Dan Swano – extreme metal legend
Interviewed by: Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Dan Swano for additional personal pictures.
Thanks to Vic Records for the promo picture.
Dan Swano is a very busy man but he had the kindness to do this interview with metal-rules.com despite his busy schedule. As every one probably already knows, Swano is an icon within the extreme metal genre and the founder and owner of the studio Unisound Studio. REINVENTING THE PAST is the name of the new Odyssey album where Swano have covered his favourite songs into metal versions. As an extra bonus have he also threw in the Odyssey mini CD from 1999 along with the disc.
Hi Dan it’s really nice to talk to you again. You and the band Odyssey has recently released an album called REINVENTING THE PAST and I thought that we might could begin talk a little about the album? The album is a cover album, how did you come up with the idea to make a cover album this time?
Howdy! Nice talking to you too! It all started when Vic Records bought the rights for the Odyssey mini-album and wanted to release a remastered version of it. I asked Lord K to supply me with the backing track for a bonus song, and I believe he did so, but stuff happened and somehow that song disappeared off the face of the earth. Then Roel asked again, and this time I thought it would be nice to record some of the cover-versions that I never had the time to do with any of my other projects.
How did you come up with the idea to re-awake Odyssey?
It was all about Roel buying the rights to re-release it. I had thought about doing something with the Odyssey project again, because it’s all about epic metal and I felt that I wanted to work with that style again…but there is always so little time, and writing good songs seems to get harder and harder every time I try.
Was it hard to pick out what song to feature on REINVENTING THE PAST?
Not really. All songs (except ”Cherry” which was a spur of the moment thing, originally meant as a secret track, 10 minutes after the last song…) All tracks had been thought of as cover versions for Edge Of Sanity, Nightingale and even Route Nine.
Was it hard to narrow down the amount of songs to feature on the album?
There was no narrowing to be done. I actually kept remembering and adding songs. There was one that never seemed to be ready (Wasted Years) so I kind of gave up on that in order to get the album mixed during a short gap in my schedule.
How did Sandra’s “In The Heat Of The Night” and Depeche Mode’s “Shake The Disease” end up on an album done by a metal-icon?
Ha, ha. Metal Icon. Thanks..but Metal is just one of the many styles I enjoy. Most of your readers would pass out if they ever saw my iPod 🙂 Both tracks have something special about them that
1. makes me think of my childhood, biking the long way to football practice with my own ”The best of Tracks” (radio show) in the Walkman.
2. It’s just something about the minor harmonies and the tempo of the songs that completely speaks to me.
Which songs on the disc are your personal favourites?
I think ”Eyes of the world” turned out fantastic. Tino Kallioniemi did a spectacular job as my own baritone Ritchie Blackmore! He even moved away from the city during the time it took me to finished the recordings, but he drove here on his own dime just to nail the first take!! Finnish guitarists rule!!
Also ”Shake the Disease” is great. And ”Heat of the night” kicks butt too!!
Are you into the old classical bands like UFO, Uriah Heep and Rainbow?
Not really. I am more into New Kids on the Block, Kriss Kross and Whitney Houston 😀 Just kidding!! I am into totally those bands!They are the soundtrack of my childhood. I used to collect U.F.O. stuff and have like 20-25 EP’s and stuff like that.
In the presentation of the album that is available at Vic Records website, it says that you have longed to do these songs for a while but haven’t had the right forum to do it, what changed your mind this time?
I just didn’t want to make a cover album :/
I wanted to find a way to ”sneak” them upon people as B-sides, bonus tracks etc. and that was the plan with Odyssey too…until Roel decided to turn it all into a cover album with an Odyssey bonus EP 🙂 It was either that, or not releasing it at all… It was in the beginning of the decline of the record business.. and a necessary evil..
There are some guest appearances on the disc as well who are the guests?
Well, there is Tino as Ritchie on Eyes of the world. Sir Marcus Van Halen…sorry…Vanhala (Omnium Gatherum) on lead guitar. My brother Dag on lead guitar on ”Gypsy” and Mogge from Human Cometh helped out on ”Lost Horizons”. It’s like 50% solos, so I wanted a bit of a ”guitar battle” there! Worked out super!
Who has done the cover art-work and what do you think of it?
The cover was made by Ivan. He’s an old friend and he just happened to be doing a lot of work for Vic around this time.It looks cool. I am a sucker for all things Egyptian..
