- Hello, Grant! Let’s get back to the times when Death Metal was still a pretty new concept. What were the first bands that took your attention? How did it happen?
- I’m really going to have to dredge the darkest recesses of my mind for an answer. I’m not sure what the first proper death metal band I heard was. It may have been Possessed. I didn’t class them as death metal though. I guess my interest in death metal progressed from thrash and via bands like Cryptic Slaughter, Septic Death, Ludachrist and a lot of 80’s hardcore and of course Death. The first grindcore album I do recall is Unseen Terror’s ”Human Error” and then ”Scum”. It was around that time you had a lot of Swedish death metal bands playing gigs, like Morbid, Treblinka, Nihilist... So they were an obvious influence as well. If I were to name a couple of death metal bands that I did enjoy, well that would be Repulsion, Master and Xecutioner, despite the fact that Obituary do absolutely nothing for me. I wasn’t all that into death metal really. Grindcore was more to my taste. The chaos of grindcore evoked more feelings than the sheer technicality of most death metal bands.
- What was your regular way of digging out the new bands or records? Did you have any cool fanzines? How often did you have live shows? Do you remember your first metal gig?
- I had a fanzine myself, which was doomed from the start, due to me being a very lazy, inconsistent and procrastinating person. It did give me a certain social entrance when writing to bands: ”Hey, I’ve got a fanzine, would you mind if I sent you some questions?” rather than ”I’m a socially awkward 13 year old who thinks you’re fucking awesome, will you be my friend?” Which is basically what I was aiming at anyway. As for finding out about new music: it was word of mouth, other fanzines. Oh, and the thanks lists on albums you liked were a good reference tool as well. Not to forget tape trading and mix tapes from whoever you were writing with. Live shows were pretty rife, so there were a lot of good local bands gigging at the time; G-Anx, Filthy Christians, Svart Snö and of course all the cream of the Swedish death metal at the time. It was good fun, and a great way to hang out with everyone and get stupidly drunk. The music was pretty good too.
First metal gig? Well, that would probably be Anthrax 1986. I do recall it being thoroughly enjoyable. I suppose when you’re 12 years old, you’re not as jaded and cynical as I am now. Anyway, I don’t think I’ll be getting any style points for Joey Belladona & co. How about I just lie and say I saw Venom play in Glasgow 1976. It was awesome.
- Those days, how could you describe your local underground scene? Swedish Death Metal is well known around the globe, but what did it look like at its early stage?
- Almost everyone knew each other. It was very unpretentious and there was very little drama. Not that I noticed or cared about anyway. I wasn’t really a big part of it in the sense that I had any idea of the big picture. It was just a good way to hang out with lots and lots of great & pleasant lunatics and have a good time. It wasn’t unusual for around 50 metalheads, punks and general freaks to hang around together and wander the streets of Stockholm and just having a laugh. This was just before anyone was really old enough to get into pubs and nightclubs, so we ended up just drinking what we could get a hold of and just hang around and be annoying. The kind of thing that irks me nowadays, and yes I do see the irony in that. It’s all part of being a boring bloody adult. We’re paying for our past sins with a healthy dose of mild annoyance towards our original behaviour now that it’s the younger generation doing it. Bloody kids.
- In 1988 General Surgery was born. So, how did you meet each other? And how did you end up by creating a band? Who came up with that name and did you discuss any other versions?
- Matti and I knew each other from a while back. I haven’t a clue how we met. Matti and I shared an intense liking of Carcass, and he had played in a grindcore band called Berbe who had released one very obscure rehearsal. In a way I guess it was a continuation of that band, since the original idea was for Matti to play drums in GS, like he had done in Berbe. I was going to play bass. Jonas DeRouche was going to play guitar and Richard Cabeza was on vocals. I’d like to take the opportunity to point out that this may very well be totally incorrect. I really can’t remember much around that time, so my memories may be a bit muddled. The gist of it is that due to my total and utter incompetence and laziness, nothing came out of the first version of the band, and it was after I buggered off that they got the proper line up of the band together. Matti came up with the name, and we settled on it without much discussion. There may have been other suggestions before that, but they’re forever lost in the fogs of time. Which is probably for the best, considering how young we were. I’m pretty sure some of the alternatives were pretty bloody stupid.
