– Hello, lots of thanks for answering our interview. What’s everything going right now into the VAMPIRE’s camp?
Hand of Doom (vocals): Right now, we are busy preparing our upcoming shows in Stockholm and Gothenburg, which will be our first live appearances after the album release, which means some additions to the set list and some new stage design.
– You have just released your long-awaited first full-length album but, instead of asking you to make some history of the band, I would like you (if you don’t mind) to elaborate a little bit on some of the first things that caught my attention off VAMPIRE. That was the logo, that reminded me to NECROVOREs. Whos idea was? It has a pretty “old school” look so to speak, I guess you wanted something that could give an idea of how was your music sounding like?
HoD: Well, I guess Necrovore and Venom were two logos that came up while discussing our design, especially that floating, flowing handwriting quality they both have. What we didn’t want was a heap of religious or occult symbols that we couldn’t stand behind, but rather something that expressed the general atmosphere of the music, hence the decrepit wings, the bats, the candle and the devil’s tail. That tail thing was meant to be more in the vein of the Possessed logo which we all adore in all its glorious simplicity, but I suppose that didn’t quite make it through to Martin Gustafsson (of Darkified fame) who designed the logo. Many people like it, which is very cool.
– With your demo you managed to create a great buzz into the underground, being even sold out shortly after. What did that release mean to you? Did it make easier to get a deal with a record label such as Century Media? Did you get any other interesting offers?
HoD: Believe me, we got heaps of offers, but I am not sure if the involved parties would like us to talk about deciding not to go with them, so I won’t reveal any names. Big and small labels alike seemed very keen on having us in the roster. I am not sure whether it was because of the quality of our demo or the magnitude of the hype that followed with it, but I suppose it had something to do with both. I can’t say how much impact the release of the demo had for us signing with Century Media, but since it was the only recording we ever did prior, I suppose it meant a great deal. However, it wasn’t until the Century Media guys saw us live in London and realized that we could actually live up to the demo recording (and hype) on stage that they got really interested. But offers started coming maybe a month or so after the demo was out, fall 2012. Above all, what the demo meant for us was as a way to realize what our band was actually about, aesthetically and musically, because up until we had it all finished none of us really had a clue.
– In fact some people may think Century Media could not be the most fitting company for an underground band. How do you feel about being among their roster?
HoD: How are you supposed to feel? I am not a fan of many of the bands they work with, but luckily that doesn’t mean very much. We went with the label that seemed to be most respectful towards our artistic vision and that could front the money we needed to make a product that was good in all regards. Just because we are on Century Media doesn’t mean we have anything to do with Deez Nuts or any of those guys on a day to day basis. Being on an “credible” underground label is very much overrated I reckon, and we have saved ourselves some major headache by not working with any of those diehard scene warriors out there. We got our share of that already only re-releasing the demo as a 7” on a small label, which you would suppose couldn’t go wrong, but you would be surprised to learn everything that apparently could. I rather have 100 000 listeners than 100 listeners, and no underground credibility in the world could change that. If we wanted to “stay underground” to all costs we could easily have released another demo tape with the same kind of songs and the same kind of production before the end of 2012, but we wanted to aim higher. That we ended up on Century Media was simply because they offered us the best deal. It certainly doesn’t mean we get rich, or even earn a single dollar that we don’t re-invest into the band. But it lets us do what we like musically and then reach out to as many listeners as possible. If you compare our situation to the sort of bands we look to for inspiration – Morbid Angel, Slayer, Bathory etc – I would argue those guys were at least as “mainstream” when they recorded some of their best music as we are. Staying underground typically means you restrict the availability, and possibly the quality, of your music to exclude listeners who are not as knowledgeable or who spend as much time on seeking out new music as you are yourself. It’s elitist bullshit which doesn’t impress me the slightest. We have had our share of underground appreciation and are ready to take on more demanding challenges with Vampire. Take it or leave it!
– As I said earlier, yo have now released your debut album, “Vampire”. How are you feeling about it? Are you satisfied with the final outcome?
