Wolfbrigade is as legendary as they come when one speaks of Swedish D-beat, their history attests to the importance of the role this band has played in punk rock music. And, as they are about to unleash one of their most extraordinary albums to date, "Damned", Dadde Stark was gracious enough to grant me a few moments of his time...
ThrashHead: You play drums for two of the most notable Swedish D-beat bands around, Wolfbrigade and Asta Kask, your drumming style is as good as it gets in any hardcore or metal band, but what some folks may not even know is that you play not only drums, but Bass and Guitar as well...what was the first instrument you learned and why did you want to become a musician?
Dadde: Well, I actually started playing guitar first, but then for some reason, I ended up playing bass because everyone wanted to play guitar. I liked bass a lot, I think it's a bit underrated actually. I always, when I was playing bass in all these bands, I had so many opinions about the drumming, so at some point the drummer would say "Do it yourself then!" I ended up playing drums because of that.
Since then, I have been more or less playing drums in bands even though, now and again, I have a small project band or something playing guitar or bass; it's fun to do different things than just playing drums all the time.
It's been a really important part of my life since I was around twelve when I began to play an instrument, it's something I can't really imagine playing music. It's become a part of me, I need it as an outlet for all kinds of emotions actually. I enjoy it, it allows me to hang out with some of my best friends.
ThrashHead: What you just said leads into what was to be my next question: you've been in quite a few bands besides Wolfbrigade or Asta Kask, but you've had other projects such as such Sju Svåra År, Soma, Sunday Morning Einsteins, Disculpa, Imperial Leather, Second Thought, Today's Overdose, Suicide Blitz and Slavstaten, and you have something like 31 records to your name and you're only, what, 29? How do you find the energy to do it? Is music all consuming for you?
Dadde: No, it's been a few really hectic years, at this point I am only in Asta Kask and Wolfbrigade, Sju Svåra År still exists, but we really haven't done anything in a really long time. I've just been giving all my time to playing in bands prior to becoming involved in the Tattoo business which I am right now. It hasn't put me off playing music, but it's been just as inspiring. I'm splitting my time between doing two things I really love instead of one thing I love and having to work shit jobs in-between tours and so on to make ends meet. That has meant that playing in four or five bands at the same time doesn't work anymore.
To be honest, I'm not really interested in doing that anymore either because two bands has proved to be quite enough.
ThrashHead: What made you decide to go into Tattoos, have you always been artistic? Did you draw as a kid or paint?
Dadde: Yeah, before I started to play music I was always the loner kid, sitting in the back of the class painting and drawing; whenever I got home, I didn't have many friends so I drew. But then, music came along for a few years and I didn't really do much painting or art, but I started to get tattooed and then I started work as a shop assistant at a tattoo shop, and they were like "yeah, you can draw, you can do this!" so all of a sudden I found myself being an apprentice...it's really, really fun and inspiring.
ThrashHead: What's the name of the shop where you're doing your apprenticeship?
Dadde: Carneval Tattoo we're in Stockholm.
ThrashHead: So if someone wants to get a Tattoo from Dadde, all they have to do is pop into the shop?
Dadde: Well, it would be a good thing to drop us an email before so we can prepare ourselves maybe, that would be cool...any Wolfbrigade or Asta Kask tattoos will get a fair discount. (laughs)
ThrashHead: Website for the shop?
Dadde: Yeah, it's carnevaltattoo.wordpress.com
ThrashHead: Killer! Without a doubt, there will be many people who would be very proud to have their ink done by you.
Wolfbrigade is one of the most highly regarded crust bands ever and have always had a great lineup of musicians, including yourself, how did you get involved with Jocke and the boys? Your first album with them was "In Darkness you feel no regrets" right?
