hail from Copenhagen, Denmark and were formed in October 2001 by , who had previously split up the Danish Heavy metal band Dominus. The band which consists of vocalist and guitarist Michael Poulsen, guitarist Thomas Bredahl, bassist Anders Kjølholm and drummer Jon Larsen are inspired by legends Metallica, Social Distortion, Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash which they combine to make a unique sound.
After taking their native Denmark by storm with all three of their albums being certified gold, including their second album being certified platinum, the band have spent the better the past year taking over the world with tours through the United States and Europe. Having being hand-picked to open for Metallica and also opening for AC/DC, the band have made this the year of Volbeat. Now after a successful performance at this year’s Download Festival, the band announced that they have signed to UK label Spinefarm Records to release their fourth studio album ‘Beyond Heave/Above Hell’.
With the band readying their new release and preparing for their first ever UK headlining tour, I had the opportunity to submit some questions to the band which Michael Poulsen took some time to respond to.
The past year has been explosive for Volbeat in terms the new found recognition for your music worldwide especially touring the US and now announcing your first UK tour. How has the past year compared to the all the years the band has been active?
Well it has been dream come true and proof that hard work, good timing and a good team can have some really strong results but of course we also like to believe that we do something nobody else does, and we bring something special to the table with our music.
Being picked out specifically by Metallica as the band they want to support them and also supporting AC/DC are some of the moments well established bands would kill for so what was it like being asked/told you would be joining those bands on tour?
We have all been fans of Metallica since we were teenagers, it has been a crazy journey. It’s a very big compliment and the Metallica guys are true gentlemen who treat their support bands really good. It’s very inspiring to see how those guys work and of course it’s great that we now are friends with Metallica; I have good contact with James, and even had him at my own house for some dinner. But you also quickly learn that they are just human beings like everybody else, so they are very easy to be around, they are loose and in good spirit. They also have an amazing crew, really good people.
‘Beyond Hell/Above Heaven’ will be released on 13th September here in the UK. What can you tell us about the album in terms of the sound and direction you are taking it?
Well it’s the most random Volbeat album so far without losing the red line. We really flirt around with many styles, but this time it’s more stretch. There will be songs that are more metal than ever and songs that are more rock n’ roll and punk/country than ever before; actually we have a true rockabilly song on this one with slap bass. There will be very very interesting guest singers and musicians, that really going to surprise people. We always try things out we haven’t done before, but without losing the Volbeat feeling and sound.
The album title doesn’t refer to any religious beliefs so can you tell us what the name of the album means? Does it represent part of the story that you are telling from the previous album?
Yeah it tells some kind of a story from the previous album and it’s a way telling people that we don’t belong or believe in neither heaven nor hell. So if we go beyond hell, we will make heaven look like hell, and if we go above heaven, we will make hell look like heaven. Heaven and hell is something we create in our minds and personal self-created demons come out of that.
Your experiment with styles varies the tempo of your music that you play. Can fans expect the same variation over the new album with reference to your last album?
We did have slow songs and ballads on the past records though there will be no ballads on this one, but lots of different tempos.
Comparing the process to writing ‘Beyond Hell/Above Heaven’ to your previous work have you made any changes to how you go about writing lyrics and music?
No not really but this is the first time I have had to write an album without my father around me. I lost him 2 years ago, and he inspired me a lot, and it was always very important for me to play my music for him; he had a feeling about what was working and why. So it has been a big and hard challenge for me to write this album. Also everybody in the band has been going through some hard times in their private life, since we never were at home and stuff like that. So this record is a victory for everybody in the band.
Based on lyrics and the story told in ‘Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood’ which is moving on into ‘Beyond Hell/Above Heaven’, how did you come up with it?
Well, it all started when I needed a good album title for the third album and then I heard Mike Ness (Social Distortion) singing “I’m A Guitar Gangster Without A Tune”, or something like that. I thought about the words ‘guitar gangster’, and suddenly I had these pictures and ideas running in my head, and I came up with the album title ‘Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood’.
Will the story end on this album or will it only serve as another chapter?
The story from the past record is going to continue on this one and it will end on this album but who knows, the guitar gangster might show up in the future :-)
So lots of great cover artwork.
According to the press release for your UK tour, the album will feature a number of special guests. Can you tell us a few of the people who will be playing alongside you on the new album?
Mark “Barney” Greenway – Napalm Death
Michael Denner – Mercyful fate/King Diamond
Miland “Mille” Petrozza – Kreator
Henrik Hall – Love shop (mouth harp)
Jakob Oelund – Taggy Tones (slap bass)
And some more people too.
I’m very very proud to have these fine gentlemen with me, since they inspired me a lot for a long time.
This is also the second album that Thomas will feature on after his performance on ‘Guitar Gangsters & Cadillac Blood’. What has he brought to the band since he joined?
Well, I’m still the guy who writes 98% of the music and 100% of the lyrics but Thomas comes with some good ideas now and then, just like the other guys in the band. When Thomas comes with ideas they are more punk elements, since he comes from a punk band.
You performed at this year’s Download Festival with a good 45 minute set. What was it like to be back at Download and playing in front of so many people?
It was good to be back and play a little longer set. The crowd were really good the first time we were there, and they were really good this time to, so it’s been a true pleasure for us to come back, and we are looking forward to play more UK shows.
A lot of fans have been asking for a Volbeat tour for some time now, mostly since your Download performance in 2007, so what has been the delay in getting the band over?
Well to be very honest, it’s not easy to get into the UK music market if you’re not from the UK. Our distribution may have not been that good in the beginning, but it’s changing now, and we now have a UK tour this year, so we are getting closer at the UK people :-)
Is the band looking forward to performing in front of a UK audience on a more intimate level after Download?
Sure, it’s always great to have the audience close at you but we also enjoy the festivals. We are really looking forward to playing for our UK listeners/fans, and have a talk with them after the show.
We just want to get it on and raise hell ;-)
How would you describe a typical Volbeat performance for fans who have yet to experience your live show?
Lots of energy and positive vibes with good contact to the audience.
As this is your first headlining tour here in the UK, will you be doing anything special on tour such as signings or anything new during your set to give fans something a little different or will we need to wait and see?
We always go out to the audience after a show to hang out and have a talk and sign stuff, so that’s what we going to do but we are really not changing anything, we are who we are, and we believe in what we do, and we believe that we can give the audience a good show with just being ourselves and kick some ass on stage.
Has there been progress on who will support the band or are you waiting till nearer the time to release that information?
We are working on that, I don’t know yet who it’s going to be.
Being that the band has been touring hard, especially over the last 3-4 years, promoting your albums, what would you say is the most memorable touring moment?
That we have met so many of our heroes and we have met so many great people who support Volbeat.
And being that the band is reaching its tenth year in action, what have been your biggest achievements to date?