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Interview: Matti Karki(Dismember)

Pure metal...interviews

It was almost inconceivable for an 80ís Death Metal fan, not to show his appreciation for a legendary and cult outfit such as Dismember. We are talking about one of the bands that has defined the Swedish Death Metal sound, and that has also been a great source of inspiration for many Modern Death Metal bands such as In Flames and The Haunted. A small table at the entrance of the London Underground was enough to host my mini disc recorder and the bandís frontman Matti Karki. Hopefully, by the end of this interview I will have found the location 'Were Ironcrosses Grow'.

Hi Matti - thank you very much for doing this interview with Get Ready to Rock. Letís start by giving me a picture of what has been happening to the band lately. There is a new bass player in the band as far as I know.

Matti: Actually, everything is really cool with the band now. We havenít felt that strong for a really long time. We have been touring quite a lot, playing shows in many different places. We also have two new members in the band, Martin is our guitarist and Joe our new bass player. We have finally managed to grow into a unit, feeling quite comfortable with each other, communicating perfectly both when we are on stage and also on a personal level. Everything is really good in the Dismember camp at the moment.

It took you guys five years to release your latest studio effort 'Where Ironcrosses Grow'. I know that you have been facing some problems with your previous record label, and I wouldnít want you to tell me what went wrong if youíre not feeling comfortable enough.

Matti: No, itís OK. There was a period in our lives after the release of 'Hate Campaign'(2000) when everything really turned to s**t, but I have to say that the problems started earlier than that. We have been having label and line up problems since 1997, and after 'Hate Campaign' everything seemed to be falling apart, and without having to talk to each other, everyone knew that we needed to take a really long break, to get some distance from what was happening. Of course we also had personal problems, our families, work and stuff like that.

Thatís why we decided to take some time off. We never had any talks about splitting up as a band - itís just that we didnít feel like doing anything. Slowly after a while we started doing some shows here and there, we found our spirit again, and then decided to start writing new material, touring and all that stuff. By that stage, the label problems were sorted out, the line up problems were more or less sorted out with Martin coming into the band. After a while, Richard came into the band, and we had to go to the States, but now this problem is also taken care of. It was just a fact that all these things took a lot of time to happen, thereís nothing secretive really. There was a dark period in the bandís history, and it seems that we needed some time off to get back the inspiration and the flame going again, we are!

You are now signed with the Dutch label Karmageddon Media. How did this collaboration occur, and am I to assume that with the release of 'Hate Campaign' you have fulfilled every obligation you had towards your previous label, Nuclear Blast?

Matti: Yes, that was really the thing. After 'Hate Campaign' we were out of a contract, and that was one of the basic reasons why it took us such a long time to release another album. We sent e-mails to many record labels, informing them that Dismember were available. We had a manager working on the offers that we received at the time. Karmageddon Media, Hammerheart Records at the time, came up with the best offer, and the thing that Guido (Heijens - K/M management) flew all the way from Holland to Sweden to meet us personally, made a very good impression on us. Yeah, they made us the best offer, and they may be smaller than Nuclear Blast, but itís easier to work with smaller labels, because there is more personal contract. With Nuclear Blast, you didnít even know who you were supposed to talk to about things - a huge mess. So for us things were really simple: Yes, Karmageddon media is a smaller label, but they have good distribution and they are also very hard-working people, so we decided to join them.

So you are quite satisfied at the moment?

Matti: be honest with you, I do not have any sort of contact with the label. Only when it comes to promotion and doing interviews, then I will contact Patrick (Savelkoul: Promotional department). Fred (Estby: the bandís producer and drummer) is handling all the business, so I donít even have to talk to Guido at all. Fred hasnít mentioned Guido for a while, so I guess that everything is being cool.

OK, It seems that this five year gap has done good to the band, because 'Where Ironcrosses Grow' has received very positive reviews in both the Internet and music magazines.

