The Great Discord interview – The Rabbit Hole, masks, that Priest rumour, Linköping, future plans and more in this Gear4Geeks exclusive.
The Great Discord Interview
There’s a trend in music that we’re all very aware of – a band comes along and produces an incredible album only to follow it up with a mediocre second release which is the nature of bands having years to perfect their songs in the years it takes to get signed but then only having a year or two to write and record a follow up. Very rarely does a band release a second album that is not only better than their debut but also is one of the best albums to come along in years, but The Great Discord have done that with The Rabbit Hole which is released today in the UK. Gear4Geeks spoke with The Great Discord’s Aksel Holgren and Fia Kempe for an exclusive The Great Discord interview about The Rabbit Hole, their videos, the new book and those Priest rumours.
Thank you very much for agreeing to be interviewed. When did work start on The Rabbit Hole and at what point was it decided to be a concept album? Talk us through the theme of the album.
Thank you for having us! We started writing material for this album as early as 2014, when we were still working on Duende. I think it’s common as a band to always have material in the back of your minds. Although we didn’t have any of the finished songs that wound up on the new album, we had a lot of ideas that didn’t make it onto Duende that we saved for The Rabbit Hole. After Duende’s release, we have been slowly but steadily working with the new album up until it was finished early this year. Since everyone in the band are fond of concept albums, we decided that this new album would have a larger story to follow unlike Duende, which is made up of ten shorter ones with different subject matters. As the music came along, so did the creation of IRE. The story of The Rabbit Hole is both an unpleasant and pleasurable journey down into the darkness of all that the color red represents: wrath, anger, passion, love and excitement – and IRE is all of this incarnated. Fia, the persona from Duende, is lost in the woods and she meets IRE, who lures her down into the rabbit hole where they are enjoying each other’s company. Slowly, the story takes an unpleasant turn when IRE reveals her true self to Fia, and the struggle to free herself from IRE, this evil entity, begins. The story line is our interpretation of what happens when you let anger, wrath and malice take control over your life. We think that you’ll get the most out of this album by listening to it together with the book that is simultaneously released (also entitled The Rabbit Hole).
Was the writing process much different this time as there was a whole band in place rather than Duende where most of it was written by Fia and Aksel before Rasmus, Andre and Gustav came aboard?
Yes, this time around we had much more time together, and that gave us the freedom to explore more of all our musical influences. We are a team, and we always have a good time when we work together in the studio. Everyone’s influences and inputs are an important part of what gives our music that exciting feeling. That opens up a lot more routes for a song to take, and we think that’s how you get the best out of it. It makes for a broader range of musical twits, and helps us create music that makes up The Great Discord – stuff you’ve never really heard before, but that is still approachable by most listeners.
Fia and Aksel both have a bizarre mix of musical influences from Cannibal Corpse, Meshuggah, Dillinger Escape Plan and other heavy bands to Genesis, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Are Rasmus, André and Gustav’s influences also as varied?
Oh yes. Everyone in the band would probably describes themselves as a bit of a music nerd. And, we all have open minds in common when it comes to music. No one of us is the kind of person that would say ‘No, I don’t listen to pop. I’m a metal head’. I think I can speak for everyone when I say that we all feel we are more interested in the music itself. If you like a song, it doesn’t matter what genre it is, you just happen to like that particular song. We all listen to a broad range of genres, and try to incorporate influences from all of them when we make music together.
Fia debuted a slightly new look for The Rabbit Hole, will each album see her persona evolve?
That’s something for us to know and for you to find out…
It must be hard performing live in the much larger headpiece?
Haha, actually, it’s not. The headdress is light as a feather!
Was it daunting for Aksel to play as himself live when The Great Discord starting touring in 2015 instead of wearing a mask, as he did in Ghost, or was it easier?
It was actually a bit of a relief, and rejuvenating for the live experience for me. After so long behind a mask you tend to get a little disassociated with the crowd, especially since you’re in the back of the stage, it gets harder to have a real connection, and it’s easy to lose the moment you’re in and start thinking about grocery lists or the latest episode of Family Guy. It sounds terrible when you say it like that and I don’t mean that I didn’t enjoy the shows back then or gave as much as I could. It just means it was time for me to move along. It felt exciting to lose the mask. It just goes to show that your heart needs to be completely in what you’re spending all your time with. Now it is, and the rest does not matter as much.
