Interview with Jens Rydén
Imagine, if you will, receiving stacks upon stacks of CDs in the mail, and having an obligation to listen to each one. Often the task seems impossible, or even undesirable, having to sift through massive amounts of music that holds no interest or sounds like everything else. There is nothing more rewarding in this process than finding the gem of the group, and in this case, Dead Silent Slumber's first release, "Entombed in the Midnight Hour" was this sparkling gem among the dull rocks. This was more than a surprise, being that first of all it is a debut, and second it is a solo project. But Jens is far from a newcomer to the scene, his devilish vocals can be heard throughout Naglfar's releases. Known not only for his musical offerings, his cover artwork can also be found on a great deal of Swedish releases, most notably on his own.
In every aspect, though especially musically, Jens has displayed extraordinary brilliance and vision. With Dead Silent Slumber, he has introduced an amazing combination of various forms of metal, blending death metal with haunting screams and effects and layered symphonic elements. Such a diverse and satisfyingly intense release as "Entombed..." has regenerated my expectations for the future of metal as an artform.
Enslain: What made you decide to do Dead Silent Slumber?
Jens: It was, actually, many reasons... The basic one is of course, that I had some ideas, music ideas, that I couldn't use in Naglfar. I presented some of these ideas for the other guys, and sometimes they didn't like it, sometimes they thought it was quite cool but it doesn't fit with our sound. After a while I thought that I had so many great stuff that I couldn't use in the band, so I thought that I must use it in one way or another. Then I started to think about starting up a new band or something, but then after a while I realized that the best thing to do was to start like a solo project, where I could be all alone. That's also one of the reasons for Dead Silent Slumber, why I formed it in the first place, because it's great to play in a band, but sometimes it's a little bit frustrating, you know, I think something like sounds excellent, but some other member doesn't, so you have to compromise. So I thought like, I'm starting up this solo project so I can have full control over just about everything.
Enslain: But as a solo project you can't do tours or anything...
Jens: No, but I'm still playing with Naglfar, and we tour a lot, well, not a lot, but every now and then, so I think that's enough for me, and I also... there's a little too much keyboards and synthesizers on Dead Silent Slumber, I think it would be difficult to find members who can play that live, make it sound as good, because sometimes it's like four or five keyboards at the same time. I don't know how I could arrange that live...
Enslain: You could have it sampled in the background...
Jens: Yeah, of course, but then you must have like a drummer or a drum machine playing so everything gets synchronized, correctly, that's quite difficult too. Well we'll see what happens, but right now I have no plans to tour or anything like that.
Enslain: But you do have plans to release more Dead Silent Slumber albums?
Jens: Yeah, of course, of course. I am writing new songs right now, I think I have like four new songs already. I think, I hope that I can record the next album, about this summer, so hopefully the next album will be out about this time next year. I think that would be quite good to have, you know, about one year between the first and second album, because I don't want to rush anything, you know, I want to take my time to make a good album that I'm satisfied with, because sometimes it's kinda bad to release albums too fast, actually, some bands are releasing albums all the time, and I think you don't, respect these bands that much, because I think that, when I see a new album coming out, if they've made an album out so soon, it can't be any good, it's probably just they wrote some old shit, you know. So I just want to take my time until I'm satisfied, but hopefully within a year.
Enslain: Do you write any music for Naglfar?
Jens: Yep, we write all the songs together, actually. I do make lots of ideas and stuff like that, so, but everybody is equally involved in the songwriting, because we write the songs, well, we arrange the songs in the rehearsal place. Naglfar is faster, more aggressive, so when I write that kind of music, I use it to Naglfar, otherwise, if it's a little bit softer, or different in one way or another, then I use it to Dead Silent Slumber.
Enslain: But you don't actually play any instruments in the recordings for Naglfar?
Jens: No, I just handle the vocals. But I still make music.
Enslain: Are you happy only doing the vocals for them?
