It's been many years since I did an interview for my own shitty online 'zine www.morbid-sounds.de or any other supercool 'zine like Voices From The Darkside. Got a little bored about the underground scene for a while to be honest. But when I discovered a BOMBS OF HADES / TORMENTED split vinyl 10" review in Ralf Hauber's Mystical Music 'zine I got interested in this Death Metal underground thing again and had to order everything by BOMBS OF HADES available on vinyl immediately. These fine Swedish men with their funky music gave me back the chills. Hell yeah. Time to grab pen and paper again and kick off an interview with Jonas Stålhammar. Alrighty. This is how the interview come together and that's the result. Enjoy...
Hej, Jonas Stålhammar! Welcome to Voices From The Darkside 'zine. Firstly. Do you plead guilty for being a Swedish Death Metal veteran who played in such legendary bands like ABHOTH, MACABRE END, GOD MACABRE and UTUMNO in the late 80s until early 90s?
"Guilty as (dis)charged haha."
In retrospect, how do you see your input and legacy within those bands today? Do you wonder that lots of people still remember those bands after 20+ years and pay high amounts on ebay for their demo tapes, vinyls and CDs? How does it feel to be still relevant within the Death Metal scene?
"Of course it’s great that all those bands I was part of during that time has some kind of following these days. Happy that all those hours I spent creating music wasn’t wasted, haha. It’s kind of weird that people are paying such high amounts of money for our stuff at times, but at the same time I totally understand it. I’m one of those “fools” who also pay much money for original first pressings and collectors items on ebay (but for me it’s mostly old Progrock / Psych / Heavyrock and Punk stuff). And to still be relevant enough to be able to release albums etc. with my “new” band is amazing. I’m very appreciative of this. Keeps me motivated and creative."
Wouldn't it make sense to release proper re-releases of your former band's albums? So you would be able to counteract price rigging on ebay. For example GOD MACABRE's "Winterlong" CD re-release on Relapse is close to a financial investment. Not talking about the original M.B.R. Records release from 1993. For this treasure you have to sell one of your kidneys! Had you never received serious offers for re-releases over the years?
"In my opinion, “The Winterlong” isn’t that pricey on ebay. The original press of UTUMNO “Across The Horizon” is much worse for some reason. That one is now finally available again on CD through Vic Records. As far as GOD MACABRE re-releases, the vinyl version of “The Winterlong” is coming up to its 3rd pressing now on Blood Harvest and we and Relapse have planned to do a 20th anniversary re-release of the CD next year (yeah, it was recorded late 1991 but it wasn’t released by MBR until 1993, so…). It’s coming up dude."
For all collectors and ebay head hunters book publications like "Swedish Death Metal" by Daniel Ekeroth and "(The Return...) Of Svensk DödsMetall" by Nicola Costantini are huge sources of information. Have you read these books yourself? If yes, how is it for you, as a contemporary witness, to read about the good old days of Swedish Death Metal? Any nostalgic feelings? Or is this chapter closed for you and you are fully living in the here and now raising hell with BOMBS OF HADES?
"Both books were fun to read. Brought back a lot of memories, since some of the stories I witnessed first hand. For Nicolas book I did an extensive interview. That whole chapter in my life can never be closed, it’s the reason I can still do this with BOMBS OF HADES anyway."
By the way. In what bands have you been involved after the ending of the Swedish Death Metal gold rush? I know you did vocals for THE CROWN for a short time and then I have heard from you again when the name BOMBS OF HADES popped up somewhere. But what kind of music where you playing in the meantime? Any interesting adventures besides Death Metal country to tell us about?