The Rabbit Hole is easily the best album to be released in the last two years, when writing songs like Darkest Day, did you immediately think, “this is going to be huge”?
Thank you so much! During the whole process of writing for The Rabbit Hole, we felt that we achieved more of a continuity on this album compared to Duende. We are very proud of our debut album, but this this time around we wanted the songs to be more direct and give you that ‘punch in the face’ feeling, so to speak. And I think we managed to do just that with the songs on The Rabbit Hole. And naturally, you tend to get a clearer picture of how you want things to evolve the more you work with it. Since The Great Discord is still a relatively new formula, we are still evolving and unfolding our musical field. We feel that we have managed to pick the best pieces of what is our music and sculpt songs that are both direct and has that quirky sound to them. So yes, during The Rabbit Hole’s writing process we felt that we brought a whole new thing to the table, but it’s still our sound. It’s that strange feeling of it being something you have heard before, but at the same time you really, really haven’t…
It feels like a huge step up for The Great Discord having done three videos already for The Rabbit Hole and to have a book coming out. Was it reassuring to have so much positive feedback from fans based on the videos so far?
We have had so much fun creating the videos for this release, and you always have that nervous feeling in your chest when you are about to release something that you are so passionate about. So, we couldn’t be happier with the response from our beloved fans – old and new – and the press. It feels amazing!
Speaking of the book, it has to be great to write a book and have Mattias Frisk illustrate it?
Yes it was! I (Fia) had a clear vision of what the story was, and I really wanted to give our fans an honest chance to explore the story together with us. Since we always tend to write lyrics that are very much up to the listener to interpret themselves, it felt important to give them the tools to dig deeper into the story and its meaning to us. I love hearing others explain how they interpret our music and lyrics, and I don’t want to take that away from people. But I know that at least I love it when you fall in love with an album and you get the feeling that you just want more and more of it. That’s the purpose of the book, a chance to get to know IRE’s distorted world together with us through a folk tale, accompanied by Mattias’ beautiful illustrations. We never get tired of working with him. As always, he just needs small hints of what we want, and he nails it every time.
Linköping seems to have a large number of very talented musicians and seems to be the Seattle of Sweden. What has lead to so many musicians coming from Linköping and nearby Mjölby?
Maybe there’s something in the water? Or just that we come from small towns where the music community is very tightly knit.
There is a theory that Fia is the singer for another Linkoping band, Priest, but the vocals are downtuned. Have you heard this rumour and is there any truth to it?
Oh, I’ve heard about that. And who knows… maybe there is, or maybe there isn’t.
Fia and Aksel have both won Grammis with Ghost, are you aiming for a Grammi for The Rabbit Hole?
Definitely. The sky’s the limit, as we usually put it with everything in our band.
What’s next for The Great Discord? Will we see an Echoes style EP with a piano and vocal version of Darkest Day as Fia teased on Facebook?
We definitely have some fun things lined up for you throughout this fall and next year. Naturally, we are trying to get out and play as many tours as we can. And if people want more jazzy and cozy versions of our songs, I’m sure we can cook something up.
Can we expect to see you in the UK again soon?
Yes, in fact we’ll be back in November, playing the Damnation Festival in Leeds. Aside from that we’re definitely coming back to the UK for a longer run sooner or later. Stay vigilant, as we tend to say.
What’s the best advice you’ve been given?
It’s kind of a cliché, but still: to never give up on your dreams. If you work hard, you’ll get there.
Who would play the band if there were ever a The Great Discord movie?
This is the best question we have ever received!
Fia (the persona) – Björk
IRE (the persona) – Kathy Bates
Fia (the human being) – Jack Nicholson
Aksel – Arnold Schwarzenegger
André – Michael Cera
Rasmus – Brendadirk Cramplescrunch
Gustav – Zach Galifianakis
Lastly tell us a secret about the band that no one knows.
We have a tendency of mocking Rasmus a lot, mostly with bass related jokes. But he knows that we all love him. Even though he plays bass.
The Rabbit Hole is released today in the UK. You can buy it on vinyl from our store (CD has sold out) or on vinyl and CD from Amazon. The limited red vinyl and the ultra limited bundle with The Rabbit Hole book is exclusively available from Freight Train in Sweden who ship worldwide. You can follow The Great Discord on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
The Great Discord interview conducted by Morg
Thanks again to Aksel and Fia for The Great Discord interview