First of all, congratulations on your new release 'Within the Sphere of Ethereal Minds'. You released your debut album 'Burial Dimensions' in 2016, but this was material recorded back in 1994. So technically speaking this is the first new material in over twenty years! The band was put on ice in 1997. What made you decide to reform the group?
Thank you very much. That is correct, this is the first material written in 22 years. The last song we wrote before we broke up was 'A Touch of the Burning Red Sunset' in December 1993, and the first song we wrote when we put the band together was 'From the Crimson Fog They Emerged' in September 2015. Well, I just wanted to do something new with the guys, it felt like we had so much unfinished business when we broke up. We needed to light that fire again, and our past material was released several times in different formats and people kept asking for new stuff etc. So we said, let us at least try and see if we can make something. And I guess Iabels got tired of re-releasing our old stuff so we had to make them happy also haha..The band broke up in the late summer of 94 and reformed just for one gig in December 1997. We played the entire Burial Dimensions on that gig. And yeah, we see Burial Dimensions as our debut album even if it was released many years later. It was released in 2011 for the first time as part of a 3-LP compilation by To The Death Records and Dark Descent released the same compilation on 2CD in 2015, and in 2016 it was finally released as a standalone vinyl as it was supposed to in 1994. 'Within the Sphere of Ethereal Minds' is our second album, people who say otherwise are idiots.
From the old line up only you and Anders are still in the band. When you reformed in 2015 original members Fredrik Wallenberg and Henrik Forslund were also part of the reunion. They did not record on the new album though (right?). Why did you part ways with them?
At first I contacted Fredrik and Henrik and they were interested, Henrik who played guitar in the band in the past wanted to switch to bass when we reformed, he felt more comfortable with bass and wanted to do the same crazy stuff Dave (our first bassist) did, Dave as you probably know passed away in 2008. Anyway, we needed a second guitarist so I contacted Peter who was an old fan of the band and asked him if he'd like to join, he said yes without any hesitation and began immediately to write music while Fredrik couldn't come up with anything. And he made the decision to leave for various reasons, well, he gave me various reasons anyway, and I believe all the reasons were true, he lives miles away in a different city, he had physical problems with his hands and back and whatnot, and he had difficulties playing this kind of music, and we realized afterwards that if he stayed in the band we'd have to simplify the songs, especially the new songs we're writing now, and we don't want to do that. And you have to remember, the last time he played our old songs were 24 years ago and he even had problems playing his own stuff when we reformed. Since 94 he's been playing punk music and all of a sudden you have to learn and re-learn advanced structures and tons of melodies, so I understand that it must be very hard. So we contacted Anders, who played guitar on our first album and he agreed to join, so it's the second time he replaces Fredrik, and the second time Fredrik starts a new band with Tompa (Skitsytem in 1994 and just recently The Lurking Fear) after leaving Sarcasm so I guess history is repeating itself. Anders who had not even touched a guitar since 1999 took few weeks to practice his fingers, and then he just nailed the new songs and we live like 100 meters apart from each other, me Anders and Peter so we were glad that he finally accepted. And Henrik, well he realized he didn't have any time for the band. He has this carpenter company he just started and just before we entered the studio he told me that he just got a big order that would take all his time the whole summer and autumn. Ok we said, we have to find someone else, so we contacted Jonas Söder who made a terrific job in the studio. And later I realized that Henrik's heart wasn't into this anymore anyway. He seemed very excited at first but he has been away from the metal scene completely since 94 and made clear that he wouldn't under any circumstances play live again, so we thought what's the use of trying anyway. I'm not surprised actually that things turned out this way. Anyway, I tried really hard and did everything I could to keep those guys in the band and to re-create that old atmosphere with my old friends, but it didn't work. And I wish them all the best in the future.
On a sadder note, your old drummer Oskar Karlsson, whom I also admired for his work with Scheitan, The Everdawn, The Duskfall, Gates of Ishtar, Helltrain and Defleshed passed away last year at the early age of 39. This must have been a very hard hit for the band. How did you find the strength to carry on with Sarcasm?
