The following interview with HYPNOSIA’s guitarist / vocalist Mikael "Cab" Castervall was originally published in Bells Of Acheron zine # 3, but since these Swedish Thrashers unfortunately don’t exist anymore and the interview covers the band’s entire history, we figured it would be a good idea to re-use it here for all those of you who don’t buy printed zines anymore… due to laziness, lack of money or whatever reason (shame on you). Anyway, enjoy the ride!
Greetings Cab, how do you feel today to remember some things about your past days with HYPNOSIA? Did it surprise you that a fanzine printed in Colombia writes to you to speak about HYPNOSIA after a long time?
"Hello my friend! It was quite strange to receive an interview request from Colombia, I have to admit! Once in a while I get an interview, but they are few and far between nowadays. I am always nostalgic and think of the past in every way very often, so it definitely feels great to talk about HYPNOSIA again!"
How is the activity with PORTRAIT nowadays? Is everything easier than in the past days with HYPNOSIA? In my opinion HYPNOSIA was more of an underground band. Do you miss something from those days?
"PORTRAIT just released the third opus, entitled “Crossroads” in April, and now we are doing a few Summer festivals, and some smaller things in the Autumn / Winter. I joined the band, whom I have known for a long time before, in December 2012, which means I have been integrated well into that sphere. After I joined we fully concentrated on making the “Crossroads” album, which took less than a year. We worked very hard on the album, making it diverse in songwriting, and to make it timeless, which I really think we succeeded in. There is much difference between HYPNOSIA and PORTRAIT in every aspect of being in a band. As we now are signed to Metal Blade Records, it certainly runs in a more controlled way regarding deadlines, expectations from the label and quality of the releases. A much bigger promotion machine helps the band to get recognized, and interviews are set-up regularily. The internet is used in a completely different way now than in 1995 when HYPNOSIA started. Even when we disbanded in 2002, the internet was used differently. What I miss from the days when I started the band up, is that I came from a time without internet and cellphones. You had to be a total Metal maniac seeking out more and more obscure bands out without any help than perhaps a few ‘zines, a radio show or word of mouth. That was pure devotion. If you saw someone with an old DESTRUCTION shirt, you know he was a good guy and you had a lot in common. Nowadays I don’t trust anyone, as it is so simple to buy an old shirt or any record ever released. People today buy an “underground” lifestyle, whereas in the 1980’s and ’90’s only the true were into the underground."
Let’s start with the end, what was the main reason to end HYPNOSIA in 2002? Maybe your intention was to avoid what happened with almost all the great Thrash bands? That they lost the strength and the aggressiveness after some time…
"Well, it was many reasons for breaking up the band. Lack of motivation was the major reason. It was 7 years of struggle with everything and I just felt it wasn’t worth it anymore. I just wanted to go back to being a Hardrocker who could listen to his favourite albums without thinking about HYPNOSIA 24/7."
Why did you choose the name HYPNOSIA? Did you play in other bands before (was DIMENSIONS really a band)?
"No one really played in any bands before DIMENSIONS, except for the second guitarist who played in a Thrash Metal band called ASTRAY, which formed in 1989, and had one or two demos out. DIMENSIONS was definitely a real band! We started in April 1993, and it was a mix of the styles we liked at the time, mostly Thrash and Death Metal. It was a good learning period, as I learned very much from the other guitarist in the band. We did play about 10 or so shows locally, but we were more like kids playing and learning. We didn’t have our minds set to release an album or do touring or anything like that! We started recording a demo, but never finished it. From what I recall it just faded into obscurity, as no one really cared for the recording and the style of the band was too incoherent. I hade started making riffs, but didn’t want to waste them in DIMENSIONS. I wanted my own band where I was the dictator, haha! In the summer of 1994, the drummer in DIMENSIONS and I had started to rehearse by ourselves, trying out my riffs and songs and later that year we decided to leave DIMENSIONS to fully concentrate on the new band. We wanted a name as fast as possible, it seems easier to strive at being a real band with a band name as early on as possible. We were called RESTRAIN for a brief period, before settling for HYPNOSIA. It sounded cool and very Thrash Metal. I think it was subcinsciously taken from SEPULTURA’s ‘Mass Hypnosis’, but to avoid having another band with the name HYPNOSIS we did it the Brazilian way and changed it to HYPNOSIA. We are still the only Metal band with that name, so I guess it was a good choice?!"