"Yeah I was part of THE CROWN for a little over 2 years, but that was more or less just yesterday. After UTUMNO folded in 1993 I had an ongoing Progressive Rock / Psychedelia project which never really was a real band. Just myself between 1993 and 1997 and then a drummer joined me and we recorded an album worth of music in late 1998. This album is yet to be finished, hopefully I will get it done this year. MESHUGGAH’s old bass layer Gustaf Hielm was part of this project from time to time. But I didn’t seriously play in a band until 1999 when I joined my old buddies Per and Ola from GOD MACABRE in their Space / Garage / Fuzz act SPACE PROBE TAURUS to play bass. At the same time I had a similar band in my hometown called MUSCLEWEED in which I did guitars and vocals. This band also featured Anders Ekman from BOMBS OF HADES. I was kicked out of SPACE PROBE TAURUS in the fall of 2000 and MUSCLEWEED split up around the same time because of some stupid shit. Myself and some of the others were doing a lot drugs during this period which always fucked everything up (at least for myself). Me and Ekman went on to form the first version of BOMBS OF HADES then in 2002. But I was also part of a band called THE COLOMBOS, playing organ, mellotron, guitar, piano and other numerous stuff between 2001 - 2007. We were a sort of Garage Rock band with some Psychedelia and Pop flourishes. We released one EP independently and then for some weird and strange reason the Death / Black Metal label Regain Records wanted to sign us. I think my Death Metal past had a lot to do with this. They released a 2nd EP and then they spent a shitload of money on the studio budget for our first (and only) album “Thousand Ways To Look Clever” just to do more or less nothing promoting it when they finally released it in 2007. After this I got totally fed up with some of the other band members attitude and musical direction so I quit the band which led to the others to break up. Then I just put all my focus to BOMBS OF HADES 110%."
Guess, we covered your musically past pretty well. Do you think such retrospective questions still make sense today? When almost every band has their own website, MySpace and Facebook presence. What do you think personally about such portals and social networking in general? Is this overload helpful for an old school Death Metal, D-Beat, Death'n'Roll, etc. band like BOMBS OF HADES? For example I discovered you guys in an old fashion paper fanzine called MYSTICAL MUSIC (what's up Hauber?). There you have been just one band in the midst of a couple and not one in a million.
"Those kinda questions surely make sense. I guess the best thing is still word of mouth. Talking about myself, I still mainly discover new music through friends etc. who recommend stuff to me and also a lot from reading online / magazine stuff. I think being online can be a really good thing especially when you are already an established act. I think it’s amazing that printed fanzines still exist. I remember back in the 80s being a teenager and buying every damn demo I read about in fanzines. I guess the difference now is that the kids download it instead. And that’s not too different from tape trading."
Before we will move further and talk more detailed about BOMBS OF HADES, we have to talk about you, the mellotron man. What makes the mellotron for you that special? When and where started this love? Why is the mellotron so cool and how do you use it in real terms when playing in BOMBS OF HADES? Would you please take us into the tuneful world of this instrument!
"Haha. Yeah I’ve been obsessed with this instrument since around 1990. That’s when my passionate love affair with Progressive Rock began to take over from my love affair with Death Metal. I don’t know how to explain it, but the sound and feeling of the mellotron is so beautiful, weird, haunting, terrifying, dramatic and powerful all at the same time. I love drama in music and when you add the mellotron you definitely add a lot of drama. When we recorded “The Winterlong” album with GOD MACABRE back in 1991 both me and Tomas Skogsberg tried to get a hold of a mellotron to use on it, but failed to do so. When we then did the re-mix / master of that album in 2001 I was finally able to add the mellotron to those tracks and I think it made a helluva difference. Nowadays I try to use it on most of BOMBS OF HADES recordings. Just on a couple of tracks here and there. I even used it on a track with THE CROWN."
Alrighty. Some more equipment talk. One of the things I really love about BOMBS OF HADES is the very natural and filthy sound. This monster is breathing and eating fire. What kind of equipment do you prefer when going to a recording studio? What are your weapons of choice? Any leanings or recommendations you would like to share with us?
"The guitars we use are mainly Gibson SG and Flying V. Sometimes we throw in a Les Paul or a Fender Stratocaster and a more modern Ibanez is used for the whammy bar stuff. All that put through a BOSS Heavy Metal pedal through a Marshall JCM800. Some other pedals are used during solos etc and sometimes we use other kinds of Marshall amps. Ekman mostly plays a Ibanez Iceman bass live but in the studio he uses a Fender Jazz though either an old Vox guitar amp, though he used a Sound City through a Sunn on the new album. Forsberg mainly plays on his vintage Ludwig set from the 70s. As you might guess we all prefer vintage gear. Not to interested in modern guitars or amps to tell you the truth."
