Theory In Practice drummer / Mutant vocalist Henrik Ohlsson
Interviewed by Nathan Robinson
Theory In Practice
Theory in Practice was born in July 1995. How did the four of you come together?
I met Peter (Lake, guitars) and Mattias (Engstrand, bass & keyboards) at a local bar, I knew them before but that was the first time we discussed forming a band together. So at first we were actually a three-piece band. I knew Johan (Ekman, guitars & vocals) from another local act and decided to call him and check if he was interested in doing something with us, and it turned out he was.
Were any of you in previous bands?
Sure, I knew Johan because of the fact that he played in a death metal band called Incarnation and both Peter and Mattias had been playing some kind of Yngwie metal for years in a band called Rivendell. Peter was also a part of the locally known death metal act Sorcery before that. I’ve been playing in a number of projects but my two main bands before T.I.P was a death metal band called Adversary and a thrash band who went by the name of Legia.
What was your musical vision when Theory In Practice first started writing? Was the music back then as technical as the debut album ended up being? Why technical music in the first place?
We actually started out with the intention of doing technical and brutal music, all the songs we?ve ever done have been recorded onto albums. You have to remember that we got signed quickly after our first and only demo and we didn?t have that many songs at the time. We just took all the songs from the demo, added as many new songs as we needed to and went into the studio. Our intention with T.I.P was to confuse the listener, so yeah, we’ve always been this crazy?
How and why was “Theory In Practice” chosen to be the band’s name? What does it mean to you?
I named one of the early songs “Theory In Practice” and at that time we didn?t even have a bandname, the other guys thought it was cool and I said “allright, let’s use it” you know. The lyrics was telling the tale of a guy who thinks that life is meaningless and he has this theory that he might as well be dead. So he puts his theory into practice and kills himself. I?m simplifying the lyrics here but that was basically it. We thought that Theory In Practice was a great way to describe our music and that gave the title a different meaning. In the end we re-named the song to “Theoretical Conviction” because we didn?t feel that the song was good enough to have our bandname as a title.
In 1995 you released the Submissive demo, which was received very well from what I understand. Are there any plans on releasing that demo material in the future? Either on an EP or as bonus tracks on an album?
As I said, all the songs from the demo can be heard on the first album, but since Pulverised didn’t have a good distribution I feel that we can re-record any song from Third Eye Function for bonus tracks on future releases. The Japanese, for example, would surely appreciate that.
Pulverised Records, in Singapore, is quite far from Theory In Practice’s home in Sweden. How did you get signed to Pulverised? How was the reaction from metal fans to Third Eye Function? How did it meet your expectations? Do you feel Pulverised promoted it properly?
We just sent the demo Submissive to a bunch of labels and Pulverised was the first label who wanted to sign us. We were really excited by that and hurried to agree with their deal, none of us had ever been signed before so we were almost pissing our pants with excitement. But later it turned out that Pulverised wasn’t the best label in the world… Anyway, I think that the response was overwhelming considering the bad distribution and promotion we had for Third Eye Function. We were pretty happy with it at the time. We didn’t really expect anything ?cause we didn?t know what to expect from a label, we just wanted to have the album in our hands. We got that and we were amazed that we had actually released an album. It was all so simple back then! Looking back now we realize that Pulverised did a lousy job with most things but what the hell, you have to start somewhere.
I find some similarities between Third Eye Function and both early Meshuggah and Atheist. The album also has a fusion jazz element to it. Would you agree or disagree?
We have heard that a thousand times, ?you sound like Meshuggah blablabla?. We tried as much as possible to get away from that on The Armageddon Theories. I think that Meshuggah sounds very different from us and always has, we have more melody in our music and we?re more death/black metal than they are but since we both play very technical I see why people compare the two of us. Atheist was in the back of our minds when we formed T.I.P but nowadays they are not exactly an influence. I can agree with the fact that there is some fusion stuff on the first album. Sure. But there?s not really that much of it in my opinion.
Production on Third Eye Function was handled by the well-known Swedish deathmeister Tomas Skogsberg. Usually when his name is mentioned, people think Entombed, Dismember, old-Amorphis, Afflicted, and many other classic death metal bands which had that unique buzzsaw guitar sound. However, Third Eye Function, sounds completely different than the aforementioned bands. Why is this the case?
