SPAWN OF POSSESSION – Visiting Oslo
I went a bit unprepared for this interview since it was not on my list of tasks for that day, yet Dennis Röndum, the vocalist of Spawn of Possession was kind enough to spend some time with me and my colleague and share updates about his bands, a couple of funny stories and some thoughts on the music industry. The band was in Oslo at that day as they were on the 2012 Omnivium tour, together with label mates Obscura, Gorod and Exivious. The review of the concert can be found here and more about the band is available on their facebook webpage.
What can you tell about your band for those who don’t know it?
We’ve been around for many years but we’ve been away also for a long period a time, around 5-6 years, hence it felt like we took a break. We did our first album in 2003, called Cabinet. In 2006 another one called Noctambulant and between the two we toured a lot.
All Europe, Eastern Europe, and Western as well, plus North America. But after the album we sort of drifted apart and the only member still involved at that time was Jonas, the guitar player, who kept on writing and little by little there was an album happening. He got some new members, people kept leaving, new ones coming and when the album was fully written he got in touch with me to see if I was still interested to join. I heard the pre production stuff and I thought it was amazing, so I didn’t hesitate. So currently it’s a new lineup altogether. Only me and Jonas remained from the original members, but we have a new second guitar player – Christian from Obscura, who only played the solos. The bass player is Erlend Caspersen and our new drummer is Henrik Schönström. And of course, for this your it was Christian who got in touch with us to see if we wanted to be part in this package. We were too excited to refuse.
Photo: Kenneth Sporsheim
How much has the band sound and music changed (or not) during the many years break?
The first album was well received and we got to promote it a lot with the tour I mentioned. Then we came up with Noctambulant which was crazier and more technical, defining us as a technical progressive death metal band. People didn’t easily understand this album at the beginning but I believe that by now people are done digesting it and it makes sense to them. Our new album, Incurso, was released yesterday and we heard some skeptics saying ‘You can’t go over Noctambulant’. Well, I say we did. We had a lot of time to write it and it’s the most epic and aggressive one I’d say. Very grand, very aggressive. It’s not easy to be objective with your own music though.
All albums have been recorded in the same studio, with the same producer, so not much difference there. Probably one can notice the difference in lineup as everybody has a personality on their own instruments. Yet, overall it bears the mark of Spawn of Possession, the sound that at least me and Jonas found in all the years we played together. We are doing this since 93 afterall and actually with Cabinet it was when we found what we believed to be our sound and went on in that direction.
What’s the news on the latest album then?
On Incurso the songs are much longer, average somewhere around 6 minutes. One of the songs is almost 10 minutes long and its pure brutality. It was a lot of experimenting for us. On the last track, called Apparition, Jonas wrote some symphonic backdrop in a way. We have choir and strings and stuff. That was very new for us. We actually hired a conductor who writes classical music, we give him the idea and he put it nicely in a computer. We would have loved to get the real choir and orchestra, but it’s a big financial issue… We are happy with what the guy did though, since he made it sound very big and dynamic, fit for what we needed. We were a bit worried on people’s responses, but so far we heard positive comments about this song, therefore we’re quite happy and we consider to do more of that stuff. Both me and Jonas are very passionate about orchestral, classical music and movie scores.
I believe passion leads to the best results when it comes to a composition.
Totally. It’s something we found out very early – to be honest when you write. Which is not easy. There’s influences and there is a matter of knowing what people like and it’s easy to forget yourself and only think from that point of view. But we always wanted to remain honest to ourselves. For example, guitar playing is not something we plan to do in a certain way. We just play and if it goes in a certain way and it feels right, we just go with it. You more or less let it write itself. But it’s many musicians who declare that they composed a certain part not knowing where it came from, but it felt completely natural to sound like that.
People love to compare bands and when it comes to Spawn of Possession, what’s the main names you get compared to?
We have a pretty high level of technicality, we get thrown in the mix of this kind of bands, such as Necrophagist, plus a lot of new bands whose names I simply forget as I don’t listen much to metal lately. We even get compared to Obscura and now that Christian is involved in both bands, that gets even more often said, even if he only plays the solos.
If you say you don’t listen to so much metal, what is that you’re listening to then? What influences you?
