Latest Version Of The Truth
Mustasch sprang to life in 1998 from the ashes of Sweden punk band Grindstone. Their Detroit diesel approach to metal had them compared to Metallica, Danzig and The Cult as battle-worn riffs thundered over a menacing rhythm section. We first became aware of the four-piece on the release of their The True Sound of The New West EP in 2001. They were often lumped in with the stoner crowd even though their assault was much more biker rock in the vain of Orange Goblin than anything else. What’s refreshing about the band is they never stop working. Between each full-length release, of which there are four including the new Latest Version Of Truth, they churn out single EPs in constant succession - all with immaculate production and tremendous song quality. Last year they wrapped up their contract with EMI, released the stunning Tobias Lindell-produced Parasite EP on their own and set about building what the band members are collectively calling “The Record.”
Latest Version Of Truth is a surging leap forward both in sound and song craft. The press release boasts that instead of keeping up with current trends or styles they cleansed all that didn’t match their conscience. If it felt good, well then it was! They took no care about weather the riff was up-to-date and since it was all about shaking it up, weighing it down, and eventually building greatness they fought to keep it - anything that would make the body take control of the mind. Again Tobias Lindell was at the production helm creating more of a soundtrack than a single tracking long-player. From the roaring engine noise that launches “In The Night” to the orchestrated instrumental refrain of “Scyphozoa” to the James Bond-like “Forever Begins Today” the group are out to prove they are much more than just your average run-of-the-mill metal band. An unchanging lineup consisting of Ralf Gyllenhammar (vocal, guitar), Mats Johansson (bass) and brothers Hannes Hansson (guitar) and Mats Hansson (drums) has created an unbending vision and force to be reckoned with.
Rock solid from beginning to end, the record proves they are unified in their direction and hell bent on becoming a sleek rumbling machine, even if that includes disco. The Golden Earring-inspired “Double Nature,” the album’s first single, maybe not be full-on disco but its orchestrated dance beats are certainly groove oriented. The risk of using a stringed orchestra only capitalizes on what Metallica did with S&M. Here Mustasch make it a part of the musical texture adding a certain class to the relentless volume of guitars. Lyrically the songs pull at contrasts. “The Heckler,” “Spreading The Worst” and “I Am Not Aggressive” all speak about dichotomy, distinctions and comparisons. Yet, it’s still all about balls, big, hairy, meaty balls and these boys got ‘em from the bass-heavy “Falling Down” with the anthem “The higher they fly/the harder they’re falling down” to the Cult-stained “I Wanna Be Loved” and “Bring Me Everyone” all hailing the melodic crooning of Ian Astbury. From their humble beginnings on the island Orust in Sweden - rehearsing among mice, vipers and harvesters, they sought to brew led-heavy riffs, big drums and expressive vocals. On “The Record” they have nailed it to the wall.
We had the distinct pleasure of chatting with Mustasch bassist Mats Johansson prior to the band’s much anticipated Scandinavian tour. Below is what he had to say regarding the making of Latest Version Of Truth.
TCE: Since your inception you have made no bones about being a heavy metal band. Indeed songs like “Black City” and “6:36” defined the band sound early on. What led to the progression of Latest Version Of The Truth to include string and other musical experiments?
Mats Johansson: It’s just a logic way to go. Try to push some limits and cross some borders. Like we used to say - it’s nothing new, just different. And it’s something we always wanted to do. But there was always lack of money or time. Or even both. It’s really one of the good things being on a label that trusts you, You can choose where to put the money and the effort yourself.
TCE: The whole record feels like a James Bond soundtrack with a lot of twists and turns, keeping pace with a visual that hangs in-between the notes - especially in songs like “Forever Begins Today” and “Double Nature” which have more of a storytelling aspect to them. Was that intentional?
MJ: The intention was to make a wholesome album, which you would listen to straight through. Not just an album with a number of good songs, but an album where each track had its own value and purpose for the album itself. As for the soundtrack aspect, we didn’t think of it in those terms. But we’re all fans of Pink Floyd, and I think it’s safe to say that they sure did.
TCE: Why the sleek military jet for a cover with matching sound effects that kick off “In The Night?” Great effect by the way. The song also has this cool progressive climb where the guitars push the whole ting forward. Is that a musical statement about the band’s quest to launch forward with this record?
MJ: Yes, definitely! And the plane on the cover (SAAB J-35) combines beauty and power in suitable way - a little hint of the more modern sound/production of the album. (I wouldn’t say high-tech, the plane is from the 50´s.). FYI: The fighter plane is nicknamed “Draken”, which means “The Dragon” in English.
TCE: From the first listen “Double Nature” jumped out as the lead single. Its orchestrated disco beat and crushing riff makes it a unique and friendly song. How did it come about? Were you apprehensive about using such a slick approach? By the way, the solo gives me chills every time.