- In 1990 General Surgery released 3 demos, but you didn’t perform on it. Why? How did it happen? What do you think about that material?
- Were there three demos? I thought there were only two studio demos, which I didn’t appear on, and then the final rehearsal demo which I did appear on. Well, the less said about that recording, the better. I didn’t have anything to do with the band for the first demo. I didn’t even know they were recording it. It was only when they released it and asked me if I could help out with some of the lyrics for the second demo (which would become the ”Pestiferous Anthropophagia” demo) that I got back in the loop again. The title of the demo and about 70% of the lyrics are mine, but nothing musically or performance-wise. Personally I think the first demo is the better of them. Yes, the second demo was recorded in Sunlight, but the first demo has the element of sludge and noise which really appeals to me.
- You are appeared back on the last demo, “Internecine Prurience”. Originally, you meant to play bass, so how did you end up doing the lead vocals?
- Actually, it was earlier on I was supposed to attempt to play the bass. When it came to this rehearsal demo, I seem to recall that Richard had left the band to concentrate on Dismember, or perhaps it was Unanimated. So, since I had helped out with the lyrics to the previous demo, I was asked if I wanted to be back in the band. The idea was that Matti was to do the low end vocals, and myself to do the high end ones, such as Richard had done. As it turned out we did a little bit of everything vocally. What I do remember about that demo was lugging the bloody 4-track back from the rehearsal space on the bus and underground and the fucking thing weighed a bloody ton. And the recording ended up sounding absolutely horrendous anyway. I think the idea was to try out the songs before going into the studio to record the EP, so in that sense it wasn’t an utter failure. Seriously though, it is nigh on unlistenable.
- In 1991 you released your classic “Necrology” EP. First of all, how did you get in touch with Relapse Records? Did you have any other offers?
- Bill Yurkiewicz got in touch with us after hearing the demos. This was before Relapse, when he had Grind Till Global Perfection records. Somehow that morphed into Relapse Records. I think we were originally supposed to do a split with Disrupt, which would have been quite nifty. We hadn’t really had any other offers, and Bill, and after a while Matt Jacobsen as well, were such great guys we didn’t feel any need to look at any other offers. Despite the risk of sounding like a cliché; it was a simpler time for all of us. Our original contract for the EP was one page. Anyone with any insight into the record business knows how absurd that sounds nowadays.
- Tell us about the recordings, how did it go? Did you have any particular difficulties? You’ve been working at the Sunlight Studio, with Tomas Skogsberg. How could describe the experience of working with him?
- The rest of the band had experience with studios, so it all went smoothly. We recorded over the course of an evening and night. From around 5pm to 5am, and then another day or two for mixing and additional vocals. It was great working with Tomas Skogsberg. A more laid-back guy is hard to find. This was when Sunlight was at its smallest, so it was kind of cozy. There were no drugs or booze involved, so that’s about as interesting and rock n roll as my anecdote will get. Oh well.
- So, why did you call your quits after this release? Didn’t you plan to record a full-length afterwards?
- The full-length wasn’t exactly planned, more along the lines of blabbing with Bill & Matt from Relapse, and mentioning that ”Sex-God-Pathology” would be kind of a cool title for an album. I was listening to a lot of Swans at that time, thus that title. Judge our surprise when a full-length was announced by Relapse. A pleasant surprise, though. Unfortunately, due to lack of interest, running out of ideas and generally being at that point in life where things tend to go all over the place, the band was put on full-time hold. I moved away from Stockholm to study, we had other musical interests, and whatnot. No single reason in other words. Things just got between us and the band.
- At some point later, you were in Meat Missile band, together with Joacim Carlsson, and you even recorded one demo. Tell us a bit about that project, and why it didn’t work out for you? Who else was involved?
