interview: Dawid Krosnia
‘I got an idea for the band name from The Ravenous […], they had a song called Dead, Cut Up and Ready to Fuck.’
photo: Cut Up 2017
Those of you that know the Swedish death metal legend Vomitory will know that the band has been put to sleep in 2013. You also probably know that soon after that, the new creation has been formed on the rotten ashes of Vomitory. Having now released a brand new album, Cut Up is what the worst nightmares bring – torture, death and gore! Intrigued by their latest effort, Wherever They May Rot, we spoke to the drummer, Tobias ‘Tobben’ Gustafsson, to discuss some issues regarding both Cut Up and Vomitory.
The Goat Tavern: Hi Tobias, how is life in Sweden?
Tobias: It’s pretty good I guess. Spring is here and everything feels a little bit better [laughs].
The dark times are over, yes?
Yes, we have released the new album, which of course enhanced that good feeling. We have some nice shows planned so there is a lot of fun things we’re looking forward to.
Fantastic! Yes, your second album, Wherever They May Rot has been released on Metal Blade Records just a couple of weeks ago. What are your feelings about the album, did you have any goal you wanted to achieve with it?
Well, goals are of course to win more fans and to make people aware of Cut Up and what we are about. Hopefully, they like the new album and they will check our previous record, Forensic Nightmares released in 2015, which also is a great album I must say. Also, I hope it will get us better opportunities to play live and we can already see that now. I hope it will continue like that because that’s what we want to do, that’s the ultimate thing for us to play live. At least that’s what I think. During the whole process of writing the new album you start with nothing, then you start writing a few songs and then more songs, more lyrics. You build everything up and you start working on ideas for artwork and so on. I mean, it’s quite a long process. You’re finally ready to go to the studio to record everything. And there is another waiting process until the album is finally out. When it’s out, you get the response and feedback from fans and metal media and so on. After that you’re finally able to go out on stage and play those songs live and meet the audience and see people’s reactions. You headbang together with the crowd and that’s the ultimate payment for writing, recording and releasing the album.
You’re quite a new band, well, new in terms of the fact that it’s only your second album. What was the response from the media and fans after releasing the first one – Forensic Nightmares? Did it go as planned for you?
Yeah, I think so. We didn’t really expect such a good response. Of course, we knew that we had made a really good album but you never know what the response is going to be. As you said, Cut Up is a new band although the members come from various bands, and we didn’t know what to expect. Once the debut album was released, the reviews were absolutely amazing. We were quite overwhelmed with how well it was received. Great reviews everywhere, a lot of high scores in magazines and websites and so on. Also, old fans of Vomitory really appreciated it too. On the other hand, we thought that we would be able to play a lot more live that we actually did. There are a few factors involved in this. One is that the timing of the release was not the best. It was released in the middle of the summer in 2015 and it means we miss all the summer festivals. But we knew that quite well ahead of time. We chose to either postpone the release until the fall or stick with our plan that we had. We wanted to get the album out and introduce the death metal world to this new band.
Cut Up’s first album, Forensic Nightmares, Metal Blade Records 2015
Cut Up was formed shortly after you decided to put Vomitory to sleep. Was your debut material, Forensic Nightmares, written especially for Cut Up or was it ready when Vomitory was still alive?
Almost everything was recorder exclusively for Cut Up. But the opening track, Enter Hell, is actually the last song I wrote for Vomitory. We decided to use it for Cut Up instead. For me personally, it’s a nice sensation that it’s the first song of the new band.
It is a nice touch, definitely…
Yeah, it’s the nice touch. But everything else was written only for Cut Up. Actually, no… another song, Burial Time! That song was also written before we started the band. That was Andreas’ first contribution to Cut Up. We had that song written a year before or so and it worked great!
For me, both albums have got brutality and intensity that equals to Vomitory stuff. It almost feels like Vomitory never split up really. Wherever They May Rot is released by Metal Blade Records. Could you comment on your relationship with the label? Are you planning to stay with them in the future?
