Interview with Hypocrisy — “I really never wanted to be political, but now the lyrics became very political and it kind of scares me…”

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Having not heard any new music from HYPOCRISY for 8 years, we were excited when the band announced a new album, “Worship,” to be out via Nuclear Blast Records on November 26th, 2021. We talked with frontman Peter Tägtgren about the release of the upcoming record. Watch the interview here or read the complete transcript below…

First of all, hello and nice to meet you. Thanks so much for taking the time to do this interview. How are you doing and how have you been during this crazy period that we’ve all been going through collectively?

Doing good. I took a long vacation in March 2020 from everything, just laying on the couch, being fat, eating, and watching TV. And then, of course, I started mixing the new HYPOCRISY after that, because the album was made between 2018 and 2019, both written and recorded between these two times, and then I was busy going on tour with HYPOCRISY and also with LINDEMANN. So after that, it was just more or less like, okay, everything’s closed. Good. Time to have a vacation. Yeah.

Well, you mentioned that “Worship” was already finalized in 2018-2019. How has it been for you to sit on this record this long? It’s been 3 years almost, I guess.

I know. It’s been weird. Looking at the lyrics now, that I wrote like 2-3 years ago, and it was like holy shit, it’s kind of scary, to be honest, how you see how things are nowadays, and I really never wanted to be political, but now the lyrics became very political and it kind of scares me, you know?

That was actually going to be one of my questions because I thought it was pretty interesting how much talk there was when you released “Chemical Whore.” There were a lot of misinterpretations in the comment section, especially regarding people thinking it’s an anti-vax song. What I was wondering is whether you feel like a good song sparks conversation like that?

Yeah, I think so. If you look back in the past, everybody liked what you were writing or releasing, I mean, there was never any tension. But now, suddenly, there’s a lot of tension. Same with the “Dead World,” where we’ve got all these zombies running around. I’m seeing that we are getting divided by left and right, and all that shit. And that was… I think that song, I also wrote lyrics in 2018 or something, but it’s things I’ve been seeing all the time. It’s either you’re a left person or you’re a right person, there’s nothing in between, especially in America. In Europe, you have all these different parties, you know, you have the left, and then you have socialism, and then you have the democrats, and then you have the more right stuff, and it goes like that. But in America, it’s either left or it’s right. So when you are being called a right-winged in Europe, then you are a Nazi. In America, it means that you’re a Republican, so it’s kind of screwed up. But anyhow, these were my thoughts that I have been collecting over my years of existence on the earth and by watching a lot of stuff. So I just wrote it like that. It’s as simple as that.

You mentioned that you wrote down these lyrics from thoughts of your years of existence. I know that as a person, you’re also very interested in conspiracy theories. During the pandemic, I’ve realized that there are far more conspiracy theories out there than I thought of. More than we may even realize. Do you think there’s been kind of a change in attitude considering that lately?

I think people started to open their eyes, for good and for bad. With the internet, you get a lot of information and get a lot of disinformation, and you also get a lot of good information, but sometimes you go, is it really like that or is it disinformation? So it becomes a really ugly circle of wondering about things because you get so much information on the net, both good and bad. So of course, so what I always did, I follow my heart and follow my brain, and watch those who are anti-this or whatever, and those who are pro- these and those things, and you draw a line somewhere in the middle. Everybody has to think for themselves, you can’t just be fed with information on the net because it will drive you crazy. You don’t know anything anymore. You don’t know where you stand anymore. You have to follow your heart what you think is right and wrong, I think.

Do you feel like it’s more difficult for you to separate yourself from your artistry in a way that people may think that whatever you write about are your actual beliefs?

I think a lot of stuff that I write is my belief, for sure. Some are… I’m writing in a third person’s perspective or whatever, like I’m singing about someone else, but it’s actually that guy who’s singing. Sometimes I make stories that are not based on facts or anything, it’s just a cool story, and other times I think about things that piss me off that I think are wrong. That’s only my thinking. I’m not trying to push it down anybody’s throat. It’s a story together with music and it’s like a book, you know?

That makes sense. One of the things that I really liked about this record is your vocal performance. I think a lot of people agreed that it sounds a little bit like old-school HYPOCRISY, but there’s still something modern to it. With each new record, it’s like you are outdoing yourself. Do you feel like you did anything different during the recording sessions?

