METAL PULP AND PAPER: Hello Peter. So glad to be catching up with you. Thank you for taking the time to speak with us here at MetalPulp And Paper. We appreciate it.
PETER IWERS: Pleasure is all mine.
MPAP: We're going to talk about something big and important that you've got going on, but first, how are you doing?
PETER: Very well thank you. I'm keeping busy between my family, the brewery (Odd Island Brewing), the restaurant (2112) and the music (AUAB, etc.)
MPAP: We've got Peter Iwers here, former bassist for the Swedish bands In Flames, and Cyhra. Now, in 2018 you are working on a project that not only your music needs to be heard, but most importantly, the message needs to be understood as well. This message needs to spread quickly because it’s not going to end unless something is said and done. What I’m talking about is your project called Artists United Against Bullying. But quickly, before we talk about that, let's get to know you first, and go over a bit of your history in the music business for those that might not know of who you are. So, let's get them on the same page. Like mentioned, you were the former bassist in the metal band In Flames, stepping down in 2016 after 18 years with them. Then in 2017, you picked back up the bass again and became a part of the Swedish supergroup called Cyhra, only to leave those duties after a year. Real quick, why in May of 2018 did you decide to leave Cyhra? Was it just something you couldn't give a full commitment to and felt that wasn't right to do to the rest of the band?
PETER: Well, I actually joined Cyhra in 2016 while I was still with In Flames and it seemed like something fun to do on the side. But then as it happened, I left In Flames for various reasons and Cyhra became full time. For me that was not the initial plan. It is a great band, and something I really wanted to do and bring it up to full time eventually. But when I joined, we talked about doing smart tours/shows that would help us grow and develop as a band before the long tours. At least that was my perspective of how it was. We talked about the importance of being a band where everyone involved felt equal and had an equal say in the decision making, as this had not been the case in some of our previous bands. All of a sudden, we got offered a cool tour with Kreator and Sabaton and we all felt it needed to be done. I had prior obligations with the brewery but still felt it was an important tour to do, so they went as a four piece. During this time there had been discussions about how to proceed with the touring, planning, writing of next record, etc., and some of the stuff we talked about when I joined (song writing, decision making, etc.) didn't pan out. I decided when I left In Flames,that I from now on would only do stuff where I would feel comfortable in every aspect. If I were to get a fun gig with another band that already had its chaos in order so to speak, it would be a different matter, but now with this new band, I felt it to be super important that everyone who wanted to write music would be able to submit it. Everyone who wanted to be part of the planning, was allowed to be. Since it didn't happen, I felt I had to leave. I have no more room in my life for stuff where I can't be happy. With that said, I gotta stress, no bad blood, no bullshit. We are all still friends, and I wish them nothing but the best.
MPAP: To finish up, 'this is your life,' just before leaving In Flames, in the summer of 2016 you joined forces with your long-time friend, and former bandmate, Daniel Svensson to be a part of Odd Island Brewing, a Gothenburg based beer brand that Daniel had created in 2015. Daniel played drums for In Flames alongside you from 1999, until his departure to spend more time with his family in 2015. Ok, now that everyone is on the same page, let’s talk about Artists UnitedAgainst Bullying, shall we? AUAB is a project to reach out and make people aware of the vast problem and the critical consequences that comes from bullying. Tell us a little bit about what is so true to your heart right now?
PETER: Well, growing up being bullied as a small child, spending my adult years seeing people getting bullied (and obviously trying to help), having to have to deal with bullying myself from certain people, I just had enough. My friend Paulo Mendonca came to me a few years back and asked me if I wanted to be a part of this important project and I of course accepted. We both have children and we do not want them to grow up in a world where bullying is accepted.
MPAP: Bullying has gotten worse over the years, and unfortunately, it has led some to take their lives because they cannot handle it anymore. No 11 or 12 years old, or any age for that matter, needs to have thoughts of suicide and follow through with it? Kids need to be kids and enjoy life, right?
PETER: Absolutely. That´s why we want to bring this project up and make people think before they act. Kids should be kids, and everybody deserves to be happy.
MPAP: You’ve also teamed up with some other musicians and are planning on releasing your first single soon, but before we get to that, let’s continue with what else you want to do with AUAB? One of your goals is to create a forum for people who want to share their stories, what else are you hoping to do with this very extraordinary project?
PETER: Yes, we have a Facebook page where people email us stories all the time and it´s super scary stuff. I am glad that we have the page and I hope that it can help people and give them an outlet. I am also hoping to get to tour schools and tell our story. Tell kids to think how they would feel if they were not allowed to be part of playing, before they say something funny about someone’s hair, clothes etc. And for them to learn how to say no when they see stuff like this happening. We have a video for the song that shows a scenario that can happen in a schoolyard coming soon. And it has a happy ending. A lot of stories don't…
MPAP: I see a long-time friend of yours, Neil A. Lim Sang, is also helping with this cause? Tell us more about that and what he’s been doing to help?
PETER: Neil is great. He brings our logo with him to his shows and snaps pics with artists for us to share on our Instagram etc. This brings awareness to AUAB. Very grateful to Neil for this. He also raises money for ALS. Amazing guy.
