On May 24th, 2012 we had a chance to talk to J.A Holmberg, the vocalist of Stockholm destroyers called THIS GIFT IS A CURSE! Their killer blend of post hardcore, post metal, black metal and chaotic hardcore will rip your hearts out, blow your heads off and make their “I, Gvilt bearer” album one of the most smashing things you’ve ever heard. Press the play button below and hold tight!
Ok, I just had my head ripped off. So basically YES, I’ve listened to your “I, Guilt Bearer” full length and I will recommend it to every single sludgy, heavy, bloody, chaotic and metallic hardcore head out there. Outstanding.
Thanks for those kind words. We are glad it spoke to you.
How was the recording process and the place itself? How was Magnus Björk? Did it take long to create such a hammer and how different was it comparing to your debut EP (2010)?
The process of the LP was not like any other recording we done previously – with any band. We really took our time to find the right sound on every instrument as well as the right vibe and atmosphere in the production as a whole. When we recorded the CDEP we were in Tomas Skogsberg studio, out in a barn situated one hour north of Stockholm. The weather was really cold and it constantly snowed, this made it even difficult to even get to the actual place in time every day. The whole recording felt like a “battle against time” cause we could only afford economically to record for a short time. As well as we didn’t have a real clear idea what we wanted to do sound wise at that time. We in the band have always felt that we didn´t got the best out of us on that recording. It felt kind of “forced” in some way. So when it was time to record the full-length we wanted to have a longer time to find “us” in the sound. We also had a more clear idea on what we wanted to create. I’ve known Magnus Björk for many years, because he had a studio in my old home town of Gävle and recorded many bands such as MELEEH and CHILDREN OF FALL. I´ve always admire his work as well how he works. He’s really calm, thorough and it’s like he always sees stuff in what you´re making that you even can´t imagine that early in the process. He has a real wide “vision” and comes from an old school blackmetal background but has the last years been involved in everything from playing in “commercial” pop bands to recording obscure hardcore/metal/punk/grind acts.
The thing is that he quit recoding bands actively and moved to Stockholm to focus on university studies some years ago. He did our mastering on the CDEP between school and other work. I had to call and nag on him several times to find time for him to be part of this project. We borrowed his studio and build it up on a secret location north of Stockholm that we could work in day and night without being disturbed. Magnus worked kind of like a sound consultant and helped us find the right sound of each section, and then we recorded it ourselves – for how long as we wanted. We wanted time to let everything “rot”. We took our time to our time to go through every song and linking it to the lyrics and its meaning to the music – to get an real “connected” feeling through it all. We could work more holistic which made every detail much rawer, naked and honest. For example we really discussed all lyrics before doing them, to put ourselves in the mindset of the characteristics the song was “portaging”. Songs like Head and Arms (about a murder that was done last summer here in Sweden when three friends killed a forth and filmed it as the chopped up and decapitated his body before throwing it in a lake), Inferno ad O. (influenced by August Strindberg’s books Inferno and the Occult Diary, and it’s really about the breakdown of a human beings and excepting being part of Dark rather than the Light) and I Will Swallow All Light (about psychological illness and longing for death) was three songs I remembering was extra “emotional” exhausting to put down on lyrics.
We also had the help of Björn O (from the late hardcore-act MELEEH), who is an old friend of the band and have worked with Magnus on other recordings as a co-producer. Björn O is really useful in that science that he has excellent taste in music and dead honest in his critic – all the time. No diplomat. But we didn’t need a yes-sayer in this project. Magnus and Björn helped us find the sound we wanted, and we recorded ourselves. Magnus then came by time by time to see what we were doing as well as helped out if hit “the brick wall”. So it was many late nights and rituals to get the most out of everything we wanted. Magnus then took it all back to his newly build “secret” hideout RAVEN HILL in south Stockholm to do the last of mixing and mastering… and here we are.
Nice. And as a result, did you get a lot of attention? How was the outing received?
So far people seem to like it. Many critics seem to think it´s the “darkest piece of music they ever heard”. Some say it too dark, how that now works? But I guess it´s not for everyone. Or rather, it seems to “scare” them what it make them feel… which is good to us. But it´s nothing new, it´s human nature at display.
What’s the place of black metal and sludge metal in the hardcore genre? What do you think about today’s modern wave of bands such as yourself, AXIS, FULL OF HELL and more post-metal oriented camps like DEAFHEAVEN, for example? Was black metal ever closer to hardcore? Is it trendy?
