Musicscan: You guys have been around for some time now, but are you surprised to see Mercenary still around after all those line-up changes you have been confronted with after Architect Of Lies came out. What fuels the fire and keeps you guys interested in the band? To take a fresh start with a new name would have been another option…
Mercenary: I wouldn't say I'm surprised and from an outside point of view, this may seem odd - but we made the decision of continuing the band without the other guys ourselves. It wasn't a rushed decision so there wasn't much surprise in it for us.
During the last couple of years frustrations of not agreeing on what to do musically and touring wise had been tearing on Mike. So much that he decided to call us up on the phone and telling us that he wanted to leave the band.
Jakob, Mike and I had been talking for a while about expectations for the future - musically and touring wise and came to realise that we all felt that we had somehow drifted too far away from what we initially wanted to do. The reason why we do this is because
we love to create and play music and we realised that, during the past couple of years, playing in the band had become a "call of duty" more than just a calling and something needed to change. We also came to realise that when Jakob and I were coming up with new ideas for
songs, we would often try to make everybody in the band happy rather than writing what immediately came to our minds. It had all become a lot of compromising and the chemistry within the band had suffered a lot because of this. We felt that we put a lot of effort into making
the band work and a lot of times that effort was met with indifference and complaining. At some point the fun and joy of playing had just disappeared and something needed to be done.
Well, with Mike leaving the band, we decided that we were finally gonna take a new direction and continue as a fourpiece with a new drummer and sat down and had a chat with Morten and Mikkel about it. We ended the relationship on good terms and I think we definitely needed to end the chapter here. If we would have continued together, I’m not sure another album would have seen the light of day to be honest.
We had been talking about changing the name at some point but then again being the fact that Jakob and I had been responsible for most of the songwriting in the past, we didn’t really see any point of changing the name. We didn’t want to throw away the building up that we had been doing the last years, when essentially it was the same song writers that stayed in the band – Jakob and I.
Musicscan: Do you still remember when you wrote your first song for/with Mercenary in the new line-up and what it felt like? How has your relationship to music and the band changed with new people joining the band?
Mercenary: I don't remember which song we jammed on first but I remember the feeling when we first got Morten on board and we were all jamming in the rehearsal room. I was thinking to myself: "Damn, why haven't we done this all along?!?". I was just such a breath of fresh air and it
immediately felt like we had been jamming together for years. Also on a personal level it seemed right from the beginning. Morten is an easy going guy like the rest of us and the chemistry and the spirit within the band had not been this good for a long time.
We have sort of got our energy back through these lineup changes. We're now playing again because we love doing what we do.
Musicscan: How has the songwriting approach evolved since you started with new members to write a new record?
Mercenary: The songwriting proces is pretty much the same. Basically Jakob and I are playing around with different ideas at home and then we go to the rehearsal space and jam our butts off with René and Morten. This time around, however, a lot of the stuff began to really evolve during those jams. Some parts even came out completely different than what they were intended to in the first place, and this seemed to work really well on a lot of the material. This way of doing it, definitely added some presence and spontaneity to the album that we hadn't explored too much in the past. Both Morten and René are great to jam with. They are both very good at contributing with stuff on the fly and that's pretty new for us.
Mikkel liked to sit with stuff at home for a while trying to figure out melodies and that was what worked for him. I think that just jamming on the stuff often brings in some immediacy that you won't have if you sit with the material at home - and jamming is where René really shines as a singer. He can go in on the fly and jam on an idea and a lot of times what he did would end up being close to the end result that went on the record.
Musicscan: What sort of evolution has the band gone through into Metamorphosis? What I feel about the new album is an somehow unexpected coherent and in "one-style" sounding…
Mercenary: We have become more of a unit now, I think. We're more or less on the same page music direction wise and that has come to show in the music. We wanted to make a much more focused album while still maintaining the different elements that a Mercenary album usually has. That and the fact that we didn't have to make alot of compromises this time around is what made the album much more coherent - I really think we've have found the style that works for us now.
