From The Grave To The Graveyard
It’s appropriate that the scorching, screaming track which kicks off Graveyard’s latest album Peace is entitled “It Ain’t Over Yet.” After four critically acclaimed albums (two of which won Swedish Grammy awards) and becoming a flagship artist on the venerable Nuclear Blast label, it was precariously close to actually being over.
In September 2016, the band announced that it was breaking up via a Facebook post that read: “Due to the all so classic reason ‘differences within the band’ the Graveyard is as of today officially closed. This is the unfortunate final decision we've had to make after going through a period of struggling n juggling with personal issues. Things have gone out of hand and now our energy is very low.”
By January of last year, the band had a change-of-heart spurred on by a change of drummers. After initially announcing the departure of Axel Sjöberg from the band (it seems to have been a mutual decision), they said they would continue. Several months later, they tapped Oskar Bergenheim, a Swedish session musician who also spent time with progressive folk group Den Stora Vilan, to fill the throne, and they entered the studio with a much happier lineup.
The culminating release Peace continues to mine the classic rock Graveyard has always collectively embraced. This time, the band seems to go back even further, embracing some pure blues moments practically unmolested by metallic influence. Fear not, though, as it also contains some of the heaviest material the band has ever done making it a trip through the ages.
Guitarist Jonatan Larocca-Ramm checked in with us to discuss how Graveyard survived and came back stronger than ever.
I would be remiss if I didn't point out that you broke up for a second there. Can you take us back to then?
I don't have that much to say about it now either, but we were struggling for a long time as a group [with] dynamics and the different personalities. I think we just needed to sort things out before we did anything else at that time. We couldn't do it the way we functioned as a band by then, so that's why Axel isn't playing drums anymore. But there are no hard feelings, no problems, but this is the way it turned out. And Oskar is playing with us now and it feels good to be back.
When you made the announcement, did you know that this was going to be the resolution you would have and you just needed some private time to get there or was the future of the band really kind of in doubt for a minute there?
Oh yeah, it was for sure, because we didn't have a backup plan. If we had, I don't think it would have taken us that long to figure the situation out. You would have seen us before this.
At the same time, you were able to resolve things in four months, which by breakup terms is a split second.
Oh yeah, I guess you’re right! I missed playing when we had the time when we didn't know what going to happen or if we were going to continue to play at all. So that's when you start to think about how fortunate you are to actually do this and have it as your job. Music is fun, that's the main reason to why we do it. So it should be that way still. It feels great right now.
We took the decision in October. We kind of had this school meeting where we raised our hand if we wanted to play music.
Did everybody raise their hand?
Yeah, except Axel.
So that was it in a nutshell? It just wasn’t fun at that point and Axel had other priorities?
Yeah, I think as I think as I said, we had too many different opinions and we weren't going towards the same direction. And it affected the dynamics of the group kind of and how it was to be around each other doing tours and such.
Let's talk about being back. The record is named Peace. Is that any kind of a kind of symbolism, like you finally have peace within Graveyard?
Yeah, I think you’re right, but also with things the way they are today, I guess it felt like it was a fitting name for it.
Did the band turmoil affect the creative process at all?
No, not really. I think the process was kind of the same as we always do. We try to put things together, things that we enjoy playing, and that's where we start. That didn’t change. Axel wrote a lot of lyrics [so] Truls has been writing a lot of lyrics for this record. But everybody has always contributed and everybody writes as much as possible.
Everything served to kind of push us, to realize that, come on, this is what we do and what we've been doing for so long and we don't want to give it up yet. Also, Truls and Oskar bring a lot of energy. It was more of a push into something creative or to continue than any hangover.
In listening to Peace, in many ways it seems to be like a blues record, as opposed to bluesy rock. There’s a difference. “See The Day” and “Del Manic” are straight-forward blues and “Bird of Paradise” sounds like one of those Hendrix blues songs.
Yeah, I think you’re right. As you say it’s always been there, but you can hear it more or less in different songs. But I’m glad you noticed. We rarely have a distinct plan of what to do or where to go or how to develop before we write anything, it just turns out the way it does. But there's a lot of blues in there. Still, some songs are among the hardest songs we’ve done. I think the differences between the songs are pretty strong but also keep it together.
In the past you recorded completely in analog and used vintage guitars and gear. Did you continue in that tradition?
No. This is both digital and analog. This was the first time we recorded the way we did. We didn’t roll back the tape each time we played, we went straight to the computer and then to the tape. So it was different, but it was a relaxing way of working as well. You could create [multiple] takes and you could take the best one.
We took a while to make the decision but in the end we recorded at Park Studios [in Stockholm] and that’s the equipment they have. That’s the way the producer [Chips Kiesbye] and sound engineers work together and have been for I don’t know how many years. That was something we wanted to try, to do some different things and see how they come out. It was kind of an experiment but it worked out great.
We also used a ton of amazing amps that they had in the studio. They also had a delivery of twelve vintage amps and I think we used them all. That was a pretty fun experience. A collector had them shipped to the studio when we were there. All of them were made between 1955 and 1965, I think, and everything was in mint condition. It was a good time! I wish we could keep them!
Graveyard has five albums and you’ve won two Swedish Grammys. Do you feel like you’re a part of the mainstream especially in Sweden where rock music seems more a part of the mainstream than in other places?
It's hard to tell, really. We haven't been played that much on the radio to be honest. The radio stations aren't as great as you might think they are, but I think that might be a reason why people play music actually, because they don't want to listen to the music on the radio. So they either buy records or start a band. But as you say, we have been getting some attention. The Grammys was pretty cool. Of course we were thankful for it. It’s a good country for rock and roll and hard rock, but there’s not so much of it on the radio stations.
Without the success that Graveyard has had, maybe the band doesn’t work through the issues. There’s more at stake now, more to lose.
Yeah, you never know. That was also a point that I thought about. We've been struggling for our lives, everyone in the band and as individuals. We've been trying to get this far. It would be shit to just give up now. If it would have been earlier, maybe we wouldn't have been around anymore, but you never know.
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