State Of Salazar

Hard work always pays off in the end not matter of the time period. That’s exactly the case with this newcomer from Sweden, which released their debut under a big label and they have only just begun “chasing their music dreams”. We had a chat with the band’s singer and songwriter Marcus about the early days of the band, their future plans and their magnificent new album…
State Of Salazar band pic
Hey Marcus, congrats on “All the Way”! It’s a magnificent debut release by any means!
M: Thank you!
So, do tell us how and when this band started…
M: Me and the other guys met at Malmö Academy of Music back in 2008, we became friends and started the band about one year later, parallel with our education. In the beginning we just had some fun with it. We recorded some demo songs and we did some small shows. In 2012 we decided to record our EP ”Lost My Way”. It was our last year before graduation and we wanted to at least have a decent recording of our time together if we wouldn’t continue after we had finished school. When we released the EP we were really surprised by all the fuzz and of course really happy to see that there’s still people who love this music as much as we do. And that was all we needed to be sure we wanted this band to carry on and aim higher.
By the way, what is the State of Salazar and how did you come up with the band’s name?
M: There’s no meaning behind the name really. We came up with the name Salazar because of an old internal joke between the guys in the band and we thought it sounded great to put it together with State of. That’s all there is to it, really. But yes when we learned about Portugal’s history and the irony that we play positive feel-good music and the possible link that can be done with the dictator Salazar, we discussed changing the name. But we didn’t. Our music is all about feel-good and the last thing we wanted was a predictable slick name to go with our already smooth music and lyrics.
Forming a band like State of Salazar must have constantly been in your mind, right? It seems you love the Westcoast, AOR, melodic rock of the late 70s/early 80s, huh?
M: No not really haha. I love this kind of music and it’s been an important influence of mine since way back. But it wasn’t until I met all these great musicians at the Music Academy that I felt the need to start a band like this. Before that I’d mainly been singing in metal bands but when I met these guys, who became great friends of mine, I knew the time was right to form a Slick Arena Rock band.
How would you describe State of Salazar’s music to a friend of yours?
M: Arena Rock with a slick sound. A mix of West Coast, AOR, Symphonic Rock, Swedish Pop and movie soundtracks of the 80s and 90s.
You released the “Lost My Way” EP in 2012 and it was then that you started working on your full-length debut album. Were you surprised by the first press and fans’ reactions or it was something that you had been expecting to happen sooner or later?
M: We didn’t expect any of this! We write and play the music we love and we were truly surprised when we realized there’s still an audience and a scene for this music. We love the genre but at the time we weren’t aware of all the new bands like us contributing to the scene. We kind of did the EP for ourselves, we just wanted to record something to at least have a memory of the work we had done together. But everything went really fast from there with all the great reviews on the EP and the signing with Frontiers, and we started to work on this album right away only a month or two after the EP was released. Now finally we can look back on what we have done hahaha, and we are totally overwhelmed by all the positive feedback we’re getting right now.
What is the thing you wanted to present with your debut at first? You know the first impression is always a barometer for any band, right?
M: Oh I don’t know? To be honest with you, we never thought of it that way. We just wanted to make a killer album where every song is important along with detailed arrangements and a well-produced polished sound. The main thing we decided to aim for was to make this album sound like a tight five-piece band and for it to contain both smooth groovy songs and heavier straight forward songs.
Hence, what does the album title “All the Way” declare? Is it a band statement that you’re gonna take it all the way to the end no matter what?
M: I wouldn’t say no matter what... but yes the song ”All The Way” is about our dream, aiming for the stars and taking it all the way together as a band as well as five friends believing in something and sharing this musical journey. And we just thought it was a strong album title and a cool statement to go with for our debut.
Please tell us a few things about each track…
M: “I Believe in You”: This is actually the first song I ever wrote for State of Salazar. It’s a typical SoS song with a strong melodic riff, smooth verses, a big sing-a-long chorus with lots of backing vocals and with a uplifting inspirational theme on the lyrics.