The first demo “Crushed Existence” really attracted attention from the underground. I am surprised by the great sound of the demo, it was very good produced for a debut, with a clear sound, but still powerful and aggressive. Had you always everything so well thought out before you start the recordings or had you any special consulting?
"The sound on that demo was pure luck! My old friend from DIMENSIONS handled the studio, and we just recorded and mixed everything on analog 8-track equipment in two days. I really like the guitar sound on the recording, it’s very Death Metal! Though my favourite sound was and still is SODOM’s “Agent Orange”, and that was really what we were aiming for, no kidding!"
A key moment was when after you sent the “Crushed Existence” demo to several zines and labels… You received an answer from Rogga Petterson (vocalist for the masters MERCILESS), who was writing for Putrefaction zine in those days. Do you still keep in touch with him? What is it known in Sweden about MERCILESS today?
"That was a great feeling! I had been a fan of MERCILESS since “The Awakening” was released in 1990, and to have such good words and also an interview for Putrefaction Mag coming directly from Rogga was incredible! I could sense that if he, who is a legend, likes us, we are on the right track. We were also featured in many other ‘zines that were important at that particular time, so all in all, being heavily involved in the underground helped us a lot. Putrefaction Mag and MERCILESS both had a very good reputation in the underground and it turned the “right” people into HYPNOSIA, at least I think so. I have not had any real contact with Rogga of MERCILESS after the ‘90s were over. I did visit a few of their shows in the arly turn of the new millennium. It has been really quiet around MERCILESS the last 5-10 years. I don’t know if they exist anymore. Truly a great band who is criminally underrated!"
Talking about this topic, what happened with Tomas from Putrefaction Zine / Iron Fist Productions? At the end, did you receive the money which he owed you after the edition of the HYPNOSIA’s material?
"I have met Tomas a few times at records fairs in southern Sweden the last couple of years, and he is a nice person. We never got the money, but that is in the past, and I don’t hold any grudge towards him anymore. As we didn’t get any money for the recording of “Violent Intensity”, I just did whatever I wanted with the recording afterwards. Hammerheart Records was allowed to include it as bonus tracks for the digipak version of the “Extreme Hatred” album, and also the tracks are featured on this I Hate compilation, so I guess we are even, haha!"
I found out about HYPNOSIA because of a review in Sounds Of Death magazine, the review was enough for me to order the demo “The Storms 1997”. Why did you never accept the proposal from the label which in those days was lead by the people from Sounds Of Death? I believe that the proposal was to release your two demos on CD… anyway the label went nowhere…
"Dave of S.O.D. Mag was really supportive of the band in 1996-97 and was keen on releasing the demos as a full-length album. However, it was too few and short songs to have it released as a debut album. Also I didn’t like the idea of putting out an album with the sound of the demo tapes. It had to be a proper debut album, if it was going to be released. It just stayed with a faxed recording contract proposal, nothing more. I think it was a good decision to wait with the debut album, our music started to develop rapidly in 1997, and the new songs were faster and more technically advanced. We were sent a contract, cover artwork and everything, everything seemed very serious from his side, and I am of course grateful he promoted HYPNOSIA so much in the States."
Speaking about “The Storms 1997”, we know the professional tape was released with a black and white cover, but was there a version with a red cover previously?
"There were two different artworks used for the cover: one with a weird monster and one with a reaper. I think we might have printed 100 pro-covers with the monster on black and white, and probably 300 with the reaper on front. Something like that. There were also 25 or 50 done with the reaper on red background. We did photo copy a lot of the reaper b/w covers to keep costs down, so If you got a photo copied reaper cover and a black, blank tape, it’s an original for sure."
