Interview - Zak Tell

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Anders: Could you tell us a bit about Clawfinger?
Zak: "Two Swedes & two Norwegians who met each other working at a hospital for old people, we became work friends and realized we all had the love for music in common, one thing led to another and we started making demo tracks just for the fun of it! Eventually we won a demo competition, got a song played 5 nights in a row on the national Swedish radio and landed a deal with MVG records, this was in 1992! Since then we've released 5 albums, done more than 550 gigs and toured all over the place!"
Anders: Why did you name the band Clawfinger? Does it mean anything special?
Zak: "We spent weeks and weeks trying to come up with names, we wrote down suggestions on pieces of paper, went to the library's english departments looking at book titles and basically just brainstormed in every way we could! In the end we had a deadline to take into consideration as we were about to send out demo cassettes to all the record companies we thought seemed interesting & five minutes before we posted them B�rd came up with the name Clawfinger and as none of us had any better suggestions we said "Okay let's go with it, we'll get used to the name" Since that day we've been called Clawfinger!! As for the meaning of it, well there is a swedish word called kl�fingrig which is basically someone who is nosey and can't keep his fingers off of things, also I've heard it's a medical term for when the muscle in the hand is cut off and your hand flips back but I don't know if it's true?"
Anders: Why are there only 4 guys in the band? Aren't the other two permanent members?
Zak: "Simply because we were the four guys who met eachother, wrote all the songs, recorded the demos and got the record deal for the first album, the other guys did not surface until we needed bass & drums in the studio and when it was time to tour! Since then we've just kept it that way as it has felt like the most convenient way of doing it, I think it's a good deal cos the guys make money even when we do the gigs where the rest of us don't make any money & hardly even breakeven"
Anders: You have always been very politically aware in terms of your lyrics, how come you haven't lost that over the years?
Zak: "Well I've never felt like a very political person, it's always been more a case of standing on the outside looking at what goes on & then commenting on it! I just feel concerned about what the world is coming to and how we are treating each other as human beings! I haven't lost my interest in addressing social issues along the way because I still think it's important to be aware of what goes on even if I don't understand everything!"
Anders: How would you describe what kind of music Clawfinger plays?
Zak: Naive, aggressive, from the heart primitive screaming rapvocals mixed with staccato riffs & heavy drums, simple basic & very effective!"
Anders: Have you had a steady line up all the time or have there been any member changes? And if so, why?
Zak: "We are now on our third drummer, Henka Johansson but apart from that it's been the same line-up since day one, drummers seem to explode on stage and disappear into outer space, I've never understood why but it's an unwritten rule in the rock 'n' rool business? As for the reason why well, I guess as always it's a question of getting along with people and working as a team, when that doesn't work then it's better to find a replacement!"
Anders: I have followed you since the beginning of the 90's, what is your opinion of the different metal styles that have come and gone? Clawfinger has refused to follow any new trend, how come?
Zak: "There are originators and there are imitators, there are people who state their influences but still come up with something new and original in their own music. And there are bands who don't even deserve the plastic their music is printed on because they are simply copying what has already been done better by other bands in the past! I like bands that play music from the heart and are more concerned with song writing than their imagery! We don't really follow trends because we don't know how to and we don't care to. We are influenced by bands we like, but we have sounded the way we do since day one simply because we are the individuals we are and come from different musical backgrounds. There was never a master plan or a scheme! There are good and bad metal bands within the metal scene just as in all other scenes, and I don't really have any special opinions on the different trends that have come and gone, the trends that have quality last and the ones that don't disappear!"
Anders: Why have you cut down touring?
Zak: "Because the sales haven't been as good as in the past, which leaves us with a smaller budget. Because we are all getting older and because some of us have wives and families and we want to spend more time at home with them! In the future we will try and do more gigs than in the last few years, but try and keep the schedules more tight so we can do more gigs in less days! Last but not least we need to do more in Scandinavia as we have neglected our fans here, but it's about interest from the promoters and money as always!"
Anders: Why did it take so long to follow up the Clawfinger album from '97? The next album came out in '01
Zak: "Record company bullshit more than anything else, the album was recorded and ready to be released already in the summer of 2000, but thanx to incompetent bosses at MNW records things got delayed time and time again! Also in early 1998 we bought our own studio equipment and rented a small studio and it took time to learn how everything worked! Also it's easy to spend too long writing songs when you have your own studio, the songs just never quite seem ready enough to be finished songs!"
Anders: What is your opinion on that your old record company has released a compilation album with you, have you approved that?
Zak: "We had nothing to do with it, and I personally think it's a lame product. No extra bonus material (b-sides, remixes etc), no stories or photos in the booklet from gigs, or fun episodes in our career, and not even a completely correct collection of our singles! I don't know why they didn't let us be involved. I guess maybe they thought we weren't interested as we were no longer on the label, but they are still our songs, so I would have loved to have made sure that the fans got something extra for their money!"