Yes it was a hard hit, I talked to him just two days before he passed away, he had a flu or something and told me that he would call me as soon he got better, He'd come down to Uppsala and we'd do the pre-production for the album. The last thing he wrote to me was 'Now I have to lie down and read comic books'. Two days after I got a phone call from Fredrik saying me that Oskar has passed away. Yeah it was a shock. You know, Oskar and I didn't have contact for many many years. It was in early 2015 when we made contact again, before the band got together. Oskar had just started to re-build his vinyl collection and contacted me about some albums and then we talked more and about other stuff. It was really nice to have contact again, and I realized how much I missed him so he came to Uppsala that summer with his girlfriend Sandra, and we had some beer and he bought some vinyls from me. And not many know this but Oskar was a brief period a member of Third Storm. At that time Third Storm didn't have a drummer and I asked him to join, he said sure, but in the autumn when Sarcasm was re-formed he said he wouldn't have time for Third Storm so he quit haha. When he passed away we didn't know actually what to do, so we said, let's take a break and see. We had written six songs already before he died and we needed two more for the album. After a couple of months, the end of April we thought ok, this album must be finished, Oskar really liked the songs and kept saying that a new album must be recorded with this material. And to throw away the songs and forget everything would not be right. To respect his wish and to honor his memory we had to carry on we thought and we did. So in April / May we completed two more songs 'The Drowning Light at the Edge of the Dawn' and 'A Black Veil For Earth' and entered the studio soon after. And I know Oskar is happy how the album turned out. I felt his presence during the whole process.
You recruited no one less than ex-Dark Funeral, ex-Defleshed and Firespawn drummer Matte Modin to take the empty spot behind the drumkit for Oskar. How did you get him to join the band?
We knew Matte from way back since he was the drummer in Fredrik’s first death metal band Embalmed, in 1989 I think it was. And he also played together with Peter in The Hidden, a thrash band who has released one album. A couple of months after Oskar passed away we thought, who would be the most logical to ask and Matte came to mind. I knew he's very busy with all his other bands so at first we thought he would say no thanks, but he said sure, I play on the album. We were surprised and happy and it's important that we have someone who could do these songs justice. There aren't many drummers who can play like Oskar in Uppsala and Matte can do that and at the same time add his own thing to the songs. A really skilled drummer and incredibly fast. Matte is a childhood friend of Oskar so I guess it was a logical and natural thing for him to do. He has replaced Oskar in three bands I think.
When Oskar passed away you were in the middle of writing the new album. As I understood from your biography guitarist Peter Laitinen was responsible for most of the new material. Peter is also new to the band, but he apparently did a great job for Sarcasm. How did you compose the material, at home or did you practice in rehearsal room?
Yes, Peter wrote 100% of the music, and first of all you have to know how Peter works. He has to work in his own way, Peter is not a guy who sits in rehearsal places and jam or exchange ideas and all that stuff many other bands do. He has to write the whole songs from scratch, all the structures, melodies, leads, rhythms, acoustics, even intros. Everything except lyrics. He has to be alone when he works that way and if you give him 100% creative freedom, he can give you amazing songs and I knew that when I asked him to join. He's one of the most creative guys I know, he wrote the whole album in 8 months and within that time period we had to take a break because of Oskar's death and issues with band members etc. And besides Sarcasm, he has also written the whole new Imperial Domain album. So we didn't rehearse once before the recording of the album, nor during or after. We will rehearse before we do gigs of course. But when you record an album you don't have to do that anymore. Even Matte didn't have to rehearse, he just listened to the songs many times at home and went to the studio and recorded them without any problems. It's much easier nowadays to do that. Peter kept sending me demos, I wrote the lyrics and did all the vocal arrangements in my head, then went to the studio and did my thing you know. Simple as that. And we worked that way the whole last summer. And we will work that way in the future, I know it's more 'rock 'n' roll' to grab a six pack and go to a stinky and sweaty rehearsal place and make noise (like we did in the old days), but we prefer the faster way now. And you know, when you're older you also have other responsibilities, work, kids etc so there isn't much time to spend in rehearsal places like you do when you were young. But we are still in love with alcohol so some things are just like before.
You recorded 'Within the Sphere of Ethereal Minds' at the HSH Studios in Uppsala, a relatively unknown studio. What made you decide to record there and what can you tell about the recording process?
