Colossal Hardcore legends, Raised Fist, are about to return to Australia in support of their latest release, From the North, yet another brutally tight and crushingly accurate album. I caught up with front man Alexander ‘Alle’ Hagman to have a chat about music, passion and life.
You are about to hit Australia again in support of you latest album, From The North, released last year. But Raised Fist started out, all the way back in 1993. Before Google, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or any of the other commonplace tools that bands use to connect with their audience and each other. What was your scene like when you guys first started out and how accessible was underground music at the time?
Alexander ‘Alle’ Hagman It’s a big difference, I mean when, we started, it was the big labels and the big companies that owned MTV and the air time, so it was like they could decide what music everyone should consume in the mainstream channels. Today it’s quite different. The people, they go and they search for things and they look things up and they have a broader freedom of choice when it comes to music. Also, the underground scene could be alongside all these bands… they’ve got all these big websites and things like that but on the other hand Spotify and all these kind of channels and things like that, they can reach everyone so they are not limited by the people who own the distribution channels.
So uh, when we started it was like, you recorded the demo tape and then you went to the show and you sold the demo and that’s how it worked. So obviously, it took quite a long time before you could get your name out there. You had to work really hard playing live music. Interviews were also something that you had to work really really hard on. You really had to do a lot of work and that connected people. I mean what connects people today is the internet. When you play computer games, the internet is what connects kids today. So back then you really had to connect, you had to go to your friends, had to listen to their tapes, you had to copy their tapes, therefore naturally there was a scene and today it’s not the same, it’s not the same.
Raised fist have been circling the globe for years now but at one point you were just a band about to embark on your first tour. What was it like when you first got gigs outside Sweden? and how were Raised Fist received on new turf?
I mean it’s so long ago. I can’t quite hardly remember the exact feeling but I knew it was big. I mean we played for twenty-two years. We played for seven years before we went on our first tour. So actually we had a long experience before even touring, and that was mainly because we were young and, at that point, it was really hard getting visas, work permits and everything that is demanded, going on tour. We were young and didn’t have the social backup to be able to do that so we didn’t care about those things. When we finally went on tour it was a pretty sick feeling, that when you end up in another country people come and sing along with your songs. Today that feels more natural than before so I remember the biggest thing was like ‘fuck, I’m here in another country, this is not where I live, this is not my country’ and people come up and sing my lyrics. It a strange, strange thing.
In 2009 your album Veil of Ignorance hit the Swedish charts and was also nominated for a Grammy, How did you guys react when your music first started to chart or when you saw that kind of mainstream recognition?
It was Strange, It was Strange… We also had Sound of the Republic, the album before that, we had the album shots, like the commercial shots, it felt unreal! But it was never about any commercial success because ordinary people did not listen to this. But it was just so many people, so many Raised Fist fans that went and bought the album at the same time, that is what made it. We went to number one on a Swedish hardcore show with From the North. We just have a lot of fans, loyal fans above all. It’s not about numbers today when you sell records, it’s about how many records you sell on a weekly basis. So if there’s like five hundred copies sold within two days it’s like ‘Bang’ you go up in the charts. So Raised Fist fans, they just go in there and buy the shit on the day of release and it’s not a question about anything else.
And the Grammy thing, we thought it was good. We thought it was like they have some fucking clue about what’s happening; because we’ve been doing punk music with a great sense of musicianship for a very very long time. And, it’s not that easy to see and recognized so for us it was really like ‘OK, people behind Swedish Grammy, they have a sense of knowledge, they have something here’ but on the other hand the whole Grammy concept is just a fucking, you know, it’s just a party for the same people year after year after year. It’s just a fucking bullshit thing.
So we just went there and we just partied and we partied so hard that we actually got taken by the police at the actual Grammy party. So they took us but they had to release us because we didn’t do anything but they thought we were on drugs and everything because we were so wild! So, they take us out the back and took us to the kitchen of this big big Grammy party. They took us in the back and had a little interrogation. They looked in our eyes and we had to empty our pockets and everything. And they rang and they called and everything and they said if we had any registered crimes but we were clean, we told them ‘no, no, no, we are just fucking… we’re having a party, and we are from the North! This is how we fucking do it’ so they had to let us go. We were just lit up in the most natural way.
The environment and its degradation at the hands of humanity is a topic that fills more than a few pages of your albums lyrics. Do you think your audience understands the weight of that message?
