|Volbeat- Michael Poulsen|
My phone interview with Michael Poulsen front man of Volbeat
Cindy Parr- First let me say thank you so much for calling and doing this interview with me and Shockwave.
Michael Poulsen- Oh, you're welcome. I know that it's very early at your home right now so I appreciate it.
Its ok, I would normally be up around this time anyway so its not a big deal. But thank you again for calling.Ok, to say that I am a Volbeat fan would be a BIG understatement, and for you to be calling me is a huge deal.
Oh, well thank you.
Well, we will do this quickly because I know you probably have a million things to do, so lets start by talking about the upcoming tour. It picks up in Denmark on February 23rd. Have you guys taken a little bit of a break over the last few months and over the holidays?
Yeah, for the first time in a very long time we have actually been home for 2 months or so. Actually we were supposed to go to England for 3 weeks, but we had to cancel the tour because I had some pain in my chest and I thought it had something to do with my heart. It took over a month to figure out what it was because I had to go to the hospital and have a bunch of labs do blood tests and everything. But, what they figured out is that I have a bad nerve in my back that goes down my whole left side of my body and around my chest and neck, head and out to the eye...So I've got to take care of that nerve so that I can move around again. But, right now everything is going good. I just have a bad cold just like everyone else because of the terrible winter. So yeah, we have been home for 2 months and just been taking care of our families and friends. That's been very, very good because we are reloading and getting new energy for the tour.
Oh wow, I'm sorry for your health problems and I hope they get better and stay better for you.
Thank you, yeah, for over a month I've been coughing, but, it should end very soon. But no matter what we are coming back to the America .
What do you/Volbeat do for fun when you are not touring?Well I just bought a house with my wife. So, we are very happy to be in our new house. It has a very, very big garden. It's almost like a forest! We look out at an open green field with a lot of birds, and on the other side of that is water. So we are enjoying our new house, having family and friends over, good food. You know just doing the normal things and trying to relax and not thinking too much about Volbeat and music. Even though everyday there is always some kind of work, and that's ok because that's a good sign. But yeah, basically just the normal things like everyone else. The other guys in the band have kids, so they are taking care of their kids and families too. So really nothing special here.
Those are all good things. Do you guys ever get tired of being together?
It's always good to be back at home because we have been touring a lot, we easily do 120 shows per year. So, we see a lot of each other while out on the road, so when we are home we are actually not talking. We definitely have nothing to talk about because we have been on the road for such a long time, Ha-ha.. There is no subject to talk about when we are home. But the thing is, when you are home you start to miss the road and the Volbeat family. So like I said it's good to be home, but we are definitely looking forward to getting back. Now we have new energy and everybody is reloaded. It's going to be good to be back on the road and back to America . It's something we are really looking forward too! So far, the tour that we had in America has been very good and people are really excited about Volbeat getting back. We are doing this club tour in Denmark because the last two years we have been playing big halls with 10,000 plus capacity, and there are still people out there who have not seen Volbeat in a smaller place. It's going to be great fun to be closer to the audience. It's going to be a year with a lot of great concerts!
It's going to be great! You guys come back to the US in March, and I will be at the show in Philadelphia on March 24th. I also saw Volbeat the last time you were here in August when you played the Rec Room in Towson . That was actually my first Volbeat concert, and I can easily say it was one of the best shows I've ever seen! And I go to a lot of shows, but that one really stands out. Thomas was not there because he had an issue with his visa and couldn't make it to the States.
Awww, so you actually saw the band as a 3 piece.
Yeah and it was awesome, so I can only imagine what its like with the full line up. I'm very much looking forward to this next show and seeing Thomas and the energy that he brings to the stage.
Of course, the band is meant to be 4 people on stage. We didn't like to cancel the shows, so we thought lets do this as a challenge to ourselves. The shows went really good, and it was something different, but of course there were songs that we couldn't do because of the intros and harmonies that require both guitars. We took it as a challenge and managed to do it. But, it's always good to have Thomas back on the stage again and hopefully you will be able to see a difference.
My group of friends and myself are VERY excited for you to be returning. I hope the US fans are treating you nicely so far.
REALLY, the really have! After every show we go out and talk to the people just like we did in the beginning when we didn't play the big halls. And we are definitely going to do that again. We like to listen to what the people have to say and some of them have been waiting a long time to see Volbeat and they have something on their chest and it's always good to hear what people think. It's something we really appreciate. It's great to hear people's stories and how they found the band.
And we definitely appreciate you guys doing that! Last time you said you would be out shortly and you were. Some bands take forever to come out and say hello to people and we are left waiting for an hour. But you all came right now and said hello to everyone and took pictures. It was really great!
