Ragged Press editor, Matt Gleeson spent his birthday speaking with Alexander ‘Alle’ Hagman, vocalist with Sweden’s veteran hardcore outfit Raised Fist about the band’s upcoming tour of Australia and New Zealand and the dangers of the Australian wilderness.
MG: It’s the first time you’ve returned to Australia in four years. Is there anything you are looking forward to coming back to Australia?
Alexander: Yeah. I’m not looking forward to customs and all the paperwork that unnecessarily has to be gone through when you arrive in Australia. I don’t know why you have these fucking things. It’s worse than any other country in the world. You are so distant, and there are so many dangerous animals there, so I can’t believe people are coming there, that shouldn’t be there. But there is one good thing about it, and that’s that you can go swimming and it’s summer, quite contrary to what it is here right now in Sweden. We have full winter, and we’re going to have it for five months. We’re looking forward to coming down there and meeting up with old friends and playing music for the Australian crew.
MG: Well you are definitely coming to Australia at the right time for some swimming.
Alexander: Yeah. But you have sharks in the water, these big fish, so I will probably stay in shallow water (laughing).
MG: Good policy! Raised Fist has a reputation for pretty high energy shows. What can Australian audiences expect? I mean it’s been four years since you were last in Australia, I imagine there will be some people at your shows that haven’t been to a Raised Fist show before, what can they expect to see?
Alexander: I think for the ones who have seen us before, they are going to see, simply the best Raised Fist ever, because this is not the same band as we were four years ago. We are much better in every angle, every aspect and the set list we have now is very, very good, and music wise, live wise, everything is so much better, and I can say that, just because I wanted to hype anything here. It’s not about that, it’s just that everyone in the band feels that Raised Fist today is a different band. Yeah, I think this is … people will know this. As always, we bring heart when we go on stage. It’s reality happening right there. It’s not number 65 of a long tour, so it goes into a generic performance. This is number one. We are going number one to seven, and we haven’t played live in three months, so we have a lot of things that are coming out, and so I think for that reason, it’s pretty special. You’ll never know if we are coming back, if we are ever coming back to Australia, because life changes and so does this world obviously so you never know, so you should come there, if you’re into whatever music you like. It doesn’t matter if you’re hardcore punk rock or if you’re pop, or classical music or whatever. It’s going to be a thing to remember.
MG: Your music is a pretty unique mix too. You’re quite often labelled hardcore, but there is definitely a lot of melody and groove in your music and your voice is quite brutal over the top. How do you look after your voice, especially when you’re touring?
Alexander: Ah… I don’t. I just warm up, I warm the vocal chords before, and then I take it easy afterwards and I take it easy on beer and things like that, so I don’t end up in long discussions, long important discussions (laughing) after the shows. And I drink water, I keep hydrated. Sometimes I use these tablets that keep you hydrated with salt and minerals and things like that. I use it after a show, when it’s been really hectic and sweaty, just to keep the hydration and then I’m all good. But of course it takes a toll. I have a special singing style. It’s a real scream, it’s real anger that comes out. I’m not trying to mimic a troll or a demon from Lord of the Rings. Growling, that wouldn’t work with the message that I have. It would just be like Ok, here’s the guy, he has a very, very strong message, and this band is fucking for real, but the singer he tried to mimic a troll when he sings these words and it doesn’t make any sense, so I have my singing style, and I will do the growling in another band.
MG: So what do you do with your downtime during a tour? I know there is probably not a lot of downtime, but what do you do when you do get a moment on tour?
Alexander: You mean the time off between shows?
Alexander: Yeah, I don’t know in Australia how it’s going to be because it’s a hectic schedule, and we do interviews, we do sound check, we do check in in hotels, we do flights, so we just move around basically and then we sleep, but before the shows we hang out, we try to eat something and then after the show we go out and take in a beer or just relax. If we have some time, we go to the beach and just hang out with friends, and we prepare for the show. You are pretty much on tour all day because the big show is coming, so you are mentally preparing for that. You can’t just relax and stop everything. You have to be focussed on that thing as well. We fly out maybe 10:00 in the morning so you have to get to the airport early and then we come and someone picks us up, we check into the hotel, we maybe take a little break and then we head to the venue, then there’ll be dinner and then it’s time for sound check, and then you go back and start fixing your things and you prepare for the show. It’s basically not much time, it just rolls on.
