October 7, 2016 Interview – Peter Tägtgren of Pain & Hypocrisy
Over the past twenty years, the name Peter Tägtgren has been synonymous with Heavy Metal. In fact, anyone who turns over one of their Melodic Death Metal, Black Metal, or Thrash Metal albums are highly likely to find the name scrolled across the bottom of the credited producer. Working with Extreme Metal leaders including Amon Amarth, Dimmu Borgir, Marduk, Dark Funeral, Immortal, Amorphis, and more, Tägtgren’s mark on the scene has been extremely explicit. Not limited to production, the Swedish native has also built his own Melodic Death Metal empire with the band Hypocrisy. Still not fully content with his musical explorations, Tägtgren wanted more – more diversity, more of a challenge, more everything. Thus, in 1997, he launched a new project by the name of Pain. Vastly different than his previous work with Hypocrisy, Pain saw Tägtgren explore more electronic styling, cleaner vocals, and different lyrical subject matter. Keeping both bands going strong through the years, Pain returns in 2016 with the new album Coming Home, and with it, Tägtgren challenges himself once again. Recently we caught up with the busy musician to talk his career, his desire to diversify, his inspiration, the ways of the world, and more.
CrypticRock.com – You have been an intricate part of the international Metal scene for over two decades as a producer, founder of Hypocrisy, as well as Pain. Looking back all these years later, how would you describe this incredible music journey you have been on?
Peter Tägtgren – I don’t know. I have been very fortunate to work with a lot of great bands like Dimmu Borgir, Amon Amarth; bands that grew up and really became super-bands. Same with Sabaton. I am just very happy to have been a part of all these great bands that I have been recording, just to mention a few. Also, with my career as a musician, it’s been going up and down. It’s like that always with all bands and all the musicians. It’s not just a job, it’s a fucking adventure for the past 20 years. It’s great, I am very happy. I hope I can go for another 20 years without losing my mind.
CrypticRock.com – (laughs) Yes, well you certainly have kept yourself extremely busy through the years. In fact, anyone who has followed you would argue that your name has been on some of the most important Metal albums produced over the past 20 years. What is your constant inspiration to keep as active in music as you have?
Peter Tägtgren – I don’t know, I just love music. It doesn’t really matter if it has distorted guitars on it or not, I just love music. I love the way it makes my body vibrate.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, there is something special about music that it provokes an emotion that is indescribable.
Peter Tägtgren – Yes, it is really hard to say why. If you bring that out in like how much you get paid per hour and how much time you put in there, it is a very lousy job. But it’s just a great thing to do. It’s not about money, it’s about this feeling you get when you’re playing live, or you create music. That really wins over money anytime.
CrypticRock.com – Absolutely, agreed 100%. As mentioned, you have both projects, Hypocrisy and Pain. Hypocrisy has morphed in style and sound from release to release. With that said, when Pain debuted back in 1997, was it sort of an alter-ego of Hypocrisy at the time?
Peter Tägtgren – It was mainly not to change Hypocrisy’s music style, really, to be honest with you. I felt a lot of bands were changing their music directions to fit into the ’90s, which were more of a brutal kind of music, got into something different, or what ever you want to call it. Therefore, everybody in the ’90s started experimenting with writing other kinds of stuff inside the band. Then, some of the bands kind of lost their coolness, I’d say. I didn’t want to do that to Hypocrisy. I had a lot of ideas of other kinds of music, not just Death Metal. Therefore, I had to start another project, and that became Pain. That was mainly also because I wanted to learn to produce other kinds of music, not only Death, Black, Speed, Thrash, or Power Metal. I wanted to do other stuff; I wanted to work with samplers and the whole shebang. I wanted to develop as a producer as well, not only as a songwriter. That was the only way to do, to start another band.
CrypticRock.com – Right, well it has really worked out. What is interesting about Pain is that some may have viewed it as a side-project, but you have kept it going very strong through the years with eight studio records in total. Do you find that the Pain audience is vastly different than the Hypocrisy audience, or do the two intersect one another?
