Holy shit, I really missed some GRAVE madness in the interview list of VOICES FROM THE DARKSIDE. I remember that Frank did an interview with GRAVE mainman Ola Lindgren when “Soulless” came out in 1994. Actually this was still in the days of a printed version of VOICES. Anyway a lot of time has passed by but fans dedicated to the true and classical way of Swedish Death Metal can’t deny that GRAVE have grown again strong as fuck with their last albums “Dominion VIII”, “Burial Ground” and most of all with their brandnew longplayer “Endless Procession Of Souls”, which is gonna be the 10th album in the GRAVE history. This time we did a nice email chat with GRAVE drummer Ronnie Bergerstahl, who belongs to GRAVE since 2006, but many of you also might know his name from the line–ups of DEMONICAL, CENTINEX etc. – it’s a small world if you like Death Metal in the classical Swedish way, so feed your stereo with some GRAVE and read!!!
Hi Ronnie and feel welcome for a little GRAVE update interview for VOICES FROM THE DARKSIDE. How is the promotion campaign for the new album “Endless Procession Of Soul” going so far!?! Here in Germany several bigger magazines already did studio reports for the album etc.; it seems that it’s gonna get some proper push, right?
"Hello there! As far as I know the promotion campaign's going great and I've only heard good things so far from people who've heard the album, which of course feels really good! Century Media are pro's in this area so I'm not too worried that it won't get the push it deserves!"
“As Rapture Comes” (2006) was the last album GRAVE did for Century Media before signing with Regain Records. Nearly six years later you resigned with Century Media again. Does it feel like coming home again or is it like a new beginning? I mean you did two really promising albums for Regain, but nowadays it seems like all their main roster bands left them in favour to other firms. What has been your experience?
"Well, Regain Records went bankrupt last year so there's no reason for bands to stay there right? We were lucky to have Century Media willing to re-sign us as they're probably the best label for Metal these days. There's never been any problem in any area when it comes to that label and that's something that's very important for us. There were some discussions with other labels also but I'd say that we already had decided with whom to sign!"
If you look at the current label program of Century Media with bands like ASPHYX, MORGOTH, EVOCATION, MASSACRE and newcomers like MORBUS CHRON, SONNE ADAM or NECROWRETCH then there’s no doubt: real to the bone Death Metal is back, would you agree!?! Do you think that let me say Death Metal with an old school approach has some real sale capacity for a bigger label?
"It seems like so, I for one hope so as the new school Death Metal, mainly from the US don't do anything for me music wise. The Death Metal that I think is real Death Metal are bands like OBITUARY, AUTOPSY, old DEATH and MORBID ANGEL. The more modern bands that tend to think that music is about playing the fastest blast or riffs, well, that kinda music is completely uninteresting in my book. Old school Death Metal is all about writing good songs with a groove which is easy to get into! That should appeal to a bigger audience and then bigger sales!!!"
Actually since your European tour with OBITUARY and PATHOLOGY in early 2011 you have two new GRAVE members: Tobias from DISMEMBER on bass and Mika from FACEBREAKER on guitar. Did both have any sort of influence on “Endless Procession Of Souls” or are they “just” some sort of stage members for GRAVE?
"Tobias joined us already in 2010 before the MISERY INDEX tour and Mika did session guitars with us on the OBITUARY tour and it worked out really good and at this point in our career, we couldn't be happier with the members and situation within the band! Both of them had lots of ideas for the new album. Tobias wrote a lot of the new stuff and Mika's also got some riffs which ended up on the album."
Ronnie, where do you see the difference in touring with GRAVE compared to touring with DEMONICAL, which you left at the end of 2011!?! Did you enjoy more the professional organised GRAVE packages or the more totally “road–dog” DEMONICAL way?
"It's not that big of a difference actually but as you say, the GRAVE tours tend to be more pro-arranged but that's mainly because we've only done support tours so far since 2006 and with DEMONICAL we've only done our own more underground like headliner tours.I really enjoyed playing in DEMONICAL but in the end I had to choose unfortunately due to lots of conflict in the touring and gig schedules."
I remember from a DEMONICAL show we did in Aalen / Germany that you can also handle the guitar, at least I remember seeing you jamming backstage, ha! By the way how does the songwriting between you and Ola / GRAVE work? Do you write the songs in the classical rehearsal room way by trying out and in jam sessions or do you use for example programmed drums for demo versions etc.?
"Ha! Ha! Well, in the last 10-12 years I've probably played more guitar then drums to be honest. I have some solo projects that I'm gonna finish when we're back from the tours in November so stay tuned for that. This album is the first album since the “Back From The Grave” we actually arranged all the songs together in the rehearsal room but most of the riffs are written at home by me, Ola and Tobias with programed drums. Then we met in the rehearsal place and put the riffs together. Some riffs we wrote when arranging though, but most of the stuff is pre-demoed at home and then put together by the three of us, Mika doesn't live in Stockholm so he couldn't join us for the rehearsals this time but he still contributed with some awesome riffs."
