Marco Tervonen of The Crown
Interviewed By Waspman:
At The Reverb in Toronto, August 10th 2000
When the whirlwind that is the Cannibal Corpse / Nile / Krisiun / The Crown tour whipped through Toronto a few weeks ago, I had the honor of meeting one of the best guitarists and song writers in the death metal scene today: Marko Tervonen from The Crown. With all of the killer riffs that come from his guitar, you’d think that Marko would be a gruff kinda guy. In reality, he’s a very funny and fun to talk to. The following is a conversation that we had just before his band stormed the stage and killed about 800 Toronto fans.
Hi Marko, thanks for taking the time to do this interview. I know that there are a lot of people that read our webzine that really like the new album and are looking forward to reading this. I’ll just jump right into it; how has the crowd response been so far here in North America?
It’s been going very well! We’ve played a couple of shows where it was not the right crowd for us (note: referring to the show The Crown had played the previous night with the Misfits). I’ve heard that our album is doing pretty good here in Canada, so hopefully it’ll be a damn good show!
Your current tour has some killer death metal bands on it, how do you feel The Crown fits in with these bands?
I think we fit in somehow. They are all death metal bands but every band has their own style, and maybe we are the band that has more melodies, especially compared to Krisiun. We’re the wimpiest band on the bill! (laughs)
No way man! You guys kill! How do you feel about the health of heavy metal today, as opposed to when you started out a few years ago?
I’m glad that the death metal is coming back again ’cause a couple of years ago there was an overdose on black metal. In Europe there is still this huge?power metal scene, and?I dunno, it was fun the first year, but then I kinda got sick of it. (laughs) Yeah, I’m just glad that the death metal is coming back. There are some very cool bands out right now.
Definitely! There seems to be a lot more original death metal bands out now, say, as opposed to the early 90′s when everyone was copying everyone else.
Yeah, I understand that every band has to start out somewhere, like, when we started out a lot of people said that we were copying Deicide, but, we wanted to sound like that. Then, we evolved as a band. I think that maybe new bands learn something.
You guys kick Deicide’s ass now! Speaking of crowds, do you notice a significant difference between the crowds in North American as opposed to Europe?
There’s actually not a big difference. I’ve heard that there would be, but not really. The only thing that I’ve noticed is that a lot of people in North America look at your fingers when you play the guitar; they wanna study you or something. Y’know, after a show you get “Tsk tsk, that tone wasn’t right!” (laughs) But there are also the crazy fuckers that just wanna have fun too.
Moving on to the new album now, Deathrace King is one of the best death metal releases so far this year. The whole metal-rules.com staff is really into it. It’s an incredibly intense album. Where do you guys get your anger and intensity?
The cool thing nowadays is that I don’t have to listen to a lot of bands to write music. Before, I had to get inspiration from other bands. Today, I can actually pick up my guitar and write a song on my own. That’s a cool progression that I’m proud of. I mean, the more songs you make, the more difficult it becomes. You have to find your own style. We’re not the most original band but we’ve got our own style. That’s mainly because we’ve been doing this for ten years, learning the hard way.
The title Deathrace King, does it have any significance to the band or is it just a mission statement?
It’s both. We’ve never had an album taken from a song title. We’ve always tried to sum up the album in a couple of words, and Deathrace King, that is from the Devil Gate Ride lyric, and that lyric is about your journey through life. It’s written in a weird metaphor way, like you’re driving a car, and that’s like we work, moving forward all the time. Also, the music moves forward like a death (metal) race, and we try to be the kings! (laughs)
Everyone has their own favorite songs on the album, and I chose Deathexplosion. The editor of metal-rules.com, EvilG, chose Killing Star. Maybe you could tell a little bit about those two songs and where they came from?
I made Deathexplosion. On that song I tried to write it without melodies, tried to base it on rhythms. It’s got some War Ensemble feelings to it, maybe some old Metallica. I’m really proud of it. Killing Star is kind of a long, freaky song. (laughs) It starts out with this weird Black Sabbath rip-off intro (laughs) and then moves into a cool rushing part. It’s a cool song.
Fredrick Nordstrom produced this album. What was it like to work with him, and did he bring anything special out of the band?
