For those involved in the Death Metal underground of the early nineties names such as EXHUMED, MORPHEUS, MASTICATION or EXCRUCIATE will ring a bell in your head. Whereas EXCRUCIATE and MORPHEUS released official recordings on vinyl and CD, EXHUMED and MASTICATION just released demotapes. Among the best demotapes in the history of Death Metal if you ask me. Johan and Sebastian from EXHUMED / MORPHEUS later received certain fame in the Death Metal scene with their participation in NECROPHOBIC and other names (NIFELHEIM, DISMEMBER…). But the link between these entire first mentioned 4 bands is the involvement of Janne Rudberg. During his appearance in those bands he was the creative force and responsible for most of the songs on their releases. Nevertheless up to now he's not featured on any official release besides those demotapes and the re-release of them in form of the amazing “Wicked Material Sanity” through Necroharmonic Records. Currently he's active with his project BIRCH MOUNTAIN and therefore it was about time and there's plenty to talk with this man and his involvement in the Death Metal scene in the earliest years (~1990) up to now. Enjoy this informative and long chat!
Hi Janne, how are you? Thanks for agreeing in answering this interview. Anything important to start this little chat? Voices From The Darkside featured many classic Death Metal bands with interviews during the last years. How does it feel to get featured in those pages now?
"It’s really cool that I and the stuff I have created - and participated in - get this attention. I could never have imagined that. Thanks a lot for your interest!" (my pleasure – Thomas)
This will be an interview marathon as you played in so many underground-relevant Death Metal bands during the last more than 20 years. Are you prepared for that?
"I must tell you I was a greatly surprised that a lot of my history on the Death Metal scene had grown to such importance and to be counted to the cult or legends is unbelievable!!!"
And how do you see the importance of your bands for the Swedish Death Metal movement?
"Well, I still think the EXHUMED and the EGYPT material deviates quite a bit from the typical style from those days. Oh, I remember getting some reviews of the MASTICATION demos back then and a common comment was that demo one was a deviating original where as demo two was more inline with the style going on, that probably being the reason for why people remember the first demo rather than the second. From my point of view - most bands kind of fell in line with the typical two strokes sound and style but I don’t think any of my bands did that, at least not to the same extent."
Do you often get asked for interviews because of your connection to such bands as MASTICATION, EXHUMED, MORPHEUS or EXCRUCIATE?
"Ehh, no, this is only the second interview for me since the 90s. The MASTICATION part has been handled by Lalle over the years and EXCRUCIATE by Hempa. Sure I’ve had quite a few comments on the net regarding the old stuff and I’ve met a few youngsters (who weren’t even born at the time) at some parties attacking me with questions about the past. It’s really fun to go back to those times."
I hope I can put my questions in the right chronological order, so correct me if I’m wrong or miss something. Here in this interview should be the bands and the releases you attended reviewed. Your first serious band if I’m correct was EXHUMED. You started this band together with Sebastian Ramstedt in the mid 80s. Both of you were very young at age around this time so what was your goal at the beginning and how did this change during the years?
"I was in like 4th grade or something and Sebastian in 6th. In the beginning we where just trying to play some Heavy Metal but quite soon we started to pursue the Thrash Metal path under different names. We actually, considering our age, played some pretty good Thrash Metal around ’88 or something. Then we just developed more towards Death Metal and rehearsed for a while under the name MORTUARY, which later developed into EXHUMED passing some changes me going from drums to bass and back to the drums again. We just loved playing and I guess we had the same dreams as everyone else."
In the linernotes of the Necroharmonic / Morbid Wrath CD “Wicked Material Sanity” you can read some funny lines about the primitive start and your first rehearsals. Funny times, weren’t they? Please tell something about your musical beginnings.
"Our very first rehearsal took place in my bedroom in a top floor apartment. Sebastian had gotten his first electric guitar and amp and I had some broken parts of a drum set, some plastic water containers and phonebooks. This was not very popular in the neighbourhood of course. A few month later my uncle brought his jazz kit over (he was priest and a jazz drummer !!) – can’t remember why he brought the drums to my place, though – and we had our first rehearsal with real drums. It ended with one of the neighbour banging the door telling us her husband nearly had a heart attack so even if we played some crappy Heavy Metal that was our very first connection to death. I think this was around 86 or something. After that we got the chance to rehearse at a friend of my fathers place. At the storage of an oil company where he had two drum sets with lots of toms, a bunch of amps and some studio gear."
