In our ongoing investigation of deceptive and outright fraudulent extreme metal acts, we pull the rug under a handful of established outfits that don’t even seem to bother hiding that they are after your money first, artistic integrity a distant second - an audience satisfaction not even registering. The more we pull away the blinds the more obvious these practices become. Maybe your favorite band is in here, maybe your life-long inspiration only cares about the dollars/euros you’re giving him/her? Don’t be fooled, there are plenty of honest, hard-working metal bands everywhere in the scene. It’s just that these money-hungry, artistically vacuum units make it difficult for everybody involved. These bands stopped caring, they lost the passion and fire. In short: they Sold Their Souls...
interview by - Wouter Roemers
Anybody familiar with the Stockholm death - and black metal scene of the 1990s will recognize and acknowledge the importance of David Parland. He made significant contributions to the sound associated with the capital through his body of work, including but not limited to Necrophobic and the original incarnation of Dark Funeral. He also had a hand in one of the earlier so-called supergroups with War, featuring members of Ophthalamia, Dark Funeral, In Aeternum and Hypocrisy. On the side of all that, he has been working on his personal project Infernal in parallel with most of these bands. Masterful Magazine caught up with David to talk about the early days of the Stockholm/Swedish scene, his involvement as primary songwriter/founding member of Necrophobic, Dark Funeral and how he views both bands these days. On top of that, we pick his brain on the labels he has worked with and the days of running his own label/distribution company with Hellspawn Records.
You are a resident of death metal capital Stockholm in Sweden. Shed some light on the years leading on to Necrophobic’s formation and how you got your first taste of extreme metal. What prompted you to form a darker sort of death metal band than what was around at the time with like-minded individuals? Were there any bands or projects of note before that you were involved in?
Well, the early years were very special, and that´s something that only quite few people involved in the scene really understand. I´d say here in Stockholm, except for fans, there were not more than 50 people that were around and played in bands, at the time. Those were people that were in early formations of what that later became Nihilist/Entombed, Unleashed, Tiamat, Dismember, and a little later - also Necrophobic.
Basically all were fans of extreme metal, and went to all these underground gigs. We got to know each other through demo-trading or meeting at the infamous Heavy Sound record store which specialized in metal, but extreme metal purely. So a lot of the early bands and people that were around in the late 80´s hung there.
Before the formation of Necrophobic in 1989 I had basically only played with a few bands in my local youth club in the suburb where I used to live by then, in the south of Stockholm. Nothing really that led to anything serious. However, in 1988 I put out an ad at the Heavy Sound record store that said "Thrash guitarist is looking for band".
That led me to meeting up with some early people in the scene that I didn´t know that much about, but had heard about. Actually, that was the "legendary" Morbid that, at the time, was looking for a second guitarist. This was when Dead/Per Ohlin just had moved to Norway to work with Mayhem. They actually called me up. We met up and they wanted me to bring my guitar with me for some reason. So we met at a local pizza bar or something, and we sat down and talked... Anyway, to cut things in short, I wasn´t around the time that very experienced as a musician/guitarist, and as well, I do remember that they (Morbid, then - L-G, Uffe and Jens Näsström) when they saw I had a Black Ibanez Roadstar guitar (kind of heavier black version of a "strat" but with humbuckers, (actually the guitar that I recorded the first Necrophobic demo with) - they were kind of surprised I hadn´t a more extreme guitar...
They we are all dressed in early Carcass or Napalm Death shirts, etc. If I remember right, I had a King Diamond shirt, and I guess I hadn´t the right look or whatever... so there never got anything out of this, since I guess they thought I wasn´t cool enough for the band. They called me up a few times more but nothing more happened.
However, a week later I got a call from Johan Edlund, later of Tiamat/Treblinka. We put together a band, and rehearsed for maybe only five times or so. It kind of made me understand who was who in the very early Death Metal scene. We rehearsed then at Sätra Youth club, where people from Nihilist, Morbid and Dismember used to hang out (Dismember wasn´t even formed then) but a lot of these people were there and gave me an insight in a lot of those early bands that later all became famous.
However, if it wasn´t for one person, Nicke Andersson, of early Nihilist/Entombed etc, a lot of bands would not simply have existed. He was the first fucker I´ve ever seen with a Morbid Angel shirt in the whole of Stockholm. He was talking Death Metal, punk and grindcore very, very early more or less 24/7. He was an absolute key figure in the formation of the early Stockholm scene and without him a lot of bands wouldn´t have been around.
Necrophobic came a little bit later, but we (in the band) went to most of these first gigs with Nihilist, Morbid, Dismember, Unleashed and Entombed. What really led us to start Necrophobic was that we all were death/thrashers, We were more or less all hated by the rest of the class in high school and we were known as the "Speed Metal League". We all listened to Death/Thrash and mostly all the extreme music that was around at the time, so we of course wanted to do something similar.
When Necrophobic was formed, there were already some incredible bands in their formative stages. Edge Of Sanity, Carnage/Dismember, Excruciate, General Surgery, Grotesque (pre-At the Gates), Putrefaction/Corpse (pre-Grave), Macabre End (pre-God Macabre), Nihilist (which spawned Entombed and Unleashed), Scum (pre-Amon Amarth), Siren’s Yell (pre-Dissection), Therion, etc. Was there much camaraderie, a sense of community and fellow bands supporting each other in the Swedish scene back then?
To an extent, yes. Although I must admit I wasn´t that social back then and didn´t hang out with all these bands then. These days everyone knows everyone and most people have in one way or another played with each other. It’s almost "incestuous" if you can say that.
Anyway, already at this time I felt I didn´t really like the typical Stockholm Death Metal sound too much, except for the absolute original bands. All these carbon copies, no - they did absolutely nothing for me. So without even realizing it, I already then turned more towards Black Metal (the early stuff that was around then), and bands with a more Satanic outlook.
