– Hi Jonathan, thanks for taking your time. What are you currently up to? How is everything going in the STENCH’s camp right before unleashing your sophomore album?
Hi Tania! Right now I am preparing some of the new material for the upcoming Tribulation album. We (Stench) are eagerly awaiting the arrival of the vinyls, which will be the ultimate result of our work. When we have them in our hands the circle will be closed.
– First off I would like to know how did the idea of forming the band (with Johannes, your mate in TRIBULATION) arose.
It was actually Johannes and Mikael who first came up with the idea of forming Stench, and then they asked me if wanted to join them. It was a momentum for me in my newly found creative drive, so it turned out as an ideal opportunity to make use of that energy by pouring it into the band. Furthermore, me and Johannes had actually previously been jamming together from time to time for some years with him behind the drums, but it had never ended up in anything concrete. When Stench was formed we could finally unite our musicalities and bring forth that which for a long time only had been lying under the surface as unrealized potential.
– This second album is entitled «Venture». What meaning does the title hold personally to you? Is quite straight-forward and explicit, but I feel it means much more than the obvious of, in some way, depicting the musical content. In fact the whole album feels really personal.
Indeed it is personal. The title (and the title track) ”Venture” stands for a courage to dare living according to your will and dreams, and to dare to see our existence as the adventure it really is. It is an ovation to the weightless yet powerful state of mind, where curiosity, lust and playfulness are the predominant emotions, but led by a grave focus and devotion. It also displays an intense longing for this emotional state, as if it were something rare, fluctuating and hard to obtain, but very much worth pursuing. As for the album as a whole, it deals a lot with motion and change as main themes as something to acknowledge, accept and letting it become a part of how we perceive life. As when death (even as a symbol – the end of the known and the boundary to the unknown) is wholeheartedly embraced as a condition of existence, it is as if your life starts to move in the direction of the progression of time – you stop wasting your years struggling against it by holding on to physical things, ideas or preconceptions (generally all conservative dispositions). ”Change” becomes the only really palpable thing to cling on to, which ironically is impalpable in its nature.
– I’ve read you have been working on it throughout the last 4 years so, how was the songriting process been in general terms? I mean, have you been composing songs during all these years or simply collecting riffs and ideas?
Some songs just came in all their completeness, such as ”Small Death”, ”Celebration” and ”Venture”. They were written in one go, almost as if writing themselves. Others are the fruition of a long process of constant idea-gathering and song-construction. At one point we had about 20 songs ready to be taken on, but after the scrutinization of what actually would suit the specific mood of the album, only 7 songs remained (during this song selection, the 7 inch EP from earlier this year also came into being). All music was as good as done as early as late 2012, but we ended up needing a lot more time in order to find the right moment to proceed with the final phase. During this period the music had enough space to sink in and really become a part of our minds, while the ideas for the artwork were given an opportunity to catch up with how far we had come with the music. In January 2014 the time had finally arrived to start finalizing the album.
– Having spent some years on the songs and the album you may have seen a certain evolution and changes on them so, how do you think «Venture» has evolved since you started to write it?
Actually, not much. The feeling and idea of what the album would to be like was clear right from the start, and the vision did not budge much during the whole period of completing it. The title track was written first of all songs, followed shortly by ”Celebration”, and after that the direction was set in stone. From there the album went from a strong initial feeling/idea straight towards the final outcome in a slow but steady pace. At the same time I saw it as important to not hinder one’s creativity by blocking out ideas that did not fit perfectly into the template of what I was looking for – it is always better to just let your intuition guide the way and let everything that comes up gush right out of you. If you do that, you are sure to find some really interesting things that might be worth keeping, for other occasions if nothing else. Every drop of energy you put into your creative work you get back twofold – just perhaps not always in the way you expected or hoped for.
– Due to your line-up and some other similarities I guess you might get compared all the time to your other band, TRIBULATION. How do you feel about this? As both bands are two different entities that stand by themselves but I also find certain similarities between them both, apart from the fact you are still playing Death Metal.
It was a bit tiresome right in the beginning, but I don’t mind anymore. It’s only natural I guess. As long as both bands share members it is hard to avoid being compared to each other. We are probably also bound to share some qualities due to the very same reason.
– For instance I think both bands are really emotional; you channel emotions through your music, something that also is connected to your lyrics, but you also manage to create emotions on your listeners. Due to this I would like to know what’s your music for you? Is maybe, among others, an outlet for your thoughts and feelings?
Absolutely. I think that music in all its forms always has an innate expression – music is feelings being expressed. One of the main reasons I am writing music at all is that there is a need to manifest what I am feeling and thinking, as if putting my emotions in a larger context would help me act out and make sense of them. I think we all have a need of being creative and vent one’s inner stirrings, and music is a perfect tool for both purposes.
– This being said, what are some of the things/emotions that the lyrics on the album express?
In this order; fear and ambivalence, frustration and doubt, determination, devotion and self-sacrifice, exaltation, will and power, and finally spirit and joy.
– Since your debut came out I’ve thought STENCH is a way of disguising certain things you want to express, not just by not speak them out in an obvious way, but also using a veil of terror. In fact this «horrific» touch I see it as one of your trademarks. When you started the band, was it important for you to have certain solid trademarks? Or is just everything with STENCH something more spontaneous and natural?
There has always existed a wish within myself to express something profound, powerful and extreme, and themes related to horror were close at hand when it came to channel those energies. Fear, death and morbidity have always obviously frightened me, but in addition also fascinated and drawn me in even more, so as a source of inspiration it is as natural as it could be.
– Your music I think it also has certain aesthetic, always really dark still beautiful. In that way that «horrific» element I mentioned plays an important role, as well as the whole atmosphere, which also fits all this dark/gothic vibe. Is this kind of feeling something you strive for?
