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Deathening is een band vol knoppendraaiers en geluidstechneuten, maar bovenal een band vol muzikanten die - o hoe ouderwets - lol maken met elkaar voorop stellen en die zichzelf niet dodelijk serieus nemen. Zelfspot en relativering, daar zouden we meer van moeten hebben, niet alleen in de metalscene, maar überhaupt. Afijn, het feit dat de vijf Zweden het naar hun zin hadden tijdens de opnames spat dan ook werkelijk van hun eersteling, 'Open Up And Swallow' af en dat - naast de muziek zelf - trok mijn aandacht. De heren Pål (gitarist/dictator), Arnold (drummer) en Pär (bassist) namen graag de tijd om wat vragen te beantwoorden.

Door: Sicktus | Archiveer onder death metal / grindcore

In my review of 'Open Up And Swallow' I wrote that one of the best things about the record is the fact that you can hear a band at work who are having fun, having a good time pounding out some metal tunes. So how about you start by telling me you are all a bunch of very grumpy old men who despise metal, and we take it from there?
Arnold: Haha, yes we are not a bunch of young guns anymore but metal is still floating (?!) in our veins!

Pål: Yes, it's really all about having a good time playing, or else we wouldn't do it. We play what we think is fun to play and you could say that the cover art is pretty much a picture of how we approach the metal scene. With a sense of humor. May it not be what others consider to be a laugh, but we think it is. With that said I'm not saying there isn't a serious side of Deathening. There is always a thought behind the lyrics.

Pär: Yes we are old and grumpy hehehe. But this is a very good thing and maybe one of the reasons that we actually have fun doing this thing. We are all about the same age which means that we have the similar references. Not saying that we all like the same music but if someone talks about a sound or a song we can all more or less relate. The best thing about being old, I mean not a kid anymore, is that we have all been in lot of bands and we know by now that being in a band is teamwork. Everyone has to do their share and we are very effective when it comes to rehearsing. When these angry men play together we try to look angry and brutal, but's just so fun playing...and you keep cracking up in a big fat smile all the time when playing. We will have to work on that part...

...and if you do not know what to do with the first question, forget it, we'll take this one as the first: what is more important: being very true Metal (and quite evil as well), or having fun (and beer)?
Arnold: I think the most important thing when you make music, is to have fun! That doesn't mean that you can't be "true", (whatever that actually means...) evil, beerdrinking satanist if you want. Personally, I'm not any of that and I just like all kinds of metal and the way that music makes me feel. Nothing beats the feeling of going up on stage in front of thousands of screaming fans and pound those drums!

Pål: I have serious problems to cope with ”true and evil metal”. There must be some amount of self-distance and irony involved, but at the same time I don't listen to circus bands either. We have a lot of fun, but as I said there is a deeper meaning behind every song.

Pär: Take a look at the album cover, metal will never be Christian music! But you don't want to hang around with evil people, do you? Music has to be fun because money is for sure not the driving force in this genre! Still, music is deadly serious because if you don't listen to music or play your soul will for sure rot away and die. That's how we feel anyway. There must be some meditative moments in your life when you just turn it up to eleven without thinking about tomorrow.

I could not stand being in a band with almost only sound engineers and producers. I imagine they/you (I'm not sure who will be answering at the moment of typing these questions) are the worst technonerds, who like nothing better but talking about things with knobs and meters and switches and flashy lights. Could you confirm, elaborate or deny this please?
Pär: That is a very good question indeed! The band was founded by two sound engineers that's true and that surely helps when wanting to get your sound on tape. Getting good metal on tape is not easy but playing live is a completely different thing. It needs to be loud heavy and very tight but if it's too polished it sucks. However it is good to have the right people turning the knobs on the mixer if something sounds wrong.

Arnold: Yes, I'm a gearfreak! But I've come to that point now, after so many years in the business, where I rather have a good time than let the technical stuff steal too much of my attention. I don't have to know and control everything all the time anymore (even though I like to soundcheck us live myself hehehe)!

Pål: The bottom line is that we're interested in making good sounding metal, and I don't think anyone in the band has suffered along the way. I know it can be a total bore but me and Arnold have been doing the technical part on our own since no one else understands compressors, consoles, microphone techniques or whatever, and for that reason we don't have to talk about all that when we're all in the room. The important thing is that it has become a great album and that everybody else do their part when it comes to playing in the studio or on stage.

