PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A rock band from Denmark is gaining an ever-growing following around the world.
If you’ve never heard of Volbeat, you’re simply missing out.
Describing their style of music is a little difficult because it blends several different genres into a unique sound.
While rooted in rock and metal, the band is heavily influenced by Elvis, Johnny Cash, 50s rock and roll, country and more.
“It was all about taking all those influence and putting them in a good bowl of soup and it made sense somehow,” lead singer Michael Poulsen said.
With all the different influences leading to a wide range of songs, is there a clear-cut favorite for Poulsen?
“I look at all my songs like my children and you don’t pick one out and say, ‘That’s my favorite.’ You don’t do that,” Poulsen joked. “Of course, there are songs that are probably more fun to play, where you can see there’s a lot of energy in the crowd. But, I just like what I’m doing.”
Poulsen’s first band fell into the genre of death metal, but the underlying tones of Volbeat began to show up more and more in his songwriting.
“At the end of the day, when I was writing more and more songs, it became a little bit more – it definitely wasn’t death metal anymore. I could hear all the influence I had growing up in my parents’ home – listening to a lot of 50s music – that came into my songwriting. So, when I moved away from my parents’ house, all those old records kept spinning in my head,” Poulsen said.
Interestingly enough, Poulsen served as a substitute teacher for five years before music became his primary profession. However, he always knew music was what he wanted to do in life.
“It is a tough way of making a living, playing music. I think every musician knows that. It takes a lot of work, a lot of belief, sacrifice, dedication. In the meantime, you have to have a work beside that. I was working as a substitute teacher for five years and helping out, at the same time, a guy with a muscle disease. That was the main job that I had,” Poulsen said.
Watch The Entire Interview With Michael Poulsen Here:
“It was a good job, but all my love and my future plans was for the music. That job was for putting the bread on the table. At the end of the day, it was a very, very good job and it’s a job that I look back on as a job that did a lot for me. It’s a privilege to work with kids because they are probably the most honest people you can meet. A lot of grownups could actually learn a thing or two by kids. We always think we have to [teach] them how to behave, but at the end of the day, it may be the other way around.”
Volbeat have released five studio albums, with the most recent three enjoying more and more success here in the United States. They are currently on a headlining tour across the country. They recently made their first trip to Pittsburgh and put on an electric show at Stage AE.
However, it has taken a lot of work to get to this point in their careers. They started out small and eventually worked up to playing festival shows for tens of thousands of people.
“We went out and played some really small club shows and people were really digging it. It was all about going into that small nine-seater, touring around Denmark, playing small bars and clubs. The clubs became venues, the venues came to halls, the halls became arenas. It’s a great story, but we’ve been sacrificing a lot,” Poulsen said.
While they always aimed to bring their music to America, they knew they couldn’t rush the process.
“Going over there in the beginning would have been a disaster I guess, because people would have no idea who we were,” Poulsen said.
Instead, their big introduction to the United States came on a tour with Metallica, which fans still talk about to this day.
“Later on, we[were] invited out with Metallica. It doesn’t get any bigger than that. Being a big Metallica fan and going out with those guys is the biggest promotional tour you can get,” Poulsen said.
“Even though it is tough to go out and play with the world’s biggest heavy rock band, but it’s a great challenge too. I like that challenge. It’s definitely not easy to go out and be a support band for Slayer, AC/DC, Metallica, or [Iron Maiden], you know that you’re going to get slaughtered. But, can you just win a couple of those fans? It feels amazing going off stage and saying ‘I think we did it this time. We won some over tonight.’”
Volbeat just like to be on stage performing music, whether it’s in an arena or small club. Both offer something different, but shows like the one at Stage AE offer a more personal connection with the fans.
“When you’re at the clubs, you have a very close connection to the fans and you can almost have a dialogue with them, which is beautiful,” Poulsen said.
Being on the road eventually started to take a toll on Poulsen. He credited his good friend and champion boxer Mikkel Kessler with helping him get in shape and changing his diet.
The song “A Warrior’s Call,” was the band’s tribute to Kessler.
“I knew that he was a Volbeat fan and he’s been to a few of our shows. But, I’ve been following him since he became a professional fighter. So, I knew him before he knew me,” Poulsen said. “Now, he’s one of my friends and I appreciate that. He’s such a good guy, He’s a great champion, but besides that, he’s a really good person.”
4 Questions For Michael Poulsen
For every backstage interview we do, we’ll ask the same few questions. Some are music related, others are just for fun. Here’s what Michael Poulsen had to say:
What was the first album you ever bought?
“I think honestly it was Shakin’ Stevens album because my father was buying all the Elvis records, so we already had them in the house.”
What is your most embarrassing moment on stage?
“I forget lyrics all the time. Even forget where I am. I have to run up to the guitar tech and say, “Where are we?” It happens. With so many shows, it’s not easy to always remember where we are. We do appreciate every city we are. I guess there’s been a lot of “Spinal Tap” moments.”
“The first thing that comes to mind right now, I will have a different story every time I get the question. We played a festival and I went out crowd surfing. It went pretty good, but it was a really tall stage I couldn’t get up. I had shorts on and I was pretty heavy at that time. I was definitely over 40 pounds heavier than I am now. So, my physical shape was not good. I was trying to go up on stage and it was almost like a whale going into land and my pants ripped all the way up and I think it was on television somewhere.
What is your favorite home-cooked meal?
“I think I speak for a lot of guys when I say, mom your food is the best, because it really is. I love Danish food. But yeah, I lost over 40 pounds. I had to get in shape. “
“I got so addicted to training and eating well – good, organic food. I only eat meat and vegetables. Drink a lot of water, almost don’t drink any alcohol anymore. I do drink a little bit, but it’s pretty rare these days.”
“I feel good these days. I’m still really fighting with insomnia, so I don’t sleep that good. I’m like Chuck Norris, I just wait.”
What is your favorite thing to do outside of music?
“It’s pretty normal, I guess like other people. Use time with my friends, family, my dog. That’s basically it. When I come home I’m basically in my home. I don’t want to go out that much because we’ve just been around the world meeting a lot of people, talking all the time, seeing a lot of things. When you’re finally home, it’s just great to see your family friends, dog, cats, and birds – whatever you have.”
“Besides that, I’m a huge boxing nerd. So, I love reading about boxing, going out to boxing fights, studying boxing.”
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