Interview: Joakim Nilsson of Graveyard
Graveyard (not to be confused with the death metal band of the same name from Spain) are rocky, hairy, bluesy, noisy, heavy, slightly psychedelic and loud.
On their new album, Hisingen Blues, they sound like Cream, Led Zeppelin and early Deep Purple, all fighting with each other, with the sound broadcast over a straining, all-tube PA stack.
It's the kind of music Wolfmother would love to be cranking out right about now and that Otto the bus driver would probably be cranking in his cans. It also clocks in at an old-school-respecting 39 minutes and 28 seconds.
Despite its rough and immediate sound, singer and guitarist Joakim Nilsson says the band labored over Hisingen Blues for a whopping two years.
"We had been touring a lot, and our producer had also been touring because he's a travelling sound engineer," Nilsson says. "So we'd been having a bit of trouble getting dates for recording. It took quite a long time!"
When the band finally did manage to book some studio time, they didn't quite have an album's worth of material ready. Touring on the back of their self-titled 2007 debut meant there was precious little time for songwriting.
"It usually works like this: Somebody brings an idea to the rehearsal space and we start jamming and shaping the songs together," Nilsson says. "Everybody helps out writing lyrics. That's the way we want to work, but sometimes we haven't had as much time, even though it took two years to record this album. We are quite lazy, unfortunately. We don't have that much time. So some of the songs are made in the studio."
The result is an album that sounds miraculously spontaneous and fresh, given its drawn-out birth.
"We all make music in the band, so we want an album that's got different feelings on it," Nilsson says. "We want a really dynamic album that's got the highs and the lows. I think we get that from everybody in the band. Everybody contributes."
Hisingen Blues was recorded and mixed totally in the analog domain at Don Pierre Studios in Gothenberg, Sweden, by Don Alsterberg, who also oversaw the band's debut.
"He uses a lot of different microphones," Nilsson says. "The oldest one is from the '40s. I don't remember the name, but it's an old German microphone. We used that for the vocals. For guitars and drums, it's the ordinary way. We tried to record as much as possible live. We used these big [isolation] boxes that we put the speakers inside to get them to not disturb the other microphones. It's the regular way."
Gear-wise, Nilsson kept his guitar choices pretty close to home until his beloved axe was ripped off.
"I use a lot of different stuff," he says. "I used to own an older Swedish guitar, a Hagstrom, but our rehearsal place got robbed so I lost a couple of guitars. So on this record I was using a new Hagstrom guitar, a Viking. But nowadays I play a new Gibson ES-330."
As far as amps go, the Graveyard approach is decidedly kitchen-sink.
"We use everything! Everything breaks all the time, so we have to use different amps. Jonatan (Ramm, guitar) uses an older amp, an amp that is like a mix between and Fender and a Vox, with tremolo and a really cool reverb, a really long spring reverb. I have been using a Laney amp, but that one broke during recording and I haven't had it fixed yet. And I have some spare Laneys, the Tony Iommi amps (GH100TI). I have changed the preamp tubes in them so they don't distort that much, but I'm waiting for a new Orange to arrive right now. I'm going to play the Orange amps from now on."
The band's approach to pedal usage is, as you might expect from even a cursory listen to the album, rather minimal.
"In the studio we use some of those old ProCo Rats, but mostly we just play with the amps," Nilsson says. "Maybe those MXR Micro Amps when we were doing the solos, to get a little louder. I think it's that simplicity that makes the Micro Amp stand out nowadays. Everybody else has 12 pedals at once!"
Peter Hodgson is a journalist, an award-winning shredder, an instructional columnist, a guitar teacher, a guitar repair guy, a dad and an extremely amateur barista. In his spare time he runs a blog, I Heart Guitar, which allows him to publicly geek out over his obsessions. Peter is from Melbourne, Australia, where he writes for various magazines as well as for Gibson.com.