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Interview conducted January 27 2018
Interview published February 15 2018

"Not one single Ammunition song could ever fit an Eclipse album."

Norwegian/Swedish melodic hard rockers Ammunition put out their second and also eponymous album on January 26th and already on the following day Metal Covenant got to sit down with accomplished songwriter and guitar player Erik Mårtensson to listen to what he had to say about the band's latest stuff.

Tobbe: Åge Sten Nilsen's Ammunition is today simply Ammunition and who's idea was it to get rid of that initial epithet and why did it happen?

Erik: The reason is that Åge doesn't want a solo career; he wants a rock band. Åge Sten is big in Norway, but outside of Norway he is more or less completely unknown, you know.

Tobbe: If you look at the songwriting. To what extent do you personally take part in writing the songs?

Erik: I write a lot of it. But so does Åge. I would say that we write about 50 % each. He writes more of the lyrics, since it's him singing. It's his words that are going to come forward, you know. He's got his sense of humor in the lyrics. It's ingenious, I like it, I think it's good. But it's not so stressed here in Ammunition in comparison to Wig Wam, which really was tongue-in-cheek, you know. Oftentimes here the subjects are on a more serious note. To me this is kind of liberating, because this is not AOR or melodic rock in that sense, but just rock music. And I love that, rock music, so it's liberating to write it, because with Eclipse there are kind of certain frames we will stick inside and we have really set up so narrow frames of what is Eclipse and what is not Eclipse.

And that's a good thing, in terms of definition, because I think a band should have a defined type of music. But with Ammunition I get to kind of play Guns N' Roses and pretend to be Slash, you know. And above all, I personally play almost all the guitar solos on the album, so I'm the solo guitarist instead of being the damn singer. The damn singer, you know. Bad idea. Maybe I should tell people who want to be a singer to not do that, because being a guitarist is so much more fun.

Tobbe: The album is self titled and that to me is very unusual on the second record. It's like it's something either for the first album or a later album where it would maybe mark a fresh start.

Erik: Yes, really lame actually and maybe you're right. We probably didn't even talk about it, so I guess that's why it has no title. In Eclipse I run a lot of the creativity and songwriting-wise I do the same in Ammunition of course, but nevertheless it's Åge who is the band leader in a sense. You can't run everything, you know. So besides the creative process I take a step back here.

Tobbe: What comes to your mind when you're going to write a song for Ammunition or for Åge's voice?

Erik: Well, we're making the songs together. We write everything together. I can come up with a riff just like that. It's not like I come to him with a finished song. With Eclipse it's more like "Here boys. I have written a song.".

Tobbe: Have you kind of like taken the good stuff from the first record and tried to implement it on the new one in some way?

Erik: I think we have let go of the rules even more and tried to do what we think sounds cool without really thinking about anything. I mean, on the first record we had just gotten to know each other. We didn't know who the other one was and he did his thing and I did my thing, but now we have made a thing where it's not Åge's band and it's not my band, but we have ended up somewhere in between and I think that is a whole lot more interesting.

The first one is very much classic rock, whereas now I think we have found our own ways and sound and we are kind of like trying to purify what Ammunition is. I think it's very important to find something that is unique in the project and not just do a thing great, because that's not enough, you know. There must be something personal in the record.

Tobbe: You're doing pretty much everything that surrounds the recordings, but if an outside producer/mixer was free of charge, or maybe would kind of follow your own rates in a sense, would you consider using that someone for the job then?

Erik: Absolutely. Definitely. It would be great fun. I don't know what would happen really, since a producer often is handed something and is the one who is kind of cutting the diamond. But our vision of what we are trying to reach is so clear and I'm not sure what difference it would make for Eclipse or Ammunition, you know. Since I produce records, and that is part of my profession, I have the ability to see the entirety; like what will happen in the end, you know. I'm not just the musician that goes in only to do my thing, but when I lay down the guitars I also wear a producer's hat.

Tobbe: Are you never ever worried about the different bands or projects coming out too similar? Like too much of the Eclipse style in the Ammunition music.

Erik: No, why should I worry about that, really? I write for Eclipse and I write for Ammunition, so it's not that strange, you know. It's like a painter, or whatever. Well, just like everyone else I have my style, and I think that's a good thing, isn't it? I would say that this is a compliment. And I wouldn't say that anything in Ammunition sounds like Eclipse, but I would say that it sounds maybe like Erik, since it's probably my part of it, you know. And in Ammunition I do stuff that we would never do with Eclipse and we travel paths that we couldn't even dream about in Eclipse. Not one single Ammunition song could ever fit an Eclipse album.

Tobbe: Is there a way for you to kind of rate your own songs between the bands? Like "The songs I made for Eclipse are better than the ones for, like, Ammunition or Nordic Union.".

Erik: I don't look at it that way. Think of me as a carpenter and I build a kitchen in this house and then in the next house and it's not like I'm thinking "This door should have been there.", but you work at one place at a time and you do your best possible. You can't do it better than doing the best possible. When I write for other people, I never deliberately save something that's great for later, but I do my absolute utmost every time in order to do great stuff, you know. The quality of the music varies of course, but I'm nevertheless doing my best.

But it's funny, Åge and I wrote a song for Ammunition, but it felt like Eclipse, so we ditched it because it didn't fit. We just put it away, but picked it up later for Eclipse, but it didn't feel entirely right there either, so now it's on the new W.E.T. album instead. [Earthrage, out March 23rd] I had forgotten about that song, but I kind of sifted through the archives and "What's this? Yes! This is it" This is perfect!" and in the end it became Calling Out Your Name.

Tobbe: Even if I think that the record was recorded quite some time ago, was there ever a question whether Wrecking Crew would be put on the album? [Last spring Ammunition took part in the Norwegian qualification to the Eurovision Song Contest with this song.]

Erik: The record was already done when that song was picked. We did the mix to it in the very last minute and it was sent to NRK [Norwegian broadcasting company] because someone at NRK had heard the demos at Åge's place and "You know, this should be on TV.". So it wasn't originally written for the contest, but it was on the album. It has a new mix and a different arrangement because we had to cut it down to 3 minutes.

Tobbe: Even though it went well for you guys in the qualification round, if you look back at it now, could you have picked another song, or was this the best choice in the end?

Erik: I have not a clue. They just thought the song was good, you know. The timing was bad too, because we were going to release Monumentum with Eclipse and this didn't fit in at all, but it was like "Next year they're not going to ask us and this is a great thing for Norway, so let's do it. Hard rock on TV. Go for it!".

Tobbe: Did this contest do anything for Ammunition, or are you at the same level as you were before, if you know what I mean?

Erik: The fees increased a lot, but on the other hand we couldn't play, because we were out with Eclipse all the time. So we almost didn't play any gigs. But we finished in second place and we were just a couple of thousand votes away from winning. That's nothing. We were thinking that as long as we don't finish last it's all right, so it was quite shocking and as we were sitting at the table it was like "No win, for hell's sake.", because in that case I would have had to go from the final show on the tour with Eclipse and straight to the finals in Kiev [Ukraine].

See also: review of the album Ammunition

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