“What do you think about today’s modern wave of bands such as yourself.” I really don’t know. If it do exist or what to think of it. We try not to care as much about “genres” when we write music. How it sound – that’s us, we don´t wanted to hinder ourselves with “genres” and what is “true” or not. I rather than be “true untrue”. About those other bands we have nothing to say. I’ve been into curst music for many years, and I think the link between black metal and d-beat crust has been established for years, if not already from the beginning. Heavy metal and d-beat = crust. We’re all into bands like MARTYRDÖD and SKITSYSTEM it´s been a great inspiration for us to create black raw atmosphere our music. In MARTYDÖD I think the link between blackmetal and crust/hardcore is manifested to its full extent. And in blackmetal, for us, is where we can create an emotional format and vibe that best interpret what THIS GIFT IS A CURSE is about – both in sound atmosphere and symbolic metaphysical messaging.
What are some of the themes you’re singing about? What inspires you to come up with lyrics? What’s the story behind your artworks?
On “I, Guilt Bearer” themes are about human natures clash and its “dealings” with human “culture”. And the feeling of agony and guilt we all carry around as we try to withhold this façade. But also to except the fact that you as an individual may not be part of the “normative” and even how hard you try to conform there will always be something in you that will feel wrong or that you not really belong. There must be a shadow of darkness for their Light to shine so bright. I can be the failure so “they” can feel normal. I rather am in the shadows than in there false and depressive light. But I do believe in society and that human can co-exist under “culture”, but the socially constructed guidelines of correct behavior are made by some to control others – to put people in “their place”.
I work in the psychiatry field as well as studies behavioral science at university – I guess a lot of my thoughts/scenarios in my lyrics is a mirroring of that. As well as books I read. When we wrote “I, Guilt Bearer” I was really into authors like Nikanor Teratologen and August Strindberg. A lot of my artwork comes from different occultist symbolic schemes that I’ve interpreted for to my own usage and all with their own meanings – which I then connect to the “art” we are making. When I/we stared “charge” my artwork and lyrics with these different symbolisms the whole musical approach become more holistic and it´s was really then we found ourselves in what we do. We became more of an “entit”y as we had our own symbols to gather around. Another vital thing our artwork, or person to be exact is F. Lindblå who made the CDEP-cover as well as half of the work on the “I, Guilt Bearer”-cover. He is kind of the 5th member of the band and does all the noise/soundscapes on the records as well as works as my right hand (see left hand) when it comes to my artwork. We are into the same books and esthetic ideas in many things and his feedback is very important process when I make my artwork. THIS GIFT… is real fortune to be able to work with him. He contributes with a 5th eye to the creation of our musical atmosphere and artwork.
Ok, so let’s back down to earth for a while. What are your promoting plans? Videos, touring, any special action to take right now? I hope we’re talking about A LOT of shows including Warsaw and Fluff Fest [smiles]. Please convince me I’m not wrong.
We going to record a video this summer IF we find someone to do it. But we are working on it. We really want to play a festivals such as FLUFF FEST, but so far no real interest from festival bookers I’m sorry to say. BUT we are going on 30 dates tour next September with our very good friends and hardest working band in on the other side of showbusiness: the great HEXIS.
Tell us about your cooperation with labels and distribution crews from Bloated Veins, Braincrushing Records, Discouraged Records, Enjoyment Records, Monotonstudio, Waratah Blackarts Entertainment Group. Who are you signed with right now? What are your plans when it comes to the signing stuff? Any labels you’d like to get in touch eventually?
We are not really signed to a label in that traditional scene. There is almost no label today that seems to want to put their money in small bands, so a co-release between many smaller DIY-labels seem to be the answer. I think it works great for us and all the labels might be small but they all believe in there thing and in us. We are really happy with the arrangement we came up with on the release all the labels and the band. We will see what happens on the next release.
Ok, let’s go back. What were the beginnings of the band, what were your other projects and how did you meet and what inspired you to create this machine?
