Greetings! It’s a huge pleasure for me to do this small interview, so how are you doing guys? What’s new, old or dead?
Dr C: Salutations! We are still going, even though our public mortuary presence might indicate otherwise… as we say in Swedish: like lever! In 2019 I feel that the old stuffy carcass will start to shift its weight a little more and you might see a tad bit more activity. Which is relative to the flat-line you’re seeing now – make of that what you will. We’ll have a few public autopsies planned for the year, so expect the usual live shenanigans for which we now have a pretty solid reputation.
Dr S: Exactly. Life is dead and death is alive. And so are we. Had a slow year last year, but we are getting up to speed again. Speed of death that is! It’s been a couple of months since we played live the last time, so right now I am looking forward to kickstart a new live season.
Once upon a time in some old magazine I read that you wanted to create a band that will be more gory than Carcass. It was a long time ago, but do you still stick to this path? Or has time and line-up changes changed that thought?
Dr C: This is 100% true! That was pretty much the reason I wanted to join when Matti called me up and asked if I wanted to have a stab at it. I think the first batch of songs, being the three that ended up on the first (and subsequently re-recorded for the second) demo shows our deviant teenage mindset at the time. We were out to have fun and not be too serious about it. I still remember our first gig, almost 30 years to the day, where we played those 3 songs in about five minutes all wearing Carcass t-shirts. It’s on the Youtubes somewhere, I think Stefan Harrvik of Crematory might have been filming since it was a gig featuring Afflicted Convulsion, Crematory, Unleashed (with the OLD logo) and Macrodex. GS were not on the bill, we just bumrushed the stage since we were all at the gig anyway. Things were a little easier back in the day. Urban was there so he might remember this going down…
Dr S: I was there, playing with Crematory back then. Oh yeah – I didn’t think about GS not being on the bill. I have the gig flyer at home and that’s true – it only has the other four band. Excellent! And playing 5-6 minutes is just enough for a grindcore band in my opinion. It’s a good way to keep the intensity. And it was easier back then – people just arranged gigs where ever and usually a bunch of people would show up. As far as comparing ourselves to Carcass – I guess Carcass themselves quickly made that unnecessary. Back then I mean.
Let’s talk about your gigs. Can you describe your live performance in 10 words or less?
Dr C: I can do better and not talk about them at all? Sorry, that was 11 words.
Dr S: I can do less than 10: A tight bloody fist in your face. That’s 7 I think.
Your live actions are amazing (I was lucky to saw it once), but so far you haven’t gone on any tours, just a single shows here and there. So my question is WHY? It’s because your job and personal life? Or?
Dr C: Why thank you sir! We do try to put forth some effort, as I figure we are about entertainment as well as some sort of musical value. So far, people seem to like it a lot. I think that is because we can, as Alice Cooper and KISS back in the day, back up the shtick with some solid songs and actual musicianship. As for touring, we’re trying the best we can but it’s been slow going. People grow up and start families, buy houses, start new jobs and whatnot. We’ve always treated GS as something we will do when the timing is right, and also it has to be a fun endeavor for everybody involved. I think we’ve earned that by now. This of course means that our public profile is not that strong, but we prefer to show up now and then and hit ‘em hard and leave everybody wanting more. So far it’s been working out pretty well.
Dr S: The musicianship is the key. If you sound like shit it doesn’t matter much if you look good. Well that’s how I see it anyway. I have noticed some people seem to see it the other way around. But they are wrong. Wrong I tell you!
And one more, we all know that you use a lot of paint on the stage, so is it hard to wash yourself after such bloody performances?
Dr C: I have gotten way more acquainted with public restrooms and other means of cleaning up, like 20 cl bottles of carbonated mineral water outside in the freezing cold, than I really could care for at this point. The things we do for show biz!
Dr S: It’s not paint. It’s sweat and blood from angels, that’s what it is. And it is great getting that stuff into your contact lenses and then trying to wash it off without having access to running water. I love it! And like Dr C says – trying to wash off outside in freezing cold with a bottle of cold mineral water just makes you feel alive. You know.
Here is a very old school and stupid question, haha. Have any of you been to a morgue or attended surgery?
Dr S: Of course! Not. I am more old school and prefer a graveyard to a morgue. Or a beer pub for that matter. But I can only speak for myself. The other guys that have been in the band longer than I have probably visits morgues all the time.
Dr C: I have actually not attended a morgue, I guess I will when the time comes to check out for good though. Do not expect a report.
Urban, it’s been 3 years since you joined this disgusting team. How do you feel about yourself in GS, and what were your first thoughts when the guys asked you to join?