HoD: Yes, we are, otherwise we wouldn’t have released it in the shape and form it is available today. I actually listened to it on the train yesterday for the first time in quite some time, and funny thing is, the songs you liked the least when recording them are those that seem to hold up in the long run, which is probably a combination of not listening to them very much and having sort of low expectations when you eventually do. There are things that I would go back and change if I could, but I could never do that now, so we’ll have to live and learn and make the next album even better. Most people seem very happy with the way the album sounds, and that ultimately matters more to me than what I personally might think about it. No musician is ever 100% happy with a new album, and if they are, they probably have mental issues.
– And how do you think have you guys evolved as a band since your demo came out a couple of years ago?
HoD: I would like to say that we have evolved as song writers, but that maybe is not just true, since the songs that are on the demo pretty much wrote themselves, and hold up quite well in all their simple glory, while we have actually only written one proper song since the album was finished four months ago, and I suspect everyone but me think it isn’t really finished yet. In the big picture, we evolved towards a more complex and epic expression in our music after the demo, “Howl from the coffin”, “Black deserts” and “Ungodly warlock” being the three songs that we wrote after that, in the fall/winter of 2012/2013. But then again, two of the most immediate songs on the entire album were finished only weeks before the recording took place (“Orexis” and “Cellar grave vampire”) so that doesn’t hold true either. Speaking only for myself I have found a way to use my voice so it actually lasts through an entire show and beyond without me having a sore throat for three days afterwards. Moreover, I suppose I have come closer to a proper body of lyrical topics and know more what I want to get across to the listener than I did when I wrote the lyrics for the demo. I don’t say everything is necessarily better these days, but I feel I have a better command of what I’m doing both vocals and lyrics wise. The demo was all fun and games in a way, and I can miss some of that, but that doesn’t only have to do with us making and playing music, but is also a condition of the level of seriousness that Vampire have reached quite fast.
– Personally I think the basis, ethics and essence is still the same, but with a natural evolution and some difference nuances. For instance here you have used instruments as accordions, xylophones and a piano. How did everything arise? What could you say have these instruments brought to the tunes?
HoD: Much of those inclusions is very subtle, and is meant to be subtle, and I would say the idea for including those instruments came very spontaneously on location. Svenska Grammofonstudion is owned by members of the Swedish rock group The Soundtrack Of Our Lives and is a veritable goldmine for vintage equipment and strange instruments. You can find just about anything you never knew you needed if you open the right door in that place. The sound effects in the intro to the song “The Fen” is me banging two things together that I found when digging around in the percussion storage room. Black String was laying down some guitars and I got bored. Voila: ghastly ambience. What I think these instruments bring to the songs is an element of the unexpected, maybe even on a level where you don’t pay attention to it at all, it’s just there and builds a certain atmosphere. It is nothing like Peste Noire for example, where the accordion plays all sorts of leads and is very obviously integrated in the song writing basics. Those songs would have sounded almost the same without those instruments, and most people would probably not have heard much difference if we had used just a synth instead (which we do at times as well), but for me as a musician these small nuances count. People have asked us “where the hell is that accordion anyway?” and that is exactly how we want it to work. You can hear (?) it in the very epic climax of “Ungodly warlock” and at the very beginning of “The Fen”, and maybe at some other place that I have forgotten about right now.
– Compared to the demo, songs on “Vampire” are lengthier and have more depth. Is it a way to give tracks more space to develop themselves? As I think on the album there’s more diversity in comparison to the demo.
HoD: That is a very good observation and nothing that we have planned on in particular, it just so happened. When you write music you tend to go through phases and shift between different kinds of challenges you want to take on, and having written four rather immediate and straight forward songs for the demo we were ready to try something new for the album. Also, the more time you spend on a song, the more it tends to swell out of proportion, so before you know it you sit there with ten different riffs and a playing time of six minutes, which is what happened with “The Bestial Abyss” as an example. But I like variation; it is very cool to have those bombastic epics in the set, as much as I like the almost punkish aggression of our shorter songs. It is a good mix and I hope to be able to have a similar share of material on future Vampire releases. We are neither Ramones nor Yes.
– There is also more pace diversity, “Vampire” isn’t just relentless speed all the way. In fact I think there’s a lot of melody too. Was this something you had in mind for this record or do you just let things flow naturally?
