Interview with guitarists Larri Malinen and Marcus Borggren
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: February 9, 2021
Viral, a relentless 5-piece heavy metal unit from Linköping, Sweden, formed in 2012 and has slowly but steadily building up a firm foundation of honest and straight heavy metal music that is NWOBHM-flavored, catchy and captivating. The guys have been working on their debut album with great passion and devotion and the breaking news is that all this hard work has finally paid off. They released their 9-track album digitally on January 8, 2021, and it will also be available on both CD and vinyl formats later this spring.
The Metal Crypt was so impressed by the album that we wanted to know more about Viral. After a couple of emails back and forth, they agreed it would be a good idea to do this interview with us, so here we go...
How's it going over there in Linköping? Marcus told me earlier that you also had some minor symptoms of COVID-19... how have you been coping with this situation there at your home in Linköping?
Larri & Marcus: Thank you for asking! Yes, we are just fine here considering the circumstances. Of course, we all are affected as we have regular jobs as well as families. We are very eager to start playing together again ASAP. As depressing as this lockdown lifestyle is, it has resulted in quite a creative spark, so we're definitely not just putting the band on pause. Lots and lots of plans ahead.
Most frustrating, of course, is that we cannot play the new music in front of people, or in a rehearsal room. We want to give back to the amazing metal community!
HOW DID IT ALL START FOR VIRAL?
Your band Viral was started in 2012. What led to forming the band?
Larri & Marcus: Certainly! It started with Larri Mohell Malinen and Albin Forsell departing from a small band with friends in 2012. The ambition was to pursue music more seriously, music which would pay homage to many of the NWOBHM and heavy metal legends with a slightly modernized production. As such, a wide and thorough search for members was done to find like-minded, loving and ambitious people. The set-up has undergone some changes since then, but our current set-up is solid:
Vocals: Albin Forsell
Guitar: Marcus Borggren
Guitar: Larri Mohell Malinen
Bass: Christian Ståhl
Drums: Linus Melchiorsen
Together, we wish to share the traditional heavy metal sound and unite people through the love for music.
Was it easy to task to find like-minded fellows to carry the torch of heavy metal for Viral?
Larri & Marcus: It was quite an endeavor. For instance, we took it upon ourselves to contact a looot of guitar players before we found Marcus, who was a humble talent with a heart of gold (or possibly metal, as yet undecided). Gradually, it all came together. For a short time, we had Thomas Olausson on drums, an amazing singer in the current band Slingshot (Sweden). Rickard Sandell was once rocking the percussion (in a straitjacket, might I add) and Björn Almgren wielded the bass, providing a solid foundation. We also had Johan Rapp on bass at one point, an incredible musician in oh-so-many bands (guitarist and singer in Rudyard, for instance). All amazing musicians, and we wish them nothing but the best <3
Currently the Viral family is alive and kicking with a solid line-up, hungry and ready.
Why did it take 8-9 years to get your self-titled debut album recorded? Did it have much to do with personal lives, jobs, families, etc.?
Larri & Marcus: Oh wow...! That is hard to summarize. For one thing, the Viral family has been steadily expanding over those nine years. A viral baby boom, one might say. In addition, there has been some changes in our line-up throughout the years, as mentioned. At one point we started a recording project with a group of wonderfully enthusiastic individuals, but the studio was unfortunately shut down due to a mold situation, so we had to reset.
From that point, recording by ourselves was a long process, as we did not have the know-how and had to take a learning-by-doing approach. We did not want to settle for anything less than our very best. Albin had some complications with his voice throughout the recording process too, and we did not want to waste the potential we all knew he had by rushing forward. Luckily, now that all of these issues are behind us, we have what we need to keep the rock train running. Hopefully, COVID-19 will allow us to play together again soon.
Do you have any regrets about not getting the album recorded earlier, which could have opened doors like slots at bigger festivals?
Larri & Marcus: Earlier would have been better, as it is always so much fun to gig. Then again, we'd rather spend the time we need to get a product we are proud of out there rather than rush it. The support we have received is amazing and we have all been smiling until our cheeks hurt. We are very much pleased and happy about the current response. The metal community is amazing!
What was the recording process for the album like?
