Olof Wikstrand (Enforcer): “Never give up and hold on to your idea, be original!”

They were the pioneers of bringing back the traditional heavy metal into life when it was endangered and they are a band who’s fighting for it non-stop for over ten years –  yes, we’re talking about the Swedish music warriors Enfocer, who are a frequent topic in the metal circles lately. One of the key reasons for that is their upcoming new release, which is set for March of 2019. Their huge fan base stayed loyal throughout all this time, but in order to ease their impatience and curiosity a little bit, I’ve done a lengthy interview with the band’s singer/guitarist/frontman and founder, Olof Wikstrand. He shared some interesting stories about both the early days and the beginnings of the group as well as the present days, including some spicy details about the new album, which is already on the list of most anticipating releases in the following year.

Balkanrock: Hello, Olof! Since this is the first interview you’re doing for some music webzine from Serbia, first of all I’d like to thank you for taking your time to do that, and for starters I think it’s appropriate to go down the memory lane and revive some stories related to the beginning of the band. If I’m not wrong, Enforcer was initially supposed to be a one-man-project aka your project? What inspired you to start something like that just by yourself?

Olof: Everything was so different back in those days. It was already like thirteen years ago, and then I was mainly inspired by the NWOBHM (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) and I wanted to have something, like a band that was more towards to that kind of style than my previous bands. Bands I played in before were more let’s say technical, and I wanted something different, that’s more focused on the songs, the energy etc. It’s very hard to go back to the way how I thought of things back then, it changed so much since we started the band.

BR: During the first couple of years, you sang and played pretty much all the instruments. In the end, how did you decide to stay just behind the microphone with the guitar?

Olof: That was more like live-related. We started to play shows and I wanted to do what’s best for shows. At that time I decided it was the best to focus on the vocals when I had members in the band who could do the instrumental work.

BR: One of the most interesting facts about Enforcer is that you have almost the same members from the beginning (except the guitar player whose roll you once again took in 2011) which is really not a common thing with most metal groups where changing a member (or two or even more) happens pretty often because of various reasons. How come you managed to stay together all this time? I assume having a strong friendship with each other was one of the key factors?

Olof: Yeah, we’ve pretty much grown up together. The drummer, Jonas, is my brother. I think, somehow, when you keep on growing and keep on seeing all the results from your work you put down, I think it’s worth to continue what you do. I think we started early enough to kind of adjust to the fact we play in a band. If we started later, then you would have to adjust your life to play in a band, but the other way around is the most natural thing for me I would say, to do this the way it’s supposed to be.

BR: Speaking of members, what’s also interesting is that your brother, as you just mentioned, is behind the drums. It’s not an unusual thing in a rock ‘n’ roll world for brothers to form bands together, but in this case he joined a bit later. How did that happen?

Olof: Enforcer was invited to play some shows and I asked him to do it and he’s in the band ever since.

BR: Enforcer is one of the pioneers when it comes to NWOTHM (new wave of traditional heavy metal). Many genres had their periods when they were at their peak and when they were somehow wiped away by another, new genre (e.g. glam metal in the ‘90s killed by grunge). Did you feel like traditional heavy metal needed its revival more than any other music at that point (mid ‘00s)?

Olof: Yeah, that’s pretty much why I started the band as well, because there was literally no heavy metal, no real heavy metal around whatsoever. I think we were the first band who started playing traditional heavy metal at that time.

BR: How was the reaction of the audience on your first shows back in those days, did they enjoy listening to a refreshment of such kind, an entirely new group that is actually playing a traditional metal?

Olof: As far as I can remember, I could see very good reaction from the audience (compared to the shows I had with my previous bands) because we focused on simple and catchy songs with Enforcer, so you could always see the audience sing along with you to your songs. And even in the demo days, a lot more people came out to see us than those first bands I was in, so that was the biggest difference.

BR: When creating music, it’s obvious that you find an endless inspiration in the ‘80s, not only in heavy, but also in thrash and speed metal. Still, when listening to Enforcer, despite the resemblance to the acts from that era (both music and image wise), you managed to find your own trademark and your place in a very crowded scene of bands nowadays. Now when you look at it from this perspective, did you expect such positive outcome of your work or were you pleasantly surprised?

Olof: I always had my goals high whatever I do, so yeah, I cannot say that I was expecting it, but I aimed for it definitely. I think the secret to be able to go on for such long time is that you always see yourself grow and that you see the time that you invested in a band comes out in some sort of success.

BR: After couple of demos and splits, your first full length album, Into The Night, came out 10 years ago, in 2008, but it seems like you gained world-wide attention with your next release that came out two years later, Diamonds. I remember in the beginning of the ‘10s that many metalheads all of a sudden started talking about a “hot new band that kicks ass”, which is how I found out about Enforcer in the first place. Obviously, internet is a big part of promoting your music nowadays, but what’s your attitude about it given the fact you’re so much into odschool music and, I suppose, way of life too?

