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from ILL LITERATURE #18
Many of you are already familiar with Dan Swanö, formerly the vocalist/mastermind of Sweden's legendary melodic death metal outfit, Edge of Sanity. Swanö left the band following their sixth full-length release, 1997's Infernal, in order to pursue other projects. And believe me when I tell you that this man has other projects! Whether it be his own solo career, Nightingale, Unicorn, Pan-Thy-Monium, Karaboudjan, Godsend, Odyssey, Bloodbath, Steel, Infestdead, or producing/engineering albums at his own studio (The Sanctuary), Dan Swanö is a man of many talents and little free time. He devotes his entire life to music, admitting to even dreaming about music and discussing music when around his family. Out of all the Swanö projects I have had the pleasure of hearing (basically everything but Unicorn), I have yet to discover one that I do not appreciate. Swanö's music is one of a kind, no matter which project of his you are listening to. I invite you to read the following interview with the man himself and urge you to check out everything he has done in the past, present, and future if you are eager to hear quality music that is usually dominated by unforgettable melodies. Dan Swanö is a name that EVERY metalfan should be familiar with and it should be in your best interest to learn about him and all his musical endeavors.
Ill Literature: I have so much to ask you about your current projects, I don't know where to start! Why is it that you feel the need to dabble with so many different projects of various musical styles? Why not focus on one or two projects and bring in all the influences you use for your other projects?
Dan Swanö: Tough question. I'm always searching for new ways of expressing myself musically. I tried out a lot of mixtures in Edge Of Sanity. We went from a pure "Melodies are banned!!" death metal band to a "Something Metal" band. I was bored with the fact of just writing the same songs over and over again. But when I wanted to take the "Sacrificed" style one step further the guys refused. They hated the drum machine on that one, and at the time I was desperate to get rid of all the gothic influences I had in me. This set off the Second Coming of the "project thing". I mean, I have had a zillion projects before Edge of Sanity, in fact, E.O.S. was just another project, but we got signed before we could end it all in a nice way. Some of my friends were screwing a new girl every weekend and they got some kinda kick out of the freshness and they kinda fed off the "hot emotions" that there is in a temporary relationship, pretty much based upon sex. I had the same thing coming out of setting up new projects and kinda reaped the harvest of 3-4-5 musicians being push together in a rehearsal room, writing a bunch of songs, playing them to death and maybe record a demo, and when the magic was gone we split or I ended it by not showing up or not calling, etc. Looking back I think I would have preferred what my friends were up to girl-wise, but since I never looked the right way, or said the right things for one-night stands this pretty much was my "revenge".
IL: Looking back, how do you feel about your solo album, Moontower? I thought it was, and is, a spectacular piece of work. Are you still satisfied with the end result or do you notice "flaws" when you listen to it now?
DS: I like it. It's pretty unusual for me to still like my "babies" a year after their birth. But the fact is that I have never been as satisfied with any other record this far.
IL: Is there anything you would have done differently on it were you to do it over again?
DS: There is nothing I would like to change. I worked like a maniac with all the tiny little details everywhere and mixed it like fifteen hundred and thirty six times. It kinda rocks....
IL: Are you planning to release another solo album under your name?
DS: Well, it all depends...Unicorn is back together now and I will spend the next year's "freedays" working with our next album(s). I have to feel "ready" for another solo album, not just "do one " because people are asking for it. Moontower was born out of a lot of bad happenings in my life a few years back. All that made that album the way it is in me and it grew with my sorrows, it's hard to explain... but now I am a happy dude again and I feel like writing and recording more positive music... not necessarily "happy love songs" but music with a little bit more "light" in them. Moontower is without a doubt the darkest album I've done this far. To me the "Edge of Sanity satanic era" is as evil as "Spice Girls" compared to the darkness I had in me during that recording. I must "feel something" to make a new "Dan Swanö" album... Never say never, but right now It feels like something for the future
IL: What direction do you think you might take the music?
DS: Right before I came up with the brilliant idea to reform Unicorn I had some ideas about a theme album, one huge track, more like a second Crimson album. I haven't really scrapped that idea, the problem is that I want the music where I use my real name (Dan Swanö, that is) to be magic to me. To lock myself up in the studio and just write and record metal will not necessarily produce material that will qualify for the use of my birth name, get it? And yet another one-man project...oh, no...we'll see.
