As with so many of the cool opportunities contributing to Ave Noctum has afforded me, interviewing a former Vomitory member is something my younger self could never have envisaged. Asking man mountain Ulf Dalegren to sign my CD back in 2000 seemed daunting enough at the time. Admittedly I’m now uglier, balder and less inclined to be awestruck but still, imagine how extremely cool it was to receive the detailed and courteous responses which follow from another of that band’s founding fathers. Regarding his brand new implement of death metal torture, drummer Tobias Gustafsson talks us through how Cut Up was formed and what playing in a new band feels like after twenty-four years dedicated to an institution of the genre.
AN: First off, congratulations on ‘Forensic Nightmares’, which is one hell of a crushing debut! How have reactions been to it?
TG: Thank you very much! The reactions have been nothing but amazing. We knew we had done a very good debut album, but this has exceeded our expectations by far! We are of course very happy for this.
AN: Although it is very much an album to be taken in as a whole brutal experience, are there any tracks from ‘Forensic Nightmares’ of which you are particularly proud? And what was the first composition the band wrote, out of curiosity?
TG: I think it’s a damn solid album, so I love all the songs almost equally much. But to me “A Butchery Improved”, “Order of the Chainsaw” and “Dead and Impaled” are true highlights of the album. Our first song was the album opener “Enter Hell”. It’s actually the last song I wrote for Vomitory, but obviously we never used it. So when we got together with Cut Up, we tried this one and it felt great, and Erik wrote the lyrics to it.
AN: Once Vomitory had disbanded, how long did it take for the seeds of Cut Up to take hold? And was it simply impossible for you to not play death metal?
TG: Me and Erik began planning on our new band in February 2014, i.e. two months after the Vomitory split. But we had already talked about it a little before the end of Vomitory. The first real rehearsal as a 4-piece, and to be considered as the start of the band, was in early April 2014. We knew that we wanted to continue playing death metal together, no question about it. But personally, I can definitely imagine playing something else than that. I’m raised on classic hard rock and heavy metal, so there is always an urge to play that stuff too. But for Cut Up it was death metal to 100%.
AN: For me, ‘Forensic Nightmares’ displays more dynamic shifts than I can recall hearing in Vomitory. Would you agree with this assessment, and in what ways do you think the two bands differ?
TG: I agree. That’s something that I wished for, to get more dynamics and diversity in Cut Up compared to Vomitory. And I think we succeeded with that on “Forensic Nightmares”. Cut Up has two lead vocalists, which is a major difference to Vomitory. It’s nothing unique per se, it has been done in lots of bands before, but not so much in our style of death metal. And for us in the band, dual lead vocalists is something completely new. None of us have worked with that before, so it’s an exciting and fun challenge. Also, Cut Up tunes the guitars/bass lower than Vomitory did, which gives us an even heavier and more brutal sound. So far in Cut Up, it’s a collective effort when it comes to writing and composing, which was not the case in Vomitory. And I think that shows in the result too. More dynamics and diversity and a different kind of intensity. Cut Up sounds more “fresh” in some way.
TG: It was almost too easy, haha. The first obvious choice was Anders Bertilsson. We knew him since before from his previous bands, mutual friends etc. He’s a down to earth, great guy and one helluva guitarist. He had also stepped in as a live guitarist in Vomitory a number of times during the last couple of years, when needed. So we knew that he worked great in a band situation too, so asking Anders was a no-brainer. His answer was the same haha. Then we also needed a vocalist/guitarist to complete the band. The first and only one I came to think of was Björte (Andreas Björnson). I knew him a little since before and me and Erik had seen him performing a few times with his other band Fetus Stench, so we knew he had the qualities we were looking for. After the first rehearsal together we knew the band was complete! Both Anders and Björte are great assets for the band. Björte actually wrote the majority of the music on the album, 7 out of the total 11. Anders and I wrote two each. Björte is a killer vocalist, a rock solid guitarist and a riff machine. Anders is an excellent lead guitarist and he writes songs with a certain intensity that I love. Cut Up wouldn’t have sounded the way we do if they weren’t in the band. And both are great guys to hang around too of course.