Even before the recording of the first demo you left the band to play or try to play in bands as EXCRUCIATE and DISMEMBER (seems to be a funny story why you weren’t allowed to join them...). Weren’t you satisfied with EXHUMED or the band members already during those days?
"Sure I was, but we kind of experimented a little in parallel - both of us. Sebastian had his adventure with another Thrash Metal band and I wanted to try the four-string and auditioned for EXCRUCIATE and later DISMEMBER. It wasn’t until after this we met Johan and David and started up the EXHUMED story but at the beginning Johan held the guitar (as he does today) and I held the bass while another friend of us banged the drums. I was always happy playing with these guys."
The one and only release from EXHUMED was the mighty “Obscure Desolation” demo 1990. This was one of my first demos I got through tape trading (unfortunately not in its original form) and it’s still in my top ten of the best demos of all time. What can you tell about this demotape?
"I think we strove for a really dark, heavy and groovy Death Metal style and I think we succeeded coming up with a demo not like anything at the time. I, myself, am pretty amazed that this was actually the first thing we produced. One thing that comes to my mind is that, when we arrived at the studio, Tomas thought we were just kids and that I found it quite hard playing the d-drums in Sunlight Studios. I was still rather short. I still remember the great excitement we felt recording in a real studio and at least I think we had somewhat our own sound."
Musically spoken this is a totally original Death Metal recording which sounds everything else than typical Swedish – even considering the fact that the label “typical Swedish Death Metal” wasn’t even born back at the time of this recording. The tunes are outstanding and groundbreaking if you ask me, even the use of keyboards in this form was rather unusual. What were your main influences and what do you think made EXHUMED different to the other rising Death Metal bands from Sweden at this time?
"First, thanks for the cool words about the demo. I don’t remember what our main influences were but I do know we listened a lot to DEATH, SLAYER and CARCASS. PARADISE LOST was on the speakers a lot as well, especially on David's. We didn’t seek influences in the typical bands such as ENTOMBED (or NIHILIST) we went our own way and just wanted the music to be dark and brutal and I think we succeeded to some extent. The biggest difference I think was that we didn’t use the typical two stroke punch to the same extent as everyone else did and still do."
How old were you at this recording and who was the driving force behind EXHUMED?
"I was 16, Sebastian 18 and David and Johan were 17. I don’t think there was anyone in particular who was the driving force although I invested a lot of passion in the band as in all my bands. We were just a set of teens playing Death Metal. At the time we knew no one on the Death Metal scene."
The groove of especially ‘Satanic Verses’ drives me mad even now - 20 years later. For me this is such a killer tune. What is your favourite track on this demo and aren’t you a little worried that this demotape didn’t get more attention?
"He he… last summer when EXCRUCIATE did our first gig for 17 years in Germany there was a guy that came up to me and really excited told me the same as you. If I’m not mistaken we wrote most of that song together but I think the cool grooves are all Sebastian’s. Cool you like it! I think that ‘Obscure Desolation’ is an excellent opening and I particularly like the parts where we put the choirs in the middle and the guitars at the end - they still give me goose skin but they all have something special. ‘What Live Has Brought’ being really heavy and groovy and ‘Satanic Verses’ being the one most fun to play. So, I can’t really say which one is my personal favourite."
“Obscure Desolation” was recorded in Sunlight Studios by the mighty hands of Tomas Skogsberg. This was more or less before the huge hype around Sunlight and all those supposed “Sunlight-clones” or already in between??
"I think it was in the beginning of the hype around Sunlight Studios. There were a lot of demos recording there 90-91. I mean we came to know about the studio as we listened to some demos from that time. I remember giving Tomas a call but he was busy and you could hear the Death Metal in the background."
What was the reason why EXHUMED only released one demo and nothing additionally? Didn’t you get an offer for a seven inch or something like that?
"EXHUMED didn’t survive long after the demo. We wrote a few other songs and tried a few guys on second guitar but nothing further ever happened."
According to the “Wicked Material Sanity” CD you were fired from EXHUMED because of your over productivity. This needs explanation...
"I guess I invested so much passion in the playing and had so much higher tempo than the rest of the band. At least this is what I have been told afterwards. This supposedly created a negative tension in the band leading them to asking me to leave and at the same time dissolving the band. When I did something I wanted to do go in for it 110% and if the rest of the band didn’t… well… I guess I got frustrated."
During your EXHUMED days you were playing the drums. In MASTICATION you played the guitars and in MORPHEUS you played the drums and guitars. So you obviously seem to be a multi-instrumentalist. What is your preferred instrument and why did you switch so often from one to another instrument?
