After almost 3 years of silence one of Death Metal’s most unique and outstanding voices, Johan Liiva, returned to the scene with an almost presumed to be dead sideproject, NONEXIST. On their latest release "From My Cold Dead Hands" the two Johans (Liiva & Rheinholdz) are showing again what they can do best. Namely, celebrating different facets of extreme Heavy Metal (old and modern) at its best. Mr. Liiva found time to tell us what happened (or not) in the life of NONEXIST during the last 10 years. We also got the chance to talk with him a bit about his past bands CARNAGE and FURBOWL and currently resting band HEARSE. And now quiet please. The master speaks…
Weren’t you guys interested in recording a "contemporary" follow-up to NONEXIST’s debut "Deus Deceptor" in 2002 as soon as possible?
"Well, of course that would’ve been the optimal way to go as of back then. But many things played in to effect, our label was one of the things. He was about to close the business and then I had HEARSE as well as Johan Reinholdz had ANDROMEDA to deal with. Not to forget Matte and all his bands + the distance between us and him which was more than 600 kms. However, we talked about making a 2nd album all these years every now and then, then all pieces of the puzzle melted together one sunny autumn day in 2011. And here we are! Hehe…"
How long did it take you guys to finally write and record "From My Cold Dead Hands"?
"More or less basically 10 years, though the most work (done by Reinholdz) started more seriously to take form around 2009."
How did you share the duties of songwriting and recording this time compared to the debut? Were you able in the studio to achieve your self set ambitions and expectations a 100%?
"All the music and all of the lyrics (except for one song) were written by Reinholdz. I wrote the lyrics for the song ‘Presence Everlasting’. For the next album we intend to share and cut it up a bit more. However Reinholdz will most likely be behind the composing wheel most of the time. As for the recording, I think we managed to get it to where we wanted it almost all the way. Vocally, I sliced the sessions in 4 parts because I felt quite rusty, didn’t growl since 2009 or something. It all went very well and I truly pushed it to the max, unleashing that starving beast within, ugghh!!"
On "From My Cold Dead Hands" you and Johan Reinholdz are the remaining members of the original line-up. What happened to drummer Matte Modin (former DEFLESHED)? Why isn’t he playing on the latest recording?
"The reason "why" was because, Reinholdz already recorded all of with programmed drums over the years. Then we just said like "well, let’s record a 2nd album and see what happens". Just before the vocal-dubs Pivotal Rockordings asked us, if we’d be interested in releasing it as a digital download album and, hell yeah we never hesitated really. It’s not that easy to get a deal nowadays. Much has changed since "back then". For good and worse I guess."
Whose decision was it to use a soulless drum machine instead of a real flesh and bone drummer on "From My Cold Dead Hands"?
"Hmmm, soulless or not – I think if the programming is made with "fingerspitzengefühl" (?) and some touch of class and not just robocopishly straight ahead, then I for sure don’t see the problem with it. It was not really a decision, it was more like we’ve got this all done now. And the budget really didn’t allow us to dance as freely as many people may think. I’m truly pleased with it just the way it turned out. But of course I understand what you mean. There’s nothing quite like "the real thing"! : -)"
Until now, "From My Cold Dead Hands" is only available as impersonal download. What kind of release politics are you guys following with this way of distribution? Will there also be a proper release on CD or vinyl someday? Because I can’t imagine, that old school Death Metallers and collectors will accept the music as lo-fi download only?!
"Tricky dilemma this one. As I mentioned before, getting a deal nowadays isn’t as easy as it used to be. Much has changed in the entertainment industry. The digital download release however helped us getting a deal with Abyss Records for the release of the new album on both CD as well as LP. So far, so good! It’s true most people especially fans of this genre prefer the physical thing. So now they’re soon about to get it too."
NONEXIST played its very first gig on December 28th, 2012 at the Scorched Thundra Festival in Gothenburg. What can you tell us about this first show? Who is part of the live line-up? Have you played only NONEXIST songs or also covers of your former bands? What about the future of NONEXIST? Will you guys play some more shows and are there plans to record another album within a shorter period of time?
"It was THE first gig ever for the band. A small festival with 4 other acts and it was arranged by the owner of Pivotal Rockordings (Alexi). We were the first band to hit the stage that evening and it was totally freakin’ incredible! Our setlist had almost 50/50 from the debut and the new one, 7 songs + intro (‘Entrance’). We managed to find 3 awesome and outstanding guys to fill up the live-constallation: Johan Aldgård – guitars, Joakim Strandberg Nilsson – drums (both of them in a band called FAITHFUL DARKNESS) and Linus Abrahamsson on bass (also in ANDROMEDA etc.). We’re currently working very hard finding more shows, festivals and mini-tours. Not so easy. But we’ve had a few really "good" offers, for example supporting DEICIDE – and paying 400 €uros per day, hahaha! Also we’re right now constantly writing new songs for the 3rd album. I’ve got rough sketches for at least 4-5 lyrics already now and Reinholdz is shredding his brains out creating new hits as far as I know, hehe."
