Wednesday 5 April 2017

An Interview with Mattias Reinholdsson from DEAD KOSMONAUT

This Swedish rock band appeared literally from nowhere with full-length album “Expect Nothing”, and it turned to be an excellent example of old-fashioned doomy rock with different influences of few more rock genres. To my surprise I’ve discovered that it’s not just a collection of cool tunes with good hard rocking: they have Per "Hellbutcher" Gustavsson on vocals!

Can you believe that vocalist of such acts like Necrocurse and Nifelheim has impressive rock vocals? He has, believe me! And believe me or not, but one of the songs was recorded with the help of Johan Langqvist himself, the man who sang for Candlemass legendary debut “Epicus Doomicus Metallicus”.

Yet overall Dead Kosmonaut is an highly professional and artistic band, we had a conversation with its founder Mattias.

Hi Mattias! How are you? What's going on in the sonic space of Dead Kosmonaut?

It's going well, thank you. Last weekend we had our first ever band rehearsal. For me it was a thrill to for the first time actually hear songs performed as a band for the first time ever!

You have your debut full-length on hand, and the spring is time of rock festivals. Did you manage to catch the train and get into some loud fest to spread the word of Dead Kosmonaut?

We have not really tried, to be honest. We will play at Muskelrock here in Sweden on 3rd of June this summer.

Dead Kosmonaut - Henrik Johansson, Jonas Hansson, Fredrik Folkare and Mattias Reinholdsson 
Photo by Tobias Sandberg

Did I get right that you start the selling of t-shirts with the band’s name translation into Cyrillic. What is the connection for the band with Mother Russia?

No particular apart from the name. I thought it would be a fun thing to do to have the name of the band translated and put on a t-shirt. Drummer Henrik Johansson knows a little bit of Russian so he helped me out with that. I can confess I have a slight fascination for things Soviet. From an esthetic point of view I really like old propaganda posters from the very early communistic days. I am not a nerd in any way, but hand on heart, was not the Soviet space programme way cooler than the American? The bands name was Astrakaan from the beginning, for Swedes that is more known as a sort of apple, but its also (with a slightly different spelling) a part of Russia.

Expect Nothing” is a remarkably professional album, it's very interesting to listen, it's damned good in every detail and in every layer. How did you work over this material?

Since its recorded over more than a decade, under very basic circumstances, I have really tried to focus on the sounds to make it coherent. I have worked with really good musicians to be able to live up to the high standards of albums I have enjoyed from the past. Thinking of albums like Black Sabbaths Mob Rules or Iron Maidens Piece of Mind. Both produced by the great Martin Birch by the way. But it has to be said that without the aid of Fredrik Folkare, co-producing and mixing it, it would have been less professional. I got nothing but praise for that man!

Do you really mean that the album was done almost 10 years ago?

The oldest recordings was done almost eleven years ago. Songs Grey Hole, Time is the Wound and Craving Mad has drums recorded back then. Plus some guitars and bass. But Pelle's vocals were recorded last autumn and Johan's about a year and a half ago from now. The other songs have been recorded in-between. I think the very last recording made for the album was my bass track for Concrete Sky made just prior to the mix. The file was flawed and had to be redone.

Dead Kosmonaut – Craving Mad

Did you work with producer or was “Expect Nothing” a DIY album in that sense?

I produced myself. I gave Fredrik Folkare a co-produced credit cause he has come up with so many ideas while we have been working so I thought it was fair to do that. Credit where credits due.

Mattias, one of the first questions which came to my head is about the vocalist, how did you manage to lure Johan Langqvist in the band?

Me and two friends made a Candlemass fanzine called Candlemass Chronicles. We did an interview with him. So since I had managed to find his phone number I simply asked him if he would like to sing a song for me. Much to my surprise he said yes!

But he sang only one song “Grey Hole”, right? As others songs were done by Pelle Gustafsson… How do you plan to organize gigs for Dead Kosmonaut then? Only with Pelle?

Pelle is the lead singer for Dead Kosmonaut. Johan was only ever intended as a guest singer. So Pelle will sing Johan's part live of course.

Songs' lyrics are dark and somber, just as Rock Cult demands. What kind of particular lyrical themes you prefer to pick up for your songs?

Things I think about. More than a few are self lived experiences. Although I describe them from a perhaps more sinister angle. Concrete Sky is my observation on how people tend to not want to be free, finding comfort in the limitations of religion. House of lead is a series of questions and observations of a imprisoned person. And of course every proper metal band has to have a song about ancient Egypt, hence Amduat.

Dead Kosmonaut - Johan Langqvist, Pelle Gustafsson and Mattias Reinholdsson 
Photo by Soile Siirtola

And speaking about professional approach, may I ask about musical background of Dead Kosmonaut crew?

