DATE OF INTERVIEW:
15th March 2014
CHRISTOFER MALMSTRÖM; LAWRENCE MACKRORY
METAL DISCOVERY: During the past decade, there seems to have been a bit of a resurgence of old school thrash with a whole load of bands mimicking what was popular in the 80s, but Darkane have always transcended that because you’ve constantly pushed the boundaries of what people expect thrash to be, with your more progressive, technical approach. So does it frustrate you to see all of those copycat bands flourishing within the scene while it’s Darkane who are keeping it fresh by moving the genre into a whole new area of expression?
LAWRENCE: Well, yeah, quite a few new bands have come up that actually are really good. I think Evile are really good…
(Lawrence Mackrory on the pros and cons of Darkane recording in their own studio)
"…the upside of having your own studio is that you can take as much time as you want. The downside is that you can take as much time as you want!"
Christofer and Lawrence in The Institute, Birmingham, UK, 15th March 2014
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
Photograph copyright © 2014 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
MD: I think they’re great at what they do but it’s all been done before in the 80s.
LAWRENCE: Everything has been done, yeah, but if you love that style, there’s finally new bands who are doing the same thing. But, then, for every good band that comes up, there’s shitloads of bands that aren’t very good. But the fun thing is more that these old bands, like Testament and Exodus, have had a big resurgence and they’re popular again. Overkill are playing big shows now and, you know, in the late 90s and early 2000s, thrash wasn’t that big. I see the metal scene as there’s a place for everybody today. Everything has come up and gone away but I think every genre in metal is to stay now, and you can choose this and you can choose that, and I don’t think any style is really gonna go away. There’s black, and there’s thrash, and there’s heavy metal, and everybody can just get along!
CHRISTOFER: I think the djent style that’s going on right now, I don’t think that will stay forever, actually.
LAWRENCE: Yeah, the Meshuggah style. When something’s really new, I think it’s also gonna fall pretty fast. But then it might come up and stabilise. I kind of like to view the metal scene as the big picture of the scene.
MD: You’ve built your own studio, called Darkane Studio, I believe… an original name!
CHRISTOFER: Yeah, we had a lot of thoughts about the name and then we just came up with this brilliant idea – Darkane Studios!
MD: Is that just for personal use or will you aim to hire the space for other bands to record?
CHRISTOFER: It’s mainly for personal use. There may be other bands recording there but, I mean, Peter wants to have his drum kit and be able to rehearse for himself there. Yeah, some bands have recorded there but it’s not like we are a...
LAWRENCE: No, exactly.
MD: Without the pressure of paying for expensive studio time, has recording in your own studio made you more disciplined or less disciplined?
CHRISTOFER: Yes, it was less disciplined…
LAWRENCE: Yes, I was gonna say, the upside of having your own studio is that you can take as much time as you want. The downside is that you can take as much time as you want! Because I can do this next song or I can also go home and cook food and get back later, and then when you’re home, you’re like, “ah, yeah, I’ll do it tomorrow.” You need to be a lot more disciplined yourself… in a studio that’s costing a lot of money, you need to nail it down.
CHRISTOFER: But it is good to have it… we are very happy that we can do it. It’s a good studio. When you have to go away and live in another studio for a few weeks to record, you have to take a vacation from your work but now we can save that for the tours, which is very good. So we can record during evenings and weekends instead, back home. But, yeah, my ambition for the next album is to really have everything rehearsed as well as possible and just nail it.
Also, I think that we have the bar set this high when we recorded and, then, when Lawrence heard it, he had it set even higher! This was good, but Lawrence had even higher expectations, which I am thankful for now but, when he heard it, he was like, “er, there’s a false note there, and it’s not really tight there…”; we were like, “yeah, yeah, he’s right.” On the previous albums, we would’ve let it go because we want it to feel alive also, at the same time. So we had to re-record it and it turned out to be much better the second or, in some cases, the eighth time!
LAWRENCE: It’s not like they’re bad engineers or anything, but I think the thing is that there was a long time since they recorded the last album and I actually, in my hometown - because I don’t live with these guys in the same town – I record bands all the time; that’s my job. So it’s kind of like somebody doing a job gets very focussed and hears stuff that somebody just does once in a while doesn’t really do. And, I mean, it wasn’t a lot of big things, it was just like, “this is on the same level as the last album which is okay but we should really push the bar a little bit higher.” You should always just aim to try to do that.
CHRISTOFER: I record myself alone, mostly, and it is hard to be critical when you’ve been doing that for a few hours. Everything just spins in your head.
MD: So it’s good having Lawrence on the sidelines, saying, “make it better”.
CHRISTOFER: Yeah, absolutely.
LAWRENCE: Having somebody else present is always a good thing because somebody else hears something that you don’t hear.
MD: ‘Demonic Art’ came out on Massacre over here although I gather you still had the Nuclear Blast deal in other countries?