Me and the first Necrophobic singer (Stefan Zander, ed), we were also very early tape traders. We had a little tape trading "company" where we traded with a few people, which became more and more. Eventually I got in contact with early tape-trading legends like "Phantom" and "Metalion" (yes - Metalion - from Norway). We had heard all these bands, MORBID ANGEL, DEATH, SEPULTURA, ANNIHILATOR, MAYHEM, and a lot more, quite a long time before they came out with their groundbreaking and first albums. This all due to tapetrading. Still have a lot of all these old and original demos, MORBID, MAYHEM, NOCTURNUS, IMMOLATION, MEFISTO, GRAVE, TIAMAT, NIHILST, ENTOMBED, MORBID ANGEL all around here somewhere.
Anyway, as for any real camaraderie. I have always been somewhat of a loner, and it took me a while before I really started to know people. Most people from the early Stockholm Death Metal scene know me more or less, though. The few I actually hanged out with weren´t that many. I mainly met people at gigs and so on. Later, though, I got to know people better and really personal. This was mostly when I´d already begun with Dark Funeral.
Necrophobic was formed in Stockholm, Sweden in 1989. Were you already befriended with drummer Joakim Sterner - or did you meet each other through mutual friends and scene contacts? How familiar were you with his early thrash metal band Psychodeath? I guess you both like thrash, since the first band you’d form would be named after a Slayer song…
Both me and Joakim (Sterner) went to the same school since we were ten twelve years or so, but we did not start to know each for real until about 1983 or so. I guess this mainly through a mutual friend, the first NECROPHOBIC singer (Stefan Zander), which I became friends with, and he - in turn knew Sterner. We were all into metal, so we started hanged out quite a lot.
You ask about Psychodeath (slightly strange)- this was nothing more than a half joke band that Sterner and Stefan Zander put together during one or two rehearsals, when I for some reason wasn´t present... They did one demo on a four tracker at this youth club, Björkhagsgården, where NECROPHOBIC started our "career" in 1989, and had our rehearsalplace. Yes, we took the name NECROPHOBIC from the SLAYER song, so everybody knows that now.
The first demo "Realm Of Terror" (1989) was a crude rehearsal recording of the title track. This tape was recorded and mixed at local music venue Björkhagens Fritidsgård by the band and Magnus Price. Did you decide to record there because of Sterner’s connections with his other band Psychodeath?
Psychodeath has nothing to do with this, and it was just a one off thing. Nothing serious at all. We had begun rehearsing there a long way before he and Stefan recorded that demo, which sold 50 ex maximum.... Yeah, we recorded our first demo there "Realm of Terror" on a small four tracker (as well as some early rehearsal tapes). I remember being proud of this absolute first demo despite it being really lousy sound-wise today, but pretty "cult", I guess. We had a little bit more material though already then, but this was the only we recorded. The first real demo "Slow Asphyxiation" came a half year later.
In 1990 you entered Studio Kuben to record “Slow Asphyxiation" with engineer/producer Thomas Öberg. This three-track demo tape featured artwork by Anders Strokirk. Tell us how the situation in the band was at the time - was this the first time any of you entered a real recording studio? Any particular memories from this session that stand out, in your opinion?
It was the first time we entered a real studio, yes. We knew that Unleashed and Entombed had recorded there, so that´s why we chose that particular studio. Well, it was nothing very special - but it took a weekend or so and we were happy with it. At least, at the time. I still like that old demo to some extent, but not the flanged guitar sound, and the too weak drum sound. The riffs, they´re not that bad at all. I was already then practicing a lot. Every things just rolled on, and actually I don´t have that much memories of it. Only that the place was very, very small. A lot smaller than Sunlight.
The only little downside was that due to some fucking mysterious drop outs on the master DAT, we had to re-mix the whole demo, and then that flanger guitar sound got turned up alot even more. The original mix was better but with louder guitars, as far as I remember. The artwork I´ve never liked, but it´s what we could do at the time, that light blue color fucking sucks!!!
Describe the situation in which Necrophobic decided to sign with Wild Rags Productions, the label/store located in Montebello, California. How did the label get in touch with you? Were you in contact prior through snail mail and tape trading before getting contracted?
Of course old "snail mail" as that was the one and only option then... I don´t remember exactly how we got contacted. I guess Sterner got a letter from Richard of Wild Rags, asking to distribute our first demo. That later led them to distribute and manufacture our second demo "Unholy Prophecies", which sold incredibly well, and then they also released the third demo which got into "The Call EP/7" single.
For the "Unholy Prophecies" (1991) demo you headed to Sunlight Studio to work with producer Tomas Skogsberg. First 200 copies pressed by the band itself, almost 5000 copies later pressed by Wild Rags Records. Was this due to miscommunication?
We pressed 200 copies of the demo ourselves, yes, but couldn´t afford that much more at the time. When Wild Rags came up with the suggestion that they could print them up and sell them for us, we did say yes. It has actually sold that much: 5000 exactly - I cannot guarantee, but there were so many re-pressings. Just an incredible demand for it, so if not 5000, something in between 4000- to 5000 thousand, at least. Not very many demos have sold that much. That´s for sure. Entombed "But life Goes on" might have sold more, but all I know is that one sold just incredibly well.
By now Necrophobic had been around for a few years and a couple of demos under its belt. Were there many opportunities in regards to regional shows at that point? Could you give us a brief overview of the highpoints, lowpoints and challenges you faced during these early demo days? What do you recall from the earlier days of the Stockholm scene - were there any events or happenings that stand out in your memory?
There are too many events that stand out, simply too many to mention. Our first gigs of course stand out, as it was a big relief for us to finally enter the stage, after doing all these demos etc. But the absolute first gig, is something I´ll never forget. Since we didn´t know how we were going to be received at all, but from the first song ‘Sacrificial Rites’, everybody and I mean everybody, went berserk from the first opening chords, I felt an enormous relief and was just overblown by the reaction. Seeing friends, and some people like Lasse Rosenberg (Entombed bassplayer at the time) go crazy right in front of me, as well as other people from the early Stockholm scene, made that first gig really memorable. It was a little victory us.