Dadde: Yeah, that's right...well, Jocke moved up to Stockholm in 2001 or something, right after they had done "Allday Hell", they were recording or they were about to record the "Progression/Regression" album and he started to play guitar in my band "Sunday Morning Einsteins" because we needed a second guitar player and we became really good friends. He asked me to join him in a project band called "To What End", we weren't called To What End at that point, but he asked me to play drums; that was with Micke, the singer of Wolfbrigade as well, he was involved. We did that for awhile, but then Frank, the old drummer, in Wolfpack/Wolfbrigade had too much on his table, with kids and such, and didn't feel like touring much and so on. He kind of asked me and said "I might quit the band, but I want them to continue, maybe you could step in?" so that was cool, and since I had, at that point, gotten to know the other guys in Wolfbrigade it felt really good.
I think I had something like one practice before going on a Eurotour with them...(laughs)
ThrashHead: One practice...so you felt completely comfortable with the guys and they quickly accepted you as family? I couldn't imagine having only one practice and then being thrown into the meat grinder of a tour.
Dadde: Yeah, but it worked pretty well. I had been a friend for a long time, so I already knew a lot of the songs even though Frank had a different style of playing than I have.
But to be honest, if it wasn't for the fact that I had been thrown into this instead of like, maybe, being with a band from the beginning, I think my style of drumming wouldn't have been as evolved as it is today because I am very influenced by how Frank played and I have adopted that in my style; it's the same with the old drummer in Asta Kask, if it wasn't for the fact that I had been taking over for two really good drummers, my drumming wouldn't be as good, or whatever you want to call, as it is today. So, I have been very influenced by them so to speak.
ThrashHead: I can understand that, you had to step up the game.
Dadde: Yeah, and copy their style in the old songs at least.
ThrashHead: On this new album "Damned" I wrote in the review that your beats were like that of a "hummingbird's heart", it's absolutely mind-boggling how intense your playing is ...I am also blown away by your comment that you got into drumming just because you would make comments to a drummer to the point where they just tell you to give it a try...it sounds like you've been playing the kit since you were a tiny little kid...that's amazing.
ThrashHead: It's been now almost ten years that you've been with Wolfbrigade now and after 2008's "Comalive" you guys played Obscene Extreme in the Czech Republic and the Maryland Deathfest in Baltimore, which are pretty big shows, what were those concerts like for you?
Dadde: They were pretty amazing to be honest, both Obscene Extreme and Maryland were probably some of the bigger, if not, the biggest gigs we've done. We got really good slots, the sound was good, having a couple thousand people in the audience is pretty awesome.
I think we played well, both those shows were one off gigs, so you get to concentrate on what you're doing, rather than, like "this is like our tenth show in a row and we're tired" and so on; it's more inspiring to do stuff like that, even though I like going on tour as well...you really get to put all the dynamite into one show.
ThrashHead: After those shows, last year, Wolfbrigade decided to step back from touring and gigging? Why was that? After these two huge shows, did you guys want to lay low? I know you guys were getting ready to go into the "Wolf's Den", that's what your new studio is called...
Dadde: Yeah, yeah.
...was it just because of the album, or was there something else, like you just needed a breather?
Dadde: I think it was both. The main thing was that we knew ourselves too well. If we hadn't taken a break and just continued to take gigs and so on, the creative process would have stopped for each show we would have taken on because we would have started talking about how the set list would be and that could take two weeks for one set at a gig. So, instead of allowing things like that to take up a lot of time, even if there were sometimes some really good gig offers, we just felt we should concentrate on making a really solid album. So, that's what we did...yeah there was some downtime, it wasn't like we were writing every day, but Eric became a father and that had to take some time as well.
Pretty much we had been writing and as we wrote, we also recorded really rough demos in what we call the "Wolf's Den" because we know, from experience, that something we feel really strongly about, at least playing it live in a recording space, when a song is actually recorded it may sound too hectic or just doesn't sound good and may be something which is boring to play, too short, the chords or something like that....in the practice place it might sound pretty fucking good, but in the actual recording...
So, that's something we worked really hard on like just doing really good songs and then taking it into the real practice place and learn the songs and add some kind of human element to it; do some tweaking to the arrangements.
It's been a really cool process for writing this album, I think it's something we are going to use on the next one as well.
