With over 15 years active, Sweden's d-beat practitioners Victims, is one of the most important punk bands in the world. Having maintained a prolific outpouring of material for well over a decade, the long-time three piece, recently added a second guitarist before recording their latest full-length, A Dissident, which drops tomorrow (4/12/11), via Tankcrimes, DeathwishInc, and La Familia Records. A Dissident hits in all the right spots, with tracks that range from punk-rock, gang-vocal-ridden anthems, to aggressive, d-beat masterpieces, and glimpses of old-school metal with blazing solos. It’s only April, and we already have a definite contender for “Album of The Year.” Blow The Scene Editor, Joshua T. Cohen, caught up with Victims‘ members Johan and Jon, in Sweden, for an exclusive, in-depth interview, with the inside scoop on the making of A Dissident, history of the band, guilty food pleasures, crazy tour stories, and much, much more! Be sure to enjoy brand new track “Victims in Blood pt 6,” streaming at the conclusion of this interview!
Joshua BTS: Salutations! Thank you for taking some time with Blow The Scene today and our readers throughout the World. Let’s begin by having you introduce yourself and declare your onstage weapon of choice with Sweden’s hardcore punk juggernaut, Victims.
Johan: Hey! This is Johan; my weapon of choice is electric bass and screaming vocals.
Jon: Hello! I’m Jon. I destroy the world through my Fender Stratocaster and sing some back ups.
Joshua BTS: Rad! Your new full-length LP, A Dissident, is set to hit streets via Tankcrimes, Deathwish, and La Familia Records on April 12. Three of our all-time favorite labels. How did you come to hook up with this network and how will the release be handled by the separate entities? What brought about the decision to part ways with Havoc Records who has released many of you prior works?
Johan: We are very happy about the album being released on these three really great labels. We have been close friends with Stachel (La Familia releases) for a very long time. I met him the first time in 98′ when I was touring with Disfear (sound & TM). Since that time he has helped out us a lot with shows and stuff. But this is the first time he will release a full-length album with us. The only thing he has released with us before is the split 7” with Kylesa. It all started out with Stachel and me talking about how the next Victims album would be released. He wanted to do it, but we both thought it would be good to have the album released in US by some other labels. Jake [Bannon] at Deathwish released our last album, Killer, on CD and did a great job with it. So we asked him if he wanted to do it this time too, and he said yes. We met Scotty [Heath] (Tankcrimes) when we were touring with Municipal Waste last year in Europe; he was selling their merch. We all thought he was a great guy and he has a really cool label, so we wanted to work with him as well.
Felix Havoc told us before we released Killer that he was going to downsize his record and touring business, and told us to look for a new label to work with. We totally understood. He has been working so hard for the scene for such a long time, and we are just happy to have worked with him. He has helped us out a lot through the years and he’s been like a father figure to the band. He comes out when we play shows in Minneapolis, and it’s always great so see him.
Joshua BTS: We’re calling instant classic status for this new record. It hits in all the right spots. Victims are known for melding Swedish d-beat and crust with straightforward American hardcore, as we see A Dissident reaching a zenith of your creative output. I’d like to focus on a few tracks specifically. Track 04, “Victims in Blood pt6,” and 12, “The Egoist,” use a d-beat foundation that sees subtle and haunting melodies trickle in as leitmotifs throughout, to compliment denser guitar riffs and unrelenting drums and vocal attacks. The overall effect is engaging and energizing. On the other hand, you have tracks 03, “In Control,” and 09, “Broken Bones,” that will surely reach anthem status in no time, with catchy straightforward punk riffin’ and scream-lines that immediately embed themselves in the listener’s internal playback. During the writing process, do you approach the heavily d-beat-influenced tracks in the same manner as the more straightforward punk anthems? Is it a conscious decision to approach the tracks with slightly different punk and hardcore foundations, or do you guys just let the songs happen organically?
Johan: The process of making a Victims song always (almost) starts with Jon having an idea or a couple of riffs that he shows us in the rehearsal space. Then we try it out with some vocals etc. We have never “a plan” about what kind of songs we would like to have on the next album or anything. We just let the songs happen… We’re always aware that we would like to have some “different” types of songs to blend up the material. Some slower songs like “In Control” and some really short and faster songs like “Victims in blood pt6”.
Jon: Thank you so much for the kind words, we worked really hard to get A Dissident together.
To answer part of your question, we DON’T want to make the same record or song twice, BUT we also realize we are limited to d-beat but we try to push the boundaries of the genre.
I think I have a pretty clear idea for a certain song when I get the FIRST riff done. It’s always a tricky game to follow up the first riff but I try millions of combinations before I get the first one done. On the other hand, it happens that a song can take a totally different direction through the rehearsal process. I can go in a bit deeper on the songs you mentioned:
Speaking about “In Control,” I thought about an Another Breath song with a long guitar intro and thought we should try that out, then the song wrote itself basically. We played around the song and re-arranged it, but we always ended up with the original version but we played it faster.
“VIB pt VI” started as my attempt to play/write a song that would sound like Slayer wrote a Victims song and I think it turned out good. The chorus sounds like “Angel of Death” and the solo is a straight rip off of a solo on Reign in Blood (can’t remember the song).
