Ancient Swedish Death anyone? Does any of you remember and still hail the days when the Swedish Death Metal scene was reigning supreme and the demos / albums of bands like NIHILIST, CARNAGE, TREBLINKA, UNLEASHED, DISMEMBER, MERCILESS, THERION, NIRVANA 2000 and many others simply shred? Well, I do, cause all those little jewels still find their way to my turntable quite often. CREMATORY was also such a Death Metal band who put out 2 excellent very raw demo-tapes and 1 mini-CD but afterwards completely vanished from the planet. I got in touch with original CREMATORY guitarist Urban Skytt (nowadays playing in the Grind band REGURGITATE) and travelled 10 years back in time…
How did you get into Metal music and what have you all been up to before you got together in MORTAL TORMENT? Any bands that you played in previously?
"Well, the drummer Matte and Micke played before in AFFLICTED CONVULSION (later just called AFFLICTED). I didn’t play in any band before I joined CREMATORY."
Did you play any cover tunes in your early days? Where did your influences come from?
"We played the CARCASS song ‘Genital Grinder’ on all of our gigs, I just love that little song. I’m really glad that I got to record it with REGURGITATE for the coming CARCASS-tribute on Death Vomit Records. So obviously CARCASS was a major influence, but also bands like DEATH and DESTRUCTION."
CREMATORY was first called MORTAL TORMENT. When exactly and by whom was that band formed?
"We were never called MORTAL TORMENT, that was just the name of a song which originates from AFFLICTED CONVULSION, it was written by Micke Lindevall just before he and Mats left the band. Mats and Joppe got together in 1989, through Christofer Johnsson of THERION. Mats had helped Christopher out earlier before with their studio-sessions for the "Paroxysmal Holocaust" demo. Joppe had played with THERION just before, when they still were named MEGATHERION."
Where was the demo "Mortal Torment" recorded, did you send it out a lot to people, zines, etc …?
"Mats, Micke and Joppe recorded that demo with the help of Christofer on vocals in the Sveasträng studio. It’s the same studio where THERION and REGURGITATE recorded their first demos, they recorded that song after just one rehearsal. The tape was only handed out to friends but the song was also aired on a local radio show in connection with an interview once."
In the autumn of 1989 you joined the band. Was it because of you who put new ideas into the band that the band changed their name into CREMATORY?
"No, as I said the band was called CREMATORY from the beginning. I guess they just felt that it would be nice to have two guitarists, so they asked me if I was interested. I had played with the singer and the drummer before but that was nothing serious, it was just playing for fun, nothing else."
It was you who brought the idea into the band that Death Metal should be played with extremely down-tuned guitars. From where did you get that idea, I mean which bands or albums made you go for that idea?
"I have to say CARCASS again, together with bands like BOLT THROWER and UNSEEN TERROR, but all Death Metal bands played with down-tuned guitars. I just felt that we maybe could try and tune down just a little bit more than the rest. I think you can get an extremely evil sound when you tune down your guitar a lot."
In autumn 1989, CREMATORY played it’s first concert together with ENTOMBED and CARNAGE. What do you still remember about that gig?
"Hmmm … I remember how recent I had been in the band before that gig. We didn’t really have a lot of songs to play. We had ‘Mortal Torment’ from before I joined the band, and ‘Unconsecrated Ground’ (which later ended up on our first demo) which was only half finished, and we played ‘Genital Grinder’. That’s it. Seven minutes, or something like that. Micke, the other guitarist didn’t play. He had already backed out of the band, since CREMATORY got a whole lot more brutal after I joined. He was more into Thrash Metal … or plain rock, I guess."
Did you ever have any kind of special performance on stage when you were playing live like for example fire-breathing or whatever?
"Haha, no, we did no fire-breathing as far as I know. There was no special performance whatsoever. We were of the opinion that ‘posers’ had stage performances. Brutal bands just got up on the stage and played their music. Period. I saw a perfect example of that this summer, I guess, when I saw SLAYER and IRON MAIDEN here in Stockholm. SLAYER got up on stage, headbanged for 50 minutes and walked off. IRON MAIDEN was like watching a goddamn circus."
Mikael Lindvall, the second CREMATORY guitarist left the band right before the recording of the debut demo. What were his main reasons? Did it make things difficult for you when recording the debut demo, because I guess most of the songs were written to be played by 2 guitars?
"As I said, he had begun backing out even earlier so we weren’t surprised when he said that he didn’t intend to play on the demo. He hadn’t been to a lot of rehearsals so he didn’t know our new songs anyway. Therefor the songs weren’t really written for two guitars. In the beginning he participated in the songwriting, which meant that there were riffs written by him in ‘Unconsecrated Ground’, but we excluded those from the song when he left. I wasn’t really pleased with him quitting, because I had joined the band as a rhythm guitarist, sort of. Micke was a really good solo-player, and I wasn’t. Suddenly when he left I had to play solo-guitar and all looked at me when it was time to make new riffs. But, it turned out OK, I guess. But I still don’t like playing solos."
