2011. február 22., kedd
Old school Swedish death metal history - God Macabre with singer Per Boder
So Per, do you still remember how you got involved in the metal scene? How and when did you discover death metal? What made you becoming a death metal fan?
I've always been into the extreme side of metal, early discovering Motörhead, Venom and Metallica. From there it went to punk, hardcore and grindcore. After a gig with napalm death in -88 I stumbled upon the underground via fanzines, and that was the final push I needed to get out and create stuff on my own. Started tapetrading, started in what was to become God Macabre and made a fanzine.
Do you think, that the Swedish death metal scene’s earliest originators were in the D-beat hardcore punk scene? I mean, is death metal rooted in the hardcore/punk?
I think many has a background in punk yes, and the d-beat was picked from there. At least it was for us. Death Metal is probably rooted in everything extreme from that era, there wasn't 20 BM albums released every month so you hade to be open minded to get your fix..albeit punk, thrash or german speed metal. From Crumbsuckers to Bathory.
Do you agree with, that in the late ’80s/early ’90s two death metal scenes emerged in Sweden, in Gothenburg and in Stockholm?
Yes, I don't know when the Gothenburg scene started out though, that happened a few years later. From the start there wasn't really much happening there. Grotesque were around, but that's about it.
Did the first wave of Swedish death metal consist of the bands, such as Grave, Carnage and Nihilist, who fragmented later into Entombed, Dismember and Unleashed?
Yes, that would be some of the originators, Nihilist pioneered the whole scene.
Many of these bands used the trademark Tomas Skogsberg/Sunlight Studios „buzzsaw” guitar tone, which was created by using heavily detuned electric guitars (usually C# standard or lower), a maxed out Boss HM-2 Heavy Metal pedal, sometimes in combination with a single guitar through a Boss DS-1 Distortion pedal, correct? Would you say, that this type of sound became the trademark of the Swedish death metal scene?
Well the guitarists of the band are more suitable to answer this, I think the pedal was quite cheap and easy accessable, there was no "guide" on how to get that sound. There wasn't like a rule on how to tune your guitar either. The sunlight studio obviously helped shape the worlds view on SDM, a great studio even affordable for teenagers still in school.
Was the originator of this guitar sound Nihilist guitarist Leffe Cuzner (R.I.P.) though it was evolved and altered over the years?
No clue, but as I said Nihilist spearheaded the scene, and Cuzner was a part of that. Nihilist / Entombed certainly set the standard for others to match, the Only Shreds Remain demo has a totally beastly guitar sound.
Did the death metal scene in Sweden influence many bands and genres outside Sweden?
Yeah, that it did. Up until then Swedish metal was kinda weak and forgettable, the DM bands changed that. Judging by the amount mail and offers I got back then it's quite easy to say it made a big impact on the metal world.
In the winter of 1988 a grindcore band was formed named Botten På Burken and a year later you switched to playing death metal and changed your name to Macabre End, correct? How did you get together exactly? Did the line up consist of you, guitarist Ola Sjöberg, bassist Thomas Johansson and drummer Niklas Nilsson right from the start or did you go through some line up changes? Was Botten På Burken/Macabre End the very first outfit for all of you?
We were all friends from school (except Jonas Stålhammar), none really had any knowledge on how to handle their instruments. Nicke the drummer was mainly an guitarist, but had to fill the spot since none else wanted the drums. We met Stålis through fanzines and various gigs, he suited the band well and joined a little bit later. We had dabbled in various local punk bands before, nothing that ever resulted in something. GM was the first proper band where we actually had a goal. The addition of Jonas catapulted the band to a totally new level, even if the direction was set before he entered the band.
Did Macabre End belong to the first generation of Swedish death metal?
Yes, I'd say. Not pioneers, but definately in the first wave.
At which point did you join forces with guitarist Jonas Stahlhammar? Was he the first choice being the second guitarist or did you perhaps audition other guitarists too?