Very easy to explain. Tomas was hardly present when we were recording in the Sunlight studio and when he was there he didn?t really seem interested at all in what we were doing. We weren?t satisfied with the production but we tried to convince ourselves that it wasn?t that bad. We didn?t want the typical Entombed/Dismember sound since that wouldn?t fit our music, but we weren?t satisfied with how it turned out either. It wasn?t the right studio for us, they didn?t understand what we were doing. They were more into regular rock’n roll with punk influences and those sort of things.
Vocalist/guitarist Johan Ekman left after the debut album to pursue studies in music. Do you keep in contact with him? Do you forsee the band working with him again in the future? Do you think the world of metal will hear his talents again?
I can?t say we?re in contact with him nowadays. I drank some beer with him last summer but that was it. He?s fed up with metal and he?s more into classical guitar and stuff like that. I can?t possibly imagine that he would seriously start playing metal again.
Daniel Bryntse of Withered Beauty was to fill Johan’s shoes at one point, but that apparently did not work out. What happened?
He failed learning the songs. The easiest song was complicated to him and that?s when I realized that it wasn?t going to work out. We didn?t have time to wait for him since we had dates booked in the Abyss studio and after a couple of rehearsals with Bryntse I knew that I would have to do the vocals by myself.
The Armageddon Theories was finished in mid-to-late 1998, but was not released until early 1999. What accounted for the long delay? After the release of The Armageddon Theories, the band left Pulverised and signed to the French label Listenable Records. What made you decide to leave Pulverised, and how did the deal with Listenable Records come about?
The delay was just Pulverised Records? fault, I don?t know what the hell they were doing. Their payment to the Abyss studio was delayed, their releases were all delayed, they didn?t promote the bands. We were so fed up with them that I decided to, once I got the album, send a copy to Listenable records who had just signed our project Mutant. And that?s what I did! It didn’t take long before Laurent (of Listenable Records) called me and told me that he loved the album and wanted to sign us. That was such a relief!!!
Listenable Records has just released the new version of The Armageddon Theories, almost a year after its initial release on Puverised in 1999. It seemed that the first version of the CD had very limited distribution, and as a result it was very hard to find. What kind of reaction did you get after the album was released the first time?
That?s right, as soon as we knew that Listenable wanted to sign us and re-release The Armageddon Theories we had to tell Pulverised what was going on. They understood us and was willing to sell the master tape to Listenable and they promised to withdraw the album from their catalogue. So that was the idea: the first version of the CD wasn?t supposed to be found! But I think Pulverised sold some copies anyway, and I was once again amazed by the response we got. Considering the relatively small amount of copies that came out it was incredible!!! I saw it on several “Best of`99”-lists.
How many copies of the Pulverised CD were pressed?
I think it was one or two thousand copies, but as I said they didn?t/don?t have the right to sell them anymore. Listenable bought the master tape a couple of weeks after Pulverised had released it.
The Listenable re-release contains new artwork, and a completely new layout for the booklet. Why the change?
Because the old artwork sucked! We had to use the cheapest artwork possible when we were on Pulverised and when we signed to Listenable we were offered to use much cooler and more expensive stuff. The artwork that the Polish company Graal did for us just blew us away, they did the artwork for both T.I.P and Mutant.
It seems that Listenable is doing a fine job promoting the album, as I have already seen advertisements for it in magazines. What do you hope to achieve with the release of the new version of the CD?
A lot more people will have the chance to buy the album and it won?t be wasted because of bad distribution/promotion. We have a license in Japan through Soundholic which is a really cool thing. What we really want now is to get a live line-up together and play some shows abroad. Japan would be cool of course but just traveling through Europe would be fine too.
At one point the band was going to change its name from Theory In Practice to Monument, then to Rapture. But in the end, you kept the name Theory In Practice. Why was the decision made to change the band’s name to begin with? Why did you decide to keep the name the same after all?
At first we agreed with Listenable to create a new start for the band with a new bandname and so on but we couldn?t come up with a name that sounded or felt like us. In the end we came to the conclusion that the right thing was to keep Theory In Practice as a bandname and when we told Listenable how we felt they understood us. We can?t do things that don?t feel right, and we realized that changing the bandname was all wrong.
