HORSE The Band

author PP date 17/05/08

Myself and TL had the opportunity to sit down with HORSE The Band keyboardist Erik Engström at about five hours before their show at a very casual environment, namely at the outside terrace of the upstairs bar at Stengade 30, Copenhagen, for an interview in which focus was on laughter and relaxed mood than intense questioning. Indeed, prior to the interview we enjoyed some cold beers with Erik in nice summery weather without actually realizing he was in the band, as the label had told us he was the tour manager, and we also saw him loading gear off their van earlier, leading us to believe someone from the band was still to join us for an interview. Little embarassement aside, Erik had lengthy answers to pretty much all our questiions, most of them containing several bits in which everyone at the table was fighting to hold absolute laughter inside.. and as you can probably guess, that resulted in one of the best interviews on this site thus far! Hi and thanks for doing the interview! And if you could introduce yourself to the readers?
Erik: I\'m Erik, and I play keyboard in HORSE The Band. And you\'re the tour manager?

Erik: [laughs] And I\'m also the tour manager.. and booking agent!

So how are things in HORSE The Band at the moment?
Erik: Things are good. Things are surreal, because we\'ve been in like thirty countries or something, maybe 35, in the last two months. So we got like a month of tour left and it\'s all Western Europe, and I think we\'ve been everywhere crazy that we\'re gonna go, and now it\'s like... we\'re just in Scandinavia for four days and it\'s like... so.. sterile and safe and clean and rectangular [laughs], and we\'re just like \"Ohh my God\".. it\'s weird. This is kind of like the job portion where we\'re supposed to make all of our money back and it\'s also probably the most boring part of the tour. Not boring, I\'m sure it\'ll be fun, but for the last two months we\'ve been going to all these ridiculous places where everything is completely new. It\'s not as exciting.

Erik: Yeah, basically. [laughs].

What are some of your best experiences so far on this tour?
Erik: Oh man.. Or worst for that matter?

Erik: There haven\'t really been any bad ones. Like when we announced the tour, everyone was like \"they\'re gonna die, there\'s no way this is gonna work\" and we were like \"I think we might die, there\'s no way this is gonna work\" [laughs] but everything\'s.. we\'ve only missed one show. That was a pretty good one. We played two shows in Romania, and I didn\'t even think Romania was gonna be weird, I just thought it was like Eastern Europe, whatever. We get in there, and it\'s just like horse drawn carts with license plates and rubber tires and like.. just like rubble everywhere. The roads were washed out, the bridges.. we were like scared to cross them because they looked like they would just collapse. It was like out of Borat. Going through all these villages it\'s just like hand made houses, like falling over with a satellite dish on the side. Completely fucking ridiculous, wild animals just everywhere. It took.. the drives would be like 300 kilometres and it would take 11 hours. It\'s just impossible to get around. So we played our second show there, and then we had a show in Ukraine, by Odessa, on the Black Sea. And we\'re like \"oh no problem, it\'s like a 1000 kilometres, lets just start driving right after we stop playing and we\'ll make it\". And we drove all night, and the next morning, we\'re still in Romania, and we\'re like \"what the FUCK?\". And everybody\'s tired and we just keep driving and keep driving, and we were gonna go around Moldova because we heard to not go there. Like no-one\'s even heard of that country, right? We thought it was still communist. I looked it up on wikipedia the night before, and I was like, \"OK we can drive there, we don\'t need visas\". So we decided to go through it, we got stuck at the border for three hours, and then in the middle of Moldova there\'s a country that\'s like.. real. It has its own money, its own stamps, own passports. But no nation in the world recognizes it. It\'s called Transdnestria. Have you heard of it? Yeah I\'ve heard it mentioned somewhere.

