Interview | Erik Mårtensson of Eclipse
Swedish Rock Royalty
Ever since they started in 1999 Swedish band Eclipse slowly but steadily made a name for themselves and managed to position themselves at the top of the melodic metal league. The song writing of Erik Mårtensson had everything to do with that success. His melodic yet heavy, catchy tunes resulted in memorable albums with ‘Wired’ being the latest one. Time to contact the songwriter, producer, mixer, singer, guitarist and (together with guitarist Magnus Henriksson) founding member Erik Mårtensson for a relaxt talk.
October 8th will mark the release of Eclipse’s 8th studio album ‘Wired’. The successor to ‘Paradigm’. Did the success of ‘Paradigm’ put any extra pressure on you during the creating of the new album?
,,Not really, the only thing you can do when you write music is just create songs that you like yourself. You can never think of what others might like. So if we get excited when listening to the demos, while writing, probably someone else will like it as well. And you know, you can never control success in any way, so we just write music we love and keep our fingers crossed it will work out.’’
,,We just write music we love.”-Erik Mårtensson
I had the chance to already listen to the new album ‘Wired’ and what strikes me most is the high energy and positive vibes the songs have. Was that a conscious choice during the writing process?
,,Well we did not have something like a big plan to start with. After a while we started to see this pattern in songwriting; all the songs were very up-tempo. Instead of writing a depressive record, because of the pandemic and all, we wrote the album we wanted to hear when everything, in a post Covid world, opens up. When you can meet people and have parties and play live music again. So this became an up-tempo, fun album. Maybe we wrote the songs we needed to hear, I don’t know. When you’re depressed you need songs that maybe lift you up a bit.’’
Does that also reflect on the lyrics?
,,Well, not really. But we have one song ,,Saturday Night (Hallelujah)’’, which we released early in May. Last summer the Covid kind of went away for a while and we thought it’s probably gonna happen again so we really wanted to give that song to the people who listen to us.’’
After the release of ‘Paradigm’ long time member Magnus Ulfstedt has been replaced by drummer Philip Crusner’s brother Victor on bass. How did that line-up change affect the band, in terms of band chemistry?
,,I think that’s a reason why the new songs are so energetic and up-tempo. The whole vibe of the band has been so good since he came to the band. Having a band is a group dynamic and changing one person in a room can change the whole atmosphere. That is kind of what happened in Eclipse. It just gave us that injection of energy that we needed.’’
And that also reflects on this album.
,,Absolutely, it’s been real team work. Previously Magnus [Henriksson] and myself were responsible for the song writing. We made demos and gave them to the other guys saying ‘this is how it sounds, learn the songs and let’s start recording’, which is not unusual in a band. On this record everyone was really involved in both writing and discussing the songs. We had the time to do a few more songs than usual. So we could shape the album even better I think.”
Speaking about songwriting. You are one of the main songwriters [together with Magnus] but you are also involved with other projects like W.E.T. and Nordic Union. Is it difficult to decide which song is an Eclipse song or a song for another project?
,,When we write for Eclipse, that’s what we do. I don’t write everything at once. It does not work that way, at least that’s not how I do it. You know when it is time for a W.E.T. record and then I will have my focus on writing that record and nothing else. Of course it can happen that I write a song that sounds so Eclipse, then maybe I keep it.
But usually I just do one thing at the time. When it feels like Eclipse, and that’s a gut feeling, I’ll keep it. Eclipse is what lies closest to my heart of course. That’s the music I want to make. I do this for my own pleasure, not for anyone elses. That’s the reason why we’ve been doing this for more than 20 years already. We can pretty much do whatever we want.”
A Clear Vision
In addition to the songwriting, playing guitar and your lead vocals, you are also responsible for the entire recording, mixing and mastering process of the Eclipse albums. Isn’t it difficult to find the right balance in how something should sound, or does it mainly have advantages, because you know exactly how it should sound?
,,You know, from the first thought of a guitar riff, to the final product, it is in your hands. Of course it would be interesting to work with another producer, but we are really good at producing ourselves. We have a clear vision of what we want to do, so getting outsiders in wouldn’t make a big difference to be honest.
I take on the different roles as we go along. So it changes from songwriter, to producer, to musician. It’s not a problem at all. It all started in the early days when we had no budget, no record label. We could not pay for a studio or producer, so the only way was to do it all by ourselves. That’s how I learned the craft and now I work fulltime as a producer/mixer. When we arrange the guitars, for example, I know how to arrange them to make it sound good when I’m mixing it. I already know what is going to work in the mix, what’s pointless or what should being paid extra attention to.”
