Switchtense | Interview with Hugo Andrade


Touted as one of 2009’s biggest and most promising acts rising from the Portuguese metal scene, Switchtense are five friends who came together in 2002 to play heavy music due to a shared passion of bands such as Pantera, Lamb of God and Slayer. Released earlier this year by independent label Rastilho Records, their full-length debut “Confrontation of Souls” magnificently melds crushing and infectious riffs with Slayer’s razor-sharp leads and stands head and shoulders above the rest of their homegrown competition when it comes to talent and musicianship.
Scratch the Surface approached Switchtense’s vocalist Hugo Andrade through e-mail to learn more about an act clearly destined for big things.

Following the release of the EP “Brainwash Show”, which garnered very enthusiastic reactions, Switchtense have decided to channel all their energies into the writing of their debut full-length record. Did the band had some type of preconceived ideas of how to make the record sound or “Confrontation of Souls” is majorly the spontaneous result of countless hours working at the rehearsal room?

“Before I answer your question let me just thank you for the chance to speak about our work to your readers.
‘Confrontation of Souls’ is the record that we really wanted to make! It was thought and worked on during about one year and throughout this period we were perfecting all the details that we wanted to be the most professional as possible.
We pre-produced the entire album at our rehearsal-room/studio and that was without a doubt of great value for the end result, because without this exhaustive pre-production that we’ve made, we wouldn’t be prepared at the time we would enter the studio, and our biggest concern was exactly that, to enter the studio with the conviction of what we’d make.
However, things flowed naturally… There are a lot of spontaneous things in the composition of the songs since some of them had been written just weeks before going into the Ultrasound Studios, and if we add the fact that our drummer Xines joined the band when we already had a hand-full of themes prepared, to which he added his personal touch with the instrument he plays, I can say that it is an album with a brain, but it also has a lot of heart!”

With a magnificent graphic work developed by João Diogo/Comavisions (Echidna/Bizarra Locomotive) and a powerful production job handled by the band and the increasingly influential Daniel Cardoso at Ultrasound studios, the debut full-length work from Switchtense, definitely wasn’t relinquished in any aspect and the reactions to the album have been unanimously positive. This gives you the sensation of a mission accomplished, are you completely satisfied with the work developed in “Confrontation of Souls”?

“Lots of times we hear musicians saying that if they had the chance today they would change some things in the way they had made the record, but we wouldn’t do that regarding this album. It represents exactly what the band is nowadays and we want to mark this phase in time! These are the Switchtense of 2009 and therefore the record sounds the way it does. We have enough time in the future to make things in a different way.
By handling the record in a very professional manner, we didn’t leave anything to chance and everything was scrutinized and revised to the smallest detail so that we could do a work that we’d enjoy listening to. Above all we have to like what we do! We didn’t wanted, after the record was made, to say ‘damn, this scene doesn’t sound too good here!’
All things considered, I can say that it seems that the mission was done and well fulfilled! We’ve made everything in our reach to make a good album, since it’s our debut, and it wouldn’t make sense to do it in any other way! We really want this life for us… we breath this during 365 days a year and as such, we gave everything we could from ourselves for this record! We cannot forget the excellent work of Daniel Cardoso and Pedro Mendes of Ultrasound Studios… they’re monster machines and understood perfectly what we wanted to accomplish.
João Diogo added the visual aspect of the artwork, and in our perspective have done it in a perfect way! There’s an excellent symbiosis between the artwork and the record, and of course the role of Rastilho Records is also vital, so that we can go as far as possible with the album! We’re very grateful with the commitment of this entire people!”

Featuring eleven themes, “Confrontation of Souls” presents a robust and sharp sonority that moves through diverse musical trails such as thrash, death and hardcore, possibly suggesting that the musical influences of the five elements that comprise Switchtense are varied and diverge between them. The song-writing work is a collective effort from a team with diverse musical tastes between them or someone usually takes over a lead role in this field?

“The composition of ‘Confrontation of Souls’ started in June of 2007. After Neto joined us at the end of 2006, we started to count with two guitars… we made a good number of concerts with two guitarists in order to obtain a strong tightness in this aspect which was new in Switchtense. Later, during the writing of the album, we switched drummers and Xines stepped in and added more heaviness and dynamism to the drums, which was something it was lacking in our sound. We already had 6/7 songs written for the album when Xines joined us, and then we started writing the remaining songs with him on board. So there isn’t any particular member taking over the song-writing in Switchtense. We work very much as a team and since we spent a lot of time together without actually playing we usually take that opportunity to define ideas for the songs. Normally Neto and Pardal present us some guitar riffs that later Xines puts a beat over it… sometimes it’s the other way around! Other times I also make a riff, program a drum beat in the computer and develop some ideas… ‘Confrontation of Souls’ was conceived like this, with a great will to exchange ideas or influences that directly or indirectly have inspired each one of us. All of us are great consumers of music, metal and other styles… There are bands that are a common reference to us all, while others are more personal things!"