Most of all because Peter felt safe in that studio since they recorded the new Imperial Domain material there already, and Alvaro and Philip who also are members of that band recorded our new album together. Alvaro did all the drums and vocals and Philip the guitars and bass. They are great guys to work with and the studio is cozy as hell and very near where we live so we thought why not. We recorded the album piece by piece during three months I think it was. Everything went smooth actually apart from some minor details. As I said, we didn't rehearse before we started and most of the stuff we just nailed without any problems. We were focused and very well-prepared. I listened to the demos like thousand times and had tons of notes with me. Jonas also, I think he recorded all the bass in just three-four hours. I think there are five or six guitar tracks on all the songs including melodies and the leads, and they all were recorded really fast. Matte worked close to Alvaro since they both are drummers, and the drums were recorded in four sessions, two songs each time. It went really fast. I must say that I am fortunate to be in the same band as these guys. They have been playing this kind of stuff for a long time and they know exactly what they are doing you know. There isn't any need for rehearsals, discussions, stupid band meetings etc. And Lawrence Mackrory mixed the album in November at his own studio. It took him a week or so. He gave us a sound that he called 'very 90s' and that's exactly what we were after. We wanted an album that sounded like there actually are people who are playing the instruments and not fucking computers like many of the metal albums today. The sound is crisp but natural with lots of atmosphere, just like many death metal albums in the past. I wouldn't say all death metal albums had a good sound in the 90's (How anyone could let Scott Burns produce so many is still a mystery to me) but still there were many awesome.
How do you look back on the old days of Sarcasm? Do you regret not releasing 'Burial Dimensions' earlier?
The old days were fun as hell, even if it was a short period. We were young, crazy and drunk all the time. We rehearsed a lot back then (with or without the shitbucket), and no actually, I don't regret anything. To regret stuff is stupid. Everything happens when it's time for them to happen. 'Burial Dimensions' wasn't supposed to be released back then and if it was released back then perhaps it wouldn't have the same impact as later. I don't know, It's hard to tell, you can't dwell on the past, it's destructive. But perhaps I should have sent the album to few people at least. We didn't send it anyone for years, it was hidden in a drawer. No one knew about its existence. And the reason I didn't send it was because I left the scene and I was the only one in the band who wrote all the mail and had contacts you know, so I left everything. I was tired of the scene and the way it turned out in the mid 90s. I stopped all mail correspondences and threw away all the past mail and started to study. I kept listening to metal of course and checked out new bands but was not involved until ten years later or so. I was the only one who had a copy of the album left until To The Death released it the first time. If mine got lost there wouldn't be any proof that the album existed.
Now that the band is reformed and you have recorded a new album with new material, are there any plans to go out on the road to play this material live as well?
Yes, we'd like to do that, it's too late for festivals since our album is released just before the summer but next summer we'll perhaps do some festivals. But our first gig with this line-up will be this August in Uppsala, it will be outdoors, a one day festival with some other metal bands. Anguish is one of them. It will be the first gig in 20 years. If people who read this and want to book us, just contact us and we'll come.
You are also active in the black metal band Third Storm. How is the writing process for the new album progressing and when can we expect it to be released?
Yes Third Storm is my other band. We thought, after the release of the EP in 2015 that things would work fast but everything went slow motion instead. Mostly because I focused on Sarcasm's new album the past fifteen months and David has been busy writing new material for the new Anguish album which they will record this summer. We have written five new songs for the new Third Storm album so far, I think we'll need two-three more and then we can record. We don't know at the moment when and where the album will be recorded. It won't be released this year anyway, that's for sure. Most likely beginning or mid 2018, but that album will destroy everything in its path so the wait will be worth it. The songs are shorter this time and I wouldn't say it's entirely black metal, it's also doom/death/thrash (evil thrash, not party thrash)
Finally, is there anything you would like our readers to know (that I haven’t asked you about)?
Yeah, this autumn a cassette box-set will be released with all our old demo tapes, numbered and nicely packaged with booklet, patch etc so you should check it out if you're a tape freak. This will be the fifth time our demos get released. And we are already working on songs for the next Sarcasm album, two new songs are written and we will probably record the next album sometime in 2018. Cheers man and thanks for this interview! And she's still a corpse of corpse...