Richard Sjunnesson (vocals) and Karin Axelsson (bass and vocals) of Sonic Syndicate
I had the pleasure of doing an interview with Richard Sjunnesson (vocals) and Karin Axelsson (bass and vocals) from the Swedish band SONIC SYNDICATE at this year’s Hultsfreds festival.
Reflections of Darkness (RoD): How would you like to introduce your band for those who have not heard about it before?
Richard: SONIC SYNDICATE is a band you might rather experience live than listen to on a record, you could say that it’s our trademark.
Karin: SONIC SYNDICATE is a modern Swedish metal band.
RoD: How did you come up with the name SONIC SYNDICATE, is there a story behind it?
Richard: It was something of a coincidence really; I and my cousin Robin were playing with words, we had a paper with a lot of words that we had written down. We wanted a unique and neutral name that did perhaps not mean a lot, a name that just rolled well and sounded good. Then I said that I wanted Sonic in the name and Robin said that he wanted Syndicate and we just looked at each other - there it was and that is the way it happened.
RoD: Could you name some bands that have influenced you musically?
Richard: We all listen to a lot of different bands and music
Karin: I would like to say that everything and every one of the bands we’ve been out on tour with always gives you something. For example, I might listen to a band that I hate an then it gives me something - I take something with me from that experience. It’s a great mix of what you experience and what you listen to and then we blend what every one of us likes and it becomes our music.
Richard: I have always listened to In Flames.
Karin: I think we all have that in common.
RoD: Are there any band that has been especially fun to tour with?
Karin: Most bands have been very fun to tour together with but I like the tour with Nightwish best, it was perhaps the tour which was the most fun.
Richard: Deathstars are my personally favourite, that tour was completely crazy!
Karin: Yeah it was like we kind of did everything together on that tour.
Richard: Yeah I had damn fun on that tour!
RoD: Are there any bands you would like to tour with?
Karin: Papa Roach
Karin: There are probably a lot of bands that would be fun to tour with that you don’t think about at the moment
RoD: What or whom inspires you when you write the lyrics/music?
Richard: When I write lyrics, I get inspiration from life in general. It’s almost like a diary for me and lately I have written a lot about world themes, about what is about to happen in the world and stuff like that or it’s my point of view about what is going on. It is a little autobiographical; if something happens in my life then I usually write it down in lyrics.
Karin: But it’s a little cryptic, more like we can understand what is happening but not just anyone.
Richard: Otherwise it gets a little too personal and then I usually write it in a another way, but if fans come and ask me “this song is about this and that” then I tell them that of course the song is about that, because it’s what they felt the song was about for them and I think that is important.
RoD: What motivates you to keep working with music?
Karin: Because I get to stand on stage and it’s so much fun to do this… I am prepared to work really, really hard to stand those 30 minutes on stage. It’s still so much fun and as long as it’s like that then we are going to work as hard as possible.
Richard: We have so damn fun together, we are like a closely united family and we have so much fun when we are out touring down in Europe and in the US. I believe that the thing that keeps us moving is that we like each other this much and it’s something that brings the music, the music that we really think is good.
RoD: What can you tell me about your latest record “Love and other disasters”?
Richard: On our second record we got some criticism regarding that the songs sounded too much the same and stuff like that. They were perhaps cast in the same mould and to the untrained ear it sounded a lot the same with the song structure and so on. On the latest record we tried to be more diplomatic when it came to writing the songs…
Karin: We wrote more together than we had done before, now really everyone of us has been part of writing all the songs and that was not the way we worked on the record before when it was one or two of us who wrote the most. You get more variation when suddenly six people are writing together and it is so much more fun!
Richard: Yes and also we wanted more perspective on the material and we wanted it to be more dynamic on the record.
Karin: Yes, it is more our and everyone’s record.
Richard: Yes, exactly.
RoD: What has been a major source of inspiration?
Richard: I don’t know but when we wrote the songs on the record we were touring a lot so I would say its life on tour…
Karin: Experiences we got the year before put us in the mood to write and make a new record because we had had the time to do a lot of stuff and were ready.
RoD: Everything you experience makes you develop and move forward…
Richard and Karin: Yeah.
Richard: Yeah, working on the album, before, we would just sit down and write in the rehearsal room. This time, we were out on tour and wrote there and then we got a whole new angle of approach.
RoD: Are there any songs on the album which are favourites right now, a song you really look forward to do live?
Richard: My favourite is ‘Red eyed friend’.
