Interview: Puppet Master of Priest says “We’re all very influenced by New Romantics”

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While the Scandinavian music scene is one frequently revered and heavily romanticized, – particularly amongst heavy-metal listeners; – one particular group you might not have heard of is the blossoming figurehead of macabre synth-pop, PRIEST. The group, since their incarnation, have consistently sought to experiment with a diverse array of visual and musical stylings. Their upcoming debut album ‘New Flesh’ is scheduled for release on November 17 2017 via Lovely Records. The album was produced by Alpha (ex-GHOST) and also features a performance from Airghoul (ex-GHOST) and is an album that will indubitably appeal to both contemporary metal and electronic listeners. It was an immense pleasure to have the opportunity to chat with one of their founding members, Puppet Master, regarding the release.

INTERVIEWER: Thank you for joining us here today at Metal Nexus. Would you care to introduce yourself?

PUPPET MASTER: Yeah. I call myself the Puppet Master and it’s nice to be here with you. It’s nice that you have an interest in what we do. We’re starting out here and this is our first outing in the public sphere so it’s really exciting.

INTERVIEWER: Normally I would jump right in and ask about what you’re doing musically but seeing as you’re a fairly new group it’s wise to concentrate on the project’s origins. How did the group form? 

PUPPPET MASTER: It started out in 2010-2011 in Berlin. That’s where the idea came about with this band. Berlin is like a melting pot with electronic music obviously and some fetish sub-groups. You can go to different places and see a lot of things where you normally can’t, – or at least not in Sweden, – of course in Stockholm and the bigger cities there’s places but not to the degree of Berlin. In Berlin you have a lot of techno-clubs and the energy going on there was really cool, I felt something. So when I came back to Sweden I started to form this band but some other stuff happened for a couple of years which meant that I couldn’t focus on the project entirely. When I had my focus back again it was time to gather a group. I was in contact with the singer for a while; – he’s really good and classical-schooled. He had a rock background too and played in different rock bands which was good for me also as I played a lot of rock and pop music. We needed a technician who had a lot of experience with underground-techno and that style we wanted to approach, – luckily we found a great guy who wanted to join. So there we had a constellation of a group, – a really fine dynamic I must say. We complete each other very nicely.

INTERVIEWER: So that’s the current line-up of the group? 

PUPPET MASTER: The line-up, yeah, it’s two guys on synthesizers, computers, electronic percussion and we have one singer. We’re a three-piece right now but we had a lot of help during the recording of this album from Alpha, of course, who produced the first Ghost album. He actually produced the second Ghost album but the record label turned it down as the sound quality wasn’t too good so they had to re-record the exact same album one more time in Nashville. He helped a lot on this album and he also plays guitar on two tracks.

INTERVIEWER: Let’s begin by concentrating a little bit on the upcoming debut album New Flesh. Tell us a little bit about what we can expect to hear.

PUPPET MASTER: Since we’re all fond of the early New Romantics style in Britain that stuff really influenced us, – and of course the German prog like Kraftwerk and a bit of modern music coming out from Germany as well. We tried to start a little from there but take it to the Nineties as well and we just tried to blend the stuff we grew up with. We’re not into showing an image of the future on the first album; instead we’re just trying to show where we come from, what we love and what we have always loved since we were kids. That would be what you can expect from it but of course with some kind of modern glossiness to it due to the new technology. We use a lot of old synthesizers though too but the new mixing technology with computers just always makes it feel more modern. 

INTERVIEWER: So contemporary electronica was also an influence on the group?

PUPPET MASTER: Yeah, contemporary as well, – but mostly in terms of the gear and stuff like that. Of course we’re going further up the road and we’re going to be more experimental and contemporary in our sound but this one was like a “retro” record so people can expect a retro record with some new touches to it, I would say. 

INTERVIEWER: How would you describe the songwriting process during the recording of the album?

PUPPET MASTER: It was different. Most of the time it’s one person that writes the demos and then we take it to the studio, finish the songs and then maybe incorporate some small changes in the arrangement. Some of the songs were collaborations between the main songwriter and Alpha, – on two songs there was like a 50/50 songwriting process there. One time Alpha had like two hours to record the material in one timeline so the main songwriter and I just took it to the studio, cut it up and asked him, “What do you think of this?”. We then added lyrics and it was all very different but there are a lot of songs already written and a lot of demos already done but we always try to find new stuff if we wish to do new songs. There’s always songs to use, – mostly they’re ready-made demos, you could say that. A lot of stuff happens in the studio and it’s really fun. We’re very open to new ideas and stuff like that.

INTERVIEWER: Upon listening to it I was thoroughly impressed as to how you managed to carve your own unique identity at such an early period in your career. Tell us a little bit about how fashion and aesthetics influenced the group. 

PUPPET MASTER: I have one big influence that really explains the visual image. When I was too young I saw the David Lynch movie ‘Eraserhead’ and I really didn’t come back from that. It was a big influence on me. Today it probably wouldn’t raise an eyebrow but back then it influenced me heavily in a very surreal way. All of my drawings and stuff started to look like that movie and I think part of the image ie. using black suits with monster heads is a direct influence from Eraserhead. Fashion I’m really interested in and I would love to work in future projects with people in the fashion industry or business to make costumes. Right now we’re on a tight budget so we take what we have but in the future we’d like to explore that path thoroughly. I’m looking forward to having the opportunity to do that, – I hope we can. 