MG: It sounds like you’re pretty focused when you are touring. As I mentioned before, the band has a quite unique sound, what are some of the key influences on that sound do you think?
Alexander: Of course hardcore is the backbone of Raised Fist, old school hardcore and punk rock mainly. You can hear a lot of… you can hear death metal, old school death metal influences as well, because we have the bass player and obviously Matte Modine (drummer) comes from Dark Funeral and ten other very, very influential metal bands, so we always had a close relationship to the guys in real death metal bands , and I’m not talking about the new breed hardcore death metal. I’m talking about the real fucking deal where you have these jackets with pentagrams on your back and people who smell like fucking shit. That metal, not the pop band, digital edited, clean cut thing that we call metal today. I’m talking about the real deal. So we had that since we started and so that’s a big influence as well. I don’t think you can hear it as clearly as I, who writes the music and I know, I can see it. But then we try and mix in everything. I mean I just write, when I write a song, for example ‘Flow’ on the new album, I just wrote it for Sound of the Republic. So that’s an old riff, and I just showed it to everyone now, and it’s like a more punk rock and roll kind of vibe to that song. And then we have faster songs. Everyone except the drummer, and even the drummer has also come in with some guitar riffs and things like that. Both guitarists are marvellous music writers and myself, I am the major writer, and the bass player is also a very good musician and writer, so when you have not just one main song writer, but you have four, a lot of influences come in and that is what I think is the biggest strength in Raised Fist. That we have so many good writers in the band.
MG: So how does that process work for you guys? Quite often with bands there will be one main writer, or indeed there will only be one writer within the band. How does that process work?
Alexander: We do it like this. We have like a sketch book. We just record sketches. We play music, I mean everyone’s playing music all of the day. We are artists, we are musicians, so there’s a guitar near everywhere. I have my drumsticks in close range every day. I drum a little bit every day. I play guitar every day and so yeah, you write, and occasionally you just get on a good thing and you go ‘OK this sounds good’. Then you take the recorder and record that little piece. And then time is passing and everyone does this and then you take a sit down. You actually decide like ‘OK, it’s time, we have enough, we have gathered a pile of good things now’, so should we aim for compiling it into a record and if the answer is yes, then we go for it. That’s basically it and then we start putting it together and get the right chorus’, get the right versus and etcetera.
MG: Raised Fist’s last two albums, ‘Veil of Ignorance’ and ‘From the North’, both charted in the Top 30 in Sweden. That’s not something we’d normally see here in Australia for a hardcore band. Like, an Australian hardcore band, we would never see them in the charts here. How strong is the hardcore community in Sweden?
Alexander: Well it’s not just the hardcore, it’s like more hard rock scene. We play big festivals and then we play at the same festivals as Motley Crue or Sabbath. You know these bands and so these people love Raised Fist. We are the harder edge of what they already like, so we have just crossed into that section as well, so I believe that it’s because we’ve been playing for a long time, so people have had a chance to listen to us and we had some commercially successful songs as well. We have the Grammy nomination and we had Sound of the Republic (album) and “Friends and Traitors” (opening track on the Sound of the Republic album) that went on radio. And the main reason for us coming to the lists, is not because we sell more records than AC/DC that was under us on the charts. It’s obviously because now they measure it up on how many records do you sell within a span of time. So from Monday to Monday, and how many was it, and if AC/DC sells 989 records and we sell 1000, then we go up above that. That’s how they do it and Raised Fist fans are loyal. Very, very loyal, so they don’t go download it. They don’t wait for it, they just go, when the record is out, they go to the store and buy it instantly and they buy maybe two records, one vinyl and one on CD. So the first week, when we released the album, mainly because of the loyalty of the fans , they just went out there and gathered, so we could have ended up number one on the chart. We were down the week after to place 40, so that pretty much sums it up, it explains the whole thing.