Dr S: Well, the timing was interesting for sure. I had just sold all my amps and almost all my guitars and was thinking I was done playing in bands. Nasum did their/our final tour in 2012 and I had stopped playing with Crucifyre … and was done with music. So a few months after selling the last of my gear I get a phone call: “Do you want to play some music”. My first reaction, obviously, was “damn it!” … and then “hell yes!”. Musically GS is pretty much perfectly at home for me – living between death metal and grindcore. So I can’t really see a better place to be. I was a bit sceptical about the live shenanigans – I never ever wore white clothes before. I never ever owned a white guitar. Huge step for me. But I got used to it. And now it feels perfectly at home.
Dr C: Needless to say, all of this was carefully orchestrated by the rest of us under the cover of darkness. I have to agree with Dr Skytt, dressing up in all white took a little while to get used to but now it’s been well over 10 years and it’s pretty comfy.
Do you guys have any other material in the works for other releases?
Dr S: We do have some plans, but we do not have any fixed timeline for releases, so we suggest people don’t hold their breaths. So to speak. It’s a stupid thing to go around doing anyway.
Dr C: I like to think of the next release as our “Chinese Democracy” record, the difference being that no one actually wants to hear it.
What do you think about today’s recording technology versus when you were recording albums in the early 90s?
Dr C: The old school method will always have sort of a warm fuzzy sheen attached to it, maybe a bit unfairly but that is what happens with the magic of passage of time. What you tend to forget about those days is that it was an insane amount of actual hard work and preparation to be able to get the takes you were after. It was just more pressure on you as a musician and band, I would have to say. Every band also worked under very limited budgets, since most of us were still in high school at the time. And yes, back in those days you could actually charge a pretty penny for studio time since you could not easily record at any location like today. So with that in mind, the studio date was like major go time. The big deadline that everybody had to work towards. If you were not prepared by then, you were pretty much screwed, and being that everybody was young and a little more hot headed back in the day, you were going to get called out on it by your fellow bandmates. So as far as I remember, we rehearsed like crazy before even thinking about booking a date in the studio. Nobody could afford to mess up, because the queue to Sunlight (as an example, the most popular studio in Stockholm at the time) was looooong. If you didn’t come out of there with what you were expecting, you had to get to the back of the line. And when you’re 16 years old, waiting 3-4 months for something to happen feels like an eternity. You simply wanted to stay relevant at all times and release stuff as often as you could. I am amazed how productive the scene of the late 80’s and early 90’s was, the floodgates just seemed to open and music just bursted out from all directions for a couple of years. I am so happy I got to be a part of that. Now, I am not saying that recording today is not hard work, it’s just a different method. You’re still feeling some sort of pressure, but since the technology is so affordable and available these days it’s become less of a burden. You just know you can do how many takes you want without having to get to the next one. For me personally, that might not always be a good thing because I feel it ruins the energy and immediacy of the music. I appreciate being able to record my guitars in the comforts of home or in somebody’s living room, and not having to travel somewhere remote to record – that is a huge positive these days. With that being said, I try to treat the digital recording method as I would an old tape machine; getting as much as I possibly can in one take and not punching in and out, cutting and pasting and so forth. So I do my preparation like I would back in the day, and just record as quick as I can to preserve some of the filth and grime that is required for our type of music. There is a ton of sloppiness and mistakes on GS recordings, but that is part of what the music is in my opinion. We don’t use click tracks and don’t really copy/paste parts (it has happened, but it’s at a very low percentage), everything should be played by the band. I mean, who’s more exciting to listen to: Autopsy or In Flames?
Dr S: The correct answer is Autopsy in case you were wondering. If you got that one wrong you should stop reading right now and go and be ashamed of yourself. The problem with the ease of re-takes et cetera today is that it is really easy to make things sound too good. That is not a good idea when you play the kind of music we do. So you actually have to tell yourself “good enough is better than better than good enough” a lot of times. Then you stop and think about what that actually means. You can have a coffee and relax a bit. And like Jocke says it is pretty convenient that way – you don’t have the deadlines you have back in the days, but on the other hand you can lose the intensity and feel you get when you have one take to get things done and you have to but maximum effort into that one take. For that reason we try to make the recordings as fast as possible – to get the right feeling and the right sound. And the filth.
Gentlemen, do you think that the huge support of GS fans is the biggest reason why are you doing this stuff? If not, than what is the reason why General Surgery is still doing new records, playing new shows and etc?
Dr C: It might sound completely egoistic but I feel that if I, or rather we as a band, cannot dig the GS material any longer, then we should not be doing it anymore. We can afford the luxury of having that kind of integrity since we’re not a full time band. So, foremost, the band has to be into it and back up the music/lyrics and concept 100%. If that is in place, then it’s just a matter of time when other people will start liking it. If you have a strong belief in what you’re doing, and deliver with confidence, it will sort itself out. That being said, we are super appreciative of all the fan support we’ve gotten and still are getting over the years. It’s always such a rush to meet our fans, sign somebody’s records and take a picture. It takes us 10 seconds to oblige, and for that person it means the world. So we always try to make ourselves as available as we possibly can when we’re out doing the damn thing.
