January 24th, 1666
THE FORSAKEN - MANIFEST OF HATE - CENTURY MEDIA
THE FORSAKEN - ARTS OF DESOLATION - CENTURY MEDIA
THE FORSAKEN - TRACES OF THE PAST - CENTURY MEDIA
When The Forsaken's drummer Nicke Grabwoski recently called on the occasion of the band's sophomore album entitled Arts Of Desolation, Ali "The Metallian" wonders whether he will instead agree to a non-scripted and free-form chat. The two agree to try something a little different. Read on as the two speak of anything and everything on a hot summer day - 08.07.2002
Nicke, thank you for agreeing to this chat.
No problem, it is a pleasure to be speaking with you.
Let us get the obvious stuff out of the way. Are you happy with the promotion that Century Media has given you?
I am really happy about it. The German office always sends me magazines, copies of advertisements and reviews. I am very happy with Century Media. We are still death metal and they put a lot of effort into us. We are very happy. I think the US office is as good for us because Loana (Valencia - publicist) is a very big fan of The Forsaken.
Is she really a fan or pretends because it is her job?
I think she is a fan. She met up with (ex-bassist) Mikael when he was in the US with Evergrey and spoke to him a lot of The Forsaken. She actually talked another guy out of being the publicist so she could take over for us. When you have a girl or a guy in publicity who really likes your music then things get better for the band. If you have a job and you like it, then you do a better job. I have done more interviews for this album for Canada, USA and Mexico than our debut.
It must help that your publicist speaks Spanish.
I think so too.
Going back to her speaking to Mikael, did she talk The Forsaken up to the extent that Mikael called you and asked to rejoin the band?
(laughs) No! Actually when they met up he was still in the band.
You guys were initially called Septic Breed.
Yeah, Stefan who hadn't been in a band before proposed that we play together. I agreed to only play a couple of times a month and no more. Then Patrik joined and the really old bassist. We also had the vocalist from my old grindcore band A.I.S. which featured Driller Killer's drummer Johan Asp. When we became serious we changed the vocalist, the bass player, recorded a demo with totally new songs and felt like changing our name.
Did you know that Dark Tranquility used to be called Septic Boiler?
Yeah, I heard about it actually only a few years ago. Then there is Septic Flesh, so it's not a good word to use in a band name.
What are some of your hobbies and interests?
Of course music is my main interest, hanging out at shows and going to festivals. The metal scene is interesting, allowing me to meet many other people with the same interests as me. It's always like that when summer comes, 'oh yes! Finally it's summer again and time for the festivals.'
Which festivals have you been attending?
Sweden Rocks Festival, for example. It's a more heavy metal festival with not too many really extreme bands. Still, almost the whole metal community in Sweden is there. It is cool to meet up with people you don't meet so often who are, for example, from the north of Sweden.
Where is the festival held?
It's in the south of Sweden in a town called Karlshamn. If you take the three biggest cities in Sweden - Gothenburg, Malmo and Stockholm - the festival takes place nearest Malmo so it's pretty south.
How was this year's edition of the Sweden Rocks Festival?
Good, I saw Candlemass, Bruce Dickinson, Halford, Evergrey, Dream Evil and Ted Nugent.
Ted Nugent is detestable.
Yeah, I agree too. I hadn't heard of him before the festival, but since people were talking about him I checked the dude out. It was not my type of music so to speak.
As a right-wing and pro-gun person he seems to have little respect for animals or human beingss outside his own clique.
I know, I know. After the festival I read an interview with him in the Sweden Rock magazine. I was like, 'OK, is this guy for real? What kind of crazy...' really when it comes to politics, he was contradicting himself. He was saying one thing and later saying something else.
People like that often do that.
Yeah, it's strange. I got a good laugh reading the interview. Maybe that's his thing.
One wishes he were a joke, but he seems to believe the stuff he says.
If he really believes in himself then he is the biggest joke in the world (laughs).
Talk more about the festival.
The bands I enjoyed the most were Halford and Dickinson, mostly because Iron Maiden and Judas Priest are bands I grew up with. Halford opened up with Painkiller which was cool. There were 20,000 people there. I like the atmosphere with so many people at one show. People are singing along with the music. Bruce Dickinson played Run To The Hills which is always cool to see. He also played Flight Of Icarus and one more Iron Maiden song I can't remember. It's always like that at festivals, you are doing a lot. The whole festival is kinda blurry! I met the guys from Evergrey including Mikael Hakansson, our old bass player. He lives a long distance from here and we don't meet too often. It was good to drink a beer or two with them.
Did you see visitors from other countries?
Not so many. We met a few from Iceland.
