DISMEMBER Interview with Matti Karki
02.04.00 via phone from Stockholm, Sweden
ID: You have a new album out, Hate Campaign, and it's said that between Like An Everflowing Stream and Death Metal the original focus of the music kind of went awry, and with Death Metal and Hate Campaign you've come back to your roots. How accurate is that?
Matti: It's pretty much the truth. I mean, since after Like An Everflowing Stream both the albums after were kind of hurried. I dunno if we're just lazy or slow workers, but both those albums the songs were not even ready when we entered the studio. But since Death Metal we had enough time and preparations to do the songs the way we like them to be, so that's the major difference. On Indecent and Massive Killing Capacity we tried different approaches to making the music, but it didn't really work out. We just went back to our roots and made the music that we intended to do from the beginning.
ID: How would you say it was different on the two albums between?
Matti: When we did the songs, when we wrote the first album, everybody was contributing riffs. We mainly just puzzled the songs together in the rehearsal room, but on those albums everybody was writing material at home and taking almost-ready songs to the rehearsal room, for convenience's sake and due to the time pressure. We didn't have time to modify the songs enough so they would be 100% good. We had to accept some riffs that were not totally acceptable due to the time pressures.
ID: What was causing the time pressure? Why was it rushed?
Matti: The record label was giving us a hard time. I mean, you have to release an album and you have to do it soon…giving us that line and stuff. Always telling us, 'If you don't release the album now, you have to release it after six months.' Of course, we wanted to have the album out as soon as possible, but that made the time pressure.
ID: How would you say your new album compares to everything prior to it?
Matti: Well, it's not that different. The material is pretty much the same because we haven't changed that much during the years. The music is more straightforward, it's simple, the song structure is simple. The actual riffs, some of them are real complex. It's easier to listen to the music. There's not that many tempo changes and breaks and stuff. It's a little bit easier to listen to than before.
ID: Was there any certain goals you wanted to accomplish when you went in [the studio] this time?
Matti: Just to release an album.
ID: With Hate Campaign being one of your many musical compositions in the last ten years or so, there were many people saying that Dismember was among the pioneers of the death metal genre. Do you ever think that you deserve more fame or credit, or are you happy with the status of Dismember?
Matti: I'm pretty much content where we are now. I mean, we're not the biggest band around, but we still got the reputation, like you mentioned, we're one of the pioneers. We're still around. As long as people recognize us as that, we're pretty much okay. Then we have the second thing, that we started out as a death metal band and through all the years we always played the same. We stayed true to our roots; we didn't change the music like some other bands. I don't wanna mention any bands. There's a couple from Sweden that totally changed. You couldn't even recognize the bands if you put on a couple albums with a couple years apart. We always stayed the same with a certain kind of thing that, hey, this is Dismember. That's the thing we're after.
ID: Dismember has gone through a few lineup changes over the years…Is there any bad feelings between the current band and any of the old band members?
Matti: No, nothing. Robert, our guitarist, who's been in the band since the beginning, he left because his girlfriend and him were having a kid. He wanted to be with his family, and that's totally acceptable. We just asked him, 'Are you 100% into the band?' and he wasn't. We told him we need a guitarist who's totally into the band, takes time, and can go and tour. Robert said, 'I can't do that because I want to be with my family.' We said, 'Okay, we have to get another guitarist,' and he said, 'That's okay with me.' Then our bass player, Richard, left because of personal things. He couldn't take it anymore because of a botched-up tour. We're not making enough money to live off the music, everybody has regular jobs. He couldn't just take [the uncertainty] anymore. He just left the band, but there's no hard feelings. We're not having a regular bass player at the moment, so Richard is still filling in sometimes when we have an occasional gig in Stockholm or in Sweden somewhere.
ID: Can I ask what your day job is?
Matti: Well, actually, I work nights…
ID: So do I.
Matti: Yeah, I work at the Swedish Stockholm Subway. It's pretty brain-dead, but I still have lots of time to think about my own things. Not mentally taxing or anything. It pays good and it's pretty simple, easy work. I'm content.
ID: Sounds like my job.
ID: Digging up a little fact from your past almost eight years ago, you were in a trial for obscenity and violence in lyrics in the UK. Could you delve into this a little bit for those of us who are unfamiliar with it?
Matti: Yeah, the whole thing started off when the English customs seized a packet of recordings from Nuclear Blast that was sent to the English distributor. They did a routine check and they found all these albums with gory covers and stuff. Somehow they just looked at our album, saw the song title "Skin Her Alive." They pulled out the lyric sheet and read the lyrics and thought, 'Hey, this is horrible! We can't allow this into the country.' They made a lawsuit. They failed to recognize that the song has a true story behind it. It's really from a point of a view, it's not from the victim's point of view, it's from the killer's point of view. They thought it was sexist and disgusting and tried to ban Dismember albums from the UK. They lost it [the lawsuit] because, first of all, you can't hear what I sing without the lyric sheet, and if the song gets airplay on the radio, nobody can hear a thing that I say. As well as the album had already been released like six months before in the UK, so they couldn't stop it, it was already in the country. So they lost it.