Erik: It\'s so fucked dude. Like all these Soviet Generals, when Moldova came out of the USSR, they just took over a part of the country, and they survived by selling weapons to other countries. They just basically manufacture the grenades of the world and just ship them out to all these axis of evil countries and, [laughs], dude, so we were like OK, we read the wikitravel thing on it, and it\'s like \"no problem you can drive through Transdnestria, it\'s a beautiful country\". So we\'re just driving straight through it, there\'s only one way to get around it, and you have to go way far south out of the way. And we get stopped by the Moldovan police, and they tell us to turn around. There\'s like a check point, and they\'re like \"you can\'t go past here, these guys are going to steal your passports, steal all of your shit and just leave you on the side of the road with a gun pointed at you and tell you to walk back here\". So we\'re like \"what the fuck?\", so they\'re like \"just go that way\" [points], so we just driving down these almost dirt roads, they are unmarked, like just driving south. And the GPS didn\'t work in Moldova, and we\'re just trying to find the way around these farm rounds. So like six hours later, and it\'s dark, there\'s wild dogs everywhere, we were supposed to play like two hours before that, we\'re calling the ukrainian guy and we\'re like \"I don\'t know where we are, have you heard of Transdnestria\", and he\'s like \"what the fuck are you talking about\" [laughs], like \"we may get to the border of Ukraine...\" and they stopped us there for another two hours, and we finally got there at 4 in the morning, and this dude is waiting for us, and he\'s just like [makes impression of a half-asleep pissed off guy, followed by lots of laughter], it was so bad dude! But anyway, Transdnestria, it\'s a weird place. We didn\'t actually go there, but their Wikitravel site is inaccurate, probably because the government made it, and always changes it back. You might wanna challange that [laughs]

Erik: Yeah, put a flag on this article. Serbia, the show was insane. It was like a fucking warzone. They have two and half litre bottles of beer for one person, and everyone outside had two of them. And then when we got in, they were like waging a war with the floor of the venue! Just like diving onto it head first over and over again, all these drunk dudes, purple faces, just swaying around. This one guy was wearing a jacket, a hoodie and a shirt, and he took off his jacket his hoodie and his shirt and then put it back on, and then took it all off again in the same song, for no reason. He was standing on stage, they tried to rip a fence out of the ground. It was like the craziest show I\'ve ever seen. And they hated us there, in Belgrade, they hate Americans. It was kind of scary, some guy wanted to throw me off of a boat into the river at a dance club. They have giant hamburgers, like THIS big [shows a half a metre tall hamburger and laughs]. [barely able to hold laughter inside] As you mentioned, you\'re booking the tours yourself in a proper DIY fashion! So how come you\'re doing that as opposed to hiring a real booking agent?
Erik: Well, this is a secret, but Avocado actually did the European portion of our tour [laughs]. We were going to do it ourselves, and then they just kind of gave us an offer that we couldn\'t pass up, cause we started doing Asia. Nobody plays these countries, like China and stuff. Comeback Kid is going to a few of the places we went to, but for the most part, Hong Kong, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand.. nobody goes there from the US. So we\'re working with these dudes that do shows there, but they don\'t know anything about actually booking bands. It\'s like the biggest cluster fuck ever to try to get the shit arranged with these guys. And it didn\'t work. Like we played in Malaysia, there were 550 kids and we got paid $300. And the show was in a hall that probably cost like $200 to rent. Like we couldn\'t do contracts, no one could speak english, half of their languages are like.. they don\'t even know English characters so everyone we were talking to was speaking like the worst shit English. Like you just have to email them back and be like \"can you try to say that in a different way cause it didn\'t even remotely make sense\" and stuff. I don\'t know, but Asia was awesome.. but it just took so long to book it, and Europe was way further ahead, and people didn\'t even wanna book that far in advance, and we had to like get ready to go, so Avocado offered to do Europe for us, and we just sent them everything we had been working on, and all of our contacts, and they just kind of like organized it all and got the rest of the shows.

But the reason why though is... we get in a lot of trouble, we got kicked off two European tours before they even started. One was Bring Me The Horizon and Blessed By A Broken Heart.. for some dumb shit. I don\'t know, we just didn\'t get along with them. It\'s good that we didn\'t do that tour I guess. And.. Between The Buried And Me. We were supposed to go with them, but they met our old drummer that we kicked out of the band, and they really hated him, so they don\'t wanna tour with us after that. So they hated the guy who you kicked out of the band?

