Heart of Steel: Interviews

Carnal Forge Bassist Lars Linden

Interview by Lord of The Wasteland

The last time we interviewed Carnal Forge was back in December of 2001 when EvilG spoke with guitarist Jari Kuusisto  just as their fourth album PLEASEÖDIE! was released. In the nearly three years since that interview, the band has released two more CDs, a live DVD, and gone through every bit of bad luck imaginable. Tour after tour was cancelled including a potential North American breakout on the short-lived Metal Gods Tour with Halford, Testament, Immortal, Primal Fear and Amon Amarth. Not to be beat, the band hit the studio once again and just released their sixth album, ARENíT YOU DEAD YET?

I was offered the chance to speak with Carnal Forge bassist Lars Linden on August 1st and being fan of the band, I jumped at the chance. Surprisingly, just four days later, it was made public that vocalist Jonas Kjellgren had left the band and was replaced by Jens C. Mortensen, a former bandmate of Lindenís. No hint was made of Kjellgren leaving the band during the interview, so it may have been as much of a shock to the band as it was to its fans.

During our interview, Lars gave his thoughts on many things including the endless comparisons to fellow Swedish thrashers, The Haunted, the bandís bad luck with tours, as well as his own web design, graphic art and production work.

So itís another year and Carnal Forge has bestowed upon the metal community another slice of Swedish thrash! The new CDóARENíT YOU DEAD YET?óis out August 10th in North America and it is a killer disc! [Oh cool! Glad to hear it.] ďBurn Them AliveĒ is just blowing me away. That song is one of the heaviest you guys have done yet, in my opinion. Itís very cool! [Killer.]

This is the third CD from Carnal Forge in three years. How do you turn out the albums so fast?

The main reason is that we have five songwriters in the band, so itís very easy for us to come up with material because everybody is very productive. Each guy only has to write two songs and we have a full album again, so itís pretty easy for us. We could be faster if we werenít so lazy, but at the same time, I donít see any reason to release more than one album a year (laughs).



Whose head is that with the bullet through it on the cover?

I have not a clue to be honest. Itís some German guy (laughs). I did the last three covers, but this time, there was no time for it, so we had Century Media take care of it. I donít know. We started in the studio and I was already working on a couple other covers.



Like all of the other Carnal Forge albums, the music was recorded at Studio Underground, but Jonas Kjellgren recorded his vocals at his own studio, Black Lounge. Why do you continue to record in two studios rather than do everything in one?

We all live in different cities. I live in the same city as Studio Underground, the other guys live in another city and Jonas lives in another city. Heís got his own studio so itís pretty convenient for him to work in his own place. He can work any hours or any days he wants. We are producing everything ourselves so itís just really convenient for him. He doesnít have to travel to get to the studio. Itís just around the corner.

How much time does he dedicate to the studio besides working with Carnal Forge? Is it still operative when you guys are on the road, or does he run it himself?

He is the producer in the studio and that is what he tries to do when there is no touring and stuff like that.



You are also a behind-the-scenes guy who works in the studio. Do you enjoy the production and engineering work more than actually playing in the band or vice versa?

I prefer recording other bands than I prefer recording myself. It becomes so fucking serious, so itís more fun to record other bands. In the band, I really like the writing of the songs and the touring. Thatís the parts I really like the best.



I had a look at your website (www.llproduction.com) yesterday and I was checking out the different CD covers that you have done. One that really stood out was for a band called Asperity.  [Thanks.] Do you take your own photographs and then play with those on your computer?

Yeah. Usually me or someone else takes pictures that I will work on and distort. For the new CD, I was already working on the Asperity cover plus we left for Poland to record a DVD for three days. Then we returned to the studio and I began working on the cover for the DVD. We were in the studio for almost two months, plus I had to take care of the look for the new website. Itís kind of hard for just one person to do everything so I just had to let that go.



I noticed that you have updated the Carnal Forge website with the new look for ARENíT YOU DEAD YET?. Do you still maintain the site fully yourself or do you have help?

I do it myself.

Where did you first learn web design?

I bought a computer to use as a demo machine to record songs. And then I started screwing around doing graphics and covers and stuff. Then I began screwing around with websites. I learned a little on my own and then I took some courses, too.