Metal can sometimes operate as an extreme and amplified version of melancholia, in which gloom and beauty experiences go hand i hand. That is an aspect of this genre I really appreciate, and in some respect also constantly is striving to acquire. I think there is a great deal of beauty and power to be found in the ”negative” emotional field (where also ”the horrific” resides), which especially emerges in the interplay between something that assumes the role of an opposite – in this case something joyous and ”positive”. That friction makes me feel at home. Things too one-dimensional that only appeals to one side of the coin tends to feel a bit flat, and does not interest me as much as when this (subjective) equilibrium is making itself known. In midst of the Uncanny Valley, where the friction is as strongest, is also where things are as most interesting.
– Musically this album is a relentless Death Metal assault, fast, primitive and raw, heavy and puddly, still pounding, doomie sometimes and really atmospheric. By atmospheric I don’t mean it’s ethereal, slow or melodic at all, but you manage to make a whole thing out of every detail in the record. Due to this I would like to know what do you want to express through this big whole atmosphere and where do you draw inspiration from to create such an eerie ambience.
To be perfectly honest, I am not quite sure myself why the eerieness and the ghostly mood is so important to me. As mentioned above, I am attracted by things that scare me, and I draw power and inspiration from encountering them. If I were to speculate, maybe by creating this atmospheres myself I am attempting to become the very thing I dread, thus overcoming it – turning a weakness into a strength. But that is just an after-construction, I can not truthfully answer your question.
– I think the focus is on guitars, with really straight-forward and repetitive riffs. In fact this is the overall recipe for the music itself. In these terms; how did you approach your guitar work?
Overall we wanted to use as few components as possible and make the most out them. so everything was boiled down to a concentrated form until we reached a point where every detail actually mattered and had a reason for being where it was. The trait of monotony and repetition came as a natural consequence of this. As the writing-process were about to commence, I was very tired of the notion that the more stuff and ideas you cram into your songs, the better it gets – which is such a superficial idea. Quick fixes of novelty equals not quality. The goal should not be to bring something new to the table just for the sake of innovation, but rather to do something that really matters, regardless of how it may turn out. Writing music that truly brings out what you are carrying inside of yourself. Striving for undisturbed communication between the internal (your mind/heart) and the external (the world, other people’s minds). Honesty is my only demand.
– The album was recorded, mixed and mastered by your friend in ENFORCER Jonas Wikstrand, with whom you have already worked before. Does working with someone you really know making things easier? Is confidence a good recipe to obtain the result you strive for?
Yes, but regardless of who you are working with should a collaboration be built upon confidence, trust and above all, proper communication. Without this could the process of completing an album turn into a minor hell, and the outcome would suffer the consequences. Since Jonas and I have known each other for such a long time and previously worked together in different constellations, we have developed a common pre-understanding of each others’ characters and ways of thinking, which I assume helps us in communicating efficiently in order to achieve our targets (which is getting as close as possible to the vision of what ”Venture” should be and sound like).
– You have always done the art for your own albums, and this time you made no exception. Do you prefer to do the art for your own bands or for other bands? I guess doing the visuals for your own albums makes easier to capture and portrait the essence of your music.
Yes, by doing everything (music, lyrics and art) on the album yourself, every part gets more interwoven and dependent on each other. There is a triangular relationship going on between these three components, through which they support and lean upon each other in order to make up the being which is the album. As for art for other bands, I have actually indefinitely decided to not take on new commissions. Although it has been stimulating and mind-broadening to illustrate for others’ artistic work, there has been a realization on my part that I need to prioritize and focus on what I consider as truly important. Time is more precious than recognition or money.
– In fact the cover artwork recalls to the cover for «In Putrescence». For some reason is recognizable and people can easily relate it to STENCH. Did it just end up like this or was being recnognizable something important?
The single most important thing, then as well as now, is that the logo were to be placed in the middle and that everything else should be built around that center of attention to emphasize its importance. A big circle and the logo is the first thing you see on both covers, and that just how it should be.
– And what does the whole art express? Would you mind to elaborate a little bit on the link existing between cover, lyrics, atmosphere and artwork? As I have always felt everything in STENCH works as a whole. Visuals, music and lyrics aren’t separete things, but a whole art.
An idea of the ultimate audio-visual experience in the form of an album is something that has haunted me since my late teens, and is something I have had in the back of my head ever since the first Tribulation record. It was not enough to just write and record music, which somehow occurred to me as insufficient and almost paltry. It had to be more to it somehow, as if something bigger were hiding behind the corner. Not only should the music and lyrics hold a larger meaning and purpose than what the usual rock/metal-related nonsensical topics are about, but it should also be presented in a way that would have a greater impact on the listener. So, by seeing the album as being constituted of three important sections (music, lyrics and visuals) more of your senses would simultaneously be stimulated, and this greater involvement with the album would be achieved. I would eventually turn out to be aspiring to create an injection of an intense art experience that takes you away to another place and fills you up with the vivifying juice of its atmosphere, feelings and meaning of its own. I feel closer than ever to have made this triune piece of lyrics, music and illustration in the form of this Stench-album, but I also have a feeling that I am standing on the threshold of a much longer journey. Maybe I barely have got started.
– All this about “Venture” being said; how could you describe it in just 3 words?
Detachment, curiosity, dedication.
– And finally, what are your near-future plans?
Nothing I can disclose at the moment, sorry.
– That’s all, thank you once more for answering our questions. If you want to add some final words; feel free to do it.
Thank you for the interview! My last words: focus on the artwork, it holds the key to the bigger picture of what ”Venture” is all about.