The idea was to record 5 songs, but for different reasons just three songs were recorded. What happened with the other two songs? Were these songs included in “Violent Intensity” or “Extreme Hatred”?
"We wanted to release a new demo as quickly as possible, and all 5 songs were finished and arranged, but two of the songs just didn’t sound right in the studio, something was just wrong with them, so we decided not to finish the recordings for those two songs. I think there might be a tape with drums and bass, and possibly some guitars somewhere in my attic. Those were never included on the albums, I guess I felt they didn’t live up to my view on HYPNOSIA should sound."
In 1995 when you set up HYPNOSIA, Thrash Metal wasn’t very popular, was this maybe the reason that you always had trouble to keep a stable line-up?
"I might have been one of the reasons, but I think that the main reason was our young age. We were in our early 20s and many of the members we went through during the years just couldn’t put the time and effort in rehearsing, writing and put money into an underground Thrash Metal band. From my view there are very few persons involved in Metal who are really driven and want to put everything into a band, and thus forsake everything normal things, like a regular job, girlfriends etc. Most people just can’t make that sacrifice, that’s just the way it is. In some cases, regarding the line-up, I had to let certain people go because they were not up to the technical standards of the band."
Your influences were clear: the first album of KREATOR, the first SADUS and DARK ANGEL… which other bands were your main influences in those days?
"I guess it’s pretty obvious what our influences were, to add to your list I’d say SLAYER 1983-88, SODOM 1984-89, SEPULTURA 1985-1991 and also INVOCATOR (demos and first LP). The funny thing is that those bands were my main influence, but I listened way more to Heavy Metal, and I still do. That is where I come from, the early 1980s Heavy Metal and bands like JUDAS PRIEST, IRON MAIDEN and MOTÖRHEAD. Those bands really lit the spark for me! Somehow it seemed very difficult to play their songs compared to Thrash Metal, which is kind of more robot-like in musical structure. I was blown away by the first wave of Thrash Metal, and when I started playing guitar in 1986, I immediately started playing METALLICA, SLAYER and whatever I got my hands on."
KREATOR and SADUS have been active and recently DARK ANGEL has come back as well… Have you followed the evolution of these bands? What is your opinion about their actual musical moments?
"Yeah, I have followed those bands all their careers, and for me all bands have their ups and downs. Regarding the bands mentioned I only like KREATOR 1985-1990 and SADUS 1988-1990, DARK ANGEL, they were solid all their active time. About re-unions, some are more than welcome and others should stay dead and buried."
Coming back to HYPNOSIA, “The Storms 1997” was a demo which sold more than 500 copies. What did you feel in those days due to the incredible response in the worldwide underground? Do you think the "retro”, “return” and "true” (I hate that word, but I didn’t find any other) movements helped you in any way?
"We were overwhelmed that it sold so well during 1997 and beginning of 1998! It was reviewed in countless zines, and that helped, ‘cause the reviews were really good in virtually all publications. The “scene” had started to look backwards already with the second wave of Black Metal, and many of those into those bands also liked old Thrash and Speed Metal, so we somehow appealed to people who missed Thrash Metal. As everybody knows, Thrash Metal was absolutely dead in 1995, and we unintentionally filled a void. Certain people took us for a retro Thrash band, but we were far from that actually. When the Thrash Metal scene died in the early 1990s I just couldn’t accept how bad some bands became, who switched style of music, disbanded or made plain boring albums. The reason to start HYPNOSIA was to take the torch from the old bands, and carry it into the future."
Do you remember that in those days somebody in Norway wanted to take the phrase “Death Is Certain, Life Is Not” as his own words in a slogan and many believed that this current "Metal icon” was the author? What do you think about this?