Does that provide a decent income for you?

(Laughs) No, not really.

I donít think there are any wealthy web designers out there (laughs).

No, not these days. I had a good time before everything crashed when you could do almost nothing and get a lot of money. That was for about half a year and then things went down.



The title of the new CD is, of course, ARENíT YOU DEAD YET?, but on the PLEASEÖDIE! album, you had a song called ďPleaseÖDie! (Arenít You Dead Yet?).Ē Are the two somehow related?

Not really.

It canít be a coincidence?!

No, itís not a coincidence either. What happened was that the song ďPleaseÖDie!Ē wasnít supposed to be called ďPleaseÖDie! (Arenít You Dead Yet?).Ē It was a fuck up but it came out that way and we liked it.



Is there a progression with the CD titles and covers at all? On PLEASEÖDIE!, you have the guy with his hands tied about to be executed. Then on THE MORE YOU SUFFER, the guy is getting smacked around. Now on ARENíT YOU DEAD YET?, the guy has a bullet in his head. Is there a pattern happening?

Yeah and I hope heís dead on the next one (laughs)!

(Laughs) So, what will you call the next record then? ITíS BURIAL TIME or what?

No, it will be WHOíS NEXT? (laughs).



When I was first reading about the production of the new CD on your website back in the spring, there was a song called ďGodís Enemy #1.Ē Did that song get left off the CD or was that just a working title that got changed?

We recorded twelve songs but we decided to only have ten songs on the album, except for Japan. That song got voted out.

Will it turn up somewhere eventually?

Yeah, I think so. For the last album, we recorded fourteen songs and had twelve on the album. The rest got spread out as bonuses and stuff. This time we felt there was too much. It was better to have just ten songs.



There is a guy listed named Dino Medanhodzic, who plays the lead on ďDecades of Despair.Ē Who is he?

Thatís a little 17-year old guy from around here that plays in a band called Mausoleum. They havenít released any albums yet but they are in the studio right now recording their debut album. He played the first half of the solo on ďDecades of Despair.Ē It was just one of those days where Petri [Kuusisto, guitar] was just fed up with soloing. He had just run out of ideas I guess (laughs). Dino was around so we called him and told him to come on down and do whatever he wanted.

And you say he is only seventeen years old?

Yeah! He is very talented. Thatís a band to look foróMausoleum. Iím not sure if they are going to keep that name because there is some band from Israel or something that is already called that. They might change the name.

Well, I think ďMedanhodzicĒ will be pretty easy to remember (laughs)!

Yeah, you should check it out. I listened to it a bit in the studio and it sounds pretty wild.



Are they recording at Studio Underground then? Are you producing them or is Jonas at Black Lounge?

They are at Studio Underground. Iíve been away on holidays but I just came back here the other day and went down and had a sneak listen on the computer (laughs).



Earlier, you mentioned the new Carnal Forge DVDóDESTROY LIVEóthat was also just released. I know that you recorded it in Poland while you were on tour with Gorgoroth. Was that recorded the same day as Gorgoroth got into all the trouble for having the naked women on crosses and almost got arrested?

Yeah, I saw that shit.

(Laughs) Really? Oh manÖthat must have been wild?!

It was pretty fun stuff (laughs)! Itís very stupid they got in trouble for that. I mean it was no big deal really, in my opinion.

Was it not as bad as it was made out to be?

Well if you have 130 goatís heads on the stageÖis that terrible? I mean the stench is terrible but itís not really scary to me.

How about the naked women up on the crosses?

(Laughs) Yeah, that was kind of cool! We thought they were dolls! We were talking and saying, ďLook at the fucking dolls. Thatís fucking stupidĒ and then they started to look all sweaty and I was like, ďHmmm. The doll moved! Shit, the doll collapsed!Ē I guess they had a hard time up on the crosses (laughs).



I would sure love to see that footage! I heard that the Polish police confiscated the tapes, so it may be lost forever.

Yeah, it should look good. There was a lot of fire and stuff. Our show was a little softer,Öwell, not softer but not so many special effects. We are a little more straight up (laughs)!

