Interview: Sebastian Ramstedt, guitarist of Necrophobic.
Interviewed by Tim Finch
It's hard to believe that Necrophobic has been leading the way on the Swedish extreme metal scene for over thrity years now! October see's the band release their ninth studio album. So we spent some time with guitarist, and main song writer Sebastian Ramstedt getting to know more about the back ground to the album.
The Razor's Edge: Welcome to The Razor's Edge
Sebastian: Thank you for having me!
The Razor's Edge: So let’s get this question out of the way right at the start… how has the lockdown been for the band?
Sebastian: You know Sweden is different from the rest of the world as we are not forced to stay in. It's more about taking the responsibility yourself. You have to keep the distances and make sure you don't get contaminated. But no one is forcing you, so you don't feel like in a cage, you feel free. But it's very bad for a musician, we cannot play, we cannot be out on the road, it's a very different life. But I've been able to go to my daytime work almost all the time during this, so it's been alright actually.
The Razor's Edge: That's better than it's been in the UK! As a band have you had to change anything or adapt as a band to cope with the current climate?
Sebastian: We were in luck as the album had just been recorded when the disease struck. Normally it's hard to find time for mixing, promoting, doing all the videos, you know. There's a lot of stuff that needs to be done to launch a new album, but this time we had all the time in the world. So there was no stress finding the right sound and getting the last touches done.
Of course as you cannot be out there meeting fans and promoting, we have kind of a different approach on the internet. More play through videos, more interacting with the fans and more active in forums and in conversations with people.
The Razor's Edge: So getting in touch with the fans more than you normally would?
Sebastian: Yeah, because when you are out on the road you don't really have the time for it. But now when you're at home all the time you can really answer everybody who writes to you. That's a lot of people not only in the threads but also with private messages and stuff like that. This time I felt we need to keep it together so I must take the time to keep the conversations alive.
The Razor's Edge: Your new album, ‘Dawn of The Damned’ is due out at the start of October. You mentioned you'd recorded it before the virus struck but how long ago did you start writing it?
Sebastian: The first song, 'Mirror Black', was actually written the same week that 'Mark of the Necrogram' the last album was actually released. I write most of the music and I continued writing, I had this good inspiration and good vibe and I felt I should not stopped so I just continued. I didn't think much of it I just continued on writing and I think I finished the last song about a year ago and then it was recording. We record the songs at home so I could take a lot of time, all October actually, to do the guitars.
The Razor's Edge: You says you record it at home, was that a conscious decision instead of going into the studio to do that?
Sebastian: The technique is so good these days, that you don't really need to be in the studio where it costs a lot of money. So it's easier to record it at home and then in the studio you can re-amp the recordings you did. This was the first time we did it like that, but the result was much better because there was less stress.
The Razor's Edge: And you are the main composer in the band? How do you put a Necrophobic song together?
Sebastian: Usually I hear something, almost like hallucinations, I hear something in my head, like a feeling or a theme or a word and then I try to transform this into a song. I get this urge to make this feeling or atmosphere come alive, so I sit down with my guitar and try to make this into something that would be understandable for someone else. When I start to write I cannot stop so I just constantly write for a week or so until the song is good enough, as I see it. Then I present it to the rest of the band and maybe they add stuff or give me some feedback and we arrange it like this. Usually I have a good feeling how they want to change it, so I change it before I let them know [laughs]. It's thirty years together I pretty much know what they want.
The Razor's Edge: I’ve been listening to the album for a week now, it’s a beast, you must be pleased with how it’s turned out?
Sebastian: It's very different from a musicians perspective how to listen to it. I felt when we recorded it that maybe for the first time ever, all the parts were exactly like I wanted them to be and I think we all felt that. I still don't feel that there are things on the album that I would want to change. I am very happy with it.
The Razor's Edge: It’s certainly sound’s “bigger” than previous albums, the intro on ‘Aphelion’ is very much like a big film score. But at the same time, the album is still very distinctively Necrophobic. Is that intentional?
Sebastian: You know, when I started to write the music for the album I had a feeling it would have more depth, it more layers and it would be musical and more challenging for me on the guitar. I wanted a different kind of seriousness to it, I didn't want the usual blasphemic for the sake of blasphemy like the early days of Sayer or Venom. I felt this must go somewhere else. With the 'Aphelion' intro that is like a celebration of making the decision to go into depth. This is a concept album about change and changing the way you live. That song sets the atmosphere and sets the tune for the album, it's pretty serious, it's a little bit like a movie score. It was not my intention but I wanted it to be bombastic or triumphant in a way, to make the listener to feel that this is a very serious album. That was something that I aimed for and I really managed to get all this atmosphere on the album. Usually when I listen to the music we do it's songs about strength, about going your own way, about power. But this time when I listen to the album it was so much more anguish or even fear and not knowing where to go. There were so many more aspects of the dark side of the mind on this one. When I started to hear it I just wanted to dig deeper in all sorts of directions.
