When we set up our interview with Swedish guitarist David Andersson, it was sort of a miracle. To say this guy is busy is a ridiculous understatement. Already a medical doctor and a holder of a PhD, David plays in two bands that, while sharing members, are extremely different: melodic death metal band Soilwork and the incredible homage to classic and progressive rock, the Night Flight Orchestra. After connecting with David on Skype and asking if it was a good time to talk, he replied, “I’m actually having my first free day in months!” Lucky us!
Tell us about the ESPs you’re playing now.
I’m in two bands. For my classic rock band, I mainly use an ESP Vintage Plus. I don’t know what year it is… probably from 2008. It’s been modified with Seymour Duncan Hot Rails in the neck and bridge positions, and a staggered single coil in the middle. I’m very much a Stratocaster person. My old main guitar was a Fender, and most of the people who influenced me as a kid, like Tommy Bolin, Ritchie Blackmore, and Jeff Beck (at least on Wired) always played Stratocasters. I’d played it for many years, but then I found that I truly prefer the Vintage Plus. For Soilwork, I use an ESP M-II. It’s a couple of years old, and it looks very late ‘80s thrash metal.
What pickups are you using in it?
In the M-II, I have Seymour Duncans, the JB and the ’59. I’m not a big fan of high output active pickups.
Tone is always a subjective thing, but we talk to a lot of players who prefer the range of dynamics available on passive pickups.
Well, one thing you should know is that I never change amp channels when I play live. I only use the volume knob on the guitar. I like having the same basic sound with just varying amounts of gain. I find it annoying when I’m seeing a band and the guitar player is always switching channels, using different MIDI setups and all that. I prefer the old school way of doing things. If you want to change the tone, just roll back the volume a bit.
When you’re looking into a new guitar, what’s the most important aspect that grabs you first between the looks, the tone, or the feel of the guitar?
I mean, for me… I’m quite different from most guitarists, I guess. When I’m at home, I prefer playing the electric guitar as an acoustic instrument. When I’m picking up a guitar to play or write, I never use an amp. It’s nice. You don’t wake anyone up. I’ve come to appreciate how guitars sound when they’re not plugged in. I’ve had front of house mixers say I’m the only guitarist who’s ever asked if it’s ok if I turn down my guitar on stage. Anyway, it’s an important thing to me, hearing the personality of the guitar without amplification. Hearing the strings, hearing the wood. I’ve always found that if it’s a good guitar that sounds good without an amp, then it usually sounds good with an amp as well. That philosophy hasn’t failed me so far.
Is there a lot of added pressure when you join an established band, as you did with Soilwork?
I guess for me, I didn’t feel much pressure, because it’s not like I was 19 when I joined them. I was 30 or something. Also, I’ve been writing songs for bands all my life, and I have this whole other career as an MD and PhD. But on a bigger picture, I was never really a fanboy of anything. I love music, and it’s probably the most important thing in my life, but I’ve never been a super fan of anyone. I’ve never worshipped people because they are successful musicians. I just love music and records. I’d been playing with Soilwork for a couple of years as a session musician, and if everyone had hated me and I didn’t join the band, I’d have been okay with that actually. It was just a great opportunity to make music, and I’m really grateful.
Had you been friends with them previously?
No. I didn’t know them before I started playing with them, but since then we’ve become great friends. I’d been playing the songs from their back catalog live for a few years, but from the start I understood that I was always going to try to take it one step further, or one step sideways, or whatever. There’s no reason for me to try and be a new Peter Wichers. Although he had different influences than I did, he invented the Soilwork sound. I’ve respected that, but I’ve also managed to take it somewhere else. I never wanted to become a band who only played songs from a vintage album they did 15 years ago. We have one original member left, so what’s the point of only playing old stuff? I will always want it to make sense in the context of the band, but if all we played were songs based on something that happened 20 years ago, if I was a fan, I wouldn’t want to watch a band play that stuff with one original member.
That’s a good lead in to my next question. You’ve become the primary songwriter of Soilwork since you joined the band. Over the past few albums, you’ve not only contributed most of the music writing, but also are a big contributor to lyrics. Is creating new music something that’s fulfilling for you?
Yeah. These days, I mainly see myself as a songwriter who also happens to play guitar. I don’t have much of a guitar ego left. When I was 18, maybe I wanted to be the coolest guitar player or the fastest guitarist ever. But as far as songwriting goes, in every band I’ve been in, I’ve been the main songwriter. In Soilwork these days, it’s probably 50/50 between me and Björn. I’m quite productive while writing, and I’m happiest when I’m able to sit down and write a song. I really like writing songs for Soilwork, and it’s been a quite natural development to assume that role. I also love writing lyrics.
Lyric writing is a whole other talent that not everyone has.
Well, somewhere deep inside, I’m a frustrated singer. I love words and I love melodies, and I love making them fit together in interesting ways. Björn, the singer for both bands I’m in, doesn’t mind. He loves singing, and it’s not a bad thing that someone else has written lyrics too. He writes fantastic lyrics, and we have this constant conversation and develop themes that we can both stand behind. From within that theme, he can sing in a convincing way no matter who wrote the lyrics.
When I first heard Night Flight Orchestra, I seriously thought that I was discovering a great hard rock band from 1983 or 1984 that I’d somehow missed back then. How did it get started?
It all started with me and Björn, when we first met. I did my first tour with Soilwork in 2006, and we didn’t really know each other, but we immediately bonded over classic rock and classic progressive music. Bands from Toto to Survivor to Kiss, and progressive stuff like Yes and Genesis. Even disco music like Donna Summer. He and I occupied the back lounge in the tour bus, bonding over these timeless records. It was great for both of us, finding out we were musical soulmates. And at the time, in 2006, no one was doing this kind of music anymore. So Björn and I said, “Whatever happens, we need to start our own classic rock band and fill that void, and create music we want to hear ourselves.”
That’s the best possible reason to put together a band.
Doing that type of music, there were no limitations for commercial interests. It took us a couple years to find the right people. We started by approaching one of the band’s old friends, and then convinced people one by one to join us. It took a couple of years, but the whole time as it developed, we found that we were enjoying the sound of ourselves. We did a rehearsal in 2009. I had a few songs to try out. The drummer counted us in and from the very beginning, the sound was there. It was a unique sound, and that’s quite special. It fell into place very naturally.
A lot of younger metal fans assume that their heroes only listen to and are only influenced by other metal artists, but we find that’s rarely the case. Who are some musical influences that might surprise Soilwork fans?
I mean, I have quite diverse tastes. What music is all about, for me, is good songwriting, but also with a slightly odd element. In Night Flight Orchestra, it’s not like we reinvent the wheel, but we’re still trying to do something different, something that’s unexpected in there. We’ll be doing a straightforward rock song but then throw in a slash chord, or something else that you wouldn’t normally hear in a classic rock song.
So what are you listening to, and where do you discover new music?
I constantly read all the music magazines, from Pitchfork to Metal Sucks to everything. It’s hard to pinpoint what I listen to because I listen to strange stuff all the time. I’ll look at my most recent stuff on my Spotify list right now. There’s The Band’s second album, the self-titled one, which is close to perfection. Then the new Bear’s Den album. I love it. It sounds like Fleetwood Mac on Quaaluds. Then the new 1975 album. Then Weyes Blood. I also like a lot of the new jazz stuff, like Kamasi Washington. I was just listening to Doves from the UK, who just recently reunited. Let’s see… Butthole Surfers. The new Black Mountain album. And of course, metal stuff as well. The first live show I saw was Necraphobic, and their latest album is super underrated.
Photos by KJ Melgoza