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Left Hand Solution - Interview

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When talking about cult bands from the early 90s we can't forget the mighty Swedish female-fronted doom metal band Left Hand Solution. The band formed back in 1991, and until 2001 they released two albums, a couple of demos, EPs, singles and were featured on some important compilations. Especially their monumental album Fevered, released in 1996, is considered by many as one of the most intriguing releases in the female-fronted doom metal scene. After the release of Light Shines Black in 2001, the band went on a long time hiatus and unexpectedly returned in 2019 with a secretly recorded comeback album - Through The Mourning Woods. In April this year, the band returns once again with another masterpiece, Dead Of Winter (read the review HERE), released by their long-time partner Massproduktion. What made Left Hand Solution always special was always their combination of heavy riffs, dark melodies, and Mariana Frykman’s dark and beautiful voice. Being one of the early metal band with a female vocalist their influence has been largely overlooked, and their cult following has grown quite a lot lately. Read this interesting interview with bassist Peter Selin and follow the Swedish doom metal cult.

Interview with: Peter Selin
Conducted by: Tomaz
Edited by: Jerneja

Tomaz: It's great to see Left Hand Solution in such a magnificent form once again. You have a new album out, which I like a lot, and I wonder how you feel about it?
: It is great being back again! After Through The Mourning Woods was released, the original plan was to bury the band since we just got inactive for a long time, so that was supposed to be our way to say goodbye. Well, that didn’t work out since Jocke and Erik recorded some more ideas, and we decided to continue with Left Hand Solution since the old flame was lit once again.

Tomaz: Left Hand Solution vanished from the scene in 2001. What was the reason for such a long hiatus? And it was a huge surprise to see you returning in 2019 with the comeback album Through The Mourning Woods.
Peter: We released Light Shines Black in 2001, but it was actually recorded in 1998, so I felt the old classic ”why am I doing this”. We used to rehearse quite often, but when the release was postponed for years, it got harder to feel the same enthusiasm and the motivation to rehearse slowly vanished for some members, which of course led to bad live performances. At that point, I quit the band I’ve loved being a part of for ten years… The band continued for some time and actually wrote a new album that was never recorded properly. At that point, Erik Barthold and guitarist Janne Wiklund were playing together in another band that became pretty big here in Sweden, so Left Hand Solution got inactive.

Tomaz: How would you compare the new stuff of Left Hand Solution with the one that was recorded back in the 90s?
Peter: Well, this time we didn’t rehearse at all before we recorded. Back then we used to rehearse a lot and try different things with the songs to see what was working together. By the time we entered the studio, we were well prepared, but this time Jocke and Erik made the songs and me and Mariana showed up and did our thing. There were also pretty much keyboard in the songs (at least on Fevered) that we don’t have now.

Tomaz: Your comeback was quite a silent one. You didn't make any pomp about it, neither any kind of huge promotional campaign. Why did you choose to do it this way?
Peter: Since we had been inactive for such a long time, we didn’t know if anyone actually remembered us. Mats at our former label Massproduktion heard the songs, and he convinced us that he should help us release Through The Mourning Woods on digital platforms, so we decided to do this with a limited budget.

Tomaz: It's also interesting that the line-up is almost the same as it was back in the 90s. It rarely happens so. I'm interested in how it happened that all of you were for it once again?
Peter: Erik called me one day and asked me if I wanted to record bass on some songs he and Jocke had recorded. I accepted before he had finished talking. All former members got invited to be a part of the recording, but only Mariana and I could light the flame again! Left Hand Solution line up has changed over the years, and here is the complete story: On the first tape Dwell the line-up consisted of Jocke Mårdstam (guitar), Jörgen Fahlberg (bass and vocals), Liljan Liljekvist (drums). On the second tape Falling And Shadowdance: Jocke (guitars), Kicki Höijertz (vocals), Erik Barthold (drums), Peter Selin (bass). On the third tape The Wounds Of Bitterness, Fevered, Through The Mourning Woods and Dead Of Winter: Jocke (guitars), Mariana Frykman (Holmberg) (vocals), Erik (drums), Peter (bass). And on Light Shines Black: Janne Wiklund (guitars), Mariana (vocals), Erik (drums) and Peter (bass).