I think that some people understand it, some people don’t. Some people don’t care… some people care.
When did you first start to feel that this is an issue that needs addressing?
I think it was when the first lyric about it came out. I don’t know when that was. I’ve always been… it’s always been a matter for me but I don’t know when I started writing about it. Pretty early I think. Pretty early. It has been a topic that we have felt has been very important but not everyone one in the band has the same… but I have it, so that’s just a personal opinion, I don’t speak for everyone in the band. We just have the same kind of way of looking at some kind of things, so when I write I know the whole band is behind me but you also have to realize that I’m the only one writing lyrics and they are personal so ‘the band agrees with the lyrics?’ I don’t want to say that. I don’t want to put it as a band thing. It’s my thing! This is what I write and I don’t have to check with the band just to get it out there, people have got to understand that this is mine.
So many of the punk and hardcore bands that I grew up with, and still listen to have such powerful messages to get across. How important is it in your opinion for a band to have an opinion? To speak and impart through the music?
I think it’s important to have a message in the music no matter what! You know what I mean? It could be love… it’s a strong message, that’s why love is such a huge issue in pop songs. It’s a strong feeling that everyone feels now and then in different ways. So I think you have to sing about things that people can relate to, and if they can’t relate to it you have to be able to relate to your own music. So if you have a strong message it’s probably a strong feeling when you put it out there, it’s a strong feeling when you perform, it’s a strong feeling when you record, because you can feel it and it’s not like plastic, it’s a real thing. So from that perspective, I think it’s really important to have a strong message. But, that’s more advice for other people like ‘have a strong message otherwise it will look and feel plastic when you create music and put it out there’. So I think it’s very important for that reason. But, from another perspective, it’s good if you have something, if you have a lot of listeners, if you a lot of followers, if you have a lot of fans, that you can have something important to say; use music as a foundation to make this world a better place. I think that it’s an obligation to do that, so that is good as well.
Raised Fist also contributed a track, alongside some other huge names, on Hardcore4syria, a compilation album put together to raise awareness for the humanitarian crisis. Firstly, can you tell us how that came about and the importance of the album?
It was easy. We got a question, “this is what we have here. Do you want to be on it?” and we usually never do anything like that but this was the time to do this kind of thing. We also made a tour around this whole area at this time period and now in retrospect, we see that it was an important thing to do. This was before the hell broke loose, as we know today.
Secondly, there are a number of Australian bands featured on there. How do you feel the Australian scene compares to the world stage when it comes to hardcore?
I can’t say. I don’t have that information. I don’t have that Intel about the Australian hardcore scene. Actually, I’m not so involved in the hardcore scene where I live, in Sweden here, so you know, you lose connection with these kinds of things in this globalization. It’s the kids who put their energy into having these things alive, and I have a house, I have a daughter, and I spend a lot of time with those so I’m not well informed on this matter to answer it.
I’ve seen you guys play twice in Sydney now. Both times you put on an incredibly explosive live set. How much fitness goes into keeping that level of intensity all the way through?
It’s a lot, I would say. But I mean, I train regularly every week, not specifically for Raised Fist or any other performances. I just maybe do kind of different exercises before going on tour. But it takes a lot, yeah. You are pretty broken down when you come home after a tour, so that’s one of the main reasons that this band can’t go on these fucking sixty days tours like other bands can. Look at In Flames for example. They can go three months in the states and play every day and have a beer and just relax, but on the other hand, they go up on stage and they move their head, and that’s about it. They are metal dudes, you know? They don’t have the same thing, they do their thing. I’m not saying it’s bad, I’m just saying it’s a difference between these metal dudes and Raised Fist. So we can do it… we should maybe up the fitness hours?
The albums seem, slowly to be more spaced apart. From the North, yet another solid album, was released last year, with about a six-year gap between that and Veil. Do you feel that life is pulling in other directions or is it just timing and getting everything right?
It’s just how life unfolds. I mean, four years is not a long time. I mean we released this album two years ago already so we haven’t even gotten to the point where we have finished the tour in Australia. We’re just going there, and we haven’t been in Canada yet and we’ve only made one European tour, we made one tour in Sweden where we live, that’s like three, four shows? So, we have a lot of things to do. When you have the whole world to cover and you don’t tour as frequently, as we do, and you don’t play these sixty-days-in-a-row tours, it takes quite a while. On the other hand, we are not in a rush either. We just take the day after the other and go from there.