Insision - Roger Johansson
25/11/11 || The Duff
Insision hail from Sweden, play American death metal, fucking dominate. They’re scarcely known due to some shitty label management. Interviewing them is something of a dream for me seeing as they rank up there with my faves both old school and more recent. Guitarist Roger thankfully gave us some time despite Kampfar’s disappearance and his interview with the band subsequently falling to the water – I caught up with the band’s lead guitar-player on Insision’s recently released E.P. “End of All”, the forthcoming album and still had time to tongue away at Roger’s balls through everything else. If you don’t know this band by now, start with my journo piece testiculados then buy all of its albums because they’re taking the Cannibal Corpse/Morbid Angel throne, AND YET NOBODY KNOWS OF THEM!
Global Domination: Tell us how things are going with Insision. You started out a band recognised as one of the leading outfits of new generation death metal, yet seem to have faded into obscurity. I can hardly find any reviews of your latest full-length album “Ikon”. Do you find you’re quite criminally underrated, or did you choose to sit back some and just keep doing it for the fun, not stress about the press?
Roger Johansson: Back In the beginning, we wanted to play the things we listened to at the time but still do something different with it.. The aim was to make death metal with a more brutal, complex and faster feeling to it than the other leading acts at the time.. Guess it’s the same today, but u get a broader perspective after a couple of years, and that does not mean we will start delivering boring midtempo melody’s from now on… We prefer complex death metal. As an answer to the question if Insision have chosen to sit back, the answer is both yes and no. I mean, nowadays we have hundreds of bands playing brutal death metal which is great. Bands like Vulnus, Beheaded, Defeated Sanity, Putridity, Severe Torture to mention a few, are all awesome. Insision is still here too. We are wiser nowadays; another word for it could be comfortable and more relaxed in a way…
If we choose to do a gig or tour we want to be as professional as we can and from that, we expect professionalism back from the organizers in hope that they have promoted the gig/tour tour. In the the end everyone will be happy. In most of the situations that’s not really the case these days when it comes to tour and doing gigs. The bottom line is that most of the bands that are up there playing don’t get anything into their pockets… That can be good for the support acts when they’re new and upcoming but in the long run it’s very hard work to do more than 10 years if you don’t get to a point that you can say “-Hey, we need to get something out of this if we’re going to continue as we do year after year, set up some standards because of rents to pay etc. Plus that we won’t be able to create this music with quality when we’re coming home tired and broke from a 30 day tour”.
We want to do this for real. But all in all. If you don’t get any response from organizers and then begin to take every tour and gig for free instead. Gets paid in beer & wine, and sleeping on a wooden floor we won’t be able to create this music in the long run because you get tired of the standards. Instead we can just stay in the rehearsal and create music and record for the rest of our life without even doing a gig because it’s just not worth it for us to play live even if we want to. Therefore, people easily could think that we just sit back and not do anything…
The second is… member changes, bad deals with record labels and the process around those things that has kept us back. The bad distribution of “Ikon” is a prime example of just that. What we really want to do is play more quality gigs and release records all the fucking time but then shit happens, you get sick of it and it inhibits creativity and the “fun” of it really. But still we are here, and right now things are better w/ the band than they have been for a long time, maybe you could say that, yeah we have chosen to sit back a bit right now and not go for every gig, focus on the next album as much as possible and have a great time. The thing is that if Insision decides to go out and play, then we will deliver, and that means we’ll put other things aside and rehearse set-lists until the tour/gig instead of writing new stuff…
Live shows have been exceptionally scarce, recently strictly in Sweden. What are your plans for the future touring-wise?
We’re taking every gig/tour/festival and looking on the conditions. Looking at what’s good for Insision participating, right now we are more focused on the new album but open for everything as long as it is professionally handled.
Tell us about your split from Earache. Would you agree it’s a label that is losing its touch with the death metal scene? What’s happening with Anata at the moment is a tale of woe no band should have to deal with, let alone one as absurdly gifted as them. Did similar circumstances make you leave the label?