What was the idea behind the art-work?
That it was cheap 😀
I have no idea. Ivan just sent me the picture and I said ”Great!!” end of story!! I wish all covers came that easy!!
Besides singing you do almost everything and play many of the instruments how was it to record everything on your own?
Just like always! Fun and complicated. It had been some time since I did it the last time, apart from doing demos and such. But eventually I got back the hang of it. It’s hard to switch from musician to engineer all the time.
How come you didn’t play lead guitar this time?
I cannot play that kind of speedy stuff. I did some leads on the Shake the Disease track. I am more of a ”half time” player.. These songs needed really busy playing, or in the case of the Rainbow song..exactly the same stuff like original. I am not competent enough to pull off a solo like that…
How long did it take to record the album from beginning to start?
A few years, I think… But mostly because I had to squeeze it in between other stuff in the schedule. Once I got in the ”zone” I was pretty effective…but then there could be 4 months until I could even listen to the stuff I did…
I know that you also recorded an EP with Odyssey back in 1999 are those songs also featured on REINVENTING THE PAST?
Yep. The 3 last songs.
Have you read any reviews in the media about the album?
There was a few around the time of the release…most were positive.
Are there any differences in how your albums are treated by and written about in the foreign press compared to the Scandinavian press?
Sometimes I get the vibe that mags like Rock Hard (Germany) keep better track of ”smaller” releases like this one. There was no review in SRF or Close Up at all.
Is the EP available today and what do you think of the EP today?
I think it’s been sold out for ages. For a while it could be bought through eBay. But now those are gone too. I like the EP. Some moments are among the best I have done in the Metal territory.
Why did it take you so long to follow up the EP with a studio album?
Lack of time. I would probably still haven’t done anything if it wasn’t for the ”bonus tracks” request from Vic.
Could you give the readers three great reasons why they should buy REINVENTING THE PAST?
1. It’s a great introduction to some of the best songs ever.
2. The original EP is a great slab of melodic heavy metal
3. Support Vic records! Roel is a visionary. He needs you in these dark times!!
Where was the album recorded and did the people who appeared on the album come to the studio to record or were their parts handled though internet?
It was recorded in my mix/mastering suite (Unisound). All guests (except Tino) did their parts at home and send the files over thru the internet.
Wasn’t it hard to stay objective when you produced the album?
Naah. It was a great break from mixing/mastering other bands stuff.
Do you have anyone that you brainstorm with and that give you advice?
Nope. Not really. I played some of the stuff to my girlfriend. And I trust her judgement a lot..so she was a good to have around when I was uncertain of my own abilities for some reason. Both with the mix and the performances.
The album is released by Vic Records. How did you end up working with them?
Vic have been around a long time, and I have worked on lots of their releases. Around this time, he released some of my other stuff, like Total Terror. He also got the rights for the Infestdead catalogue, but that remains unreleased.
Are you happy with the work the label have put into the album so far?
Yep. I never expected it to shift that many units, because it is not really a touring act and not really meant to be a ”full scale” release. More of a re-release with bonus tracks, for the die hards!
But I got a decent budget, that covered some of the endless hours I spent making it..
You have been signed to many various labels through the years…how is it to work with Vic Records if you compare with other labels?
Roel is very passionate about his stuff, and signs what he likes. Unfortunately that doesn’t mean that it will sell loads and loads or copies, but he keeps following his heart, and that is awesome!!
Is the album released world wide now?
No idea. I think some parts of Africa still only have it on MiniDisc 😉
Is it possible to download the album legally?
Yep. It’s on iTunes for 99 pix
How did Vic Records got a hold of the EP?
I guess he just contacted Ed Balog, who owner the master, and gave him an offer he couldn’t resist 🙂
You have been in the industry for many years now. Do you think that it’s as fun to produce, mix and master today as it was when you began?
No. It’s way more fun now, because I don’t have to record the bands anymore! Mixing is also funnier because I have kick ass equipment and a lot more time to make sure I get the stuff to sound the way the artist wants. They can listen at home before they decide what the really want, and thanx to modern technology, I can easily get back to the same mix I had ”up” a few days ago, and make changes until they are happy!!
What keeps you motivated?
My own obsession of becoming the best mixer there ever was!
How many albums do you produce, mix or master every year?
Good questions..I don’t really count. Probably around 20 albums and 30-40 masterings maybe??
