A lot of freaks say that many bands of the Swedish riffmachine Rogga Johansson sound similar to each other… Well, in the case of THE GROTESQUERY one thing’s for sure; this deadly co – operation with US Death grunt veteran Kam Lee belongs to the most outstanding outbursts in the Rogga discography. Just check out their 2nd atmospheric Death injection "The Facts And Terrifying Testament Of Maison Hamilton: Tsathoggua Tales". We’ve used the possibilty to do a nice update chat with vocal and lyrical concept mastermind Kam Lee. I guess this maniac needs no proper introduction to a real Death Metal fan, so in the end here’s Kam Lee ready to spit some horror and hellfire for you again!!!
Hi Kam, what’s up and welcome back to VOICES FROM THE DARKSIDE! I hope you’re in the mood for some interview madness?
"Let the madness beginn!!!"
The 2nd GROTESQUERY album "The Facts And Terrifying Testament Of Maison Hamilton: Tsathoggua Tales" is out since the 20th of April 2012, so you already have a little distance to the release. How do you feel about the reactions from fans and media!?!
"I think the reaction has been rather good from both fans and media. I was more than surprised to see it get so well recieved."
I think the music itself got even more melodic, technically and the production itself is warm and clean, but still Death Metal in its approach.
"Musically, I think Rogga really did some unique writing on this album. It’s unlike anything else he has really done with any of his other "projects". That was the one thing we (Rogga and I) wanted for THE GROTESQUERY. For the band to be one that we could "stretch" our creative abilities with. We will always be rooted in a traditional "Death Metal" style, but I like the fact that this band has room to explore atmospheric realms just left to the straight and narrow mind set of the typical Death Metal genre. As well I feel lyrically I can stretch my creativeness. I think by being a band that lyrically is influenced from supernatural / occultic and classic horror litature, it allows for a more interesting lyrical approach. Rather than the same over used satanic themes or even the out of place ‘political / social’ type of lyrics that many Death Metal bands use these days, using the influences taken from writers like Lovecraft and Poe, and other writers of classic horror litature allows for a more dark atmospheric tone to be set. For me personally Death Metal has always gone hand in hand with the horror genre. So to explore lyrical themes outside of that genre seems to go against the unwritten Death Metal code of ethics. So even though it may seem right for some band to have lyrics set in a more "real world" social environment, it’s just not the type of lyrical content I’m remotly interested in. As far as the sound of the album on the production. We had Dan Swanö to produce it. We wanted it to have a more natural feel in sound than the first album. Don’t get me wrong, I like Ronnie Bjornstrom’s production style, but it can tend to be a bit more "modern". We wanted it to have a classic "old school" feel – and who better to give us that then Swanö."
"Tsathoggua Tales" is like THE GROTESQUERY’s debut album based on a lyrical concept story and like many "classical" horror movies, the story starts in a lunatic asylum / mental hospital, so what’s so facinating about such a place and the abyss of the human subconscious?
"I tend to think it comes from a more classic horror litature vibe. A lot of characters from Lovecraft and Poe’s fiction go thru madness before their story ends. Confronting the type of horrific situations that both albums explore lyrically would indeed tend to make one a bit mentally disturbed. Horror fiction must be looked at from an entertaining stand point of absolute terror, or it threatens to become rather tongue in cheek and a bit campy at times. When dealing with the situations of Lovecraftian type of horror one has to be able to stretch the imagintion a bit. It can get rather "campy" and even rather silly and sophmoric. Especially when dealing with gigantic supernatural beings that dwell in the earth; or just outside of reality that can bend time and space and enter in and out of your dreams. One has to be a bit open minded to accept such outlandish situations and just enjoy the fiction for what it is rather then for what it is not. If you’re the type of person that needs your horror to have a more visceral gore approuch, if you rather have lyrics based on some serial killer bashing in brains and ripping out someones intestines, then you may like my band BONE GNAWER better. Although I purposely make BONE GNAWER’s lyrics very "campy" for that fact alone. But when dealing with "supernatural horror themes" – as I do with the lyrics for THE GROTESQUERY, I tend to like the ones that question whether or not the character that is narrorating the story is in fact insane or not. I never really explain on either album if these events actually happened – or – if it’s all just made up in these characters insane minds. I leave that up for the fan to decide."
Nowadays we have a totally fast living internet society and as you know a lot of music simply gets ripped from the internet on MP3 etc; as far as I know from the first GROTESQUERY album "Tales Of The Coffin Born" it’s a really detailed release and in some way it’s really essential to have the complete booklet with the lyrics and illustrations done by Finnish artist Turkka Rantanan to slip into the whole atmosphere and essence of the album. I guess it’s the same with the new album. Would you agree!?!
