Hi guys! Wow.... ‘Swim With The Leviathan’ really impressed the hell out of me. That is one killer album. Congrats! By now, I suppose you’ve seen a bunch of reviews, heard people’s reactions... How deep is the crater this bombshell created in the metal world, judging by those reviews and reactions?
First up, a big THANK YOU for this interview. I read through the questions already and know I’m going to enjoy answering this one. Yes, the debut Ursinne album, ‘Swim With The Leviathan’ does seem to have been embraced well by the press so far, and also the folks who have heard some or all of it, too. Reactions have been more than positive, and the stellar reviews have been rolling in. I’m not exaggerating this either, I’m absolutely gobsmacked at how well this has been met.
With the two of you active in a ton of bands, past and present, how does the reception for ‘Swim With The Leviathan’ compare to other debut albums you’ve been a part of? Or, well, maybe stick to some of the more recent ones, given the fact that the scene and media have changed a bit since this “internet” thingamajigger came into existence...
Obviously, reaction times are faster. You can hear back from people in as much time as it takes for them to listen to the release. I think it might be difficult to answer that question, since our other projects all have a different sound and style to them. For example, Echelon has a old school Death Metal sound, while Down Among The Dead Men have that D-beat death crust edge. Ursinne’s sound - which I’ll expand on later - is very Swedish, and exactly what I wanted it to sound like. One thing that never changes for me is the thrill of obtaining the copies of these individual releases and holding them in my hand. That feeling of absolute accomplishment cannot be replaced.
I know hard copy sales are down all over the board, but the Ursinne bandcamp mentions the CD release will be limited to 300 copies. That strikes me as... Well... You’ll be needing a second print, won’t you? Any plans (based on presales, or maybe the reception by fans and magazines so far) of another batch? Or perhaps a vinyl version?
I’ve recently had a conversation with Kunal - mastermind and glorious leader at Transcending Obscurity Records - on this, and he will make a second pressing when it becomes necessary. As for vinyl…well I guess I better get back to him on that. It’s a good idea, since vinyl is so popular. On a personal level, I prefer to keep things digital (besides select albums) simply because I like to have more space at home. I collect Daleks, you see. I own around 70 of the exterminating little buggers.
The title ’Swim With The Leviathan’ and the artwork really kickstart my mind... Has a conceptual / themed feel to it. What’s the story behind the title? And what is (or are) the main themes, lyrically? And don’t tell me that fish is Douglas Adam’s Babelfish, ‘cause I won’t believe you...
The title came from a Facebook friend of mine, named Evelyn. She made a post which had the phrase “…swim with the Leviathan…” in it, and it really struck out at me. I immediately wrote and asked her if she would allow me to use her words as the Ursinne album title. She enthusiastically agreed, and it has led on to give a theme to the next releases - there will be more, believe me! To me the title has a somewhat steampunk feel to it, which is what Jonny envisioned with the cover art (he did a cracking job) and additionally with the photo of the two of us on the inner liner notes. Lyrically it covers a range from Bohemian opulence, Shakespeare (the Scottish play!), Lemmy….and the usual tip of the hat to my favourite television show. I’m sure everyone is aware of it by now.
Speaking of “story behind”, at first I thought the band name Ursinne was Swedish or perhaps Danish for “original sin”, but my friend Google tells me it is actually Swedish for “rage”. Besides the fact that it is a cool sounding name and pretty unique in field that already has so many bands sharing a name, why the Swedish word for rage? Well, I guess “because it is a cool sounding name and wasn’t in use yet” could be an answer here as well, but hey, gotta ask.... I asked Jonny for something unique - well, that was an obvious thing, really. I also wanted something Scandinavian, since he is Swedish and I have lived in Denmark for the last 20 years. I actually feel more of an affinity with the Danes than I do with my fellow Brits (no offence, lads and lasses) though, in truth…I’m somewhat of a misanthrope at times. I cherish and value the people I want to spend my time with. Now then, where was I? Oh yes….Barcelona! No, wait…the band name. Jonny got back to me with Ursinne. It was the first suggestion and I loved it from the get go. It’s an old Swedish word for the rage of an angry mind (compact language, ain’t it?) We spoke about lyrical content and both thought about the story of a fictional character set in old Norse times, incorporating real elements of the Viking sagas. Over time this was put aside - maybe for a future release - as the ideas for the tracks came to me as I was listening to the music. That’s how I work, by listening to the songs and structuring a verse or chorus over certain areas with random words. Sometimes these words stick and a song subject arises from one word or phrase. Otherwise I have a set subject and title and do a bunch of research on it. If all else fails I end up putting it onto a piece of wood and banging a few nails through it.
