Interview with Mark Fox of Shakra

Although the history of humanity has been full of twists and turns from the very start, it doesn’t seem like we’ve learnt much by the mistakes of our ancestors. And, with now unlimited access to what’s going on in every corner of the globe, one doesn’t have to watch for too long to conclude it’s simply a mad world we live in. That grim realization was translated well into the lyrics of the Swiss rockers Shakra’s latest album, and the title is nothing else but Mad World. To discuss the release in depth, I caught up with the band’s singer Mark Fox. We also looked back at the last quarter of the century in Shakra’s career as well as tried to guess what the future has in store for them as well as the entire music industry…

Shakra 2020. Photo used by permission of AFM Records.

Alexandra Mrozowska: The 25th anniversary of Shakra is quite an achievement itself, but looking back on all those years you spent recording and touring, what would you say were the peak moments?

Mark Fox: It is difficult to say what were the peak moments in all these years, there have been so many great moments and I don’t want to compare any of them, otherwise I would devalue others. For me, it’s the whole thing, with its ups and downs, that matters and one thing always led to the other, like a story that someone wrote. and that we can live through without knowing what’s next.

AM: Having been around for a quarter of the century, do you think the music industry has actually changed for better or for worse? Why?

MF: It has changed, and how! Digitalization has created completely new possibilities, advantages and disadvantages. The availability of music is now always and everywhere and that in seconds, whereas in the past you had to wait a long time for a new album by a certain band. Nowadays, songs and albums are coming out every day. Unfortunately that also led to a devaluation of the music. It now seems God-given and it is, especially for young people, a free commodity that you can take and don’t have to pay for it. That’s why I’m glad we can make real music fans happy with our music that look forward to our releases and are willing to pay something for it. The Rock and Metal fans are the most loyal! Otherwise the music will always change and you don’t have to complain when times change – after all, you have had good times and can still do so, even if the conditions change a little.

AM: Throughout the years, reviewers have dubbed Shakra successors to Krokus, probably not only for geographical proximity but also style. What’s your approach to such comparisons or the labels the music press tries to categorize your music by?

MF: Well, I don’t think that we sound too similar to Krokus – more like the “old” Gotthard, if anything – but of course it makes us proud to be compared to Swiss legends. However, Shakra sounds like Shakra from the first note. But it is in the nature of people that they want to categorize everything and therefore, it doesn’t bother me. On the contrary, I think many Krokus fans also like to listen to Shakra and maybe only because of this comparison they came into contact with Shakra for the first time.

AM: You marched into 2020 with a new album Mad World. What do you think the titular madness is actually caused by?

MF: Just watch the first three minutes of the news and you’ll know what we mean by Mad World. It’s so obvious that it’s already become normal. The madness has made itself socially acceptable in the last decades, that makes the whole thing even more mad. And when you look at what disaster is taking place this year, one can only hope that humanity will eventually learn from mistakes. But unfortunately it will not happen because the animal in the form of human primal instincts tries to free itself and it does not take long until it is finally unleashed.

AM: The feedback from reviewers seems to be enthusiastic to say the least. Do you pay any attention at all to what critics say after all these years – even if the feedback you get isn’t all positive?

MF: Of course we hear what the world has to say about our work, we are not ignorant. And criticism is also very welcome. However, you always have to be careful whether this is constructive or is simply intended to reduce the sender’s frustration. We are now very good at that and we certainly do not want to let the joy of our work take away from us. We always want to get better and always get the best out of a new album. If we can do that, then we are happy and so are the fans.

AM: While writing songs for the new album, were you inspired more by what’s generally happening in the world, or your own experiences as both individuals and seasoned musicians?

MF: The writing of the lyrics mostly comes from my current feeling. I often think about society and what could be better. It is difficult not to stand there as a do-gooder because I am not naive to believe that all the world’s problems can be solved with a few lines. But maybe I can make you think. I think it’s important that people make up their own mind and not allow themselves to be controlled remotely, as is pretty much the case at the moment.

AM: What the mere title of  “Fake News” surely brings to mind are clickbait, sensationalism and generally all the wrong that’s been done to the art of journalism. But from a musician’s point of view, with print press dying a slow death and more independent bloggers and journos than ever, has music journalism changed for better or for worse?

