Astrophobos released a very impressive first LP a little over a month ago. I recently got the chance to chat with frontman Micke Broman and their new drummer, Jocke Wallgren, who were kind enough to take an evening conference call via Skype. In the transcription that follows (edited/merged a bit for clarity), all the answers are from Micke unless otherwise noted.
Congratulations on your new LP! I really liked it and so did my colleague, Alex, who asked me to send a shout-out to you guys. He reviewed your EP a few years ago and was glad that the LP lived up to the EP's promise.
Oh really? That's great to hear. A few people said when we released the EP, that they thought it was good, but they wanted to hear more to be able to make a decent judgment of a new band. I'm glad some people thought it was living up to their expectations.
How'd you guys start playing together?
Well, Jocke joined the band just a few months ago, at least as a permanent member. We started talking, was it last autumn? At the Lord Belial gig. We were looking for a live dreamer and just started talking and he was interested, and then we started rehearsing and playing some live gigs, and then he became a permanent member about a month ago.
So I guess your photo shoots [including the one pictured in this interview] aren't updated yet since I see 3 guys in there.
That's true. It's on the to do list; to update the band photos.
You guys are pretty open about your black metal sound being a 90s sound, and it sounds damn good by the way. You feel like you can still bring something fresh to that genre? Of course, a lot of people have been doing it for a while.
M: That's probably the main criticism in the reviews; that people say it's good, but it's not reinventing the genre or anything. But we haven't really been trying to do that. We just want to write good songs in the genre we like. Hopefully bring new good music into an established genre, that's what we want to do.
What was the general reaction from fans when you released the EP? Was it pretty enthusiastic or were people just like "oh ho hum here's another thing that sounds like stuff from the 90s" or were people happier about it?
A lot of people liked it, but since that was our first release and we didn't have a label or anything we didn't get that much attention back then. We started out with as many magazines and webzines as we could find. Some people still remember us and that's very good to hear.
And now you're with Triumvirate Records. How'd you find them? Did you just keep sending your demos and they picked you up?
We actually founded it ourselves, because we did have a contract with a label in the US, but they stalled releasing the album. We finished recording it in 2012 and about half a year ago we got tired of waiting for the album to be released so we started up Triumvirate ourselves.
Oh cool. So, this is yours, everything's been bootstrapped by you guys, you make your own website too and everything?
Yeah, yeah. That's our guitarist, Martin. He's the web guy. He's done all of those nice looking things.
Very nice. You guys released a music video too. That was self-made as well?
Yeah, kind of. It was a friend of ours who works with video; cutting and recording and stuff. He actually approached us and said "Why don't we make a video?" We were a bit reluctant at first because not all metal music videos look awesome, mainly because of budget constraints -- and our budget was zero. We had a bit of a conversation about whether we should do it at all, but we went ahead with him and we're really happy with the result.
I looked at it last night, actually and I was confused, had a hard time getting an idea what it's about. What was the general theme of the music video? Was there something you were trying to get across to the viewers?
Not really. We just took visual inspiration from different places and other music videos for example, and tried to set a mood that would go with the song, and not really tell a story or anything.
I did think I saw some corpse paint, that I caught a glimpse of it in there.
[laughs] I think that was mostly goo and dirt. It was probably the lighting that made it look like corpse paint. We did get some sort of makeup, but we avoided the traditional makeup.
I guess it's because you're a black metal band that I automatically thought of corpse paint as soon I saw a guy with streaks down his face. Well, that was a cool video, especially considering the budget you did it on.
Yeah, there was a bit of dark stuff around the eyes. Not really that elaborate. I'm glad to hear you liked it. A lot of people worked for free helping us out with it so it's thanks to them that to a great extent it became anything at all.
I saw that most of your lyrics are about HP Lovecraft, and I'm a huge fan myself. So why Cthulhu and not Satan? I've always thought of Lovecraft songs being more of a death metal thing, but I think that might be more tradition then anything else. So why the Elder Gods?
I think you're right, in that it actually suits the music, but it hasn't really been in black metal so much traditionally. I just don't really care about religion at all, and I don't believe in God or Satan, so it would feel weird to write lyrics about some gods that I don't believe in -- though I guess you could say that about the Elder Gods as well though, [laughs] since I don't believe in them either.
Yes, I was about to ask if, based on that rule, you believe in dead Cthulhu dreaming at the bottom of the sea!
Yeah, it's a good point, but at least we can all agree that Lovecraft wrote fiction. No one will confuse that with my personal ideology. That's the main reason. I mean, it's a great part of black metal historically, the Satanism and that's a good fit for the style, but I wouldn't feel comfortable writing that kind of lyrics in Astrophobos.
Ah. I see. Well, Lovecraft definitely fits the right tone for heavy metal of any type. Do you end up writing all the lyrics? You guys do a really good job of using Lovecraft's phrasing, but putting it in different parts of the song so it's not just repeating what he says. I've seen that in some black metal bands where they take a portion of a poem or something and they just quote it verbatim, but you don't seem to do that. How do you get the inspiration for the poems?
I've been writing the lyrics for almost 20 years for different metal bands now, so I have my favorite poets and authors and try to write in their style, but it's intricate work and it takes a lot of time to produce new stuff.
So, this is a fairly new band, but you've actually got a lot of background experience in metal?
Yeah. I started playing with Martin almost 19 years ago in our first band, and I played with Jonas for almost 15 years or something like that, and I've been writing lyrics for bands since then.
And do you [Micke] write the songs as well, or is that more of a group process?
That's definitely been a collaborative thing, and now we have a fourth member so we're going to work out how to do it with four people.
That's going to be awesome, especially live -- to have a live drummer. Do you guys have any favorite bands or author'm not really sure. Inspiration comes from everywhere like from the sun and from other drummers mostly. I don't think I s that you draw outside inspiration from, outside of Lovecraft and black metal?
[Jocke]: I'm not really sure. Inspiration comes from everywhere, like from the sun, and from other drummers mostly. I don't think I can answer for everyone, but of course everyone has other musical influences than just metal.
[Micke]: That goes for the rest of the band as well. We all listen to other stuff than metal as well, and I think especially if you play a genre that's this old and established and has its fair set of rules, it's probably a good idea to go outside of it to find fresh angles to write new songs.
Now your LP is out, what's the rest of this year look like? You got any tour dates set up?
Not yet. We had our first two gigs earlier this year with Jocke as our drummer. This is kind of like the new start for the band. Everything has been leading up to the release and the two gigs, so we're kind of writing the next course of action.
What do you guys do outside of the band? I assume this isn't a full time thing yet.
You are correct. We have not quit our day jobs! I'm a translator. Martin is a... something with computers. Jonas is an electrician.
[Jocke]: I'm a driver for the Swedish post office, so I deliver packages to people.
It takes you all over then?
[Jocke]: Yeah. All over Stockholm at least!
What're your hopes for the future beyond this year? What do you want to do with Astrophobos?
It's not the hugest genre to play in if you want to make a living, but it'd be nice to get a deal with a decent label, play some more and keep releasing new stuff, and hopefully people will like it.
Judging from the first two, I think that's definitely a promising start. I'd love to see you come around here someday. We're about to wrap up, but do you have any final words for your fans at MetalReviews?
Thanks to everybody who's listened to it and liked it, and we're out there for our fans!

There are 0 comments on this interview. Last one on Wed Mar 12, 2014 12:52 am
View and Post comments