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05/04/2008 – Interview with DEGRADEAD

Sweden is known for its Melodic Death Metal bands IN FLAMES, DARK TRANQUILLITY, SOILWORK and others. Recently a new band was born under the name DEGRADEAD (official website) and soon picked up by IN FLAMES guitarist Jesper Strömblad. He invited them into the studio to work with H.O.R.D.E., or IN FLAMES without Anders Fridèn. The recording, producing, mixing and mastering all took place in the IF Studios. Last February DEGRADEAD released their debut album, "Til Death Do Us Apart", via Dockyard 1. The review of the album can be found at this location.

Like other reviewers I found similarities with IN FLAMES, CHILDREN OF BODOM, DARK TRANQUILLITY and a bit of METALLICA. The album itself was good, but it was obvious that the guys still have a long way to go, despite the help from IN FLAMES, sorry, H.O.R.D.E.. As a result of this release I sent the band some questions and it was vocalist Mikael who was kind enough to add answers to them.

Degradead logo

DEGRADEAD is a very young band, although you've been playing together from a few years, then known as SEPTIMA. At what age did you pick up your respective instrument and did you take lessons or was it all (or mostly) self-training?

Most of the band is self-learned, all of us started playing in our early teens, except for me who started to sing five years ago. I (Mikael Sehlin) have also played guitar since my childhood.

Degradead band pictureWhat's the story behind DEGRADEAD? I mean, who came up with the name, what inspired you, ...?

DEGRADEAD is Mikael Sehlin (Vocals), Anders Nyström (Guitar), David Szücs (Guitar), Michel Bärzén (Bass) and Kenneth Helgesson (Drums). We all live in Stockholm, Sweden. With the current line-up we've played since the year 2004. David and Kenneth started the band in the year 2000.

I came up with the name DEGRADEAD in 2007. We had to change our name from SEPTIMA into DEGRADEAD due to legal rights with the name SEPTIMA.

It's not only music that inspires us, our inspiration comes from everything such as friends, movies and so on, but of course we are mostly inspired by different kinds of music and metal.

The deal with Dockyard 1 came to existence because your manager Janne Lundqvist talked with them at PopKomm in Berlin. But was this the only label that was contacted or showed interest? In addition, for how many albums did you sign?

As far as I know this was the only label that was interested, but we signed the deal very fast, so we hadn't sent the record to different labels much at all. We signed for 4 records over 8 years.

Your debut, "Til Death Do Us Apart" has been out since a few weeks. How have the reviews been so far? And how do your families, friends, colleagues react to this new release?

The reviews have been really amazing, which makes us unbelievably happy, since it's our debut album. Very high scores for the album can never feel wrong. As for our friends and family, they think it's a great record. All in all it's been an amazing response.

How important are reviews? Do you keep certain 'criticism' in mind when working on new material?

I guess the reviews are important for an outer perspective. For me, I don't care if it would be a bad review, but we use all response as an inspiration and fuel to write new songs. Don't think our inspiration has been bigger than now, as the release of the record has given us so much.

Besides Death Metal, what other genres or bands (Metal and non-Metal) carry your interest?

I like all music. I see myself as a musician and I think it's important to take part of all kind of music and not bind yourself to Metal, even though Metal is the biggest influence for us. We listen to everything from classical music to Metal and everything in between.

IN FLAMES (and DIMENSION ZERO, although I'm unfamiliar with their works) was a big influence on the music you make with DEGRADEAD. Working with the entire IN FLAMES crew (minus Anders) was a blast, from what I've read, as they made you feel at home, so the entire recording process ran smoothly. How big was their influence on the material/sound and did you persist when you thought your ideas/desires were better?

Their influence has been big, but the inspiration has been so much bigger. People like to say we sound alike, but I beg to differ. The whole recording was a give and take process, some ideas were taken and some were not. There was a lot of work around the guitars and the vocals to push us into becoming a better band and towards a better sound.

