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The Haunted    
The Haunted

The Haunted are leading the charge of bands breathing new life into thrash metal. Formed in 1996 from the smoking rubble of the mighty At The Gates, The Haunted were the subject of much interest from their very inception. The band's self-titled debut dropped in 1998 and hit the ground running. This album was proof positive that true thrash, inspired by speed, aggression and violence, was still as relevant and downright vicious as it had been a decade earlier. Now The Haunted are back with their sophomore release, 'The Haunted Made Me Do It'. The Metal Update spoke with guitarist and metal machine, Jensen, to find out more about his band's dark intentions.

MU: You released The Haunted's self-titled debut to mass critical acclaim. Did you expect that to happen?

J: Frankly, No. We didn't know if people were going to be interested in the kind of music that we were playing. It was quite a step away from At The Gates [former band of guitarist Anders Bjorler, bassist Jonas Bjorler and then-drummer Adrian Erlandsson] and my previous band Seance. So we were very overwhelmed by the reaction that we got.

The Haunted

MU: Why did you make that album?

J: We just started to play together because we were a bunch of people who had been in the business for ten years or so. We had no conscious goal of where we wanted to go. We just started to play and thrash is our mutual stomping ground. That's just how it turned out. If we had different players when we started out, it might have been totally different. It is just what we feel good about playing.

MU: How many albums did the debut sell?

J: The only numbers we have are the numbers we get from our label.

MU: What are they telling you?

J: Something like 30 - 40 thousand.

MU: It seems like the whole metal community was familiar with that album, but for those who aren't, how did the band get together in the first place?

J: Well, Adrian, the now ex-drummer [and former At The Gates drummer], he called me on the 27th of July 1996. He told me that At The Gates had just broken up 30 minutes before he called me. He asked me if I was interested in playing with them, and I said, "of course." And the day after we went to the rehearsal studio and started jamming. I had a couple of songs with me that I had initially written for Seance. The first rehearsal was just me and Adrian and we played "Three Times" and "Undead". A week later Jonas joined. A week after that we had John Zivetsloot, the old guitar player from Dissection, but he was replaced after two or three months by Anders. We started to get a lot of songs written, but we needed a singer and Adrian suggested Peter. He got together with us and we recorded the demo that we sent to Earache.

MU: How would you sum up the sound of that first album?

J: Aggression. Total Speed. In fact, we had two more songs that Earache pulled off that album that are probably the heaviest songs we've written to date. But they pulled them off because they wanted just a totally fast album.

MU: Have those songs been released?

J: No, they still have them on the master tape. I am pretty sure they'll be out on a compilation album or something in the future.

MU: So what's happened with the band since the debut album came out?

J: Not much. That was the whole problem. We were ready to go tour and tour and tour and work hard, but nothing seemed to happen. We weren't getting the support we wanted from Earache. You know, there's always two sides to the story, but from our point of view, we didn't get the support that we wanted. We did a ten-day UK tour. Everybody was getting frustrated. Peter was just too good a vocalist to be sitting around, so he left. Today he gets airplay on national Swedish radio almost every other day. It's just his vocals and acoustic guitar, so he's doing very well right now. Adrian left for the same reason; he loves to play live. He got the offer from Cradle of Filth, a band that has the opportunity to play live all over the world, so of course he accepted that.

MU: So that's the goal, you guys want to get out and tour.

The Haunted

J: Yeah, we want to work. We knew that we had a great album and we didn't have the chance to show people what the band sounded like. Everybody was frustrated. I have my band Witchery, so I was busy with that. I was out touring and so on. I had that to distract me from what was going on with The Haunted.

MU: How did you go about regrouping?

J: Well, Peter left in November '98 and we found Marco in March '99. There were a few months where pretty much nothing happened. We just tried to find the right singer. Then Adrian left in June. In between March and June we had written a few songs. Then Adrian left for Cradle and everything came to a dead stop because you can't really practice without a drummer. Then we found Per. He agreed to be a session drummer on the US Testament tour. When we got home from that tour in the beginning of September, he wanted to join as a permanent member. So between the beginning of September and December, when we entered the studio, is when we wrote the bulk of the album.

