Grave interview (08/2012)
|Conducted by:||D.T. Metal (phone)|
Grave, one of Sweden's death metal bands still around from the 80's, are on the verge of releasing their tenth full-length studio album later this month. I caught up with guitarist and front-growler Ola Lindgren to get the inside scoop on Endless Procession Of Souls, as well as to talk about their upcoming North American tour.
Birgit: Ola, as a founding, and now the only original member left in the band, how hard is it to find and retain musicians that are willing to tour these days?
Ola: There are a lot of great musicians in Sweden and especially here in Stockholm, but I think the touring aspect is the hardest part. And when you are that age which we are in, around the forties, people have families and more of a stable life as when we started out 20 plus years ago. It's not that easy, but I think I have a good crew right now and hope to be able to maintain this (line-up) throughout the upcoming tours, and the next album as well.
B: I heard that you grew up listening to more radio friendly metal. What made you decide to go into the death metal business in the first place?
Ola: I'm not sure actually. We grew up on all kinds of metal, but I think the most extreme stuff early in the 80's we listened too, was the thrash scene, both the European and the American. And this lead to early Morbid Angel and Autopsy stuff, but also the Swedish bands that did some great music early on.
We wanted to go into this direction because we felt we could contribute and create something unique along those lines and not just jump onto the thrash bandwagon.
B: You are getting ready for a Euro Tour and just played in South America as well. How does playing in Europe compare to playing in South America and here in the US? Are the scenes different?
Ola: Yes, we played a couple of shows in Brazil and Chile last month and this was a good warm-up for our upcoming tour in Europe. And yes, the scenes are definitely different. In South America for instance, it has a lot to do with that they don't get to see a band every other year or so like the people in Europe or the US. So they are more hungry for it since we are not touring there constantly for every album release.
It's very wild and the audience is very enthusiastic, which is very cool. But Europe and the US are pretty much the same; although I would say that the club scene and everything around it is much more organized here in Europe.
B: I agree. Last year, after returning from your US-Tour, you recorded a gig in Stockholm for a future DVD release. Any news on that?
Ola: Not really. We recorded last November, when we did the 20th Anniversary show of our first album, here in Stockholm; very cool show by the way. I mixed all of the audio for it, so that is done, but we are still working on getting someone to take care of all the (video) footage and compile it all together. So there are no plans on when it will be out since we have focused on the new album. So maybe later on in the year after the touring cycle.
B: You are back with Century Media Records after a brief stint with Regain Records. In hindsight, do you think it was a mistake leaving Century Media?
Ola: Not really. We had fulfilled our contract and did seven albums with them; in 16 years. And we were a free agent for the first time ever and felt we wanted to check out something else. So we did those two albums with Regain, which worked out alright, but it was totally different than working with a huge organization that Century Media is.
After we were done with those two album we were shopping (for a label) again and Century Media was interested on having us back. Since we had such a big history with them and all of our back catalog is there also, it was an easy decision. Plus I know most of the people working there and it's so easy to get stuff done.
B: Century Media recently announced that their entire artists catalog is again available on Spotify. Are iTunes and Spotify a relevant source of income?
Ola: I actually see it more as a great promotional tool since you can pretty much get anything on there. I just checked the other day and all of our albums are up there again, which is pretty cool. They were on there for six month or so before Century Media pulled everything out. But I think that most fans who want the physical copy of an album will buy it. Of course the sale of all types of music has suffered over the last couple of years, but I think metal is still strong and people do buy albums.
B: Very true. Now lets talk about your newest release, Endless Procession Of Souls. Once again the artwork was done by Costin Chioreanu from Twilight 13 Media. Do you give him a general idea and he just runs with it?
Ola: Yeah, pretty much. He is a very cool guy to work with and he is fast and has a lot of ideas. For this one we just told him the album title, some possible color schemes, and that we wanted one main focus thing and lots of detail around this. When he came back and presented his work to us we didn't even think about changing or adding anything. We just loved the picture from the first time we saw it and I believe this is the best one out of the three (album covers) he has made for us. His artwork will also be in the CD booklet and on the gatefold vinyl.
B: According to the press statement, the new release is a mix of your last two albums with the groove of Soulless. I respectfully disagree since I hear the "Evil Chuck" influence, especially on the opening track, and I believe you guys went totally old school on this one. What is your take on my statement?
Ola: It's a very accurate statement, definitely! There are a lot of influences, like we always had, and as you stated on the first track of the album, the Death influence is clearly there; but it was not intentionally made. I think when I did the vocal parts for the song it just phrased it that way, but it is actually more of a tribute thing then trying to rip something off or whatever.
We will always have our influences from bands we grew up with. Before we even had song names we referred to them as: "the Celtic Frost song" or "the Kreator song", just to remind us.
B: You just released another new song to the public, "Perimortem", which is one of my favorite tracks on the new album. And I do hear a bit of a Paul Speckmann maybe. Was Master one of your influences as well?
Ola: I wouldn't say that, and we actually just called this one the "thrash song" until we had a title.
B: I remember around the 4 minute mark I hear you say "THRASH".
Ola: Yes. It's just very old school and kind of pays respect to what we grew up on. The early Grave demos for instance, are very, very thrashy, and it always has been a big part of what we are doing. I think that track is more thrash than any other on the album for sure.
B: Well, I believe "Disembodied Steps" is pretty thrashy sounding as well.
Ola: Correct, it was just the way we were thinking when we wrote the songs for this album. We wanted to make them more song oriented and not just throw a bunch of riffs in there; much more arrangements. To think a little bit different maybe, and have some clear chorus in there and stuff like that; just to give the songs more structure.