Stålis joined in late 89/90, cant really remember. We didn't look for an extra guitarist (or so we thought) but he was a great guy and we had fun jamming together. He had all the qualities we would have been looking for anyway, so it just felt obvious that he should be in the band. And he joined, it was a great time.
Ola Sjöberg was the editor of Suppuration Magazine, while you were the editor of Senil Nekrofil Zine, does it mean, that you were deeply involved in the underground scene?
Me, Ola and Stålis all made fanzines, tapetraded and attended loads of gigs etc. we were all deeply involved in the scene. That was just second nature at the time. Nothing else of interest, this was it.
You came from Vasteras, how was the metal scene in your town?
Only Stålis is from V-ås, we're from Vålberg outside Karlstad quite a travel from Västerås . No scene to speak of, Vomitory was starting out back then but had some growing up to do (as a band). We hung out with those guys from time to time, but there was no local scene to speak of. If you wanted something done you had to DIY.
What did you want to achieve Macabre End with?
Get a rep. underground, to be part of the scene and get gigs, Maybe record some records. No high flying stuff at all.
What can you tell us about your rehearsals? Were you jamming on covers or did you start writing originals?
We wrote our own material from the get go, but we occasionally covered some song for entertainment. Stuff like Troubles "Psychotic reaction" and KISS "Strange Ways". We did The Day Man Lost by Carnage (SWE) live some times as well. We rehearsed two times a week at the local youth center, and in the summers when it closed we played in an old factory. The accoustics in there was surely deafening!
You released a demo in September 1990 titled „Consumed by Darkness”, how was it recorded? Can you give us details regarding on this demo?
It was recorded and mixed at Sunlight Studios, it took only 11 hours finishing the whole deal. Later Stålis and Skogsberg remixed it a bit for the 7" release on CGR.
Did this demo show a lot of promise?
You tell me, but I guess it did!
How much promotion did you do for the demo? I mean, was it shopped around to attract label interests, did it draw the fans attention to the band, did it succeed in making a name for the band etc.?
It pretty much spread the word through tapetrading, thats how it came to be released as a 7". It was a success to say the least, a lot of attention gained through that 3-track tape. We knew it was good, and obviously others thought so as well. As far as promotion, I guess we made some flyers (back then this was the usual routine) but it was tapetrading that got the word out.
Did this demo turn into an underground hit?
People still today talk about it today so maybe you could call it a "hit". It was a great start for the band anyhow.
Do you agree with, that „Spawn Of Flesh” is/was the highlight of the demo and belongs to the best, most classic death metal songs, that was ever recorded?
It's the highlight of the demo, but I can't say that it is one of the most classical DM songs ever recorded. That would be a very bold statement. It's pure Swedish crust death though!
Why did you thereafter change your name once again to God Macabre? Were you perhaps dissatisfied with Macabre End or…?
We lost our bassplayer at the time, and Macabre End was a bit more on the “gory/primitive” side of bandnames, it really didn’t fit the music we thought. So we changed it to the better GM, which we took from an old Abhoth song. To mark a new beginning since Thomas left. The name has a more “epic” ring to it than ME.
Weren’t the fans confused considering the change of the band’s name?
Maybe, I don’t remember. I understand that today it might be confusing, since the band existed under two names under such a short lifespan. Hopefully with the collected material on the Relapse Cd everything clear now. It probably wasn’t the wisest idea to change it after the 7”, but we didn’t care about those things back then.
You were supposed to record a second 3 track EP titled „Nothing Remains Forever” (with the songs „Into Nowhere” , „Lost” and „In Grief”) for Relapse Records but it never happened, why?
Something in the contract we didn’t like, and due to us being young and stubborn this never came to be realized. In the end the material ended up on Relapse anyhow, so in hindsight we might as well just have done it from the start.
Did Relapse show an interest in signing the band by the way?
I think that was the problem for us, the contract regarding the EP spoke of future recordings and clothing etc., this wasn’t what we had in mind at the time. We wanted to release an EP, and not be tied to anything after that. No merchandise, that we could take care of ourselves. It was all a bit unclear and we changed a LOT of things in the contract, sent it back to Relapse and they never bothered to answer. Teenage know-it-all = No compromise! We were also approached by a Peaceville sublabel (Deaf rec. as I recall), that never happened either.