HoD: It has come very naturally for us, which is hardly surprising given that both me and Black String are suckers for anything sentimental and almost pathetically emotional in heavy music. As an example, we can both agree that the last minute of “Spektrale schattenlichter” by Abigor is probably some of the finest use of acoustic guitars in all of black metal. Having 35 minutes of death defying violence maybe works if you are Slayer and the year is 1986, but we realize that we need to spice up things a bit to uphold the listener’s interest. I am actually baffled that not more bands have realized the merits of throwing in the occasional melodic riff in every second song or so; it works like a charm. Too many bands are too one-dimensional and seem to think that an atmospheric intro will save the day – it doesn’t! It only makes the whole thing even more predictable.
– The sound is still really rough and organic, with an analogue vibe and live sounding, in fact I read you recorded it with analogue equipment. How was this whole process like? I read you recorded it in a studio more oriented to Pop releases so, why was this your choice?
HoD: We put the basics (drums, bass, rhythm guitars and some additional instruments we found on location) to tape in three days in Svenska Grammofonstudion, but spent several times that amount of days for vocals, overdubs and mixing. There would have been no point laying down e.g. vocals on 1960’s equipment in an expensive studio. If you record very subtle jazz vocals or whatever, the room might be important for the acoustics, but when recording death metal vocals all you need is a microphone that can take a lot of abuse and somewhere to let the signal be recorded, and you’re good to go. You would probably be surprised if you saw the stuff we recorded the demo tape on, keeping in mind how analogue and organic that recording sounds, but it is more a matter of how well you know the technology you are using than about what stuff you use. We turned to Svenska Grammofonstudion for a number of reasons, not least because it is very close to where we live, practically within walking distance from my apartment, and we knew some of the guys who work there since before. Oskar Lindberg is an academically trained sound engineer with years of experience, which means we could be confident he would make the very best of our quite modest economic means. What we didn’t want was another one of those scene productions where you can listen for five seconds and then pinpoint what studio they used. I cannot think of any metal band that has recorded at SGS before us, which is very good.
– Besides some Black and Thrash Metal influences, or certain Crust nuances, I also noticed some NWOBHM inspired riffs. Are you also inspired by Heavy Metal or is it just my perception?
HoD: Nothing wrong with your ears, our guitarist Black String is probably the main reason for a healthy dose of NWOBHM in our music, being not only a fan of British heavy metal but also of any of its less renowned spawn in the former Eastern Bloc. Ask him about any Russian heavy metal band and he has probably camped in the backyard of the guitarist’s house. The worse, the better! The climax of the entire album is arguably Black String’s guitar solo in „The Bestial Abyss“, and that is heavy metal glory through and through. I treasure that influence because it is so cool to be able to pull that stuff off every once in a while, without being „that“ sort of band.
– Anyway, as mentioned above, to your Death Metal basis you throw elements from different music styles so, what do you think have been some of the most influential artits for the VAMPIRE’s sound?
Musically, Vampire is a very well organized mess of everything we like and hold dearly in the last 30 years or so of metal. Some band names that we tend to bring up in the rehearsal room when writing music: Morbid Angel, Sarcófago, Possessed, Blasphemy, Sodom, Bathory, Mercyful Fate, Autopsy, Master’s Hammer, Nifelheim and Slayer. Mix it all together and add a splash of heroic NWOBHM and you’ll get… well, probably something not very far off from Vampire. From a horror angle, I would personally name Alice Cooper, Necrophobic and Devil Doll as very crucial sources of inspiration.
– As I’ve said early this interview, your logo reminded me a lot to NECROVORE’s, in fact musically I also noticed inspiration from both NECROVORE and early MORBID ANGEL, but on the album you move forward to your own sound and step far from any comparisons to other band. Is this something you strive for or is it rather a natural evolution as artists?
HoD: Weeeeeell, that is out of our control really. The less you can hear of other bands in our music the better, but I wouldn’t say there is a conscious decision that has wiped our songs clean of any derivates. If there is less of other bands on the album than on the demo that proably means we are on the right track to a musical expression more of our own. Nothing is less impressive than bands that seem to find their call on their third or so album and thus end up sounding exactly as something else… and, even more painful, at the same time sound better than ever.
– Proof of both this personality and diversity are songs like “Ungodly Warlock”, with even an acoustic passage. What’s the story behind this song?