Karin: Ah I was going to say the same song…
Richard: I always get such a little extra kick from that when we do it live!
Karin: Yes it’s very fun to play live. I think it is one of the harder songs, it is fun to play stuff that is fun to move to and this song really hits you in the face.
Richard: Yes that song has a little bit of everything, it’s a good representation of how the album is… there are calmer parts, much harder parts and it feels like a good candidate to represent the album.
RoD: Do the fans in different parts of the world treat you differently?
Richard: Ah this is something we experienced last weekend *laughs* we did a small tour… we went down first to the Czech Republic on Friday and then to Germany on Saturday - Germany is like our second home (since the company is there) so things are going really well for us in Germany! Then on Sunday we played in Slovenia and we had only played there one time before so it really was a varied small tour.
Karin: It went from being the best in the world to “who the fuck are you” it was pretty exciting to do this on only three days, but it was fun! Germany is the only place where I feel like I don’t have to worry; everything is going to be fine and is most of the time.
Richard: In Germany, the audience has already converted, it is almost more fun to play in the countries where you have to work extra hard to win the audience.
Karin: When you don’t really know how it turns out to be.
Karin: It makes you a little nervous because even when there are a lot of people there but you don’t know if they are there to see you…
RoD: Are there any place in the world where you would love to play?
Richard: Australia, Japan...
Karin: Yeah exactly, those countries where you have never been before because you want to know what it’s like over there and in east Europe where we have never been either.
Richard: Like Poland…
Karin: I have heard so many stories from other bands that have been there and they are like “Oh you really must go there” and especially Japan because it’s cool to have been there too. I also want to go back to the US.
Richard: Yes the US was very nice, it’s not as pleasant to tour there as it is to tour in Europe but it is an experience…
Karin: It was very dirty there, you were happy if you got to take a shower once a week!
RoD: What are some of the good and some of the bad things about touring?
Karin: If you have a tour bus then I don’t think there is that much to bother me at all because on a tour bus you have a bed, you have a toilet and a kitchen. You live with a bunch of people that you probably like a lot. But if you don’t have a tour bus then I can sometimes find it hard, if you have long distances to drive like we did when we were in Czech Republic, Germany and Slovenia when we drove on our own and then it’s not that glamorous. But you think it’s worth it because you get to do what you think is the most fun.
Richard: All of us are really into touring. You don’t really have a longing to go home when you are out on tour, you just want more and more so it’s hard to point out the bad things with touring. But maybe when it comes to toilets and showers and stuff like that.
Karin: Yeah or when it is a lot of stress and maybe you don’t have the time to do anything else or the weather can hinder you from doing things but other than that you hang out with these people when you’re back home after the tour so…
Rickard: It’s cool to wake up in a new city everyday and go out as a tourist!
Karin: Yeah, I find it exciting to wake up and check in the passport to see what city I’m in.
Richard: It’s a pretty surreal feeling…
RoD: Do you have the energy to go out and tour the city before a show?
Karin: Yeah if there is time then I love to go out and be a tourist, like when we were in Kiruna a while ago on a festival. We went to the mine the day after. We went early in the morning all of us and then we went straight to the Peace and Love festival in Borlänge. So if there is time then I think it is really fun to see more than just the stage!
Richard: Yeah, there are bands that go on tour all the time but they only see the inside of the tour bus and that is not the way I want it.
Karin: And you can’t say that you have been in the US, for example, because have you really been there if you were only in the tour bus?!
Karin: No fun with that.
Richard: You have to make it into something more.
RoD: Do you have any memorable festival stories to share?
Karin: It’s hard because you are on so many festivals… I think festivals are fun because you get to meet all these people, both fans and other bands, bands you like to listen to or just get to know and so on, it is fun to just run into people there.
Richard: Festivals become like a forum for all the bands that you almost have toured with and you usually meet them there.
Karin: Yeah and you meet people you have not seen in a couple of years and then suddenly you meet them and that is so much fun! Festivals are fun. There is so much happening that you never know how it will turn out and there is more excitement.
Richard: I can’t come up with anything now, it’s always like this when you sit down and really try to remember…
Karin: Most of those memories are probably involved with alcohol and they do not fit anywhere *everyone laughs*
RoD: Are there any bands you plan on seeing here at the festival?
Richard: Well since we are playing at almost the same time as The Killers I plan on going there to listen to them directly after we have finished our set.
Karin: I have no plans…
Richard: We saw Raubtier when we came.