I know that you and Lord K work close together and that you have mixed the latest demo from Torture Division called THROUGH THE EYES OF A DEAD what makes Lord K so fun to work with?
It’s all about his enormous beard 🙂 Kekko and me go way back. We are both extremely dedicated to our craft and get along nicely. I know what he wants and vice versa. Both TPH and Torture Division is top class metal and is always taking it one step further with every release.
What’s the difference between mixing music that’s going to be in MP3 format compared with the usual CD format?
None at all. I am still mixing for the CD format. I think mixers for more mainstream stuff like Take That and Lady Gaga must make sure that their stuff works great on super lo-resolution thru the internal speaker of a small iPod. But I still mix for CD resolution.I do check my work in smaller speakers, but that’s been a part of my process long before I knew what an MP3 was. Not all people have 12” woofers at home. It still needs to work great in little boomboxes and car stereos.
How is it to maintain the sound when it comes to MP3 from the CD format? Is it hard?
Not really. The better mix, the less you can hear the loss of quality. If your mix is a mess in full resolution, it will never work properly as an MP3..
You have also mixed/mastered the new The Project Hate MCMXCIC album BLEEDING THE NEW APOCALYPSE what do you think of that album?
Great stuff, like always. Tobbens organic drumming was the icing on the cake for that band!! Kekko always deliver the meanest fuckin riffs on the planet!! And when he play the bass as well…it’s not unusual for the neighbours to come asking why the fuck I drive around with a bulldozer in the building 😉
What other bands have you worked with this past year?
Some bands I have worked with since the end of 2010 until now are Banished From Inferno, Novembers Doom, Exeloume, Legacy Of Emptiness, Spectral Mortuary, Coldworker, After All, Communic, Merging Flare, The Gardnerz, Darkified, The Grand Trick, Erevos, Zombie Inc, Stonewall Noise Orchestra, Funerus, Loud as Light, Arbitrator, Soul Sacrifice, Godhatecode, Altar, Se Josta ei puhuta, Mordax, Kaotik, As Light Dies, Evadne, Barren Earth, Sin7Sins, World Battering, Algol, Myrtile Vey Lorth, Domination Black, Vendetta, Terrorizer, Incantation..and more….
What’s the album that you’re most proud of having produced?
Tough question…….I am mixing the new Terrorizer album right now, and it is a big thing for me since I was floored by ”World Downfall” more than 20 years ago. I also think it is cool to be a part of the legacy of Opeth. I was a probably one of the first Opeth fans in the world 🙂
When was your studio Unisound built?
The first ”Version” was put together seriously around 1993. The current location was constructed and ready in February 2006.
I’d say that you and Unisound Studio are one of the most respected producer and studios in the world today, how does it feel to be reckoned as an icon within the metal community?
Thanks a lot!! That feels great to hear!! I knew pretty early on that this was my true calling in life, and that many of my projects were created just so I’d have something to mix 🙂 I am doing my very best each day to remain where I am today!
What’s the most fun, to play live or to produce?
I honestly don’t like any of them that much. I know some confuse producing with mixing, but those are 2 very different things. I love the mixing tough 🙂
Last year you appeared on the new album with Demiurg. Are you a full time member in the band?
Demiurg is a project between Rogga and Ed Warby, as far as I am concerned. Rogga wanted me to mix the project, and also add some leadguitars to the project. I couldn’t keep my hands off the keyboards..and in the end I was portrayed as a member on the cover. It’s fine by me, but I have 0% songwriting/riffing input. I just do some additional musical contributions that will enhance my mixes!
How many bands and projects are you involved in at the moment?
Second Sky, Nightingale and Witherscape.
What’s up with Nightingale? The previous album came 2007 are there any plans on releasing something new soon?
I have a shitload of really strong ideas, but not really enough time to sit down and turn them into songs. My view on the whole thing is that the world don’t need any new albums, unless they kick the ass off the previous one…
You also sang on the Star One album VICTIMS OF MODERN AGE last year, how was it to sing on that album?
A.W.E.S.O.M.E!! One of the most satisfying recording experiences of my life!
I nailed all my parts in 1 day instead of the 2 we had planned! It’s not every day you impress a guy like Arjen!! To have a ”duet” with people like Russell Allen is not boring either 🙂
There are numerous of different MySpace pages with your bands on the net, but why not any websites? Or do you think that your website for Unisound is enough?
