On Wednesday, Danish rock band Volbeat brought their U.S. tour to Flint at the Machine Shop.
Before the show Volbeat drummer Jon Larsen sat down to talk about touring as a trio, the band’s new album, and his own influences.
Q: You just started this leg of the tour right?
A: We started out last Friday in New York City and then in Philadelphia and worked our way to Flint. We went to Toronto, Canada yesterday. It’s been doing good actually.
Q: I heard that the dates have been packed and you’ve had some sellouts?
A: New York was sold out. The rest of them have been close. I think Philadelphia was really close and Toronto was good. I don’t know about tonight but there seems to be a lot of people at the doors.
Q: You’ve played in Michigan before?
A: Uh, did we? Maybe on the Nightwish tour. I’m not sure actually. I can’t remember. I’m very bad at dates.
Q: How did this tour come about?
A: Dommin and The Sleeping are supporting us. I guess after we did the Metallica tour there was demand for us to come back so we didn’t say no to that! So we set up this little tour for two, two and half weeks, so it’s good. It’s cool. It’s good to be back.
Q: You are touring without one your band members, correct?
A: Yeah, one guy is missing in action. There was some trouble for Thomas [Bredahl, guitarist] getting his visa so he hasn’t gotten here yet. Something regarding a long ago theft of a bar stool. It’s just the three of us. We decided when we came over that we would try to play the New York show and see how it goes. If everything had gone wrong we might have been forced to cancel the rest of the tour but fortunately we did okay. It’s not the best but it’s the best that we can do at the moment. Hopefully he’ll be out here as soon as possible. It’s unfortunately not up to us but hopefully Thomas will make it out soon. Maybe even as early as tomorrow. I hope so.
Q: Has it been different playing without him?
A: Not for me personally because I always listen to Michael’s [Poulsen, vocalist] guitar and vocals anyways but there are certain songs where Thomas may start the intro and stuff like that. Some harmony parts are missing. Our drum tech has been doing the intro stuff for us so we cans still play the songs with his intro but it’s different. We do it as best we can.
Q: You have a new album coming out in September. What is it called?
A: I always get it wrong. Above Hell/Beyond Heaven…or is it the other way around? Yeah, Beyond Hell/Above Heaven. Yeah, it will be out in September. I’m not sure but I heard it might be released in the U.S. on September 14. It’s going to be in Europe and Canada as well.
Q: Does it pick up the storyline from your previous album Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood?
A: No, not really. Two of the songs are picking up that story but it is the end of the story. One of the songs is called “The Mirror and the Ripper” and one is called “7 Shots”, which is the conclusion. I think at the beginning Michael maybe had the idea to continue the story for most of the album but I think he just came to the conclusion that he could end it with these two songs.
Q: So does the rest of the album pick up a new story?
A: I mean it’s always about the music. On the last album not all of the songs were a part of the story. I think maybe seven songs were linked to it. Michael always had these little stories. On the previous two albums it was the story of Danny and Lucy and whatever happened to them and I’m not sure if he’s finished with that story yet. Who knows he may go back to it someday. Most of our songs on this album are actually just love songs. Sad love songs.
Q: Is there any particular song on the new album that sticks out for you?
A: I have my favorites. I like “The Mirror and the Ripper” for instance because I think that it’s a bit of a throwback to what we did when we first started. I like “7 Shots” because we brought in some of our old heroes to participate in that song and I like the song “Evelyn” which also has a guest vocalist, Mark Greenway of Napalm Death, who is one of my heroes from when we were younger. It’s so cool that these people came to do our songs with us. I think those are my favorites at the moment. I haven’t really listened to the album. Once I’m done in the studio I’m not really paying any attention to the stuff until we have to rehearse.
Q: Are you performing any of the new material on this tour?
A: We’re doing one new song. We talked about maybe doing two and unfortunately this little incident with Thomas happened. On the other hand, we haven’t been to the U.S. that much so playing too many new songs might not work anyways. We are doing one song called “Fallen”, which has been released as a single in Europe. I think you can get it on I-tunes. It seems like the audience really likes it.
Q: You aren’t signed to a major record label are you?
A: In Europe we are. We’re signed to Universal Germany. In England it’s another record company. I think the album will be release on Universal in Canada and possibly in the U.S..
Q: I think it’s great that you have such a large following despite not having that major label push.
A: Yes, I guess you could say thank you to the Internet for that one and of course the Metallica tour. A lot of people probably had never heard of us or maybe had heard of us but hadn’t seen us or heard any of our music. Of course there was the Nightwish tour as well even though that was in smaller places but there have been people that we have met on this tour that have said they saw us on that tour. For me, it was surprising because I though most people would be like, “Hey, I saw you with Metallica!” but actually there’s been more Nightwish. A lot have said they couldn’t get tickets for the Metallica one. They pretty much sold out worldwide.
