The Soul Exchange (Interview)

Sweden’s newest rock export The Soul Exchange talk to Decibel Geek

It’s not very often that a band comes along and really makes you stop and listen to what they have to say. Much like the movies, just about everything’s been done before and the only thing we get to see is remakes of what came before.

The same with music, it’s usually more of the same or just a downright copy of your favourite bands. Then along comes a little band from Sweden called The Soul Exchange and that cold, bleak musical reality you were staring down at in the future, has suddenly seen slivers of sunlight peering through the cracks before exploding into a ray of light.

I recently got to review the new EP Vow Of Seth and found a whole new musical phenomenon to destroy my ears with. So, I got a chance to fire a few questions off to band vocalist Daniel John and guitarist extraordinaire Hans von Bell to ask them more about Vow Of S,eth and the band’s past and future to come. So sit back and enjoy what they have to say.

Decibel Geek:

After listening to your amazing new EP, I found it refreshing compared to anything that has come out over the last five years. I find it’s unique to what everyone else is doing and that it sounds like nothing else out there in the present.

To my ears I can pick what I think are snippets of your influences on the record such as Danzig, the Gothic tones of bands like Paradise Lost, Evanescence and the definite feel of Type O Negative. So I’ll shoot off my first three questions all at once.

Do you agree with my observations on your band and who are the bands that influenced you personally to create such a unique EP and what direction do you see the band taking in the future. Will there be a definite jump from where you are now to where you will be on your next release?

Hans Von Bell : Guitars

Hans: 

Yes, thank you for pointing out that the music of our band has its own unique sound. We have deliberately been working very hard to create what is The Soul Exchange trademark sound. We literally did spend months just working on the sound before we began the actual recording of our first album Bloodbound.

With The Soul Exchange, it’s not like most classic rock bands, where you just document how the band happen to sound in the recording studio. Instead we have methodically aimed at creating the sound for the band and after this was done, commenced the recording. The fact that you recognise this, tells us that we have somewhat succeeded.

In terms of influences, it comes from a lot of places, everything from classic rock bands such as Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd to contemporary bands such as Ghost, Evanescence indeed, and I am very fond of many Goth bands, Paradise Lost being one of them. So yes, you are partly right.

The direction of the upcoming 2018 album will be more of a gradual evolution from Bloodbound to the Vow of Seth EP and further, rather than a big leap to something entirely different. Probably, the guitars will be even more dominant and in the forefront and with a modern drum sound. However, the kind of riffs, the big choruses and melodies that we have developed in the past two years will always be there.

You will definitely recognise The Soul Exchange sound on the next album, but it is also important not to repeat oneself, so you may expect a few surprises too. We are writing new songs for the next album as we speak, and I think we are getting better at our trade the more we work on it.

Daniel John : Vocals

Daniel:

You are probably right regarding the influences. As of my singing style, I’m aiming to find what the song needs rather than to use a specific style. Of course, I’ll pick up stuff from other singers and utilise it to reach the presentation and delivery I hear in my head when I write the melody. But mainly I’ll put my own style to use as I go along.

On the new album I don’t see us taking a new direction as much as just sharpening things yet a bit further. The heavy guitars will be even heavier. The melodies will probably be even more progressive. But the vocal arrangement will still have the SX trademark of big, pushed backing-vocals and very melodically driven lead vocals.

Decibel Geek: 

Hans, I totally agree with the sense that you have to make progression within a band unit. With each album the sound has to grow but not fall too far from the apple tree where it once grew. I personally can’t understand some bands who make a straight ahead classic rock album one minute and then suddenly turn themselves into a top 40 pop band.

Personally I make music I like to hear and hopefully people like what I’ve created but once I’ve found that audience I like to hang onto them making progressions but not so far as to lose what you’ve already gained.

Daniel, you are 100% right in the vocal department. My thoughts exactly I don’t try to become any other singer when I create a song, like yourself when I put vocals to a track it follows the mood of the song one minute or runs along side the guitar melody. It changes also with the atmosphere of the song, like when the subject matter is dark like the Vow Of Seth EP.

