Jonas Torndal from Grave
Here is an interview with the guitar player and original member Jonas Torndal from the Swedish legendary death metal band Grave. Grave was one of the bands who formed the legendary Swedish death metal scene back in the beginning of the 90?s. Grave recently released their new album “FIENDISH REGRESSION” and they have held their fans in a steady grip throughout the years and refuses to compromise with how their music should sound.
Interview By Anders Sandvall
Thanks to Century media for the promo pictures of the band.
Thanks to Jenny at Bleech Box Promotion for help with this interview.
Why did you put Grave on hold for so long? The last you thing you released was the live CD “EXTREMELY ROTTEN” in ’97. What have you?ve done since then?
When we got back from the ’96 tours, we did both Europe and the US, we took a short break and then an old friend of mine joined for a short while on guitar. He (Conny Vigstr?m) has played with Messiah?s Sabbath and Agony to name a few. His situation at home stopped him from continuing with the group so he left after only one gig in -98 at Kaf? 44.
Then we took a break from everything and rehearsed very sporadically during a year or so. Then Freddan came into the band and things started to happen. I switched to guitar and we started writing songs and things went on from there.
What do you think of your old albums when you look back at them today?
I seldom listen to the old stuff since I find it hard to listen to my own band, but Soulless is a big favorite of mine. Actually one of the best Death Metal albums in my opinion. I take the liberty to say that ?cause I had nothing to do with the album.
Are you proud of what you did back in the 90?s?
We had a good time then and made some really original music in my opinion, but we never thought that it would make such an impact. In reviews and so they always compare our new stuff with “Into the Grave” and it?s often described as a milestone but it?s hard to comprehend if you?re actually in the band. You could put it this way; I?m proud to be in Grave and I?m proud of what the band stands for.
Grave is one of the bands who founded the Swedish death metal scene at the beginning of the last decade, how does it feel to be called legends?
I think we?re too young to be called legends. But it?s really cool to have that recognition from the Death Metal scene and community. That I?m also very proud of.
How come you picked up the instrument and woke up Grave again?
During those dark years of the late 2000 century, we always talked about starting to do stuff together again but it never came to reality. Then suddenly, at Sweden Rock Festival (in a drunken moment of truth), Ola told me that Grave had a new bass player and that we were ready to start jamming again, and this time with me on guitar. That was the start for this reincarnation of Grave.
You and Ola are the remaining original members, how did Fredrik and Pelle end up with you and why did you chose them? Did you know them from before?
We?ve known Freddan for ages and I really don?t know how he ended up in the band but I think it was Jensa?s idea originally.
Pelle started as a session drummer for Jensa at tours and proved himself as a great guy and excellent drummer, so when Jensa decided to leave, he was the natural choice for us. To complicate things, he had just got a new job when we approached him so he actually turned us down! Can you believe this guy?
Chris came in instead, but it never worked out so we approached him again. Filled with remorse and regret he came crawling back too us.
I think Freddan knew him from somewhere before.
When did you decide on making Pelle a full-time member of Grave?
I think that the experience we had of Pelle on the tour we did in -02 with Disinter and The Forsaken, gave him the spot. He?s a very cool guy and fits the band perfectly. We?re very glad to have him in the band.
Where in Sweden do you guys live?
We all live in Stockholm.
What do you think of the “comeback” album “BACK FROM THE GRAVE” today? Are you satisfied with it?
To a certain degree. We wanted to do faster stuff, but Jensa wanted to play Heavy Metal. It became some sort of compromise between what Jensa wanted to do and what the rest of the band wanted to do. I like slow music so I can?t say I dislike the album but if I could go back and do it all again it would definitely sound different.
How did the fans and the press receive it when it came in 2002?
As far as I know we got good reviews and a great welcoming from most, but some criticism that it was slow and/or midpaced throughout the whole album. I was really surprised that it created so much interest in the band after so many years. We were booked on tours and festivals even before the album came out.
Did you read any reviews on that album and what the media had to say about it?
As I said before, and I really understand the criticism, most reviews were good but with no exception, I think, they thought we lacked tempo (changes) and fast parts.
Did you do any touring on that album? If so when and where?
We did a US tour in 2003 with Immolation, Goatwore and Crematorium. All great guys and bands. Check ?em out, especially Goatwhore which has become one of my favorite bands. We had a blast on that tour! Then we did a European tour in late 2003 with Exodus, Nuclear Assault, Agent Steel, God Dethroned, Mortician and a few more bands. Also a great tour with a lot of bands, maybe too many since a couple of them were dropped on the way.
