Erik Mårtensson is a renowned songwriter, producer, mixer and musician known for his work with Eclipse and W.E.T. Nordic Union, Mårtensson’s musical collaboration with legendary Danish rock singer Ronnie Atkins (Pretty Maids), release their third album, Animalistic, today.
This new Nordic Union album is a piece of pure melodic hard rock. Inspired and delightful, Animalistic is a true testament to the skills and talent of both Atkins and Martensson. Taylor Cameron spoke to Erik Mårtensson as he took a break from his production work at his studios, Mass Destruction Production.
Nordic Union – Animalistic (Frontiers Music Srl)
Release Date: 12 August 2022
Interview: Taylor Cameron
Nordic Union formed in 2015, and Mårtensson told MetalTalk that their record label Frontiers Music put the pair together. “I had met Ronnie a few times before,” Mårtensson says. “Eclipse had played some festivals with Pretty Maids. I’ve been asked to do records with different singers and projects, but I’ve turned a lot of them down. I’m a big fan of Pretty Maids, so when Ronnies name came up, I had to do this. It was a no-brainer for me.”
As the vocalist of Eclipse, Mårtensson says stepping into the role of the guitarist and bassist is something he has enjoyed. “It’s wonderful,” he says. “It’s relaxing not being a singer. The singer is always the one who takes the credit and the blame. I like it but I’ve heard enough of my own singing. It’s nice having someone else sing my songs.”
Nordic Union’s first album, self-titled, was released in January 2016. Met with a great response from fans, this led to Second Coming released in October 2018 and now Animalistic hits the shelves.
“I’d say Animalistic is much heavier,” Mårtensson says. “The first release was not hit or miss, but it was quite diverse because we didn’t know what Nordic Union was or what sound we had, so it was more trial and error. With the second record, I think we tried to establish the sound of the project, and I think we evolved from there. With Ronnie singing and me writing the songs, they’re still quite similar in a way.”
As well as providing lead and rhythm guitar, bass, keyboards and backing vocals, Mårtensson also produced, mixed, and mastered the new album. Does being so involved in every aspect of creating a record cause him to be more critical of his playing?
“Being the writer of the majority of the album, same with Eclipse,” Mårtensson says, “I’m involved with the first playing of a guitar riff to the final mastering of everything. I know how much work is. As the process goes on, you have to take on different roles.
“In the beginning, you’re just in the creative mode. Then you switch over to the recording engineer and then the mixing engineer and mastering engineer while also being the producer on top of all of that. I’ve been doing it for so many years now, so I’m quite comfortable with it.”
Mårtensson is effervescent to be working with Ronnie again, who was recently given a stage four cancer diagnosis, for this new album. “It was fantastic,” he says. “He’s a great guy. What impresses me so much about him is that he’s been in this business a long time, a lot longer than me. When you’re young, you have this enthusiasm, but as you get older, some people get bored with it. Ronnie always gives it 110%. He does everything so thoroughly, and he’s been a good role model for me. After so many years, he still cares about the music.”
This Means War and In Every Waking Hour were released as singles. “It’s not like these are the two good songs,” Mårtensson says, “they were just chosen between me, Ronnie and the label, but it easily could’ve been two different songs.”
Animalistic certainly is a gem, and by listening, you can tell the difficulty of selecting the singles. “There are so many great ones,” Erik says. “For me, there easily could have been eight singles. The opening track [On This Day I Fight] is great. It’s very influenced by a Swedish Death Metal band called Unleashed. I was listening to them a lot. I thought this was really cool, and I’m going to make a song that sounds like Unleashed.”
Mårtensson is a busy man. Looking at the upcoming releases, you find he has mastered the upcoming Chez Kane album Powerzone and new Man Machine Industry EP, Eschaton I. Reckoning Day. He appears on a track on the new Edenbridge album Shangri-La, and worked on the new Sinner album Brotherhood.
Throughout his career, Erik had the opportunity to work with some very talented vocalists (Ronnie Atkins, Jeff Scott Soto, etc.) Is there anyone he hasn’t worked with yet that he would love to have the opportunity to?
“Sure, so many,” Erik says. “There are so many great singers. I could give you ten names that I would love to work with. I’m wearing this shirt, My Chemical Romance. Gerard Way is a fantastic singer, not that he’s going to do a melodic rock record with me. Anyone from Eric Martin of Mr. Big to Joey Tempest of Europe.”
As for his ideal tour lineup, “I would bring AC/DC for sure,” Erik says. “But that wouldn’t be good for Eclipse because no one would give a shit about us. There are so many great bands, and I love everything from Death Metal to pop music. I’m a super fan of the Killers, love My Chemical Romance, Slayer and everything in between. I love everything, so it would be hard to make a dream lineup. Every band that I would choose would blow us away.”
If MetalTalk did Desert Island Discs, then Erik says he would have some difficult choices. “I would choose Powerrage by AC/DC,” he says. “I would probably pick some classical music as well, something more to dive into if you’re on a desert island. I would take something from Johann Sebastian Bach and Welcome To The Black Parade by My Chemical Romance. I think that’s a great record.”
If MetalTalk did time machines? “I would definitely choose an AC/DC show from ’78 with Bon Scott when they were on fire,” he says.
So my time with Erik Mårtensson draws to a close, and I am left with the memory of how easy it is to become engrossed in his enthusiasm for music. “Thank you for spreading the word about music,” he says. “It’s people like you who make the music known around the world. It’s fantastic that someone cares about the music. When you first start a band, no one cares about you or wants to be there, so I really appreciate people who write about it, talk about it, listen to it, and come to our shows, so thank you so much for having me.”
Nordic Union, Animalistic, is available from https://orcd.co/animalistic.