Deathstars - The Dark Rockstars Are Back!
By: Ofir Messer
Interview With: Whiplasher Bernadotte (Vocals), Deathstars
Death Metal, Electro, Goth, Industrial and Rock, these are the main ingredients thrown into the mad mix which is Deathstars. With an image that looks like a cloned version of Marilyn Manson or a twisted version of Kiss, and music that throws Rammstein and Dimmu Borgir into a giant foodprocessor, Deathstars have made a name for themselves as one of Europe's most thought provoking musical outfits. surprisingly, despite of the music they play these days, Nightmare Industries (guitar), Bone W. Machine (drums), Skinny (bass) and Whiplasher origins are rooted deep in the Swedish death metal scene, with family relations to Dissection and their previous incarnation, Swordmaster. Deathstars members were creating music since the early 90's, and now, 4 years after their debut album and their transition into a different musical animal altogether, they're about to embark on a new quest, with a new release which should catapult them even farther into worldwide recognition.
To celebrate the release of the band's second album, "Termination Bliss", I decided to speak with Whiplasher Bernadotte, Deathstars' vocalist, who called me on the eve of Friday the 13th. Armed with garlic rosaries and crosses all around, I picked up the phone when the clock showed 22:00, on the other side was a voice that sounded a bit spooky, yet sick... It didn't take long for me to figure out that unlike his vampirish looks, he and I have some things in common, our affection to Jerusalem, and a surprising connection to some Israeli military girls. So come with me, enter the realm of Deathstars and find the darkness within you...
First of all, congratulations on the new release, are you satisfied with the press reviews so far?
Yeah, I think that people seem to get what we're doing now. The album is getting a great response.
For those who haven't heard the band yet, can you explain a little about Deathstars, and what makes you unique?
We've been playing with Death Metal bands since we were kids, from the early 90's with bands like Dissection and Swordmaster. We came from the metal scene but we have developed, we're kind of a mixture between death heritage, black metal, electronics, industrial pop and rock. So it's a mixture, and it's all based upon Sex, Darkness and Glamour.
You sound a little bit ill.
I am actually. I have some water in my lungs, so I'm not perfectly healthy right now.
And they made you do this Interview?
It's ok. I've been sick for like 7 weeks. But I'm on medication.
Well, the initial work on Termination Bliss was finished last April, How come it only came out now?
The album was mixed and finished at the end of the summer but it seems it's been taking a lot of time for everyone to get things done. I don't know why it has taken such a long time. I guess its something with Nuclear Blast, I don't know.
I understand that in the past 4 years since your first release, Deathstars had many problems like equipment theft and some personal issues. What can you tell us about these?
Well the equipment is nothing, it got stolen after the first tour and we got it back and then a few weeks ago our rehearsal room burned to the ground. That happens to us all the time. I think we're pretty bitten by personal problems, because of depression and stuff like that. We had lots of deaths in our families, or relationships that haven't been. It's been chaos to each and every one of us and that's why it took us a long time to make the album. That is also what the album is mostly about. We made a statement about our own personal hell, so it is good in one way, I guess.
In my point of view, I see "Termination Bliss" as if it continues where "Synthetic Generation" ended, it sounds a little bit softer, though it has a more atmospheric feeling in it and the lyrical concept has evolved into something more depressing. What can you tell us about those changes in Deathstars' music and concept since your first release?
The first album was not that much... I mean, this album is more focused then the last one. It doesn't go in so many different directions as the first one did. I think this one is much more personal, it's warmer, it's darker and more mellow-like, and it's got more dimentions in it then the first one. We never speak about how to do it, but we've been playing together for so many years that I think we had it in our back bones, me and Nightmare who writes all the music, it's just 2 of us who write the music. It's much warmer and depressing and much more personal. I think Deathstars will continue to develop, it feels like we're finding more and more where we're going. We develop.
You worked on it in a different way then your first album?
Not really because as I told you, Nightmare and me write all the material, so it just feels that two of us. We started our own studio [Black Syndicate Studios] this time, and then we were much more free to record the album, we could be there day and night, and we produced ourselves and did everything ourselves. It was much more comfortable for us to record this album because we could go to the studio whenever we wanted. Mostly I did the vocals in the late evening and in the middle of the night, you can't do that in other studios. So that was nice.