Not really. What I do is try to push myself to make myself more interesting because I can’t listen to myself repeating myself all the time. Of course, I have a certain style when I sing. I like to keep that, as well with my high-pitched screams or whatever. But I also want to make it more interesting for me to hear and if it’s more interesting for me to hear, maybe it’s easier to convince other people as well, that it’s more interesting to do. Do you know what I mean? So I just try to refine myself all the time and I’m very picky and very self-critical. When it comes to things I do, I don’t have much self-confidence. I never did and I probably never will. And maybe that keeps me on my toes and keeps me sharp to not try to pass half-good shit into an album. I mean, you have good days and you have bad days. Sometimes you can perform better than you did before and you have to accept it. Sometimes you have days where the sky’s the limit when you start singing and stuff like that. The only thing I don’t really want to improve is my skills in playing guitar because I’m too lazy to sit and practice. I never did. I actually started guitar by writing music and it was going very slow. For me, I like to keep it simple, easy, and in-your-face. I admire musicians that can really shred on their instrument, whether it’s a bass, guitar, or drums. I really admire them and I really listen to a lot of them. But for me to sit and practice that stuff, I don’t think so. I’m comfortable with what I’m able to write in that perspective because it won’t change my style of writing, I would say.

Now, maybe somehow related to this… you’re also a producer. I was wondering whether you think it’s more difficult working on your own stuff than working on other artists’ albums?

Yeah, for sure. It’s actually a lot easier to work with other bands as a producer because when you work on your own thing, first you have to write it, then you have to organize it and perform it, and then you have to mix it, and so on. But as a producer, you come into a band and help them make the best out of the song. First of all, you have some kind of forum there, like a frame, sometimes you go “ehh, maybe you should just cut it to two times, with four times it feels like you’re getting bored,” and things like that, or maybe you should take this chord here” and this and that. That’s a piece of cake, because it’s just a matter of taste what I would like and so that’s how you try to get the songs better for the bands that you produce, and also you try to bring the best out of each and every musician as they put on their instrument on there. So that is easy. You go with what you would like to hear and follow your heart and try to convince the musician. Sometimes musicians and bands have a different point of view and then you have to work with that. I’ve never been a dictator in the studio and say “no, it’s got to be like this.” I heard a lot of weird stories from other bands with other producers that are really strict and so on, but maybe it’s for the better, but I don’t know, I’m not that kind of guy that goes in and just you know shut my fist on the table and say I am the boss, now you do like I do. Never been, never will.

Is there production-wise a specific thing that you did with the album to make it sound the way it did?

Yeah. As always, you try to get the best sound of every instrument. That is never an issue for me. The issue is to get the levels right. So it was good to take a break when everything was recorded and done. And take a break for half a year, come back, and then start setting all the levels for guitars, drums, and so on. But also, I really wanted it to be warm. I wanted it to feel like it has an analogue feeling to it. I didn’t want this to be, as I call them, a laptop production, where everybody has the same snare sound, bass drum, or the same plugin on the guitar sound kind of thing. I wanted it to be more like old-school and feel more warmth to it. Bigger, more powerful. Because it also depends on what kind of music it is. If you play a little bit newer metal kind of things, you need to adapt your sound to that as well. But for me, I just want to, when you listen to the album in your headphones, you want to dream away and you want to see a picture of what you hear. And that is more important to me. I want to have a lot of balls in it. I mean low ends. I want to be crystal clear. I want to want people to hear what I sing. I don’t want them to open the booklet and look for the lyrics to find out what the hell is he singing here? Or there? I want it to be simple and it’s hard to make it simple to be honest.

I can imagine. I heard in a couple of interviews that you had an idea for the cover art and already had drawn it on a napkin. I was wondering whether you feel like having the cover art ready before the music kind of influenced the music as well?

A little bit. I mean, especially on the title song, for sure. After I was done sending away my little napkin pictures on my little napkin to Blake Armstrong [of Nuclear Blast], and I saw the cover, then I could just imagine the story about it. And that’s really a little bit how I wrote the lyrics as well, because I wanted it to be like “they’re coming back,” and then, “what do you mean coming back?” Well, they planted us here, and so on. So for me, it was kind of more of an amplifier from my visions of the song so it was easier to write the lyrics. I kept them super basic this time. Not to be stupid, dumb, numbed, explained, but just to keep it very simple, use simple words for simple meanings. I mean, I see a lot of bands go into dictionary; “what can I say instead of car to make it more complicated,” and things like that. I just want it to be simple, straight to the point, what I wanted to say, nothing around the bush or anything like that. So yeah, it was great to have a lot of things done before actually the album was done. It’s purifying to sit and talk with people, doing interviews, and stuff like that, because usually in the past, over the last 28 years, it’s like you’re done with an album you’re like, ah, that’s nice, and then the record company comes: “Do you have any pictures?” “No.” “Do you have a cover?” “No.” “Do you have a video?” “No.” It’s like, oh, fuck, you’ve got to keep on going. So we took our time with everything. We kind of did everything a little bit backwards. Of course, we had three or four songs done. By the time we did the first video that will come out on the release date, and I think in September 2019, we did the “Chemical Whore” video, and so the album wasn’t really done by that time. So it was good to do it. And we had to trust ourselves to see whether this was the best song to do a video for or not. I guess people enjoyed “Chemical Whore.”