What are your memories these days about your debut demo "The Exordium"? Can you tell us something about your memories when you recorded that tape? What kind of studio was the Grottan Studio?
"We’re talking really low budget here. Grottan was the place where we rehearsed. If you rehearsed there you got free access to the studio. It was an OK studio I guess, but you get what you pay for. I do, however, really like the sound we got on the demo’s. They sound really brutal, in an "Reek of Putrifaction" kind of way."
How were the reactions to that demo ? How many copies were made/sold?
"The reactions were great, even though many didn’t like the fact that it was so tuned down you could hardly hear any riffs. I don’t remember how many copies we sold … it was not really many, 300-400 copies perhaps."
To support that demo, a few concerts were played during spring/summer 1990, with bands like THERION, UNLEASHED, AFFLICTED, MACRODEX and GENERAL SURGERY. What do you still remember about those gigs? Are there any bands from that time you’re still in touch with?
"It is all 11 years ago and I am having a hard time remembering which gig we played where and with what band. We still didn’t have a lot of songs, but it was great fun playing those concerts, I think. No, it really was. I know the bands but I am not in regular contact with any of them. Of the bands you mentioned I would say that GENERAL SURGERY is the band whose members I see the most these days."
By autumn, the second demo, "Wrath From The Unknown", was recorded. Do you think you improved a lot concerning songwriting when you reflect that demo to the first one?
"Definitely! There are way better songs on the "Wrath…" demo. And we had become much tighter and better musicians by then too!"
For the recording of that demo, you returned to the Grottan studio, so apparently you must have been satisfied with the result you got there before, haven’t you?
"We liked the sound we got in the studio and it was easy to record there since it was right next to our rehearsal room. If we had not liked the sound there, we would have turned elsewhere though. I guess a lot of people liked that demo a lot, because people still talk about it when they talk about CREMATORY."
After the release of "Wrath from the Unknown", you played some more gigs together with bands like ENTOMBED, XYSMA, DISMEMBER and GRAVE. Do you think CREMATORY had become a good live band in the meantime?
"I don’t think I can answer that question. I would have to answer with ‘no’, probably. The audience seemed to like our music anyway, so I don’t know."
How did you get in touch with M.B.R. Records? What else had they release at that time or later on?
"They contacted us, but I don’t know how they knew about us. They had put out a release of another Swedish band before us, GOD MACABRE, and some other bands but not much. I haven’t seen any records on that label later on, but they might have released more. There wasn’t an overwhelming interest in releasing a record of us, but I must say that we weren’t that active in sending our tapes to different record-companies either."
You got a contract from M.B.R. Records for a mini-CD, which you recorded in October of that year. This CD, "Denial", contained two new songs (‘Denial’ and ‘Into Celephais’) and one song from each demo. How do you look back at that output?
"We had two new songs and it felt natural to take one song from each demo. We simply chose the songs that we most wanted to hear with better sound. We were not pleased with the sound we got on that record. It sounded totally wimpy compared to our demo’s. We also decided not to have the guitars as tuned-down as we had on the demo’s which was a big mistake. But looking back at it, I think it’s OK. It just lacks some of the brutality we had on the demos."
The "Denial" mini-CD got engineered by Rex Gisslén, with which other bands did he work?
"I know BATHORY recorded "Twillight Of The Gods" there and some other bands, but mostly not Death Metal. Rex Gisslén was a real poser though."
Did you record that mini-CD at that studio, because BATHORY’s "Twilight of the Gods" was recorded there?
"That might have been part of the reason, not that we thought that "Twillight…" had a fantastic sound or anything, but it seemed to be OK."
You designed the cover of the "Denial" CD yourself. What did you want the cover to express and did you ever design covers for other bands?
"I got inspiration for the cover from old drawings I saw showing people stepping on a cross to please Satan, and turn away from God. It was a black and white drawing from the beginning, but my band mates decided that I had to do it in colour so that we could use it as the cover for the mini-CD. "Denial" was my name on the original drawing. I have done some other covers, but not that many. NECROPHOBIC’s "The Call" single and the "Spawned by Evil" mini-CD for instance. Also DARK FUNERAL’s logo is another thing I have done."
You designed the DARK FUNERAL logo! Did they ask you to do this or did you just do it by yourself and proposed it to them?
"They asked me, it was Parland (Lord Blackmoon) in NECROPHOBIC / DARK FUNERAL that asked me to redraw their logo because they already had a design they liked (it can be seen on their first mini-CD … I don’t remember the title). They felt that the old logo looked lame (it did) – a happy / ugly goat between ugly crosses – so I was asked to "make it evil". And I did, heh heh. I’m actually quite proud of it … and the fact that most of their T-shirts are "white logo on black shirt"."
