SHADOWSIDE – In The Studio With The Swede Musketeers

By Carl Begai

During a recent interview with Shadowside vocalist Dani Nolden for BW&BK (found here), it came to light that the band’s new album Inner Monster Out features a decent amount of Swedish input behind the music. Not what you’d expect from a band with Brazilian roots, but Nolden will tell you that the new music is better for it.

Inner Monster Out is most certainly a step up from Shadowside’s previous record, Dare To Dream, largely due to the band being able to deliver the songs on their terms. They chose to hire Gothenburg-based Fredrik Nordström to oversee the production, which proved to be a far better experience to being holed up in the studio with System Of A Down / Audioslave producer Dave Schiffman last time out.

“To be honest, working with Dave taught us a lot about following our instincts,” says Nolden. “Dave is great but he’s certainly not metal; his idea of metal is different than ours. The two words we heard the most during the production of Dare To Dream was ‘too much’ (laughs). Of course, sometimes musicians have to be ‘contained’ a little bit, as we get excited and want to use all our abilities and ideas at once and often need someone to filter that for us. I feel Dave filtered a bit too much, especially when it came to the drums. When you hear Fabio playing on Dare To Dream you might think he’s an average drummer because he did pretty much the basics, but then you hear Inner Monster Out and you’ll understand what Fabio’s identity as a drummer really is. He’s aggressive, extremely energetic, and when you compare both albums you’ll think he improved a lot, but no… he was always like that. He was restricted because Dave felt drums should be kept simple. Maybe it works great for a band like Audioslave, which is supposed to be more commercial, but we felt we could have done more as a metal band. So this time we decided to work with a producer who had a background more similar to what we like and listen to, and that man was Fredrik Nordström. We didn’t have to tell him what we wanted; it was an immediate match.”

Nordström is a revered name in the metal world. When he’s not masquerading as Dream Evil guitarist extraordinaire Ritchie Rainbow, he can be found behind the board in his studio putting bands through their paces, making them bleed for their art to get maximum performance. With a resumé thicker than an old school phone book boasting 20 years worth of experience, he has worked with seemingly every metal band on the planet. Those results speak for themselves, making Shadowside’s decision to work with Nordström a no-brainer.

“Fredrik knew we wanted the album heavy and we wanted it angry,” Nolden says, beyond pleased with Nordström’s efforts on Shadowside’s behalf. “I remember the funniest moment during the recordings of Inner Monster Out; Fabio (Buitvidas / drums) was so used to being told not to overplay anything that he recorded this really cool drum fill, stopped and asked Fredrik: ‘Too much?’ And he said ‘Yeah, but I love it!’ (laughs). While Dave is more laid back and the type of producer that doesn’t worry much if you made a mistake because he feels it’s rock ‘n’ roll, Fredrik is a perfectionist and will get the best performance of your life. He’ll get from you what you had no idea you were capable of. Both experiences were great because we learned a lot about soul from Dave and we managed to apply that to the perfection Fredrik – and ourselves – were after.”

“Personally I feel Fredrik is the perfect producer for us. I usually don’t like to repeat producers because I feel that once you get used to someone, you stop pushing their limits, but I changed my mind this time around. We only worked together for three weeks so there’s definitely a lot more music to be discovered, and I’d definitely work with Fredrik again. He understands very well what Shadowside is all about, leaves the creative control to us, but is very honest when he feels something doesn’t sound good. It’s fantastic to work with someone that has no intention of paying empty compliments. His only interest was helping us leave with a great record, which made it very easy for us to trust him.”

Working with Nordström led to fellow Swedes Björn “Speed” Strid (Soilwork), Niklas Isfeldt (Dream Evil) and Mikael Stanne (Dark Tranquillity) all lending their vocal talents to the title track, ‘Inner Monster Out’. According to Nolden the song called for the additional voices, but it does seem kind of odd that the band would squeeze three noteworthy guest singers onto one song rather than space them out over the album’s 11 tracks.

“The first and most important reason is because we never wanted guests on the album just for the sake of having them,” Nolden explains. “We always felt very strong about that; we thought guests needed to have a purpose instead of a pure marketing tool. So if we didn’t write a song that needed a guest, we’d never invite anyone. However, this time we would either get someone to sing with me or I’d have to change the story, as ‘Inner Monster Out’ is kind of a mixture of Dexter with Hannibal Lecter and a little bit of Nietzsche. You have an investigator looking for a brutal killer that’s becoming more and more like the monster for having to understand the killer’s reasons and walking a mile on hi shoes. It would be stupid to sing all of that by myself, I’d sound schizophrenic (laughs).”

“Initially, we only had Björn and Niklas planned. Björn was going to be the killer, Niklas and I would sing two sides of the same person. However, when we were in Sweden we became pretty good friends with Anders, the drummer of Dark Tranquillity, and he brought Mikael to the studio to meet us. They were there talking in Swedish with Björn recording, with me sitting there totally clueless as to what the hell was going on (laughs), and then Mikael decided to sing too. If I had met him sooner, I would definitely have written a part just for him so we could also use his clean voice. The thing is that we just couldn’t use other voices in other songs because all the lyrics are very personal and one person’s point of view only. It would make absolutely no sense for me to have the ‘Angel With Horns’ story told by two people, for example.”

“The fun part of writing and recording the ‘Inner Monster Out’ track was to keep it Shadowside, meaning no progressive long song, yet allowing all guests to stand out and not burying myself either” she continues. “I usually get a bit disappointed when I hear a song with guest musicians and hear the guy sing one line, you know? Of course the band’s singer has to shine, but the guest needs to make a difference as well. It can’t be something that can be skipped live, it has to be part of the song. And it’s more fun to have a collaboration than simply writing lines for the hired gun to perform. So, we wrote guidelines but allowed them to imprint their personalities as well. We took them out of their comfort zones by making them sing something completely different than what they’re used to, but also welcomed them to bring something new to our music.”

“That’s the main reason why we wanted these particular singers. We didn’t want a bigshot we’d never meet. Who knows what we’ll do in the future, but this time we wanted people that could come to the studio and create with us. We had a great party, got some beers, made some dinner and made music. It was very special indeed.”

Check out footage of Shadowside in the studio with Nordström (discussing cows and anal destruction, amongst other things) here.

The song ‘Inner Monster Out’ can be heard here.

For more news and noise from Shadowside go to their official website.