Volbeat’s Michael Poulsen Discusses New Album, Lyrical Influences, Playing Festivals + Small Clubs
Volbeat singer / guitarist Michael Poulsen was the guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program. He discussed the band's new album, Seal the Deal & Let's Boogie, the lyrical inspiration for the songs, playing for festival crowd vs. performing in small clubs and more. Check out the chat below:
I've got the singer of one of my favorite bands — Volbeat — Michael Poulsen. How ya doing?
It can't continue being your favorite band. Don't you listen to music?
I do, but I just can't help it. You guys are the best! Volbeat has a new record called Seal the Deal and Let's Boogie. Volbeat's sound is unmistakeable. What makes Seal the Deal and Let's Boogie different but still sound familiar?
Same band. Almost the same thing. We pretty much found our style on our first record, so it’s not like we were looking or searching for that sound. We had the Volbeat sound already from day one when we recorded, actually, the demos. Basically what we've been doing is progressing and being better songwriters. A lot of touring has been helping and us playing together.
The most important thing is being inspired — keep on being inspired and keep having fresh ideas. I always have songs and melodies running in my head. It can be good, but it can also be quite irritating. I’m just thankful that I can still find inspiration to write Volbeat songs. I think when you have the sound early on, it makes it all the more easy to keep on writing.
Some bands try and sound different from third, fourth, fifth record. You guys have evolved, but when you hear a Volbeat song you know it's Volbeat.
We try to mix it in a way where people know that it’s Volbeat. We like to stick to some of the elements that we’ve been doing since the beginning, but we’re also kind of curious as to what new doors can we open for the Volbeat record. It’s the stuff we haven’t done that we are really passionate about. We always find stuff to do. This time we have a gospel choir with us on one of the songs. That’s something that I’ve really wanted to do since way back. I just couldn’t find the right song to do to work it out, but this time we have a gospel choir on a track called "Goodbye Forever."
We have a female backup vocal singer called Mia Maja which is on five or six songs. It came very naturally. I was in a small club in the city which I am living. I was listening to a guy called Tue West, and he had this female singer. She sounded so good, so when we were in the studio, me and Jacob [Hansen], the producer, were talking about how nice it would be to have that kind of Phil Spector thing going on in the background.
Instead of bringing a lot of people from the outside, I said, “I just heard this amazing singer in a small club. Let’s give her a call. She sounds amazing.” That’s something we haven’t done before, but it still sounds like Volbeat. We pretty much tuned almost all the songs up in E. It makes it a little bit more fresh and sounds like the melodies are even more wide open this time. We still managed to progress while still, at the same time, keep what is Volbeat.
There's always been a sort of storyline with Volbeat. How does the ongoing storyline that links Volbeat albums continue with this new record?
There’s this one song called "You Will Know" which is the last chapter of the story I started on the first record which has been continuing on the previous albums. It finally ends now. I’m done with it [laughs]. It’s always interesting. It means something to the fans, and they like the story. They like the characters, so it’s good to be able to finish that chapter, but I’m always inspired by old stories. It can be from the 1800s, you know. The previous album, Outlaw Ladies and Shady Gentlemen was more about the gun slinging characters.
This time, it’s a little bit more wide open. It’s many different characters. It’s not just one theme or one story. It’s a lot of different stories, like Marie Laveau who was the Voodoo queen of New Orleans. You got Mary Kelly who was the last victim of Jack the Ripper. There is a song about Ishtar a Babylonian queen. The song is called "Gates of Babylon," and no it’s not the Rainbow song. I love Rainbow. It’s just different kind of characters, but characters who have actually been alive. There's a lot of history in it too. The other songs are more my impact on life or my experience with life, or loss, or whatever it can be.
Did you go into the writing of this record with the storylines in mind?
Yeah, some of them. And honestly it just came across [in the] the process.
Anders [Kjoholm] left the band last year. What's the hardest thing for you when Volbeat changes members?
Of course it's not always fun to change members or lose a member. We always try to stick together, but sticking together as a band is almost the same challenge as being in a marriage or something. Some people are meant to stay together and others really have to work on it. It's the same thing as bands -- sometimes it works and other items you have to fight for it.
We do everything we possibly can to stick together, but we have one life and everybody needs to do what they have to do and we're away from family / friends, children, wives, dogs, cats, birds, cows, goats. Everything. We just have to decide how we want to spend our time and there still needs to be that thing that we share together. Sometimes it's just not easy and everybody just has to move on.
Volbeat lyrics tell vivid stories. Will writing lyrics someday lead to writing books and movie scripts?
Ah, who knows. It's definitely sounding interesting. We talked about it since the Gangster album because there's still a lot of stuff — we've been talking about maybe doing a big comic book where all the characters are there. Maybe we're trying to find the time to do that one day. Movie script? I don’t know. Everything is possible. I guess it's more about having the right time to do it. So yeah, if you have a good idea, let me hear it.
I've seen Volbeat in many settings. Small clubs like 500 people, big festivals with a hundred thousand people. What makes playing opposite sized shows equally enjoyable?
We just like being onstage. Of course it's a great accomplishment to be able to play the bigger stages and festivals. That's a great challenge. Of course being able to do something like that isn't something you can take for granted because it's a lot of people that are really dedicating their time to Volbeat. To see all those people gather in one place, sharing the same love for the same band, that's amazing. We're just as thankful going into a club because it's pretty much the same thing, it's just smaller but the appreciation is the same.
What can we expect for the rest of 2016?
A lot of touring, basically that's it. A lot of promo work for the coming record. I can't seem to find any other projects, or else I'm not allowed to say anything. But lots of touring and lots of promo work for the new record.
Thanks to Michael Poulsen for the interview. Pick up your copy of 'Seal the Deal & Let's Boogie' at Amazon or iTunes and keep up with the band's activities on their Facebook page. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s weekend show at this location.
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