- Hello, guys! Let's come back to the early days of the band. How did you meet each other? What actually influenced you to start your own band?
- (Stipen) We all lived in the town Strängnäs, me, Erik and Karlén rehearsed in the same space but in different bands, which played like Accept covers and our own type of punk, but one day we thought that we should start a more brutal band like Metallica/Slayer. We hooked up with Kåle, the first singer in the band thru hockey i think he he. Erik and me played in a hockey team back then when we where like 14 years. Rogga came in little later from another Strängnäsband called Hellfire, Kåle had decided that he wanted to go serious with his EPA tractor :-)
- Do you remember who came up with that name? Did you discuss any other versions too? Who did the original logo for you?
- (Stipen) I really don´t remember, before Merciless, we called us Obsessed and Black Mass, actually the first gig we did in our hometown was under the name Black Mass. The first Merciless logo from the Behind The Black Door demo I think Karlén made, the one that we still use today is a work of art by Wim Bealus.
- (Erik) As far as I remember Karlén more or less took the name from the song "Merciless Death" by the mighty Dark Angel´s classic album "Darkness Descends".
- The first demo, "Behind the Black Door", was released in 1987. Do you remember how long it took you to record it? And what can you say about working in Svangrummet studio?
- (Stipen) I think we recorded and "mixed" it in just one day, first time we ever entered a studio. We thought it was like the coolest studio back then, because a punkband called Strebers recorded there, and they were the first band we could relate to in our region that played fast music.
- (Erik) Jep, that was made in one day, we couldn't afford more studio time actually! It was a 1,2,3,4 go live recording instrumental, vox separate and one great guitar lead on total destruction!
- That was the limited edition, around 100 copies. How did you distribute it? Were you involved into tape-trading? Do you remember one of the first bands you were in contact with?
- (Stipen) As said earlier, there was not many bands that played fast and aggressive back then, so I think we started to trade demos directly after BTBD, but I think that when Realm Of The Dark demo was released it started for real with the trading. We traded with all the Swedish bands Nihilist/Entombed, Grave, Unleashed, Tribulation, Carbonized, Dismember, but very quick through fanzines and magazine´s, we started to trade with bands like Sepultura, Morbid Angel, Sadus, Autopsy, Obituary to name a few. The first band was Hellfire for sure, we rehearsed in the same room for a while and they introduced us to some Eskilstuna (neighbor city) bands, but it didn't take long before we traded with most of the bands in the scene.
- With the next demo, "Realm of the Dark", some line-up changes happened. So, how did you loose Kalle and find Rogga? What do you remember about the first rehearsals with the new singer?
- (Stipen) Kalle needed more time for his motor interests he thought, and we rehearsed in the same room as Rogga´s band Hellfire, but I don't remember who asked him, and I don´t remember anything from the rehearsals from that time, he-he.
- (Erik) Me and Karlén went to Rogga's place one day to ask him if he wanted to join us! Cause we had had thoughts for some time replacing Kåle the Motor-Moron! Rogga accepted and from the first roar from him we just new this was gonna take the band into a higher level, the first song we did with him was "Realm of the dark"...from that point I´d say Merciless went from a school-boy band into something that actually sounded pretty good!
- And that was the first release with your new logo. Was it Wim Baelus? Who actually did the whole cover for this tape. Was it done intentionally? Did you feel the need to re-brand it?
- (Erik) Jep, Wim Bealus did the whole thing! I think he just did it without any directions from us, maybe we mentioned the title "Realm of the dark! DEF no need to rebrand. Later he also did the crazy faring Merciless helmed Elk we used for a shirt motive!
- Your debut full-length, "The Awakening", was released in 1990. First of all, how did you get the deal with Deathlike Silence Production? That was its first release. Did you consider any other offers as well?
- (Stipen) I really don´t remember, but i think it was Pelle (Dead) RIP, who spread the word when he joined Mayhem, and Eronymous and Hellbutcher got interested in signing us, as the first release on the label. I remember the 3 of them came down to the studio in Eskilstuna where we recorded The Awakening, I remember a bit of nervousness :-), but they where really nice and great guys.