Olof: Well, what’s my attitude about the internet – I would say that’s the entire reason why we are able to exist the way we do. We’re not a major band anywhere, you know, but internet has helped us build a very strong following to the band worldwide. It had made it possible for us to go to pretty much every continent in the world, almost every country where you can play metal and we’ve done it. There’s nothing you can do about it, that’s just how technology works, in another 25 years there’s going to be something else, a different way to promote your music.

BR: Enforcer changed its label in 2013 when releasing a third album, Death By Fire. You entered probably the biggest and most prestigious metal label, Nuclear Blast. How did you come to that decision and how did you and the rest of the band handle that shift, did it put more pressure on all of you?

Olof: No, there’s absolutely no difference I would say. They approached us after our first album, so we had that in mind all the time, and that was a natural thing for us to do, basically no difference, we worked in the same way. In a band we do pretty much everything ourselves anyway, so there’s not much difference in how we work or how we handle things.

BR: Touring around the world is one of the favorite activities of pretty much every musical group, especially in the beginning of their careers. If you could pick couple of most interesting and fun places where you’ve played so far and had an amazing feedback from the fans, which would those places be? Also, which are the places you’d really like to play at, but still haven’t?

Olof: We have a few favorite places where we always like to go to, and that’s Athens, Tokyo, Mexico City, Santiago in Chile. Those places are always very solid for us. I would like to go to Russia and play, we’ve been talking about that so many times, but we never made it happen so far.

BR: Listening to music today is most popular via iTunes, Deezer etc., but vinyls and tapes are still going strong despite the monopoly of digital world. What do you think what’s the reason for that and do you prefer listening to music the old fashioned way or you got used to the modern platforms built for that?

Olof: I think it’s because it’s merchandise for the music and I also think that people who come to see a heavy metal, metal or rock music acts in general are more concerned about collecting things and a feeling of having something physical. I listen to both, I have a pretty huge vinyl collection, but I listen to a lot of music via digital way as well. There are so many records I like, remasters from the originals, like tapes that sound better than any vinyl and I really like that. I have a pretty amazing sound room and I collect vinyls and CD-s etc., but I would say that when I really listen to something, I’m in my studio. When I’m at home, I listen to vinyls pretty much.

BR: After more than three years of your last release, From Beyond in 2015, we’re going to hear new stuff on your upcoming album which is set for release in March of 2019. What can fans expect from Enforcer now? For how long have you been working on the new material and what’s your personal opinion about it, compared to the previous stuff?

Olof: That’s a very good question. The first thing we did when we sat down and discussed how we want to make a new album, we pretty much decided not to do anything we’ve done before. We realized, first of all, that all the songs that we’ve done that are a little bit out of the box, out of the actual concept, they seem to be the songs that work best. Also we saw that when we do safe songs, songs that people expect from us, people pretty much don’t like them, they don’t seem to pick those songs up. So, we wanted to do a bunch of songs that were all something we haven’t done before. It’s been the most ambitious piece of work that we’ve ever done. We worked on this album pretty much every day for two and a half years maybe, the recording took almost one entire year, and it’s countless hours of blood, sweat and tears put into this album. I would say that it’s our finest piece of music, it contains everything, with a red threat in it, you will definitely recognize Enforcer in the music, but it also has a lot of variety in there. It’s like a classic piece of metal.

BR: Usually a release of a new album is followed by an extensive touring in order to promote the new songs. Are there plans of such kind being made right now or you’re taking things slowly?

Olof: We have a few things coming up. I think we’re gonna start by doing festivals in the summer of 2019. I’m booking festivals now as much as I can, we have about eight so far and I hope to book the entire summer. We are available and we will do totally new shows, new material, everything is new.

BR: It seems like you are unstoppable when it comes to fighting for heavy metal and nothing stands in your way, despite all the difficulties every musician encounters in this genre, especially today. What is your fuel for fire, except, of course, endless love for music?

Olof: I think you said it, right there. It’s just like that, love and passion for music, I would say.

BR: And, in the end, what would you say to all the youngsters out there trying to make it through with their bands, what should they hold on to and what should they avoid in order to gain success, based on your experience?

Olof: That’s a very good question. Never give up from the first time and hold on to your idea, be original. Yesterday I found a magazine from 2010 where people did a review of our now classic album Diamonds and they hated it. We got such a bad review, but I guess that only shows we were doing something right – so, don’t listen to other people, do your thing to one thousand percent.

BR: Thank you once again for doing this interview and best of luck with the upcoming album!

Olof: No problem, thank you very much!

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