INTERVIEW WITH CONFESS MEMBERS JOHN ELLIOT, SAMUEL SAMAEL AND BLOMMAN
Date: August 28, 2022
Interviewer: Jerzy Nykiel
Photos: Jerzy Nykiel (first photo), Richard Gatecliffe Photography (second to fifth photos)
Call it what you will. I call it a triumphant return. After three long mostly pandemic-stricken years, Confess returned with a live show to no other place than the HRH Sleaze V festival in Sheffield, UK in August 2022. Maybe it’s just me but I think you could feel tension and expectation in the air before Confess hit the stage. As I was to find out later, the band themselves had this uneasy feeling of uncertainty as to what reaction they would elicit from the festival audience right before they appeared onstage. They needn’t have worried. They ruled the main festival stage for an unrelenting 60 minutes to the wild cheers of the crowd — myself included. Let the measure of their success at the festival be the fact that while before their show there were only a handful of fans eying their merch at the merch stand, after the show there were throngs of people milling around there.
What better time for catching up with three-fifths of Confess, namely vocalist John Elliot, guitarist Blomman, and drummer Samuel Samael, than right after the band left the stage? We sat down outside of the venue and had a long talk, interrupted now and then by fans intent on sharing with Confess the excitement occasioned by the band’s explosive live show.
Sleaze Roxx: First of all, I’d like to congratulate you on a great show. The audience loved it. How did it feel to play live after three years?
John Elliot: On the one hand, it felt like it [the previous show] was yesterday because we fell right into it, but the minutes before the show were scary.
Samuel Samael: We were actually pretty nervous about it because the last time we played was three years ago. But I felt like in the first seconds of the first song, the instinct kicked in and we just played like the previous show was only yesterday.
Sleaze Roxx: So you haven’t literally played any shows since 2019, not even private gigs? Nothing?
John Elliot: No, nothing. Basically, we haven’t even rehearsed. I mean, we met up a couple of times and played, but we hadn’t started rehearsing for real until the beginning of the summer.
Sleaze Roxx: Well, you sounded great, so powerful and so tight. I’m really impressed. And the audience were so much into it compared with some other bands.
John Elliot: The audience was amazing! I can’t imagine a better place to play the first show in three years. I mean, we were kind of scared at first thinking that perhaps there would be ten people in the crowd, that no one was going to remember us. Luckily, we were wrong.
Confess‘ HRH Sleaze 2022 recap:
Sleaze Roxx: My next question is one that begs to be asked: what’s going on in the world of Confess? It’s been quiet recently. Are you working on any music? What are your touring plans?
John Elliot: We are planning on doing some new music. We don’t know when, to be honest, as we took a break when the pandemic hit. We’ve been doing other stuff away from each other since then. So when the day of this show started approaching
[The ringer on John’s phone goes off at this moment and it turns out to be a reminder about this interview]
John Elliot: This show was booked in 2019, we released our latest album [‘Burn ‘Em All’] in 2020 and this gig was was to take place in 2020. Then with the pandemic, this gig kept on being postponed but we kept it in the back of our minds. When the date of the gig started really approaching, we started talking to each other. We had a band meeting and we were like, ‘OK, what should we do? Should we quit because we haven’t played in such a long time? Or should we do this show and see how it feels?’ We started to rehearse around that time, and we felt instantly that we sounded pretty good.
Blomman: We got the energy going again. When we were playing this show, it was like the energy just got back to us. The energy, the passion, you know, the reasons why we play music. We do it just to see people react to our music. And we get so much in return from the audience. It was really nice.
Sleaze Roxx: I’m positively envious of the feeling. It must feel awesome.
John Elliot: It feels great. And the thing about the pandemic, if we go back to that topic, is that you get a new perspective on things. I didn’t play music for close to a year at all. I only played some guitar at home, but after a while you realize that playing music is in your DNA. You simply have to do it.
