ThisIsNotAScene‘s Dewie was rather impressed by the latest offering, “Paranoia,” from Swedish crust punk stalwarts Martyrdöd, so much so he put a few questions to the guitarist Micke Kjellman. They talked about the album, the focus of the lyrics, then band’s sound, their new label Southern Lord, touring with label mates Black Breath and much, much more…
Congratulations on the “Paranoia” album. You seem to have got a really full and powerful sound without losing your raw and aggressive edge. Are you pleased with how it turned out?
Thank’s alot! I can only agree and say I have never been so pleased with anything we’ve done before but this time I think everything fell into place really well.
How long did the writing process take for this album and do you tend to write in the studio or go in there with the songs already pretty much completed?
Some parts of the album had been in my head for a couple years. I think the most of the music was more or less written when we signed the deal with Southern Lord last late summer. Then we started to make demos of the songs and weeded out a couple of songs. The lyrics were also rewritten the following year before. With Martyrdöd it’s all about composition and all the songs was finished and selected before we entered the Studio.
You’re now signed to Southern Lord and about to embark on a US tour with labelmates Black Breath – are you hoping that will gain you some exposure to a new audience or are you just looking to have fun and play some shows?
Martyrdöd has been an underground curiosity for over ten years and we are used to getting a good response from our followers, but it’s obvious that Greg didn’t sign Martyrdöd based on our record sales… hehe! For us, it’s just great to work with a label that has a genuine concern for the music. We’ll just continue with what we are doing and take things as it comes. Right now we are looking forward to this tour. Play shows and have a blast.
What has been the main lyrical focus for this album?
What the title “Paranoia” is referring to is the fear and delusions of xenophobia and similar ideas. There has been a worrying trend in Europe with a rise of nationalism/far right parties. These are groups who are playing on peoples discontent but only making things worse. It’s a distraction from the actual inequality society and spreading prejudice. It’s the worst kind of ignorance. It’s saddening to see all this intolerance being spread and to hear the rhetoric of scapegoating and putting people against each other to this day. The kind of propaganda that is exploiting peoples fear. It’s very dangerous mechanism with an incitement towards hatred and it can only lead to tragedy.
Many of the songs on “Paranoia” deals with these problems in different ways. I’m aware that this kind of music is a rather restricted medium but I really wanted to put this message across on this album. If it can inspire anyone to challenge these attitudes then it’s better than nothing. It’s a huge challenge but we must not let us be divided by forces of intolerance. If I would try to sum up the message on the album it would be to keep an active mind and overcome your fear.
Although (to my ear) this album has a little more light and shade than your earlier stuff and there is a progression in your sound, it is still wonderfully vicious and pissed off. How do you manage to capture so much fury in every song?
As I said there’s a LOT of intensity behind it and raw emotion in the songwriting. I guess it comes out. What makes music so wonderful is the direct experience and I think that music only suffer from over-analysing. I don’t know but the best ideas usually comes up immediately. I do like to spend time working on the songs and eventually they change over time. But the hours I spend with it is more like a state of absorption than actual thinking.
When we recorded “Paranoia” we just slammed in the songs in a couple of days. There weren’t any useless time in the studio were we could eventually spoil it. The recording session was something of an intense borderline experience. But at least it got stuck on tape.
Do you feel you are evolving away from being a ‘crust’ band or do you think your music will always be firmly rooted in punk?
I can’t see us evolving away from being Martyrdöd and our style has derived out of Swedish Hardcore and ‘crust’. I’m not quite sure where all the melody comes from though. I guess there’s plenty of unknown influences there but we’ll just take what comes out naturally.
I like the idea of doing something unusual within a narrow framework. Obviously there are certain components in the music that makes for the Martyrdöd style. I don’t really care whatever people call it. Labels are just there to make it easier to define music but might not reveal so much of the actual experience of it.
There are clear black metal elements in your work. Are you fans of black metal as a genre?
I think the dark and moody sound that people recognize is more how we sound naturally. The supposed black metal influence on Martyrdöd is a little bit overrated. Since you ask about black metal: Bathory is the favorite reference.
What bands have inspired you over the years?
Our style derives from a very niche form of music which I still enjoy on it’s own but with Martyrdöd we are not really trying to sound like anything else. We have been influenced by bands like Anti Cimex, Totalitär and another handful of Swedish Hardcore/Käng bands. This influence is still in our DNA somewhere. But I don’t reflect so much up on it.
Anyway, I tend to return to the Martyrdöd – S/T debut album at some point every two years or so and still find it appealing crude Swedish Hardcore/Käng so I can merely state where we come from.
Sweden seems to remain a very vital part of the heavy music scene and is producing so many good new bands as well as being home to many established acts – are you proud of your country’s musical heritage?
Well, Sweden is well known for lots of music. I have mentioned a few classics already and there are much more for sure. Maybe I’m not that into all the stuff of today but there are still some cool bands around. If I would just name a few: Warcollapse is something of a veteran crust band with a sound that I particularly enjoy. Motorbreath from Gothenburg is an awesome and very underrated band playing d-beat rock n roll really well.
Burning Kitchen is awesome catchy simple punk rock with amazing vocals, their recent reunion was exciting and I hope there will be more of it soon. I also enjoy some different Swedish artists like The Knife/Fever Ray and Kleerup. I’m too tired now to think of all the bands and music I have forgotten about.
Thank you for taking the time to talk with ThisIsNotAScene and good luck with the tour!
Thanks for the interest and interesting questions / Micke