INTERVIEWER: What are the predominant lyrical themes of the new album?

PUPPET MASTER: Well we see this as a, – do you say trampoline in English? 

INTERVIEWER: Yes, we do! 

PUPPET MASTER: We see this as a trampoline jump of different human emotions and movements into the lyrics. We try to put a human side into it but it’s obviously going to become much more artificial in the future and take up more Sci-Fi themes that one day will become reality. We’re going to prepare for reality but we have to start with the human emotions. It’s nice to find themes that are different song-by-song, I don’t like to have the same topic on every song, – if you have a love album that has ten love songs on it, it can be a really good record written that way but we like to explore different areas in the psyche of mankind. 

INTERVIEWER: Is there a sort of collective philosophy to the group?

PUPPET MASTER: Um, yeah, we believe in singularity and the type of stuff we think will be reality some day. Our religions, so to speak, is that we think the next step in human evolution is going to be the blending with machines and technology. We don’t think it’s bad, we think it’s good in fact.

INTERVIEWER: So it’s not a dystopia per se but rather an inevitability. 

PUPPET MASTER: Yeah, it’s not a dystopia like you see in Terminator movies where they’re going to kill the humans. We think it’s actually the next step that the humans are going to be super-intelligent creatures and are going to wonder the Earth in the future. We think it’s the next step and we want to open people’s eyes to erase the negative view so they’re not afraid of it. 

INTERVIEWER: One particular track that really stood out to me as a stand-alone single was the almost autobiographical song titled ‘History in Black’, which if I’m not mistaken was released a month ago today. Tell us a little bit about the significance behind that song.

PUPPET MASTER: It’s about a dark past; you maybe made choices in your life which you thought were good at that moment but then while travelling on that path you start to realise it wasn’t what you expected. Maybe you’ve been worn down mentally on that journey so your energy levels are pretty low and you have to really struggle to get out of that situation to regain your energy and independence. It’s a song that’s written after an experience like that and I try to write it universally so everybody can maybe have a connection to that song. I hope it’s something people can listen to in difficult situations. That’s my view of it. 

INTERVIEWER: One interesting factor regarding the group’s imagery is the logo which seems very much rooted in heavy-metal culture. Would you say it’s a conscious decision on the group’s behalf to give a false sense of security regarding the “genre” of the group?

PUPPET MASTER: I mean, what are the greatest looking logos out there? It’s not synth-logos, do they even have logo types? Maybe Depeche Mode sometimes but rock logos look great. That’s the kind of merchandise you want to wear and you’re proud of wearing it like a Venom or Darkthrone logo. They’re the greatest looking logos, – that’s the reason. I love Eighties rock band logos, I think they look great so just for that reason we wanted a logo to look like that. I think it’s nice because you have the clash between synth bands and rock bands in the Eighties and we try to play a little with that to be honest. It’s a fun thing for a synth-band to have a rock logo and vice-versa. 

INTERVIEWER: The Eighties was the time in which those two genres did really intertwine in a sense. 

PUPPET MASTER: Exactly. There’s a lot of Eighties rock bands who use synthesizers like Van Halen and stuff like that. There was a clash but synths were everywhere and you heard those sounds in lots of stuff. I love that blend also seeing as some great tunes came out of it. It’s a little homage to that period, you can say.

INTERVIEWER: Are you guys planning to do any shows to coincide with the release of the album?

PUPPET MASTER: Yes, we’re going to play in Vienna on the 7th of December, then we have a show in Denmark actually on the 9th of December which we’ve only just made official. They just have to decide which supporting acts we’re gonna have and we’re going to make an event on Facebook with all the details. It’s going to be announced very soon. 

INTERVIEWER: Give us an idea of what a typical Priest live performance would entail. Would it incorporate the same level of theatrics as expressed in the music videos? 

PUPPET MASTER: We’re gonna go for simpler aesthetics at the beginning. We’re going to use lights and we’re going to have a certain mystique of course. We’re gonna use pretty simple stuff in the beginning but we’re going to rely on having a really energetic singer. He can really work the stage to say the least so we’re very excited to “release the beast”. It’s going to be very exciting. Those are the two shows that are going to be first but we’re going to have some kind of showcase here in Stockholm, – first we need a team that will book a real tour but what we have now is the stuff we did ourselves. We’re going to tour a lot more over the next few years and we may have a little larger European route. 

INTERVIEWER: And lastly, where do you see the group in, say, five or ten years? 

PUPPET MASTER: A believer of hubris. I think it’s a good force if you wanna go somewhere and if you wanna make it faster with great confidence. I think it’s a good factor to have; it fuels what you do in a way. So.. five years; hopefully bigger stages and lots of lasers that would work live and hopefully at least two more albums that we’re going to be proud of and others will like, – and of course we’ll have cooler costumes. We already have drawings of how they could look so I’m very excited to be able to put more texture and detail into it. I’m really excited, that’s where we’ll be in five years I hope! 

INTERVIEWER: It’s been an immense pleasure chatting with you. Is there anything else you’d like to add for our readers before we sign off? 

PUPPET MASTER: Be true to yourself and don’t take too much shit from anyone else. If you like doing something just do it a lot and become good at it! Never give up, those would be my final words. 

New Flesh’ is available for pre-order via iTunes, Spotify and the official Lovely Records website. Be sure to support the group via their official Facebook page and definitely check out the links below!

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