About the creation of Ursinne: how did the two of you meet, or I suppose the question should be, how did Ursinne come to life? Did the collaboration on Just Before Dawn exist before the initial idea of Ursinne came about, or after? And what sparked your collaboration?
Jonny and I were in contact around the same time as my collaboration with Just Before Dawn, as he was asking me about some guest vocals for one of his projects. I mentioned the two of us making something together and that was the idea from which spawned Ursinne. This was almost three years ago, as things were delayed with both of us having varying schedules, but eventually we synched and got the album made. The demo versions of the songs blew me away, so we quickly kept on that vibe, continued ever forward and got ‘Swim With The Leviathan’ completed.
Listening to the album, one of the things that absolutely stood out for me and came through in every song, was the fact that you guys must have had a ton of fun writing and recording these songs. It just bleeds pure, unadulterated fun and energy. It really makes for an honest, raw, pure album. Was that the goal, with Ursinne, or with this album in particular? Was the musical direction clear from the getgo?
I said to Jonny that I wanted an old school Swedish sound with “everything on 10” and that was exactly what I got. He certainly delivered the goods! The sound you hear on the album is the very same one my mind had chosen. As for the fun aspect of the recording, well if something stops (or never starts) being fun then why bother with it? We get one life to live so make the best of it, advance yourself, and take every experience as it comes with open arms. Oh, and drink beer.
Speaking of goals, will we see Ursinne live, at some point? With the addition of Sonia Nusselder on bass, you are getting pretty close to getting a full live lineup together... You must be aching to play these tunes live... I’m guessing that given the fact that Jonny handled all of the instruments, there haven’t been any rehearsals of any kind either. (Well, erm, yeah, I know that’s kind of a dumb question, but just to underline the fact that you really should get that live lineup together and do this thing... Harharhar...)
Live? That’s a good question. This band has all of its members living within Europe, so rehearsing isn’t all that difficult really. Jonny has suggested some future selected festivals, though never say never to a full tour. I may be a year and a bit away from turning 50, but it’s not going to stop me from going out and playing live - as Jonny and I will be next year with Just Before Dawn. So yes, live shows are an eventual possibility.
And how did Sonia (Nusselder, bass) join the band?
I ‘met’ Sonia online and we became friends. I watched several of her bands’ videos on YouTube, and thought she was an incredibly talented and accomplished bass player for one so young. Jonny had seen her play live at a festival in Holland - I had previously met her in Eindhoven, December 2016 - and I suggested to Jonny we expand our ranks by asking Sonia. She heartily agreed and is even now helping Jonny write the next album. But more on that in a moment.
As I said, one of the things I liked the most about ‘Leviathan’ (I feel like I’ve played it often enough to be on a first name basis with it, if I may be so blunt) was the energy and fun it radiates. For me, yeah, music (and maybe metal even more so) is something to take serious, but you damn well should enjoy the hell out of it as well. Good death metal brings a stupid grin to my face – this album caused stitches in the corners of my mouth. Well, that’s perhaps not the best choice of words. But, anyway, with all the serious and heavy imagery that always has been a part of (extreme) metal, how do you feel about humour, fun and self-mockery in metal? Does it have a place? Is it perhaps even necessary to create and appreciate music? Or, well, is it for you?