Sleaze Roxx: I’d like to talk to you a little bit about each of your albums. Beginning with ‘Jail’, it was your high energy no-holds-barred album, which everybody loved. You sound angry there. It’s full of spite and attitude. Was there anyone in particular you were mad at? Was it directed towards anyone or anything?
Samuel Samael: [Laughter] No, I think we had a little too much energy. We were pretty young and we were like, you know, when you’re young, you think you can be somebody and nothing can stand in your way [laughter]. So we thought we can do this better than anyone. And we just had this weird energy.
John Elliot: When it comes to that album specifically, we didn’t think about it too much. We didn’t really give much thought to how we were going to sound. It was more like, let’s create metal, let’s just record.
Blomman: We’re not an angry band at all. I don’t think we have any angry feelings about anything [laughter].
Samuel Samael: Yeah, we had too much energy at the time though. We’re not angry, but we had too much energy.
John Elliot: I don’t think we will ever be able to create an album like that again because when we record nowadays, everything is more thought through. I think the recipe for ‘Jail’ was hit the record button, get drunk, play, and we’re on a roll.
Blomman: It was more like get drunk, hit record and then play [laughter].
John Elliot: We should do it again tomorrow [laughter].
Confess‘ “Relationshit” video (from Jail album):
Sleaze Roxx: But you did a great job of capturing that sound. Perhaps it was a question of right time, right place, right age.
John Elliot: Yeah, I think we were like 21, 22 when we actually recorded it. It took about one year and a half before it was released. We were young.
Sleaze Roxx: One thing I noticed about ‘Jail’, and about each of your albums actually, is that you tend to have a lot of lyrics per song. You don’t often repeat verses, nor do you have many repetitive parts in choruses. Does it mean that writing lyrics comes easy to you?
John Elliot: No, I hate writing lyrics more than anything in the world. I hate it so much. But luckily, I’m not the only one who wrote lyrics, especially on ‘Jail’. I wrote the lyrics together with Samuel and our old bass player [Lucky]. No, I don’t like writing lyrics. I usually do it the other way around in that I start with the melody and I just sing whatever comes to my mind and then I write the lyrics following the melody.
Sleaze Roxx: I may be wrong but my impression is that your average song especially on the first two albums has more lyrics than in the case of many other bands.
John Elliot: It’s interesting, I haven’t thought about it.
Sleaze Roxx: And some of your lyrics tell stories, obviously, for example ‘Take Aim’ but you also have tracks such as ‘Strange Kind of Affection’, that seem to tell stories less directly. When I listen to this song, I always wonder who it could be about.
John Elliot: It’s not about a specific person, but I think when I wrote the lyrics, it was based around politics. It was around that time when Donald Trump got elected but it’s not specifically about him. It’s about people, and he can be one of them, who can love someone but they’re still being crazy or stupid. You know, that’s the cool thing about lyrics, I think. I’m not much of a lyric person myself when I listen to music, but when I do, I love lyrics that leave something open, lyrics that leave a gap which you can fill in with your imagination.
Sleaze Roxx: ‘Jail’ was the only album which you toured very intensively behind. You said in one interview that it was because you were young, you had time, and you had fewer commitments. Do you miss those times? And is there a chance of you doing it again?
Samuel Samael: That’s two really different questions [laughter].
John Elliot: In some ways, I miss it because it was was a lot of fun and we played a lot of shows. We played everywhere and anywhere in the world. We basically played everything from small bars to [the] Whisky A Go-Go in Hollywood [California, USA]. We would just jump into a van and drive around Europe. The reality was that when we released ‘Jail’, pretty much no one outside Sweden knew us. But now that we have made a name for ourselves, we can play bigger places and we draw more people. In essence, I love playing gigs and I would love to go on tour but on a slightly smaller scale than before. Life has moved on and we need to be a little more realistic about it now.
Blomman: Everything depends on the gig. I think we used to do more smaller gigs back then and now we’re doing fewer gigs but bigger.
John Elliot: We got kids now so we can’t just leave and return without any money. I mean, back then, we knew that we were not going to make any money. Playing rock and roll doesn’t pay that well these days.
