TARTAREAN DESIRE WEBZINE
This e-mail interview with Dan Swanö of the Swedish death metal
band Bloodbath was done by Tony Belcher in October 2004.
I apologize for the first few questions in advance because ones like them must come up in every interview, but how did the new lineup evolve? I have seen accounts of Mikael Åkerfeldt either leaving or being kicked out of the band. Did he simply think that Bloodbath had run its course?
I think Mike did the right thing. Bloodbath is meant to be all fun. All the touring and hard work with the twin-Opeth's in the studio must've taken away some of the joy of being a musician for him. He knew he was about to become a father around the release and then to have the constant questions about Bloodbath - next album, will you play etc.?? And then to do Opeth full time... I guess I would have done the same in that situation.
Åkerfeldt leaving opened the door for a new vocalist. Was consideration given to you as vocalist or was that never an option?
Not really. I guess we talked about an emergency solution of the three of us (all growlers in bands once upon a time...) sharing the vocals, but nothing about this 'comeback' should feel like we were assembling a line-up only to make money. Instead we went the extra mile and found Peter and Martin and created the ultimate Death Metal machine.
Since you wrote lyrics for several of the songs on the latest Hypocrisy album, had you and Peter Tägtgren discussed working together again in the future? Was it as simple as making a phone call to get Tägtgren to join?
It was easy to get a "yes" from Peter, [however] for him to get a clearance from his labels, etc., was a pain in the behind. It wasn't sorted until just a few months before the actual recording was booked. I have known Peter almost as long as the other guys (apart from Martin that I don't really know at all, would like to get to know him though, seems like a great guy!!).
Tägtgren has been in a sort of "Death Metal super group" before on the Lock Up debut album and now he is in Bloodbath. Is he just the right guy for this kind of high profile project?
You need a certain skill to be a one-night-stand kind of guy and you need the same skills to run a project band. You cannot get too caught up in your emotions and talk about the future, etc., just live in the moment and be happy if it turns out alright and deny everything if it fails!!
Further, from the one song available prior to this album being released, I wanted to mention that Tägtgren's vocals in Bloodbath differ significantly from his primary vocal styles in Hypocrisy and certainly from his work in Lock Up. Was it a major effort for him to stray a bit from his usual range of vocals and stay primarily with the low, guttural style?
We tortured the poor man like never before. Once you work with a vocal genius like Mike there's no return. But [Peter] rose to the occasion and delivered (to me) his best growling appearance ever. We also used gear worth a Rolls Royce to record his voice, and that makes a difference.
You put down your sticks and picked up the guitar for the new album, thus making way for Witchery drummer Martin Axenrot. Was "Axe" the first choice or were other drummers considered? Was there an effort made to maintain an all Swedish lineup?
We thought about people like Nick Barker, Snowy Shaw and some local Stockholm and Örebro drummers before I stumbled upon Martin by "mistake." I work for a chain of music stores (with a surprisingly high number of Death Metalists working for them) and one of the guys (who used to play guitar with Hypocrisy live) tipped me off about their drummer. I listened to some stuff and knowing he played that to a click track I instantly knew he was the man for the job... a few phone calls later the line-up was complete!!
Switching gears a bit, word on the street is that the new album "turned out a bit more brutal than [you] wanted it to [be]." Is this true?
Yes, it's true. If I could be in charge of Bloodbath there would be less technical stuff, double bass drum orgies, blast beats, etc., but we are three writers and I think the blend makes us unique. Some of the biggest bands in history have had different writers: Lennon, McCartney, Harrison [in The Beatles to] Stanley, Simmons, Frehley [in Kiss]... you know. I find it hard to believe that Paul liked all of Gene’s tracks and vice versa. I am not the producer of the Bloodbath album. I only produced my tracks while writing them. I am not saying I don't like the other stuff, it's just that it's a bit too brutal for my personal taste. I'm only [being] honest!!!
The old school, Swedish Death Metal feel of early 90s Entombed, Grave, and Dismember was necessarily present on the debut EP by design. To me it sounded as though this vibe was slightly polished for the first full length album, but the new release sounds slightly more modern while still embracing Stockholm and that Sunlight Studios sound. Was there a goal in writing and recording the new album? Did the band strive to update the sound a little bit in terms of production or did this just come about naturally?