Yeah, that was cool. The funny thing is my girlfriend is from Iceland, so when they started to talk I didn't know what to do because I couldn't understand jack shit!
How did you find a girlfriend from Iceland?
She is born and raised in Sweden, but her parents are from Iceland. She speaks Icelandic perfectly.
Isn't Icelandic similar to Danish?
I think it's a mixture of all the Nordic languages.
So you must understand some things.
I understand only a few things. It's basically like listening to Germans, but I don't understand what they are saying. Maybe I can figure out what they are speaking about, but I don't know what they are saying. It is pretty hard.
Who else did you see at the festival?
I saw Dream Evil. They had a pretty cool live show actually - not with bombs and all that. They actually performed and did a good show. They had the whole crowd with them. They played on one of the smaller stages and they had a much bigger crowd than many other bands.
That's a feat for a new-comer band.
Exactly, it is. That kind of metal gets into people's minds much easier than death metal for example.
Are you referring to metal a la bands like Hammerfall?
Yeah, or maybe we should say Accept Metal.
Balls To The Wall Metal.
Aaaaahhh, that hurts (laughs).
Speaking of Dream Evil, it is interesting that you say that since they are your label-mates.
Yes, it is cool, because I think Century Media had a big roster present.
Why then was The Forsaken not playing?
We are too heavy for that festival.
Did they have any death metal bands on the bill?
No, not even one. They didn't even have a thrash band. That's why I like to go down to Wacken Open Air in Germany.
Have you been there?
Yes, been there five times and will go again this year. It's a crazy festival with many drunken Germans. It's cool and very well-organized. They have many great bands every year. Each year they have twenty bands I want to see. It's a good experience at Wacken. When we are down there we meet up with people. We meet people we have met on tours and so on. People come up and ask if I remember them. Someone, for example, comes up and says, 'remember me? I saw you in Austria.' How does he recognize me? There are 25,000 people there with long dark hair and a tan. It's easier to remember people when you have spent time with them or met them at a party. If people only see me on stage, which they don't because I have too many cymbals, then... I have this idea of putting my drum kit in the front and the guitarists can stay behind.
I remember how Beherit used to advertise their live shows with the drummer closest to the fans and the whole band faced away from the crowd.
That's pretty strange. We can discuss their intelligence. Maybe they didn't dare to face the crowd or look the crowd in the eyes.
Does that imply you are not a fan of black metal?
I can't say I am a big black metal fan. I like the more commercial bands, like Dimmu Borgir, Cradle Of Filth, Emperor and Dark Funeral is pretty good as well. Dark Funeral is very raw and is a punch in the face. That's about it actually. I don't like Burzum which is shit music, Enthroned and that kind of music. There are always people who like a certain kind of music, so I don't blame people for listening to it. I like music which is technical. The better you get at playing, the more interested you get in technic. It's a two-way crossing. When you reach a certain point you either like the technical stuff or want to get more straightforward. I like technical music, for example, Death is my all-time favourite band. I specially like the last one - The Sound Of Perseverance. I also like Cryptopsy who are a really cool band. I do listen to all kinds of metal though. I also listen to blues rock like Gary Moore.
Do you prefer the eighties hard rock albums or his nineties blues output?
The nineties stuff. I like the groove. It's nice to chill out to that music. I am a big record collector anyway.
How many albums do you own?
I think I have three or four thousand CDs! I have bought them. Of course, it was a year and half ago that I last counted them. I haven't bought so many new ones recently because I am saving for a motorcycle. That's pretty expensive.
What do you do as a profession?
I work with security systems and passage controls. I am a technician who installs these systems at hotels and so on. The company is called Timelox. They make the magnetic or smart cards you use at hotels. It's not the most fun, but pays good money.
Now that you bring it up, one has to ask, how does one surpass those systems?
It's pretty hard to do with our systems. You have to steal the encoder and the program. You need to have a key for it and make a card. You also need the system ID card which is locked in the hotel safe most of the time. It's all about codes.
Let us talk about Sweden. An outsider's perception is a country with above-average taxes, good government, respectable welfare system and health care. What is it really like?
It is like that actually. It is good and bad. Let me give you an example. We have immigrants who come here as economic refugees. I don't object to people who come here from countries at war, because they need help of course. Others come here and the day after arrival they drive around in a Mercedes or BMW and still get money from the government.
You mean to say that assistance is not need-based, but rather universal.