Did you have any schedule for the recording or you did you do it whenever you wanted?
We had Dissection mixing their album in the studio, and we were parallel with them. So during day maybe Jon [Brother of 'Nightmare Industries'] did guitars for Dissection and in the evenings I did the vocals. So we split, but we could decide ourselves when we wanted to do the recordings. We didn't have a schedule like that.
You also lost one of your guitar players during these recordings. Did some of his work get into the final release?
No. he didn't play at all on the album. But we're still good friends. He lives too far away from Stockholm to be able to be in the band so it was just something that we talked about and decided that it was best for him to leave the band, because of practical reasons. We still don't have a new guitar player.
So who does the guitar work right now?
Nightmare does everything. But we haven't started to play live with the album yet, so we will have to find a new guitar player. We need to, so the sound can be really Dark.
When you first released your album back in 2002, did you expect it to get such good reviews and eventually signing with a big label like Nuclear Blast?
We were on Universal so for us, I guess, when we signed it was much bigger then Nuclear Blast. The album was supposed to be released all over [But it was released only in Sweden]. We understood that the people in the business were very interested in us. I think because for us it was something totally new which we did. We never played music like this before, we switched direction because we got really board playing what we used to do, and we didn't know what to expect. But I can't say I was really surprised by that, when it comes to the labels. We believed in what we did.
Speaking of Nuclear Blast, how is it working them? Is it better then Universal?
Well it's different. I think that it's two different kinds of labels. Universal is major label and Nuclear Blast is not. On a major label you get to do all the TV shows and so on but they don't understand the scene you were coming from like the Metal scene or the Rock scene. They can't see the foundation which the band stands on so they can't really find or promote the album for the original fan-base. With Nuclear Blast, they have their own kind of audience but they are not good in promoting the album on a different level then the metal scene. So it's been two different courses. They [Nuclear Blast] are pretty limited when it comes to that because they only do metal bands. So it's a problem with Deathstars, they don't really know how to promote it because it's not just a metal band, It has a different kind of audience, it's a mixture of things.
Do you want it to be promoted to people who listens to stuff like Evanescence or something?
Yeah I would like to, every label wants to, of course. Everyone finds Darkness interesting and sexy so if it will take Deathstars up, then of course.
Deathstars origins where deep in the Gothenburg metal scene, with your previous band Swordmaster. You said it was boring but what made you abandon this style and make the band?
We're growing you know. We still write Death metal music and we're still evolving with other projects. I love death metal and black metal, that's where I'm coming from. I think we got bored on it at the time, we wanted to evolve and we wanted to use what we did in black metal and death metal and just maximize it, make the songs shorter, and the sound much bigger, use electronics, use much more influences on the sound and take aim on dynamic if we're doing fast songs and riffs. It should be much more dimensional music then we used to do, more atmospheric and everything. So I think we just wanted a new challenge and we found it for now, its just perfect. It was kind of a natural development but also a reaction to what we did before. We wanted to do something different then that.
Are you involved in other bands / projects right now?
Yeah, but nothing is yet to be released, I can't say much about it, but I can tell it have a death-rock origin. It's kind of a death metal project with Magnus from "The Crown" if you know that band. But it's in the future.
What are you listening to on your free time?
I listen to more Opeth, but mostly I listen to rock music, Kiss of course and stuff like that.
And when you're not with the band, do you have a job?
I work in a production company when I'm not doing this music. I produce TV programs in Sweden. I had actually been to Israel... I was working in the middle-east as journalist, I was writing chronicles for a Swedish TV station and I was filming for several months. I was working there in 2001 or 2002 (around the last election time) when I was 21 years old. I remember that I was in Jerusalem and I met some military girls, they picked me up... and they used for sex... [Laughs] that was interesting. I asked the girl while we were having sex if she could take forth her AK-47 or whatever but she said she couldn't cause she had it locked in her locker.
Tell me about it, Army girls...
Yeah, when it was morning they just pulled me up and dropped me outside "Damascus's Gate" ... "Ok, we'll never see you again, goodbye"... [Laughs] but I met some metal guys over there when I was in Jerusalem as well, we hang out, there used to be quite a scene over there.
