MARTIN LOPEZ (SOEN): “We Have Become Numb To Violence And War, But People Are Shocked When Five Men Dress As Women Having Fun”

Two years on from their impressive Lykaia album, Sweden’s Soen return with their third and best release to date. Lotus has seen the band take huge strides forward and Mick Burgess called up former Opeth drummer and band founder Martin Lopez to talk about Lotus, new band members and the stunning videos that accompanied the singles from the album.

Your latest album, Lotus, has just been released. How do you feel now that it’s out?

I feel pretty confident and think that it’s a really strong album. It is certainly our strongest. I’m really pleased with the production and the songs. Even if I’m expected to say that, I haven’t really been happy with the previous ones. In the past I haven’t been quite happy with the production and things haven’t come out quite how we envisioned it. With Lotus it’s just been brilliant and so positive all along the way.

Were you able to use some ideas and develop those from the writing sessions for Lykaia or did you write everything from scratch for Lotus?

Pretty much everything was written from scratch. You never really want to start an album with something that wasn’t good enough to be on the last one. It wouldn’t be that inspiring so I try to write everything new for each record. I can get obsessed and write for four months where I’m working five hours a day and then I don’t do anything for a while. It’s never planned. There’s never a deadline. It just seems as though every year and a half there’s enough material for another album.

How would you say Lotus is a progression from Lykaia?

I’d say it is the same kind of music but it’s just better. The melodies are better, the songs flow better, the guitar solos are better and the drums are more solid. I just think the overall sound is just so much better than the last albums. I think the more you do something, the better you get at it. We’re already writing for the next one.

How do you tend to work together when writing? Do you all bring in certain elements to the music?

Normally I get together with Joel and we start writing some vocals and chords and we’ll do that for a while. I’ll then go home and take all of that material and work on it and build a song by adding instruments. When I feel I have something, I show it to Lars and Stefan so they can bring in their ideas. They also wrote some really good stuff for this album too and that really helps. It’s been a pleasure to make this album and it hasn’t always been like that. We have people around us who like what we do and that encourages us to open up and start experimenting.

Where did you record the album?

We did that at Ghost Ward studios with David Castillio and Inaki Marconi. We really loved the way they worked. They were great to bounce ideas off and helped create the sound landscapes that are really important when creating music. I think that’s why the album flows so well as they had a view on the sounds that we could use.

Do you tend to embrace modern technology while recording or do you prefer the sound and feel of vintage instruments and equipment?

We recorded our previous albums entirely on analogue but we weren’t as happy as we thought we would be. This time we told David to use anything that he felt would give us the best sound. We didn’t want to do any copy and paste however. It always had to be the band playing live. We didn’t want to go for perfection but we wanted it to come from the heart.

Musically there’s a lot of variety. There’s a lot of light and shade, lots of atmospherics and some bone crunchingly heavy parts. How would you describe your music to someone unfamiliar with your band?

The highlight for me is when the music gets emotional. The music is done so that the emotional parts explode. Even the heavier, metal stuff builds up into the emotional stuff. So, I’d say we are a heavy, mellow band with a lot of emotion and honesty with lyrics where we try to have some value in what we say.

The album is highly melodic even at its darkest and heaviest. Is it important to you to ensure the strong melodies run right through the album?

The melody is the song. I love heaviness but I love that to a point and if it gets too much it then gets boring unless I’m having one of those days where I just want to listen to something extremely aggressive. When it comes to music you need the melody and a music should go through all of the emotions that people have, whether it’s mellow, aggressive, happy, we like to express all of those feelings in our music.

The album is beautifully produced. The sound is very rich and full but with plenty of space so the intricacies of the music are able to breathe.

It’s a great album to put on with headphones and go out for a walk with my dog in the snow. You can really embrace the warmth of the sound. It’s so rich and lets everything breathe. I think David did a fantastic job on the sound and we’ve never had this until now.

The music is very intense and thought provoking. What lyrical themes are you exploring throughout the album?

There’s a lot of lyrics just about being a human. what it takes and why we do the stuff that we do. We look at what is wrong, why this world is like it is and what we can do. We don’t have any answers, we just want to share what we think and give a helping hand to anyone who needs it.

There’s a great moment towards the end of Martyrs where Joel’s vocals just take off to a different level.

Yes, we’ve never used the falsetto before. We’re more confident now and he just went for it. I think a few years back we wouldn’t have done it but now we just felt it was right and I think Joel sounds great on it. I know a lot of people really like it too but I did read a review where someone hated it so it really received a reaction.

Ahead of the release you’ve put out a couple of very different videos. Recently you put out the video for Lotus, the title track. That is a beautiful animated film. Who produced that?

We sent a few songs to Costin Chioreanu and he really liked Lotus and he felt that he could create something that could go with the music and lyrical theme and he produced this wonderful animation that I think fits the song perfectly.

Lotus features an absolutely stunning guitar solo from Cody Ford. What did you think when you heard that?

I’ve played with many guitar players of all ages in my career and then this little kid came along with this solo and it changed completely everything that I expected. He’s only 25. I sent him the track and asked him to record a solo and that’s what he came up with. It’s just perfect for the song.

Cody has recently joined the band. How did you first come across Cody?

Marcus left a couple of weeks before our show at the Wacken Festival so we needed a guitarist really fast. A friend told me to go to Instagram as there were a lot of guitarists showing their chops there. I saw all of these amazing players. I got in touch with many of them. A lot of them were technical and fast and had all the gear. Then I watched Cody and he had this cheap little hat sitting in shorts but on the stuff that he did, he sounded really good. I sent out the song to a few players and asked them to record a solo and when we heard Cody’s we were just stunned. We just looked at him and I thought he could be my kid. He’s not the usual over technical, flash type of player. He’s totally laid back and his playing has so much soul. He plays to make the music better not to make him look good. He makes the music shine. We talked to him and he seemed such a nice guy so we decided to bring him over to do the Wacken show. He’d never played in a band with a following so his first show was at Wacken Open Air. I was just watching him and he walked on stage like he was in his living room, completely relaxed and he played an amazing show so we invited him to join the band. We’re really happy with him.

The previous video you put out for Martyrs is very different to Lotus. What is the story behind that?

After the Wacken show we were flying home. We’d started mixing the album and we were deciding which track should have the video. I don’t know who suggested the drag queens but as soon as they said that I said that if we did that, they’d crucify us. When we reacted in that way then we felt that it had to be done. It’s 2019 and people still react in a bad way. We’ve had people send us mail saying that they love our music but can’t listen to us now because we have a liberal agenda or something. I thought a lot of the negativity would come from America but it actually came from Europe which surprised us. I thought we needed to do it because the lyrics on the album were saying we should just be human. I think we are all becoming numb to the horrors and violence happening around the world but then you have five guys dressing as women, having fun and it shocked people. I think that needs to be talked about. It’s just so sad.

You’ll be hitting the road on a European tour in March. Are you looking forward to playing live again?

Definitely. When you write an album and you imagine how it’ll be when you play it live you just want to get out there and share it with the audience. We don’t tour that much but that’s why it’s a special thing. We want to love being on stage every night.

Lotus is out now on Silver Lining Music.

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  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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