Nathan J. Biggs (vocals) and Robin Sjunnesson (guitar) from Sonic Syndicate
After releasing a new album, the Swedish metal band SONIC SYNDICATE came to Russia to play an awesome show. We had an interview with Nathan J. Biggs and Robin Sjunnesson the day before concert, so you can check it up right here!
Reflections of Darkness [RoD]: Are you planning something new? You have just released the album, I understand this feeling, but what about new music videos, new singles, or something else?
Robin Sjunnesson [RS]: We are releasing some new music video today, actually. We will release it tonight, 10 o’clock Swedish time, I think it’s 11 o’clock Russian time. We got a new single coming out that we are going to tour with. We start our tour tomorrow in Moscow and then Saint-Petersburg and will do full a European tour together with AMARANTHE. After that, we are going to record another video and release another single. We are just having the best time ever and this stuff happens all the time. We’ve just been to the studio again, recorded some exclusive Spotify stuff. You know, it’s like constantly work and I love that. We usually don’t like being stressed, but if we are stressed for the band, then it’s nice. It’s a different kind of stress.
Nathan J. Biggs [NJB]: You know, it’s not like you got stuff to do at work. The band is something that you’ve created, that you care so much about, so, you know, you got some responsibility to do for it. It can be something little, it could be a photoshoot, it could be doing an interview, it could be doing a music video, it could be going back into the studio. But every single bit of effort and energy you’re putting into it, it’s for you. It’s like you’re giving back to yourself. It just feels awesome, just to build and build, and just keep doing what you love.
RoD: So, you are going to release your new video tonight. Could you tell me if it is hard to make a video nowadays?
RS: I guess, in 30 years, it’s been easier to make a video, because there is a lot of new technology. It is not as advanced as it used to be, in a way.
NJB: It used to be, and it is still is, that cameras cost thousands and tens of thousands of dollars, to buy. And to make a music video you have to have the money or contacts to rent one or you have to own one. Well, you know, now technology is becoming so much more available. It’s a lot easier to rent these cameras. And, you know, people are coming out straight from university, and they quickly get access to all the software now. That’s bad as well, because you see a lot of crap music videos coming out, but at the same time it’s opening up the platform. The people who got talent and who got an eye for it, they don’t have to be a fucking millionaire to make a video.
RoD: As for ideas… is it hard to come up with an idea to make a video?
RS: He is usually the brain behind the videos. He is a singer, he knows that shit.
NJB: I like, I enjoy doing it. I did media at university. So, it’s always been a passion of mine. I always thought that if I wasn’t in a band, I’d like to be an aide to a music video director or a horror movie director, because I really love horror movies.
RS: I think it goes hand in hand with the lyrics, because I’m writing the lyrics; so, you come up with… you picture stories in your head. And I don’t know about you, when I’m reading lyrics or writing them, or listening to a song, hearing the lyrics, I kind of, I kind of imagine a music video in my head. Fair enough, when we make one, it might not exactly how it was in my head, but the point is to get across the story or the emotion in some way and translate to the video.
RoD: Could you tell me please which elements should be the best in the video [comment: for the song ‘Confessions’] for I like it very much.
RoD: Please tell about changes in the band. I am talking about members: will it cause some changes in sound in the future? And please tell us about the changes in the sound now.
RS: Michel is a base player. He is new to the band, this is his first album and of course, because he’s new, he has to bring his ideas in his sort of writing. Of course, it’s going to change the sound, but also, for your first album, we just want to have fun writing it. And we had a lot of fun writing and this song was a lot of fun to write. It does bring some sort of change, but it’s not a major thing. You get what I mean? I would not say that we lost something because someone left the band or because he fired someone, you get what I mean?
NJB: I think it’s been a long time and I guess we’ve been steering the ship of the style of band since 2009-10.
RS: You and me, you mean?
NJB: Yeah. So we’ve always tried to grow as song-writers and like as if we were music fans or write what we enjoy listening to or what we enjoyed playing. That’s the main thing. So, I think with this new album, it’s all about how kind of we are feeling right now, in a very positive place. We got another brother as our member Misha. So, it’s all very fun and positive that we are even though the songs are kind of darker. Yeah, regards to the style.
