm, and after being robbed of $20 just so I could park next to the venue, I enter the Green Room next door and inquire with the Showbox staff about talking to Hypocrisy’s tour manager. And here’s Lesson #1, kiddies -- Venue staff, security, et al -- pretty much don’t give a fuck. They don’t necessarily like or even know of most of the bands that play there -- it’s just a job, and being friendly or helpful is not a written requirement. However, with some badgering, I managed to get the bartender to find the Showbox Manager so I could ask him. Lesson #2: Lesson #1 also applies to Venue Managers. The guy comes out looking completely put off as if he were interrupted in the bathroom mid-stroke, and asks what I want. I tell him I’m looking for the tour manager Jez and that I’m supposed to interview Peter Tatgren. He gives me a blank look and asks, “Who the hell is that?” So I explain as monosyllabically as possible so as not to confuse the poor asshole, and once he finally understands who I’m there to see he tells me that’s really not their problem but he would try to send word back to the tour manager. Meanwhile, I’m not allowed to enter the actual club. So I wait, and I wait… and I wait. It became evident that the Showbox staff wasn’t about to be of any use whatsoever, so I called Jez’s cell. He tells me they’re setting up and doing sound checks, but he’d try to be out to get me in 10-15 min. Again no sign of anyone, and a few more tries on his cell get me no answer. Thus I learned Lesson #3: the pre-show setting is pure chaos, and when you have a tour manager that is handling two bands (Hypocrisy and Children Of Bodom), and one of those bands is on first, probably some journalist wanting to talk to one of the members isn’t the highest priority. I don’t begrudge him that -- it was nothing personal -- but what it boiled down to was that I wasn’t going to get my interview as planned.

So there’s a reality check -- just because it seems to be going smooth and easy, doesn’t mean it’ll stay that way. Shit happens. So I find myself sitting there with no ticket, no interview, and doors opening for the show. I watch the people shuffle in as I contemplate saying “fuck it” and going home. But to Hell with that -- Hypocrisy came all the way from Sweden to play here, and I’ll be damned if I’ll miss it, interview or no. So I resolve to buy a ticket if I’m not on the guest list and at least enjoy the show. Well, by a twist of good luck, I was on the guest list, so at the very least I make it into the show for free. But I also realized something else -- Lesson #4: if you want to accomplish anything in this business, you need determination and perseverance.

I decided I wasn’t content to miss out on the interview, so I made my way to the backstage area and begin hassling more security, trying to track down Jez and see about rescheduling after the show. Now some credit goes to the lady doing security backstage -- she was actually helpful. She went backstage and tracked down Jez for me, who came out, introduced himself and apologized for not coming to get me, citing the same reasons I had assumed kept him from appearing. He asks me if I’m there to see the whole show, or mainly Hypocrisy. I tell him Hypocrisy was the reason I was there, so he offered to set me up to interview Peter at 9:00 pm after they finish their set, to which I of course agreed.

So with that lined up and the fact that I was finally inside the venue and about to watch Hypocrisy’s set, I was able to relax. It wasn’t too long thereafter that the lights dimmed, the eerie keyboard intro of “Fractured Millenium” begins to reverberate throughout the venue, the guys make their way to the stage, don their instruments and begin ripping into the song. The sound was excellent and the playing impeccable. Peter’s screams and vocals were dead-on and for being the opening band (which is always a difficult slot) they had the crowd good and wired for sound by the end of their far too short set. Playing a short variety of their heaviest and slowest songs, they ripped through “Killing Art,” “Pleasure of Molestation,” “Destroyed” and a brand new ass-kicking song called “Eraser,” while mixing in the sludgy doom-style fan favorite “Fire In The Sky” and the staple crowd pleasing finale of “Roswell 47.” The band played great, but it was definitely disappointing to see them opening and having to play such a short set.

Of course, that disappointment was eased somewhat by the knowledge that I’d be meeting the band in a short time. As the techs were preparing the stage for Children Of Bodom, I spot Peter standing on the stairs near the backstage area. Call me paranoid, but after what had happened earlier I wasn’t entirely convinced that things would follow through on their own, so I took the opportunity to shake Peter’s hand and inform him that I was supposed to interview him. Cool as hell, he simply smiled and said, “Ok, no problem.” By this time Children Of Bodom took to the stage and began playing. I had never heard them, and in fact only heard the first two songs of their set, but I was duly impressed. Apart from the singer’s preening and posing, always fixing his hair just so and wearing way too much mascara, they seemed like a very talented band. Alas, this was the last of the show I saw, so further review of Nevermore and Dimmu Borgir will not be forthcoming. Sorry, shit happens.

So sometime during COB’s 2nd song, Jez comes down and tells me that Peter’s ready to go, so he escorts me to where Peter and the rest of the guys are hanging backstage, which turns out to be a small room with only a very thin wall separating it from the roaring sound of COB’s set behind us. Thus I learned lesson #5: interviews during a show are not the best idea, as it is practically fucking impossible to hear whoever you’re trying to talk to over the noise of the stage. But I was lucky to even be there, so I forged on. Peter was incredibly polite and friendly, not the least bit overbearing or egotistical. He was quite business-like and professional, but not to the point of being curt or disinterested. I found that none of the nervousness that you would attribute to meeting a hero had manifested -- it was almost like talking to a friend about Metal, nothing more. Unfortunately, Lesson #6 was taking place then, and I wasn’t to realize it until the interview was over: my recorder wasn’t recording. To this day I don’t know what happened, whether the loudness from COB’s set interfered or if it just glitched, but after all that effort I come out of interviewing one of my heroes with absolutely no record of our dialogue save for my own personal recollection. So as I say, shit happens -- take the bad with the good. This is the reality of journalism in the music industry -- things go right and things go wrong. Sometimes it all works out, sometimes it doesn’t. C’est la vie, live and learn, etc.

