GRAVE - And Here I Cry … Satisfied!
March 22, 2017, a year ago
So what does it take to make a grown man cry? Let the heart bleed out. Some never cry. But that’s not healthy. So when my eyes started to well up during Grave’s in-door set on 70000 Tons Of Metal 2017, I wasn’t embarrassed. I had a smile from ear-to-ear as I took another sip of my bourbon. And only minutes prior, leader Ola Lindgren had taken a hit from my very cup. He’s not much of a drinker he said during our interview the day prior, so I was honored. And if the buzz could heat up the blood in his death metal veins, then we were all to benefit. But back to the tears. Hundreds packed the Pyramid Lounge to witness the Swedes ravage their way through the first three crucial albums: Into The Grave (1991), You'll Never See… (1992) and Soulless (1994). I can finally be laid to rest in my grave.
Leader Ola Lindgren is a hard man to pin down, according to his inner circle. For well over 25 years, Grave has built upon the treasured Swedish death metal scene alongside Entombed, Dismember and Unleashed. A true forefather of the genre. And still delivering the goods to this day, 2015’s Out Of Respect For The Dead manages to give a nod to the band’s brutal past, yet taking aural violence to the next level! So we begin with that metal masterpiece that remarkably builds upon Grave’s crowning achievement Soulless, but with increased vicious intensity and well, anger. From start to finish, a beautifully intense piece of work.
Lindgren: “Yeah, it's got a great vibe. We did two or three songs early on, and they all had the same kind of vibe to it. We decided to keep going with that vibe as it just came naturally. Everyone contributed. It went very fast, actually.”
BraveWords: Where is your ideal writing space - where you can get in that moment?
Lindgren: “I usually come up with ideas at home, where I record them right away so that I do not forget. So, I have a shitload on my phone. I do little demo sessions with programmed drums to present to the band. The other guys also do the same, so things come together very quickly when we start putting our ideas together.
BraveWords: What's your poison - when it comes to the technology? Are you an Apple/Garageband fan?
Lindgren: “I like to use Pro-Tools on Apple.”
BraveWords: You do this in a home studio?
Lindgren: “Yeah. I also have my own studio as well (Studio Soulless in Stockholm), where we have recorded the past three albums. I also do other productions there for other bands. This is what I hope to do when I retire.”
BraveWords: Similar to Peter Tägtgren then, right?
Lindgren: “Yeah, exactly like that.”
BraveWords: Lyrically speaking, on the new album, am I mistaken or am I hearing a lot of references to Nazism? When I read the lyrics and look at the artwork it seems to me that it is painting a picture of that entire era of terrible, terrible brutality?
Lindgren: “Nah, it's not really based on that specifically. All the lyrics are meant as small stories, with no real concept behind it. I mean, it's easy to write songs about brutality, especially as it relates to this kind of music. I could never write a song with happy themes. It's much easier to write about war, horror, ghost stories, and fictional stuff - stuff I often see on TV. Stuff that really pisses me off.”
BraveWords: The era we are living through has to be a writer's dream.
Lindgren: “Yeah, yeah, definitely!”
BraveWords: Anybody who doesn't understand the music just thinks it suicidal or dark for the sake of being dark. To me, it's therapy. It's hate times ten. Is there anything that sticks out from all these atrocities - or anything that just drives you? It's a beautiful hatred you guys create.
Lindgren: “Yeah, for sure - like any religion it drives me mad. It's super easy to write about. You can make up one hundred stories about stuff you've read or heard about on the topic. It's unimaginable how people can live like that.”
BraveWords: Did you grow up with religion in your family?
Lindgren: “Not hard religion, no. My grandparents - on my mother's side - were very religious. I think my mother had eight siblings, but none of them followed it hard. I went to Sunday school with my grandparents when I was a very young kid. That said, I don't think it comes from there, as it was never pushed on me in any real way.”
BraveWords: When I travel I go to churches because of the architecture.
Lindgren: “Yeah, me too.”
BraveWords: Not for the spirituality, but for the beauty of the moment. For some people this stuff is their whole life - it's kind of strange when you think about it.