ThrashHead: So, when you went into the studio it wasn't so much a struggle to get the sound you guys wanted precisely because of this process. How was it during the recording sessions, was there a lot of inspired enthusiasm, were you really comfortable, or did you feel any kind of pressure to get this album out?
Dadde: Well, since we had done so much pre-production already, we knew we had a really good songs. And, since we were going back to studio Fredman which the band used on the first two Wolfpack albums, we haven't been there since then, we knew it was probably going to sound really heavy and good.
The only "issue" we had, was like the "new guy" so to speak who wasn't involved in those two albums... if the producer Fredrik (Nordström) would have been an asshole or something, but that wasn't the case, he was a really cool guy and a really good producer so working with him was really cool; he has a fucked up sense of humor (both laugh) but I like it. He was really cool to work with. It was him who said... because we had this idea we would play every instrument and record them separately just to make it sound as good as possible, he was like "no, you guys should record live because you're a punk band" and we were like "Yeah , sure, we're a punk band, but we're in a metal studio and should record like the metal bands do" and he said "No! You're a punk band" So, we recorded it live and since we had practiced so much, it wasn't really a problem...it added so much to the energy of the album, I can hear that we're looking at each other and we're rocking out with each other in studio when I listen to the album, so it's fun. It's really cool recording that way, because we know it's played with a lot of heart, even if it's a produced album, it's pretty raw anyway.
ThrashHead: Again, that was the next question I had; when you guys had all the tracks done, production was finished, and you all sat to listen to "Damned" in its entirety, what were the first thoughts that went through you guys' minds? Were you guys all together at the moment when you said "Ok, we're ready to press this album let's have one last listen to it"?
Dadde: Well, I think we all agreed that we had made the best album we could, probably the best album in a long time, but there was some issues with track order and also, we recorded more songs than that's on the album, we recorded three more actually. There was a lot of discussion about which songs would end up on the album, that was the thing this time, we didn't want to enter the studio and feel that we had songs which weren't good enough, but we also knew we can't put, I think, 16 or 17 songs were recorded in total, we can't put that many songs on the album. So, we had to take songs away from the actual album. One will end up as a bonus track on the Japanese issue and two others will appear on a 7" split with a band, that I am not sure I can tell you about just now.
ThashHead: Gotta keep it under wraps huh?
Dadde: Yeah, exactly...but it's probably gonna come out later this year as well; there are two more songs from "Damned" coming out which is good because I think they are really good songs as well.
ThrashHead: That's awesome, gives more reason for people to keep tabs on Wolfbrigade, because we're looking at three more songs, one as a bonus and two on a split. Know, I am kinda wondering, whose the band? That's pretty cool, I'm all that more excited about hearing more!
Breaking away from Wolfbrigade for a bit, as I mentioned before, you play d-beat punk legends, Asta Kask...you came on board a little later with them, in 2004-05 and you were the "young guy", tell me how you came to take over for Magnus.
Dadde: Well, Mariestad is a small town which has spawned very good punk bands, one being Anti-Cimex, the other being Asta-Kask and later on Wolfpack, Cosa Nostra. Me, being from Stockholm, growing up as a punk kid, listened to bands like Anti-Cimex, Asta Kask and later, Wolfpack, I never really imagined that I would have anything to do with those guys, but I was in another melodic punk band that put out records on a label called Birdnest Records, when Asta Kask reformed they worked also with Birdnest Records and I was friends with the label, so to speak, when Magnus decided to quit Asta Kask, they asked around and one person they asked was Marcus the old bass player in Wolfpack and Wolfbrigade and he said: "you should try this guy Dadde, he plays drums for Wolfbrigade" and they also asked the label if they knew any drummers and they said "you should ask Dadde, he plays in Wolfbrigade" so when two different sources said that they should try me, Asta Kask said "Well maybe we should try this guy".
When I got that phone call it was weird, I thought it was someone calling me from a TV show like Punk'd or something...
...yeah...it didn't make sense, it was like one of my all time favorite bands and I didn't really know anyone except for Magnus. That was pretty weird, I have been a big fan since I was like eleven or twelve; that was cool. We met up few weeks after that, a month or something, we played one song and they said I was their new drummer, that was amazing!
