Thursday, April 14, 2011

Working Titles

During the writing process of this latest Victims album, the first that I'd been involved with, I noticed an old work-sheet on the wall behind Johan's amp at Victims HQ, or The Bunker as I call it. It was the work-sheet for the Killer album. It was a list of the working titles for the songs accompanied by a lot of arrangement notes, all scribbled down in black marker pen.

The first thing that crossed my mind whilst looking at this list was how professional Victims were when going about their business. On closer inspection of the list though, a broad smile crossed my face. I noticed a song that had been given the working title, “Lemmy E Stolt”, which in English means, “Lemmy Is Proud”. I knew immediately that that must have been the working title for, Lies, Lies, Lies, a song that was released as a 7” following the Killer lp. I also knew that it must have been Jon who had christened the song. Looking at the other titles and I realised that it must have been Jon who had christened all of the songs on that work-sheet.

The new album, A Dissident, is out this week, and this being the case I thought I'd share the background story and working titles for each of the songs written for the record. As they'd always done before, we worked through each song in a professional manner, pulling songs apart and dissecting them, whilst all the time keeping notes on one of those work-sheets that this time hung on the wall behind Andy's drum kit.

Once again, it was Jon who took it upon himself to give the songs their working labels.  Like every song ever written, they each have their influences, which are usually where the working titles come from.  The real titles of the songs came to light long into the writing process.

In Speedhorn, lyrics were usually an after-thought, at least until Bloody Kev joined the band. It was usually the case that I'd give the songs their titles long before lyrics were written for them. I was always scribbling notes of song titles down. They would come from something I'd read, or heard somewhere in a film or on the news, that had caught my ear and I'd thought would make a pretty cool title. I'd have loads of these song titles in a note book I carried around in my bag at all times. So the subject of a Speedhorn song was usually always in the title, and not in the lyrics. The lyrics were often written in the studio and rarely had anything to do with the name of the song...

On A Dissident, the lyrics were given a lot of time and thought by Johan. Now they're not exactly Hemingway, but he at least had a solid theme for each song, which in turn followed a general theme for the entire album. It was only whilst we were pre-producing the album that the real song titles started to surface. Up until then we'd followed the working titles that Jon had dictated to Andy, who in turn wrote them up on the sheet. This being the case, the new song titles took some getting used to...

Theft – Dismember

Kind of obvious I guess, but it's a common theme in Jon's song-writing. The song was given the initial title Dismember due to the death metal style intro on it. The lead melody in itself though was very much inspired by Hallowed Be Thy Name by Maiden...

Jon had actually showed the guys this song during a practice session I had missed. Andy had told me afterwards that Jon had written a song with a pretty cool Maiden style melody in it. I texted Jon afterwards and told him that I had heard there was a good new song on the go, mentioning that Andy had said that it had a Maiden feel to it. ”Maiden feel?”, Jon immediately texted me back, “It's a direct rip off of Hallowed Be Thy Name! If Harris hears it he's gonna come knocking!”

Funnily enough, despite the Maiden/Dismember style intro, the main body of the song personally reminds me of one of Jon's other bands, Acursed. It was actually that that pleased me the most about it. I love Acursed.

Death Do Us Part – Discharge Rakt/Världens Bästa Låt

Again following the theme, this song was particularly influenced by Discharge. I know...shocking! But they did invent the entire scene after all... It was known as Straight Discharge at first, though Jon was so happy with the song that it soon got the working title Best Song In The World. It was obvious to us from the start that this was one of the stronger songs we'd written and would most likely have a place near the start of the album. It's straight up and to the point and one of the more aggressive songs we'd written for this record. Although it is heavy in it's Discharge influence, the hook at the end of the chorus always reminds me of To Ride era Entombed.

In Control – AB 4 Klack

As with every record I've ever been involved in writing, there are some songs that don't convince you at first, that go on to be firm favourites when they've been given the studio treatment. At the same time, there are songs that you really like in the rehearsal space that just don't live up to expectations once properly recorded. In Control was an example of the former.

