Interview with Tony Richter
Interviewed by David Leslie
So Tony, at which point did you find interest in music and metal in particular? How did you become a Metalhead exactly?
This was back in 1984. I met some kids in school through a mutual interest for the Star Wars movies. They listened to heavy metal and I kind of got into it too. We liked bands such as Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, AcDc, Accept and Scorpions. Then when thrash metal appeared, I got into it because I liked my music harder. This caused a conflict between me and my old friends who were quite happy with staying traditional heavy metal fans. At the school I went to back then there were only three of us who liked thrash and we became something of outcasts because of it.
Did you start immediately listening to death metal or…?
No, that wasn’t possible because death metal wasn’t around in 1984. People will disagree with me on this, but it is my opinion that everything that came before „Altars of madness” was only thrash metal in a slightly more brutal form. What I would call death-thrash. Morbid Angel introduced a whole new approach with „Altars of madness” in 1989. And like I said, I started with heavy metal and then moved on to thrash. Then when death metal came along I got into that as well because it was even harder than thrash. My musical taste has always been about extremes. I always looked for stuff that was harder, faster, heavier and more brutal. But it seem like this stopped with death metal because no other genre has managed to be more extreme.
When and did you decide to take part in the underground scene? What were your influences to become metal musician?
I became a metal musician in 1990. I was heavily influenced by Morbid Angel and that was the kind of stuff I wanted to do. I started a rather shitty band with a.o. Peter Wildoer (now Darkane and millions of others). Both me and Wildoer wanted to do death metal, but the guitar player we worked with did not understand this at all so things went sour. I didn’t get into the underground until my first serious band, Gardens of Obscurity, had released their first demo and I started to trade with people.
As I as know, you started Gardens Of Obscurity which was formed in 1991 with the intention to play grindcore under the moniker Slavestate, is that correct?
Yes. I never really wanted to play grindcore, but I was approached by a drummer who wanted to do it and we decided to give it a try. But already after the first practice we decided to go for death metal instead. So Slavestate became Asmodeus and then Asmodeus became Gardens of Obscurity.
While during the mid/late ’80s, early ’90s thrash metal was on its peak, in Sweden happened a great death metal boom, with acts, such as Nihilist, Corpse (later they changed their name to Putrefaction and Grave), Grotesque, Treblinka, does that mean, that thrash metal hadn’t so great background, like death metal had or…?
We had a thrash metal scene before it, but most bands copied the Bay Areasound from the States more than trying to invent something of their own. I have no explanation to why we had a death metal boom or why the Swedish death metal sound was invented. You’ll have to ask Nicke Andersson… hahaha!
How did you feel seeing that death metal explosion with quite a good numerous outfits –like the aforementioned ones popping up from everywhere?
It was great and we liked most of the bands, but I was always more into the American bands. And I rarely listen to the Swedish death metal sound of the early 90’s today. If I listen to an album from that era it is „Into the grave” by Grave. Probably because it has some Incantation-like atmosphere here and there. But it was a good time back then. Death metal was everywhere. Even though the „regular people” hated it.
In Helsingborg, was there a strong death metal scene, like in Stockholm or Gothenburg?
No, you can’t really compare it. We had some decent bands but nothing that ever made it „big”. 9th Plague is probably the most „genuine” death metal band from here. Most bands today are what I would call „death metal light”. They are fast and aggressive, but not really death metal. Stuff like Darkane or Soilwork. Stuff that lack the brutal edge or the „brutality gene”, hahaha!
As far as myself, in Sweden there were cool thrash metal acts, such as Merciless, Agony, Mezzrow, Fallen Angel… – did you like them? Would you say that the most influential Swedish thrash metal act was Merciless?
I loved both Merciless and Mezzrow. I thought Agony was ok. Never bought the Fallen Angel stuff. Don’t know why really. Merciless was an influential act for those who liked the raw German sounding style. But I think you could just as easy say that Kreator was just as influential because that was what everybody said about Merciless back then, that they sounded like Kreator. But Kreator was not Swedish so…
Talking about the Swedish scene of the late ’80’s/early ’90’s, would you say that the most popular death metal act was ENTOMBED? They were the firsts who signed a deal with a known underground label Earache, weren’t they?
Most definitely. Entombed was even on TV a lot. Filthy Christians were early as well, but they were more like grindcore and people wasn’t ready for that back then.
