I've just receive the CD of The Poodles and I see that Marcel co-wrote a new song for them in it: "Kingdom of Heaven".
Here is an interview of two ex Talisman members:
The first single went platinum, the second single went gold and the debut album "Metal Will Stand Tall" is gold any now.
The Poodles is the biggest hard rock success in Sweden for years.
Burrn! cornered the exhausted duo of lead vocalist Jacob Samuel and guitarist Pontus Norgren as they finished a massive tour of 50 concerts and 30 instore acoustic sets with signing sessions.
To most people The Poodles is a brand new band for 2006, but evidently you have a history which goes back a few years?
Jakob Samuel: The Poodles was originally a showband for four or five years and I joined as the the lead singer in 2004. Back then we did lots of festivals and club gigs with a setlist of 80īs and early 90īs hard rock covers such as Bon Jovi, Twisted Sister, W.A.S.P, Maiden, GNR, Metallica and so on. You know, party rock hits. Then last year I was approached by the composers of the song "Night Of Passion", one of them being Matti Alfonzetti. They wanted me to sing on a demo they were going to send to the selection committee of Melodifestivalen, the Swedish trial for the Eurovision Song Contest. The song was accepted and I came up with the idea of performing it with The Poodles. We did chance the line-up though. Only the drummer, Christian Lundqvist, remains from the old band. Our first choices were Pontus and Pontus. Pontus Egberg, the bass player, had actually already done a little work with The Poodles.
Pontus Norgren: And I did the guitar solo on the "Night Of Passion" demo.
What did the original bass player and guitarist think about all of a sudden being left out of The Poodles?
J: Iīm sure they would have liked to be part of this. But I felt that this was the line-up it would take to make it all the way. I wanted to keep Christian from the old line-up because he is such an energetic drummer and a great showman. Thatīs an important part of The Poodles, the urge to entertain in a big way. I want nothing less than the strongest personalities for this. Christian is very driven and has grand visions. Pontus Egberg is an exceptional bass player and one of the few who can play stripped to the waist (laughter). The reason why we kept the name The Poodles was because it was already widely known after all the gigs weīd done. But I guess we could have gone with any name, really. Some sceptic people is asking how much tounge in cheek the name is, but we feel itīs a good name, easy to remember and it says a lot of what we are and what we do. We are longharied hard rockers playing melodic songs. And bands named after animals have always done well, like Whitesnake, Beatles, Scorpions, The Animals and so on.
You mentioned sceptical people, are there those who think of The Poodles as some sort of Spinal Tap act?
J: I havenīt experienced that. We were discussing the danger of a backlash with a name like ours, but in the end we went with it as we were sure that if only people got to hear the song, "Night Of Passion", and the rest of our music and see us in action, then there would be no problems.
P: Also in countries like USA and England, the term poodle rock doesnīt exsist. Itīs called hair metal over there.
Are you poodle rockers?
J: I donīt know. Itīs nothing we think about. It seems to be a term made up by people who do not like hard rock anyway. Itīs really nothing I care about.
P: Poodle rock is what people think of those hard rock bands with big perms from the 80īs. But we do not have perms.
Did you ever hesitate to participate in the qualification round for the Eurovision Song Contest?
J: No, absolutly not. Some bands might do that, but I had a very clear vision of what a fantastic opportunity it would be to bring some hard rock to the people. There are more hard rock lovers out there than most people know. This was the perfect way to reach out to this big, potential hard rock audience. Four and a half million TV viewers isnīt bad in a country with a population of a mere nine million.
You didnīt go all the way to the Eurovison Song Contest but you made the number four spot in the Swedish final. Was that a disappoinment?
J: No way, I was so pleased with all the votes we picked up by the Swedish people. The professional part of the jury didnīt rate us that high, but the actual common people out there in Sweden, really dug us. I broke down and cried after all the exitement and the enormous pressure I suffered during the build up of the contest.
Iīve heard that your record lable Lionheat International wasnīt too pleased with The Poodles only making the number four spot though, and that initially they only wanted to relase the single "Night Of Passion" with no album.