Tomaz: Ok, thank you for explaining it. Still, the current line-up is almost the same as it was most of the time, except for guitarists. I'm wondering what were you doing when Left Hand Solution was on hold. Were you involved in any other musical creativity?
Peter: Erik and Janne had joined the reunited band The Kristet Utseende that quickly grew because of their cult status. I played drums in a crust/grind band called Division Hate, rehearsed and did some shows but never recorded or released anything. Jocke had some project called Retro Jocke, and Mariana sang at weddings, funerals, parties and such. As for myself, I am interested in old American cars, motorcycles, and things like that, and Jocke is into mopeds. What also happened was life. Work, houses, kids and that part that weren’t there to distract us from the band in the 90s.

Tomaz: Dead Of Winter is promoted by your label and promotional company like a full-length album, as well as the previous one, but due to its length, I wonder if you consider it as such, or more like an EP or mini-album?
Peter: We all agree that both our latest releases are full-length albums, but they sure are short to be in this genre. If it was a thrash or punk album, I guess no one had ever thought about that. Remember that we haven’t done this for quite a while, so if a new Left Hand Solution album will ever be released, it should be longer.

Tomaz: Dead Of Winter was released by a smaller label Massproduktion. How are you satisfied with their work and I find it strange that you didn't release it through any of the bigger ones. Was there no interest, or what?
Peter: Mats at Massproduktion was the first one we told new songs had been recorded, and he was excited to hear what we had been doing for the last 20 years! Since we had working with him before and things felt as familiar as it always has with him, we didn’t bother to send the songs anywhere else. When Dead Of Winter was recorded, we called him once again, of course, and there we are. Things are doing fine, and we are ok with everything.

Tomaz: Was any of the bigger labels interested to release your new stuff? Were you even searching for one?
Peter: We didn’t even try to look for another deal. Massproduktion was interested in doing this and since we know and trust it, we didn’t need a bigger label. Especially since we had been gone for so long, we didn’t know if anyone remembered us.

Tomaz: I find the new songs as something the best Left Hand Solution ever did. Tell me how it was working on them since many things have changed regarding the 90s?
Peter: Wow! Thank you so much!! Both our latest releases are actually recorded at Erik's home, and I played bass sitting on his bed on Dead Of Winter. First time ever, I used 5-string bass too! Since there was no studio involved, we could record whenever we felt the time was right, or if we wanted to change something, it was easy to do. Roger Bergsten at Nevo studios is an old friend that mixed both albums and mastered Dead Of Winter, and we all love his work on them! We are really satisfied with the result, and I guess more music is to be recorded!

Tomaz: And still it sounds like that it was done in a big professional studio. I believe that you put a lot of effort into the production of the album.
Peter: Erik has pretty good knowledge of what comes to recording, and since he has the recording equipment at his home, he might just spend a little too much time with the songs. At least on the Through The Mourning Woods session. When it comes to the Dead Of Winter session, he felt it would be better our old friend Roger Bergsten at Nevo studios mixed and mastered the album. He also made the final mix on Through The Mourning Woods, and we are really satisfied with the work he did!

Tomaz: It's good to hear that more music is to be recorded. For a moment, I thought that there will be no more. So, tell me, when can we expect to hear more?
Peter: We don’t know since there are no finished songs yet. It would be great if we managed to record songs for a new album, but only time will tell.

Tomaz: I was really surprised by the great cover of Dolly Parton's "Jolene". It came out great, but it's an unusual artist for a metal band to cover. So, why choosing this song?
Peter: Thank you! We are also satisfied with how "Jolene" actually came out. It began with Erik visiting Mariana at her house, and while drinking wine one night, they came talking about that song and that they both love Dolly as an artist. Since Erik had brought his recording equipment, they pressed play on tape and there it all started.

Tomaz: It's a good one and congratulations on that. Since you like Dolly Parton, I guess that your influences must be quite varied. Tell me more about your influences and what kind of music you listen to the most?
Peter: I was more into punk, crust and grindcore back in the 90s, so I really never listened to that kind of music we were playing, well, except for the Swedish band Stillborn and of course Type O Negative which was a huge influence for all of us. Nowadays, I still listen to hard and fast music, but I’m not that conservative any more and think that good music is good music no matter the genre.