Peter Tägtgren – I don’t know how it is in America, since we have never really got there. But I would say, in Europe, Russia, or South America, if you look at the audience, I think 60% of the crowd is women (laughs), which I’m not going to complain about at all, that’s for sure. It seems like it fits more to the ladies, I guess. Also, with the guys, I see some Hypocrisy fans in there, but many Pain fans. When I do a Hypocrisy show, there aren’t many Pain fans there. I hope it is different crowds because when I was writing for Pain albums, I didn’t want to try to get the Hypocrisy fans with that. It was a totally different chapter for me. Of course a lot of Hypocrisy fans checked it out and listened to it. A majority of them will say it is too much of a pussy music for them because they like the more brutal stuff, and that is fine with me.
CrypticRock.com – (laughs) That is understandable, completely. It is kind of cool that Pain has grown legs and been its own entity through the years.
Peter Tägtgren – Yes, and I think both Hypocrisy and Pain, they have their own times. When I do Hypocrisy, I do it full power. When I do Pain, I do it full power. That’s what I mean, they have their times; one or two years with this band, one or two years with that band.
CrypticRock.com – Right, exactly. With Pain, you recently released the new album, Coming Home. This is the first Pain record in quite a few years. The album is extremely fun to listen to, much like the previous releases. What was the process behind this new album?
Peter Tägtgren – It was really to take a step away from what I had been writing in the past; try to find a new way of writing Pain songs without losing the Pain style in it. But still try to move on and make it interesting and do unexpected stuff in the songs, instead of songs people can already tell what is coming. I wanted to make it full of surprises, but still not negative. I wanted it to be a positive thing, like, “This is really neat, he really put a lot of effort in to write this stuff.” For me, personally, I was just writing for myself. I was kind of tired of myself, how I write. So I really needed to step out of my comfort zone and really take my time.
CrypticRock.com – Well it worked out well because the record, as stated, it is very fun to listen to. There are definitely different variations from other Pain records, but one thing that remains constant is your lyrics. You often have a sense of sarcasm, if you will, in a lot of your lyrics. That is very enjoyable, but you also have a seriousness as well. How important is it to you as a songwriter to interject a level of humor into the music?
Peter Tägtgren – Yes, I think, definitely, Coming Home has more tongue-in-cheek humor to it than any of the other stuff I wrote. That was also another step in this puzzle of making the album; to try to write more about fun things, not only about life is bad and life sucks (laughs), like I always sing about; very negative stuff. This time, I wanted to bring in some positive stuff as well, and a little humor here and there in a blink of the eye.
CrypticRock.com – It is funny you should say that. You look at your songwriting often as writing about negative stuff, but as a listener, a lot of people look at Pain’s music, particularly, as there is a lot of positivity in Pain’s music; a lot of valid points. One could look back to 1999’s “On and On,” 2005’s “Don’t Count Me Out;” these are very uplifting songs. Even Hypocrisy’s 2002 “Edge of Madness,” these are very thought-provoking tunes. What does that mean to you, releasing these feelings?
Peter Tägtgren – I met a lot of fans that said, for instance, “On and On” kept them going in their private lives when life has been tough and so on. It is really great to hear that people can have a little therapy kind of thing to listen to the lyrics. What can I say, that is more than I asked for. It is very positive.
CrypticRock.com – Absolutely, these songs do have impacts on people. As stated, you often touch on topics that we go through in everyday life, as in Hypocrisy’s “Edge of Madness” and other songs you have done in the past with Hypocrisy and Pain. I am curious, what do you think about the chaos going on in the place that we call Earth in 2016?
Peter Tägtgren – Oh, I would say it is an ugly fucking place with a lot of puppet masters. I think a lot of things are revealing, slowly but steady, that mankind has withheld a lot of technologies and stuff that we could all benefit. This is because there’s some jackasses up there that are sitting on high chairs and really fucking with us, to be honest. To us normal people, we are like their guinea pigs. We are their working for them and we do they dirty deeds while they make their money. I think things like that are slowly revealing itself. I think we will see a lot of disclosures in different kind of ways that you could not really imagine.
CrypticRock.com – Right, we can only hope that things would get better because it has been very violent all over the world, especially in America; it is madness.