Yeah, we still have some crazy people over here in Jersualem, I live there too.
Oh you too? I met there one guy called Baal Refahim or something...
Refahim? From Bartholomeus Night?
I don't know. Baal Refa-chim or Refahim, I remember his name actually 'cause we had some mail contact. Maybe you know who it is?
I think so, but I'm not sure.
I think he was writing for fanzine or something, I don't know. We party a lot, I really like Jerusalem. I think it's cool.
Yeah, we have some nice weather over here.
Yeah, but it's interesting.
You've been to the old city of Jerusalem?
Yeah, I lived very close to it, around the street. So yeah, I was there for a couple of weeks. I also was in Tel-Aviv, and Gaza. You know, I also was in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, everywhere. I read about the conflict and I'm very interested in what's going on everyday here in Sweden.
So since you've been here, do you agree that what showing on TV in Sweden is different then what's really going on here?
Of course, it's all about values. It's very politically different then what you get in Sweden. It's the western world, you know the business. It's very complex what's going on in Jerusalem and everywhere in the middle-east, it's very hard for people in Sweden to understand because it's very different. I hope I can get back there [Israel] soon.
Maybe you'll come here with Deathstars?
Oh Yeah. Do you get many bands play over there?
Yeah, we had Destruction, Megadeth, Dark Funeral, and Opeth are coming on April. We had many bands from different styles. Actually you know, Dissection were supposed to play here in a Festival together with Megadeth but Dave Mustaine...
Yeah, I know they got into a fight. Jon told me and we where just laughing.
Well back to your new album, why there are two types of cover-artwork for Termination Bliss?
I think the one with the military is for the digi-pack, or limited edition, but the original album is totally white. I think the limited version have a couple of bonus tracks or remix or something.
Yeah, like the remix Mortiis did for "Blitzkrieg", though I haven't heard it yet. What is the difference between these two versions?
I don't know what Nuclear Blast did and I'm really not that happy that they put this remix on the album cause I don't like it. The album should be only the songs that where supposed to be in it. I think what Mortiis did is a dance version and I really don't like that they put that on the album. It should be released in some other way, but not on the album.
Which one is your favorite Artwork?
I like them both. The white-one is the theme, and the other one is more like a picture, a nice picture.
The video clip for "Cyanide" looks expensive and really interesting, what is the concept behind it?
"Cyanide" is a song about weakness, it's about facing the real being of the dark-side and really give-in and give-up to face it, to surrender to it. Because the theme of the song is seduction then maybe when it comes to the video it's very primitive, it's a girl who's been more or less taken to the dark side. She gets some cyanide in her, some Deathstars kind of cyanide and she gets to black art, that's very simple.
Who made this Video-clip?
He's name is Ivan. We shot it in Belgrade [in Serbia], in the old war ruins. It was a very good experience doing our previous videos in Sweden but it was nice to go away. Everything went pretty smooth, and it was cool. There are a lot of women there in Belgrade.
Speaking of women, what do you think of the Israeli girls?
I think as long as they stop kidnapping me and using me for sex they're perfect. I think what was really amazing when I was there that even at the passport control you get amazing women, because of your military education. There are women all over the place.
Yeah, they're everywhere...
Yeah, you know I'm from Sweden, and we have a lot of girls here as well, but Israel is really nice. I remember one night I sat with this amazing girl at "The Wall" in old Jerusalem, I was drunk and just sat there... and she was there... ah, that was cool anyway, yap! [Laughs]...
Does the way you look in your video and photos is part of your daily appearances?
No, not that heavy. I think only 3 of the 4 us use to wear makeup daily. But no, we don't have much make-up when we are not on stage though it's important wearing make-up. The image of Deathstars is not the same as the music. Wearing the make up and the whole image is just making cense for the concept. That's not really important for us when it comes to the music, but it's important for the band because we are so fond of Kiss and everything, so we do what we need, and we need make-up. You know, we had make-up on stage when we were 14 years old like corpse-paint.
Can you tell us the stories behind each member's nicknames, or is it a secret?