We really like working with him! We were a bit afraid at first, we heard that he’s like a dictator. He has strong opinions and wants to fulfill them. When we worked with him he was really cool and had great ideas. The songs were made when we went into the studio and he just kinda recorded them. We wanted a good fat guitar sound and a kickass bass drum. I think we got that! (laughs)
Another guy that you worked with in the studio was Tomas Lindberd from At The Gates. What was it like working with a death metal legend like him?
It was cool man! We got to know him a few years ago, and we became like mutual fans. This time when we recorded it was it Gothenburg where Tomas lives. He was supposed to be on the last album but we recorded about four hours from where he lives. We didn’t want to bother him. This time, we just asked him and he came into the studio. We are very honored to have him on the album.
Speaking of legends in metal, what are some of the bands that The Crown looked up to? You already mentioned Deicide?
Oh yes! We looked up to a lot of bands. Metallica has always been a huge inspiration, and still is actually. I love James Hetfield’s stuff!
The old stuff right? Not the new stuff.
I actually like the new stuff too. Kill me man! (laughs) For me, there has always been three bands that created my writing style: Metallica, Paradise Lost, and Edge Of Sanity. Those three bands are the most important to me.
You mentioned Edge Of Sanity and they were of course a kickass band. Of course the main driving force there was Dan Swano who now claims that he’s trying to get away from the whole metal scene. What do you think of that?
Yeah, I’ve heard that. I visited his webpage a few weeks ago and he’s written that he kinda denies his death metal past! I was like “What the hell?!?!”. You’ve heard of his band Unicorn? He wants to do this progressive rock thing. (groans) Between the lines when I read it, it was like “I hate death metal and I’m ashamed of what I’ve done”. I was really disappointed.
That sucks! His old work was so integral to the scene. Anyway, moving on. Your first to albums are pretty hard to get nowadays, but Hell Is Here got some good worldwide press. Now, Deathrace King seems to have just exploded all over the world. Do you view it as your breakout album?
I think we still need to wait and see. I still have no idea how the record has sold. I know that the response has been much greater than the previous album. It’s doing great, but I don’t know about breakthrough. For me, breakthrough sounds like something like Sepultura’s Arise album. We’ll see, time will tell.
Going back to the past a little bit, you guys used to be called Crown Of Thorns, but because of some Christian “rock” group, you had to change your name. I was shocked when I found out that Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons of KISS were backing these guys. What happened there?
That was weird. It was either Paul or Gene that had produced their albums. We got a fax saying that they were going to sue us if we didn’t change the name. The fax also said that they were supported by Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons. At that time, we were on a small label and didn’t have the money or time to fight about it. So, we took the easy way out and changed the name. I think it was the best step.
Well, if nothing else, it coincided nicely with Hell Is Here, which was your first album to really receive major attention in heavy metal circles.
Yeah, luckily when we changed the name we also moved to a bigger label.
You guys are from Sweden, and of course there’s the big Gothenburg metal sound and Swedish death metal. How do you guys feel that you fit in with some of those bands?
Good question. We are not the typical melodic band, but hopefully we bring something fresh to the scene. There are now more brutal bands appearing on the scene, like Defleshed. Hell Is Here brought about a huge difference in the attention we received in our home country. We’re now doing really well in Sweden, so I guess we fit in somehow.
Your earlier albums had a lot of religious imagery on the covers, while your last two have been more into the “metal” side of things. Is there a reason that you guys moved away from the imagery?
We had already done it so we got bored! (laughs) We try to go forward all the time, and do something new for every album. Who knows what we’ll put on the next cover!
Speaking of the next album, what can we expect from it? Have you guys started working on it yet?
We have actually, like twenty new songs already! We started to rehearse one new song called “Speed Of Darkness” which is again, a progression forward. They’re good songs, but it’s hard to say. It’s going to be a good album, because we’ve got to top Deathrace King!
I don’t want to keep you, I know you’ve got to get to soundcheck, so, are there any final thoughts that you want to share with fans of The Crown?
Well, this is our first time in North America, and so far I’m very impressed! It’s been great. We’ve got three weeks left on this tour, so, please don’t kill me! (laughs)
Visit The Crown’s official webpage: www.thecrownonline.com