Peter Tägtgren – It is, but it is some people who are triggering all this shit on us to make us violent. They push us to the limit with their bullshit and this is what happens. I think it is like a boiling point right now. In the world, not only America. Look at Europe as well. It’s insane, it is a really fucked up situation everywhere. Like I said, give it a couple years and there will be some crazy disclosures that will make the bad people drop to their knees.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, well it is definitely interesting times. We will see what happens. Now, you clearly have an interest in Aliens and UFOs. That has been evident through all of your music. Tell me about your infatuation with Aliens?
Peter Tägtgren – It’s not the Alien thing, it’s more of the…I don’t know… it’s a lot of things. Anything that when you were a kid, like the first time you saw Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), or things like it, it gets you mind boiling. I think there is a lot more shit out there than meets the eye. Like I said, with technology and stuff like that, I think a lot of stuff comes from somewhere else. Anything from plasma to fiber optic, a whole lot of stuff. I don’t think it is something we’ve been discovering. I think it has been kind of handed to us, a lot of small things here and there, to help us crack codes. When it comes to clean energy, they keep to themselves because they want to make money on oil and coal. That is what I am talking about, disclosure, and stuff like that. One of these days it is going to reveal itself. Those people bossing us around are going to be the dickheads that people want to put concrete shoes on. Time will tell.
CrypticRock.com – Exactly, it is a very interesting point you bring up there. Through the years, you have visited North America many times with Hypocrisy, but yet to visit with Pain. Is it a possibility Pain will show its face on this side of the Atlantic?
Peter Tägtgren – Yea, we are doing 70,000 Tons of Metal Cruise, and right after that we are going to go up the East Coast up through North America, through Midwest, and West at the end. It will be a headlining tour of 15-dates right after the cruise. Hopefully the tour dates will pop up soon.
CrypticRock.com – Excellent, that will be exciting to hear because it really has been a long time coming.
Peter Tägtgren – Yes, it has been ridiculous. I was not really sure what was happening with Pain in America. If you really want to put your effort that does not mean you can only do 10 shows in America. You have to tour and tour many times to really reach out. North America is a big place.
CrypticRock.com – It certainly is. I understand we have states hear rather than countries, but it is almost like little individual countries. Yes, every state is like a country if you compare Europe to America. You look at Sweden, France, Texas, or California, any of these states represent a different kind of country. There are always different laws in different states. It is a big ass country. It will be extremely exciting to see the tour. With Pain, you have done a lot of interesting covers from The Beatles to Bjork, to Depeche Mode. What are the inspiration behind your covers?
Peter Tägtgren – First of all, I really enjoy the songs I do covers of. Second of all, when I get the idea of doing a cover, I look at it as a big challenge. That also triggers me as well, not only because I am a big fan of the song, but it feels like maybe I cannot pull it off. That triggers me to try and pull it off.
CrypticRock.com – And you have done an exceptional job doing it. You not only cover the tracks, you certainly put your own stamp on them. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. CrypticRock.com covers music and Horror films. If you are a fan of Horror films, what are some of your favorite Horror films?
Peter Tägtgren – I think the absolute favorite, me, maybe because I was nine years old when I saw it, but the original Alien (1979). I would say it is Horror/Sci-Fi, not Sci-Fi/Horror, because it was really Horror for two hours (laughs). I really like how they did it all those years ago, if you look at it today, it still holds its point.
CrypticRock.com – Absolutely. H.R. Giger did a wonderful job creating that monster.
Peter Tägtgren – Exactly. Also, the whole environment to be trapped in space with a fucking freak running around killing people. We have tons of movies like that now, but it was something else for a nine year old to watch. That is definitely number one for me with Sci-Fi or Horror.
CrypticRock.com – Great choice. Do you have any other Horror films you enjoy?
Peter Tägtgren – The others lean more toward fun. The Evil Dead (1981) was kind of funny. These are things that I saw when I was a kid.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and a lot of these Horror films we are talking about were banned in many European countries back then.
Peter Tägtgren – Yes, that is true. There was always someone who had a really bad copy, of a copy, of copy. We would just sit there and think this is going to be exciting. There were a lot of movies like that in the ’80s and ’90s.