Erik: Yeah we did a tour with them for six weeks, and he missed shows and stuff. He was just the worst kid ever, so irresponsible, like a small child. We were just babysitting him the whole time. He\'d stay with girls and go like [makes redneck impression] \"I\'ve got a ride to the show tomorrow guys!\" and it\'s like a nine hour drive, and he didn\'t even know where it was, and he missed a show. And he\'d just be so drunk that he\'d be passed out before we had to play, and we\'d have to like slap him and pour water on him, and then he\'d get up and not even know where he was and go play the set and stuff like that.. so Between The Buried And Me hated him, so after that tour.. we were talking about it the whole time, and then they decided to go with Dillinger and didn\'t talk to us.. and in the meantime we kicked out Chris. So we\'ll probably tour with them again now. So I\'ve always been really curious to your band name - HORSE The Band. Is it just a joke or what\'s the story with the name?
Erik: I don\'t think it\'s a joke because it\'s not funny. It\'s just stupid. I don\'t know, we started the band like in high school and we were just called HORSE. We didn\'t think anything would ever come of it, we weren\'t like one of those bands that goes to shows and are all into the scene and stuff, and then they\'re like \"I wanna be in a band and I wanna do this\", like they have all their stage moves planned out before they even start the band and stuff. We\'re just like complete dorks, like writing music in David\'s bedroom, and it was horrible, horrible music. We didn\'t know anything about any other bands, we didn\'t listen to anything underground, like I didn\'t even listen to music. I just played piano.. and I don\'t know. We just kept doing it, and all of a sudden we had shows, and then we had a tour, and then we\'re like \"oh shit, our name is HORSE The Band.. oh well, we can\'t change it now\" [laughs]. Oh yeah, but it was HORSE and then this Lesbian songwriter from England, her name is Horse, and she had recorded albums, so she sent us like a cease and desist, and we thought it\'d be funny to change our name to HORSE The Band cause it\'s like.. different but the same.. you know.. but it wasn\'t really that funny [laughs] I\'ve seen a whole bunch of your videos, and obviously listened to your songs.. it gives me a picture that you\'re not the most serious bunch of guys out there. Tell me a bit about how you guys come across as so \'weird\' both musically and in other interview\'s I\'ve read - and is this just a mask put on in the band, or are you also like that when you hang ut with friends?
Erik: No we\'re always like that. I don\'t know. Again, when we started touring, we just toured by ourselves, because we weren\'t accepted by the scene or booking agents because we were so different. Nobody knew what to do, we always got booked with death metal bands for some reason, as support or whatever. It just made no sense at all. The other thing about us is we\'re just best friends. We never let anybody in the band who wasn\'t one of our best friends, until like way later when we needed to replace members for real. But it was always just that all guys are completely comfortable with each other, it wasn\'t like message board postings and stuff. Like, dumb ideas that you\'d censor yourself from doing in front of people you don\'t really know.. we just did all that shit, and we wrote songs about the dumb shit that we talked about, and like inside jokes from like Day One. So I don\'t know, I mean, we are all serious, and what I like about Europe is that we don\'t have the reputation as being like a joke band. Here, for whatever reason, and that\'s good, because we\'re NOT a joke band. But I don\'t know. It just seems unrealistic to portray yourself as serious all the time, because there\'s an element of humour in life, and it\'s undeniable, and it\'s what we live for. So I think it\'s possible to be serious with like a light side at the same time, or be completely serious on one song and completely joking in another song, without being a joke band. So we do things that are funny, I really hate the corporate bullshit attitude of other bands, like you read one interview and you\'ve read them all pretty much. Metal bands, they all say the same shit. It\'s like, they think they\'re saying something different. They\'re not even thinking about what they\'re saying. They can\'t answer a question honestly.. so I don\'t know, lots of people have that problem, where they watch so much TV and movies that you start speaking in scripted dialogue without even realizing it. I can\'t stand that, dude. I think what a lot of people like about us that we\'re honest and, you know, we\'ll tell people when we think something is stupid, you know. You\'ve been labeled as Nintendocore for many years now - how do you feel about that term yourself? Do you think it still applies today?
Erik: I think it\'s cool that.. [chuckles] we like started it [burst to laughter].. but I don\'t think it emobodies the band today. It\'s weird. It\'s our own fault because we wrote it on a demo, but it wasn\'t like a plan, you know. We didn\'t want it to be this thing that everyone got obsessed with. It was like written on this demo, there were literally like a hundred copies of. And it was just like *swoosh* fire on the internet. And we were like \"oh cool\" at first, but now it just sounds.. like we can\'t be taken seriously. There\'s a lot of kids out there that do take us seriously, and that\'s really all that I care about. But it\'s kind of annoying when like, people that have never even listened to your music just think you\'re a joke because it\'s like \"nintendocore\" and they\'re above that. I\'m not gonna ever deny it, because I like it, but at the same time, there\'s way more to it than that. And we\'re not just like a chip tune band that sings about nintedo games.. we don\'t even play nintendo ever, so! [laughs]. I don\'t care about video games at all, I just like the music from them from when I was little, like the old ones! So you\'ve just about released your new album \"A Natural Death\" here in Europe, but it was released already last year in the US. First of all, what are your thoughts on it now?
Erik: It\'s probably like.. what\'s the word.. I feel like we\'re really vulnerable on it. Like everything we\'ve done before that, people were like \"what are the thinking, what are they doing\" and nobody knows, but it\'s kind of like really transparent that on that album we had a chip on our shoulder, that we\'re gonna write something \"fucking serious and dark\"