- Ah yes, the aforementioned ”other musical interests” led to that. Both Jocke and myself were listening to a lot of Ministry, and Meat Missile was our rather disastrous attempt to emulate that style. I had bought a drum machine (Alesis SR-16, the same as Godflesh. Not that it helped us in any sense sound even remotely as good as them) and we thought it would be fun to record some songs in Sunlight. It ended up sounding fucking horrendous. Especially the vocals, which were not totally unlike an angry constipated bear trying to sound tough in a very unconvincing manner. The only song on the demo which I remotely acknowledge is an instrumental, ”Blue Sunshine”, whose title was coined by Tomas Skogsberg. It was basically improvised, which absurdly makes it one of the few listenable songs from that recording. To sum it up: it was Jocke, myself and a friend called Niklas trying to play ”industrial” music. It didn’t work. To put it lightly, it wasn’t very good at all, and the less said about it, the better.
- Was it in 1999 when you decided to come back? Who was the initiator? Did you try to contact other original members too?
- Jocke came up with the idea. It seemed like a good idea. I’d moved back to Stockholm and it also may have had something to do with being offered to be on the Carcass tribute album, as it was around that time that we started looking for other sad bastards, such as ourselves, to complete the band. We didn’t really have any contact with Mats Nordrup, and as far as we knew, he had given up drumming. Matti was busy with Dismember at the time, as was Richard. Or maybe he’d even moved to the states by then. We tried out a few drummers, but it wasn’t really until we got in touch with Adde from Birdflesh that things started to take off. Then Andreas got on board and, that was the first second or third or fourth line-up formed. Depending on how you count. Maybe even fifth. We’re kind of inconsistent.
- Within a few years you released some Splits, featuring The County Medical Examiners, Filth and Machetazo. What do you think about those releases? Why did you decide to go with splits instead of focusing on a long-play?
- Personally I really like the splits. I think our efforts on them are some of my favourites due to their slightly more DIY feeling and unpolished sound. Getting to share with some really great bands is also kind of an honour. Recording splits was an advantage in quite a few ways. You didn’t have the pressure of recording a whole album of songs and not having to spend a larger amount of money on recording the aforementioned album’s amount of songs. It’s a less stressful type of release, and it’s nice to share space with some great bands. Looking back, I’d say that the TCME split is my favourite of all our recordings, Necrology be damned.
- And in 2006 you released your debut full-length. Say, how did you feel when you finally did it, after almost 20 years since the band’s birth?
- I didn’t really think of it in that sense, but now that you put it that way, I suppose it was kind of special. At the time, it was just nice to get the finished product released, listen to it with a sense of pride, and hope that it got a relatively OK reception. I think it did, so I’m satisfied. I don’t think anyone in the band really compared it to the old times, i.e. ”Necrology”. I don’t think we really had much of a relationship with that EP, apart from the fact that we knew it was one of our most popular releases, which meant the songs on it were definite crowd pleasers no matter what we thought of them. We were at the point where we liked to focus on our most current material. The kind of attitude a lot of bands have, which probably irritates the hell out of their audiences, who naturally want to hear the classic stuff. Nowadays, I can look back and see both ”Necrology” and ”LHP” in a more nostalgic sense. I’m not sure what my point here is exactly. I have a tendency to go off on a tangent and lose my train of thought. Mindless blethering, in other words. That what you get when you ask a lyricist a simple question.
- “Left Hand Pathology”, who came up with that title? And what can you say about the lyrics? Who was the main writer? Was it difficult to come up with those very complicated songs’ titles?