Lindgren: “Yeah, and I think you have to kind of respect that. Still, I can't imagine how people can live like that. That said, often, these people turn out to be hypocrites who pretend to live by the book. Maybe not ordinary Christians, but cults that claim they live very, very hard by the bible. When you have one guy with ten wives, who fucks all the girls, there is something wrong with that picture.”
BraveWords: I interviewed Tom Araya many years ago and he said something poignant. He said we've been on this planet for many thousands of years but we still can't fucking get along. For the most part, it's all because of religion. As a musician, you have the opportunity to discuss the other side of the coin, so to speak - and not necessarily talk against it.
Lindgren: “It's a good time - as you said - for writing aggressive lyrics. It's sad to say that there is likely no end to this shit.”
BraveWords: In Canada - Quebec City - there was another shooting, this time at a Muslim temple.
Lindgren: “Same as in Sweden - there are shootings in many of the segregated areas. I know people think Sweden is a very rich country, up there as it relates to its citizens rights - and, maybe we are - but there is still a lot of shit going on Sweden right now that I can't even explain. I don't think a lot of people outside of Sweden actually hear about this stuff. There is a lot of segregation with immigrants coming in, who are all put in the same suburbs. There is a lot of shit that goes down in these areas, and the police, ambulances, and fire departments do not want to go into these areas without adequate protection. Some times, even the police cannot go in. It's ridiculous. It's getting to the point where people are getting really fed up with it. There is a right-wing party now in the Swedish government that came into the last election. Everyone is complaining about there now being right-wing representatives in the parliament, but that's not it. It's just a case of people who are pissed off. Most of the immigrants that come in are just people looking for a better life - just as you or I would in the same situation. But the politics in Sweden have been fucking terrible for years - and people are pissed off with it. We have an election next year, and I think this party will become the majority. I don't know if it's going to be good or bad, but something needs to change, and you can't blame the people for coming in. The problem is that we are taking in too many and we can't take care of them. What choice do they have if they can't get an education or a job? It leads to bad things.”
BraveWords: Absolutely. So, what do you think flicks that switch for an extremist to grab a gun. As two normal people talking, its' hard to comprehend.
Lindgren: “Yeah, I don't know. I try not to think about it too much. I mean, it's not just Sweden. I travel everywhere, and this could happen anywhere. Like, last year we were on tour, and there was stuff happening in Paris and Brussels. It was happening everywhere while we were out.”
BraveWords: A lot of people talk about how these people who commit these acts are mentally unstable - and, for many of them, there is no help - they are just brushed aside, homeless, or whatever the case may be. They are fucked up. Anyway, let's get back to some positive stuff again - the music. This latest stuff is starting to get old, so there must be some new ideas floating about?
Lindgren: “Yeah, we'll see what happens this year. Were not too busy until summer, so we might try to get together for some sessions and see what happens. There is a lot of material - ideas and riffs. We just need to get all of us in a room together and play - piece this stuff together.”
BraveWords: Grave has such a treasured history. It's got to be a beautiful thing. I grew up with Grave and Swedish death metal and both have had a major impact on me and my world.
Lindgren: “I'm very thankful to have had the opportunity to be doing this. It's actually been twenty-five years since our second album came out. I mean, I can't even grasp how long it's been. But the material has aged well. We pick up old songs to introduce to the set-list every once in awhile, in an effort to freshen things up a little, and they never feel out of place or weird.”
BraveWords: Looking at other classic bands, such as Entombed or Unleashed, there is a distinct Swedish sound there that is not hard to miss - but you guys have always sounded a bit different. As an example, Soulless sounds different, than say, Left Hand Path.
Lindgren: “Yeah. Actually, we weren't in Stockholm when all this started. When we started, we grew up on a little island outside of Sweden. That's where we originate. So, we didn't have access to as much stuff as the bands from Stockholm did. We went up there every once in awhile for concerts and to buy albums. We met Nicke (Andersson) and Uffe (Cedelbunt) - from Nihilist - as well as Fred (Estby) from Dismember. We got some tapes from those guys, such as one from Nicke that had Morbid Angel and other stuff. We were like 'whoa! What the fuck is this?'. So, they introduced us to more and more of that stuff, as we were more thrash-influenced at that time.”
BraveWords: Was there ever a friendly competition?
