with Ola Lindgren (Guitars, Vocals)
5th November 2013
@ The Underworld, London UK
Interview by Caitlin Smith
Photos by Jo Blackened
No matter how big Grave become they’re always going to be underground. Their subject matter may be gruesome, but this band are far from ruthless, bloodthirsty killers or demonic tyrants. On stage these guys are gods but offstage they’re down to earth guys just out there to play brutal music.
Having been playing for over 20 years now, they’ve been around almost as long as death metal itself. Joining Marduk on their tour of the Panzer Division album, we caught up with the only remaining founding member Ola Lindgren at the Underworld for a catch-up on the future of Grave.
You’ve been through a lot of members over the years, how much do the changing members contribute to the music?
It’s changed actually a lot over the past years. For the last album and the EP we just did, there’s much more input from all of the members, which is a really good thing for me because I’m usually stuck having to write most of the material. It’s a good feeling, a lot of contribution from everyone, which I think makes more interesting stuff on the album, we’ll definitely continue writing like that. We have a bunch of new stuff lying around and if we can get some time off from touring all the time we’ll try to sit down and get everything together again.
So how did you come to be part of Grave, where did it all begin?
It was me and two friends that I went to school with, Jorgen and Jensa, they’re the two original members. Actually the only one that could play anything was Jensa the drummer, he could actually play drums. Me and Jorgen, we listened to a lot of the same kind of music and wanted to start a band of course but we didn’t know anything really. We went to this rehearsal place at our school, you could go there and learn stuff from an older guy and that’s basically how we started everything.
We started learning how to play our instruments and putting stuff together. This must have been in ’83 or ’84 I think and it turned out we were at least a little bit talented at what we wanted to do so we did some shows under various names. We were called Destroyer, Anguish, Rising Power was one… we had a lot of band names over the years. We were always the same people in the band for some weird reason up until ’86 when we did Corpse which was the start up to Grave really, but it was always the same people from the start, just a bunch of friends wanting to do some thing.
Sweden has always had a prominent death metal scene, when did you decide you wanted to start playing it?
I think it was back around ’86, Corpse was a lot more thrash orientated I would say. We were influenced by the bands we discovered in those years: Kreator, Destruction, Celtic Frost and all those, and also the American scene with Slayer, Exodus, Testament, but something happened around ’88. We heard some of the other Swedish bands first of all, Nihilist, Dismember and those, and also through tape trading we got a lot of stuff from the US mainly and we thought this is so much harder, this is so much more evil than the thrash stuff. So we started trying to learn how to play and write songs like that.
So I would say around ’87 or ’88 we were turning towards more of a Death metal than a Thrash angle.
So you released Morbid Ascent in August, tell us about the name, does it have any meaning?
Not really, I usually tend to pick up both song titles and album titles from something I see of hear somewhere around. I don’t remember where that came from but probably something I watched on TV or something like that. I always try to pick stuff like that up, like for the last album Endless Procession of Souls… it might sound cheesy, I shouldn’t say this really but there’s an English TV show where they’re like ghost hunters, they go out to all these haunted places.
Like Most Haunted?
Probably, there’s this blonde old lady there called Yvette.
Jo: Yeah that’s Most Haunted!
I tend to write lyrics a lot more in the English language, like British English than America English because it sounds cooler. It sounds older than the American English. The title is from one of those shows, there’s an Endless Procession of Souls somewhere. Another title from there, ‘Disembodied Steps’, is also from that TV show. Wherever I watch something on the TV and I hear something and think, ‘that sounds cool,’ I always save it in my phone. There’s a lot of English stuff. I don’t know where Morbid Ascent comes from really but probably something I picked up and saved in my phone.
How did Morbid Ascent come together? Tell us about the writing and recording process…
There was actually a lot of stuff I had, mostly just in my head. Stuff that I thought of and whenever I think of something, again, I hum it into my phone or whistle it in some way that I can remember it, because I know the next day if I sit down with a guitar I’ll never be able to think of what I was thinking.
So I had a bunch of that stuff and Mika, the other guitar player, had sent me some riffs that he had from home and his stuff is actually the chorus part for each song. The rest is just stuff I had going around in the back of my head.
Those two new songs were written and put together very quickly really. We did the whole thing in my studio that I have in Stockholm, very easy. It was a long process to get it all done, but we never go in and say we need 2 weeks to do this or 3 weeks or whatever, we start it off and we just go. However long it takes, that’s how long it will take to get it done.
Despite all the changes over the years, Grave have always stuck around and kept their sound, how do you think Grave have managed to do this where other bands have fallen apart?
I’m not sure, I mean even with bringing other members contributions to the writing process I think I put the Grave filter on it. So if someone sends me material it might be stuff that I think straight off that we can’t use and I’ll discard it, and there might be stuff that I think, ‘yeah this is a cool idea but its not a Grave riff,’ so I will re-do it to keep the original idea or the pattern of the notes or whatever.
There’s some kind of formula to what I think is a Grave song and I wouldn’t go outside those boundaries in a way to try and widen the audience or anything like that. We have to do what I think Grave should sound like and from my own personal perspective I can’t do anything else. I don’t even think I could play decently in a cover band. That’s what I can do and so that’s what I do basically.
Have you got any good tour stories?
Wow… I don’t know really. What is there… There’s always stuff happening but there’s nothing major.
Jo: Do you guys get on ok when you tour together?
Oh yeah. Within the band we’re always good. I’ve seen and toured with a lot of bands that always have some kind of internal stuff going on and you wonder how the fuck these guys end up together and why are they still playing together. There’s always someone that never speaks to the other guys and sits by himself, and its really weird. I could never play in a band like that because it has to be a family really at this point. I can understand it if you’re huge and make millions of dollars at every show you do and you keep together, you keep your position in the band.
Yes, for that reason if you’re making tons of money out of it you keep an original line up together or whatever, but at this level were at seeing stuff like that is just really weird… but tour stories, I don’t know what to tell you but there’s always stuff going on. It’s mostly small internal jokes or stuff going around. There’s never been any major disasters or anything like that.
So, what’s next for Grave?
Next? This tour. We’re doing this up until we go home on December 22nd for Christmas and New Years and then early January I think we’re leaving the 5th. We’re doing Japan for the first time ever which will be very interesting, 2 shows in Japan, and then Australia after that. 8 shows I think, so if anything comes up we’ll be on the road for sure but I’m hoping for a nice and quiet spring so we can get material together and do the next album.
Is there anything you’d like to say to our readers?
Just a big thank you for supporting the band all through the years. We’re definitely not doing it for our own egos, we’re doing it for people who have an interest in the band and who buy the records and come to the shows.
Without the fans we wouldn’t really be anything so we’re very thankful to be able to do this after all these years.