Interview with Pete Devine of Pete’s Rock News and Views (http://petesrocknewsandviews.com)
PD: What type of artist are you?
Manne: Haha, what a tricky first question! Well, we like to refer to ourselves as a group of grumpy old men, but that might not constitute a type of artistry. It’s more like four (old) guys, that finally got their chance to get a slice of that rock n roll-cake and are feeling excited as teenagers doing it. Oh, and we play doom metal.
PD: Tell us the brief history of yourself.
Manne: Just like our music, the history of Malsten is slow paced, albeit less scary. Fredrik Grehn (guitars) & Andreas Svensson (Bass) started jamming together around five years ago. Very early they knew that slow and heavy was the path they wanted to tread. The duo identified a slot in the doom metal genre that desperately needed to be filled – Conceptual driven music with strong vocals. All they needed was a drummer and a singer to match that ambition. Easier said than done as it would turn out.
While trying out band members Fredrik and Andreas started composing a draft of what was to become Malsten’s first album. A gory horror story set in a darker version of rural Sweden, at the beginning of the 20th century. The problem was finding people that shared the same vision AND could deliver musically. Prospective musicians joined and left, either due to lack of skill or due to mismatches in ideas and goals. In the midst of this frustrating journey Fredrik & Andreas continued honing the tale to be told, giving birth to the main antagonist, a mad, murderous miller – The Grinder.
By the end of 2018 drummer Joen Leffler and vocalist Manne Högström had joined the band and the gloomy quartet was complete. I think we all fell in love with the concept and the storytelling possibilities around the world Fredrik & Andreas had created. Balancing family and work life we managed to squeeze out our first single by middle 2019 and it was really well received. A year later, the full album The Haunting of Silvåkra Mill saw the light of day, much thanks to the capable hands and brains of Joakim Lindberg at Studio Sickan, Malmö.
Shortly after the release Joen had to leave the band due to personal reasons and Stefan Winroth joined the ranks as Malsten’s new drummer. And here we are today, four guys sitting at home longing to return to the studio once again.
PD: Who are your musical and non-musical influences?
Manne: We all come from different walks of music life. Fredrik is probably the most doomy of us in that aspect, constantly going on about Tool, Ufomammut, Monolord and the likes. Andreas combines a romantic relationship with old school death/black metal bands such as Satyricon with a flair for the grandeur and drama of classical music like Wagners “The flying dutchman”. Manne comes from a softer background, listening to musicals (Phantom of the Opera), folk music and grunge (Pearl Jam). Last but not least, we have the powerhouse Stefan. Our very own Duracell Bunny, drawing influences from bands like Melvin and TAD. It all makes for a very eclectic mix, but combined it creates a unique energy that gives our band its soul.
Outside of music, we draw inspiration from horror literature and film. Stefan much enjoys the visuality of Simon Bisley work. Since we started working on the concept behind The Haunting of Silvåkra Mill, we have gravitated naturally towards more 19thcentury-style visual styles. Viktor Sjöströms 1921 film “The Phantom Carriage” (“Körkarlen” in Swedish) is a great example of the type of visual and atmospheric concept we would envision, should we ever produce any visual art to accommodate our music.
Another great influence for The Haunting of Silvåkra Mill is the TV-series “Skånska mord”, aired on Swedish TV in the late 80’s. The series depicts famous murder-cases that took place in the first half of the 20th century and stars brilliant late actor Ernst-Hugo Järegård. The settings and landscape, as well as the general mood has been a driving inspiration for us when the conceptual story of the album was created.
PD: What are your dreams and goals?
Manne: I think, in short, it is to reach as many people as possible with the story that we are telling and to expand that dark universe. It is a challenge these days due to the fast pace of music consumption and the short span when a new album is relevant. Add to that the Covid situation and the struggles of playing live. But, we are not in a hurry. We know now that people seem to like what we are putting out there and the next iteration is going to be even greater than the first.