MPAP: Now let’s talk about your new music? AUAB has their first music single coming out August 10th called, "Hero." Just the title alone creates a strong message, doesn’t it?
PETER: Yes, it does. The lyrics are written by Jeff Scott Soto and I am sure he can elaborate more than I can, but from my perspective, it’s the fact that it doesn’t take a hero to take a stand. Anybody can, and we are all heroes when we stand up against injustice.
MPAP: Jeff Scott Soto, Paulo Mendonca, and Fredrik Stenberg are a part of this single, "Hero", and tell us a bit more about it if you will?
PETER: There's a fifth guy as well that played drums on the track, Anton Roos from the band Saffire. Great band. The song was written by Paulo and Jeff, and I got to add some flavor to it. Jeff did the lyrics. It's a great song that takes a stand and states, 'you don’t have to be a hero, just a friend to wash away the pain…'
MPAP: You’ve previously worked with Paulo Mendonca before on one of his songs called "U Got 2 Believe," correct? What was it like to be working with him again?
PETER: He's great. He opened a box of creativity in me that I have been keeping closed for so many years (cause I didn´t write really with In Flames as part of the agreement when I joined. Only part of some arrangements.) Now when the box is open, we do a lot of writing together and he has been a mentor, a friend, and a huge inspiration since day one. "U Got 2 Believe" is the first song we did together, and it started with a riff of mine that he continued on and we made a song while jamming. Old school. Then his friend,Terry Martin, did the lyrics on it, and it came out last year. A mix between the funk that is him, and the hard rock that is me. Only I did the funk, and he did the rock.
MPAP: That’s another strong title, "U Got To Believe," that can go hand in hand with your message and your song, "Hope"?
PETER: Absolutely. Stay strong!
MPAP: And of course, to have Fredrik Stenberg, and Jeff Scott Soto to be a part of this, must be amazing as well?
PETER: For sure. Fredrik is an old friend that I used to do radio with, and Jeff I've been following since his Yngwie days. He's become a great friend as well, and his voice is just magical.
MPAP: Jeff Scott Soto has got quite the legacy already with his musical experiences ranging from Yngwie Malmsteen, all the way to being with Journey for a bit?
MPAP: Moving forward, one of the reasons also why you are doing this, AUAB, and why it is so important to you, is that once upon a time, you were bullied? Can you tell us about it, and what you felt and what happened?
PETER: I was bullied from the age of 8-9 to the age of 12. There was always a feeling of anxiety. I could never sleep well. I have seen pictures of me then and I am this pale kid with big bags under my eyes and I look like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders. I just wanna go back and give me a hug and tell me it's going to be alright. I recently spent an evening with one of the bullies who now is a friend since many years. I knew him from when we were kids, and he asked me why I switched schools at the age of 12. I asked him, are you kidding me? He said, no, why? I said, because of you. You bullied me so hard that I had to leave. You brought some kids along with you and I got so depressed that I had to switch schools to start fresh. He was shocked cause he had no idea. He realized he had been a rough kid, but he always considered us to be friends. Now, 30 years later, we are friends. But imagine, everything he did then, he didn't even realize the extent of his actions. He didn't intend to treat people bad. He had a rough upbringing and took it out on the people around him, in school etc. I think this is a very common situation. People say or do stuff that someone might be offended or hurt by without even realizing it. We need to think about our actions. Also, it doesn't necessarily just stop when you are a grown up. I won't hang anyone out here, but I have worked with and/or observed people who constantly told people around them that they sucked, that they were 'pussies', that their opinion didn't matter. It was always when those persons were at their lowest. They needed to project their own anxiety towards someone else that they saw as weaker. I once saw someone throw a mic stand in the face of a monitor engineer on stage once cause the sound he or she had on stage wasn't good enough. A friend called me a while back crying cause someone had taken a choke hold on him only because he was friends with me and he didn't like me. Some people never change, and I can only hope that karma can help out here.
MPAP: Did thoughts of suicide ever cross your mind?
PETER: Luckily no. I have a great family and had lots of support from them and I always knew that I wasn't what the bullies told me. I was better.
MPAP: What was one thing that pulled you out of the darkness and in the end became stronger to stand up against it?
PETER: Switching schools gave me the strength to start fresh and become someone I felt comfortable being. Not the guy in the corner. I could create my own identity without having the bullies around. Sucks that this had to happen like that, but for me, it worked. I always had music as well to turn to. Put my head phones on and dream away. Practice on my guitar etc. But it took a long time to get well.
MPAP: For someone that is being bullied what would you say to them right now?
PETER: Try not to listen. Most of the times the bully is being bullied somewhere else and takes it out on you. Write us an email on our Facebook page if you want to talk or try and find a more local option and someone to talk to. Remember who you want to be and try to stay strong. But always, always ask for help. Tell your parents, your teacher, or somebody you feel you can trust. Never ever keep this inside, cause there is nothing wrong with you, only with the bullies. And they probably need help too.