Yeah. Now speaking about videos. You mentioned that you were wondering if “Chemical Whore” is the best song to do a video for. What is the process usually behind the music videos? Do you guys come up with ideas for each song?

Actually, for example, “Chemical Whore” was made by a friend of my manager. Just by coincidence, like she said, “why don’t you try something new, and not do the same stuff that you’ve always been doing?” And I think she was right, apart from maybe “Eraser,” that’s a really cool video that we did. We spent a lot of money on that at that time because we filming on 35-millimeter film, and things like that, so… but do something different. I have this girl in St. Petersburg that really has good visions and she needs a guinea pig for it, and I gave her the lyrics and the song. That was actually her vision of what I was singing about. So, in the end, it’s sometimes good to trust other people to do things for you. So I’m happy we went somewhere else and got a little bit different from the normal standing upside down and just playing as a band.

So yeah, and then next video, that world is also totally different… it’s about zombies and they did it only in a few shots. First, they wanted to do one shot through the whole video with all the actors and things like that, but in the end, it was too complicated because they did everything in like 14 hours, I think, makeup and filming, and telling how to do this, and because there was some fighting, some blood, and things, so I think they did five-six cuts or something like that. So I think it was great and it’s is different. People talk about it.

I’m curious to see it. Now going back to “Chemical Whore”; as I understood it, it’s about addictive prescription drugs, like antidepressants, and the big pharma. Being a musician or an artist, in general, I guess you know at least some people who have suffered from addiction like that. Do you feel that gave you sort of an extra push to write a song about that topic?

Yeah, definitely. I think I have a lot of friends that have been on pills, so to speak. Prescription pills, while they really didn’t need to, and then they started mixing it with alcohol. They started mixing it with other things. Some of them are dead now, others are still not doing good. So I figured out how to write a song about that. I’m not just saying that pills are bad. That’s not the point, because pills can also save a life. So don’t get me wrong. But there’s a lot of antidepressants that could actually maybe be solved by going to somebody and talking about the problems instead of hiding in the pills and things. So it’s like I said, it’s not about the pill in general, it’s about certain cases of people and sometimes doctors are very lazy, they just push them on some pills, and then they don’t have to worry about them for a while. Until they want new pills, and so on. So it was more that kind of perspective. When we released it, people thought it’s an antivaccine song, which yeah, we can all prove it was written a long time before the pandemic.

Personally, one of my favorite tracks on the album is “Another Day.” Is there anything you can tell about that song?

Yeah, it’s about us all struggling all day long with things and you get kicked in the butt every day, and you try to do your best, and you still get kicked in your ass. So it’s maybe a little bit about trying to rise from the bullshit, even though everything I’m saying on there is about that negative shit can be all the time.

I guess it makes sense that it’s a little bit more aggressive than the rest of the album as well.

Yeah, yeah, definitely.

Now, I also understood that you wrote “Dead World” together with your son. What I’m interested in is how your dynamics usually are when you write music together, because I guess it’s very different than working with a colleague musician?

Yeah. It’s kind of funny. We kind of have the same music style, me and my son. It’s nothing I ever forced him to listen to, anything that I like. It really came automatically. I never forced him to play any instrument. He did it by himself. But I guess since he’s been around a lot of bands, musicians in the studio, and things like that, he picked up one thing or another since he could crawl so… We did this father and son thing in 2017 where we were just sitting and writing songs together. And this is one of the songs that he wrote within like ten or eleven songs, but we just recorded them as demos. So it was no big deal, without vocals or any lyrics or anything like that. I always loved that song, so I told him like, let me use that for HYPOCRISY because I think people will like it. And he’s like, sure, no problem. So I wrote lyrics for it. Yeah, and to make it simple, he wrote also a song on “End of Disclosure,” our last album – he and I wrote “Soldier of Fortune.” We wrote that one together and he was like 14 or 15 or something like that. And of course, he wrote “Mathematik” for LINDEMANN. He’s got on a lot of things, and he’s a great fucking drummer.

