The Hardest Working Band In Rock: Our Interview With Volbeat

Anyone who knows me knows that there is nothing I enjoy more than a good rock concert with music that can melt the skin from your face. Volbeat has a reputation as one of the hardest working bands on the planet that can deliver a staggering live show that keeps fans returning night after night for more mind-melding riffs and intense energy.

After listening to their album, I was surprised to find traces of rockabilly, punk, and driving hardcore metal all fused together in an interesting mix showing a range of influences and musical styles.

We caught up with Thomas Bredahl while they were making their way across the US on yet another tour, this one with more intimate venues to get up close and personal with fans who are used to seeing them only in stadiums.

Hi, Tomas. How are you guys doing? Are you in Colorado tonight?
We are good and yeah we are playing Colorado tonight and we had a day off yesterday so it seems like our batteries are recharged and we are ready to rock.

If you don't mind, I'd first like to ask you a little bit about the album which I've been listening to over and over. I got about seven songs into it and I've got to tell you that I was confounded. I thought I had you guys pegged musically and you mix it up on every single track. It makes for a very interesting listen. I was expecting more pure driving rock and heavy metal and while I certainly hear those things I also hear a LOT of rockabilly, a lot of punk. Who were some of your biggest influences musically?
Yeah, that's the thing. There are tons of bands and so many genres that we listen to collectively as a band but also as individuals so that's probably why we've got this huge cocktail of everything blended together. Me personally, I'm more of a punk guy than a metal guy. I'm really into Social Distortion, Rancid, Green Day, Bad Religion stuff like that but also a lot of rockabilly and the '50s stuff. The whole career of Johnny Cash is interesting to me, like starting out in the '50s and ending around the millenium. That's a lot of years and a huge career that goes up and down and is interesting. Every decade is interesting in its own way. Jon, our drummer, is a huge Black Flag fan. I guess it's all a matter of age because I got into the punk rock scene through Green Day and all that stuff that was happening in the '90s and Jon, being ten years older than me, was into whatever was happening in the '80s.

So let's talk a little bit about this tour. You just finished up a club tour and you did that after coming off a huge arena tour and now you are back in the States again. How does it feel to come from stadiums back to the smaller venues, is that a little more intimate for you?
Yes, it is. You know playing those huge places, big festivals and arenas and all that stuff, it's great but you actually really lack some of that intimacy from the clubs. So that's why back in Denmark, we said we've basically done everything a Danish band has ever done on our home turf so what else can we do? So we said let's go back and play small clubs again and see how that works out. And it was a good warm-up for this tour because it's basically the same capacity: about a thousand or twelve hundred people or something which isn't small by any means, it's a pretty decent size show but the cool thing is we actually get to see, touch and smell the audience (laughing). And also the other way around. This way you can see peoples facial expressions and you can interact with them. It gives a different vibe.

I was reading the forum on your website and I noticed that many of your US fans are flying and driving from all over to catch your shows and the buzz about the energy and the quality of your live show is great. To say that you are firing on all cylinders would be an understatement. Many people claim you are one of the best bands to see live. How do you keep up that enthusiasm because you have been on tour forever?
Yeah, I know but what do you do? We just go on stage and play like we always did so we don't know what we actually do that's different. I just have to believe that we really like what we do. We've got a big smile on our face and it sounds like a cliché but we are working it out like it's the last show every single night.

They play like it's the last show before they go!
We give it all we've got but I don't know man, why doesn't everybody else do that? It's a huge combination of having that and the songs and having all those die-hard fans. Some of them live right around the corner, some of them drive like twelve hours to go see the shows. We haven't been here in the states that much and people are really hungry to go see the band.

Music isn't like this anymore where people use word of mouth to tell peers to get out and see this band or that band. I've been to a lot of lackluster shows and I think there is sometimes a lack of really good live music to go see.

You started this tour at Irving Plaza (NY) and you are ending there as well. Did you decide to do that because it sold out so quick or is there any significance to that venue?
No, it was basically the first venue booked on the first leg of the tour and then actually we decided to add another week to the tour because there are a ton of cities we don't hit and some we played and wanted to go back to and then we were like we are flying out of Newark anyway so why not another New York show? The show sold out and it was like full circle. We start there and then six weeks later we are on stage again. There are probably going to be a lot of the same people there.