P: Thatīs totally wrong.
J: We actually started to work on the "Metal Will Stand Tall" album back in October last year, when we got wind of the fact that we were going to do the contest. In January we had five songs finished and interupted the recording process as we had to prepare ourselves for the contest with the stage show we wanted to do, the custom made stage clothes we needed and all that. It was such a mad rush of promotion work, photo shoots, press conferences and all that until we did the actual contest a month later. As soon as we were done with all that, we went back into the studio the day after. From the 6th of March weīve only had six or seven days days off until now. We finished our massive tour of about 50 concerts last weekend. Weīve also done tons of in store signings sessions and we have spend lots of time with the fans after every gig, talking and signing autographs. We have hardly slept at all this summer. This is the first week where we can actually take it a little bit easier.
So the "Metal Will Stand Tall" album would had been released even if your performance would have been a dead failure in the song contest?
P: Thatīs difficult to speculate about.
J: Yeah, but as we had been mapping out this long term plan since last October, we still would have released the album on a different label if weīd been turned down by Lionheart, who had the option for the album.
The album is a mixture of songs written by the band and a load of songs from ourside composers.
J: Yeah, thatīs funny, we got totally mobbed by songs from different songwriters after our success with "Night Of Passion". It was like they all had hard rock songs they finally saw an opportunity to get used. We picked the best ones of course, but as we are prolific writers ourselves, we had lots of songs too.
Like the title track "Metal Will Stand Tall" which you recorded with Jonas Reingoldīs band Midnight Sun a few years ago?
J: Yeah, I felt that song deserved a second chance. Midnight Sun had been an AOR project up until I joined them in 2002 for the third album or so. We did a balls out metal album and did the mistake of keeping the band name which stood for something completely else. I also thought it would be a great cross over effect if I sang it with Tess Merkel, one of the singers from Swedish pop disco act Alcazar.
Are there any other old songs on the album?
J: There is one from 1998-99, "Song For You", which is the newly released third single in Sweden. It was one of the first songs I wrote on my own on piano.
P: I remember mixing the demo of it back then.
Thatīs the best cut on the album. It seems to have a real story behind it, about a dead friend?
J: Yes, itīs about my dad who passed away a while after Iīd written the original version. He became senile dement and was sort of lost in the mist. It deal with our common history too. The song actually started out as a sad love song, about breaking up, but as I was finishing it, it became so obvious that the song was really about my dad.
It features an opera singer called Jonas Samuelsson, is that a realitive of yours?
J: Yes, Jonas is my brother who is an opera and musical artist. Live we have had him on backing track, but as we will do some charity gigs this fall, he will be with us in person, performing the song live.
There is one song on the album which a lot of people seems to have problems with...
J: (lauhgter) Let me guess: The Ultravox cover, "Dancing With Tears In My Eyes". One day I felt like listening to the old Ultravox album "Vienna" and found out that the drum beat was tailor made for a hard rock band. Itīs a fantastic lost and found typ of song which I think ads to my idea of The Poodles being a band with a broad repertoire. To be honest it didnīt really turn out exactly as I had envisioned it, but I still think itīs cool. I do understand itīs been debated a lot though.
One song, "Kingdom Of Heaven", is co-written by you, Jakob, and Marcel Jacob. Is that something the two of you wrote during your stay in Talisman?
J: No, itīs a new song especially written for this. Both me and Pontus, who also used to be in Talisman but a few years after me, is still friends with Marcel who is a good writer. Weīve done cover gigs with him and he has also helped us in our other band, The Ring.
Back in your Talisman days, in the early 90īs, you were the drummer, not a lead singer. What made you take the step to becoming a frontman, Jakob?
J: I started out as a singer but I was so crappy back then. Itīs hard to be a good vocalist when you are only 14 or 15 years old. I hadnīt found my voice yet. I sang a lot of back-up and gradually I became lead singer. I think thatīs what I always wanted to do anyway, to be the frontperson of a band.
