Interview with OLA ENGLUND (The Haunted, Feared, Solar Guitars)

Ola Englund

This year for Ola Englund is shaping up to be both interesting and hectic. With his work maintaining a YouTube channel, and a new album from the Haunted (out on August 25th), touring, a new Feared record planned for November, Englund has recently announced launch of his own guitar company called Solar Guitars.

Guitar Sphere teamed up with Ola for an interview talking about his work as a YouTuber, being both a signed and a DIY artist, new guitar company, time management, and more.

Let’s kick off this interview with the Haunted. You guys have a new album called “Strength in Numbers” coming in a few days. What can you tell me about the creative and recording phases for this record?

It was basically the same with the last album, “Exit Wounds,” what basically means that we — Jensen, Jonas and I — sat and started writing on our own ends. I like writing on tours, and stuff like that, so when I have free time during tours I like to sit down and write. And then we meet up in somewhere in the middle and just listen to the songs and see if we can contribute anything to each other’s songs. That’s how the writing process works. And then we have a bunch of songs as well that are made by only one guy. But I think the best songs are the ones that everyone is involved, it has just way more dynamic. You can hear it, it really helps the song when everybody’s been touching it, if I can say so.

The Haunted - Strength in Numbers

How does the new album differ comparing with the previous album “Exit Wounds”? Were there any big, drastic changes in your approach to writing or recording “Strength in Numbers”?

Not really. The only difference is that we had more time, so we were not as rushed as on “Exit Wounds.” And also the other guys let me write a lot more. I think on “Exit Wounds” I had probably three, four songs, and on this album it’s a lot.

Yes, and that can actually be heard that you were much more involved in writing this time.

Cool. [laughs]

Along with the album release, you will also embark on a European tour in support of the album later this month which takes place in September, and there are also a few more dates planned for October and November. Is it all when it comes to concerts for this year, or are you planning on adding more dates?

That’s just the beginning of it. We are trying to hook up some other dates. We also have Spain early next year, and we are working hard on trying to get everywhere. But it’s not easy, it’s not as easy as it was before. The problem is that every band is out on tour, because that’s how bands make money now — they don’t make money from record sales. So it’s very saturated out there. And yeah, it’s not as easy as before to just go out. There is just less money involved too, so it has to make sense for us too. A lot of these guys in the band, when we are out touring, they are basically on their vacation, they are taking leave out of their jobs, so yeah — they need to get paid too. And if it’s not paying too well — well, we are not going basically.

Have you been thinking about doing a co-headline tour, or it’s just The Haunted and local support?

We are looking at co-headline tours as well, of course. We’ve had bunch of offers. I don’t know, nothing is set in stone, but we’ll have something like that. At least next year. This year I’m not sure; I’m not that much into booking part of things, I just know the gigs that we have confirmed and that I need to be on. [laughs] Then what’s going on — I don’t know, basically.

What was it like touring with Meshuggah and Arch Enemy few months ago with the Haunted? How was that in your experience?

Easy. We know the both bands since before. Even if there are a lot of Swedish metal bands, Sweden is still kind of small. So everyone knows who everyone is, and yeah — it’s easy. With Meshuggah we are really good friends, and it’s really good vibe. And same thing with Arch Enemy. Obviously Adrian [Erlandsson] — the drummer of the Haunted — is a brother of Daniel — the drummer of Arch Enemy — so it’s a very close relationship. And obviously Jeff Loomis is in the band, and it’s cool. It’s been very easy touring with those guys.

These tours with Meshuggah and Arch Enemy were kind of short; there were not so many dates. Some of my friends and myself included were asking if the Haunted would be doing more concerts with these bands.

The thing with the Haunted is that we are not doing super-long tours. As I explained earlier, some of us have regular day jobs. So they cannot be away for too much time either. We are staying away from doing these really long , like two or three week tours or two-month tours — that doesn’t work for us. We go max like two weeks at a time. It’s not easy to balance work, family life and touring. But we are doing our bests.

So if an opportunity would arise, like being on a tour for three months, with an offer that’s very attractive and tempting, would that be something you would be willing to do?

I think, if we got an offer like that and if it would pay, I still think that we would not take it, to be honest. The Haunted is not about to “make it” or anything like that. A lot of these guys, they are just happy that we can do this. We are playing and we are having a good time, when we do these short runs of, like, two weeks and we are not playing that often, it still keeps it a lot of fun for us. Whenever we meet we don’t get sick of each other, we have a really good time when we meet and when we play together we have an awesome time. And when it’s a three-month tour, that’s really hard on you. To go out and live with the same people without your family for three months. So, I think, that we would not take a tour like that. It’s not gonna happen. Of course, that’s a problem because it definitely holds the band back a little bit that we won’t be able to make tours like that, but then again, I don’t think that anyone or any band, at least not that many bands, would do tours as long as that. Unless it paid really well. If it was, like opening for Metallica for three, maybe I could reconsider. [laughs]

That’s a question for Lars. [laughs]

Ola Englund

Let’s talk a bit about Feared. You have also mentioned on a few occasions that there will be a new Feared album in 2017. How much of the work has been done and when can we expect it to be released?

