Volbeat kick started the European leg of their current World Tour on Tyneside last night with a sold out show at the O2 Academy Newcastle. This current tour coming hot off the back of an action-packed Summer in the US, where the quartet performed alongside the mighty Slipknot on their Knotfest North America run.
HRH Mag caught up with Volbeat frontman Michael Poulsen shortly before the band took to the stage in Newcastle to get the lowdown on their summer manoeuvres, as well gaining some insight into the band’s critically acclaimed seventh studio album Rewind, Replay, Rebound.
So you’ve just wrapped up some shows across the US where you’ve been out on tour with Slipknot. How has the Summer been for you guys?
It was good. You know, we spent six and a half weeks touring, I think we played 30 shows. It was very hot. It was almost too hot. It was like everywhere in America it was 33 to 41 degrees. You know, with all the lights on the stage, that was a challenge. But, when you get used to it, you know, it is what it is, but the shows were great.
You know, when you look at the bill and you have, Behemoth, Gojira, Volbeat and Slipknot – it’s like, what the fuck is Volbeat be doing there. So on paper, it sounds weird, but it turned out to be a really good package. And we liked the challenge of being the different band. So you know, having that challenge to go in and win over some of those more extreme fans from Slipknot, Behemoth and Gojira – that was lots of fun. It took us three or four songs and then they were all into it. So we got some new fans and all of the Volbeat supporters and fans were there too, so it was a good run. So good shows, a good challenge and nice to see new fans – so nothing to complain about.
So obviously from the US, you are straight into a full headline European run kicking off tonight in Newcastle. How does that feel for you guys?
Sometimes it’s just really fun doing what we did now – to just go out and play one hour, each kind of have something to prove when you open up for a huge band like Slipknot. As I said, we liked that challenge. Then you also want to go out and promote your new album. And you can only do that if you’re are headlining. You want to play a lot of new songs. So it feels good to be back as headliners and it feels good to be back in England. Because it took us some time to get the recognition here in England. Today this is our first time here in Newcastle – so that’s exciting. So it’s kind of a cool way of starting the tour, starting somewhere you haven’t been before, but also a little bit nerve-wracking because how is that going to be? And then on top of that, we are playing at this really small venue, which is great fun because it always reminds you where you all started. So overall it feels good.
So you are currently touring in support of your latest album, which is Rewind, Replay, Rebound. You guys have been getting a lot of airplay over here in the UK. Every time I turn on the radio, I hear the singles. But one song in particular which I hear quite frequently is Last Day Under The Sun. You know, it’s quite an upbeat song, but also it seems to have some quite poignant and thought-provoking lyrics in there as well. I was just kind of wondering, what were you thinking about in particular when you composed that song?
Lyrically I was inspired by a story Johnny Cash was talking about in his book. Musically, it has nothing to do with Johnny Cash. It’s a good pop-rock song, or at least a rock song. Lyrically, I was inspired by a story that I read of Johnny Cash. He explains that he’s very intoxicated by drugs and alcohol and really can’t find peace in his own skin. He’s walking around, I think it’s in the forest where he finds a cave. He pretty much decides to go into that cave and to sleep and hope that he doesn’t wake up. So, he’s kind of suicidal. But the thing is, Johnny Cash, he wakes up, I don’t know how many days he’s been in that cave, but he wakes up and he feels that he’s been given a second chance in life. Johnny Cash becomes a believer in God.
You can kind of hear that in his later recordings in his lyrics. It is what it is, you know. Personally, and I think I speak for everybody in Volbeat, we’re not religious or believers of God or anything – we are probably what you would call atheists. I do believe in the spiritual world, but that has nothing to do with being religious. But you know, Johnny Cash wakes up and he sees the light and life and he feels he’s been given a second chance and he comes out and becomes this new great person. You know, he gets rid of the alcohol and the drugs. You know, his relationship is getting better and he’s just getting a better personality.
I think, you know there’s a lot in that where of course you know that there’s something that’s going on in his head. I think everybody today with all the expectation there is for us human beings to being alive and what we’re supposed to do with our life. We go through so many weird challenges in our lives. We go through depression and drug abuse, or alcohol. We lose family members or friends and so there’s always something that we’re struggling with to get out on the other side.
I kind of liked that story, so I took that and said, you know, we all kind of go into that cave. Whether that cave is in our mindset and we need to find the right way to get out of that cave, you know, to the other side where they is light. You know, I’ve been there, you know, with alcohol and I’ve never done drugs. But, I was a heavy drinker and you know, I was fooling around with a lot of women and it became an addiction. I have a good family and I have a lot of good friends where I could sit down and talk about it, and they helped me through that. And, you know, I became happier and I became more aware of what the value is in life, and your own personality. And I think I could totally use that Johnny Cash story about stepping out of that cave, which is just your own mindset. So that’s pretty much what the lyrics are about. It’s a lot of hope, a lot of light and a new day.
And then moving on from there, Pelvis on Fire, it’s a completely different style. So to me, the first time I heard that song, I felt that it’s got a real 50’s/60’s vibe to it. When I first heard it, I thought maybe if Elvis Presley was still around and he tried his hand at hard rock music, it would’ve maybe sounded something like that. And I was just wondering, was that your intention to go with the kind of retro old school rock and roll vibe with that song in particular?
Yeah, it’s just one of those songs that comes very easily to me. Our management in the US they said we need a few more songs that had that vibe like Sad Man’s Tongue. That kind of a feeling where you mix up country, punk, rock and roll – a little bit of metal. So okay, that’s not a problem. And so I was totally aware of when I was writing Pelvis On Fire that it kind of had that same swing as Sad Man’s Tongue. So it kind of became Sad Man’s Tongue Part Two or something. But on top of that, the fans they’re digging some of the old things where they can hear the Elvis Presley inspiration. So, you know, I was having a lot of fun writing that song and I was like, okay, let me go back to some of the old stuff where I’ve used kind of that Elvis twang. That was a lot of great fun. And now, you know, we played it live and I’m pretty sure it’s gonna be a steady live song.
On the record, you brought in Neil Fallon from Clutch on Die To Live. When you were writing that song, did you feel like it needed a second vocalist from the beginning and that maybe Neil was the right guy to take that part in the song?
The song was a song I was writing at a festival in the US a long time ago. When we came back to the rehearsal room we were playing it a lot of times. And we just got used to playing the song. It has good energy and I told the other guys, I can totally hear the piano on top – a saxophone. You know, he had kind of similarities to Jerry Lewis and the saxophone player from Little Richard. But I didn’t at the beginning hear any other singers. It was just that when we continued playing the song I said, you know what, now we already have the piano, we have the saxophone let’s go all the way – I think it needs more than that. And we’ve been good friends with Neil for many years. We brought them on a European tour back in the day where they were supporting Volbeat and I became good friends with the guys. And I’m a huge Clutch fan and I’m a huge fan of the voice of Neil. I kindly ask him if he wanted to give it a listen. And he was very excited about it and on top of that, he was also excited about it because the guys from JD MacPherson band was playing on the song. And he’s also a very huge fan of JD MacPherson band. So that was an easy fix. And you know, Neil recorded in his – he has a little studio at home and he nailed it.
Neil wasn’t the only guest on the record. You had quite a few. You brought in Gary Holt from Slayer and Exodus, you know, he does a great job on Cheapside Sloggers. His guitar part, it kind of adds a nice contrast to the song, there’s kind of light and shade and it’s effective. I just wondered how did that collaboration come to fruition?
Again, it was part of that conversation I had with our management in the U S where they said, you know, we kind of need a little bit more of the old school Volbeat. And I said, what day is it? Today’s Friday. We are back in the studio on Monday to finish up a few details. So I wrote three songs during that weekend, which was Pelvis on Fire, Cheapside Sloggers and Sorry Sack of Bones. And Cheapside Sloggers had that kind of typical signature Volbeat style. So it was very easy for me to sit down and write that song. And when we went into the studio to record it and Rob our lead guitar player was already back home in the U S. He still needed to finish up some of his work in the US.
And so we didn’t want to wait around or bother him with some extra work. So we said, why not do something different here? And the first guy who came to mind was Gary Holt. I always had some good conversations with Gary Holt. He’s a lot of fun. He’s a great guy. And he loves what Volbeat is doing. So we called him up and even before he heard the song he was quite hooked. And he heard the song and he loved it and he did this amazing solo. He booked a studio somewhere close to where he lives and it sounds amazing. It’s a good contrast to the track and the other stuff.
We are approaching the end of 2019. Have you kind of got the next 12 months mapped out, you know, what’s on the cards?
Of course, we know how this year is gonna look like, you know, we are going to tour Europe up to the beginning of December, and then it’s time for us to go home and be with our family and friends and do what we call normal stuff. But, we kind of know how our next year is gonna look like – our management and booking agency is already working on all the shows. And, so yeah, we kind of know how next years gonna look like, we are just not allowed to say anything about it.
Volbeat are currently on tour across the UK throughout September and early November. Support at all dates comes from Baroness & Danko Jones. Tickets for all dates are now on sale here, catch them in the UK at:
September 24 /// Glasgow, UK /// O2 Academy
September 26 /// London, UK /// O2 Academy Brixton
September 28 /// Bristol, UK /// O2 Academy
September 30 /// Birmingham, UK /// O2 Academy
October 1 /// Manchester, UK /// O2 Apollo
October 3 /// Belfast, UK /// Ulster Hall
October 4 /// Dublin, IE /// Olympia Theatre