As far as other shows went, (as long as I was in the band I did exactly 16 shows) Some were more superior to others, of course. Playing with DISSECTION and UNANIMATED in 1995 here in Stockholm was one specific good memory... there are more, but this one I remember very clearly. Many people and great atmosphere. One of the first gigs with Martin (Halfdan, ed), our then-new second guitarist and one of the first gigs (maybe second or so) with Tobbe as the singer, at a club called The Black was something I remember and went down very well. A few tracks from that gig are now somewhere up on YouTube.
In 1993 you released the “The Call" EP on Wild Rags Productions. It was the last to feature vocalist Stefan Harrvik, the first to include bassist Tobias Sidegård. It was a limited release of 1500 copies, which included a poster.
Wild Rags Productions had a shady reputation, but a very commendable roster of bands/releases including Behemoth, Brutality, Emperor, Impetigo, Internal Bleeding, Nuclear Death, Sigh, etc. How were your contact and business dealings with Ricardo Campos and the label, in general? Was he as much of a rip-off as legend has it?
Well, partly he was. That guy was known for delaying records and demos and not giving enough money, if money at all to bands. Personally, I don´t remember any real bad feelings towards that dude. I remember Joakim was pissed of because of some really long delays and send an angry letter to Richard/Wild Rags. He really delayed things, but when the demos ands EPs etc finally came out, it all felt very good. He only paid us in records/demos. We got a fair share, but no money involved at all... but that´s how it was in those days.
Later in 1993 Necrophobic’s proper debut “The Nocturnal Silence" was released through Black Mark Productions. Curiously, this record featured the vocals of Anders Strokirk, who provided artwork for your first demo just three years prior. You must have been overflowing with creativity, that year you released albums with both Necrophobic and the newly formed Dark Funeral. That must have been strenuous and exhausting, no?
Yeah, hell, the whole of 1993 and 1994 were incredible exhausting, although extremely creative but very exhausting. This partly because some personal and unfortunate things for me. Running two bands, meaning rehearsing at least 4 times a week, every fucking week, and all these recordings in between... Today I wonder how the fuck I did it. I thought as a joke to print up a badge or t-shirt saying "Life Is a Rehearsal" since that was all I did basically during those particular years. I even slept over at the fucking rehearsal place sometimes. Just to start rehearsing with the other band the next day.
Describe how the Stockholm scene was at this time, as death metal was exploding in both Stockholm and Gothenburg. Black Mark Productions is most known as being the label owned by Börje ‘Boss’ Forsberg. It is most popular for releasing Bathory albums, along with early releases from Edge Of Sanity, Fleshcrawl, Lake Of Tears, etc.
The Stockholm scene was incredibly strong, but by then getting way overcrowded. Way too many carbon copy bands of especially Entombed and Dismember. Sunlight was used by every fucking new demo band and that made people even more tired of the Sunlight sound. It is kind of the equivalent to the Morrisound thing in Tampa, Florida. Too many bands used one studio, and everything sounded just too much the same.
For "the Nocturnal Silence" though, I used a different amp (than for example Dismember/Entombed, etc) as well as different distortion pedals than the ridiculous Boss Heavy Metal pedal, which was one the reasons how the Dismember and Entombed sound was created. They simply turned up the gain and distortion to 10 and that very much brought that particular sound. I used active EMG 81 pick- ups for the whole album. These are some of the most common metal pick-ups today, but back then no one had them. Not at least in the death metal scene. I´ve used them since late 1992 anyway. Therefore we got at least a slightly different sound than many others who used that studio. You can still quite easily hear it is from Sunlight, of course.
“Spawned By Evil", a stopgap EP, was released in 1996. It comprised of the title track and three cover tracks (by Slayer, Venom and Bathory, respectively). You had introduced Tobias Sidegård in the bass/vocals position earlier (1994) with the independently released “Bloodfreezing" EP. How was the reaction from the fans and international audience to Tobias, as the vocalist?
Tobbe was maybe not as good as he is now when he started doing the vocals, but he kinda grew with every release. I guess most people liked/like him, but personally I think Anders Strokirk is the absolute best Necrophobic vocalist. He just has a little rawer and more raspy voice. Tobbe is doing really good, I think.
A year later, in 1997, Necrophobic’s second album “Darkside" finally materialized. There were internal band troubles, obviously. You wrote three quarters of the album, but only contributed the second lead on ‘Black Moon Rising’. Up until that point you had been the primary songwriter along with Joakim Sterner. You left Necrophobic to prioritize Dark Funeral. Were you contractually obliged to let Necrophobic have the material for “Darkside" even though other members hardly contributed anything?
This is a little hard question... Musically, I wrote absolutely 75% of the album. They only contributed with one track ‘Christian Slaughter’ (which is somewhat generic, I think). The rest is just intros, which don´t really make the album that much better.
Yes, there were some band troubles, but not that very bad really. More than that we just were tired of each other after all these years. Sterner’s refusal to rehearse himself and improve on the drums was also a matter I had problems with. As I and some others in the band sat and played for hours and hours at home or at the rehearsal place. Sterner only practiced during rehearsals. Never any other time. Anyway, Sterner has improved a lot as a drummer over the years. He´s so very much fucking better than in the early days, when he couldn´t for example handle double bass drums at all hardly. Now he´s so much better. Although he´s kinda almost infamous for using the so called "one-beat" a little too much...
As for the record "Darkside". Yes, it was for 98% recorded without me, which feels not very good when thinking back on it. It was my decision. I wasn´t at all sure if they really were going to keep all my songs and record them. They weren´t totally done by me, so, I have some understanding for it.
The sound is clearly inferior though to the "The Nocturnal Silence" album. The songs I wrote, they changed them a little, and not making them much better. Actually, apart from a few riffs, ‘Black Moon Rising’, ‘Nailing The Holy One’, ‘Bloodthirst’, ‘The Call’, ‘Darkside’, and ‘Spawned by Evil’ are to a very, very big extent my compositions. I´didn´t do as much lyrics this time though. They were kind of shared in between me and Tobbe. Joakim did one or two as well. The two first mentioned I did 100 % myself, both the music and lyrics.
