The Haunted interview (10/2003)
The early beginnings of The Haunted started as far back as mid 1996 when brothers Anders [Lead guitar] and Jonas [Bass guitar] Björler decided to leave their band At The Gates. Without the main songwriters in the band, At The Gates official folded, with all the members moving onto other projects.
Around the same time, guitarist Jensen [Ex-Seance, Satanic Slaughter and Witchery] was looking to get his new project off the ground, and soon hooked up with drummer Adrian Erlandsson [Ex-At The Gates].
Guitarist John Zwetsloot [Ex-Dissection and Cardinal Sin] was soon roped into the band rehearsals. Jonas Björler eventually joined as the official bass player, thus solidifying The Haunted's first official line up. It wasn't long before Anders Björler replaced John, and with his swift introduction, the song writing within the band soon picked up pace. However, without a singer in the band to truly establish them as a group, The Haunted soon lost Adrian to his other band Hyperhug. Hyperhug existence lasted but one sole gig in 1997, when the singer suffered severe ear damage. The band split, and Adrian was welcomed back into The Haunted fold.
Along with Adrian's return, came interest from Earache Records. The offer to contribute a song on the compilation 'Earplugged 2' was too good to pass up. Adrian suggested they try out vocalist Peter Dolving [Mary Beats Jane], and a hasty two days recording resulted in the tracks 'Undead' and 'Shattered'. Needless to say, Dolving soon became The Haunted's official vocalist.
Their debut self-titled album was released in 1998, and was overwhelmingly voted both 'Album of the year' and 'Newcomer of the year' in most European metal magazines. A tour with Napalm Death proved to be a success, but when the tour ended, so did Dolving's involvement with the band.
After numerous auditions, The Haunted contacted Marco Aro [Former vocalist of Face Down] to try out. With Aro in the band, The Haunted had finally found the right combination of talented players. Things looked good when Testament asked The Haunted to support them on a U.S. tour through 1999, but during the rehearsals, Adrian decided to leave to join Cradle Of Filth. Jensen soon called Per Möller Jensen [Drums, ex-Invocator and Konkhra] to fill in for the tour. 'The Haunted Made Me Do It' was finally released in 2000, with the band spending the better part of 2000/2001 on the road in support. 'Live Rounds In Tokyo' kept the momentum going until the highly anticipated third album, 'One Kill Wonder' was finally unveiled.
- In between nursing a sore throat, scheduled interviews and packing for their tour of South Africa, I caught up with guitarist Jensen at home in Gothenburg [Sweden] to talk about tours, AC/DC, changing members and their all important third album, 'One Kill Wonder'.
The reaction from everyone has been great! People seem to have taken very kindly to it. It's also been interesting hearing from different people because everyone we speak to seems to have different opinions of the album. Some are saying that 'One Kill Wonder' is by far the most melodic album from us so far, while some are claiming it to be the most brutal and least melodic. I find that very interesting, and that shows that the album doesn't have just two or three good songs. Every song really stands out, and can appeal to a lot more people than our other albums may have done. I think in hindsight, 'The Haunted Made Me Do It' may have been too slick and too produced, and I think that's the reason why 'One Kill Wonder' sounds a lot harder and brutal. This album was recorded more in the live sense of recording. There were no click tracks on the drums and we didn't overdub the guitars. I think that has a lot to do with me being a very big AC/DC fan. AC/DC albums are still a great band, but their new albums sound too sterile and tinny. They don't have that real kick in the arse like they used to have. They were a lot better when they were dirty back in the days of 'Let There Be Rock' and 'Powerage'. That was the kind of development we were aiming for. And wow, we never knew that we could sound like this. But people have said that 'The Haunted Made Me Do It' is a really good album, but we always sounded better live. I think 'One Kill Wonder' is what we sound like live.
- An interesting fact well noting is that the new album [Like The Haunted's debut album] sees the band return to their hometown of Gothenburg to record once again with famed producer and musician Fredrik Nordström.
The reason was geographically. We had been away from home so much, and the studio is based in Gothenburg, so we decided to record very close to home. It isn't in any way a bad studio. It wasn't like we compromised because we wanted to be home, but we weren't really happy with the first album, and neither was Fredrik Norström. He was really enthusiastic about getting us back, plus he had moved his studio into a bigger location. We decided to give it a try, and it worked out perfect. It was nice to be able to spend more time at home, even while in the studio.
- The cover artwork to 'The Haunted Made Me Do It' was certainly over the top with it's tribute to serial killers and suggestive title, but the new album is just as controversial within it's simplistic design.
