About Me

Interview with Pain

Peter Tägtgren is one of those unavoidable names in the metal scene. He started playing drums at the age of 9 and later learned to play guitar, bass and keyboard. He’s the mastermind behind Hypocrisy and Pain, and even though these bands are his main focus, over the years, he has been involved in other metal projects, such as Bloodbath, The Abyss, Lock Up, Lindemann and War, only to name a few. Metal Imperium had a nice conversation with Peter, via zoom, a few days after the release of Pain’s 9th album “I am”. He is confident that  this is their best album so far, and I do have to agree with him. “I am” is Peter at his best and he’s ready and proud to proves it to us once again! 

M.I. - First off, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me! How are you?

I'm good! I'm good!  

M.I. - Okay and how confident are you with the new album? It's awesome by the way! 

You're never confident! You try to do the best you can and then it's up to people to like it or hate it. I never think “oh this is going to be a hit or whatever”, it doesn't work like that in my mind, it's more or less like “let's see if people like this!”. I'm happy and that's the most important thing! 

M.I. - When releasing a new album, do you feel as excited as you did when you first started off, do you still feel butterflies in your stomach?

Yeah, of course! I mean, the last thing you lose is the hope. I'm very confident in my production, in my music. I can't change anything, if people like it or not… that's not so important if you're happy yourself, you know? 

M.I. - Yeah, but before moving on, I need to ask you something… today I was listening to the album and the title of the first track just got stuck in my head “I just dropped by (to say goodbye)”… it's not a way of telling us you're not coming back as Pain, is it? 

No, no, no, no! It's more or less that I'm sick and tired of the situation, how people are scared, governments frighten you to make them do what they want, and it's basically that. If it's going to be this way, then bye-bye. In the long run, you have to check the lyrics, they should be there. It's mainly just being pissed at all these freaks that try to run the world. You saw how it was with the covid thing, “everybody has to take a shot!”, “for what?”, “so you don't get covid”, “but you get it anyhow”, “yeah, well now you can't transmit it”, “you can transmit it, you know?”, things like that and it’s just an example. This song has nothing to do with covid, it's just about how governments become insane when there’s a state of emergency and how far they can push people. So that was a bit the concept of the song.

M.I. - Okay! You came in second at the Eurovision which is awesome…


M.I. - Are you planning on doing something about it, because the song “Baby Lasagna” is definitely a rip off of “Party in my head”, right? 

Yeah, I mean, I don't care to be honest. Everybody knows, so no big deal! I'm happy that he brought some distorted guitars and some tempo in Eurovision like Lordi did a few years ago.

M.I. - I relate to your lyrics so much. “Coming home” is spectacular, it touches me deeply! 

Thank you! 

M.I. - And in “Party In My Head” you obviously said what we all felt during the lockdown. Do you think Pain’s success has got anything to do with the fact that people can relate to your music, because it's lyrics we can understand instead of abstract?

Yeah! With Hypocrisy I take it more to the dark side of the moon so to say, you know?! Sometimes some people say that I'm too direct, to the point, but that's how I think people can interpretate it. First of all, I have never seen myself as a singer and, second, as a lyric composer, but I have to learn, so I guess it gets a little bit better every time. There's still a lot to learn to write lyrics, but sometimes you keep it simple, and sometimes it's very hard to keep it simple, you roll yourself in some kind of spiral… sometimes simple words can be more effective than complicated words for the same thing.

M.I. - You write all the lyrics, right? It seems the real world and society is a good provider of lyrics because you've been doing this for eight albums. 

Yeah, Pain has always been about my own ego trip to become a better producer, so I had to create a band that I could produce in a more modern style than Hypocrisy. In the mid ‘90s, I felt an urge to not just stay with Hypocrisy, I wanted to move on writing different kinds of stuff and as a producer as well. When you record drums, bass, guitars, keyboards and vocals, that was it with the black metal stuff, they only put like pads on top of it or some kind of melody but I wanted to use computer more, like samplers and things like that, so that actually made me experiment in the studio with all these technology things and I think it helped me a lot. Right now, I'm working on a blues band. I don't take too many production jobs because I really don't have time, but my friend has a blues band and we're doing his album and I learned a lot from that as well. So everything you learn is good! 

M.I. - I think we, you and I, are more open-minded these days, because I have to admit that when I started listening to metal music in the early 90s, late 80s,  we couldn't say we listened to other genres!

