Danish Guitarist: The Kandidate Is "Fighting For Music That's Played By Real People"
Extreme. Aggressive. Confrontational. Intimidating. All familiar words in the heavy metal genre, but a single listen to The Kandidate will make you wonder whether you've wasted those words on lesser, undeserving bands. This Danish quartet pummels viciously away at your sense of physical safety until you can nearly smell the lead from the aural pipe swinging toward your head. But if you can withstand the beating, you'll marvel at The Kandidate's organic, streamlined blend of heavy subgenres that boasts a sly and infectious charm beneath its tough veneer.
One of the sources of that charm is guitarist Allan Tvedebrink, who graciously phoned me from his home in Denmark to discuss his love of music and songwriting, the stylistic evolution on The Kandidate's impending sophomore album "Facing The Imminent Prospect Of Death," and more.
Mike Smith (OverkillExposure): It’s only recently that The Kandidate has gained some visibility – at least in the States – but you’ve been around for quite a few years now. Can you take me through the band’s background for those unfamiliar?
Allan Tvedebrink: The bassist KB Larsen and I, we started out in another band that was kind of like melodic death metal, and we wanted to do something not so melodic – downtuned, dirty, raw, and all that shit. So we fiddled around for a few years, and had different drummers and different singers. We were kind of wondering which way to go, and we wrote a lot of material. We thought, “Okay, we can go on writing material and keep looking for the perfect lineup, or we can just record an album and take it from there.” So we did. And right before we were supposed to record the album, our previous singer left. We recorded at the studio of our present singer Jacob Bredahl, [ex-Hatesphere] before he joined the band. When we were in there, he kind of got into our music and thought it was great, and wanted to be a part of it. So that was how he came into the band. At that point, we had a steady lineup and a new singer, and we knew where we were going to go musically. So we wanted to start almost from scratch. We were called The Downward Kandidate before, and wanted to keep some kind of reference to that era of the band, so we just called ourselves The Kandidate. That was actually just two years ago, when we recorded and released the debut album “Until We Are Outnumbered,”  and started touring more frequently and more seriously. That’s kind of the very long story put short. [Laughs]
Mike: Do you feel you’re getting more attention now, thanks to Jacob’s history with Hatesphere?
Allan: Yeah, definitely. We’ve been in bands before, KB and I, and we’ve released dozens of albums actually. We know the industry, or whatever you want to call it – the scene – and how things work. So we didn’t think, “Oh we’ve gotta get this guy in the band ‘cause he used to be in Hatesphere!” It just kind of happened. But it was very noticeable that when he joined, there was a lot of interest in the band. We got the deal with Napalm quite quickly, and they actually came to us and said, “Hey guys, we think this is something we’d like to work with,” and stuff like that. And I’ll bet it’s because his old band is still on the label. So I think he’s the reason we got the deal with Napalm to begin with. And wherever you read a review or interview, they mention Hatesphere, so it’s natural, and good for us, I guess. [Laughs]
Mike: I hear several different musical influences in your sound, but the biggest one seems to be Entombed. Do you feel that’s accurate?
Allan: [Laughs] Yeah, pretty much. I don’t know, we’ve all been fans forever, and it’s a big influence. So of course it leaves a mark on you when you’re a big fan of a certain band or style or whatever. So yeah, definitely, it doesn’t surprise me that you’d say that.
Mike: What other influences did you rely upon to make the transition from the old melodic sound to the current brutal sound?
Allan: I don’t know – it was around a time when bands were detuning more and more, and we had an idea that we were one of the first bands to do it besides Meshuggah. We thought, “This is something new and cool, and let’s try it out.” We didn’t exactly get that from others, but we did want a certain sound. We wanted it to be very dirty and different from everybody else. At the time, there was a tendency in recording to need to hear every tone, every note, every drumbeat, with everything clear and sampled and all that shit. We wanted to move away from that, so it was kind of natural for us to do something that wasn’t so shiny. Downtuning was the whole idea.
Mike: But when I listen to the new record, despite its rawness, I CAN hear everything. I can only describe it as a “clean dirty sound.”
Allan: [Laughs] I know what you mean. You shouldn’t ruin your material by not wanting it to sound polished, so it WAS important for us to hear what was going on. And when you’re in the studio, obviously you don’t intentionally play bad. So it’s just us playing music, and we share this whole idea that playing music should just be playing music, and not playing the computer. Play music, take it one note at a time, re-record to fix little mistakes. So I get what you mean. I also hear what’s going on, and I like that, because I want people to know our band’s music. But still, we should not be metal that’s suited for our grandpa that sounds poppy.
Mike: Let’s talk specifically about the new record. Going into the writing and recording, what conscious efforts may there have been to move your sound forward, to avoid simply rehashing the debut album?