MG: So you’re not sitting on millions of royalties then? (laughing)
Alexander: No, no (laughing). Not that I know of.
MG: This might be my last question because I know we are at the end of a long line of interviews that you’ve done this evening. The Australian tour is in support of the album “From the North”, which you released in 2015. Tell us a little bit about the inspiration for the album and how it came about.
Alexander: The inspiration was not really that evident. It was just like we had a lot of music that we wanted to compile. Anyway, ‘From the North’, most basically… we toured a lot, and seen other bands and how they do it, and how they proceed, and how they pursue their careers, and we are so totally different, and it was mainly a discussion like, ‘Why are we so different?’ Everytime we go on tour with other support bands, we are so different from so many other bands, who are more the same. It’s probably because we are so… we are from the north. We are not from Sweden, like Stokholm, Glockenberg region, where all these other bands, they live in big cities and they compete all the time and we’re not like the continental European bands, and we’re not like the London bands, we’re not like the U.S. bands, or whatever. Some of them look exactly the same and they act exactly the same and we don’t. We are a big… it’s a big difference how we treat the whole thing here in a lot of respects. From the North was our only answer. We come up from here, we don’t have any relationships with other bands. We don’t talk, we don’t meet, we don’t greet, we don’t go out on beers, we don’t go to rock clubs where we meet managers, blah, blah, blah. We just live here, isolated, away from all that, and we’ve done that for the 22 years that we have been active. From the North is a big statement that we come from another place. So that’s the name and the whole thing is just like this is where we are from. The photos in the album cover is from areas here and the promo picture where we stand on rocks is just 500 meters away from where the bass player lives. It’s a mountain that has arisen from basically glaciers and volcanoes that thrust up this whole mountain, and it’s just a big, big chunk of stone, and we stand on that one. That was like a patriotic feel rather than a Swedish kid of vibe to the whole thing. But music wise, just standard. Everything we hear, that we’ve listened to, the bands we hear, the radio, rock and roll, hardcore, punk whatever, it doesn’t matter. We are so many people, with so many influences each, it’s hard picking something specific. It’s just like I have mine and I have 100 influences. Jimmy, Daniel, Josse, everyone has 100 influences. I can’t pinpoint what’s been specifically inspiring on this album. It’s just life in general and music in general.
MG: The way you describe the north mate, you talked about Australia being full of dangerous animals and being isolated, but it sounds like you live in pretty rough country yourself.
Alexander: It’s pretty rough. It’s very rough, but you know Australia is obnoxiously rough because it looks so beautiful. You can see a little bay and it looks like ‘oh I just want to swim in it, this is paradise’, but you know paradise, it’s not welcoming at all (laughing). You can meet a bear, that and will not be happening pretty often, so that’s what you can get here. The nature is still, the weather is.. even if it’s cold there, it’s the same, so Australia is, is… you have all the animals . I know that, I’ve been there many times , and of course I’m exaggerating, but you know and I know that you don’t want to end up in swamp somewhere in Australia were there is no civilization, were you have nothing. That’s not going to work (laughing). Here in Sweden, Northern Sweden you could survive easily if it’s not like minus thirty, so there is no things like that. That’s why we love Australia. It’s 100% the opposite of where we come from, so it’s pretty cool.
MG: Hey look Alexander, thank you very much for your time mate. We look forward to seeing you in Australia. I’m based down in Melbourne and I know that both the local supports (Southpaw and The Patient) are really great bands, I think you’ll love them, and they both have got pretty unique sounds too, themselves. Thanks again for your time and hopefully have a great tour.
Tour dates and Tickets
Australian / NZ Tour
Grab your tickets here ➤http://found.ee/Raisedfistau
Tuesday 29 November – Kings Arms, Auckland
Thursday 1 December – The Cambrige Hotel, Newcastle
Friday 2 December – The Metro Theatre, Sydney
Saturday 3 December – Max Watt’s Melbourne
Sunday 4 December – Max Watt’s Brisbane
Wednesday 7 December Fowlers Live, Adelaide
Thursday 8 December The Rosemount, Perth