We actually kinda separate listening and influences. For example, when Jonas wrote this last album, he listened to very little music. He wanted it to be pure, out of his own mind. I’m the same way. I listen to stuff that’s very far apart from what I play, like classical or movie scores. But when it comes to death metal, it’s mainly the stuff we loved back in the 90s, such as old Gorguts, Morbid Angel, Death, Suffocation. These guys are probably top influences, metalwise, and then there’s big composers such as Johan Sebastian Bach, Dmitri Shostakovich. Even if we’re talking a different world here, once you find the right connections you can get a lot of inspiration from there.
Photo: Kenneth Sporsheim
What’s the story of the band’s name?
It was a term that Jonas, the guitarist, coined many years ago like back in 96 or 97. It sounded cool. When we started to get our demo out and people in America listening to it, they all asked what is this shit. Then I wrote a song about it and spawn is like giving birth in a way, like when the fishes put out their eggs, that’s the spawn of a fish. And when we say spawn of possession, we mean demonic possession, something completely evil. The first album was only about like demonic possession and exorcism and all this stuff. I personally was so much into such movies and reading a lot about this kind of cases, hence the first album was about that. It just made sense to use that as a band name.
After your 5-6 years break, how changed do you perceive the music scene? Or is it the same?
I was so into the scene before, back in 2004, I was going to shows and having contact with everyone and then I just shut this off completely for a while. Now, when I come back, the cool thing is to see it so alive and as silly as it sound, I’m happy to see that metal is one of the genres that doesn’t go away. I do think people are a little bit more clean and more good-looking if that makes sense.
You mean it’s not as underground as before?
Yea, exactly how I feel. Like for example, the other night where we played I show I went to the bathroom and there were like 3 big black metal type of guys with pentagrams and that kind of stuff and they were fixing their hair. And I was like ‘Hey, what’s up?’. It’s also funny when I think of merchandise. Me, I said ‘Oh, we need a lot of extra-large because the metal dudes drink beer and they’re fat like myself’. Actually everybody’s so skinny and they all buy small sizes. Now we only have few shirts left of those and we had to order more and smaller sizes. What’s cool for us is that we notice a difference in the way people responded when we gave out the first two albums, versus the way it is now. Maybe it’s because the big break between them as the fans had time to pay attention to the albums. Now when they come to us, it’s obvious they have analysed the albums and are given us genuine praises. I’m amazed by how many theories and comments they come up with now. The new album has also been well received and it brings a lot of cool chats as well.
Photo: Andrea Chirulescu
Do you think that there’s big changes in the way people spend their money in the music industry? Is it more people who prefer going to concerts versus buying albums? Or the other way around? Or?
I think when Spawn of Possession comes to town, people go and see them. Especially on this tour where all these bands are at such a high level, and I don’t say it to brag, but everybody you’re going to see tonight has worked so hard to get where they are today… This is a crazy package. Obscura picked all the bands, it was their first choice for all the 3 support acts. We even thought that maybe this is too much for the audience, but everybody loves it and goes really crazy on their instruments. You will see what I mean. One cool thing I happen to hear from people coming to the merch stand is when they ask ‘Do you have this CD? i so love it!’. And I ask ‘But have you already listened to it?’ ‘Yea, I downloaded it, and now I want to buy it’. Or some say that they downloaded it and don’t want to buy more CDs, but they’d buy a tshirt instead to show support. That is awesome. We are selling a lot of CDs, and it somehow surprises me since it’s new times now, record labels are complaining about sales, the studios are complaining. There’s a bunch of bands who don’t even go to studios anymore. They do the recordings at home since computer programs got so advanced. You can have ProTools and Cubase and record basically everything at home, mix it and make it sound really good. It saves you a lot of money but it also affects the industry a lot.
I personally don’t judge. If someone wants to download, let him or her go ahead. It’s for everyone to decide for themselves. Besides, deep in our hearts we’ll always be kind of underground so we’ll never be rich from selling out. All we want is to be able to pay the bills when we get home.
I don’t get the feeling that this tour’s line up is made of super star bands, but rather than people who work hard and with passion for what they do and they won’t make millions out of it.
Yes, like I said, you’ll see how skilled people are and you have to know the amount of work behind that. What I also love with these bands is that there is no competition. Everyone is super down to earth, we all have fun, drink beer and get to say ‘wow, that’s such a cool solo or drum fill’. Everybody is supportive, there’s no egos and everybody minds their own stuff in a professional way. So far, I am super happy.
What’s written in the band’s future so far?