MF: It has become very difficult to distinguish the truth from the lie these days. It just comes from the fact that every person has the urge and the opportunity to express themselves and so many untruths arise, whether wanted or not. In any case, everything has to go faster and faster so that you are the first to spread something. Due to this speed, important information is lost and in the end a completely different statement comes out. And if you are still being paid for this speed and apparent exclusivity, you don’t even bother to convey the content. I see it differently in music journalism. You can easily tell when someone has dealt with a band or an album and when they haven’t. The readers of this press are very sensitive and defend themselves against such articles, although there are certainly black sheep there too. I once got up in an interview in Madrid and answered when the journalist asked me if the weather was nice in Sweden. As a musician, I don’t feel that I’m being taken seriously, because Switzerland is a bit different from Sweden and there are certainly more interesting questions than those about the weather.

AM: Definitely… So, lyrically Mad World is not really an optimistic album, but there’s always hope they say. What do you think everyone should do to reach the titular “new tomorrow” and make it a better one?

MF: Hope dies last, they say. And that seems to be true. But for that you always need a bearer of hope and with the best will I cannot find them anywhere in the world at the moment. On the contrary, everything is geared towards suppression and control. So a huge step backwards. The song “New Tomorrow” is actually about a love that ends and the suffering person wishes for a new morning. You never know what comes next, but according to the string theory – everything.

AM: In terms of music, Mad World doesn’t make a drastic departure from the rest of your discography, yet – it has an overtly modern vibe to it. With Shakra not being stuck in 1997 by any means, what do you do to keep your approach to making music fresh and your sound up-to-date?

MF: We never try to chase a trend. I think that the freshness comes from the fact that we do what we like and unconsciously let ourselves be inspired by everyday life. Our two guitarists are always tinkering with the guitar sounds and Thom (Blunier), our lead guitarist and producer, always has a clear sound concept in mind.

AM: With all due criticism to the modern world we can find on the album, Shakra doesn’t fall behind when it comes to embracing elements of modern life such as social media. Do you think a band can exist today without being active on Facebook, Instagram or YouTube?

MF: I sometimes find it a bit annoying to have to be up to date on all the platforms, because the main thing is to feed their operators. On the other hand, it is a good connection to the fans to keep them up to date and therefore makes sense. But sometimes it can just be too much. Better a little less presence but with good content. For me personally there is no band in the world that I want to read or see something new every minute. Good things always take time and therefore a bit of patience and slowing down would be useful from time to time. That goes for everyone.

AM: Speaking of the present and looking into the future, what do you think is the future of Hard Rock?

MF: I think there will be more interest in this type of music soon. Simply because you no longer hear it that often. Young people are already rediscovering it and allowing others to participate. I can’t predict whether it will be the same again, but it will definitely get better because Rock will never die out, it is just too good for that.

AM: Obviously, the European 2020 tour shared partly with Gotthard fizzled out, and so did your scheduled performance at the Big Gun Festival in Russia…

MF: Since we couldn’t start the tour and the whole summer season has been postponed to next year, we hope to be able to start again in September. We also had to postpone the tour with Gotthard until next spring. We are confident that we can start soon and we are all the more looking forward to it. Unfortunately, this Russian festival had to be postponed until next year too… It would have been our first concert in Russia and we were really looking forward to it, also because we are very amazed at how many fans we already have in Russia. We weren’t even aware of that, but we’re very honored. We look forward to next year and will rock as hard as we can!

AM: Before the pandemic hit, you were scheduled to take part in other open air festivals in the summer too, including the German fest Bang Your Head as well as the Swedish Sabaton Open Air. Do you prefer those huge festivals to small venues like clubs?

MF: I personally like both very much. It’s both different. In the clubs everything is much more personal, while at the festivals the crowd is very impressive. I couldn’t decide what to like better.

AM: Any other plans?

MF: Not at the moment – Corona has slowed us down, but we will fight back!

AM: Is there anything you’d like to add?

MF: Thank you for the interview! Keep on rockin’ in a mad world!