MU: Tomas Lindberg, the former At The Gates vocalist, is now singing for Lock Up. When you were looking for a singer did you ever consider working with him?

J: No. The reason At The Gates broke up is because the twins couldn't get along with Tomas. Now they can talk to each other and be at the same parties, but it wouldn't be possible. I mean he's a great guy. I haven't spent three months with him in a tour bus, so I don't know. But if you just meet him he's a cool guy.

MU: Where did Per come from?

J: We knew him from his work with his previous bands Invocator and Konkhra. Invocator was a great thrash band from Denmark and they put out two or three albums through Black Mark in the early '90s. We didn't know the guy personally, because he's from Denmark. So we got a phone number and called him and he hadn't heard of The Haunted or even At The Gates. He had totally left the metal scene. He cut his hair and started to play jazz with old guys in smoky bars. He got really into it when I sent him the CD and playing with us live made him want to play metal again.

MU: So you brought him back to the fold. What do these new guys bring to the lineup?

J: Marco has a wider range. You know, Peter is a great singer, and he writes probably the best lyrics in metal, but Marco has a wider range. And Per - there is nothing we can't do with him as the drummer. Many bands are limited because of the drummer, but in this case - no. He's the guy that picks up the tempo. We have problems catching up with him!

MU: So even though he quit metal to play jazz in smoky bars, he hasn't lost a step.

J: You know, if you ask a jazz drummer to play a real fast double bass, he' ll do it because he doesn't know it's supposed to be a lot of hard work. So he didn't have to practice. In fact, before he joined us for the US tour. The US tour was in August, and I was in the US with Witchery in July, so practicing with Per was pretty much up to the twins. When I got back, I was only in town for 24 hours before leaving to go back to the US with The Haunted. I asked the guys, "how many times did you practice?" They said, "just once." I said, "what are you crazy?" They said, "we don't have to, he doesn't make any mistakes." So I got to practice with him once before we left, and Marco met him for the first time at the airport.

MU: Who did the writing for the new album?

J: Pretty much me and Anders, but the guy who took a giant step forward was Jonas. He has written a whole lot of this album compared to the first one. He's Mr. Melodic-fingers. The melodic riffs you hear are from Jonas.

MU: There's a lot more melody on this album.

J: That's Jonas' work.

MU: How do you compare the sound of 'The Haunted Made Me Do It' to that of the first album?

J: This one is better technically. It's more varied. It has a better production. I think the vocals are not better, but more varied.

MU: That's definitely true. Who produced the album?

J: Anders, Per and the guy who owns the studio, Berno Paulsson.

MU: What did Berno Paulsson bring to The Haunted sound?

J: He has owned his own studio for 20 years and he also plays guitar. He saw Hendrix and Led Zeppelin during the '70s. So he knows about metal. He writes books about studio work and producing bands. So he knows every tiny little knob you can find in a studio.

MU: Was there any conscious decision to make the album sound different this time around?

J: Well, I know Anders, for one, wasn't at all pleased with the drums on the first album. And we wanted to make it a heavier album, with more bass - so to speak. So that was the kind of stuff we wanted to change and it was no problem with Berno to find the sound we wanted. I think the drums on this album sound fantastic.

MU: Was there a decision to slow things down a little bit?

J: Well, we realized when we played live that all the songs we had were fast. A live show with us was just "bup, bup, bup, bup" and it was over. So we wanted to add a few more slower, heavier songs to the set. We needed heavier songs for this album. That was the only conscious decision we had. And as far as adding melody, that was all due to Jonas being very active. Sometimes one member has more inspiration, and sometimes another has less inspiration. It is nothing that we sit down and decide. Whoever writes the good riff gets to have it on the album.

The Haunted

MU: You were mentioning before that tour support wasn't what you had hoped for in the beginning. What kind of vibe are you getting from Earache now?

