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nitrodive shocktreatmentInterview with

Albert Norberg (guitar & lead vocals), Robert Johnson (bass & vocals) and Johan Gren (drums & vocals) from NitroDive

Let us be honest - it is impossible to not know the RAMONES. Even if it’s not musicwise, one has surely seen their name and logo on a shirt somewhere. The godfathers of early punk have inspired many bands to even start making music, and the number of covered songs is infinite. Add nine though, because on March 25th, our friends from NITRODIVE will publish their new album SHOCK TREATMENT - a RAMONES cover album with their all-time favorite songs! In February we visited them again in their hometown of Gothenburg, Sweden, to talk about the album in depth.

Reflections of Darkness [RoD]: What was your first ever experience with the RAMONES? What led to recording this album?
Albert Norberg [AN]: I don’t remember the first time I actually heard something by the RAMONES, uh... probably because it was so early.
Robert Johnson [RJ]: Haha, yeah! But what was the first time when we actually played the first RAMONES song? It was many, many years ago!
AN: Yeah, we played it on our first European tour, I think it was the first time we started to play it frequently, like, we added it to our setlist and then played it live almost every time.
RJ: We wanted people to recognize some songs, so why not play this old punkrock song! (laughs)
AN: Yeah... and we tried to play other cover songs before that, but with the RAMONES songs it was like, we didn’t have to practice it much and it sounded like we thought it should sound. It felt very... obvious, like, we should play this. Uh, what was the original question again? I got carried away. (laughs)
RoD: The first ever experience.
- Johan Gren [JG] joins us now -
My first ever experience was that my dad had an old RAMONES-LP, I think it was the second or the third RAMONES album. That was the first time when I listened to the RAMONES, although I can’t remember when that was, I was so young. (laughs)
AN: Was it the pink one, the Russia?
RJ: No, it was the one where they’re standing under a bridge. What’s it called... I think it’s not the second, it’s the third one.
AN: Johan, what was your first experience with the RAMONES?
JG: My first experience... what have you guys said?
AN, RJ: (laugh)
AN: We’ve said that it was probably so early for all of us that we don’t remember. (laughs) But what was your first one?
JG: Maybe the logo! (laughs)
AN: Probably, yes! We saw it on someone’s t-shirt before we ever heard a song.
JG: But, I don’t know actually, that’s a good question.
AN: And another thing; in our early teens, a band called SHEBANG released a cover of ‘Sheena Is A Punkrocker’, it was on MTV and stuff, and back then we didn’t know it was by the RAMONES.
JG: My first CD that I ever received was actually THE CLASH, ’Should I Stay Or Should I Go’. (laughs)
RJ: Not the RAMONES, unfortunately.
AN: So it has nothing to do with the question! (everyone laughs)
RJ: My first one was AQUA, so...
JG: Yeah, that’s very much you. (laughs)
AN: But how about the first time when we as a band had started to play the RAMONES in around 2010, 2011? Live, I mean. It was pretty early, before we released our first full-length album... which didn’t actually sound very much like the RAMONES and then we kind of reverted back a little bit. We reverted back to kind of, more straight-on punkrock as on RE-EVOLUTION. And then we started to play even more RAMONES.