"We tried to make THE GROTESQUERY a band where you enjoy having the actual product as much as the music itself. We incourage people to own the actual CD or LP. Otherwise, if you just have the music, then it’s like having a book without its cover and the authors introduction pages ripped out. You only get the pages contaning the story, without knowing the purpose of the contents within."
I personally think that the way of consuming the music has changed a lot within the recent years, would you agree!?! I mean you’re a veteran to that style in particular.
"Yes, we live in a world of shit. Everything is disposable, even people’s lives these days. When you read or watch the news daily and see the utter disrespect for humanity. It’s not a shock that society as a whole is such a garbage heep of absolute rubbish. And no one has respect anymore. Everything is up for grabs! Opportunist and manipulators rule the roost! Yes, it’s a selfish society we live in, one where most people "feel they deserve to be given to" – rather then "to work for it". People will steal when given the opportunity, when it’s presented to them as an easy way to do it. So those who download music for free, they feel they deserve it in some fucked up immoral brain washing way. They think they are "getting one over on someone", and fiendishly rub their filthy hands together and laugh to themselves everytime they do it. It is because they will make excuses such as – "everybody does it" – or "it was there just sitting in front of me, I know it’s wrong – but I’ll do it anyways". People are sheeps, people are cheap, and very very few have any loyaties anymore. For some (for most it seems) I guess that is all they want. They cheapen and cheat themselves out of the entire expierence. But it seems "cheap thrills" and "quick rides" always attracts more. Have you ever heard someone say they hate to read? Do you know many people (especially in the Metal scene) will not read a book. Have you ever heard someone say "I’m not reading that, I’ll wait until they make a movie instead." People in general are lazy. They are also too caught up in their own pathetic drama lives to actually just chill out and escape for a moment by spending time doing something constructive. They would rather take the quickest short cut to the thrill of the moment then wait for it. It’s evident in everything, even the drugs of today. Take for example that designer drugs that get you higher faster and quicker are more used now by more people world wide; rather then the simple drugs like pot or simply getting drunk does anymore. More and more people nowadays go for the quick cheap high, taking the chances of even dying or going insane and eating off someones face just in order to get the "cheap thrill ride" faster and quicker. Like I said, society in general is spoiled. People want fast food service but expect high priced resturant quality. We’ve become a spolied brat society based on what we can recieve rather then what we can give."
How much challenge was "Tsathoggua Tales" for you regarding the conversion of your vocal ideas!?! I mean it’s still Death Metal in the style of performance, but packed in a wide range of variation to create a sort of "audio drama" atmosphere. What goals did you like to archive and what’s important nowadays when you record vocals?
"I attempt to re-invent myself with everything I do vocally. I try not to repeat myself in any way with any vocal performance. I felt the new THE GROTESQUERY was an area where I could stretch myself vocally without bending or catering to trends and hypster styles of vocals. I will not "copy" what others in the scene do regardless if it’s the "in thing" or the "new trend". I will not immulate others. I won’t attempt to sound like other vocalists and I shall always strive and attempt to do things my own way. So many ignorant people tend to think I immulate Mark from NAPALM DEATH or Dave from BENEDICTION / BOLT THROWER. They are influences from my own vocal style I started back in 1985. It’s just they got to be on more releases in the important years in the 90s than I did. And thus the people who do not know tend to think I’m the one doing the copy cat vocals rather then the other way around. I do what I do now – to seperate myself from the norm. I also tend to think in "Death Metal" there is a unspoken type of competition going on. Where vocalists try and attempt to "out brutalize" one another by attempting to be as deep, low gutteral and incoherent as they can. I will not bend to these foolish childish rules. I will always attempt to be coherent and clear in my vocal style. It’s basic enunciation. Why should I sound like one big elephant fart? Anyone can do that!!!"
Is it a pressure to you that a lot of fans always wish to hear your vocals in the way you’ve performed them on MASSACRE’s "From Beyond" album (1991) or the "Inhuman Condition" EP (1992)!?! Time doesn’t stand still and within the recent years you’re more active then ever before with BONE GNAWER, GRAVE WAX etc., so what has most likely changed for you in a creative way? Is it simply the "let it flow" feeling to it!?!
