The band that was always meant to be: Interview with NorthTale
The Swedish/American/Brazilian band NorthTale consists of Christian Eriksson (vocals), Mikael T Planefeldt (bass), Patrick Johansson (drums), Jimmy Pitts (keyboards) and Bill Hudson on guitars. They released their album debut ”Welcome to Paradise” in August, and also made their live premiere at this year’s Sabaton Open Air. I was able to sit down with them all for an hour – and this is some of what we talked about.
So, you are probably tired of this by now, but can we please take it from the beginning…?
– It all started with an idea of a solo album I had. It was going to be an instrumental album, a project but with two songs with vocals – and the singer I wanted for those was Christian. So, I found him on Facebook, contacted him and we started talking. At that time he was busy with Twilight Force, and I was touring with Dirkschneider/U.D.O., so nothing really got any further at that point. And then we met (at a hairdresser’s in Falun!) when I was playing Sabaton Open Air in 2017, and got to know eachother better. We started talking about this project again, on a little more serious level. And then he suddenly became available, so…
Patrick jumps in:
– Christian and I were actually about to start a band ten years ago already, when he came to visit me in America. The guitarrist Tobias in my band in Falun way back, Without Grief, was going out with Christian’s sister, so he told me about this great singer and I was like ”yeah, we’ll see about that”.
And then Christian was on his way to America, and was invited to stay at Patrick’s house while he was there, even though they had barely met.
– My wife picked him up at the airport and drove him to the biker club I was playing that night, and even though the party was over and the place was closing, we just threw him up on stage right after he arrived, and told him to sing. So he did, for the last of the staff that were left there cleaning. And my friend Jennifer, who was one of them, literally dropped the broom to the floor when he started… And at that moment I just knew. The instant charisma, the stage persona and the voice – ”this guy truly is the complete package, so I am definitely going to work with him”, Patrick continues.
So they went to LA to work with Mårten Andersson from Lizzy Borden, another one of Patrick’s friends. They worked on some songs, and were actually looking for a guitar player and Bill’s name came up as an option, since Patrick and Bill had jammed together at NAMM before. However, they decided to go with another guitarrist. And they recorded some songs, but didn’t get further, because Christian decided to go back to Sweden.
– But then I contacted Christian again– on the same day as Bill…
…wait, what, on the same day?
– Yes, and independently of each other, but they both said the same – ”When you are ready, let’s do this.” At that time I was so tired of music and actually thought about quitting it all, but when they both contacted me and not being pushy like ”you GOTTA sing on my shit, we HAVE TO do this”… Both of them were just ”when you are ready again”. So we talked some more and it all came to ”ok, let’s make one last effort, a real effort and do something we really want to do”. And we started that, and now we are here. So it really has all been leading up to this, it was bound to happen, but the timing just wasn’t right – until now.
And Christian knew Mikael from when they were both students at MI, and Bill knew Jimmy from when they played together with Vitalij Kuprij – and then there was a band, instead of what was initially going to be a project.
– And here we are now, no turning back, Bill states before Patrick continues:
– Bill and I live in Florida, but three hours away from each other. But we talked about getting together to jam, and then he drove those three hours just for that. Feeling that dedication really made me think ”yeah, I want to work with this guy”. I mean, being in a band is like having a number of girl/boyfriends – the intimate part is the music, but you also have to get along outside the music – or at least tolerate each other. It is like a relationship. The music has to be magical when you plug the cords in, you have to get that feeling of togetherness, finding yourselves in the music, a unity….and if that doesn’t happen, then there is no use. And that is what we managed, I feel like we have created a little bit of paradise here on this album…
Yes, you have released your debut album, ”Welcome to Paradise”. How were the recordings?
– That was actually really easy, because we all have home studios, and we all did out parts separately. Basically that is how a lot of bands work nowadays, even those that live in the same town. We recorded it all online, but we wanted to make sure that it felt like a real band, so no super programmed drums and no sound replacements. And with the guitars, I didn’t want to do it bit by bit, you know – record one part and go back and dub, it was important to get that genuine feeling and sound…
Most of the drum recording was done by Patrick and Bill together.