Andreas Pettersson has been doing our covers since day one. He's an old childhood friend of mine. He designed the logo and everything. He really enjoys doing stuff for The Haunted because usually he designs hockey skates, or whatever commercial you see in newspapers during the day. He's a really well paid guy. But he likes to go far out with The Haunted, like with all the serial killers on 'The Haunted Made Me Do It'. I personally see it as being too much, and I don't really enjoy the thought of giving them extra publicity. They've caused a lot of hurt and pain for both the victims and their families. So with this new album, we only have one guy on the cover, and that's one victim. So we tried to balance it out between the two of them. Actually, nobody actually knows this, but that's actually him under the sheet! [Laughs] The sheet wouldn't follow the lines of his face, and he had to use a spray bottle to spray the sheet, that way it would follow the contours of his face. He had a rope around his neck, and this wet sheet over his face, and he couldn't breathe at all under there. So that's why it's really sucked in at the eyes and the mouth. He was screaming at us to take the picture before he suffocated. That was a lot of fun! [Laughs]
- Guitarist Anders Björler decided to leave The Haunted in September 2001 in order to concentrate further on his university studies. The Haunted soon called upon their old friend Marcus Sunesson of The Crown for some live appearances. However, Anders soon realised the error of his ways, and returned some nine months later. Jensen is quick to point out that the short member shuffle made little contribution to The Haunted's latest album.
I think that was more the case when we lost our Adrian and Peter prior to the second album. That's why 'The Haunted Made Me Do It' turned out the way it did. It got to be played to perfection. We wanted to go in and show everyone that we were still capable of doing what we did on the first album. With the benefit of having the same line up over two albums, I think we had the chance to explore more and try out new ground. Especially in tracks like 'Demon Eyes' and 'Bloodletting'. We did all the proving we needed to do on the second album. People already knew what we were capable of, so we set about exploring new paths that we hadn't tried before. The musical direction is still intact, and that's the real benefit of having Anders back in the band.
- 'Bloodletting' may be a new step in exploration for The Haunting, but it also allows Arch Enemy/Spiritual Beggars guitarist Michael Ammott to trade solos with Anders.
Michael's been a very good friend of mine since way back. We're the same age, and we both love Saxon, AC/DC, and all those old bands. I wrote the song 'Bloodletting', and I mentioned to the other guys about getting Michael to lay down some of the lead guitar parts. He's a great guitar player, so they were all cool with it. Michael came down on a Sunday afternoon, and laid down a few different solos. Anders came by later on and laid down some other solos like a duo. That's what's really cool about it, because people don't do that these days, with the exception of Arch Enemy I guess. Michael has also said that The Haunted would be the only band he would like to do a guest appearance for. So that's really cool. I'm grateful that he feels that way, and that he wanted to participate on this album.
- While The Haunted's lyrical themes have always been open to interpretation, there are a couple of tracks on the new album that do conjure up some curious images. One such track is 'Shithead'. And to just whom is it directed to?
Marco wrote that song. Evidently, a 'shithead' is a nickname for a heroin junkie. The song is dedicated to Marco's best friends brother. He was a heroin user and addict. He actually died in between completing the album and its release. It's in no way a negative song about him or about the subject matter, but more about the negative consequences of trying something like heroin.
- Another track worth bringing up is the title track 'One Kill Wonder'.
I came up with the album title, but I don't know what the song is about. Jonas and Marco kind of took that title to fit Jonas's song. People say that we are very obsessed by serial killers, but that's not true. The songs might have a very grim content, but they're all metaphors for something else. Some of our lyrics might be like, 'I sneak into your room and stab you with a knife', but that could be about your best friend letting you down. If you just want entertainment that goes nicely with the music, then just read the lyrics and you'll be fine. But if you want something else, there is a deeper meaning to them. I have no problem with people seeing us as entertainment. We're not here to preach to anyone. If people come to our shows, and are entertained for more than an hour, then that's fine. We've reached our goal.
- Former members of The Haunted have often cited their frustration about the relationship the band have had in the past with their label Earache, which led to their departure. The problems however, are a thing of the past.
Earache are very much behind The Haunted these days. We had a real lot of misunderstandings in the past. But I guess we both have gotten to understand the other side better. We understand Earache, and they understand us better. Things are all working out very good right now. From what I hear in Australia, they're putting a lot of work into advertising and promoting the album, which is very cool.
- The Haunted aren't afraid to tour behind an album either. The tour accompanying their last album took in close to two hundred dates, and sent the band to all four corners of the globe. This tour will no doubt be no different, with the band heading out as soon as they possibly can. It will also send them to couple of new places like South Africa and Australia.