Allan: After we recorded the first album, and I listened back to it, I thought, “Okay, we’re going at one pace.” So with the new one, we knew we wanted to break the monotony and not do one tempo all the way through. Essentially, the first thing I thought when writing new material was that it should be more diverse and dynamic. The first track we wrote was “Let The Maggots Have It,” which is kind of a slower song. That was a rebellion against the first album. Then we found out that we could be just as energetic and intense with slower stuff. That would give it a whole new landscape. We wanted it to be simple and punkish, but we realized we could do that at both a fast pace and a slow pace. I’m working on exploring that more, so we can be even more diverse in the future.
Mike: Your guitar work is rather unpredictable on the record. The idea of a “musical journey” is such a cliché by now, but it really does feel that way – the songs take so many twists and turns, you’re never really sure where those riffs are going to go next. Can you take me through your approach to composition?
Allan: It’s actually very simple. KB and I live in the same town – the other guys live about 200 miles away from us, so we’re kind of a “cross-country band.” [Laughs] But we sit down in front of the computer, and sometimes we’re totally blank and just look at each other and go, “What should we do?” And maybe I have a riff, or maybe KB has something, an idea, or just a tempo or whatever. And we just try stuff out, and usually we take half an hour, or maybe a full hour, to figure out where to start. “Is this the first part of the song, or is this suited for a chorus, or a middle piece, or is this the verse, or the main riff? What is this?” So then the song kind of writes itself, while we tag along. We work with the computer to program drums, to get a better idea of the full song that we’re writing. I think it’s very healthy for us when we sit there and figure out the beats. We’ll be in the songwriting process, but it’s not about the song at that point. It’s a big back-and-forth, where we take a small break that opens up something creative while we’re not working on it. Maybe this sounds confusing, but the stuff writes itself. One idea evolves from there on out. Sometimes we write a song in two hours, and sometimes it takes four weeks because we put it down and then pick it up again, with new ideas to try.
Mike: Obviously, most metal bands attempt to sound dark and intense, to varying degrees. But there’s a level of anger and raw aggression on this record that’s pretty intimidating. Speaking for yourself, where do you feel that’s coming from? Do you think The Kandidate is pissed off?
Allan: [Laughs] No, quite the contrary, I’d say. We have a lot of fun. I’ve actually been thinking about that though, and my best answer is, I don’t know. I get what you mean. When we entered the studio, we had an idea of how we wanted to sound, and I knew what kind of guitar sound I would have, and we knew how the drums were supposed to sound. But we didn’t rehearse that much before the studio, so we went in fresh, and it was surprising to see what emerged from the stuff we brought in as individuals, and how well it worked. It was very intense and dark. It was exciting to create something that runs down your spine and grabs you by the balls. I guess it’s just an artistic way of expressing something, because we are happy people. Art can just turn out that way. We wanted to go that way, but it wasn’t because we had sorrows in life or anything like that.
Mike: I hear a lot of thrash, death, groove, hardcore, sludge, and punk. Bands tend to shy away from specific labels, but if you had to, how would you describe The Kandidate – stylistically speaking?
Allan: Ah, shit. I hear the same stuff, and other people have mentioned the same genres, and it sounds right. But to nail it down… I guess the hardcore stuff isn’t there as much as it was on the first album. Now, the punk aspect is more present. We wanted to have that punk feeling and make it more obvious. I’d call it “thrashy death metal with a punk attitude.”
Mike: The music suggests a pretty intense live show. What’s the most dangerous thing you’ve witnessed or experienced while playing live?
Allan: [Laughs] Well, I don’t know how familiar you are with the metric system, but Jacob is two meters [approx. 6’6’’] tall. That’s pretty tall. So when he steps to the right, he’s on the right side of the stage. Then he takes a step to the left, and he’s on the other side. He moves a lot while playing, so it’s kind of hard to find a good place. He likes to swing the microphone around, and I’ve gotten hit in the head a few times. I’ve also hit him with my guitar head. That can actually hurt. So there are bruises and bumps you get, but I don’t think anyone has broken any arms or legs or whatever. We’re very physical on stage, especially Jacob. KB and I just try not to get in his way, ‘cause he’s a big motherfucker. You don’t want him in your area. But yeah, we try to be energetic when we open and play those songs. It’s hard to stand still and try to play perfectly. We just have to go with the flow and move with the music, and playing live does get pretty intense. It’s what we love, and we’d like to stick with it and do it all the time, so it shows when we’re on stage.
Mike: Can you fill me in on your immediate touring plans in support of the new record?
Allan: Of course we’re going out in Denmark, which is the obvious choice to start. We have a few shows here in March, and then we’re actually going to China in April for a short tour there. We’re still discussing Russia. There’s a guy there who wanted to do something with us last year, but it didn’t fit in with recording. So we’re trying to go there in May, and I hope we get a full European tour in the fall. I’d really love to go to North and South America. Those would be the only continents we’ve never played on. Well, there’s Africa, but I don’t think I’m going to Kenya to play death metal. [Laughs] So that’s the plan. It’d be very nice to go to America, but it’s kind of hard to know the right people and make the right connections to make it happen. We’re working on it though, and of course we have summer festivals too, so it’s always fun to play at festivals and meet up with all the other bands.