RoD: Did you feel any pressure recording this album or was it really just for fun, like, ”We are just doing this now!”
AN: Kind of like the last thing you said. (laughs) Because we wanted to do it our own way. Of course we understand that we probably should feel pressure because people have a certain expectation of how the RAMONES should sound, but we think it’s kind of the point to do an album of their songs that does not sound like them. So, no, not very much pressure, actually more joy and more interest to do it.
JG: The whole project came from the fact that we’re playing ’Blitzkrieg Bop’ on every gig, and we were like ”Should we record that one and have it one the next album, maybe?”. But then it turned out the be a full album. (laughs)
AN: We thought about that a little too much probably.
JG: And we tried it out and we thought that we played them really good and they sounded really good, so-
RJ: So we decided to put them on a record.
AN: We already knew how to play lots of the songs, so when we started talking about recording only one song, so it wasn’t very far-fetched to just do a whole record.
RoD: So there were no people telling you ”No, the RAMONES sound should be protected, you can’t do it like this!”?
nitrodive2016 01AN: We didn’t let anyone know. (RJ laughs) But we had people telling us to actually do it!
JG: Well of course we’re excited to see how it turns out when we release the record. I guess there will be haters, like some RAMONES fans from the beginning, and hopefully also a lot of people that will like our versions. There will probably be both sides. But you know, we don’t give a fuck. (laughs)
AN: We’re actually happy when people have an opinion, even if they don’t like it it’s better than them being all...
JG: Mellanmjölk. Haters and lovers are good, but the one in the middle, the ones they don’t even care, we call it Mellanmjölk in Swedish.
AN: (laughs) Yeah. But so, haters and lovers, that’s good, but the ones that don’t have an opinion are the worst - that’s what we think.

RoD: What kind of influence did your producer, Thomas ”Plec” Johansson have during the process?
AN: I think he was as usual just the one adding his positivity, creativity and his little flavor to the whole mixture.
JG: The best thing about him is - I think we have even said that before - that we feel so comfortable and he’s always happy, and I think that has a really strong influence on the record because we feel good when we record in the studio and when we mix it with him, so that makes the results even better. He’s a really professional guy.
RJ: And of course a friend of ours.

RoD: A question for every single one of you: which song of the album is your personal baby?
AN: I think I would have to say ‘Havanna Affair’. There’s just something about that song... I love that song. It’s so powerful.
JG: And I don’t know because I like them all, but if I shouldn’t name the same song I’d say ’I Just Wanna Have Something To Do’. That’s a very different song for us to play and I think that it turned out really well on the album after all. So I’ll go with that one.
RJ: I don’t even like the RAMONES, so... (everyone laughs)
AN: You have to pick one, Robert!
RJ: No, okay, my favorite one is obvious, ‘Warthog’, because I’m singing on it. (laughs) And it’s the first time ever that I sing a whole song. Maybe it’s not the best song, but personally the most fun song for me.
JG: And if we had to pick one song that the whole band really likes to play and that we’re really satisfied with, it should be the album’s first song, ‘Psychotherapy’, I guess!
RJ: It is very NITRODIVE.
JG: Yeah, it’s very us in how it sounds.
AN: And it’s also one of the songs that was kind of a wild card before we recorded it, and when we had recorded it and had done all the work, it came out so good that we started loving it afterwards. That one should also actually have been ‘Pet Sematary’, you know, we tried it but it didn’t translate very good to the NITRODIVE sound, so we just let that one be. But I think that Psycho was a pleasant surprise in how it turned out. It’s definitely one favorite on the record.