Did Entombed open some doors for the Swedish death metal acts?
Probably. All of a sudden everyone seemed to sign Swedish bands. Swedish bands who all more or less sounded like Entombed though. For the rest of us, who didn’t play the same style as them, it did nothing. Gardens of Obscurity who were a bit more doomy gained nothing from this. We were a pretty shitty band and didn’t really deserve a record deal, but no bands like this got signed in the wake of Entombed. Not that I can think of anyway. So I’d say they did a lot for their clones but the rest of us had a pretty hard time still.
At that time was their sound very unique and brutal, a lot of death metal bands have started copying ENTOMBED’s sound. How do you view it?
Yes, I kind of suggested that in my previous answer. It is a pretty normal reaction. You hear something you like and you want to sound that way. Or, you see someone’s success and want success yourself. If your reason for copying someone is because you love that style – fine! But if you only copy it to make some easy money, then fuck you!
Sunlight studio became also popular, a lot of death metal bands went there to record their albums, was already Tomas Skogsberg a known producer or did he become more known, when „Left hand path” was released? Was „Left hand path” his very first experience as producer?
It was probably not many people who had heard of him before „Left hand path”. If he had done anything before, I don’t know.
Later opened their doors more studios, such as Berno, Abyss or Fredman, which became well liked as well.
After a couple of rehearsals you changed their mind and started playing death metal with semi-occult lyrics with a new band name Asmodeus, what made you to turn into that direction?
We realized that it was pretty much only the drummer who wanted to do grindcore, so we changed to death metal. To introduce the occult lyrics was my idea. I had always been fascinated by that stuff. But none of the people I had worked with before was into it. Now I got the opportunity and I seized the moment. Unfortunately this was short-lived as the rest of the guys changed their mind about this when we became Gardens of Obscurity instead. Very annoying as I still wanted to have the occult approach. Instead it became about death and sorrow.
When you released your first demo tape „The lamentations” you changed your name again into Gardens Of Obscurity and started playing slow death / doom metal, would you say, that doom metal became popular those times? I mean, there are started popping up a lot of doom bands, respectively the death metal bands started using slow, doom oriented parts in their music…
I never thought doomy death metal was that popular. But a lot of bands who wimped out later were a bit doomy and death metal back then. Like Cathedral, My Dying Bride, Anathema and Paradise Lost. These bands were all British and they were great influences on Gardens of Obscurity back then. I preferred the American way though. Morbid Angel, Immolation and Incantation (who are a bit doomy) still ruled in my personal sphere. So I bided my time.
What about this demo tape as a whole?
A piece of shit made by inexperienced kids who didn’t really know what they wanted to do.
At the time of a second demo titled „The abyss of coloured tears” you played more technical death metal, was it a better representation of the band? What were your influences at this point?
Gardens of Obscurity started out doomy because we weren’t capable of playing fast. We took the technical direction because the composer started to hang out with some techno freaks at his school (the Darkaneguys, who back then were the Agretatorguys). They were all influenced by bands like Cynic, Death, Atheist etc. It was not a better representation of the band. Only a better representation of what the composer of the band was into at the moment. Back then he changed his taste and his mind several times. And I probably only went along with it because there were no other people in the area who wanted to play harder music. I’m not really fond of anything that Gardens of Obscurity ever did. The second demo had some good music and musicianship on it, but it was not my taste.
Did you spread both demos to attract label interest? Did some labels show an interest in the band at all?
We spread both of them but there was no interest whatsoever.
Since there were no labels showing any interest they laid the band to rest in 1994 and focused on the side project The Darksend, were you disappointed because of it? I mean, were you disappointed because of didn’t getting any interest, contract?
Probably. But as it never sounded the way that I wanted it to, it was not a hard blow to me personally.
Can you sum up the whole The Darksend story?
We started a side project to play black metal initially influenced by Bathory. When Marduk and Dissection appeared, we changed our style towards more „modern” black metal. As there suddenly was a black metal explosion and it became the next big trend, we managed to get signed to Head Not Found in the midst of this. So we picked up the ball and made The Darksend our main priority. Lineup problems eventually caused the band to disband but we managed to release two albums, a 7” and some demos and promos.