"Yeah, I remember that I saw a Fenriz related album with that phrase, and it was a little unimaginative to just steal those words. I think there were more bands who used ancient slogans, like DARK FUNERAL stole “Only Death Is Real”. It never really bothered me that the slogans and phrases were used. Somehow the old, legendary bands were forgotten, and I wanted bands like HELLHAMMER to be recognized anyway."
Tell us about the incredible response of “The Storms 1997” demo. Virtually it was reviewed and you were interviewed in all the important zines worldwide in those days. Do you have some special memories from any review or interview? What do you think about the printed zines nowadays?
"Well, I have discussed this matter in a few of the previous questions, but I think when Rogga of MERCILESS contacted us, it was BIG! Also to be featured in SLAYER Mag, getting mail from Stephan from THANATOS and stuff like that made me proud. "The Storms 1997" was aggressive and in-your-face and no bullshit, perhaps that is why it went down well in the underground at the time. I still buy printed zines, but it is way more seldom that I am really interested in the bands and what they have to say. Snakepit Mag is of course the best one these days!"
In those years Swedish bands such as MAZE OF TORMENT, SERPENT OBSCENE, REPUGNANT and KAAMOS arose. These bands had a incredible future and they were different from each other. Do you think that in those days there was a reborn of the Swedish scene?
"I knew all bands mentioned personally and they were all great. We were more or less the same age and had the same favourite bands, so there was definitely a bond of some sorts. I wouldn’t speak of a scene, but we supported each other and traded stuff, and met at gigs around Sweden. I particularly like the "Curse Of Aeons" demo with KAAMOS, it is incredible! On par with the old legends from Sweden, the same timeless feeling and quality. It is a very dark sound they managed to create, TRUE darkness!"
The bands named above had a short existence, same as HYPNOSIA, what do you think was the reason?
"The fire burned fast for most of those bands. It was nothing like today when the networking (internet, access to rare / obscure bands, mobile phones, easier to record and release albums etc) is easier in every way. HYPNOSIA and other bands had to really struggle, and I really mean it! It was hard to generate interest, like the opportunity to tour, or get money to print shirts or whatever. We had to do everything ourselves."
When you were younger, you watched several bands in the “golden years” of the Swedish Death Metal live… Do you remember any special concert? Maybe any forgotten band which deserved better luck?
"I didn’t see all of them, only the bands that played around my hometown. We didn’t have money or driver’s license to really travel to see bands, which is really bad, haha! I saw among others ENTOMBED, DISMEMBER, THERION, DISSECTION, FURBOWL, NECROPHOBIC, GRAVE, LUCIFERION, AT THE GATES, and local Death Metal bands of course."
Let’s change to the “Violent Intensity” period where HYPNOSIA sounded more aggressive, your voice is more direct and violent… But it was a production (mini album) with many problems. Are you still dissatisfied with the sound?
"I think it was a disaster to record "Violent intensity"! We worked our asses off, but didn’t get any help in the studio from the sound engineer. The mixing desk had channels broken, and it was stressful to work against the clock and the money we paid per hour. I am satisfied with the songs on the album, but not the sound. We had started, about a year earlier, to tune in regular E-tuning and my voice transformed to fit that more direct and aggressive sound. I didn’t notice the change upon recording the vocals in the studio, then I heard it there and thought: "Yeah, this was how HYPNOSIA is supposed to sound", regarding the vocals at least."
Were you very pressured during the recordings? I mean, after the acknowledgement of the demos, there was a great deal of expectations.
"We didn’t feel any pressure because our demos had been kind of successful, we knew the new, more technically advanced songs were the only way to go, forwards, not backwards! We had to switch guitar player, because the old one didn’t keep up with the new songs and the speed that followed."
The original cover which should have had the “Violent Intensity” album was sold to another band… which band was that?
"Yeah, the cover depicted a battlefield with dead warriors on it, which suited the title better, but sadly it was sold to another band. Right now I don’t remember the name of that band. We just had to pick another one to have the record out in time. The album got delayed more than 6 months anyway, so I guess we should have waited and chosen another, better cover artwork for "Violent Intensity"."