David [arriving at the table]: Are you gonna come biking?

Erik: Umm... how do we get them?

David: Walk across the bridge and rent some bikes

Erik: Yeah.. well I don\'t know. Leave if you have to. You just go across the bridge? How much is it?

David: One of these [shows a 20kr coin]

Erik: OK cool, yeah you guys can go.. We just got a couple more questions!

David: We\'ll just wait downstairs

Erik: ..I like it, I\'m not satisfied with it, but... I think that\'s the first time I\'ve heard the band say that about their own record!

Erik: Oh yeah, [puts on the redneck impression again] \"it\'s the most brutal thing we\'ve ever done but also more catchy with like.. more..\"

[Ed Arrives]: I\'m leaving! So [shows a map] we\'re right here, leave, it\'s half block down, and take a half block left, and you have to be there by 8. It\'s 6:15 now. I\'m gonna go ride bikes, are you gonna come?

Erik: Yeah, I\'m gonna see you later. Yeah

Ed: Okay

Erik: Bye [laughs] that guy is so weird [laughs more].. I love him though! I\'m not satisfied with anything we\'ve ever done. I\'m so frustrated dude, it\'s so stupid. If I could do everything myself, I would think I would be satisfied, but I know I\'d hate it even more than having the group involved, but then I get so pissed off when someone has an idea that ruins the pureness of a part that I made. Even my parts, I just feel like a retard. I don\'t know. The things that inspire me are so much more moving to me than anything I ever make. I feel like I captured something that actually moves me on the last album, but at the same time, that always goes away after a while. So I don\'t know, I think that I need to change genres if I really wanna be inspirational to myself. Heavyness and brutality is good, but there\'s something about.. I think the main value of HORSE The Band is the energy and spaziness and the liveshow.. kind of as a performance art almost, that\'s the part of the band that makes me keep doing it, the performance aspect. So I don\'t know, recorded, I don\'t think it captures us. You get to hear how the songs sound like, but it\'s not what the band truly is at the heart. Our next album is definitely going to be a reaction to this one, it\'s gonna be catchier and less metal, but not less heavyness or energy. It\'s probably gonna be faster but less metal clichés and shit like that. Thematically, the new album is quite different to R. Borlax or The Mechanical Hand? Why is that? It\'s a much more serious record, that\'s for sure.
Erik: Yeah like, after a while, it was mostly because of touring. Well it was because of the pizza album, cause we all think that it\'s shit. But like, while touring you get this sense.. well one, mortality. In the US there\'s bands crashing all the time, you see so many car accidents, you get in so many weird close calls, like it\'s such a dangerous country, and I fully realized it after we left. Like everyone\'s like \"be careful on this tour\". Like halfway into it, I was like \"fuck the US is the most dangerous country I\'ve ever been to\" followed by like the UK and Canada or something. I don\'t know, there\'s so much going on out there.. you just realize [laughs].. all over the world, people are the same. They\'re leading these existences where all this shit is so important to them but to you it\'s not important at all, and you realize they don\'t give a shit about what you\'re doing either, like really. And you can\'t become truly involved in people\'s lives, other than maybe your circle of ten close friends and family. Nobody really cares about each other, except in this abstract way. Everybody dies, everything gets forgotten immediately. Even musical output, like bands that are popular five years ago, you don\'t even remember them enough to remember that they\'re not popular anymore. They\'re just gone. You know, it\'s just here today, gone tomorrow, and that\'s how it is for everything, even if you make some crazy statue for yourself, it\'s gonna be gone, and one day nobody\'s gonna think about you anymore, and one day.. it\'s just so irrelevant. Everything that\'s going on, is ultimately meaningless, and you tell people that, and they\'re like \"that\'s so depressing and dark\". But I don\'t find it depressing, and that\'s what the album was about. I kind of find that liberating, because all you have is your life and you can just choose to do whatever you want with it. You don\'t have to be sad that nobody will remember you after you die, and you didn\'t make this lasting impression on the world. You can just spend the time on the things that you love, if you\'re lucky enough to have that luxury, and with the people you love, and who gives a shit about other people. If you\'re gonna be remembered, make in any way possible things that you