I think every band should do that when its possible. You know every band sits back stage and hopes that people are going to show up, that it will be a good show and every one enjoys it. It's so Goddamn easy to go out and say hello. I remember back in the days when I was going to my first concerts and looking at my favorite bands and some of them had sunglasses on! And I was like "Come on dude, your inside.. what's your problem?" and they could not even speak in between songs. It was like "fuck you man" they were too arrogant. And I thought if one day I can have a band and I can speak to the fans I will definitely do that. So from the very beginning I told my band "listen, every night when we are done playing lets just hit the shower quickly and go out and say hello to the people" because they deserve it! They bought the fucking ticket, the merchandise and CD's so they are part of the success and everybody it totally cool with that. If we still have some hours before we have to leave and every body is feeling good we always stop and talk to the fans and we feel good about it.
Well we appreciate it and its does not go unnoticed.Your sound is so eclectic, obviously there are a lot of different influences from all kinds of genres. I would not classify you all in any genre or sub-genre. But do you classify your self as anything?
Actually since the beginning it has not been that important for me or the other guys to brand our sound. I split my former band because we did death metal where you're really not allowed to explore and mix up styles. This time I said , I know how I want my sound, it's got to be distorted, it's got to be heavy but I would like the rhythm and the melodies to be something that a little bit from the 50's. There's a lot of songs style wise I didn't know what they were and I really didn't care. It's important not to pin myself in a corner. So what if a song starts out with a country feeling and turns in to a metal song? That's what I wanted to do. It was all about doing what came natural. So when people ask what kind of style we just say we don't know.. ha-ha. It really doesn't matter- its just Volbeat. But you can hear the influences by bands like Metallica and Misfits, or Johnny Cash and Elvis. We are not afraid of letting people know who influences us.
When I tell everyone about you guys, I just say to me Volbeat is everything that is right about music. You're everything that's right about metal, everything that's right about punk and rockabilly or county.. It has a little twang in it mixed with some harmonica. Everything that is right about music is in your band.
Thank you, that's a very big complement! Maybe I will say that the next time I'm asked that question.
Your free to use it!
Randy from Lamb of God actually said a good thing while we were talking about Volbeat's sound. Randy said "Ya know, Volbeat it's just awesome!" so I said, "ok, that will be the style!"
Absolutely, that works too! It's awesome and it's everything that right about music, ha-ha.Ok, so on the newest album "Beyond Hell, Above Heaven" How did that title come to be?
I always like to fool around with words. For me it's important to have a title that links to the music and you can sit down and think a little bit about it. But "Beyond Hell, Above Heaven" is a way to get away from the cliché - because to me if we go beyond hell it will look like heaven and if we go about heaven it will look like hell. So we are not supporting any of it rather then making a fun of it. Ha-ha.
Great, the songs "The Mirror and the Ripper" and "7 Shots" - I really enjoy how they carry over from the previous album. I almost feel like if you don't listen to the songs before it, you many not get it. How did that concept come to be? How did you come up with the idea to make a part 2 for these songs?
Well, I always have these stories and ideas running in my head. Since the previous album "Guitar Gangsters and Cadillac Blood" I had a small concept on that album which didn't get finished and I didn't want to spend too much time on it - on "Beyond Hell, Above Heaven" I figured we would just finish the story in a few songs. It's really tough to say how because when I sit down to write a song its like I'm in a bubble and I can see the story. I'm always inspired.
To me, on this album and on the 3 previous, there is not one bad song or a song I skip over - they are all fantastic. But two of my favorites on the new album are "Being 1" and "Magic Zone" and I know you wrote them for your wife. I bet she was happy when she heard those songs. If someone ever writes a song for me it would be a good day, ha-ha. I enjoy those songs very much.
That's great! Yeah, she really loves "Magic Zone" but she's not too crazy about "Being 1." She thinks that "Being 1" has great lyrics but she's not big on the music.
Oh really! Wow...
Yeah, but she's honest and I like that. But she loves "Magic Zone."
Awesome, So before you hit the stage do you do any vocal warms ups, exercises or a couple shots?
It depends. Actually what I do is about 30 minutes before the show I get a really hot shower. When the warm water runs down my head and my chest it opens up everything. And in the shower I do some warm notes, and then maybe for like 5 minutes I'll sing a couple lines and a glass of whiskey and that's it. I kiss my knuckles because I have my parents names tattooed on them, kiss my wedding ring and then we are on.
Oh wow...I noticed on the live DVD that you use some kind of throat/vocal spray. Do you still use it? If so, what kind?
It was something I tried a couple years ago. You're always trying to find a new way to get through and someone suggested it because it had a little bit of honey in it...but I experienced that it really didn't do anything. Just in time you learn what's best for you. A guy like Ronnie James Dio never warmed up. Tony Iommi told me he just took a sip of his beer, went on stage and sang like he was 20 years old! And then you know other guys that warm up for a half an hour. A lot of times I think it's a psychological game because it really has to do with how much sleep your getting...when your sleeping that's when your reloading. Sadly, I've been suffering from insomnia since I was a little kid and I'm still fighting with getting a good night sleep. But, every time I get a good nights sleep I have no problem with my voice. And then lots of tea and whiskey - shut up and get a good nights sleep. Ha-ha
Noted! Thank you. Ok, so the gear that you use. I know you exclusively use Gibson guitars. Is there a reason for that? And does Thomas also play Gibson's?
