30.01.08 text: Martin & Sobi pics: Afgrund, Tom, Disbeatless
·The Grind Core Songs Of Black Days·
Yet less than a year ago the name of this band would elicit just an uncomprehending countenance on my face. However, several months later I utter the name of AFGRUND with an appropriate respect. There can be no question of any overvaluation. The band managed to play at the prestigious OEF and release a great debut album „Svarta Dagar“ full of dark grind core pulsating in the intentions of crust. This year they will even perform at the Maryland Death Fest across the ocean! One more reason to introduce a not fully Swedish hope called AFGRUND. Our pushy questions were answered by the singer and now the guitar player Patrick Howe.
Could you briefly tell us anything regarding the creation and the history of the band? What was the main impulse to form AFGRUND or what were the motives? I suppose you have played in many other projects before. Right, the first demo is a very good quality material for a new band…
We started Afgrund in January/February 2006 after having talked about talking about it for a while, the founding members were me (Pat), Andreas and Olle our first drummer. At the time me and Andreas were going through some hard times and playing some intense anxiety-filled crustgrind suited the moment. Yes, I used be in Penile Suffcation and Andreas and Olle used to be in Mareridden together among a lot of other bands and projects. Thanks, it’s simply recorded in our rehearsal space with a portable studio and some beer.
What does AFGRUND mean? Why did you choose this name?
I came up with the name which originally was Avgrund, however we were told that there used to be a Slovakian crust band called the same, so shortly after we changed it to Afgrund. Avgrund means “abyss“, Afgrund is simple an old way of spelling the same word.
Though AFGRUND are considered a Swedish band your drummer is a Finn. To what extent does it influence the band`s work? The drummer PANU POSTI is signed under a big number of songs and the whole Svarta Dagar album was done under his production. Moreover, it was recorded in Helsinki. Are you not taken as Finns back home ha, ha?
How it influences our work? Not sure what you mean there really but it sure makes things harder him living in a different country. Well Panu has only written the music for three songs on Svarta Dagar (Självmord På Repeat, Raderad and Roulettehjärta) so I wouldn’t exactly call that “a big number of songs“ but yes, he has produced and recorded the entire album in his studio in Helsinki. Luckily we’re not taken as Finns in Sweden, the fact that our lyrics are in Swedish probably helps. However, surprisingly enough, we are more famous abroad than we are in Sweden.
I meant that he may have brought a new perspective, feeling, new ideas or so... Yes, you are right. It is just three songs but I thought of the whole thing with the production of the album too. It seems, however, a big portion on the work for a new member from my neutral point of view. I also have the feeling that your older stuff, split CD with RF, is much more direct and aggressive. So, the musical move on the debut album is thanks to the development of the whole band. Right?
Well I wouldn't call Panu a new member anymore, he has been a part of the band for almost 1½ of our 2 years of existance and just happened to have the knowledge of recording and producing music, which naturally came to use when it was time for us to record. The split with Relevant Few isn't exactly "older stuff" either, it was recorded only 1½ month before "Svarta Dagar" and also features Panu.
But yes I agree that the split album is more intense, partially because of the production being a bit rawer but most of the songs are just full-on grind. On "Svarta Dagar" we chose to be a bit more dynamic, which I feel is important on an album so one doesn't produce 30 minutes of nothing but blasting grind without variation, stuff like that can bore me. The production on "Svarta Dagar" is also not as intense and raw as the split, it's a lot "smoother". However that has changed now on the remixed and remastered upcoming re-release, the guitars have been re-amped and the production isn't as compressed, basically a lot rawer and grind!
I don't really see "Svarta Dagar" as a "musical move" really, a lot of the songs on there were written during the same period as the songs on the split, for the album we just chose the songs we felt would fit the best. However the next album will definitely be a developement in song-writing and musically, we've learned a lot from working with our first two releases.
How did you persuade the drummer Panu Posti to join Afgrund and stay there? How do you solve the rehearsals when he still lives in Finnland? Does he still play in his original band named Bufo?
We didn’t have to persuade Panu to do anything, he joined us as a live drummer for our tour in Poland in October 2006 and during that tour he said that he’d like to join our band and we eventually agreed. For practice we usually practice without him a few times and then he flies over to Stockholm a few days before a tour or maybe just a day before a gig to rehearse. No he left his old band Büfo a while back.
How much are the Swedish and the Finnish scenes linked? When I sometimes hear the musicians from Swedish or Finnish bands I do not have the feeling there is something like a deep friendship and affection. It rather looks like a proper rivalry or maybe I am wrong and it depends just on the particular people.....
There is no rivalry between Finns and Swedes, maybe only jokingly, we have a lot of Finnish friends. However the music scene isn’t particularly linked in any way. We have yet to play in Finland.