Yeah, yeah! I know that was the 80s, 90s, but today in metal you hear a lot of influences from other things than metal and I think people understood that you can actually listen to other things. I think everybody listened to all kinds of stuff but nobody dared to say it!

M.I. - Yeah! So you are considered a music genius!

No, no! 

M.I. - You are! Believe me! Having people looking up to you puts extra pressure when you are composing and writing an album?

Pain has always been my ego trip and I just follow my heart when I write, but lately, the last year or couple of years, we get more in contact with our fans because we do a lot of posts and ask them questions and really get them involved… so, suddenly, I understand that my music is important for some people, it's like their oxygen. So, now, my ego trip is not only my ego trip, it's also therapy for other people. Now I start to realize it's not only my little side project anymore, but I still do what I do, I follow my heart and hopefully people can relate to that and it heals them somehow.

M.I. - Isn't it a kind of therapy for you as well?

Yeah, it is! I have ADHD since I was born, so for me it's a very good therapy! When I started playing drums, all my madness disappeared, you know? When I was a kid, I was a wild child, you wouldn't believe it! My mom was on her knees every week crying for me to stop doing what I was doing. At the end, she told my teacher to only call her when I did something good or don't call anymore! 

M.I. - Did the teacher call?

No, she never called again! But I got a new teacher when I went to the fourth grade and she was actually a drummer. She brought her drumset every time we had music in our school, she put it in her Volkswagen Polo every time and I started learning that. When I finally got my drums, I was sitting by myself in the garage, playing and, all of a sudden, I got all the energy out that I had as an ADHD kid. So music helped me and saved me from prison or from doing something stupid, you know?

M.I. - You are in a band with your son and he created awesome music for this album and you complemented it with the lyrics. How proud are you of this collaboration? Do you forget the father/son bond and work as bandmates or is it always in the back of your minds?

The father character is always there. Protect, protect, protect, protect! It never goes out for anybody who's a parent, but I think we see ourselves more as musician friends in that kind of way. Of course, I put down my foot sometimes and say “stop this”. He's the opposite of me, he's not so wild as a kid, he's calmer. He has so many great ideas for melodies and music! He has his own band, his own project but he's looking for a singer. His project is very unique, it’s a constellation of styles, I can't really say what it is, because it's so unique, but it's very good!

M.I. - How do you create music in Pain these days? The old fashioned way by jamming?

No, no, it all comes in here (points to the head)! If I have a melody in here, like “Party in my head” or whatever that comes in my mind first, then I go to the studio, I try to get it out of my head, put it on the keyboard, play it, record it and then I start adding guitars, bass, drums and things like that. Sometimes I can write a song in my head all the way, because after I started with the first melody or riff on guitar, I can kind of see in front of me how the song will end. It's a little bit different from song to song! Some songs are a little bit harder to get out, to finish, to make them as perfect as you want, and some songs it’s just “boom”… it's really hard to say why and sometimes you have something in the melody or guitar riff that you made, that makes you see the end of the song somehow. It's really hard to explain, but it's like you can feel how it's going to be!

M.I. - Do you use a lot of modern technology? 

Yeah, yeah, not AI, but in the studio I use my Pro Tools, because that's what I record on and it helps me a lot just to put the metronome on and then to put down the melodies and things, then when you create, you put on a drum machine with a drum beat, just a super simple thing, just to keep the beat on and so on. And then you add bass and blah blah blah, so, at the end, you finally get your song and now comes the hard part, as you got to put on real drums, got to do it again and you got to do it right! And then vocals… I don't want to sing the same way all the time, so I tried to explore especially on the new album, because a song like “Go with the flow” that's so naked, it took me a while to figure out how to sing on the verses, what should I do here? I'm a death metal singer and, suddenly, I have some mid 80s Depeche Mode kind of feeling. I'm a big Depeche Mode fan but to put myself in there, I feel very naked when this starts and I don't know how it's going to end until I find the right way to do it. 

M.I. - That's a good song, I like that one as well! 

Yeah, it's a song about trying not to lose my mind, you count to 10 and go with the flow.

M.I. - You mentioned artificial intelligence. Are you afraid of what might happen to music in the future because lazy people might use it as a tool?

People who don't know how to write music, they will use it as a tool. When I do hard work and get rewarded afterwards, I feel great, but if I cheat, then I don't feel so great. So, it's up to everyone to feel it in their heart if they are doing something extraordinary or something really good or if it's just copying from an AI brain, you know? That's up to people! I don't judge anybody but, for me, I want to have the feeling that I made it with my hands, my ears, my head, and this is what came out of it. It's like building a house instead of having a robot building the house for you. How can you be proud of it? It's just my opinion.