How did/do you view the melodic death metal movement of Gothenburg during the mid ’90s? Would you say, that that scene started getting big and popular?
It sucked. And it still does. Death metal should not be melodic. To think so is blasphemous! Unfortunately it got big and popular. Which is not all that surprising as most people prefer softer music. And then the kind of heavy metal that most people laughed at even in the 80’s became even more popular. Hammerfall and the likes. And don’t get me started on the symphonic crap fronted by women in evening gowns. The death metal scene may be in a good state but the entire metal scene as a whole is not.
Nowadays you are fronting 9th Plague, would you say, that this band came into being from the ashes of The Darksend?
No. It would be more fair to say that it came into being from the ashes of Abusus Ad Mortem as the band was started by two members from that band and only one ex-member of The Darksend. But it was an entirely new entity, so it wouldn’t be fair to say this either.
How did the band form exactly? How did you hook up the rhythm section of Abusus Ad Mortem, bassist Kristofer Örstadius and drummer Rafael Andersson and guitarists Johan Lindberg and Stefan Stigert?
Me and Johan Lindberg worked at the same place for a couple of months. The Darksend was more or less dead and Abusus Ad Mortem had problems. So we talked about starting a new band together. But we stopped working together and I got sick for a couple of months, so nothing happened back then. When I was fully recovered and bored out of my mind, I decided to give Johan a call. Abusus Ad Mortem was not doing much so I hooked up with Johan and Rafael Andersson and we formed what later took the name 9th Plague. We wanted a second guitar player and knew Stefan Stigert (exThe Darksend) wasn’t doing much so we gave him a call a couple of months later and he joined. To find a suitable bass player was harder. It took two years till we hooked up with Kristofer Örstadius (who was actually a guitar player as well).
Who came up with the name of the band?
Your first effort was the self financed and self released „Spreading the satanic gospel” EP, what do you recall from the recording sessions of that EP?
This is not an EP. You probably read that at the Metal Archives site. I don’t know where that info came from but it is totally wrong. It is a demo just as „Age of Satanic enlightenment” and „Triumph of Diabolism”. The recording sessions went ok. Not without problems but we were satisfied with the end result as it was our first demo.
Would you say, that everything went cool during the sessions, because you are talented, experienced musicians?
Haha! The only person who could call himself a talented musician at that session was then bass player Kristofer who did his basslines in only an hour or so. It was not until we did „Triumph of Diabolism” in 2006 that I would say we did good in the studio.
Who was responsible for the lyrics and the music at this pont?
I have always been responsible for the lyrics. The music was mainly written by Johan Lindberg and Stefan Stigert. Later on, Kristofer Örstadius kind of took over the main composing duties even if Johan Lindberg still had a lot of input.
It was followed by the „United in real brutality” split EP with Mutilation, what can you tell us regarding that EP?
Again this is not an EP. It is the „Spreading the Satanic gospel” demo pressed as a split tape with Serbian band Mutilation. We were approached by Milan Rakic of Awaken Prod. who wanted to do this split and we agreed to it. I think it turned out well. And it was cool to have a cassette version as I grew up with demos in that format.
In 2004 you released the „Age of satanic enlightenment”, but you became a four piece act, since Stefan Stigert left the band, what went wrong with him? Why did he decide to leave the band?
Stefan Stigert was never into death metal as much as the rest of us. Most people called us old school and that became something of a problem for him as he wanted to do something new and innovative. So his heart wasn’t really in it. And when he became a father he decided to stop altogether. We immediately respected his decision and the split was amicable. We are still good friends even if we don’t see each other that often anymore.
After Stefan’s departure was decided Kristofer Örstadius would switch to guitar, does it mean, that you didn’t started immediately finding a new bassist? Was it a solution that Kristofer was forced to adopt the bass?
Yes, like I mentioned earlier, Kristofer was actually a guitar player. And in all due honesty, he was probably the best of the three. So it was only natural for him to fill Stefan’s place. As it was still a bitch finding a bass player, Johan had to play the bass on „Age of Satanic enlightenment”. This later proved to become a more permanent solution.
What about this material as a whole? Did this demo sound to closer what you want to achieve with 9th Plague?
Well, yes and no. The material sounded closer to what 9th Plague wanted to achieve but the recording itself sucked big time. Both vocals and guitars turned out really bad and not at all like they should have. People still offered us record deals, but no album should follow a shitty demo so we turned them all down.
