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Metal/Prog Metal Interviews


Interviewed by Mike Korn
Interview with Fred Estby of Dismember from 2004

MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2004 Year Book Volume 3 at

When you started recording "Where Ironcrosses Grow" after such a long layoff, was it hard to get back into the groove or did you just snap right back into it like nothing had happened?
The first month of songwriting was a little bit slow. But after that first month, I think we snapped back quite good.
MSJ: You had to knock the rust off?
Yeah, exactly!
MSJ: A lot of bands from the era you came up in, the late 80's and early 90's, they've either broken up or changed their sound dramatically. What's the secret to the longevity and consistency of Dismember over the same stretch of time?
One of the things is that we started off when we were really young. I think we've learned to know each other from a very early stage and we've grown up together through the years. I think that had something to with it. And also, we don't rehearse like five days a week or tour 300 days a year. I think that's a good thing. We've noticed that if we get some rest from each other, doing something different, and then come back, we have the urge to play and it's still a fun thing to do.
MSJ: You were pretty lucky with the personalities in the band because there haven't been that many changes over the years.
No, and also those who have left the band left due to personal things like getting a family or a very good job. It hasn't been due to personal chemistry or anything like that.
MSJ: I'm always amazed at the amount of quality metal bands coming from Sweden. Is it something in the food, the water, the social situation over there? It's just amazing!
In the 70's and 80's, it was free for all kids to learn how to play an instrument. We had kind of a tradition of letting everyone who wanted to learn an instrument play and play in front of people. In the 80's, we also had a lot of youth clubs in every town. Kids living close by could go there to rehearse or practice theater or whatever.
MSJ: But though they had the choices of all different kinds of music to play, it seems that metal became the top choice!
Yeah, I think it has to do with the climate. It's cold and dark here. You need to get rid of some aggression during the winter. A lot of people get depressed here because it's so dark for such a big part of the year. I think that might have something to do with it.
MSJ: It's like Finland. They have the most depressing lyrics. They sound like a nation full of suicidal people.
(laughs) I know, I know!
MSJ: I just heard a great band from Sweden called Wolf. Man, that was some of the best old school metal I've heard in a long time!
Yeah, yeah, yeah! I like them, too!
MSJ: It seemed that "Where Ironcrosses Grow" was a bit more raw in the production than your last couple of albums. Did that come from a desire to show some of the younger bands that you could still be brutal and keep up with them?
Yeah and also we've grown tired of all those "nice" sounding death metal bands. There's too many of 'em over here right now. We've always been into the old school kind of production that is very raw, but where you can still hear things. It shouldn't be too nice! Sometimes I don't see the difference between a band like Hammerfall and In Flames, you know. They are not playing the same kind of metal but they have almost the same kind of production. It's too clean and I don't like that.
MSJ: I can't think of Soilwork as a death metal band...
Yeah, exactly...
MSJ: And yet somehow that's what they get labeled as that.
I don't know why! They're a good band...In Flames are, too...but it's not death metal to me.
MSJ: Do you think there's a return to this brutal Sunlight Studios kind of sound? Is that era getting ready to come again?
In some ways. But I think you'll have both kinds of bands now. There's not going to be loads of bands who want to use that kind of production (Sunlight Studios) or get that kind of sound.
MSJ: I just heard a new band called Chaosbreed and they seem to be a tribute to the kind of sound that you guys have. How do you feel about that? Do you feel flattered or are you kind of put off that someone is aping your sound?
I know Chaosbreed, they're a Finnish band. I think it's just a fun thing that they are doing. I know one of the guys in that band and he's always been into that kind of death metal. It feels a little bit more like a tribute to that kind of music, not just Dismember, but also stuff like Entombed and Grave. I think it's pretty cool myself.
MSJ: Another band in that mode is Bloodbath.
Haven't heard them yet...
MSJ: It's definitely one of the better tributes to your kind of sound. The lead vocals were by Mikael Akerfeldt of Opeth and he's one of the best death metal vocalists I've heard. He has that gruesome kind of singing but you can understand what he's saying. I think that's kind of like Matti's singing with Dismember. Do you agree?
I think so. Some people say they can't understand a word, but then, those people aren't too interested in our music anyway. Yeah, I agree. I think Matti has a natural harshness in his voice, he doesn't have to exaggerate it that much. That's just the way he sings.
MSJ: Is it as easy for him now as it was in the early days of the band?