Do you feel like that’s something you will do more and more in the future, writing together?

Yeah, I mean, he’s gonna help me now with writing some PAIN songs, and we’re going to see where they’re going to go. Because he’s a lot into electronics, he writes a lot of stuff himself, you know, and it can be interesting. It’s always good to have some new blood in there.

Great to hear that you’re starting to write songs for PAIN. Anyway, I noticed that you were able to play two shows during the summer. How was the experience for you to be on stage again since 2019?

Yeah, it wasn’t two years, but it was one and a half ago, 1.9 months or something like that. It was kind of scary in a way, because before we only had the chance to meet up and practice once and then go to the shows, but before that, it was like “oh, shit, will I remember the lyrics, will I remember riffs?” I was actually sitting for two weeks, once a day, running through the setlist just to get back and also you know, you have to get the picking back on track because you get stiff as fuck if you don’t do anything, so it was very slow. In the beginning, I was like, “oh my God, I can never do this,” and you get to pick up the pace/speed as you go. So I guess it went well. I think it was one of the tighter sets we’ve done, because all of us were on alert.

Speaking of shows, this bit of a tricky question because of the future, but are you basically going to wait out and see a little bit and maybe write some PAIN music instead of playing shows, or are you planning to take this album to the road very soon?

Unfortunately, we can’t take it to the road very soon. We have tours coming up. Yes, we do. I mean, unfortunately, we can’t play soon, because everything is booked. Now. As soon as they open, there’s like one band playing and you have like three or four other bands standing in a queue, in case they don’t make it or whatever. So it’s gonna be pretty hectic for all the venue owners and so on. So what we have, that we’re going to go out with soon, is the American tour before the summer. We have a European tour after the summer, and all this will come out very soon, I think. And of course, in summer, we have some festivals that we’re going to do, not too many because most of these festivals are booked since 2020, and they just moved it to ’21. And now they move it to ’22. So, but we’re ready to go.

I guess it must be a little bit annoying that it’s like one big puzzle nowadays, even more than usual.

Yeah, it is. I see a lot of festivals, they’re in nightmares too, because they have bookings from the past and maybe they want to get some new bands in there, but they can’t because it’s full and so on. So yeah, it’s a little dilemma for everybody. But let’s get this 2022 going. And I’m sure everybody’s gonna do their best and unfortunately, I’m not a really optimistic guy. When it comes to this COVID thing, I think there will be a couple of peaks again and lockdowns here and lockdown there. Unfortunately, that’s how it is. I don’t know when it’s ever gonna pan out. I don’t know if it ever will pan out. But maybe we can be more immune to it so that it’s not so deadly, that it doesn’t affect you so bad that you get normal immunity to it. Everybody knows I’m really skeptical about the vaccine and stuff like that, especially when they try to force it on you because if you start forcing people… then I become the opposite, but the good part of me is that I’m not social, I live in the woods. So for me, I’m not out there breathing on people. The only time I go out is when I go to my studio or if I go to the local grocery store where there are four people maximum every time I’m there shopping, so I’m not there to risk anything, and even people who do get the vaccine, they still spread the disease so I don’t see the difference, unfortunately. It scares me when they start going down in ages on kids and pushing in things that they haven’t really tried at all, and the only thing they’re trying is to get it approved, in such a hurry, that scares me as well. But this is how it is right now, and this is how we’re going to have to take it as long as I’m not out, I’m not going to vaccinate myself, but I’m going to have to because I’m going to go on tour. So yeah, that’s the way it is nowadays. So I stay away from people until I go on tour. And then I’ll see you in person.

Sounds like there are worst ways to spend your days during a pandemic.

Yeah, there are twenty people living in my village and our houses are very far from each other. So I see no problem not being vaccinated right now.

Anyway, I guess our time is kind of up. Do you have any last thoughts you want to share with your fans?

I hope everybody’s going to enjoy the album. I hope people are going to come out to the shows. We will release the dates very soon and the album will be out in two weeks. So enjoy the first one in 8… almost 9 years. Who knows when the next one is going to come out, I mean 8 years – by that time I’m 59 – or maybe in a few years or maybe never again. I don’t know, but have a great time and be safe. That’s the only thing I can say.