"I only played guitar in MORPHEUS. I think I enjoy the drums the most because challenging in so many levels but I find great pleasure in writing riffs and songs, which kind of made me focus on the guitar. I really do enjoy playing guitar and bass as well. Song writing went a little quicker me playing the guitar as it was a little awkward doing it from behind the drums. Nowadays I try to do it all – got to have it all!!!! He he."
EXHUMED changed their name to MORPHEUS. Well, from today’s view from one common name for a Death Metal band to another one. What was the reason for the change? Or was it something like EXHUMED disbanded without you in the line-up and started as MORPHEUS again?
"After the EXHUMED days the rest of the guys wanted to do something else when they at the same time met Marcus. Besides the mutual band members there is no connection between EXHUMED and MORPHEUS. MORPHEUS, as far as I know, never played any of the EXHUMED songs."
MORPHEUS released, as far as I know, no demo and started directly with the MLP “In The Arms Of...” through Opinionate! Records in 1991. Is there a reason behind this or did you directly get asked by the label?
"If I am not mistaken I brought the label with me from MASTICATION. Opinionate! wanted to release an album with MASTICATION but as I left and joined MORPHEUS I convinced them to release the MORPHEUS demo as MLP instead and they agreed. They later released the “Son Of Hypnos” CD as well."
If I’m correct you returned to MORPHEUS not as drummer but as guitar-player instead. What was the reason for this change?
"I was warm on the strings from MASTICATION and MORPHEUS had an excellent drummer. It was great opportunity to write songs together with Sebastian again not as drummer but as fellow guitar player, which I enjoyed a lot while it lasted."
On this MLP you can read that line “all guitars on this recording by Sebastian Ramstedt”. You were still in the line-up as their guitar-player mentioned, but weren’t you involved in the songwriting- and recording-process?
"The songs were already written and recorded when I joined so I haven’t written any of the material on the MLP but I think I wrote two of the songs on the “Son Of Hypnos” CD. Not sure which ones though."
Tell something about this release and the change / difference compared to the EXHUMED-material. Why didn’t you use any of the EXHUMED songs for this release?
"EXHUMED and MORPHEUS are as I said earlier two different bands with the mutual band members as the only thing in common. MORPHEUS was something new probably a bit influenced by the fact that they had a much better drummer with a different style."
What do you think about this MLP?
"I think it’s great, a classic. It was a great band with great songwriters and musicians."
As far as I know no song from EXHUMED was released on vinyl / CD until last year’s Necroharmonic release. Why?
"I have no idea. I know there have been a few discussions on releasing it together with MORPHEUS over the years but it didn’t happen until the MASTICATION project became serious."
Next release for MORPHEUS was the debut album “Son Of Hypnos”. I don’t have this CD in the original version, but as far as I know you weren’t in the line-up anymore, correct? If yes, why did you leave the band?
"Yup, I had been asked to leave once more. Yet again due to over productivity. I remember arguing a lot on the rehearsals with Marcus not using his ability as drummer, which he obviously did as you can tell on the CD. ;-)"
“Son Of Hypnos” didn’t really hit the quality of the former stuff (the MLP and the EXHUMED demo). Can you agree and what can you say about the album and the time around it?
"Everyone should agree that the sound is terrible but if you look pass that the songs are genius. I like the songs a lot and it’s most unfortunate that it failed sound wise. I’ve heard some strange stories about the recording in the studio, switching to a new mixer board in the middle of the recording being one of them. It is a shame."
If I remember correct this CD was pretty lost in the scene as no huge interest was shown for it. Do you think this was because of the music or simply as Death Metal was not as mass appealing anymore as 2-3 years ago?
"My guess is that it had to do with a combination of a poor sound, degraded Death Metal interest and the fact that the style on the songs was bit ahead of its time. The Death Metal fans just weren’t ready for this style yet."
To close this chapter EXHUMED / MORPHEUS: how do you see the overall impact of these 2 bands to the Swedish Death Metal scene?
"I don’t know if they had such impact on the Swedish Death Metal scene but it seems a lot of people disagree with me."
Are the releases “must haves”?
"Hell yes. ;-) Especially EXHUMED." (totally agree here. EXHUMED’s demo is once for all one of the best demos ever! – Thomas)
Turning the wheel of time back a little. After your time in EXHUMED you played in MASTICATION. Did you have more bands running at the same time, as I guess you were at this time involved in MORPHEUS, too?