Thomas Johansson left the band and Jonas Stahlhammar played bass in the Pantalgia compialtion song „Ashes of Mourning Life” (former titled „Life’s Verge”) and in „The Winterlong” cd both issued by MBR Records, so first, what kind of reasons did lead to the departure of Thomas?
Thomas went into the military and there was some lack of dedication from him overall. Great guy, still hang out with him but back then we were hellbent on the band, and we probably demanded more than he could give. No hard feelings, that’s the way things goes. Life’s Verge is a completely different song never recorded, not a former title of Ashes..
Jonas took over the bass duties, does it mean, that you didn’t start to find a new bassist?
We tried somewhat to find a position for the bass, but troubles arose with the drummer so the band were put on hold (and soon disbanded). So we looked for a while but no-one ever auditioned.
What about the aforementioned compilation? Was the song „Ashes…” written for that comp.?
Yeah I think so, but it ended up on the Winterlong CD as well. But at first I think it was meant to be an exclusive track for the comp. It was 20 years ago, my memory is fading on these subjects.
How did you get in touch with MBR (Mangled Beyond Recognition) Records? What kind of releases did they have at that point?
Through my fanzine, they had released a Grave 12” and were about to release a record with Sweden's Crematory. They seemed to be a label that got shit going instead of just talking about it. A label with some visions, and that’s what we liked about them. Also, this was a one-time deal, we were free to do whatever we wanted after the recording.
Did they offer you a contract by the way? For how many records did you sign them?
We wrote a contract regarding the Winterlong album and the comp, nothing else was planned other than that.
When did you start writing the material for your debut which became „The Winterlong”? What do you recall of the recording sessions?
Directly after the 7” we set out to do another recording, we thought of another ep, but in the end it came down to the Winterlong recording. It was recorded and mixed in 3 days, I was only in the studio the last day. We did all the vocals and then mixed it the same day. Short on memories, but Skogsberg was a great guy, it was a bit hectic and the cartrip to Stockholm was a nightmare due to bad weather and broken windshield-wipers (this was in late December). I had to hang out from the passenger seat and wipe the window by hand, of course in full motion. There’s a death metal stunt you never heard of,...:-) That’s a 4 hour car-ride by the way, there was some wiping to be done!
Is it correct, that Niklas Nilsson left God Macabre before „The Winterlong”, but he played on the album as a session drummer? Why did he decide to leave the band at all?
Again, a bit of dedication problem there as well. He also had a bad back that kept him from playing periodically, which slowed the whole situation down too much. He did the the drums for the CD as we couldn’t find a replacement, after that he was done with the band. Again, great guy that I still hang out with, but back then it was too much to handle. We never found a new drummer, which was the final reason to split the band. Nicke’s back is still not ok, and he never played the drums again. Too bad on natural talent.
As for the album, how do you view, that synths are used selectively and appropriately to add further depth in atmosphere?
The synths are just used to highlight something, never to move the music forward or to be a important ingredient in the mix. On the remix for Lamentation the mellotrone really added to the song, that was really cool and became much more significant to the song than the original synth stuff.
Did electric and acoustic interludes add immensely to the overall flow of the album?
We wanted an album that was memorable and dynamic in its structure, not 5 d-beat death songs in a row. It works for me, others be the judge if it flows the right way, or otherwise.
Do you agree with, that „The Winterlong” is another superb example of the strength of the earlier Swedish Death Metal scene?
I think its a good example of what was happening in Sweden back then yes. The competition was tough, but time has proven that we did some solid stuff. People talk about it still today.
Did the Sunlight sound capture the true spirit of their brand of Swedish Death Metal in a magnificent way?
From the start Sunlight had a cool organic/fleshy/warm sound that defined the swedish style. A bit later on it got more mechanical/cold, I’d rather have had the EP sound on the album. There’s a difference in tone that can’t be ignored. The Sunlight sound suited the Swede death, crushing, dirty and powerful. I think we did good in what we did, but I wouldn’t say we outshined Entombed etc. We made our mark in the history of SDM, without a doubt.
