20 Questions with Hal Marabel of Mad Invasion

The cool thing about running a site like Let’s Rock is discovering new music from all around the world. Case in point: MAD INVASION, a hard rock band from Sweden. After listening to their debut album, The Edge Of The World, I was impressed. After reading guitarist/keyboardist Hal Marabel’s answers to the email questions I submitted, I became a bigger fan. The fact that Motorhead/Scorpions drummer Mikkey Dee performs in three of the videos to promote the album is icing on the cake. That is my six degrees of Mad Invasion seperation, after having met Mikkey in Korea before a Motorhead show.

Anyone who says rock is dead needs to hear the debut album of Mad Invasion, which will be released in September, 2021. Thanks to Hal for his honest and insightful answers.

1. How old were you when you started playing the guitar?
My father taught me guitar from the age of 6 and was my first big inspiration. The guitar was a small sized nylon-string since my fingers were so small then. Since my father was also a great singer, we had many fine sessions playing and singing together. I remember these times very fondly.

2. When did you realize that the guitar was something you wanted to master?
Quite early on people told me that I had a good sense of rhythm and melody and this inspired me to explore my playing techniques further, both different kinds of strumming and finger-picking but also combining tones and melodies in different ways.

3. Who were your main influences when you started playing the guitar?
At first I was mostly inspired by troubadours and folk music, but when I heard Jimi Hendrix for the first time (1971), I was blown away by how he could make those guitar sounds. The following years I started to discover bands like Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple – and a new world opened up. When the more visual bands like Kiss, Sweet and Slade appeared on the rock scene, I just knew that I had to get into the band business myself.

4. Can you remember the first gig you ever played?
Yes, It was with my first rock band back in 1978, at the age of 14. We played at the local youth club. It was quite a rowdy affair as we liked to play loud and I don’t think that people were really ready for us. The name of the band was something that would translate to ‘The Neighbour’s Complaint’.

5. Hows the music scene, particularly the rock scene in Sweden? In Canada, so many live venues are closing down and it’s so much more difficult for bands to get out and gig.
It’s similar, we used to have more clubs that had bands playing. Now, it’s mostly the bigger venues left and they have been shut down during the pandemic. So we’ll see how things develop moving forward. I think that pure online gigs will increase as a result, and also the combination of live gigs that are simultaneously streamed online.

6. How did you get together with band and how did you decide on the name? I love band origin stories
Björn actually had a band in the 80’s called MAD INVASION so when the new band got together in 2016, it was decided to use that name for the new band as well. We’ve all known each other for ages and have been part of the same rock community over the years so I guess it was about time to do something together. I joined the band in 2018 when Björn called me up and asked me if I wanted to join the band. I’m also in another band called BAD HABIT Sweden (melodic rock) but felt that it would be fun and interesting to also be part of a heavier band, in particular one that focuses on Classic Rock.

7. Congratulations on the album, Edge of The World. It comes out in September, 2021. What can you tell us about the writing and recording?
Thanx, we’re very happy with the result and hope that rock fans all over the world with like the album. All songs, except one – were written by Björn, Pete and myself and in contrast to many other bands, we have quite a different process for recording and producing our music.
The writing process typically starts with Björn laying down some basic guitar tracks in our studio, to try out a new song idea. Next, Pete will get introduced to the song and some ideas for lyrics and arrangements. Once the he has a feel for the song he will write the lyrics and the vocals are then recorded. This part of the process is a bit different since Pete likes to record his vocals just to the guitars and a click track – without any backgrounds or effects in his listening. After the vocals, I come into the picture and the recorded tracks are transferred to my computer where the actual music production project is officially born. I then add keyboards, sounds and effects, as well as working with the rhythm section and overall arrangement of the song. At this point, the final bass guitar and background vocals are recorded. Throughout the recording and production process, the songs are continuously iterated within the band for input and ideas until all feel satisfied with the result.

8. What kind of guitars are you using on the album? Can you remember your first axe?
Björn and I mostly use the old classics as we think that they both sound and feel good to play. On the album we used a Gibson Les Paul historic 1960, Gibson Les Paul SG 1962, as well as a newer Gibson Flying V. Regarding my first guitar, it was a cheap Gibson-copy called Hondo II – humble beginnings indeed… : )

9. What are your touring plans later in the year when the album drops?
The plan is to do a first gig in November, to try out the songs live, and then start to prepare for more gigging during Spring next year.

10. How do you get a drummer like Mikkey Dee in your video and was your drummer Mats pissed that he wasn’t in the vids?
Pete, our singer, has known Mikkey since they were teenagers and both lived in Gothenburg. They were part of the same music community and often watched each other play local gigs. Planning for the first three videos from the album, we asked Pete if there was any chance that Mikkey could be interested in being a special guest in the videos, since they knew each other from before. As it turned out, he was happy to help out since he liked the songs and our approach. Mats B was cool about it as he likes Mikkeys’s playing and also felt that it would be cool for the band. Mats is in the other 5 videos from the album.

11. How did you handle the Covid-19 Pandemic? Was Sweden hit hard?

In Sweden the restrictions have been a bit more relaxed than in some other countries although the recommendations have been very clear and continuously repeated. I think that this approach has been better when you also consider the economical side of things, the ‘money wheel’ needs to keep turning. Practicing safe distancing and acting responsibly in public, takes you a long way. Now with the vaccinations, things are rapidly improving as well.

