Styrbjörn Wahlquist: "Heavy Load will probably be playing some shows next year! It will be Ragne (Wahlquist), myself, Torbjörn Ragnesjö on bass and Eddy Malm"
Born Again made their way to Trveheim Festival in Germany to catch up with the Swedish- Greek powerhouse that is Heathens From The North. As a bonus, as well as Eddy Malm, Heavy Load drummer Styrbjörn Wahlquist was in attendance too!
Louise: Thank you, first of all, for agreeing to meet with us. This is your third festival appearance as Heathens From The North, does it all still feel quite new or is it becoming normal now?
Manolis Karazeris: On the side of the musicians who take part in it, it's like living a dream everyday. Actually, it wasn't even a dream. You can't dream that you will play with original members of Heavy Load or play their songs one day. On our side, we just try to realise what happened to us, and at this level, we are trying to swallow the whole experience. He (Eddy) is another part...
Eddy Malm: I'm not quite used to it yet, I can't say that I am, but I'm getting there.
Louise: I've seen you playing twice together now and you seem to get along like old friends on stage, but from the beginning how did this start? How was the contact formed between yourselves?
Manolis: Actually, a friend of mine helped me get in contact with Eddy- Bart Gabriel, from Gabriel Management. My previous band Battleroar is named after the lyrics in 'Singing Swords'; “I loved the battleroar”. When I played with Battleroar at the anniversary edition of Up The Hammers with Vaggelis Krouskas (who's singing now with Heathens From The North), we played the song 'Singing Swords' as an honour to Heavy Load for giving us the inspiration for the name
I saw the reaction from the crowd when we played the song, and everyone was singing every lyric, I had goosebumps. I thought since they don't play, why don't we try to motivate them, let's form a band, only with people who love the band to death. Let's try to make them see what they are losing, there are lot of people out there who love the band, and they don't get what they want. Why? So we said, OK, we will do it and we will try to motivate them. Eddy came in the middle of this. When we started, it wasn't our plan to have him involved. I asked him, having no hopes, and he said yes! What else can you ask for in life?
Louise: Eddy, how did that feel to get contact from people who are so incredibly passionate about your music?
Eddy: It feels like an honour, definitely, and also surprising still after thirty years of not doing anything. Then all of a sudden, this happens. When you are out there playing, and all the people in front of you know the lyrics, you realise you actually have made something in the past. And that is amazing.
Louise: The show in Athens was so magical and you looked so happy on stage. I wanted to ask how it was for you all?
Manolis: For us, we still cannot understand what's going on, but Eddy finally gets the recognition that he deserves and to understand how people love their music. But for us as musicians, it's like playing in a dream team, you finally see the response that big bands get. OK, I know I play in other bands, and we have people who like our music, but it was never so passionate. It's like taking a small part in it and living the dream on the other side.
Louise: And you were there Styrbjörn (Wahlquist) in Athens…
Styrbjörn Wahlquist: Yes, it was very special. I was in Athens before as well, at the rehearsals, and we jammed a bit. It didn't go so well, I couldn't remember the songs. When I heard those songs at rehearsals, it was fantastic because I hadn't heard them in years. I never play my old records because at the time we worked so intensely on them that we couldn't listen to them afterwards.
Louise: Oh really! Can you still not play them now?
Styrbjörn: Now it's very different, it's been thirty years. But when I heard those songs again, I thought that these are really good songs (laughs), it sounds great!
Eddy: Did we actually make these? (laughs)
Styrbjörn: It was very special, I was very moved. When I saw the concert, it got even worse, I felt a strong yearning to play again, and I wanted to go on stage and play again. I felt like my old self, as if thirty years hadn't passed. But Heavy Load haven't been on stage since 1985. It's been 32 years but it feels like three years or something.
Louise: Had either of you had any of those feelings in the interim of really wanting to get back on stage or was it only when Heathens From The North surfaced?
Eddy: I’ve had an urge more or less, I had been doing different things back and forth with different people, but then we really took the step.
Louise: And speaking of, you recently started performing with your own solo project, how does that compare to playing Heavy Load material on stage?
Eddy: It's a completely different thing because it's not Heavy Load, and the two are special in their own ways, so I don't want them to be compared to each other, it's a separate thing. It's still music and it's still heavy metal, but it's a different thing.
Louise: So from each of your perspectives, how does feel to part this collective where there's original musicians and long term fans paying tribute?
Manolis: Actually, the only reason we did this tribute was to make the band understand how much people love their music, there was nothing else behind it, we did the same with Cirith Ungol. I think it's a big honour for a band, to see that there is a group of five people who dedicate their life to make a band and play your songs. I wanted them to see how much we love them, and this was the only way to make them notice it. All of them told us that seeing us play was really emotional for them. Before even Battleroar, our bassist Theodoris told me, “we should make a Heavy Load tribute band”.
Styrbjörn: They played with such great passion.
Eddy: And I said “Yes” the moment he asked me. I was feeling “wow, this is amazing, I can't say no to this”, I had to do it. And I don't regret it, not for a second.
