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Soen- interview met Martin Lopez (drums)

Martin Lopez: “Well, we try to take topics that are important to talk about and not only lose ourselves in egocentric poetry. Also for this album, there was so much shit going on that the album is captained by that anger.
When Martin Lopez left progressive death metal giants Opeth, we had to wait and see what would come out of his further musical career. He dedicated himself to Soen and in the meantime they grew as progressive metal icons year by year and album after album. Two years after their Atlantic titled ‘Imperial’, they have completed their next musical chapter ‘Memorial’. Martin Lopez, founding member, took the time to chat with us from sunny Stockholm about ‘Memorial’.
Vera Matthijssens Ι 29 augustus 2023

A new record from Soen and I must say: it is amazing!
Thank you! Very nice to hear and I am sure you have heard all of our albums, because we were talking back and forth for many years now.

Yes indeed. How are you doing at the moment?
I am doing really great. I am just excited about this new chapter with Soen and the new album ‘Memorial’. The reactions of the people so far are really rewarding. At the same time we are doing the Summer festivals which is always fun. So only positive things to say at the moment.

After a long time of being in hibernation, you played quite a lot of festivals and concerts…
Yes, we have been playing a lot and the rule within the band is that as long as it is fun and we feel happy about our situation, we will keep playing. So far so good, because we have done a lot of shows, but everything still feels fresh and exciting.

When did you actually start writing this new album? Where can we situate that?
We actually started writing this album before ‘Imperial’ was released. It is writing, it is what we do, you know? It is therapy. It is better that than being at home and don’t know what to do and watch television. We just keep ourselves busy all the time, so it is the same now. ‘Memorial’ hasn’t come out yet and we are already writing for the next one.

And you always get response and feedback from the other musicians in the band I think?
Of course. I am writing more and more with Joel and the other guys also. They are very much involved in the songs after we come up with the first ideas and then they start adding their stuff to the songs. It works that way.

Does it mean you have physical contact? Do you still live pretty close to each other?
Yes we do. The only one living far away is Cody, the guitar player lives in Canada, so he is not as close (chuckles). Today we have internet and sending files back and forth. It is doable. He is doing a great job, he is a fantastic guitar player.

On this album you touch some serious topics. Nobody is blind for what is going on in the world. How did these news items in the world influence you this time?
I think there are many things that happened lately and this has awoken some anger in us, so the album has been fuelled by that. The war in Ukraine and the younger woman in Iran that has been beaten to death because of other way of life. That has been fuelling the lyrics. Well, we try to take topics that are important to talk about and not only lose ourselves in egocentric poetry. Also for this album, there was so much shit going on that the album is captained by that anger.

There is a very big contrast between the softer songs and the harsher ones this time…
Yes it is. I think especially the heavier stuff is heavier than ever on this album. We always try to keep the balance on an album, it is not only heavy music for an hour or soft ballads. We try to make it a little bit more adventurous and make you sometimes headbang and sometimes reflect about life.

Let us zoom in on some songs. In one of the songs, ‘Hollowed’ one can hear female vocals done by Elisa. Who is that?
It is an Italian singer. She is very well known in Italy. She sings one song with Muse, the band, also. When we wrote this song, we felt that the lyrics and the whole vibe needed something special to really reach the level of emotion that we wanted. So we asked her if she wanted to try it out and she did and we were very happy with the work she has done on that song.

‘Icon’ is another song. Who are the icons in your life?
It is going to sound weird, but Nelson Mandela is my idol. I try not to have musician icons or idols.

Are you very involved in social media?
No, I don’t have Facebook and stuff like that. I had it for a while, but then I kind of… I don’t know, it wasn’t for me… I know that you need to have it as a band, and the younger generations, they grew up with that and they have a way of using it, but for me it only means stress.

And it takes a lot of time…
Yes. I don’t want to talk negatively about it, it is just not for me.

‘Tragedian’ is another favourite song of mine. How did it come into being?
I think it was one of the first songs we wrote for the album. I came up with a melody and showed it to Joel and he liked it. He started playing with some vocals. The lyrics I wrote long after that. It is a nice song.

You started to play live very fast after the pandemic, already in 2021 I think…
Yes we did. We were the first band playing in South America during the ending of the pandemic and we really went out quite fast, because we really were desperate to do something.

In the title track you sing ‘bite your tongue and obey your leader’. What is the story behind this sarcastic rebellious vibe?
Well, it is a song about PTSD, what a life of a soldier turned out to be when he went to war and defending something that someone has told you to defend. That song has a lot of anger and at the same time it is a very sad song. We released a video that guides you through the lyrics and what is going on in the story of the lyrics. It is a deep kind of song.

Until now ‘Memorial’ and ‘Unbreakable’ are the singles. Are there plans for next singles and/or video clips?
We don’t know yet. It will be ‘Hollowed’, ‘Violence’ or ‘Sincere’, one of those, but we don’t know yet. (It is ‘Violence’ – note from Vera)

There is also some criticism against the leaders of the world today. Can you go deeper into that subject?
It is not about a certain leader, but it is just about how things work in the world, how unfair things can be. 1 % of the population pretty much owes everything and many´% of the population is starving. It is just unfair. We have always been – I don’t know if you can call it political – but without choosing sides, because even within the band there are different sides. Everybody has his own opinion, but it seems that we all agree what would be the final goal, which is a fair world where everyone gets to have a decent life.

Maybe you are happy that Sweden can join the NATO…
(sighs) I don’t know. I would prefer that we didn’t need to have military alliances with anyone. I just feel weird that we are in a time when you actually need to make military alliances, because there are certain bastards among us that still go to war in 2023. I really don’t know if it is positive or negative, I have no idea.

I think the US as well as Russia has blood on their hands. They only think about selling weapons…
Well, if you look at history, it pretty much says a lot. I would say, it takes two to tango. Definitely. Very sad.

Now a lot of festivals are scheduled…
Yes, we have played many already and many more to go. We are going away on two days from now. Festivals are always fun. You meet people you know, bands that you know from before and it is fun.

You recently played at Graspop. Pretty remarkable, because they are focused on other subgenres than progressive metal…
Yes we did. It was pretty fun. It was a huge festival and we got to see Pantera, which we all love.

More and more we are told on the computer how to react. What do you think about AI?
I don’t know. I thought the whole plan in Sweden was presented as something to use all that technology and all of that stuff, so that humans wouldn’t have to work and break their backs in factories and stuff… and that the machines would do all of that, but now I see that the AI is going to create songs and write lyrics with it and people still work at the factories (chuckles), so it is all up and down. It is insane. It is a little bit scary. I hope anyways that all of that somehow helps humanity or the planet, but there will always be people who are just going to use it for gaining power.

Why did you choose the title ‘Memorial’?
The idea is the celebration of our already dead planet or society. It can be seen as a celebration from outside and kind of keeping the topics of that. That was the main idea.

So as a matter of fact we are all giving up…
It feels like that sometimes….

Can we expect Soen in the Lowlands soon?
Yes, we will be playing in October in Amsterdam and in Sint-Niklaas in Belgium. Thank you very much for the nice interview and see you in Sint-Niklaas.

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