We have no plans to split with them. Or we have absolutely no reason to split with them. Me and Erik, we go way back with Metal Blade. It’s been 17 years together with them. Vomitory signed to Metal Blade in 2000. Or I think it was December 1999 actually. So we have worked with them for many years and we always had a very good relationship with them, they’re doing the great job! It’s a very friendly and relaxed kind of relationship. They’re total pros of course, so it’s always good to have them to back you up. So we’re very happy we ended up on Metal Blade with Cut Up, because that was not written in stone. We sent our material to a few other labels as well, just to see what the interest was for Cut Up. But, of course, Metal Blade were very interested in hearing what me and Erik were up to with this new band. They were very much into it and they were the first ones to offer us a very good deal. So there was nothing to think about [laughs], we just wanted to go with them.
Who is actually responsible for writing all the music on the new record, is it the effort of one person or is it collective work of all the band members?
Everyone is contributing to some extent but, on this new album, the main composer is Andreas Björnson, the guitarist and vocalist. He wrote, I think, eight songs out of eleven. Me, Anders and Erik have written one each. Erik is also the main lyrics writer but Andreas and Anders have done some lyrics as well. We almost never write music together but everyone writes themselves. In the end, if anyone has got any suggestions, we always try it out together. If something needs to be changed or improved in any way we also do it together. It’s very democratic, even though it’s one composer of a song.
It’s great that everyone has got something to say! Do you meet up a lot to jam together in the rehearsal place?
We try to do it regularly but for the last few months it’s been more sporadic, mostly because quite a lot of interviews and the paper stuff that needed to be done with the new album. And also, the last month one of us has been sick so we haven’t been able to get together. But we try to keep getting together on a regular basis, it’s an important part of being an active band. Not only to practice the songs but also to hang out and have a good time together.
So when you meet, do you act as ‘older‘ people and are normally serious or you like to go crazy, you know, get drunk and mess about?
Getting drunk? Is there any other way? [both laugh] I mean, of course, we take the band very seriously but being in the band and having fun includes getting drunk together! That’s important too, that’s part of the chemistry thing.
photo: Cut Up in the studio, source: band’s Facebook page
Both of your albums were recorded in Big Balls Productions Studio in Sweden. Any particular reason you chose this studio for the second time?
First of all, it’s very convenient for us. It’s located in the area where most of us live. Also, it’s definitely worth its price and the guys owning the studio are great to work with, we never had any problems. Always positive energy and spirits with those guys. It’s always a very laid back situation working in that studio.
The lyrical concept of Wherever They May Rot is based on murder, death, gore – the typical things for a death metal band. Do you have any hidden messages behind the lyrics and the artwork?
No. It’s exactly what you read! [both laugh]
So you don’t get involved in politics or anything like that?
No, I don’t think you should mix politics with music at all. Having said that, I actually like some political bands, there are a few exceptions. But generally, I’m not a huge fan of mixing politics with music.
So where does the inspiration for the concept come from?
The lyrics are mostly written by Erik, but there are some contributions from Andreas. I know that Erik watches a lot of movies and reads books and has got a very wide imagination [laughs] and sick sense of humour. That’s necessary too to be able to write this kind of lyrics. Black sense of humour, you know what I mean? I think he’s doing a pretty good job with that. Erik’s lyrics are almost always fictional, just about something that he makes up. Andreas’ lyrics, as he said himself, always come from something that has happened in the real world. Something he’s seen on the news or experienced himself but with some extreme twist to it.
With regards to the cover arts, is it the same artist on both albums? What are you trying to represent with them?
Yeah, it’s the same guy who did both album covers, it’s a Polish guy, Łukasz Jaszak. The first cover art, Forensic Nightmares, was really colourful. This time we wanted something less colourful and I think he did a great job with that. We wanted something darker that felt gloomier, eerier, death, rotten… I don’t know… When we decided that the album title would be Wherever They May Rot, we got the same image in our heads that it should some kind of swamp. We told Łukasz about it and he came up with this idea of floating bodies and skulls. He captured it really well! On the cover of Forensic Nightmares, there was this central figure. This time we wanted something that fills the whole cover area so to speak, more like an environment rather than one thing that was in focus. It has a more old school feeling that looks modern. This compliments Cut Up’s music really well, because that’s how I experience Cut Up’s sound. One foot in the old school but we definitely sound like a contemporary band.
Cut Up Wherever They May Rot
(out now on Metal Blade Records)
Who actually came up with the name – Cut Up?
That would be me, I think [both laugh].
Why Cut Up?