There’s always…ALWAYS…a place for self-mockery in music. Hell, have you listened to my show, Metal Breakfast Radio? It has that fun and self-depreciating humor on it all the time. It’s not like most radio shows, where music gets played and then talked about. We play new bands (and also old, established ones, too) and listen to their material for the very first time. While listening, we give our honest commentary over the music in real time. If we like it, it stays. If not, we ‘Exterminate’ it, and it gets destroyed. It’s like a Death Metal version of The Gong Show. It’s all for entertainment purposes and all in good - though sometimes scathing - fun. Most bands get it. It’s just a bunch of drunk guys having a good time and recording it. Some bands get all uppity if we don’t like them. I mean, seriously?! You can’t take criticism of your art, that you are making public?! That’s when we tell those guys they are in the wrong business, and they should stick to something more suited to their snowflake personalities. Like knitting in their safe spaces.
Those cover songs... Who came up with that selection, and why? Was it just a bunch of songs you’d like to give a death metal makeover, to find out if that worked, or is there a “deeper meaning” behind this selection – well, “deeper meaning” sounds a bit overly dramatic I guess, but you know what I mean...
I like doing covers, but hate doing covers of songs that are already extreme. It’s like if Ursinne did a version of ‘Angel Of Death’…what would be the point of that? Now, I HAVE been guilty of doing that in the past (before anyone jumps on that!) and I think we got away with it. Now I prefer taking some obscure choices and making them our own. The Siouxsie & The Banshees track ‘Spellbound’ was one I was going to cover a long time ago, with my good mate Donovan Spenceley. Sadly it nave came to pass and I really had a hunger for it. I’m a massive Queens Of The Stone Age fan, so covering their ‘Monsters In The Parasol’ had to be done, and getting Kam Lee in on that was an absolute must. I’d always loved ‘Turning Japanese’ (The Vapors) as a kid, as I knew the song was about masturbation. It was also another necessary cover version, along with ‘Crazy Horses’ by The Osmonds. That has guest vocals on it by Count Morivond, from the band Danse de Sade. I guested on their debut album, so it was time to come full circle and have the Count appear with us. There’ll be more covers on the next album. But again…more on that later!
Given the fact you just released an album containing four covers, I don’t have to ask whether you like metal covers of pop/rock songs... There are absolutely tons of covers songs out there, not all of them great, some even utter garbage. Do you guys have any notable favourites? Or covers that are just so damn awful, they actually become funny or kind of cool?
I like hearing the reverse for covers, too. Such as Wing sings AC/DC, or Richard Cheese covering Slayer’s ‘War Ensemble’. Hearing tracks I know brought into their own style is great listening! I’ve heard a few covers of songs I’ve written over the years, both Benediction and Bolt Thrower ones, and there’s been a 50/50 divide between good and rubbish. Maybe one day there’ll be cover versions of Ursinne, Echelon and DATDM? Have at it, folks!
Any favourite cover albums you’d advise our readers to listen to? Metal or otherwise!
The only one I can think of at the moment is Richard Cheese, ‘I’d Like A Virgin’ which is amazing.
Any covers left on the ‘to do list’? I am assuming there will be a follow up album... Ah, that might have been a decent question, right there... Here’s that part of the interview I said I’d talk about later…. The next Ursinne album will have a title similar to the debut (That’s as much as I’m going to say about that now though, don’t want to give it away yet.) The idea we had is to produce a 2-disc release. Disc 1 will have a full album of original material - being written already - and disc 2 will contain the next batch of covers we want to make our own versions of, and also some of those aforementioned demo recordings from the debut. We’re making the suggestions for the covers, and what style they should be, too. We have some strange ideas, and it all seems good on paper. With some hard work, and a bit of studio jiggery-pokery, we will achieve our goals. Though I hope my mate Helen agrees to join us on the album as keyboardist. Wait….did I just type that out loud?
A question about the label you guys are on, Transcending Obscurity Records. I must say, label boss Kunal Choksi is really building quite an impressive roster and catalogue! You already knew him from your work with Echelon and Henry Kane, so joining the TOR ranks with Ursinne as well must have been somewhat of a slamdunk? What is it in his approach and ways of handling the business that just, well, works, in your experience?
He’s 100% honest, diligent, and hardworking. There’s never any subterfuge or bullshit involved. He knows what he wants to give to the bands involved, and that is his best. I’ve got absolute total respect for the guy. It’s an honour and a pleasure to be signed with TWO of my bands on his excellent label. Aaaaand there’ll be an announcement from TOR soon. About something.
