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Joakim Karlsson - Bad Omens

INTERVIEW: Everything ‘The Death Of Peace Of Mind’ & More With Bad Omens’ Joakim Karlsson

While on the road for their European headliner tour surrounding their most recent album THE DEATH OF PEACE OF MIND, Bad Omens played a (way too small) show in Dynamo, Eindhoven in front of a few hundred people, while a few literal thousands of fans were sadly unable to grab tickets for the show, we sat down with Bad Omens producer, writer and guitarist Joakim “Jolly” Karlsson to discuss the new album, the insane popularity and more. Check out the conversation we had right below!

First and foremost, how are you doing today? 

I’m doing good today. Absolutely. I like the Netherlands and the city’s very cute, picturesque almost. I haven’t gone far, but the little walk I’ve done is nice, little coffee shops, people were out and about and I had myself a kebab. It’s good. It’s a nice vibe coming from Hamburg, which is a little bit more grotesque, I guess.

There’s a McDonald’s and then there’s like sex signs next to it, like wow, we are in Europe. But today it’s been good. We’re all trying to settle into our bunk situation and trying to get the proper rest from catching the jet lag and all of that. But I’m not gonna complain.

How were the Hamburg shows? 

They were good. It was a small place, they said it was one of the smallest ones on this run and we are coming straight from our headliner in America. Those were bigger rooms and we had our whole setup. And now we realized at the first show we had to strip down a lot of production essentially because I guess our show isn’t really catered for those small places anymore.

We like to bring a whole shebang with it. But being up there was very close, it was very intimate and everybody was singing really loud and it was really good. I think we had a really good time. So, that was a cool little start off, knocking off and I’m excited for the other ones.

We think we have bigger opinions of ourselves than our promoters do. They said we were thinking too big, because we wanted a lot of people to come and present a big show and now we heard for tonight, 2000 people were looking for a ticket and it sucks to have 2000 people not be able to come. 

You came out swinging with your most recent album, THE DEATH OF PEACE OF MIND, how have you experienced these last 12 months?

It’s just been a lot of touring. We’ve been touring, then home a month, touring, home a month, and the expansion there is, we could feel even when we were opening for Underoath, we could see from the start that there were a lot of people there for us. You can see that in participation.

You can see them singing, you can see people wearing our merch and we can see people buying our merch. And that just climbed throughout the year. And then you know, a little bit later when Just Pretend got heat on TikTok, that exploded right before our headliner there and that’s created an even bigger demand.

Again, we are so grateful to sell the whole tour out before it even started just like we did in America. And then you start looking from the other end of it, like, the demand was so big and there’s so many people that won’t be able to see us. But it’s been an incredible year and it has a lot to do with TikTok which definitely boosted it.

I think that we would’ve gone places without TikTok, but that helped because it just blew it up and everyone listened to that song and then listened to the other songs and started liking the band through that little gate that opened up there. So that was our year, I guess, where everything kind of fell into place.

You create your own luck, so to speak, so I like to see that all of those seven years of hustle has a little bit to do with it. I don’t go so much online and read any comments so much or reviews anymore because I just feel like it speaks for itself with the reception we’re getting.

I’m definitely very interested when we have a few songs going on the radio and I’m always updating those stats, like, where are we right now? Because I want to go up, you know, battling ourselves. We’ve been at best number seven with Like A Villain in active radio rock in America.

So you look at all the other songs, and now it’s Just Pretend, I think we just climbed to six the other day and I was like, oh, cool. I wanna go all the way to one. So that’s my morning reading, I update that. I see all our friends dropping music and like to see them climbing, them doing good. That’s cool. But if you’re really even on these lists, I guess you’re doing quite all right, cause this is radio time I’m talking about. 

You said that you would’ve liked this record to be the introduction to Bad Omens rather than the third album. Why do you feel like this was the album where everything else came together? 

I think we find a true identity with this album. I think we completed the creation of our own pocket in this world, of so many different genres, which we have never really been interested in, genre categorization, which you can kind of hear with our album progression. It was metal core and then the second one is way more experimental.

It was definitely metal core, but we have Kingdom of Cards and we had The Fountain, we had these weird songs that show that we watch movies, I guess. And then we like to just kind of put whatever in. And I think the third one just kind of spoke to that, like it’s more of a rock album, very much a lot of production. There is a lot of things that aren’t just the guitar and the bass and the drum and the vocals, there’s like a whole world to that, that we just started to enjoy very much while writing the other albums. We got into that world, got all the plugins and started creating soundscapes around the music and it just kind of hit closest to our hearts in the third one.

If you ask what you should start with when you first start to listen to Bad Omens, we would definitely say listen to the third album first, and then if you enjoy all of that, I think you will enjoy moving back. But you will hear it is different.

Speaking about the production, on this record, you brought in like several other producers for a few of the songs. Why did you?

Me and Noah have produced the two last albums by ourselves and then we bring in friends. The other producers that are on the album, those are our roommate’s. Jesse Cash from ERRA, he just came into do room once like, “Hey, listen to this beat we just got going” and he starts doing his shit. And we were like, “we’re gonna keep that now.” and then he was a writer. Same thing with Mike, our other roommate, who’s a really good guitarist, he helped with a few of the more R&B songs. He had some cool ideas that we heard and asked him to send them over and Noah creates something on it and then, cool. We just create other people’s vibes when we hear ’em.