RS: I think we just have to keep writing the best music that we can and we have wrote a lot of metal; we have contributed a lot to this melodic death metal scene and this core scene. And we are really proud of what we’ve done. We had a lot of fun doing it and you know we will always have elements of this music, since it’s what birth does and this is where we started being in a rock band. But it kind of came to the point where I think we will always be in the shadow of the big guns in that scene like IN FLAMES or SOILWORK. We kind of had two options: we could age and keep fighting, going toe to toe with this bands who are our best friends, trying outlast them before we become the big name in melodic death metal. And yes, it maybe would happen in five or ten years if we did another three albums. But I don’t want to waste my energy doing that. I want to be the very best in what I can do, I want people to day: That’s SONIC SYNDICATE right there! And he enjoy so many different styles of music, like it would be almost a waste of energy only to do small sub-genre. We can include elements of that, but we want to write so much more staff which a lot of bands can’t. So, I think that we really embraced it on our new album. We are kind of done with it. And we will not have anything hold us back. And now I really believe that we can stand up and say: I don’t think that re reinvented the wheel yet, but there is not a lot of bands that sound like this new album. I mean, this sounds individual.
NJB: If you look at reviews and shit, we’ve been mentioned with bands such as U2 and other oldies. And I think that this disc shows that for once we are writing the music that we really love. We write the music that we really want to listen to.
RoD: Just imagine that you are going to talk to a man who has never heard your music. Give a description of your genre and give advice to that man how he can start listening to your music.
RS: I think above all else it’s just good songs and good rock music. At the heart of it I think rock is the genre, metal is a subgenre or rock-n-roll. I would say it’s rock, I’d say it’s modern and it has electronic elements. We are using new technology and we are embracing new sounds. It’s mostly about good hooks and good song writing.
NJB: It’s a rock album with a lot of members.
RoD: Should this man start with you last album or with your old albums?
NJB: New album. Fuck the rest.
RS: As we said earlier. We are proud of what we’ve been doing up into now, but this is some sort of new beginning for us, like ‘Confessions’ - the album that we wanted to write for a long time, but never could. Now we’ve done it and we are proud of it. We have a lot of fun playing live and I think when people are talking about SONIC SYNDICATE I want this album to be what they are thinking about.
RoD: Let’s talk about Russia. What do you know about Russian metal scene?
RS: We are good friends with the band called ILLIDANCE. Tomy Shockwave is the singer.
NJB: During the last tour they played a few shows with us. They are really cool. They are like melodic death/ industrial. I liked them a lot.
RS: They are super nice guys.
NJB: How many years is that?
RS: I don’t know. Sometimes he likes my posts or writes to me if I’m up to something and I write back; so, we do keep in touch.
NJB: Polish, Poland…. Who was that band? That was in Rostov. They have like a CHILDREN OF BODOM song cover. Fuck, what was the name?
RS: I’ll never be able to recall that name…
NJB: It was a band that played really Finnish metal, if you know what I mean. CHILDREN OF BODOM kind of style.
RoD: Was it a kind of melodic death metal? Or…
RS: Melodic death metal, I would say.
RoD: From Rostov, yeah?
RS: They played with us twice in Rostov.
NJB: We took that photo with them outside.
RS: I can’t remember the name, but they are super nice guys. And the drummer came to us and he drummed.
NJB: Speaking of what we know or think about Russian metal, it seem you guys are the heaviest fuck ever!
RoD: We have very rich pagan metal scene. I think you know the band ARKONA?
RoD: They are also from Russia and I don’t know why, but they are very popular in Europe and America.
RS: I’ve seen them in metal magazines like EMP or Metal Hammer.
RoD: In magazines?
RoD: ARKONA is European magazines, wow!
RS: I think it is the same band, maybe I’m wrong, but I think it is the band.
RoD: You know, Russian pagan metal is a very specific genre and I never thought that it will be popular abroad.
RS: Everything has a niche somewhere.
RoD: And speaking of underground in Russia, we have a very rich underground, but as for Sweden, do you have some kickass underground festivals or something like this?
RS: I would not say it is as rich as your underground scene. Because you know, it’s like… it’s almost like angst, angry… people want something to listen to that they don’t have to go to, whatever, big city or something. That’s kind of how metal is born like that. Like friends and bands playing together. I’d say it used to be like that is Stockholm a lot more back in the day, but Stockholm is kind of… I guess it is at the forefront of like... music at the moment. It’s one of the most major cities for music. So, the underground gets left a little bit, I mean, it is not as well supported as it should be.
NJB: At one time in Sweden, there was a lot of small festivals, like one day festivals in little clubs, where I come from. I come from the West coast. But I don’t see anything like that today.
RS: There is some kind of compromise I think. Some of the bigger festivals that we have like Getaway rock or Sweden rock and stuff, they have stages for underground bands and they fully support bands to come and play at those. They pay them well and they look after them well; so, it is kind of a gulf for underground band to play in bigger festivals, and it’s possible for them to do it as well. That’s really cool.
RoD: But there are no small garage festivals.
RS: Maybe there are, but we don’t know about them. Of course, there is stuff going on everywhere, but the underground scene is not as big as it used to be.
RoD: Do you have any hobbies or job except SONIC SYNDICATE?
RS: My hobby is tequila and hockey.