How long did it take to write and record “BACK FROM THE GRAVE”?
I think we wrote BFTG during a period of 6 months. The recording was a bit more complicated. We started to record the drums, guitars and bass, and found out that the tapes were out of sync. Then we did the tour with The Forsaken and Disinter and picked up the recording when we got back home. It got delayed with 3 months because of technical difficulties with the tapes. Ola did a horsejob (s?ger man s????) putting it all back together n?sync (sorry!)?
Who has written the music and lyrics on that album?
Ola and me wrote all the music together and he did a Horsejob, again, with all the lyrics.
How does it work when you?re writing material, which of the guys does what in terms of composing the material?
Me and Ola writes all the music, and basically it?s a team effort. Except for one song on each album (BFTG & FR), which Ola wrote by himself, we do stuff together in the rehearsal room. We bring ideas or riffs to the rehearsal and then we just put it together and help each other piecing it together.
You have recorded the new album in Abyss Studio but you have recorded everything prior to that on Sunlight Studio, why have you changed studio?
We?ve known Peter for a while and always talked about doing an album in Abyss and it seemed like a good idea to do so with FR. Some of the technical difficulties we encountered in Sunlight made that decision easier to make. We also wanted to try out some ideas of our own and we know that it would be hard to convince Thomas to try these ideas in Sunlight.
How was it to work with the very famous T?gtgren brothers?
Cool! Very laidback and relaxed. They really know what they do and that shows on the album. They also threw a Valborgsparty during the time we were in the studio so we had the opportunity to have some fun as well and get drunk. I?d love to go back and do the next one.
Why did you choose to work with both of them instead of one of them separate?
Peter had some shows with Hypocrisy and some other projects to attend to, so we recorded in Tommy?s studio, with a little help from Peter, and then mixed the album in both studios, also with both of them behind the board. Ola?s also taken a bigger roll in the recording and mixing process.
How long did it take to write and record the new album?
About 6 months of writing all in all, this time we got interrupted by the Exodus tour, and 3 weeks to record and mix FR.
Are the lyrics about anything in particular? Have you written about any special subject or topic?
Always anti-religious. We?re not a political band but it?s hard to ignore what?s happening in the world today. I mean, just look at our own back yard were the Christian society?s wasting each other and blame it on god. It suites the style of music very well to write about these topics and it?s something that concerns us all. On the other hand you have these fundamentalists that spreads terror all over. Fuck ?em all.
Are you satisfied with the album or do you feel you should have done anything different?
I’m very happy with how the album turned out. I just wish I had more time to spend in the studio.
What do you think of the cover? Who decided it to be that cover?
We thought that the cover Jack did for BFTG was awesome so we wanted to use his work again. We gave him the basic idea and sent suggestions back and forth for a month or so.I?m really happy with the end result and it looks killer!
On the first edition of the album you?ve added two bonus tracks. One cover of Saint Vitus song “BURIAL AT SEA”, is that one of your favorite bands? You?ve also added a remake of your old song “AUTOSIED” why have you re-recorded that song?
I?ve wanted to do that song as a cover ever since the album came out! I?m a huge Saint Vitus fan and that?s one of my favorite songs. It?s also a song that fits Grave very well ?cause it?s heavy as fuck and then it just explodes in the middle and goes back to that ultra-heavy groove again.
Autopsied was a song that we recorded as a promo song for the label and it has never been officially released before. It was an opportunity for us to see if that really old song would fit the new Grave sound and also a chance for new, and old fans, to hear one of our really old songs properly recorded. I think that Ola sang on the very first recording as well so it seemed like a good idea.
How do you comment on this quote: “The campaign of domination is about to begin?” It’s from the info provided to me with the CD, is it any special meaning behind that line?
Wohoo, a tagline! It basically means that we?re back and that BFTG was not a one-timer. Grave is here to stay and we?ll keep on doing our thing, regardless what people say, for many years to come. That?s a promise!
Why the name Grave? Does it mean any special to you guys?
When Corpse reformed without their old bass player they thought that they would change their name, and Grave came up. In the same vein as Corpse and a good name for a Death Metal band.
And why the title “FIENDISH REGRESSION”?
First “Back from the Grave” which alludes to “Into the Grave”, and then “Fiendish Regression” which is more of a description of what we?re doing today. We want to do our thing the old-school way with an updated sound and we also want people to immediately recognize it as Grave.
