22.05.07 text: Martin & Sobi pics: Tom
One stale rock proverb says: "Louder than hell". It would have to be changed to "Wilder than hell and faster than death" in the case of the Swedish grind core band called SPLITTER (how pertinent the name for this band) to describe their music and their new album "Avskräckande Exemplar". The album that literally hacked me to pieces (the whole review here). The interview for our webzine became a total must. So, we submit the following answers from the guitar player Niklas Holm and the singer Fredrik Thalberg that came back in a flash to you. It seems the band do not only play fast...
Though Sweden is a land devoted to the extreme music grind core is not a wide-spread genre there. Why did you decide so? Was there any influence by NASUM?
Niklas: You mean why we chose to start playing grindcore? Everyone in the band has different musical backgrounds ranging from hardcore to death metal. Grindcore is the perfect way for us to forge together all the styles that we like and the intensity of this kind of fast music is the greatest kick. Nasum was of course one of the biggest influences. They where the grindcore band that got all of us into the genre,
What status do NASUM have in Sweden?
Niklas: Their status is as big as you can get in the underground scene. You can ask almost any guy or girl in Sweden who’s into punk or metal and they will know who Nasum are (was).
Do you not think people will consider you continuators of NASUM and the leading representatives of Swedish grind core? Or maybe new representatives of new modern grind core direction?
Niklas: Musically our music isn’t that much alike in my ears but we have already been called the new Nasum several times. It’s probably more about the swedish sound (high quality production) more then the actual song writing
How big is the current grind core scene in your country? Does it blend a similar way the crust core one does? I mean if band members support each other and play in several bands at the same time as it is the case in the crust core scene.
Niklas: As a grindcore band we pretty much are connected to the crust core scene. It’s not unusual for a musicians here to play in both a grind band and crust band. I think grindcore has closed the gap between metal and punk in the scene today. When I go to a swedish, say, crust show, I know there will be both metal heads, punks and grinders. The scene in Sweden isn’t getting that much bigger but definately more open minded.
Most of the grind core releases nowadays have such a traditional style. The new SPLITTER album, however, has something else. Since MCD En Sorglig Historia it has been obvious SPLITTER pursue a modern conception of grind core. This move can be heard on the new album even more. Why did you decide to develop this style and do not stick to the traditional well-proven techniques?
Niklas: That’s a really hard question to answer but I‘ll try. None of us is especially dedicated to the old school scene. Of course we like many of the old school bands and we know where our roots come from but it’s not what we want to create. We want to push the limits, but all in all, we’re just writing music that we ourselves enjoy listening to.
Was it planned or did you feel it is right and natural like this?
Niklas: I don’t think we could have written any old school stuff with this band. When we write songs this is just what comes up. The only planned thought was to put a chaotic and dark mood over the songs. This is not a happy album, it’s meant to reflect downsides of life.
We can find the influence in nearly all styles of extreme music on the album. What is the most important when writing new songs? Is it your momentary feeling, mood or do you have a concept, an idea what SPLITTER are going to head for?
Niklas: Just as you say we try to mix many influences just as we as people are into so many different kinds of genres. Usually we have a musical concept for each song. We decide early if it’s gonna be a two-beat song, short blast song or a song with a lot of groove for example.
Are you not afraid that a part of orthodox fans will consider this progressive development as a wrong step? The song Livets Svarta Tunnel, e.g. will probably not wake a great deal of euphoria amongst orthodox grinders. A similar attempt to move forward was once done by bands BRUTAL TRUTH or EXIT 13. ND went through such a controversial period as well. Their similarly progressive diversion was never really fully appreciated by the fans. Are you not afraid of such reactions? Or do you think nowadays the fans are more ready for such a progress?
Niklas: I don’t exactly know why we should be afraid. This is how splitter always have been. Maybe we have become a bit better song writers with more experiences but it’s no sharp turn from the first recordings. I think the fans would be more shocked if we wrote a really punk inspired old school grind album. Writing a grind song without blast beats is nothing new. Just listen to the last two Nasum albums. I could never stand listening two a full length album with just blast beats. I need diversity, that’s what keeps the songs fresh and alive.
There are a lot of „melodic“ guitar parts on the new album. It is a unusual and controversial thing in grind core. Why did you decide to place these parts into your songs? Many people can see kind of a „commercial“ interest in that. I know it sound comical but I have heard a lot of comments telling „this is too much death metal, it is not grind core any more“ and other similar ones...
Niklas: It’s all matter of taste and relates to my answer in the last question. Melody acts to the diversity of the music. To us it’s nothing commercial about it. Fuck, if we wanted to make money we wouldn‘t have started playing grindcore in the first place. To us grindcore is the perfect forge of punk and metal music. Mixing the brutality of the death metal music with the melodies, the do it yourself and the politics of the punk music.