IL: Would you use both clean and growling vocals on it?
DS: If I feel that there is a use for it I will definitely throw some stuff in, but I hope to be able to write music that is powerful enough without the use of growling vocals the next time. Like I said, I have no idea of what the next album will sound like, if there is one!
IL: Hmm... I was about to ask you when you hoped to start working on the album?
DS: I am not sure. I must see where Unicorn is going this time. If it goes to where I want it, I will need NO OTHER PROJECTS in my life anymore. Unicorn is everything I need and all these projects have been a substitute for the lack of Unicorn-ism the last 10 years. I am a prog head. Period!
IL: It's been a couple of years now since you decided to leave Edge of Sanity. Do you miss being a part of the band?
DS: No, definitely not. I am very happy without that band.
IL: Do you still keep in contact with the band and their musical endeavors?
DS: I have been in touch with them again. They are still playing death metal, that's all I know. There's no real connection between me and the rest of the guys, never was never will be. We're too different individuals. They are "let's party and the punk rockers" and I am the "prog rock perfectionist from hell"! No match! I am in charge of putting together a 10 year anniversary CD with Edge of Sanity. I am currently digging through the archives to find the master tapes of all the recordings we did, in order to make the overall sound quality "CD-ish". I have never enjoyed being a part of any band except for Unicorn. I am kinda old-fashioned when it comes to bands, and bonds. If I play in a band, I can imagine living in a house in the middle of nowhere just rehearsing and recording eating potatoes and air. But I never had the "social" thing working with any other band than Unicorn. That's why I am so glad that we're back together again. Not that we're going to live in a house or anything like that, just being a "member" again is great. But I am not going to make music together with anyone who does the same things that I do. The guys of Unicorn are very different from me. Anders is the classically trained musician who knows a lot about arrangements and stuff. Peter is the "street level" guy. He's playing in cover bands and stuff. He's the bass player nowadays and I have taken over the keyboard spot, as well as the drum and lead vocals spot (Play live!!??? Don't think so!!) Anyway...
IL: Not to sound rude, but back to Edge of Sanity... how are they doing these days?
DS: Personally I think they are a lot better than they used to be a few years back. We only hung out because we were in a band. The other four were kind of a gang, always sticking with each other. I never really got into that stuff. So I guess they're basically the same. Getting drunk every weekend, having boring jobs, fishing, having 1,546 new projects, etc.
IL: Will they be releasing anything anytime soon and if so, have you heard it?
DS: I spoke to Boss the other day and he told me that Cryptic didn't sell that good. He also asked me to rejoin and I kinda said "No!!!" forever and ever... I hope they can come up with a stronger and more melodic album than the previous one, or else they're pretty much doomed I think. Now you might think I am an asshole who believes that I am the cool guy here, but I believed that I was doomed the day I quit the band. And by the way, Moontower hasn't sold that bloody good either.
IL: You mentioned that you were planning to work on a ten year anniversary Edge of Sanity album soon. Why do you feel the need to do this as you are no longer in the band?
DS: I am still very much a part of Edge of Sanity. Thus far they have made one album without me and people don't seem to like it, some say it "doesn't count" so for me Edge of Sanity died when I left and they formed a new band with the same name and a new vocalist playing totally different music than when I was with them. We did death metal with something unique about it, they do it without the "unique-factor". It might satisfy some older fans but most of them "stay with me" when it comes to what they like and stuff.
IL: What songs will be featured on the anniversary album? Any new material?
DS: Here's a pretty rough track listing but it might change. There's some new stuff, some old - but it's all unique!!