The song itself was originally half the pace of the final album version. I thought it was way too slow. I didn't really get it. I have no problem with exploring new avenues but they have to remain true to the band's sound. It's a common theme on Victims albums that there is normally at least one standard 4/4 song, as opposed to the more common “d-beat” that the band's foundations are built on. This song was AB 4 Klack, which basically meant Another Breath 4/4. Jon was really into this song by our great friends Another Breath, which had this long guitar intro, and he wanted to have a song of our own that, in a similar manner, was based on a long guitar riff.

There was something missing though. It was a pretty straight forward song with just a couple of riffs, and being so slow it had a tendency to get a little boring. We ended up speeding up the song to around twice the tempo, I came up with an idea for a Helmet style stop/start in the chorus and Johan came up with a killer hook for the vocals. It became one of the more hit type songs on the record. Again though, it never really reminded me of Another Breath. I think it sounds more like the latest Coliseum album if anything. I think that might have more to do with the general attitude of the song though.

Victims In Blood Pt. 6 – V6

This is the one song that was written with a specific intention. That intention was to be the new V.I.B. song. It's been a tradition within the band that started with the first 7”, that every record since has had an In Blood song. They're always up there with the very fastest songs on the record, they're usually very short and always really aggressive. The one record that the song title doesn't appear on is Divide and Conquer, but Another Way To Die is actually Victims In Blood Part 4.

Although we didn't write the album with any specific intentions, the one mission Jon has, and he does treat it like a mission, is to write a song worthy of the In Blood title. We had one early on in the early stages of writing, but after toying around with it for a while, Jon tossed it out, claiming it not to be good enough. I liked it all the same.

As it happened, V6 was the final song we wrote for A Dissident. It's one of my absolute favourites.

Burning Bridges – Lemmy E Stolt Igen

If Lemmy was proud of Lies, Lies, Lies, then he was proud again of this song. The working title would later become simply, Lemmy. In the vain of the Killer sessions, Jon had once again written a Motorhead anthem of a song. I really liked it from the start, although Johan later admitted that he wasn't sure. The song never actually had any vocal line written for it, or at least, I never heard it in rehearsals, so it was a real boost to hear Johan's vocals on it at Nico's studio for what was the first time. I liked it anyway, but Johan's vocals really gave the song a lift. It was only after the album was finished and we were rehearsing the songs again that Johan said he thought it would be a good addition to the live set. I think this song is one of the most fun songs to play from the new material.

Bringing Me Down – Lizzy Intro

Yes, pretty obvious, but this song has a real Thin Lizzy intro riff. In it's embryonic stage it was way more over the top, very rock 'n' roll, in the worst sense. Jon had this high lead break thing that went over the bottom heavy chords Johan and I played. It was the song I had the most doubts about, and I was pretty sure that I'd be able to vote it off the record once finished.

We did toy with this song a lot though and eventually Jon's lead thing on the intro left the building. I was pleased with that. It went from sounding like Lizzy to something closer to From Ashes Rise. The working title reverted to just Lizzy after a while. Although we'd taken the silly intro away, the main body of the song still sounded pretty Lizzy, albeit a Victims take on it. The main riff is pretty rocking, almost happy in tone. The guitar solo I put down in the middle is directly influenced by the song, Massacre, from Lizzy's Johnny The Fox album.

Andy also seemed a little unsure about the song, and did his best to sneakily speed it up in rehearsals so as to bring it a bit more in line with how a Victims song should sound. He ended up succeeding. But as with In Control, it was Johan's vocals that really converted me to this song. I think he did a great job. His vocal on the verses gave the song exactly what it needed. It is now one of my favourites on the album.

We Are Not The Future – Anna Lotion

I have no fucking idea where Jon got the working title for this song from. Well the Anna part I get, since that part is a tribute to Annihilation Time, but the Lotion part? I haven't a clue. This song actually reminds me of Jon's girlfriend Anna, since she was out touring with AT a while back. I don't know, maybe this song is Jon's tribute to his girl...