J: They've been working very hard. But ask any band out there, there are always problems with the label. If you ask a label they probably won't tell you, but they think it's the same hassle dealing with a band. So there's always two sides to the story.

MU: It seems that Earache has changed a lot over the last few years. It seems like they had drifted away from metal a little bit, but now are coming back around.

J: Maybe. You know, Shane Embury from Napalm Death and Mick, the original drummer from Napalm Death?

MU: Sure.

J: These two guys told Dig who to sign back in the day. They told him to sign Morbid Angel. Get Carcass. Get Bolt Thrower. When these guys stopped telling him what to do because they weren't happy with Earache, or for whatever reason, things started to go less good.

MU: So you think that had something to do with the change toward a more industrial / techno direction?

J: You know, both Shane and Mick are probably both very good at scouting what band will be worthwhile. So, you know, Dig probably saw this whole metal techno thing coming and he wanted to get in on it. Just as any company can make a wrong decision about the future, I guess that's what happened with Earache.

MU: It certainly seems that Earache is a little more metal than they were a couple of years ago. The Haunted is clearly a heavy metal band. What do you think of when you think of the term "heavy metal"?

J: Heavy metal is what I grew up with. I listened to a lot of heavy metal at school. Thrash came a bit later. So I grew up with Judas Priest, AC/DC, and Motorhead. Now when I want to listen to something, I don't listen to death metal. I put in an old Scorpions album or Ozzy.

MU: Classic metal.

J: Yeah. When I was in my previous band, Seance, I was pretty much listening to the contemporary music - a lot of riffs and speed and time changes and all that. But when I started to go back and listen to the old, classic heavy metal bands, I realized how much harder it is to write a memorable song. That's when I changed my approach to writing music. I wanted to write a song that sticks out and you remember it.

MU: So what's in the CD player of the bus when you are out on tour?

J: If I get to choose it's probably Chris Isaak, but then Marco would probably kill me. (laughing)

MU: Where does your interest in Chris Isaak come from?

J: Well I have this thing for music with a sadder touch to it. I also listen to Portishead, which also has that sad atmosphere. I am not really into power metal that has all these happy guitar things going on.

MU: What about Slayer?

J: Well, (laughing) what can you say? But I've always been a bigger Dark Angel fan, than a Slayer fan. I am way into 'Darkness Descends'. You know the first song [from 'The Haunted Made Me Do It] "Dark Intentions"?

MU: Yes.

J: People say that is typical Slayer, but when I wrote that song I had Dark Angel in mind. I thought it was a clear giveaway with the title. I think that Dark Angel didn't get the recognition they deserved.

MU: I think that's true. And although Dark Angel is gone and Slayer is still around, many would say that Slayer's greatest work is far behind them.

J: Well, who knows what the next album will sound like.

MU: I heard a rumor that they may work with Ross Robinson.

J: I read an interview with Ross Robinson just recently. He went down there and listened to their new stuff and just went totally crazy. He yelled at them and asked them what the fuck they were doing. You know, that they should be leading instead of following this adidas-metal trend that is going on. Kerry just went through the roof. So there's not going to be any. . .

MU: You don't see that happening. . .

J: No, judging from what Ross said in the interview.

MU: I have read a few quotes from Ross Robinson where he said the adidas-metal thing is dead and he wants to move on. Would you ever work with Ross Robinson?

J: I know the guy. I know he's a huge fan of Witchery. He actually flew in to see two shows. He saw the New York show and the Los Angeles show. I gave him a t-shirt at the New York show and he showed up wearing it at the Los Angeles show. He's a great guy.

MU: Is there any chance that Ross Robinson will work with Witchery?

J: Who knows? It would be fun to see what he means by bringing back real metal.

MU: While we are on the subject of Witchery, which band is your main focus?

J: The Haunted is my main band, but because we didn't get to tour with the first Haunted album I had time left over for Witchery. But The Haunted is my main priority because, you know, everyone else in Witchery also has another band. It is pretty hard to synchronize with everybody. But me and Richard have been writing new songs. We have eight new songs and we'll probably right about four or five more. Then we'll take ten songs for the new album and record in January, probably in Berno Studios in fact.

