Volbeat’s Michael Poulsen Recalls Advice Lemmy Kilmister Gave Him
Volbeat's Michael Poulsen was the latest guest on Full Metal Jackie's weekend radio program. The guitarist / singer explained what keeps Volbeat going as he recalled advice handed down to him from Motorhead legend Lemmy Kilmister.
The group's latest record, Rewind, Replay, Rebound, features a slew of guests, including Exodus / Slayer guitarist Gary Holt as well as Clutch's Neil Fallon. Inviting guest artists to contribute to the songs helps Poulsen get a chance to step away from his material and hear it from a new perspective.
As evidenced by the "Cheapside Sloggers" video, there's an inherent sense of humor within Volbeat, and the frontman revealed they do their best to not be featured in their own music videos.
Read the full conversation below.
What do you feel the need to prove with your music even though you guys are well established?
Yeah, what do we have to prove? That's a good question. But if you look back at the Volbeat career, you know, we've been touring a lot, constantly being on the road, going back to the studio, being very busy, and you know, everything has been an amazing adventure. We still like to prove for ourselves that we can still do this. We still have the eager, inspiration, you know.
As Lemmy one time said to me when I was sitting down talking to him, "Remember, Michael, it has to be fun." And he's totally right, you know, so as long as we find this funny and worth being away from home, we're going to continue doing this. I believe we have a lot of records left, and we want to prove that we have a lot of material in us. There's a lot of material in the new record and still a lot of leftovers actually for the next album. But who knows what's gonna happen?
And, you know, I don't think we're going to start writing before, I don't know, in two years or something. But we're still very happy about the whole situation, and we're hoping to be going strong, still having a lot of fun.
You wrote nearly all of this record yourself. How does having that much creative responsibility affect you as a songwriter?
I don't know if it affects me. It is what I do, you know. I just love what I'm doing, and for me, it's more like the process is something that takes a lot of time. So, going through all the material takes a lot of time. And sometimes when you actually think you have all the material you need, you kinda go back and say no that's not it, and you start all over again. And you kinda leave the songs like parked cars, and maybe you picked them up a little bit later and see if the engine is still running.
For me, it's a feeling when I write music. It's an emotional trip. So, I feel good about the whole responsibility. But, you know, this lineup is great. We find a really good way of working together in the rehearsal room. And we're just really nice. It seems like everybody comes up with great ideas. I come with the songs as skeletons and some of the guys come with some ideas. But I feel good having that kind of responsibility. That's what I do.
The "Cheapside Sloggers" video is pretty funny. Why is having a lighthearted sense of fun such an important part of Volbeat?
Because life should be fun. For what we know, we're only here one time. I do believe in the spiritual world, but we should enjoy being here while we're here. Time runs fast. As you said, it's been two years since we spoke together.
It's a good, fun video, and the kids are doing an amazing job. And honestly, we are not really a fan of doing videos. We would rather be onstage doing our thing or being in the rehearsal room or in the studio.
You guys have some cool videos, though, but you're not in all of them. [laughs]
No, no, no, and every time we said to the record company or the management, can we do a video where we're not included? [laughs]
That seems like a common thing I hear from bands. What happened to the day of being exciting and dudes with long hair and the fan is blowing and there's chicks around —
There are certain bands for that.
Volbeat are not that?
As you can see we don't have that much hair though, so.
This album features both Gary Holt from Slayer and Neil Fallon from Clutch. How does having guest musicians enhance your music? You guys have done it before, obviously.
It makes the music more interesting because sometimes it can be tough to actually understand your own music, but when you come and when you have those guest musicians, that's where you have to chance to actually step out of your band and listen to what the other musicians is doing and you could kind of go, "Wow, is that what we sound like?"
It's always great fun to bring in those guest musicians or singers because it really gives the music a different color.
It just seems like you select bands and artists that you're fans of, not like - oh this is going to do well.
We rehearsed the songs and suddenly one of us was saying, "This needs something on top — a certain singer or guitar player or piano player or a saxophone player." When you play those songs like a hundred times in the rehearsal room, that's where you start figuring out what could be cool to put on top of it.
Everybody knows Gary Holt. He's such a nice guy and sweet person. I love Exodus and of course the work he's doing in Slayer. Besides that, he's just a cool personality and he loves what we're doing in Volbeat. When we were recording "Cheapside Sluggers," Rob [Caggiano, guitar] was already back in the U.S. and working on the new Volbeat. He was actually in Nashville to record the gospel choir.
We also have him on the record, so we were like, "Okay, let's not disturb him, let's find a different guy playing the solo just to do something different". We called up Gary Holt and he was very excited about it. I think it sounds great and it's a great combination of what we're doing to bring in Gary Holt. And when it comes to the song "Die to Live," I always had a wish of having piano and saxophone on one of our songs.
But again, you have to have the right song. I'm a huge fan of JD McPherson and I knew those guys can do that. They listened to the song, they liked what they heard, and they nailed it. I wanted that piano feeling of Jerry Lewis and the saxophone, like something taken out of a little Richard song. They totally nailed that.
On top of that, we have Neil Fallon from Clutch. We've been touring with those guys back in the days and they're such a great band. Great. Great personalities, as well. Neil was also a really huge fan of the JD McPherson band, so he was very excited about that. So, it turned out to be a really great song.
There's always been an underlying element of Americana in your music. What makes Americana so appealing to you?
I just think it's something to do with how it was growing up with a lot of old music from the '50s and all that. Music was mostly from America. It also has a lot of inspiration from old cowboy movies and soundtracks from those movies. Jon [Larsen] watched a lot of those movies too, you know, so, um, it's, I just think when it's something you really love and you're passionate about, it comes out very naturally. You know, that's just the way it works.
You guys are out on the Knotfest Roadshow all summer long. What do you miss most about being on tour when you're not on the road?
I think when you're up there onstage and you can see how much your music means to the audience and fans. I know how much music means to me so watching them going through what they're going through during the set, during the show, it's very emotional.
That's something you look back on and say — we mean something to other people and we do that through our music. I think that's the whole point of doing it, and of course, we just love what we're doing.
Do you love touring in general or do you —
When I'm home I love being home. [laughs] And honesty I don't think about touring when I'm home. But when I'm touring, then that's what I do. I love touring.
Thanks to Michael Poulsen for the interview. Grab your copy of Volbeat's 'Rewind, Replay, Rebound' here and follow Volbeat on Facebook. Find out where you can hear Full Metal Jackie’s radio show here.
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