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In Words: Overdrive

- Janne Stark - February 2011 - Claudia Ehrhardt -

© Overdrive

Janne Stark - date - where

Overdrive's Angelmaker brought back the 80's heavy metal, while many younger bands who are dedicated to this style are sounding dated, the 'oldsters' presented a fresh sounding album which every fan of 80's heavy metal will dig. Time to learn a bit more about Overdrive's new album and plans, thanks to guitarist Janne Stark to answer my questions within no time!

While Let The Metal Do The Talking had old and new songs, Angelmaker has only new songs. Did the positive feedback lead to a creative boost?

Definitely! We were really stoked about the positive feedback for Let The Metal Do The Talking, as it was kind of a return album and we didn't really know what reactions to expect. On that album we kind of played it a bit safe by recording some songs written back in the eighties, but never released, as well as some new ones. The funny thing is, people couldn't separate the old from the new so we knew we were in the right ballpark on the new songs as well. For the new album we wanted to write all new material. This time we put so much more time and effort into the album, from the writing, arranging, recording, mixing and selection of the songs. I think we've really elevated on this album, especially Per's vocal arrangements even impressed me. We also let Pelle Saether mix the album. I've worked with Pelle before. He's mixed my albums with Locomotive Breath and Mountain Of Power, as well as the Zello album I played on. He did an awesome job with the mix.

Overdrive was founded in 1980, so last year it was 30 years since you started the band, even if you haven't been active as Overdrive all the time. How does it feel?

It feels great! It feels like we never quit and with our new singer Per, who joined when we reunited in 2003, we feel really rejuvenated! We honestly don't feel that 'old', but I don't really think age is in the musical equation. Just looking at guys like Tony Iommi, Ian Gillan, Lemmy etc, who we grew up with, makes you realize we're not that old anyway.

In 3 decades a lot changed, recording an album is now completely different. Everything has two sides. Do you think that knowing recording back in the days helps you these days?

Yes, without a doubt. Especially when it comes to playing live. You can use so many tricks in the studio, cutting, pasting, changing and altering everything, but when it comes to playing live you still have to deliver! Back in the day we did a lot of writing and rehearsing together before entering the studio, and still the studio did cost a lot of money. Today we don't have to rehearse to that extent and some of us have our own home studio, which are good enough to record an album. However, with the downloading situation today you don't get 1/10th of the budget you had in the eighties. We would not have been able to record an album in the old way today, just to have people download it. It's great that people love your music, but it sucks that so many decide not to pay for it.

Angelmaker is classic 80's metal, but sounds fresh, not a bit backdated. What's your secret?

Thanks! That's actually what we strive for. We were trying to keep the old classic eighties feel, but still make it sound fresh. I listen to a lot of different music, from the classic seventies hard rock to modern metal and even some melodic death metal. Of course I pick up a lot of influences from here and there, and I guess it all blends in my head and passes on to the stuff I write. One reason is also that Pelle Saether understood exactly what we were after when it comes to sound. Classic metal, but without sounding dated.

Why the title Angelmaker?

My girlfriend and me were watching a movie where an old woman came in and took away a newborn baby. She said it was an angelmaker. I'd never heard about it, but looked it up and read quite a lot about it. The angelmakers were basically women who adopted children born out of wedlock for money. It was a sin to have a child out of wedlock so the angelmakers adopted the children just to 'dispose' of them by starvation, drowning, poisoning or manhandling. They were basically hired killers. The last one was convicted in 1927 in Sweden. I found it very intriguing and quite disturbing, which is a great reason to write lyrics about it. I also got this vision for a cover with an old woman, like the mix of an old witch and a grandma on her way to drown a child, where you see the wings are starting to grow.

Let's talk about some of the songs! In Gut We Trust, a well-known phrase been twisted around. What's the story of this tune?

Yes, it is a play with words, but the lyrics are about the fact that people, and young kids especially, trust technology, the Internet etc more than their own gut feeling today. It's like 'if it's in Wikipedia it's true'. Does it seem logic? Does it sound like it could be true? Never mind, it's on the Internet, and then it's true. It seems like people sometimes don't think anymore, like they've lost their gut feeling or don't even bother to listen to it. This is basically saying, 'trust your own gut'!

At Under The Influence it seems you were under the influence of Iron Maiden... They are one of the bands who are still around and successful. What makes them special for you? I guess, you are more influenced by their early works? Or do you listen to their current work as well?

The music for Under The Influence was written by our bass player, Kenth Ericsson, while the lyrics were penned by our singer Per Karlsson. Kenth is an old Maiden-fan, and so am I. I actually saw Iron Maiden the first time in 1980, supporting Kiss in Gothenburg. I wasn't there for the sake of Kiss! I still do like Iron Maiden, even though I tend to pick out their first album, Killers or Number Of The Beast more often than their later stuff.

You covered the Russ Ballard tune I Know There's Something Going On which most will know from ABBA's Anni-Frid. Why this song? Was it difficult to metalize it?

We've never recorded a cover before and I'm not sure how the idea came up this time around, but once we wrapped our heads around it we figured – yeah, why not. Our drummer, Kenta Svensson, came up with the idea to do this one, and we were all like – yeah, that would work! I went home started playing around with it. I dropped the tuning a whole step to D, which made it much heavier, added some chunky staccato chords to it and I felt this could work. I also added a faster solo part to spice it up a bit. I sent it to Russ Ballard who loved it and said he thought it really fit to be metalized. He offered to buy me a curry if we ever met, which is a good thing I guess.

