The Quill Interview with Christian Carlsson: Back at the Beginning for the First Time

They called the album Full Circle, but really, long-running Swedish rockers The Quill are charging boldly into new ground. Their first outing in half a decade and first for Metalville Records (Riotgod, Astral Doors), Full Circle also marks the debut of talented vocalist Magz Arnar (he of the pierced septum), who came aboard to replace the departed Magnus Ekwall. Since the release of In Triumph in 2006, drummer and founding member Jolle Atlagic had also joined Hanoi Rocks, so all around, The Quill coming back is something they’ve never had to do before.

You could call it “starting over,” and I don’t think you’d be wrong — that certainly seems to be what the band had in mind with the title Full Circle — but The Quill, apart from the lineup changes, also aren’t the same people they used to be. Family men with jobs and concerns outside the band, members can’t just get together and jam whenever they feel like it. They’ve had to streamline their songwriting process, tighten everything up to get the most out of what time they have. The result is that, as well structured as past efforts from the band have been, Full Circle might be the most of all in their six-album discography.

And while some of the “let’s jam this out” spontaneity of their earlier records has gone, the crispness of presentation and quality of songwriting on Full Circle are impossible to ignore. As such, with the chance to have a back and forth with guitarist/founder Christian Carlsson via email, it wasn’t so much the rebirth I wanted to learn about, but the forging ahead. It’s short compared to some of the interviews that get posted around here, but Carlsson was both accommodating and forthcoming in the interview about everything The Quill — which is rounded out by bassist Robert Triches — have been through since the days of In Triumph.

As always, the complete Q&A is after the jump. Please enjoy.

We’ll do the obvious question first. What happened with Magnus leaving? Was there ever the thought of ending the band at that point?

Well, after promoting and touring for In Triumph we knew that SPV would not be interested in releasing another album with us. We wrote new stuff, demoing, tried to find another label but it was really hard. We struggled and Magnus was the one who lost faith in everything regarding the band. Then all of a sudden we got an amazing opportunity to do a big tour as support for a very known band. We were all very excited again, everyone except Magnus. He refused to do the tour and we couldn’t do anything about it. There was no other way than to split with him. Then Jolle got the opportunity to join Hanoi Rocks and he stayed there for a year. Meanwhile Rob and myself were pretty disoriented, just hoping and trying to figure out how, or if, we could bring the band together with another singer.

Tell me about bringing in Magz. Was there a search for a new singer, or did you find him some other way? How far into the writing for Full Circle did he come aboard?

We scanned the internet, particularly MySpace, trying to find the right guy. We found a couple that were interesting, but Magz was our number one choice. We contacted him and he turned us down! We found another guy who we wrote stuff with and did a three-track demo which didn’t get us anywhere. We contacted Magz again and now he was up for it. Then things worked pretty fast. We already had a bunch of songs written, we continued writing with Magz and started to record the album in Grand Studios in Gävle, Sweden where he is a co-owner. The first tracks we finished we sent out to suitable labels and now we had offers! Metalville felt like the right one. Relieved and thrilled we continued recording and finished the album.

Other than lineup shifts, how do you think The Quill has changed in the years since the self-titled? How have you grown as a band, and you specifically as a player? Has your approach to songwriting changed at all over the years?

When we started out we where a lot younger (obviously), and didn’t have family, etc. We could spend endless hours in the rehearsal room, jamming, writing stuff. The first albums shows that I guess, More jams, longer songs and the ‘70s-vibe more present. Nowadays with only Jolle and myself living in the same city (Mönsterås), we don’t have that opportunity. So the songwriting is different. Actually with the new album some songs had never been rehearsed with the whole band before recording them. We actually played them for the first time all four of us when we prepared for our first shows in May.

A lot of the songs on Full Circle have very basic structures, are very straightforward. Was that something intentional you wanted to do in writing – strip things down to the essential parts?

I guess it has to do with that we don’t write song at rehearsals with the whole band as much as we used to. We haven’t had the time to fool around with the songs as much as previously. But to me, I found that in favor for the songs.

The band’s sound has so much in common with classic rock – the grooves, the shuffle, etc. – but is still very modern. Are you conscious at all of not falling into the “retro” trap? Sweden seems to have no shortage of retro rockers?

Yes, you’re right. A lot of retro going on here. I think we did that on the first albums. Now we are more focused on the song. But I guess, the way that we play our instruments and what our influences are we still sound a bit retro.

Do you consider The Quill a stoner rock band now? Did you ever?

When we did our first album we weren’t ever aware of the term “stoner.” On the second and third albums, (Silver Haze and Voodoo Caravan) we were certainly influenced by stoner. But I think we draw influences from a lot of styles in rock.

How did you get hooked up with Metalville Records, and how has it been working with them?

Metalville was one the labels that we approached with the demo-outtakes of Full Circle. They seemed to us like the best choice for us, and they haven’t disappointed us yet. A small label but the right attitude.

What’s next for you guys? Will you tour Europe to support Full Circle?

Yes, we got a European two-three week tour booked with two other Metalville bands, Riotgod and Astral Doors. Then we are doing headlining shows in Sweden. We are also negotiating with booking agencies in North America. Hopefully we will cross the Atlantic and tour the USA for the first time with this album.

The Quill’s website

Metalville Records

[PLEASE NOTE: I don’t have a photo credit for the first picture here and found it in an image search. If you took that picture, please let me know so I can credit you properly. Thanks.]

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