ID: Was it highly publicized over there?
Matti: Yeah, there was some things in the newspapers and a radio station went there to make an interview with us, but nothing big.
ID: I didn't know the UK was so uptight about stuff like that…
Matti: Yeah, they still have all these Victorian laws. This law that they made the lawsuit by was created in the 18th century. It's so old. It's strange. The UK's still like that, they still have their queen and stuff like that.
ID: After that, did you basically write songs like on Indecent and Obscene out of spite?
Matti: Yeah, we have a couple of songs. We thought the whole thing was kind of silly. Fred wrote the lyrics, he made a song, "Eviscerated Bitch" just to make it even worse. Just to make fun of them. The actual title of the album is something that we heard in the court. They claimed that Dismember was indecent and obscene. So that was a perfect album title.
ID: Kind of off the topic of metal, what are your beliefs on religion?
Matti: I don't like religion at all. We're against religion of any kind. Satanism, Christianity, Buddhism, it's all the same shit. Some things, like Buddhists, they're all into peace and stuff, are not so extreme, so they're a minor nuisance. But most of the religions are so hardcore and narrow-minded. Sometimes I'm even afraid of religious people because of their views and the way they live and restrict themselves. In general, religion sucks.
ID: So do you have your own beliefs or do you just stay away from the whole faith thing altogether?
Matti: No, I do have my own beliefs, but that's my own beliefs. It's nothing that I could say to somebody else, 'Hey you have to live your life like this…' But I mean, I live, I learn, I learn from my mistakes. I do things you're not allowed to do, but I take responsibility for them. I think that's something religious people won't do because they always can excuse themselves in front of God. They always have this safety line.
ID: Yeah, it's like Catholicism, they can sin six days a week and on the seventh be absolved. What are your thoughts on the American metal scene versus the European scene? Do you see any difference?
Matti: Of course it's different. What the difference is is usually just sound, but there's some bands from the States that sound like European bands, and vice versa. Both scenes produce great music.
ID: What about the fans? Do you see any differences there?
Matti: I think the fans are pretty much the same. I think the fans in the States are more hardcore. Down in Germany the metal scene is huge! So they get metal all the time, so you don't get that same kick-ass feeling on the gigs with people going crazy and stuff. They're so used to it; they have three metal gigs a week. But if you travel down to Greece or Spain, those people go nuts at shows.
ID: What do you think of the state of the whole music industry? Do you think there's honesty within the labels, or do you think there's backstabbing, or…?
Matti: Of course, there's backstabbing. There's always who's the biggest band on the label? If you're not successful on a label, they treat you like shit. But as soon as you sell a decent amount of albums, you get treated like a god. If you fall from grace someday, they won't remember you, they won't give you anything. You have no friends in the record industry. As long as you're successful, everybody's your friend. If you're quiet for a couple of years and haven't done anything, you're forgotten in the record industry. The fans remember you, but the record industry is all about making money.
ID: What do you think about being on a label like Nuclear Blast?
Matti: Well, when we got signed to Nuclear Blast they were not that big, but during the years they managed to get the biggest independent label here in Europe. That's a huge difference. We had our setbacks with Nuclear Blast through the years. We had our fall from grace. We didn't sell as much albums. After awhile, when the death metal scene was dying down, the hype was dying down, they were telling us, 'You have to try something new because death metal doesn't sell anymore.' At the same time, our management—which we don't have anymore—was having huge problems with Nuclear Blast. They couldn't cooperate. We were in the middle. But at this moment, everything at Nuclear Blast is going fine.
ID: Will you be touring the US for this album?
Matti: I dunno. I heard some rumors. I guess something is going on with the States, but I don't know what.
ID: Well, it'd be nice…
Matti: Yeah, it's been seven years!
ID: Yeah, you gotta come over here.
Matti: But the funny thing is that we haven't played in the UK for eight years.
ID: So do you think you're gonna go back there?
Matti: Yeah, we're putting up some gigs now pretty soon, I think in May.
ID: What's the one thing you want to accomplish most in your life?
Matti: To have a good life. I have my family, I have my band, I've seen half of the world with my band. I've accomplished much already.
ID: As parting words, instead of asking for some last words as usual, tell me one piece of advice that you would give any death metal band just starting out.
Matti: Never give up.