Matti: Yes, with some perspective to that, it might just be the truth. As I said before, after the release of 'Hate Campaign' we were left lost and uninspired. This gap made us relax and think of what we want to make with a Dismember album, and start to picture it in our minds. I guess that the first thing that we talked about was what we didnít like our new album to have, and after that discussion, everyone more or less knew what they had to do.

The bad thing about Dismember and our very turbulent history is that, sadly, most of the things that we ever did were rushed. Always hurry, hurry, and hurry - schnel, schnel, schnel, deadline, deadline, and deadline. This time, we just didnít give a f**k - we made this album when WE were ready, and I think that it made a huge difference. This time, we had all the songs ready before we entered the studio, and we also had enough time to listen to them once again before we started recording them, so as to correct the small and last minute mistakes.

In a way, it is more of a complete Dismember album, and Iím really happy that the people like it. We were kind of worried, because we were out of the scene for quite a while. We did some big Metal festivals in Germany this past summer, and we had quite a big response so we thought 'ok, it seems that there is some interest for us out there'. We were hoping that people would appreciate our new album, because we didnít have a fu**ing clue if they would still like the band. It seems that there are quite a few people who like the fact that we are still the same band, and didnít try to change - weíre still going our way.


Itís nice to hear that Metal crowds are still into Dismember - you must have had a great time playing in front of big crowds after so long.

Matti: Oh, yes. Weíve done some very good shows lately. Of course, there been a couple of down shows, but most of the time it was great - especially the scene in Mainland Europe. It is really mad to play there...there are so many Metal bands out there, and people just cannot afford to go to all these shows anymore. They have the ability to go to so many shows nowadays, that theyíve become very picky. That means that there will be a couple of shows that we will not have so many people, but it doesnít really bother me at all - not as long as someone decides to show up (laughs). Itís the reaction of the ones that are there that Iím really interested in - if they really like our music.

Let me be the one to say a couple of good things about Dismember, since you cannot do it, for obvious reasons. When we talk about Dismember, we were referring to one of the most influential Death Metal bands in Europe. Bands like you, Entombed and Hypocrisy were the first ones to introduce this very specific sound to Metal music. That of course means that your old fans will always be by your side, but what about the younger generations of Metalheads? Do you find that the band is equally appealing to them as it is to guys like me?

Matti: Yeah, I have met quite a lot of young people who are really into our music, which in a way surprises me. I have to admit that I wasnít expecting that much from this tour, because I have seen of all the tours that are going on at the moment. There were surprisingly quite a lot of young people who are coming to our shows, having in their hands one or two of our first albums and that means that even though they havenít been in the scene for that long, they do like this music. I think that this is really encouraging.

What about the thing that inspired you to write this album. Many people are already comparing it with your first album 'Like an Ever Flowing Stream'. I personally agree with such a comparison, but what about you? How would you compare 'Where Ironcrosses Grow' with the bandís previous releases?

Matti: I kind of touched this issue with my previous answers, but I will be more specific. In the process of creating this album, we looked at our history and pointed out all the things that we liked about our previous releases. Our past is what influenced us the most, and to answer your question I think that the sound of our new album is closer to that of 'Like an Ever Flowing Stream'. There are some technical stuff that we also had in 'Indecent and Obscene', some heavier songs and music themes like the ones in 'Massive Killing Capacity' or aggressive melodies as in 'Death Metal'. Finally the technical and quite complicated moments in this album were inspired by 'Hate Campaign', so you can definitely say that we were inspired by our whole history. That was the criteria that we set when recording this new album.

Dismember is one of the few bands nowadays where you have all of the musicians participating in the recording process, and 'Where Ironcrosses Grow' is the perfect example of that. Which song from the new album is the one that you like the most, which one has your own signature, and finally which is the most representative song of the whole album?

Matti: The song that I really like is the title track of the album. It is kind of short, and thatís simply because I hate long songs (laughs).

Have you been offered the chance to make a video for the new album?

Matti: The truth is that we have been talking about it between ourselves, but we donít really know what the label would have said about it. The members of the band believe that there is not a strong Metal video market yet - it is true though that itís coming back. There are a few TV channels that are playing Metal videos, but I donít believe that this is the right time for something like this. If there is a need for a video, then there is definitely going to be one.