Thomas Von Bell : Guitars

You have a definite tone in the sound of the guitars on the current EP. I would liken it to the world famous Bob Rock bass heavy sound that you would find on Metallica’s black album or Paradise Lost’s now classic album Icon. The sound is so full to my ears it just fills all the spaces that I think need to be filled.

What gear are you using personally on the album to get that guitar sound that makes the band sound so epic. Are there any particular amps you play through, effects pedals that you may have used and what guitars are you using to record the EP?

 

Hans: 

Both guitarists in the band are using Line 6 Helix effect/pedal boards, and I personally use a Mesa Boogie Roadster amp. However, in the studio we have experimented with a lot of different amps e.g. Marshall, Ibanez etc.

On the Bloodbound album, we used more or less exclusively Les Pauls– and Fender Strat guitars. On the new EP, most rhythm guitars are recorded with an Ibanez 7-string with active pick-ups. The rhythm guitars are recorded almost without any effects, nor any compression, but EQ and in some cases a Yamaha chorus and a widening effect on stereo guitars.

We have mostly worked with multi layered guitars with as short signal path as possible, rather than a lot of effects to get to that guitar tone. The solos however, are still mostly recorded with a Gibson Les Paul Axess, using stereo delays, short- and long reverbs, as well as a Yamaha analog chorus.

Patrik Ekelöf: Bass

Decibel Geek:

On the Bloodbound album, I could pretty much tell the tone of the Strats, as I have used them myself and just love the sounds you can get out of them. I wouldn’t have picked you were using Ibanez 7 strings on the new e.p. though. Both yourself and your brother Thomas, to my ear, are great guitarists. I love the layers of guitar and how they weave around each other filling every inch of the song from end to end.

Jens Evaldsson is considered the sixth member of the band, even though he isn’t a member, other than having songwriting duties. I personally don’t see a problem with outside writers coming in to improve a band’s output, when you take bands like Aerosmith and Bon Jovi for example, who used renowned songwriter Desmond child. It’s well known Desmond Child resurrected the career of Aerosmith amongst others.

Why have you chosen to use Jens as co-writer of all material that you release?  What dynamics do you think he adds to the band as a whole and do you see this partnership continuing throughout the life of the band?

 

Benny White: Drums

Hans:

Jens Evaldsson and I go a long way back to 2013, when we co-wrote all the songs to my solo album before The Soul Exchange was founded, Jens being the lyricist. When we started the next project that eventually became The Soul Exchange and the Bloodbound album, we just continued this writing partnership.

Jens‘s main contribution to the band is his sense of lyrics that fits the

mood of the music really well, and is also quite profound stuff. However, as the band has progressed as a unit, Daniel John has gradually taken over the responsibilities as the bands’ lyricist, and the song writing is shared between myself, Daniel John and Thomas von Bell with input from our producer Magnus “Tank” Ljungqvist. On the Vow of Seth EP, all lyrics are written by Daniel John.

I am not saying we will not continue the collaboration with Jens Evaldsson in one way or another, but with three songwriters in the band and our producer, we don’t see the need right now to involve more people in the writing process. But, needless to say, Jens‘s lyrics on Bloodbound is a material part of that album, and he really set the standard for the lyrical themes of The Soul Exchange.

 

Daniel:

I don’t really have a lot to add to that more than just state that it’s always harder to interpret someone else’s lyrics in a good way. Also, having a lyricist that isn’t a metal vocalist or even a singer at all, or have the understanding of writing for a certain genre, sometimes makes it harder to utilise the meaning of the poetry they are trying to convey.

Decibel Geek:

Now that I know that Jens wasn’t involved in the writing of Vow of Seth, I have gone back and listened to both the album and the e.p. and I can definately tell they are not written by the same person. Not to say anything untoward about Jens because I think he’s done an amazing job on Bloodhound but I personally like what Daniel has come up with. I’m the same I can’t get interested in singing a song if I didn’t write the lyrics myself and it is hard to convey someone else’s understanding of a song.