At any rate, it would not be fair to Peter, Nuclear Blast, or the Hypocrisy fans to try to pass this off as an interview when I don’t have Peter’s exact dialogue. So this becomes a recollection of a chain of events leading to meeting the man and a mere summary of the things we discussed. Hypocrisy will be returning on tour with Cannibal Corpse this February, so I look forward to an opportunity for a round 2 interview in which hopefully things go right and I will be able to relate a full interview. In the interim, here’s the gist of what went down with talking to Peter Tatgren:

The first thing on my mind, and most other Hypocrisy fans, was the progress and sound of the upcoming new album “The Arrival” (due in February ’04). I told Peter that the buzz has been that the album would have an older sound than recent material (anyone familiar with Hypocrisy will know what I mean), and after hearing the new song “Eraser,” it certainly sounded to me as if they’d gone back to the older sound, something akin to the Abducted/Into The Abyss era. Peter agreed, saying they’re getting back into the alien theme and the music will have a heavier but still varied song structure. I think it’s safe to say after talking with him about it that this album will NOT be disappointing. Can’t wait to see more of it in the upcoming tour.

From there I mentioned my disappointment in the short length of the set and their opening position, but ever-the-business-man Peter just emphasized that it was a large bill with some pretty popular bands, and it was a predominately Black Metal tour, so he was fine with the opening slot -- he was honored to be a part of the tour. It was at this time that he mentioned the upcoming tour in February with Cannibal Corpse, which has since been confirmed.

In continuing the discussion about their set, I mentioned to him that a high majority of the fans that visit Hypocrisy’s official message board on www.ultimatemetal.com have been wanting to see “Adjusting The Sun” (also my personal favorite) make it’s way into the set list. It felt a bit awkward requesting a song to be added to the set for the next tour (how cliché is that?), but to my surprise he said that that was great to know and that he would definitely throw it into the next set. So, score one for the fans -- that song is a total ripper and guaranteed to get people in a frenzy.

The discussion then carried into how this and the previous US tour had been for the band, reception-wise. Hypocrisy had not played in the US much in the past, save for Metal Fests and little one-offs, but now it seems to be becoming a routine for them. Peter expressed his satisfaction with the reception they’ve been getting thus far, and that they will definitely keep coming back. This is a band that plays in front of up to several hundred thousand rabid fans all over Europe, then comes over here to play in 300 capacity clubs. But that too, Peter said, is part of the biz. He said it’s just a matter of familiarizing the American Metal fans with their music, and the fanbase here will grow from that, given time.

From there I wanted to get the scoop on what else he’s currently doing in music. He mentioned that he did some guest vocals on one song for Kataklysm’s new album Serenity In Fire, and that he is working on a new studio album for Pain, due out mid-summer of ’04, and that soon after that Pain will also release an album of covers, tentatively due about this time next year. I asked about Lock Up -- a super band composed of Jesse Pintado and Shane Embury from Napalm Death, and the mad drumming machine Nick Barker from Dimmu Borgir. Peter provided vocals on their first album, and produced the second while ex-At The Gates and The Crown vocalist Tomas Lindberg took over the mic. Peter said he may be doing the production on the next album, but being that it’s a side band with the members otherwise obligated to their full-time gigs -- it’s a matter of timing. I inquired if he was going to be producing anything else in the near future. The answer? Yes : Dimmu Borgir. Now there’s something ! From what I gathered he’s tentatively lined up to produce some re-recordings for the band. I also asked if there would be anymore forthcoming material from The Abyss (a band composed of the same 3 Hypocrisy members, just playing different instrument roles), and the answer is a definite no. Peter says that was just a bunch of Black Metal riffs they needed to get out of their systems, nothing more.

The most important question -- at least for me, personally -- was concerning the future of Hypocrisy. After the release of The Final Chapter, the band broke up and were to be no more. Fortunately for all, that changed, they got back together and have been rolling strong ever since. So I posed the question to Peter, “Will Hypocrisy be your main focus, and can we expect a lot more to come from the band?” to which he answered “Absolutely!” He has cut back on the production aspect considerably, keeping it mainly to his two bands Hypocrisy and Pain, and Hypocrisy will be the focal point for quite some time, so more excellent news for all. And last but not least, I had to ask the staple question, “What have you been listening to lately?” He responded that he liked a wide variety of stuff, including Dimmu and a lot of the newer underground metal coming out, as well as the classics such as Led Zeppelin.

At that we wrapped up the ill-fated interview and I asked to impose on him a little more by getting some autographs on some CD covers. He was more than happy to oblige, and even took them to the other guys, Lars and Mikael, to get the full band autographs. I shook everyone’s hand, thanked them for the opportunity, bid them farewell and departed. I was drained after the entire ordeal, so opted out on the last two bands and headed home. Enough lessons for one day.

Overall, I cannot categorize this experience as anything else except a resounding success. I learned much about the reality of journalism and the music industry, and that’s something that everyone has to deal with, so if there are any of you considering this line of work, just bear that in mind. It’s highly rewarding, but it’s not necessarily easy. However, I succeeded in meeting and interviewing a hero, and in the process learned a thing or two about determination and the satisfaction in following through. So hopefully I can avoid some of these problems in the future, and in the meantime I have a hell of an experience to reflect back on for some time to come. We’ll just have to see where it takes me from here.

(Photos from Hypocrisy.tv and their respective owners)

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