No one I our band is from Stockholm from the beginning but moved there for work, schools and what not. Johan (drummer) played with post-metal band SEVEN NAUTICAL MILES (Piteå, north of north Sweden) and myself played with the black-screamo innovators GRIZZY TWISTER (Gävle, about 1,5 hours north of Stockholm). We moved to Stockholm at the same time but didn´t know each other and just accidently met. We were both at a show, and Johan was drunk and thought I was another guy and came up to me and stared talking. Then we found out that we worked at the same place but didn´t know it. It was quite weird the whole thing. Me and my at the time ‘new friend’ Lazy (THIS GIFT-bass) had talked for a while about starting a “straightforward hardcorepunk band”. Lazy had skipped around in different heavy metal formations for some years and wanted to try something new. He knew a guy who played guitar in a thrash band, Pacman (THIS GIFT-guitars). So we tried to do some “noisy d-beat punk” but the four of us couldn’t do it right and it sounded quite strange. We all came from pretty different musical backgrounds and really didn´t knew each other that well. Then we stared to play some of the songs on half-tempo and change the drumbeats and it all fell to place and the CDEP was recorded. As we got to know each other better we found our common musically grounds which was old blackmetal, some d-beat crust and bands like ENTOMBED, CULT OF LUNA, BREACH and GENESIS. So we abandon the whole “straight forward hardcore” thing and stopped thinking so much in boundaries. As well as I got into more occultist schemes in my art and lyrics – it became more and more clear what we wanted to make and it was not just “straightforward hardcorepunk”.
Are you tight with the Stockholm hardcore scene bands? How does such a heavy band go with the rest of hardcore styles out there. Would we see you arm to arm with youth crew bands, for example? Are there any divisions in your local scene?
We feel pretty excepted by all “scenes” of heavy music, at least here in Sweden what I know. It seems most of the time people don´t know where to place us so we got booked at a lot of different types of shows, which to us is all the same. As long as it´s not done by organizations linked to fascism, sexism or extreme religion – we are ok… Or they can book us, if they want to invite “hell” to their home. About scenes; to me it’s really boring. Cause all in our band are into large variety of music and art. The first bookers who made a show with us here in town were SXE STOCKHOLM, and they kept on booking us after that. We feel that we “O” them a lot for giving us that first chance. We deeply respect them – as bookers, friends and as a social movement. I myself come from a hardcore background and know the hardships of being a DIY-booker and organize shows with barely any resources. Non in our band is straight edge – but we would never consume alcohol when we play their shows. Everyone is entitled to their own choices. SXE STOCKHOLM is really liberal when it comes to booking bands from different “genres” so really can´t spot any types of “divisions”. We in the band don´t care what kind of bands we play with or what kind of “scene” it might be. We can play with “youth crew bands” as well as any other, as long they can except that we don´t see eye to eye on EVERY part of life, moral or politics as they might. I guess there are “bigger enemies” and better “fights” to take.
Good to hear that.
Any bands, zines and music related stuff you’d like to shout out about? What bands do you find inspiring and influential these days?
We all in the band like and admire zines’ like the great www.lukinzine.se and www.itsatrap.se. Done by really dedicated people and have always also reported stuff about our trivial little band. We have had the fortune to play with a lot of great bands over the years many that we befriended and most of them are a real inspiring and influential in what they do as a band and as well as overcoming different struggles of being an D.I.Y band 2012, non-mentioned non forgotten. BUT if I have to mention one, I have to recommend producer K. Lennblad that produces our friends in the band IGNOMINY’s records (great band!). His productions are real phenomenal and always takes the edges as far as they go and beyond. Some kind of “genius” or visionary is the right words here I suppose. Also check out his post-sludge-pop band DATING.
Sometimes these days I think it´s real hard to find new “exciting” things in certain “scenes” at least. It´s like many bands wants to use already worn out yet successful “recipes”, songwriting styles and sound they know will “work”. Bands seem to be more into finding acceptance and to fit in, within scenes and outside. Rather than pushing things forward and “challenge”. It´s really really really boring – at its best. I´m not saying that everything has to sound “new and edgy” cause we/I are really into the old stuff. But I think you can use the same “spices”, “ingredients” and “concepts” and still make your own dish. Time and soundings will always have the final word anyway. But in the end I don’t ‘blame this behavior or find it surprising, everyone wants to belong and be part of something. It´s really safe (to mimic) and it’s human.
As I said before, we in the band are into really different things when it comes to music but a few bands we can agree on such as; ENTOMBED, BREACH, CULT OF LUNA, WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM, KS, JESU (first album at least), YEAR OF NO LIGHT, GENESIS, MAYHEM, BLACK SABBATH, DARKTHRONE and BATHORY. These bands still excites us…
What do you do besides the band?
Like everybody else who can’t live on their music or art: work work wok and study study study. Nothing special.
Thanks so much, really appreciated. All the best for your future, guys. Any last words?
Fuck all “dark emotional hardcore”. And a BIG thank you for the attention you are giving this band.
Photos by Rasmus Ejlersen.