"I started playing with MORPHEUS after I’d left MASTICATION. Besides doing some song writing for other bands I had no other project at the time. Oh yeah, I did this really fun project with Thomas, a friend of mine. We called it AVOIDNESS and labelled the music as Life Metal just to piss everyone off. (how can you dare, man? Haha – Thomas) At that time it was really really important to be Death and cool and if you did something different like this or wearing blue jeans you got evil eyes on you. Ha ha ha… AVOIDNESS recorded a two song demo in... take a guess... that’s right… Sunlight Studios! I played guitars, bass and drums and Thomas did keyboards and vocals. It was so much fun!! The lyrics were all about sexual intercourse and breeding rather than killing and tormenting not that I ever wrote that kind of lyrics."
Talking about the re-release of the MASTICATION / EXHUMED / EGYPT material with the CD “Wicked Material Sanity” through Necroharmonic. Why is the song order of the MASTICATION material not in the same order as on the demos?
"We wanted this to NOT be just another re-release of the demos so me and Lalle played around with a mixed song order a bit. This was before Necroharmonic got the contract and they stuck with the song order. It never occurred to me that we probably should have gone back to the original song order."
I wondered that this release was done by Necroharmonic Records. I thought the British label Ancient Enemy Records was supposed to release that stuff on vinyl. Or did I misinterpret something here?
"Yes, that was the intention I have learned. I had no idea about this when I started discussing this project with Necroharmonic / Morbid Wrath. Sorry!"
So let’s start with the first demo called “Demo 1991”. It was recorded on April 29 - 30, 1991 at Sunlight Studio. You were handling the guitars and bass on this recording. Tell something about it.
"We had no bass player at the time and did not want to wait for us to find one so I took care of that as well."
MASTICATION convinced with one of the most brutal vocals ever. Lars Levin was the one responsible for them and they turned out just awesome. How do you consider his vocals-appearance on the demos?
"100+ kilos of pure evil! I think he deserves all the credit he gets for his growling." (100% correct! – Thomas)
After your first demo you got an offer from a French label. Was this offer for a 7” EP or an album already? Which label was it (Thrash Records? Corpsegrinder?)?
"The offer was for a full album and I think the label was called Osmose Productions or something. I can’t believe we did not go through with it. Beats me totally! The only explanation I can come up with is that we got the offer way after we split up."
Just a short while later, on June 23, 1991 you recorded the 2nd demo called “Demo 2-1991” in Studio Sunlight, too. Some words about this 2 song demo please.
"The songs deviated slightly from the first demo and aligned more to the typical stuff that was going but I’m kind of happy with the songs anyway. We wanted the sound on demo 2 to be more evil than on the first. Although, as I said earlier, we got some reviews telling us they liked demo 1 better because of it’s more original style. We only spent one day in the studio but we weren’t really ready for this recording, which is why we struggled a bit. If I am not mistaken we left the studio the next morning so Thomas had to work over time that day. ;-)"
The time between the recording of those 2 demos were just a few weeks. Was it such a creative time back in those days or did you have just plenty of time, haha?
"As usual I was hungry to produce and we just loved the studio time so we entered again. It’s funny because I don’t think any of us thought it was that quick after demo 1 but it really was, we could’ve just stayed in the studio it seems right now."
Who was the driving force in MASTICATION?
"Lalle was not that far behind me but I guess I was the driver on that truck."
Please tell something about your time in MASTICATION. Why didn’t you get any step further with this band? I mean you still were only playing on demo tapes so far, right? Wasn’t this frustrating as other Swedish Death Metal bands already got famous around the world?
"In a way yes, but I guess I was in a bit of a hurry. Judging from the reputation we have today we might have made it a bit up the wall of fame should we had hung on there or I."
When MASTICATION splitted up the reason for it was that you got tired of it and wanted to do something else. But you returned to EXHUMED / MORPHEUS – so that’s not such a drastic change?
"I joined MORPHEUS since I enjoyed playing with these guys so much and they where on a little higher level musically, which I guess also helped me develop my skills."
How was the contact in between the scene during those days? When I read that you wanted to join EXCRUCIATE or DISMEMBER, Lars joined EXCRUCIATE, Daniel UNANIMATED and so on it seems that the whole scene was just one big family with a lot of incest, haha.
