About Me

Interview with Necrophobic

Necrophobic is a Swedish Blackened Death Metal band formed in 1989 by drummer Joakim Sterner and guitarist David Parland. Throughout the years, the band suffered numerous line-up changes and signed record deals with many labels… now, almost 3 decades later, things seem to finally start falling into place. Their latest album “Mark of the Necrogram” is about to be released via Century Media and Joakim talked to Metal Imperium about it…

M.I. - Necrophobic will celebrate its 29th anniversary this year. Do you usually celebrate each anniversary or are you amazed that 29 years have already gone by?

It became a common thing to do, like 10 years ago, or something, but we never did that. We were never able to do it the right way and celebrate “our anniversary”, so to speak. I mean, of course we have had that in our minds, but then again, how special can it be, when the former and first guitarist that I formed the band with, David Parland, has been dead for a few years now? Dismember had the ultimate 20 years’ anniversary, which included a perfect set list in the right timeline… they changed members on stage according to the band’s timeline and so on. We cannot do that in that same way, because some of our members are either dead, lost or… somewhere else. But, yes, I am proud of still be doing this music and putting out albums after 29 years.

M.I. - You are the only member that has been in the band ever since its formation… how did all the line-up changes affect Necrophobic?

In the beginning, it was just me and my two best friends. None of us could really play our instrument particularly well, so we started the band from nothing. Nothing, except from the drive to do it. After the first demo, the singer and bass player quit, so it was just me and David that continued with session members while still searching for suitable members to fill in. A member must be a person that fits into the band both ideologically and music wise, so we all aim for the same thing. But in order for us to continue, people have been fired and people have stepped aside, but I have found the right replacements to be able to carry on and every time a new member has come in, it has been for the better. And now, we have “new”, “old” members back in the band, that have been in the band before and I must say that this is the best line-up that the band could ever have.

M.I. - Right up until the release of the 1st full-length “The Nocturnal Silence”, the band had a different logo. Why did you change it?

The logo we had on the demos and the first vinyl EP, was drawn by David. None of us could really draw or illustrate particularly well and we didn’t have any friend that was able to make a logo for the band. It was a really ugly logo and I tried to improve it, but it really didn’t turn any better. I added a pentagram under it, but we didn’t use it, except for the re-releasing of the old demos and vinyl EP that came out as an album in 2009, titled “Satanic Blasphemies”. Anyhow, when we got signed to Black Mark Production and the first album was about to happen, we decided that we had to do something about our logo situation. After some years in the scene, we had become friends with a lot of other bands and people, so we met Johan Hansson, one of those guys that had been doing some logos, the Unleashed logo for instance, so we talked to him and he created the logo that we have since 1993. He was also the bass player of Swedish death metal band Crematory.

M.I. - Do you think things could have been different for the band if you hadn’t signed a deal with Black Mark in the early days? Do you often dwell on the “what if”?

No, I don’t regret anything with signing to Black Mark Production. The “what if” is really another story… Could we have had more shows and tours to promote our album “The Nocturnal Silence”?! “What if” we did those tours around 1993-1994?!

M.I. - The band hasn’t been lucky with labels either. First Black Mark, then Regain Records went bankrupt, then you moved to Season of Mist and now you’re signed to Century Media. Why did you change from Season of Mist to Century Media?

Well, it has to do with a situation that happened to the band in 2013 and it really affected ourselves, the promotion and sales of the album. So, last year I talked to Season of Mist to see if they were interested in releasing a new album, but they told me that they weren’t and we were free to go somewhere else. Then one thing led to another and we started talking to Century Media, which led to signing a deal with them.

M.I. - All members are experienced musicians… do you think your experience is a plus every time you record a new album? Do you learn something new with every release?

Yes, it is. Experience and the will to improve is really important for progress in every way, both as musicians and recording wise. There are so many ways to play your instrument, so learning and improving to be able to play better and find new ways to play different stuff adds to the experience in every situation… in the rehearsing studio, on stage when you perform and in the studio when you record.

M.I. - “Mark of the Necrogram” will be the 1st full-length through Century Media. What are your expectations for this album? Fans seem to be very excited about this release!

Hard to tell, but I know that we have created something really strong. It’s not a comeback, but last year, when Sebastian and Johan re-joined, and also Anders a few years before that, has really been an injection of energy and good chemistry in the band again. We played quite a lot last year and I think that this shows in the new album and in the compositions of the new songs. Yes, I have noticed that the interest for this new album is high and those who have heard it already (the music media and press) have all said it’s beyond good. A fantastic album. That is of course great to hear, but the important thing are the reactions from our fans and if this album will give us new fans. And as you said already, the fans seem over excited. 

M.I. - The necrogram has been a part of the band’s album covers and it’s an important part of Necrophobic. Why opt for the name “Mark of the Necrogram” now? Are you intending on leaving a deeper mark on the underground with this release?

It was about time to involve our symbol on a deeper level as it is something that really appeals to the fans that have been with us throughout all these years. For me and the rest of the band, this symbol has big importance and big meaning, so it is iconic to name the album “Mark of the Necrogram”.

