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Interview with Tobias Sidegård (May 2009)
by Noctir

Spawned at the end of the 80s, Necrophobic has proven to be one of the best and most consistent bands in the Swedish Black/Death scene. With five full-length albums, and a handful of E.P.'s, the members of Necrophobic have created a legacy that few, if any, shall ever match. With their sixth L.P. appearing over the black horizon, I spoke with vocalist, and former bassist, Tobias Sidegård with regard to the new album, as well as digging into the history of the mighty Necrophobic.

You just played the Kings of Black Metal festival, along with Dark Funeral, Mayhem and Watain. How did that go?

It was great. We travelled there together with the Dark Funeral guys. They’re a nice bunch of fat, drug addicted and oversexed old men. So the party already started early in the morning. They’re great guys all of them. The gig went great for us. It’s always a pleasure to play for a bigger audience indoors. We tried out three new songs there even though the album isn’t released yet. Mayhem was really good. I’ve never seen them live with Attila before. They did like 5 songs from De Mysteriis dom Sathanas so I was happy. They’re a great live act.

In just a few weeks, you have a new album coming out, titled Death to All. What is the meaning behind this title? What was the songwriting process like?

It’s a “Fuck the World” statement. It’s an attitude we share between the guys in Necrophobic. We live, breathe and shit decadence in this band. We thought it was a suitable title for our new apocalyptic release. I mean, Fuck em’ all and Death to the entire existence! Mankind is falling in a downward spiral and we are happy to stand aside and watch the downfall. Only the strong will survive.

When it comes to song writing Sebastian is doing the biggest share. Johan and I also contribute with some but he probably writes like 70 or 80% of the music. He usually comes up with some ruff demos of the songs and then we rehearse them and do some arrangements together. When it comes to lyrics I get pretty free hands. It’s quite a long process for me. It takes me like 2-3 months to finish the lyrics for an album. There are a lot of sleepless nights behind that work. Sebastian also wrote some lyrics for this album. I know he was studying some apocalyptic stuff from the bible for inspiration.

Your last album was the first to be recorded outside of Studio Sunlight. Did you use the same studio this time?

Nope. Last album was recorded at a friend’s studio called “House of Voodoo Studio”. This time we used the recording budget to buy our own studio. I’ve always been interested in the recording process and thought that I had collected enough experience to handle the recording myself. Sebastian was a great help here too. We bought some really nice equipment, borrowed some high quality microphones and did the recording ourselves. It felt like a natural progress for the band. You know, how could any engineer possibly know better than us how Necrophobic should sound like? We did it and I’m happy we did. It was a lot of inner stress and a lot of hard work but it turned out really great. For the mixing we once again used Fredrik Folkare from Unleashed. He’s a really cool and reliable guy and we knew that he would satisfy our needs. He truly understands how metal should sound like.

Each Necrophobic release has its own distinct identity. What can the fans expect from this record?

Stabel, a very good friend of mine said it the best. He said that this sounds like Necrophobic, but even better. I think we have reached an even more professional level with this album. All songs are more thought through. We haven’t taken anything for granted this time. Every note and every word has been carefully worked through. It’s harder, rawer, faster and darker than ever.

Awesome. I can't wait to hear it. How has the experience been with Regain Records, as opposed to earlier labels, such as Black Mark?

It is like day and night. When we were at Black Mark our budget was very limited. They didn’t provide us with tour support; no budget for video shooting or anything. We didn’t have the same chance as the other bands around us to go abroad, playing gigs and so on. It’s was a very frustrating time for us. We often say that the band had a really rough childhood. Now at Regain we're more free to do what we want and that is great.

Also, there is the Satanic Blasphemies set. Who came up with the idea to release this old material and has it been often requested by your fans?

That is Sterner's project since he’s the only remaining member from the demos. I’m on the E.P. though that’s also a part of the Satanic Blasphemies release. I know that there have been a lot of requests and offers to release this material through the years. We celebrate 20 years as a band this year and thought it would be cool to release it now.

Sounds like a good way to celebrate and probably helps younger fans to get a feel for what it was like, in the beginning. It seems that bands such as Bathory and Slayer were early influences for Necrophobic. What other bands were inspirational, during those formative years and are they still relevant for you with regard to making music?

In the beginning of bands career I think you take in more influences than you will do later. I mean we’re still influenced by some music we listen to of course, but through the years we have shaped our own unique sound. To us it’s really natural how Necrophobic should sound like. It’s almost written in stone now. Were still manic metalheads though, but there’s no special influence in particular.

