Interview with guitarist and composer Stefan Weinerhall, Falconer (October 12th 2006)

“Northwind” marks the return of original vocalist Mathias Blad. And the result is a very good Falconer album, in my opinion their best effort since their debut album. We have put a few questions together for guitarist and main composer Stefan Weinerhall to learn a bit more…

“Northwind” is album number five from Falconer, and once more I think you’ve delivered a great album, but what kind of expectations do you have for this album?
Stefan -
My expectations are low I would say, I don’t dream about a breakthrough. I expect most old fans will return and understand that the music is good. The album will sell between 12 000 – 18 000 copies and we will get slightly more interesting live gig offers. What I hope is that some fans will let go of the holiness of the first album and think this one is actually better, but that’s just a hope not an expectation.

What do you consider to be biggest different between “Northwind” and “Grime vs. Grandeur”? I think you have gone more back to basics on this one, mostly due to the return of Mathias. Kept things a bit more simple…
Stefan -
Well Mathias is back due to the musical return. Those are the only differences I think. This one lies so much closer to my heart since it’s the music I do naturally and always have. Honestly, this is the style I am great at writing, other styles have better suited writers. Sounded a bit cocky right?

Speaking of the return of Mathis Blad, why did you part ways in the first place, and why the return now?
Stefan - In 2002 we had a lot of offers for tours and live gigs and it was irritating that we often had to decline those offers since one of us couldn’t do it. We wanted to forge while the iron was hot so to speak. We got a new singer who could play live. Later on after 2 albums I felt that I didn’t want to adapt my writing to fit a vocalist with the result that I made music that was forced and far from what I do natural and best. Kristoffer was a great metal singer but not of the kind of style that I wanted to write. As I started writing for the new album I instantly got Mathias voice in my head and knew that he would do this material like no other. So I checked with the other guys what they thought and they felt the same way. I knew before asking him about his schedule but to me the music product was priority 1. Live gigs were a bonus and not more than that. I will never do something that hurts the album quality.

If you should choose one song, which represents the essence of Falconer on the new album, which one would that be and why? I would pick “Perjury and Sanctity”, which I think captures your style in one song pretty good – fast and powerful guitars, a great chorus and cool harmonies.
Stefan -
I think you’re right; “Home of the Knave” comes to mind to. They both have all elements of our music weaved into the song. My favourites on the album though are: “Tower of the Queen” and “Catch the Shadows”.

You have always incorporated traditional Swedish folklore influences into your songs – most notable on “Himmel så Trind” on this album, which is a metal song with Swedish lyrics. But you have also recorded 4 additional songs in Swedish, which are available on the limited edition. How important is your Swedish roots?
Stefan -
Well, they have become more important. From the beginning of the band folk music has influenced my song writing by it self for some reason. Honestly I don’t like to waste my own material on a bonus track so then we did a cover of a traditional folk song. It ended up to be one of the favourites by fans. After a while it felt natural to incorporate these songs on albums. I don’t think they differ that much musically from our own sound. I don’t listen to folk music my self but it has haunted my writing all since I played in Mithotyn.

The 4 bonus songs in Swedish are they original songs or rearranged Swedish folk song, and why are they only available as bonus songs – I like the outcome quite a lot? (Maybe it’s only the Scandinavians that’ll find them interesting…).
Stefan - The bonus songs are rearranged folk songs while “Himmel så Trind” is our product. I agree that I’d love to have all bonus songs on the “real” CD but then Metal Blade wouldn’t have got the bonuses they asked for as a first edition. I consider all songs to be the album. The first CD is just a part of the entire CD. I love the sound to of those songs. The biggest fans of the Swedish songs are the Germans and south Europeans I think although they don’t understand the lyrics.

Five albums, limited success – where is Falconer in 3 years? I mean you could end up having released 5 very strong albums that outside of power and progressive metal circles have gone almost unnoticed. Must be very frustrating to get outstanding reviews and nothing seems to happen for the band… I know record labels around the globe do their best to push the band…
Stefan -
What can I say. You don’t get bigger if you don’t do promotion outside the metal media. A pop guy doesn’t buy Metal Hammer so one can’t expect him to get in contact with our music. He might come across a music video on the TV but then someone has to promote the album with a video that is good and that’s not for free either. Of course things would be easier if we toured but then again we have a dilemma. Tour with average albums. Or don’t tour with great albums………… the end I have to stand up for my songs and then I’d like them to be as good as possible.

The cooperation between you and Andy La Rocque has once more resulted in an excellent sound on the album; he seems to be capable to bring your ideas to life. Was there ever any doubt that he would be producing the album?
Stefan - No. He is our producer and that’s it.

What do you consider to be the biggest accomplishment for you and Falconer, not necessarily sales wise? What are the strengths and where can Falconer improve?
Stefan -
The biggest accomplishment for us must be Wacken 2002 and that we played in the USA in 2003. I think our strengths are: an original vocalist, an own style of metal where melody rules and not the attitude or hardness. Where can we improve…that depends on who you ask? A lot of fans say: play faster songs. Accessibility says: shorter and simpler songs. I say: less fast songs and more orchestrations and other kind of instruments. It’s hard to decide which leg to stand on.

Tell us a bit about the album art work. It seems very dark and gloomy, is it a reflection of the lyrics?
Stefan -
It’s just an expression of the title track. I had no idea this time of how the cover should look like so I sent the title track to the cove artist. What he managed besides describing that track is also to visually show that we’re back with both music style and vocalist since it reminds a bit of the first albums cover.

Sadly I missed you performance at Wacken 2002, must have been a career highlight for Falconer?
What kind of memories do you have from that event?
Stefan -
It was hard to understand that all those people in the crowd wanted to see us play. A big part of playing there was to be able to meet all people in the business and bands.

Speaking of live events, do you have any touring plans for 2006 and beyond?
Stefan -
No, we’ll see what will be offered.

I was wondering – could you name an album, person or event that has had a huge influence on your life - and why?
Stefan -
My music life: Jethro Tull. My private life: My wife.

Which album(s) have put a big smile on you face and has made you bang your head in 2006?
Stefan - Hmmmmmmmmmmmm heard the new Manowar single the other day and that’s the album that even manages to come close to that reaction of the albums from this year and also the new Saracen album.

I thank you very much for participating in this interview and sharing this information and your thoughts with us - these last lines are entirely for you. Any final words you would like to round off with?
Stefan - Blümchen.

Interviewed by Kenn Jensen

Falconer - Northwind

Album available on Metal Blade Records.

For more info on Falconer - click on the album cover.