It seems Afgrund is going to be an international band. You played the concert in CZ with four members where there was a new bass player. He told us he is an Italian. Is this change in the band`s set-up a permanent one? Why does a band from Sweden have two foreigners though there are many great musicians at every corner there in Sweden?
Yes we are a very multinational band, I am half English and half Czech/Slovak, Andreas is Swedish, Panu is Finnish and our new bass player is Italian but lives in Stockholm. Yes this new line-up is permanent. We have this line-up because it just turned out like this, Afgrund could just as well have been all Swedish.
Half Czechoslaovak?! You really surprised me! Your surname sounds English but the fact you are half our countryman surprised me kindly. When Afgrund played in our country means you played almost at home ha, ha... What is your attitude to this country? Did you have some links here before you played here with the band? I hope you were not scared much by our village people ha, ha...
My surname is actually celtic (wales, ireland, scotland), my father partially has his roots in Wales.
I like the Czech Republic, good beer, good food, good grind and nice women! However travelling domestically in Czech Republic with trains and busses is a hell. But generally it's a nice country!
Links? Well I have some relatives in both Czech Republic and Slovakia, we also know the guys in Ingrowing! I have also travelled and visited both Czech Republic and Slovakia a few times before.
Well there sure was a lot drunken wierdos at the show, some who'd passed out on the floor for hours and other drunks trying to wake them up but I was definitely positively surprised to see all that people turn up! It was without doubt our best show on our european tour, eventhough I almost vomited on stage.
The guitar player Niklas from Splitter toured with you in summer. Did you take it as a stand-in right from the start or did you think about a longer co-operation?
No, the original idea was for him to join us only as a live guitarist, being in two busy bands at the same time can end up becoming a problem.
You have two quality recordings a split-CD with RELEVANT FEW and your debut after just one year of existence. If I add your demo, it shows a great potential of the band and a big ability to create new things. I know it is generally not a problem to release 20 split-CDs in a year but on the other hand the quality of the stuff is mostly not the best… Who is the one to come with the most ideas for the band? How often do you rehearse when you are able to put together new stuff so quickly? Have you been still creating new songs for further recording or is there anything ready so far the fans can be looking forward to?
Well it’s more like 1½ year after we founded the band. Well the early stuff was written by all three founding members but today I am probably the one who writes the most new songs but we’re all active in the song-writing process. We usually compose the songs at home and then record demo-versions of them on my computer/home studio. After that we usually send them to Panu for him to contribute with his ideas, it works the same way when Panu writes songs. We have slowly started writing new material but we’re far from releasing a new recording, I would guess that the next album will be out sometime autumn/winter 2008.
How hard is it generally to get a recording contract (to be released on a label) for a band playing extreme music nowadays. What about you and your recordings?
Well I haven't experience it very hard, there are a lot of labels out there releasing extreme music, if your band is good enough it shouldn't be a problem getting signed. We never experienced it being very hard, we got picked up by Lifestage after only existing 3 months and now recently all I did was asked a label that I felt was good if they were interested in working with us and they said yes.
Your music greatly combines classical hardcore and punk elements with grind and supports its compactness with unusually melodic parts. Is it the direction which Afgrund will be trying to head for? Can you be considered a band that develops the genre further and shifts it? You probably will not be big supporters of firm genre boundaries, will you?
We are broadly influenced by many genres so yes we would find it quite hard to write music that would be 100% standard grind, we write music the way we like it and hopefully others like it too. No we don’t like boundaries, boundaries only restrict the personal touch of the music and developement of the band.
The lyrics are traditionally in your mother tongue. Could you tell us a bit about what they are and what they want to say? What does the title „Svarta Dagar“ mean?
The lyrics generally are about things we’ve gone through or have opinions about, reflections of our everyday lifes basically, so unfortunately nothing about gore, rotting intestines or burning carpets. “Svarta Dagar“ means “Black Days“ - relating to the time when we started the band and the collective theme of the lyrics.
Lately it seems a standard your mother tongue is used in the Swedish grind scene? Is it possible to say that the Swedish language is kind of a main feature of today`s scene? OK, I understand the explanations that your mother tongue is easier to express yourselves in and that the lyrics are anyway hard to be picked up in the songs. However, why there are no translations in English in the booklet?
I’d say it’s more common that Swedish grind bands have English lyrics but yes there are a few who do it in Swedish, however I wouldn’t say that it’s typical or a standard for Swedish bands to have Swedish lyrics. We don’t have translations because we never thought about it really, I guess we never expected to be so appriciated in other countries than Sweden. Our future plans are to start writing more songs in English too.
The album is a professional piece of work, great cover and the whole artwork. Good work indeed. Did you choose the motive by chance or does it somehow correspond with the music on the album? Is it important for you that the CD looks also good from this aspect?
We needed artwork and I saw some stuff my French friend Remy from Headsplit Design had done and really liked it, it kind of reflected on the theme of the album. Yes the artwork and general design of all the album art we find very important, it should give the listener an impression of what is to come, therefore it should be inspired by the music and the general mood of the album in its whole. Professional artwork gives a serious impression too which always is a good thing, unless you are Anal Cunt maybe.
