Engel | Interview with Daniel Moilanen

With an impressive line-up boasting veterans of the Swedish scene, Engel is new band from Gothenburg, whose main instigator is former Gardenian guitarist and Anders Fridén partner in Electronic-Metal project Passenger, Niclas Engelin. Armed with a killer debut entitled “Absolute Design”, the Swedes are not about to waste the opportunity to build a name for themselves and have already hit the road twice in the last two months. Drummer Daniel Moilanen also known as Mojjo gives us the low-down on Engel’s activities.

In a game where only the strong will survive, any up and coming band that wishes to pursue a career in the extremely demanding music scene and retain any kind of longevity has to commit themselves to a hard work ethic and that means busting you ass off on the road to reach as many people as possible. Take promising Swedish group Engel for example, who despite exhibiting a rather impressive CV that could rival with any premier league act is currently on tour opening for Still Remains and Freya and previously supported Amon Amarth and Dimmu Borgir on their full European tour.
So how are you handling all this touring activity so far, when everyone knows it can turn out quite stressing sometimes?

“True, we have been on the road quite a bit for the last couple of months. Thrown on a tour bus for 10 weeks supporting your debut album is probably not that usual. And yes, the tours we've done (and actually still are doing) have been very successful, and how could they not be, going with the bands we travelled with? Only a couple of us have limited touring-experience, thus has it not been as stressful as it could have been. We have a pretty good idea of what is expected of us, and we try to deliver accordingly. And, I think we do a pretty good job delivering.”

Do you see any difference in the crowds you’ve played in front of? I guess you're not spotting face-painted kids this time around, so is there any mixed reactions from these two tours?

“Mixed reactions? Of course! The crowds on the tour we're on at the moment with Atreyu and Still Remains are more prone to doing some real work. Sure, we had both mosh and circle-pits on the last tour as well, but not like this. One might reflect on the fact that we might be a bit more suitable as a band touring with bands like Atreyu, but we like to think of ourselves as the perfect design to suit both camps of extremity, if such camps still should exist.
Speaking of face-painted kids, I seldom pay attention to images, but rather actions. As we experienced having given and received full impact when touring with such different packages, I think the difference lies not in us, but rather in the narrow minds of spectators.”

Living as a musician is harder than it looks; it requires a lot of commitment and sacrifice just to get their music heard. Seeing that all members of Engel aren't new in the business how are you coping with the notion that you're starting a new band, getting through the same difficulties as any other fledging group, like playing for 20 minutes or something and not doing a proper sound-check?

“When committing yourself to the certain degree we are, there is no need for more than 20 minutes on stage to actually get a point across.
It is very hard to live as a committed artist, whether it is music or whatnot, but the commitment is what drives you forward.
I think, and many with me, that your commitment actually defines you.
This would be the reason for all these crappy bands lying around. Not enough commitment.
We all have had to sacrifice a lot by starting up Engel, and continuing with the band, but I dare to say, we have not had to cope with the same difficulties as any other fledging group as we knew from the start what we wanted to do, and how we wanted it to be done. A luxury many bands do not have. This has in many ways made it easier for us, but in countless ways made it even harder.
And that is why we are here. Releasing our debut album on a label worth calling a label, doing the tours we are doing, and working with the people we are working with. Had we not given a damn, we would probably have broken up before even having started.”

What do you guys do in your spare time when you're not on stage? Do you have any interesting road stories from these experiences?

“When not on stage we actually do nothing of importance. By releasing our debut album when being on tour, we have subjected ourselves to lots of press, interviews, photo sessions and so forth… but other than that, we do not do much. We are as any other band. Some of us drink lots of alcohol, some of us read lots of books. Some of us listen to lots of music, while some of us watch a lot of movies. And of course, we switch places occasionally.
Interesting road stories? Nah, we'll leave those to bands who think they have something to prove.”

Can you give us an idea of how Engel came together? Was it an Engelin's project in the beginning or the initial planning was to line up a full-band?

“Niclas Engelin is, and has always been the main force behind the band.
Keep in mind, though, that it is a band. It has always been a band, even before we were a band. We came together basically because we wanted to do something right. We have all been in countless bands before, and done shows after shows, records after records... and yet, there we were, still having done nothing right.
We wanted people committed to the cause whilst not afraid to actually start it all over, once again. I dare to say that the members were carefully hand-picked, just as the band was carefully hand-picked by its members.
In a more traditional format, Niclas got in contact with me and through me with Marcus. We, in turn, got to Mangan through Niclas and Michael? Well, he's been around from the beginning, not participating only because of logistical problems.
We've had some people in the band during the early years, but since we're deep in the commitment-swamp, they drowned, alas.”