For some reason they changed some of the original lyrics on ‘Nailing The holy One’. Why I don´t understand since it didn´t turn out any better. I played the solo in ‘Black Moon Rising’ as well as the "acoustic interlude" in that song, but that was all.
I must say, therefore, it feel somewhat good that this new version of "Spawned by Evil" (on out on Hammerheart Records) came out with the "Bloodfreezing" demo tracks that I play on, making it full-length instead of a MCD, and with my playing on it.
During 1993 Dark Funeral is formed, together with Micke Svanberg. The first line-up consisted of Paul Mäkitalo (bass, vocals) and Joel Andersson (drums) along the two of founding members. How would you describe that first year of Dark Funeral’s existence?
Well, actually, the first line-up of Dark Funeral, which was started under the name Ahriman, consisted of me, Michael (Lord Ahriman) and a drummer which was the first drummer of Amon Amarth (Niko Kaukinen, ed) who just had started then, but had some other name (this band was called Scum, ed). We even tried one or two other singers before we found Paul/Themgoroth.
One was the singer from the band Svartsyn (Ornias, ed). He did a few rehearsals with us, but Themgoroth was clearly a much better choice - so we chose him instead. The first year, or rather 6-7 months only, since we worked really, really fast with that band was pretty cool. We rehearsed in the Necrophobic rehearsal place/old bunker. Sometimes we rehearsed without any lights or only some burning candles as light. We were already then totally dedicated into making this a bigger and really serious Black Metal band.
After a year of writing and rehearsing, in 1994, the “Dark Funeral" EP is readied for release on your own label imprint Hellspawn Records. Recordings were done at Unisound with Dan Swanö producing. Was Sunlight Studio identified too much with death metal at point, in your opinion? Why was Unisound a better fit for Dark Funeral at that time?
Those first 4 MCD tracks only took 6 months to do, not a day more. It just all flowed. I said from the beginning that for this band we just can´t use Sunlight. I had been there enough times already, and we wanted to try out something different. As we had heard some early stuff from Unisound which sounded pretty good and had a different sound from the by then somewhat boring and typical Sunlight sound. Both Marduk had recorded their second and Dissection their first album at the time. I liked the sound, so I called up Swanö. The first freezing weeks of January 1994 we recorded the MCD there in 4 days.
Under what circumstances did you decide to ink a deal with No Fashion Records? There must have been other interested parties to sign Dark Funeral. What made Tomas Nyqvist and his label the most appealing and obvious choice at the time? Dark Funeral would later engage in a lengthy legal battle with the label as they (No Fashion) got bought out by House Of Kicks. Later Dark Funeral would sign with Regain Records.
We were signed by No Fashion Records and I had some small early contact with him. As he didn´t run the label properly financially, House of Kicks took over the whole label. So Nyqvist were out of his own label at the time we were signed, in late 1994. No Fashion gave us a pretty good deal. At least that was what we believed at the time, but well, I can´t blame them since they did a pretty decent job. Only thing I was pissed off at is that we were promised to have the "The Secrets..." album out on limited vinyl as well, but they never did that.
I said, then that ok, if you´re not following up that promise, we´ll do it as a license with Necropolis Records in the US for the vinyl version. So we did that. 500 gatefold vinyl albums were printed by them under the label name Necrohell. I have one copy of it myself left only, but this is much cooler looking and different to the vinyl re-releases Regain did just a few years ago of that album and some of the rest D.F. catalogue.
Anyway, for some stupid reason Ahriman calls the Necropolis version a bootleg, which is bullshit. He worked at House Of Kicks for a while and married the accountant there, and is still living together and having a child together. Once he started working for House Of Kicks, he started to take more control of legal matters and shit. No real problem, but slowly some tensions started to rise between us.
We´re cool now. Nothing against no one in the band today, but I can´t lie. In the end the tension grew so high that I, after too much arguing, decided to leave Dark Funeral. I felt really betrayed, I can say. I don´t want to go into that since I´ve already told that story quite a lot of times, and it only brings up bad memories. Actually, only real bad ones.
In 1996 “The Secrets Of the Black Arts" would be revealed to the world at large. Initial recordings were done at Unisound with Dan Swanö. Having worked earlier with Swanö and Unisound - what made this production unsatisfactory and dull, in your mind?
The Unisound "Secrets..." recordings were/is a piece of crap. Partly Swanö´s fault, partly our fault, since although we had rehearsed very hard, there were still things in the arrangements that yet weren’t enough good. That was mainly the drums. Any, no reason to go into absolute detail, but the sound was incredibly thin and weak. We slagged him, Swanö, like hell for this at the time, since we were disappointed and angry - but this is a long time ago and I feel no whatsoever resentment towards him today, just want to make that clear.
The thing was that he was pretty overworked and stressed when we came down to record "Secrets..." there. We only had very limited time there, 6-7 days to complete the whole thing, so we were stressed as well. Anyway, the record came out really bad, and we tried to save it by remixing, and redoing some vocals actually up here at Sunlight, but then after trying that, Tomas Skogsberg simply gave up, and came in and saved the situation, and made a call to Swanö and asked "What the hell do you think I shall/can do with this?" Tomas told Swanö "I can´t save this album recording" So Swanö, when hearing the critic from Skogsberg, Swanö said in a matter of minutes “that’s okay, it´s my fault, and I won´t charge No Fashion anything for this recording." This meant we could do what I said all the time "that we must re-record the album at all costs". So we could now use the money to go up to another studio and re-record.
Writing happened fast back then, by the time you relocated to Abyss Studio a new track, ‘When Angels Forever Die’ was ready to be included on the album. In what ways was the Abyss production superior to the initial Unisound recording? Who’s idea was to include a cover of ‘Satanic Blood’ by American black metal combo Von?
Abyss was so much better than Unisound. Apart from that it was somewhat boring being out in the middle of nowhere without very much to do. But as for the recording itself, it turned out so many times better than that other piece of crap. Abyss was pretty/really unknown then. Only very few bands had recorded there, but I had heard of this guy, Peter (Tägtgren) had a Death Metal band and he was recording his own stuff, and had at this exact point in time started to do professional recordings and had built a real studio. Although we had to travel a long way from Stockholm to get there. This was a little bit of chance-taking.
