The Austin Chronicle

Owls, Hooters & the Devil: Graveyard Part II

By Raoul Hernandez, October 3, 2008, 9:08am, Earache!

8pm: That’s what time Graveyard lifts off at Stubb’s on Saturday. The Sword lops heads beginning at 8:45pm, then Neil Fallon and his henchmen double Clutch 10pm-midnight. Howl at the moon.

Sept. 10, 2008, days before Hurricane Ike, that’s precisely what Graveyard did at Red 7 opening for fellow Swedes Witchcraft. Warlock’s balls that band, letting Graveyard open for them. Both avalanche the rootsy mulch of ancient Southern blues and folk, but where Witchcraft practices riff worship, Graveyard resurrects Black Sabbath, Blue Cheer, Cream. Their own “Tales of Brave Ulysses” haunt the Gothenburg quartet’s eponymous Tee Pee Records debut like late-1960s sirens of electric damnation, retribution roaring from Hell’s corridor to Heaven’s gate.

Bassist Rikard Edlund, reached by drummer Alex Sjöberg’s cell as the band detoured into Richmond, Virginia, on their way to North Carolina, confessed to the band’s “Evil Ways,” walking metal’s “Thin Line” between a “Blue Soul” and “Satan’s Finest.”

Austin Chronicle: After the Austin show, you were headed south, right into the hurricane.

Rikard Edlund: We skipped the show in Houston, because Hurricane Ike was hitting the shores around Houston, so we went to New Orleans instead. The guys said it was windy there, but I didn’t feel it. Maybe it was more windy than it usually is there, but we missed the whole Ike thing. We got lucky.

AC: How many dates into this tour are you?

RE: Around 13 shows. And now we’re going to be out three and a half weeks more with Clutch and the Sword. We went from Seattle the first tour, and we’re going back the same way, doing a U-turn all over the states, to the south and west and the east.

AC: Your first tour, a handful of dates including shows at South by Southwest 2008, you didn’t have much time in the States. Now with this trek, is the U.S. starting to sink in?

RE: Yeah, absolutely, because the first time I hadn’t been to the States before at all. The first time, you had to pinch yourself in the arm now and then because you couldn’t believe it was true – that people from the other side of the planet wanted to give us money to get over and play for them.

Now it’s starting to sink in. I’m not like an owl anymore [laughs], in the window looking at everything as I was in the beginning: “Wow, what’s that? Look at that – Wendy’s! What’s that? Hooters!”

Now I’m starting to get used to it, but I still want to go to Hooters [laughs].

AC: How’s the reception been from the audiences?

RE: Witchcraft draws a lot of people, and the people that usually like Witchcraft like us too, ‘cause it’s quite similar music. But there’s been lots of people that have traveled far just to see us too. So far, it’s been very, very good. People really appreciate our shows. We’ve got many new fans as well who haven’t heard of us. They come and they get real surprised and buy merch and stuff. It’s a good sign.

AC: Are American audiences different from European audiences and if so, how?

RE: Depends where you are in Europe, because Europe’s quite big too. So when you come to Holland, they’re very laid back and, like, all smoked down. When it comes to Germany, all of them drink beer and Schnapps, so the audiences there are screaming all the time. Here in the States it’s the same. I don’t know if it’s because we’re less known in some places. There’s a big difference between American audiences and Swedish audiences. It’s hard to put a finger on it. People are very nice and friendly [in the U.S.], so far at least.

AC: Recently, I spoke to the singer from the Hives

RE: Howlin’ Pelle? Yeah, yeah.

AC: …he said Swedish audiences were quite different because of socialism there: everyone believes they’re on the same footing and therefore there’s very little idol worship.

RE: Yeah, yeah – absolutely. It’s different when you’re a foreigner traveling in a foreign country. In Sweden, we get a lot of audience there too. But here it’s a different culture with the whole band thing. You have this music culture that’s very old here in the States. It’s been around much, much longer than in Sweden. At the same time there’s so many radio stations. In America, you have a lot of radio stations, so you can get a hold of very good music from every kind of genre. That’s quite hard in Sweden, because we don’t have so many radio stations and TV channels to look up music. You have to look it up yourself. Here in the States, you play all kinds of music on the radio all the time.

