Soilwork has released their brand new album The Living Infinite to wide acclaim. The ambitious double-album is also a concept driven story that was several years in the making. Most notably, the album is a throwback to their earlier, more aggressive era melodic death metal pioneers built their reputation upon. It is also said to be the most collaborative album the band has ever made. Ghost Cult caught up with drummer Dirk Verbeuren in New York, at the start of their new tour to get all the details on the new album.
How long did it take to record The Living Infinite?
The recording took about two months in all. I was only there for the pre-rehearsals and the drum recording because I had a bunch of other stuff going on. So the guys were in the studio for seven or eight weeks, we actually recorded twenty-five songs. We had it set up so there were kind of three studios inside the studio, so three people at the same time could be working in different areas. That made it happen; we could really use the time and be productive.
Was anything jammed out or was it all pre-written?
Well some songs were jammed out. We got together a week before I started tracking my drums and we went through a bunch of songs we had really rough demos for and hadn’t really sorted out. Some stuff like the instrumentals: ‘Entering Aeons’ that came together in rehearsal. The other instrumental ‘Loyal Shadows’ also came together between rehearsal and studio too it was some riffs Sylvain (Coudret) had we put it together and made a little instrumental out of it. But then there were more songs finished ahead of time so it was a mish mash of different things. We started working really hard during the demo process so some songs were in a very rare state in their first demo form, the guys would send them to me and I would mess with the tempos, change the structures around, send it back and so forth. We would just bounce ideas off each other. The band was really involved in all the songs as a group, which was cool.
What songs gave you the biggest pain in the ass to record?
There were a few! Actually ‘Vesta’ was tough because it had a kick pattern kind of guitar riff that I was having a really hard time playing and we actually ending up changing that main guitar riff in the verse a little bit so it could be more playable. Because Bjorn (Strid) had programmed something I was struggling to nail it. It was really fast, it had all these double patterns in there, I was trying it for awhile in the studio and I was like “you know what? This is gonna be too much”. So yeah, I remember that one and you know ‘Spectrum of Eternity’ obviously is a beast because it’s 240 bpms so that’s never easy! I’m still trying to nail it to this day but it’s getting better now because we’re playing it every night but I’m hoping by the end of the tour I can play it half way decent.
With nine records is it hard to come up with a set list nowadays?
It is, man, it’s a struggle. It’s not a bad thing we have so much to choose from but it’s just people have a lot of different opinions and we kind of try to listen to what our fans say too. We’ll ask people on Facebook what their favorite songs a are from the new album and see playlists on Spotify and kind of figure out from there what people are expecting us to play the most. So balancing all of that and the band six members various opinions is tricky. The good thing is though we decided to switch things around from our old set list. We have a number of songs we’ve played for the last five or six years because they’re kind of classics. We really decided to cut into those and take some out because we have too much new stuff; we have some old stuff we haven’t played that we like to play to keep things interesting for ourselves. If you play things over and over you tend to get a little less passionate after a while. We’d rather give a passionate and leave people wanting more. You’ll see; it’s a whole new set list tonight. We try to keep things fresh, that’s the most important thing. So we brought back some really cool stuff this time around.
Since you’ve been in the band, there’s been four different guitar player lineups. Ola (Frenning)/Peter (Wichers), Ola/Daniel Antonsson, Peter/Sylvain, & Sylvain/David Andersson. Was there one team that was easier to work with than the others?
It was always easy to work with Peter; he’s a great guy and a great friend of ours. So he was never a problem, I mean after he came back with ‘The Panic Broadcast’ and the following tours he was really trying to be into the whole touring thing, but his heart wasn’t feeling it. He’s a dad now, he has a little son and I think it was just too hard for him. He’s one of those people who could really be happy on the road knowing that his family is back home waiting for him for these extended periods of time. And that’s tough for everyone in the band, you know? For any touring person who has a family that’s the hardest part to deal with. Who wants to tell their wife or girlfriend “yeah, see ya in 2 months! Good luck with any issues you’re gonna have. I’m gonna be playing music” It’s never easy. With David and Sylvain; I’ve worked with Sylvain obviously since ’94/95 in Scarve so I’ve known him forever. David’s toured with us in the past, back in ’06, he filled several times for us. He did a U.S. tour, a Japanese/Australian tour when we didn’t have a guitarist. So we’ve known him pretty well, he’s easy going on the road and in the studio and outside. So yeah, saying it’s the best team? I don’t know? We’ll find out over the years if this combination keeps working but I’m definitely positive that we have a solid thing here. We said that with Peter too because we all including him in hoping it would work out that way but it ended up not. You never know what happens… now I’m a little bit worried to say yeah this is the final lineup. But I do hope it will be.
Do you think The Living Infinite is a loosely based concept record?
It is, the ocean has been very present in Speed’s life especially because his dad was a sailor and his granddad worked at the wharf and he lives right by the ocean. So it’s always been really present and really strong for him. It resonates with me as well, I’m a very “Eco aware” person and I follow that stuff when I have the time. I mean the ocean’s being plundered like crazy right now all over the world. People just in there with these mile long nets and catch anything. The good stuff in there, they grab it and the bad stuff they just kill it throw it back in and people aren’t aware of that. The oceans are being completely decimated, so for me all those things tied together make it that has something to say. Between Speed’s more personal messages he has in his lyrics and my feelings about it, it’s something that resonates with us as a band. Even though it’s not a story with characters doing this or that it’s a very strong concept for us. It was really a guiding line for us and the atmosphere and they way we put the track list together. Just the whole vibe when we were rehearsing, we all stayed at Speed’s house and it pretty much ends in the sea; so we went swimming, we kinda took it all in, it was fun but at the same time it was very much a whole entity kinda happening.
You’ve been in Soilwork since 2004; how did you get the involved with them?
Well, I got the dream call basically. At the time my band Scarve just released our third album, ‘Irradiant’ and we were on Listenable Records which happens to be Soilwork’s first label where they did their two first records. So Laurent Merle the label boss kept in touch with the bands that used to be with him and so when Soilwork moved on to Nuclear Blast Records he was still send them CD’s and stuff. I guess they heard Scarve’s ‘Irradiant’ when it came out which happened to around the same time Henry had left and they had Ricky fill in but I guess that wasn’t really working out. So I just got a call one day, Peter called me up and was like ‘Hey man, we love your work, we heard your Scarve album. I don’t know if you know Soilwork and all that, but we need a drummer for our next tour would you be interested?’ I said “Yup!” Then it went from tour to recording to finally being in the band. It’s crazy when I think about it now, one phone call.
Do you still get nervous before you go on stage?
Sometimes, depends on the night and the show. But a lot of the times I’m pretty confident. You get used to it and your start realizing that the best thing you can do is give it your all. And you’re gonna have good nights and bad nights, that’s how it is so there’s no reason to stress yourself out about it. People are happy to see the band and I just go in and try to be a positive as I can and enjoy the show. Even if stuff goes wrong, which does happen all the time, you know? Stuff breaks down, shit happens. Sometimes maybe you’re just having a bad day or you’re tired and can’t pull everything off the way you want to, but it’s gonna happen no matter what, so I just go in with a good attitude and give it my best.