Peter had only done very few recordings, but seemed very competent. We talked on the phone, that we needed to record this stuff, and get a good sound. He said it shouldn´t be a problem. So we did record there, and everything went fairly smooth. We had to remix the album later but it doesn´t matter - it at least turned out 10 times better than the Unisound recording.
Still though, I´d like to hear that recording/album with a super production, even adding some real orchestral parts to some few riffs. Of course, that won´t happen. I have the master tapes, so who knows, maybe, maybe one day so....
It was my idea to include the Von track since I liked that band. Not for its musicality, but for its rawness and pretty evil atmosphere. I should add it should have been as a bonus track only. Like the last track or so, now it more or less looks that it is on of our own tracks. Of course, it doesn´t fit in with "the Secrets" tracks musically, but was thought just a cool bonus thing.
Since it took some few months in between the Unisound and Abyss recordings, we had time to write another track. The completely uncompromising ‘When Angels forever Die’. That was next to 100% my track/composition, as most part of that album.
Tell us something about the shooting of the promo video for ‘The Secrets Of the Black Arts’. It had all the hallmarks of the genre, including firebreathing, burning inverted crosses, funeral pyres, the band wandering through dark stone archways with torches - interspersed with live footage. Share some stories, interesting anecdotes and candid facts from the shoot, director, production company, etc.
It was a definitely cool experience shooting the whole ‘Secrets of the Black Arts’ video. It is half live footage and half shot in the ruins on a cold winter night in early 1996 in Hagaparken, Stockholm.
It took maybe 7-8 hours, the shooting in the ruins, and being there seeing it, acting in it. It was very, very atmospheric. Sadly, there is more material, probably one-two hours of filming from that video session. What I am still just incredibly pissed off is with, that I wasn´t allowed to be part of the editing process. It´s edited really, really badly. It was shot by a producer who was a friend to Ahriman´s wife, and Ahriman said to me, that only one or two people could be present at the editing. So I was not allowed to see the whole shit, being at the editing and say my thoughts on how it should be.
Seriously - I just wanted to kill Ahriman after hearing this. This was just not fair. This put another spike in the coffin in between us. He wouldn´t want me to be part of this, FUCK OFF AND DIE! So the video although, it´s decent, a normal editing, would concentrate on when the parts where there are vocals, you see the singer (Emperor Magus Caligula), singing to the vocals. He did it really phenomenally; I was personally amazed by his performance...
Then when I saw the finished thing, 80% of his best performances are cut out. Instead there are too much fire, crosses and stuff during the verses. That woman who did the video didn´t have a fucking clue. It could have been a masterpiece, now it ended up half-okay.
I don´t have any resentment towards at Michael (Ahriman) at all today, that particular incident was not fair. We had the greatest raw material for this video, and this producer, together with Ahriman, made it like it was not supposed to be. So much cheaper and poorer looking.
Fuck, my song, my/our band and I am not allowed to be part of editing my/our own video. Whenever I see it, I only get disappointed. Same thing with as when Quorthon/Bathory did shoot ‘One Road To Asa Bay’, and they invested a lot of time, energy an money etc in the video, and then it got totally edited without him. That´s a cool video anyway, but I know Quorthon refused to see it. They didn´t edit it as he wanted, and I believe completely without him and his input. So he must kind of have felt what I felt.
Also in 1996 there were talks of Marduk wanting to acquire your services for pending European touring commitments. Eventually Peter Tägtgren was enlisted; this union spawned the “Live In Germania" release. Why did the collaboration with Marduk fall through? Were there logistic difficulties, scheduling conflicts with Dark Funeral or employment obligations that prevented you from venturing on the road with them?
This Marduk thing, it was mainly just me Morgan and me talking a lot some months after I left Dark Funeral. He really wanted me in the band as it seemed, but it just didn´t happen. I do understand him, though. It´s 100% his band and vision, and maybe he thought I might come in and write stuff he didn´t like or whatever. I don´t know why it didn´t happen. It was serious talks at the time, but it´s no big deal. Would have been cool to have done a tour at least with those guys, as a session guitarist.
I haven´t talked to Morgan in ages. I still like their stuff. Okay, it was a little bit tired on the stuff during the Legion era, but Rosten/Arioch/Mortuus sings like a fucking beast. This is the absolutely the best version of Marduk so far.
Over the years Dark Funeral has seen several complete line-up overhauls, with Svanberg carrying on unphased and always determined to persevere. Are you still on good terms with Micke Svanberg and the many ex-members of Dark Funeral?
No major problems at all. There is of course some past shit that still hurts, so to speak, but I am not mad at him or anything. Since we would have split up sooner or later anyway. Having done another record with Dark Funeral would have been cool, but the past is the past. He´s the one that since I left has been in charge of the band, and that´s the way it´s always gonna be. Dark Funeral is, from the day I left, his band as he writes all the music now - without giving anyone else much input. No, there is no bad blood between us. Honestly, I do not care either what he´s doing since the music they do today doesn´t do much for me at all.
War was formed in 1995 when you attended an Abruptum recording session in Peter Tägtgren’s The Abyss Studios. After the recordings, Tony ‘IT’ Särkkä, you and Tägtgren had a discussion about the scene, about the murder of Euronymous and IT’s True Satanist Horde. War was a fist against the burgeoning symfo black metal scene, which introduced female vocals, keyboards, etc into the black metal genre. Was there more to it than wanting to show the world what real black metal sounded like?
No, this was a project/band that happened just by coincidence. IT was up recording an Abruptum album (the last one with him, I think) at the Abyss studios, and I was just accompanying him. IT basically recorded the Abruptum album in 6-8 hours, (not kidding). After it was done, we (me, IT, and Peter Tägtgren) started drinking and talking late in the evening in the studio. We then just decided to form a project. A really primitive, fist-in-your-face Death/Black metal band.