There are a couple of live clips on the new CD. Are they taken from the DVD? They donít seem to be on the promo that I was sent unless I just canít figure it out (laughs).

Oh they arenít? Okay. Thatís too bad. They are from the DVD. The songs are ďBaptized In FireĒ and ďWelcome To Your Funeral,Ē I think.


I guess Iíll just have to go and buy the actual CD myself then (laughs)!

Oh, thatís too bad. Lifeís tough (laughs). I think we recorded twenty songs for the DVD.

I saw that! There is a ton of stuff on there.

Some of it was from the Metal Gods tour in New York and some is from Tokyo.



Do you plan on coming back to North America and hopefully Canada for this record?

We hope so! We are going to tour here in Europe in September with Pro-Pain for a couple weeks and after that I hope we can get back over to the States again. It was kind of abrupt last time (laughs)!


I had heard a bunch of different stories about what caused The Metal Gods Tour to end, but can you tell me first-hand what the reason was?

To be honest, I know as much as you do. It was always rumors. We never really got anything on paper of what really happened.


The tour was supposed to play in Seattle, about 120 miles from where I live, and I was floored when it was announced that the bands werenít going to make it. That was a killer tour! We wonít get to see Halfordís solo stuff again and, of course, Immortal has broken up since then, too.

I think the whole Halford and Judas Priest thing was kind of up in the air then and discussions were going on. We donít know why. We got a call about two minutes before the second to last show and we were like, ďWhat is going on? Why isnít anybody talking?Ē Someone said that the rumor is that the tour is done. And soon we found out, okay the tour is off tomorrow! Then we had to go on stage! Fun, fun, fun (laughs)!

(Laughs) No kidding!

It was kind of a weird feeling. It was great as long as it lasted and it was great to meet all of those bands, too. I had never seen Immortal before. They were cool.


Meeting Rob Halford must have been cool, too? I just saw Judas Priest five days ago on Ozzfest and he still sounds amazing!

Oh yeah.

Itís cool that heís back with Judas Priest but pretty shitty for you guys and the rest of the bands that came all the way over to North America and only got to play seven shows.

Yeah, seven out of 32 or 34, I think? Oh well, I hope we get something going here for the winter. I guess Century Media is working on it right now.



You guys also got kind of a raw deal with the Exodus tour in Europe. What went wrong with that one?

From the beginning, it was like five bands and we were supposed to play number three and then they got more and more bands. Soon there was like a hundred bands and we were playing first, second or third from the beginning. Things kept on changing all the time and we were just like ENOUGH! We dropped off and said we were out. The thing was, after a couple weeks, they sent home a few of the bands and if we had stayed, it probably would have been us. Thatís too bad.



You had another tour lined up with Misery Index that got cancelled. What happened there?

(Laughs) Just call us ďthe band of cancelled toursĒ (laughs)! This time, there was somebody who was supposed to book the bus but they didnít book it in time, so suddenly they realized that every bus in Europe was booked because everybody was out on tour and doing festivals and shit! Wow, what a big surprise (laughs)! I mean, we WANT to come out and tour. This isnít Carnal Forge trying to hide away. You leave things in the hands of other people and you end up fucked in the end.



Well you did manage to get in a couple of festival appearances already this yearóSweden Rock and Fury Fest. How did the fans respond to the new material?

Very good. Itís been really nice.



How many songs are you playing from the new CD?

We havenít decided really. When we did Sweden Rock and Fury Fest, we only played a couple. When we get out on tour, we will play more, though. Maybe six or seven or something.

Play ďBurn Them Alive.Ē Thatís all I ask (laughs).

I promise you we will (laughs).



I have a few questions about the new thrash scene that is coming out of Europe. Every single article, review, interview, press releaseÖanythingÖcompares you guys to The Haunted. Does Carnal Forge ever get tired of being compared to The Haunted?


(Laughs) I think they are a band from Sweden. Maybe youíve heard of them? They are called The Haunted?

(Laughs) Who? Who is The Haunted? Never mind The Haunted (laughs)! No, itís cool. I mean we know the guys and Carnal Forge and The Haunted kind of started out the same year, but they got ahead a little bit because of the old stuff they did as At The Gates. They got more attention at the start which kind of got them ahead of us. One day, we will beat them down (laughs). Now they are on Century Media, too, so we hope to even do something together.