MJ: Immediately when we recorded the drums along with the trash-guitars we knew this was the first single and that we wanted to use strings on it. And when the track was finished apart from the strings, we had to do some gigs that had been planned since a long time back. Tobias got anxious and wanted to finish the track so he could send it for mastering. He simply decided about the disco strings. And after hearing it once, we just loved it. The perfect single attitude and power!
TCE: What orchestra was used? What were they like to work with?
MJ: The Scandinavian Strings. They’re all musical students between 16 and 22 years old, so it took a couple of overdubs before they got it right. But, compared to professional orchestras, they didn’t just want to get the job done and go home, and that showed! Especially fun for them, they said it was fun to play on a metal album instead of repeating Mozart over and over.
TCE: You’ve been compared to The Cult, Danzig and Metallica, which is flattering and which is an insult?
MJ: It’s all flattering. It doesn’t get much better than that. But as you can hear, we’re no rip off. We try to give every idea that comes up a go. Not thinking too much of how it sounds in the first place. If the song makes it to the studio it will sound like Mustasch by that time anyway.
TCE: What I really like about the band is you give each member a chance to leave their own mark. The rhythm section in “I Wanna Be Loved” stands out as a real monster. Is there a discussion how the songs come together or do you just fall into the pocket?
MJ: We’re a democratic band, But Ralf is responsible for almost all the songwriting today and he, along with the rest of us, always starts with the rhythm section. The beat and the groove must be there. Fortunately we have Dojan behind the drums and Stam on the bass so the monster is there. A friend once said The hard thing is to find a great drummer and a great bass player, any fool can play the guitar... There is some truth to that.
TCE: The contrast in orchestration with “Scyphozoa” reminds me of as a mid-record reprise as if you were writing for an LP format. Any truth to that?
MJ: True. We knew we wanted an instrumental track on this album as well, like we had “Mareld” on Ratsafari, so the natural thing was to place it on the end of “Side A” of the LP.
TCE: On your website several members of the band link their favorites with Pink Floyd. This record - more than your past efforts actually comes close to that Pink Floyd vibe. Was that intentional and if so, who led the charge?
MJ: We, for once, had the time to add that little extra to the songs - sound effects and additional instruments. I think we all wanted that but the real reason is Tobias. He’s no coward and never afraid of twisting the knobs, and he brought out the best in us.
TCE: You come up with some great lyrics. “Ratsafari”, “Dogwash”, “Nailed To Pain” and now with “The Heckler” and “Bring Me Everyone.” Where does the lyric inspiration come from? Both these songs jump out a pure metal as only you can deliver it.
MJ: All lyrics are written by Ralf, with a little help from the rest of us, and they’re mainly about his life, way of life and aspects of life. Maybe the difference between him and other writers is that Ralf doesn’t take in as much musical lyrics, as he does from the novels he read.
TCE: Melody has a real grip on this band. Does it come easily or is this a labored effort? “Forever Begins Today” is one of those melodic masterpieces while still maintaining a heavy thunder.
MJ: A powerful riff combined with a Beatles-styled chorus has been a formula for a lot of our songs right from the start. If you listen to “Serpent The Zodiac (Bazaar)” from our first EP, and I think you can see some continuity through our records.
TCE: What was the difference in working with Tobias Lindell that you didn’t have before?
MJ: He’s fast. He knows exactly what he wants, and he knows when he hears it! No hesitation at all.
TCE: Was it Sony’s recommendation to use Vlado Meller in New York?
MJ: Yet another thing we’ve always wanted to do. There’s no mastering like the one you get from the US. So, we had a couple of names we wanted to try. Vlado was our first shot, and he didn’t disapoint. So there was no reason he shouldn’t do the whole album.
TCE: “I Am Not Aggressive”, is that a message to someone?
MJ: It’s a message to anyone who is envious and/or angry towards other people’s success, “but they don’t dare to go that wild” in order to get there themselves.
TCE: The guitar tone is refreshing on this record. Do you use any unusual pedals or effects to capture your sound?
MJ: Mesa Boogie Lone Star and Stiletto!
TCE: The Doors ended their debt with a song called “The End.” I asked Robby Krieger about it one day and he said is was because they were all exhausted and just wanted it over - lots of tension in that record. Is that where you are coming from in this song or does it follow more along the lines of the lyrics? It’s also the longest track on the record, kind of reminds me of the way Gluecifer ends their records. What do you want the listener to get about this track?
MJ: We wanted to sum up the album and all the work we put into it. And we have had a little of a tradition to end our albums in a grand way. At the same time, the band has been quite productive during our career (four albums and two EP’s in six years) and now we felt that we have emptied our resources for the moment. And we really feel we did our best this time. We’ve had a wonderful team around us, Tobias Lindell, the producer, our management and Regain Records... we’re completely satisfied with everything. The album, the first single “Double Nature”, the video, the cover...
Website: Mustasch, Regain Records