Peter suggested the name War, and voila, the project was born. It had not much to do with the True Satanist Horde in reality. IT said something that the money for War should go into that "organization". Well, that was mainly talk. I supported the Horde back then, but as we know, everything dissolved and nothing seriously came out of it. But if it hadn´t been for this particular night/recording, where me, IT and Peter sat and got drunk at the Abyss, War would not have been born/existed.
For this project you decided to sign with Necropolis Records, the label operated by Paul ‘Typhon’ Thind. Necropolis Records was a record label founded in 1993, mainly providing an American home for extreme black metal to start. He had some great and influential bands on his roster: Archgoat, Dawn, Demilich, Nifelheim, Satanic Slaughter, etc. Besides having a strong North American distribution arm, what else made this the ideal home for War?
Necropolis, the ideal home for War? Are you kidding? Don´t you know that Paul Thind/Necropolis was the biggest rip-off label and scums on earth? (I’ve heard/read the stories, ed) Ask Nifelheim or any old Necropolis bands what they think of them and him... He has good reason to run for his life. I´d smash him into atoms if I ever see him again. That´s a promise.
They released some cool stuff, yes. Me and Typhon/"Mowgli"/Paul Thind had good contact in the beginning, and for a while everything was pretty cool. They got out the War MCD, ripped us off on any whatsoever profits, we did not receive even a fucking dime. Worst of all, they released the “We Are War" album that was more of a kind of a demo-session which wasn´t supposed to ever get out.
He/Paul then said, "Dave, can you just send a tape over so we can listen to it. Don´t worry, we won’t release it or anything...". Two months later this crappy demo session is out, completely against our knowledge. We started putting up anti-Necropolis ads in several bigger metal magazines. I still have those documents stating that they were never going to release this, but they did and neither got we back a dime this time either.
Necropolis is the label which has been the worst and which have been the absolute worst rip-off label on earth, bar none. Paul Thind had several thousand dollars or probably about 10000 USD in unpaid ads for Necropolis to all the bigger metal magazines, especially the US ones… Ask them what they think of him.
He had no choice than to stop everything and run and hide. Someone would have killed that guy eventually, I am sure.
In 1997 the “Total War" EP is released through Necropolis Records. The line-up consists of Ophthalamia duo Tony ‘IT’ Särkkä, Jim ‘All’ Berger, Hypocrisy members Peter Tägtgren and Michael Hedlund, plus yourself. The EP was recorded at The Abyss Studios. There was much controversy surrounding the ‘I Am Elite’ song and its lyrics. Can you explain how it fits with the overall concept of War, as a band?
Sorry, but I am not the one to answer that, really. It was a particular statement in that song. Yes, that drove some controversy, but that all just happened naturally. Not planned or anything, and I didn´t even understood what Jim/All really said until quite some time afterwards.
No, War was never ever any pro-Nazi band. We, of course, are against that. We used to say that we hate all equally, so really then it is not discriminating in the pure sense of the word. Anyway, I never wrote anything of those particular lyrics. So I hadn´t anything do with it, other than being part of the band/project.
Two years later, in 1999, the “We Are War" album was released through Necropolis. The line-up had been revised. Hypocrisy member Lars Szöke was enlisted as drummer, Jim ‘All’ Berger did all vocals and David Larsson (In Aeternum) handled bass while you remained in the guitar slot. It included a cover of Sodom’s ‘Bombenhagel’. In what ways was this record superior to the preceding EP, in your opinion?
This album was never ever supposed to have come out. It did against our will. We planned strongly on re-recording this and get it done properly, but the whole thing was a chain of unfortunate events.
IT leaves the scene for good and disappears. Peter Tägtgren tells us two-three weeks before booked studio time that he just can´t make it, due to other productions he had to do. We said we cancel the whole thing. However, Peter suggested Hypocrisy drummer Lars Szöke as a replacement, and that Michael Hedlund (also from Hypocrisy) would take over the production duties.
We thought about it for a few days and were going to cancel the whole thing, but decided at the last minute to give it a try. So that´s what we did. Some songs are cool, the riffs, etc but the drumming and production sucks so badly that it is not a real and never will be a true representation of War. The album is by far a lot more inferior rather than superior to the EP, which I still really like. Hammerheart Records are re-releasing the "Total War" EP early next year, though.
Infernal was formed in 1996, the year you left your other band Dark Funeral. In what ways did Infernal offer you creative freedom where Dark Funeral couldn’t?
Infernal was actually formed in 1997. It was simply me getting a new band to concentrate on that could continue somewhat in the tradition of old Dark Funeral. I knew I wanted to go more brutal and a little bit more chaotic this time. Infernal was solely my creation, so I could do whatever I wanted to creatively speaking. For example including solos, which were never allowed in Dark Funeral. Themgoroth did contribute to lyrics and riffs, etc during the one and a half years or so he was part of the band. As it is with Themgoroth - he´s a good guy, but for some reason has problems to be consistent with things.
One day he was totally into it, the next day not. He left Infernal, but we had at least completed the first MCD, which sold incredibly well (still had Hellspawn running then), and generally got very good reviews. It is very brutal, I must say that.
For a very short bit in 1999 Håkan Sjödin (Alastor Mysteriis) from Setherial was in Infernal as the drummer, I understand…
Håkan Sjödin (Mysteriis) was actually, believe it or not, in Infernal for a few months in 1999, if I remember right. He was a total Infernal fanatic. He was the one who wanted to play with me (us).... Anyway, the enormous distance (7-8 hours away by car) far north (Sundsvall) made it impossible to hold the whole thing together in the long run.
As far as personality, he was pretty much right for the band. Big, silent and could do double drums through whole songs. He´s a fucking machine that guy.
In 1999 the “Infernal" EP was released through your own Hellspawn Productions. It was recorded in Dug Out Studio in 1998 with producer Daniel Bergstrand and finally completed in Abyss Studios in 1999. It featured David Larsson (bass), Matte Modin (drums) along with Paul Mäkitalo (vocals) and you on rhythm/lead guitars. Dark Funeral’s sound changed quite a bit in your absence, was Infernal meant to be a bit of friendly competition between Svanberg and yourself?