"You are absolutely right! We exchanged beers, bands, girlfriends… we even exchanged blood… he he. We all partied together every week except the ones who had already in way gotten famous they didn’t really want to hang out with us less known i.e. some had some kind of a silly megalomania." (here I would like to request some names, Janne... – Thomas)
After your days in MORPHEUS you joined EXCRUCIATE. Again a band you weren’t featured on any official recordings if I’m right informed. Tell us something about this period and the time you were in this band (I think up to 1993, right?).
"It was a great time, I just loved playing with Lalle, Hempa, Fredrik and Per, I still do! Especially Per we connected musically in a way I’ve never experienced since. We did some gigs and we worked hard on a new album. We almost had material for a second full length when everything kind of fell asleep in ’93 for 17 years. I think the guys tried to pick it up somewhere in the middle but it didn’t last."
Parallel to your EXCRUCIATE days you started your band EGYPT and recorded one demo again in Studio Sunlight. Tell us something about this band and the idea behind it.
"Yes, I wanted to experiment on some different styles as I was a little tired of the usual Death Metal going on. Later we wanted to create something heavier and groovier i.e. something different. Per and I played around a little in the rehearsal room and it resulted in the demo that was never ever released. The first official release containing EGYPT is the CD “Wicked Material Sanity” where it is as bonus. I have no idea how this demo was spread."
I think those songs are, considering the songwriting, more matured than your old tunes, more atmospheric and more catchy / groovy, though the raw underground-charme is missing here a little bit. Great tunes nevertheless. What do you think about this demotape?
"Actually, this is the one “demo” I am most happy with from those days. I got to express my passion and creativity in a way that made me feel really good. Per, David and Mattias shared this feeling which made it even better."
You got a contract for an album with your band EGYPT. To which label did you sign and why didn’t this recording took place?
"We never signed but the studio time was scheduled to start January ‘94 but in the beginning of December I guess some of us entered some sort of period of life crisis. We were supposed to release a mini album with 6 songs. The material was written and well on the way on rehearsals. Parts of the material can be found in the BIRCH MOUNTAIN songs on “Silence Is Complete”."
What happened to you after your time in EGYPT and EXCRUCIATE? The interest in Death Metal was close to 0 during this time as Black Metal was the “thing”. Were you still active as musician? What kind of stuff did you play, record and probably release?
"Apart from some experimental stuff far from Death Metal or any Metal for that matter I pretty much gave up it all for many years. I went to the university. By that time I think the Death Metal community kind of lost track of itself. People started taking drugs, committing suicide and as Black Metal arose the evil deeds that came around really made me sick. It just wasn’t fun anymore. To much serious Satan and cut your arm for blood stuff. I mean it’s kind of fun if it is part of an act but when you realize that people are serious about it just doesn’t make sense. The music and parties is what it all should be about." (well said, Janne! – Thomas)
Were you at any time bored of Death Metal and did you play something else in between?
"Yes, I did the AVOIDNESS demo of Life Metal and I had some really experimental projects with Thomas of AVOIDNESS. I remember doing some Metal / Techno shit, he he… The drugs and arm cutting had gone to my head… ha ha. Recently me and Mattias have also played around a little on Black Metal project called DARK SECT ANTHEMS."
If I’m right your interest in Death Metal started again with the re-united EXCRUCIATE, correct? When took this place and was this the first time you were involved in this band? What do you think about the releases from this band? How did you come in contact with them and what are your plans and goals for the future?
"No, I started on the BIRCH MOUNTAIN project first. End of 2008 I got in contact with Hempa again after 15 years. He called me up telling me they had some ideas about re-uniting EXCRUCIATE and asked me if I was interested as well. I sure was as I loved playing with them back in the 90s. The releases are awesome and cult! From my point of view EXCRUCIATE has never been a mainstream Death Metal band. We have a few new songs and are planning on entering the studio soon for a small release. We played at Thunders Over Miriquidi festival last year and that was just awesome even though our performance could have been little better but what can expect from a bunch of old guys that hasn’t been on stage for 17 years. He he. We hope to do plenty of more gigs in the near future."
You are called the creative force in all of your bands. Is that true and what drives you?? Did this cause trouble with the bandmembers from time to time?
"Yes, I guess I was the major driving force in most of my bands. I just enjoy creating music and playing together with other people. It has caused problems with other band members when we have been too far away from each other in terms of driving force. Me being fired from EXHUMED and MORPHEUS are examples of that."
Well, talking about releases besides demotapes. Were you playing on one or more CD / LP releases during all those years? If not, isn’t that frustrating especially when so many persons calling you the creative force in a band?
