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HEAVY LOAD is widely regarded as the band that started the whole Swedish Heavy Metal wave with their first album ''Full Speed at High Level'', which was released back in 1978. Heavy Load was founded by the two Wahlquist brothers Ragne (vocals, keyboard and guitar) and Styrbjörn (vocals and drums). In 1978, HEAVY LOAD released their first album titled “Full Speed at High Level” on the Heavy Sounds label. They then added Eddy Malm to the lineup, around the same time the Wahlquist brothers started a record label and a studio of their own, which they named Thunderload Studios. On their own label, HEAVY LOAD released their following studio albums; METAL CONQUEST EP in 1981, the DEATH OR GLORY LP in 1982 and the STRONGER THAN EVIL LP in 1983.  The band then took a break during 1984 before returning with the Monsters of the Night single in 1985. At the time the members committment to the band was decreasing and Heavy Load soon folded. Fast forward 33 years, Heavy Load announced their comeback in late 2017, Heavy Load will play shows in the summer of 2018 in Sweden, Germany and Greece. I have interviewed the Wahlquist brothers Ragne and Styrbjörn about the past, the present and the future. 

It's now official, Heavy Load has returned after a 33 year long absence. Welcome back!, So why now?

Styrbjörn: During a great many years, and until quite recently, we have done our best to keep away from music due to it being too emotional and passionate for us; it makes us not caring to engage in other matters. However, we had known all this time that that the interest for Heavy Load had increased steadily here in Sweden each year for about 20 year; it still is. Our first hint of that the same thing was going on in other countries came about with a telephone-call while I was working in the studio producing an album with another metal band.
On the other end of the line I heard a voice saying:
 
- My name is Greg Varsamis,  I’m calling from Greece. Have I come to Thunderload Studios?
- Yes, that’s right, I replied.
- Oh …. May I speak to either, Ragne or Styrbjörn Wahlquist, please?”
- Yes, I am Styrbjörn, I replied.
- Oh… I can’t believe I’m talking to you! he exclaimed.
- Well, I can’t believe I’m talking to you, I replied. And we had a great laugh.

Greg told me that he had been a huge Heavy Load fan for ages and that we were very popular in Greece. In fact he used to be called Greg “Heavy Load” Varsamis and had a magazine named Singing Swords after the Heavy Load song with the same name on Stronger than Evil. About ten years later he paid a visit to Stockholm and we hanged out at metal bars and so on. We became friends.

So, we have known for about two decades that there is a big interest for Heavy Load in Greece. And, the last two years we came to understand this on a deeper level since we have been approached by Chris Papadatos of No Remorse records in Athens, who is a great fan, about doing official re-releases. In addition, the enthusiastic drive of Bart Gabriel, of Gabriel Management, and his conviction that Heavy Load is very popular in various countries all over the world, has been an eye opener as well. And not the least, in 2016 we were invited to the Up the Hammers Festival, by the promoter Manolis Karazeris in order to be rewarded “The Medal of Honour”.

The festival was headlined by the Greek Heavy Load tribute band Heathens from the North (named after the Heavy Load song). When I saw and heard them playing our songs with such a great passion, I was immensely moved. It made my own passion for playing rise to unbearable levels. I was yearning to play so much that it became painful. This experience ignited the flame in me. Having come home to Sweden, I conveyed this sentiment to Ragne and the flame rose in him as well. And then it was impossible to stop. We have tried to stay away from music for a great many years due to its meaning too much for us, but we could not stay away any more. No one can escape their destiny…. And in later years, through things like Facebook and internet, journalists and record companies asking us to let them release our reissues, we have come to understand that there is a constantly growing interest for the band in many countries around the world.

In the time of writing, it has just been announced here in Sweden on the National TV News that we will return to the stage in 2018, after 33 years of absence. Three concerts are booked so far at festivals that have been asking us repeatedly for decades.