The main lyrical theme of the e.p. seems to be about the darker, sinister side of life and deals with subjects such as evil and mythology. Obviously looking at the cover of the record and the musical compositions, I can hear a lot of Egyptian influenced music that reminds me of the dark side of movies like The Mummy. Do you all share an interest in Egyptology? I find it a fascinating subject and have spent countless hours reading about the pharaohs and the Book Of The Dead.

Hans:

As I said earlier, the topics of Jens Evaldssons lyrics set the blueprint for The Soul Exchange lyrically and the whole idea with this band is to deal with the darker side of life and mysticism. I believe these are thrilling subjects and fits well in this musical genre, and now Daniel John has continued this tradition adding his own stamp and lyrical ideas. The lyrical theme of the track “Vow Of Seth” is definitely inspired by movies such as Mummy, Stargate etc. Daniel may dwell further into his influences.

Daniel:

Egyptology is indeed very intriguing. Even though I spent the better part of my senior school years reading about Greek mythology. I later realised that the Egypt gods were far more sinister and cruel and not at all that accessible as the Greek ones. I find, for instance, the power they wield is far more “godlike” if you will, than their European counterparts.

Decibel Geek:

I think the subject matter suits your songs. They are dark and have that Middle Eastern sound to some of them and an almost orchestral arrangement throughout. So much so, that you can literally close your eyes and picture movie scenes from films like the aforementioned Stargate and The Mummy.

Bloodbound (your first full length album) is another ripper of an album, pun intended. The first song on the album ‘City of the Ripper’ really shows off vocalist Daniel Johns‘s range. As the track starts, he reminds me of a young Geoff Tate of Queensryche fame before sliding into Bruce Dickinson of Iron Maiden territory.

I’m not insinuating he just sounds like these two vocalists I think he is much more dynamic than that and as you listen to each song his vocals change with each track ranging from classic rock to straight up pop vocals. Being a vocalist, I have trained myself to sing through my head and chest rather than the throat. Daniel who are your vocal influences and who do you personally model your vocal style on and what techniques do you use to save your vocal chords especially when playing live.

Hans:

I know that Daniel is a big fan of Geoff Tate but I rather let him elaborate on this question himself.

Daniel:

Well, I think Mr Tate had a tremendous register. From the Eb 2 in “Hero” to the (controlled) G 5 in various songs. And also a special kind of tone to his voice that conveys melancholy and sadness that really speaks to me. Other great influences are Roy Khan (former lead singer in Kamelot), who almost puts Mr Dio himself to shame when it comes to theatrical deliverance of the lyrics. And of course, a flawless singing technique.

I also like the powering-through-singing of Tony Martin who sometimes sounds like Bobby Kimball on steroids. And I mean that in a good way. To be able to have the power and the precision at the same time is something everybody should try to gain control over as singers.

My greatest “trick” to care for my throat when playing live is to avoid alcohol at all times. Alcohol will dry out the vocal cords and thus putting a tremendous strain on them when trying to hit that high note, or just power through that high-keyed song. I guess that some warming up exercises are also gone through. But not that much. I should probably look more carefully into this!

Decibel Geek:

I agree totally. I always avoid alcohol when playing live and usually anything dairy. I find a lot of singing is knowing where to breathe at the right time to give your voice just that little more power for the parts it’s needed. I try to write lyrics to a breathing pattern sometimes and not fit so many words in that I can’t get air between.

Bloodbound is a more straight ahead rock album compared to Vow of Seth.” With a track like “Left Behind” which features good old classic rock guitar which reminds me of bands like Bad Company and the vocals soaring to heaven with some great background vocals and harmonies. What instigated the change from “Bloodhound” to “Vow of Seth” as they seem pretty different to each other musically. Was Jens involved more on the new music compared to Bloodbound?

Hans:

The other way around actually, Jens and I co-wrote the majority of the songs on Bloodbound”, although Daniel John certainly made his stamp even on the first album. Whereas Daniel has been increasingly involved in the writing of “Vow of Seth”.

The EP has been much more of a collaboration between myself, Daniel John, Thomas von Bell and our producer and even more so on the next album. On Bloodbound, a lot of my classic rock influences are shining through, although I was also very influenced by the Meliora album by the Swedish band Ghost at the time of writing many of those songs.