HoD: The story behind the acoustic ending is that it is simply too great to have been written by any of us, even though it was my idea to rearrange the time signature of two different film scores and combine them into one line of melody to go sort of intertwined on piano and two harmonious guitars. Can you pin the source down? Clue is in the lyrics… I wrote most of that song and we have re-worked it hundreds of times to get the quite complex arrangement run smoothly. It shifts pulse or beat or whatever to call it in a weird way several times over the course of the song, and if you don’t nail that it sounds sloppy and unimpressive. The theme riff has an almost Blashpemy-like primitivity, while the chorus leans more towards Necrophagia or Dissection or any of those semi-melodic bands from the Swedish 90’s. „Ungodly warlock“ is one of the songs I am most proud of on the album, and I am very happy you ask about that one in particular.
– You have also featured here songs from your demo: “At Midnight I’ll Possess Your Corpse” y “Under the Grudge”. First off; why didn’t you include “The Night It Came Out of the Grave” too? And are there any other songs written that didn’t make it to the album?
HoD: “The Night It Came Out of the Grave” didn’t make it to the track list of the album because we wanted it to be both short and contain as much new material as possible. Leaving that track out in particular made most sense, partly considering the fact the core o fit was originally written already in 2006 for another band I used to be in. “The Night It Came Out of the Grave” will be released on a split 7“ with Miasmal from Gothenburg, which comes out around the time of our showcase gig with Miasmal and Morbus Chron in Gothenburg on the 5 of April.
– These two songs have been rerecorded, and I think this time around both vocals and drums are more upfront, maybe atmosphere isn’t that present, but they have gained in strength. Was this your idea or is it just the mix came out?
HoD: I would probably agree with your characterisation of their differences tot he demo takes, but these differences are completely haphazard and wasn’t anything we planned on. It is very difficult to plan these things, and if you don’t have very much time on your hands, it is probably for the better to just let it happen. The difference you describe is rather typical of the transition from demo to an album production, and I know several bands that have made a similar change. We did what we saw fit in the bigger picture, and as much as I (too?) like the murky atmosphere that is on our demo, it wouldn’t have made sense to stick with that when we had the chance to improve production wise the way we do on the album.
– And talking about such, the horrific atmosphere is still there in a really present way. Where do you draw inspiration from to create such ambience?
HoD: Both me and Black String have our background and musical roots in the 90’s black metal scene, with bands like Emperor, Abigor, Necrophobic and Dark Funeral, so that is probably the musical backbone of Vampire in a way, which is audible at times. When we started writing songs for Vampire, we said we wanted to stay on the right side of 1990 at all times, but we sort of gave that ambition up at some point, I guess right after the demo… There is lots of good stuff that has made a big and important impression on our music recorded and released after that date. Maybe that is where the „horrific atmosphere“ comes from? Very much black metal applies the same note intervals etc. as the score for „The Omen“ and the like. As the main lyricist of Vampire, I obviously draw lots of inspiration from horror fiction, not least contemporary horror literature from Sweden (I can recommend Andreas Marklund and Anders Fager), but also from gothic novels of the 1800’s, very visceral and atmospheric zombie films from Italy, J-horror, mainstream classics from the 70’s and 80’s… I am a fan since childhood, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the other members in the band share that interest. I would say most of the horror flavour present on the album comes from me, being an avid follower of anything horror for the last 20 years or so and a big fan of that sort of inclusions in metal. But things wouldn’t appear on the album if not everyone in the band liked them. There certainly is a general idea to strive for a certain uneasy, uncanny or ghastly atmosphere in the music of Vampire, and where that impulse comes from I really don’t know. We all like spooky, dark and unsettling moods in music, be it the weird noise of The Birthday Party or the mournful grimness of Burzum, and combining that passion with the energy and attitude of 80’s death metal is definitely an ambition we mean to make the most of on albums to come.
– All this about “Vampire” being said; how could you describe this release in just 3 words?
HoD: Ugly, sexy, hysterical.
– And finally, what are your near-future musical plans?
HoD: Play gigs, make good songs, throw away less great ones, eventually come out on tour and hopefully release something tasteful and cool before the next album is in the making.
– That’s all, thank you once more for answering our questions. If you want to add some final words; feel free to do it.
HoD: I can honestly say this is probably the best email interview we have gotten so far, with very well thought out and intelligent questions. Take pride! Sök och du skall finna.