Swedish death metal institution Dismember recently put out their newest effort The God That Never Was, an album that once again prove that the Swedes stubbornly stick to playing their filthy death metal just like they've done since the 1991 debut Like An Everflowing Stream. Here's a band that have never given in to trends or whatever others may think is popular. I won't deny that I find this admirable so I was quite keen to discuss this and other things with drummer Fred Estby when he phoned me on a sunny Thursday morning in May.

Fred Estby interviewed by PSL

A lot of bands mellow or change with age, but you hasn't really done any of this! Any thoughts on why that is?
We're quite a conservative band. We decided many years ago if this band was going to continue we were going to do the same thing. The thing we love and we're really good at. We feel that if you try to go too much away from your own sound then you perhaps should start another band instead.

You've had some changes in the line-up during the last couple of years. Are you confident that you've found the right one now?
Absolutely. Especially Martin the guitar player has had a lot of input on The God That Never Was so we feel that the corporation for writing songs and everything should just grow. I think we're better of now because everyone is really dedicated.

Does it change anything within the band that members leave and new come in?
Of course, I mean some changes can be for the better, but sometimes it can be sad too. When Richard left for the second time it didn't feel that good because he's been a part of the band for a long time and have written a lot of material for the previous album and he's a great guy so that was kind of sad especially because he was leaving for the other side of the world, but life has to go on and as long as me, David and Matti are in the band I think we can continue without problems.

Clearly you haven't changed much musically during the years, but it sounds like the Iron Maiden influence has become more and more apparent on the last few albums! Is it important to get that in there?
Absolutely, I think we had some of those influences earlier on too, but they didn't show as much because they were hard to put through the music before. When you get older some of you're influences are perhaps easier to transform into your own material because you know how to do it without just sounding like a rip-off. It takes a couple of albums to develop your own sound. Iron Maiden has always been a very big influence for the band and especially for David. He's very talented at writing in that kind of style so it is a big part of the song writing.

Do you listen mostly to the older bands or do you find inspiration in what some of the newer bands do?
Sometimes I get inspired by newer bands, but I think one of the problems with many new bands is that the sound even though it's a good band is so similar from band to band. Everybody is using triggers on the drums and the same computerized module for the guitars. It's so electronic in some ways, so it feels like the dynamics are lost. It feels like listening to the same band all over again. I mean if you hear a band like from this new breed of hardcore or whatever it's called they would all sound like At The Gates or The Haunted. All those bands sound very similar to me and also many of the fast death metal bands today. They are really talented skilful musicians and everything. They are really tight, but everything is done by pro-tools and q-bass or something and I mean when you listen to a record like that it's very tight, very aggressive, very fast, but it doesn't leave anything for me to enjoy because it's so static, it's so undynamic and it makes me feel that everything sound very similar and it's a shame because it's hard to rule out which bands and songs are really good or bad.

I understand you didn't use any triggers, computers or digital enhancements during the recording!
No!

I assume the reasons why is the ones you just mentioned!
I've been brought up old-school when it comes to sound engineering and producing. I need the warmth from a tape recorder and analogue filters. I could work in a computerized way, but I did not wish to do so this time because it would take too much away from the live feeling. I cannot stand it when I see drummers sitting with headphones while they play a show. I mean 'are you in a fucking studio or on a fucking stage?' I want to be as far away from that as possible because if I do a drum tape I need to do the whole drum tape. I cannot sit there and do like four parts and then relax and then come in and do four more parts and then edit it up or time-stretch it or whatever they do. It's too much computer work. I mean it's not the person working, it's not the body working. It's only the mind and the computer. I think this music should be aggressive enough in a physical way.

I guess what you're saying is that you can manipulate anything in the studio, but if you can't play it in real life then it doesn't really matter!
Yeah, exactly. If you see a band live and they haven't played it for real in the studio they stand and fully concentrate on watching themselves play all the time, watching their fretboards, watching their drums. You know it's like they're not connecting with the audience because they don't know how to play their songs if they don't concentrate 110% and watch every single step they do on the guitars and the drums. For me the whole feeling of playing music to an audience is lost when you do it like that. I don't feel like watching a band that is not interacting with the audience. I mean then I can just as well go home and listen to the album instead.

What do you enjoy the most - making the music or getting out and playing it live?
Oh, both. It is two different types of work. I enjoy both. It's great when you meet people at concerts and talk to them and then go out and play live and people are enjoying it and you're having a good time together. Everybody in the audience and us on stage.

The songs seem a bit shorter this time. Did you deliberately try to keep them short or did it just turn out that way?
Mainly they just turned out that way. When we arranged the songs we also felt that they didn't needed to be longer because then it would just be the same part coming over again and again. Sometimes you just feel like writing short and aggressive and sometimes you need to make a song long for it to contain what you want it to contain.