We will be one of the main acts at the Sweden Rock Festival in the evening of 8 June, be headline of the Up the Hammers Festival in Athens May 26 and be headline of the Keep it True Festival in Germany 28 April. Perhaps, we will play a few further venues later that year.



Lately Eddy Malm has been playing solo (With the Eddy Malm band) and also with the Greek tribute band "Heathens From The North". Did that motivate you all to reform Heavy Load?

The Greek tribute band “Heathens from the North” and other activities in Greece inspired us very much. Ragne: When I saw the response from the audience when they played I was touched, truly touched. It was like someone had touched my heart and warmth came from deep inside of me. A warmth that I had not experienced for so many years. Later when Styrbjörn and I was invited to Keep it True for a signing session it was the same feeling again but even stronger. Styrbjörn and I decided: let us bring Heavy Load to life again. And we did.


Keep it True, Up the Hammers and Sweden Rock Festivals are booked, are you looking to play more gigs or is this what we can expect from the summer of 2018?

What will happen is yet to be seen.


So the Keep it True Festival will be the bands first gig outside of Scandinavia?

Ragne: Yes. 

Styrbjörn: ...as well as, the first concert in 33 years.


   FULL SPEED AT HIGH LEVEL (1978)

             METAL CONQUEST (1981)

            DEATH OR GLORY (1982)

        STRONGER THAN EVIL (1983)


Who is this additional guitarist that will play with Heavy Load during these reunion gigs?

This is not official yet. We will get back to this later.


It's 40 Years since the release of your debut album "Full Speed at High Level". What do you think of the album in retrospect?

Ragne: I would like to re-record it today; if I had the time. I want to focus on the future though so it will not happen. We were very young and unexperienced and the whole album was recorded in just one week. We had no producing experiences and no producer. 

The engineer was not experienced in recording our kind of music; but then again, no one in Sweden was by that time. So regarding all the circumstances I think it is good. I have just recently listened to it for the first time in maybe 25 years and there are some parts that I think we can be proud of.


The first official reissues of the bands back catalogue will be released during 2018, what can we expect from the reissues?

For each re-release we will add some bonus tracks. How many is yet to be seen. For Stronger than Evil there are six bonus tracks and four of them have never been released before. They are old genuine recordings:

“Lionheart” (Styrbjörn Wahlquist, Vocals) Addition: guitar solo recorded February 2017
“Air Raid” (Eddy Malm, Vocals)
“Day of Dream” (Ragne Wahlquist, Vocals) Additions: guitar solo and a choir section recorded April 2017
“Sleipnir Unleashed” (drum solo)

Two more tracks are included:
“I am Me” (Ragne Wahlquist, Vocals) 
“I´m Alive” (Eddy Malm on vocals and Andreas Fritz on bass guitar).

Furthermore, in an extensive booklet you can read about our thoughts and memories for each song completed with a lot of photos from the period for the album. For Stronger than Evil we have designed a special cover for the booklet and the bonus tracks; we call it “Defying the Powers of the Dark Sea”. It is a line from the lyrics of “Heathens from the North”, from the album “Metal Conquest”. Styrbjörn and I have also thought about making some more videos. We will see about that. Today we have two official video published on our YouTube channel. “Heavy Metal Angels (in metal and leather)” and “I Am Me”.

Can we perhaps even hope for new material from the band, now that you are all together once again?

Styrbjörn and I are fooling around with some ideas for new songs. Yet we do not know what will come out of it. But I can say that I like what I hear, I enjoy what I feel, I love being back on track with Heavy Metal. But as matter of fact we thought about playing at least one new song at the forthcoming festivals.


It must be flattering to have such a loyal fanbase, Are Heavy Load more popular now compared to how it was back in the eighties?

Of course we are very honoured if people like what we do. But it is hard for us to say if we are more popular today than in the eighties. Today the following seems to be strong in many countries in different parts of the world. To mention some:  Greece, Germany and Brazil. As far as I know the following was not that strong in those countries in the old days.