Exactly. Taxes are really high and you see it when you get your pay cheque. Then you look up and see a Turk, for example, and he is driving the biggest car you can imagine. I can't afford a car like that. I know people from different nationalities and they tell me that many of these people like to be thought of as 'big.' They like to look good from the outside, but if you go to their homes they have a little TV. They want to have fancy cars and fancy clothes instead. I think people want to be more than they are when they come to Sweden because of the feeling they get against them once they arrive. They want to show, maybe, that they have something and want to fit in. The government pays a lot and we who are Swedish see red. In the end it's not the immigrants' fault but the government's. They should have a better plan.
What would you do? Would you lessen the taxes?
That takes you to another issue. Single moms, for example, they have a big monetary problem. If it weren't for our health care system they might not afford health care. We don't have that problem here in Sweden. Everyone has health care.
Is this because Swedes pay higher taxes?
Of course, we have good schools, high school, college and you even get paid to go to college. When you see it like that... for example all the taxes that I pay now from work are for all the times I went to a hospital or a school. We also have something here called MOMS. You have it too.
The Canadian sales tax is the Goods and Services Tax or the GST.
It's twenty-five percent here which is too much. The tax on alcohol at the liquor store is eighty or ninety percent.
Alcohol is a special case though.
Yes, I know. Alcohol, cigarettes and snus are special cases. Do you know what snus is?
Here in Sweden we take snus instead of smoking. It looks like dark dirt, you make small balls of it and place it under your upper lip. You get your nicotine intoxication. It's tobacco. When we were on tour in Germany with Grave everyone was doing snus. When the snus was out it was damn hell! It hasn't really spread much around Europe. When we reached Hanover we found a small tobacco store with imports from all over the world. We went in there and they didn't have any snus! They thought we meant chewing tobacco. The funny thing is one hundred metres away was a little store owned by an Arab and when we showed him the boxes he had them! That was pretty cool. It sure did save the day.
Speaking of things exclusively Swedish, one notices that apart from Denmark and England all of the European Community recently adopted the Euro as currency.
I think Swedes are the type of people who see something new and say they can not do it. Big part of the government wants the Euro, but it's a democracy. We will eventually join the EMU (European Monetary Union) as well. I hope so. When we tour the exchange is terrible. We come home and our bills are in Euro.
Do you see yourself as Swedish, Scandinavian or European?
I see myself as a headbanger in the northern part of Europe (laughs). You know my grandfather was Polish and my father is German. Still, I don't know a single word of German - I hate those guys. It sounds so ugly when they speak.
You think Swedish sounds any better?
Er, no! It's my language so I don't think about it that much. I don't hate Germans. That's not what I meant. I think the language is horrible. I am a milkshake from many different places.
When Canadians think of Sweden some of the things which come to mind include Ericsson phones and IKEA. Furthermore, I think of things like dynamite, vacuum cleaner, Volvo...
A Swede invented dynamite? You know more about Sweden than I do.
Flattery won't get you anywhere. Still, it seems that corporate Sweden has largely been bought out in the last few years. Volvo was sold to Ford, Saab to General Motors and Ericsson is rumoured to be moving to England. Is this something that concerns the average Swede?
I think people do think about it, specially after so many people lose their jobs. When Ericsson closes a factory many people are affected. I don't think so much about it, but of course people close to the site or the relatives are concerned. It's not good for Sweden. it affects the economic structure of the country.
What is surprising is that despite the above, growth has been good and unemployment low in Sweden.
It's time for new companies. There aren't that many though that are that big.
Let us move away from Sweden and discuss the September 11, 2001 events in the USA. What is your take on this issue?
I can tell you that I was at work and when the first plane hit the tower, the news mentioned a plane hitting the World Trade Center. That was fifty minutes before I was leaving work and I thought, 'oh man, stupid pilot.' I thought it was a Cesna. I went out to my car, listening to metal all the way to Helsenberg and went to an electronics shop to check out a DVD player and when I entered the huge store I found no one at the desk! Then I see this big crowd around a big TV and they are all standing there. Once I went down there the first tower was falling down. I couldn't believe it. 'Is this the new Sean Connery movie?' It was crazy and I think the whole world was standing still. I am not so informed about the politics so I can't really say who was responsible for it. Was it only these crazy people? I think the whole world structure as is now has made it really hard to get out of this evil circle. I think more of this shit will happen - perhaps not in the US, but in Europe or Japan.
Do you really believe so?
Yes, I don't mean Al Qaeda. Terrorism will always be there. We won't be rid of it. It is good that the Taliban are gone. I have seen many reports and documentaries, and maybe it is the media that want people to see it from a certain point-of-view, but I didn't like their way of ruling the land. I am referring to the executions, women who don't have any rights, et cetera.
My question would be whether anything has changed. Are the ordinary citizens of which you speak any better-off?