RoD: Did you like it?
Richard: Yeah they were awesome.
Karin: I did not get in, I stood in the doorway and saw nothing *laughs* but I hear some of it anyway.
RoD: What does music mean to you?
Richard: Since it is our income it’s everything…
Karin: It’s our life more or less.
Karin: It is to me and I would like to say that it has always been that important to me.
Rickard: Music has always been a big factor in our life.
Karin: Without the music then I don’t know what I would do, if I didn’t get to express myself through music; that is what is the most important for me.
RoD: When you listen to music, what is the most important thing for you, I mean do you listen and read the lyrics or just enjoy the instrumental part or kind of take it all in at once?
Richard: I listen a lot to the lyrics; I usually sit down and listen to an album with the booklet in my hands to read the lyrics and so on. For me bad lyrics can make a good song bad and the opposite, since I write lyrics myself then the lyrics are very important.
Karin: I actually do the same as Richard, of course the music can’t be too bad but you can’t listen to a song that is about whatever just because the guitars are good.
Richard: No the song must have some kind of substance.
Karin: The lyrics must be good or about something you can stand up for liking.
RoD: You have done a couple of music videos, what do you have to say about it?
Richard: The Company tells you that you are going to do a music video; you go where they want you to go and then they have some kind of idea about how to make the video.
Karin: Or they don’t have an idea and then you can come up with one.
Karin: Then you don’t know how it will turn out in the end but I think it’s more fun to do a music video than to record an album.
Richard: Yes it’s fun to do a music video but it would be even more fun if we had a larger budget than we have had for our music videos so far.
Karin: Yeah it’s a little hard because you can’t come up with some ideas because you realize that it will cost way too much money.
RoD: But you are involved in the process?
Karin: Yeah we have come up with the ideas for most of them ourselves.
Richard: But also we have had a really good idea for a video that we had spoken about to the company but then it wasn’t very economical and well…
Karin: Plan B *laughs*
RoD: Do you think that your earlier music videos have reflected the songs on a good way? *laughs*
Richard: Yes and no, the first two music videos we did were mostly introduction videos to show the band and the ones for the new album…um…I don’t know… (Karin laughs) One of them became some life style. That song is about if you live in the high style life then you got so much more to lose and the video shows a lot of high style life but it should have been more ironic than it is…
Karin: Yeah it is a little too serious in the video for you to understand what we really mean.
Richard: It looks like we just show off in Lamborghinis and have a lot of cool women around us all the time but then the thing is that it should be some ironic against that whole idea but perhaps that is never clear (both laugh).
Karin: When you have not done that many music videos then you just learn from your mistakes when you see the video for yourself.
RoD: Are there any music video directors that you really like and would love to work with?
Richard: Yeah Peter Jackson! *laughs*
Karin: The man who makes the Deathstars videos, they always have really cool music videos!
RoD: Oh what is his name…?
Richard Yeah what is his name…
Karin: I don’t remember
RoD: I will check it up! [Comment: The name is Ivan Colic]
Karin: Anyway they do very good music videos.
Richard: Yeah they are really cool!
RoD: Is it hard to visually see how a lyric will be turned into a music video?
Richard: Since we really haven’t made the music videos directly following the lyrics when I have written the lyrics, I might have had an idea about how the music video would be like but this far it has not become reality. It’s probably not hard but it has not happened yet.
RoD: But there are plans?
Richard and Karin: Yeah!
RoD: If you were hit by a car and you’re lying on the ground dying - but you got to sing one song that people would remember you for, a song that would represent you, which song would that be?
Karin: Oh that is the hardest question in the whole world…
Richard: ‘Sad but true’ by Metallica, just laying there and giving the finger to the whole world *laughs*
Karin: ‘It’s my life’…
Karin: I don’t know…
Richard: I would choose something with Metallica because it would have to symbolize my life pretty good
Karin: I think that I would choose something with Thåström because he is one of my biggest idols.
Richard: Ah I say Metallica ‘Sad but true’ it’s obvious!
RoD: Do you have any message for your fans?
Karin: Yeah, they do a great job!
Richard: Yeah if we are to make a good job then you better do that as well! *laughs*
Karin: Come and see us live, just come and have fun with us when we play live!
Thanks to Richard Sjunnesson and Karin Axelsson for taking the time to do this interview! For more information about SONIC SYNDICATE please visit http://www.sonicsyndicate.com/ and www.myspace.com/sonicsyndicate.
Pictures by Martina Törnemyr