Can’t speak for Anata but sour deals really suck and take a lot of energy from a band, don’t know the whole story though? Is Earache holding an album? But from what we can remember, Earache put us on some good tours with Decapitated and Suffocation among others… and they did the distribution well so they did their job. The first record got great response from the fans and zines; we played a lot and our second release “Revealed & Worshipped” came 2-3 years later.
But as a band we started to grow away from each other, which lead to the loss of one drummer and a guitar (2 guitars really, during this period of time). So in our case we were going through some differences within the group as people, which lead to that we had to start over with a new drummer. We took in Mac 2004 right away and at the same time we got a support slot for Suffocation and Disgorge (US) coming up in just a 3 week notice. Insane! We went on the tour and did all the shows with only the 3 weeks on rehearsals, but it wasn’t the best tour we have done looking back at it. Still it was awesome to play along with Suffo & Disgorge.
So Earache didn’t want to make efforts in us at that point as the budget on the third album was much greater than on the second so what’s the point. The Suffo-tour ended that era. In a way it was good thing to move on because of the amount of record-options in the actual deal. You don’t want to be owned, so we came out clear from that. The bad thing was the amount of records we signed for on Dental records afterwards, coz they did not do anything right. Fucking retards!
You then signed to Dental Records only to release one album. What happened?
Eager to play and record “Ikon”, everything sounded and looked great but it turned out to be the other way around. We did a mistake and wrote a 3 record deal with Dental instead of waiting. We released “Ikon” 2007 and a year after, not a single person even knew that the record had been released. Dental complained that no one wanted to distribute and promote the album in the UK/Europe/US etc. We thought that was kind of strange since the previous response had been great. At the same time we heard from distros that they haven’t heard from the label and that they didn’t receive any answers when they tried to contact them. Holding the sale-stats and other official shit from us… All in all, the situation was fucked up, and ever since 2008 we tried in different ways to get the hell out of that label. It was eating the band… evolving into yet another member change. They even threatened to sue, but fell on their own grip instead. Well, it was a bad decision in all. We just thought that Dental would do the” job” that a record label is supposed to do but… fail!
You’re now with Sevared, quite a strange label; I mean, you guys are heavy, but not to the degree as any other band on their roster. Why go with a strictly U.S. label? Are they treating you well?
Sevared Records is a growing death metal label and are known for a lot of extreme brutal acts. They can release records and have good contacts with the overall scene so we agreed on 2 records with them first one being this EP. We’ll see what will happen after these two releases. For us it’s not about which countries the label is located in or which bands they have, as long as the label can release and promote the record so everyone easily can purchase and listen to it… We had been looking at Sevared for some time during the ending with Dental. The label should know the scene, try to get us out to play as much as possible. For Insision with Sevared, the priority was that they could get the records out properly. Hehe it’s a dirty biz. and being a band and still play what we like after all these years feels fucking great. Right now we are doing the thing we love which is creating music and have full flexibility in decisions regarding Insision work. Sevared are treating us good and doing a better job then Dental for sure.
You’ve had some line-up changes over the years, most recently guitarist Magnus Martinsson’s departure. How is the new Insision line-up working out for you? Is the new guitarist contributing at all to the writing or is he simply a session player? Do you stay in touch with Daniel Ekeroth? Did you read his book? Informative?
It’s going great. Nothing has really changed; Magnus’ departure didn’t have an impact on Insision’s music in general. Of course it had an impact on the live-gig situations but we took the decision to pick up Tobias Alpadie as a session player. We prefer being a 5 piece on stage but when it comes to producing we work best as a three-piece.