MPAP: As for the one that is doing the bullying, what would you want to say to them?
PETER: I think a lot of times they don't even realize what they are doing. Try looking over your actions, and if you do realize, stop. You will never feel better in the long run, even though you think the projecting you're doing will help. If you don't know that words or actions you do hurt but see people around you react. Think ahead.
MPAP: I think the parents that have kids that bully need to be involved with as well, don’t you think? A lot of them just let it happen and look the other way because I’m sure a lot of them don’t know what to do or are even scared themselves of their children?
PETER: This is above my knowledge, but on the first part, yes definitely. They need to listen to people that might confront them about their kids. It might be true. Try to listen, talk to the kids and try to listen to your kids in why they do this as well. It might be because of something you or somebody else do to them.
MPAP: Do you feel the music, your message, and your experiences from the past will help lead the way, a way to jumpstart the charge into getting something done?
PETER: I sincerely hope so. My experiences I will share happily if they can help. And hopefully our careers will make this story a bit easier to get out there for people to read. I have however met a lot of reluctance from record companies, etc. when it came to release this song. It's like they didn't want anything to do with a project like this. I can only speculate as to why.
MPAP: Do you feel agencies, or government agencies, or whomever, are just not doing enough to put an end to the bullying?
PETER: This is above my expertise, but I think it is something that should be put more effort into. I think that every school, private or government owned, should invest in having a few people around that really see the kids that isn't in the break room every break. They should be in the school yards, in the locker room, etc. People that work with the kids and see their actions. I think a lot of times it's a budget issue, but if we help the kids at a young age we will prevent a lot of bad issues that can happen later on in life. And again, parents be aware.
MPAP: While I was doing some research, I found out there were some Canadian musicians who got together and formed Artists Against Bullying in 2012, and re-recorded the song, "True Colors", by the American singer, songwriter Cindi Lauper. All the proceeds go towards, Kids Help Phone, a Canadian counseling service for children and youth. Any chance AUAB will re-record another musician’s song that has inspiration and a message behind it anytime soon?
PETER: I saw that, and I get that it will be a bit confusing, but as we both work the same way towards the same cause, it will hopefully just create more awareness. We have no such plans as of now to record a cover, but maybe we will. We do however intend to give our proceeds to charity organizations as well.
MPAP: What’s next for you, what’s next for AUAB? What can we expect soon? Another song, any guest appearances? Perhaps a bold, strong hop brew called AUAB, bottled by your Odd Island Brewing company?
PETER: I talked to a friend of mine who runs an internet magazine called Beer News about that we would possibly make an AUAB beer for his anniversary this fall. Hoping to do this. Next for me is keep on doing Odd Island, making music and having fun.
MPAP: Going back for a moment about your time with In Flames, one of the reasons for your leaving the band was that you wanted to try other adventures. It was also said that you were also done with the life of touring that you had done for so very long. When you heard Slayer announce at the beginning of 2018, that this would be their last world tour, and they would be hanging up their reign, did you totally relate to their decision? Especially with singer Tom Araya mentioning over the recent years that he was getting tired of being out on the road, and that he wanted to spend more time with his family and grandchild and be at home more often? It’s tough to be out on the road for so long all over the word and not always being there with your loved ones back at home. Correct?
PETER: This is where I am greatly misunderstood. I was not done with touring at all. I was just tired of not feeling well on IF-tours. I had constant anxiety attacks that I hadn't gotten since I was a kid, and I wasn´t happy anymore. I wanted, and needed to move on and see what was on the other side. When the time is right and/or if an opportunity presents itself, I will tour again. With that said, I enjoy being at home seeing my wife and kids every day. Getting to plan anything anytime with them is something I never did before. Hey dad, can you come to my football game four months from now? I don't know, that was the usual answer. But now I can say yes to everything and plan my time focused on my family, rather than the other way around. I can definitely relate to their decision. Slayer is an awesome band, and have been my heroes for as long as I can remember. Touring with them and getting to know the awesome dudes in the band has been an honor and they are a huge inspiration to me. So, when they do this, it's something I really respect.
MPAP: Attention about what you are personally doing with AUAB will hopefully spread like wildfire. For those that might not know where can they can go, or what they can do to help, where can they go to find more information about Artists United AgainstBullying?
MPAP: What can other musicians do if they are reading this? Is there something they can do if Neil isn’t around to take their picture?
PETER: Absolutely. I would love for more people to take a selfie with the logo and publish on their pages, or just the logo. They can contact me if they want to be a part of the project as well: https://m.facebook.com/peteriwersofficial.
MPAP: On behalf of myself, and Metal Pulp And Paper, I’d like to thank you, Peter, for taking the time to do this interview. You are a great person for standing up for a great cause that I hope others will get more involved with because this is something that can’t go on anymore. It just can’t go on any longer. Something must be done because a person doesn’t even have to bully in person, they can type words from anywhere on the social media, and it will still damage that person even if they are hundreds of miles away. Any last words for all your worldwide fans out there before we bring this interview to a close?
PETER: Thanks so much for the opportunity. In the words of Bill and Ted: be excellent to each other.