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Slavestate Interview 2014
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Pontus Hjelm

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Slavestate

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2014, February 14

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Pontus Hjelm was  interviewed on February 14, 2014 for the Swedish website Slavestate. Pontus discussed Jimmies departures as well as the new record.

The interview was done by Larsa Carlsson.

Script

The interview was done in Swedish and is therefore translated into English.

Let the World Know is the Gothenburg-band Dead by April's third album. The third record is sometimes called the "make or break" record by some pundits. This is something that the guitarist Pontus Hjelm doesn't put so much emphasis on.

Pontus Hjelm: It was said the same by the second album as well, that it is "make or break". I don't think about it at all, we just do our thing. But you can see it as an incentive to stay and not be remembered as a "one hit wonder".

Q: No survival instructions?

Pontus Hjelm: No, I don't reason like that. We go on, so be it what it will be. I focus on the present.

Dead by April got a fantastic start on their career. Kings on Myspace and then become one of the country's most hyped rock band when the song Losing You became the theme song for reality TV show Robinson in 2009. The hybrid of down tuned guitars, polyrhythmic, cheerful boy band choruses and screaming vocals immediately found their way into many young hearts. Concerns that these fans have found new bands to placard the walls of home while Dead by April has been away from the spotlight is nothing that bothers Pontus.

Pontus Hjelm: On the Swedish gigs it's very diverse. In Eastern Europe the audience is younger and in the U.S. it is also mixed. It is easy to consider that we only have young fans. The younger fans appears more on social media and so on.

Let the World Know is addressed as the title suggests towards world domination. Sweden has been the band's secure market since day one. Pontus is clear that the band will now establish themselves abroad.

Pontus Hjelm: Japan and Europe is our next project. But even the U.S. where we previously had no record deal. Now we have a deal with the Universal label Spinefarm over there. All markets are difficult initially. But there is a demand from ordinary people in most parts of the world. We have a foundation that we can work with. We have learned much of what we have done in Sweden that we can take advantage of. Avoiding pitfalls, such as around the launch. We utilize our contacts in a different way now.

Q: Are you ready to put yourself in a van and drive around in the States to work up your name?

Pontus Hjelm: Has Jay Leno still his TV show? Like him or David Letterman, those are the kind of things we are aiming for. They have millions of viewers. It is the policy of getting there that is the hard part. It's our record company and our managers duty. SI don't think the small van thing is something we're going for, it doesn't give so much. You need to find the inputs. One must make a new path at times. We received a bid from India recently to take a stand. Then they began to compromise, come with new bids and gave weird vibes. We first thought that it might be worth going plus minus zero because it might open up a bit for us, but we decided to finally avoid it. 

Pontus is the captain of Dead by April, although he rather calls himself the artist. He formed the band along with former singer Jimmie Strimmell in 2007, writes and produces the material and is an important cog to everything around the band.

Pontus Hjelm: Yes, I control everything. But it's funny, I'm a driven person. I have my own studio and writes songs for other musicians. The new album, I have both produced and mixed.

Q: Were you looking for any particular specialization in in the production this time?

Pontus Hjelm: I was looking for a mixture of the first and second record, whose productions I'm not really happy with, nor how they were created. I like to steer the ship and I reached what I wanted. But it is important that the other band members think it sounds good. The challenge is to see what I've accomplished in an independent manner. Climbing out of the role and see it from the third persons perspective. But it's very funny! Although it's a very tough workload and you spend many, many hours.

Q: What is the most important thing to bring out in your music?

Pontus Hjelm: The contrasts, it has been that way since the start. It was my and Jimmies idea when the band started. Making music completely unbiased. We had a metal-riff and a pop chorus - then we thought we'd try to put it together. Our only rule was "if we want to, we will."

Pontus likes to go to work. His week is to get out to the studio in Gamlestan to work creatively. Devilyn and Lyracis are included in Pontus CV and Pontus he summarizes his life situation as he now is living the dream.