Dr S: If an artist – if you want to call GS that is up to you – is not into his/her own music it can’t be a great experience for someone else. Who wants to see or hear someone who is bored and doesn’t like their music? So it starts there – I really like this music. I really like playing this music. I can see that people like the fact that I like to play this music when we are out playing live – and that makes it even more fun. So as far as live shows go – I wouldn’t enjoy those as much without the reactions from the people in the audience. I wouldn’t enjoy it at all actually. So for me the connection with the crazy people coming to our shows is of huge importance … so without them – nope I wouldn’t be playing any more. So I guess it is a mutual thing. We all have to enjoy this shit! And also – I played music together with other people long enough to know that I don’t want to play in a band where I don’t get along with the other guys in the band. It’s not worth the hassle. So enjoying hanging out and playing with the other guys is massively important as well. And having fun together also translates to a great live show.
Okay, you’ve probably seen a lot in your time. So do you think there’s any truly dangerous music (and I`m talking not only about grind) left today?
Dr C: I do take my time to explore all kinds of music and have been doing so for a long time. It was a short time in my life, mainly my teenage years, when it was strictly just metal for me. These days I feel that the most insane, mind melting and dangerous stuff lies in the free jazz and improv scene. Just because they don’t always use super distorted downtuned guitars, it doesn’t mean it can be super mean. I try to expose my friends to this now and then but most people find it too out there to be honest. Which I think says quite a lot, regarding most people’s background in so called extreme music.
Dr S: Dangerous is a big word. If I got to put a ban on some music it would be the creepy sleazy crap that gets played on the radio. Which I don’t listen to anyway. I think that stuff is unhealthy. All ballads as well. I hate ballads. I don’t understand people that listens to ballads. If we’re talking about exiting music – as I still like extreme stuff – I get more surprises from other genres. Extreme metal stopped being exciting in the 90’s. The new bands today … I don’t get it. Too technical. To polished. It’s fast, but it doesn’t have the energy that I like from extreme music. The coolest live experience in extreme music for me the last year was seeing ZU with Jocke. (check some live video of their song “Rudra Dances Over Burning Rome” for instance. And remember that the bass frequencies don’t translate well from live shows. Seeing them was like getting hit by a truck!)
You country is rich with good bands, so could you tell us about the early days of the Swedish grind scene? What was it really like, were you like one big family? Are you still friends with old buddies from this death/grind society?
Dr S: I am not sure I would exactly say it was a huge grind scene in Sweden. When Napalm Death came and showed people how to do it most of us was playing death metal in Sweden. Then people starting putting all these “project bands” together that played grindcore. All the bands I played in started like that. The drummer in my old band Crematory was there when both Regurgitate and General Surgery started playing. Funny thing is that that many of the grind projects outlasted the death metal bands we were playing in. GS got a bit more sophisticated (you can say slower if you want to) over the years, but I do not want to go back to playing death metal. And since there was pretty few grindcore bands (at least that I knew of) you certainly knew who the other bands were. We went to Mjölby to hang out and see Retaliation play live for instance … and then ended up asking their drummer to join Regurgitate when we wanted to make a follow up to the first album. But there wasn’t a huge scene for grindcore – the bands played but usually mixed up with a bunch of death metal bands. And the big upswing came much later in the end of the 90’s when there was a rise in interest and the old bands started recording full length albums. But the bands started out releasing demos in the early 90’s. And split EP’s. But Sweden is a long country – travelling to the south of Sweden takes a day, so mostly you would hang out with the local bands – and as far as Stockholm goes it was definitely a death metal scene and not a grindcore scene.
Dr C: I think Urban nailed it there. There wasn’t that many strictly grindcore bands in the beginning, it was always leaning more towards straight death metal or a mix between death/grind (sounds familiar for some reason). I can think of Filthy Christians and Arsedestroyer that were around early when it comes to grind, which was just not somebody’s side project thing. And F.C .was not a Stockholm band. It seems like grindcore was more “for fun” and then you had a death metal band for your more serious material, at least that seemed to be the idea at the time in the Sthlm scene. The whole grindcore thing in Sweden exploded around 1997-1998 I guess, and then it just got silly after a while. Everybody and their mom and her dog had to be in a grindcore band. I still keep in contact with a few select people, but most of us are all grown up now so sadly we don’t hang out that much anymore. You mostly meet by chance at some gig and say hello to each other. I am looking forward to meeting up with quite a few old timers at Scandinavia Deathfest this fall. It shall be a blast, if you will.
Unfortunately that’s all. Do you have any last words of wisdom and gore?
Dr C: Many thanks for the interview and may the morgue be with you.
Dr S: Thanks for the interview. The powers of gore be with you!