Tracks like e.g. “Life Eternal” bears definitive influences from that album. As we are more of a song writing team nowadays, rather than individual composers, I think the new album will be more of an extension of the EP and taking in a variety of influences from contemporary Metal, Prog and also Classic Rock and Pop. We created the sound on “Bloodbound”, refined it on the EP and now we have the formula and we’ll take it to the next level on the upcoming album.

Daniel:

To be writing in a team with all components at hand is certainly a strength and will make song writing more efficient than having to revise everything all the time. To have the advantage of being able to test our songs in the studio before they are made ready, is something very few bands on this production level can brag about.

Decibel Geek:

“Back to the Dark” is my favourite track on the e.p., as it reminds me of a horror movie soundtrack and, in parts, definitely throws out bits of Danzig with the guitar riffs and Type O Negative with the spoken word intro. Where did this song come from as it sounds so different to most other songs you’ve written up to this point?

Hans:

Yes, that’s a good point, thematically we wanted this song to be a kind of a movie like short story. I had this doomy Black Sabbath(ish) riff and Jens originally came up with the idea lyrically from e.g. the Dimebag Darrell shooting and the Columbine School massacre etc.

When Daniel John eventually wrote the lyrics, he took the angle of the perpetrator rather than the victims and it is more a tail of insanity and evil but any special event. Daniel, who is the author of the lyrics better elaborate further on the subject. Musically, however, the song had to be long in order to tell the story in full and also to build this doomy feel with a repetitive riff that is supposed to get under the skin of the listener.

Daniel:

I wanted to portray the inner thoughts of a person we’d probably consider a mad man. But it’s easy to dismiss someone as crazy instead of trying to understand what makes them tick. Watch a series called Mindhunter on Netflix and you’ll understand what I’m aiming at.

Decibel Geek:

I have sat and listened to this song since with headphones and taken in the lyrics and they fit the track perfectly. I personally think this is your “Bohemian Rhapsody.”

So, guys thanks ever so much for answering the questions I had for you here today. I really love the new EP Vow of Seth and as I said earlier I have gone back to Bloodbound and I can’t fault it. You guys have sparked my interest and I will continue to champion you as long as you are creating great music. I look forward to hearing what you have in store for us next and hope on the next album we can continue this relationship between you and Decibel Geek and we”ll talk to you again in the future.

Talking of what’s next though readers, please check out the excellent new video for the lead of track “Vow of Seth” from The Soul Exchange below.

Who are the Soul Exchange? Well, read on because you have been missing something special if you like good heavy music. The seed that eventually became The Soul Exchange was sown when guitarist and songwriter Hans von Bell began writing songs for a solo album back in 2013. After the album’s release in January 2015, Hans immediately started to work on new material for a follow up and realised he wanted to put together a proper band as the new material required a different sound and thus, The Soul Exchange was born. The band name came from a song off the 2015 solo album.

In 2016, the band found their formula and sound with the current line up consisting of Daniel John vocals & keyboards, Hans & Thomas von Bell guitars, Patrik “Patte” Ekelöf on bass, and Benny White drums. Although mostly unknown to the wide public, all band members have long careers in music behind them. The band released the critically and likewise publicly acclaimed album Bloodbound in March 2017 on the Mervilton Records label.

In the fall of 2017, The Soul Exchange have been working on an, in between albums, five track EP titled Vow Of Seth that is set for release on the Pride & Joy Music label on December 8th. The EP will be preceded by a digital single and video release of the EP’s title track on November 17th. The Soul Exchange will be once again working with the renowned Swedish producer Magnus “Tank” Ljungqvist, who also produced the “Bloodbound” album. The new EP has taken the band to an even darker place lyrically and with a tad harder sound. The band statie that “this EP will show the way for the next full length album penned for release in 2018“. Hard Rock with a great portion of modern Metal influences, and importantly, the vocal arrangements and melodies will always have a major focus in The Soul Exchange’s otherwise riff-oriented music.

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