M.I. - What’s the meaning behind “Mark of the Necrogram”?

It’s up to you to find out. What does it mean to you when you read the lyrics?

M.I. - How does the writing process happen? Do you write lyrics first and then riffs or the other way around? Do you meet often and write together or do you do demo versions and then share them with the others?

There is no recipe or a certain way to write and compose music and lyrics. At least for us, it’s all about feelings and thoughts that have to be channelled out and become a song. Usually, the music comes first, but it doesn’t mean that it’s always like that. It is all very different from time to time. Sometimes a new song can be finished in 30 minutes, sometimes it can take a month to complete. Nowadays, new songs are presented like a more or less finished pre-production demo. I think it is due to our situations in our regular lives and the tools that are available now, that didn’t exist 20-30 years ago. When we were younger, and without today’s abilities to record demos at home, we spent more time in the rehearsal studio to write bits and pieces of music and put them together into finished songs. Nothing wrong with that and it was fun and a developing time, but this new way is more time efficient.

M.I. - Who wrote the lyrics and what do they deal with?

The lyrics for “Mark of the Necrogram” were written by Sebastian and Alex. Anders has also written lyrics to one of the songs. The lyrical theme is like the ones we always write about, which is about darkness and evil from the thoughts and reflections of ourselves and our minds… how we see things, how we think of things… basically it’s about what goes on in our minds.

M.I. - The cover is beautiful. Who’s responsible for it? Kinda reminds me of the gateway to hell! 

The artwork on the cover was painted by hand by Kristian Wåhlin, also known as Necrolord. We hadn’t worked with him since the “Darkside” album back in 1996. I don’t know, but he didn’t seem so active these last couple of years, but I really don’t know if that is the case. However, we started to notice that he seemed to be active again on social media and decided to contact him to see if he was available to paint our new cover. Obviously, he was and he did this painting for us and we all think it’s a great piece of art. There is more to it than just this artwork and how it turned out this way. If you look at the cover of “Darkside”, you can see that there is a castle in the centre of the painting, in the red part. This new painting is that castle seen from the opposite direction. 

M.I. - The band members seem all to be involved in other projects. Is Necrophobic the priority band or not?

As of now, it’s only Alex that plays bass in other bands: Naglfar and Firespawn. I came up with the name Firespawn, by the way. So far, there has not occurred a situation in which he had to choose. Good planning for him is the key to be able to find time to play and record with all the three bands. Anders had his band Blackshine for many, many years, but when he re-joined Necrophobic in 2014, he just put Blackshine to rest. Sebastian and Johan, before they were out of the band in 2011, played both in Necrophobic and Nifelheim. After leaving Nifelheim, they joined Black Trip. In 2016 that band had to change name and became V.O.J.D., but they both felt that the direction of the music didn’t really appeal to them anymore, so they only play in Necrophobic now.

M.I. - You're one of the oldest Swedish bands that's still active today. How does it make you feel to know that you are an influence for some bands? Did you expect to last this long?

If you had asked the 20 year old me if I thought I’d still be doing this music today, I think I would have laughed. I think I could not imagine me playing this kind of music for as long as we have done, even though I don’t know why. This is what we love to do and something we do well. So yes, I feel good about doing this and if it influences younger and newer bands, that is cool. 

M.I. - How old were you when you decided to be a musician? What turned you into metal?

I think I was 14 or something, when I started to fool around with the drums for the first time, at music class in school. But as I mentioned earlier, me and my friends David (Parland) and Stefan (Zander) started to play some early, simple ways of death metal around 1988 and formed Necrophobic in 1989. I first heard a metal song in the summer of 1982 and it was either “The Number of the Beast” or “The Prisoner” by Iron Maiden. I was blown away. This was music I had never heard of before and I was hooked instantly. And from that day on, I am metal.

M.I. - The band has many dates lined up already and fans seem to be delighted. The Portuguese fans are also dying to see you return… any plans regarding that?

As far as I know, we have nothing booked in Portugal. It’s not that we don’t want to play there, but we need to be invited/get an offer from a serious concert promoter. So, start pushing your local promoters and demand Necrophobic!

M.I. - The band has already played in Portugal. Any memories of the concerts? 

Yeah, we were in Porto on the Bonecrusher Fest Tour 2010. I remember that the place we played in was full of old people dancing on the dance floor and playing bingo, or something. When we arrived at the venue with the tour package, the old ones dropped their teeth, haha. They looked so afraid and just stared at us. Anyhow, the show was great and the metal fans were great as well.

M.I. - Please share a message with your Portuguese fans and the readers of Metal Imperium Webzine. 

Yeah, we want to return to Portugal to meet the metal people again, so for that to happen, we need you to help us get there. I also want you to buy our new album “Mark of the Necrogram” when it comes out on February 23rd. I hope you like it and then tell your metal friends about it. We also recently opened our online webstore, so check it out on shop.necrophobic.net
Thanks for the interview, Sónia!

For Portuguese version, click here

Questions by Sónia Fonseca