In August 2004, bass player Tobbe Hellman was added to the lineup, what about his musical background? How did he get in the picture exactly? Was he your first choice or were there still auditioned other musicians as well?
Hmm, how did we hook up with him? I think it was through Joel Andersson from Immersed In Blood who played with Nominon as well back then. Tobbe was ex-Nominon and they met at a party. When Joel learned that Tobbe lived close to Helsingborg and played bass he suggested I gave him a call as he knew we had no bass player at the moment. It was a bit funny because we learned that me and Tobbe had went to the same school back in the late 80’s. He was not into metal in the same extent as I was back then though. I was a thrasher and he was into mopeds.
Unfortunately the cooperation did not work out as well as the band had hoped and in June 2005 he was dismissed, what happened exactly?
He did not really fit in with the rest of us. Neither as a person or as a musician. He didn’t pick things up as fast as the rest of us and did not seem to practice at home either. One day he stopped coming to rehearsals because he couldn’t afford the gas to get there. A couple of weeks later we called him up and told him he was out.
„Triumph of diabolism” was released in 2006, did you record this demo to attract label interests?
Yes, it was the first demo we made with the intention to get a record deal. The first was done mainly to get the band known in the underground and as the second turned out kind of shitty that had to serve the same purpose as the first.
Would you say, that you were more prepared with this material that with the previous ones?
Absolutely. It was the best rehearsed demo of them all and it had the strongest material.
Four days after its release, negotiations with Butchered Records began, does it mean that everything went cool and fast with this tape? Do you still recall what type of reviews did you get for this material?
Yes, things went very smooth. The reviews said pretty much the same as they always did. Old school but with hints at more modern styles. And people compared us to Morbid Angel, Hate Eternal and Immolation. Same old, same old. But most of them also said that it was our best effort thus far. Both in terms of production and musicianship.
Other deals were offered as well, but Butchered Records seemed the most appropriate label for 9th Plague to work with and this was finally made official in January 2007, what were still the labels they showed interest in the band?
No point in mentioning any names. Let’s just say that we appreciate all the offers we ever got. Butchered Records offered us the best deal and had a roster that seemed most fitting for us to be a part of, so that’s it.
What about the other bands of this label? Do they prefer brutal death metal or…?
Patrick Pagan (the label manager) has told me he will never sign a band with the modern pig/frog-vocal style and that is good to know. That shit isn’t brutal! It is for people who don’t bother writing lyrics and who have nothing to say. But he seem to prefer brutal stuff. He have some black metal too. Of his bands, I’d say I prefer the ones that are closest to us. Like Dethroned and Imposer.
„Apotastasis reversed” was released last year, when did you start recording the material? Where and with whose help was the material recorded?
The recording started in March 2007. We did most of it ourselves at our „studio” Studio Mangelrum with Kristofer as engineer. We did my vocals at Studio 2000 where we recorded the demos as we were quite happy with how they turned out on „Triumph of Diabolism” and we didn’t really have the right facility to record vocals ourselves.
How long did the recording sessions take?
The actual recordings did not take that long but we had some problems that delayed the process and therefore it wasn’t completed until July. The problems included a broken down guitar amplifier that had to be repaired, and in the end, replaced and the drum tracks were deleted from one of the songs and had to be done again.
Did you have a decent budget to record the material?
No budget at all. That’s why we did it ourselves. I’d say the whole affair cost us approximately $800. But then I’m not including the studio equipment that Kristofer bought and paid for himself over the years.
The album includes rerecordings and (in some cases) new versions of six demo tracks as well as six never before recorded, new songs, why didn’t you put more newer material instead of the demo songs? Would you say, that the old materials are still enough strong to be released them and are on the same level like the new fans considering their quality, brutality and stuff?
Simply because there was no other new material. When we signed the deal, we only had four unrecorded songs. We wrote two more and intended to use five old songs. „Visions of an unknown god” was rerecorded as a heat of the moment kind of thing. When Rafael recorded the drums he wanted to lay down the drum tracks for that one as well so he did. Thus 12 songs ended up on the album. We figured that not that many people had heard our old songs anyway, so most of it would still be new material to them. And both „Betwixt and between” and „Beyond the flesh” are new versions compared to the way they appeared on „Age of Satanic enlightenment”. The lyrics are different. I was a bit worried that there would be a difference in style between the older and the newer stuff, but that is for others to say. The songs that I think are most different are „Visions of an unknown god” and „The Crypts of paradise”, because they are a bit more old school than the rest. Like I said, „Visions…” was not originally meant to be rerecorded but „Crypts…” is a „new” song and that is still very old school. Let’s call it a homage to the past, hahaha!