- That was Adde. The idea behind that was a play on our whole retro-Carcass-worship style. Why constrain ourselves to ripping off Carcass, when we can reference other bands of the time. Personally, I’ve always had a thing for play on words. It adds a bit of humour and variation, rather than the straight forward ”Smash your face in with a fucking hammer” style of lyrics, which are fine, if that’s your thing. Violence and humour go hand in hand in my little world. And yes, I realize that makes me sound more of a psychopath than I probably am. So, I think I wrote most of the lyrics. The rest of the band contributed to an extent with certain phrases and ideas, though. Then it was up to me to try and piece them together into something resembling coherent lyrics. As usual I worked with thesauruses and dictionaries in order to write a simple phrase in a needlessly complicated manner. The song titles were that method taken to the extreme. It’s actually really good fun creating absurd writings like that. Admittedly, some of the lines and lyrics are grammatically incorrect and more than occasionally make absolutely no sense. My defence for that is ”surrealism”, rather than ”stupidity”. As long as at least someone’s entertained by my lyrical rambling, I’m a happy bunny.
- How did the recording sessions go? How long did it take you to record the whole material? Whose idea was it to invite Matti Karki once again to record some vocals?
- The sessions went absolutely fine. The rest of the band have to take credit for that, and especially Jocke who spent the most time of all, through the entire recording and mixing. The majority of the instruments were recorded in a couple of days, the basics live I think, but I may be wrong, and the vocals took about two days, for both my vocals and Addes extreme high/low end vocals, plus some random screaming and gurgling from the rest of the band. Jocke was the one who had the idea to see if Matti wanted to do some guest vocals, to get a bit of an old-school tie-in with the original line-up. It turned out really well. As I mentioned before, it’s not easy to make recording anecdotes interesting. Especially for someone with such a bad memory as myself. If you want to make up some sordid details, then you have my blessing. Wait, I take that back.
- And then you decided to leave the band. What was the reason for such a decision?
- I hadn’t really been happy or comfortable with the being in a band for a while. Not any rock and roll type of thing, I just I felt it took too much time and energy, and although I may joke about it, I am a very procrastinating person. There were a myriad of other personal reasons as well. To put it lightly, I’m not a people person, so touring and travelling didn’t work for me at all. I didn’t handle it in a good way whatsoever, and unfortunately the band suffered because of it. I’m not proud of my efforts (or lack thereof) back then, or even who I was in connection with the band (not an especially cooperative or pleasant individual), and I was really happy that they got someone as good as Erik as a replacement, so it all ended well eventually.
-Three years later General Surgery recorded another album, “Corpus in Extremis: Analysing Necrocriticism”, and you were also invited to do some guest vocals. I suppose, you are still in a good relationship with the band, aren’t you? What do you think about that album?
- Yeah, we’re still friends, and despite my misgivings of being in a band, I do miss it occasionally. I try to help out when I have the time, mainly helping with lyrics if needed. I don’t have much contact with them, but that’s mostly due to me being a bit of a reclusive sociopath. It’s a great album, a very different monster than the early days, but still retaining the filth and grindcore aura of then. To be honest though, I like the ”Like an Ever Flying Limb” EP better. They’ve come a long way from the pure Carcass worship of the early 90’s.
- Looking back at your career with GS, what are the most important moments for you? Could you also highlight some of the best live shows you did together?
- Recording the vocals for the TCME split in a cupboard in my parents’ house. It had surprisingly good acoustics. I enjoyed the trials and tribulations of that entire recording, what with it being as DIY as possible. The end result shows that, and the remastered versions of those songs really make me smile. It was a new start and my personal enthusiasm was at a peak. Also the final gig of the Gore over Japan tour, playing Tokyo was an experience like no other. Playing two Maryland Death Fests was a fantastic experience, meeting masses of fantastic people. One of the first moments back in the early days which blew me away, was seeing the Necrology EP in a mainstream record store in Sweden mid 90’s with a sticker proclaiming it to be ”Classic cult death metal.” Also, seeing the LHP album on the wall of a record store in my home town of Glasgow. There’s been a lot of fun and laughs through the years.
- Thank you very much for this interview, Grant. Would you like to add anything in the end?
- Cheers to you for having the interest to interview me. I’m honestly quite humbled by it. As I’ve probably stated several times during the interview, a few facts might be incorrect due to my mind playing tricks on me, or just refusing to cooperate at all. Hopefully I haven’t bored you to tears completely. If I have, well… Ying Tong Iddle I Po.
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