Backstage at Kyttaro club we met one of the most important figures in European hard rock of the last 20 years, Erik Martensson. It’s not only Eclipse’s present during the last years, but also his collaborations and the projects he is involved (Nordic Union, WET) are enough to call him the modern ambassador of melodic hard rock in Europe, a tag that he doesn’t want to put it on himself, being modest. Great composer, charismatic performed, he is the answer to every moron who says that “rock is dead”.
Simple, cool and down to earth talks, answers the questions, sipping on his beer in an interview that we were lucky enough to capture on camera.
Special thanks to Erik, Alex Politis and Dimitris Papandreou, also the guys who uploaded the video we used in the interview.
Interview: Yiannis Dolas
Rockpages.gr: How did you manage to develop the identity of your sound?
Erik Martensson: When you are young and you start a band, as a young song writer you start by copying others. And for every record we tried to clear our tracks and tried to make our own sound as much as possible.
I think the album “Bleed & Scream” in 2012 was the first record where we actually had some songs that sounded our own, they did’t sound like anything else. So, I think that in every record we try to find out own sound. On the latest one we took another big step for what our identity is about. Every record’s been a step further in finding the band’s own identity. I think that we are still searching and we try to see where can we take this music. We are always trying to bring in influences from stuff that’s not normally rock music and we try to make it our own.
If it’s a good song, then it’s on the album. We don’t think like “oh, I don’t know if the fans will like that”. We don’t care about that, we just write the songs we like. You can never write for others, you can always write for yourself. If we like it, then it’s good enough. You can always hope that someone else will like it.
Rockpages.gr: You are always busy with various projects. Do you worry that writing for others may be to the Eclipse material disadvantage?
Erik Martensson: If you are a carpenter do you get worse at doing kitchens when you do a lot? If you do one kitchen and then never do another one? The more you write songs the better you get. The songs in the other projects wouldn’t exist if they wouldn’t have asked them. But, it’s not that I am giving Eclipse songs, or anything like that. The songs would not have existed if they wouldn’t have asked me to write them.
Rockpages.gr: The band has been around for more than 20 years. What were your biggest mistakes so far?
Erik Martensson: It’s always easy to be wise afterwards. We should have sticked in doing our own thing and not thinking about others too much. When we started doing what we liked ourselves then people started going “Oh, this is really good”. So, we should have just went to our own direction with much more confidence. Much earlier. I think we wasted 10 years… in the early ‘00s this kind of hard rock music was so out of fashion. People thought we were complete idiots. No one listened to most records ‘cause it was so out of fashion. We couldn’t get any gigs because the music was so out of fashion. So, it took us almost… about, say 15 years before we got any attention at all. “Bleed & Scream” and “Armagedonized” opened up and it was OK to like this kind of music.
Rockpages.gr: Did Eclipse play a role in the uprising of the Swedish hard rock scene?
Erik Martensson: We played a little part of course. There’s many great bands. Starting up as kids doing this kind of music and moving to what it is today we knew all the guys from Europe, from Treat and everyone from the ‘old school’ rock bands from the ‘80s. They always had what they had in the ‘80s to get gigs… while we started from nothing and tried a new wave of this whole thing.
Rockpages.gr: Where they your influences? Those older Swedish bands?
Erik Martensson: A lot of stuff is our influences.
Rockpages.gr: Like what?
Erik Martensson: Like Whitesnake, AC/DC, Deep Purple… the classic rock thing. A lot of the guys are into metal as well, so we love Slayer and Megadeth, death metal bands like Entombed and Unleashed, so we were listening to a lot of heavier stuff. People usually put us in the genre of AOR. We don’t consider ourselves AOR at all. We consider ourselves a proper hard rock/heavy metal band, but we have poppy melodies.
Rockpages.gr: Do you feel that nowadays with technology and too much information we miss the magic of music?
Erik Martensson: Yeah, sure. It was mysterious when we were kids. When I started playing guitar… I come from a small village in Sweden, it’s an island in a lake, with around 1,000 people living there. I bought an electric guitar, but no one knew how to get AC/DC sounds… a distorted guitar sound… it was a mystery to me. It took me years to find out how to plug it in, which amplifiers and distortion (they were using)… Everything was a mystery. So, I learned all the songs by listening to records and vinyls back and forth trying to learn.
Rockpages.gr: Can you recall any Spinal Tap moments?
Erik Martensson: Yeah… there’s a lot of them. When you are on tour, then you have them all the time. December last year, 2019, we had a gig in Madrid and during the drum solo I run up upstairs and there was a pillar in the middle of the stairway so I hit my head really hard. So, I was almost crawling upstairs. So, I got angry… Aaargh! So, I kicked the table, but the table was made of metal, so I broke three bones in my foot. Two toes and anoher bone. Then, I got out on stage and completed the concert. It was quite painful! I was bleeding in my head and I had three broken bones in my foot… everything happened in 30 seconds. Hahaha!
Rockpages.gr: What are your plans now? A new album? Maybe another Nordic Union album?
Erik Martensson: Nordic Union is not possible at the moment ‘cause Ronnie Atkins is fighting cancer. Let’s see what happens with that. We have to make sure he saves his life first. And we are working on a new W.E.T. album with Jeff Scott Soto. Also, (we are working) on a new Eclipse album.
Rockpages.gr: So soon?
Erik Martensson: Hopefully, in the beginning of the next year we will have a new record. Hopefully! We haven’t started writing yet. We have a few songs.
Rockpages.gr: I think that the last W.E.T. album was the best so far…
Erik Martensson: I agree… by far I think! Everyone says “the first album is always the best”. But, it’s a crappy album. Some songs are great, some songs are terrible.
Rockpages.gr: So, would you say that you are the modern ambassador of melodic hard rock in Europe?
Erik Martensson: I don’t put tags on myself. I like to write songs and try to enjoy life.