AN INTERVIEW WITH JANNE STARK OF OVERDRIVE

Swedish metallers Overdrive are one of their countries longest running traditional metal bands.  In their third decade the band have produced arguably their best album to date in ‘Angelmaker’.  We caught up with guitarist Janne Stark to discuss the albums creation and more.

Janne congratulations on the cracking new Overdrive album ‘Angelmaker’, it’s like the sonic equivalent of a knuckle duster clad fist to the face!
I take that as a compliment ;-). Thanks!

For a band with a pedigree dating back over 20 years you guys certainly don’t sound tired or jaded by traditional metal.  Is the passion still as strong as ever?
-Thanks again! Yes, I think the addition of Per kind of revitalized the band when we re-united. But also, I’d say, I still have the same huge passion for traditional metal and playing guitar as I had when I was 18. It still hasn’t faded, it’s actually stronger than ever! We also still share that passion within the band.

After the return ‘Let The Metal Do The Talking’ and now with ‘Angelmaker’ you are pumping out some of the most energised metal around.  What is the secret to the bands enthusiasm and high performance levels?
It’s quite simple – We love to play! We split in 1985 and it’s just like we picked up where we left off with the same energy we had back in the 80s. Come to think of it, I think we’ve actually got more of it now. I think we just haven’t realized we’ve become older (so, please don’t tell us!). I also think one thing is we try to keep fit. We fortunately haven’t become couch potatoes, so we do have the energy to give it all we’ve got on stage, plus we’ve always had a great time while we’re there.

I believe the band took a different approach to creating the album this time around, can you tell us more about the process you took and what do you feel where the advantages of this approach?
The last album was kind of a “comeback” where we sort of played it safe by recording some stuff we wrote back in the 80s, but never released. Half the material was new and half “old”. I think the fact that people couldn’t separate the old from the new kinda gave us the confidence we needed to make an all-new and fresh album. We also wrote a lot more songs than we needed, over 25 in total. We then sat down and picked out 18 of these to record. Once they were recorded and mixed we used a listening panel of various people (fans, DJs, musicians etc) to help us select which 12 songs to use.

Is this an approach you will use again?
Yes, definitely. It was a great help to get an outside view. You get a sort of tunnel vision when you’re so involved. It’s very helpful to let people who have never heard the songs before, come in with fresh ears and help you get a “first impression” of the material and look at it from a different angle.

The production of the album is very good, clear, powerful and punchy, something some of the big boys like Maiden could learn from. Do you need a big budget to sound like this or is the key in experience?
Thanks! Big budget?! Hahahahahaha. This album was actually recorded with our smallest budget ever! Since too many people download albums, sales go down and the labels don’t dare give you any advances anymore, so you need to keep a very very tight budget. Fortunately most of us have our own studios where we can record, which saves a lot of money. Instead we used the money to have Pelle Saether mix the album in his Underground Studios, which is a great studio. If you put some time and effort into getting a great and consistent basic sound and get someone who really knows sound to mix it, you can do wonders with a small budget.

Was there anything the band did differently this time around in terms of production/mix etc?
Yes, this time I kinda took control of the production, meaning I was in charge of making sure everything got recorded and finished in time, compiled and checked all recordings, quality checked, handled the budget, booked the studio, sat in while mixing etc. The last album was mixed by Johan Blomström (who recorded the drums on this one), while Pelle Saether mixed this one. Johan is great, but Pelle has a different approach, which worked great for this album.

There is a nice mix of styles that fall under the ‘trad metal’ banner, like Priest and Accept you aren’t afraid to move in different areas yet still manage to retain a signature sound.  Is this simply a case of different writers in the band getting their ideas heard or is it more planned than that?
Different people contributing to the writing definitely plays a big part in it. Kenth is more influenced by old Maiden, which you can hear on “Under The Influence”, I’m into the old seventies stuff as well as vintage Priest which you may hear on “It’s a Thriller”. We all have our different approaches, which definitely adds different musical textures to the broth.

There is a perhaps surprising cover of Abba vocalist Frida’s ‘I Know There’s Something Going On’, but as it was penned by Russ Ballard well known for writing some of the biggest rock hits its maybe not such a surprise.  When did you decide to cover the track and was your arrangement quite easy to conceive?
It just came up at a band meeting. Why don’t we record a cover? We’ve never done that before. We didn’t wanna do any metal cover, but something we could metalize. We gave it a week to come up with songs that may work in a metal version and when Kenta suggested “I Know…” we all were like – Yeah! That would work. I pretty much came up with the arrangement on the spot. Figured it would be a bit heavier if I detuned it, too, so I did. I even received a thanks mail from Russ Ballard who said he loved our metallic version and offered to buy me a curry whenever I came to the UK. I take that as a good sign!