What influenced the Viking concept?

Already in our childhood, the Viking past of Sweden and its myths was a great inspiration. Walking around in the woods here up in the north, you can somehow feel the presence of the past, the people and their fates.  

With this inspiration reverberating within us, we wrote several lyrics with Viking themes already in 1974/1975. Styrbjörn wrote the lyrics of our first Viking song “Son of the Northern Light”. We played it at our first concerts in 1976. In 1978, it was included on our first album Full Speed at High Level. 


Was there ever any controversy because the band sung in English instead of Swedish?

No never. We fooled around, with singing “Heathens from the North” in Swedish for a laugh, but we never did anything serious with it, it was just for fun. However, there were quite a few protests from the part of the established political music scene in the 70s. Swedish bands should not be allowed to sing in English. 


What were you listening to back in the late seventies and early eighties?

Our main influences since the late 60's early 70's had always been Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin. After that came Rainbow and Black Sabbath with Dio. We, the brothers, grew up in a milieu of classical music. Listening and playing and singing. It all came from our father that was a fantastic singer and a good pianist. Quite soon we turned to our own creativity, to what later became Heavy Load.


What happened to the record you started writing? Will it ever be finished and released?

Ragne: I guess our so called “Unreleased album” will be released one day. I love the material. It is definitely very much Heavy Load, yet I think I hear something more, some elements that feel new. And, there are still some things lacking on some songs such as a guitar solo and of course a proper mixing.

Styrbjörn: It would be wrong to say that it is completely finished. However, there are definitely enough songs for a whole album. Some of the songs could perhaps be said to be ready for release, but most of them need to a few more things recorded. Since the time span we worked on it stretches over so many years you can discern a vast journey into different moods. We are not ready to release it today or tomorrow, but sometime in the future.
Ragne: Another aspect is that we are bringing in a guy to replace Eddy and we want him take part in this new album as well.


Heavy Load has always used the artworks by Johan Holm. How important was his paintings to the bands success?

His painting was important and highly valued by us. But, you should know that the design of all artwork is done by us the Wahlquist brothers. Since we are not artists in painting we do need someone to do it for us and Johan did it very well.


Have you got any funny story to tell, if anything weird has happened while touring or so?

Well, we were a wild bunch back then and our performances were likewise. We had a lot of pyrotechnics in our shows and on a few occasions the explosions got a bit too big. For example at one place, during the first song, the plaster came raining down from the ceiling, the fans upfront of the stage was thrown back of the shockwave, filters on spotlights above came fell down on stage and parts of Ragne’s cable were completely vaporised. In addition, burning parts of metal from the bombs flew up on the balcony. We had to stop the concert for a brief moment and then we carried on. The fans that had been thrown back in the seats or to the floor just went up again and resumed their head banging like if nothing had happened. That’s the spirit!

On other occasions members of the band got injured from getting to wild on stage. Eddy was hospitalised from making too many dare devil jumps on stage; they had to do surgery on his leg. But at the time he just kept on playing, standing on one leg during the rest of the show.

Any last words to our readers?

The passion we fell when playing live is all because of the audience. The energy comes for you.

Ragne: for me it is all about being true to your heart and do it with Passion, Devotion and Drama. When I feel it is in place I get euphoric and creativity flourish.
There is a saying: “The pen is more powerful than the sword”. The guitar is my sword, my pen and my tool. So I must be honest and true; and then, only then, my soul finds strength and growth from this music. It is like my soul materializes through my music. And this is like living forever.

Styrbjörn: We are extremely grateful to our fans for having brought us back. Getting back on stage will be extremely emotional for us. There is no doubt about that.

Thank you


/ RUTHLESS



(11-01-2018)

HEAVY LOAD LINKS
HEAVY LOAD - Official Facebook page
HEAVY LOAD - Official Website
HEAVY LOAD - Youtube Channel


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