Janne, you did the cover concept and also produced the album. Do you like to be in control?

I shall admit I do. It's different from band to band I'm in. In some bands several people are active in different fields, but in Overdrive I'm the driving force. I'm also a bit impatient. When I want things to happen, it's like, if no one else does it I just take the ball and run. You have to keep up with me or you'll be in the backseat. I've been around long enough to feel confident enough to take control, know what to do and also tell people that if they don't act I will and then it's up to you if you don't. I don't have the time and patience to sit around and wait, I want stuff to happen now.

You had a lot songs to choose from, will some of the others be used somewhere in future? Perhaps as bonus tracks?

The six tracks that weren't used on the album will be used on a vinyl release. If there will be a Japan deal we may use a few tracks there, but nothing's happened so far. So, there will be a vinyl album with the six tracks, plus three tracks from the CD. It will be called The Angelmaker's Daughter and it will be released in March. It will be a limited edition, 300 copies in three different colors.

You got some 'outsiders' listening to the songs and let them choose the tracks which finally made it onto the album. Have there been some surprising picks?

As we recorded 18 tracks we figured we wanted some outside people to help us get an idea of what tracks they liked the best. They were a variety of people, some fans, musicians, radio DJs, to people in the business. The songs they picked made up the basis of the album, then we changed some tracks, basically because they were a little to close in style and we didn't want two ballads on the album. It was funny because some of our favorites didn't end up in the top, while some we thought were lower on the list, they loved. It was sort of a wake-up call in some aspects.

Do you consider to do this again?

Yes, it was definitely something I'd do again. You get a tunnel vision of your own songs sometimes and it helps getting people from 'the outside' listening with a fresh pair of ears and an open mind.

Nowadays video clips become more important again. Will you do a video? Which song(s) would you like to visualize?

Videos are definitely important. We did a medley of the songs from the album and made a clip video of some shows we've video taped. It's gained a lot of interest for the album. We've talked about doing a video for a whole song, but as we don't have a budget for it we haven't really decided how to do it yet.

Are there any plans to go on tour? Or for the festival season?

Unfortunately we were a little late for the festival season, so we kinda missed the bus on that one. We have some shows coming up in Sweden, but would of course love to play a lot more. We currently don't have a booking agency, so if anyone's interest, just get in touch!

Janne, you seem to be busy with Overdrive at the moment, but what about Constancia?

Oh, Constancia is working on a second album. Peter's already recorded the drums for 10 new songs and I will start recording the guitars soon. I'm also in another power trio called Zoom Club. The band also features Peter Hermansson on drums / vocals (ex-220 Volt / Talisman / John Norum) and bassist Totte Wallgren (Kee Marcello, Fergie Fredriksen). We are more of a seventies riff oriented hard rock band. We'll start recording an album in March. Per is also active in the band Portrait who have just recorded a new album for Metal Blade.

You wrote a book in 2 volumes. As far as I know you work on the next volume... Any idea when it will be out? Or are you on an early stage of writing?

Besides all my other musical projects I AM actually working on Volume 3 of my encyclopedia. I had a really bad backlash a while back, which threw me off a bit. I managed to write over an entire section and had no back-up. You learn the hard way sometimes. A couple of months of work down the drain. I'm back on my feet now and the plan is to have the new book ready by the summer. This one will feature everything from the first two books, all I've missed and all new bands. It's over 2750 bands, so far!

You also have a blog and write for a magazine, what interests you in writing / reviewing?

I just love to find new great bands! I'm still like a kid at Christmas when there's a CD package in the mail. I write for FUZZ magazine, which is a printed guitar magazine. I do interviews and reviews, but I also have my 'Rigg' section, where I talk to guitarists about their sound and equipment. Starting in March I will also have a new 'spotlight' section where I pick out six bands / guitarists, signed or unsigned. Besides the love of finding new talents, I love to spread the word around. This I get to do in the magazine, webzines and in my own blog.

I guess, your schedule for 2011 is pretty full already. So, what's on Overdrive's schedule? And what's on your business schedule?

Well, of course we'll try to promote the Overdrive releases as much as possible. We've got some gigs lined up, plus we're planning a tour with Torch. We'll also do a lot of gigs with Zoom Club, plus record an album in the spring. The new Constancia is in the plans, plus try to get some gigs as well, once the album is out. The new book is something I need to finish. I've got my writing for the magazines / webzines of course. On top of this I actually work full time as well as a project manager / technical writer. Music is fun, but unfortunately it's not a way to make a living if you don't want to prostitute yourself and play crap music for money and I refuse to. If it wasn't for the fun of it, I wouldn't do it, but it's still so much fun there's no way I'll stop! Oh, and I've also done some guest spots that will be released, like the forthcoming Thalamus album. There's a few more lined up. We've also talked about doing another Locomotive Breath album, plus Grooveyard Records wants me to do a third Mountain Of Power album. No rest for the wicked!

Looks like it will be another busy year for Janne Stark, Overdrive will keep going on and fully back in business. A lot more to come from Janne Stark and his mates! Keep your eyes and ears open!

Claudia Ehrhardt


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