Right, almost there: what plans do you have for Ursinne for the next, say, couple of months?
I guess for Jonny and Sonia it will be to continue writing the newer material, though there is absolutely no rush whatsoever. For me it will be doing my daily routine of going to work at the Cancer Research Facility here in Copenhagen, family life, walking my dogs, drinking beer, producing Metal Breakfast Radio (links at the end, as well as other projects) and writing and recording the vocals on the new Down Among The Dead Men album. Which I said to Rogga I would have finished writing today, but you heartless bastards got me doing this fucking brilliant interview instead!
Okay. You may have noticed that there is an elephant in the room I haven’t addressed yet. I believe its name is Troikadon... Can you tell our readers real quick what that beast is going to be? What I’ve read so far it is Rogga (the man needs no last name) / Jonny on guitars, Dave, Karl Willetts, Kam Lee on vocals and Travis Ruvo (Echelon) on drums... That.... I mean... You can’t do that man. That is just way too lethal!
Okay, for those who don’t know or haven’t heard: Troikadon is a project featuring Jonny of Ursinne on bass, Travis Ruvo on Drums (Echelon, Cropsy Maniac) Rogga Johansson (every fucking band ever) on guitars, and myself (hello) on vocals, with equal vocal duties also being piloted by Kam Lee and Karl Willetts. Yes that’s right, it’s a triple-throated OSDM band. I’d had the idea a long time ago, and had asked some other old school stalwarts if they would be interested in this. Sadly their schedules didn’t synchronise and the whole thing was put on a back burner. Last year Rogga wrote the music for the next Down Among The Dead Men album, but then wrote saying he thought it was way too different sounding for DATDM. I told him to keep it for another project, and we brought the idea back off the burner. I contacted Kam and Karl about it and they were in, as was Jonny and Travis. Kam cam up with the name, as I asked him to go for something that used the ‘three’ element in the name, and sounded like a Godzilla monster. So, Troikadon it is!
Oh, and did that triple-fronted idea originate at the absolutely awesome guest appearance at the Eindhoven Metal Meeting Memoriam gig?
Oh no, not at all. In fact we thought that guest spot would be a one-off thing, but just a couple of weeks ago we did it again here at the CopenHell festival that Memoriam were playing. One for the road, as it were. Is there a release date yet, for the Troikadon debut? And has the bidding war to get an exclusive festival gig started yet? The music is almost complete so then we will begin the writing process. I won’t go into fine details here, but it’s going to be very exciting to be working together with ALL these guys on this. Once a track or two is ready we will see about finding a label to call home.
You both (well, three now) are active in a bunch of other bands and projects as well – besides the aforementioned Troikadon. Any news from one of your other groups you’d like to drop here?
I just spoke with the others and here’s what they say.
SONIA: Hi all. Please check out my other band! Sepiroth
JONNY: Go get some! Wombbath Henry Kane Ashcloud Gods Forsaken
DAVE: Here’s all my links so far.
Down Among The Dead Men Metal Breakfast Radio (facebook) Metal Breakfast Radio (website) Dave Ingram Official Lambert’s Basement Ursinne Ursinne (bandcamp)
Dark Sentinel Twitter/Instagram/Tumblr/Snapchat: @MetalBreakfast
Besides Troikadon, there’s also a band coming called Hellfrost And Fire that is pure Celtic Frost/Hellhammer worship (hence the name.) It’ll be me, Rick DeMusis, and Travis (Echelon, Cropsy Maniac, Troikadon). Next year will see myself and Jonny out on tour with Just Before Dawn. Swedish War-Metal at its finest. Dates are up on the Just Before Dawn page, with more coming soon. Check out Transcending Obscurity here at their bandcamp page.
ROGGA: You idiot! I’m not in this band!
DAVE: Ooops. My bad.
Alright, that wraps it up. Any last words?
My current top 5 albums:
Memoriam - For The Fallen
Paganizer - Land Of Weeping Souls
Jethro Tull - Songs From The Wood Bathsheba - Severus
Nathan Grey - NTHN GRY
Thanks for a fucking KILLER interview! Always a pleasure to work with you guys. Let’s do it again soon!