(* previously unreleased stuff)
DISRUPTING THE INHABITANTS*
from the 1989 Euthanasia demo remixed
from the 1990 Immortal Rehearsals remastered
MAZE OF EXISTENCE
from the 1990 Kur-Nu-Gi-A demo remixed
from the 1990 "The Dead" promo remixed
ANGEL OF DISTRESS
from the 1991 Nothing But Death Remains LP remixed
from the 1991 "Dead But Dreaming" promo remastered
A CURFEW FOR THE DAMNED
from the 1992 Unorthodox LP remixed
KILL THE POLICE* and HUMAN ABERRATION
from the 1992 Unorthodox session remastered
WHEN ALL IS SAID (remix)* and BLOOD OF MY ENEMIES (First version)
from the 1992 When All Is Said unreleased EP remastered
ELEGY*, EVIL BREEDS EVIL* and DARKDAY (1st version)
from the 1992 The Spectral Sorrows demo remastered
THE MASQUE (edit)
from the 1993 The Spectral Sorrows LP remixed/edited
PERNICIOUS ANGUISH (Stockholm death metal version)
(Also on Japan version of Nothing But Death Remains)
from the 1993 The Spectral Sorrows LP session remastered
UNTIL ETERNITY ENDS (1999 Vocal version)
from the 1994 Until Eternity Ends Mini album remixed/re-recorded
SONG OF SIRENS (The 1999 "The way it was supposed to sound" version)
from the 1994 Purgatory Afterglow LP remixed/edited/fucked up
from the 1995 Tribute To Slayer album remastered
from the 1996 Crimson session remastered
I WANNA GO HOME
from the 1996 "Tribute to Sator" remastered
BURN THE SUN
from the 1997 Infernal LP remastered
from the 1997 Infernal session remastered (If I find it!!!)
BLEED YOU DRY
from the 1998 Cryptic LP remixed (I hope I will get to remix it)
from the 1998 Tribute To Danzig remastered
"yet untitled track with me and Robban Karlsson on Vocs"
from the 1996 Crimson session with 1999 vocs re-recorded/remastered
IL: So you do a duet with current Edge of Sanity vocalist, Robban Karlsson? How does that sound?
DS: What the duet sounds like? Well the track kinda sucks, but I'll spice it up a bit. It's not completed yet!
IL: Let's discuss some of your current projects now. Relapse Records was supposed to release your Karaboudjan MCD ages ago, but never did. What happened with the deal? Why were they unable to unleash the product?
DS: The deal was pretty open. I sent them the master, they mastered it, then I think the guy who cared the most for it quit the label and it kinda died.
IL: Are there still plans to release the material?
DS: I hope to release it myself one day. Some other labels have been informed as well, we'll see.
IL: Do you feel that maybe Karaboudjan is no longer a top priority since the songs are old and all the hype surrounding the band has diminished?
DS: Karaboudjan have never been near top-priority. One year ago we recorded the basic track for what should've been a full-length CD, but since Relapse dropped the release of the mini it all died. The basic tracks are excellent and I might record it for people in its rough form someday!
IL: And for those who aren't familiar with Karaboudjan, please describe the craziness of the music.
DS: Well people... K-jan was a project I had with myself a long time ago. I was pissed off at the fact that the other guys re-started Pan-Thy-Monium without me and I wanted to give the world my version of PTM. It turned out to be far too wacky to be compared to PTM so I sampled some cartoon stuff and called it Karaboudjan. It's hard to describe it. It's instrumental fusion/doom/prog with distorted bass guitars instead of rhythm guitars. Wacky Moog sounds, saxophones, strange lead guitar work (courtesy of my brother Dag) and strange samples.
IL: How are things coming along with your semi-solo project Nightingale?
DS: Nightingale is very fine, thank you.
IL: Have you completed the band's third album I yet?
DS: I have just finished the lyrics and it's turning out cool. It's pushed aside a bit by the Unicorn thing.
IL: How does the music sound and who else is involved in the project?
DS: My brother Tom Nouga (a.k.a. Dag) has written half the material alone and we have collaborated on a few songs as well. You can't really tell the difference because we write very similarly when it comes to the hard rock-kinda music.
IL: How does the new material compare/contrast to the first two releases?
DS: The material for this new album is sounding a bit like The Closing Chronicles. There is really nothing left from the gothic-oriented sound of The Breathing Shadow. There are less "added" keyboards on this one. Either they "rule" the track or there are no keyboards. The sounds we use are mainly a great B3 sample and strings. It'll be the first record of three, story wise, so I tried to make the music more "early", more the way I would have done it like in 1991.
IL: Any new surprises we should be expecting to hear?
DS: Yeah! The frequent use of banjo is gonna make you go berzerk -- Not really... There's nothing special about the instrumentation. Just a bunch of good songs properly performed and produced. The sound is smashing, by far the best ever coming out of my studio!
IL: Tell us about your Nightingale partner in crime, Tom Nouga. How did you two meet?