Almost everything is recorded. There is only a bunch of clean guitars left, but basically everything is done. And Mark Lewis, who mixed the latest Cannibal Corpse album and lots of Whitechapel records and stuff like that, is mixing the album now in August, it’s being mixed. I have not decided on the release date yet, but it looks like it’s gonna be in November.

Do you have a title of the album?

I do, but I do not wanna share it just yet. But soon, I promise.

You are one of the musicians that experienced being both a signed artist and also a DIY artist. What are the biggest benefits and drawbacks of these two different situations, to call them that way?

I think definitely, right now, when we are releasing the new Haunted album, there is so much that I want to do where it has to go through different people first. You know, with Feared for instance, I can just upload whatever the fuck I want to Facebook without any repercussions or anything like that. Now I have to be careful with the Haunted to, you know, release short clips. I need to have codes and shit that I upload for the videos. The bureaucracy behind all that is… I don’t like that. Because that’s very controlled. I understand what they want, but that’s not really helping the band in that sense. The good thing about the label is that when we need to record an album we get a budget upfront, which is obviously very good. And of course they have a marketing, the bunch of people as well that take care of that, but at the same time all of that I can do myself. You know, sending press releases and stuff like that. Century Media obviously has a better name when they send press releases; but in this point in time with Feared I would not see having a record label fund the band being a good thing. For the Haunted, I think a record label is the way to go. So there are both good and bad things about it, but I like the freedom that I have with Feared. Like I said, I can do whatever the fuck I want whenever I want. I can release whatever I want, I can do remixes, I can let people, you know, get the stems without any problems, and if they copy my music — well, fuck that. That sucks, but who cares. [laughs] It’s not like it’s gonna hurt me in the same way. I mean, people are downloading music, you can’t really do anything about that. I think, spreading the word is more important. I like the viral control I have about my band Feared, and it’s hard to say… I like both being signed to the label and it’s good for me to get a glimpse of how that works, and then I apply the good things with Feared and of course I’m also trying to get my ideas across with the labels. For this album, for instance, we are doing like a Guitarist Edition — same with the Haunted — which is something I’ve been doing with Feared albums, because people wanna have guitar tabs and whatnot, guitar picks, and stuff like that. So that’s something I’ve been really pushing through for this release, and I’m very proud about that. That’s at least something I got through the label. There are struggles, but there’s also understanding.

Do you support so-called bedroom producing? There is a whole world of independent guitarist and musicians and producers.

That’s awesome! We live in an exceptional awesome era where talent from all over the world that necessarily don’t have a budget to go to the studio can now record their music or videos and upload them to Facebook and YouTube, which is basically free. So all of a sudden you see talent on the rise from everywhere; like countries you never even heard of. And it’s amazing, I think. Because it really pushes the envelope of, you know, the absolute best ones are the only ones that are gonna be seen or heard, I think. In one way it’s hard because that makes the whole music industry saturated with a lot of awesome bands, but it also forces bands and artists to think out of the box and find new ways to gain recognition. It’s harder to reach out and be heard, but it’s still a lot easier than back in the day. It’s easy to get seen and head today, with YouTube and Facebook. It’s definitely changed the music industry in both good and bad ways, but I think more in a good way. That’s how I see it at least.

Few weeks ago you have announced that you are no longer endorsed by Washburn Guitars, with whom you had your signature line known as Solar. But you also announced that you will be starting your own brand called Solar Guitars. Why did you decide to start your own guitar company? I am sure that you had or would have many endorsement offers from brands around the world. 

Yeah, I’ve always had some foot-in-the-door somewhere. That’s not a problem getting endorsed, but what I want is — just like comparing this to having a record label — there is a lot they can do, but I think there is a lot more that I can do quicker by myself. Just like with Feared, for instance, not being on a record label. The thing that I didn’t like about the music business industry, it’s just all the bureaucracy. Exactly the same problem like with the record label industry. I think that I can do so much on my own and have such a quicker turnover. I’ve been very happy with Washburn, but my audience is all over the world, and it’s not like specific market. The problem I had is that not everyone could buy the guitars. If they were living in a country in Africa — there was no way to buy a guitar.

I actually experienced something like that. I purchased a basic 6-string model Solar model although I was willing to go for a more advanced model, but it was all that local dealer had in stock. And they didn’t want to get anything else, as it’s risky.

That’s the thing. Like you said it’s risky for distributors and dealers — they are not sure, that’s a problem. They need to invest in this brand. Why I wanted to make my own brand is basically to make it simpler for the end consumer to buy a guitar, wherever they live. They would get to buy any guitar they want. Like not in your case, that’s how it usually goes. The distributor just buys the cheapest base model, like you sad, and that would be it. They would not take any of the Evertune models or anything like that, they just take the cheapest ones and that would be it. My idea is to have, you know, make it more accessible. You just buy whatever you want, it gets shipped to you and that’s it. So it’s gonna be a lot easier for the end consumer, like, my follower to get a guitar if they want one. That’s my main focus — I’m just gonna make it a lot more easy to buy a guitar.