Anders: Why did you choose to call your new album "Zeroes & Heroes" does it mean anything special?
Zak: "Well first of all it's related to the cover, it's a photoshopped picture of the four of us as statues in a museum! We're playing with the idea that we could be considered heros or icons if Clawfinger is an important group to you! On the other hand we feel that the real heros most often are the people who have the underpayed 9 to 5 jobs, cleaning toilets & driving the buses and undergrounds. Without these people society would stop working within hours! The hard workers never get the attention they really deserve as everything is so focused on the media these days!"
Anders: What was the response from the fans/press on the new album?
Zak: "The response from the fans has mostly been good, as for the press, well in Sweden not a lot of people really seem to care about our new release. I guess we're not the flavour of the month any more and Linkin Park & Limp Bizkit have cooler tattoos than we do. We got a lot of mail every day from all over the world from people who say they love our new album and we're still making music the way we want to, and that is all that matters! The press in outside Sweden has been good so we'll just have to wait and see how it sells!"
Anders: Are you going to tour on the new album? If so, where?
Zak: "We will be touring Scandinavia and Europe with our new album in Sept/Oct/Nov but I can't say exactly which territories yet as it's all being planned right this very moment! We will be back though so just hang in there and keep your Clawfingers crossed that we come to a city near you!"
Anders: How does the co-operation with your new company work?
Zak: "They're doing a good job in their home territory for sure, the problem is they're a German company, so outside of Germany we have to rely on BMG network to take care of distribution & promotion. In some of other territories they simply don't care about Clawfinger enough as they have bigger & better selling acts to attend to. In other words they don't have the time for us!"
Anders: Who writes the lyrics/music in Clawfinger?
Zak: "I write 95% of the lyrics and we all sit together and write the music. Of course we all play our different parts and contribute with different bits & pieces but we always try and sit together as a team when we make the songs...sometimes it works"
Anders: Are the lyrics on the new album about anything special?
Zak: "My lyrics are always about something special, they're always based on ideas and thoughts that are going through my head. Some serious, some less serious, some personal, and some based on stories I've heard! I can't go through every song here but if anyone has questions about any specific lyric of mine then I'll gladly answer them"
Anders: Do you have any favourite song on the album?
Zak: "One of my favourite tracks is a song called "Kick It" simply because it has an uptempo beat and a good groove. Also the chorus has some sort of 50's rock'n'roll/beach boys vibe to it, but in a Clawfinger sort of way! I have a whole bunch of favourites obviously, but that is the first song that comes to mind when I read the question"
Anders: Are there any more material that that band is going to release as bonus on MCD on this new album?
Zak: "There is a limited edition of the album with 3 bonus tracks that is also available. But apart from that I don't think there is a whole lot of left over material that is good enough to be made available for the fans, if there is, then it will be used as b-side material. Hopefully there will be a b-side compilation of our whole career up until now sometime in the not too distant future. We certainly have enough material to make one"
Anders: How was it to support Rammstein through Europe on your last album? How was the response from the Rammstein's fans?
Zak: "It was great fun supporting Rammstein. They treated us like kings and made us feel totally at home in every possible way. As for the fans, well they were very open minded as well, which we were happy about as we were worried they would all stand there screaming "RAMMSTEIN!" through our entire set. I think for Rammstein it was a way to pay us back for old times because in 1995 they supported us on a bunch of our European gigs, this is when they were small and we were big."
Anders: How many fans does Clawfinger have now compared to when you started out?
Zak: "I'm sorry but that question is totally impossible to answer. In the very beginning we didn't have any fans at all, a year later we had loads and loads, a few years later not quite as many and it just continues to go up and down like a rollercoaster ride. I don't have any figures and I don't know how to do that calculation, all I know is that we would like to have as many fans as possible."
Anders: Which song is the most requested when you're playing live?
Zak: "I would have to say that "Do What I Say" is definitely one of the most requested songs. There are always a bunch of people in the crowd who demand that song when we are playing!"
Anders: Why haven't you released more albums through the years?
Zak: "Well, I think 5 albums in 10 years is pretty reasonable and more than alot of bands manage to release in their entire career! The reason we haven't released more is simply because we need time to write songs, we are not very fast and we need to work a lot on each track before we are satisfied with the result."
Anders: Do you have any favourite album by Clawfinger? Do you have one that you're not content with?
Zak: "My personal favourite is the third self titled album, but ask the other guys in the band and they will most surely give you a completely different answer. I can't say there is an album I like the least, but I have songs on each album that I think should have been b-sides instead and there are always a bunch of b-sides that I personally think should have made it onto the albums."
Anders: Do you have any song that's fun to do live?"
Zak: "Do What I Say" simply because' it always gets my adrenaline pumping so madly, and because the crowds always start up small moshpits when the song starts"