Tomaz: Those who like doom metal will never forget your monumental album Fevered from 1996. You were one of the first doom metal bands to have female vocals in full. Was this in any way an obstacle back then, and what do you think about Fevered today?
Peter: When Jörgen decided to leave Left Hand Solution in 1992, we tried some other guys, but Jocke had met Kicki Höijertz at a Nirvana concert sometime before and really wanted to give her a chance. When Kicki moved to Stockholm some years later, we started looking for someone who could replace her, tried some other girls that we knew almost had it, but when a 15 or 16-year-old Mariana showed up one rehearsal, we all got the chills when she started singing! She was exactly what we were looking for! I can’t remember that there were any obstacles at all having a female-fronted band back then. When Fevered was recorded, we were in the studio for like a month. I was pretty fed up with the songs at that time, and I used distortion on my bass back then, but I wasn’t allowed to use it on the recording, so I was kind of disappointed about that too. As time went by, I accepted it more and more though, and today, 25 years later, I think it’s ok. We all did the best we could at that time, and obviously, some people actually liked it and still do, and that’s good enough to me.

Tomaz: Left Hand Solution is one of the rare bands where, if I'm not mistaken, the vocalist doesn't write the lyrics. What's the reason for that? Maybe something about the inspirations for the lyrics?
Peter: I believe that Erik is the most talented in Left Hand Solution to find the right words and capture the mood in the lyrics. I know that I can not possibly do it better than him, and I am convinced that Mariana has the same thoughts about that.

Tomaz: The band was formed before the digital era in music. How do you look back at those times, and it was in any way difficult for you to face all the changes in the music industry?
Peter: That was a great time! We received some letters and sent demos and CDs to many countries. Tape trading was common, and I always sent the correct amount of flyers to obtain the maximum weight limit on my letters/parcels. At that time, we didn’t know better, and if you compare it with 2021, now you get an immediate response to something on, for example, YouTube. It’s a whole lot easier to spread the word now, but since there are so many bands out there trying to get attention on social media and the internet, it can be hard to make people remember that you are existing and releasing new music. You have to be tweeting, Instagramming, snapping etc often to really stay in peoples head and force them to remember you. How that has changed the business, I don’t know. I know that bands don’t make that much money on selling records nowadays so, touring and selling merch seems to be the deal. We have never had that problem since we didn’t sell that many records, and we didn’t play live that much either.

Tomaz: Are you thinking of doing some live shows when the pandemic is over? Or maybe a live stream which seems to be a thing of solution for many bands?
Peter: We have no plans to play live shows. Jocke does not want to play live at all, but if we get any interesting offers, we will, of course, talk about it because Jocke has no problem if we contract a session live guitarist. The main problem will be rehearsing since time is something that is rare these days, and also that Mariana lives in Nyköping (500 km away from us). We’ll see what happens whenever this pandemic ever ends.

Tomaz: Thank you for taking the time for this interview. I'm looking out to hear more about Left Hand Solution in the future. Is there anything that you would like to say to our readers at the end?
Peter: Thank you so much for doing this interview and for doing this for the scene! I also want to thank all our fans that are out there and hope that you like our new stuff. We have some ideas for new songs, but nothing is finished yet. All the best to you!!

Left Hand Solution line-up:
Mariana Frykman - vocals
Joakim Mårdstam - guitar
Peter Selin - bass
Erik Barthold - drums and backing vocals

Left Hand Solution discography:
- Dwell [Demo] (1992)
- Metal North [Split] (1993)
- Falling [Demo] (1993)
- Shadowdance [EP] (1994)
- The Wounds Of Bitterness [Demo] (1995)
- Fevered (1996)
- Missionary Man [Single] (1999)
- Light Shines Black (2001)
- Through The Mourning Woods (2019)
- First Day Of Winter [Single] (2020)
- Jolene [Single] (2021)
- Dead Of Winter (2021)

Left Hand Solution links: Facebook, Massproduktion, Bandcamp