So far Tobias hasn’t had that much to deal with the songwriting actually. But it’s not a closed thing; I mean a record gets more interesting if you can hear differences in the music from different people, as long as it has that brutal feeling. Right now we have written material for 4 to 5 new songs. Can’t say this is a new “line-up” since we work the same way as we always have if not better. Me and Carl and Mac work really good together, no reason to compromise on a good concept. Both Daniel and Thomas had a good and great impact on Insision during the time that they were in the band. We don’t have any contact with any of them today though. In the end it was strictly music. Looking back at it, we didn’t have those much personal things in common apart from Death Metal at the time. Think both of them are playing with a band named “Iron Lamb” now.
Congratulations on your recently released E.P. “End of All”. Why did you decide to go with the E.P. format and not simply make us await a new effort six months or so down the line?
Mainly because Magnus decided to leave the band when we had booked the studio for the “full length”. It was a tough period… Magnus’ other band had booked a tour around the same time as Insision had booked and planned going into the studio. Also we had an upcoming Scandinavian tour with Corpus Mortale. We didn’t want to move the recording nor the tour. No need to compromise. We also thought that having Magnus coming home tired as hell from a tour with his other band, without practicing new songs, going straight into the studio, recording a full length with us wasn’t an alternative. Hey, we had not released anything in 4 year and now we were 2 songs from this full-length. Up until then we had some tunes made together with him which he didn’t want to be on the record unless he played on them himself. So what to do? We decided to get into the studio anyway recording an E.P. with an upcoming full length just to get something out to the fans which are most important. And now we have created some time to work on new material since the E.P. “End OF All” is out…
Is there a reason you chose “Ex Oblivione” as the re-recorded track? Do you know it’s your best song out of your entire catalogue, or is there some other reason you selected it?
We knew that it’s a strong and complex song with good rhythm. Actually it is the first song I wrote along with Thomas (first drummer) after “The Dead Live On” release, tried to pinpoint what kind of music we wanted Insision to head for. But we knew we could do it better now with the quality of the band. Personally I don’t think the song came out the way it could with the kind of sound we had on “Beneath The Folds Of Flesh”, it’s a cool sound but in a way, quite muddy. Actually we had talked about re-recording different songs but we thought that “Ex Oblivion” is one of the best.
What made you select Toshihiro Egawa for the artwork? What pieces of his did you see that made you select him, and how much cooperation between him and the band took place to get what you were after? Seriously, what were you guys after – it’s a touch indecipherable.
We simply chose Toshi because we knew he’s a killer artist when it comes to DM artwork. Gave him some instructions what we wanted kind of and what we didn’t want. Carl Gave him the songs, partial lyrical stuff and a sketchy idea, then he came up with an idea and we looked at it and said “go for it man!”.
What has the response to your new E.P. been like?
The response has been good for those who have listened to the record. Haven’t got that much reviews yet as we wanted so far but hope more will be up from zines, people etc…
There are some ‘mistakes’ on “End of All”, you can hear moments where you’ve failed to turn down the volume when the guitars were meant to cut out, where you’ve muted the string only to release your hand too early. Were budget-constraints only allowing one-take wonders, or did you intentionally leave such in for a more organic product?
I simply chose to leave it in there because of what you hear is what is played without any “suppressors or other effects”. Personally I don’t see it as mistake when it comes to natural sound, rather see it as “alive”. Of course we could have the “scrap” sound muted with effects but in this case we chose not to. Just plugged the guitars in and played. It’s a personal feeling what we wanted to achieve with the overall recording. Budget was no issue. One more thing is that we only recorded 2 guitar tracks on this one. No dubbing the guitars 4 times. So all you can hear on the EP are those 2 guitars which is kind of cool these days.
And now, the new upcoming full-length album; your style is very standard, the classic American outfits, but you are without doubt one of the catchiest outfits going – nothing will top “Beneath the Folds of Flesh”, in my opinion, but your style has become more refined over the years and your outputs have been consistently good; how does the new record fall into place following “Ikon” and what new influences have your brought to the table? Do you find you have any connection to Swedish death metal or are you purely an American-styled band?