“The Egoist” verse riff was written the same day I found out Ronnie James Dio died. I played around with a riff from the Dio song, “We Rock.” The rest of the song really wrote itself.
“Broken Bones:” This was Gareth’s song.
Johan: Most of the lyrics are about being yourself and not letting people change you. They’re also about not giving up those things that you feel are really important to fight for. I would not say that they are that “heavily” political, more personal than political I feel.
Joshua BTS: With so much of the lyrical context focused on politics, I am interested to know if there are any organizations or movements that you yourself align with, or if there are some general activists you feel more people should be paying attention to?
Johan: We are not activists and we don’t support any special organizations. People should pay attention to everything that’s happening around them and in the world.
Joshua BTS: What was it like working with Nico Elgstrand of Entombed? (Who produced A Dissident)
Johan: After working with Mieszko Talarzyk (ex Nasum, R.I.P.) for the 3 first records, we have been looking for a new producer that really understands us and our music. Now we have found him. Nico has a special touch and is a great help in the studio. And we would love to work with him again. He helped me out a lot with the vocals and did a fantastic job with the mixing side of things too.
Jon: Yes he’s just fantastic, one of God’s prototypes. He knows exactly what he’s doing all the time. He spent so many hours finding the sound and finally mixing the record. I’d recommend him to anyone. He produced a fantastic record by Grand Magus too called Hammer of the North.
Joshua BTS: One for the gear heads: The sound of A Dissident is full and rich with not only crushing distortion and meaty vocals, but enjoys layers upon layers of subtle melodies and even slight suggestions of melody are introduced throughout even the most crushing tracks. Any special pieces of equipment, whether it be cabs, heads, mics, drums etc., that you feel played a pivotal part in making this new record? One of the most striking aspects of the record is how authentic the sound is, but also the clarity and depth is outstanding. Share with us a few recording secrets if you would.
Johan: Hehe..I like this.. Andy used his own drums, a classic set of Mapex, they sound good. And Marcus Andersson (Disfear) helped us tune them. 2 mics on the kick, one Beta 92 and one Beta 57. Two SM57’s on the snare. A Shure PG mic on the rack tom and a 57 on the floor tom. Two AKG 414’s as overheads and a Shure SM7 in front of the whole kit.
Orange, Ampeg and Marshall JMP amps for guitars, through a Marshall and an Orange cab. A 421 and a 609 and a Beta 57 where used to mic up the guitars.
An Orange amp and an Orange cab for the bass, D.I. [direct input] and a Sennheiser 609.
Fender and Gibson guitars, Fender Jazzbass, a Sitar…
A Röde mic was used for vocals.
There are no secrets behind it, just our ears, Linus and Nico. The album was mastered by Magnus Lindberg (Cult of Luna drummer) and he did a lot with the sound as well.
Jon: Personally, I actually recorded all my tracks on the amps and distortion pedals I use in the rehearsal room:
Heads: Ampeg V4B, Fender Dual Showman reverb.
Pedals: Boss HM2 (Heavy Metal) for distortion, Boss delay (maybe a DDII) used on a few leads and can be heard clearly on “In control” when Johan messes around with it. A Moreley wah pedal, used on a few leads.
I actually used a Ibanez RG to record all rhythm guitars. It kept in tune better than anything I’ve ever played.
For anyone (probably no one ) I use Zakk Wyldes signature strings: 10, 13, 19, 46, 52, 60.
Joshua BTS: Wow. Thanks for the detailed run-through of equip! Many a Victims fan will enjoy this! Do you see any difference in how your European fans interpret the politically-themed lyrics as opposed to their American counterparts?
Johan: No, not really. I guess the “euros” maybe understand us better from a political point of view…But I don’t think our lyrics are that hard to understand either.
Joshua BTS: True. What do you guys have lined up for tours this year? Any bands or cities you are dying to hook up with?
Johan: We’ll tour Europe during the summer, some longer weekend trips in Germany, Czech Republic and Benelux. Fluff festival, Ieper Fest and hopefully some others. And then we’re touring the East Coast (US) in August and doing two festivals, Best Friends Day and This Is Hardcore Fest.
I love Seattle and New York, I would really want to spend some time there. They’re usually great shows there too. Favorite bands to tour with are Kylesa and Municipal Waste. There are so many bands that we would love to tour with in the future though, so hard to name just a few…
Joshua BTS: The artwork for A Dissident is spectacular. Can you share with us the ideas behind the artwork and artist responsible?
Johan: I think the artwork turned out great! Richey Becket (Richeybeckett.com) did a really great job with it. He is a fantastic artist and his detail work is amazing. We had an idea about the album cover and he really understood us and made it the way we wanted it to be. Usually it’s Andy (drummer) who takes care of all artwork and designs, and he does really great work too. But lately we have started working with some other designers as well. Ryan Patterson (Coliseum) did the artwork for the KILLER album and also some t-shirts designs.