DS: Well...He was there when I first came home to our house. He is my ten year older brother, and he's given me an invaluable musical ground to stand upon. This is the first time we play together seriously. He helped me out with Pan-Thy-Monium and Unicorn a long time ago and he also co-produced the second Nightingale album, but then I was pretty much done with all the tracks and so. What can I tell you about him, well, he's 36 years old, we look very alike. He's an excellent guitar player with a very personal and unique style. He also delivers fat bass lines and complex keyboard patterns. He's a decent drummer and once upon a time he was a cool saxophone player, but I think he skipped that now
IL: What other band(s) has he played in?
DS: He's played with bands like Original, Printz Nilssons Dagbok, Jungfru Hög, Tectyl, The Fordz (Our first project together back in 1978) and now he's back in the rehearsal room with Tom Nouga + band.
IL: Is it easy to collaborate with him?
DS: It's a bit hard to really collaborate with him because we are so extremely alike. Either he's producing and I'm playing or the other way around. We both have distinct ideas of what we want to do. We're never really trying to change the other's ideas because I believe we both have great respect for each other's material.
IL: Another man who you have been doing a lot of collaborating with these days is Opeth vocalist/guitarist Mikael Akerfeldt. Enlighten us about the traditional heavy metal project, Steel, you two worked on a couple of years ago. Did you ever release anything?
DS: Yeah. We released a 7" picture disc on Near Dark Productions called Heavy Metal Machine! It contains the title track and "Rock Tonite".
IL: Is the band still active and should we be expecting something from you guys soon?
DS: Steel is just a thing we came up with one day during the recording of Morningrise (Opeth's second opus) We were bored and Peter had gone home and Mike, Anders, and I had nothing to do so I suggested that we should go to the studio and soundcheck the drums some more. We jammed and recorded a stupid track "Guitars & Metal" that lasted for 1 minute. We had a laugh and we named the thing Steel and thought it would be forgotten the next minute. But one thing led to another and years before the return of the German Speed/Power Metal thing we recorded the demo that later was going to be the Steel 7".
IL: Please tell us who else is in the band and what part they play.
DS: I sing, or sound maybe... It's not very nice!!! Mike played guitar, Anders played drums, and Peter played the bass!
IL: Another band you and Mikael are working on together is Sörskogen. Are there plans to release anything or is it simply a just-for-fun side project you guys are toying with?
DS: Sörskogen is very much Mike's thing. I had just rebuilt my studio and needed to get some live action down there before I started to record my demos for what should later become Moontower. So I invited Mike to try some of his songs and that became "Mordet I Grottan" (The Murder in the Cave). I think Mike is taking it very seriously, it's very much his kind of "heart music".
IL: What does the music sound like?
DS: It's sounding a lot like early Camel mixed with early Genesis. Therefore we strived for a typical 70's sound with the muffled drums and the "dull-cotton bass" and Mellotrons, Moogs, etc. to match the music. It turned out great and people started asking for it. I always discuss the coolness factor of a whole album with that stuff, but now that Opeth's signed to Peaceville things are a bit harder. And now that I've started the giant Unicorn recreation project I will have no time left, I'm afraid! But I know it would rip!
IL: You recently inked a deal with Century Media to release a MCD of another one of your side projects, Bloodbath. How did this relationship with the label come about?
DS: Blackheim (Katatonia guitarist/mastermind) sent out a cassette to some labels and the first one to really be interested was Century Media USA so they got the deal!
IL: And why only a MCD?
DS: The vibe didn't last for more than three songs. First we recorded two songs and had some really outrageous killer takes going and I accidentally erased the recordings so we had to re-do it and then we added the third track. In many ways it turned out a lot better but the nerve from the original takes was missing. Since we realized it is impossible to re-create that spark of excitement we just went for total fun! IL: So only three songs will be on the effort?
DS: Yeah, it's three tracks: "Breeding Death", "Ominous Blood Vomit", and "Furnace Funeral". Mike (Opeth) and Jonas (Katatonia) wrote the words and we all wrote the music together.
IL: What is it's length?
DS: I think the total playing time is around 12 minutes.
IL: Give us some brief history about the project and tell the readers who else is in the band and what the music sounds like.