- (Karlén) We´re good friend with the Pelle and the guys in Morbid in 1987-88, Pelle later decided to move to Norway and Mayhem. He introduced Merciless to them and I think he phoned us up and asked if we were in for a rec deal with DSP. We were young and just thought it was bloody cool that someone wanted to release an record with us! Maybe we should have wait for an offer from a bigger label, but on the other hand this release has become a kind of mythical release in the underground!
- Where did you record it? How did the recording sessions go overall? The album was recorded in 1989, but released a year later only. What caused the delay?
- (Stipen) We recorded The Awakening in Eskilstuna in a studio called Tuna Studio at that time. I think it went quite easy and smooth, we where rookies back then, we didn't have anything to compare with, but the coolest is that everything back then, was recorded live, if the take was a great take for the band as a whole, then you kept it, even if there was a blooper on the drums or the guitar, you just went for the right feel. That´s something I miss these days, now everything is done at home and you just clip the things together. Everything was better then, ha ha ha :-)
- (Karlén) DSP had some money issue after Mayhem did their Eastern European tour during the same time they had planned the release for Awakening.
- How did you choose the cover for it? And how can you comment on the fact that Sacred Crucifix and later Monastery also used it? Was it a bit confusing?
- (Stipen) I have no clue he he, sorry but I have never heard of those bands, but obviously it has worked so far, we have a lot of listeners, so i think it works :-)
- (Karlén) I found that picture in a book at the library, I tear the page out, the font I took from my moms old typewriter!
- When did you find out about another Merciless band, from France? Who was in contact with them? Was it kinda of a mutual agreement that they'll change their name to Mercyless?
- (Stipen) I think Karlen contacted them, but I´m not sure, I remember we where little pissed about it, but in the end, it worked out quite good for both bands.
- (Karlén) I was pretty damn resolute back in those day, Merciless was my life! I sent a letter and told them to change name, they only put in the "Y" instead!
- In 1992 you released your second album, "The Treasures Within". And it sounds so fresh and massive, even now. So, tell us about the choice of Tomas Skogsberg as your engineer and producer and about that experience.
- (Stipen) Ah cool that you dig it, I´m really proud of this album today, back then I was not, I thought the production sucked and I wasn't satisfied with my drumming. Today I think it´s a cool sounding old school death/trash album, I really like the tunes, both listen to them and play them live. We had tried Tomas for a two-song demo a while before we decided to record TTW. Before we contacted him for the demo, we tried out a studio in a little town, Enköping, don´t remember the name of the studio, but the sound guys had never heard this type of music before, and the result was proving that, it sucked biiiiig time! So we went for a safe card when we chose Tomas, we knew that he was capable of doing it right.
- (Erik) I remember all of us where really disappointed with the sound picture after the mix of the album, we did have a lot of controversies with Tomas, I think a lot of it had to do with us being unable to explain our thought in the right way! The remastering in 2003 gave this record a new life! Today I really enjoy listening to it!
- While working on that album, did you have any kind of challenges? Did you plan to do a better or faster record or did it come up naturally?
- (Stipen) I think we where looking for a little more variations in the songs compared to The Awakening. TA songs were more structured like punksongs, I think it came naturally to do something that we never had tried before.
- Lennart Wallin did the artwork. Who was that guy, because looks like it was his only work for metal bands. As it doesn't have any blood or skulls on it, at that time, wasn't it a bit risque for you? How does it go together with your lyrics?
- (Stipen) Don´t remember a thing about this he he!
- (Karlén) I was out walking in the city and saw that painting in a gallery window, I went in and talked to the artist and he said we could buy it!
- (Erik) We couldn't really top the Awakening cover with skulls etc! So, like the songs we wanted to have something different, but maybe your thoughts are right about us taking a chance with the hardcore fans thinking it was to lame for em!
- After releasing 2 such good albums, what was your concert life like? Did you play often? Did you have any European or USA tours?
