Volbeat Frontman Michael Poulsen Talks Success in the U.S., Upcoming Album + More
Volbeat frontman Michael Poulsen will be the guest on Loudwire Radio this weekend. In his interview with host Mike ‘Sandman’ Sanders, the singer-guitarist talks about the Danish band’s U.S. hits, touring and their upcoming album. Tune in this weekend to Loudwire Radio to catch Volbeat’s Michael Poulsen on the show, but in the meantime check out a preview of the interview below:
A great pleasure to have on the show this week, Michael Poulsen, who is the lead singer, guitarist and frontman of the band Volbeat. Man, thank you so much for taking time out to talk to Loudwire this week.
Oh, you’re welcome.
You are a busy man, I know and the rigors of touring have been long and hard, I’m sure, supporting not only the latest album but all the music that’s been on the radio. You’ve had three pretty big radio hits here in the U.S. — ‘Still Counting,’ ‘A Warriors Call’ and ‘Fallen.’ I guess my first question would be tell me a little bit maybe about radio and airplay back in Denmark, where you’re from.
Yeah, at first it’s great that it’s actually topical for a style like Volbeat to get radio play and actually the songs that get picked out here in the U.S. are totally different from what gets picked in Europe. In Europe, it’s a lot more like soft sounds and it seems like the songs they pick here in the U.S. are a little bit more tough and violent. That’s really cool because we never really go into the studio with a thought about having a radio song because we always just write and then it’s up to management or a team to seek out what kind of songs they want up front.
Because for us we never really believed in the radio, we just believed in going on the road and playing for our fans and let them sing along to the songs. When the American team, they picked out ‘A Warriors Call’ and ‘Still Counting,’ those are two songs that would never make it in Europe as radio songs. We were very surprised about that and very proud that it’s actually possible. The songs they picked out in Europe are ‘Fallen’ and ‘Heaven Nor Hell’ and from the past records it’s been ‘The Garden’s Tale,’ ‘Maybellene I Hofteholder,’ you know, some of the more soft songs. So, of course now that it’s possible we’re just proud that we can get some airplay and that’s very cool.
I know that you come from, pretty much, a straight metal background prior to Volbeat and there’s such a big metal scene in Europe and areas like Denmark in particular. Are you surprised that you’ve had such great success here in the U.S.? Because it would be hard to think of a band that is hotter right now than your band.
Yeah, for a long time we had been touring constantly in Europe stopping and playing in small bars for 50 people or something. And now, many years after we tour arenas in Europe and in the beginning it didn’t have that good of distribution in America so we didn’t see any good reason to go over there and lose a lot of money to play because that’s how it works in the beginning, you pay to play. Since the distribution didn’t work that good we just waited for people to start talking and the distribution got better and time came where people started talking about it over in the U.S. and we ended up doing our first tour with Nightwish which came out to be a very good tour.
There was definitely underground buzz going on about Volbeat and the distribution got a little bit better and we were on a small label at the time called Mascot Records from the Midland and they were doing a good job and by that time they got the distribution in America. After that tour we got offered to tour with Metallica and during that tour we also signed with Universal Records, they have bigger muscles and bigger machinery. We made a good contract; it took our lawyer half a year to get the right stuff done. Actually, you also have to be careful when you go to those major labels because you hear scary stories … they actually said “We don’t know how you do it or did it in the past but you did it really good. So you just tell us what to do and we’ll work around it.” And that’s what I like. I like the bands being in control not the label.
But of course they have bigger muscles and they have better distribution, so when we toured with Metallica the distribution was good, people could get the record. And after that Metallica tour, we’ve been going on our own in America and we can see on every tour that the venues are getting bigger and bigger and the ticket sales are getting better and better and of course we’re very proud that this is possible. We’re the first Danish band in Danish rock history that was capable of doing that. The first band that was capable of doing that was Mercyful Fate and King Diamond and it’s a little but fun that now Hank Shermann from Mercyful Fate is helping Volbeat out on guitar. So, we’re making Danish rock history by being only the second band coming out of Denmark who actually made it to the U.S. so I’m very proud of that. As you can see now with touring and all that there’s a big buzz going on about Volbeat … in America this year. So there’s been a lot of touring in America, also last year. So we’re just proud that all the road work we’ve been doing is really starting to show results.
Talking to Michael Poulsen of Volbeat and, to me, as a listener and a fan of the band, one of the most exciting things about your music is all the styles that you incorporate. I mean, reggae and kind of almost country and blue grass plus metal. In the future, as you’re writing for the next album, is that something you keep in mind? I know you said you don’t necessarily write for radio play. Has your success maybe influenced that at all or can you stay true to the kind of stuff you feel in your soul that you’ve been writing thus far?
Yeah, we had many different styles in Volbeat blended all together like metal, rock and roll, rockabilly, punk, some blues here and there. There’s a lot of stuff going on, that’s how I write; it becomes very natural to me. Back in the days when I had a death metal band and we released full albums … it was just then I started writing new songs for a new project that I couldn’t make up my mind what I really wanted to do. I just had some songs that I couldn’t figure out what stopped them so I said ‘don’t think too much about it’ you know.
Music is all about playing it straight from the heart, it’s a feeling and I really didn’t care about being 100% metal or 100% rock and roll or whatever. If a song starts out as a country song and then bursts into a metal song that’s what I did. And so it became a very natural flow, very organic. And, like I said, music has to come straight from the heart or it doesn’t make sense to write it or anything. So when I had a good bunch of songs I called Jon, our drummer, and said, you know “I’ve got some stuff going on here. Can you dust off your drums in the basement and see what that’s all about?” And even he was asking “What style is this?” “I don’t know and I really don’t care. Let’s just play.” And that became the Volbeat style. So now we have four records out and it seems like we always write up something we haven’t done for each record but there’s definitely a red line you can always hear and it’s Volbeat, even though we mix all those sounds together.
And, yeah, I’m working on some new songs, some material has been written on the road and some has been written at home. We will be home in a couple of days then it’s up to me to put all the pieces together and then we will enter the studio probably late this year, maybe early next year, but there will definitely be a new Volbeat record out, I believe around early April or something like that. A lot of material has been written and some are a work in progress and again, it’s the Volbeat style, and again there’s going to be a lot of great surprises, so I can’t wait to get home to put all the pieces together.
We can’t wait either! And you answered some of my questions that I had for you like, ‘What’s coming up in the future.’ But obviously that’s awesome you’re going to be heading back home — and hopefully relaxing a little bit because I know you’ve been out on the road pretty continuously — and begin work on a new record. Michael, thanks so much for taking time to talk to Loudwire. We love your music and can’t wait to hear more of it.
Thank you so much. That’s very kind of you. Thank you.