CHRISTOFER: Yeah, Massacre was licensing it.
MD: I gather the Nuclear Blast deal’s gone now because this latest one’s on Massacre, so was Massacre your first choice, or did Nuclear Blast express an interest in re-signing you?
LAWRENCE: It wasn’t a fulltime manager, but we had a manager who found us the deals. Just looking at the offers and what was best for the band, this is what we chose for many different reasons. We’ve signed up for one more album with them and we’ll just see what… I mean, nowadays, signing long record deals, you don’t really do that anymore…
MD: Yeah, the whole business has changed.
LAWRENCE: Yeah, and they expect you to do a lot of work yourselves and, of course, we are very used to doing a lot of work ourselves. First, there’s the financial side because touring costs, and recording costs money… everything costs money, so you have to make sure that it’s beneficial to the band that we can continue. But it’s gone really well. We have Prosthetic Records in the States and they work really well, they’re a really cool label; and we’re working with the same people in Japan as Darkane has always done – Tetsu at Trooper Entertainment. So, I mean, it’s not an uncommon situation for a band to have three different labels now, in different parts of the world.
MD: Have you found it much of a challenge to sing tracks from the four albums you didn’t appear on, and have you tried to put your own stamp on the songs by singing them in your own style?
LAWRENCE: Yeah, that’s funny, I got that question yesterday also, and it’s not that I need to make my own mark… I try to sing it the same way as the original but the way it suits me best and the way I think it sounds best. So it’s very hard to try to sound like somebody else. You can’t really do that. I can just feel like, alright, this part feels good if I sing it this way and it sounds good. So I don’t want to change things; I don’t want to change things rhythmically or melodies or stuff like that, I don’t do that, but it’s definitely my own touch, and it feels like it’s developed over the course of this tour. Maybe I find some new ways and I can actually try some different things on the spur of the moment, just to see what feels best, also when rehearsing. That goes for the songs I sing on the album as well, and it goes for everybody who’s playing – you add something more live, every time. I mean, you do some improvisation on solos sometimes and that’s fun because, after a few years, you’re like, “yeah, this is the way the songs should’ve been recorded!
LAWRENCE: But I think it’s fun. It is a challenge because a lot of those old recordings with the vocals, sometimes it may be hard for me to do it exactly as they do because it’s their voice. Everybody’s voice is totally different. So, yeah, it is a challenge, of course, but I see it as a challenge positively.
MD: Darkane have some of the most epically sounding orchestral album intros out there, but have you ever considered doing a more orchestral-based album, like a symphonic progressive thrash album, perhaps, with even more orchestral epicness?
CHRISTOFER: Not maybe that, but I have a dream of making film music; movie scores. But it takes a lot of time because I don’t normally do this. The only things I’ve written is all the stuff you can hear on the albums. I also wrote one song for my wife for our wedding. But, other than that… I do it for a purpose, like a Darkane influence. I love it but it takes a long time and, also, getting the musicians together to record it is a lot of work too. You can’t just phone up your friends – “hey, I’ve written a piece for a full orchestra, join me and we’ll see what it sounds like.”
MD: So, for example, ‘Calamitas’, the intro piece on ‘Insanity’, how long did that take to put together?
LAWRENCE: That was a big production, right?
CHRISTOFER: Yeah, that was a full choir and... I mean, it’s hard to say because I worked a little here and there, but a few weeks.
MD: So a whole album of that stuff would be a long time!
CHRISTOFER: A whole album would be 15 years!
LAWRENCE: It’s much easier writing metal songs, I guess!
MD: The title of the intro from ‘Layers of Lies’ has always intrigued me, ‘Amnesia of the Wildoerian Apocalypse’. Does that relate to a particular incident involving Peter?
CHRISTOFER: No. I came up with that title and it was just a load of stupid words put together!
MD: It sounds like he had some sort of mad night out and then completely forgot about it, or something like that!
CHRISTOFER: No, I just took some words that I thought sounded cool and put them together! [laughs] The thing is, we incorporated our names in more titles on that album. We had ‘Klastrophobic Hibernation’… his last name is Ideberg and ‘ide’ is ‘hibernation’, ‘berg’ is ‘mountain’, so hibernation-mountain. We also had ‘Maelstrom Crisis’ which, of course, is my name. And I thought Wildoerian sounded cool!
LAWRENCE: It sounds epic!
CHRISTOFER: Yeah, epic, exactly.
MD: Apart from tarnishing his reputation for anyone who reads that as thinking he’s had something really crazy going on, and then forgot!
LAWRENCE: It’s open for interpretation!
CHRISTOFER: Yeah, yeah!
CHRISTOFER: On ‘Demonic Art’, there’s an instrumental called ‘Wrong Grave’ which is also open for interpretation! [laughs] But I just came up with the title.
LAWRENCE: Sometimes these metal titles have deeper meaning, and sometimes it’s just cool words put together!