PD: Who writes your songs, what are they about?
Manne: It’s definitely a collaborative effort. The saga about The Grinder was created by Fredrik and Andreas but has been adopted by the whole band. Often, we will be writing and composing in our own homes, then sharing the ideas during jam sessions or via social media and slowly the songs take shape. There is also a massive catalogue of riffs from the early days that is almost scary to delve in to.
The songs are more like chapters in a story. It centres around a southern Swedish village, Silvåkra, in the beginning of the 20th century. It is a time when old superstitions meet the grasp of Christianity and unseen forces struggle for influence over humans in a very literal sense. The listener gets to follow some individuals that are caught up in that battle and the gruesome fates that await them.
PD: How do you promote your band and shows?
Manne: It’s a combination of online media, like Instagram and Facebook, and real-life connections. On Instagram we have been using a storytelling angle where the life of our heroes and villains have been given life outside of the album. It’s engaging both for us and our audience actually.
Malmö, where we are based, has a very active music scene and it’s quite easy to communicate directly with and through the venues. The main struggles right now are the COVID situation, which has eliminated the possibility of live gigs, as well as the short attention span of new album releases. So, interviews like this one is a great way to reach new crowds!
PD: What do you think about downloading music online?
Manne: Is that even a thing anymore? Vinyl is where it is at!
PD: What song do you wish you’d written and why?
Manne: I have to say ‘Memory’ from the Webbers ‘Cats’. It captures perfectly and with only a few notes the part of the story told, both when its closing the first act and when it returns at the end. Its such a powerful theme that brings the whole audience to tears in a matter of seconds. Its subtle and powerful at the same time and does its job perfectly. I would never hope to compose something like that myself but trying is a good challenge.
PD: What are some of your pet peeves?
Manne: Well that’s a subject perfectly fit for grumpy old men. We constantly nag and complain. Luckily, most of us have bad hearing on the count of playing metal music for most of our lives, otherwise the rehearsal sessions would be really strenuous. The list of pet peeves would probably be too long to put in writing, so we will give a few examples. Fredrik gets really upset by general tardiness. He would be the first to explicitly point out if your late or if you have forgotten something. Or if you spend too long untangling your instrument cables, which all of us do, even Stefan.
Andreas is extremely bothered by bad grammar and general unprofessionalism and can be all to blunt about this. In Andreas mind, if you write or talk like an idiot, you are an idiot. This is stressful in this day and age, with its fast information flow and with social media being the primary outlet for most people and businesses. Nothing seems to be proofread before publishing, and to Andreas this is a sign of general degeneration in society.
Stefan on his side, fiercely dislikes stinginess, falseness, or any hidden agendas. If you have something to tell him, tell him straight up, without any unnecessary mumbling or hidden hints. Or else, be prepared to suffer the Stefan stare.
I’m probably the most cheerful in the band. But I do require that my French fries be perfectly crisp. No sogginess.
PD: What is your proudest moment in music?
Manne: I would definitely say the moment we first held the finished album in our hands. It felt so real and concrete. Like, we made this! And now people can (hopefully) enjoy the shit out of our music.
PD: So what are you working on at the moment?
Manne: Right now, we are working on the next part of the saga. We don’t want to reveal too much about the story, but it picks up after the climactic ending of the first album. It’s a bit of a struggle since we are mostly working on it from home, separately. We will be taking some new steps instrumentally and storytelling wise, that much we can reveal.
PD: Tell us about your next shows and why we should be there.
Manne: Maybe it’s not very Swedish to say this, but even though we are old and grumpy, we do put on a great show. As stated earlier, due to current circumstances we don’t have any booked live gigs at the moment. But do follow us on instagram @malstenband and we will make sure to let you know when we can start taking the stage again.
Manne Högström sings in Swedish Doom-band Malsten.
Malstens debut album The Haunting of Silvåkra Mill was released in July 2020 on limited vinyl from Interstellar Smoke Records and digitally worldwide.