WEB-EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: PETER WICHERS ON REJOINING SOILWORK, PRODUCING ALBUMS, AND BEING A SWEDE IN
By editorial intern Chris Krovatin
Let’s give credit where credit is due—Soilwork changed the face of metal. When Natural Born Chaos dropped in 2002, rap-rock had just been buried by Chimaira and Cradle Of Filth, with extreme metal slowly rising from the darkest, dankest corners of the underground. And suddenly, there was this album—charging, haunting, brutal, but most importantly different. And if one is giving credit where it’s due, one has to acknowledge how much of Soilwork’s sound is Peter Wichers’ guitar. Through tireless work, Wichers has become a seminal figure in the metal scene. Having founded Soilwork, produced albums by All That Remains and Nevermore vocalist Warrel Dane, and played with Killswitch Engage, Wichers is the Man With No Name, an unseen pillar that keeps modern metal held up high. Having recently rejoined Soilwork after a three-year hiatus, and about to head out on a headlining US tour with them, Wichers spoke to Revolver about his place in music and his hopes for the future.
REVOLVER First off, what inspired you to move to Nashville? What’s it like being a Swede in Tennessee?
PETER WICHERS My wife and I lived in LA for a while, and we didn’t really like it, so we moved here, mainly because we have a lot of friends here. It’s got a similar feeling to LA, but actually a lot better places for working and recording, and a much friendlier atmosphere than LA. I’m the only Swede in Nashville that I know of, but besides the fact that there’s an overwhelming amount of country [music], there’s a lot to do, a lot of great studios, and a lot of kickass players in this town. You just have to adapt. I see so much more potential in this country, especially in the music business, than I might see in Sweden, because a lot of successful people from Sweden don’t hang around; they just use Sweden as a home base. Also, in this country, you’ll meet older people, 50 or 60-year-olds, who still dream of doing certain things, and that doesn’t happen in Sweden.
Tell me about rejoining Soilwork.
It kinda felt a bit sporadic. Me and Björn (“Speed” Strid, vocals) have been in touch since I left the band—we’ve known each other for such a long time—and we wanted to do some stuff that doesn’t really sound like Soilwork. Then Björn approached me about coming back. I thought about it for a bit, and then my wife kicked me in the ass and said, “Yeah, do it.” People have a different understanding of Soilwork now then when I was first in the band. We toured nonstop for nine months on [2005’s] Stabbing the Drama and it killed me. I couldn’t stand it. But now, we’ve worked it out, and we won’t be touring quite as much. The touring structure in the future is going to be different. After this US tour, we’re going to take a big break and try to write the best Soilwork record we can. We haven’t really made plans on when we’re going to hit the studio—probably sometime near the end of this year.
How much material do you guys have written
Absolutely nada. [Laughs] The way I write is I sit at home, I have a basic idea of what I’m going for, and I try to flesh it out. I’ll send it to the band, and if they like it, we’ll bounce ideas back and forth until it’s a song we all feel comfortable with and Björn can put some vocals on it. We do a lot of pre-production before we hit the studio. We want to up the performance level a bit more on this record—not that the performance level is low; it’s just that with a drummer like Dirk [Verbeuren] and a guitar player like Sylvain [Coudret], who’re just fantastic, we really want to take it back to how Soilwork used to do things—keep the catchiness of Björn’s vocals, but make the songs a bit more technical.
Do you have a favorite Soilwork album?
It’s funny you ask that. I haven’t listened to any Soilwork records up until I rejoined, and then I listened to all of them. The one that’s probably closest to my heart is Natural Born Chaos, because listening to it, I remembered how much fun we had making it. We were doing a new thing that wasn’t really being done, so I just remembered what a good time it was tracking that record, how great a vibe there was, and I think it shows on that record.
Let’s move on to your production work—how’d you and Warrel Dane get hooked up?
When Warrel approached me, we were at Ozzfest, and he was talking to people about a solo record. I wrote two songs for him, and he said, “Why don’t you write every song on the record?” We’ve actually known each other since the Predator’s Portrait days, when we opened for Nevermore and Annihilator. [Nevermore’s] Jeff [Loomis] is one of my all-time favorite guitar players—I believe he’s one of the best out there, hands-down. So I said, “Well, I don’t really want to try and compete with that, and when you’re making a solo record, your voice should be the focus of the music,” so that’s why I peel back a lot on the songwriting, to give him more room for the music, you know? At first, he was a little bit uncomfortable, because he’s usually covered by a lot of guitars, and he has to scream really high in the mix, and we found he has a really good low voice, so we were trying really hard to work with that. Overall, everyone was really satisfied with the record.
How would you describe yourself as a producer? Are you a perfectionist?
[Pauses] Yeah. I’d have to say that I am. But there’s the producer without any social skills, and that’s one of the key elements I try to add as a producers. If we’ve had a real stressful day, I’ll say, “Fuck it, let’s drink some beer, take a load off.” There’s the producer who will keep saying, “You’re not hitting it, you’re not hitting it!” But for me, if you’re not hitting it, we’ll take a break or we’ll try something else. Ultimately though, the song needs to be good. If the quality of the song isn’t good, it doesn’t matter if you spend a million dollars in production; it’s not going to last. Performance has a huge part of it. And you know, making records, you want to do justice to your own name.
Do you ever look back and feel sympathetic for your old producers?
[Laughs] I do, sometimes! That’s a good point—looking back to when I was 18, it was our first time in the studio, and we spent 12 days in the studio, and we’d say, “We want it to sound like the At the Gates records!” And they’d say, “OK, they spent six weeks on that record, but sure, we’ll take 12 days and make it sound exactly like that.” At the time, we didn’t really realize what they meant, but now we do. After constant routine, you realize that the more you put into something like this, the more you get out.