They have their original singer, Peter Dolving, back with them, too.

Yeah, thatís cool.


What are your feelings on the endless string of copycat bands that have followed the style of Carnal Forge and The Haunted? Does that make it harder for you to get ahead or does it make you better and stronger as a band?

I guess I donít pay enough attention because I donít really care (laughs)!

(Laughs) Thatís a good attitude! Just donít worry about it (laughs)!

(Laughs) I only care about Carnal Forge.


Do you consider Carnal Forge to be a thrash band?

Yeah, I guess. Some people call it thrash, some call it melodic death and some call it hardcore. I guess itís a mix of everything, but we would just say ďmetal.Ē

In the promo sheet that was sent along with the new CD, Century Media called Carnal Forge, ďThe New Gods of Thrash.Ē

Well I can live with that (laughs)!

(Laughs) Thatís a pretty big title to live up to, though?

Yeah, but weíre doing it good (laughs).



Are you guys happy to see the older thrash bands like Exodus and Death Angel getting back together and recording new music again?

As long as good music is being put out, yeah, itís cool. Itís cool that old bands that I listened to when I started to play and listen to music are coming back again.

Who were some of your favorite bands growing up?

Slayer, Exodus, S.O.D., old MetallicaÖ

Not the new stuff? Not a fan of ST. ANGER (laughs)?

(Laughs) Mmmmm, no. TestamentÖall those bands from the late 80s and early 90s. Pantera, as well.


All of the bands that you mentioned came from the U.S. thrash scene. Were you not a fan of German thrash like Kreator, Sodom and Destruction?

Personally, no. Not really. Of course I listened to those bands as well, but they werenít among my favorites.



I wanted to ask about the side project that you, Jari and Stefan [Westerberg, drums] are all involved with, Leech. What sort of music is that?

Itís not as fast as Carnal Forge. Itís more like old school thrash. Have you heard the band that I was in before, Slapdash?

Iíve only heard the name.

Itís the singer and lead guitarist from that band. His voice is a little bit more melodic than Jonasí. There is more of the gay, sing-along choruses and stuff.



How do you balance your time between Carnal Forge, Leech, the website, your studio work, album covers?

I donít know. It just works out. We all have something else that we do. Jonas has Centinex, Stefan used to be involved with Steel Attack.

He isnít working with them anymore?


Are they still around or did they quit?

They split up into two different factions and they both have recorded new material. I think one of them kept the name.



Has Carnal Forge ever considered slowing down, even for one song? Maybe a ballad (laughs)?

When it comes to Carnal Forge, thatís the way we want it to be. We can do anything we want in all the other projects we do, but Carnal Forge is the way it is.



Do you ever get any pressure from the label to change the sound or mix it up a little?

Theyíve never said anything. We do whatever we want and they always seem satisfied with that, so thatís cool.



There is an eleven year age difference between yourself and Petri [Kuusisto, guitar]. Does that big gap affect how the band writes or what influences are brought to the table?

Yeah but I think thatís pretty good. If you have the right personalities, then everything goes good together. Itís no big deal. I donít really think about Petri being younger than me. They kind of harass me sometimes because Iím an old man (laughs). When you work in the studio, most guys are between eighteen and thirty five, so you kind of forget how old you are.



Well you and I are the same age, so I can sympathize (laughs).

(Laughs) Well, thatís good. This music keeps us young!



What is it like being in a band with two brothers? Does the family fighting ever get to be a problem (laughs)?

(Laughs) No, no. Itís Stefan and Jari that are fighting (laughs). The Kuusisto brothers never fight. They are very calm.

Itís just the rest of you that are at each otherís throats (laughs)?

(Laughs) No, weíre pretty nice to each other.



Well that is all the questions I have for you today, Lars. I appreciate the call.

No problem at all. Iíll talk to you next time.

Thanks to Heather at Century Media for setting up the interview and for the promo.

Band: www.carnalforge.com

Label: www.centurymedia.com

Metal-Rules.com CD Reviews for Carnal Forge