I've tried a lot of different guitars, and when I got my first Gibson, it was the Tony Iommi model. It was like when your searching for the right pair of shoes your whole life and you find it and your like "oh yeah, those are comfortable and that's what I am" and when I got my first Gibson guitar I could sense it. I was hitting the strings and was like...Yes, that's it, that's what I need and that's me. It's been working for me for a very long time so there is no reason for changing that. I told Thomas too, I don't know what he was playing before, but I told him to check out a Gibson and he liked them as well.
It's like if it's not broke don't fix it.
"Do you remember the first song you learned to play on the guitar?"
Oh wow...ha-ha, I remember a few things. The song "Black Sabbath" and some S&D songs...So those will probably be some of the first songs I learned.
Very cool. Alright, well Shockwave does some fun and random questions, so I'll move on to those. I am also tattooed, when did you get your first tattoo?
I was definitely not old enough. All my friends were older then I was and they all had a lot of tattoos. I thought they looked cool and my dad also had a lot of tattoos. He once said to me while I was living at my parents home that "if you ever come home with a tattoo I'll kill you" and I said "oh there's no way I'm going to do that" but I always went up to the only artist in the city we were living and was looking at all my friends getting tattooed. I was always asking the tattoo artist, please let me get a tattoo, and he would say "Michael, you're still not old enough but when your old enough come up and I'll give you a tattoo". But I kept nagging and nagging and told him I found the right tattoo and I cant live without this tattoos. It was the front cover of Mercyful Fate's-"Don't Break the Oath" and he was so tired of it he said "you come right now and I'll do it, but don't tell anyone, where do you want it?" I said "on my leg", and he said "come now!" But I was in school. He said I don't care if your in school and I said "oh me too!" So I went down and got my tattoo.
I was young too. I told my mom when I was 15 that I wanted a tattoo and for my 16th birthday she took me to the tattoo shop and helped me pick one. And of course that starts a chain reaction. I'm 26 and still getting them. I'll be 80 still getting tattooed if I can.
I agree, there's still a lot of flesh to get ink done.
Ok, so if you could have grown up in any Era what would it be?
Definitely the 50's, but I also know that the 50's was a tough time. But there is something charming about that era. I'm very inspired by the 50's and a lot of influential music that came from then. So yes, that would definitely be a time I would like to go back to visit.
I would also like to go back to that time. There's something about it - between the pin-ups and the greasers.
Yes, it's very charming. Has its own glory, and it will always survive. Not like the 80' or 90's. I mean what the hell was that! Ha-ha
Ha-ha, right! What are some things you can not live without?
Materialistically, there's really nothing. I like my wife, I like my dog, I like my band...but it's not that I need my guitar or I'm in love with my car, who cares about that. They are just things that come to you as a bonus. The important thing is to have a good life and have someone to share it with. So a simple answer is my wife and my family.
That works; there's nothing wrong with that. If you can finish this sentence - I will never get tired of........
Ummmm, that's a really good question. I will never get tired of whiskey! I will never get tired of boxing; I will never get tired of pizza, Social Distortion, Elvis, or Johnny Cash. I'll never get tired of my band. So yeah, there are a few things.
Very cool! Alright, well, I will wrap this up. Again I know you probably have things to do. So my final question is... Some of the staff at Shockwave, as well as some of our readers are musicians or are in local bands. Do you have any words of wisdom or anything that you can offer to someone who is trying to make it as a professional musician?
Basically don't chase the glamour and the success because that's really not what it's all about. Try to fulfill your dreams and be stubborn about your music. If people tell you your doing it the wrong way, tell them they don't know what their talking about. Just believe in yourself and believe that what you are doing is the right thing for you. And sacrifice yourself a lot for what you believe in, then maybe one day you will be there at the right time and you have been working hard enough to get some where.
Great! Good stuff! Well Michael, thank you so much for talking with me. It's been a real pleasure and it's definitely something I will carry with me for a very long time, I'll never forget this!
Thank you very much.
Your welcome and I will see you in Philly! Have a great day!
Michael Poulsen could not have been a nicer guy. He answered every question in great detail and didn't make me feel rushed at all. This interview went great and I can still hardly believe that I-a simple chick from Baltimore got a phone call from Denmark to talk to the singer of Volbeat! I can only image how many tens of thousands of people would kill to have a one on one 40 minute conversation with one of their favorite musicians, and to have that experience means more to me then words could express. So thank you to Michael Poulsen, the Volbeat staff, and of course our publisher Vince for making this interview possible.