– Some parts were pre-recorded, but the majority was just me ”playing a little whatever”, which it will also be like live, we want to get that vibe – on purpose. To be REAL, to sound human. Not perfect, but human, the small things like that. Working together brought that out. And we sat and worked together on the songs, and changed some parts, so it would make sense –
– Because as a guitar player, you write drums as a guitar player, and I know like three drum fills and they all sound like they would if I played drums…, Bill laughs before he keeps talking:
…but when the drummer comes in ”you know what, this here doesn’t work, how about this instead?” That kind of thing you only get in a room with a band, in person – so we were lucky enough to be able to do that, to work together. And at the same time, we also could go back home from the studio and listen – and if there was something that needed to be changed, we did. And we kept communicating all the time, and talking about what felt best and such.
– Yes, and also – even if the songs, the structure of the songs were written – everyone had a saying, we all contributed and came with own ideas ”how would you do this, what does this sound like in your head?” I am no drummer, no bass player, no keyboard player… that is what makes it so true, so real, I believe – and everyone hopefully feels like they are as much part in the making of this album, Christian adds.
And you had A LOT of fans on Facebook (like 3000) before you even released ANYTHING…
– Yes, people were also considering getting tattoos with the name, without us even putting out a single song. That’s dedication!
And the band name, NorthTale, was actually chosen by your fans?
– Yes, we couldn’t really come up with a fitting name – we had a band, some songs, even fans – but no name. And one day we were talking and somebody said – why don’t we do a fan contest? Let’s put it up there, worst case scenario – nobody will say anything, best case – we will have a lot to choose from. says Mikael before he continues:
– And we ended up with 1509 name suggestions, which really blew us away, we really didn’t expect that kind of response. But we all picked ten each – and then got them down to ten in total, did a new poll – and ended up with NorthTale, which we are really happy with.
So you truly had great help from social media…
– Yes, that is great nowadays, even though it’s both ways – social media and all streaming services are also a bad thing – because less people will buy the physical copy of the CD or vinyl. And it’s hard to keep the mystique about it all – you have to go out there all the time, you have to be available more or less 24/7. For my own part I really restrict how much I give away, because I want to keep my personal life as well, it truly is a balance thing, Christian states.
– Lagom, adds Bill with a laugh. (one of the most Swedish expressions there is).
…and yet you have a song called ”Everyone’s a Star”, which is about just that.
– Yes, but everyone can relate to that song, it is about us all….but nobody has to take it personally unless they want to. We all have that person we follow who is always posting about their so called perfect life.
Back to the album – you have gotten some truly great reviews and ratings – even some 10/10. When you get that – what’s left to aim for, to work for?
– We are of course very happy about releasing an album that has gotten all these amazing reviews, but now it really starts, with the second album. We have a lot to live up to, we really have to prove ourselves. But now we all also know eachother better, and we are forming our sound, it is a work in progress and we are getting there…together. And we will experiment a little here and there and see what happens, because we don’t have like a game plan ”ok, we’re gonna write a power metal album, here is the template for it”. We just write the music, the songs we love, and it doesn’t matter, because if you listen to the album it’s very diverse, and goes in a lot of different directions and we are happy with that, says Christian with a smile.
– It just happened organically. It wasn’t like we were ”ok, let’s try to write a song like ”Everyone’s a Star” – let’s try to write something that sounds like classic Stratovarius or something”, it all just happened – the influences came out and shaped the songs.
And ”Way of the Light” is a song Christian wrote ten years ago…?
– Yes, I never thought I was going to use that song on an album, but I presented it to the guys, and they insisted…so here we are, and apparently people like it.
– That is what is so good with this album – there are no fillers, it’s all just versatile and there is something for everyone. Basically it’s like a mixed bag of candies, everyone who hears it gets their own favourites, says Patrick and at the same time pulls out a bag of swedish ”Gott & Blandat”, which is exactly that, a mix.
Which song is the most fun to play?
– All of them, of course! Some are harder than the others, but there is great energy in them all, and an even greater energy in the band. It’s not like you usually always enjoy rehearsals, you can rehearse and do your job right, but here we’re actually having fun, like – I don’t look forward to the end of rehearsals, which has happened before, Bill confesses before Patrick adds:
– I have no filter, I say whatever is on my mind…and sometimes you really just have to shut your mouth. But as soon as I get the chance to speak my mind, I will – and then quit that band. Because there really is no reason to play music if you don’t enjoy it. I don’t care about the money or fame and fortune or new friends, that doesn’t matter – I have plenty of good friends and enough money to survive, I don’t need it. I like that all, but I don’t care, it’s not the end of the world. Being happy is all that matters. We play music because we love it, and that is what’s important. To be happy and content with the music and the band. If you play music and you don’t like the people you’re working with and you don’t like the songs – why even do it? It’s not right.