DS: I still remember when the guys from Katatonia started talking about their hobby project Bloodbath like 7 years ago. One day I felt this urge to play death metal again so I contacted my friends in Stockholm. By the time it was done the line up was: myself on drums, Mike/Opeth on vocs, Jonas (bass) and Blackheim (geetar) from Katatonia. Since we're all past death vocal masters we even did one verse where we split the lines for each of us... Mike won I can tell, that man is insane!!! The music is a perfect blend between Swedish and American death metal. I hear traces of early Edge Of Sanity (how strange!??) mixed with stuff like Morbid Angel, Dismember, Entombed, Cancer and some doomy shit as well.
IL: While on the topic of death metal, you have unleashed a second Infestdead full-length titled JesuSatan onto the unsuspecting masses. How does this album sound in comparison to the previous Hellfuck?
DS: JesuSatan is a lot more progressive than Hellfuck. I wanted to get away from the punk death we were doing in the past and compete a bit more with the real masters. Personally I think we kick most of "the majors" asses, but that is just my personal opinion. We've got more groove and structure yet maintain the pure brutal death vibe to it. Buy and listen!
IL: How many songs appear on the album?
DS: I think we put 10 tracks on there.
IL: Are the songs still short in length?
DS: All tracks are around 3:30 minutes this time. You get more out of the track when you can use the riffs a couple of times in different tempos and stuff.
IL: Did you experiment with the songs a little bit more this time around?
DS: Yeah. I recorded the album in a very inspiring way. First I plugged my 7 string guitar and the 5 string bass (the more strings the better!!) through a magic Korg Distortion pedal and a graphic Equalizer directly into the soundcard of a Mac G3. Then I started a click track in Cubase VST and started to jam with the beep until I found a cool riff. I recorded that for like 8 bars and added a second guitar playing the same shit and the bass. I named it "Riff 1". I made like 5 more riffs in the same tempo and then I added a like 10 bpm to the tempo and went for another round of riffs until I had 50 riffs with 2 guitars and bass. Later on I invited a good friend of mine called Kekko to help me to sort out the drum patterns for each riff. I hooked up a Roland JV1080 using the excellent Bass & Drums expansion board for the most realistic drum samples known to mankind. We messed around with various beats to the riffs and kept them all. Once I had finished the drum programming for all the tiny pieces of music I started to patch them together. Cut, copy, and paste all night long! After a while a song started to emerge. It's also very easy to make new riffs out of the ones you've already recorded. You simply take the middle part and loop it four times or you can cut it up in eight pieces and swap them around for the ultimate variation. When that was done I sent Dread a tape and he added the vocal patterns to it as well and the blasphemous lyrics. And yet another Infestdead record was made!! Technology rocks!!! If only Steve Jobs knew!!!
IL: Is the band's line-up the same or has it changed?
DS: The line up is still me on everything but vocals and lyrics, which is handled by Drette "Copkiller" Axelsson.
IL: Returning to Unicorn for a moment, what exactly is going on with the band?
DS: There's a lot going on at the moment. Like I said before, I am going to be in charge of a restoration of the old killer tracks we put on our demos. We are also going to record our third album Souldiving in June (a matter of days left when I write this). We'll see how that one will turn out...
IL: Why is it so difficult to find the first two Unicorn albums?
DS: Much because Mellow records is not really used to new unknown bands. Their business is to re-release old prog records on CD and that stuff sells anyway. We're just a number in their catalogue and I think they ran out of copies years and years ago.
IL: How can people get a hold of copies (address, prices, etc)?
DS: I am trying the hardest I can to get a hold of copies. I think people interested in getting the second Unicorn CD Emotional Wasteland (the first is not for sale anymore because it's not representative for the band at all) can email email@example.com. He's probably going to start selling it in the states. Please don't send him regular letters with requests for prices etc. Use the internet [email], please!
IL: I saw on your webpage that you are also involved in a band called Odyssey. Please explain the extent of your involvement.
DS: Odyssey is a project I had last summer with a couple of friends. Ed from Utopian Vision music asked me if I had any old stuff laying around for him to release. I said that I have this stuff shit coming up and he loved and wanted to release it. Like I explained to you in the early section of this interview, I kinda feed from the nerve in a fresh constellation of musicians and then just throw it away. That's pretty much the thing about Odyssey, a classic one/off thing a la Swanö.