The Armageddon Theories is much more of a challenging listen than Third Eye Function. It seems more complex and technical than the debut. How did the writing process for The Armageddon Theories differ from Third Eye Function?
The fact that there is an over twenty minutes long song on The Armageddon Theories makes it a bit harder to understand. Even though it?s divided into parts, or “phases”, it is still a massive thing to digest in one listen. There?s just a non-stop intensity on the album that doesn?t let you catch your breath. You just have to listen to the album a few times to be able to follow the songs. With Third Eye Function we had separate songs all the way through with some laid back parts in them and the songs were written over a longer period of time. When we wrote the songs for The Armageddon Theories we rehearsed like maniacs over holidays and everything so I guess that?s the difference as far as the writing process went.
With the advent of computer technology, it seems a lot of musicians record right onto a computer’s hard drive, and use editing software to facilitate the creation of songs, and to make things easier in general. How does Theory In Practice go about writing material?
Peter recorded some stuff on the computer when we wrote songs for The Armageddon Theories and presented it to us that way. That was however a pretty boring way to work so that?s nothing we do too much nowadays. So, some parts of the songs were done that way on The Armageddon Theories but most of the time we jammed it together in our rehearsal place. Which is a lot more fun.
Do you physically interact with each other during the writing process, or do you each write separately and mail/e-mail each other the music?
We rehearse as much as possible and there?s no problem rehearsing four times a week when we live as close to each other as we do. So there?s no meaning in e-mailing the music when we can meet and physically interact instead.
What types of music, or which specific bands and/or musicians, are the members of Theory In Practice influenced by?
From the start we were influenced by the band Mekong Delta and that is a band we are still influenced by. I think we are influenced by all metal genres, we try to use what?s good about each genre. Apart from metal, Peter has always been into Al DiMeola and that kind of guitarists. I know Mattias is into classical music because it?s a great influence on his keyboard work, he?s been playing that instrument for a long time. I listen to metal most of the time and Snowy Shaw has always been a great influence to me, no matter what band he played with I admired his work. I think his new band Notre Dame is cool as hell too, even though he?s not the drummer in that band. I like some classical music also because of the atmosphere it creates. I think we all like classical music to a certain extent. But to be honest influences can come from anywhere, fusion jazz, a cool drum rhythm, a state of mind, nature. You get the idea.
In the past, technical metal bands tended to go unnoticed by the majority of metal fans. In recent years, the metal community has come to embrace technical metal more openly. I find that this is evident by the dawn of newer technical bands (Theory In Practice, Cryptopsy, Aghora, Martyr, Spiral Architect, to name a few), the fact that established bands continue pushing the boundaries of technical metal (like Death and Gorguts), and finally because there is an increasing demand for classic, out of print titles by bands such as Watchtower, Atheist, Cynic, and old Gorguts. What are your thoughts on how technical metal has been received in the past, and where it stands today?
People seem to understand technical music better nowadays. That it is a good sign. It shows that people demand more of the music they listen to. No one understood what Atheist was doing in the beginning of the 90?s except for a small number of people and now it?s suddenly cool to like Atheist, you know. I quickly became interested in technical music when I had been playing with bands for a couple of years and I always appreciated bands like Cynic and Atheist but a large number of people couldn?t take development of extreme music back then and that was something I was frustrated by. I still come across attitudes like that. But I think that there?s more open-mindedness towards the technical metal bands and nowadays it?s a bit easier to get credit for being able to play that kind of stuff.
The Armageddon Theories was recorded as a three-piece, with yourself fulfilling vocal duties. How do you feel about your vocals compared to Johan’s on the debut?
How do I feel about them? Well, I think the vocals came out O.K considering the fact that I had never been a vocalist before except for some backing vocals on the T.I.P debut. It made me want to be the vocalist in Mutant, ?cause I felt that I was able to actually be a vocalist. I wouldn?t want to compare myself to Johan, it?s just that his vocals are deeper and mine is more of the screaming kind. When we recorded the Mutant debut I discovered that I am able to sing deeper as well, but the screaming raspy vocals comes naturally for me. I like to scream, growling is not as fun to do. I will probably use a wider range of vocals in the future though, to get some variation.
