Soilwork's Peter Wichers

Soilwork's Peter Wichers
Although they don't quite provide as much fuel in the hate game as their fellow Swedish melodic metallers In Flames, Soilwork have found themselves facing no shortage of flaming for the ultra-catchy sound they've honed over their last four albums (prior discs were more aggressive and thus remain the favourites of "true" metalheads). Of the band's varied, mature and classy recorded output, only their last album, 2007's Sworn to a Great Divide, did not feature original guitarist Peter Wichers. But the axeman returned to the work force late in '08 and the band continue to tour for the album, Wichers in fold, members excited as ever but with a new, more mature outlook on life: one that will probably find them touring less, arguing less and enjoying life more.

I guess the biggest news is old news: you're back in the band.
That's right. It was close to four or five months ago now.

So why did you return to the band?
Me and [vocalist] Bjorn ["Speed" Strid] have kept in touch ever since I left Soilwork and wanted to work together at some point, which we did on the Nuclear Blast record I did [Nuclear Blast Allstars, a Nuclear Blast 20th-anniversary all-star CD Wichers put together]. After that we were talking about maybe doing something a little bit different than Soilwork, something that was metal mixed with Southern rock and almost a little bluegrass twist to it, with Bjorn singing a little more melodic. Then Soilwork had a line-up change; he approached me and asked me and we started toying with the thought of me coming back to Soilwork. My wife kicked me in the ass and told me that's what I should do and since I had been cooped up in the studio for two or three years here, I accepted it and the rest is history.

That's a nice twist: not to stereotype, but the wife generally wants the guy to not be in the touring rock band.
Yeah, obviously it's a tough life to be married and be on the road, it's not a lot of fun, but I have a very supportive wife. Most people in Soilwork are married now too. They're hard to come by but you definitely want to hold on to those that can deal with us doing something like this.

What did you think of the one Soilwork album you weren't on?
That seems to be a popular question [laughs].

I'm just curious; you're in the band, then you sit back and listen to a CD you're not on - it must have been kind of weird.
Yeah, yeah. It still to me sounds like Soilwork. I'm not saying this because I'm not part of it, but I think that record is a little bit safe. I think they have some great moments on it, but I think for the future we're going to take a different direction for Soilwork. Dirk [Verbeuren, drums] is going to get a bit more space to play more drums, there are going to be more guitar solos, we'll maybe be a little bit more technical and getting back to how Soilwork used to be, say, maybe back in the Natural Born Chaos and Predator's Portrait days.

Do you think the band is re-energized now?
I can totally tell, everybody gets along perfectly. I don't think it's ever been as good as it is now. We all have a very open communication as opposed to before. It's always hard to live so close to each other on a tour bus, but I think now problems gets brought to the surface and you solve it, instead of going around and waiting until the tour's over so you don't have to spend time again with those people on the tour bus. It's easier if you confront the problem then going around like it maybe was before and just not doing it. It's the same scenario if you're at the workplace, or wherever you are, it's always the same thing. We're too fucking old, we don't want to deal with that shit anymore, we just want to have a good time; so if there is a problem, we'll just deal with it.

You let fans vote on your set list for this North American tour. I guess you have to be ready to play anything and everything.
Absolutely. It's one of those things to show fans that we're not doing something because it's the only way we want to do it. Everybody says, "Why don't you play this song?" We heard that enough, so we thought, "Here's your chance, now don't tell us that we don't play what you want us to play."

It'll shut people up.
Exactly. [Laughs] No, not quite, but it's a cool thing and this being the last tour for this record, it seemed like a good idea.

There are a lot of bands doing this melodic death/thrash, whatever you want to call it, sound; there wasn't when you guys started doing it. Do you feel the need to mix it up a bit because there is so much out there?
I'm not quite sure yet. It's kind of hard to try to write something that doesn't come naturally. I've done that in the past and end up hating the song, that's usually how it is. Your heart is not into it. I think with Sylvain [Coudret, ex-Scarve], the new guitar player, he's definitely going to add something to the band that might not have been there before. He's a fantastic guitar player; he's absolutely amazing. It's hard to tell on the Scarve records that he is that good, because that is more dissonant and drums are the more dominant thing on the records. But he listens to Stevie Ray Vaughn, Van Halen - he really is super good. We're going to see if we can go back to being a little more guitar-based than before, but still keep the element of solos, catchy choruses, stuff like that.

When can people expect a new album?
That is too soon to say. We're going to start writing after the U.S. tour. So I think, maybe, without promising too much, it might be accurate to say we'll hit the studio some time later this year.

During your time away you also did some playing with Warrel Dane [of Nevermore]. How did that come about?
We'd been friends for a long time. We got to know each other on Soilwork's first tour with Nevermore, back in 2001. We kept in touch. During Ozzfest, he contacted me and told me he's going to do a solo record and asked if I was interested in pitching a few songs to him. I said sure. He was in touch with a number of people to write stuff for his record and he wanted to see what direction it was going to go in and I guess I did something that was a little different. A lot of people wrote stuff that sounded like Nevermore, but he didn't want that. I just thought if it's a solo record, his voice should be the centre of attention, so I wrote scaled-down stuff. I think it turned out good, and we've been talking about maybe doing another one so we'll see. It got received very well, at least in Europe, I don't know about the U.S. It was a lot of work but I'm still pretty happy with the record.

So you guys are coming out and touring Canada. Have you done much Canadian touring?
Canada's always been super good. For some reason British Columbia has been kind of iffy but I'm guessing you guys are a little spoiled on that side. The rest of Canada has always been pretty damn good. This tour has the most Canada dates that Soilwork has ever had, there's about eight, and it looks like almost every one of them is going to be sold out, which is absolutely amazing. So we're very stoked. Passing through British Columbia, it's probably the most beautiful province up there, so we're stoked about it. It's going to be a lot of fun. We always love playing Canada. It's a great place.