AC: Seeing Graveyard live it’s rammed home just how blues-based the band is.

RE: Yes, yes. John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf – all those guys: Muddy Waters. I adore them. That’s where the whole hard rock thing started. The English started to do the blues as well, and they turned out to be harder. Then it went back to the states and got even harder and harder. Back and forth, you know. Blues is definitely the beginning of music like metal, so of course, you can’t not listen to the blues if you’re into metal.

AC: At the Austin show your singer Joakim was wearing a Blue Cheer shirt and your drummer Axel told me he saw the band at South by Southwest 08. Did you see Blue Cheer too?

RE: I have Blue Cheer tattooed on my arm [laughs]. The thing is, I really wanted to see two shows very, very much at South by Southwest. One of them was Blue Cheer, of course, and I really wanted to see High on Fire. For High on Fire I was so tired; I hadn’t slept in three days. I had to have one night off. And Blue Cheer, it was so long the lines, and I didn’t understand English so good, and I was wasted too. I started arguing with the [door] guy, so he wouldn’t let me in. I stood outside and listened because they played so loud. So I saw the show, from the line outside, but I wasn’t in there. I was really pissed that night.

AC: I’m always intrigued by the sound a band hears in its collective head. What kind of sound have you guys been going for?

RE: It’s changed a little bit over the years. When Joakim and I started our first band in the middle Nineties, we wanted to sound like Sabbath and stuff. The other band we had was a little more loose, and psychedelic. When we started Graveyard we wanted it to sound more straightforward, not so much psychedelic, but like a punch in the face. At the same time we wanted some of the groove of psychedelics, because we really like that too. I don’t know, man. We not like, “Ahh, we have to sound like that.” If someone in the band comes up with a riff that the other guys like then it doesn’t matter if it’s a thrash riff, or a blues riff. As long as it’s good and fits in with the song then it doesn’t matter.

AC: At what point when the band got together did you think, “We’ve got something here”?

RE: The first gig in Gothenburg, our hometown, they wouldn’t let us offstage. They were wild, the audience. Then we began to understand how we maybe have something here. Then after a couple of months and three shows, we had two record labels [approach us]. Then you begin to understand: “Maybe this is something people want to hear and are interested in.” At the same time, it’s an honor to be around playing for people that really like you. I can’t describe that in words.

AC: In a song like “Submarine Blues,” it starts slow, but then your band hits this other gear and takes off. That must be fun, to feel your band suddenly lift off.

RE: Yeah that’s great, absolutely. We try to keep it quite dynamic so when there’s a soft spot somewhere in a song, and then it takes off, you feel like you’re going to explode or something. You want to take the bass guitar and smash it on the floor. It’s a great feeling, I can tell you that.

AC: I thought Witchcraft was good, but they had a lot of balls to follow you guys.

RE: Thanks man, thanks. We’re really eager to prove ourselves. I’m quite sure that we’re going to be on the same level or higher level after some more tours and more records and playing even more together, so the energy will be higher. Hopefully. I think it’s going to be like that. I love Witchcraft, though. I think they’re an awesome band.

AC: No, they’re great, but Graveyard’s a bit more serious than they are, which is not to say you’re humorless. The music’s harder hitting.

RE: It’s serious to the death, man, our music, because we love music. I wouldn’t be lying. Of course it’s serious. At the same time, you can’t be all stuck up and everything: “I’m the hardest motherfucker.” You have to be able to laugh and have fun playing music as well. But, of course, it’s serious music. Yeah, yeah. And the things we’re singing about, what the songs are about, are quite serious things too. We can’t make jokes about the lyrics.

AC: When American audiences hear a hard rock/metal band is from Scandinavia they assume it’s black metal…

RE: Yeah, black metal. We are from Gothenburg, so we hear that a lot. “Gothenburg sounds like In Flames,” or something like that. The name Graveyard, and the album cover, people can easily misunderstand that we’re some death metal group or something. We hear that a lot. But the scene in Sweden is starting to grow with hard rock bands as well. They’re popping up like mushrooms everywhere. It’s growing in every area.