ThrashHead: You talk about this small town putting out some amazing bands, but in general, Sweden as a whole...so much incredible music comes out of your country. There are awesome groups which come from everywhere across the planet, the U.S., Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Japan, Germany and England, but Sweden is one of the few which constantly puts out really great bands, across all genres, whether it's metal, punk or even pop; what is it, the Viking spirit in you guys where you just wanna go out and conquer the world? Why is Sweden such a great country for music?
Dadde: (Pauses) I don't know, I've gotten this question a couple of times, it's hard to pinpoint what exactly it could be. To be honest, I think it must be some kind of cultural thing because we have this tradition of folk music; pretty melancholy melodies that we are brought up with. It's not like all our parents say let's sit around and listen to folk music every day, it's like tradition in school and so on.
That and all this darkness, we have six months of only a few hours of daylight, so that has been spawning a lot of punk and metal bands that like to be able continue and feel some joy about life...you end up starting up a band and you take these melancholy melodies that you grew up on and apply them to metal and punk. Even a band like Asta Kask, who might sound happier, the lyrics are really dark and politically charged. Then there's some of these darker folk melodies thrown in.... I think, even if it's not something you hear directly, it's in a lot of the Swedish music. And then there is another important issue also; kids in Sweden they're pretty much forced to at least try to play an instrument when they are really young, so they get to try out an instrument to see if they like it and that's one reason why I think why people start playing music when they are really young here and end up being professional musicians later on.
ThrashHead: You're said they are introduced to instruments at an early age, is that the cultural aspect of it or the public school system?
Dadde: It's something they do in school, it's not really forced on you, I mean kids, would rather try to play an instrument than do math anyway.
ThrashHead: I can understand about wanting to keep the joy going during the long nights...there's a saying about Alaska, because of the long winter months of darkness: "99% of the people drink and 1% are court ordered are not to..."
...Sweden being an entire nation, people have to channel their energies in order to overcome the long nights, that really makes sense, you may get some great stuff from Germany and others, but it just seems like Sweden just oozes music and you're left wondering "why is that?", it does make sense.
Dadde: Sometimes, it's even combined with the alcohol drinking
ThrashHead: This album is coming out here pretty soon, any plans about crossing the Atlantic and touring on this side to support it?
Dadde: Yes, there is, absolutely. The plan was to hit America this summer, but it wasn't working out with our schedules , so it's postponed, but it's going to happen. I wouldn't say that it's totally ruled out that it might happen this year, but it's definitely going to happen next year where we are going to do some kind of a proper touring than just doing a one of gig...which we are really looking forward to. We haven't done that many gigs in the U.S. for many years, the last time we were there, doing more than one gig, was in 2007; then, I think, we did five or six gigs so it's about time that we hit some more places for sure.
ThrashHead: While this is postponed and everyone is working out the schedule, is it possible to see a couple of added dates for Latin America maybe? Is it a possibility?
Dadde: There have been talks about that as well; we have friends in Mexico and we have friends in Brazil and so on. It would be pretty cool to cross the border over to Mexico and do a few gigs there or maybe even do a more proper South America thing at one point. But, it all comes down to financing...it's hard in the punk community and we have reached a point where we don't have the money to take from our families to put into plane tickets. If someone else could raise the money for the tickets and such, then it wouldn't be an issue, that's where the problem is so to speak, it's about financing and the time.
ThrashHead: Perhaps this will change, once this album is unleashed and more people hear it, there are definitely going to be fans from all over Latin America who are going to want to see you guys, so surely someone might be able to step in, at least give you an excuse to get down to the beaches in Brazil or something...at least for one show.
Dadde: (Laughs) We'd love that!
ThrashHead: Any last words you'd like to throw out to your fans?
Dadde: We are really excited about everyone hearing the album, it's getting great reviews from people like you and other magazines and fanzines, we are really eager to get the album out and hear what you guys have to say about it. To be able to get out and play live again; we haven't done that in one and half, maybe two years so, it's about time for sure! It's gonna be fun and we are really looking forward to it.