Interview: Hakim from Dead Lord.
Interviewed by CJ Claesson
Swedish old school rockers Dead Lord have been turning it up to 11 around the world since their 2012 formation. Following up their 2017 heavy-hitter ‘In Ignorance We Trust’ they are back with another extravagant rock ‘n roll album, ultimately proving them to be top-tier in their genre. ‘Surrender’ serves up a hefty helping of classic rock swagger, sure to melt your face in a frenzy of vintage amplifiers and twin-guitars. CJ sat down with front-man and riff machine Hakim Krim to chat about the new album, what he thinks is rock ‘n roll in 2020, writing lyrics in Swedish and much more…
The Razor's Edge: First things first, how do you take your hot dog? Is a "kokt med bröd" from IKEA fine or do you want the works?
Hakim: I usually go for the “tri-mustard”. I add some Dijon and then the Swedish ‘Slotts’ and maybe if there is a third one in my fridge, I go for that one. It’s a trick I learned from Thomas Jäger from Monolord – “Trippeljohnny” I think he calls it – even if the mustard isn’t ‘Johnny’s’ brand.
The Razor's Edge: I guess for people who haven't seen the video to ‘Evil Always Wins’, that question might be a head scratcher. Can you indulge us in the creative process of that video?
Hakim: I saw an opportunity to go to New York and film a music video for the entire budget we had for music videos. So, when it came to do the other videos, we had to be a bit more creative. Those hot dogs were not that big of an expense, and it was also kind of effective. It reminded me of our first video where we sit down and listen to the album. That sort of simple, stupid approach is nice. I really don't like music videos that much. I think it's weird that people like seeing a band lip syncing into a camera. But you know, you got to do what the Germans tell you to do (laughs)!
The Razor's Edge: Is humour important in Dead Lord?
Hakim: Yeah! I think it's important if you want to just be able to face every day. I wouldn't be able to cope if I couldn’t joke. Laughter as a thing is kind of weird. What is it even? Joking, showing your teeth and going “hahaha” – it’s weird.
The Razor's Edge: Your bio on Facebook states: "We are a Swedish rock band. We shall rock you with our rock". What is rock ‘n roll to you in 2020?
Hakim: To be able to play your instrument and having amplifiers that can't get an error message. That's pretty rock (laughs)! You know, fitting in with all the clichés, I like 'em all but I don't really focus on that. The Mötley Crüe sides of things aren’t really rock and roll… Paul Stanley said a nice thing in his biography about when Ace Frehley was laying down guitars. It was really sloppy and Paul wasn’t happy at all. Then Ace said “what are you talking about? This is rock and roll!” and Paul Stanley just goes “no it’s not, it’s shit!”. You have to have some kind of decency and also be able to behave and have a company. Because if you play in a band – that’s your company. You have to actually file those taxes and send those emails. That’s pretty rock… sending emails.
The Razor's Edge: Your 4th album 'Surrender' is also definitely rock in 2020. As follow-up to the massive ‘In Ignorance We Trust’ and written as a three-piece; how was the writing process compared to other releases?
Hakim: I basically just squeezed out all the songs from my anxiety and unwillingness to be creative. It’s just a chaotic process and the older I get the harder tends to be. I’ve been thinking about why. I like having a good song and the process of writing the song could almost be like scratching an itch. You know where you want to head but it's so abstract when you haven’t written the complete song. In my brain it’s just chaos when it comes to writing songs. When I was younger, I had songwriting and guitar playing as a sort of escape and that was my little thing, my little happy place. But then the more you tour and send those emails and if you have been sending emails all day on behalf of the band, maybe you’re not too stoked on picking up the guitar and writing a song for the band. It drains you in a way, but you have to write songs and they have to be good too. I just end up sitting there as close to deadlines as possible with severe anxiety and for some reason it works out. It always works out. It’s not really the best way of working for me, nor my bad members or the record company but that's how it is! The anxiety and the stress I feel is because I care. It’s weird what caring about things make you feel.