So it doesn’t have to be coming from us. We want to be in charge of our own product, essentially. You go to another producer, he’s gonna be the guy who’s gonna make you a good album and he knows it’s his job to essentially deliver this to the band while we and Noah know that we can do that. So we just outsource, we do everything we can, we record our own shit, we write all our shit. And then, like I said, we have good talent that comes in and just gives us ideas. And then we outsource, we don’t know how to mic up the drums and properly run that through our consoles, we go to a place that does that. A great drum room and we have the great stuff there and then we send it to someone really talented to mix it. This one just blew me away on the first turn, essentially. It was such a relief, because that’s a stressful thing.

When you worked so long on a product and then you give it to someone else to essentially to make the final touches. It better be fucking good, you know? So much money, so much time, so much of your life has been poured into this, emotion, everything, and you’re just tapped. And then he just flips back an absolute fucking perfect product. So that’s like a huge relief. 

We just find the best people for the job and surround ourselves with good people. That’s how we’ve been moving forward. Same with our music videos. Those are also our friends that have been making them throughout the years.

So Bad Omens is a very in-house product. All in itself. With the videos, with the merch, we outsource that to our friends and designers as well. Some of it are our base guitarist’s designs. And then we have another friend, who’s called Davis, who’s doing all the designs and running merch with us. So we do our own merch, we do our own albums and music. And that’s something I think is cool.

It just proves that if you surround yourself with good people and they’ll do it for you, it works. 

How long did the whole process for the last album take?

The most recent album, I think that was very pandemic-based, that’s when it really took speed. I’m sure we had a lot of ideas laying in the little vault we had, whatever could be on this album. But it started taking a turn around the time we were trapped in the house for a long time and that’s where Noah started having his ideas. So a lot of what I heard was just him having his vocal ideas for these pieces. It could be the verse for a song and he will work on his idea, in his room, send that over to my room and I’ll do the instruments around that or something. So it was during the pandemic when all of that really took speed.

Do you think the pandemic made its way into the record? Has it inspired some aspects? 

If there was no pandemic, I’m sure that it would’ve sounded a little bit different, I think.

Because like I said, the music is also about how you feel in that moment when you’re writing it. I think if something shifts that big in the world, obviously that affects that.

It probably affected how artists draw paintings also. So yeah, in that way for sure and it played in our favor.

We were on our first headliner, we were having the time of our lives and it was doing pretty well too. It was not sold out or anything, but we were stoked about that. And we were halfway in and everything got shut down that day, halfway through our tour. So we went home and did the whole lockdown.

The second album Finding God Before God Finds Me, got a lot of love, like an acoustic and live and deluxe edition. Can we expect that kind of treatment as well? 

Yeah, we’ve been talking about that and we get that question a lot during meet-and-greets, I didn’t know that it was so many people that wanted it, because I hear it a lot.

I love doing that stuff and it’s fun to take a song that sounds a certain way and just rethink it and do it pretty much the same, but from a completely different angle. We’ve been so busy but we have set apart a little bit of time this year to do a little bit of new writing and maybe a little bit of revamping, so that’s on our to-do list essentially.

Do you have any words of wisdom for bands that are just starting out? What kind of advice would you give them?

If you want to do what we do, you gotta go all in. I was a normal nine to fiver and couldn’t make any more money doing that kind of stuff, because I had a work visa and you can only get one if you work in music, so I just had to do it with music. That was my shift because I just poured each and every moment of my life into that and becoming good at that, but you know, starting out, don’t just quit your jobs. Learn to do a lot of things yourself. First of all, you gotta learn to make good music. It starts there. Don’t go out touring if you don’t have music. Write good songs. And if you’re good musicians, but not good writers, find someone that can write. There’s usually producers that can do that, or friends that can do that.

Find how to run your band like a business, you know, how are you gonna deal with taxes? How are you gonna afford this and that? Invest every dollar you get from this band into your band. Don’t put that in your pocket. Please go out and work through that. Put that into yourself. Get better shit. Buy cooler stuff. Treat it like a business. Every business puts all of its profit into itself, right?

You just have to grow like that and get bigger stuff, and then you have more money to record with better people. Have more money for product, for promotion when you get to that point that you actually have a little bit of recognition.

You have to pay your people. So that they want to work with you. 

General advice is just so hard because you gotta love it. I love every moment of it. Even if sometimes it gets rough and it’s a very different job because you’re not home a lot. That isn’t for everyone, even though they think it is for the first few years.

Learn a lot yourself is I guess my biggest one.

Anything you wanna learn today, you can go to YouTube and type that in and then “tutorial”, and then find one that has a lot of hits. That’s how I’ve learned a lot about logic and that’s how I learned to play guitar in the beginning.

Everything has been learn it yourself sort of and just cater to that. Like you don’t have to go to full sale or on music college. You don’t have to think that you have to do that to succeed rather you just learn yourself, I guess. Or don’t listen to my advice at all. You’ve made me answer that question. 

Bad Omens will hit the road again this summer in the United States with support from ERRA & Invent, Animate. Stream the band’s 2022 album below and secure your tickets before it’s too late.

author avatar
Glenn van den Bosch