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maandag 06 februari 2012
SOEN: Former Opeth Drummer Returns With A Bang

Interview with drummer Martin Lopez of Soen by Vera in January 2012

On the 12th of February ‘Cognitive’ of Soen will be launched at the world. For the time being a meaningless fact, but wait and see… One day before its release we will put the CD review on line, but first we want to stimulate your interest by introducing this band with this interview. Why? Soen is the musical resurrection of Martin Lopez who left Opeth as drummer in 2006. He joined forces with eminent bass player Steve DiGiorgio (Sadus mastermind, Testament, Death, Iced Earth) and some accomplished unknown musicians and that’s when we are talking about Soen. Martin clears up things in the next interview.

Well Martin, let us start with having a peek on what happened with you after leaving Opeth, officially announced in May 2006, due to health reasons. What was bothering you and I hope the problem is saved right now…
What was bothering me was an overall feeling of confusion. I didn't enjoy what I was doing anymore. My whole existence was based on my musical career without having a base or anything worth naming outside of it. I fought hard and for a very long time to be able to make a living out of music and when I finally got there I didn't enjoy it anymore.
The challenge wasn't there anymore and on top of that, I felt like I didn't really have the room I needed to create music myself. I started seeing things negatively and didn't give much for life the way I was living it. I had to change my ways dramatically for the better and I did.

What was happening with you after this departure? Did you experience a kind of void after so many years in Opeth? What were the things that you focused on at that time (between 2006 and the birth of Soen)?
I didn't experience any void because I had been out of the touring madness for a while by then, if anything I felt at ease when I finally decided that I was going to leave the band and told Mikael about it. After leaving Opeth I mainly concentrated on feeling better and figuring out what I wanted to focus on.

Was there still a place for music in your life in the first place?
I tried to leave the music aside and just enjoy everything else life had to offer. Even if I still wrote and played music I had more of a distant approach to it. It was after building a family that I felt realized and fulfilled enough to see things as they really are, somewhere in that lapse of time the urge of doing music again grew on me and from then on it all fell into place and the music started pouring out naturally.

How and when did you meet Steve DiGiorgio and how come you decided to form a band together, with this eminent bass virtuoso? In other words, what about the birth of Soen?
At the time when Steve came in the foundation of Soen with Joel, Kim and I was already set. The main idea behind Soen started 2003. I met Steve on the road many years ago and knew he has an excellent bass player and a great person so when we started putting pieces together it was the natural decision to ask him if he wanted to join us.

You started as a bass player yourself, did that have any influences on your contact with Steve?
(smiles) No,no, I didn`t start as a bass player... I`ve always been a drummer, I play bass and guitar also but I feel truly at home behind the drumkit.

Soen came into being – announced in May 2010 – but Kim and Joel are quite unknown musicians for our readers. So, can you tell anything about their background and how they got connected with your new musical outfit? What can we see as main input of them? (besides their enigmatic chants and guitar skills)
Kim was looking for a replacement drummer to his experimental rhythm metal trio and I was looking for a rhythmically capable guitarist when we got in touch. We met up and had a jammed and from then on it was settled that we would work together. We were trying out vocalists for a good while but we realised that this role had to be filled by someone from outside our normal domains. Back in 1999, Joel and Kim ended up playing in the same venues with their bands and a mutual respect of musicianship emerged; so luckily for Soen the connection was there. Their input has been decisive in every way to make Soen what it is.

By the way… Soen… what does it mean and why this name? Who came up with it?
It doesn`t mean anything, so therefore it means anything you want it to mean. We didn't want the listener to get a predisposed picture in the way when they think of other than our music of course.

Who are the main songwriters of Soen, how did the newborn band developed? What about the writing process?
Normally I write the "skeleton" of a song and then everyone collaborates in their field of expertise giving shape and adding colours to the canvas.. Songs can come out from anything really; a rhythm, a riff, a vocal line or any sound interesting enough to develop.

First thing that struck me was the enigmatic, captivating talent to write songs with momentum, a kind of building up tension in every song in a wonderful manner. Can you live with the fact that it reminded me of Tool in the first place?
Thanks and yes, I can live with it..

What would you like to mention as points of reference or influences yourself? When starting the band you must have talked about a musical direction…
Yes we did, but not naming bands, we agreed on what we wanted to reach in terms of rhythms, atmosphere, emotions and other more abstract terms. Everyone has their own way of interpreting music and that is a basic part of our sound.