The throaty vocals, the excellent upbeat drums and the always compelling buzzsaw guitar sound are/were a winning formula, correct?
Yes. No sound can save a bad tune though, the ideas got to be there from the start.
Is this album, for those who are not familiar with it, is never less convincing than the best albums of the biggest bands in the genre, Entombed, Grave, Unleashed, Dismember etc.? Would you say, that as with many other great Swedish death metal releases, „The Winterlong” was a bit overlooked at the time of its release and failed to get the recognition it deserved?
The Winterlong was delayed almost two years in its release, so nobody really cared about SDM when it arrived. It was practically impossible to get hold of as well. We have gotten lots of recognition the last few years though (due to the reissues), and it really never bothered me back then since the band quit shortly after the recording. It was a great thing to be part of, but we were off doing other stuff. But the timing/release failed miserably, too late for even us to care.
How do you view, that 1993 was already a bit too late this record should still have caused a tremendous thrill throughout the whole extreme metal scene, despite the upcoming black metal hype?
As I said, we never thought of it that way as the band had already split up. For the bands that still was around, the BM bands surely was competition hard to match. It was pretty much over for the foreseeable future..
When the album came out, the band splitted up, because no suitable replacements could be found replacing Thomas and Niklas, how did that happen? Were all of you sad because of the demise of the band?
It was along time coming, we knew it would be extremely tough finding replacements, so in our minds we were probably already there. I know I was, so it wasn’t sad it just felt a bit unfullfilled.
If „The Winterlong” would have released around ’89/’90, would it have been one of the biggest Swedish death metal classics and would it have made a big name for the band?
If it had been released in 79 we would probably be the biggest metal band in the world, you never know about these things. The band is rather known for the stuff we did, I’m pleased with that.
You and Ola formed the band Snake Machine which evolved into Space Probe Taurus, what can you tell us about it? For how long did this outfit exist? What type of music did you play compared to God Macabre? Have you ever recorded any materials as SPT?
SPT still exists, Ola is singing/playing guitar. I left about 10 years ago but you should check them out. It’s a fuzzrock outfit and a great one at that. I had left the band when they recorded their first album, but all that info can be found at their myspace-site. http://www.myspace.com/spaceprobetaurus
Jonas joined then Utumno and he is/was involving in bands, such as Bombs Of Hades, Darkcreed, The Crown, but what about Thomas and Niklas these days? Are they also still involved in metal? Are you still in touch with each other?
I’m in touch with all the old members, Nicke and Thomas have left the music-scene behind them a long time ago. Thomas actually recorded an EP with a band called Ozium some years later, but that is ancient history. Nicke never ventured into anything after GM.
„The Winterlong” was re-issued in 2002 with the demo as bonus tracks by Relapse Records, how did it come into being? Do you think, that did it succeed drawing more fans attention to the band with the reissue?
Ola was asked by some Relapse-employee if we wanted to do a reissue, it wouldn’t be a full on big, advertised release but just to get it out there. The original release never got around and was sold out long time ago. We thought about it, we knew there were bootlegs out already so why not do it properly? We decided to remix it and remove the synths and adding mellotrone instead. The final mix was done at a local studio by a friend, at the time there was a trainee working there as well. That was Björn whom I know play alongside with in Mordbrand. Pretty much the same regarding the Live 12” on HMSS, if we release it officially at least we get some copies and have some saying.
In March 2008 the Relapse version of the album was also released on vinyl for the first time by the Swedish label Bloodharvest Records, was it done only for the collectors, for the die hard fans? Was it a limited release?
Yes, I think it was a first pressing about 500 ex, we agreed on releasing 500 more after that but I’m not certain those were made (or have been made yet). Ola was the man handling all that stuff, so I don’t have all the facts.