You told me in a previous email, that you guys went to Gothenburg in late February to record the follow-up of "Chambers Of Abominations". Is the working title of this new masterpiece still "The Serpent's Redemption"? What studio have you chosen this time? Who's in charge for production, mixing, mastering and cover artwork? How do you handle this kind of decisions within BOMBS OF HADES? Is it a democratic choice or do you handle it by yourself as the main songwriter?
"Yes, the new album “The Serpent’s Redemption” was recorded at Welfare Sounds in Gothenburg. Same studio used by BOMBUS and RAM on their latest releases. As usual I’ve taken care of the production but with some help from the engineers Per Stålberg and Olle Björk who also did the mixing. I will be in charge of the mastering. One of the reasons I’m always in charge of this is that the other three guys simply are bored out of their skulls by this. They simply don’t enjoy being in the studio as much as I do. I love being in the studio and to watch / hear my musical visions come to life. The amazing art of Rafal Kryszyk is on the front cover and then bass player Ekman does the layout as usual."
Could you give us a little sneak preview about "The Serpent's Redemption", please? Will it be in the same vein like "Chambers Of Abominations" or did you guys come up with something new? And what role is the mellotron playing? Any guest appearances by friends and fiends? Can we expect a proper thanks list this time? Or is the thanks list a cost causer and a thing of the past?
"Well, this album is a bit different from the last one. No sense in making the same album twice is there. First off we recorded most of the backing tracks live in the studio this time. Also the production (drums and bass especially) is more influenced by stuff done by Steve Albini, Jack Endino and Kurt Ballou (of CONVERGE). It’s a bit heavier / doomier but also more experimental VOIVOD stuff has creeped in. But it’s all still mixed up with a lot of Crust / old school Swedeath with progressive song arrangements at times. The mellotron makes a guest appearance on 2 tracks this time and Rickard Alriksson (of NASUM, NECRONY, ACCIDENTS fame) joins in on some screaming on one track and Marcus Sunesson of THE CROWN / ENGEL does an insane guitar solo on another track. Actually, the old trusted thank you list might do a comeback on this album."
When can we expect the release and will it be a part of the Blood Harvest Records roster again? Will this be a vinyl only release like in the past or will it also be available on CD, CD+DVD, CD with special extended booklet in a very special XXL media book + patch + guitar pic, special hand numbered collector's wooden box incl. CD and BOMBS OF HADES action figures or alternative limited BOMBS OF HADES casket box incl. CD + t-shirt + patch + snus + band used paper handkerchief signed by all band members? What do you think about these days release politics by record labels? Do we really need all this extras, specials and bonus crap?
"The CD is expected to be released August 2012 on Pulverised Records. Blood Harvest will take care of the vinyl as usual. The vinyl will be released in some special form anyway by Blood Harvest. I do like all the special stuff when it comes to vinyl releases anyway, and to be frank the labels need to do this these days since these releases do sell more. Sometimes the extra stuff is really cool I think. My idea with BOMBS OF HADES is to always release EPs, splits etc. in smaller quantities in a more collectable fashion."
Any plans so far to support the new one heavily with lots of club shows or summer festival gigs within Europe? With what kind of tour package would you like to share a tour bus and stage? Do you have a wish list in your upper drawer?
"No tours booked. We will headline a festival in Bologna, Italy in late April, but that’s the only thing we have booked abroad so far. I guess we will never be a heavy touring band. Do some club shows here and there and some festivals. That’s it. But sure, if AUTOPSY came calling and asked us to tour with them we would probably do it in a heartbeat haha. Would be great do more shows with our best buddies in TORMENTED or maybe DEATH BREATH if they ever get their asses of the couch haha. Or MURDER SQUAD. There’s tons of cool bands out there to play with."
Excellent choice regarding touring partners. You mentioned two so called all-star Death Metal bands like DEATH BREATH and MURDER SQUAD. Of course there are lots more such bands / projects like BLOODBATH, LOCK UP, CHAOSBREED, NECRONAUT, etc. existing. What do you think about such joint ventures? In most cases these guys are releasing better albums than their major bands. Do you think without any pressure by record labels and sales figures musicians / bands are working more creative, effective and releasing qualitative better music by heart?
"Maybe, I don’t know. They probably have more freedom to do stuff that they aren’t able to do in their main bands. I especially enjoy DEATH BREATH and MURDER SQUAD. BLOODBATH have their moments and LOCK UP’s first album is really cool."