B: You recorded, mixed and mastered the new album in your own studio (Studio Soulless) again. Is there an advantage, or disadvantage, on doing everything in-house? Don't you loose that critical "second ear" who maybe would give you pointers on what might sound better?
Ola: Well, I guess it's both. The pros are that there is really not that much pressure on time, of having the album done; of course there is a deadline from the label, but still. If you are in a studio, paying shit loads of money every day, it's stressful in a way, since the money clock is ticking every time you are in there. But doing it in your own studio, everybody is relaxed, and if we don't feel like doing something the next day, well we don't, and maybe take a couple days off.
On the other hand it would be cool to have an outside person maybe just producing the album. We talked about this as well, but … well, everybody in the band has been so involved with the new album. There has definitely been criticism and everybody gives their input. It's not just a one man job even though I have been the one behind the desk most of the time.
B: You also have Tobias Cristiansson (ex-Dismember) in the band now. Did that change the approach of the bass lines for the new album?
Ola: Yes, absolutely. Tobias plays the bass in a different way than anybody else we had with us. It's bass playing instead of, how people we had earlier, who actually played more guitar, but on the bass. Tobias loves the whole seventies and eighties metal stuff. He plays more like a hard rock and heavy metal bassist on our songs, in a very cool way I think, than anyone we previously had. And it's very cool playing live with him on stage.
B: Your drummer (Ronnie Bergerståhl) proves that one necessarily does not need triggers to produce an awesome drum sound. I think the drumming is just great on the new album. What is your take on today's overuse of triggers?
Ola: I think it is crap, to be very mild on it. There is really no editing, well maybe very small things, on the new album. Everything is played the way it is, nothing is constructed afterwards or anything. The songs are not even recorded to a click (ed. Metronome); we just counted in and went for it. That's the way it should be played, like with feeling and the dynamics of it all.
B: He didn't use clicks?
Ola: No, there are no click tracks at all; the tempos were set then and there when we played. And it's just a pretty cool thing to just go and do it how it is when you play live. Using triggers and trigger sound is just not for me; not for this kind of music. I am sure I will be using it for other productions, for other bands, and if it's suited for that kind of music then I might use it, but for Grave, there is no way.
B: You will be supporting Morbid Angel and Dark Funeral over here in the states. Do you already know how long your set will be and how many new songs you will be able to play?
Ola: I am not sure but I think it will differ from gig to gig since there will probably be a shit load of local opening acts on some shows. I believe we will have 40 or 45 minutes at the least, well this is what I am hoping or shooting for at least. We are not just on there to fill out the bill; we are actually there to promote a new album. And to be honest, we are the only band who has really anything recent to promote.
I know the guys in the band and I know the people who are working with them and tour managing the band, and I hope we can work something out. They went through a lot to get us on this tour to start with, so it's not just that we are another band. They planned and worked around everybody's schedule to make this a workable tour for all three bands.
B: Nice! Now I have a couple odds and ends questions if you don't mind. Your limited box set will have a bonus CD with cover songs from Voivod, Celtic Frost and Anthrax. Who choose to cover a) those artists and b) the songs?
Ola: The Celtic Frost cover (ed: "Mesmerized") was actually recorded many years ago, 1995 I think, and it was on some kind of tribute album and not really known to anyone. So we wanted to have it on there. And the Anthrax (ed: "Efilnikufesin (N.F.L.)") and Voivod (ed: "Killing Technology") songs were definitely my idea from the start.
They are like old, classic bands, and I always loved Voivod for their weirdness and we have talked about doing a cover of them for many years. I think it turned out very cool.
B: Do you still have your side project, Grey Heavens with Norman Lonhard from Triptykon; and if so, any news on that front?
Ola: Well, not much really. We had planned to do stuff earlier this year but then I started on the new Grave album. And we also moved Studio Soulless and build it at a whole other location; which took like over three months. When we finished up the album, Triptykon was touring and doing festivals and now we are leaving soon. So hopefully by the end of the year I can get him up here and do some drum work and get something recorded.
B: Cool, and how about Red Scream, your other project with Ralph Santolla (ex-Deicide, ex-Obituary) and your own Mika Lagrén and Ronnie Bergerståhl?
Ola: Yeah, well, we have a lot of songs written and we need some time to record a demo or promo and shop around (for a label), and that's where we kinda are right now. I think we have like seven or eight songs written and we want to record at least three or four of them before we look for a label and see what could be done. It's a very cool project and so much different from what any of us are used to.
B: You attended this year's NAMM convention in Anaheim, CA for your EVH gear. Was this your first time at NAMM?
Ola: Yes, this was my first time. I wanted to go for so many years, and now, finally I had the time and was off tour and all that; it worked out really well. This was a very cool experience, to go there, and see and experience all the madness. (laughs)
B: Have you been to the Musik Messe in Frankfurt as well?
Ola: No I haven't. I was planning to go there this year but we had some shows during that weekend so it never happened, unfortunately. But I plan on going down there as well. From what I know and heard, the Frankfurt one is bigger. So it would be incredible, since NAMM is so big it's almost ridiculous.
B: Well, that's it; and the last words belong to you as a message to your fans.
Ola: A huge thanks for supporting the band throughout all these years; and if you ever liked anything about Grave, we are sure you will enjoy the new album. I, and many people I talked to, and also the label, think it's one of the strongest releases in many, many years. And I can't wait to go out and play it live for you all.
Posted on 13.08.2012 by
Professional concertgoer ... dangerously armed with a camera!
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