"No, I haven’t been playing on any CD / LP. The closest thing are the songs I wrote on the “Son Of Hypnos” CD but I didn’t play on the CD. From time to time I feel a little frustrated that I haven’t been able to stick with a band long enough to have any of my material recorded featuring myself and released in a non-demo way but it feels great the material I have written and recorded is appreciated by so many people. Thanks for that everyone!" (my pleasure, haha – Thomas)
Now you handle BIRCH MOUNTAIN. If I’m right this is some kind of successor of EGYPT which you handle together with your old comrade Mattias Parkkila (BLOOD MORTIZED among others). When did you start again with this project? How does it feel to play again this type of music and how do you see the future of this band / project?
"I started this project around 2005 I think. A while later I got in contact with Mattias and asked him to growl on the stuff as a test and we just kept on going. The style we perform feels perfect. And I hope it will be appreciated be people around the world."
How would you describe the music of BIRCH MOUNTAIN? From my point of view there is a huge difference between EGYPT and BIRCH MOUNTAIN as your current band is far more original and “modern”-sounding.
"Hey, thanks! We like to call it Heavy Weight Metal of Death rather than Death Metal, ha ha… It is meant to be a heavy form of Death Metal with good drive. I try to mix more Death Metal alike riffs with some different style riffs. I’m pleased to hear you consider the style original. Some parts of the songs we have recorded so far were actually written back in ’93 and was meant to be on the EGYPT mini album otherwise I guess it has taken a different turn considering the many years that has elapsed."
You offer your cool CD “Silence Is Complete” as free download for everyone. Why do you handle it this way and are there already some labels interested in licensing this release?
"We do it for the sake of the music rather than pushing for a real release. I don’t know, maybe we could find some label willing to release it, but we just haven’t got the time nor the drive to go find one. If someone turns up expressing interest in releasing it we are of course interested. So – instead of just having it for ourselves we – with the great help from Benny Moberg – put it together in CD-like format and released it for free. Again hoping someone would enjoy the music. (understatement of the year! Many would enjoy this music a lot! So please everyone outthere reading this: download the album for free at the myspace-page of BIRCH MOUNTAIN" (see link at the end of the interview! – Thomas)
This CD is probably the first recording you appear on which is not recorded in Sunlight Studios. Why didn't you record it there?
"Technology has evolved immensely in terms of computers, pre-amps, electric drums etc... We used our own studio equipment at our homes. I recorded the music at my place, Mattias added the vocals at his place and we mixed and mastered it at Bennys place. If only we had that type resources in the 90s..."
Talking about your other band you again: EXCRUCIATE. You already played a few shows with them, also here in Germany recently. Is the spirit still there and how are the reactions compared to the reactions in the early nineties?
"The spirit is still there but we all have much less time now considering we all have families and the activities that comes with it. Hence the pace is not even close to what we have in the 90s but the spirit is definitely still there and we hope to do many more gigs as the one in Germany. The reactions are a little different since many people consider EXCRUCIATE being one of the oldschool cult bands, which is especially cool since some of the fans weren’t even born at the time we split up."
EXCRUCIATE is one of those bands offering a really awesome Death Metal logo. What do you think about it?
"The logo… hmmm… The cool thing about the EXCRUCIATE logo is the details in the letters and that it represents what the typical themes were back then. If only the letters themselves was a bit more designed I would worshipped it but it is a cult logo."
The logos back in those days were amazing and MASTICATION had one of the best I think. Who was responsible for it and do you think the logo is really that much important for a Death Metal band?
"Mats, a friend of Lalle, drew the logo for us and I agree that it is one of the best. I like it. The logos in general were extremely important to the band as they were a symbolic representation, a big part of the image. If you had an ugly logo it didn’t - in some cases – matter how good your music was and the opposite if you had really cool logo it didn’t matter how bad it was."
What I recognized is that with the start of the Death Metal underground scene the logos became more unreadable but also greater. Before that you had those logos from METALLICA, IRON MAIDEN, ANTHRAX but especially in the Swedish scene, and with bands as MASTICATION or EXCRUCIATE, too, this changed. How do you see this graphical “sales-argument” :-)
"Well, the style of the logo kind of reflects the style of the band. Every time you noticed one of these logos you got interested because you new it was a Death Metal band and in most cases a great logo belonged to a great band performing great music."
In a way I think Nicke Anderson took his part in all of this stuff with unreadable logos and those things as he was responsible for the great DISMEMBER logo as well as for sure the one for ENTOMBED and NIHILIST. How big do you see his part in the whole movement?