Joshua BTS: It would appear that after 14+ years of pumping out legendary releases and countless regional, national, and international tours, Victims are still reaching new heights. You are admired and talked about by some of the most important bands of our time, including Kylesa, Municipal Waste, Entombed, and scores of others. When you started out in 1997, did you expect that in 2011 you’d be praised so highly by the very bands and musicians who are now paving the way right alongside of you?
Johan: Haha…I don’t know… We started out in 97′ with just an idea of playing some d-beat again. Marcus and I were playing some d-beat earlier in another band, called DISPENSE, which was traditional d-beat. We had two releases, a 7” on No Records called Nothing but the Truth (92′) and a mini-cd on the label Really Fast Records called In the Cold Night (94′). At that time we didn’t think much about it, we just had a good time doing it. But as soon as we started getting shows and offers to release records we kind of took it for real. These days we are so happy to be a part of the scene in the way we are and the fact that we’re friends with some of our favorite bands is great. No, I don’t think we did expect to be were we are today in 97′..
Joshua BTS: What do your daily lives look like Sweden? Have you hung up the day jobs, or is it back to the nine-to-five when you get home from tour?
Johan: We all have day jobs. Andy works at a printer shop and Jon is working at a clothing store and sending out long leather jackets to goth-kids and band t-shirts and stuff. Gareth works at the best bar in Stockholm as a bartender/bar manager. I’m working as a sound engineer, and I’m in charge of all the technical stuff for two rock clubs here in Stockholm!
Favorite cartoon TV show from the 80s?
Joshua BTS:Joshua BTS: Me too! Haha.
Joshua BTS: Best Video game consul and game ever made?
Johan: Nintendo 64 and the game Mario Kart.
Jon: Zelda on NES or Mario Kart (the first one)
Joshua BTS: Solid picks! Guiltiest/most-unhealthy food pleasure of yours in Sweden?
Johan: Tunnbrödsrulle! You have to try it when come here. It’s mashed potatoes in a thin bread roll, kind of like pita-bread. And a sausage (veggie for me), cucumber-mayonnaise and salad.
Jon: I put extra cheese and salt on everything, drink too much coffee and beer. My middle name is “Unhealthy” I guess…
Joshua BTS: Hahaha. Guiltiest music pleasure of the 90s? Any Ace of Base singles collecting dust in the closet? 😉
Johan: Hehe..no Ace of Base. I’m a big fan of Tom Petty, his records from the 90s are awesome!
Jon: Manowar’s two records from the 90s are fucking awesome, that opinion is forbidden among some people. I also think some records from the so called skate punk scene stood the test of time…
Joshua BTS: For those few and proud that haven’t given up the written word for youtube and vimeo; what are some current books or writings that have made their way to your mind’s eye? Any suggestions for your fans and friends?
Johan: I’m not a big reader, I do like Hunter S. Thompson and books about bands and football players.
Jon: I’ve been reading Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand since august last year. It’s been messing with my mind. Really. Suggestions: READ, READ, READ.
Joshua BTS: We love to hear about odd-touring habits and crazy tour stories! Who amongst you has the oddest road habits? Whether its ice-T bottle collections of urine or skitchin’ on the back bumper, we want to hear about it!
Johan: The craziest tour story we have is the one when we were doing our first US-tour, 2004 I think it was. After the second show Jon decided to do some wrestling in a backyard in Allentown, with a girl, a good friend of his… They fell and she landed on his ankle and crushed it! We had to go to the hospital; Jon stayed for 2 days and got screws and metal plates in his foot. We canceled one show in Washington DC and played two shows without him, one in NYC where Baroness opened up for us…and one in Richmond at a roller-skate arena that Tony (Municipal Waste) organized. After that, we continued the tour with Jon in a wheelchair and Jon’s foot in a big cast… He sat on a bar stool and played all the shows, rocking out as usual.
At the end of the tour, in Pittsburgh, Jon got some allergic reactions from the medicine he was taking after the “accident,” and his lips swelled up (like a really bad botox-injection..). There were three in the band laughing and one who didn’t think it was funny at all.
Andy has a big habit, lip balm. And every time we tour the US we all have a habit of buying shoes, we never buy shoes at home, we only buy them in the US, because of the price of course.
Joshua BTS: Hahaha. That’s ridiculously awesome. For fans looking for more info on Victims; what’s the best place for fans to stay up-to-date with your current happenings?
Johan: Well, these days it’s hard to know where bands put there updates frequently. I guess where you can get as much information as possible about us (weekly) is at Facebook. And also here: Victimsinblood.com , Myspace.com/victims.
Joshua BTS: Thank you again for taking time with Blow The Scene today! We look forward to keeping up with your future endeavors. Any final thoughts or shout-outs?
Johan: Thank you Joshua for this interview. Check us out on tour this year. And get a copy of our new album A Dissident from Tankcrimes, Deathwish or La Famalia Releases.
Jon: Thank you for taking your time. See you on the road.
CLICK ICON TO STREAM NEW VICTIMS SONG “VICTIMS IN BLOOD pt6”
Victims – Victims in Blood pt 6 Victims – “Victims in Blood pt 6”
Purchase A Dissident LP at Tankcrimes
VICTIMS Live At OEF 2010
[youtube width=”425″ height=”349″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5NsoKPC7mr0[/youtube]