In addition to that, ‘Cognitive’ turned out to be a grower, despite its instant haunting. I think – next to the metal scène – it might invoke some interest in other segments of the rock idiom as well. Do you agree on that?
I agree, ‘Cognitive’ was never meant to be niche, so we hope a lot of people can enjoy it regardless of their usual taste in music. I believe there`s a lot more than one dimension in our music... It's complex in its simplicity somehow. It`s not intentionally heavy or`s what came out of us and it is made by four very different individuals.

You did the production with buddy/guitarist Kim Platbarzdis. Did he appear to be an experienced studio engineer? His name does not sound Swedish or American. Where is he coming from?
Kim has been at the helm of recordings since the start of Soen, we just took it to the next level for the album. We function very well together and complete each other perfectly so we wanted to do as much of the record as possible within the band. He is Swedish; the surname is due to his Latvian ancestry.

What about the experience to find a proper ‘fine-tune’ guy. David Bottrill did the mix. How did you get in contact with him and what about this cooperation?
I'm glad that we were given the opportunity to work with David and we are more than satisfied with what he has done on the record. David showed interest in the band at an early stage and allowed us to make it happen by being very helpful through the whole process. He seems to be very conscious and probably chooses bands he’s inspired to work with rather than going for the bands with the biggest wallet.

Soen is presented to us as ‘thinking man’s metal’… well, we love to dig deeper into things into this shallow world, usually that’s the kind of stuff I review. In this respect, who’s in charge for the lyrics and I have a feeling that they are not just a bunch of words to serve the music…
Lyrics are of course very important, just as the music is a medium that carries emotion. We have all contributed in getting our meaning across lyrically and what’s been contributed how varies between songs. The music comes before us as individuals. When we are joined up as Soen our individual parts are not as important as the full picture.

Is there a kind of red thread or concept, and how should we interpret the title ‘Cognitive’ which means kind of having knowledge of things (or do I see this wrong?)
We don’t want to stand in the way for the listeners own interpretations, so it would defy the purpose to go into deeper detail. Not to be forgotten, it means different things to different people and can mean different things to the same person over the course of time.

As Soen is made up of musicians living all over the planet, what was the role of international connections, modern communication and personal contact in this record?
Everyone was recorded on location here in Sweden but of course administering everything around it and keeping in touch has been a lot easier with the help of modern technologies.

I found out that Soen is going to play live on February, the 17th in Helsinki. (Is it at Finnish Metal Expo?) Will there be selected gigs or are you planning to go on the road with the band as well?
Yes, our first concert ever will take place at the Finnish Metal Expo, besides that we are planning to go on the road as well if the package suits our expectations.

What are the plans for the near future? Is this a band, a project or a unique occasion with not so much plans ahead?
This is not a project. Everyone in the band is fully committed to it and eager to establish Soen in as many curious ears as possible. Soen is definitely a band and we hope everyone will have the opportunity to see that during 2012.

Does Fifth Of Infinity still exist, and what are the plans with your former main band?
Fifth still exists and an album has been made but Jonas is the only one who can tell you the current status of things. He's giving the album the last needed touches and will surely come out with some news when he feels it`s time to.

Looking back on former times… I first noticed you on the first record of Amon Amarth. How do you look back at that time? They have become a huge force in “Viking” metal, isn’t it? Never had any pity you left the Viking ship before its glorious parade?
No, not at all, I had a great time with those guys and they are a great live band, but I believe we have different views on how music should be and very different musical taste.

To occlude we would like to know your idea as drummer: what are the main differences in drumming in Amon Amarth, Opeth and Soen? (I’m pretty sure there ARE differences)
Yes there are. Amon Amarth is all about the power, big dramatic sounds and endurance. Opeth is about dynamics and complexity, calm and intricate, not many boundaries. Soen is about making complex rhythms sound simple yet interesting, keeping the groove at the same time as you emphasize on detail, everything and anything to serve the greater picture. Also I had the chance to record some percussion on ‘Cognitive’ that I think adds a special atmosphere to the whole sound wall and it was very rewarding for me as a musician to have the opportunity to do so.

Anyways, we hope to hear a lot more in future about Soen, ‘Cognitive’ is way too flabbergasted to be a sole project. Hope you agree on that?
Thanks, we are of course pleased with the warm welcome Soen and ‘Cognitive’ has gotten so far, it’s never been intended to be a one-off and we´ll be definitely recording more music when the time is right.

Martin, that’s it for now to start with, if you want to add something we should mention in the interview, feel free to add it now.
Thanks for the interview!

Geplaatst door Vera op maandag 06 februari 2012 - 11:57:39
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