Lindgren: “No, I don't think it was a competition, really. More inspiration. I was blown away by the first Nihilist demo. Those guys knew how to play. We were like cavemen compared to them. This maybe worked to our advantage, as there was more of a finesse to their stuff, and our stuff was perhaps more straight-forward, more brutality to it. I think that's what set us apart a little bit.”
BraveWords: What album really sticks out to you from that era - both Grave and from your peers - from the viewpoint of a fan listening this stuff?
Lindgren: “For me, I would say Celtic Frost's Morbid Tales (note; he’s wearing a Monotheist t-shirt).”
BraveWords: I would have to go with To Mega Therion. After that, they dropped the ball - into a 'Cold Lake' (laughs).
Lindgren: “I actually just listened to that album last week.”
BraveWords: Did you? Why (laughs)?
Lindgren: “I don't know. I have to remind myself sometimes (laughs)!”
BraveWords: Just the silliest thing on the planet. I know Tom is still very embarrassed by it. It's the perfect example of an American label wanting to milk a band. Saxon did it - there are a million examples of poor decisions in this same way.
BraveWords: Have you had a chance to hang out with Tom G. Warrior?
Lindgren: “I've actually never met the man in my life. It's funny, as we have played many festivals together.”
BraveWords: I was lucky enough to have had dinner with him.
Lindgren: “Really? I dunno. He's almost too big for me. For some reason, I can't get myself over to introduce myself to him. It's really weird, because I know the drummer of Triptykon (Norman Lonhard) really well, and we meet and hang out often.”
BraveWords: Don't be shy. He is a really friendly person.
Lindgren: “Yeah, I've heard he is a great guy. It would be better to bump into in a bar than as a fanboy running up to him. He is one of those guys for me - one of those guys that is still with us from those times.”
BraveWords: So, moving on, as far as vocals, how do you train that voice?
Lindgren: “I don't train it at all. It's weird. I smoke - and drink once in awhile.”
BraveWords: Sounding good for a man of forty-six!
Lindgren: “When messing around with my vocals I tend to drink honey water or tea. I have no idea what would happen with my voice if I stopped smoking. It might fuck it up, and might have to start again (laughs). I just go with it and 99% of the time it works. I just try to keep it as I have all these years and not mess around too much with anything that I do.”
BraveWords: Are you a Flotsam And Jetsam fan?
Lindgren: “Yeah, for sure.”
BraveWords: I hung out with their singer A.K. in Tampa last year, and he mentioned that with all the years of drinking - and other extracurricular activities - the secret to a smooth, strong voice is water, water, and more water. His doctor said to just keep drinking water.
Lindgren: “That is a good tip!”
BraveWords: What guitar player - or players - stick out for you?
Lindgren: “Randy Rhoads. Other than that - there are so many. I'm not really into these super guitarists, buys like Steve Vai or Satriani. I like guys like Randy and Jake E. Lee.”
BraveWords: The two albums that Jake did with Ozzy get overlooked and in my opinion, Bark At The Moon and The Ultimate Sin only take a back seat to the Blizzard Of Oz and Diary Of A Madman.
Lindgren: “Shot In The Dark" is our outro song.”
BraveWords: Are there any more of those bucket-list guys aside from Tom G. Warrior you would still like to meet?
Lindgren: “Not really. There isn't many that I haven't already met. I mean, Randy (Rhoads) is gone. I did get to meet Jeff Hanneman.”
BraveWords: Such a loss. Slayer is my band. On that note, what from your music is influenced from some of these classic personalities and bands - what makes its way into your music, if any?
Lindgren: “Back in the early days, for sure Slayer and Kreator. Also, Celtic Frost very early on, when we played more thrash-based stuff. I still have those elements in the back of my head - in a way not to over-complicate things. There is almost always a Morbid Angel riff on some song on one of the albums. The latest one, we had a Def Leppard riff.
BraveWords: Really? Which song?
Lindgren: “I believe it's the second song “Flesh Before My Eyes”). It's just a finger move, but it's something that Def Leppard does it in a lot of songs. I think you will hear it - the second song where the song comes to break, it's right after that.”
BraveWords: Give me High 'n' Dry any day!
Lindgren: “Fuck yeah. I love that album. All of it.”