Well…there are always ways to improve your online profile. The thing is that, I am so terribly busy taking care of the work I get with the web-presence I have today…so there is no time for me to do anything more!
Are you active on Facebook and twitter and so on?
Nope. I tried FaceBook for a while, but when they shut down an ”Impostor” of mine, my page got canned as well. I took it as a sign that FaceBook wasn’t for me. And since I am terrible at keeping things updated, I’m afraid to lose work over someone being pissed that I didn’t accept their invitation, or whatever it is you do…
Do you get a lot of mail from fans? What’s the most common question you get?
Not that much. Maybe 2-3 a months or so. Most ask when there will be some new releases from me.
Is it correct that you’re now working with remastering a few of Edge Of Sanity albums? Which albums is it and when are they going to be released? Are there going to be any bonus material featured on the albums?
I remixed the Kur-Nu-Gi-A demo and now it hangs proudly on my wall as a 12” picture disc. Something I have dreampt of since It was released on cassette in 1990. I haven’t remixed any of the studio albums, but I have been transferring and restoring some really rare and cool EOS stuff from the pasty. Hopefully there will be a way to release it on CD. The plan I have is to release it as 2 CD’s. One called ”You can’t live forever…..” and the 2nd ”…but can you be dead forever??”
I know that you’re involved in Witherscape and Second Sky could you tell us a little bit about that?
Witherscape is a project I have with a dude called Ragnar Widerberg. We share a love for Judas Priest and Death Metal from the late 80’s early 90’s. He is a true riff master and do a lot of ”secret” songwriting for metal bands. I had like 50 good riffs, too heavy for Nightingale and I always wondered what to do with them..and we had a jam in May 2010 and it turned out really cool, so we decided to write and record an album together. We are now almost finished with the pre-production of all songs. So far it sounds really promising. It’s got some of the ”vibe” from the projects of the past, like Pan Thy Monium, Diabolical Masquerade, Edge Of Sanity (around Crimson) and so…not so much musically, but more ”spiritually”. I play drums, and we don’t use a metronome, so it’s all based on ”good flow” rather than mechanical perfection.
The music have a lot of classic heavy metal vibes, but there’s also some growling vocals..so it’s kind of a crossover between all style we like. Some Mercyful Fate alike riffing is there to. But I stay away from the falsettos 🙂
Second Sky is a project I have with Peter Edwinzon (ex. Unicorn). It is 100% Metal Free, and sounds a bit like Marillion but with a bit more US Rock guitars. Very commercial stuff, not for the dark hearted 🙂
You left the band Ribspreader, why?
I never left. I just wasn’t asked to contribute to the albums anymore.
What do you think of that Ribspreader is active without you?
As far as I am know, they kind of existed before I played on their albums as well?? Rogga had a new band every minute for a while… I have problem to keep track of all of them 😉 But it was fun while it lasted!
When was the last time you performed live on stage and with which band was it?
It was when Nightingale played in Finland. Great gig!!
When can we expect to see the mighty Dan Swano live on stage next time?
I have nothing booked in Sweden at the moment.
If everything works out, we will play a gig in the states in the fall of 2012. Before that, nothing is planned. But that is cool with me, because unless it’s playing drums for a cover band or similar, gigging is not really my favourite thing to do..
Do you feel any pressure from the fans to head out on tour?
Not really. Some days I dream of putting together a band that plays material from all bands and projects…but then I realise what a massive amount of work that lies ahead of me..and just do something else instead…like watch South Park 🙂 Timmy!!!
What are you currently working on in Unisound?
Terrorizer and Vendetta. I also expect the new stuff from Asphyx pretty soon! I am also re-recording the vocals from the 1990 Unicorn demo ”A Collection of worlds II” for a CD release (at last!!!) and whenever there is a dead spot, I work on the Second Sky album.
What are the plans for Dan Swano for the rest of 2011?
To do my very best each day in the studio, and to finish the Second Sky album and to sing my soul out on the Unicorn demo re-recording, and give that old 4 track cassette recording the sound it always deserved. The limitations really inspires me. It’s not every day you mix albums with Drums, Piano and Bass all mixed together in Mono on 1 channel!!!
Well, that was all for me and metal-rules.com for now. Thanks again for taking the time to do the interview. I wish you all the best in the future, do you have any final words of wisdom for the fans and the readers?
Thanx for your interest in me and my adventures. And also special thanx to You for reading this!!
// See ya around!
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