value. So it\'s kind of like a theme. There are a few more themes, like how in emptiness there\'s actually like richness too, like can be found.. kind of like a western theme. That was about the planes and the desert and stuff literally, but also metaphorically.. \"Natural Death\", the title.. which I don\'t think anyone got, cause we\'re all murdered on the cover and it\'s a natural death, which is usually like a heart attack or something. It was supposed to be like \"murder is a natural death, a car accident is a natural death\", we think we\'ve escaped nature, but we haven\'t, like this is nature. I mean we are sitting in trees right now so that sounds stupid, but if we were sitting in a skyscraper, we\'re humans, we\'re animals, we built it. It\'s a part of nature, we\'ll never escape nature, we\'ll never overcome it. So I guess those are the basic themes [laughs] I also noticed that the last track on the album ends in a sequence, that if you play the first track afterwards, it\'ll be like a loop. That must have been a conscious decision, right?
Erik: Yeah it was.. the idea came really late though. It was just this keyboard and guitar thing that we\'d play at practice, and once we started playing it, we couldn\'t stop playing it for like fifteen minutes. Like really repetetive but it lulled us into this trance, and it was super emotional. So we wanted to end the album with that for like, forever, like use up the whole rest of the disc, like if you wanted to listen to it like going to sleep or something, or just keep it on, then you could. And then our producer was like \"no no that\'s stupid! we\'re gonna do all the samples of the album and then fade it out\", and we\'re like.. \"ehh okay\" and then he started putting in the samples, and we were like \"oh that sounds cool\", and he was doing them in like backwards order, and then it got to the beginning of the album, and we were like \"oh shit it just went like forward and then backwards in time\", and then we were like \"oh we should put the wind there and then it can just loop back into itself\". So it ended up being really cool, but it was just kind of part of the process I guess that made it happen. So you\'re known for your energetic live shows, and your crowds are known to mimic things from your songs like say the Cutsman poses or the tornado dancing and so on. I\'ve also heard that you guys are supposed to deliver a good show every night. How would you describe a HORSE The Band liveshow yourself?
Erik: I guess, like I said before, it\'s kind of like performance art or something. It\'s really spazzy, we\'ll either say nothing in between songs and just look really mad at the audience, or we\'ll talk for like 20 minutes in between a song and just be like completely ridiculous. But during songs, we\'re always.. it\'s like Richard Simmons aerobics or something. You\'ll see it tonight, I don\'t know. Maybe a little bit Dillinger-esque, but a little bit more tongue in cheek, and little more bouncy rather than destructive or something. And we don\'t jump off of really high things or anything like that because we\'re too scared. I think tonight\'s gonna be really good, the stage is the perfect height, and the room is the perfect size. If it\'s pretty packed in there, we\'ll probably go crazy. But we don\'t always give a good performance, but nobody notices if we don\'t. It\'s really disappointing because sometimes my back really hurts, and I\'ll do like one third of what I normally do, and people come up to me and they\'re like \"that was the most psychotic thing I\'ve ever seen\", and I\'m like \"I didn\'t even do anything\", and then it\'s like I should just not do anything ever and not waste my body on this, because people don\'t notice the difference.. I guess you just have to see us every night for like eight years to notice that. I notice your friends are waiting for you. Lets say one quick question to finish off the interview, two part question: Describe your favorite pizza and what is the best place on earth that makes that specific pizza?
Erik: [laughs] Okay! Well for Pizza toppings, I really like broccoli [laughs] but for just if I wanted to get an awesome pizza.. I\'d just get a cheese or pepperoni pizza in New York. But I had a pizza in Rome a few weeks ago, and it just like.. it was the best New York pizza but it was even better, it just changed my life! So amazing, so thin, and the sauce was perfect.. yeah! And then that Chicago place, that made us write the album, that place is pretty good too, it\'s pretty different though. Thanks for the interview! Good luck on the rest of your tour - and if you have any final comments to your fans and the readers - now\'s the chance!
Erik: [laughs] No.. No [laughs more]

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