12. Keyboards are not something I usually like in aggressive hard rock, but on Edge of the World, they really work. What is the trick to making them fit and not sounding too poppy?
Thanx, and I agree –keyboards can easily ‘poppify’ the sound and even take over sometimes, diluting the heaviness of a sound. For Mad Invasion, the guitar riffs are the base, (which are) supported by the drums and bass. The keyboards are there to back the base, fill spaces in the arrangements and create extra dynamics where needed. There are also a lot of FX sounds in the production, but the trick here is also to not let them take over but rather enhance what is already there or build up to what’s coming.

13. You seem to be downtuned quite a bit on the album. What are your tunings?
Yes, we use a big drop-down for our playing – a 5 semi-tone lower key. So the normal E string becomes a B, and the normal A string becomes an E. It creates a cool sound but of course also requires some adjustments as far as strings and string combinations.

14. Did I hear a little Accept influence at the beginning of Fallen Angel? How do you keep your influences from creeping into your playing in order to have your own sound and style?

Ha, ha, ha… since all of us are ‘old school’ rockers, there are some influences that will show through here and there. It’s not intentional in any way, it just happens. We see it as paying tribute to great bands of the past that deserve to be remembered.

15. There aren’t many guitar solos on the album. Is this a conscious decision or did most of the songs just not warrant a solo?

Yes, this is a conscious decision from our side. Guitar solos were cool in the 70’s and 80’s but nowadays mostly feels out of place since they tend to distract rather than add value to songs. As part of an intro or outro, it can serve a purpose, so that’s why we have an outro solo in the background in the song ‘Walking In The Shadows’.

16. The band’s sound is so interesting. The guitars are so heavy, but with the vocal melodies and harmonies, the songs can appeal to listeners of many different rock genres.

Thanx, this is exactly what we are hoping for when people listen to the album – that the combination of our heavy and melodic approach and delivery will appeal to them. It’s all about taking the classic rock into the modern ages so that more people relate to and enjoy it.

17. As a Canadian, I must admit, I don’t know too many Swedish artists. ABBA, Yngwie, Ghost, Europe are the only one’s I can think of. Who should people unfamiliar with Swedish music be checking out. Oh, wasn’t Ace Of Bass also from Sweden?
Yes, Sweden has produced some great music over the years, and continue to do so. Not only as far as bands but in particular also as song writers and producers for other artists. As far as bands from the past, some other examples are: Roxette, The Cardigans, The Hives and Mando Diao. Among the more modern rock bands, they include: Dead By April, Amaranthe, In Flames, Sabaton, Soilwork, Pain, Dark Tranquility, Scar Symmetry, Hammerfall, Entombed, Opeth, Meshuggah, Bathory, etc.

18. Also as a Canadian, I’m a big fan of many Canadian artists and am wondering if there are any that you like now, or that helped influence you when you were younger.

Yes, Heart was a big influence in the 80’s and I listened a lot to Alanis Morisette when her debut album hit the stores in the 90’s. Rush, Triumph, Nickelback, Loverboy – are other bands that I listened to during that period as well. Among the modern rock bands I have both Theory Of A Deadman and Art Of Dying in my Heavy Rock playlist on Spotify.

19. Give us a brief history of Hal Marabel. What were you doing before Mad Invasion? Etc.
Musically, I have my other band BAD HABIT Sweden, which started in the late 80’s and are still active (also release new album in October). During the 90’s I was also in a band called BAI BANG as well as in a pop/rock duo called ARENA Sweden. Over the years I have also been heavily involved in sports, training and competing in sports such as Judo, Karate, Tennis, Track & Field and also Athletic Fitness. For many years I have also worked in Business, where my focus areas have included everything from Communication, Marketing, Information & Knowledge Management to Change Management and Digital Transformation – the latter being areas that I am still active in (Group Digital in IKEA).

20. I always ask this question, just for fun…What, in your opinion, is the greatest guitar song ever recorded? I know it’s hard to narrow down, but everyone has their favourite. (mine is master of puppets, just so you know)
There are of course many great guitar-driven songs to choose from but if I go by how much I used to play the lead riffs and dream myself away to the big stages – some songs that come to mind are: ‘Purple Haze’ (Jimi Hendrix), ‘Smoke On The Water (Deep Purple), ‘Highway To Hell (AC/DC), ‘Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love’ (Van Halen). Out of those, the riff that suits my style the best is ‘Highway To Hell’, since I love the open dist-chords combined with a cool rhythmic figure.

Thanks so much, Hal. I wish you the greatest success and if you’re ever in Ottawa, Canada, there’s a Tim Horton’s coffee with your name on it. Cheers.

Thanx so much Ken… interesting questions that were fun to answer… : )
I’ve only ever been to Toronto in Canada… but Ottawa is for sure on the list when the time comes for another visit…

MAD INVASION is:

Pete Sandberg-Vocals

Björn Dahlberg-Guitar

Hal Marabel-Guitar / Keyboards

Mats Jeppsson-Bass

Mats Bergentz-Drums

LINKS

Official Website

FACEBOOK

Youtube

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