Are we have to wait as long for the next album as we did on “FIENDISH REGRESSION” to come out?
Probably, but hopefully not. We?ve got some new songs in progress but touring and family life takes it?s toll.
If we feel that we have material strong enough, keep your eyes open next summer.
How many copies of the first edition of “FIENDISH REGRESSION” has been printed?
I don?t know. About 1500 or so I guess.
Have you read any reviews of the new album, what does the press think of it?
I?ve read a couple of reviews and I think FR have been received well. In average 8/8.5 out of 10, or something like that.
Some say that it?s nothing new but that?s not what we intended. If you like a certain band, lets say Black Sabbath, and if you were into the band from the very start and really liked what you heard, what would you think of, for example “The eternal idol” if it came out in 1977? It?s progression but is it good? You?d probably say it sucks!
We haven?t tried to break new ground with the 2 latest album, instead we?ve focused on what we do best and what we enjoy to do. We play the style of music we would like to hear ourselves and it would be strange for us to try and follow every trend that is out there.
What do you think of the Swedish death metal scene today? A lot of the old bands like Dismember and Unleashed are still alive and like you don?t compromise with their music.
That?s a good thing and a sign of a vital and growing scene.
Are there any bands who inspired you musically?
Of course! Black Sabbath, Slayer, Hellhammer/Celtic Frost, Mercyful Fate, Trouble, Possessed, Venom, Exodus and so on. That?s the bands who inspired me to pick up a guitar, but there?s a shitload of bands out there who inspire me everyday, both old and new.
Do you have any favorite bands amongst the metal scene today?
To name but a few; Goatwhore, Carnal Forge, Coercion, Malevolent Creation, Strapping Young Lad, Nevermore, Morbid Angel, Dimmu Borgir and Vicious Art. I can go on forever?.
I would describe your music like Swedish old school death metal influenced by some newer death metal, how would you describe your music?
Sounds good to me. Old-School Death Metal plain and simple.
Keep it heavy and keep it simple.
Have you always been on the same label? And how does the co-operation go with your current label?
We?ve always been with Century Media, for ages it feels, and it?s something like 14 years now. The cooperation and relationship with our label hasn?t always been that good but since the “Comeback” it?s been really great. The new A&R guy, Leif Jensen, is really cool and understands the business AND the bands.
How big do you think your fanbase are today compared to in the 90?s?
I guess that the true fans are the same and the not so die-hard fans change over the years. It?s been a few poor years for Death Metal, especially the late 90?s, but it seems like the scene is growing stronger again. Hopefully this trend will continue so bands get a chance to go on tour and play live in front of their fans.
What album with Grave would you recommend to the ones out there who wants to start to listen to you?
Only one? That?s hard, but I?d say our latest album “Fiendish Regression”. It?s a good start, and if you like it, start looking after the old stuff, which by an accident was re-released a couple of years ago with a lot of bonusmaterial.
Do you feel like a legendary band?
No, but we?ve been doing our thing for a long time now and it?s cool that people appreciate what we do.
Do you think that Swedish death metal are up and coming with thought of all the bands who releasing albums today?
Not as good as it could be and has been. The local scene isn?t worth mentioning but eventually I think it will catch up. If you look at the rest of Europe and the US it?s starting to look pretty good. A lot of bands struggle hard and don?t get the recognition they should but hopefully that will change.
Are there any difference between playing in Sweden and playing abroad?
Yeah, a big difference. Larger crowds and people are more die-hard. It tends to be all your best friends and other bands, which basically is the same, in the crowds at home.
It?s like a club of mutual admiration. That?s not necessary a bad thing but it would be nice if more people could come to the shows.
Can you live on the music or do you have a work besides Grave?
I work fulltime besides Grave and all of us do. To live on this business you had to be on tour 8 months out of a year and that?s not an option. Signing a record deal with slave-like conditions 14 years ago doesn?t help either. Not that we?re not happy with our label, ?cause that was the deal back then, but signing that contract that stretches over 7 albums was a major mistake.
For how long do you think Grave are gonna be active this time around?
Until we?re hospitalized or dead. Hopefully that is a long way in the future.
2004 is soon coming to an end, what are the plans for grave in 2005?
Tours and hopefully festivals. We?ll try and record something as well but we?ll see.
Finally, are there anything you would like to say to the readers of metal-rules.com?
Go to the shows, support the scene and hopefully we?ll meet on tour soon?
Thanks for taking the time to answer my questions.