Shakra Official Website

Shakra on Facebook

You can check out Shakra’s music video to their single “Fireline” below:


Interview with Nils Molin of Dynazty

We need change, we need it fast/Before rock’s just part of the past/’Cause lately it all sounds the same to me… Although the Ramones’ 1980 single “Do You Remember Rock’n’Roll Radio” turns 40 this year and many people name-checked in the song are no longer with us, the sentiment expressed in the quote is still relevant. In order to survive, artists of virtually every genre have to let themselves mature and evolve. And as far as we talk the current Rock/Metal scene, the living proof of this is the Swedish five-piece Dynazty and their transformation. Once a late 2000s Hard Rock sensation, now they’re refined Melodic Metal act with rich musical resumes (Joe Lynn Turner, Lindemann, Amaranthe… ) and much potential for further evolution. So is their upcoming album The Dark Delight – out on April the 3rd, 2020 via AFM Records – only another step on their way, or a destination itself? I caught up with Dynazty‘s frontman Nils Molin to find out this and a lot more. 

Alexandra Mrozowska: Do you think the upcoming Dynazty album The Dark Delight is the destination the band aimed towards sound-wise since Renatus?

Nils Molin: The Dark Delight could definitely be considered the goal we always aimed for when we started this era of the band back in 2014 with the Renatus album. I’m pretty confident, though, that we will continue to evolve and incorporate new ideas and influences in the future. The Dark Delight has a lot of elements we’ve never tried on before, and yet at the same time it is the ultimate testament of what Dynazty has always wanted to be.

AM: Contrary to many other bands plagued with frequent line-up changes, Dynazty’s line-up has been stable for years now. Do you think this kind of stability affects the band’s artistic growth in any way?

Nils Molin: For sure. There’s such a strong bond in this band, and has been for years now. We know each other in and out and have so much fun together. This couldn’t possibly be a negative.

AM: Do you think The Dark Delight could be described as a concept album? What do you think may be the titular “dark delight” of the modern world?

Nils Molin: I wouldn’t call The Dark Delight a concept album per se, although many themes re-occur and flow through the album. Temptation, self-reinvention, redemption etc… Oh, and if there is a “dark delight” of the modern world, it will definitely be social media (laughs) The song “Apex” is my take on how it is force to be reckoned with in terms of dumbing down a generation… 

AM: “The choice is mine and I choose to be free”, goes the lyrical ego in “The Man And The Elements” and it’s not the only song on the new release that explores the topic of personal freedom. Why do you think it’s discussed so often nowadays?

Nils Molin: Today, in the western part of the world, we have basically limitless options in terms of life choices. Yet, so many people still feel trapped and unable to find their true call in life. There are so many expectations of how we’re supposed to live life that many people are falling in between their own desires and the societal structures. This is to me “The Man versus The Elements”. Find and choose your own path, come hell or high water.

AM: Surely one of the most important songs on the album is “Presence Of Mind”, and that’s not only because of it being a first single but also because of the message behind it. What was the inspiration behind the song?

Nils Molin: In terms of writing the overall music, the goal was to create a heavy and simplistic groove, layered with a melodic bomb of a chorus. In terms of lyrical themes, it deals with overcoming struggles through the force of changing your mindset. Overcome your demons, or succumb to them, stray from or stay on a destructive path. All is within the grasp of your mind.

AM: “The Black” seems to be a sequel to “The Grey” off 2018’s Firesign. What prompted such a reference, and was it planned from the early stages of working on the album?

Nils Molin: It is a sequel, yes. And that was the idea ever since the first instrumental drafts of the song was written. To me it just had a similar spirit to “The Grey”, which is where the idea to actually make it into a proper sequel originated from. We re-used some of the musical themes from “The Grey” and I wrote lyrics as a direct follow up to it. To me, it just seemed like a cool idea from the start. Not a lot of bands do this sort of things.

AM: While working on the album, do you limit your songwriting to certain themes and topics you find appropriate for the particular release? 

Nils Molin: When I write lyrics I don’t exclude anything. Whatever flows or connects with the song should be embraced. A while into the songwriting, though, the overall themes start to settle.