"I don’t want to keep repeating what I’ve already done. If people like what I did 20 – 30 years ago. Then that is fine. But to keep repeating myself from so long ago seems self defeating. MASSACRE’s "From Beyond" vocally is totally different than what the early demos from 1985 / 86 era sounded like. As what I do now sounds differnt than what I did back in 1991. How I did vocals on the DENIAL FIEND album in 2007 differs from how I did vocals on BONE GNAWER album in 2009, as that differs from what I did on THE GROTESQUERY in 2010 and now in 2012. And how that differs from how I did vocals on THE SKELETAL album in 2011. Each band has a unique style and sound, and so each vocal performance has that as well. To keep repeating myself would tend to get a bit boring I think. I like when someone picks up a new release of a band I’ve done and recognizes the subtle differences with each vocal performance. You can still tell it’s "me", but hear something a bit unique and different with each album."
Talking about the old days, Kam have you seen the MANTAS (pre – DEATH) demo compilation reissue released by Relapse Records a few weeks ago? Have they asked you about any sort of contribution, like liner – notes or something else?
"Hahahaaaaaahahaahaaa!! No I have not and I have been denied any sort of involvement by the powers that be. Just another example of people ripping me off, and stealing what I’ve done."
All your current involved bands / projects have a sort of studio only character. Don’t you think for example that THE GROTESQUERY or BONE GNAWER could work out live as well!?! BONE GNAWER is really catchy going but I think THE GROTESQUERY really has some tracks that can work live as well. What’s your point of view!?!
"We would like to be able to do live performances, but a few factors have denied us the chance to do it. One reason is Rogga lives very far north in Sweden and his locating doesn’t exactly allow for band rehersal. We are considering taking either BONE GNAWER or THE GROTESQUEY on tour, but we need to weigh out the best options to do so."
If I’m right informed you’ll turn 47 this year, so do you think performing Death Metal live, playing "low budget underground tours" etc. is more now the task of a younger generation!?!
"I have to admit that a long tour with none to little profit does seem too risky to attempt in this day and age. I do have bills that need to be attented to and touring is not a sure way to have those expenses paid. I don’t own a home. I rent, and a monthly rent fee is expected. As you mentioned, I’m closer to 50 then to 20 now. I can’t – nor would ever "run home to mommy". I’ve been on my own since I was 16. I would not burden myself with having to give up my home and stabilty just to do a tour – where I make no profit. Plus my health is another issue. I’m not a young kid anymore. And I’ve put my body thru a lot of abuse. I have no health insurance. And we all know by example of what musicians with no health insurance provides… an early death!!! Unless it’s something that I could profit from – without taking the risk of loosing what little I have, I’ll skip it."
From an outstanding point of view it seems at least that your passion towards the music itself and the concepts around Death Metal never really changed drastically, or what do you think!?!
"I still have a passion as you pointed out for the music. And I feel that doing "recorded releases" is at least a way to keep involved in doing it. If people "need" to think of a band as a "real" band just because that band performs "live", then they really need to take a deeper look at the bigger picture. BATHORY for example is a band well respected by both the Death Metal crowd as well as the Black Metal crowd, and as far as I know BATHORY never performed a live show. Why view what I do any differently?"
Kam, before we go we have a nice comment game left for you; so let’s do some brainstorming on the following points…
a) Your role as a "serial killer" in the DEEP SEEDED movie
"Fun – cool – exciting – frustrating – an experience. I would like to do more of." (in case of interest you can check out the trailer here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=mPeIEBgJnUg – RH)
b) New ASPHYX album "Deathhammer"
"I’ve only heard one track (I’m so behind in music) – but from what I heard it was pretty damn bad ass!!!"
"Hahahahahaaaaa! Ppppfffttt!!! Utter shit! Complete corporate created garbage – camouflaged by labelling it "Death" in order to fool the masses into thinking it’s rooted in the same genre as "real" Death Metal. The same way "Pop – Punk" is labelled "Punk" in order to fool the masses into thinking it’s related to "real" Punk Rock."
d) Death Metal doesn’t pay the bills
"So fucking true!!!"
Bloody well done; thanx a lot for taking time for an update interview for VOICES FROM THE DARKSIDE. Kam, keep the Metal flowing. The final words to this story are up to you, feel free to add what you like to!!!
"Thanks for the support! I’m working now on the full length GRAVE WAX album. It’s a Death Metal project I do with artist Mark Riddick. I also will be doing a new split with THE GROTESQUERY and the band INTESTINAL coming up soon. We have a split planned for BONE GNAWER with THE SKELETAL as well. The BONE GNAWER tracks are old tracks (originally released on the limited vinyl only 7" "Scissored") – but THE SKELETAL tracks are previously unreleased tracks. Then we start to work on the second full length album for BONE GNAWER. I also have some cool guest vocal spots planned with some other bands. After that I’m going to take a break, I think. See where 2013 puts me. Anything – further only time will tell!!!"
If you feel in the mood for some Kam Lee band surfing trip then check out the following links for a deadly dose of Death Metal in the Kam style: