On their fourth album „Fyra“ the Swedish-German SUFFOCATE FOR FUCK SAKE have portrayed four people and their addiction disease. Why there is also hope in the work despite the gloomy theme, how to properly touch such a personal topic and how the album of the international band was created in the pandemic, Daniel, Tommy and Sebastian report in the interview.
Thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Everything’s OK with you?
Daniel: Thank you for your interest! And in answer to the question, the definition is, of course, in the shadow of the pandemic… but yes, I would say that it is OK! I guess that we Swedes in the band have not really experienced the same consequences in the form of lockdowns and restrictions as the rest of the world, but I would be lying if I said that we’re not exhausted by the situation – especially as a band across national borders.
Sweden has long taken a special path in the fight against pandemic, which the whole world has looked at. How is the situation with you?
Daniel: It is difficult to sum up the collective pandemic feeling, societal fever? Everything has just continued as usual, but not at all as usual. There is almost something cinematic, Lars Von Trier-like tonality over your everyday life. You are torn between what society expects of you and what it encourages you to do… which in nine cases out of 10 is contradictory. But I believe that our path has strengthened morale and hopefulness collectively. The individual’s sense of responsibility has also increased, which I believe has happened globally.
What is the situation like for artists and the self-employed? Do artists receive sufficient emergency aid and does that also affect you as a (presumably part-time) musician?
Daniel: I would say most of the band members have music as a passion, a creative expression. None of us are financially affected by how the corona has changed the music industry, so everything hereafter becomes some kind of „hearsay“.
But, culture is, unfortunately, always society’s canary in the coal mine. The debate has been fierce and the support has probably not been enough for full time artists to be able to live on as usual. And it’s not just artists, it’s a whole industry built upon them that suffers. The question is whether the responsibility should be placed entirely on the state? Do not get me wrong, culture plays a bigger role in society than the state often recognizes. Culture is the glue that holds society together and stands up for and inspires our freedom of speech. The state must provide the support that cultural life needs to survive this. No questions asked. But you could easily understand that a state need to prioritize citizens‘ lives and other core functions before a prosperous cultural life in a situation like this. I believe that a great responsibility lies with society as a consumer of culture to continue to support it in other ways than has been done before to make it prosper. I mean, what kind of society would we return to if there was no culture? A society worth fighting to get back to? Not in my opinion
You can’t play a tour for your new album anytime soon, but a lot of music is currently being released. Do you think that’s a disadvantage, do you see the danger that the album will not be noticed?
Daniel: With our way of working, our storytelling and with our history as a band, I’m not worried. Just the fact that we have been around for almost 20 years and hardly anyone knows what we look like or even who we are. Somewhere I think we have such a strong belief that the story we want to convey through music is so strong that it will outlive a live act, an album, a generation and even SUFFOCATE FOR FUCK SAKE itself. We create music because we want to express something rather than to be remembered. As long as that is the goal of our creativity, we will probably not worry that the album will be forgotten.
“Fyra” is your fourth album, but also a four-part concept album – which came first, the awareness of the anniversary or the idea for the album concept?
Daniel: (laughs) that two of our members have worked with creative and conceptual marketing for over ten years might be an answer to that question? No, but what came first, as always, was the album concept. The story is always in focus. „Fyra“ came as a bonus. Open goal, easy target, easy win etc.
On “Fyra” four people – Mikael, Mia, Adam and Martina – are portrayed using their own texts and sample excerpts from a podcast. You thank these people in the booklet, so I assume that they really exist. How did you approach these people, how did you convince them that it was a good idea to make a metal album about their fate?
Tommy: We discovered this podcast „Beroendepodden“ when Mikael who is an old friend of me appeared in the podcast with his story. We then contacted the rest of them via the podcast and they didn’t need any convincing at all. They just thought it was a good that their story got spread so that it might help others even if it’s only one person.
Did you have contact with the four other than passive listening to podcasts, did you coordinate the concept with them?
Tommy: Well, with Mikael we have been in contact and it was after listening to his story the concept was born. Then we found the other stories to fit into the concept and co-ordinated everything with Annelie and Thomas at the podcast „Beroendepodden“.
Did you have any other candidates who didn’t want their voices to be heard on an album, or were the four of you your first choice?
Tommy: No, they where all the first of choice. The only rules we had when finding the right stories was that it should feature four different types of addiction.
Thematically, it’s a very demanding, serious concept – how did you come up with the topic in general, what was it that fascinated you?
Daniel: Everyone probably has an involuntary relationship to addiction in some way. As an addict, family, relative, friend, etc. The addict has many victims, which extends far beyond the directly affected… also, the dual nature of the matter. Most people have an inner struggle in many aspects of life that is just not harmful. You face decisions and disciplines every day when you wake up. So the journey is in all of us, in some way, while the nature is polar opposite. It’s a thin line.. Just as goodness is in every human being, so lurks the shadows.