Louise: Can you tell us about the future for both Heathens From The North and Heavy Load?
Manolis: I think we reached our goal, so this is stopping. Maybe there will be one more show, but it will be the last, we did what we had to do.
Louise: And Heavy Load?
Styrbjörn: We collect stamps and listen to country and western music (laughs). We are working on the re-releases of our old albums. We have the bonus tracks and Stronger Than Evil will come out in October/November with six bonus tracks, a gatefold cover and about fifty pictures that have never been published before. There will be a thick booklet with pictures and stories about the songs, and what we thought about them. The label will be No Remorse, it's a joint venture between them and mine and Ragne’s own label Thunderload Records. There will be both a CD version and vinyl, as well as some limited edition stuff. As far a concert goes...you really want to know?
Louise: Yes, definitely!
Styrbjörn: Over the last decades we have had a lot of offers from festivals, and nothing is signed yet, but we will probably be playing some concerts next year! Very few concerts, but it will happen, I hope...
Louise: Wow, that's incredible news- very exciting! So, it'll be you two (Styrbjörn and Eddy) and who else?
Styrbjörn: It will be Ragne (Wahlquist), myself, Torbjörn Ragnesjö on bass and Eddy will sing on some of the songs.
Eddy: It would be like I am with Heathens. I can't put too much of my time into this; I have other things that take my time, so I can't put my whole energy into it.
Styrbjörn: And we will probably have another guy playing guitar as well in the band. Perhaps four of five times Eddy will sing on stage. Something like that, things will go crazy as always.
Michelle (Godding): Things never go to plan...
Louise: And this will happen next year?
Styrbjörn: Yeah, we think that that might happen. There is a possibility….
Louise: You know that people will go absolutely crazy for that. How is it to get that response from younger fans who weren't around when Heavy Load was in its prime?
Eddy: It's amazing because you can't really understand how it works. I mean they weren't even born when we played, still they know every word, every lyric and they know who you are. You have to wonder, how did they do that? They must be real Heavy Load Fans, or real Heavy Metal fans that really dig deep into what was there before the bands they listen to today. They really dig deep, they find Heavy Load, what's Heavy Load? They search, they find on youtube or something, they can hear it and think “wow this is amazing”. Then they take it and do everything to find it and they love it, which is amazing. But then of course it spreads; when the 'diggers' find it, they start spreading it to their friends, and it starts spreading even more, and then people find out there was a band called Heavy Load, thirty years ago, or twenty years ago.
Michelle: Did you name the band after the Free song 'Heavy Load'?
Styrbjörn: (smiles) No we didn't, the reason behind the name is that we had so many things, speakers, we had such a big show, so we called ourselves 'Heavy Load'. Already from our first concert we had eight Marshall stacks on stage, a big drum kit, a riser, a light show. During the '80s from '81 to '85 we had the biggest show in Sweden; we had four tonnes of stuff with us. The only bigger act was actually Abba.
Michelle: She (Louise) loves Abba!
Styrbjörn: Oh really? I live on the same street as Björn, we sometimes see each other at the grocery store.
Louise: That's two different ends of the scale musically! You had Phil Lynott play on the track Free. How much of an influence was he?
Eddy: I was very influenced by Phil, he was a great idol of mine, but I had a lot of influences in those days. I love Eric Clapton, that's why I started playing guitar. The only thing I could play was solo, in the beginning.
Styrbjörn: I always liked Phil's lyrics, he was a great poet and I'm very much into lyrics. I don't think he's had enough credit for his lyrics, they are very special.
Michelle: He actually brought out a couple of books of poetry.
Styrbjörn: Oh yes, I remember, when he was in the studio I heard that he had published a poetry collection, and I tried to find out where to buy it.
Louise: Have your musical preferences changed much since Heavy Load was active?
Eddy: I don't think so; they have widened, yes, but not changed.
Styrbjörn: Not so much for me either, I always liked a lot of different styles. Every time I write music, it turns out to be Heavy Metal, but I like classical music and also Baroque music from the 17th century and so on. I listen to some jazz stuff as well, I'm not a jazz fan, but some songs are quite great. There are very good drummers in the old Big Band stuff; Gene Krupa and so on. It's not my music but I enjoy it. Sometimes when I do a solo I feel like it could be a Gene Krupa thing, a Buddy Rich thing or an Ian Paice thing.
Louise: Both of you still listen to a lot of Heavy Metal?
Styrbjörn: Mostly, on my behalf, it's the old bands; Dio, Deep Purple, Zeppelin and Thin Lizzy. What about you (Eddy)?
Eddy: Classic metal...
Styrbjörn: I think that with the modern bands, the sentiment isn't there. It's not spontaneous, the magic is not there, it's polished away.
Louise: Well I think that’s everything from me. Thank you so much, this has been really interesting and we know that your fans are going to be very, very excited to hear the exclusie Heavy Load news!!
|Eddy Malm, Styrbjörn Wahlquist and Manolis Karazeris at Trveheim Festival.|
Look out for a Heavy Load festival announcement soon...we can't wait!
Photo: M Godding