The Razor's Edge: Your press release mentions lyrical inspiration from meditation and lucid dreaming you did back in the 90’s. What made you turn to that for inspiration on this album?
Sebastian: That was inspiration for how to write the lyrics and how to frame it. The real story's really a different one. Before I joined Necrophobic again a couple of years ago I went through some pretty serious personal crisis and I didn't really know how to carry on. I had to burn a lot of bridges and change a lot of things in my life. I lost a lot of friends and lost habits and change a lot of things, and I had to do that. I felt the serious atmosphere of the album matched the change I've gone through in my life, but I didn't want to write normal lyrics about this normal guy Sebastian going to the therapist or something like that, it just won't be interested. When I worked a lot with lucid dreaming and astral projections and things like that, that was also a big change in my life, so I felt I could tell this story of being in this very unhappy state and going into the dark and trying to grasp something of substance to find a way out, but through the visions and the ways of the dark magic part. So I combined those things. The weight of the album is really on the more recent experiences in my life.
The Razor's Edge: You mentioned it's a concept album, and the lyrical content as well, what do you want the listener to take away from having listened to this album?
Sebastian: Everybody's got their own dark side, I hope this album can take them through kind of a dream like journey and let them forget about the everyday life and take them on a journey to the other side. Maybe they can wake up on the other side with fresh thoughts or something. I hope this album will almost will work like a meditative thing, change the way you think, that would be great.
The Razor's Edge: Do you pay much attention to the reviews in the press when they come in?
Sebastian: A first I do. The most important thing is the feedback from the fans, that's what I care about. What a magazine writes might be good for record sales but also a journalist must do his thing. I write music for the fans and what they say I take to me. For the first two days I read what they write, then it kind of gets overwhelming. It doesn't matter if you have 100 people liking your album or 1000 because you can't take in the information. For the interviews I've done we've got some very good reviews and that makes you feel less... not scared but less anxious when you release the album. I had a good feeling that this would land well so it's good for that, absolutely. At the same time it gets harder and harder to write lyrics and music because if you get a lot of good feedback I don't know if we can do any better. Sometimes it would nice with a weak album because it would be easier to follow up with a good album.
The Razor's Edge: Are you planning anything to mark the launch of the album? I guess usually you’d be hitting the road, but that’s a bit restricted right now.
Sebastian: It's restricted, it's possible. In the east states some of it is possible to go, we are talking about it but what would happen is you find yourself in quarantine in Estonia for three weeks and that wouldn't be too great. Maybe we will take our chance and do something like that, maybe we will do a very limited gig in Sweden with maybe fifty people there but I think most of it we will have to work on our contacts and have to promote it.
The Razor's Edge: A lot of bands are jumping on the live streaming bandwagon. Have you thought about that?
Sebastian: Yeah, we were one of the first band to do that actually. It was in the end a successful experience. We had rigged the stage with professional sound and great cameras and things like that. But the hard drive on the computer crashed a few minutes before we went live so we had to film it on the mobile cell phones. It was kind of a fiasco but we did it anyway. After that we wanted to do it again, but with people getting sick all the time it's hard to organise. You need a crew to do it, even like this.
The Razor's Edge: Earlier you mentioned your day job, how hard is it for you having day jobs to juggle daily life of your work and the band?
Sebastian: I've always had that and I think it's a great thing. I've always separated those things you know. I feel as long as I am not dependant on the music to make money I can write whatever music I like. If I had to earn money from this maybe I would have to change a couple of things in my writing which would not be good. So I think it's better to go to work and have my normal life. But it's tiring you are out on the roads at weekend and more and when you are at home you are at work so you don't have any spare time really. But it's a decision I've made and I think I have more energy than most people. I'm kind of surprised that I can do this when I'm 48 years old, I feel I have a couple of years more with this energy so I just go for it.
The Razor's Edge: So as a band you’ve been together for over 30 years now, looking back, if you had your time again would you do anything differently?
Sebastian: This is a tough question. We partied a lot in the first twenty years, there was a lot of boozing and a lot of late nights on tour. That was fun and we made a lot of great contacts, but at the same time the relationships deteriorated in the band. It's not the hour on stage that is hard for the bands, bands like Motley Crue in the 80's were notorious for partying, it was not the hour on stage, it was the long nights on heroin that was the problem. If I could look back I would have probably sobered up earlier than I did, it went on for too long. It's the only work you can have where you are expected to be on drugs or alcohol when you are working, it's a crazy business!
The Razor's Edge: So finally, what’s next for you as a band. Where do you go from here?
Sebastian: Now it's about rehearsing, trying to make the band tighter than ever so that we are very very ready when the borders open. That we are doing now, trying out the new songs in the rehearsal room, trying out different set lists and things like that. That's what we are doing.
The Razor's Edge: When the restrictions are lifted we hope to see you back in the UK very soon. Thanks for your time tonight Sebastian.
Sebastian: No thank you, thank you very much.