It seems that especially with the last two albums “Burial Ground” (2010) and “Dominion VIII” (2008) the reputation of GRAVE has grown really stronger again. You’ve got some really attractive tours with NILE and a lot of reissues of best of and demo compilations followed as well. Do you feel that this sort of reawakening of the classical 90s Death Metal style helped GRAVE to get back on the track or do you think that it’s more the constant way of releasing and touring that pays off nowadays?
"We love to tour and we try to do it as much as we can, we'd like to do it even more and I hope that with this album we'll reach out to even more people. We also improved a lot as a live act since we got Tobias and Mika in the band. I've seen some footage from a couple of years ago and holy hell, that was a tired and un-inspired band, haha! These days I feel that we have a whole different energy live with lots of movement around the stage, not just four half dead figures standing at the same place thru the whole gig. I'd say it's more of an 80s feel with the classic teeth grinding and foot on the monitor kinda performance. You'll see it on tour soon! :-)"
Your comrades in ENTOMBED have not relased an album for years, DISMEMBER ceased to be (without making a proper and understandable statement) and UNLEASHED went more and more for a Pagan type of Metal audience, so do you think GRAVE is finally the morbid way to die, ha!?!
"At this point we're the only ones of those four bands that play the real old school Death Metal - the TRUE (!!!) Swedish style!!! I know that ENTOMBED have some kick ass new material on their way but it's taking forever to get it on tape apparently, haha! This is the only thing GRAVE should be doing. We are what we are and more and more people seem to like it, which of course is very cool!!!"
Ronnie, you’re not a founding member of GRAVE, but you belong to the core since 2006. Do you think it’s a challenge to be in a band and also write new stuff for a band, which more or less defined its own style with the first three albums “Into The Grave” (1991), “You'll Never See” (1992) and “Soulless” (1994)? Those three records have a sort of timeless approch to the scene and many fans still quote them ans “non plus ultra” GRAVE releases, so how do you handle this situation?
"It's not exactly rocket science to write riffs for GRAVE, haha! There are certain notes that fit but the big challenge is to twist and turn them into some new fresh ways that we haven't been doing before. If you compare “Endless Procession Of Souls” to “Dominion VIII” and “Burial Ground” it's more in the style of “Soulless” and “You'll Never See” then “Into The Grave”, more controlled and clean so to say. The new songs are more chorus oriented, I think that all the songs have a certain hook that people will enjoy. Lots of mid-tempo stuff and great guitar solos. Mika's solos are fantastic and Ola's also improved a lot with his solos. He actually plays notes this time, haha! Not only making noise with the whammy bar... ;-)"
There are a few cool GRAVE coverversions around nowadays. Have you already heard the versions of FUNEBRARUM ('Into The Grave') or THE FORSAKEN ('You'll Never See')!?! Have you heard some impressive versions lately!?!
"Yep, I've heard them both and they're really cool! I know the guys in THE FORSAKEN and they're great dudes."
How do you handle this whole bootleg stuff around GRAVE? It’s no problem for example to get bootleg versions of GRAVE shirts via ebay and also from the demo compliations there’s a sort of bootleg version around!?! Do you care about it?
"I know that we put an end to some bootleg vinyl release of the old demos and made an official one instead but it's very hard to come around all the bootlegers today. It's two sides of a coin. I think it's somewhat cool that people lay down that much time to create bootleg stuff but in the end it's our money they're earning... I'm torn!!!"
I’ve seen that you have a tough touring schedule coming up with GRAVE, including a European headliner tour and straight away a US support tour for MORBID ANGEL within the autumn period. How is this schedule working for you? Don’t you have regular work / jobs and family going besides the band?
"We all have day jobs and that's a must as you can't really make a living from just playing Death Metal. I work as a mover and assembler but I'm fortuned to only work when I can and want to work. I get paid by the hour but that's the only way for me to be able to have a job. Tobias works as a personal assistence and Mika's a blacksmith. Ola is unemployed at the moment. The touring schedule will hopefully be even more full next year with all the summer festivals and stuff like that. Otherwise I'd be very disappointed!!!"
Final question: Ronnie, are there any styles within the Death Metal genre that you can’t handle at all!?! I mean your style of drumming in DEMONICAL, CENTINEX, GRAVE etc. was and still is more about the straight way, so what do you think for example about all that technical, gravity blast and “more faster, more brutal” kind of styles?
"Oh my, hahahaha... There are tons of styles I'm not capable of playing but let me put it like this: if I'd been interested in learning for example gravity blast and stuff like that, I'd learned it but for me those kinda techniques are unnecessary for me to learn as I would never use it. I'm completely uninterested in that kinda music that uses and abuses drumming in that way! For me it's not even extreme. I've said it before in interviews, the hardest album I've ever recorded was the first one I did with the Doom band WORLD BELOW. I urge every "fast" drummer to record a slow album and I bet every single one of them would have a hard time!!!"
Ok, thanx a lot taking the time for this question assault from VOICES FROM THE DARKSIDE. Good luck with the new album and feel free to add anything you like to…
"Thank you! Of course you should all check the new album out and we'll have a drink or 12 on tour! Cheers!"
For more infos & tourdates check: www.grave.se
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