This Blood Harvest release is the vinyl version of the re-release through Relapse Records, which means that we are talking about the remixed recordings at Speed Ball Studio the 5th and 6th of December 2000 were the keyboards of the original release got replaced and played with a mellotron, correct?
Yes, that is correct. At the time, the mellotrone was the “weapon of choice” for Stålis.
Are/Were you aware of the CD-reiusse 2007 by Strike Force Records, that was one of many cheap CD-R bootlegs made by the infamous bootlegger vegascds to cash in expensive /sought after CD rarities? Was „The Winterlong” often bootlegged by the way?
We are aware of bootlegs but not what the labels are called. I think there were a couple of unlicensed releases, it they were factorypressed or just cd-r’s I dont know.
Last year was released a bootleg, titled Eve Of The Souls Forsaken, what can you tell us about it? Who came up with the idea to release this gig at all?
We figured since the gig was widely spread through tapetrading ages ago, it would probably end up on a release anyhow. It was the label that approached us, we thought if we were involved it would be better than an non approved release.
A Carnage cover can be found on this record, does it mean, that Carnage was one of your most important influences? Did you often perform covers in live situation?
They had that kind of background that we had, a bit on the crusty side of death metal. You know, napalm death, carcass, ENT and Discharge. we did a cover of there song Day Man Lost live atleast twice. They were our favourite Swedish band back then, I listen to their demos still today.
How often did you play live? What can you tell us about the live gigs of God Macabre at all?
We planned to do a lot of gigs but had to cancel due to circumstances out of our control. Like I said earlier, our drummer couldn't play periodically, so that put an halt to a lot of plans. we played live 3-4 times only, nothing much to say about it. Typical underground gigs back then.
In your opinion, is God Macabre's name still big and is it in people's minds? I mean, did you leave your mark on the scene?
As I have said earlier in the int. I really can't say what is big or not, we were not up there with Entombed. Since the reissues we have gained attention in the last few years. I guess we left a mark in the scene, as did all the other bands back then.
These days you are involving in Mordbrand along with Björn Larsson and Johan Rudberg, when was the band formed exactly? Is Mordbrand a project or a „normal”/full time group?
The band was formed in 2005, recorded some tracks in 2006 which just recently got a proper release as a split with EVOKE (UK). I joined just last year and we’re working on some stuff for a future release. So I’m not doing the vocals on the said split. Mordbrand is a normal/serious band in a sense, but Björn and Johan has the thrash band The Law who need their attention as well. Mordbrand exists solely to release some good old DM, there are no big plans for world domination and touring etc.
You released a split album last year with Evoke, whose idea was this cooperation? What can you tell us about this split as a whole?
Björn has known John Redfern (vocalist from Evoke) for a number of years. The songs on this split were never meant to be released in the first place, so It was basically Johns idea to release the songs as a split with his former band.
What do you think about, that it’s a dirty, raw and sloppy kind of death metal, where gore and horror is key, so it hasn’t anything to do with God Macabre or…?
It’s a different approach to the same kind of thing. There’s a different theme, but there’s definitely some stuff that resembles GM. Björn told me that GM was huge inspiration for the recording they did, and there’s some beats and riffs that made me feel at home straight away. This is NOT a continuation of GM by any means, this is the spirit of ‘88-91 through the crimson eyes of 2010.
You do your slow to mid paced death metal very well…
You ain’t seen nothing yet.
Since 2010 is finished and a new year begun, what do you think about the death metal releases of 2010? Which record did you like?
I liked the Immolation and Blood Revolt records, Bombs of Hades and Bastard Priest also did some excellent stuff in 2010. Hey, Autopsy reformed, what can top that?
How do you view the present death metal scene compared to the late ’80s/early ’90s? How much did this genre develope during the years?
The bands are marching to a different drum now, a drum that beats well over 300 bpm. It’s very fast, technical and not really my cup of tea, but there’s always something popping up that grabs my attention. I prefer the old ways though...
Per, thanks a lot for your answers, feel free sharing us your final thoughts…
Thanks! Check out Mordbrand at: http://www.myspace.com/mordbranddeath New songs uploaded shortly.