It probably also work better in a live situation?
Yeah, my personal feeling is that when you have like eight minute long songs it really too long if you want the audience to get into the music too.

The production appears a bit filthier than on Where Iron Crosses Grow. Did you aim for a sound closer to the sound of Like An Everflowing Stream?
No, we more or less aimed for a sound that would do the songs justice. This sound fits the music and we had quite a long time in the studio to get it right. We had like six and a half weeks in the studio which is a long time for us so it felt like I got to where I wanted.

All your albums have either been produced by Tomas Skogsberg or yourself. You've never felt the urge try something different and let someone else do it?
Right now I'm playing with the thought that we should let someone else do it and I think the other guys might agree on that too. Sometimes you have to try something new just to make sure you get some new input. It's going to be a tough move if we decide to do it because now we've worked so long with this setup with me as a producer and engineer as well. We are not that many people in the studio which sometimes makes it much easier, but it also makes you so incredible concentrated too. Six weeks in a stretch that is almost not healthy [laughs]. You get so involved and worked up in the album that you cannot think about anything else and that may also affect it in a bad way sometimes, but mainly it's very easy to work this way because you don't have to have other peoples opinion besides those in the band, but we'll see next time perhaps we'll try something completely different, you never know!

You've used Dan Seagrave to do the artwork again. Was he the first and most logical choice?
Yes, it's just that we always love what he does and he's a great artist. I think that it's the best album cover he's ever done for us out of the three he's made so far. It seems like we have a very good connection with him so it just felt natural using him again.

You've never thought of doing another bloody artwork a la Pieces or Indecent and Obscene?
Yeah, we have, but I think it's kind of tough to do a really good one at this point because there's already been so many made. It is kind of hard to do something better in that way. You need a really sick mind to help you out with it and I don't know who that would be, but you never know! If someone comes along and says 'I've got this great idea' then we're ready to try it out. Someone recently said to me 'I think it's stupid that you don't try something like Indecent and Obscene or Pieces covers instead. You've done the Seagrave thing three times now. You should go for the old stuff instead!' You never know, we'll see what happens.

I remember seeing the Pieces cover back when it was released and I was totally blown away by it!

Yeah, I know. To me it was one of the best album covers ever made when I saw the result. Today, if you saw that cover today you wouldn't feel the same I think because so many have done it too, not similar, but in a shocking way. When you do something like that you have to have a small sense of humour in it too, because it's not totally serious. Like some of the black metal bands who claim they are so true and so serious about everything. If you look at the Pieces cover you can see it's made with a small sense of humour and I think this is very important if you're going to do something like that, it shows that you're toying a little with people if you know what I mean?

You've signed with Regain. Is there a difference between being on a Swedish label and a foreign?
Yeah, very much. For one the language barrier is not there. We have a more personal contact with the guys at Regain Records too and you don't have to call long distance and have email conversations all the time. You can reach people faster and go visit them quite quickly if you need to. It's an easier situation if you know what I mean?

What went wrong with Karmageddon Media?
I don't know actually. Have you heard about anyone talking to them lately or them having any new albums out? What happened was that he was doing a lot of financial mistakes and when that came out we felt… we had this one album deal contract that said that he had to fulfil a lot of different promotional aspects. He had to do advertising in certain magazines in colour or black and white and so on, but he didn't fulfil any of that so we were free to leave and he knew it. He probably had debt so he couldn't afford to make the proper advertising for the album and also one thing that really made us want to go somewhere else was that we toured a lot in support of Where Iron Crosses Grow. We pretty much toured all over the world. Everywhere we went the distribution sucked. The album wasn't available anywhere and that did it. Even though you don't make the best promotion you can at least make sure that the right distributors and record stores have the album so you're fans can get hold of the CD, but that didn't happen so that made us sure that we should go somewhere else.

I'm a little curious to know why none of you're music videos like "Soon to be Dead" and "Dreaming in Red" were found on the Live Blasphemies DVD?
We're going to make another DVD in the future and we wanted to save it because we couldn't get hold of the original copies. The thought was that we should have the promo videos on the second DVD [The second disc on Live Blasphemies] as well, but the thing was that we couldn't find the original tapes for it. It's been kind of a hard search also for the re-releases of the albums. We've had a hard time getting the old material back. Now we probably have all the original tapes. I think we'll put all the promotional videos on the next DVD release.

This new DVD will it be out in a foreseeable future?
Hopefully we'll be recording it sometime this year or in the beginning of next year.

So what does the future hold for Dismember at the moment?
Touring, promoting the album, try to put all the material together for the next DVD and record a new live show. Then we'll start working on a new album.

Anything you wish to add to conclude this interview?
Go check us out on the road. We'll be doing some serious touring this year and next year too so if you haven't seen us before then come see us now.



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