My next question is connected with the previous one. Why did you decide to use such an untraditional instrument for grind as the grand piano? I think a lot of fans will have a big problem especially with that. Is there a special meaning behind or was it just a momentary idea to liven up the album? It is true though ND used vocals like of Aneke from THE GATHERING on the last release but you have a real piano there not like ND. Did all the band agree that it is really a good idea? Who was tickling the ivories then?
Niklas: It’s all about pushing the limits once again. We saw it as a challenge to incorporate such a non-grindcore instrument into extreme music without making it lame. Piano is actually our vocalist Fredriks main instrument and he has played it many years. In my mind piano can even be more brutal than any guitar using it right. The idea of using it on the new album was mainly Me and Fredriks idea but everyone was up for giving it a chance and was very satisfied after it was done.
I could hear some very similar melodic guitar lines used by black metal bands that sound like this in several songs. Is it just a coincidence or is there any inspiration behind that? What do you think about black metal?
Niklas: We all, more or less, listen to black metal. It was natural for as to add those influences and widen the diversity of the music.
What does the coverart on the CD mean? It is again not a typical grind core cover; rather like a comic strip. Should that be the signal that also the music is going to be different from the usual grindcore style or is there any concept together with the lyrics there?
Niklas: The major theme of the album is about being an outsider of todays society. Not being accepted just because you don’t fit in or don’t conform. The cover art and mainly the scarecrow is basically just a metaphor of just that.
The first song is about people whose meaning of life is to work hard during the week and get drunk over the weekend and enjoy. OK – It is very much like this in our country. Do you think it is kind of a standard for young people in the society of today? This trend goes across the whole social spectrum affecting bands and extreme music fans, i.e. people listening to SPLITTER. They will listen to this song and maybe like it too. Isn`t it sort of a „preaching water, drinking wine“ behaviour if you know what I mean?
Fredrik: I came up with this Idea just because I felt that something have to break this trend, make people realize that this sort of „life-quality“ is much alike, comparing to „mine and your life“. It is a bad habit based on a classic workers life, careless and stuck in a circulation of hopelessness. The surrender of all other options except the basic routines. I hope that this song and these lyrics and will not encourage people, and especially not young people, thinking that this is som kind of life.
You write in the comments to the third song that people run after something their whole life gaining nothing in the end. Isn`t it the drive of the whole society though? If all opened their eyes and understood as you would maybe like the whole society would collapse... kind of anarchy would rule. Are you influenced by anything like that?
Fredrik: The title of the song „Livet svarta tunnel“ means „The black tunnel of life“ and is based on reaching goals in life, finding the peace and security that you once felt was promised. On that way, you are going to face all your fears. Frustration, horror, failure and death in a cold and moist existence. You might wonder when this is going to end? The answer is never, cause the vision of a happy satisfied surroundings will always drown when you are constant reminded of the pain and disappointment you have learned to await.
You sing in Swedish. Why and why do you not use traditional English? Is it the case from the beginning or were you inspired? Isn`t it a sort of trend in Sweden now?
Fredrik: Correct, I started to write the lyrics in Swedish from the beginning. and of course, the thought of doing it in English has also been there. But, I just felt that my whole expression and feeling of what I am doing would totally collapse if I left the Swedish writing. I don’t know, it just feels that this is how it should be. No Swedish lyrics, no Splitter. I think the swedish lyrics goes hand in hand together with the rest of the music, the whole concept. Swedish is a beautiful language but can also be understood as a silly one – I don’t see it in that way. You can always combine phrases and senses and create a brutal deep touch to it, If you are using it the right way. The mother tounge will always be more brutal then any other language, that’s just the way it is.
Isn`t it a pity that except for the Swedes no one will be able to read the lyrics being deprived of them? You add the comments in English though but as for me just a few sentences is not enough to get really deep. Or do you think that nobody is interested actually?
Fredrik: You got a point there, you will never go deep enough through the english comments if you can’t understand the lyrics. I think that a lot people is interested in finding out what the lyrics is all about, but it will always be a problem for people outside Sweden. I wish that I could give them the whole writing in a way that I was satisfied with too.
You deal with the negative aspects of contemporary society and life on its edge in your lyrics as I got from the comments. It is a criticism of contemporary life values. The comments are quite dark and depresive. Do you have your own experience with the things you sing about? Where do you take the inspiration and topics? It seems you are sure most of us live a life that is not worth living. Why do you look at these things so critically?