It wasn’t easy because we had a lot of names on the list to choose from. We wanted a short name that would be easy to remember. And it shouldn’t be a typical name like ‘blahblahblahblahGORY‘ [both laugh] or something that isn’t English either. We wanted something memorable that was kind of scraping your face to tell the listener what it is all about. I got the idea from the song by The Ravenous, Chris Reifert and those guys, Dan Lilker who did this project many years ago. They had a song Dead, Cut Up and Ready to Fuck [both laugh]. That’s where I got the name from. It sounds cool and it’s a bit different, a bit odd comparing to traditional death metal band names. Also, we didn’t want the name that you could instantly relate to another band. Of course now you know where I got the name from but it’s an obvious thing. I mean, if we would have called the band, let’s say, Mentally Murdered or whatever, then everybody would be like: ‘yeah, Napalm Death!’. So that’s why we chose Cut Up.
Great, yeah, as you said, it’s easy to remember but it’s very different. When you look at the name you know it’s going to be death metal, but you’re not sure what type of death metal. Last month at Netherlands Deathfest you played for the first time with Nifelheim live. How was it? The music is stylistically different to what you used to play, did you enjoy it?
Yeah, I loved it! It was great! Yeah, that was the first time but it was Hellbutcher actually who called me twice before in the last few years and asked me to jump in temporarily to the band to help them out. But the timing was never right. This time I had more time to learn the songs and I knew that the show at Netherlands Deathfest was going to be great. It’s a great festival! I played with Nifelheim that show on Saturday and they asked me if I wanted to play the other shows with them. I said ‘yeah, let’s do it!‘, so I’m going to do six more shows with them.
photo: Tobias live with Nifelheim at Netherlands Deathfest, March 2017, by Dawid Krosnia / The Goat Tavern
So, you’re coming to London to play with them?
That’s right! That’s actually our next show, the 26th of May, we’re playing in The Underworld in Camden.
Have you played there before? It’s a pretty cool venue!
Yeah, I played there a bunch of times with Vomitory. It’s really nice!
Was it the first time when you had to wear make-up on stage?
Yeah… NO, it wasn’t!!! [both laugh]. I’ve done it before with one of my old bands called God Among Insects. You know Emperor Magus Caligula from Dark Funeral? He was the singer in that band and he has a sweet spot for zombies. He wanted to look like a zombie on stage. He buried his stage clothes in the backyard and dug them up when we were going to play live. He had fun with make-up, not only on himself but also the rest of the guys. I think it was only one or two shows where I used make-up and it was fun. He did some nasty scars and wounds on my face [both laugh]. So those were the first times but with Nifelheim it was the first time I had something that looked more black metal-ish.
I guess your promotional circle with Cut Up is about to kick off shortly, do you have any tours already planned to support the new album?
No tours actually. But we have a bunch of shows and we are constantly looking for more. We’re playing in Finland, Belgium, Holland, Germany and a few more places this year.
Are you interested to play tours?
Yeah, we are but at the moment it’s going to be hard for us to make that work. At least long tours… Shorter tours, one or two weeks shouldn’t be a problem I think.
Is there any chance that Vomitory will reunite and record a new album?
I don’t think so. But I learned that you should never say never. I’m not saying no, because stranger things have happened. But I don’t think so…
Look at Black Sabbath, they’re always playing the last tour and they’re back [both laugh]…
Yeah, we will see…
Who did inspire you to play drums? Who was your inspiration as a child?
I don’t know where the drum thing comes from because I’ve always been attracted to drums. I remember when I was a kid, watching family shows on TV, I always looked at the drummer. I was fascinated with the drums. I borrowed my mother’s knitting sticks and played with them on everything that I saw. And finally, when I was 13 years old, I was able to buy my first drum kit.
What was the first record you purchased?
I do remember my first hard rock or metal album. That was Creatures of the Night by KISS. But I got it as a Christmas gift from my brother, Urban, the guitarist for Vomitory.
Okay Tobias, I hope the new record will work out for you and you’re going to manage to play a lot of gigs and we will see you in the UK shortly. Do you have any last words for your UK fans?
Keep supporting Cut Up and please help us spread it by sharing links and everything on social media because that’s apparently how you spread your stuff these days. Look out for videos on YouTube and so on and ask your local promoter to book Cut Up because we definitely want to go up there and play in the UK.