IL: What does the music sounds like?
DS: The music sounds like a cross between a heavier Dream Theater and Candlemass. It's all with clear vocals. I sing and play drums. The other guys play guitars and bass.
IL: When the material will be released?
DS: It's out now through Utopian Vision music.
IL: Another band I was pleasantly surprised to discover you'll be helping out is Katatonia. You'll be playing all the drums on their upcoming album. How did this come about and why did their original drummer (and vocalist) Jonas Renkse decide to step down from the kit?
DS: I had a call from Blackheim one night and they were in deep shit in Sunlight studios. They had spent like 10 days doing nothing. First up was Renkse, he couldn't play with the click track they had recorded the scratch tracks with so they called for a studio drummer who Skogsberg (Tomas, producer) used to work with in the past but after two days of trying to get behind the first fill they decided to let him go. I volunteered and was asked to join in at Sunlight. Since I only play drums with a click track in my headphones nowadays it was a piece of cake to nail like 11 tracks in one day. The beats were very basic and I believe that no one will ever catch what problems the other drummers were facing because it sounds like so easy but I know that "beginners" with click track can have severe problems letting something else run their "internal clock".
IL: What does Katatonia's new material sound like and were you involved in the band's song-writing process?
DS: Oh no. The songs were ready. I had a tape with all of them with a drum machine and I learned them on the train there and in the studio right before the takes.
IL: Is Mikael Akerfeldt helping out again too?
DS: Yeah. Mike is doing all the harmonica on the album. Sorry. Bad jokes tend to occur around the sixteenth question... Mike produced the vocals again. He's the master of that. If you liked the last album you'll fucking freak out when you hear this. The second track on my advance tape is the best track they ever did. With a proper backing that song could take them to fucking billboard without an inch of a sellout!
IL: You also played drums (and some keyboards) on the latest Diabolical Masquerade (Blackheim's black metal side-project) album Nightwork. Tell us how that came about.
DS: Well... I did the first two as well, so I guess it was the natural way to go to let me do the third as well. I guess Blackheim enjoys my company and I believe that we create something really unique once we bang our heads together, locked up in a tower or down the cellar, doesn't matter.
IL: What do you think of your performance on the album?
DS: I like what I've done to it! The drumming is fine by me and the keyboard "riffs" that I wrote and co-wrote turned out excellent for being put together and recorded on the spot!
IL: Did you have a good time producing the album?
DS: Yeah. I took the whole April of last year and spent 14 days with Blackheim and 14 with Moontower... one of the better months of my life this far!
IL: How have things been going at your studio, The Sanctuary?
DS: Very fine thank you. I have bought tons of new equipment and I am as happy as a kid on Christmas eve. My latest baby is a MAC G3 computer. It's a bit like having a baby, you need to raise it, it doesn't behave at first. You really need to get to know it and stuff, but it's far better than a PC anyway!
IL: Are you still an active producer?
DS: Well, I never was. I never really produced anything except for some Millencolin songs and the second and the third Diabolical Masquerade albums. People mix-up the engineering profession with the role of a producer. Some producers don't know squat about technology. They feel the music instead and tell the band to change the key of the song, how the vocalist should sing, etc. I was an engineer, not a producer. I have finally gone back to where I came from. My first studio was called SPAM studio and it was set up in Unicorn's rehearsal room. I traded my services for gear or beer or whatever. Later on I changed the name to Gorysound, more of a fun thing, and people started calling from all over the place. A few years later the rehearsal room with a studio became a studio with a rehearsal room! The Sanctuary is almost a replica of the good old SPAM but with far hotter gear!! Yummy!!
IL: Since the latest Diabolical Masquerade album, what else have you produced/engineered, if anything?
DS: I did some stuff at a local 24 track studio called Studio Kuling. I sound checked the latest albums with 59 Times The Pain and Voice of a Generation. I recorded a 7" with Wolf down at my studio just for the fun of recording some true metal again! We'll see what the future will bring. Check out the news section of my WebPages for more recent info.
IL: Are there any future producing jobs that we should be aware of that you're working on now or will be working on soon?
DS: No, not really. I will mix a local A.O.R. band's debut CD, that's about it. The compilation of the E.O.S. 10 year anniversary CD will take a lot of time and of course the Unicorn stuff will take a hilarious amount of time and patience from me and the guys.
