Copenhagen in February: the first shy spring sun paints the city golden and lures people from their sofas to the streets. Equipped with expectation and a fresh coffee; I'm off to the local Volbeat headquarters. The atmosphere in the nice apartment serving as the base camp for the successful Danes is like the weather: just great. Golden discs hang on the walls of the hallway frequented by busy employees of the Volbeat empire: there's a lot of stuff to do before the release of "Outlaw gentlemen & shady ladies", and nothing will be left to coincidence. Volbeat have taken a break from the promotional stress by doing a small Denmark tour trip - consider it as a Thank You activity for their die-hard fans. "The clubs were small and all five shows were sold out within 5 minutes", says drummer Jon who is willing to have a short chat before the actual interview. "We just wanted to have the energetic atmosphere of smaller cubs, and we wanted to keep our promise to perform in certain clubs again."
A lot of things have changed since the band started and the fast rise into the heights of Rock stardom happened in such a short time - many other bands never have experienced a development like that. The release of Volbeat's fifth album within eight years is an impressive demonstration of this state. "Basically, we have been on tour for our last album "Beyond hell / Above heaven" until some days ago", reveals the drummer (he and singer Michael Poulsen are the band's backbone) who looks like an normal Rock guy with his hoodie and his wool beanie - you'd never think he's the member of such a successful band. He adds: "Michael just plays about 50% of his ideas to me, and he still has tons of material in his drawer." Speaking of the devil - Michael Poulsen enters the room and sits down at the table which is big enough for at least seven more persons. "That's correct", the vocalist confirms. "I hone my ideas, write some riffs, and after thorough thinking I present them to Jon, and then I carry on sorting them."
The songs on the new Volbeat album were created mostly during the tour, and Jon has a simple explanation for that. "After all, you hang out in some clubs and are bored to death. You have no idea where to go and how to get there, and so Michael just writes songs." The last album was successful, the ones before it, too - so there is this issue, the question of pressure, when it comes to follow-up releases... "For me, pressure means something positive", Poulsen points out. "It means people have expectations and there's some talks about your band. You only have expectations when there is something you can expect, so pressure is something positive." Poulsen grins - and he very well can: with "Outlaw gentlemen & shady ladies" the band lives up to said expectations - and delivers once again.
They are the high achievers of the past years: by means of some awesome records and some excellent gigs, the four Danes managed the transformation from insider tip to the top of Europe's current Rock scene. In the wake of the release of their new DVD/Blu-ray/CD "Live from beyond hell/Above heaven", we had a conversation with front man Michael Poulsen.
EMP: Hallo, Michael. You have just come back from the USA. So, how was the tour?
MP: Fantastic, but extremely exhausting. We played 32 shows within 6 weeks which is totally ok in Europe. But this time, we did not only play at both coasts and went back home, we drove up and down, and through the continent, in a bus, before going up and down again, including a trip to Canada. Well, then you finally notice just how incredibly huge this continent is.
EMP: Did you have the headlining or an opening slot?
MP: We always had the headlining slot, playing in bigger clubs and medium-sized venues with a capacity of 2.000 to 4.000 people. It was great. We got to know so many new places and made a lot of friends.
EMP: In Germany, the tickets for your tour in November are sold out, and have been so for quite some time. And here, you'll be playing in really big venues...
MP: Yes, it's absolutely crazy. We love to play in Germany. Just think of it: a few years ago, we played in front of 10, 20 fans in your country - and now, we're playing in almost every big city in front of an audience which consists of a five-digit number of people! That blows my mind! Thank you very much for that! The German fans are really great.
EMP: The new DVD was filmed in front of a similarly impressive audience. Tell us something about that...
MP: Yes, that was awesome - we played in the Copenhagen Forum, in front of 10.000 fans. The gig was filmed by eleven cameras which show us from every possible angle. The technical aspects are all very impressive: brilliant sound, excellent footage - you get everything you expect from a good DVD. The guest appearances were and are extremely exciting - among others, you'll see Mercyful Fate's Michael Denner, or our old friend from Kreator, Mille.
EMP: Two Anthrax members, Scott Ian and Rob Caggiano, also jammed with you, didn't they?
MP: Yes, they did, but not in Copenhagen. We also have a concert we played in Anaheim's House Of Blues on the disc, and that's where Scott and Rob supported us with their second band The Damned Things. We asked them to join us for some cover versions, and it was awesome.
EMP: Are you already thinking about your next album?
MP: Yes, in spite of the permanent touring I have already started to write new tracks. I'm in this stage of developing my ideas first played on the acoustical guitar into material for the electric guitar. I love to transform nice little melodies into fat, hefty riffs...
Great shows at With Full Force festival, in Wacken, at Rock am Ring/ Park and spectacular support slots for arena acts like Metallica or AC/DC - we've seen Danish Rockabilly / Country / Metal boys Volbeat more often on the road than professional truckers! And this autumn, their fans can look forward once again to one or the other nice encounter on the road when Copenhagen's finest present their latest release "Beyond hell / above heaven" live on stage. Front man Michael Poulsen epitomises the band's style: with his black, perfectly groomed quiff, Motörhead t-shirt, multiple tattoos on his arms (among them, the names of Elvis Aaron Presley and Social Distortion), he's an impressive - and perfectly nice and friendly - representative of their genre. Other than that, Volbeat have recorded a CD meant to convince and conquer even the toughest critics (not that there are too many of them, though). So, everything's fine in the state of Denmark!"We dream of Metallica as the opening act for us", Poulsen flashes a mischievous smile - "but, seriously, we really can't complain. We're still average blokes, no glam band or so-called Rock stars. I've just bought a small house for which I have really worked hard. Things couldn't be better for us - apart from the incredibly high taxes here in Denmark..." In spite of the permanent stress with the royal tax office, the boys still manage to come across more powerful and intoxicating than ever before on "Beyond hell/ above heaven": with more Country, more Rock 'n' Roll and more Metal, the Scandinavian quintet completes the Punk Rock crime story it has started on the last album which was released on 2008. "The songs ,7 shots' and ,The mirror and the ripper' finish the plot. Again, it's all about that bloke who already has experienced so much shit you wouldn't believe. On the one hand, he's a living hell, on the other hand, there's still a good core in him, making him see the light at the end of the tunnel sometimes. Apart from that, the title means you have to accept both, good and evil. You have to recognise that everything in life is intertwined somehow, that you are responsible for your actions and you can't just blame somebody else. We all have our demons within. Volbeat are neither a political nor a religious band - the title was just my way of playing a bit with that idea of heaven and hell, not taking it too seriously: if we dug deeper than hell, heaven would look like it, wouldn't it?" There's still one question to answer: where does The King live today? "Oh, Elvis is long dead", Poulsen laughs. "He's buried in Graceland. I ought to know - I married there, just a few months ago ..." Well, congratulations - and see you soon somewhere in Germany!