Fredrik: Every day and every minute of the day I am being constanly reminded of the misery. The outsiders are everywhere. It can be on the way to work or just shifting channel on your television. Some of the things I am writing is based on own experience I don’t want to talk about open minded, I am just leaving the lyrics for the listeners to interpret by themselves. Some are just stories been told by near friends or just inexplicable things I have been thinking about without finding any answers. I think that you have to see all the negative parts to get some sort of entirety in life. You know, living in a dreamworld until that day of failure will even strike you harder. The truth of everything is more important to me than just pushing the problems forward without getting that bitter taste of life.
Is music the means to get away and escape the life around?
Fredrik: I believe that the feeling of escaping life affects to many people today. The world is right now a big messy place with a lot frustration based on a million reasons. I hope that the music togheter with the lyrics will create some kind of fellowship for all the listeners that they can relate to without feeling forgotten.
How did you get under the wings of Obscene Prod.? It is not very usual for a Swedish band to release under a Czech company. What helped Čurby to persuade you to release under his label? Listening to your new album I do not think it would be a big problem to release the album under a bigger and a better known label, wouldn`t it?
Niklas: It all started with the Obscene Extreme Festival. A couple of us heard of the festival and went there in 2005. We where very impressed with the festival and managed to give a copy of our first MCD to Čurby. Then later in the year I mailed Čurby and begged to play this awesome festival and he’s wasn’t hard to convince, he he.
As we where also hunting for a record label I started a conversation with him about maybe signing us. The scene in eastern europe has always been interesting and a bit mystical to us and I bet it’s just vice versa for them being interested in the scene in the northern parts of europe. I just saw this as a big opportunity to build bridges between these scenes and expand the grindcore unity across europe and the rest of the world.
When it comes to Obscene Productions as a record label there wasn’t much doubt. We needed a label that would have us as high priority and just not be one of the small neglected bands on a big label. We needed a label where we could have freedom in our music but also know that we would get good promotion and backup.
Maybe we could have released this album on another label but we see no reason. We have a mutual trust between us and a good co-operation. Obscene Productions knew that we would deliver a great album and we knew that they will give us the support we need.
Was the mini CD En Sorglig Historia released under Obscene kind of a test you can trust the label and keep on co-operating?
Niklas: Well, maybe you could see it as some kind of test. We had already recorded it when we started to negotiate with Obscene. I think it was easier for them as a label to release this album with a still quite unknown band when they knew that the music had quality. At the same time we could release an album and see how the label would handle it.
You release under a Czech label. How well do you know the Czech scene and what is your impression of local people, bands, fans etc.?
Niklas: Since we started to co-operate with Obscene Productions our knowledge about the scene has grown a lot. We’re all big fans of bands like Pigsty, Jig-Ai and Gride to name a few. We have only played two shows in Czech Republic but those shows kicked major ass. Especially Obscene Extreme Festival was the biggest kick so far. To go from playing in front of 50-100 people to suddenly stand in front of thousands of screaming fans is a one in a lifetime experience. Totally breathtaking.
Here in Czechia ice hockey is very popular among the fans of extreme music. However, I have never noticed though Sweden is a country of ice hockey that someone from the Swedish bands I had met would be interested in it. It seems as though the people in the Swedish scene were focused just on the music and related things and sports were just out of scope. However, I might be wrong. What about other hobbies among members of SPLITTER? What do you think about the professional sport in general?
Niklas: Ice hockey used to be really big in Sweden but I think the interest has decreased. Back in the 80’s and early 90’s we had really big stars and we still do but nowadays they just decline playing in the national team. They just stay with their NHL team and Sweden just have to play without them which makes the games less interesting. Maybe it’s the same with the Czech NHL stars?
In these times sweden is more football (soccer) crazy. The crowd that used be mostly into hockey is now football supporters. The football games is the ones drawing a lot of people to the games. The fact that the world championship takes place only every fourth year makes it a bigger fest for sure.
Splitter is not vey sport interested though. I think I am the only following the progression of my favorite football team. The music is what keeps us going. Playing music and going to shows.
Any message to the readers of The Suffering?
Niklas: We just want to say say thanks to the Czech fans for supporting our music. Hope you like the new album and see you at the Obscene Extreme Festival!
Stundens chockerande intryck (demo 2004)
Vardagsĺngest (MCD 2005, Evigt Lidande Productions)
En Sorglig Historia (MCD 2006, Obscene Productions)
Split 7" w/Fromtheashes (split 7" 2006 Obituary Rec., AnarkoPunx Rec., Wasted Sounds, Loud At Heart)
Avskräckande Exemplar (CD 2007, Obscene Productions)
Fredrik Thalberg - Vocals
Thimmy Brodén - Guitar
Niklas Holm - Guitar
Fredrik Holmqvist: - Bass
Oskar Pihl Hedberg: - Drums