IL: What type of music are you listening to these days?
DS: I worship the likes of Spock's Beard, Marillion, and Rush to death. I also just recently discovered the genius of the Swedish band Freak Kitchen!!
IL: Do you still listen to metal at all?
DS: Of course. I just got into the new Testament album. Pure fucking killer stuff!! It's good to see the good ol' guys smack the new generation right in the face. I spent the whole morning doing death metal compilations for the car stereo. Me, my wife and Mike + Peter from Opeth are going to this awesome festival the day after tomorrow, with cool shit like Deep Purple, Scorpions, Budgie, Motorhead, Mercyful Fate, Entombed, Freak Kitchen, and much more.
IL: Are there any current metal bands who have caught your attention recently?
DS: I think the Sinergy album is good. Like I said before, Freak Kitchen rocks!
IL: How do you feel about the second wave of Swedish death metal that has been running rampant the past couple of years (bands like Dark Tranquillity, In Flames, Sacrilege, Gardenian, Ebony Tears, Ablaze My Sorrow, etc)? What are your opinions on this particular brand of metal since it has become such a huge part of the scene? Do you like any of it?
DS: I like In Flames a lot. The rest of the bands you mention is passing me by without any special emotions coming to mind. I think the Swedish scene has always been like that. One original and 500 clones. I really miss Dissection. They could've been the greatest, but what the fuck...
IL: Your wife, Asa, runs a website about the both of you. What are your thoughts about this and the internet in general?
DS: I think it's amazing. My wife is dealing with some Spanish course right now and there was a translation site on the internet that helped her with some shit that wasn't even in the dictionary. Stuff like that rocks. If I find a new band that I like, I can get tons of info 'bout them in a few minutes. I have read everything there is to read about Spock's Beard and so... But there's some negative shit as well. People can spread rumors about you, or even pretend they're you in people's guest books, etc. But that doesn't take away from coolness.
IL: Do you ever have time to spend on the internet?
DS: Not really. I answer my email every now and then, that's about it. Stuff like this takes ages to complete, but it's worth every second (I hope!!).
IL: One thing I have been wondering about you is this: you have so many projects going on, do you ever think about taking one of them on the road for a brief tour?
DS: No. Live sucks!!! We did so many horror shows with E.O.S. that I am definitely scarred for life. We did some shows with Nightingale a year ago, that was fun but I felt my heart wasn't there. It's too much preparation for something that often turns out all wrong! The promoters and the sound crew is too often pathetic jerk heads who don't know shit about live sound or how to treat a band!
IL: So you don't care about touring and feel it is something you can do without?
DS: Sometimes I feel like going out on a 4 month tour as the bass player of a grindcore band, just mess around on stage and drink free beer and talk to people. But since I have a regular job, and a family, that weird dream is always flushed!
IL: Tell us a little bit about your interests outside of making music. Do you have any? Don't you ever feel like taking a break from it all since you have so much going on at once that is purely music related? What is it that you like to do when not dealing with music?
DS: Sorry, Scott. I have no interests apart from music. Everything I do is related to music. I even dream about music! I enjoy spending time with my family but we're always talking about music anyway. I like messing around with my wife in the dark, but that's sweet music as well, isn't it?
IL: What do you think when you hear (or read) people describe you as a "living metal god" or something similar to that tag?
DS: I thought of myself when I spoke to Steve Hogarth and how I felt the minute before the phone call. I am no one!! I really think that I am nothing compared to my heroes, people like Neal Morse, Kerry Livgren, Geddy Lee/Alex Lifeson/Neil Peart (Rush, that is). I just came home from a great festival with a lot of great hardrock bands (Deep Purple, Dio, Budgie, Mercyful Fate, Manowar, UDO, Gamma Ray...) and I ran into some people who were like "Oh, let me shake your hand, you changed my life, etc." I think all that stuff is extremely great to hear and it's giving me a whole lot of inspiration. The thing is that I would do the same thing to the people from Spock's Beard and know what a kick that would be. I treat these people as friends and hook up with them and chat and have fun instead of just creating the star/fan relation. I get more of a kick out of seeing how they come out of their "enchantment" and start asking those questions that have been laying around their heads for ages. I could have met a ton of rock stars during the days of this festival, but I chose to not even go backstage because I have nothing to say to Ronnie James Dio that takes the average 3 minutes. I would like to write songs with him instead and drag him down the studio, you know? It's different...