The Razor's Edge: With songs like ‘Messin' Up’ and ‘Letters From Allen St.’ - the songs feel very personal. Is this a more personal record for you?
Hakim: I think the older I get, the less shy I am or braver I try to be with that sort of thing. It takes guts to stand in front of strangers and actually pour something out of your heart that really means something or that you went through. I didn't really think too much about it. It felt nice to not only have social issues or political topics and also have some personal vibe going through as well. ‘Allen Street’ for instance; I had a night on my own in New York and you’re never as lonely as you are in a big city. Especially if you’re not in the mood to talk to people and you don’t really get the way they hang out in that part of the world. That night ended up being a really drunk, lonely and miserable night. But there's a trick you can do whenever things don't go your way - you can write a song about it. At least then you got a good song out of it, which is sort of like a comforting blanket. But it works!
The Razor's Edge: Except for the already released singles, what song are you most excited for people to hear?
Hakim: It’s usually the one that I haven’t been hearing in a while, so right now it’s ‘Dystopia’. It’s a faster one and it’s a bit snappy. I’m heading into nerdiness mode now, but the chord progression is pretty much the same throughout the song but in different keys in the chorus and in the bridge. It's a different way of writing for me, so I like that one. And I get to sing “iron fist” in it which is a cool thing to sing. You feel like Rob Halford or someone.
The Razor's Edge: In the comment sections we see a lot of fans saying "Sounds like Thin Lizzy, Kiss, early Iron Maiden" does that ever get old?
Hakim: Yeah, it gets super old! But I'm trying to be polite whenever people say that we sound like Thin Lizzy. Of course, I can hear it as well and it would have sucked way more if they thought we sounded like Red Chili Peppers, so I guess you have to be happy with that. Also, whenever Americans draw that parallel – Thin Lizzy wasn't particularly big in the U.S. so it’s kind of rare. So, when Americans say that, I’m kind of impressed. I don’t mind too much. I actually gave Scott Gorham two of our albums on different occasions, so maybe he likes Dead Lord, I don’t know. He lied about having listened to the first one the second time I met him. Very polite of him (laughs)!
The Razor's Edge: Yet again we're faced with a brilliant album cover. Who in the band is the mastermind behind the aesthetics of the band?
Hakim: That’s me. Maybe that goes under the flag “control freak” or “visionary” depending on how proud you want to sound. I've always been interested that sort of thing. I also did the band logo and every album cover except for ‘Heads Held High’ and the singles. This one is by far my favorite. I tend to want to try to make them look like something you would find in a bargain bin. They should look like something that is classic. If you look at ‘Surrender’ you can almost recognize it, you know? And hopefully by the end of this year everyone will recognize it!
The Razor's Edge: You are a relentless riff machine - how do you go about keeping old school fresh?
Hakim: I don't really think too much about it. I'm somewhat of a “turn down the distortion dictator” and sometimes to the extent that I think that I've overdone it. Actually, on this album I was like “Oh no, we overdid it. We should’ve used a bit more distortion”. Because you turn it down until you can barely play your riffs and then you turn it down a tiny bit more. Once you record it, it always tends to sound way too distorted and modern if you don't do that. To keep that airy rock thing, you really have to be patient and well-behaved when it comes to the knobs on your amplifier.
The Razor's Edge: Are there some experimental musical things you want to do in the future or forever stay strictly rock n roll?
Hakim: We try! The first album is pretty much one key, one song and not too much fancy stuff. On this album and even more so on the last one I’ve been trying to sneak in weird notes and just making it sound not weird. That’s something I don't think the average rock listener really thinks too much about. It’s more to pat myself on the shoulder and it’s fun to just do. It’s like putting down a puzzle and you go “hmm, this works, and this note leads to that one”. I like to do that, and I think I will try to do it even more. But once you go too crazy with that sort of thing it stops sounding like rock. Because rock is pretty much three chords and pentatonic minor and there you have it. It’s a balance.
The Razor's Edge: What three adjectives would you use to describe the record.
Hakim: I could try to sell it with punchy words? Go for it!
