From the heights of Eurodance success to a new album and new beginnings, Martin ‘E-Type’ Eriksson‘s journey back to heavy metal has been an interesting one. His new band, Dampf, have a new album, The Arrival, out today so the time seemed perfect to have a chat with the man about his past, present and future musical endeavours…
Congratulations on the album. It’s very enjoyable. “Thank you so much! I love to hear that!”
Are you happy with the feedback you’ve got about the album so far? Have you seen many reviews? “It almost scares me! I think I’ve seen five reviews… I’ve been doing music for so many years, and it’s gone well, I’m really happy with my career. But usually the journalists, they don’t give me these good words. It hit me really deep in my heart when I read what one person had written, that they really couldn’t establish what kind of music Dampf is making. It sounds new! It was something they hadn’t heard before. Those are the best words I think I’ve ever heard! That you can even do anything new these days – everything is done! I don’t know… the good guys borrow and the geniuses steal!”
You were a long time away from heavy metal – what prompted the return? “Through all the years of touring I’ve done, I always used heavy metal musicians, on drums or guitars or whatever. Even though I made electronic dance music – I always have these ‘analogue’ guys with me on tour. And after the shows, we’d listen to Judas Priest, or Saxon, or Queensrÿche, and we’d talk about this… so it’s always been there. We’ve started to record this album at least ten times. Well, not perhaps this album; I recorded almost a full doom metal album, about four years ago, but nothing happened – no record company wanted it. Suddenly in 2019 I was living on a big farm outside Stockholm, I was invited to go to a Rammstein show and meet the band but I couldn’t go. I got angry, had a few beers and went into my studio. ‘I’ll make my own industrial metal album!’ The first song I wrote was Born On The Wind, which is on the new album. And I listened, and I thought ‘damn, this is like nothing that I’ve done before!’ The Christmas before the pandemic Christian, one of the drummers on the album, introduced me to Jona Tee from H.E.A.T. and suggested he might be the guy to produce the album; We got along well and became very good friends. For the first time I’ve found someone… sometimes when I write a song I might get stuck and I can give it to him and he knows how to get past that. He’s a really good guy. I think I sent forty songs to him; I asked him not to produce everything but to just pick the songs he liked. He picked the songs he liked most, and that’s the album”.
It’s great to have someone like that that you can bounce things off, isn’t it? “Exactly. I have experienced that only once in my life before and that was with (pop music producer extraordinaire) Max Martin. He would come into my studio, I would explain where I was getting stuck: ‘I can’t see where this goes after the refrain!’ and he always has ‘yeah? you should do this’ and I was back on track again! And it’s the same for Dampf with Jona. For instance, he took away some of the more industrial parts I had written… ‘you need more analogue drums!’. I would say ‘what do you mean’ and so he would do his own production and play it to me. And I would say ‘of course!’. When we were done with the album, it became clear that we had made our own identity; there are parts that ‘sound Dampf’ which is funny”.
And yet within that, it’s a very varied album. From the closing ballad Sea Me, through the almost Brechtian Goeie Me to songs like Born On The Wind or Twilight Eyes, it’s all Dampf, but none of those songs sound alike. “Probably it is. I’m so deeply involved in the songs that for me it is the same, but I can hear that difference. If I was totally alone in this, I would probably not be as bold, but since I have Jona, the record company and the guys in the band… actually it’s more like a weird community than a band… I ask what people think, especially Jona. It’s been the best of times because now I can just sit by the piano or with a guitar and write music, knowing that I can leave these songs in capable hands. I was very keen to have some Handel influence on the album, for his music be part of it. Since we don’t have any fans… I guess most bands have to write music with them in mind, knowing there’s a type of music that audience has in mind that it wants to hear. Since we don’t yet have that audience, we’ve been able write what we want, which has been wonderful”.
Was that the same with electronic music? Could you change up styles within that genre without the fans getting upset? Metal can be vey self-referential at times due to the huge body of ‘classic’ work that’s already out there. “I am not sure about that. When I was trying to do stuff with electronic music that didn’t sound like me it didn’t work. People wanted to hear exactly the things that I’d had my success with. That made me a bit sad, because it meant people wanted me to sit down and write music that worked twenty years ago. That’s not fun to do! It really put stones in the backpack! You couldn’t move! So that will be interesting when we come to make a second Dampf album; if we have a little audience by then, will they want the same thing as we’re doing now, again? I hope we don’t get stuck there. I want this project to live… I don’t know – like a creature! Let it prosper, let it grow the way it wants to grow whether that’s a monster or an angel, whatever… it should have it’s own way”.
I’m glad you’re already talking about a second album. Do you see your two musical careers progressing side by side now? Will you continue with electronic music? “I’m not sure yet. What made the success I had with ‘E-Type’ many years ago was that the music was new, and there were a lot of young people who enjoyed that music. I think these guys are the ones who decide what works and what doesn’t work. I’m a bit older, and youngsters can appreciate my old music, but if they buy music they buy new music, not the old stuff. I hadn’t written any music for ten years. Now I’m writing music every single day, so even the possibility of new E-Type music is one hundred and ten per cent bigger than it was… two years ago. So if I come up with a song, a feelgood song and it really isn’t a fit for Dampf – then I will call Max Martin and ask him to produce it. But if he says no, then I won’t do it. Because I need Max Martin for the E-Type sound. We have nearly half the new Dampf record written, and I hope that we can continue working in the way we have done so far on that”.
You’ve released a couple of videos so far – both very good and very striking – is the visual side of things important for Dampf? “It is, I think. Because Dampf for me is more of an ‘art installation’ than just a heavy metal group where you get five guys together and sit and rehearse – the normal thing. For me the visual side – the spooky side, and there is a spooky side… I decided very early I wanted to bring this very weird dream into the project with this woman and all the strange things… it was so easy to pick things out from my weird dream about her and put them into those videos. Elements from that dream – and there is more, so much more! I studied TV in school and I wanted to use that – putting it together, writing the script – in the videos. It’s important to bring all the elements together. It’s not just the song, I want to try to make people see bits and pieces from the dream that I had. I want to show you that experience. And on the other hand it’s really fun to produce these videos!”
Will that visual side expand into live shows? Do think this is something you could put on a stage? “Very much so. We’re going to play four shows this summer. Three in Finland and one in Sweden. But when I saw what they are going to be paying us I realised it will be hard to bring all these elements together (laughs). I have to go to the bank first! But before that we need to put together a band that really works. Usually I am not nervous about anything, anymore, but I am a bit nervous to see where this whole show will go. I look at Rammstein with their fifty trucks and their factory on stage and the flamethrowers… hopefully we will have a little success and we can start to build to this! When we started the band there were five of us but there are nine on stage now! the record company hate me!” (more laughter).
Hopefully you’ll bring a big show down to Australia one day. “I would love that! It seems so interesting there, all the creatures, so many weird animals. I was brought up with Crocodile Dundee and I would love to be there!”
Good luck with the album – “Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me!”
Dampf’s new album, The Arrival, releases today on Gramophone Records. Read Ferry Templeton’s review of the album HERE