I first became a fan of Cult of Luna when I randomly discovered the beauty and destruction of their 2006 album Somewhere Along the Highway. I really enjoyed the fact that Cult of Luna were able to mix such diverse elements into their brand of heaviness. Since then Cult of Luna have been a favorite of mine and it’s always exciting when the band releases an album. However, this year is something special, because Cult of Luna have released what I consider the best album of their career in Vertikal (which you can purchase here). With an intriguing futuristic concept Vertikal is a combination of creative brutality, original electronic atmospherics, and overall gloomy vibe that I think is a perfect representation of what Cult of Luna is as a band. Fresh of their recent Scandinavian tour, I was able to ask drummer / percussionist Thomas Hedlund some questions about Vertikal.
Three of my all time favorite bands Meshuggah, Refused, and Cult of Luna are from Umeå. Is there something in the water over there? What’s the music scene like in Umeå?
We indeed have very good water! One of the best in Sweden, if you ask me. However, I doubt that it’s the main reason, haha. First of all, thank you so much for mentioning us together with these other two great bands. It is very kind of you. Umeå is a great place to live if you’re in to arts and music. It has a very lively cultural climate for being such small town. A bunch of internationally renowned festivals and tons of bands, designers, film makers, photographers and writers. Some of which have moved to Stockholm, and other parts of the world, but surprisingly many stay or come back. It’s a very tolerant town. For me and my bandmates, growing up watching and being part of the hardcore movement, we saw early on how important music can be for people. How it can contain the power and will to change and inspire. Within the scene, people could form a band one week and have their first show two weeks later. It would obviously sound like crap, but that was ok! The important thing was to do SOMETHING, if it was good or not was not really relevant. So I’m so grateful for having grown up in Umeå, where we were encouraged to do music form an early age. The music scene is still great. In Sweden people are always excited when new bands emerge from Umeå.
I know that Johannes is in Khoma and that you have contributed to their albums, are any of the other members of Cult of Luna involved in other projects?
No, not really. I play with several other bands, but apart from me, people play with Cult of Luna or KHOMA (Fredrik is also a member of KHOMA).
You joined Cult of Luna after they had been together for a while. How did this come about?
Well, I played some percussion on The Beyond and I think I played percussion on a show too. And when Markuu left, due to issues within the band, it was natural for me to take his place. I had been playing with Johannes in another band for years, and had become friends with the other guys in Cult of Luna.
Why the long break between records?
We wanted to take our time, letting the concept and musical ideas really breathe. We had finally finished our deal with Earache, so we had no pressure from a label to work faster. This allowed us to explore all the ideas we wanted to try. Lack of inspiration was not an issue this time. We easily could have made two albums right away.
I’ve read that Vertikal is based loosely on the movie Metropolis and that the band was going for an industrial futuristic sound. Can you elaborate more on this?
We wanted to find a contrast to the previous albums. They were more rural, earthy and organic in a way. This time we wanted to explore the city; the machinery that is a society. Metropolis dealt with questions about belonging, the need for a change, human vs. machines, love. All of which were topics that we found inspiring in the making of this album.
“Vicarious Redemption” has to be one of the most epic songs of all time and so far is my favorite track of 2013. What was the writing process like for Vertikal?
Wow, thank you so much. That is very kind of you. Well, as I mentioned earlier, the process was filled with inspiration and ideas that we wanted to try. Overall, the making of this album was the smoothest so far. We’ve played together for so long, that we know each other inside out. We know our strengths as a band, but more importantly our weaknesses. We worked with the arrangements in a slightly different way, focusing more on the keyboards and the making of our own percussion.
Yes, we’ve done that quite a lot before. We do that in order to allow the cymbals to compress in a nice way. We can also work with sustain and tone in a different way, when we’ve separated them from the rest of the kit. To do this on an album does not make it harder to play live. On some parts the drums are layered in a way that require more than four limbs, but then again, we’re always two drummers on stage, so that’s fine!
What was your inspiration behind the drum patterns and beats that you played on the album?
Hmm, hard one. I don’t know… I listen to a lot of rap music, so it’s pretty often that I get inspiration from hip hop beats, actually. Also, I don’t listen to metal at all, almost, so my inspiration more often come from indie music.
The band recently released a video for “Passing Through”. Interesting choice being as it’s the last song on the album and sounds quite different from the rest of the album. Why this song?
I don’t know. It’s significantly shorter than a lot of the other tracks. But also, it’s a beautiful song, that works well with visual arts. It links with the rest of the songs in feeling, although it sounds different.
You guys released a deluxe edition of Vertikal with the bonus track “The Flow Reversed”, I think that “Passing Through” closes the album really well. Do you feel that the bonus track adds more to the concept of the album, or is it more of a b-side?
Yes, I agree with you about the closing of the album. The flow reversed is indeed a b-side, and should be considered more like a gift!
In you opinion how does Vertikal differ from the rest of Cult of Luna’s albums? How has the band grown musically?
As I mentioned, we tried to explore something more urban this time around, but sort of seen through the eyes of the past. Don’t know if that makes any sense, but that is why we drew inspiration from pieces of art such as Metropolis. It was interesting to look at someones visions of the future. We share very different tastes in the band, which sometimes can be frustrating, but for the most part is a huge strength. We complement each other great. We’ve always been open to music from different genres than our own, but now more than ever. We don’t care about what other bands in our genre does, but keep on trying to make the albums we want to hear ourselves.
I just found out that the concept behind Eternal Kingdom was a hoax, I have to admit that as a fan I am disappointed. The idea of a basing your album on a madman’s journal seemed so intense and exciting. Do you guys at least rehearse in a rundown mental institution?
I’m sorry to say that we don’t anymore. We used to though. Now we share a nice little house in the centre of Umeå with some other bands. It’s really great, but not as mystical as the place we used to be in.
Any plans to tour the U.S.?
We’d love to come to the US! The plan is definitely to do some touring in the US. Don’t know when or where, but maybe sometime in the fall.
Favorite band or album of all time?
Wow! Tough last one… There are so many amazing and important albums/bands. Can I say which album I’ve listened to the most for the last couple of years? Bon Iver – Bon Iver.
Buy Vertikal: http://www.omerch.eu/shop/cultofluna/