‘See The Light’ you wrote for the Scorpions but the band didn’t use it.  How did you end up in a position where you were writing songs for the German rockers and do you know why they rejected it as hearing a lot of their recent output they should have used it! 
Mikael Nord Andersson is an old and close friend of mine. Two years ago we recorded an album together with the band BALLS and we’ve been writing a lot of stuff together. When he got the job to produce the new Scorpions he called me and asked if I would be into writing and co-writing some stuff with him. No guarantees or anything. So I wrote around 20 songs/riffs, which I sent him. One was “See The Light”. Apparently they did like it, but thought it sounded a bit too much Iron Maiden (?). Anyway, I figured it was too good to waste so we decided to use it. Noone’s said it sounds like Maiden so far 😉

Yourself and Kjell Jacobsson form the dual guitar attack of Overdrive.  How do you go about making the double guitars work in the band and what happens when it comes to solo duties?
In the old days we rehearsed 2-3 times a week and then we spent a lot of time working out the stuff together. Today we work a lot separately and bring it to the table more or less as finished songs with all guitar parts more or less arranged and ready. We always write the songs for two guitars anyway, with the other player in mind. We also now take the solo in the song we write ourselves and you mostly compose the solo part to fit your own style. I took most of the solos on Per’s and Kenth’s songs this time around. We have no real pride when it comes to soloing. Also for the harmonies on the album it’s usually the composer that records both harmonies. Then we, of course, play one each live.

Can you tell us what gear you used on the album and what dictated what guitar/amp were used on different tracks?
I actually recorded all the rhythm guitars on the album. I used my Hughes & Kettner Trilogy head and a Hughes & Kettner 4×12 with V30s with a THD Hotplate between the head and the cab. It enables you to turn up the amp and get the tubes glowing without the level being unbearable. I actually used this on all songs. In some songs I also used my Orange Tiny Terror head through the same Hotplate and cab, just to get an extra touch to the sound. I recorded one guitar left and one right. I never used the same guitar on both sides though. I don’t remember exactly now where I used which one, but in almost all songs I used my Gibson Les Paul with True Temperament fretting in one channel and my Gibson Explorer 76 Re-issue in the other. I also used my Epiphone Strat with True Temperament on some solos.

The guitars sound very pure and unaffected, with only a wah or the odd delay heard, was it a case of “less is more” for ‘Angelmaker’?
Yes, I guess you could say that. I do like effects sometimes, but on these songs they didn’t really call for it. What I did to get some extra spice on the solos was I used my Xotic Effects BB-Preamp as an extra push. I however have the distortion set to zero, it just gives the perfect sustain push anyway. I also used my Dunlop Cry Baby wah wah in some songs. In “The Wavebreaker” I actually also used my Sonic Groove Vibe, which is a great Univibe replica built by an American guy called The Toad. He builds some killer pedals! In the mix we just added some room delay, but not too much.

Do you have any particular favourites on the album and if so why?
That actually changes over time, but I’m still very fond of “Cold Blood Chaser” and “See The Light”.

I believe the band have already done a gig with Pretty Maids but are there more shows being lined up?
In a couple of weeks we will have a release party in Karlshamn and we have a few more lined up, but it’s actually not that many. It seems we missed the festival season as the album was released too late for this. Just call us we’re available *wink* *wink*

For readers of rock magazines your name will be quite familiar for not only fans of Overdrive but also for being a rock journalist.  Can you tell us who have been the most interesting artists you have interviewed over time (and why) and also who was the biggest nightmare?
Oh, there’s a lot of interesting ones I’ve talked to. One who’s always fun talking to is Ted Nugent. He’s quite an entertainer. Leslie West (Mountain) is a really nice guy. On the other hand Michael Schenker can be great one time and very very difficult the next time.

The recent passings of Gary Moore, Phil Kennemore and Ronnie James Dio have hit the rock community hard.  How have these recent deaths affected you as a music fan?
Of course! I was the most shocked by Gary’s passing as it came as a complete shock! I’ve interviewed Gary, and he was a very nice person. Dio as well, such an awesome personality! Things like this makes you realize you need to get out there and seize the day while you can!

You are never one to sit still, what else do you have lined up in 2011?
Haha, a lot of stuff indeed! I’m currently involved in a new power-trio that I’m really into. We’re called Zoom Club and the band also features Peter Hermansson (220 Volt/Talisman/Norum) on drums and vocals plus bass player Totte Wallgren (Kee Marcello/Fergie Fredricksen). We play riff oriented 70s-influenced hard rock. We’re also working on a new Constancia album, planned to be ready later this year. We’ve started talking about a new Locomotive Breath album, but just talking so far. I’m also working on my third encyclopedia of Swedish Hard Rock & Heavy Metal, set to be ready later this year. We also have a vinyl Overdrive release that will hit the streets in March. It will contain the 6 unreleased tracks from this recording, plus 3 tracks from the album. The title will be “The Angelmaker’s Daughter”. It will be a limited coloured release in 300 copies. I have done and will do some guest spots on albums by, for instance, Thalamus plus some others. Besides this I’m writing for FUZZ magazine, metalcentral.net and metalcovenant.com. However, being a musician and writer unfortunately doesn’t pay my bills, so I’m also working full-time as a project manager/technical writer.  No rest for the wicked!

Any final messages?
We’d of course like to get out and play EVERYWHERE, so keep pestering your local promoter or festival to book Overdrive and we’ll be there! Also, I’d like to send a BIG thanks to all of you who actually purchase our CD or download and not only download it from a torrent. Support metal and help keep it alive!

Janne, many thanks. 
Thank YOU!

www.overdrive.se

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