Martin Forssman: Our drummer Daniel suggested the name “ALTAIR 4”, after the BLIND GUARDIAN song, back in 1997-1998 when we were starting out. I and the guitar player Kalle – who were the only other members at that time – didn’t like the “4”, so we agreed on ALTAIR. It is originally the name of a star, and Blind Guardian got it from the novel “Tommy knockers” by Stephen King, where there is mention of the fourth planet of the star Altair, where some aliens are from. Actually, the 50’s horror film “Forbidden Planet” with Leslie Nielsen is also about that planet, so maybe Stephen King stole it from there!
How would you describe your music to any of our readers who may not have heard of ALTAIR before?
Martin Forssman: Well, we play thrash metal, we have a singer who screams and growls and we write the classic type of verse-bridge-chorus songs that not that many thrash metal bands do anymore. I guess that’s why some people have compared us to bands like KREATOR and SODOM. And it is true that most of our stuff is very retro/oldschool thrash metal, but we have a lot of other influences too so there are touches of traditional heavy metal, doom and even death metal here and there too. What we definitely do not want to do is to try to sound exactly like just one or two of our favourite bands. I mean, we love bands like HYPNOSIA, who sounded just like KREATOR, or F.K.Ü. who are like a mix between S.O.D. and the first EXODUS album, but we think it’s more interesting to try to find and maintain a sound of our own. But if you are into bands like KREATOR, SODOM, TANKARD, EXODUS and SADUS I would say there is a much better chance that you will dig our stuff too than if you are into something like Christina Aguilera or the Pet Shop Boys!
Who has done the artwork? And how important do you feel it is to have a great cover?
Martin Forssman: Daniel, our drummer did it. He is really good with images and he also designed our logo a few years ago. Of course, you prefer to have a front cover that looks cool to having one that makes the band look retarded! And as with the music and everything else all of us in the band have pretty high standards so if someone would have suggested some cheesy crap drawing with Vikings and dragons it would never have happened. We wanted something simple and stylish and that’s what Daniel did. Plus, skulls are always cool, ha ha!
Which subjects do your lyrics refer to, and who writes them?And what inspires you when you write your lyrics?
Martin Forssman: It can be about anything really, but so far we have tended to come back to topics like personal freedom and anti-establishment issues on one hand, and just general violence on the other. Writing songs about war (like “Preemptive Strike” on the “Two” demo) or killing people in general could be seen as cliché for this genre, but the hatred and aggressiveness of the music really calls for subjects like that. I mean, you couldn’t write a song like “Preemptive Strike” or “We vs. Us” and have the lyrics be about love, flowers and puppies! The song “Altair Attack” however, has lyrics that are completely made up of titles of classic thrash metal releases. A lot of our favourite thrash bands of the 80’s had song titles made up of the band name plus the word “attack”, like “Exodus Attack” and “Sadus Attack”, so we decided that we too wanted a track like that. And to honour our heroes further, the lyrics are just a constant flow of namedropping. If you don’t know those releases “Altair Attack” is still a cool song and the lyrics still work, but if you know something about thrash you can also see it as a bit of a quiz, like “find all the albums mentioned
in the song and name what bands recorded them!” In fact, let’s make it a contest right now! The first person who can name all the releases mentioned in “Altair Attack” and name the bands who recorded them gets a free “Two” demo and an ALTAIR T-shirt! Anyone reading this can listen to the song on our website (www.altair.nu) or on our Myspace (www.myspace.com/altairswe) and just post the answer in our guestbook!
The internet is a very important source for many metal fans – how do you use the internet and how important is it for you and other bands?
Martin Forssman: Well, naturally we don’t make music to become rich and famous; we do it because it’s fun. And the most fun about being in this band is A) playing live and B) getting feedback from people. And apart from people we meet at shows and the occasional magazine review, the feedback we get is through the Internet. I think it’s the same for a lot of bands, so yeah; it’s a good, important thing.
What tasks presently lie ahead for ALTAIR?
Martin Forssman: We are playing at the Armageddon Open Air in Kristianstad on September 8th, and later in the fall we plan to go into the Necromorbus Studio to make really professional demo. If that turns out well, we will start doing some serious shopping around for a record deal which we really haven’t done so far. Right now we are in writing mode, but we are also booking more gigs and we may have a small tour in Finland coming up.
Let’s speculate – you have been granted a free slot on a tour of your own choice – who would be your ideal touring partners?
Martin Forssman: A very hypothetical question since it will never happen, but I suppose a METALLICA supporting slot would introduce us to the biggest possible crowd for this kind of music. If we played with MEGADETH we would blow the headliners off the stage every night though, since they are fucking boring to watch (although great on record) and most people who have seen us live seem to agree that we are the opposite of that. Style-wise, maybe KREATOR would be ideal for us. Mille Petrozza is a pretty nice guy too, so that could have been cool.
What do you like to spend your time with besides music?
Martin Forssman: Drinking, mostly.
Please name the 5 most important Metal-albums of all times!
Martin Forssman: Historically, I think it would have to be:
Led Zeppelin “Led Zeppelin”
Black Sabbath “Black Sabbath”
Judas Priest “Stained Class”
Metallica “Kill ‘em All”
…and the fifth one is more difficult, but I will have to say Possessed “Seven Churches”.
Well, that’s it! Thanks a lot for the interview. Anything you’d like to add to our head banging readers?
Martin Forssman: Thank YOU for the interview, and thanks again for the review! I hope people reading this take the time to check out our websites and sign the guestbook. If you like what you hear even just a little bit you really need to come and check us out live if you get the chance, because on stage is where we are at our best!