"Personally, I don’t see his part that big apart from creating the ENTOMBED fame and nurturing DISMEMBER. ENTOMBED was of course a great band and I know people consider Nicke to be somewhat the father of Swedish Death Metal but I don’t."
Back in these underground days, were you also interested in all the writing letters, trading tapes... or were you the songwriter / musician in the background?
"Hell yes… back then you pretty much only rehearsed, drank, wrote letters and traded demotapes. It was cool. I remember you put glue on the stamps and returned the stamps to the person who wrote you and then you put the stamps in water dissolving the glue and thereby removing the postal mark. It would cost a fortune in stamps otherwise." (great times indeed, haha, I love such anecdotes and I can remember the notorious sentence “please don’t forget to send my stamps back”, too, haha! – Thomas)
Compared to other bands your bands you were involved in never really got much attention outside the underground. Any reason or explanation for this?
"My best guess is that they never really lasted long enough."
Did you often play live with your bands? Any great and funny anecdotes left from those days?
"Yes, there is a couple funny stories here. EXHUMED did a gig at a youth club and there where only hip hoppers there. It was kind of cool because we actually got some of them going for a while ;-) but at the end there was only one fan left. Talk about wrong music at the wrong place. Another funny story as actually pre-EXHUMED when we went under the name of SACROSSY. We had the ex-drummer from a dissolved Black Metal band called CURSE. He turned up at the gig with a black ku klux klan outfit together with gun belts and make up. He was drunk and pored beer all over the drums. At the time I was like 15 years old or even younger. He got very surprised when we told him that we are not playing Black Metal. MORPHEUS once supported IMMOLATION and MASSACRE in 91 or 92 I think in Uppsala and Gothenborg - that was great. One time EXCRUCIATE was supporting AT THE GATES and Hempa broke his arm or something at a party the day before and we didn’t think much of it - just entered the stage and everything work fine until we came to some parts in a couple of songs where Hempa plays something really key and I just do some background. I got completely brain dead because I new I had to play what Hempa usually plays in order for it to make sense but I never learned it so there I was lost and just dragging the pick up and down the neck but everyone loved it… ?!? I guess that is what it is all about. He he. There is a bunch of stories around playing live… Cool to think about them now after all this time."
A few years ago the book “Swedish Death Metal” was released and crushed everything. I worshipped this book when it was released. What do you think about this book and how Daniel described the scene. Can you agree on his stories and how did you see the whole movement in those days?
"Actually, I haven’t read it! I haven’t been able to get hold of it but I will definitely read it as soon as I get a copy in my hands. Would you lend me yours? (Hm, basically yes, but postage sucks. Try to get an own English copy from Bazillian Points for approx. 30 € - should be available at each good bookstore. It’s worth each single € - Thomas) I’ve heard a lot about it and apparently it is supposed to be reflecting the scene as it was back then."
Have you heard about the fanzine / book “Encyclopedia Of Svensk Döds Metall”? Nicola Constantini made an impressive job covering almost each Death Metal band from Sweden between the period 1988-92. In the MASTICATION (Lars Levin) and EXCRUCIATE (Hempa Brynolfsson) interviews your name was mentioned a few times, too. How does this feel?
"I think it is really cool and I was actually interviewed for the upcoming revision. I keep getting amazed that stuff I have been part of get this type of recognition."
Let me ask you one thing about Sunlight Studios / Tomas Skogsberg again. All of your older releases up to EGYPT were recorded in Sunlight Studios together with Tomas. What was so special about this studio and what do you think now 20 years later about all those words about the Sunlight clones and stuff like that?
"Actually I have never liked the typical Sunlight sound as I consider it to be the ENTOMBED and DISMEMBER footprint, which so many demos imitated. I had to fight quite a lot with Tomas to have my own sound and I didn’t always win. Strange as I was a paying customer, don’t you think? Today I guess I consider it cult as it was how it was back then and those were the times to remember. Tomas was otherwise really fun to work with and since the first demo went well I just kept using the studio."
We already mentioned the “Wicked Material Sanity” CD with the demos from EXHUMED, MASTICATION and EGYPT on it. Who came up with that idea and what do you think about the result? As far as I know you were involved in this release? So are you satisfied with it and what does the other members from those bands think about this release?
"I was contacted by Daryl of Morbid Wrath Records expressing his interest in this project. I think they did an excellent job putting all this together. The only things that felt a little strange is that I am the only link between all the bands, which kind of makes this a “Janne Rudberg” CD. I had my doubts about it but they thought it was cool and wanted to go ahead with it anyway. The other members think it was a cool idea but at this time not all have been able to see the result in reality. Unfortunately."