Larri & Marcus: We took the recording very seriously. As this was the debut, we wanted things to be as well produced as possible, so we took our good time to get all the small details in order. I (Larri) might have been a pain in the buttocks to work with in that regard. Humbly, I regret nothing. Teehee... (OK, sorry guys)
We had so much fun doing it too, and there was plenty of time to goof around. If you take a quick peek at our two studio vlogs on Facebook, that becomes apparent. When it came to the end product, we were very dedicated.
... AND THE MUSIC ITSELF—WHAT IS IT LIKE?
There's a strong NWOBHM flavor to the songs on the record, so I guess the usual suspects—Maiden, Priest, etc., have all been there for all of you since you guys became interested in a heavier form of music and grabbed instruments of your own and starting to make some cool "noise." What can you tell us about your earliest inspirations and influences?
Larri & Marcus: Everybody in Viral has a very different musical background, to say the least. Larri was very into retro games in his youth, which have some sick heavy metal tunes in them. It is also no surprise that Albin and Larri also share a common enthusiasm for Judas Priest and early Iron Maiden. Christian has early inspirations from Metallica, Pantera, Sepultura, Machine Head, Guns N' Roses and later on, more black and death metal influences. Marcus is very inspired by Exodus, Megadeth, Black Sabbath, and Death Angel. Linus has early influences from Black Sabbath, Dio, Judas Priest, Sepultura, Porcupine Tree, among many others. It is very hard to summarize it all.
Respect goes out to the current heavy metal bands keeping the sound alive today! True inspirations! Kryptos, Air Raid, Roadwolf, Traveler, Coltre, Malison, Backslash, Screamer, Visigoth, Striker, Skull Fist just to name a few. It is hard to not get blown away by all the talents out there!
People overall seem to be amazed by your tight yet party-like, relaxed and loose musicianship. What's your "secret weapon"?
Larri & Marcus: Are you trying to flatter us (because it's working!!!)?
Honestly, we don't know. We are just another bunch of happy, loving musicians, humbly doing our best to create music that we enjoy.
I suppose there is always the very generic answer; years of practice, attention to detail, constant social media marketing, love and passion for what we do and just staying on top of things. We have good sources of inspiration to guide us, as well as an audience ranging from very young to very old.
But that doesn't sound like a very interesting "secret weapon" at all, does it? So we'll just say that we cover ourselves in spaghetti before each show and see if it catches on.
WHO LEADS WHAT—AND WHO WORKS HIS ASS OFF?
Do you have special areas within the band where one member is very good, so responsibility can b shared that way, i.e., one of you takes care of the lyric writing, one makes sure you have catchy chorus parts in your songs and so on?
Larri & Marcus: "Leonardo leads, Donatello does machines!"
Jokes aside, yes. Musically speaking, Marcus, Albin and Larri were working together to create the songs on this album in a common effort. However, nowadays we all pitch in. It will be a mixed bag, for sure!
Of course, there is a lot of work in a band besides the music to keep everything up and running. Interviews like this one for one thing, the webpage, social platforms, orders and much, much more. We are trying to split that portion up somewhat, as we are all good at different things.
Are you happy with how people have liked your album thus far? Undoubtedly some of the comments have made you think you are onto something special with your music, right?
Larri & Marcus: Honestly, it feels surreal. For both Larri and Albin, this is their very first album and that always carries a special place in one's heart. To be at the receiving end of so much support is heartwarming! Ninjas cutting onions in here...
We are very motivated to keep going.
Do you have plans to shoot any videos to get the word out about the band?
Larri & Marcus: Yes, a certain band member is very, very enthusiastic about getting a music video *cough cough* Albin *cough cough* so we will try to make his wishes come true. But there is always the aspect of COVID-19 (and money) so how near this future will be is hard to say. Probably not 2021.
Is Viral a Swedish equivalent to New York's Riot, as some people have made such comparisons? ;o)
Larri & Marcus: Hah! We wish. Ain't nothing getting close to Thundersteel! But when Jerry Prütz from the local newspaper made the comparison, we were very happy with it, unsurprisingly (and don't be surprised to find it quoted on my epitaph). Riot are absolute legends!