Even though you had a long term plan for The Poodles and you thought youīd do well in the song contest thing, you still must be shocked of your enormous success: the "Night Of Passion" single went platinum, the "Metal Will Stand Tall" single is gold and the album is gold any day now.
J: Yes, I thought weīd do well, but not this good. Itīs beyond my wildest dreams. I though success like this didnīt happen anymore. A big bonus has been all those very young people weīd seen in front of the stage at all the gigs. Itīs truly a new metal generation out there.
P: Sometime weīve done a show at 6 PM for 11-12 000 kids and their parents. Then weīve done a late show at the same place and there has been another 14 000 grown-ups there.
Having only one album out, what sort of repertoire have youīve done this summer?
J: Ten of the 12 songs of the album plus an encore of an Iron Maiden medley of "Fear Of The Dark" and "Run To The Hills" and as the last song "We are the Champions" by Queen.
You have had a big stage show...
J: Smoke, pyro, six bass drums, different clothes for different songs, firebreathing dragons... the whole shebang.
Then you have to top that show for next yearīs tour?
J: We have a neverending list of ideas, so that will be no problem (laughter).
For the Japanese album you included an unplugged version of "Night Of Passion" as the bonus cut.
P: That is something weīve done at the signing sessions, about 30 in total. We always do an acoustic set of three songs as part of that. Weīve discussed about doing that in the middle of the set during next tour.
What goes on in your head now that the albumīs out in Japan?
J: A lot. I think itīs to our advance that we are already a gold and platinum act and not just one of those brand new and unknown Swedish acts releasing an album in Japan. We hope to get more than just a release, we want to be marketed too, in the same good way which Lionheart has done for us in Sweden. Not just being distributed. We really want to get to Japan and play.
P: Yes, a long trip over there so we can eat some shabo-shabo. Thatīs the real thing (laughter).
P: Sounds interesting, can I have some, please?
You mentioned The Ring, the other band the two of you have. Will you continue that band too?
J: Not at the moment anyway. We donīt have the time and therefore we have put all side projects on ice. All of the songs for the second The Ring album has been written and demoed and it will be great. Itīs epic metal inspired of the JR Tolkienīs "The Lord Of The Rings" saga. Weīve also done a tour supporting Motorhead and Sepultura.
P: It was planned for me and Jakob to cut the second The Ring album this year, but right now itīs not just possible.
Will you continue your job as Europeīs sound engineer, Pontus?
P: No, again I donīt have the time. I had to turn down the offer to co-produce their new album because I was so buzy with The Poodles. Iīve heard the Europe album and itīs sounds good though, much better that the last one. This is the way their current material should have been done in the first place.
All of the members of The Poodles have been working like dogs for about two decades in various bands to finally get this success. Have you ever been thinking of giving up?
J: There has been moments for sure when Iīve felt like maybe I should look at something else to do. But then something interesting has always turned up. Weīve always had work, doing gigs and records. But this break is something Iīve dreamt of. Iīm so very grateful.
But as youīve basically been doing this, melodic hard rock, since the 80īs without a break until now, youīve must have felt underrated at times?
P: I canīt say that actually. Iīm a hard rock musician and I like doing different things like writing, recording, engineering and producing. Iīve been buzy enought not to have to do some 9 to 5 job at the same time.
J: Same here. Iīve been teaching music on the side but that has been quite fun. I canīt complain. I do want to stress though that Iīve done good things in the past which hasnīt got the attention it deserved.
OK, what about the next The Poodles album?
J: Thatīs our main goal of course, to make a fantastic second CD. The songs we have written so far are very strong. Itīs gonna be the logical follow up to what we started on the first album: big choruses, those almost Rammstein type of drums and a few unexpected twists again. Foremost it will be song oriented. The emphasis will be on melodies rather than riffs. We will be able to spend more time on the next album too, now that we know exatly where we are. When we did the debut albumn there was so many question marks until we got the big break and all the wheels was put in motion. Now with all this road work behind us weīre a smoking unit.