The song itself took a long time to get together. It swayed back and forth a lot. It was one of the earlier songs written, one that had been around before I'd joined the band. The verse riff is really rock orientated, very AT. And the hook at the end of the chorus riff is about as close to Kiss as Victims will ever get. I remember we put a lot of time into the middle section, trying to nail this pretty cool drum accent thing, which went over my guitar chugging part, but we never got it together. Andy just couldn't find the right timing, and my arm refused to chugg for that long! We ended up going with a beat there in the middle instead. The Kiss riff was pretty straight up at first, but again we changed the drums to keep it in line with the more stabby beat that's in the rest of the song, which made the song a lot harder hitting in general. Johan and Jon came up with some cool interchanging vocals on this one which gave the song a really good hook. It turned out to be one of the songs I was really satisfied with on the album, but it probably won't be one we'll play live.

Lifetaker – Tråk Käng

The working title of this song literally means Boring Crust, which says a lot about Jon's sense of humour. It's actually one of the stronger songs on the record. It is though, a straight-forward d-beat crust song, direct from the realms of all those classic Swedish crust bands. The thing I always liked about this song was the minor chords that Jon wrote for the verse riff. It's quite subtle on the recording but if you listen for it you'll hear it.

If there was ever a Victims song that could be done acoustically then it would be this one. It's had many an acoustic going over in the studio control room, whilst we've sat around bored waiting for something to get fixed. It sounds really nice on an acoustic guitar actually, although Johan's singing accompanying it wasn't that hot...

Broken Bones – Garett Ett

This was the first song that I wrote for Victims, hence the title. Jon always pronounces my name in that ridiculously over the top Swedish way, with about ten “t's” added to the end.

This was another song that spent a lot of time hanging around in limbo. We didn't really know what to do with it. It had a whole other chorus at first and was quite a bit slower than the version that appears on the record. Once we'd adjusted it a little though it turned out pretty great. Jon came up with a awesome Entombed bit in the middle breakdown, which reminds me a lot of their song Wreckage from the To Ride album. Jon's years of grind training comes to the fore right here! Johan came up with some really great vocals again, and I played the nearest thing to a real guitar solo I'm ever going to manage. Linus, who is actually a real guitar player, helped me out a lot with it in the studio though.

Nowhere In Time – Maiden

This is about as obvious as it gets! It has a Maiden harmony in the chorus, Jon does a harmonic thing going back into the verse that when we put it down on the recording came out sounding exactly like the part from Aces High. This song could have been on Powerslave for fuck sakes! Even the official name for it was an obvious salute to the boys from London.

The song itself took no time to get together. It was one of the few songs that didn't need much work from Jon's original idea. In fact, the 4 track version that Jon had recorded at his desk at work (and he's always complaining that he works his ass off...) sounds pretty much as the final version turned out, apart from the ridiculous sounding drum machine that was on Jon's work/demo version.

I think this song pushes Victims boundaries about as far as they can go... definitely a song that grew on me over time. It's now one of the most fun songs to play in the rehearsal space.

Ignorance Is Bliss – Green Green

This was another song that was kicking around before I joined the band. There was a practice room tape with about five or six song ideas on, this being one of them. Jon had named this one Green Green since he thought the main part of the song sounded like Gang Green style hardcore. Fast, no frills. We fucked around for a while with the second part of the song and there's a little accent thing that ended up in there, right at the end of the song, that sounded like a song from Green Day's album, Dookie. When I first heard this idea I was like, what the fuck? But somehow it kind of worked and the working title became Green Green.

As opposed to how songs like In Control and Bringing Me Down didn't convince me at first, this song was one of my favourites in the early days. Unfortunately I feel we didn't quite capture it as we'd maybe hoped we would on the recording. It's weird, some songs are just like that. I think the end part of the song didn't quite hit how I thought it would. It's still a lot of fun to play this song in the rehearsal room, but I don't think it will make it to the stage. Still, a good song.