On the Japanese CD version of the debut "Deus Deceptor", there is a bonus track called ‘Carnage Bloody Carnage’. Is it true, that this song is a leftover from the good old CARNAGE demo days? What can you tell us about the creation and history of the song?
"Yes, it was actually recorded and supposed to be on the "The Day Man Lost" demo. But we never managed to get it properly tight, so we had to leave it out unfortunately. Then we got this idea as for bonus track on "Deus Deceptor" and it turned out pretty damn cool I think."
Have you already heard the BOMBS OF HADES cover version of CARNAGE’s ‘The Day Man Lost’? Funny, that BOMBS OF HADES recorded the song with their old mate and original GOD MACABRE vocalist Per Boder. What is your connection with the GOD MACABRE guys? Is it true, that there were plans in the early 90s you joining them on bass guitar at one point?
"Aaah, no I haven’t heard it I guess. Not yet anyway. Oh yes, I’m a little connected with Jonas Stålhammar on Facebook. We don’t talk as we used to back in the 90s. But he’s still active and into extreme music it seems. Uuuh, yeah that sounds likely that I’d join them on bass, so the answer to that would be, "yes"."
Lets talk a bit about your other band HEARSE. It’s been a while since you released the last album "Single Ticket To Paradise" in 2009. You only did one show together with GENERAL SURGERY at Stockholm’s Kafe 44 on October 24th, 2009. Is there a special reason why you guys don’t play live too often these days? What are your feelings about the "live on stage situation" compared to the early days… 20+ years ago?
"Well, first of all it’s a little tricky to keep a band together. Especially in our "day and age". 2 of the guys have kids, I do not. But I’m so far away from Stockholm and my job takes a lot of my time and energy etc, etc. The options to get gigs are a bit more rare these days. Or at least so it seems? But we made quite a few gigs through the years, UFTG-festival and that mini-tour in NL/Belgium with DISMEMBER. So, the live-on-stage situation nowadays compared to late 80s / 90s is well let’s just say a little bit more "complicated". Much depending on what back up you’ve got from labels and managements etc…"
Do you have plans to record with HEARSE again soon? If yes, in what kind of lyrical direction would you like to go? Any favourite topics to write about, when you are in your early forties? Aren’t you anxious to contribute some own music to HEARSE again? It’s been a while since you participated as a main songwriter. Don’t you have a million ideas on stock waiting to be heard?
"Hmmm…as for a new album with HEARSE, right now not sure. It’s been almost 3 years or more since the last release and I recall at that time I felt kind of "content" with what we had achieved so far. From time to time I feel a great urge to record something again. But maybe it’s time to focus on NONEXIST only now and then maybe have some minor sideprojects, guest appearances and so on? I must admit, when I’m in my creative mode / mood, the words and / or melodies washes all over me like a flood. But right now, focusing first of all on the next NONEXIST album and trying to get that band on the road somehow. Plus maybe some kinda "secret surprise", which I’ll tell more about later on. Hehe… "
On the triple vinyl re-release version of FURBOWL’s "Those Shredded Dreams", there are lots of cool unreleased demo songs. Have you ever thought about re-writing these songs and record them properly for a possible upcoming official release? I mean with Niklas Stenemo you guys had a helluva great guitarist in your rows back then and an unreleased song, like ‘Now You Suffer’ for example, is such a raw Death’n’Roll diamond. Any chances that you guys will get it together again before it’s too late?
"Thanks for the kind words, and yes. Here we arrive at the "secret surprise" part. We actually just discussed to get the three of us together and re-record some unreleased songs + maybe some new ones (if that "magic touch" is still there, haha). It would be so much fun and also maybe a great way to kinda "close the chapter" once and for all. Or maybe open new doors all over again?? Hmmm, this whole idea seems very tempting right now. It would be totally awesome and lots a fun!"
Alrighty. I guess, we covered pretty much all of it. Anything else on your mind you would like to share with the readers of VOICES FROM THE DARKSIDE? From our side thank you very much for answering our little questionaire. Always a pleasure to have you in our ‘zine. Really appreciate your experience and wisdom, old man ; -) Cheers, Marc
"First of all, a thousand thanks to you Marc for the interview and the support. Always nice talking to you! And to the readers of this glorious zine. Check out the new NONEXIST album "From My Cold Dead Hands". Available now only as digital download. But in a few weeks probably this spring / early summer it will also be released physically, both on CD and vinyl through ABYSS RECORDS! Also we are looking for gigs, mini tours and festivals. So please do not hesitate to get in touch with us for bookings etc. Cheers and Metal to the bone!! \m/"