There are times in life when everything collapses. Even if you think you are surrounded by trustworthy people, sometimes things just don’t work out as planed. It happened to Offensive Ground back in early 2014 when three band members left. What’s even worst, they were just about to attend the Wacken Sweden Metal Battle. But here is the bright side of it. Since Alvaro and Tian are both made of thick skin and extremely passionate about what they do, they overcome the rough times, find new members in a very short time and together attend the competition. It wasn’t about the competition anymore they say, it was about pride.
Offensive Ground is a five-headed hard rock/souther metal band heavily influenced by Metallica, Pantera and Guns N’ Roses. I chatted whit they guys before Christmas last year and here we are now. Get to know these guys better through this in-depth interview.
1. Hey guys! Can you please introduce yourself first. Who are you, who are band members and where do you come from?
We are Offensive Ground. A Swedish hard rock/southern metal band from Luleå, a city located in the north part of Sweden. The band consists of five members:
Alvaro Araya Leon on vocals, Tian Mammola on lead guitar, Christer Hörnqvist in rhythmic guitar, Niklas Storvall on bass and Stanislav Pokhilo on drums and percussions.
2. Offensive Ground was formed back in 2011. Who’s idea was to start a band and what made you start playing this genre?
The idea came up from Alvaro after he had been singing with another rock band a month before Offensive Ground was formed. Alvaro left the band since he didn’t felt he wanted to sing the genre that other band member wanted. Instead, he decided to create his own project. Alvaro started to call and email some friends he had played with before and asked if they were interested in making a rock band. Not a cover rock band, but a rock band with its own made original songs. Without hesitation, all accepted (the offer) and the roots of Offensive Ground were made.
3. Can you tell me more about the name Offensive Ground? What’s the origin of the name and was this the only name you came up with?
At the beginning we came up with a bunch of ideas of different names for the band. The name we picked first was “Grounded.” We were all satisfied with the name but then when we started to register the band on Myspace, YouTube and all the other social media, it became quite obvious that it wasn’t anything original in the name we picked. Hundreds if not even thousands of bands around the world were named “Grounded.” We wanted something unique, something that people would associate directly to us and not some other band. So what we did was to study the lyrics. What were we telling with our songs? Because to be frank, we didn’t gave it too much thought at the beginning. But after we started to analyse the songs, it became clear that we had a very offensive approach. So there it was. We liked Grounded and we wanted to keep it in some way, so we just combined those two words and the name was established: Offensive Ground.
4. I read that February, 2014 was a rough month for you. Three members left and you were one of the bands chosen to compete at Wacken Sweden Metal Battle. How hard it was to get back on track, to find new members and to get everything organized for the Battle?
Well, it was quite hard. I, Alvaro, and Tian had the feeling that this was coming, but never in the way it did. We thought they were more loyal to the band and would follow us through the competition, at least that, but no. I mean, they left two weeks before the competition so we were quite chocked actually. For me personally, it was a kick straight to the balls! But we decided NOT to pity ourselves and instead focus on the competition. We were determined to get to the race, no mater the cost! We contacted a friend of ours, Stanislav, who we knew was a good drummer but had no band to play with. Stanislav joined the band without hesitation and luckily for us, he knew Niklas who played electric bass. After two days we had new bass player and drummer. Unfortunately, we were forced to cut down our program from 7 tracks to 2 because of the lack of time. We were also forced to reform the tracks since we were a man short. We still didn’t had a rhytmic guitar player. At this point, we knew we had no chance to win the race, but we decided it was better to go and stand up for the sake of the band. The competition didn’t matter anymore, now, it was all about pride.
“Competition didn’t matter anymore, it was all about the pride.”– Offensive Ground
5. In under a month you will be releasing new album called “Reborn.” How excited are you about the release? Is the title only about the rebirth of the band or does it have any other background stories?
We are very excited about this! We have worked hard and are very proud of the new songs. Now that we finally have Christer on rhythmic guitar, the sound has totally changed from the old Offensive Ground. The new mix of musicians has made the band more efficient, more agressive and more technical than it has ever been. All those things are reflected in “Reborn.” So yes, the name of the album is about the rebirth of the band, but also the rebirth of new friendship and loyalty.
6. If you would need to choose 3 band influencers, who would hey be? Can we go deep here and tell me why?
Metallica, because of their melodies, heaviness, attitude and the way they take the audience!
Pantera! The things Dimebag did with the guitar are not from this world! They were just insane! And of course, Phil Anselmo, probably the best front man and metal singer in the world!
Guns N’ Roses, until Slash left the band. Because every inch of this group was what rock and roll has to be. Their look, their songs, Axl’s voice and the way Slash “made love” to his Gibson, it was just magic. I, Alvaro, will never forget the day Slash left the band. I remember I almost started to cry. When you do so, that’s when you know a band has gotten under your skin.
7. When did you find your passion for music? Who/what got you into music?
Alvaro: I found my passion for music when I was about 5 years old. I remember my father playing his vinyl records of Johnny Cash, Elvis, The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Simon and Garfunkel and many other great singers and bands from our home country, Chile. I have one special memory when I heard “The Sound Of Silence” for the first time. From that moment it was all clear to me. I wanted to be a singer.
Christer: When I was twelve and heard “Smoke On The Water” for the first time.