Q: Is there anyone you would like to tour with in the future?
A: Hmmm. I wouldn’t mind going on tour with Iron Maiden. I think those guys are probably the last big men that we could tour with. To tour with Slayer would be a dream come true but I know how their audience reaction to the support acts can be. We probably wouldn’t fit the bill. We could do a festival with them I guess but to tour with those guys may be over kill. Maybe Motorhead. That would be nice but Iron Maiden would be my first choice.
Q: Who was your biggest influence?
A: Drumming of music-wise?
Q: Drumming-wise it started out with Ringo. That was the first big one and from him I progressed up to Kiss’s Eric Carr. For me that was the best drummer they ever had. No disrespect to the others but there was something special about Eric. I’m not sure what it was. From then on, of course, there was Lars whether you like him or not he and Metallica influenced a lot of people. Then guys like Charlie Benante from Anthrax, Nicko McBrain from Maiden and of course the biggest of them all: Dave Lombardo, who is the best drummer in the world. I don’t care what people say, he is! Music-wise for me it started out again with the Beatles. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Who…the big British bands. That’s who I started with and then it progressed to some of the Eighties pop music actually because that was what I grew up on. Duran Duran was a big influence. There was a man from the band called Adam and the Ants who were huge in Europe. He was my favorite and then, of course, the metal stuff. When it started it was Iron Maiden, Kiss, Judas Priest, early Motley Crue stuff. All these Eighties bands and then Metallica came along. Slayer, Anthrax, Obituary, Cannibal Corpse and all that death metal stuff. Then I tended to go towards punk music like the Ramones, The Sex Pistols, The Clash and stuff like that. At the moment, I’m listening to some of the Norwegian black metal bands. I’m twenty years behind everybody. When all that was big I was like, “I don’t like that!” Now I’m freaking out on guys like Immortal. Not all of it but some of it.
Q: Michael was originally in a death metal band wasn’t he?
A: Yeah he was. When he was younger he was a much more aggressive kid so he was into death metal. We all were at that time because death metal was really big in Denmark. Everybody formed thrash metal/death metal bands, you know? It was fun while it lasted. I guess Michael grew tired of it pretty quickly because they made four albums. The first one is really heavy death metal and already on the second one it started to change a bit. The second one was a concept album and still heavy but not as much and the third one was actually a prequel to Volbeat. The fourth one was very close to the old Metallica sound and then Michael decided that that was it. He grew tired of the whole genre and wanted to do something else and that’s when we came along.
Q: How would you describe your music for people who haven’t heard it?
A: I can’t. No, I don’t know. A lot of people for some strange reason call it Elvis metal. I don’t really get that. Sure, there are a few phrases here and there that could sound like Elvis but I don’t know I just call it rock n’ roll. Everything is basically rock n’ roll anyways.
Q: Your music is full of a lot of different influences.
A: Yeah there is. When we started out the first reaction I got when we heard it was to me that it sounded like old Black Sabbath actually. I thought oh, this is pretty cool! Then Michael turned up with other stuff and I thought this is not Sabbath this is more like the Misfits and again I said that’s cool. Then he turned up with a really heavy metal song and I said what is this? For some strange reason he mixed it all and we sound like we do. Of course the influences are everything from Elvis to the Misfits to Metallica.
Q: Do you think that’s why it does appeal to people?
A: That’s definitely one of the reasons. I hope that it’s just because they think that it’s just good music of course but Michael does spend a lot of time perfecting the melodies. In the old days it was more about the riff…making it fast and heavy. We had a t-shirt at one point that read “Metal Even Your Mother Would Like” because someone had used that phrase and we thought oh that’s clever. A lot of people thought it was very disturbing and funny but a lot of them thought you sold out but who cares, you know. We do what we do! For some reason right now everybody seems to be really into shows that you can bring everybody too. That’s cool.
Q: Do you have any future plans?
A: Yeah, touring. When we get home from the U.S. we have a week and a half off and then all the promotion stuff for the album begins in Europe. We’re probably going to do one or two in-store signings. Once that’s done we will go into the rehearsal room and try to make a set list for the next tour which will start in October. It is scheduled in Scandinavia and Europe. From there we go to the UK for the first time. We’ve played in England before but this is our first time as a headliner. England is tough, it is. Ticket sales so far look pretty good though. Everybody’s pretty confident that it’s going to go good. So touring for the rest of the year from October through December. And from then on maybe in early Spring another U.S. and Canada tour and then it will be festival season.