The Copenhagen-native hard rock band Volbeat is a group of musicians not to be trifled with. The band maintains a growing fanbase here in the States with their unrelenting riffs and hooks that stick in your head. At the Orion Music + More Festival this summer, they will play alongside Metallica. On that note, vocalist Michael Poulsen states, “When we go up there on stage, we show people that we appreciate them and we are thankful for their support. We bring 120 percent. Of course, we have a lot of different songs, a lot of different styles, hopefully, people can relate to that. You know, we’ve been waiting all day to get on stage, doing the same things all over, doing some interviews, eating, reading, watching television, listening to radio, but you know, the main thing, why we are there is to go up there and do a show. We definitely just go up there, be ourselves, [and] play our stuff for the audience to show that we appreciate them with very high energy and a big smile.”
Although infamous in their home country, the rock outfit is still working toward success to match that in the U.S. “It’s hard to say, you know, when you play a festival with 80,000 people, and you go to arenas in Europe where you play for 15,000 people, and you can go to the U.S. and play for 3,000 people because we are not that huge in the U.S. yet,” Poulsen says. “It’s still really, really great. As long as the people, the audience, the fans love what we’re doing and they’re having a good time and when they go off from the show, on the way home and they feel like they got something for their money—they feel like they got something special and they feel that they belong together in a family with the band—then we accomplished everything.
“We are in the process right now where we have a lot of new material—we just need to put all the pieces together,” the singer declares. “I think there’s around maybe seven songs right now that we can actually play. It’s not like with lyrics, but the melodies are there and maybe just some gibberish from my mouth. We have a lot of material right now. I believe that we will be able to get into the studio late this year, so there will be an early release next year.”
The Live From Beyond Hell/Above Heaven DVD was the group’s last release in 2011. After listening to Volbeat just once, their sound becomes easily recognizable and when asked about the future of their sound, the singer says, “Of course, there will be new doors to open because for every record we do, there will always be things that we haven’t done before. Of course, you know, a lot of the material will be typical Volbeat as people know us and there will be songs where we will try to do something else because that’s what we always do. We are also working on having some guests on the record which I cannot say too much about. It’s always very interesting to have guests on the record, it’s a good way of getting out in the studio and doing something that inspires you.”
This band has a wide variety of influences that range from Johnny Cash to Metallica but, as Poulsen claims, “These days I listen to everything—it can be country, punk, gospel, rhythm and blues, whatever. It’s all about if it touches you, it really doesn’t matter what it is as long as it does something to you. If it gives you the goosebumps or somehow gives you the meaning of something, you know, then it really doesn’t matter what it is.” When asked about a single or record that solidified his musical dreams as the only career path, the Volbeat frontman mentioned, “Yeah, you know, I think the first Black Sabbath album, you know, when I heard that—it was like when I heard that guitar from that—it was like there was something really tempting about his guitar sound that I just couldn’t get rid of. It was like, I want this, I need this, I got to do this.”
Soon after being inspired by the guitars of Black Sabbath, Poulsen was determined to have his own. “So, I knew it would take me a long time to save up that kind of money, so I have to be very honest to admit that I stole my first guitar. It is not really something that I’m proud of, I’m just being honest here. The reason why I’m telling you is that I felt so bad about how I stole this that I returned it one week later. It actually ended up that my parents bought me a guitar for a birthday present so, uh, but they never knew that I stole the guitar. I would definitely like to think that if they knew that I gave it back, they would be very proud of me,” admitted the Volbeat vocalist. Unfortunately, due to the public nature of this interview, everyone will now know about the stolen guitar incident. In response to that, he said, “Yeah, so all the youngsters out there, don’t steal your guitar, you know, earn it somehow.”
When questioned about the most memorable live experience for Volbeat, Poulsen reminisces, “I am never really nervous being on stage because I know what I’m doing, but the last time I actually remember being nervous was when we played Madison Square Garden with Metallica.” Being a big fan of boxing as well as being a supporter of the musicians who had played the venue in the past, the artist said, “You know, Elvis has been there, Johnny Cash has been there, and you know in five minutes I’m going up there, on stage, touring with Metallica. Suddenly, it just came to my mind, wow, this is really, this is huge, you know.”
“They played all of our other songs because they thought ‘A Warrior’s Call’ was too tough for the radio, but our American team, they said this is a song for American radio and we said, ‘What?!’ We said, ‘Well, if you think so, do something with it,’ and before we knew it went straight to number one on the Billboard charts,” says the artist. When asked about the story behind a hit like this, the singer told the story of Mikkel Kessler, a popular Danish boxer, and how the two became acquaintances. “He’s the biggest sportsman in Denmark and when we heard that he was coming to one of our shows, we invited him backstage just to have a talk and say hello. We were showing our respect for his fights and he was a Volbeat fan, you know. We just started talking and we said, ‘You need a song to walk into the ring with.’ He was laughing and he said, ‘Well, write me one’ and I said, ‘I will.’”
As advice to up-and-coming musicians, Poulsen suggests, “Um, there’s a program on Google you just have to download and then you go from there.” In honesty, the performer did say, “You definitely have to believe in what you are doing. Do not ever, ever change for the success, because you know it’s really not about that. The success will come and it will be a bonus if you work hard and are very dedicated—if you’re there at the right time.” Along their journey to success, Volbeat did have to resort to desperate measures, like selling their furniture for studio time. They even went to such an extreme in order to hang tour posters, as Poulsen recounts, “I remember we ran out of glue to put up the posters and we went home and the only thing we had was jam. So, we put the posters up with jam and it was freezing winter. It’s all about being in love with what you are doing, believing in it, and not changing it.”
Michael Poulsen’s message to all artists remains consistent, advising bands to stay true to themselves in the ever-changing industry that music has become. When he was asked about how the jam turned out because it was a seemingly handy trick in a dire situation, he replies with, “Yeah, it worked until the next day and then we had to start all over. We actually have a song on Beyond Hell/Above Heaven called ‘Thanks.’ It’s a song to the fans where we actually are singing that we put up posters with jam. So, people can actually read that lyric.”
Volbeat will be at The Paramount in Huntington, NY, on June 22, Northern Lights in NYC on June 23, and the Orion Music + More Festival in Asbury Park on June 24. For more information, go to volbeat.dk.