Tallee Savage – Savage Photography – Copyright 2019 ©

AM: There’s certain modern vibe to the sound on the album with tracks like “From Sound To Silence”. Are there any contemporary bands that you find particularly influential towards the band’s current sound?

Nils Molin: We love many contemporary bands active today and that will of course influence us, just like it would in the case of any other band. When it comes to our songwriting, though, it will always be a combination of elements from the past and modern era of Hard Rock and Metal. 

AM: The Dark Delight is also another album the band decided to produce themselves. What are the advantages of such a solution? Why did you decide to work with the renowned Danish producer/sound engineer Jacob Hansen at the mixing stage of the album? 

Nils Molin: The advantage is that if you have a vision, that vision will be 100 per cent uncompromised. Working with an outside producer can be important especially early on in your career. But at this point, in terms of songwriting, we are pretty confident in ourselves as producers. Nobody is more critical of our music than ourselves. And in my opinion, Jacob is one of the very best sound engineers and producers in the world – if not the best one. His mixing and production are so naturally powerful and his level of expertise is staggering. His influence on the album is giving it the kind of sound and production value we have always sought after.

AM: A few years ago, you declared to focus mostly on your newer releases when it comes to concert setlists, with just a few possible exceptions. Do you happen to re-visit your early catalogue more thoroughly when occassion arises? And is there a Dynazty song you’d never play live again, even if fans requested for that particular one?

Nils Molin: We did revisit some older material this fall, when we did two hometown shows in Stockholm as a sort of belated 10th anniversary celebration of the band. We even managed to get all original members of Dynazty to play together at this event. Lots of fun! Though for upcoming tours, the main focus will be on the new album. And as for the songs, we don’t exclude anything. I’m not a particular fan of just throwing in random songs into a live set, though. The set needs to flow and most important thing is to have an overall good show over a random rarity – unless a track would be in very high demand, of course.

AM: If you looked back on your early albums and the very beginning of your career, what your afterthoughts would be? 

Nils Molin: Everything we did in the past lead us to where we are today. And our present probably would not exist the way it is if it wasn’t for it. With that said, I do wish we had waited a little with releasing albums until we were truly ready for it, by experimenting more with what the band actually would want to be. Still, I’m proud of what we did in the early days. We were young as hell, had no clue about the business and had to learn through trial and error.

AM: Dynazty’s band members seem to have quite a busy schedule also outside the band. What influence does it have over Dynazty in both artistic and organizational aspects?

Nils Molin: I don’t think it has much of an influence on the band artistically. What it does is giving the band more exposure, more contacts and more experience as a live act. Those are never negatives. We have tight schedules, yes, but there will always be plenty of time if you’re willing to work hard.

AM: As you’ve mentioned, the band’s hometown is Stockholm, Sweden. What do you think is so specific about the Scandinavian music scene – Swedish scene in particular – that makes it so prolific?

Nils Molin: Over the years Sweden has produced a ton of succesful acts over all kinds of genres, especially considering how small of a country we are. This will naturally inspire and produce new generations of bands and artists. In Sweden we have also had very good musical education choices, even very early on in school.

AM: Recently I discussed the current Swedish music scene in the episode of a radio show I guest co-hosted (The Michael Spiggos Melodic Rock & Metal Show on Rock Radio UK) with the show’s host Michael Spiggos and the conclusion was that the mutual support and respect among the bands is what really differentiates your homeland from other countries. Do you agree? And are there any relatively obscure Scandinavian bands you’d like to recommend to the readers?

Nils Molin: Yeah, sure. Most bands on the Hard Rock/Metal scene run into each other sooner or later. There has always been camaraderie and only a healthy kind of competition among Swedish bands. And I’ve just toured with a band from Finland called Blind Channel. Great and hard working guys that I wish all the best.

AM: Back to the current business – The Dark Delight is out in early April and also around that time you have a short European tour scheduled. What’s next after that?

Nils Molin: We will do a Scandinavian tour in May and then another European tour in the fall before most likely heading over to Japan. More touring at the start of next year and so on and so forth!

AM: Any last words?

Nils Molin: Thanks for reading and do NOT miss our new album The Dark Delight out on April 3rd!

Dynazty Official Website

Dynazty on Facebook