Pontus Hjelm: When we're going out on tour it is completely different. No private space at all and a lot to take into consideration. There are those in the band who have children for example. Being on tour is strenuous but very fun.

2014 will be a busy year for the quintet. A month in Europe are waiting to kick off in Copenhagen in early March. A week in the key cities of U.S, New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles are waiting with an opening for a longer visit. Japan and Eastern Europe will also get their fair share before the festival season takes over.
The working atmosphere in Dead by April is better than in a very, very long time. Disagreement within the band is according to Pontus gone now. The reason for this is last year's dismissal of singer Jimmie Strimmell. Years of conflict within the band, most of them rooted in Jimmies drug abuse, got the other to take a difficult but inevitable decision.

Pontus Hjelm: He had so many chances! i don't even dare to think how many, maybe a hundred, if not more. As a friend I tried to be there, but everything has its limits. He abused already when we started the band but it was controllable. Since then everything escalated and he ended up in a vicious spiral. We went into group therapy to meet him but he was not willing to accept our help.

Q: How did you say it was over?

Pontus Hjelm: In the therapy room, so we was not alone with him. We told him what the rest of us agreed on. He sat still for a moment and then went out of there. It felt damn hard of course. Then we to look find a new singer. It is to take two steps back, but to keep what we had was not sustainable.

Jimmie was more than just a singer for the band. He was the face, the real rock star and a little bit of a girl idol. The fans reactions were of course shattered after the band's strongest visual card was out of the game.

Pontus Hjelm: The majority understood what we had done and why. But there were those who thought that everything was poorly managed, and that the band is equal to zero without Jimmie. It is skewed in my world to think that a band is made ​​of one person. We have not changed our sound just because he is gone.

Q: Have you talked to Jimmie since the breakup?

Pontus Hjelm: No, and I will never have contact with him again. We were buddies from the start but the last three years, it was only by Dead by April we hung out. He is a very destructive man who takes a lot of energy. His living provoked other musicians who reigned about how he did not take advantage of his chances. They could have given their right hand to be in the same position as him, but he just pissed on it.

New to the band is Christopher "Stoffe" Andersson who like bassist Markus Wesslén has a background in Falkenberg band By Night. Given the tough time with Jimmie, there were many grades to be tested before Stoffe got the job as Dead by April's new screamer.

Pontus Hjelm: It was almost as if the music was secondary. The social had to come first, as we shall hang out 24 hours a day on tour. Being able to socialize and get along is important. Stoffe is an open and honest person. He has previously emerged from an alcohol addiction which he travels around and speaks about. When I found out about this I was at first hesitant after everything that happened around Jimmie, but Stoffe told me he passed eight weeks on tour without a drop of alcohol. We argued about this and decided to take a gamble. But he is an amazing man and he delivers on stage. 

Dead by April is a band that evokes emotion. Before the first album was released had hard rock circuits polarized themselves - either you are for or against the band. It has an inflation of insults about the boys' music and for some people Dead by April have become a benchmark for how bad and terrible a band can sound. Pontus is not the least bit discouraged by this, but the more surprised.

Pontus Hjelm: I couldn't care less. It's a little hard to generalize about that stuff, it's probably not so much about the music. There are those who feel hatred when they hear us. But when they take their energy to visit our Facebook page to get themselves out of their aggression is difficult for me to grasp. If I hear a band that I really can not imagine listening to I press the stop button. What they are doing is almost like football hooliganism!

Q: Finally - the guitar solo on the opening "Beautiful Nightmare", is it a sign of a new direction in your music?

Pontus Hjelm: No, it's actually a very old idea. We had a solo on the first record and on one of the bonus tracks on Incomparable. One solo per record, that's enough. I'm not the roar speedy guitarist.

Q: No desire to recruit a new second guitarist to duel?

Pontus Hjelm: Absolutely not! It's not the instruments themselves that is most important, but the overall picture.

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