“Field of Dreams”: It’s a straight forward kind of song and the lyrics are about the landscape of where I grew up. It’s a tribute to the landside of the southern parts of Sweden, which has become a comfort zone of mine when I need a break from the everyday stress.
“All the Way”: This was the last song written during the process of making this album. The melody on the chorus just came to me one day, I sat down with my piano immediately and about one hour later the song was ready to show the other guys. It’s a cool song and because of its energy it has become the natural song to end our shows with.
“Love of My Life”: I wrote this song for my girlfriend. I wanted it to be angelic, fragile and beautiful, inspired by ballads like “All By Myself” (Celine Dion), “Without You” (Mariah Carey, Harry Nilsson) or any Whitney Houston ballad.
“Eat Your Heart Out”: During the writing process the idea with this song was to fill the gap of us not having a groovy “shuffle song” at the time for the album. In the end, in my opinion, it turned out to be maybe the best song on the album. I personally love this song! It’s a shareful break up-song. It has a great keyboard riff and the chorus hook is just right saucy and catchy at the same time.
“Time to Say Goodbye”: This is just like “I Believe in You”, one of the oldest songs of SoS written way back when it all started. The song didn’t make it for the EP but in the process of doing preproduction recordings for this album, everything fell into place with the song and I believe it’s an important song for the overall impression of the album.
“Marie”: It’s a song about what could happen if you would tell a great amount of lies just to impress a girl. I love the progression of the song going from a smooth beat in the first parts and then turning into a heavier four on the floor-beat. It’s a catchy song and every time I hear it I get this smile on my face.
“Let Me Love”: Even when we entered the studio to start recording this album we weren’t sure about this song. We decided to make it more of a mid tempo song with a heavier sound instead of a regular smooth ballad. I have to say it turned out really well and it gets better and better every time I listen to it.
“Catastrophe”: I often refer to this song as our “Queen song” on the album. I’m totally aware of that we don’t sound a lot like Queen but I was inspired by their way of building a song. With strong backing vocals, passages combining different parts, the flirting with symphonic/classical music and the bombastic and at the same time humorous approach on the lyrics.
“Always”: From the beginning I wrote this as an instrumental tune. Later on I started to work with it again and came up with the chorus and then it was obvious we needed a song like this on the album. It’s extremely groovy but in the same time it has a powerful arena sounding chorus and you could say that this is musically our tribute to the great work of Vince DiCola on the soundtracks of Rocky IV.
“Adrian”: This song was on the EP as a bonus track being the second song ever recorded by SoS on our first demo tracks. We thought it was fair to re-record it and give the song the sound it deserves along with some improvement on the arrangements.
“End of Time”: A great song to end the album with, I think. The whole album is quite energetic and we wanted to give the listener a peaceful ending that enables reflection and allows you to let it all sink in. It’s a beautiful song about staying together with the one you love till the end of time, no matter what.
Man, the things that steal the show right from the start is your wonderful voice (and I do not mean to flatter you!) and the amazing song arrangements. It’s obvious that you are guys with a strong musical background. What’s your say?
M: Well you just did flatter me. Thank you! I don’t know if our musical background has so much to do with this? Some of course, but when it comes to me it’s all about feeling the music. If you’re there emotionally with the song everything kind of becomes clear where to go with the arrangements and also which mode I want to use for my voice.
You say on your official FB page: “State of Salazar is not a retro band, or a walk down memory lane. They write songs and play music that strives forward and not backwards”. Is this due to all this “rock retro revival” of today that you decided to have a fresh sound on the album?
M: The reason we wanted to have a fresh sound or at least a sound that’s up to date is because that’s the best way to sound right now. What’s the point trying to sound old? Hahaha, it’s obvious we’re influenced by a lot of melodic rock bands and from their 80’s period but that doesn’t mean we want to sound just like them. Our goal is to take our influences, mix them up and make the best out of it and try to contribute to the genre by adding our own style. I’m not saying we’ve invented something new, because we haven’t. But we’re a band within the melodic rock genre with our influences, just like all bands have influences, trying to do our thing and creating the style of State of Salazar.