But seriously, 'Open Up And Swallow' sounds great. And I CAN actually imagine how it comes in handy to know all about recording and 'soundscaping' (ahem) when you take your tunes to be made eternal, but I am wondering: who has the final say in things when there is a bunch of soundguys disagreeing? And do not tell me you always agree, because I just cannot believe that!
Pål: I am the dictator. Since I wrote the music and the lyrics, it's my creation from the beginning, but we seem to agree in the end anyway, because we all think the record sounds great! Everybody has idéas and we try them out together to see if they fit in. Usually it turns out well and there's some bits and pieces here and there that originates from that collaboration. I'm mostly very open for suggestions 'cause I want everyone to be involved and hate to spoil other peoples creativity, but I'd have to say that I have the final say in everything.

Arnold: We definitely don't agree at all times! That's why we mixed the album in two parts. We started by making the basic sound together (me and Pål) and a rough mix. Then, after I left the building, Pål did the final mixing by himself. I think we have a little bit different ideas how things should sound, but since Pål wrote all the songs and had a better vision how he wanted it. He did a great job! We did the mastering together though.

How would you describe Deathening (as a band) in your own words? And the same question for 'Open Up And Swallow'?
Pär: Deathening is for people who want their death metal to sound like a tractor and not like a space ship. Lyrically it proves that there are still things to be mad about after you've turned 30. It is proggy and political but yet ”working-man´s drinkin´-death metal”. It is intellectual but yet oily and greasy. Let's picture it as a man in suit and tie in his garage running his lawnmower over some tools. 'Open Up And Swallow' sounds straightforward but is fucking tricky to play. Maybe with the next album it will be the other way round. Who knows?

Pål: We're a state of the art intelligent death machine, carving the flesh off your face with the precision of a Dutch beer brewer, or you could say we're five friends having a real good time while making and playing the music we love.

I personally was pretty pleased when I heard the album. How have reactions been so far? And is there a tendency (Germans hate it, Dutch folk love it, for instance... I don't know, just an example...)
Arnold: I think our music is kind of complex and you either love it or you hate it!

Pål: Some like it a lot and some don't here in Sweden. Outside Sweden we haven't got any low rates so far, so the tendency could maybe be that we're more liked on the continent. We'd be happy to go on tour down in your area for instance!

Pär: There are highs and lows but in general good reviews. We don't know how the winds are blowing and what is hip right now so we don't have an idea if it is liked by the cool people. But we are cool and we like it so that's enough for the statistics. You seem like a cool person and you like it, that is cool.

band image

Back to my first question. One of the main components of 'Open Up And Swallow' for me is the fact it sounds so very natural, pure. Was recording it a lot of fun, or was it a drag and did you guys do some studio magic to fool me?
Arnold: I'm really pleased to hear that you think that. Personally I hate the fake, super triggered drum sounds that I hear on a lot of metal albums nowadays. I've tried to tweak my acoustic drums to sound as metal as possible without triggers, and I would never use triggers live either. Everything is recorded for real, in a real room with a lot of ambience. Ok, we did some punch-ins here and there but I rather keep a "good feel" on a take even if it was "out of time" or not 100%, than cut, move and paste me through a whole album!

Pål: Other than some extra guitars and some vocals – what you hear on the record is pretty much the same we deliver on stage. And we want to keep it that way. No playing to click track ever. Recording an album is for me the next best to be on stage, so it was of course a lot of fun. Then there is always times when you doubt the qualities of the material and that's really is a drag, but you have to continue your way through that. And suddenly it all sounds great again. In that case it's of great value to have the rest of the band supporting and giving a boost and feedback to your work. That's the magic tool:)

Where did you record the album? And who will (or should) be getting the production credits?
Pål: Drums were recorded in Sound Industry Studio, which is Arnolds studio in Gothenburg. Then all guitars and bass in my studio in Malmö. The vocals were recorded in Mission Hall Studio as far out on the countryside you can get here. There we also made the first rough mix. All was then mixed at King Edward Filmproduction in Malmö and later mastered at Bohus Sound. All produced by me and Arnold.

Where did you find Kalle? He has a great voice for death metal!
Pål: We went to the same school when we were like sixteen-eighteen years old. He was in Embraced back then but we didn't know each other at all. Actually, we just said hello and passed on when we met for like fifteen years. I've always thought he had a great voice, and when Deathening began to take form in my head he was my first choice and he was in without hesitation. He did a great job in the studio, going in for it 110%.

What is important in metal music, according to you? What ingredients are key? Or in other words, what makes a great (death) metal song and/or record great?

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