Volbeat’s Michael Poulsen: “It's not impossible we could headline Download”

(Image credit: Ross Halfin)

It’s the middle of Volbeat’s UK tour for Rewind, Replay, Rebound when we chat with Michael Poulsen. Seated quietly in a dressing room, he nurses a sore throat but refuses to let down the excited fans that can be heard in the street below. The affable Dane doesn’t disappoint Hammer either, stepping up to answer your questions with a mixture of honesty, sincerity, laughter and complete bafflement. Given some of these, you can hardly blame him…

How do you pick the artists that you collaborate with?
@Chadr666 (Twitter)

“I almost never write songs with artists in mind. The only time that happened was with King Diamond. He was in my thoughts when I wrote Room 24 [from 2014’s Outlaw Gentlemen & Shady Ladies]. With the other collaborations, they kind of just happened. I just heard that other person’s voice in my mind when we rehearsed those songs. I’ve been very blessed; when we’ve contacted all of those people to see whether they’re interested, they’ve said yes.”

Was it difficult going out to face Slipknot/Gojira/Behemoth fans every night on the Knotfest Roadshow given that you wouldn’t traditionally be seen as a super-heavy band?
Aidan Delayney (Facebook)

“That tour was a great challenge but I love challenges. That’s why I agreed to do the tour – we wanted to win fans from those bands. In life I find that you can sometimes become just a little bit too comfortable. Comfortable is nice, of course, but challenges are always great. It’s good to break the cycle of things. We asked our management whether this tour was a good idea but everybody agreed to give it a try. Each night it’d take us three or four songs [to make an impression], but eventually we won them over – not everybody, but a bunch of them. And that was the whole idea.”

Would you rather fight 10 duck-sized cowboys or one cowboy-sized duck, and why?
@RobbieLoucks (Twitter)

[After a long, long, long and very bemused pause]. “Hmmm… that’s a funny question. I’ll go with the cowboy-sized duck because that’s going to be intimidating.”

Do you feel more like Elvis or Johnny Cash onstage?
@melinbelfast333 (Twitter)

“Neither of those. I feel like me. I’m just Michael, the performer. I do understand why that question was asked; it’s obvious that Volbeat is very much inspired by those two guys, or at least I am as a singer. But I’m not trying to be anybody else – that’d be impossible.”

How was it playing next to a guitar legend in Hank Shermann?
@BrianLB6336 (Twitter)

“It was incredible. As a major fan of Mercyful Fate, I’m happy to say that I’ve been friends with Hank for many years. I never dreamt that one day he’d play 80 shows with Volbeat [on the Gigantour after the band parted ways with guitarist Thomas Bredah in 2012] but it happened. Hank was so kind to help us out while we made up our mind [over who would get the job]. He’s a great guy and it was an honour to have him with us for a while. Was it ever considered that he’d join full time? No, Hank has so many projects and plans of his own and, honestly, I feel that he should be doing his own thing and not be part of what was then a fairly new band. I will definitely be checking that Mercyful Fate reunion out. A couple of weeks ago I had a long conversation on the phone with King Diamond and he seemed very excited about it all.”


What’s your favourite tattoo and why?
Kaz Warren (email)

“I’ve got quite a lot and they all tell a story of mine, but I couldn’t pick a favourite because they all mean a lot to me and I don’t want to single one out.”

Hammer: Which was your first tatt?
“Funnily enough it was of Mercyful Fate’s Don’t Break The Oath, which I had done on my leg.”

My question is in two parts. Firstly, who was your first favourite band, and when did you first realise that music would be your life?
@hound09fan (Twitter)

“Music was always a big part of my life, both as a listener and as a musician. When I first picked up the guitar at the age of 12 or 13 I knew that it was going to be stuck to me for a very, very long time. And it’s still a part of me. And it’s still fun. Honestly, [from a financial point of view] I don’t have to do this anymore, but I’m still doing it because it’s fun. I’m a proud dad, I’ve a daughter who’s two years and four months old, and it’s tough to be away from her. If it was no longer fun to be on the road then I’d stay home, but it’s very much a passion of mine. My first favourite band was probably Iron Maiden. My sister had a boyfriend who used to listen to a lot of metal and I picked up his copy of Killers, partially because the cover made me think the music inside had to be crazy… but the album that really got me into Maiden was Seventh Son Of A Seventh Son. I got that tape for Christmas and I wore it out.”

When will we get a new Dominus album?
@Kjell-Iva Aarli (Twitter)

“Ha ha! It’s not going to happen. I mean, why should I? To me, Dominus is in the past and I prefer to move forwards. I finished that band because I was no longer happy with what I was doing. I started to find that band’s music so limiting so I formed Volbeat. Don’t get me wrong, I still love death metal and I still listen to it, but if I ever released more death metal then it would have to be outside of the name Dominus.”

Hammer: And what are the chances of that happening?

“Maybe 50/50. But it’d be with other people from the death metal scene. I’d definitely like to work with some names that people would know. I have so many great friends in the death metal scene and sometimes we sit down and discuss working together. The whole point of doing it – like with everything that I do – is that it’d need to be fun.” 

(Image credit: Roberto Finizio/NurPhoto via Getty)

Whose faces would be gathered together on your Mount Rushmore of music?
Adam Turner (Facebook)

“How many names of musicians do you want? Five… OK. Let’s say Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Freddie Mercury, Ronnie James Dio and Mike Ness [of Social Distortion]. One more for good luck? Let’s go with Chuck Schuldiner.”

Which five songs would you cover for a Volbeat-style Garage Inc record?
Matt Heeks (Facebook)

“Oh wow, that’s very tough. I’m not sure I could answer that because apart from the new one we have already released at least one cover song on every album so far. But I can tell you there will probably be a day when we get together all of our cover songs and put them out together, like Metallica did on Garage Inc, but when that might happen I really don’t know.”

Do you think it possible that Volbeat could one day headline Download festival? And what would you have to do to get there?
Marc Hughton (email)

“You know, we’re just happy to be on at Download. It really doesn’t matter whether we’re at the bottom, at the top or somewhere in the middle. It’s all the same to us. It’s all about being there and having fun. I don’t think too much who’s playing before or after us. What I will say is that we’re pretty happy with the progress that we’ve made at festivals like Download, and with the status that we’ve got right now it’s definitely not impossible that someday we could be the headliners. We’ll just have to see what happens.” 

Published in Metal Hammer #331


Dave Ling

Dave Ling was a co-founder of Classic Rock magazine. His words have appeared in a variety of music publications, including RAW, Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, Prog, Rock Candy, Fireworks and Sounds. Dave’s life was shaped in 1974 through the purchase of a copy of Sweet’s album ‘Sweet Fanny Adams’, along with early gig experiences from Status Quo, Rush, Iron Maiden, AC/DC, Yes and Queen. As a lifelong season ticket holder of Crystal Palace FC, he is completely incapable of uttering the word ‘Br***ton’.