Let's talk a bit about BOMBS OF HADES past super cool split vinyl releases. You did splits with TORMENTED, USURPRESS and MORDBRAND. How did these collaborations come together? Have there been requests by the labels or did the bands came up with the idea of their own? Looks like you guys are having a million high quality songs on stock? Or do you write for every release new stuff? What upcoming splits do you have in the pipeline? Any wishes about bands to join you in the future?
"All three of those bands are really good friends of ours so it’s pretty easy for us to just ask each other to do this. Some more splits are planned later this year with two local cool bands, SUFFER THE PAIN and ENTRENCH. I write all the time, but I always separate the material I write. When I’m writing for a record I don’t want to use that for splits etc. Made one exception with 'Burn' from the MORDBRAND split, that one is on the new album also. But, I always have songs up my sleeve and ideas for cool cover songs. Wishsplits? Ahhh, probably AUTOPSY or MURDER SQUAD."
On the fantastic "Into The Eternal Pit Of Fire" 7" you recorded a super cool cover of CARNAGE's 'The Day Man Lost' featuring your old band mate Per Boder on vocals. How was it for you to travel back in time and recording with Per again? Have you been all the time in contact after the GOD MACABRE split? You picked out a track from the CARNAGE demo days. Do you prefer their demos instead of the full length debut album? Has this something to do with the vocal performance of the lead singer? Johan Liiva did the vocals on the demos and got replaced by Matti Karki later on the debut. Also the demos are more Grindcore and the full length more Death Metal like.
"It was great having Per do the vocals on this one. Back in the day GOD MACABRE used to do this song all the time both in rehearsal and live, so for me it was a natural choice to have Per do the vocals on it. Me and Per have been in touch on and off during the years after GOD MACABRE split. Back in 1999 I joined him and Ola in SPACE PROBE TAURUS (which they formed after GOD MACABRE split) as bass player for a while. When it comes to CARNAGE I do prefer the demos over the album yes. A lot has to do with the fact that Johan is singing on them. Matti is a great singer when it comes to DISMEMBER, but Johan always did the CARNAGE tracks more justice. He wrote a lot of it also. The CARNAGE album would have been amazing if Johan was on it and if they didn’t use the DISMEMBER songs. That was a weird decision I think. They didn’t have enough material of their own I guess."
By the way. Why don't you guys do the next split with Johan Liiva's current band HEARSE? Would be a blast, I guess?! Sounds like a superb mix of rotten, filthy and extreme Swedish Death Metal to me. Dreaming is free, right?
"That sounds cool. Maybe we’ll ask them one day haha."
Some more fan boy talk now. What are your 5 favourite classic Swedish Death Metal albums of all time? And what are your 5 favourite Swedish Death Metal albums when bands opened their sound in the mid 90s and let more and more genre strange influences in?
"That's a tough one. When it comes to classic Swedeath it’s probably: ENTOMBED “Left Hand Path” & “Clandestine”, GRAVE “Into The Grave”, MERCILESS “The Awakening” and DISMEMBER “Like An Ever Flowing Stream”. When it comes the albums more influenced by other stuff I really like ENTOMBED “To Ride, Shoot Straight And Speak The Truth”, AT THE GATES "The Red In The Sky Is Ours”, FURBOWL “Those Shredded Dreams”, OPETH “Blackwater Park” and EDGE OF SANITY “Crimson”."
Have there been a point in your Death Metal life when the scene or the music lost its interest or excitement? Any thoughts on your mind you want to share with us about the very early Swedish Death Metal days? When tape trading, the demo scene and "do it yourself" attitude was a major part in your young life.
"To tell you the truth I already started to loose interest in it during 1991. I was more and more focusing my listening to the Progressive / Psychedelic Rock from late 60s and 70s but also a lot of stuff like DINOSAUR JR, SONIC YOUTH, HÜSKER DÜ, FIELDS OF THE NEPHILIM, THE CURE. The rise of Black Metal also got my interest (at least musically) in the beginning, but when that scene got out of hand (which didn’t take long) I totally lost interest. Back in the 80s when I first got into VENOM, IRON MAIDEN which then progressed with METALLICA, VOIVOD, HELLHAMMER, CELTIC FROST, POSSESSED, BATHORY, SLAYER etc. was really exciting years. Also the Hardcore scene was very important. When I then got into the tape trading scene it was intense and very educational I guess. It was a very exciting period. But, because I did it so intensely during those years I guess it’s natural to start looking for something else after a while. I think it mainly was because the underground scene that I was apart off started to be more of a movement that now released records etc. Which is what we all dreamed about doing, but at the same time a lot of the excitement and intensity of doing / trading demos / rehearsals got lost because of it. I’ve always been a seeker when it comes to music. Moving on, but never abandoning the stuff I liked before. It’s great to re-discover music you haven’t listened to for a while."