One of the references that occasionally appears associated to your sound is metalcore, a musical style that fell in disgrace in the last few years, very much due to its saturation. Does it bother you in someway these types of associations?

“Answering directly to your question. No! It doesn’t bother me at all because we have nothing to do with that style or with that tag. Normally, these bands are much more melodic than us, with clean-sung chorus, so there’s nothing in common! Sometimes these associations are made with a depreciative intent, normally people that doesn’t like these new sonorities. However, we think it isn’t our framework. In Switchtense nobody is fan of a metalcore band, which I usually associate with names like Caliban and Killswitch Engage for example. We like other types of bands more…the classics! We vibrate with Slayer, Pantera, Sepultura, Dew-Scented, Hatebreed, Exodus, Hatesphere, Testament, Dream Theater, Lamb of God and much more… We have a very different type of approach from the bands that are labelled as metalcore!"

It’s difficult not to notice that Switchtense has a great involvement with their listeners and value a lot their opinions as well as the critics from the press.
What kind of relevance does the approval of the press and general fans exerts over the band?

“I’m answering this interview during a time where we have been playing a lot live and since the record came out in February 2nd, I think that we’ve only failed two or three weekends from playing live until today. This is only to say that such issue is very fundamental for us.
The public and friends we’ve been making all the nights (which in almost all the cases extend into the mornings) where we play live are without any doubt a great value to us. The dates that we have made of our ‘Confrontour’ have been fantastic at this level…We have had an excellent reception at the concerts and to the record, and I can say that it has surpassed all our expectations, and to us that is an extremely important issue. We value each person that goes to see us play live. We make sure to have the most direct contact as possible with someone who cares to attend a concert, purchase a CD or a t-shirt, or simply sends a mail or comments our MySpace… We are not a group of five narrow minded individuals only looking into our own bellies, quite the contrary. The idea that we have of music and our way of life won’t allow it! We have the biggest pleasure in knowing and hang around the people that surround us.
It’s extremely important that we share opinions with someone who has made contact with the band at any level since it will make everything that is part of the Switchtense universe grow… We take every critic, opinion, incentive from the public and the press very serious...it’s what makes us evolve and since we are very social persons, we can’t live without that! To us playing live, besides being a passion is also a party and it doesn’t make any sense if it isn’t like that!”

There was a time when a good portion of the Portuguese public frequently used an annoying expression that was in someway diminishing of the value of a national musician/artist, the already known: “for Portuguese this is not bad at all”. Have the band been reading or hearing such type of commentary lately?

“This is a phrase that people have been saying a lot less… because the level of the bands has raised without a question, and this makes people less surprised each time they hear a Portuguese band doing something with quality and professionalism…
As in all places, we have good and bad things, regardless of the country in question! This phrase demonstrates the mentality that some people have in relation to what is produced in Portugal, and it’s up to us, Portuguese bands, to contradict this ridicule affirmation, showing that our records are becoming more professional and that our concerts sometimes attract more public than some foreign bands! I still think that many promoters in Portugal have that stigma and in the universe of metal music it’s even more evident!”

The lyrics of the album seem to reflect ideas of personal affirmation and revolt against the malicious values of modern societies. Is there any lyrical concept underlying in “Confrontation of Souls”?

“The thematic of the record was constructed as we were composing the new songs. The lyrics were all written by me and I had a lot of time to prepare them! I can say you that I was writing as the songs were being finished. The title of the record was already chosen and judging by the base of what we’d deal with in our lyrics, it made all the sense to include such title! I mean the corrupted values, such as egoism and individualism, the constant ruptures and collisions at personal level that we are living nowadays! I think that we live in permanent confrontation with the world! Sometimes with catastrophic results, other times with results that allows us to evolve and to give one step forward. This entire thematic is imbued in our lyrics and I think it was done in a very direct way and without great detours!"

Switchtense are committed in promoting the album beyond their nation’s borders, having already done some dates in countries like Holland and Germany.
So I can safely say that the internationalization of the band is definitively one of your ambitions?

“As I’ve answered before, we live for this! We have an ambition to build a serious career and as such, it would be pointless to think about that if we wouldn’t have objectives to take the band outside Portugal! We have made everything that was in our reach to take the name of Switchtense as far as possible… We are very thrilled with such opportunities!”

More info at: www.myspace.com/switchtenseportugal