For the new album, Insision will try to work more with rhythms without losing the straight forward feeling, still having the “stab in the face” songs. We won’t change our songwriting too much though, just want to develop technically and make better songs. We aim to make it more extreme, not mainstream, but of course we have our influences in the Swedish scene but we tend to NOT let it dominate as we want to do something above it.
How many tracks do you think will appear on this one? I dig absolutely everything you’ve done, but “Beneath…” and “Ikon” were the better for having nine tracks; “Revealed and Worshipped” appeared touch overkill. Can we also expect a short, kickass beast cut like “A Ravenous Discharge”? You don’t hear many tracks spanning that little time yet feeling about as complete as possible, a great initiation into “Ikon” – I’d highly recommend you do it again.
You’re right about the length of a record, not being too long. When there are that many fast tracks it’s easy for a listener to drop the focus as the record gets too much. We haven’t really discussed the length of the new record, we’re just writing songs right now and the more we have to choose from the better. Thinking on the record right now I think it should be about 30 minutes depending on the feeling. “Ravenous Discharge” is an example of getting totally run-over by a tigertank in my opinion, hehe.
Do you have a studio date? Who’s designing the artwork for this new one? Any themes in mind? A working title?
The goal is to get the upcoming record recorded end of this year or early 2012 depending on the material we have. Have a studio booked for November with Anders Eriksson who also engineered the EP. The artwork is going to be made by Toshi that made “End of All”, and the working title is simply “Insision”. We are talking about some different themes but haven’t decided yet, we’ll see how the songs and lyrics develop.
Will there be any of the E.P.s tracks on the new record? If not, did “End of All” sell well enough that you didn’t see it as necessary?
There will only be new tunes on the upcoming full length. We don’t really know how much the E.P. has sold right now; Cd’s don’t sell that good these days. We try to work on what we can do which is to focus on creating new songs. As long as the label can distribute the album and do their job. The selling stats shouldn’t have any effect on the new record since the studio budget is written in advance for the albums.
What are your ideas on the production this time around? You notoriously have quite dry productions, but “Ikon” changed that some only to have “End of All” sound closer to “Beneath the Folds of Flesh” – that light drum sound mixed with a dry, crisp guitar tone and accentuated bass. Very complementary, but I can hardly imagine a cut like “The Magnet Soul” benefiting from such; so how’s the material shaping your idea for production?
I personally like a guitar production which sounds alive and “fat”, not being too muddy. We always discuss what the overall sound should be before we enter a studio. Personally I like the drums with a wet snare that’s on “Beneath the Folds of flesh” and “End of All”. Drum sounds could differ a lot depending on which studio you choose. The bass should have a “punch” without being too over-distorted. The vocals should sound exactly like Carls voice. Also like Johan Barsken’s voice on “The Dead Live On” MCD and on Nominon’s later albums.
Which new bands have really taken your interest of late? Any off Sevared? Do you guys still indulge in the metal scene or do you take a step back from all that stuff for the most part?
Like all different kinds of music. Latest Suicidal Tendencies “No Mercy Fool” is good. Putridity’s “Degenerating Anthropophagical Euphoria” is fucking brutal; Misery Index’s old “Traitors” album is good. Lock Up, Immolation’s “Majesty & Decay” is good as well as Criminal Element which is awesome, also like Putrid Pile, Viral Load, Gorgasm, Amputated among others. We listen to Death Metal. Of course if we have been to a rehearsal we maybe choose to put on some other stuff to chill down but we prefer Death Metal.
Which guitarists influence you the most when writing leads? I think I interviewed Daniel during the writing phase of “Ikon” and he said your lead playing had come on leaps and bounds. You have that chaotic edge of traditional brutal death metal but also the phrasing of more tasteful lead players, making every note count. Does this take a lot of effort on your part, finding new phrases and so forth, or do you just rip it out naturally?