Could you tell us a song to song description regarding the album?
Damn! That will take forever. But you asked for it… the album begins with „The God of Ekron resurrected”, which should have been the opening track for the „Triumph of Diabolism” demo but we were not that satisfied with how the production turned out on that recording session. This time it turned out better, so it became the opening track. It is a bit different than the older version as I included the conjuration of Beelzebuth from the Grimorium Verum, a medieval grimoire, at the end. The lyrics are about how the ancient god Baal is turned into a demongod, Beelzebub, by the Christians. He embrace this and become a minion of hell. „Renewed vow of blasphemy” was also from „Triumph of Diabolism”. Not that much is different. The lyrics are among my best work ever and deal with a very dark period in my life when unrequited love made me stray from the hellward path and tore my being apart. But love was not for me and I renewed my vow of blasphemy. „Infernal apocatastasis” is a song that we’ve had for ages but it was not recorded until now. It deal with the end of days when hell is unleashed upon the earth and the religions are wiped away. Hail Satan motherfuckers, hahaha! „Betwixt and between” was originally from „Age of Satanic enlightenment” but the choruses have been rewritten as the original lyrics either did not fit 100% or they were somewhat erroneous in their occult significance. The song deal with how Christians turned ancient pagan gods into demons. How these gods are no longer considered gods, but they can not be considered demons either as they were gods originally. Now they are demigods, trapped betwixt and between. „Trading gods for flesh” is the newest song on the album. It is a varied song, at least we think so. Lyrically it deal with putting a human being in god’s place and showing her the adoration normally reserved for gods alone. And to further emphasize ones devotion with the kiss of shame – the Osculum Obscenum. This is the highest form of blasphemy. Or, if you prefer an easy explanation, it is about licking a woman in the ass! „De Vermis Mysteriis” is probably the hardest song to play as it has some weird parts. The lyrics were influenced by writer Robert Bloch’s work. He created the grimoire „De Vermis Mysteriis” like HP Lovecraft created „the Necronomicon” and invented a writer called Ludvig Prinn who supposedly wrote „De Vermis Mysteriis”. My lyrics deal with the concept of „what if”. What if Ludvig Prinn and De Vermis Mysteriis was not created? What if they were real? What if De Vermis Mysteriis is real? „The Shrine of Satan” was the last song from „Triumph of Diabolism”. No new version, only a new recording. The lyrics were influenced by a sequence in the movies „Exorcist –the beginning” and „Dominion –prequel to the exorcist” where they find a church where there should be no church. A church dedicated not to God, but to Satan. „Beyond the flesh” is a rerecording from „Age of Satanic enlightenment”. It has very different lyrics than the original version as those lyrics never really worked and were rewritten shortly after its original recording. So it’s not really new, but it has never been recorded with those lyrics before. „The Crypts of paradise” is an old school song with equally old school lyrics. To sum it up, Adam and Eve are shown the remains of demonic creatures in the garden of Eden. This is the proof that God usurped the earth by killing its original inhabitants, the demons of the void. Lyrically it is somewhat connected to the song „Restore the demonic earth” on the first demo. „The Manifestation of hell” is one of the newest songs on the album. It was actually a song none of us liked when we wrote it but it grew on us and when we had recorded it we felt it turned out pretty darn good. Some of us even hail it as one of our personal favourites. The lyrics deal with the moment when mankind realizes that their god is dead and that he has been for some time. They just didn’t realize it until it was too late. „Old soul, new flesh” is one of my personal favourites. It has a strong chorus and a good flow. The lyrics are about when an ancient god returns and people do not recognize him. His shape may be different but he is still the same. His flesh may be new but his soul is old. „Visions of an unknown god” is the most classic 9th Plague song. The opening track from the first demo and still going strong. In the lyrics a man find that he has recollections and visions of another time in which another god ruled. It becomes obvious that the gods of today usurped their powers from a god that is unknown today. But he shall return…
Are you satisfied with the result? Would you say, that „Apocatastasis reversed” is one of the most brutal and killer stuff last year?
