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Marco De Francesco Interview

THORBJORN ENGLUND (SABATON, WINTERLONG, STARQUEEN, SOLO) discusses his new album From the Wilderness (Lion Music 2015)

Please tell me a little bit about your musical background, your main influences.

Well, as a kid I got a keyboard from my parents. At age six I guess it was. Funny when I think about it I immediately started to improvise, something that has followed me all my life. I just let creativity loose already back then. So in a way I was more or less writing music already at age six or seven. However, playing piano and keyboard wasn´t really that cool as playing guitar. When I heard hard rock and metal I was drawn to the more heavy, yet melodic, type of music. I got my first electric guitar at age ten. And funny as it was (it was a second hand Yamaha) - it was SCALLOPPED all over!

Long before I knew about Yngwie Malmsteen and Richie Blackmore, who both later came to be my biggest sources of inspiration when it came to guitar playing, and who both played scalloped necks - I played on a scalloped neck. An omen?

I had quite a few bands back in my early teens, playing covers and performing live, writing music and recording demos with the ambition to one day become a guitar hero like Slash, who at the time was my favorite guitarist.

But then at age sixteen I borrowed an instructional video with Yngwie Malmsteen from the local library, and the moment I watched and listened to his incredible passionate playing, his bleeding tone, and the total control he had over his Stratocaster I knew what I had to do - and also go through - because I knew that to become even a shadow of Malmsteen it would take a hundred percent dedication and discipline for a long long time.

Basically, from there on I got possessed by unlocking the mysteries of scales, modes, articulation etc. And I spent six to eight hours a day with my guitar. Didn´t care much for school, friends, or even girls. It was just me and my guitar.

Later on I of course wanted a Strat, like Yngwie and Richie played, so I was about to sell my car to get the money to buy this beautiful black Japanese made anniversary model of a real Fender Stratocaster. My dad however learned about this, and luckily he lent me the money for it! This guitar has been my favorite Strat since, and you can see it on many photos and concerts together with Sabaton, for example the famous Woodstock show in Poland 2012 in front of over 600.000 people, which is available on DVD.

Please describe your new solo album "From the Wilderness" (lion Music).

It started out as an idea of putting together an album where I´d be focusing on ”cheating” as little as possible. Meaning; today it´s so easy to cut & paste all the way to super insane perfection, since we all record in a digital domain.

I wanted to record it with an analogue approach, which would mean that 99,99999 percent of all the takes are there in all honesty. I didn´t want to put my focus into editing, I wanted to shred with focus instead - and I am proud of the results. It´s a bit more ”alive" than most guitar oriented albums being made in this day and age I´d like to think. Sometimes there´s a little out-of-tune-bending and sloppiness going on - but it´s real, and it´s me.

Please tell me something about the song on your album.

Wow, this is going to be both easy and hard. Bear with me…

This album is obviously somewhat of a concept album, dealing with life out in the wild. I wanted to capture the feeling of a predators life and destiny. In total contrast to the experiment we are all living in today - this perfectly socially safe and organized environment we as the human civilization have created for our selves. A lifestyle that makes our bodies and spirits so comfy and numb that we have lost most or all connection to our real reality. After all we´re predators too, and we came from - and will eventually go back to - a world where the strongest once more survives while the weakest once more will be the first in line to give back its life to moder earth.

The titles therefore explain themselves; an existential journey through the eyes of a predator - the wolf, which was the animal that I decided to picture.

Please tell me what equipment you used to record this album. what you are and have been using live.

For this album I used a MacBook Pro, a sound interface called Baby Face, and Cubase 8. It was really an ideal and smooth environment to work in since I´m constantly on tour with Sabaton. Many nights on the tour bus has been spent recording or mixing, composing and searching for that perfect sound.

As far as the live rig goes I used to play through a Line 6 Pod HD500, which worked fine for a long time and was easy to travel with, but then we decided to upgrade to the HD500 X, and that model, though the latest, turned out to be completely unreliable for lots of reasons. This made the band invest in Kemper Profilers, which are working really well and the sound fantastic!

Do you plan to play this music live

No, there´s simply no time for that. Sabaton is touring the world constantly. In average we´re doing like 160 shows a year, not counting travel days, and if we´re not on the road we´re working on new material. So no.

Obviously things are going super with Sabaton, how did you end up playing with this band?

That´s a long and exciting story, but the short version is basically that the band split up in the beginning of 2012, whereby a good friend of mine, Pär Hulkoff from the Swedish band Raubtier, who had been touring with them a lot, asked me if I´d be interested to join. I went to meet Joakim Brodén and Pär Sundström of Sabaton down in Stockholm over a couple of beers - we immediately found each other, and the rest is history.

What are your (Sabaton's) next plans in terms of touring and recording?

We´re going to continue the Heroes-tour, which started in april of 2014, for another year almost, and then it´s time to go into the studio again to record the next album. This summer we´re headliners at Wacken Open Air, and there´s tons of other cool stuff happening, so check out for more info.

What was your goal with making this album?

The purpose of ”From The Wilderness” was to re-open this necessary outlet of creativity. I haven´t had this much ideas and inspiration since back in the days of die hard-practicing. So I just had to get it out there! I really hope people will enjoy this album as it shoots straight from my heart as a creative guitar player.

How do you feel about the guitar oriented music scene of today?

I guess it´s no brighter or gloomier than say ten years ago, but honestly I haven´t really followed the market for this genre in a long time. I surely hope that it can be seen as a legit alternative to other kinds of hard rock music, but I fear that the eighties saw the best of it. However there are still so many skillful and dedicated players out there who refuse to sell out or surrender, so I believe that as long as there are guitars there will also be great guitar players playing those, creating amazing pieces of magic.

Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?

In Sabaton of course. Still hungry - because the best is yet to come!

In what way do you think your album is different from all the other instrumental guitar albums that are out there?

As I mentioned earlier I think that the way I approached the recording process this time, with as little ”cut & paste” as possible it might sound a bit more alive and honest.

How much time to you spend practising and rehearsing music per day or week.

It depends. When I´m at home for a week or two in between touring, I try to put the guitar a bit to the side, spending time with my girlfriend and visiting family and friends, but still the passion of playing is aways there and sometimes I find myself practicing or just playing until the morning hours.

When we´re out on the road however, the guitar is my everything. Sometimes my fellow band members have asked me if I´m in my right mind when they hear me practicing late at night, even after a one and a half hour long show… but I just tell them - Hey! I love what I do! *Laughing*

Do you think that music will survive the current "everything for free" mentality and do you think that people in general care?

I think music will always survive. Selling music on a physical disc, for a living, in the times of today might be hard in general though, but music itself will always survive, it´s as important to our spices as breathing. If people care in general? - Not maybe until they are faced with the consequences of believing everything´s free. That day might come.

However, one positive thing I´ve noticed is that the LP is coming back more and more. Dedicated fans and people who really love music want to support the artist, and they also want something physical in their hands. Something real.

What are your future plans?

My future plans are simply: touring the world, over and over, writing great music, meeting all the wonderful people coming to our shows, and having a blast together with my buddies in the band.