Solar Guitars logo

Is Solar Guitars based in Sweden? How is everything going to work?

That’s what we are setting up right now, so I can’t really say much about it. It will be in Europe, and everything will be shipped from there.

In your latest live FAQ via your YouTube channel you mentioned that there will be different Solar models in terms of shape and color choices. Does it mean there will also be a Solar Guitars Custom Shop where people will be able to make their own configurations?

We are not starting with the custom shop, but that doesn’t mean that we will not start one later and do custom shop jobs at some point. But in the beginning we are starting with base models basically. But there’s gonna be a bunch of them, and obviously more shapes than I have with Washburn. And if the curious person wants to see some shapes there are actually images somewhere online. There’s already some artists that are playing the guitars.

Maybe I’m wrong, but in the latest Haunted video I think that there is an explorer shape guitar.

I can’t say. [laughs]

Does Solar Guitars also mean that you are back in the accounting business? [laughs]

Yeah, well now in the beginning — yes, it will be like that. But I’m getting help too. [laughs] So it’s not like I’m going to sit with all of the money or anything like that. It’s not gonna be a bullshit company, it’s gonna be a real one. That’s why I don’t wanna say too much either, because I really wanna do this in the right fashion, I wanna take time. My nightmare is we release something and you know it’s gonna take forever to get a guitar, because that’s been the problem with the Washburn Guitars. When we go live and launch, I want to have checked all the guitars. You know, QC and all that — everything needs to be ready before we announce anything. I cannot really say that much yet, but when I do I’m gonna be able to say it all, and we are gonna go live straight away. Just to go with the big boom, basically.

Along with the new music and now the new company, you are also active on your YouTube channel, and that’s something you have been doing for quite a long time now. Would you tell that this channel is your main promotional tool for everything you do?

I would say YouTube is the main reason why I’m doing what I do today. I mean, if it weren’t for YouTube I would not play in the Haunted, Feared wouldn’t be a thing. And the reason I joined Six Feet Under back in the day was also because Chris Barnes saw my videos. So I’m nothing without the help of YouTube. Two years back I kind of slacked on the YouTube thing and did not do as much, but then one year ago I thought like “Fuck man, YouTube is what made me. I should try and still make as much as I can on YouTube.” While still doing everything else, of course. So from one year back I started pushing the videos again, and just try upload as much content as I can. But it’s not easy when you are on tour either, so it’s really about time management. So I can stack up a bunch of videos when I’m out on tour, etc. But obviously I know a lot of people know about me because of YouTube, and I cannot let those people down. I mean, I know a lot of people like my videos but not necessarily like my music, so you know, I have to take care of everyone.

Do you plan on doing more guitar clinics in the future? Do you enjoy doing them?

Yes, I do enjoy doing them. This year I only have one more booked, but I think for next year when the brand is properly launched I’ll definitely go out on more workshops and clinics. I was just at the Freak Guitar Camp here in Sweden, that’s Mattias “IA” Eklundh’s camp. I had two workshops there, and it was awesome. But then I have on in Germany in September, but then after that I’m gonna shell for a bit because it makes more sense to have the clinics done when the brand is launched. But yeah, I love doing them because going out during the workshops is all about meeting people, and reaching out to people and taking about everything that we’ve talked about today, making yourself sustainable and having a band on YouTube and Facebook, and going from being a bedroom guitar player to have a musical career. That’s what I’m talking about during the workshops. That’s the part I really like is seeing people pay attention, get inspired to start their own channels. That’s really rewarding.

How hard it is for you to manage your family life with everything else you do?

I’ve been doing this for a while now, so I don’t think it’s that hard. The only problem that I have is basically the time. It’s just getting time for everything, and now, this summer I’ve been on vacation with my kids for two months. So next week I’m starting work again for real, and I have shit-ton to do. I’m pretty good at having desk job hours, like when I was working as an accountant, I worked from 8 to 4 or 8 to 5, and I still do that. And outside of that time I don’t really work. Or I try at least not to work, but spend time with my kids. I mean, it’s easy I think. [laughs]

That’s encouraging. [laughs]

I hope so. [laughs]

Beside everything discussed, do you have any other plans for the future? Do you have anything that you want to achieve and you didn’t up until now?

I have a lot of stuff that I want to do. [laughs] Oh shit, I don’t know. I have a lot of ideas but I don’t want to tell too much. I mean, me starting my guitar company — it’s kind of big. [laughs] Kind of a big commitment, so I am concentrated on that right now, and then we’ll see what I’m up to in a couple of years, I guess. [laughs]

Subscribe to Ola Englund’s YouTube channel, visit his website, follow him on Facebook and Instagram, and make sure to bookmark Solar Guitars for upcoming announcements.