The band is currently searching for a replacement for Johan?someone to take over second guitar and possibly vocals. Are there any touring plans for the band? And if so, what will you do if a new vocalist has not been found? (I would assume it is hard to sing and play drums at the same time!)
Yeah, that?s right. We?re searching hard now to find some session members for live shows. All we really need is a vocalist, even though a second guitarist would be really helpful too, and if we don?t find one then there will be no live shows. Simple as that. You?re assuming correctly, it is impossible to play those drum rhythms and sing at the same time. It?s too much of an effort to play our songs.
You are also in the process of writing for the third album. How far along are you? How will the new material compare to the first two albums?
Right now we have four new songs. This time we will do separate songs again, we haven?t planned any long concept song for this one. I guess you could say that we will do like a mixture of the first and second album with some new elements and try to do a pretty varied album. It?s still really technical most of the time but we will also try to cover a wider spectrum of music I think. That?s what it feels like right now anyway. But it will still fit the description “progressive death metal”. Hell yes.
How and why did Mutant come to exist?
Mutant was brought to life right after we had recorded The Armageddon Theories for T.I.P, we were sick and tired of Pulverised and we channeled all the frustration into this side project.
It seems that over the past few years, the black metal scene has been inundated with a multitude of black metal bands, to the point where the scene as a whole has faded. What do you hope Mutant will bring to the scene?
A different aspect of how Black Metal can sound like and a greater understanding for the Aeonic ones. This is Black Metal filtered through our minds, dissected and extra-terrestrialized.
All guitars for Mutant are played by Peter Lake, correct? And the vocals are yours? Drum programming was used on the Eden Burnt to Ashes demo, correct? And it sounds as though drum programming was used on your debut album The Aeonic Majesty. What made you decide to use programming instead of playing them yourself?
Yes, you?re right about all that. The reason there?s no real drums in Mutant is because we?ve recorded all the Mutant stuff by ourselves in our rehearsal place. Even though Listenable bought studio equipment for us, it wasn?t enough to actually turn it into a real studio. It was a pretty awkward recording atmosphere to say the least, but we planned to do Mutant this way and it worked out surprisingly good. But now Peter is building a studio so things will be different in the future.
Most of the material on The Aeonic Majesty would not fit within Theory In Practice. However, I find that “Abduct to Mutate” in its entirety would do very well as a Theory In Practice song. How did you determine which music was right for Mutant, and which to save for Theory In Practice?
Yeah, “Abduct to Mutate” sounds more like T.I.P than Mutant. But when we created and recorded the demo material for Mutant we didn?t really have T.I.P in our minds at all. Everything that came out then was Mutant material, you know. The same thing happened when we were doing the stuff for the debut, we spent most of the year of 1999 writing and recording The Aeonic Majesty and everything that came up was made into Mutant songs or adjusted to fit the Mutant sound. Right now we?re concentrating on doing songs for T.I.P and now everything goes to that band, we kind of concentrate on one band at a time.
Will any Mutant songs ever make it into a live Theory In Practice set?
I know that you should never say never but right now it doesn?t feel as if we need Mutant songs to complete a Theory In Practice set, we have enough T.I.P songs that we want to play anyway. Well, maybe “Abduct to Mutate” will make it, he he he….
The album cover artwork is pretty representative of the music within?dark, evil, twisted, and a bit disturbing. Who did the artwork? Is this the same person who did the new artwork for The Armageddon Theories?
Yes, it?s a company called Graal who has done the artwork for both albums. They?re a bit slow to work with but their stuff is fantastic.
Is Mutant something you would like to expand on in the future, or is it an “as time permits” project?
That depends. If people give a huge response to the Mutant album and so on, we will try to make it more like a real band. If not, there?s no need to hurry, if you know what I mean. But we?ve signed for three albums and we will fulfill our recording contract. Judging by the amount of interviews I think we?ve received a great response by the media, now it?s up to the metal people out there if this is something they want or not. Remember that the Aeonic ones are possessing Mutant and they will not take disappointments, we?re doing this with our souls as payment.
Well, that’s all! I want to thank you for taking time out to answer these questions! I hope some people out there check out your music, and I wish you and the rest of the guys the best of luck in the future! Any final words of wisdom?
Mega thanks to Laurent of Listenable Records for the opportunity, and to Henrik Ohlsson for his time towards answering these questions!!!