You former bandmembers in EXHUMED, Sebastian Ramstedt and Johan Bergebäck, made some kind of musical history and career with their bands NECROPHOBIC, NIFELHEIM and Johan also with his appearance in DISMEMBER. Do you have still contact with them and what do you think about this lifestyle they chose and live now?
"I talk to them sometimes but not that often at all. I have often wondered if the decision I made was the right one pursing a 10 year path without music potentially missing out on a lot of adventures that Johan and Sebastian has experienced mean while. It was definitely a different way of life and sometimes I regret it but I try to have fun with music now and hopefully I get a few small adventures before it is time to let it go. I think it is cool they stuck with doing what they wanted over the years and that they have had the chance to experience the Metal scene in the way they have. I could never have imagined Sebastian getting all the tattoos he has though. Ha ha…"
You are now a family father of 3 children. How do you manage to still stick to your music / hobby which takes so much time?
"There is not a lot of time left for it I can tell you that but a few hours less sleep makes it possible. I never get tired when I am creative. I have to force myself to go to bed if my wife doesn’t because I can go on forever just loosing myself in creativity."
May I ask you what you do for a living?
"Right now I work as a Technical Project Manager for a company that develops electric drive systems for high speed trains and metros."
What does your wife and your children think about your music taste and the music you play including the time is requests? Are they happy to be alone :-) Or proud because of “such a cool father” or are you maybe the black sheep of the family, haha?
"I am the black sheep. My family doesn’t really share my music interest let alone my music taste. He he… although, my oldest son keeps asking me to buy an electric guitar for him so there might a seed growing there. My daughter who is 13 thinks it is kind of cool but she’s not that impressed with music I create. She and I have done a few music projects together when she was a little younger but her life is all about friends now."
One thing I noticed is that many musicians involved in Death Metal bands recently discovered Death Metal again, like you. So what is the reason, why is Death Metal still such a huge part in your life. And what is the difference, why must it be Death Metal?
"There is nothing like Death Metal if you have been into it. It's hard to describe – it is like a drug in your veins. I guess the Death Metal community is in way unique." (I guess that hits the nail on the head, Janne. Perfect answer, I think! – Thomas)
We are getting closer to the end now. But let me ask you, as you were involved in the Swedish Death Metal scene almost since the beginning I wonder which 3-4 bands you consider as the best ones, the overrated ones and the totally underrated ones?
"Really difficult to say. The best one: is the correct answer NIHILIST or ENTOMBED? ;-) Honestly, INTERMENT is high on the list. The underrated ones: Gee, there where a lot of bands that where really good but never got any recognition. Regarding overrated ones - don’t want get in trouble here - but my personal opinion is that a couple of the most famous bands were highly overrated and still are. I say that because they either pretty much copied some other bands style and / or they also had an attitude (back then) of being better than everyone else, which they weren’t. I leave it to the readers to guess which ones." (Damn, names please... :-) - Thomas)
Can you name your top 5 demotapes / EPs and top 5 albums in the Death Metal genre?
"Hmmm difficult again…. Demos: MONSTROSITY, INVOCATOR (Denmark) – “Alterations” (well, it’s Thrash Metal but it is great!), AFFLICTED – don’t remember the name, MORPHEUS – “In The Arms Of…”, EXCRUCIATE – Split, EXPULSION – “Cerebral Cessation”. Albums: MORBID ANGEL – “Altars Of Madness”, DEICIDE – “Deicide”, IMMOLATION – “Dawn Of Possession”, DEATH – “Human”, but my absolute favourite album is DARK ANGEL – “Leave Scars”."
OK Janne, that's enough I think. I guess you are really angry about me now and angry about you as you said yes to this interview, ha ha. Thanks a lot for your time answering my questions and I hope I didn’t bore you to death with my questions. Anything left to say?
"Thomas, thanks a lot for your interest and for tormenting me with this huge amount of questions! It felt great – more pain! To all of those persistent enough to read this entire interview: Thanks for your interest and support and be sure to download the entire BIRCH MOUNTAIN album via links on myspace (why not - it is free!!) and if you feel like it drop a few lines of feedback on it, we’d appreciate it. Also get your classic copy of the “Wicked Material Sanity”, which is the first release besides demos my material is on."
www.myspace.com/birchmountain, www.myspace.com/morpheus1990, www.myspace.com/masticationswe, www.myspace.com/excruciatesweden
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