What do you want to express or communicate with the album, with what intention do you dedicate yourself to such a topic?
Daniel: Choosing the addict’s perspective and their struggle may have been a taboo in many forums. Society has a tendency to shame it at the same time as it has an indirect contributing effect to it. It is a struggle, and worst of all, an inner struggle for everyone affected.
Of course, nothing justifies or excuses harmful behaviour, but we wanted to shed light on their stories to convey transparency and open up the aspect of the issue. Settle some form of understanding and contribute to the dialogue to find constructive points of view for the listener. Above all, convey that it is possible to get through it, that you are not alone, no matter which side of the addiction you are on: On the outside looking in, or inside looking out.
Do you see “Fyra” as a positive or a negative album overall?
Daniel: it is difficult to say that the record has a positive tone or spirit, more that it is of a dual nature, just like everything else in life. But I would say that it, like all our creations – with the exception of „In My Blood“ -, is an odyssey that ends hopefully. We start in the dark and aim for the light? (laughs)
How did you approach the whole thing musically – did you write the songs for the respective text parts, or vice versa?
Daniel: Our creative process can probably be divided into three stages really. First of all, we shake out a lot of song fragments which we then put together like a big jigsaw puzzle, some pieces stand out and some fall off. In that puzzle, a direction is usually shown, which we then calibrate a theme and a tone against. The second step in the process is to find the story and integrate it into the songs, write lyrics, record everything and finish the „real“ songs. Finally, compose all the atmosphere to sew together the tonality of the entire album. So you can say that the music comes first but that the story is integrated into the writing process.
In your genre, nobody would have been surprised about an album with a total playing time of 20-30 minutes – just think of the works of Touche Amore and the like. Isn’t an 80-minute album completely crazy in times when a lot of people’s attention is barely enough for a whole song?
Daniel: (laughs) A whole song? Sometimes I barely have focus in more than four bars! Naah … just kidding … sorry … as I mentioned earlier, our expression is based on the fact that we want to tell a strong story rather than trying to write THE perfect song, and that’s just how we as a band have chosen to embrace the creative process! But, yes, personally I am just as restless as everyone else when it comes to new impressions and sources of inspiration. We are so INCREDIBLY grateful to all those who actually give us 80 minutes of their time!
At some point I started listening to the chapters separately. Is that a sacrilege from an artistic point of view? To put it another way: How related are the four parts to each other, and how imperative is the order Mikael, Mia, Adam and Martina? Do you actually see the album as an 80-minute opus or rather as four parts of 20 minutes each?
Daniel: it is probably in the eye of the beholder. But I see it as an opus in four movements. But I think each part has its personal character and could well have been released as four EPs instead of just one album. But I have a thesis that we subconsciously like to write intros and outros, so in this way we got the chance to do it four times on one record!
You have even created your own “logos” for the four “vices” of the protagonists, which result in the linked motif on the cover – how important are such details to you, and what does that give the album from your point of view?
Daniel: I don’t know.. it may not be as important to the listener as it is to us all the time. But that comes from the same source of creativity as the musical part of the process. If we see things that can be added to give the message a heavier impression… why not do it? But to take the logos as an example, Iconography has a strong symbolic power, and what we want to illustrate visually is that they are connected. Their journeys has its own past but everyone has the same goals and above all the same struggle… almost like an intertwined multidimensional journey.
Such a total work of art, in which everything interlocks from the layout to the songs to the text, is a considerable piece of work. Were there also phases in which the project threatened to grow over your head and intimidated you – and how relieved and exhausted are you now that it is out?
Sebastian: To be honest, retrospectively, this was a piece of cake compared to our previous albums – especially the musical aspect of it. We have a history as light-shy creatures who have not been attracted by the stage. I mean… we did our first rehearsal for a live show – and also our first live shows ever – two years before the corona. Before SFFS only has been a full studio band. The injection of having “met the world” as SFFS probably made us find our muse for this album. But with that said, of course it has felt heavy and elusive, it always does. Now with reading though comments and posts of people who really like the new album, it is an incredible motivation to start working on new stuff.
Are you now taking a creative break, are you going straight to work on the next album or are you planning other activities, such as a stream show or the like?
Sebastian: There are a lot of ideas flying around. We had a few live shows confirmed for this year, but due to the ongoing pandemic situation, all got postponed again – some of them were supposed to happen already in 2020! I would say, we are already in some kind of creative process again. We are already talking about different things and new inspirations that maybe could end in a new release. But this is still a long road to go. We are also aware of other activities like the mentioned streaming concerts, but since we are all living so far from each other it is not so easy to realize for us.