It’s like; it can be frustrating when you hear a good guitar player, hehe. All I want to do is to do it better and that’s pretty frustrating because I feel I’m pushing myself too much sometimes. Nowadays I’m trying to be social and it’s better than it was before, but I’m the person that rather stays home playing or gaming or whatever than is out. Sometimes I can start listening to something at home, then I just pick up the guitar and then I’m stuck for 5 hours, dunno if that’s a good or bad thing though hehe.
I really liked Jason Morgan’s style of playing on the Monstrosity’s “Millenium” album when I was growing up. He’s one of my all favourite guitarists in Death Metal. He had this new complex and technical way in playing and arrangements in songwriting which was catchy and that other guitarists couldn’t play at that time. But in the other hand I also like Robert Vigna’s style of playing in Immolation which is more about the dark feeling of the wicked leads he does. Also guitarists I’m into is Terrance Hoobs & Doug Cerrito, Mike Smith, even if he is a drummer he did some stuff on the earlier Suffo albums to those who don’t now.
Guitarwork in the earlier days of Suffocation is a huge influence of mine with the attack in the playing. As well as song arrangements and intensity of Deicide’s “Legion” album back in the days. But I can also pick up an instruction video of Steve Vai and dig the leads he does sometimes, as well as Jeff Loomis of ex-Nevermore, his leads are sick… Also like Mike Stern, Pat Metheny among Jazz guitarists
The new Morbid Angel, man. What was up with that?
Exactly, dunno what they want to say with their latest album. For example if Insision wanted to play industrial metal, we wouldn’t choose to do it on a Insision record because I know what people expect from us. Then I personally think it’s better to maybe put up a project where you can play around with that kind of stuff if that’s what you want. Don’t know why Morbid Angel want to go and do that kind of thing, there are bands that do it way better like Ministry, Rammstein, Rob Zombie for example. You should respect your fans and if you want to create something totally different, do it in a side-project.
Any old-school bands that are still keeping your boat afloat? Pestilence? Cannibal Corpse? Are Suffocation still the undisputed masters?
All the bands you mention are fucking awesome, also like old Death, Cancer, Gorguts, Entombed, Grotesue and of course Autopsy. I really like Swedish Hypnosia which was more thrash but fuck it, they where great. Also like Slayer & Testament, earlier Kreator and a whole bunch of other thrash… Can’t say I’m into thrash metal as much as Death Metal.
As a band that is releasing some of the best material of the underground scene, your style is still quite accessible – do you find this has caused you to be neglected some when most bands are pushing the boundaries of how extreme something needs to be in order to be recognized?
Well, it’s a hard question. I mean everything is free in music, there shouldn’t be any rules of what this and that should sound like. As long as the bands have respect of the fans and they in turn believe in the band. I don’t have anything against new bands pushing the boundaries of what they play. It’s up to you as a listener if you like it or not, that’s what matters. I mean, if you don’t like it, then don’t listen to it…. pretty simple. But I understand what you mean in a way, somehow these days it feels like bands competing, which band that can play the fastest song. The band that is really fast gets alot of attention and that means that other people automatically think that this is the way to go, and it ends up with a bunch of riffs which don’t say anything supported by a 300 bpm blastbeat.
As well as the slam bands these days, it’s a hype thing to like slam just because you have the pig squeal in there and the heavy slow rhythm parts. But it’s cool for me. I like some of the slam bands as well that can do it well. All in all, I do not put on a record if it’s not saying anything. For example, I wouldn’t play Hate Eternal’s “The art of Redemption”, when I first listened to it I turned it off, I think it’s crap and that the band is overrated, the first record was great but now…… come on, do the shit right or keep producing instead. The latest record doesn’t say anything to me…
What are your views of today’s metal scene? Are you friends with Aeon? They’d have a thing or two to say about not getting the recognition they deserve, I think.
Think the scene is great, alot of great brutal good bands. It’s easy to develop musically with the Internet and the recording technique these days as well. The musical equipment is getting better and better. Of course I would want the scene to develop even more so that more underground bands could have the chance play live outside their countries and that the bands would get paid but that has to do with the overall scene and that kind of money doesn’t exist. Hope that will change some day for this kind of music though.