Me and Henrik Johansson have been playing together for a number of years. We had a band called Book of Hours, in which Per Broddesson (ex-Griftergård, ex-Year of the Goat, ex-Wolverine) also played. Me and Henrik also did a Maiden tribute called Food for Thought, released in 2005. Fredrik Folkare is a death metal superstar, if there is something like that. He now plays in Unleashed and Firespawn beside working as a producer and mixer with his Chrome Studios. John Shamus Gaffney from Sinister Realm plays the up-right bass on House of Lead. Pelle Gustafsson is also known in the metal community as Hellbutcher in Nifelheim. The lesser known musicians, drummer Fredrich Rönnholm, guitar players Jonas Hansson and Pär Fransson, all friends, have made crucial contributions too.

Jonas and me have a dynamic duo in Onda Radio. Not metal, but other sorts of rock music. Concrete Sky started out as a Onda Radio song by the way. Me and Fredrik added a lot of guitars for that one, but the drums are the same that I recorded for Onda Radio as well as Jonas tape echo guitars. A bit of trivia for you.

Pelle is Hellbutcher?! I was really wondering if it’s him! Hah… how did you persuade him to sing this way?

I just asked him. I heard him sing Mercy songs live for a tribute concert (easily found on Youtube) and knew he was the voice I was looking for. I think he was a bit unsure to start off with, as he had not done vocals like this properly before. But he did as good as I “heard it in my head”. I was a little unsure whether he would fancy a song like House of Lead, but it was the first song he wanted to record!

Mattias, you have such an amazing lineup and I see that the band is very shy in promotion. Do you push the band forward only by yourself? Or do you have some labels, distros or promoter behind Dead Kosmonaut?

Its very much a DIY operation so far. TPL records, is a small label run by a friend of mine. They put up the money to print records. The recordings and everything around that have been paid by me. The worldwide digital distro are done by Playground Music Scandinavia. Playground have helped out a bit with promo for Sweden but the rest is conducted by me. I hope that the word will spread within the metal community. So for now I am fine with this. I don’t t expected any career from Dead Kosmonaut. I have done this cause I love this sort of music and had to do it.

There are both old school rocking vibe in your songs and cleaner modern sound, how did you know where to stop? Was it difficult to keep the balance?

I really tried to achieve the sort of balance that could be found on albums from the later part of the seventies. Heavy rock bands had “ballads”, acoustic songs, long heavy songs, blusier stuff and short rockin songs. I was aiming for what Judas Priest did on Sad wings of destiny and Sin after Sin. Or Black Sabbath did with Dio. I am interested in that era before things turned “heavy metal” or other genres.

If we talk about the sounds on the record I tried to steer away from the retro sounds that seems to be so popular these days. But I also did not want that contemporary super compressed sound that “modern” metal bands have. I really don't like compression overused. Me and Fredrik talked a great deal on how to mix. I wanted the early eighties sound of Martin Birch and he did his best with the crude recordings I gave him.

Short answer: No I did not find it difficult style wise as I did not put that many restrictions on what to do or not.

Dead Kosmonaut – Grey Hole

How do you value the result of your efforts on “Expect Nothing”? What about your ambitions?

It turned out better than what I hoped for. There is just a few, very minor things I would like to change. I feared for a long time that I would have to do the vocals myself. So to find out that Pelle, whom I have know for almost 20 years, could sing like this. I was more than happy. For this album I deliberately choose songs of a slower, “doomier” character. For the next one there will be more up beat songs as well as some “proggier” (for the lack of a better word for it) and really heavy songs.

It’s interesting that you used description “doomier”, didn’t you intend to compose old school doom rock album in vein of Sabbaths? The genre is demanded nowadays,

I have drawn a fair bit of inspiration from Candlemass. But to me Doom metal is a dogmatic genre. I don’t want everything to be slow and heavy. Uriah Heep had super slow and heavy songs like Rainbow Demon – but they were not a doom band. Black Sabbath was a very heavy band but hardly a doom metal band. Candlemass is actually a good example. They are considered a Doom band but they have plenty of up tempo tracks. It’s very important with dynamics. Like I said I want to make metal as it was before the genres was “invented”.

What are your plans for 2017? Do you set a goal to record stuff regularly?

Plans for this year is to maybe release a single. There are songs that did not end up on this album, more or less done. Maybe we can do some more gigs, if Fredrik's and Pelle's schedules allow it. Both are pretty busy with their regular bands.

I record on and of all the time. Working on songs and recording them. The next album is well on its way. I recently played some of the guys my demos and got thumbs up.

Words by Aleks Evdokimov and Mattias Reinholdsson