What mainly happened after the release of the "Denial" CD?
"Nothing! Our vocalist wasn’t really interested in playing live or rehearsing, so we rehearsed as a three-piece and had to cancel gigs because he just didn’t turn up."
I think in between, CREMATORY was also featured on a compilation album, called "Pantalgi". Which other bands were featured on that album and did it help you a lot promotion-wise?
"It featured GOD MACABRE, ROTTREVORE, CADAVER and PAN-THY-MONIUM among others. It was never released in Sweden and neither was "Denial". That, together with the fact that we got no feedback from M.B.R. Records whatsoever means that I haven’t got the slightest idea how much the record sold or anything. That really sucks."
CREMATORY entered another studio in Nov. ’92 to record a new demo, "Netherworlds Of The Mind". What went wrong there because apparently you were not satisfied with the result? Did that demo got released in the end, because I don’t know that one?
"No it didn’t get any major release. The sound was all fucked up on that one. It was the most unprofessional studio I have ever seen. They managed to erase the last song before we did the final mix for instance. All we had was a rough mix on cassette. Therefor, the last song has even a worse sound than the rest. It was a mess really. They erased some guitars while recording the bass, and managed to erase a bit of the beginning of the first song, which meant we had to make it shorter. But the demo isn’t really as bad as the studio was. I like the snare sound a lot for instance. And I guess it has some nice tracks too."
In the thankslist of UNLEASHED’s album "Where No Life Dwells", an extra special thanks goes out to Johan "Joppe" Hansson. Why, I mean, what did he do for UNLEASHED or what kind of special relationship did CREMATORY have with them?
"Johan is an outstanding logo-designer (if you ask me) and is responsible for drawing logos for UNLEASHED, UNANIMATED, DAWN, CREMATORY … and others too I guess."
In 1993, M.B.R. Records wanted CREMATORY do record a full-length CD, but Stefan had left the band and Joppe and you weren’t getting along very well with Matte, who spent more time recording with REGURGITATE than he did rehearsing with CREMATORY. So, did CREMATORY split up at that time or later on?
"It was at that time that we decided to split up. We did want to record a full-length CD, I guess, but with the total lack of response from M.B.R. Records regarding sales of the "Denial" mini-CD, we assumed they would rip us off! It wasn’t any fun playing anymore, so we came to the conclusion that we might as well put the band out of it’s misery. I also had begun to talk to Rikard of REGURGITATE about playing Grindcore, something that I felt would be a lot more fun than playing Death Metal."
Later on, Matte was kicked out at REGURGITATE. You joined that band and recorded one CD with them, "Effortless Regurgitation Of Bright Red Blood" (1994 on Lowland Records, re-released by Relapse 1999) and you just put out a new album. Do you have a good time in that band?
"Hell yes! Our new CD "Carnivorous Erection" is, in my opinion, way better than anything I did with CREMATORY. I really enjoy playing Grindcore in an old fashioned CARCASS / NAPALM DEATH way. The "Effortless…" CD was widely appreciated but I think it is a bit boring. The new CD is never boring (at least that’s what I think)! And I am really proud of that fact."
When you joined REGURGITATE, were you maybe a bit tired of playing Death Metal since it’s more a Grind kind of band?
"Yeah, I guess. I always wrote short Grindcore songs at home, but only for fun as long as I played in CREMATORY. With REGURGITATE I got to record those as well. I have always liked Grindcore, well, as long as it has been around that is, and nowadays I like it way better than Death Metal for instance. So the music I play now in REGURGITATE is actually exactly the kind of music I like to listen to."
Do you think it’s still a pity after all these years that CREMATORY never made it bigger if you take a look at the Swedish Death Metal bands from that era you played with?
"Yes! I think that we were way better than many of the bands that got record-deals, released a lot of albums and did a lot of tours and … . Well, it is not too late yet … or is it? Yeah, I guess it is."
Since CREMATORY was rather involved in the early Swedish Death Metal scene, what are your memories when you think back on those days? Do you prefer those days to the situation with REGURGITATE? What do you think of the Swedish scene back then when you reflect that scene to the (Swedish) scene of today?
"We had a lot of fun, I guess we weren’t that serious about anything. A lot of our friends (all?) played in bands too so it was a lot of brutal music. But, I wouldn’t say that I prefer the old days. Quite the opposite, I love playing in REGURGITATE now. I don’t have to worry about rehearsals since we don’t do things like that. We probably will have to rehearse now though because we got some gigs coming up. As for the scene, I don’t think there is any scene right now. Not like it was ten years ago anyway."