We just finished playing three shows in Sweden. We then headed off to the U.K. and Ireland for ten shows, and then ten days in South Africa. At first, I was confused about playing down there, but they don't get a lot of tours. I know people in Australia complain about the lack of shows, but the last time these guys had their last metal show was in 1994 when Napalm Death were down there! We're doing three shows down there, and the clubs hold around the 1500 people. They are also selling very well. It's pretty big when an international band comes over to their country. It's going to be a lot of fun. I mean, how often do you get to go to South Africa? [Laughs] But we're just as excited about going to Australia! Australia is the Holy Grail for me because I'm a big AC/DC fan. I expect both Angus and Malcolm to meet me at the airport! [Laughs]
- While most would expect the band to be living it up on the road, Jensen has other plans while he's in the country.
You know, they call me the tourist in the band because I get up at 9 A.M. and disappear and try to see as much as possible. There's so much to see in Australia, I don't even know where to start. I want to try some surfing, and so many other things. I don't want to waste time being hung over the day before the show, especially when there's so much to see. I also have many distant relatives in Australia that I've never met before, so there's going to be a bunch of people aged from fifteen to fifty five coming down to the show. So the first introduction these people with have with the folks from the old country will be us playing music in The Haunted! [Laughs] I'm afraid I might scare a few of them away!
- While The Haunted are here in Australia, none other than the notorious [And much loved] Blood Duster will have the honour of warming up the crowd every night.
I've heard about Blood Duster, and they're supposedly a very good band. I haven't heard their music before.
- While Jensen has heard of the band before, he has still yet to hear the band. After attempting to describe their sound [The mix of grindcore and stoner grooves], it would seem that I only further confused the issue!
That sounds very…far out! [Laughs]
- After the completion of the Australian dates, The Haunted will head straight out to Japan, followed by a couple of days well earned rest. But it isn't long before there's a full month of European dates, and another ambitious U.S. tour.
We did one hundred and ninety shows for 'The Haunted Made Me Do It' tour, and to me, that's almost like an Iron Maiden tour these days. In 2001 alone, we were on the road for eight months. It's a long time to be our there, but you have to work it while people want it. This tour is a little shorter than the last one, but more dates are being added all the time. The whole summer will be full of European festivals, and that's the most fun surrounding you can have when you're in a band. You get to meet friends and different bands every day and just a lot of sunshine with the people outside. So that's going to be great. We have a Scandinavian tour in November that has just been added too.
- Unlike most bands within the thrash genre, The Haunted are quite successful in Japan, and tour there on a regular basis. It also led to the live album 'Live rounds In Tokyo' released in 2001. But unlike most countries, Japanese fans are different to most audiences in other countries.
The Japanese are the strangest crowd we've ever played for so far. They're very enthusiastic, they sing all the guitar solos, and they scream and cheer a lot when the song is over. But as soon as the singer turns around to say something, it goes dead quiet. You know how the Japanese are. It's out of respect. They want to hear what the singer has to say. You're standing up there on stage, and you're having a drink of water, and you can hear the dirt under your shoes and there's three thousand people looking at you. The thoughts that run through your head are like, 'Oh my god! Don't they like us? Are they going to beat us up?' And then the singer says his part, along with the title of the next tracks, and the crowd goes crazy. And that is strange if you're not prepared for it! But we love playing in Japan.
- The Haunted's 'One Kill Wonder' world tour also makes its way down to Australia for the first time, with dates starting next month and covering four states.
It's hard for me to predict what Australian audiences will be like, but I'm sure the fans will behave like most western audiences do. In Europe, metal fans stage dive a lot, but in the U.S., it's forbidden. So instead, they have these intense mosh pits. I'm sure the Australian audiences will be enthusiastic. I've heard there are very few bands that tour to Australia, so we are very happy to change that!
- And if the new album wasn't enough for fans out there, The Haunted has also just released their first D.V.D. entitled 'Caught On Tape'.
There are two complete shows from the 'Made Me Do It' world tours. Both are very different because one was in front of two thousand people in Tokyo, and the other is in front of two hundred in Malmo. There is also some behind the scenes and the making of 'One Kill Wonder'. People seem to like it very much. Right now it's the biggest selling D.V.D. here in Sweden. That feels great. It went to number one in the charts. 'One Kill Wonder' was just released last Monday, and they sold the entire Swedish batch of five thousand albums in the first day. So people seem to like this album. So things are looking good, and the band is very happy.
I would personally like to thank Jensen for his generous time, and Jo Girardin for making it all possible.
The album 'One Kill Wonder' is out now on Earache Records through Shock Distribution.
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