NJB: My hobby is tequila, horror movies and the gym. In that order.
RoD: So, if you go to the gym, then you are not allowed to drink vodka in Russia?
NJB: I think everyone is allowed to some time off. He is doing his protein shakes with vodka. It’s kind of like White Russian, with protein and milk.
RoD: In Russia, we have a band ALCOHOL OFTER SPORTS.
RS: That’s the name of the band?
RoD: Yes, but unfortunately, it’s a rap band; so, I don’t think you’ll like it.
RS: Oh, we like rap. It’s awesome.
NJB: It’s kicking in our headphones right now!
RoD: So, if you like rap or such stuff, you may know the Russian band called LITTLE BIG.
NJB: Little Big? I recognize that. Why do I do that?
RS: Because we probably heard them at some point.
RoD: In fact, they are more popular in Europe than in Russia. That is strange.
RS: That’s happening a lot. I mean, there are bands from Sweden that are super big somewhere, but they are nothing in Sweden. It just happens. You don’t grow big in your own country or it your town at least.
NJB: And the same for us: we’ve got good following in Sweden, but.
RS: Sweden has always been our worse market.
RoD: You know, worldwide, there are a lot of bands that have good material, but they don’t know what to do. How will you advice those bands to be successful?
RS: Give it all! I mean, when we started a band, everybody quit the jobs, I left school, everything… you have to go in full and hard on this.
RoD: You left school?
RS: Yes, I did.
NJB: That’s why he is dumb as fuck!
RS: What the hell?! (laughs) I mean, if you want to do it seriously, you have to do it as full time job in a way. You know, you have to give it all. You need to tour a lot, you have to be seen everywhere.
NJB: And that’s really, really hard.
RS: It is weird because it’s getting more and more easy for you to release your music and get it heard by people, but the market is being flooded and there are so many basics that you have to cover now, like social media and things. Worse, it can be the thing that breaks you or launches you if you’ve been on some social media platform. There is a chance that you’ll never be seen, unless, you put every single fucking day in work, like it can be something little, but you need to push every single fucking day, if you want to do this.
NJB: I mean when we are on tour we are still rehearsing, running news, doing videos or whatever. We are constantly working for the band and that’s how we want it, this is our job. It’s fun, it’s a fun job, but in the beginning you really need to fucking… work.
RS: When you think of this… let’s say a lawyer, trains for eight years or something, practicing and how much job they have to put into their job. I would say that being a band in more work if you want to be successful.
NJB: You don’t just go to work from nine to five, like when you studying, you take it home with you, you’re always studying.
RS: There is no time schedule in a band. Like, when you’re a lawyer, you work nine to five, but then you can fuck off, but in a band you definitely not. You are constantly working, constantly doing stuff.
RoD: So, being in a band is very hard. As for your families, your friends, is it hard to have family when you are all the time on tours? Have friends there in Sweden?
RS: The best thing is if they can understand that you got this disease, and if you understand why they are doing it and support you for it; that’s the only way you can have a fairly decent relationship in your family. From the outside, if somebody looked at my or Robin’s family relationships, they might turn around and say that we have a really shit relationship with our family, because you know we barely see them, but we see them as much as we can. It is the time that you do spend together that’s important. And they are hundred percept are proud of you.
NJB: And all our friends are very supportive as well. Like, we were in Stockholm and we must have 150 of our friends at our show. All our friends are very supportive and they have always been. Yes, we don’t see them that much, but when we do we have really good time. It’s almost like they are supporting us.
RS: It’s tough and they have to be supportive of what you do. Let’s say we have friends and we’ve gone on tour six months of the year and we barely have a phone call at that time. Then we are going to meet at a pub, have a drink, have a vodka, and it’s going to be exactly the same as when we left off. We just going to have a great time. It’s going to be like “How is it going?” or stuff. You have to have a special connection with the people that you love around you.
RoD: I think we are running out of time.
RS: No, more questions, more questions! Just kidding.
RoD: I was really happy to meet you. I hope I’ll meet you again. If you’d like to tell us something else, I’ll be really happy.
RS: We are releasing new music video today, we are going on full tour in Europe, together with AMARANTHE and SMASHED TO PIECES. And from that tour we will just keep going.
NJB: We are already booking stuff for the next year.
RS: Yeah, we have some stuff booked for next year. We are going to the States now; definitely going back to Russia. Maybe for a longer tour, like we said earlier. We want to do a proper tour again in Russia. We are not only going Saint-Petersburg and Moscow. It’s gonna be… what’s that? Full throttle?
RoD: All right, so now that you are in Russia, drink a lot of vodka and have a good time. Thank you, guys.
RS: Thank you!
Interview: Andrey “MadViy” Matvienko. Special thanks to Tever for written text.
Pictures by Ekaterina Yakyamseva