Do you not regret that the music is not bought on CD format much nowadays. So, many people will not appreciate the graphical part. Isn`t it a work in vain? What do you think about the present trend to download the music from the net? It has spread a lot in the extreme scene too. Do you think it kind of depreciates the scene or is it a good option to spread the music even more?
I have mixed feelings about all that but somehow I’m still glad to see that our music is spread all over the net and appriciated by so many. However it would help our band if we had a slight income to run the band with hehe. But I understand why people download music, it’s so easily available to everyone and it enables people to discover new bands easier too. Hopefully people understand the critical situation of the music business and eventually buy the music they appriciate.
Your album was released at Lifestage Productions from Poland. Recently I have read on your site that you are going to come over to Emetic Rec from The USA. Are they just going to edit & remix the album? It looks as though you were not satisfied with their work and the whole „Svarta Dagar“ album. What is the reason?
Yes we have moved on and are re-releasing “Svarta Dagar“ on the American label Emetic Records. The album has been remixed at Finnvox Studio in Helsinki by our drummer Panu, he has even re-amped the guitars for a rawer sound. At the moment Scott Hull is also remastering it. The re-release will feature new artwork and bonus tracks too.
No, unfortunately we weren’t satisfied with Lifestage’s work, I’m not going to go into detail about it but we felt that we needed a more active label, Lifestage just didn’t reach our expectations and being offered a better deal with a more active label was something we would have been stupid to not accept. However we wish Lifestage Productions good luck with future bands, releases and projects.
You toured Europe with Squash Bowels not long ago. How was it? Successful? What was the reception by the fans and your overall impression? Was there anything that upset you or surprised or delighted you on the other hand?
We had a great time on our European tour with Squash Bowels, however I wouldn’t call it entirely successful, some gigs were almost a waste of time and certain important things hadn’t been planned and organised properly, infact we ended up losing a lot of money in the end due various circumstances. But in the end of all we still had a real good time, met a lot of really cool people, played with a lot of great bands and saw parts of Europe we had never seen before. And yes, we got quite a lot of positive response on the way, we even pretty much sold all our merch too.
Well, it is true you kind of suffered due to the organisation at our place too. However, we do not usually organise gigs and Afgrund and SB were agreed shortly before the gig and we had a problem to find a place to stay overnight for you. Definitely, you left a very good impression. Actually, I bought your CD and decided to do the interview under the impression of your show. I assume most of the tours of less known bands in the DIY way suffer due to the shortage of finance and bad organisation. I also think there are too many of them. Does it pay out to go for such tours at all in your opinion?
I wasn't only referring to the Cizkrajov gig, I was talking generally concerning the entire european tour.
Tours don't have to be bad because of poor finance, it's all about working with the right organisers and promoters and planning well, simply having everything organised properly and not leaving important points and info left out.
Yes it is worth touring, it is a lot of fun and also it is good promotion for the band. And generally a tour doesn't have to mean losing money. We wouldn't have lost money if it hadn't been for unexpected circumstances.
You were supposed to do several gigs in England. These were cancelled due to a break up of the band Narcosis who should have organised it. I would like to ask about Narcosis. They did not show themselves in a very good light here. They pissed loads of people off by their behaviour at the last OEF. Could you comment on that?
Yeah that was a pity, Narcosis was a great band! I know about that situation, I was there. To be honest I think people in the crowd exaggerated the whole thing, I’m not aware of any details butof what I saw people in the Crowd were being just as big assholes as the guy in Narcosis would have been. I think it was all just unnecessary provocation from both sides. And if Narcosis had anything to be pissed off about it would have been the fact that they didn’t get picked up at the airport and had to wait for hours, leading to that they missed their time on stage and ending up having to play 3:30 am.
How did you enjoy playing at the OEF? Did you like that or do yout think it has become too big. Would you visit that even though you did not play there? Did you see the show of BT? Many people were quite disappointed by the show. That is why I would like to hear your opinion.....
OEF was a positive new experience for me, I had a really good time there! However it was a bit too much goregrind and down-pitched vocals for my personal liking, specially in the beer tent. Luckily I had a backstage pass and spent most of my time in the backstage bar. Too big? No, a good event can’t really get too big. Yes I would visit OEF without performing there myself, I think most of us from Afgrund are planning to visit OEF 2008. Yes I saw Brutal Truth but I was quite drunk and mainly stood on the side or behind the stage, can’t really remember much. Why were people quite dissapointed?
Any message to the readers of The SUFFERING?
Yeah check our releases out and spread the word! If you like our stuff please BUY SOMETHING at our online webstore at www.afgrund.bigcartel.com so we can buy beer and fly to America! ;) And continue supporting the grind scene! See you on the road!