Necrophobic is a band with deep roots in the Swedish underground. What was it like in the early days, prior to the recording of The Nocturnal Silence?

We were all hanging, drinking and being a menace to the society together. Unleashed, Dismember, Unanimated, all those guys. There were no children or important jobs back then. We could be a chaotic bunch 24-7. I especially remember one day when we recorded Nocturnal... in Studio Sunlight. That day we had like 27 guests in the studio. It was a really tiny one back then and I can tell you that Tomas Skogsberg wasn’t too delightful about that, haha.

Hehe, poor guy. Following the debut album, the band lost its third vocalist, Anders, and you assumed the vocal duties. How did this come about and was the transition an easy one for you? Who were your influences, as a vocalist, if any?

Anders was just a session vocalist in Necrophobic. He wanted to put all his energy on his own band, Blackshine, so we let him go. I had been the singer of another death metal band called Incursion so it was a natural thing for us to let me handle the vocals. I guess the early influences were Quorthon and David Vincent. Do I really have to explain why?

A few years passed between The Nocturnal Silence and the Spawned By Evil E.P. Was David's involvement in Dark Funeral a reason for the delay, or was there something else?

I guess so but I honestly can’t remember that now. I was smoking so much at the time that it all seem a bit blurry to me.

Hehe. Speaking of your former guitarist, he left the band after the E.P. but I read that he returned to record Darkside with you. Did he do this to help you guys out or was it that he wished to record the songs which he had a hand in writing?

That’s not really true. He’s just doing a solo as a guest guitarist on the album. He was 100% out of the band then. We still used a couple of his songs though. There has never been any bad blood in between us. I’m still in contact with David Parland. He and Martin Halfdan (ex. Necrophobic) have recently started playing together in a band called Infernal. I know that Parland have been using the name Infernal before but now they have started together from scratch. Tomas (ex. Dissection, ex. Dark Funeral) is also in it for the drums. I’m looking forward to hear something from those old farts.

Darkside saw a bit of a shift in Necrophobic's sound, incorporating more of a Black Metal style, while still retaining the same dark, nocturnal feeling that was present on the debut. What influences led to this change?

I don’t really know. I guess the whole scene transformed a bit back then. To be totally honest I’m not really happy with that recording. To me that’s the weakest of all Necrophobic albums. The whole album lacks of attack and punch.

Hehe, that's funny. Darkside is actually my favorite one. That album also featured guest vocals by Jon Nödtveidt. How did this idea come about? Was he a good friend of the band?

Yeah, he was a good friend. We were all big fans of Dissection and thought it would be cool to have him as a guest vocalist. He had a special rawness in his voice that I haven’t really heard in any other voice. He was indeed a really true and cool guy.

Indeed. In 1999, Necrophobic unleashed The Third Antichrist. This one was the first to be written without any input from David. To me, the style sounds pretty similar, though it is a little more varied than the previous release. Was it difficult to make this transition in the songwriting process or was it fairly simple enough by this point in your career?

It was easy. We had fucking mastermind Sebastian Ramstedt in the band then. He’s by far the most talented musician that I have ever worked with. I remember that he and I wrote a lot of the material on nylon stringed acoustic guitars. It was very clear to us what Necrophobic should sound like.

Following this album, Martin Halfdan left the band, replaced by Johan Bergebäck. Why did Martin leave and was it difficult to find Johan, or had you known him already?

Martin had a period when he felt that he couldn’t stand for all the things Necrophobic represent. He had to go. We had known Johan from way back. He was playing bass in Sebastian's old band Morpheus and we thought that he would work perfect within the chemistry of the band. Johan is the kinda guy that can learn almost anything in a short while. I envy him for that. So for him picking up the guitar instead of the bass wasn’t too hard. He has almost 10 years in the band now and I’m happy that we picked him up. He’s a mean fucker old Johan, but I love him and he is a true brother indeed.

Bloodhymns was the next to arrive, just a few years later. This album is very raw and violent, hearkening back to the early days. Also, for me, it contains some of the darkest melodies the band has ever created. What was the inspiration for making such an intense, yet haunting album?

Blood, sex, violence, hatred and frustration. The normal shit I guess. It is indeed a very violent album. I think the new one is going in that direction too in a way.