No, no competition at all. I knew there was no way I could do a new "Dark Funeral". It was a question of lucky events and the very strong "image". I hate that word, but well that´s what it was, that got Dark Funeral immensely popular. My vision of Dark Funeral and Ahriman´s was musically to most part on the same track. He never did any interviews or so that created any controversy or was of any shock value or said any things that were very, very Satanic.
I told him I will be very harsh and not do anything but interviews that truly express my feelings towards humanity and this piece of stinking shit world. I know people got upset for some things I´ve said in the early Dark Funeral interviews. I said if we going to do this, we’re going do it for real. Dark Funeral can do what they want, sing about flowers and happy summer days today if they want, but the concept to me isn´t that very Satanic.
Infernal´s early releases though, they are the voice/noise of Satan himself.
2002 saw the release of the “Under Wings Of Hell" split album on Hammerheart Records. This split merged Dark Funeral’s “Dark Funeral" EP with Infernal’s self-titled EP. Dark Funeral has since disavowed it and considers it a bootleg. What is your view on that particular release?
It´s a not very important release, rather an unnecessary one since both those MCD´s existed far long before this release.
That it is a bootleg is simply NOT true. Ahriman is way off here, he has clearly forgotten that him and me together (who owned the first “Dark Funeral" MCD) sold it in 2002 or 2003 or so to Hammerheart Records. That´s why HH have printed the first D.F. MCD up since then. They also did the "Under the Wings of Hell" compilation, but they own the rights. The same with the first “Infernal" MCD, which was sold at the same time. Michael/Ahriman has clearly forgotten this, and that it´s by no means any bootleg.
Hammerheart has the rights, no any label for this particular release. Has Ahriman forgot that he actually got paid for this and still get mechanicals? I really don´t understand these whims, if now he really has said this.
Also during 2002 Infernal released its second EP “Summon Forth the Beast" through Hammerheart Records. It contained two new tracks, plus cover tracks by Morbid Angel, Von and Bathory. It was recorded at Monolith Studio by-then drummer Tomas Asklund. Besides yourself and Asklund former Dark Funeral bandmate Henrik Ekeroth also provided vocals and guitars. How was the response to that EP?
That MCD was only printed in 2000 copies, I think. There was not much promotion for it, but what it was, was really just an attempt to see how well this version (Mark II) would work. We had an offer from Hammerheart to do a full-length, but I wasn´t totally sure if this particular line-up was totally right. I suggested we do a MCD, with some new tracks plus we added some covers, just to see how the response would be.
As I more or less predicted, there were some good reviews and some not, but I knew after about one and a half years of heavy rehearsing, that this line-up just wasn´t going to make it. Tomas is/was a great drummer, but our friendship is completely over. Typhos, who sang and played guitar, didn´t show up too often at rehearsals and the music he did was more death metal. Not bad stuff, but simply didn´t fit with what I think is Infernal and how it has sounded before. Those two tracks on the MCD “Summon Forth The Beast", ‘Branded by Hellfire’, and ‘Infernal Holocaust’ are quite representative for the old Satanic Holocaust Metal Infernal sound. But there were some other stuff, that we´re just too far out there and didn´t sound anything near it.
Anyway, that line-up ended by itself. We never split up or anything, Typhos got ill for real, was in the hospital for several months. Tomas (Asklund) had then received the offer to start drumming for Dissection. So, that line-up just dissolved then.
From 2003 to 2008 there wasn’t much musical activity. Were you just tired of the scene - or plainly enjoying civilian life and exploring other interests? What prompted you to reactivate Infernal and get into the scene again?
I wasn’t actually tired of the scene, but rather tired of the struggling. Say, had I had easygoing killer musicians around me without any "hang-ups", I´d continue playing and thinking it was fun. Well, I can´t go too personal here, but there were quite a few personal problems during these years. I reactivated Infernal with a little more "accessible" sound but still brutal and Satanic, in 2009/2010, with Tomas Asklund, and we recorded the Infernal Return EP, and had way more material. Tomas decided just after a while, for reasons I yet do not understand, to not be part.
He didn´t want to play live/rehearse, mainly be just a studio drummer. Unfortunately, it was a pretty ugly split in between us. We´re looking for a new drummer right now at this moment, since I have so much material, and my only goal (not my only - but main goal right now) is to get out the more than long awaited new Infernal album.
“The Infernal Return", your latest EP, was released through Goathorned Productions in 2010. I understand there were some trouble in getting the thing finally released. Upon his exit in 2009 Tomas Asklund forced the release of the material. You had to re-record the cuts somewhere else to get them out to the public. Can you explain how this messy situation came to be? Was there growing animosity between you and Asklund?
This is all true, yes. I really don´t want to dig into this any further, since this brings again only back bad memories. I had to record solos and the bass in another studio to complete everything since Asklund refused giving out the master tapes. Childish as fuck, sorry, but can´t say anything else. We´ve done pretty many good things together in the past and now everything ended up like this. To do that EP I only had MP3.s of the whole shit, very good ones though, but of course with the master tapes. It would have sounded better. But fuck this is all the past, and I don´t care. He´s out of my world for good, so he can do whatever he wants. Good luck to him.
Since the second Infernal line-up dissolved, you now work with guitarist Martin Halfdan (ex-Necrophobic) and Norwegian drummer Carl Engström. What about these guys made them the ideal fit for the revised version of Infernal?
These guys are actually not in Infernal now. Martin was supposed to be. We sat and played guitar. I learned him the riffs, etc, but Tomas didn´t want to play with him it seemed. We never rehearsed with that line-up. He´s a good friend, but I doubt he has time for a full-time band again, since he´s now a university teacher. He´s got family and children, and all that. That was a line-up I was hoping could work for a while. Me and Tomas would do the main work, and Martin would more be like a live guitarist. Anyway, it did not end up that way. His picture is on the EP since he does one solo on it.