Give us a run-down of your gear. What’s caught your eye as of late? Amps and guitars you would trade a testicle for?
The amp I have played for 7 years now is a Mesa-Boogie Dual Rectifier. Have also two 4×12 Traditional Mesa Straight Cabinets in the rehearsal. As for pedals I’m using Boss NS-2 Noise Supressor to get rid off excess noise when playing live. Using a Maxon OverDrive 808 to push the gain just a little. Have recently purchased an MXR 10 Band Graphic Equalizer Pedal to push the solo-channel when it comes to soloing.
Using a Boss DD-7 Digital Delay. Also using BOSS TU-2 Chromatic Tuner and a Morley Bad Horsie WahWah pedal. I have played Ibanez guitars for years and have a bunch of them at home but recently I got an endorsement thing going on with 666strings from Germany which does awesome brutal custom guitars made for death metal and grindcore. Now, if you haven’t heard about them spread the word and check em out or here
Tell us about the lyrical themes of Insision – is it Carl who writes all the lyrics? What are his major sources of inspiration? Does he read much into the occult and the divine? The guy has a fantastic grasp of vocab and enunciation to max out the evil.
Yeah, Carl is writing all the lyrics, he’s into all kinds of weird stuff. There were lots of occult angles to the lyrics earlier.. Themes vary between the occult and nihilism but also mental disorders and religious views, haha, fuck it’s really hard to pinpoint. I think he just writes what he feels at the moment depending on the situation. Spiritual horrors mixed up with mad ramblings or straightforward “preachings”, a bit of a split personality going on there, hehe, lately its been more straightforward gore, hate and inner battles but leaning more into some weird horror fiction again, last time I talked to him about it.
So, your new drummer has been with the band since 2004-ish. Do you stay in touch with Thomas Daun? I know it must be frustrating some little shit journo professing his love for ‘the other guy’, but I seriously faun over his style on “Beneath the Folds of Flesh”. What made Thomas leave?
We haven’t had any contact with Thomas after his Insision era. Don’t have that much to say besides he began playing in a band named Subvision after Insision. Some kind of glam/sleeze rock-band, and later stepped in for Dismember, but now in Iron Lamb. What made him leave I think was just the fact that he wanted to play another kind of music that collided with the things we played.
Didn’t you have some guy stopped off at some border or other for drug control? What happened to that guy? Do you find substance-abuse makes you a more qualified musician or do you write stuff ‘au naturel’ ?
It’s up to anyone what they want to do or use as long as you can deliver when it comes to stepping up in front of an audience or recording an album. If it’s getting hard doing that, you should think about doing something else…
Your three full-length records don’t use samples unlike many brutal death metal outfits, but “End of All” had one for “Ex Oblivione” (wouldn’t mind knowing what it was taken from). Any reason for this? Are you planning on using such in the future? Are there any changes to “Ex Oblivione” on the E.P. or is that my mind playing tricks on me? I know the lead’s been removed, but it also sounds like your tripled the main riff and added another riff in where the lead used to be.
You’re right about the main riff on the song; we changed it on the main “verse” just to play around with it a bit. Also the overall drumming from Mac is more intense than the original recordings of the song; it’s just a natural thing as you develop the more you play. Right now Mac is starting to be more of a fucking machine behind the drums. He has developed his playing alot the last couple of years and that’s great. About samples on the Cd’s, it’s originally from a radio broadcast from the 70s I think. It’s a line from the story “Ex Oblivione” by H.P Lovecraft..
I expressly left out questions about film, porno and World state affairs, so now’s your chance if you feel you’ve lucked out in getting nothing but a straightforward fifty odd questions or so. Seriously, add anything you like and thank you for your time and effort in supporting The Domination – keep kicking ass with Insision.
Thanx for this interview, James. Good luck with Global Domination. Keep doing a great job and keep supporting brutal death metal…