AN: Out of interest, can you tell us what your former Vomitory band mates, Urban Gustafsson and Peter Östlund, are up to now? Are they still involved in the death metal grind?
TG: Peter is jamming death metal with some other guys. I don’t think it’s so serious, but more about having a good time and hang out every once in a while. But at least he’s staying active. Peter is a killer guitarist. Urban is not active in any band and hasn’t been since Vomitory. But he still has his gear and plays at home.
AN: After so many years dedicated to the same band, how did it feel forming a new one? Was it, for instance, daunting or rather a case of feeling liberated?
TG: It felt quite liberating, to be honest. And VERY exciting! It was only positive emotions involved: the excitement to start something new, the anticipation and all that. It’s a great feeling and brings me back to the early days of death metal in a way.
AN: I see that Cut Up, like Vomitory, is signed to Metal Blade. How did this relationship come about, and how has the promotion side of ‘Forensic Nightmares’ gone so far?
TG: We are really happy that we landed a deal with Metal Blade Records. Considering the long Vomitory/Metal Blade collaboration, they were of course curious about what Erik and I were up to with our new band. But ending up with Metal Blade wasn’t something we took for granted. We sent our material to a few other labels too, to see if they were interested and what they could offer us. Metal Blade loved our stuff and offered us a very good deal, and since me and Erik only had positive experiences with them in the past, we went with them. The promotion side so far has gone very good: lots of advertisements in magazines, lots of KILLER reviews, doing lots of interviews, so yeah it’s very good. The only thing missing so far is playing live to promote the album. But we are working on that too.
AN: From what I understand, you recently played your debut live gig with Nifelheim. How did this go, and are there plans for any more gigs/tours in the immediate future?
TG: That’s right. It was nothing but a great success! It was an amazing night. We couldn’t have wished for a better crowd, sound, party etc. Puteraeon and Nifelheim both put up killer shows. At the moment we have no new shows confirmed, but we get a lot of requests, so I hope we can announce some new shows very soon.
AN: Could you now tell us something about the art work for ‘Forensic Nightmares’? Who designed this grisly scene, and how pleased are you with it in terms of how it portrays Cut Up?
TG: The album artwork is done by the polish artist/photographer Lukasz Jaszak, after a concept that Erik came up with. We think he did a fantastic job and it portrays Cut Up perfectly. It’s a total old-school concept but it has a modern touch from the artist. Lukasz also did the artwork for the last Vomitory album, Opus Mortis VIII, so we knew that he is a great guy to work with. And he works fast and always delivers on time!
AN: One of my favourite albums of all time is Vomitory’s ‘Redemption’ (not least due to its God Macabre cover, coming out at a time before the internet allowed immediate access to all of death metal history). Which Vomitory album do you view as the band’s greatest, and why?
TG: Cool to hear! It’s very hard to pick only one album, because I love them all for different reasons. It’s like picking your favorite child, which of course is impossible. I don’t think we ever did one single weak album. But in my opinion “Blood Rapture” and “Carnage Euphoria” are the strongest ones. Both albums have all killer songs and killer productions. With “Blood Rapture” a lot of good things started to happen with the band, we got some great tours and festivals, album sales increased etc. “Carnage Euphoria” marked our 20th anniversary as a band, so that release is special to me in that sense.
AN: Looking forward to the future, do you envisage Cut Up as another potential twenty-four year beast?
TG: Haha. Well to be honest, no. But you never know! You should never say ‘never’. I do see that the band will last long though. We are thinking long-term with Cut Up.
TG: As long as the scene is alive and kicking – which I think it is – there will always be bands that stretch the limits and move the genre forwards. Even though Behemoth is not a new band, I think they are a perfect example of that.
AN: Cheers for taking the time to do this interview and good luck with cutting up the world!
TG: Thank you very much for the interview. And yeah, we will cut this motherfucker up!!