Face melting awesomeness!
The Razor's Edge: That pretty much sums it up! The album features a version of ‘Letter From Allen St.’ with Swedish lyrics. Are you looking to incorporate more Swedish culture or “Sweden-ness” in future Dead Lord?
Hakim: I just want to get better pay whenever we play in Sweden. If we release a song in Swedish maybe we’ll reach the status of Abramis Brama and those guys get paid (laughs)! I’m joking, kind of. But we didn’t really get noticed in Sweden. Maybe because we haven't played as much in Sweden. For some reason when writing a lyric in Swedish, if you don’t change anything but the lyrics or the language it tends to sound like a completely different genre. It sounds like 70s Swedish prog sort of, no matter what you do. Which to me is kind of weird, and I just wanted to see if Germans would hear that too, so we’ll see. And it’s more naked to sing in Swedish. Because with English you can throw around words like “love” and they aren’t that heavy. But if you go “älskar” in Swedish you go “woah, that guy is really pouring his heart out”. You have to be a bit more brave to sing in Swedish.
The Razor's Edge: First time I saw you play was in Växjö, Sweden in 2012 and since then you've been busy on the road. Corona put a halt to that, but you recently played Isolation Fest - do you see that format being a good alternative to spreading the gospel on top of regular touring?
Hakim: I mean, playing live in front of people is fun. As a band we enjoy it, because it's just hilarious. Having drunk Germans shouting in your face for an hour, it’s great! Playing those live streaming things are more like stepping into the library and shouting your lungs out and then waiting for the silence or the awkwardness. You don’t get to feed from the energy of an audience and that's the whole thing with playing live. If you suck, they will tell you that you suck. Or if you got a vibe going, they will add to it. Without that I'm not really too interested in doing it. But, if there are people on the other end of that Internet cable wanting to see that, I guess we’ll do it for them. We don’t hate playing music just because no one is listening in the room. It’s still fun to bang on the guitar but it's really not the same in any way.
The Razor's Edge: The upcoming tour with Lucifer looks promising! If you would put together your ultimate tour package - who would you play with?
Hakim: For some reason I think it would be really nice to play alongside Iron Maiden. Just because, why not? Sometimes you get disappointed by bands that you’ve been looking up to and you actually got to meet somewhere, and they turned out to be assholes. You never know what you’re going to get. Playing with bigger bands would be fun.
The Razor's Edge: You attract a wide audience - is there a typical Dead Lord fan?
Hakim: I've been looking through the stats on this ‘Spotify For Artists’ app and let me read it to you because it's so telling. You get stats that tell you what the age and gender of the listeners are and we have more listeners age 60 and over than we have 18 to 22-yearolds, which is really not a shocker. We have mostly 45 to 59-yearolds listening to our music, that’s 32% and then 35 to 44-yearolds, 29%. That’s pretty much it. And you know, if you’re 45 to 59 you usually have a good amount of money to spend on records and t-shirts which is really, really nice for us (laughs)!
The Razor's Edge: To round this up I have 10 rapid-fire questions, I'm just going to say this or that and you give your preference:
Volvo or Cadillac: Volvo
Björn Skifs or Rod Stewart: Ohhh, that’s a tough one – I think Björn Skifs because he seems more down to earth.
Snaps or Whiskey: Snaps
Stockholm or New York: I cry less in Stockholm, so I’ll go for Stockholm.
Dalahäst or Bald Eagle: Dalahäst
Dismember or Cannibal Corpse: Dismember
Snus or Cigarettes: Snus
Midsommar Celebration or Halloween: Does anyone really celebrate Halloween in Sweden (laughs)? Midsommar of course, that’s a no-brainer.
Tunnbrödsrulle or Hamburger: Hamburger
Saltlakrits or Twizzlers: Twizzlers? Like the not salty ones? Oh no, you have to keep it salty, saltlakrits.
The Razor's Edge: If you have anything to add to the new release - the stage is yours!
Hakim: Turn it up, play it loud. More is more! (laughs)