When “Violent Intensity” was released a new logo for HYPNOSIA was used… This was much better than the original, who did the design?
"It was my childhood friend who drew the logo, and when I saw it I knew it was the perfect logo to put on future albums! It screams out Thrash Metal! The only guide line I gave to him was: make it sharp and easy for Metalheads to paint on their leather jackets!"
“Violent Intensity” was very well received too, after this the contract with Hammerheart was signed. But the problems with the line-up and labels continued on… Don’t you think it is a bit ironic? Did you maybe start to feel tired about this situation in those days?
"We were really happy to sign with Hammerheart, which we did in October 1999. They were a label on the rise at the time and everything went well with them through the recording and release of “Extreme Hatred”. After that was released not much happened, and slowly it krept into my mind that I just put down so much time into the band and didn’t get anything in return, not from the label or even my band members."
At that time Hammerheart Records was a great option. But don’t you think that the label didn’t make the best effort for HYPNOSIA? I mean, the album did get a great response but there wasn’t a promotion tour.
"There were many interviews set up and the album was reviewed everywhere, and we were heading in the right direction. Somehow I felt the label didn’t support us with a tour, and that is necessary for a band, to get recognized between albums."
“Extreme Hatred” is a very good classic Thrash / Death Metal album with personality. Why did you include songs like ‘The Last Remains’ and ‘Operation Clean Sweep’? I mean, these songs already had been recorded previously with a very good sound for a demo… The album versions are good however, but wouldn’t it have been better to include new songs on the album?
"The reason to include 2 older songs was that we didn’t have more new material ready. I wrote all music and lyrics, and I just didn’t have anymore ideas. I put emphasis on making the newly written songs as good as possible, and I succeeded in that in my opinion. Not one single riff is without purpose, or without thought. It was rehearsed and arranged exactly as it sounds on the album."
Didn’t you ever think that the title "Extreme Hatred” was a bit too similar to “Extreme Aggression”?
"No, there are many titles that are the same, for example “Killers” used by IRON MAIDEN and KISS. I wanted a title that was simple, who would stick in your mind forever, and also capture the feelings expressed on the album."
What kind of things do you hate extremely from the current world?
"Just about everything: religion, work, fanatics of any kind, bullshit music business, trends etc. There’s hatred enough for a life time. Just open a newspaper or browse the internet!"
The “Extreme Hatred” songs are fast but there are also some songs with an interesting melodic content. Was this spontaneous or did you feel the necessity to explore more variety in the new songs?
"I thought that we had to put some variety in the songs, but keeping it true to ourselves. I come from a Heavy Metal background and those bands all have a great sense for melody, which I wanted to incorporate into our songs. Also some sort of catchiness, or hooks if you like, some trademarks to remember our songs by, be it a chorus or a solo, or a riff. It was hard work and the title track wasn’t fully arranged until a week before we entered the studio! I have many, many versions on tape, with different riffs and tempos on this song. I’m glad it worked out in the end, because that song is what most people associate with HYPNOSIA."
A lot of the “Extreme Hatred” lyrics deal with violence (actually, all HYPNOSIA songs)… In my opinion you’re one of the last Thrash Metal bands which have approached this topic from a serious position. Do you think that the presence of mankind on earth must end? I say it because throughout history we have been killing each other all the time.
"I always thought we were a serious band, I wanted people to see us a worthy successor of the old, legendary bands. Of course we had fun in the rehearsal space, joking and stuff, but outwards we definitely were a serious band. Our music always was very aggressive and the lyrics just had to be as violent, to suit the music."
Another great success was the instrumental ‘Gates Of Cirith Ungol’, which has a similar darkness as ‘The Call Of Kthulu’ and great melodies. Do you think that this musical side of HYPNOSIA wasn’t explored?