RoD: A question about the mood on the album. I think that ’I Just Wanna Have Something To Do’ is a lot sadder than the RAMONES version. It captures the mood of the song, because in the original it doesn’t really come along as a heartbroken song, but in your version you can really feel it.
JG: I don’t think that we really thought about making the song stronger, deeper and sadder. What we thought about was that the chorus is a really good part and that’s what we were loving in that song, I guess. What I think is that our version is a little smoother than the RAMONES original.
AN: Yeah! I haven’t thought about it, maybe we did it... darker, or, like, sadder?
RoD: Yeah, it comes along like a really sad ballad!
AN: It’s quite a cool song when you think about it, from a song writing perspective. Most RAMONES songs and most rock songs in general... I think it’s a little special, it’s a bit off. Darker in the lyrics and we wanted it to do a little more like that. It’s also a weird tempo, like (imitates the riffs). Is it a slow song or a fast song? You have to choose if you want to do a fast one or not!
RJ: It’s actually not a fast song or a slow song, it’s in the middle.
JG: You have to push it into the right direction, I guess.
AN: Yeah, you should always feel like pushing forward, and I wanted to experiment with the half-time in the ending, like, do we make something heavier out of it?
JG: I think it’s the biggest song on this album. It’s much bigger than a punk song. It was fun to have that one on the record!
AN: I think also that one element to that song which made it grow a little bit more was when Johan added this melody on the guitar in the background, in the last chorus. It’s a feeling and it’s something that’s not in the original. The RAMONES didn’t have that vibe, so we changed the vibe. They had some other kind of guitar in the background.
JG: Ours is actually more NITRODIVE.
AN: But, yeah, it sounds like you like the song!
RoD: Yeah, it’s my favorite on the album.
AN: Yeah?
JG: Cool! My brother thinks the same, actually! It’s the hardest one to play.
AN: Yeah, it was the one that we almost left out.
JG: It was really hard because you gotta do the thing that Albert was talking about, slowly pushing the sound forward, and that’s a pretty hard thing to do.
AN: Without feeling like you’re being hasty, without rushing through it. It’s also the one song that we were most hesitant about. Almost also like a wild card. Many of the songs just felt so right, but this one was, naah, maybe? Kind of like an experiment, it could go really well, it could go very bad.

nitrodive2016 02RoD: The next one is for Robert, about ‘Warthog’.
RJ: (snickers)
RoD: What does it feel like to have your very own song and to be on stage with all focus suddenly on you?
RJ: The first time... we actually only played it live once, in Germany! It was a pretty weird feeling actually and I was so nervous. It was the first time, the second time I will not be so nervous. It’s a special thing though, I don’t really know how to explain it... I’m not used to it. I mean, we played it live just once so far, so we should play it more live and then I can actually answer this question better. (laughs)
JG: Well I think it’s fun. (everone laughs)
RJ: Yeah, it’s a fun song, I mean the song isn’t so serious. If I screw up or if someone else screws up... the song is not so perfect from the beginning, so maybe...
AN: The song itself doesn’t suffer very much.
JG: It’s definitely the most punkrock song on the album in the way we played and recorded it.
AN: And I like that I can just, for once, play the fucking guitar and not stand still in front of the microphone, so that’s good!

RoD: Next one goes to Albert. The thing that I noticed immediately when listening to the album was that your vocals sound so different from Re-Evolution. It’s a lot less screaming, very clear, like, fuck, he’s such a good singer! (everyone laughs) Did you experiment with that, did you take lessons, did it come naturally?
AN: Hm, no, well, I think the process was different because the songs were already written and we only changed a couple of things here and there. So this time I had the time to work more on the vocals of each song before we started recording. We recorded songs and I took the instrumentals and locked myself in the studio to practice my fucking vocals. And that is the one thing that’s maybe the biggest difference. We also tried to become better on all our instruments, including the vocals, in each production.
JG: Do you like it? Is it better than RE-EVOLUTION?
RoD: Well, no, because RE-EVOLUTION is your own thing, and that makes it something entirely different for me. SHOCK TREATMENT sounds very different from the NITRODIVE I’m used to.
AN: Yeah of course. It is much more punkrock-NITRODIVE while RE-EVOLUTION is more hardrock.
JG: Yeah, maybe something in between-is is where we should be, I don’t know. (laughs)

RoD: Are there any crazy or funny behind the scenes anecdotes of this recording that you can tell us? Since there weren’t any studio diaries this time.
AN: Yeah, I don’t know why we didn’t make any studio diaries this time, I think we were a little more active or efficient, like, we didn’t have time to focus on making a studio diary on this one because we were on tour just the same spring as we got the idea and started to make our own interpretations of the songs, started to rehearse them and we thought, when we get down the songs up to this date we can actually record the upcoming fall, and I think we let that be our goal. So we left out the part of telling the story behind the scenes.
JG: We didn’t have like, five weeks of recording the album, we had just a few days in the studio here and there and we had to focus. We had to do it a lot cheaper than the other production as well and for that reason we also did a lot of stuff in our rehearsal place where we have kind of our own studio.
RJ: Maybe on the next album. But well, we did some footage of the recording, maybe we can release something...
JG: Maybe we will! (laughs)
RJ: Maybe we can release some footage, maybe in the future?