No, its no secret, we used those names in Dissection and Swordmaster, so when we started Deathstars we just brought them with us and used them 'cause we were already known for those names since the previous bands. "Whiplasher" is from an old kiss song called "I Love It Loud"... "Whiplash, heavy metal accident. Rock on, I wanna be President"... And the surname, "Bernadotte", is from the Swedish royal family so it's like a Royal Demon actually.
What about the other nicknames? "Nightmare Industries" sounds like a name of a company or something.
Yeah, it sounds like he is a stock holder or something... [Laughs]... Nightmare Industries is working with real-estate.
No I'm just kidding, but it sounds almost like it. Anyway, "Bone W. Machine" it's something from agriculture and Skinny, he is actually called "Skinny Disco". So that says it all. He has some rock clubs in Stockholm; he's just working there and parties all the time.
Yeah, I heard you guys Dj sometimes.
Yeah, he has clubs for living. Now he is in the states for 2 weeks partying. Last week he had a club that was opened 5 days a week, all night, so he was partying hard. That's what he does.
What about concerts? Are there any plans for 2006?
We we're discussing it with our booking agency. There going to be a lot of gigs, a lot of festivals, and a lot of touring. We had to turn down some tour offers right now, 'cause we have to get a new guitar player. We have some thoughts but we want to do something that really feels right to the band right now. I can't confirm anything but I guess we are gonna play a lot and hopefully we'll play for you. It would be dream to play in Israel, which would be cool. I have the check that up our booking manager right after this interview. What kind of festivals do you got there?
Well we had one official festival called "Metalist Festival" and its going around the summer.
Ah, then we have to get there, I'm gonna call him right now! That would be cool.
I hope the booking agency won't be afraid to send you over here. Most of them are.
No. I don't think there should be any problem. Right?
I hope so. Anyway, you toured with Paradise Lost already. Who do you wanna tour with now?
I don't know. I don't think Madonna would like to tour with us, or maybe Destiny's Child? it would be nice to watch them back-stage.
Yeah. Beyonce is hot!
Yeah... [Laughs] But I think we can go on tour with a lot of bands, of course, but we want to go with a band that adds something to Deathstars. You know, we've been touring with death metal bands for so long, so we don't wanna go on another death metal band tour, we need a band with different kind of audience, 'cause we've been doing that for so many years, we just going to see what happens. It could be something different.
I think your image and music can be appealing to both metal-heads and the gothic/industrial people.
Yeah, it does, 'cause it's not strictly limited to metal anymore. People who are strictly to metal as we where don't get what we're doing with Deathstars of course, not like previous years, that's what we're doing now. We want different kind of crowed, see how it works.
On your concerts, do you see this variety of people?
Yeah. It’s a huge variety compared to what we did before. It's surprised us a bit then. You know, I think people that work with our label, start to see this now, so what they are doing is, they try to find a way to act in a kind of scene that maybe isn't just metal. We'll just see what happens.
But what do you prefer, the other scene or the metal scene or...?
I'm from the metal scene, so of course I'm not saying that we're gonna play with pop bands. I think we are more of a rock act then metal act. That's what I'm saying. We are a rock band that plays very dark music then a metal band. I'm fine with calling Deathstars just rock music.
It's heavier though.
Yeah. But it's kind of rock music and I think it's better to call it rock music then metal in some ways.
Do you know any Israeli Metal bands?
Yeah but I don't remember the names.
Orphaned Land? Betzefer? Salem? Bartholomeus Night? Melechesh?
Hmm... Well I used to know some bands a long time ago but I don't really know what's going on right now and can't remember the names of those bands.
Since its Friday the 13th, do you have any special plans for tonight?
Nightmare is coming over, and our drummer has just arrived from Gothenburg to Stockholm and we're going to meet Jon from Dissection, and a lot of people. They are partying in the same house that I live in, in a rock bar on the other side of the house. I'm gonna take myself some Jack [Daniels] and Coca-Cola and I'm gonna get in the shower and then I'm going to meet the rest of the gang. There going to be a lot of Black metal and Death metal people there.
Ok then, Thank you for the interview! I hope to see you on the roads... and if not, at least in my nightmares
Yeah, I'll be there Tonight!
[Laughs]... Ok, feel good!
You too, take care!