Engel's band members are all experienced musicians that have been playing in well known Swedish bands like Gardenian, The Crown, Evergrey and Lord Belial to name a few, how do see Engel sound and musical ambitions when compared to these previous experiences?

“Engel is, for me the perfect melting-pot for all our previous experiences and musical ambitions.
By that, we do not sound like a Death-Progressive version of a Black Metal-influenced Gothenburg-band. Or maybe that is exactly how we sound? We think very little of where we want to 'fit' in and even less so about where other people might want us to 'fit' in.
As previously stated, Niclas is the main force behind the band, and also the music, and people will probably hear a lot of 'Gothenburg' in our sound, maybe not considering the fact that Niclas was with Gardenian, one of the creators of the so-called 'Gothenburg sound'.
Speaking of current musical ambitions, it’s simple. We want to achieve all we can, and beyond.”

Engel's band members are also involved in other bands as well, like The Project Hate, where you play drums and Passenger. How did you manage to find the time to work with all those different bands?

“Yes. Some of us have other occupations besides Engel. These occupations have never, and will never take focus off our main priority. Of course, when working with The Project Hate MCMXCIX I devote myself completely to that, just as I would when working with any of the other bands I'm involved in. People in general have a hard time understanding how to prioritize. We don't.”

The first thing that needs to be said about Engel’s sonority is that they don’t follow the path of other Gothenburg-based bands, like the overly harmonised riffing and the distinctive guitar melody. As a matter of fact they don’t sound particularly Swedish, opting for a well-oiled mechanical American-influenced groove.
If you had to come up with an adequate definition of "Absolute Design", what would you say? Why should fans purchase this record particularly?

“Fans would purchase this album solely based on the fact that they are fans. All you others, buy it only because it just might be the best album you've heard in years.
Adequate definitions are for people who can't make up their own minds.”

Is there a theme running throughout "Absolute Design"? Can you tell me anything about the lyrical theme of the album?

“There are several themes in the album, both lyrical and musical.
The lyrical themes vary as we have two lyricists in the band, namely me and Mangan, and we both deal with different subjects, both personal and general.
My own lyrics are both religious and political, preaching and not. I guess Mangan's are a bit more on the direct personal level than my own.
The musical theme is quite apparent, when listening to the album. Splendour in simplicity.”

On a personal level, what got you into music as a professional career? Can you pinpoint the exact moment where you wanted to be a musician?

“I can pinpoint the exact moment and that is when I first heard music.
I wanted to be able to create the same feeling as I felt myself when listening to certain artists and composers, which I think I am. Not solely by playing drums, of course, but by creating music with all the people I currently work with. This is also the reason for me not only being in one band, or working with only one artist.
It took several years, though, before I actually became a musician, and it took several years from that point before I became a drummer. I guess, by then, I had realized I was not of the creating kind.”

I'm aware that you are brother of Harry K. Cody, who was the guitarist of Shotgun Messiah, a band that not many people might be familiar with but started out as a glam rock outfit and turned into a quite impressive industrial-tinged group with their final and criminally underrated album "Violent New Breed". Said record didn't get the recognition it deserved and consequently the band disbanded and I believe it was primarily because they were ahead of their time, do you agree?

“I agree. The last album they released was absolutely ahead of their time and had it been released years later, the band might have gotten the recognition they deserved. Although, why would one wait for time to catch up? I would rather be ahead of time than behind.
All the Shotgun Messiah-albums have been hugely influential for us and for me personally. They achieved the perfect balance of creating music easy enough for any average Joe to get into, as well as blow any musicians mind.”

So do your brother still plays guitar and creates music? Not much has been heard form the band members, except for Tim Skold who now plays for Marilyn Manson.

"My brother is still creating music, but not in any form that will interest the metalheads of today.
The last thing that put him in any sort of limelight was playing banjo with Tom Waits. I have tremendous amount of respect for my brother as a musician, and everything he does.
For more detailed information, I suggest you try to contact him personally. The same goes for the other ex-members of the band, although I will confess that will be of little interest for fans of Shotgun Messiah."