RoD: Did you have an idea of what you wanted the outcome to sound? Because the recorded versions differ a lot from what I heard live on your gig in Marsberg last fall. I think they sound a lot softer than on stage.
AN: Yeah...
JG: Yes it does.
AN: I think everything we do sounds softer on the record. Uhm...
JG: We didn’t want the sound that we got on the RE-EVOLUTION record which is so heavy, and this project is a punkrock record, much more than a normal NITRODIVE record, and we wanted it to be a little bit thinner but with a punch.
AN: Not necessarily softer but not as distored, not as heavy. Let the punkrock come into its own a little more.
JG: Yes. I think that is one of the main reasons why it feels softer than RE-EVOLUTION.
AN: Because you have to respect the songs as what they’ve been written, they have not been written as metal songs. In our opinion we already pushed it. Our songs are definitely harder than the originals.
JG: But then again we don’t really care. There will be lovers and there will be haters that go like ”It’s too much heavy metal!”

RoD: A somewhat critical question. Since it’s a cover album, how do you think you as NITRODVE gain new fans with it? And also, will you stick to the 50:50 setlists like in Marsberg or the gig in Gothenburg in December?
AN: Nah, not necessarily, we will decide here and there pretty much what we want to play that night. We will probably play RAMONES songs for a long time in our career just because they have a special place in our heart, but it won’t take very long until we’ll release our next own, original album, so we’ll definitely focus more on our own music.
RJ: This year we will probably play more RAMONES songs, just because we release the record. But then we’ll release the new album, so next year there will be more of our songs again.
JG: This spring we’ll of course play a lot of RAMONES, maybe 50:50 on the setlist, but we’re already working at the new album, so at the end of the year we will probably play RAMONES songs, songs from RE-EVOLUTION and also some new ones! A good mix, I guess.
AN: And for the reason why we’re recording this album for new fans which you were talking about, people who don’t even know about NITRODIVE but like the RAMONES maybe hear one of our interpretations of the songs and like it. Then they maybe find our band and like some of our original music too, then it’s a good thing for them and for us.
nitrodive2016 03JG: And even if they just like the RAMONES song in our way, that’s a good thing! A lot of bands did covers, QUEEN did it, RAMONES did it-
RJ: The RAMONES even did a whole album!
JG: So yeah, I think we’ll definitely gain a lot of new fans. That’s one of the reason why we’re doing this! But it’s not a NITRODIVE record, it’s not our songs. We’re working on a new album, so. And as we said, there will be haters, there will be lovers. (laughs)
RJ: A lot of people will probably only like the RAMONES album!
AN: Yeah, and a lot of people are probably only going to add one of the songs from the RAMONES album to their own playlist. But that’s fine, we don’t care, it’s good!

RoD: A little outlook to the future. New album, will there be a headliner tour?
RoD: Yes.
JG: Maybe a headliner tour in Germany. In Sweden I guess there will be one, in Italy there will be one. There will also be other gigs as well. 80% headlining, 20% not headlining I guess? It’s too early to say by now.

RoD: About the album art: I think the cover is very well thought throw with all the little hints on the songs. Did you do it all on your own?
AN: Yeah, with the help of Anders Fästader, the art director of GAIN.
JG: It was good working with him.
RJ: He did the digital part.
JG: we are very satisfied with it!
AN: And I’m really glad you like the details in the cover art, because that’s kind of like the whole point of it.
JG: There was a lot of beer and thinking involved.
AN: Lobotomizing Robert, taming the warthog and so on.
RJ: It was fun taking the photos, it was weird!