Mike: speaking of other bands, who have you really liked lately? Who’s carrying the torch for this kind of music, in your opinion?
Allan: I’m not so much of a follower of newer bands. I kind of get into a band and stick with them, and see where they go, and how they evolve, and stuff like that. I really like Trap Them and Disfear. I just saw Mastodon yesterday in Copenhagen actually, and I really love the new Opeth album. It’s amazing. I thought I would hate [Mikael Akerfeldt] not growling anymore, but it’s actually really, really cool. I love Converge; I only recently found out they were around. They’re a brilliant band. Trap Them, we had the honor to tour with them last year. When I first heard them, I was like, “Are you kidding? They’re ripping off Scandinavian death metal!” But they’re very, very cool guys, and I love that band now. But I’m also a fan of bands like Unleashed and Dismember. I’m kind of an old school guy. And of course, Entombed.
Mike: Do you have any guilty pleasures, or bands people might be shocked or surprised to find you enjoy?
Allan: [Laughs] This might be shocking after listening to our album, but I really dig Dream Theater. That’s a whole different ball game from what we’re doing! I’ve been following them ever since “Images & Words” came out, and that’s a band I like. I’m also a sucker for old hard rock, like Foreigner and Kansas and stuff like that. It’s all coming from the same place, just with different distortion. [Laughs]
Mike: The other Scandinavian countries – Norway, Sweden, and Finland – each seem to be famous for their own brands of metal. Denmark is a little harder to pin down. The international bands seem to be fewer, and they’re all quite diverse. Is there a certain sound that you think represents Denmark in the global metal community?
Allan: I think you’re absolutely right in what you said. We don’t have one single band that sounds like another – well, of course we do, but it is kind of weird… there’s black metal in Norway, death metal in Sweden, and folk metal in Finland. I was thinking about this a few days ago. We have what you’d call a “bigger band” in almost every genre, and just that band, not two or three or five others. Just one in each. It’s kind of weird. I don’t know why it turned out that way. I think it might have something to do with our lack of tradition when it comes to playing music. In Sweden, they’re taught music from a very early age. It’s a big country, and they sit around in their small towns, and they have nothing else to do but play whatever instrument they’re learning. So they get good at it quite quickly. They have a really strong heritage in folk music as well, and it’s pretty deep in their culture. We don’t really have the same thing in Denmark, I guess. What we have isn’t from our culture; it’s what we get from other countries that influence us and make us do what we do, I guess. I think it’s something like that. You’re totally right. All four countries are very close to each other, and we’re taught almost the same language, or we at least understand each other, and yet we’re so different when it comes to music.
Mike: Regardless of sound or subgenre, who do you feel is doing the most for Denmark in metal and hard rock? Aside from The Kandidate, of course.
Allan: [Laughs] Well, nowadays, I guess you can’t get around Volbeat. They’re kind of our ambassadors. Back in the day, it was bands like King Diamond and Mercyful Fate, and then we got into the ‘90s, and it was Pretty Maids. Nowadays it’s Volbeat – they have so much mainstream success. They’re not exactly in bed with the Danish metal scene, but yeah. And we have bands that aren’t huge, but are touring and releasing albums. We have Hatesphere, Raunchy, Mnemic… again, it’s like five bands in five different genres. But Volbeat is the best answer regarding hard rock and metal from Denmark.
Mike: Would you share a few things about yourself outside of music?
Allan: Music is a great big part of my life, and I also play in a crust punk band called Parasite. We’re releasing a vinyl EP soon. That’s actually the band I spend more time with, because like I said, the guys in The Kandidate aren’t living in the same town. But I work as a graphic designer for a living. I do some graphic stuff for my own band, but I usually like other people to do it. It can be a little too much, working both musically and visually. So I do stuff for other bands as well. And I have a kid, who I’m hanging out and spending time with. That’s mainly it – hanging with friends, going to concerts. I’m not a big sports guy, unfortunately. [Laughs]
Mike: Can you think of a certain attitude or message that might represent The Kandidate well?
Allan: Wow, that’s going deep! Well, not really, because our message is in our playing. We play what we like to play. We write about what’s going on in our lives, but we’re not trying to get people to vote or have an opinion on something. But what we’ve talked a lot about within the band, and often in interviews, is how people play music. We’d like to be seen as musicians playing music with our instruments and our fingers and whatever we use to get the music out. There’s a tendency toward music that’s played by computers, not by real people. This is our thing: we’d like to fight for music that’s played by real people. That’s really important to us. All this programming and dubbing and shit makes it hard to tell who’s playing, or if there’s one guitarist or two, or if they’re playing together. Some stuff just sounds wrong, and when you go out and see the bands live, you can hear that as well. It might be the same drummer, but it’s definitely not “his” drumming on the album. The album might sound like they’ve played for half a century, but live, they play like shit together. It’s cheating. I mean, everybody sort of cheats – I play two guitars as well, but it also sounds like the recording when we’re playing live. That’s really important for us, that we capture on record the way we sound on stage. A lot of bands should do the same, or at least think about it, when recording.
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