‘Paradigm’ and especially the single ,,Viva La Victoria’’ was commercially pretty successful. Do you think the album got the support and attention it deserved? Because it was released in 2019, just before the whole Covid thing exploded.
,,No it did not get the exposure it deserved, absolutely not, but at least we got to do a month of European tour and we did Scandinavia. At least we did something. Our friends in H.E.A.T. weren’t that lucky. They released their record and got to do two shows and that was it. I feel so sorry for them, because at least we had a chance to do some shows but they had nothing.”
Does that also give you an extra drive to make more things possible for this album and a tour to support it. As things slowly are starting to happen again, or is it just the release gig in Switzerland for now?
,,We certainly have more dates coming up. We have a Norwegian festival, some gigs in Sweden, also one in Germany and one in Finland. So hopefully things will develop into a full blown tour in the beginning of next year. But it is so hard, I think that’s the worst part of this. Usually you can make a record and make plans. You make a two year plan when you release a record. That’s how it goes, and now we can’t even make a two month plan, not even a two week plan, which is kind of frustrating. But it is what it is, we can’t do anything about it, but if things change for the better, as we hope, we will gig a lot next year.”
Just like the music your performances are also very energetic. How do you stay in shape and keep your voice in shape for a tour?
,,I do a lot of running and that is not just for staying in shape for the stage. I really like drinking a beer so you need to move a lot to stay fit, haha. When it is time for a tour or even a gig I sing a lot to get my vocal chords in shape. It is easy to sing one song or get through a whole gig, but when you are on tour and you have 18, 19, 20 days in a row, it is really wearing you down. Then it is impossible to sing 110% every night because you’re gone before you know it. The other guys can party a lot more than I can on a tour. I can have a few beers, but I can’t be drunk every night. The result would be that I wouldn’t have a voice left after a couple of days and that’s not rock and roll… and not fair towards the audience.”
If you have to pick one Eclipse song that really defines everything the band stands for. Which song would that be?
,,Well, I’d say ,,Viva La Victoria’’ because it contains a lot of what Eclipse is. We have the folk music influences, a lot of energy and a big catchy chorus and cool riffing. It’s got everything that we are. I think that is a good choice, but there are a lot of songs I could have chosen as well, like for example ,,The Downfall Of Eden’’ but for now I stick with ,,Viva La Victoria’’.”
In terms of future goals for the band, which goals do you still have?
,,Well, the goal is always to grow as a band, get a bigger audience, playing nicer venues. All of that and sell more records of course. That doesn’t mean that a gig in front of 50 people isn’t as good as a gig in front of 5000 people. As long as we love doing what we do and play music, feel creative and want to write new music we will continue doing this. I think that’s a goal enough for us. I did not start playing guitar or write songs because I wanted to make money. That was never the goal or reason I started. I started for the love of the music and I still feel the same.”
There must be a secret ingredient in the soil of Scandinavia because it is surely a very fertile breeding ground for this music genre. Do you know what it is?
,,I don’t have a right answer. I’ve been asked this question many times and I think we have a strong folk music tradition, for hundreds of years. You know we are typical Swedish and it’s very melodic and in the sixties a lot of bands were inspired by the British invasion. Ever since then there have always been a lot of bands. In Hard Rock, we have Europe, we have Treat, we have all these bands. We had Roxette, ABBA and all, everything inspires people to be just as good.
If the guys in the same town can make it big maybe we can do it as well. It kind of inspires. It’s hard to get inspired by an American band, in that sense, because it is so far away, you can’t really relate to it. It could be space men on Mars, as far as I’m concerned. You know even today there are new up and coming rock bands that listen to Eclipse and maybe get inspired by us. Just as we were inspired by earlier bands. I think that might be the reason why.”
,,I did not start playing guitar or write songs because I wanted to make money.”-Erik Mårtensson
I would like to thank you for your time. Do you maybe have some famous last words for our readers?
,,Listen to the new album, play it loud and we can’t wait to come on tour and play live again. It has been far too long.”
We will keep you to that promise and hopefully we will see you soon.
,,Yes absolutely, hopefully at the beginning of next year, that’s the grand plan. Thank you so much and have a great evening. See you.”
Header photo by Calle Thorén