IL: Do you realize just how much of a big deal you are both past and present for 90's metal as we know and love it?
DS: No. Since I am not the total metal head people might think I am, I have problems figuring that kinda stuff out. But I guess that some of my recordings with my previous projects have left a little mark in the genre of vicious metal and I am extremely happy to have achieved that.. To be honest with you, I started to play death metal in 1988 to fuck with it and make changes to the "scene" in general. I would have taken it really hard if I didn't change anything in 10 years of working with music that is not 100% in my heart. I really like death metal and all the other shit. I spent the whole day before we went to this festival making compilation tapes with old death and thrash stuff. You have "Chapel of Ghouls", "Left Hand Path", "Internal Bleeding", "World Eater", "Out of the Body", "Corporate Jigsaw Quandary, or something", "Respect the Dead", "Torn Apart", "Greeting Immortality", and tons of other brutal death classics on there and I admit banging my head quite extensively while driving that rental car. But I would really have felt "Wow!!" if you'd told me that I had left a mark in the progressive rock, which I haven't done yet, but will do before the days of Unicorn are over!
IL: Do you have any regrets about being so involved in the scene? Did it ever feel too over-bearing for you to handle at some points?
DS: No. I like being "someone" and all that. I might have helped some bands far too much in the studio in the past. I kinda made them sound a lot better than they did, nothing wrong with that, but I might have caused them a lot of problems when they went somewhere else to record and realized that the drummer wasn't as good as he used to be because I spent the whole night editing his drum parts when he was out partying, and I was muting and moving guitar parts around to make them really punchy. I should have let the good bands sound good and the bad bands sound bad, but I kinda made every band equal. Looking at the scene today, there's an extreme amount of crap out in the stores and sometimes I see a new record by a band and know that if I hadn't helped them out they probably wouldn't had come this far this soon, but what the heck.. I got paid and enjoyed it at the time so why bother?
IL: You don't seem to be slowing down one bit, and I think I speak for most of the people reading this when I say that I am extremely grateful that you are creating/releasing as much as you are. Your talents and efforts are a true inspiration to many and I for one don't want to see it come to an end anytime soon. What do you feel that you have left to offer?
DS: We're only getting started here my friend. I am twenty-six years of age and have so incredibly much more to give you wouldn't believe it! I will spend some time with Unicorn in 1999 and try to get some of our old material dated. The songs rock but the performance of the versions available today suck soundwise and are somewhat outdated in arrangements as well.
IL: Are there any other projects that you are thinking about that you wouldn't mind sharing with us?
DS: Not really. Unicorn is home for me and to be able to spend my time re-touching the best material I ever wrote is pure heaven!
IL: How much longer do you think you can keep up this incredible pace?
DS: I think it will fade, depending on the success of Unicorn. I feel that I need to recharge my metal batteries for a few years now and return with a bang instead of keep on doing the same stuff again and again.
IL: Are you, or have you ever been, worried that there might be a "Swano-burnout" where people might get sick of seeing your name everywhere? Do you try to limit the amount of albums you release, guest appear on, or produce? Is over-exposure something that you are concerned about?
DS: For a while I was extremely tired of my name and hated it in print. I became synonymous with quality to some and I didn't like that idea. It kind of took the edge out of my own projects. It was like I was involved in every band from Sweden or Europe releasing their debut album in like 1995. But all I did was record it and fuck up the sound! Anyway, that all changed when I closed the studio (Unisound). I see no risk of over-exposure anymore, but it was real cool once upon a time!
IL: I thank you for the time you took out to do this interview. It was a pleasure for me to have this opportunity to ask you a few questions and I appreciate it. Speaking as a fan, I wish you the best of luck with everything you are involved in. But please... PLEASE... pace yourself!! HAHA!
DS: Altightithen!! Thanx for the time you took in making these excellent and mind challenging questions. I will get some more rest now, I am really fucked after a whole night driving experience. See you all and don't forget to check out Unicorn, you'll like it, even though it is real soft prog. My melodies were born here and here is where they grow! Reap the harvest before your friends!!!
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