M.I. - That's a valid opinion, I agree with you! Of the 11 tracks in the album, “Don’t wake the dead”, “go with the flow”, “revolution” and “push the pusher” already have official videos. They’re all so interesting but I gotta say I particularly enjoy the one for “Go with the flow” featuring Peter Stormare, who is one of my favourite actors. 

I love him! He's a great guy and he's funny as hell.

M.I. - Did you get inspiration for the video from the film “Fear and loathing in Las Vegas”? 

Yeah! Initially I had a different idea for the script. Peter and I were supposed to sit in the back seat and people were going to go through the doors while we were sitting. That became too big of a problem because if you want to drive and stop, you need this green wall so you can add something on top of it and it wouldn’t work. So Andrey, the director, said “I have an idea! Let's take a little bit of “Pulp Fiction” in there and let's mix “Fear and Loathing” and “Taxi Driver”” and I still don't remember what the coffin thing was, but he simplified it and made a really cool video out of it. I owe him the time that he really spent on my idea and took it all the way.

M.I. - In the video, you assumed the role that was played by Johnny Depp and there are various images online comparing you to him…

Yeah, right, it could be worse!

M.I. - And you assuming Depp’s role means that you do agree with the physical resemblance between the two of you? Not now, but maybe a few years ago…

Yeah, maybe we did, but like I said, it could be worse! 

M.I. - The creative mind behind the videos is you as well? Do you come up with the script for all the videos? 

Well, the only one I really went all the way in on and I wrote the script and I co-directed was this video with me, Till and Peter, when we're up in space. I can't remember the song's name (editor: Lindemann – Frau & Mann)! On the last weekend before filming, Till kind of rewrote his part because he was supposed to be a woman and I guess he had a problem with that, so he wrote himself that part instead and we took it in. What's her name? My brain is stupid. She’s from Ukraine. (editor: Svetlana Loboda). Anyhow, in that one I was super involved, I was running around and watching the camera and saying “No, do this! Do that!” but generally I rely on directors coming up with good ideas. I'm a real pain in the ass when it comes to cutting and stuff though, I will never let that go if it's not the way I want it.

M.I. - I prefer the videos in which the band is in rather than the animated ones, as they seem to be computer generated, I don't know! 

No, actually it took two and a half months for two guys to draw these things and then they got some help from AI or something that just fit some stuff in there, otherwise it would have taken a half a year. They draw everything themselves, so it was a hell of a procedure. I know it was very clumpsy to go out and say that we had help from AI because then people go like “oh, I don't like this” but, the thing is, he actually did his drawings and we thought it was very interesting, se we asked him if he could get it a bit alive and he said it would take a long time but he could do it, so he needed the song, because he would need a half a year and then he got a friend to help him with this and then, at the end, they got it together with the AI… so, it's not just pressing a button!

M.I. - Okay! The album title is “I am” and the cover artwork includes your face in several different positions, showing different sides to your own self. 

I guess the song itself is really about cancer. I'm singing that I am the cancer cell in your body that will turn off your lights eventually. Unfortunately, we had a lot of cancer in our family. Sebastian's grandma just died a year ago from cancer, my mom had cancer but she beat it, my grandmother on my mother's side had cancer but she didn't beat it, unfortunately. Today everybody knows someone that had cancer or survived cancer or died, you know? It's getting crazy. I think we get really poisoned by what we eat and what we do, you know? 

M.I. - Yeah, yeah, and the air we breathe!

Yeah, but back to the album title… Anna, my manager, she said “well, this represents you in the two years of making the album, so this is what you are, so call it I am” and I thought it was a good idea. 

M.I. - You have already a few shows lined up for 20205 and we're still in the first semester of this year, so how busy will you be from now on? 

During the summer we have a bunch of festivals, unfortunately, nothing in Spain or even close, maybe next year, I don't know!  

M.I. - You came here last year!

Yeah, yeah, but that was on tour. I'm talking about festivals now. We are gonna do a Scandinavian
tour in October and then we go up with Halo Effect in January on an European tour. I don't remember where we're going but we'll go wherever we didn't go I think. We need to go out because we have a new album, the last tour was really about waking people up and say “Hey, we're back!”.

M.I. - Yeah, so I hope you come back to Portugal again!

Oh Portugal is great! I said Spain, sorry I meant Portugal! Sorry! 