The Egoist – Dio Must Die

Not sure how the "Must Die" bit came about, but again, the "Dio" part is pretty self explanatory, at least if you're in Jon world.

He was playing around with a riff melody that he thought sounded like We Rock by Dio, and he wanted to make a song out of it. My fond memory of this song is of me and Jon sitting on my balcony in the late summer of last year, each with a guitar and a can of beer, working out the arrangement for it. At first the song was a lot slower and I kind of feel it lost something when it sped up to the tempo that it is now. I never really heard the Dio reference Jon was so psyched about, personally it always reminded me, at least in feeling, of a great song by our friends band Mörkt Kapitel, called Det Här Är En Dröm. It was another favourite for a while, but it was also a song that took a lot of work in the studio, and sometimes that can cause the band to lost a bit of faith in it. I still feel that it holds its place on the album, it's just doesn't sound how I imagined it would when we wrote it that evening on my balcony...

Waiting For Shadows – HC Däng

This was the first new song that I'd heard, and the first I rehearsed with the band once I was done with learning the dozens of old songs from the live set.

I remember being completely head fucked after having learnt around twenty five old Victims songs in the space of about three practices, only for Jon to be on me straight away with, “Ok, let's go through some new songs...” I was slightly over-awed... And then we played through this song, HC Däng, which loosely translates as Hardcore Belter or Ripper, or something equally as cheesy (insinuating that Jon thought this song was a real classic Hardcore kick in the face kind of song), and the cocky fucker nonchalantly tells me that I'm going play a solo after the first chorus. I realised then that I was in trouble. I'd never played a solo in my life! That fucking guitar solo had me bothered for weeks. I didn't know what I was going to play there. In the end I opted for something pretty simple, but it turned out ok anyway. Simple normally works.

This song was the first song the guys had written for the record. There had been a few other ideas knocking around but this was the first really strong idea that had surfaced. Once they'd written this song the guys knew that they were officially off the ground with the new album...

About two and a half years later, we'd finally go into the studio to record it...

There were a few other songs written during the last year or so that for various reasons, never made it to the album. One is going to appear on a split 7” later on. Another we had, which had the title Stiff, was recorded during the sessions but for some reason just never turned out how we'd hoped. It's strange how that happens with certain songs. I really loved Stiff when we'd written it (Jon had named it Stiff due to a Stiff Little Fingers drum accent at the end of the song, although the song in itself was pretty raging), we just couldn't capture it in the studio. The song was recorded and mixed but I doubt it will show up anywhere, we'll most likely use the best riff from it for something else in the future.

A couple of songs were half written but faded away before getting serious. And then Jon had a song he'd named Alabama Boogie, which in truth, was pretty ridiculous. It was a real southern-rock, blues boogie type thing. Jon loved it for a while. Andy and I had our doubts. I remember Jon showing it to us for the first time. He played the whole song, which was a couple of minutes long, guitar amp on full, hair in front of his face, head banging away and his left leg doing this jig thing. It was a sight to behold. One of the things I truly love about Jon is his insatiable enthusiasm for song writing. In truth, Alabama Boogie had some pretty good parts in it. It just wasn't a Victims song.

I listened through the test pressing of the record the other day, sat in my flat, drinking a cup of tea with the stereo volume cranked high. The buzz of listening through your band's new album on vinyl for the first time is one of the many pleasures that makes playing in a band the greatest thing in the world. I can't imagine ever wanting to retire from that...


  1. So many interesting influences, yet in the end it all just sounds the same. The dullest Victims release yet.

    In Control was sweet, but nothing else sticks. Better luck next time.

  2. Why thank you. And good luck to you too.

  3. Once again, a joy to read!
    Can't wait to hear your solos ;)
    kramar från Amsterdam xxx

  4. Gärret Smith, Ignorance is bliss är en rejäl Section 8-rip kan jag säga dig. Men gud vad jag älskart! Som jag sa till Jon häromdan: Fan vad bra plattan är!