It's easier for him now, because he knows the technique. Years ago, when we were touring, he couldn't drink one beer. His throat would hurt after a couple of gigs. But now I think it comes more naturally.
MSJ: How about yourself? As a guy who does some really intense, fast, hard-hitting drumming, are you keeping up with the demands as you get older?
I'm better, I think. I'm working out more. I stopped smoking and stuff like that. It's easier now.
MSJ: One thing I really liked about "Where Ironcrosses Grow" is the Dan Seagrave cover art. How did you get him back in the fold?
It was actually Karmageddon Media, our label, who contacted him, and he was back in business. He sent us some work he'd done lately, and it looked good. We said, let's go for it, and he was very interested, too. I thought he had more or less wanted to forget all the old death metal covers he did but he still likes that kind of stuff.
MSJ: I was wondering where he had been the last 8 or 9 years, because it's been a while since I've seen his name. For a while, it seemed like he did almost every cover for death metal bands.
What I had heard, regarding his absence, was that he was actually living in an Indian reservation in Canada somewhere.
MSJ: When I checked out the lyrics to the song "Where Angels Fear to Tread", it sounds pretty politically motivated. Is it about a particular individual or government?
No. It's actually about an action that happened during the Second World War. Sometimes, huge massacres have taken place but have been ignored. They haven't been brought to light. I don't know why. That's one of the reasons we wrote the lyrics. Sometimes we get all sorts of media attention to stuff like the war in Iraq, but then there are those massacres that nobody seems to care about.
MSJ: An example of that might be the Armenian Genocide in World War I. They were killed by the Turks and that's really been covered up. Unless you are really looking for the information, you're not going to find out much about that.
And why?
MSJ: If the ethnic group that has been massacred has a lot of power and money, it will be in the public eye a lot more. Look at the Holocaust. I am not against the Jewish people, but when people think of a massacre, the Holocaust is the first thing people think about. The Armenians just didn't have the money or the media presence to keep their massacre in the public eye. But that's just my take.
If you still have the right journalists and you feel you want to make others know about it, you have a chance to do it. At the beginning of the song, there's a speaker talking about how the Allies actually bombed the city of Dresden. Do you know about Guernica? That's the same kind of massacre but it happened to the Germans. The Nazis were the bad guys during the war, everybody knows that but still, it was a massacre. I think it was the RAF who bombed a city of only civilians. They didn't even have any defenses. When they noticed what they had done, some of the pilots went insane.
MSJ: They couldn't live with the guilt.
MSJ: What's your favorite track off the new album?
Mmm., that's a tough one. I think the fourth one in, "Tragedy of the Faithful", because it has both tempo and melody in it. I like it when David does his harmonic writing, his melodic writing. I try to arrange the song like that, put some melody into it and also bring a more raw edge to it. You get a very good combination. That's why I like that track the most.
MSJ: What's the secret to a good Dismember album, a good Dismember song?
Hmmm. I think that we tend to not use certain combinations of notes. I think that's the secret to our sound. Some death metal bands tend to use any kind of note just to make a riff. Sometimes it doesn't sound dark. Even though we have some harmony or melody sometimes, we make it very dark sounding. We have some rules we have to follow.
MSJ: The most important being, keep the music dark?
MSJ: Any plans to tour the States soon?
We're going to play the Brave Words & Bloody Knuckles fest in Cleveland in early June. During that stay, we'll be here for 3 days and we'll talk to Candlelight Records about putting together a tour for the
MSJ: Any chance of coming to something like Milwaukee Metalfest?
We don't know about that yet.
MSJ: What was the last CD you got just for your personal enjoyment?
"Killing Machine" by Judas Priest.
MSJ: Boy, I can't wait to see them back together with Rob Halford.
Yeah, me, too!
MSJ: What was the last show you saw just for yourself?
(sighs) Not sure. I think it was a band called Grand Magus from here in Stockholm
MSJ: What was Dismember's most notorious Spinal Tap moment?
(laughs) Oh, there's been a couple. One was when we were touring in Austria in 1991. We were going on stage, with an intro and loads of people in the crowd. I was supposed to go on first. The drum riser was very high in the air. The show was in a big hall. I couldn't get anybody to show me how to get there in the dark. I climbed up the riser and then I fell about 3 meters down behind the drum kit! I was supposed to start the first song with this double bass drum bit, but it was totally dead.
MSJ: Didn't break anything, did ya?
No, luckily I didn't. I climbed back up to the kit.
MSJ: And raised your fist in the air like Derek Smalls?
(laughs) Yeah, there's actually a photo of me going on stage and then falling down.
MSJ: Any last messages to the American Dismember fans?
Any last messages to the American Dismember fans?
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