Where did you get the good vibe from, for your personal contribution on this album - was it just the old releases that did it for you?

Matti: Well, I have to admit that I didnít actually contribute anything in the new album apart from the lyrics. I tried to focus on the lyrics, the atmosphere and the album cover of the album - stuff like that. When I was in the rehearsal studios with the rest of the guys and I listened to the new stuff, I thought 'yeah, this is really good stuff'. It was obvious that the new songs had the spirit, the energy and the enthusiasm, so that was more than an inspiration for me to create, or even better re-create parts of the songs of the album. Lyrics wise, it was very different for me, because our past releases had all these classic gory, bloody lyrics (laughs).

Still inspired by the old Gore movies of the past?

Matti: Well, not as much as I used to. I try to take my lyrics to a deeper level nowadays. I like to refer to things that happen to peopleís live and to the reasons that make them do the things that they do. One of the most amazing things, and I mean it in the bad way, about humanity is the tendency that the human beings have to make war on each other. I really wonder sometimes about that, you know? At the same time, and in a pretty morbid way, I see the necessity for a conflict. I do not approve it, but I see the necessity in it, and at the same time I have this fascination about Gore movies. So, some of the songs in this new album refer to war, not in a political way though - itís like weíre referring to small historic scenes that are pulled out from here and there.

Itís really funny, but I think that it was your lyrics that have actually put you in trouble last time that you have visited the United Kingdom. I was not living here at the time, and the part in the DVD where you mentioned this story didnít make things clear to me. What happened back then?

Matti: When I did the lyrics for the first album, I was living in my grandmotherís home. One day when I was returning home there were police cars all over the place. I went upstairs and I asked my grandmother what has happened. She told me that the guy who was living in the flat below had killed his wife. I was not given the exact details as to how he committed the crime, but apparently it wasnít really nice. That incident really freaked me out. I was sitting inside my room thinking 'what the f**k has happened here?' I then knew that I had to write something about it. I donít question anybodyís morals or stuff, but I prefer to describe the way things happen from the side of the killer and not from the victimís. I would never change to describe the side of the victim, because even though it is very sad and painful, it is not that interesting. Well, things like that put us in trouble with the English customs, nothing serious (laughs).

Itís really funny, especially since Cradle of Filth originate from this country, but letís not talk about it right now. Letís talk instead about the album cover.

Matti: When the album was being finished, we were talking about the album. All the guys were suggesting that we should have this and this and this, and then we said 'yes, but whoís going to do it?' Good question! We were starting thinking of all the artists that weíve seen lately, and then we said 'who is the guy that hasnít been seen for a while?' - thatís Dan Seagrave! We contacted him and he told us that he was very interested. He asked us what we wanted and I gave him an idea and a few guidelines. We also wanted it to have a connection with how the album sounds. A couple of weeks later...voila, a masterpiece!

I donít know if you have come across the last Suffocation release by the way...

Matti: Yes, I have seen it.

I was going to the record shop to buy the new Dismember album, and I accidentally got my hands on the album 'Souls to Deny' from Suffocation (laugh) - it was extremely funny!

Matti: The Suffocation album cover was something like a continuation of the Dismember album cover, but I do not know which one came out first.

You guys have a lot to say when it comes to the production of your albums, with Fred being actively involved in them. My question is, what approach did you take with respect to the new album?

Matti: We tried...with 'Death Metal' and 'Hate Campaign' Fred did all the job by himself. Of course we had some outside help, but he did everything on his own. For this album we said 'ok, we still want to be in control of things, but itís also good to have some outside input to keep you objective. Sometimes you are so much involved into things that you cannot really tell if what you do sounds good or bad.

Well, the guy who was supposed to work with us runned in some personal problems, so he more or less finished the drum tracks, and that was just about everything. When he finished his job we had recorded pieces here and there. We did some vocal tracks at home, and then came back the next day to do something else. We didnít rush it at all, we took things very slowly and I really enjoyed it - not like with our previous albums where we were running all the time. Being relaxed during the recording process helped us work more efficiently. This was very different than what we were used to up to that point, but it was the best thing that could have happened.