I think they might be feeling a little safer doing what you and I always do - watching TV, listening to radio and stuff. Down there you couldn't do any of that and then they would take your life away from you. They don't want you to be informed. It is harder to control people who are knowledgeable.
You bring up a very good point. For I have noticed a big difference among the media in the USA, Canada and those of Europe. The US media seems to always report on the same thing and in the same way. There is little information given and even less analysis is offered.
Which makes some Americans hate others without any reason. Everyone should be informed, and some of why the terrorists did this has a reason - even though I don't think it's right. I think they have reasons why they did it.
You are right. One either believes that some people are born evil or along the way something transpires which makes them angry.
Something happens to them. Something has happened in the past and made them angry. It's actually pretty interesting.
I wanted to pick up on something you said earlier. When you mentioned how the Taliban were trying to keep Afghanis ignorant, that reminded me of the US media. The contrast is clear between US media which is uninformative, the Canadian media which is so-so and the European media which seems a little more intelligent. Which is what you said, namely that should the population be informed they might ask a few questions.
Exactly. I think the US media is more 'Hollywood' and controlled by money. The US government too has lots of money. I think they can buy anyone in the US that they want to.
Let us move on to the realm of sports. Do you follow hockey?
Yes, Swedish hockey. You guys play hockey and we play soft hockey. Your way is the way it should be because you guys invented it.
Europeans and their bigger rinks have created faster players seemingly.
I guess with a bigger rink it's more about tactic. With a smaller rink it's more about banging against each other, but with a bigger rink you have to adjust and play totally differently. I was always angry at Canada growing up for winning all the championships. I do like to check out the Olympics and World Championships for hockey.
Is that more fun than giving interviews?
Depends. You know when people ask the same questions like, 'OK, tell me your history' and 'do you like your new album?'... I mean what type of a question is that? It's like they are saying they haven't listened to the album, but they want to do an interview with some band. It is hard to be alert and interested when you get boring questions.
I like to do all types of interviews. I don't want to focus only on big magazines. I know some bands, which release their third or fourth album, want to concentrate more on the bigger magazines and fanzines. I don't want to do that. but you get many many written interviews via email and regular mail. That steals a lot of free time and takes away from work and music. As I said I like to do all types of interviews, but it takes two or three hours to answer one written interview and when you have ten... If you want to give good answers... I have read interviews like that with very short answers and that's pretty sad. If the band is giving informative answers, then I can read it. The best thing is when you do interviews face-to-face. The telephone is good as well. When you do email interviews you get little contact and no personality is involved.
Have you ever cheated with email interviews and copy/pasted answers from one for the other?
Of course, I have. It depends, if exactly the same question is asked then there will be exactly the same answer. I try to rephrase a few things if there is a follow-up question, but I copy/paste basically.
Let us relate cheating to foods. Do you visit McDonald's?
I try not to, because, I think, they do the cheapest hamburgers. They are not tasty either. Going back to what we were saying earlier, it is good to be informed. Sometimes I get upset when watching the news somebody says that we should watch Friends or whatever instead. Still, you can't force people. If they want to eat at McDonald's let them. I will eat sushi.
I can't even be sure it's a hamburger.
Actually you can perhaps kill people with them.
There are legal drugs and there are illegal drugs. The former are stuff like fat in fast foods and the latter are opium, marijuana and similar items. I can't say which one is killing more people.
That's real true, but as far as fatty food I love pizza. Swedish pizza is very good. Ours is more authentic and less like Pizza Hut. It's a lot thinner and I like it. We have many small pizzerias. In my town we have many different nationalities and that mean lots of good pizza!
Do Swedes eat local dishes much?
My girlfriend always insists that we should cook our own meals so we have different types of food. She thinks we will save more money this way.
She insists that you not go out and save money? I think you should keep her.
I think I will, for different reasons (laughs). When I want to take her down to the restaurant and buy her a steak or something, she prefers to stay home and cook fish...
A girl who looks after your money... hmmm... does she have a sister?
No, she is the only daughter in her family. She has three brothers though (laughs again).
Moving on, do Swedes actually eat meatballs or is that an exaggeration courtesy of the IKEA restaurant?
Meatballs are pretty popular in Sweden.
I spent a summer in Norway and they eat whale with gravy. Do Swedes also cook whale?
No, we don't. Swedes don't eat whales. We eat steak!
Speaking of which it had become supper time in Sweden. The band is rounded out by guitarist Patrik Persson and Stefan Holm, singer Anders Sjoholm and new kid Stefan Berg on bass. Arts Of Desolation is issued by Century Media and now available at self-respecting record stores. For more information on Swedish steaks, The Forsaken and their latest album please visit www.theforsaken.net where the band promises constant up-dates, news and contests.