You’ve chosen to cooperate with Markus Nilsson (A.C.T, Andromeda, Royal Republic, Deville, etc.) for the recording, the production and the mixing of the album. Also Tony Lindgren (Paradise Lost, Kreator, Enslaved, Katatonia, etc.) did the mastering. I bet working with such renowned producers is great. Did you achieve the sound you wanted in the end?
M: Yes we did. We’re proud of how the album turned out and nothing about the production is a coincidence. We worked thoroughly with the sound and arrangements in the studio together with Markus and it was important to us that every detail fell into place within every song. Then of course I could now tell you things I personally would like to do different, but then again that will always be the case when you’re working with a creative process. Markus and Tony did a great job and we’re proud to present a debut album this strong.
How did the contract with Frontiers records occur? I’m sure being in the top Melodic rock/AOR label can be both a blessing and a curse, right?
M: Well, we received an e-mail from Frontiers only a month after the release of our EP. I guess they were impressed by our work and liked our style, and they offered us a record deal for a full-length album based on new material. We were totally blown away by this offer coming from the best record label there is, in our genre! We didn’t expect to hear from any record label around that time so to be contacted by Frontiers Records was simply a dream come true. I have only great things to say about Frontiers! So far it’s only been a positive experience for us working with them and I hope and believe it will stay that way.
You released a video for “All the Way” almost a month ago. Will there be another video anytime soon and if yes for which track?
M: I can’t promise you anything right now. But we’re working on it and the plan is to produce a second video during this fall. Right now we’re just in the planning stage, considering different songs and discussing what kind of video we would like to do.
What are your touring plans? Do you have any booked shows as yet?
M: The plan is to do as many shows as possible. We’re looking in to it right now and we’ll just have to wait and see what we can come up with. No shows are booked at the moment but we truly hope for that to change! We would love to tour the hell out of this album and go visit a lot of countries. We understand it’s not that simple but we hope some bookers well consider us after they’ve heard our album. Wherever someone wants us to come and play – we will come and play!
How do you see the band’s future from now on and what do you wish or hope to achieve in the next years?
M: I see the bands future in steps and I believe we should focus at one step at a time. Right now it’s all about doing live shows, promoting our album in different ways and maybe do some more videos. Next step after that should be to write new songs and start the whole thing over again with all that comes with producing a new album. But as I said haha... one step at the time. It’s so easy to forget the moment in the chase of the future. So I would like to stay in this moment, for a while, to enjoy all the great reviews and all the nice comments and mail we’re receiving from all over the world. I don’t want it to end… hahaha. I hope we can continue doing this for many years. I wish we can build something big, something we can look back on when we’re old and be proud of. This is only the beginning!
You and the other guys also play in various bands and music projects. I think it’s fine for one to express his creativity in various ways… but is State of Salazar the number one priority for you or not?
M: Yes we’re all involved in different projects from time to time but State of Salazar is definitely the number one priority to all of us. Projects come and go... State of Salazar is a band and this is where we put our heart and soul.
What’s the news from your other band Devil’s Heaven? You released a debut a few months back, if I can recall.
M: Devil’s Heaven is not a band. It’s more of a project were I was hired as a singer to do the lead vocals on one album. I’m not involved in that project more than that. I recorded the vocals for that album around 2011 and it was released this year. I’ve heard some rumors about doing one more album but I really don’t know much.
State Of Salazar band pic
It’s time for the Weird Questions!!! What was the first thing which led you to deal with music in general?
M: Me being born I guess (haha). I was born into a music and theater family so the music has always been important and present in my life. Music wasn’t a choice for me it was more like a matter of course.
Which are the Top 3 AOR albums of all time?