Did you use any different techniques, or have a different approach to the use of equipment this time?

Matti: Yes, we did use different equipment this time (note: at this point during the interview, the bandís main guitarist David Blomquist, a very crazy person indeed, decided that it would be a good idea to come and start making faces in front of us. That resulted in having to stop the interview for a couple of minutes in order to get back in order and control our laughter). We used the same approach though as in the past. We first recorded our drum parts. Then we did the guitars, and by the time two songs were finished, we started recording the vocals.

Well, it seems that weíre running out of time, but still I would like to ask you a few things about your DVD 'Live Blasphemies'. When did the idea first occur for a DVD release?

Matti: The idea of making a DVD has been in the process for quite a long time. The gig thatís featured there was recorded in 2003. We did the show as planned, but we also wanted to include an additional disc that would contain bootleg material. We came up with this idea because all of us loved the first ever Metallica video 'Cliff ĎEm All' (note: who doesnít mate, who doesnít!). You know that that live sh***y material was collected by their fans. We decided to do the exact same thing, since you probably saw that we also have really old sh***y material ourselves. As well as wanting the show to be representative of the way the band is today on stage, we also wanted to show our new fans how this band used to be ten years ago.


Most of the songs that you have played live on the 'Live Blasphemies' are from the album 'Like an Ever Flowing Stream' album. What also impressed me a lot is that the album 'Indecent and Obscene' is only represented by one song. I also expected that my favourite 'Dreaming in Red' would be performed that day, which unfortunately was not the case.

Matti: Well, the thing is that a couple of songs will also be played live like 'Dreaming in Red'. This is one song that if you fail to play live, people will start considering killing you (laughs). I donít think that we really talked about it, but somehow this song never made it to the set list. We didnít really think about it at all, until one person during the tour said 'hey, why donít you play 'Dreaming in Red' or 'Override of the Overture' this time?'

Matti, I have to ask you this: did you finally manage to get a hold of the lyrics from the 'Pieces' mini LP?

Matti: That is in the process of being taken care of. I am waiting for this guy to send them to me.

How could you have lost them in the first place?

Matti: I know, I know (laughs). I had a package with all the lyrics that Iíve ever wrote, and somehow the package with the 'Pieces' lyrics was gone. I know that itís really stupid, because I did the vocals and the lyrics for that release, and I could possibly manage to transcribe a big part of them if I was to sit down and do it, but not a 100%. We are not playing any of the songs from 'Pieces', until we find those lyrics.

One of the things that I always remember as a teenager was the constant comparison between yourselves and Entombed. What do you say about that?

Matti: That never bothered me.

As far as Iím concerned, you were both equally responsible for the birth of the Swedish Death Metal sound.

Matti: I think that the problem is that Entombed came first, and we came out straight after, so it was kind of easy for people to make that sort of connection between the two bands. It never really bothered me, but I still find it funny that even when Entombed went their separate way after the release of 'Wolverine Blues' and we were still doing the stuff we do today, people still made that connection between us. That for me is really fu**ing stupid (laughs). I wonder, canít some people really tell the difference? (laughs).

I think that we all want to hear about Dismemberís plans for the future. Please tell me that this is not the last album that weíre going to hear from the band.

Matti: No, definitely not! For the time being, we are going to do as many shows as possible for the promotion of 'Where Ironcrosses Grow', and after this is over we will start looking for a new rehearsal studio in order to start creating new material for our next studio album.

Matti, itís been a great pleasure talking to you. A message to the old and the new fans of Dismember, as well as to the subscribers of Get Ready to Rock!

Matti: I am going to say the same thing that I say to our shows every night. Thank you very much for supporting the band. Without you, weíre nothing and Iím really grateful for being given the chance to come here and play for you, our fans.

Interview © 2004 John Stefanis

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