Meshuggah's Mårten Hagström on Performing Sans Vocalist, and Being "Harm-Friendly" Psychedelic
This week, Swedish progressive metal band Meshuggah have been performing alongside a cardboard cutout of their singer, Jens Kidman, whose fearsome voice was completely annihilated by the flu. (Don't worry, he's recovering.) Whether he'll join his bandmates onstage this Saturday at the Pop's remains to be seen, but rhythm guitarist Mårten Hagström spoke to us about the experience of playing sans vocalist. Other topics discussed include the ridiculous complexity of Meshuggah's music and what they have in common with Pink Floyd.
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How does not having a vocalist change the performance experience for you?
The way it sounds is not that different...but it's more the way you feel walking up onstage, not seeing the entire band, because we've never done this before. You're used to being that five-piece unit, walking up and doing this together...but there's no use complaining about it. The only thing we can do is try to make the most out of it. We travelled over here now. A lot of places we play on this tour we haven't really played for a long time, so canceling is not really an option.
Your songs are so complicated. How hard is it to remember that stuff?
[Laughs] It is pretty hard, even though we write it ourselves. The hard thing for me to answer about this question is, Meshuggah is the band that we play in. For most of us, I guess everyone apart from Dick [Lövgren, bassist], this is the only environment that we create and play music [in]. So it's kind of hard to compare to how hard it is to do other stuff. But, like you said, granted, it's pretty complex.
Every time you change the set list, it is an obstacle to actually get it all down and to be able to have your brain absorb all the information, especially if we are in a rush. So it's demanding, but it's not a big deal because this is what we do. This is what we've always done. It's just a matter of accepting that fact and trying to nail it as much as we possibly, possibly can. But it's not a good thing to be running into if you're onstage and feeling off your game--because you can't lose it!