It always seems much easier doing research on a band whose music you enjoy, so I was pleased to be asked to come up with some questions for Necrophobic to answer after I'd had the pleasure of reviewing their latest album, "Hrimthursum".
After some digging I found some interesting background details and views, and asked Sebastian (lead guitar) to explain a few things in more detail.
You describe your music as 'unholy death metal' which is perhaps more precise than the blanket term 'black metal', since you cite Morbid Angel and Bathory amongst your influences. Is there a reason why you haven't called your music black metal - do you dislike the term or is it purely a question of definition?
Sebastian: Black Metal is trend..he..he. When Necrophobic started in 1989 even Bathory had the tag 'Death Metal'. We have always played the same kind of music so it felt kind of stupid to use the 'Black Metal' term just because some guys in Norway started to burn things down. As it seems now the 'Black Metal' scene is even more commercial than 'Death Metal' has ever been. Death Metal is the true voice of the underground.
I wanted to ask you about your unholy views which you are very open about, having named one of your albums 'The Third Antichrist', the opening track of your new album Hrimthursum is named 'The Slaughter Of Baby Jesus', and you celebrate Pope John Paul II's death on your website. Do you have strong religious beliefs - are you, for example, anti-Christian, Satanist or anti-religion?
Sebastian: I would say that we are against religion. We have studied the cult for several years but we donīt call ourselves 'Satanists'. When you play 'pissed of' music you have to have 'pissed of' lyrics. Religion is one of the main things that really upset us so itīs kind of natural to use it for lyrics. We donīt want the 'dark side' of Christianity and we donīt celebrate the goat. I think being a satanist in that manner makes you as much of a Christian as the ones worshipping Jesus, just with a different point of view.
Changing the subject to a wider scope, your music is pretty aggressive and seems to be fuelled by hate but your lyrics have a sense of hopelessness too. Does this stem from a genuine hatred of mankind and the futility of existence?
Sebastian: I donīt hate mankind, I just canīt stand most of the people. When you write lyrics you have the advantage of expressing excactly what you feel for that moment. Necrophobic lyrics are all about hatred but it doesnīt mean that we hate everyone all the time. If that would be the case I would probably be too angry to answer this interview.
Do all the band members have a similar philosophical viewpoint?
Sebastian: Everybody in Necrophobic stands behind the lyrics.
What triggers you to write your material? Is it a continuous process for you or do you have to be in a particular frame of mind?
Sebastian: Most of the songs come up when you do boring everyday things like working or doing the dishes. I think itīs some kind of gate to another realm that takes you away from ordinary life. When it comes to finishing the songs I guess you have to be in focus but ideas pop up all the time.
Your music has quite a cold feel to it, like a lot of Scandinavian metal. Do you feel that your Swedish roots are a large part of your identity as musicians?
Sebastian: Yeah, I guess the climate and the kind of cold mentality of the people makes the music sound a bit more chilled. Itīs important for us to let the roots shine through the music and give it some atmosphere.
Has your image ever caused you any problems or do you believe that people are more accepting of people that look different? Necrophobic have been around since 1989 so youve been metallers for quite some time. Do you think there been a change in people's attitudes in general since then?
Sebastian: Most people donīt care. Sweden is kind of open when it comes to subcultures. The only thing not accepted is Nazis. Itīs not different from the 80īs. The attitude has changed when it comes to the music. Around 89 everybody thought that Death Metal musicians could not play and that we were just bashing our instruments. People have now started to accept our music and try to take some time to understand it.
And what about people's reaction to your lyrics? Do you think that the decline in church attendance and weakening of Christian belief in the general public has lessened the reaction to your lyrics? Is that something you have experienced in Sweden (or indeed anywhere)?
Sebastian: I donīt think anyone outside the scene reads our lyrics. They think that if you canīt hear what the singer screams then its no use to even open the booklet. I think it would upset most Swedish people if they knew. We donīt try to spread a message. If we would then Death Metal is a stupid way.
Like most bands you've had ups and downs during your career - such as line-up changes and a label change in late 2005. Has it been difficult to remain focused with changes going on and new experiences? Have you ever felt like giving up?
Sebastian: Yeah, it's hard when you want to focus on songwriting and you have to put all your energy into other problems. I think we all have felt that it's no use to keep going but for some reasons we always carry on. The music is in our blood and it must come out in some way. Itīs better to stick with Necrophobic than starting all over again. The same problems would arrive anyway.
Do you have much involvement in the merchandising side of things, and the art work for your albums?
Sebastian: We design everything ourselves. It's important that the package fits the content so itīs hard to let someone else do stuff for you. I have made the last 2 covers and also the sketch for the new one that Tyrant (Nifelheim) made the final artwork from.
I notice from the list on your website that you use equipment such as Rickenbackers and Gibsons. You've been around over 15 years and presumably you didn't start out with such lovely instruments. Did you ever imagine you would be where you are today?
Sebastian: No, just a couple of years ago it seemed impossible to have that kind of gear, but things change. We have always had the interest in fine instruments but not beeing able to afford it until now.
Do you think your writing style changed much over the years?
Sebastian: Yes. Earlier in our carrier we had more jams and we wrote a lot of material at the rehearsal place. Nowadays we write more on our own and just meet to arrange the last parts. We have the same intention with our music but influences change and maybe it colours our music differently.
And have technological developments changed your music much over the years?
Sebastian: Itīs easier to make whole arrangements with the use of computers. It also gives you a clearer image of what you want to obtain in the studio.
You produced Hrimthursum yourselves. I guess it must be satisfying having greater control over your music - did you enjoy getting involved on a more technical level?
Sebastian: We wanted to see if we could do it ourselves. Itīs great to know that where ever we record it will still sound 'Necrophobic'. Personally I donīt think its fun at all to be in the studio producing. I just want to play my guitar.
In which ways would you say your new album sounds different from your previous work?
Sebastian: This album has more depth into it. The songs are more epic. We are also better musicians than ever.
How would you describe your music to someone that has never heard it?
Sebastian: Like a washing machine with cats in it breaking down in your bathroom while 7 alcoholics attack you with their angry dogs as you try to take a shit...
You've played a few live dates in Spain this year, and played at the Party San in Germany before. How have you enjoyed visiting different countries over the duration of your career? Is there a particular country you would still like to conquer?
Sebastian: We love going to new places. It would be great to go to South America.
You've also recently played the Mälarrocken festival in Västerås, Sweden, and you're due to play the Hellflame Festival in Osnabrück, Germany on 2nd September. Do you have a preference for festivals or more intimate venues?
Sebastian: Personally I like smaller places but festivals are great as well. You get a closer contact to the audience at small venues.
What about the future for Necrophobic? Have you begun planning your next album already or are you more focused on your live dates and promoting Hrimthursum?
Sebastian: We have plans for a DVD and a tour right now. We have started to write new material for the next album but this year we will focus on 'Hrimthursum'.
Thank you for taking the time to answer my questions. Is there anything further you'd like to say?
Sebastian: Thanks for the interview, Hail the Hordes!
Interview © October 2006 Amanda Hyne