Jens: Yeah, I think it's great. I haven't been rehearsing singing and playing guitar at the same time, so, when I try it at home or something, I find it very difficult, you know, it's like playing all over from the beginning again. And also, when we are on stage, it's quite relaxing for me, you know, I don't have to carry all these guitar cases, stuff like that, I just have to remember the lyrics, that's it (laughs)
Enslain: Do you write the lyrics yourself?
Jens: Yes, for Dead Silent Slumber I have written all the lyrics myself, for Naglfar I write some of the lyrics.
Enslain: What are the concepts behind your lyrics?
Jens: Many, like horror movies, have this concept, like when the gates to Hell are opened, when the Devil comes to Earth, you know, the dead shall walk the Earth. That's, you know, you can read it in lots of old books and stuff like that, so that's one of the main influences for me on this album, it's basically about the living dead, you know, raising the dead... It's not a concept album, but many of the lyrics goes in that kind of topic. But some of the songs are a little bit different, like there's a song called "Raising the Suicide Chalice," it's basically about suicide and stuff like that. But I think it's pretty much death metal lyrics overall, you know.
Enslain: So what's new with Naglfar, like a new release or tour or anything?
Jens: Right now we are without a rehearsal place, so we're kind of, having a short break at the moment, (laughs). It's just bad luck, we always lose our rehearsal place, this has happened, like, 5 or 6 times before, so I'm used to it nowadays actually! You know, you have to pay the rent in time, and we didn't do that, so we were kind of kicked out, so we are kind of pissed off now. But anyway, we are writing songs for the upcoming album, and we have like, I think we have about five new songs finished, so we have a couple more songs to go. But we will try to record the next album in like, perhaps April or May or something like that, and I think we will go on tour when the album is released, or something like that, but I'm not sure about The States, if Relapse is going to release the next album as well. We are a little bit disappointed with their work so far. You know, War Music, our Swedish label, they are in touch with Metal Blade, so maybe they will release it instead.
Enslain: Do you have any intentions of playing any European festivals this year?
Jens: We'll see, I talked to War Music earlier today, actually, we were talking a little about these festivals, he's trying to get us in on this Dynamo Festival. It's a pretty cool festival, I've been there, only once, like for one day only, actually. It was a little bit strange, because we went on a European tour, it was a big tour, it was six bands. Deicide and Six Feet Under were going to play at the Dynamo just before the tour started, so everybody on the tour got backstage passes, and stuff like that, so I was at Dynamo, what, for like a couple of hours! But hopefully we will play this year, but nothing is... we'll see what happens. A lot of shit is going on with Dynamo, especially, there's another festival called Wacken Open Air, I think that one is better, actually. There's often better bands at the Wacken festival, but we'll see. Anyway, the problem is that the big labels, they can promote these festivals, you know, they support them with money and stuff like that, so in return, the bands on these big labels can play there, but bands on smaller labels, it's not that easy, you know.
Enslain: Do you have any plans of changing record labels?
Jens: Yeah, we're signed to War Music for one more album, so we'll do that one, and then we'll see what happens. I mean, I know we have been offered deals from like, 10 other labels so far, so I know that many of the bigger labels are interested, like Century Media and Nuclear Blast for example. So, I guess we'll see what happens. I mean, sometimes it can be some problems when you go to a bigger label, you know, because perhaps you don't get the attention that you are used to, because they have so many bands. But on the other hand, if we sign to, for example, Nuclear Blast, we have like three albums out before, so like they know us. So I think that we could get pretty good priority anyway. Well, we'll see what happens.
Enslain: Have you ever been in any other bands?
Jens: Well, not really. There is a band called Ancient Wisdom, it is on AvantGarde music. I played the keyboards for the first album, but I was only a member for a very short time, because I joined Ancient Wisdom, and we recorded that album, and afterwards the band split up, and I had Naglfar at the same time as my main band, so for me it was like no big deal. So then the front man reformed the band, but it's now his solo project. It's great, he just recorded the third album, which will be out within a couple of months. But aside from that, I had another band before we formed Naglfar, but it was just, you know, for fun, just me and a couple of friends fooling around in a rehearsal place, no one could handle the instruments you know, so we never released anything...