As far as Carl Engström goes, a great guy - a death/black metal drummer from Oslo, Norway. I was recommended to try him out by a mutual friend. We mailed and talked on the phone, and he went into a studio to start-re-record the EP tracks. This he did, but the sound just wasn´t enough good. We could have tried another studio, but as I already had all these tracks recorded (though with Tomas playing - which musically were excellent), I realized I had to abandon the idea of re-recording the EP, since it already was (almost) finished.
Since it is my music, my band, I of course would never ever let Tomas from stopping me releasing this. He said he would, but well good luck, it´s already out. I´ve helped him quite much with some equipment for his studio. The least he could do was to give me the mastertapes, but he didn´t do so. I worked with what I had and released that EP anyway. As for Carl, I wouldn´t mind having him in the band, but the distance is making that practically impossible. But he´s a cool and a very down-to-earth guy.
In 1994 you started your own label/distribution company with Hellspawn Records. Was this merely a vessel to properly distribute the records of your bands/projects and affiliated acts - or were there ever any plans to make it full-fledged record label to launch other bands as well?
We started Hellspawn with the intention of releasing the “Dark Funeral" MCD, and maybe other future projects. As it went pretty well for quite some years, I continued to release another couple of albums. In 2003, Hellspawn went to the grave so to speak, with all the downloading and too much music and record labels today. You can´t sell even a third of what was possible 15-16 years ago.
Going from the past covers you’ve done with your bands - it is safe to assume that Hellspawn Records got its name from the track off the Morbid Angel album “Abominations Of Desolation". What were other names you had in mind before settling on Hellspawn for the record label?
I didn´t have much other names, but Hellspawn. Yes, of course, it was taken from the Morbid Angel song on "Abominations of Desolation".
Hellspawn Records managed to get a few interesting strategic alliances in place. Distribution was handled by House of Kicks, VME and Sound Pollution in Europe, with Necropolis handling North American distribution. The “Dark Funeral" EP (1994) sold upwards of 15000 units worldwide, according to my research. In your memory, what were the label’s most successful releases, besides that one?
The “Dark Funeral" EP/"In the Sign..". has all in all (together with Hammerheart´s versions) sold way past 20.000 copies. But you have to realize it was originally released 1994, so that is a little more than just 1000 a year. There have been many troubles with the Hellspawn distribution. Sound Pollution literally made Hellspawn to go into the grave. I worked for a while with WME (earlier Voices of Wonder) from Norway, and things went well for a while again.
I was working with a particular guy, Keetil Sveen, the guy once responsible for helping setting up Euronymous’ Deathlike Silence label. It was a cool collaboration, but then Sound Pollution comes into the picture again, and says they can give me more money for every album sold. I went with them unfortunately, and they really helped to dig the grave of the label. They did absolutely nothing of what they said. If I ever start up Hellspawn again, which I doubt, it has to be with reasonable and helpful distribution label/companies. It´s all what it´s depends on.
Speaking from my own experience, the thing I remember Hellspawn Records the most for are because of the tribute albums you released. “Tyrants From the Abyss" (Morbid Angel) and “In Conspiracy With Satan" (Bathory) being the two most memorable of the bunch. Hellspawn didn’t release a lot, but what it released was of high quality. I wish more labels would follow that mentality… What’s your view on music labels in general, what do you like and despise about those middle-men entities?
Too much shit get released today. Just way too much. Good things as well, but too many labels count in quantity rather than quality.
The Bathory tribute even led to a lawsuit from Black Mark Productions due to the goat on the cover being a supposed copyright infringement. Any other memorable stories from the days of running Hellspawn you feel like sharing with our readership?
There was a supposed lawsuit from Black Mark. Yes, this for the goat. Since I was on Black Mark with early Necrophobic, I originally had the support from Boss/Black Mark themselves to do this. I was actually promised to get to use the well-known "Quorthon fire breathing" photo on the cover. When release time was coming after fucking five years of hard work with this one, for some reason Boss/Black Mark did a 180 degree turn, and said I can not use this or that, an then when we had the album basically on print.
So we had to fast take off the firebreathing picture. We were in panic, and put the goat in there instead... and that led to this supposed lawsuit. It was all just some talk, between No Fashion´s lawyers and Black Mark´s lawyers. Money really wasted on nothing as nothing more got out of it.
Anyway, I did by co-incidence talk to Börje/Boss just weeks ago. I saw some really untrue facts about the whole "In Conspiracy With Satan" tribute on the official Bathory website (runned by Börje/Black Mark) and there was just too many lies about the whole "In Conspiracy…" album. Things that was so completely untrue, so I mailed Boss/Börje and then phoned him up, to clear things up. This to explain what really is true and what is completely false on their website.
We used the goat - that´s true, but other than that we didn´t use anything else, that we didn´t had permission to. Anyway, we actually talked this through, and incredibly got on good terms with each other again, and spoke some about Ace/Quorthon. That hatchet is all buried now. That felt really good, since Bathory is my nr one favorite band, when it comes to Black Metal.
Well, I’m running out of questions, so feel free to end this interview in any way you like. If there’s anything of importance we might have forgotten to mention or anything you’d like to add, just go ahead. Thanks a lot for your time and all the best to all of you!
Well, Thanks a lot for the interview. Watch out sometime in 2013 for the release of the Infernal full-length entitled "The Infernal Retribution". Infernal Blessings!
Recommended David Parland releases:
Necrophobic - Satanic Blasphemies (demo compilation)
Necrophobic - The Nocturnal Silence
Necrophobic - Darkside
Dark Funeral - Dark Funeral EP
Dark Funeral - The Secrets Of the Black Arts
Infernal - Infernal EP
War - Total War
Dark Funeral - http://www.darkfuneral.se/
Studios & producers:
Sunlight Studios: http://www.myspace.com/sunlightstudio1 (Tomas Skogsberg)
Unisound Studios: http://www.unisound.se/ (Dan Swanö)
Dug Out Productions: http://www.dugoutproductions.com/ (Daniel Bergstrand)
Masterful Magazine - http://masterful-magazine.com