"It was my attempt at making a timeless instrumental classic, with a dark atmosphere and also include many melodies. ‘Orion’ and ‘The Call Of Kthulu’ were some of the inspirations for this particular song. Perhaps we would have had more melodic solos or harmony guitars in future songs, if we had continued?"
In those years the musical industry changed radically due to the Internet. Were you a little reluctant initially to create a webpage for HYPNOSIA? Did you see this phenomenon like another symbol that HYPNOSIA had arrived in too late?
"In 1999 I sensed that something bad was going to happen, as we approached the new millennium. By bad I mean that an era was going to an end, and that I wouldn’t like to be a part of this new society. Just look at all the record stores! Where are they now? Why don’t people pay for their records anymore? HYPNOSIA had a homepage in 1997 already, and I think it might have helped us a little. We did most correspondence through regular mail still in the early 2000s. I’m old fashioned about most things in my life, and especially when it comes to music. I still buy my records the way I did in the 1980s. Look at the cover and if it appeals to me I buy it and hopefully it’s good. No downloading bullshit."
What happened with the 4 or 5 songs composed after “Extreme Hatred” and before the split up?
"I have some rough rehearsals with those songs. Very fast and aggressive stuff, that’s for sure! I also had an intro ready for what would be the third album."
One of the things which motivated me to make this interview was the incredible "Horror Infernal" compilation, edited by I Hate Records, which features all HYPNOSIA material, except for “Extreme Hatred”. Do you think that you finally found a label which makes its job with passion and in a professional way?
"Yeah, a lot of time and dedication went into the “Horror Infernal” compilation, I can tell you! That label only releases stuff that they stand behind 100%, which is rare today. I am certain I Hate would have been the perfect label, only they had existed in 1999! They do support their bands with all funds they can come up with. Of course it’s on an underground level. I Hate recently released a vinyl version of this compilation, so go get it on black gold before it’s too late!"
How was this edition done? I mean, who’s idea was it? Was it easy to define the characteristics for the CD? Was it complicated to remaster the sound from the old demos, yet keeping their essence?
"The idea came from the owner of I Hate, Peter. I have known him for almost 15 years, and he already talked to me about his wish to do a compilation in 2004 or 2005. In 2011 I was painting a room in my house, and had to move a lot of stuff, so I came across all these old photos, so the time was right to start this project. Once I had got all material ready it took another year before we even started with the project. The layout was done in a few months and the mastering MARDUK bassist Devo took care of. He used the original DAT-tapes for the demos and the mini LP."
I believe that almost ten years ago your drummer Michael “Mike” Sjöstrand passed away… Did you keep in touch with him in those days? I guess that his absence is the main reason for the impossibility for a second chapter of HYPNOSIA?
"The main reason why we disbanded was lack of motivation. I only had contact with Mike sporadically after the demise of HYPNOSIA, and about a year later he passed away. He didn’t write any material for the band, so I guess if a re-union would come to light another drummer would be able to take his place, if he was fast enough. However, HYPNOSIA is dead and buried a long time ago, and that band will never return in any form or shape, it belongs to the past."
Do you follow the current Thrash movement in Sweden? What is your opinion about TYRANEX?
"I only know ANTICHRIST, since they are from my home town. Good band, good guys! TYRANEX I haven’t heard, or any other new bands in Sweden or internationally. Have I missed something?"
How do you see the HYPNOSIA’s legacy today?
"I am very proud of the band and the songs, and it is cool to see that people still remember the band and come up to me at shows or festivals and talk about HYPNOSIA. The band ended more than 12 years ago, and it’s a long fucking time! HYPNOSIA was done directly from the heart and I think that came across in the music we made. It was brutally honest and we forged our own path. In 1995 there were almost no Thrash bands left and we just stuck to our guns no matter what. We followed no trends, we took the torch of the old bands and carried it forwards, I don’t see many bands doing that today!"
Well Cab, the bell tolls because the end is close, thank you for your answers, do you want to say anything else to end this interview?
"Thanx a lot for all interesting questions and for your undying support! Never Surrender!"