After the live premiere in Sweden NorthTale headed to Japan, to play their second and third shows ever.
Not a bad start…
– Yeah, every band wants to play in Japan, because you truly get treated well there, and the fans are amazing, Bill points out.
– We are very spoiled, actually… We are. Ending up on the perfect label (Nuclear Blast), doing our first show in our hometown, at the great Sabaton Open Air Festival, then going to Japan…and everyone just believing in us. We are truly spoiled – and extremely grateful, Christian nods.
From the outside it seems like it all went so fast – one day Christian is in Twilight Force, the next he is out and then on the third in this new band that got signed by Nuclear Blast and are releasing their album on the fourth day…
– Everything has gone very fast, and I don’t know how or why, but we are very grateful for all the support we’ve been recieving – from the label, from the Sabaton guys, from Japan, from all over the world. We do what we love, and we get along well – the main thing with this band is to try to have fun (and not try to kill each other, haha). Like Patrick said – ”if you’re not having fun, there is no use in doing it”. People need to disconnect from the constant feed of misery (news, internet, boring jobs, bad relationships etc) – and just do something that makes them happy – ”and put the phone down when you are out with your friends, at dinner, at shows…”. LIVE, enjoy the moment. We just want people to be happy, what matters is how you make them feel. A small smile when they arrive – and a BIG one when they have seen the show. We simply want to make everyone feel better.
– And speaking of live shows, with NorthTale it is and always will be 100% live. No clicks, no backing tracks, nothing – just all played, all live, all true. Live music is not supposed to sound like it does on an album, it should be and sound LIVE, says Mikael.
And now – what’s next?
– We will rest for 200 years and then we will create another masterpiece, they all laugh, before Christian proceeds:
– We are already working on some new songs, but it’s been some intense times, like putting ten years of work in just a year and a half. So we actually do need to take some rest, and step back to grasp it all and recharge. But there are a lot of offers coming in, so we will have a look at those and see what we will do, and see what is doable… We are structuring it all up now, and we are constantly working on this, because we love what we are doing. We just need to have a clear mind and get all sorted out.
Is there a goal?
– To have fun. Make the music we want to listen to and have fun. And hopefully people around can relate to the message we’re sending out and have fun as well. The pureness of music. The reasons are pure, it’s about the beauty of art. Not about fame, but about love, having fun and being happy.
– And every day we get these messages from people telling us about the songs and that they relate, and find strength and joy and power in them. Even I get that, as with ”Time To Rise” – I had the music for it, and then Christian wrote the lyrics, and I was ”that’s a song about me, when I was a kid” – but yes, that is definitely very important to us, says Bill.
– ”Time to Rise” really reaches out. If I reveal something from my own experiences, and I put that into a song and people can, without even knowing what it is about, without knowing the story behind, relate to that and take that song as their own, that is the most rewarding thing. And also with ”Siren’s Fall”, which is about anxiety and panic attacks. I mean, especially nowadays, when everyone is posting about their perfect life and people believe it, that also causes anxiety. And no one talks about it, everyone feels ashamed about it – but why? It’s no disease, it’s nothing to be ashamed about, it just is. We need to be open with it, and if my experiences and me writing about it can help anyone, then I am truly grateful.
– We’re not doctors, politicians, religious crusaders – we’re just a rock’n’roll band. But saying that, music IS the best medicine, it’s the best cure for your soul. Music is an universal language, there are no borders. The power of music, a powerful experience, people in the audience singing your songs… The love for music is truly the same, anywhere you go, all around the world, states Patrick.
– And everything that has happened along the way so far has lead to this, has lead us to eachother. We were all like waiting for the timing to be right, for all of us to be ready. Everything is connected, and this really was meant to happen.
And – while NorthTale were in Japan, they recorded the video for “Everyone’s a Star” together with Jason McNamara, which was released in October.