In 2006, you released Hrimthursum, which featured some experimentation with effects new to Necrophobic. Unlike most bands, you managed to incorporate these new elements into the band's sound with ease. What was the fan response to this album and how have the last few years been?

The fan response has mainly been good. I heard from just a few that it was too epic. We don’t really care though. We do music that we personally would like to hear and would never listen to anyone outside the band how we should sound like. I think Hrimthursum is a brilliant work of art. It was an album that was necessary for the band to do. We never wanna stagnate in any shaped form of what our band should sound like. All the choirs and shit on the album are for real. I and a very professional singer called Sandra Camenish did them. To record Hrimthursum was a little similar of making a painting. We didn’t really know the outcome of the album until it was ready. It was a really fascinating and instructive recording. I had the feeling that everything we touch turns into gold through that recording.

Absolutely. The epic feeling suits the sound well... Some months later, in August 2006, Jon Nödtveidt passed on. Your thoughts?

A darkened brother has moved on. I’m sure he will find his place in the anti-cosmos. I wouldn’t be surprised if he would return like a kliffothic deamon. As I said before, he was an amazing guy and we will all miss him.

So, late last year, you announced the addition of Alex Friberg to Necrophobic, handling the bass duties. How did this decision come about and where did you find him?

To recruit a bass player is actually something I have requested for years. The other band members were not to keen about the idea though. I always had the feeling that I could express myself as a frontman way better without an instrument. I really enjoy playing bass but I can put much more input in the vocals without it. Then, like one and a half years ago, I got hit by car on the way to a pub and broke my knee. By some weirdass reason I always seem to get into fucked up situations like that. I was jumping around on crutches for a few months and couldn’t handle both playing bass and singing in the same time. We had no choice then and borrowed our brother Erik from Watain as a session bass player for a few shows. It worked out really well and we all realized that getting a fifth warrior maybe wouldn’t be such a bad idea after all. I was already playing together with Alex in a band called Trident and we thought he would suit perfectly in Necrophobic. He’s a big tattooed fucker, a very serious musician and also an intelligent and cool guy to have around. He works very well within the chemistry of the band and is now a full time member.

How does having a new member affect the dynamic of the band? Did he participate in the songwriting process for the new record?

It has been very positive for the band. Sometimes new blood can bring a lot of new inspiration. He’s not been involved in the song writing process yet but in the studio he’s been a great help. He’s a few years younger than us and is always eager to rehearse and play live shows. Alex is one of my best friends and I’m both proud and pleased to have him onboard on our ship over river Styx.

Speaking of the other band members, Johan and Sebastian also play for Nifelheim. Have the members of Necrophobic long been associated with them, going back to the old days, or is this something that developed in more recent years?

Fucking Nifelheim stealing our guitarists all the time, haha. To be honest it’s a brotherband of ours and I wish them all the best. I actually got to know the twins through Jon. I think it was 1996 or something. They’re both really funny and have a lot of knowledge about metal. They are for sure really good friends of ours.

A lot of older bands, such as Dismember and Unleashed, are still around as well. How is the scene in Sweden, compared to the early years? Do the younger bands, like Watain, look up to Necrophobic and the others?

The scene is a bit different now. Bands like Dismember, Unleashed and also us don’t play for free anymore so there’s not so many concerts with bands like that around. But that’s natural I guess. There are still a bunch of less known acts who keep the underground scene going though. Of course the younger bands look up to the elder and get inspired by the work we’ve done. Watain is a bit different though. I know they’re all Necrophobic fans but they’re more like friends to us. I hang with those guys and have known Erik since he was a tiny little metalhead. He’s a great friend and I admire a lot of his sides. I might be his big brother in one way but I have a lot to learn from him as well. He’s a really fucking intelligent guy Erik.

Yeah, that's been my experience with him, as well. With the release of the new album, what are your plans as far as touring? Do you plan to be at any of the festivals this summer? Is it possible that you will tour North America?

We have a bunch of festivals scheduled. Not so many that I would have liked to though. The album is coming out late spring and the festival promoters don’t really know about it. I guess next summer is gonna be more busy. We’ve never been in North America but we would love to come there. Don’t hesitate to contact us if you’re a promoter. It would be fucking great to devastate your part of the world with our evilness. Death to All…

Thanks a lot for your time. It has been greatly appreciated. Any last words?

Check out our new album Death to All! It will hit the stores 29/5 and I can assure you that you won’t get disappointed. Hopefully we’ll see you on the road in near future. And thanx for the interview of course…

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