Tian: When I was 12 and heard Slash’s guitar solo in “You Could Be Mine.”
Stas: In middle school when I saw drums for the first time.
Niklas: I heard some songs by Deep Purple and Uriah Heep on my fathers old LPs and then heard a few songs by Metallica. I heard and saw the way they played and thought it was so cool that they could make all those songs and perform them. I really like Jason Newsted of Metallica, who played bass, and wanted to play like him. He was a beast live.
8. Have you had any “formal” music lessons or are you self-taught?
Alvaro: I took two years of the music program in Community School. There I learned a lot about song writing and took some song lessons. But I was too lazy to learn about notes. I prefer to use my hearing and my fantasy when I create. I guess I don’t want to be too attached to notes. I have seen musicians do that and it’s like their ability to create is totally bound in how good they are with notes.
Christer: Self-taught and inspired from other guitar players.
Tian: I went to a guitar teacher for a month but got bored. Instead, I decided to learn it by looking and copying other guitar players.
Stas: I am self-taught.
Niklas: I have no formal training. All the music I play and know is completely on my own learning. You pick up things here and there and start to realize how the scales and notes are connected. But that’s more on a major/minor/pentatonic-level, not in a way of super advances scales. I’d like to be able to read music, but I have just never gotten into that. We don’t play music from sheet, just from memory of the songs.
9. Who do you look up to?
Alvaro: My family. For the ability to always stay together, no matter what.
Christer: Our great lead guitarist Tian Mammola. In general, people who find their own path.
Tian: No one in particular, but I do respect and admire those who struggles hard to reach their goals.
Stas: My mother for all the things she has done for me.
Niklas: From a more personal perspective – my family. They have always supported me in all that I have wanted to do. Whether it be playing hockey or playing music, I have always been able to do what I love.
10. Do you have any advices for fresh bands?
Spend a lot of time at rehearsals before you do something else. Get to know your band members and your instrument and make music from your heart, not what you think others will like. Don’t sit down and wait for things to happen. You have to make them happen! Believe in yourselves and be proud of your creating, but at the same time, stay open for advices and be humble.
Make sure you have a good product to show. No record label, radio station or fans want to hear bad recording. Use social media to spread your music. There is a ton of different online radio station, webzines and communities that dedicates most of their time helping unsigned artists to spread their music. And finally; not everyone will like what you do. Some will actually spit on you. It happens, just brush it off.
11. You said you will not be touching any of the old Offensive Ground anymore. Why is that? Is it only because you developed a new style or is it also because of the split with old members?
It’s all about the new sound the band has developed. The old songs simply do no longer fit in the new rooster songs. The quality of audio, the technique and the sound surpasses the old stuff too much. There is simply too much differences between the old and the new.
12. What’s the food like it Luleå? Any special local dishes that are different than traditional Swedish food?
Well, typical Swedish I would say! Meatballs are a big favorite among many young. But Luleå has grown in the last 10 years. Many people with different cultural background have moved in the city, and with them, a lot of new dishes! Besides the typical Swedish dishes, today you can find restaurants serving food from Lebanon, Italy, India and Greece.
13. Besides being passionate about music, what else are you passionate about?
Alvaro: Food! I love to make food!
Christer: The Formula 1! I love the excitement of the race!
Tian: My cat!
Stas: Beautiful girls and whisky!
Niklas: Sports. I love hockey and football. I support my favorite hockey team, Luleå hockey. I also love film and reading. Travelling is another favorite thing to do for me.
14. Would you rather fight 100 mouse sized elephants or 1 elephant sized mouse?
Alvaro: Think I go for the elephant and run the hell our of there!
Christer: 1 elephant.
Tian: 100 mouse sized elephants, no doubt!
Stas: Neither, I am a lover, not a fighter.
Niklas: 100 mouse sized elephants. But I’d rather not fight animals at all. I love animals :).
15. Finish this sentence: If I would be Hugh Hefner…
Alvaro: I would be awesome!
Christer: I would die happy!
Tian: I would run for president!
Stas: Sleep all day, party all night.
Niklas: I’d be old and wrinkly surrounded by young beautiful girls I couldn’t sleep with without a handful of Viagra.
16. Which is your current non-metal, non-rock song?
Alvaro: Hurt – Johnny Cash.
Christer: Lara Fabian – Adagio.
Tian: El Arriero De Atahualpa Yupanqui, a folklore song from Argentina, my second country.
Stas: All them old Disney songs :).
Niklas: Get Lucky – Daft Punk.
17. Besides the release of your new album, what else can we expect from Offensive Ground in 2015?
Well, we are going to support Smash Into Pieces during their tour through Spain between the 12th-15th of March. The cities we are going to rock on are: Barcelona, Valencia, Zaragoza and Madrid. We have also started to work on our second album which we hopefully are going to release in the beginning of 2016. 2015 will be all about “Reborn,” spreading the album on social media and live gigs!
(The interview took place before Christmas last year, so one in the spirit of Holidays)
18. Anyone special you’d like to which a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year?
Merry Christmas to our fans and families!!!
Make sure you go and support Offensive Ground by liking their Facebook page, subscribing to their YouTube channel and also check their (not-ready-yet) official website. Don’t forget to follow them on Instagram and Twitter.
In case you missed it, here is quick little preview of Offensive Ground’s new “Reborn” album.