What about a proper BOMBS OF HADES website? You guys are present on MySpace, Facebook and Spotify. Have I forgotten to mention some other remaining social network platform you guys appearing on? Wouldn't it be much easier to have your own exclusive website instead of several social network platform spots? Furthermore. Who the hell shall cherish all these sites during a 24h day?
"To tell you the truth, we more or less just use the Facebook page these days. MySpace has been total crap the last 2 years in my opinion. And I don’t really consider Spotify being a social network. We do have our own proper website, www.bombsofhades.com, which will have some kind of re-launching when the new album is coming out."
During this interview you shown us your wide-ranging musical taste. Would you please share with us your latest discoveries within and outside the Death Metal universe. What artists and bands out there should get more attention? What funky music besides heavy rocking and rolling music makes you swing? Please teach us Obi Wan Kenobi.
"Oh, where do I begin? I have a severe addiction to music haha. When it comes to Metal I’m at the moment enjoying: REPUKED, BASTARD PRIEST, UNDEAD CREEP, SUFFER THE PAIN, TORMENTED, NIFELHEIM, MORDBRAND, ENTRENCH and the usual old stuff like SLAYER, OPETH, AUTOPSY, ASPHYX, SLEEP, HIGH ON FIRE, ENTOMBED, first 4 METALLICA albums, CELTIC FROST, BATHORY, DARKTHRONE etc. etc. What else is there, MOGWAI, KING CRIMSON, GENE CLARK, NEIL YOUNG, HAWKWIND, SPIRITUALIZED, SOUNDTRACK OF OUR LIVES, ZEKE, NEW BOMB TURKS, WHISKEYTOWN, WILCO, WELLWATER CONSPIRACY, MOTHERS OF INVENTION, BADFINGER, THE CRAMPS, BIG STAR, TELEVISION, SILVERBULLIT, JULIAN COPE, CAN, SCORPIONS, WHITESNAKE, GENTLE GIANT, UNIVERS ZERO, IL BALLETTO DI BRONZO, MUSEO ROSENBACH, PFM, CURTIS MAYFIELD, FUNKADELIC, DISCHARGE, DISFEAR, SKITSYSTEM, ANEKDOTEN, LANDBERK, FREE, NICK DRAKE, JONI MITCHELL, AC/DC, ASTRA, CRIPPLED BLACK PHOENIX, BLACK TRIP and of course my total GODS, MOTORPSYCHO. Plus like a thousand more."
Do you still follow today's Death Metal scene? How do you see latest developments within the scene? Does the scene still offers new and exciting stuff or is it repeating itself again and again? What about visiting small underground club shows? Still interested in concerts like these? What about lecture? Do you buying Rock / Metal magazines each month or ordering good old cut and paste fanzines? How is your Rock / Metal fan life these days? Any reason for you to go into Rock'n'Roll retirement?...hehehe
"I try and follow some, but it’s more or less when I get recommended new bands that I check them out. I do read some Metal magazines still and I do go to (mostly local though) club shows to check out bands. As I said earlier, music is such a huge part of my life I will never completely retire from it."
Alrighty, Jonas. The damage is almost done. I mean we are almost at the end of our little interview. Just some more general questions and change of views. What do you prefer more and why? Old DEATH vs. AUTOPSY!
"Mmm, tough one. I’d have to say AUTOPSY though has made a more lasting impact on me than DEATH. I still love DEATH, but AUTOPSY is very close to my heart."
The "Florida Death Metal scene". Sunshine and bloody Death Metal. What's the catch?
"Who the hell knows. You can never really tell why a certain part of a country or whatever builds a scene. Right place at the right time I guess."
What is teasing you more and why? The NIHILIST or the ENTOMBED demos?