- (Stipen) No, we did not play that much, and just in Sweden, once we went to Norway with Tribulation, Kazjurol and maybe Suffer?? But as a whole we did not tour much. I think the reason was that we where to uninterested in the business, and just wanted to play/rehearse and drink peoples-beer :-) The Stockholm bands got record deals with bigger labels and got signed to booking agencies/managements, but we lived 80 km from Stockholm, so I think back then, it was a barrier, to live so "far" from the big city where everything happened.
- (Erik) No big tours back then due to the reasons Stipen mentioned! We did had interest from 1 or 2 major metal labels but decided to go with Chicken brain Rec/Active, just a stupid choice! But we had one unforgettable gig supporting Sepultura (their first European gig ever). And we also did a Scandinavian tour with Entombed in 1993.
- In 1994 you released the "Unbound" CD. If you take it overall, then there was a tendency that many bands started playing very different music from their previous releases, but it didn't happen to you. Instead, you did a very solid album. How could you describe those times and environment for Merciless? While working on that material, what were your main goals?
- (Erik) As I mentioned we´re disappointed with the result of TTW, the first mix just destroyed the album in my opinion! After that I felt a strong need to prove we could create something better! I remember being very picky with every riff had to be perfect for its purpose in the song, for ex the song "Unbound"...we had the whole tune ready for 3-4 months but just couldn´t find the right chorus! Then one day it just came to my head, the perfect one out of the blue! One tiny part in a song can really make the whole difference in my opinion! But we didn´t have any bigger goals except from doing great songs to be honest!
- Dan Swano created a perfect sound for this album. Tell us about the recordings of the "Unbound". How long did it take you? Did you face any difficulties?
- (Erik) He sure did a great job on the album and helped out as producer as well. He was great to work with and was very engaged from minute one to the end! On the earlier recording we never change a note or a word in the studio! Now we did a lot of tryouts with both the sound and arrangements, there are some parts that I don´t find so cool these days with choirs and folkloric melody guitars, gets a bit too dramatic maybe! But we liked it back then! We finished the album with the mix in 10 days (the budget again) he really gave a good price for it, and it´s ridiculous! Hail to him and his driving spirit for metal!
- Somehow, the same year you split-up. What was the reason for it?
- (Erik) It´s really weird with the break up in 1994 actually, can´t give you a good answer really! We were super pleased with "Unbound" and maybe we expected to hear that this time things would take off for us, but nothing really happened and we accused our Rec label for it. But to be honest we didn´t do anything ourselves to get it going with booking agencies etc!
- What was happening until 1999, the year you re-united. Who was the main initiator? Was it an easy decision?
- (Erik) Karlén made a demo in 97-98 with a guy who had a home studio and was a great guitarist, he sent over the demo to us and after a while we decided we could give it a try again!
- And then, in 2002 you released the self-titled album, simply one of your best. When did you first start working on that material? What were your intentions with that comeback release? Because it sounds old-school as hell!
- (Erik) We started to write songs after Karlén's demo and did another demo in -99, not at all the class as "Unbound" but we played at least! Our expectations were fairly low for a start, then we started getting back to a higher level in song writing again, more demos and all of a sudden we had an album to record! 3 years time for us slow bastards to write those song! Maybe it sounds sloppy, but again no other intentions but to write good tunes!
- How did it happen that Jörgen Sandström wrote a music for one of your songs? And then he also did some backing vocals too.
- (Erik) I think Jörgen planned to use that song for Entombed but it didn't really fit in for them so he gave it to us and contributed with backing roaring vocals as always!!
- So, what is the current state of the band? Are you working on the new material? Beside the announced mega-concert in October, will there be any other concerts? Maybe, a European Tour?
- (Stipen) For now, we are focusing on one gig this year, and that´s the CU Boat. In 2017? Maybe we´ll do something more, or not.. he he. We are gonna have some fun rehearsing the songs and get together for the first time in 9 years as a band for the Boat, and after that we might conquer the world :-)
- Thank you so much for this interview. Would you like to add anything in the end?
- (Stipen) Thank you Dima for letting us dig in the past and remembering some funny moments :-) I hope to see a lot of you Merciless locos at the boat this fall!! Cheers!!
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