By having many compromises in the past, it was not easy to have an album that yeilded one direction because you wanted to make everyone happy - this made the albums go in many directions which earlier had been a strength. At the end of the day this ended up not working for us
since it had become a work template. Instead of using our gut feeling we'd probably try to do what we always did - mainly trying to please everybody in the band. Now we know that this is not the way for us to make music.
Now we write what immediately feels good and try to not overthink it. We still have many of the same elements but I think we have incorporated them much better into the arrangements on this album.
At the same time I think we have a matured as composers and songwriters and
that obviously adds to the equation.
Musicscan: Every band has a vision of how their songs should sound like after the recording: Listening to Metamorphosis right now: Would you say that this was a successful mission or would you even say that you have been able to surprise yourself? If this is the case – in how far?
Mercenary: This is gonna be a huge YEAH! This time around, I felt that the album kept on growing throughout the whole proces of writing and recording. Even during the mixing proces, it was pretty hard to not have a big smile on our faces - that's a pretty rare thing, haha.
On top of that, I really think that Jacob Hansen has outdone himself production wise on this one. Everything is so clear while still retaining a lot of punch. He never seizes to amaze me – he’s constantly evolving and he has a gift of bringing out the best in us.
Musicscan: What are you looking for in a song in general? Do you think there are still genuinely new sounds to be discovered or can modern metal basically be said to be a recombination of already existing forms and elements?
Mercenary: I think that what sets us apart from a lot of other bands in our genre, is the fact that we focus a lot more on the song as a whole and not just the riffing. I mean, who wanna hear a crappy song with one good riff? Obviously we focus a lot on the riffing but even more on song structure and arranging.
Regarding new sounds to be discovered, I think it's a tough question, really. I guess there's not much completely new ground to explore (unless you wanna make music that is so strange that you probably don’t even understand it yourself , hehe) but there's certainly a big pool of inspiration to draw from nonetheless. I think it's still possible to make fresh and new music
by drawing from those inspirations and putting them into new context - basically stealing, not copying:) I think it's all about being inspired and then doing it your own way instead of copying one to one - this way your music will have your stamp but people can hear where you come from.
Musicscan: Musically and lyrically Mercenary seems like a band fueled by raw emotion which is at the same time tempered by a “reflected” vibe. What are the motives behind writing in this style, what reactions are you seeking to evoke in your audience?
Mercenary: We try to be completely honest in what we do so there really isn't any motive behind it. It just feels natural for us to do what we do now. René's lyrical universe is very broad and the lyrics deal with both intimate and emotional matters but also everyday stuff such as frustration, joy, hope and anger.
We're not trying to evoke specific reactions in people - as long as people can feel the music and as long as you get moved by it one way or the other, the music does what it's supposed to in my opinion.
Musicscan: Where do you guys see the line drawn between progressing on what you do well, and completely offering a new direction or sound? Especially in the context of Mercenary of course…
Mercenary: I think there's a really fine line between the two. For me it's about keeping myself interested and if there's no real progression in our way of doing things, it defeats the purpose of playing for me. For me it's always been about developing and evolving as a musician and songwriter and if we start doing the same things over and over again, we're bound to grow tired of it. So I think there'll always be a natural progression for us from album to album. I think you can count on the fact that our next album won’t be a grindcore album but we might have drawn some inspiration from it – and I think that is the progression you’ll most likely hear from – sort of a natural progress more than a complete “make-over”. Not limited to grindcore of course, hehe.
Musicscan: A last question: What do you hope people to take away from Metamorphosis and what, in your opinion, are the most exciting aspects about your new album?
Mercenary: I hope that people will hear that we very much alive and here to stay! We feel that this album is our best effort so far and hopefully you’ll dig it as much as we do.
Thanks for all the support and remember to come out to one of our shows with Nevermore and Symphony X this early spring! It will rock!