MU: In the meantime, what are tour plans for The Haunted?

J: Right now we've got a headline tour in the UK and Ireland. Then just a few days after that we'll hopefully fly in for the LA Metalfest.

The Haunted

MU: Is that confirmed yet?

J: Well they want us to play and we want to play, but it's all the politics. . . [it has since been confirmed that The Haunted will appear at the November to Dismember festival in LA] If that happens, then it's straight from there to a week in Japan.

MU: Have you been to Japan?

J: Yes, with Witchery. It's crazy.

MU: They love heavy metal.

J: They love solos. We went with Arch Enemy and they have two lead guitar players. They are totally crazy about these guys. When they go for a double guitar lead, they just cheer like there's been a soccer goal.

MU: I think that a lack of guitar solos is one of the downsides of a lot of new metal and I'm glad that The Haunted hasn't abandoned them.

J: We are going to try to develop that even more on the next album.

MU: So when you go out on tour, you will be headlining?

J: In the UK and Ireland, yes. I don't know if we are going to do a huge tour in the US or Europe. We've been in the US, but we still haven't played Europe. It's quite strange because we live in Europe.

MU: What's the dream tour for The Haunted if you were to get an opening slot?

J: It's hard to say because either you're thinking of the perfect match or you're thinking of what you would want to see every day.

MU: Who would you want to see every day?

J: I'd like to see AC/DC with Bon Scott every day. (laughing)

MU: Of course that's not going to happen, but would you love it if The Haunted went out on tour with AC/DC?

J: It would be great exposure, but I don't know how well we'd go down with the very conservative AC/DC crowd.

MU: What do you think of Morbid Angel going out with Pantera in the US?

J: I think that's pretty strange. I heard from somebody the other day that the only reason Morbid Angel is on the bill is because Phil Anselmo likes the band. You know, getting on the Pantera tour in the US would be cool. Or maybe the Slayer tour. We've met the Slayer guys on several occasions. We got to play with them in Zurich, Switzerland this summer, and Kerry likes the band a lot. We were touring with Entombed at the time and Entombed were supposed to play there. We were hoping to get in on that, but when we got there our name wasn't on the bill. So the guy who does the lights for Slayer was also the tour manager for Testament on that tour we did. He was surprised that we were there. We said, "hey man, we want to get on the bill." He said, "yeah, you're here. Kerry's a fan of you guys, I'll give Kerry a call." He called the hotel and woke Kerry up. Kerry called the Slayer manager. The Slayer manager called the local promoter. He kicked out the local opener and they moved the Slayer set back a half an hour just so we could play. I hadn't heard of Slayer doing anything like that before. I 'm very happy. They're very cool guys. People say that they have an attitude, but they're very funny and easy going.

MU: That's almost the perfect bill, The Haunted and Slayer.

J: It would be great.

MU: The new album is 'The Haunted Made Me Do It'. On the front of the album you have The Haunted logo splattered with blood and pictures of a bunch of people. Who are they?

The Haunted

J: Just your every day serial killers. I am not that big a fan of serial killers, but the twins are. It's kind of to emphasize what we mean with the title. It originally came from our designer because we asked him for a t-shirt design and he sent us this - you know, The Haunted Made Me Do It with the blood splattered. It looked cool and would make a great album cover. So we went with it. The point we're trying to get through is. . . You know how heavy metal always gets the blame for corrupting the youth or causing the kids to do a shootout at school. . . And also, the US stands a chance of getting Tipper Gore as the First Lady - and, you know, the PMRC and all that. . .

MU: So The Haunted is ready to step up to the plate and accept the blame - The Haunted made them do it. (laughing) The Haunted is responsible.

J: Yeah. For everything. (laughing)


review of The Haunted Made Me Do It





Interview: Brant Wintersteen []
Live Photography: Cynthia Pelzner [ ]
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