Enslain: How long have you been playing music?
Jens: Since, '92, I think. Most people in Sweden start early. I think it's kinda good because, in school we have ordinary music lessons where you learn to play the basic keyboards and guitars and stuff like that. Then you have, you can also borrow instruments and rehearsal places for free when you're young, so it's very easy to form a band just for fun because you don't have to pay anything, play just having fun, you know. So I think that's why everybody starts up when they are young, actually.
Enslain: So that's why all the bands are coming from Sweden?
Jens: (laughs) Yeah, yeah, it's fucking strange, there's tons of bands but no gigs at all. I live in Northern Sweden, and here there's like never any gigs, it's like once or twice a year! In Southern Sweden it's a little bit better, but not good at all, and I think the problem is that, all the European tours, they don't come over to Sweden because they have to get across the water, in between Germany and Sweden. It's too expensive, and most tour agencies don't think it's worth the money.
Enslain: So why don't Swedish bands play there?
Jens: That's a good question (laughs)! Well basically it's not fun to play here either because when we play gigs here in Sweden, most people just are standing against the wall at the back of the wall and stuff like that, so it's not fun at all, you know. I think it's because everybody is playing in bands themselves, you know, so they just stand there looking evil or something, just looking for if the band playing is doing some mistakes on stage or something like that. I don't like it, Europe is so much better. I heard friends of mine who play in a band called Bewitched was in Mexico recently, and they said that's like the best thing they have ever experienced so far. So I think that would be the greatest thing, go to Mexico, and play there.
Enslain: Where have you gotten the best responses so far?
Jens: I think, Finland was great, and on the European tour we did two shows in France, and one of them was really awesome, and also in Germany, I think Germany is the best country overall. It was a small town, but you know, they have gigs all the time, and people are coming from all over Germany to see bands playing in that town, so it's really professional, and the audience was just, you know, crazy!
Enslain: So I hear that most bands get the best crowd reactions in Germany and that the most shows occur there, but I don't really hear of that many bands coming FROM Germany... Which is exactly the opposite of Sweden!
Jens: Yeah, exactly!
Enslain: So I think you guys need to move down there!
Jens: (laughs) Well, perhaps we should give it a thought! But yeah, I don't know why I'm still in Sweden actually, I mean, okay, I like it here, but it's expensive, it's cold, and stuff like that so... When we went on that European tour, you know, it was fucking hot! We weren't used to that! So we had to drink water all the time just so we wouldn't collapse! We like it up here, I mean, at one time we had a problem, we had another drummer on the first album, but he quit the band, and we had a very difficult time to find a new drummer, so at one point we had thought like, hey perhaps we could move to the South of Sweden to seek a new drummer down there. But after a while we realized that it's pretty difficult to move like four people at the same time because everybody has to quit their school and job or whatever, so it's kind of difficult to move really. But I think as a band it's better to live in the South of Sweden, because it's so expensive to travel here, you know. So sometimes when someone is offering us a gig in the South of Sweden, and we tell them what it will cost them, just the price of travel, they often say like 'wait a minute, it's too expensive, we can't afford that'.
Enslain: What bands have you done artwork for?
Jens: Too many to mention them all, but... I did all the Naglfar stuff, and the Dead SIlent Slumber album of course. I also do it for people I know, you know, like bands from my home town, for example, like Bewitched, and also Ancient Wisdom, another old black metal band called Throne of Ahaz, they have split up like a few years ago, they have released like two albums on No Fashion Records. Dimension Zero...
Enslain: Yeah, I noticed that one of the Dimension Zero songs is called "Dead Silent Shriek"...
Jens: Yeah! Yeah, I noticed that myself!
Enslain: No connection there?