"Since ENTOMBED only made one demo, I’d have to go with the NIHILIST demos since they had such a huge impact on myself and the scene. But, I remember when Uffe Cederlund sent me the ENTOMBED demo right after they recorded it, it fucking blew my mind. It was a huge step forward in every kind of way."
Masters of Death tour in 2006 featuring ENTOMBED, DISMEMBER, UNLEASHED an GRAVE. What line-up would you choose for 2012?
"I don’t know, AT THE GATES should do a tour like that. Don’t know who else should be on it though. Maybe CARNAGE and DESULTORY. Who do you think?" (that's really a tough one. Hmmm... maybe AT THE GATES, BOLT THROWER, TORMENTED and BOMBS OF HADES. I have to be selfish in this issue!!!...hahaha…)
All ENTOMBED albums after "Wolverine Blues".
"I love “To Ride…”, “Uprising” and “Morning Star”. They are all masterpieces in my book. To tell you the truth I listen more to those 3 record nowadays than the first 3." (you forgot to mention the really cool "Same Difference" album. Which in my opinion is different. But still contains some super cool hand made music!)
Reunions in Death Metal like CARCASS, AUTOPSY, AT THE GATES, MORGOTH, ASPHYX, etc.! What band shall re-unite next and what band shall stay dead and buried?
"Bands can do whatever they want. I totally understand why most of them do it. Get asked about a GOD MACABRE reunion all the time, but I doubt that will ever happen. I would really like to see ENTOMBED with Nicke on drums, Uffe on guitar and Jörgen on bass again."
Vinyl vs. tape vs. CD vs. mp3 vs. what the fuck...
"I do prefer vinyl. Tapes are just annoying these days and CDs are boring. MP3s, are easy to use but the quality is very much up for debate."
Old Heavy Metal shirts...sanctuaries or early retirement? Thanks to ebay!
"Old shirt in ok condition is great to find. Let’s keep them around."
The source for rotten, filthy and evil Death Metal lyrics.
"Dirty imaginations haha."
Describe the Rock / Metal scene in your hometown / area.
"At the moment the scene isn’t exploding in Västerås, but we do have cool stuff like ENTRENCH and SUFFER THE PAIN and some other younger bands coming up. And GODHATE are still around."
Summer open air shows featuring 666 bands for a sporty ticket price. Featuring stale beer and an overcrowded festival area. Have you ever wondered, why bands you would like to see are playing at the same time?
"I love playing festivals, but I rarely go to one as a fan no. Haven’t almost every band played one already? I have no idea."
Heavy Metal boat cruises through the Caribbean sea! Would you recognize if some drunken guy would exceed the height of the rail?
"Haha, that drunken guy could be myself dude. Those Caribbean Metal cruises looks like they are awesome to play."
What's next? A trip to the moon in a rocket ship for bored wealthy Metal heads? Arrgghh. Better keep your ideas top secret and develop a money making business plan with a capable investor... hahaha
"Who the hell knows. Wouldn’t interest me anyway."
That's it, I guess. Let me check my to do list for a second or two. Hm. Frank Stöver the CEO of this fine online fanzine would like to know, if there will be a CD release of the "Chambers Of Abominations" album some day?
"Good news for Frank, It’s available now!! With one bonus track also."
Mr. Max Thornell (former FURBOWL drummer / nowadays in HEARSE) asked me to forward greetings to you. Guess he is jealous with you guys. Because I'm doing this interview with BOMBS OF HADES instead of HEARSE, hahahaha. By the way. Have you bought yourself the super cool triple-vinyl re-release of FURBOWL's "Those Shredded Dreams" debut album?
"Haha. Say hi back. Max is a nice guy. Love that triple vinyl with FURBOWL." (will force Max to read the whole interview, anyway...hahahaha...hargh)
Ok. Nuff said. Thanks a lot for your time and support in doing this interview with us. Really appreciate having BOMBS OF HADES in Voices From The Darkside 'zine. Time for some final words from your side. The stage is yours. Skål...
"Thanks a lot for you support Marc and tell Frank I’ll get him that “Chambers Of Abominations” CD." (will force Frank to read the whole interview too and that he will send you a hand written "thank you letter" after receipt of the CD asap... mu-hahahahaha)
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