Blomman: Not yet [laughter].
John Elliot: We have to think about that serious stuff. We all got jobs, we got homes, houses, kids…
Confess‘ “Bloodstained Highway” video (from Jail album):
Sleaze Roxx: I can totally relate. Let’s talk about ‘Haunters’ now. It’s your second album and this is when you experienced some line-up changes. You don’t list any personnel on the back cover. Who actually plays on this album?
John Elliot: It’s basically all of us except Pontus on guitar. We had another guitar player for a while who is a friend of ours. He was in the band for about a year or so. He actually recorded some guitar parts. He was a temporary replacement while we were looking for someone permanent.
Samuel Samael: In fact, he’s the one that makes that really high pitched scream at the end of “Lady of Night” — this hardly human, overly high pitch. He’s an amazing singer as well. His name is Richard and he’s an old friend of mine. We were friends when we were kids. He left the band before we released ‘Haunters’ so we edited him out of the picture as he didn’t want to continue. He was the one who recorded half of the guitar parts on the album.
Sleaze Roxx: I need to listen to this part of “Lady of Night” again.
Samuel Samael: Yeah, you should. It’s awesome. Sometimes I listen to it and I get goosebumps.
Sleaze Roxx: On ‘Haunters’, you reveal the other side to your sound, namely the softer, more AOR-ish side. What inspired this sound?
John Elliot: I think it was a counterreaction to the previous album because, as I said before, I don’t think we can redo that album. So for us, it was like a natural move. Our thought process was ‘Let’s try doing this now and let’s go back to us being more thoughtful on the whole thing’. The album after that, ‘Burn ‘em All’, goes in a yet different direction and the next one is probably going to sound different as well.
Sleaze Roxx: Which songs do you prefer writing and playing? The softer songs or the harder songs?
Samuel Samael: The soft hard ones [laughter].
John Elliot: I don’t know really. I don’t think of it like that. A good song is a good song, whatever it sounds like.
Confess‘ “Strange Kind of Affliction” video (from Haunters album):
Sleaze Roxx: With ‘Burn ‘Em All’, you brought a mixture of heavier songs and softer songs. You also brought back the high energy from the debut. Is this sort of balance something we can expect from you in the future?
John Elliot: A balance? Not at all. Everything’s going to be ballads. Eleven ballads on the next album [laughter]. No, to be honest, if I were to take a wild guess, I think some of the songs are going to be even heavier, right?
Blomman: Yeah, I think so. Actually we like high energy tracks.
John Elliot: Yeah, we like heavy metal based songs more than, say, AOR.
Sleaze Roxx: Quite a few bands which have released their albums during the pandemic or right after it was over have come up with a darker, more sinister or more aggressive sound. Can we expect a development along these lines from Confess as well? Something more sinister, something darker maybe?
John Elliot: I think so. We haven’t written any actual songs yet. We have ideas, so when we get back, we’re going to start collecting the ideas and put them together. But yeah, I think it’s going to be more metal in general.
Confess‘ “Burn ‘Em All” video (from Burn ‘Em All album):
Sleaze Roxx: Which album would you say was the most difficult to make?
John Elliot: Personally, I’d say the last one. It’s not that it was difficult to play or record, but first of all, half of the album, including the masters, got stolen. Our studio was broken into, they took the computer. And then we each recorded our parts separately, often in different studios because we were running on different schedules. All in all, it took a long time.
Blomman: Yeah, I think it’s the same for me. With ‘Burn ‘Em All’, we recorded the guitars over there, the bass somewhere else, and the drums some other place too. It was not that the album was arduous to make as such but it took the most amount of energy and time.
Samuel Samael: I’d say that ‘Jail’ was actually the hardest album to record, mainly because we didn’t have our own sound yet. It was our first album and we were so split over how we were going to sound. I and our old bass player Lucky were really into the 80’s sound. The question was whether we should make the drums sound more like synth drums, something in the vein of H.E.A.T.’s second album [‘Freedom Rock’]. It was a pretty funny sound. We were split over the direction the sound was going to take but we ended up having more aggressive and raw sounding drums. I think ‘Jail’ was the hardest one in general.