Jens: No, not at all, but I had that album before I chose the band name, so I think perhaps I had it somewhere in my mind somewhere, but I didn't think of it. When I noticed that song title afterwards I was like hell, it's pretty similar! So yeah, that one and another Swedish band called Vintersorg, it's out on Napalm Records, it's good friend of mine, everything is in Swedish, so I don't know if you can even buy it in The States. Pretty good, actually, but I think you have to understand Swedish to understand it. I have done some more albums so far, I think I have done like, about 20 albums so far.
Enslain: Being so musically and artistally well-rounded, which aspect of it all do you consider to be your favorite?
Jens: Writing music, I think that's the best thing of it all. That's what I consider most important as well, you know, writing songs that I'm satisfied with, you know, to record and give them out on disk. The lyrics, for example, I think yeah, it's important, but a song could still be good if the lyrics are quite bad, but a song can't be good if the music is bad but the lyrics are good, I think. And about artwork, I think that's some sort of bonus, I mean there's lots of albums around with really bad artwork but it's still a great album, you know. I mean I like doing artwork because it's one of my big interests here in life, but I can live without it, you know. And actually I'm getting a little bit tired of it, because I've done it for a couple of years now, so I don't have as much inspiration anymore, so I'm trying to put it down a little bit, so I actually turn down quite many offers. But otherwise it's great, you know, extra money.
Enslain: What are your future plans and goals?
Jens: Well right now I am doing my best to promote the album. Hammerheart is setting up some phone interviews for the next couple of weeks with mostly German, or European magazines, trying to spread the name. I mean people might know Naglfar, but Dead Silent Slumber is kind of new. So I think I have to do my best to at least spread the name, so that people know that the album exists. And then, we're also doing some merchandise and stuff like that, we're doing some limited edition LP versoins as well, and there will be two different shirt designs out within like a couple of months. And, well after that I will concentrate on the next album. I think the music will be about the same, I have some fresh ideas for it. I'm trying to, you know, find some new elements, you know, experiment some more with the keyboards and stuff like that, I think it will turn out about the same in the end, you know, you will still hear it like it's the same band, you know.
Enslain: How about like further in the future, like 5 years down the road, what do you hope to accomplish?
Jens: (momentary silence) Jeez, I don't know! (laughs) I'm signed to Hammerheart for one more album, so I hope I can perhaps sign to a bigger label after that, and perhaps, I mean, as it is right now, it's underground music, but if you are on a big label, you can get attention from, you know, ordinary newspapers and stuff like that, I think that would be kind of cool, perhaps do a music video, even though it's pretty silly because MTV doesn't even play death metal music anymore. But I think it would be a cool thing to do if I made a music video, just to get the feeling. I don't have any specific goals at the moment, I think I would like to release at least 4 or 5 albums with Dead Silent Slumber, I think that's my goal right now. I mean, we'll see what happens. But since it's a solo project, it's not a problem for me to, you know, put it to rest for like a year, then I can continue with it when I feel it. With Naglfar, I don't have any specific goals for them either, actually... Go on a big tour, perhaps go over to Japan, the latest album is out in Japan, actually the response has been pretty good actually. They have told us that after the next album we might go over there for, you know, just to do like a couple of gigs, that would be really cool, I mean, after you've played in Japan, you can call yourself a rockstar! (laughs)
Enslain: What about the U.S.? Don't forget about us!