We tried and I think we succeeded to make the perfect blend of all the previous releases while adding a new dimension to the sound (much thanx to Martin and Peter). The engineer, Jens Bogren, did a fine job and my idea to use him as a safety net in order not to have a too harsh sounding album worked out just fine - keep in mind it is his first Death Metal mix ever!! We used the same guitar pedals as we did on Resurrection Through Carnage, and I used the same guitar... but the sound was miked through a Marshall amp and sounds more like a good guitar sound with a twist rather than a bunch of directly recorded chainsaws!!
Neither you nor Tägtgren handled the overall production duties on the new album, Jens Bogren being at the helm instead. Why was he and Fascination Street studio chosen instead of Tägtgren and The Abyss, for example?
Because it's better to leave this to an outsider. FS is a pro studio – The Abyss is great but the gear in FS is just fucking amazing stuff. FS has the same console brand that was used to mix [Death’s] Leprosy!!! We had to do it there!!! Peter was busy doing Pain and Hypocrisy at the time and I don't have my studio anymore... There was only talk of sound-production for an outsider. No one messes with my music. Jens took care of the job of blending all the various instruments together and making sure things were in tune all the time. We just performed our already-produced-while-written tracks!!
How does the schedule of writing/recording/touring for Bloodbath interfere, overlap, or compare with the schedules of everyone else's bands (and production schedules/duties)? Hypocrisy, Katatonia, Witchery, and any of your projects are not exactly no-name acts, each having a considerable following. Was it difficult to get everyone on the same page for this?
It's easy. We just make sure all the tracks are pretty much finished once we hit the studio and during those 2 weeks we eat, breathe and shit Bloodbath and once I am finished with the promotion BB is not a part of our daily lives other than the joy of reading the reviews!!
Until we rise again!!!!!!!!!!
How long did the writing/recording process take? Was it set up like old friends drinking and jamming with the recorder running?
Not at all. We all sweated out in our home studios. I wrote my tracks in a few days total, the others, I don't know... Jonas was very serious about his stuff this time from what I heard from Anders. I can knock out pro-quality Death Metal in my sleep, it's my curse!! I really enjoy it every time!! We spent a total of 14 days in the studio, doing 12 hour shifts, poor Jens...
Are there plans for a Bloodbath tour? Fans in the United States would definitely come out for it, that much is certain, especially considering the fanfare that the recent reformation of old school American Death Metal stalwarts Suffocation and Obituary have received.
I wouldn't mind a decent tour, but I guess we all have schedules to match and I am happy with my day job and would not sacrifice that for a 2 month tour that would leave me a wreck, so for me it's one-off gigs here and there. I wouldn't mind [a full tour], but there's a lot of work to be done...
Are there any new bands that you listen to for inspiration in terms of Bloodbath or is this band completely entrenched in the early 1990s sound of Stockholm's Death Metal scene? Åkerfeldt has been quoted as saying "Bloodbath is pretty much a rip-off of the Swedish/Stockholm scene of the late 80's." Do you share this view?
We used to be. RTC was a tribute to the movement that brought us together. NMF is more "this is what we can do once we decide to do it for real"! I think the next album can become really nasty if we manage to keep this line-up together because then we don't have to start from scratch, there will be a vibe from day one...
Åkerfeldt has also said "I don't like the metal scene today at all. ... There's not many real metal bands out there right now." I am not trying to create controversy but what are your thoughts on his comment? If your opinion differs, what bands do you enjoy in or out of the Metal scene?
I totally agree. I only listen to old pop-rock/post-prog kind of stuff and what's on the radio, apart from rap. I like the craftsmanship in a hit single. Stuff like Keane and Coldplay is excellent. I also dig the occasional boy or girl band track, as long as it has a great melody and a good hook. Some Metal bands are good, too, but to me only on a song to song basis.
A final thought about Metal: What do you think are the genre's greatest strengths and weaknesses? Feel free to address whatever subgenres you feel are appropriate, particularly Death Metal and what Bloodbath means to it.
Death Metal's strength is that you have more freedom within the genre than in Thrash or Black Metal. I don't know why it turned out that way, but I guess I am responsible to a certain extent. The weakness is the same thing, the lack of real identity, the borders are blurred. But that is why I like working with that kind of style. It is allowed to be 'wide' and people still love it. If I would have incorporated some of the moments from my "Crimson II" release on a Thrash album in the vein of The Haunted I would have been killed, but now when it's labeled Death Metal it's fine to sound like Marillion for a minute...
Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions. Do you have any parting words for our readers and your fans?
Thanx for standing by me through thick and thin. I will need your support even more now that I have been abandoned by my family -- now I will be married to my music full time....
Best of luck in the future! HAIL!
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