M.I. - No, that’s okay really! It's close to Spain!

Yeah, it would be the same if you called me Norwegian or Danish! With Hypocrisy I was very surprised when we came back two years ago to Portugal, it was packed and I didn't expect that, so thank you!

M.I. - I remember the first time I saw Hypocrisy live in Portugal was in Porto in 1996! 

Oh I remember that! It was a long time ago! 

M.I. - You played with Sentenced, Tiamat, Samael… it was brutal!

It was great! I think one of the first festivals we did was in Portugal with Cradle Of Filth, Grave, Gorefest, maybe it was in 93 or 94, I think.

M.I. - I didn't go to that one sadly. Talking about age… age is just a number but Pain's members are a bit younger than yourself. Do you feel as energetic as they are?

I don't think they can keep up with me, to be honest! I feel like I have more energy on stage now than I did 10 or 20 years ago. I go crazier on stage nowadays than I ever did.

M.I. - But did you make a lifestyle change or something? 

Actually, yeah, I slowed down a lot on the drinking. I choose my fights so to say, because I get hung over for two days and I can't do anything. That's age!! You choose your battles. I love wine, I have a couple of glasses of wine before I go to bed on tour, because sometimes on the bus it's impossible to sleep. Sometimes I just take a couple of glasses and then I go to sleep and I feel fresh next morning. Sometimes I just fall asleep because I gave everything for 100 minutes on stage, then I don't need anything, I just fall asleep. 

M.I. - And what's the recipe for not having your neck aching because of the head banging? I can't take it anymore!

I was thinking that soon I am gonna have to give it up, unfortunately, just like Tom Araya, who had a problem a long time ago and he was not even allowed to headbang anymore, but so far… knock on wood… nothing, let's see how far it goes. There's other things that I can do! I can run around like a freak on stage instead of headbanging but I'll figure it out the day the problem comes. 

M.I. - You'll be turning 54 in a few day days. Is there anything left for you to achieve as a musician?

Yeah, of course! I want to get better all the time, to write better songs, produce better, you know? I'm not even halfway of what I want to do, so that's also something that gives me the courage to keep on going! I want to do better, I want to do better songs, I want to play in front of more people, get more people into my music and I want to perform better. So I’m just like a sports person. They want to push themselves to the maximum, but in music you can't really rush things, it has to bubble in your head and then it comes out by itself.

M.I. - So you don't see yourself stop stopping soon!

No! I mean, of course, I could stop as a professional and just sit and write music and do demos for myself, that's no problem. The most important for me is to create, it's like planting a seed and see how it grows and becomes a tree. It's a bit like that! That's the fascinating thing and, of course, it's a boost if people like it. 

M.I. - You are quite active on social media. Have you ever faced any online bullying or negative comments? Do they affect you?

Of course! The more famous you get, the more hate you get, I don't know why. Maybe people are jealous or they can't stand me or my voice. I don't care really, to be honest, because I'm not really writing for that person, I'm writing for myself and my fans, so I don't care. You can't like everything and everybody!

M.I. - Our time’s about to end! You said you want to come back to Portugal, do you have any idea when that might happen?

No, not yet, because we're working on an American tour right now and it's going to happen in November or next year. So if something doesn't happen in November, maybe it's a good time to go out to the countries where we won't play with Halo Effect. That was my point, to fill out the gaps where they're not going, I think we need to go there ourselves.

M.I. - Well, Peter, it has been a pleasure talking to you once again. I wish you come back and play in Porto soon. Care to leave a message to your Portuguese fans?

Yeah, of course! Thank you very much for your support as we feel it is growing in Portugal, which we are happy about because it kinda started in Portugal with these festivals in 93, 94 to get a good fanbase, so to speak! And I think we didn't really take care of it because we were never headliners in the 90s and 2000. We were going with other bands and they usually never went down to Spain, Italy or Portugal and they never went up to Sweden, it was just central things, so we kind of blew it a little bit there. But, with Pain, it's a fresh start and I want to do the same thing again and build it up. We are working on funny cool stuff on stage, I'm not talking about Rammstein effects or anything like that but things you will see and think “okay, that's special”, that don't bore people for 100 minutes watching four guys just standing there. We try to do more than that!

M.I. - Peter, thank you so much for your time! I hope to talk to you soon and see Pain live here in Portugal again!

Yes, for sure! Thank you! Have a great one! Bye bye!

Listen to Pain, on Spotify

For Portuguese version, click here

Questions by Sónia Fonseca