Jens: Yeah, yeah of course. There's so much shit going on, I mean, Relapse told us, like 'yeah, perhaps you can play on the Milwaukee festival', and we thought like, hey it would be great, and then like nothing happened, you know. I think it's too expensive, we would have to go by plane, you know, and it's obviously really expensive, so I think, and I've also heard, I mean Naglfar is more along the black metal vein, and it's kind of new in The States, like death metal is still bigger in The States. Here in Europe, well death metal is coming back now, but in the last couple of years, black metal it has been so much bigger. Everybody was tired of death metal things so everybody stopped listening to it and started listening to black metal instead. So everybody thinks that the United States is like a couple of years behind, or something like that! So I think the best thing would be to perhaps wait, perhaps another year or so, so that the black metal thing would be a little bit more established before we go over there. But I'm having some mixed feelings towards the United States. I mean, you know, it would be a dream come true to come to the United States, even since I was a kid, watching all this television and movies, you know, New York, it's like the big town, it would be really cool to go over there, but everybody keeps warning us, as a band, because everybody tells us that touring in the United States is like so tough for a band, because the conditions are always pretty bad, and you have to travel a lot, I've heard, and you have to rent a car and drive it yourself and stuff like that. We were on tour with Brutal Truth here in Europe, and they told us like, 'don't go to The States and tour by yourself, if you do, make sure that it's really good arranged, otherwise it's not worth it'.
Enslain: Yeah, I hear a lot of mixed feelings on that too, a lot of bands complain about it, but a lot of bands say it's not actually that bad, once they do come out here.
Jens: Yeah, alright... I think it's different from every tour or whatever. For example At The Gates, I think they did a tour in The States, and it was off that tour they decided to split up because they couldn't handle it, you know. So yeah, we'll see. But I think that if perhaps we are signed to a bigger label, then we might have a chance to go over there, but not on War Music. It would be if like Relapse is doing a good job on the next album and are making a lot of money for us, but, yeah, we'll see what happens! The only thing I know so far is like, I had pretty good contact with them like a year ago, sending some emails back and forth, and everything was great. But then I started to asj about the royalties, you know, the money, and then they stopped... I haven't heard from them since! So it's a little bit strange. But I mean it's great that the album is out there, I think that's the most important thing. I've heard that Relapse has pretty good distribution, that you can find it in many stores and stuff like that. That's great, I mean, because most European labels don't have American distribution at all, so I think that's really good. I think it's strange that Relapse decided to release it, because I thought they were a diehard death and grindcore label.
Enslain: How do you feel about the current state of metal?
Jens: I have lost some of the underground feeling lately, I used to tape trade a lot, but nowadays I only listen to the promo CDs I get in the mail, and I only listen to the bigger bands that I know that I liked before. But the scene in totally, I think, it's hard to say, there's always great bands around, and there's always tons of shit around, so... I think it's about the same as a couple of years ago if you compare it. I don't think it's that much different, really.
Enslain: What bands are you into?
Jens: Lots of bands! Well right now I listen a lot to, I like the new (The) Kovenant album, you know, Kovenant from Norway. I like Moonspell quite a lot, but I haven't heard the new album yet, but I'm sure it's okay. But also some more extreme stuff like Dark Funeral and Vader. I guess it's different every day, sometimes I'm really into, you know, brutal death metal, the next day I'm more into soft epic doom or something.
Enslain: What are you most influenced by?
Jens: Everything. That's also one of the reasons I formed Dead Silent Slumber, because I would like to do whatever I feel like. I think that if you listen to the album, every song sounds a little bit different from the other ones, so I think that explains that I listen to a lot of different kind of metal, I get influences from a lot of different stuff. I think you can hear that it's like the same band throughout the whole album, but the songs are still different from each other. I think it's more interesting to listen to it. I like that myself, you know, I receive tons of CD, and often it sounds like the bands are playing the same song over and over again, so I decided to do like the opposite, making every song sounding different from each other, but still being death metal songs. I think I'm influenced by everything from Cannibal Corpse to movie soundtracks. And, you know, (sighs) I hate to say this, but sometimes when I'm at work, you have the radio on in the back all day long, so I only hear these eurodisco songs, but sometimes I actually get influenced by stuff like that too! I mean I will never start to play eurodisco, that's for sure! But I mean some details, like the keyboards for example can be quite interesting, and then when I get home from work I start to try to do something similar, but then it turns out into death metal in them. So yeah, I think I'm influenced by everything that's interesting... (laughs)
-- Lady Enslain