*This interview originally appeared in article form in a special metal digital issue of New Noise Magazine. This is probably one of my favorite interviews I’ve ever done, because Dan Swanö is without question one of my musical heroes. The dude is simply amazing, so this was an absolute honor to do.*
In my head, I picture you as someone who is basically writing music or working on producing/mixing/mastering/engineering albums all the time. Is that pretty realistic or is your schedule more laid back than that?
I work 6-8 hours day with mix and mastering. Whenever I have to record my own bands music, I have to make sure that no other projects are suffering from this since I have those 40 hours a week to work with.
I tried living a different life some years back and I ended up sleeping the day away and worked for 15 hours straight and nothing really got better from it, I only got a lot of physical pain for such monotone work!!
So these days I treat my work and hobby like any other guy with a full-time job, and it works great. I come home to my girlfriend and her son, and our dog in the evening and we do “family things” and Sundays are off 🙂
Do you think that producing your own albums, as well as producing/engineering for other bands has made it easier for you to make a living off of your music?
I would never, ever try to make a living on music alone. I have seen what it can do to people, and in the end, I don’t think it’s good for the music.
But it’s a catch 22 situation, since it’s hard to get so big that you can actually get a decent salary every month from your bands, you have to tour so much that your family-life suffers a lot, and then there is no real normality in your life. So for me, to mix and master stuff alone is the ultimate thing.
I get to make a record or two a year again, and that satisfies the musician in me.
How did the idea to start Witherscape first come about and how long have these songs been around?
When I first met Ragz at the shop where we both worked for a while I instantly felt that he was the kind of guy I’d like to have a project with.
It’s not every day you meet this kind of person, and when he played me all those amazing riffs and acoustic section he just had “laying around” I decided to ask if we should do some serious stuff together, and he agreed. The songs are a bout 2 years old now. but there are riffs that go back to 2004 from my stuff and I really don’t know how old Ragz stuff is..
The vocals on the album seem to focus more on growling than clean singing. When writing songs, do you make a conscious effort to make them feature one style of vocals more than another, or does that happen more organically for you?
Once we had a track recorded in a pre-production “state” I just went crazy with it and added keyboards and tried all kinds of vocals on it, and most of the time I re-arranged it using cut, copy and paste to get an arrangement that flowed even better than what we had thought up in the rehearsal room. After a while I decided to try to alternate between growls and clean on the side riff as much as possible, because that is kind of unheard of in this style of music.
I am not really sure what the percentage are between the growls and the clean singing, but a song like “Math of the Myth” have only a few lines of growls, but I guess it’s probably around 50/50. If you count, let me know 🙂
In a related question, I’ve noticed that the juxtaposition between melody and heaviness has always been something you seem to excel at in your songs, particularly on the song “Dead For A Day”. Where do you get your inspiration to write songs that are super melodic, but still really heavy like that?
I get a real kick of doing what is “forbidden” musically. When I wrote “Dead for a Day” I wasn’t sure what it was for. I even remember thinking that it was a cool band-name and that I should go for a more “Breaking Benjamin meets Alter Bridge meets Edge of Sanity’s most commercial moments” for this project…but after a while I felt it would be stupid to have yet another project going, so I played it to Ragnar and he agreed that it would fit Witherscape as our definitely most “pop” moment.
With some of my other bands like Pan-Thy-Monium it was always “what can we do here to piss people off??” So we had blast beats with only acoustic guitars, Hand-claps and Grind Core, even fucking saxophone, singing in our own language, then to change to sing in Swedish…you name it..all to “upset” the ones that “Guard” the limitations of a genre. Opening “Purgatory Afterglow” with really soft vocals and lush pads was another “fuck you” but I remember that people thought it was “fresh”, also including a Goth rock song on a Death Metal album was kind of “rude” and not to mention “Crimson” 🙂 – So, a little bit of that “naughtiness” came over me on WS too. There’s some cowbell, hand claps, Simmons/electronic toms, Vocoder etc. “tongue in cheek” 🙂
It seems that death metal has been experiencing a bit of a resurgence in popularity over the last few years. What are your thoughts on the state of death metal currently?
Just listening to the new Hail of Bullets before shipping it to the label and I must say the state of Death Metal is good 🙂 I am really looking forward to make my total ego Death metal project, using influences from all my past Death metal & beyond, projects.
Do you have plans to continue putting out albums under the Witherscape moniker?
Yup. There is an Ep in the “thought works” already. Hopefully out some time next year.
What are some other projects of yours that we can expect new music from in the near future?
Nightingale is ready with the drums for the new album and now it’s only the rest left to do…including all lyrics, but it’s a very good album, so I am motivated as hell to get it done!!
My “everlasting” pomp-pop-project Second Sky just got a complete vocal and lyric make over, so that set the project back in the planning a few more years (laughs). That is one of those albums that will be done when it’s done.
The music and tracks on it are timeless, but it will be good for it to have lyrics that deal with stuff that is “non-personal” and also for me to re-sing all the stuff with my current, more mature voice.
I’d also like to do that Death Metal album I mentioned earlier and another Witherscape thing!!