We’re getting older and families are starting to happen. That’s on one hand. On the other hand, there’s a lot of pressure from Unites States because Relapse is an American label and there’s a lot of fans who want us there. We got offers from Asia and Australia and South America, a lot of festivals but it’s hard. If we take Christian’s case. He’s also in Obscura and for this tour he could have actually played with us too, but he has a condition with his finger, something with a nerve. Hence, he wasn’t sure he can do two shows each evening so we decided that it’s best he only plays with Obscura and only do one good show instead of two semi good ones. So he brought in his friend, Daniel Tunker who is playing with God Dethroned and Vomitory. He’s just an amazing and cool guy. Unfortunately, on the second day he tripped and hurt his foot and now he goes around with a crutch. He sits on a chair during the concert and it’s cool since he’s a trooper saying that the show must go on.
Luckily he didn’t hurt the hand
Yea, that’s what he also said. But for the future, I can’t say much. I also have another band called Begotten, Erlend, the bass player plays in a band called Deeds of Flesh. The drummer is also in Begotten, so there’s other projects for everyone, families, work, so I am scared to give anyone promises. It’s also true that before most of the festivals and tour rather paid anything. You mainly get the gas. Now, with this tour we got some good money and stuff makes sense for us. We’re too old for going in a van a long time. We’ve been there and done that so many times. For negotiating with US, we have to tell them that if they can provide for us and we end up paying our bills, we can perhaps do the tour. I would like to go there again. We’ll see what happens.
But no new album in the making or anything like that certain
We will definitely make at least one more album. We looked at Incurso, now that it’s done and we got to listen to it and we all feel that this direction is pretty cool. Perhaps we will go on from here and continue the saga. I hope at least one more album. Now, I have to tell you that the album is so long, almost 60 minutes of technical crazy death metal. When we recorded it, we were looking at it as just a regular album so we treated it as one that lasts 40 minutes. But once in the studio when recording the drums, we realised how wrong we were and that we had 15 extra minutes, multiplied by each instrument… so it was really hard. We would have needed more time in the studio to be honest. But we managed.
Photo: Andrea Chirulescu
Do you do a lot of improvisation on stage? Is there room for it in your technical madness?
The solos, yes. The drums, I think sometimes in the rolls or the fills. I actually used to be the drummer so I know and I like to improvise a lot, but overall it’s very hard. If one person goes off. Actually we had that happen. It started with the drums then there’s a chain reaction and I recall standing there, the guitar went off, then the bass, then me with the vocals, so we just had to stop and say ‘Sorry guys, we fucked up’. But the crowd loved it actually and came to us in the merch stand afterwards and said ‘you know, actually that proves you are human’.
We also don’t get to practice too much. The bass player lives here, outside of Oslo. The solo guitar player lives in Holland. The drummer lives in Malmö and I live in a small place called Kalmar, 4 hours from our bass player. While the other guitar player lives further North in Linköping, so we never practice. We had two days before the tour. It was the first time we played together after the recording. When we recorded, it was me, the drummer and our guitarist who went to the studio, Erlend recorded his bass at home and so did Christian. They sent the files, hoping it would work and it actually did. The people don’t believe me when I’m saying that this tour is the first time when we are on a stage together. That’s why sometimes mistakes can happen. That is if you don’t blame the sound on stage or something. Overall we’re having fun and I think that’s the most important thing. Plus all the bands here have the same attitude and the audience feels it. If something happens, I try not to get upset but rather laugh over it and handle it with good mood.
Any final words for the readers?
If this gets printed while the Omnivium tour is still going, I hope you come and catch the show and enjoy it. I encourage people to check out the new album, but also the amazing bands we’re touring with: Obscura, Exivious and Gorod. Some of it you might not like, but there’s so much you can find and for the lovers of extreme modern death metal, this is the concert to get the best of it.
What do you think of streaming services such as Spotify? Damaging for the bands or?
We never see money from CDs anyway and I’m totally cool with that. The important thing for me is that the fans get the music. That’s always number one for me. When I’m old I want to think that as many people as possible have had the chance to hear us, rather than I made some money that I wouldn’t have at that age since I spend them anyway. It’s more of a spiritual thing for me. Even if people don’t like it, I’m happy if they listened to it. They gave it a chance. For me it’s also important to have world wide distribution and right now I’m happy with how that is handled. If people want to check us out, we don’t have our own website, instead we have a facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/SpawnofPossession. And also a myspace but it’s kind of sketchy. Plus a link on something called bandcamp – http://spawnofpossession.bandcamp.com/ and there you can check out our music.