WHAT IS THE FUTURE OF GIGGING GOING TO BE LIKE?
Obviously, when/if this virus situation allows live gigs again, you have made plans for the band to head out on the road and get a bunch of shows done in 2021. Is there anything concrete to be revealed at this point?
Larri & Marcus: Well, as you said, it is hard to promise anything right now. It is the way it is. Currently, we have one gig in Jönköping planned with two known New Wave of Traditional Heavy Metal acts the 27th of November. Hopefully, things will be better by then.
Out of all the shows you have done thus far, which has been your favorite and why?
Larri & Marcus: It is impossible to say. We are having so much fun either way, and we are so very happy that many people are joining in! Or just one person. It doesn't matter. As long as the place doesn't fall apart, the gig is a 10/10. A big shout-out to Christian Möllerström, he has hooked us up with so many great gigs in Jönköping!
PLACES TO GO IN LINKÖPING
How is Linköping as a place to live for a musician? Do you have nice venues there that book metal bands? I understand a casual metal/rock tourist might check out Platens Bar (ex. Michale Graves, the ex-Misfits vocalist, is scheduled to perform there on April 14, 2021) and in case you are hungry for grabbing some metal music for yourself, Crazy Records in Linköping should be on your shopping list. Are there other places that you recommend? What is the overall atmosphere for metal like?
Larri & Marcus: For a long, long time L'Orient was one of the classic venues to play. Many great acts played there through the years. We played our very first show at L'Orient back in 2012, so we were very sad when they closed down some time ago. But we send our love to Sami who was the driving force of L'Orient. We also have Palatset close to our hearts. Our home turf, one might say. In combination with Hell Yeah rock club we have received nothing but love and support from them. They have a great sounding stage, relaxed venue with pool tables and nice food and always quality acts too!
Linköping is a very good city for musicians overall. There's always free space somewhere for bands to rehearse and there's always people around helping you to succeed.
Yes, Crazy Records is a given! If you're into vinyl and various merch, it is the place to go. We also have the Bengans record store which has been around Linköping in different forms for a long time. They're also known to host small acoustic gigs inside the store which is awesome. We also really miss all the open mic sessions, those were wonderful!
How do you like Linköping's (underground) metal music scene? Do you have a "we-are-all-one-big-family" feel there among metal bands?
Larri & Marcus: Well, it's a semi-big city so we are often acquainted with each other somehow as we go to the same venues and share the same love for music. The scene here is really good, and lots of good bands have roots in Linköping, such as Ghost, Nekrokraft, Oblivious, Night, Axewitch, Mindless Sinner, Hällas, Siberian, Nocturnalia, Märvel, Dead Soul just to name a few!
FUELED BY FUN OF PLAYING HEAVY METAL
What fuel keeps the band going, from one year to another?
Larri & Marcus: We might have our own different reasons, but it is just plain fun to play heavy metal. It has all the nuances of metal. It can be really heavy, it can be less heavy. It can be brutal, it can be melodic, it can be slow, fast and everything in between. This may be a part of what fuels it. It satisfies all our metal backgrounds in one package. We know where we are heading and all of us feel good about our roles in the band, I think.
OK, I have one last question for you and then I will let you go for a beer. What are you most proud of with this band?
Larri & Marcus: On a personal level I am proud that I could find friends for life after entering adulthood. Other than that, I am proud of our songs and the chemistry that we share. Me (Marcus) and Larri both have very different playing styles, and we have learned a lot from each other's playing throughout the years.
I am also proud that this project, which wasn't ever meant to be played on stage, now has a product that has been streamed a lot during these past two weeks. That is amazing to all of us (in fact, Larri even started out with severe stage fright). We hope to stay as lucky as we've already been!
That was it, guys, so I sincerely want to thank both of you for your time in getting this interview done, and in the very same breath, I want to wish you all the best with all of your future endeavors with the band. If you have anything else that'd you like to add to wrap this conversation up, then by all means be my guest... ;o)
We want to thank you for the interest you have shown in the band. These were good questions, and a bit tricky! Let's just hope that we get to meet at some point just to share a beer and headbang together. That's what we want for everyone that might read this. A good time! Sending greetings from all of the band!
|Other information about Viral on this site|
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