RoD: Not too long ago you played a gig in Japan. We didn’t really hear much about that, just got a few pictures, so tell us about it!
AN: Yeah, we’re so bad at reporting about stuff sometimes! It was awesome! I think one thing we immediately realized was when we got to the venue, that all of the walls had small, framed posters with like 500 bands and we knew only like half of them. Lot of bands we listen to, like rock bands and-
JG: Taylor Swift. (everyone laughs)
AN: Yeah... being one of them... (laughs) So even though the venue may be for like three to maximum four hundred people we struggled then and there that this is a place where many bands had played. It was cool to see that.
JG: The audience was crazy actually, it was really fun to play for the Japanese people!
RJ: We didn’t have so much time to report everything for our Facebook profile or Instagram, we didn’t have any WiFi there and there was so much to do all the time, not just playing but seeing all the sights. We were pretty much running through the city to see everything because we had so little time.
JG: And one of the weirdest things this band has ever done was playing at the Swedish Embassy in Tokyo.
AN: One hundred people in suits.
JG: We were really nervous.
RJ: And we played a RAMONES song there as well!
AN: There was the Swedish ambassador and Japanese hotshots from the Japanese music scene. People were there drinking champagne and clapping their hands while we were playing acoustic punkrock songs. It was very weird. (laughs)
JG: It was a really fun trip.

RoD: What is the most rockstar thing you’ve ever done?
JG: Being in Japan. I guess. Maybe.
RJ: Yeah! Probably!
AN: Hm!
JG: There are not many bands that get to play there. On our level, I mean. So. That’s cool.
AN: (laughs)
JG: And maybe the tour with Hardcore Superstar, that was very cool as well. But rockstar... we’re nice guys that drink beer and write songs and play live. (laughs) Oh, but hey, maybe crowdsurfing the tourbus! Between Paris and Germany. Drunk as hell.
RJ: People got held up to the roof. Everybody went up there. I think I have a video where we lift Jocke Berg up in the roof!
JG: At 120km/h.
RJ: So we have been crowdsurfing at fast speed in a tourbus. That’s a rockstar thing. I guess. (laughs) We haven’t thrown a TV out of the window of our hotel room yet. It’s not so fun anymore cause the TV is so famous, it’s not a big deal anymore. (laughs) Nothing happens! Also they’re so flat by now, it’s like throwing out an iPad.

RoD: NITRODIVE in the future. What can we expect in, let’s say, the next two years?
AN: Even we don’t know what we can expect in the next two years, so... maybe something about the next coming year.
JG: We’re hoping to tour as much as possible on the upcoming album, and we’re working on the third album. So we’ll release the best album we have ever done in the near future and we’ll tour as much as possible. And we’re trying to have two weeks of touring in Germany too, I guess in this year’s autumn. Also we’ll do a pretty fun release gig in Gothenburg on April 1st! We’ll play all of SHOCK TREATMENT first, then a break and then set number two with the NITRODIVE songs.
RJ: In a very small club, even smaller than the Sticky Fingers, like really really small. 150 persons maybe.
AN: We will be our own support act. But our main focus will be on making the new album and touring on SHOCK TREATMENT.
JG: And being nice guys.
AN: Yeah, and being nice guys.
JG: I think we’re gonna have to focus a lot on being nice guys.
RJ: Yeah, we’re horrible.
AN: Yes, we’re so bad! No.
JG: I hope there will be things that we don’t know about yet as well. Good things will happen if you work hard.
AN: But how do you think good things will happen to us?
JG: Because we’re going to work hard!
AN: Oh!
JG: You’ll see.
AN: I’ll see.
RoD: So Johan’s gonna work hard and you’re just going to watch.
AN: (grinning widely) He’ll work and I will be hard.
(everyone laughs)
RoD: (laughing) I will totally put that into the interview.
AN: Yeah, you definitely should. (grinning)
JG: That sums it up. End of discussion. (laughs)

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