Sleaze Roxx: Which of the three albums are you proudest of? Which would you say is your biggest accomplishment?
John Elliot: It’s like choosing between your babies.
Samuel Samael: Yeah, it’s really hard. I think each of them is great in its own way, actually. It’s really hard to say.
John Elliot: In one way, I still think ‘Jail’ is a rad album but then again I hear stuff that I think we should have redone there. I don’t get this impression when it comes to ‘Burn ‘Em All’.
Samuel Samael: Sometimes when I listen to our albums, I feel like ‘Haunters’ is my album because parts of ‘Haunters’ were leftover demos which I wrote but which didn’t fit on ‘Jail’. So some of the AOR stuff that I wanted to write for ‘Jail’ ended up on ‘Haunters’. The result is that some of those tracks sound a little progressive. I love progressive metal and rock. I would say my favorite one is ‘Haunters’.
Blomman: I would say that as well. I think, as Samuel said, during ‘Jail’, we were beginning to hone our sound as a band. We were starting to get our ways. While we were recording ‘Haunters’ on the other hand, we had that feeling that it was really us, that we could do both [types of sound], that we could try different things. Everything came much easier together, but in a difficult way as well. It’s really hard to explain but ‘Haunters’ was really a fun album to make.
Samuel Samael: ‘Haunters’ has the biggest sound we’ve ever had. The drums sound like arena drums. It’s fun to listen to because it sounds so big. ‘Burn ‘Em All’ has a bit tighter punk feeling but it’s still hard.
Sleaze Roxx: Would you say that ‘Haunters’ was misunderstood by some part of your audience? What I mean is that there were some reviews saying that you should have stuck to the heavy sound?
John Elliot: Maybe not necessarily misunderstood because people think what they think. But for us, it was important to do something different. You can’t please everyone. It’s impossible, especially when you’ve done a couple of albums.
Blomman: We were really growing during that period.
John Elliot: Yeah, we were growing. Some people really dug that almost punk metal sound [which you can her on ‘Jail’]. On the other hand, we gained a lot of new fans with ‘Haunters’ because we had this progressive AOR 80’s sound. So for us it’s been great because now we have two different types of people listening to our music.
Sleaze Roxx: How has the Swedish sleaze metal scene changed since you started Confess in 2008? Would you start this band again now if you were kids again?
John Elliot: Nooo… [laughter]. Yeah, we probably would, but I think when we started, the scene was more alive in some sense but generally I think it goes up and down all the time.
Sleaze Roxx: Are there any new bands on the scene that you like?
John Elliot: Newcomers in Sweden? I don’t usually go to shows anymore. I don’t know, honestly. But there’s a lot of good Swedish bands that I like such as Hardcore Superstar, Crashdïet, The Cruel Intentions, Sister, H.E.A.T., Crazy Lixx. What is really a good thing about the Swedish scene, especially in this genre, is that there’s no competitive thing going on between the bands. Everyone is really friendly to each other and we know each other. It’s all for the sake of rock ‘n’ roll. If a Swedish band that is bigger than us plays a place in England and becomes well known there, we are probably going to go there also.
Sleaze Roxx: What do you think you would be doing if you didn’t play in Confess? Would you play in a different band?
John Elliot: I have no idea [laughter].
Samuel Samael: I have another band, a progressive rock band so I like doing other stuff as well. I think John also has some ideas about doing other stuff, something more like country rock [laughter]. We would still play music no matter what. I and Ludwig have a few death metal ideas for a project. We like doing music and having Confess doesn’t limit us if we want to have some other project. But of course we’re going to prioritize Confess.
Sleaze Roxx: Yeah, I think you should because you’re an incredible band. It was my last question. Thank you for agreeing to do this interview. It was a real pleasure to talk to you.
Confess‘ “Malleus” video (from Burn ‘Em All album):