We are happy with how it turned out as it is our first album and we recorded most of it ourselves. Things can always be done better, but I’d say we are satisfied. I would never claim that my own work was the best and most brutal. That is for others to decide. But we like it and hopefully others will too.
What about the lyrics? Are you heavily influenced by Satanism, anti-Christianity using song titles, such as „The shrine of Satan”, „De vermis mysteriis”, „Renewed vow of blasphemy” etc.?
I think I answered it pretty good in an earlier question. Let’s just say that I enjoy writing about Satanism and the occult, but I am not a satanist. I use Satan as a symbol as he seems to annoy all the religious bastards out there.
How do you think about the topics Satanism, anti-Christianity, occultism and stuff? What is your point of view about it?
It is interesting to me. I am not a Satanist though and I am not an antichristian exclusively. I am more of an antireligious person. Fuck all religions!
Last year was released a lot of cool death metal records again –and I hope this year will so, which records did you like?
I actually thought 2007 was a somewhat weak year. We however saw Angelcorpse return and Immolation and Malevolent Creation returned to form. Plus Impiety, Nile, Odious Mortem, Aeon, Demonical, Mental Horror, Vital Remains and a couple of others made decent albums. There was a lot of good stuff but nothing really awesome.
How do you view the present status of death metal?
I think it is good. A lot of bands, both new and old. It is still the most brutal musical form there is and I still love it.
As far as Sweden you have and had always a lot of talented death metal bands and in my opinion, these days there are a lot of them as well, such as Immersed in Blood, Visceral Bleeding, Insision –the new wave of Swedish death metal are you familiar with them?
Of course. I may be old but I’m not dead. The bands you mentioned are very good. I like Imperious quite a bit too. I only hope they get their shit together and do a second album soon. I hope the same about Immersed In Blood (Joel & Johan – get off your lazy asses!).
For me is surprising, that they didn’t follow the old Swedish death metal –Sunlight sound, but the American one instead, they are influenced by Deicide, Suffocation, Cryptopsy, Deeds Of Flesh, Hate Eternal and stuff, how do you view it?
This is 2008. There is no point in clinging to the old Sunlightsound as it is restricted to the same fucking riffs over and over again. It is far too primitive to be interesting in 2008.
You have done the Nekrologium fanzine as well, when did you start Nekrologium with? Can you speak about it?
Sorry, no. I am fed up with talking about Nekrologium, so I will keep it short. I did ten issues as a paper zine, then lingered for some years as a web zine. It gave me pleasure and I loved it, but zine-making is not for me anymore.
What kind of fanzines did exist in Sweden at that point respectively what kind of fantines do exist in Sweden these days?
I can’t remember them all. There were quite many. Today there don’t seem to be that many still around. It’s a shame, but I understand that it is a new time now and it is hard doing fanzines today. Maybe not hard to actually do them, but to get the generation of today interested in them is hard.
Do you agree that the fanzines are playing an important role in the underground and they are helping and supporting the underground band1s career?
People who make the fanzines are the backbone of an entire scene. It is a shame that they rarely get the respect they deserve from the bigger labels and some bands who think they are too big to bother with them. Fuck these people and their attitudes! Praise be to the fanzines!
While the printed fanzines have almost vanished from sight, nowadays are there a lot of webzines, what do you think about them? Can they replace the printed ’zines?
No, because you cant take the computer with you to the toilet… just kidding. I prefer printed zines but all forms that give us – the bands, attention is good!
Would you say, that it isn’t worth it to run a printed ’zines these days and the printed ’zines are destined to be bought by only a handful of people? To the real, die hard maniacs?
Yes, that is exactly it. It is expensive and the younger people don’t seem to bother. It’s a shame, but it’s the harsch reality in 2008.
What will be the shows to support to releasing of the record? What are your future plans as a whole?
As for shows, nothing is planned. We are pretty much just awaiting the reactions for the album.
Tony, thanks a lot for the interview, any closing words?
This was without a doubt the longest interview I have ever answered. It was fun, but it was exhausting! Thank you very much! If people are interested in our stuff, they can visit or or check out the label at Death Metal is not dead yet! May it never die!