Don’t you think it’s a pity that these days, every demo-band comes up with almost a perfect-sounding demo-CD with a professionally printed booklet … I mean, almost nobody seems to wanna put out good old ugly demo-tapes with a frightening zombie on the cover these days? What’s your opinion on this?
"I guess we have to record a new demo and release it with a ugly zombie with guts hanging from it’s mouth. Real Death Metal should be ugly, nowadays all bands play slick Black Metal with super high sound quality. What is this world coming to?"
Do you actually still follow the musical scene closely and are there still bands who can impress you with a demo, because it’s been a rather long time since I heard a really special or interesting demo-band …?
"No, I can’t say that I do. Not the metal scene anyway, I’m more into the Grind / Noise scene if any. I actually listen to new demos now and then, the latest being REALIZED and BATHTUB SHITTER. Total Grindcore mayhem from Japan!"
In a recent interview I read with you, you said that you were a science and mathematics teacher. How old are the students you teach? Do they know you also play in a grind band and are there even ‘fans’ among your students? What about your colleagues and the director at your school?
"I teach 16-18 year olds, I guess at roughly college level. Some of them know about my band … most of those who know think that it is some weird shit I’m playing. Fans … not likely. My colleagues are just laughing about it … not the CD cover though, they think the cover is disgusting … heh heh. The director doesn’t know what kind of music I’m playing, so she doesn’t mind. I don’t think she would care if she knew, the people are really open-minded at my school, so it’s cool."
The ENTOMBED drummer Peter used to play in REGURGITATE. Do you still see him now and then and do you have any idea what’s up with MERCILESS (because he was drumming in that band as well)?
"Yeah, I see him now and then and he is on REGURGITATE’s "stand-by list", ready to fill in for Jocke if that would be needed. But Peter is really busy with ENTOMBED so he probably won’t play with us anymore. As for MERCILESS … I can’t say that I’m really updated on that subject. The last thing I heard was that they were writing songs for a new album, but if that one is recorded and out, or if they are still writing songs, I don’t know."
The cover artwork of the latest REGURGITATE album is just awesome and incredibly funny!! From where did you get the idea for that one?
"Yeah, I think it is funny as hell … but I took me a while to get used to it. My first reaction (like everybody else) was "What the fuck is that????!!!???". Our part of it was just supplying the title "Carnivorous Erection", which we felt had a nice ring to it. Wes Benscoter who painted / photographed (!) it is responsible for the gruesome image … but I guess that the title might easily lead to an image looking similar to the one Wes did. Then of course Wes – being an excellent painter – did a fantastic cover out of the idea."
What do you think is the main reason why so many releases these days have become so average, because there are only a few releases which really stand out? What is the scene of today missing do you think?
"You really have to be a lot better to stick out nowadays! Most bands are really, really … well, if not good, then at least extremely well rehearsed. Death and Black Metal bands have become so damn fast, you don’t stand a chance if you don’t rehearse every day. On the other hand, one could say that the music could be more exiting. In the early days (sounds like we’re really old) you could get away with a shitty recording and not so tight playing. I think the listeners of today are spoiled somehow. They wouldn’t buy "In The Sign Of Evil" by SODOM because it sounds like shit, but they are missing the point."
And now for something completely different … . I can imagine very easy that you must be very annoyed by the fact that there’s also a quite successful German band out there these days called CREMATORY, right? Any cruel message you wanna say to them?
"No, no I totally love their music … hahaha!!! No, actually I think they are suckiest band that ever lived!!!! We were first with the name CREMATORY … and we will be last! It really pisses me off when people think that a member of that CREMATORY plays in REGURGITATE."
Is the interest in CREMATORY actually still pretty high? Do people still ask for your mini-CD or demos from time to time?
"It happens, but not a lot. After all, it is almost ten years since we played together, but now and then I get like a request for an interview, like right now, for instance. That actually surprises me a lot. I don’t know why people still remember us."
If someone would come up to you and ask you if you would be interested to re-unite CREMATORY to play a couple of gigs or record an album, would you be interested in that and agree do you think?
"Naaaa … I don’t know. No, probably not as CREMATORY. We are planning to rehearse from now on, but we don’t see it as re-uniting CREMATORY. We will most likely let the Germans have the name for themselves."
Current future plans?
"My future revolves around REGURGITATE. Some gigs, some recordings and a lot of interviews. In my near future I can see some sleep, I didn’t have time to sleep last night…"
Is there anything you still would like to add?
"Well … thanks for the interview, which is without a doubt the longest CREMATORY interview I have ever done! And everybody should be aware that we might just try to re-release our infamous (hmmm, right) demo’s somewhere, sometime … or maybe not."
And to end this interview with great news, I can also tell you that the German CREMATORY has finally decided to call it quits… : -)