AC: I saw a Norwegian black metal band recently, 1349, and they were great, but the Kiss makeup made it hard for me to take them too seriously. And bands with the cookie monster vocals – can we take any of that seriously?

RE: [Laughs] Yeah… I think there are some black metal bands that should be taken seriously, because they’re badass. They’re true Satanists. But about the makeup, I don’t know. There’s been make-up around the rock scene in different genre for ages. I don’t think Kiss were the first ones. But I can understand you [laughs] – if the guy looks like [Gene] Simmons with the bat wings [laughs]. I would never wear makeup onstage, but that’s their thing. They want to look evil onstage. Maybe some people think they look evil. I don’t know. I think sometimes a clown can look more evil.

AC: Graveyard has some pretty dark lyrics. Has anyone ever accused you guys of being Satanists?

RE: No. If you read the lyrics real well you’ll understand we are not Satanists. It’s mostly me who brings up Satan and that. I’m speaking for myself now. Both God and Satan are a part of all life. We write songs about God and Satan. If anyone calls me a Satanist, maybe sometimes I am. Sometimes I’m very into God.

AC: Do you believe in the Devil?

RE: Yes, of course. I believe in God too. That’s just me.

AC: People can be very ambivalent about God, but tend to be less so about the Devil. Either the Devil exists or doesn’t and there’s no in-between.

RE: Yeah that’s strange, because if you think the Devil exists, then God exists. It’s the same thing. I think it’s strange to think like that.

AC: You said earlier you’re excited to grow the band – do more tours, record more albums. Is it hard to think like that when you’re driving 500 miles between gigs?

RE: No. This is what I want to do all my life, touring and playing different places. But of course you can’t find new songs when you’re in a van, you know? So sometimes we’re a little eager to come home and do new songs and relax a little bit. At the same time, this is really what I want to do, touch people with our music. That’s the best. We can’t be touring for all our lives with this record. We have to put out another record, of course, and we really want to do that, to have new songs for our audience. Otherwise both our audience and us will get fed up with playing the same fucking tunes every night.

AC: At your South by Southwest in-store I snagged your set-list and there was a song on there not on the debut: “Ungrateful Are We the Dead”?

RE: “Ungrateful Are the Dead,” yeah, yeah. The last tour we played three new songs that weren’t on the album, which is kind of stupid, because we haven’t been around so long to play songs that aren’t on the album. We recorded them, but I don’t know what’s happening to them, whether they’re going to be on a single, or are they going to be on the [new] album or both. I don’t know, man, but we have those songs recorded and they’re on the mixing table now, so I’m really eager to hear what they sound like.

AC: What’s the one thing you’ve liked the most about traveling around the United States?

RE: Ah fuck, that’s a hard question. There are a lot of things, you know. One thing is there’s food everywhere. That’s one thing. And meeting up with interesting people, hearing new music all the time. And the girls of course [laughs]

AC: I was gonna ask that. Have you guys met some cute girls along the way?

RE: Ahhhhh, man! Yes, of course. That’s the difference between… I should shut my mouth about this.

AC: No, no, let’s hear it, because over here we tend to think of Swedish girls as very beautiful!

RE: Yeah everyone talks about Swedish girls, but we live in Sweden for all our lives and I’m fed up with blonde, blue-eyed girls. It’s much more exotic to get to the States and all the Latinos and black girls, and all the ethnics. I love those girls.

AC: Which city so far has been the best for girls?

RE: It depends who you ask in the band!

AC: I’m asking you!

RE: Asking me? You got lots of beautiful girls in New York, I tell you. Lots and lots. And the same way in L.A. and San Francisco. Of course the big cities, you got more of them. At the same time, when you go to smaller places… I really like playing smaller places, because bands don’t come so often there, so they’re appreciated more – bands with hot guys. You know what I mean?

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