M: That’s impossible for me to answer. I’m more of a “song person”, I could give you a list with hundreds of great songs within the genre that I worship. But when it comes to albums it’s really difficult. But alright here are three albums which I believe has really strong material all the way through: Toto – “Toto”, Planet 3 – “Music of the Planet”, Toto – “The Seventh One”.
Best 3 ballads that can help you seduce any lady?
M: Hahaha… I would never try to seduce anyone with a ballad. Who does that? Anyway hahaha, I can’t get enough of ballads so I’ll just give you three ballads which I’ll never get tired of listening to: “Too Much Love Will Kill You” – Queen, “I Stand Alone” – Steve Perry and “You’re The Inspiration” – Chicago.
Is music art? Or it used to be? How can those mainstream hit songs we repeatedly hear on the internet, radio & TV be taken as music art?
M: In my opinion some music is art and some music is supposed to be judged as entertainment. I’m not so much into the “Art Music”. When I listen to music I want to be entertained in some way. I’m not saying it has to be happy clappy show tunes or something like that. But I want to feel something, I want the music to speak to me. I want the music to be useful for something – whether it’s party music, work out music or something else. I believe that’s what entertainment is all about. State of Salazar music is not art, we are here to entertain and to provide songs that hopefully can be useful to people in their lives in different ways.
Which is the most overrated band of all time?
M: No comment hahaha…
What’s your opinion about the “free downloading issue” of today?
M: It is what it is. I believe it’s not possible to go back to the way it was before so I guess we just have to do the best out of it. I would love to make more money on my music, which is my legal right, but in the same time it’s too late to go back. I hope the music industry can come up with some new ideas to keep the music business alive and so that we and others can keep on producing music with great quality.
Are funding platforms like Kicksatrter, Indiegogo etc. the answer to the “free downloading issue” of the 21st century? It’s kinda weird. On the one hand, the fans get the music for free without caring that much about the artist/group and on the other hand, the fans pay for an album that they haven’t even heard… and most of the times it hasn’t even been recorded! What’s your say?
M: Never heard of these platforms really. Maybe they are. I don’t have the answers; I just want to write and record music and share it with others. It would be a dream come true if I could do that for a living.
What do you think about this “Views, tweets & Likes” mania of our time?
M: Never thought of it as a “mania of our time” really. Maybe I’m just used to it! Sometimes it’s inspiring to see that many people “like” what you do and sometimes it makes you wonder why not more people have viewed your video for instance. As long as you’re confident and have faith in your own decisions and taste, none of this matters really. It’s nothing but a bonus to your ego when others appreciate your work as well. And don’t get me wrong, I love it when people comment on our music but it’s important to not make it a necessity for your wellbeing.
Which of the Seven Deadly Sins do you reckon is the one, that’s more likely to send you straight to Hell, in the afterlife?
M: Hahaha… I can’t even name the seven deadly sins. I don’t believe in heaven or hell and I don’t really believe in an afterlife at all. I believe in “what you see is what you get” and I think we all should do the best of our time on earth and enjoy the privilege of being able to make our own decisions.
Best pick-up line that has worked for you several times in the past?
M: I’m sorry, I’ve never used a pick-up line my whole life. Haha I’m just not that kind of guy who tries to pick up girls out on a pub or something like that. I learned to know my girlfriend at school, a slow process of two years. When I finally asked her out it turned out she was my soul-mate.
If your girlfriend caught you cheating on her… what would you do in order to calm her down?
M: WTF??!! What kind of question is that and why the hell would I try to calm her down? I would never cheat on her!
Imagine that your girlfriend is selling your whole album-collection just to buy an expensive ring for herself. How would you react?
M: That’s just stupid! What kind of girls have you met in your life?! Next question…
That’s all for now Marcus. Thx for talking to Grande Rock! Say whatever you feel like before we close this interview. Thx for the music! Take care!
M: Thank you for having me! This long interview pretty much covers it all I think... but alright I will leave you with a cheezy preach. Buy our album, visit our website and other sites, come visit our future shows, always believe in yourself and while you’re at it... I would like to have peace on earth as well.