Of course, working with IN FLAMES also made you sound like IN FLAMES. You said in another interview that it already starts with the songwriting process. How do you add your own stamp then, to avoid being a clone?

First off, I would like to say that everyone listens to music in a different way, I personally wouldn't say that we sound just like IN FLAMES. we are influenced by them, but our sound is very different. We add our own stamp to the songs when we write them, DEGRADEAD write DEGRADEAD songs and IN FLAMES write theirs. We always try to sound as orignal as possible, wich I think we do in the way we play our songs, such as how I choose to sing and so on.

Lyrically the songs deal about mistrusting people, disturbing everyone's lives, and the evil in the world in general. With all the news bulletins about war, attacks, bombings, rape, torture, etc... (Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Israel, ...) I guess you'll have enough material for the coming years. Don't you ever get tired of that, of those negative news reports? I mean, for the band it's alright, since you can make songs out of them, but personally, do you feel an impact on the way you think and feel about certain situations?

As you said most of the songs are about mistrust in people and so on, but I've always written the lyrics from personal experiences. It gives the song and record a much more personal feeling to it, which I think is important. It's the best way for me to express myself.

I know Metal isn't exactly about the birds and the bees, the flower and the trees, and so on, but.. has it never occured to you to write about positive stuff? Or convert negative lyrics into positive ones?

Yes, I've have begun to write different lyrics for the next album that turns negatively subjects in to positive thoughts, but it mostly reflect my life.

Til Death Do Us Apart coverThe cover art is of course in line with the lyrics, but what's the exact connection? I see a priest, an imam (?), so I'm guessing this is a reference to the chaos in Iraq, Afghanistan, ... Or is there more to it?

It's not a reflection on Iraq actually, it's a reflection from life 'til death. "Til Death Do Us Apart", meaning that death separates us from the world and what happens in between.

Who created the cover and did you give him/her guidelines?

A guy named Meran from Darkmouth designed the cover and he gave us ideas from which we went on. We gave him suggestions and ideas after that.

Personally I found the sound of (mainly the drums) a bit artificial, but in "Resemblance Of The Past" the snare sounds much better, more realistic. How important is the realness of the sound for you and why was there such a small change in that one song?

As you mix a record you give different songs different characters, for "Resemblance To The Past" that meant a more acoustic snare. Kenneth Helgesson worked with Daniel Svensson to create the perfect snare sound for the record. We all in the band really liked the 'artificial' snare sound, which many other bands use to give songs character.

As far as touring goes, you'll hit the road with DIMENSION ZERO - or you're already doing that or have done that. How did this tour come about? Did both managers talk to each other, did DZ invite you, ...?

We talked about it during the recording process and it came up, but for now the tour has been postponed due to lack of time for Jesper Strömblad (IN FLAMES) and Daniel Antonsson (SOILWORK).

Degradead band picture 2008Being under contract, does it give you more pressure to tour, to work on a new album, etc...? Or do you feel at ease, all things considered?

For now it feels great, the release of the album gave us so much inspiration that we almost have enough songs for the next album already. All the good reviews and responses from people have given us so much to be inspired by. We're looking forward to what the future has to offer us.

How often do you practise and how do you/Mikael keep your voice in shape/intact?

We rehearse twice a week, sometimes more, I keep my voice in shape at those rehearsals, It's quite important to keep your voice trained at all times. It is not much different from a normal workout; if you don't work out, you get out of shape. I've learned not to harm my throat by rehearsing the right way over the years, learning the right technique.

Next to DEGRADEAD, what else keeps you occupied (studies, jobs, hobbies, ...)?

All of us have normal dayjobs, but we are of course chasing the dream of making a living out of our music. We all would give up our jobs in a second for that dream.

That's it for me. Many thanks for taking the time to reply. If there's anything you want to add, let it out. Other than that, all the best to you and DEGRADEAD.

I hope you all listen to our record and be inspired by it and look out for DEGRADEAD in the near future!

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