The word of mouth alone on your band is unreal although you haven't broken here in the US the same way you have in Europe where you are huge. I guess it is interesting to come over and some fresh faces.
Yeah there's that and then there are nights when we see many of the same faces three nights in a row. People are stalking us! (laughs)

I think people are probably just trying to hit every show. Hey, I've done it!
We have the same thing going in Europe of course now that we are a big act but also before, three, four years ago when things really started happening we saw the same thing. That suddenly everyones talking and at that point we were on a small independent label and there wasn't much marketing. People were just basically going to the shows and telling their friends and the next time we play we have three times as many people. The band grew organically and sometimes today the marketing and media people just stuff bands down people's throats. People just want to discover bands on their own they don't want to be told what's good and bad. Maybe recommendations from friends but not by some marketing dude. So it's good that we are taking it a little bit slow. We toured with Metallica which was great chance, but then we were also talking a lot about what we wanted to do. We asked ourselves do we want to co-headline or support somebody or if we can play these capacities on our own we play our own shows and people get a full Volbeat concert.

You toured with Metallica and Megadeath. I imagine you've got some pretty good tour stories.
Nowadays the road is kind of dead, for us we aren't teenagers anymore and it's really fun to see how the big guys do it. Being on that Metallica tour and seeing how that machinery rolls into an arena and watching it looks like a military operation. We are a little bit geeky about that. We think that's cool. And then of course getting to meet those guys who have been rock stars since they've been teenagers. They could call it quits anytime and just live off the t-shirt money alone. They could retire but they still do it and every night. They still hook up with fans for meet-and-greets. They pick their own support bands. They are just so down to earth. That is the blueprint for how to be if you end up a filthy rich rock star. No bullshit, just down to earth people. All these stories about rock stars being assholes and you meet some of the really big ones and they are just friendly guys.

You had to cancel a few UK dates not too long ago due to health issues that befell one of the band members. Is everything okay now?
Well it seems like it now, but we are human being so I guess you never know. People can break a leg or get hit by a car and that stuff happens to us as well. Sometimes people think you are immortal but you aren't and we really appreciate the majority of people understanding that health comes first. But of course there is always some asshole getting back to us asking, "Why the fuck did you cancel the show?" And then I'm like, "I was sick, I was dying!" Give us a break.

It was the most apologetic press release talking about the health issues and saying sorry for the cancellation and the first comment after the news blurb was someone livid about the fact you were going to tour the US before making up the UK dates.
I know, we plan our year a whole year and a half in advance so we couldn't just cancel the US tour which was already booked and do another one in its place so sometimes people don't see the big picture and why would they, since they aren't in the business. They are fans and I understand why cancellations upset them. I remember once, I'm a huge Green Day fan, and I remember back in 1996 on April 1st I was getting ready to travel four hours to see my favorite band and they cancelled because the bass player got ill or something and it took me ten years to get over that.

You still have it written in a notebook somewhere "GET BACK AT GREEN DAY?"
It was the most important thing happening in my life at that point was that band, and that show and I was allowed to go and then they cancel. We are actually trying to change a few of our plans for our fall tour so that we at least do as many UK dates as we can.

You formed in 2001, you've released four studio albums they've all gone gold and platinum and then once this tour wraps up it sounds like you are headed out yet again on tour?
We get a month off to see our families and our friends and do some laundry but then we will head out to do a month and a half of the European festivals. Then we are actually looking into doing another US tour but we aren't exactly sure of the dates. Maybe in late summer and then Europe again in the fall, so we are working it.

I know you just put an album out but are you writing any new material?
We are starting out a little bit but we aren't in a hurry. As a musician you always have got songs running through your head so you'd be an idiot not to try to work a little with those songs but at one point you kind of switch from one mode to another. You just release an album, you promote the album, you tour and whatever song comes up, it comes up. But then you switch to it's time to "start writing an album mode" and your brain starts spinning faster. I think you need that time off from writing music intensively to be able to do it the next time. So no plans specifically about when to release a new album. The last albums have been released every second year.

That's rapid fire pace for album releases.
I know. It's just the way it's been. It's a very small period of time between albums if you want to tour.

I would tell everyone to go buy tickets to catch you live but you are sold out everywhere.
Tell them to buy the album instead!

I will. Good luck on the rest of the tour and thanks for taking time to speak with us!
Thank you!

Want more Volbeat? Visit their official site, Twitter page, and Facebook page.

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