Edge of Sanity, Total Terror, Nightingale, Katatonia, Opeth, Marduk – what do all these bands have in common? Dan Swanö was involved with all of them one way or another, whether as a musician or behind the mixing desk. The list of his projects reads like a who-is-who of the Scandinavian metal scene. STALKER had a word with the busy man and learnt many things of the life of a music junkie.
First of all, thanks a lot for taking your time answering this interview as I understood you´re very busy at the moment… What are you currently working on?
Howdy there. Well, today I have been working on some Saudi-Arabian Doom and some Spanish Art-Metal!! Both projects are really cool! Later today I will go on working with a Finnish metal band. So I am pretty busy. I like it busy!!!
The list of projects you´re involved in is longer than a six-year-old´s Christmas list, do you think you´re a workaholic?
Not really. I just like to keep working. I like to juggle a lot of various projects at the same time. If you stay too focused on only one project at a time you end up losing the big picture. I don´t consider myself a work-o-holic. I am passionate about my work.
Do you have any free time? What are you doing then?
I try to balance my work vs spare time as much as I can. Since my girlfriend moved in, I am trying to work 9-5 as much as possible. Before she moved in, I could do marathon days and end up having to re-do most of the stuff I did after 8 hours of constant listening anyway. The ear is a sensitive organ and once you abuse it hard enough it can take up to 3 days before you fully recover. I try to mix and master smarter.
How much, do you think, is the final mastering/mixing involved in the overall success of an album?
Once the songs are kick ass, the production is not that crucial. I mean, Hotter Than Hell still sold pretty well, and that is not a wonderful sounding record. Albums like “Left Hand Path” and “Slaughter of the Soul” sure did gain a lot from groundbreaking mix jobs, no question. But those records would have held up pretty nicely without their “special” sound. Sometimes the “perfect” production makes u listen more to a record because it sounds so fucking nice, like “The Gathering” from Testament. I sure spun that CD a few times only to hear the great sound. The songs are cool too, but the sound is why I listen to it loud in the car sometimes!!!
Almost every Scandinavian death metal album is refined by you, it seems. Do you think you somehow coined a bit that typical Death Metal sound?
Naah, I am not so sure about that. I might have had something to do with the sound of the new Scandinavia Black Metal wave. Some of the records I did back in the early 90´s have been pretty copied music-wise (Like the Dissection and Marduk albums) and maybe some of the bands that went on to copy these bands also, subconsciously, copied some of the sound from the records.
What are your Top 5 albums you´ve be involved in one way or another?
It´s too hard!! Some of the stuff I have done that is really dear to me is: Opeth – Orchid. The Novembers Doom records. My “Moontower” album. The Unicorn demo “A Collection of worlds II”. The Dissection sessions were always cool. It was great to work with Merciless. Shit….it´s all cool. I´ve been lucky to work with such influential bands like Millencolin and stuff…
Which band would you like to work with but haven´t yet?
No specific really. There are a shitload of albums I would like to go back and remix. Mostly my own stuff, but there is no time for it. Sometimes I mess around with one song only, and that is often enough to realise that the past is past and that I should move on instead of dwelling there. I do have a smashing remix of “Black Tears” coming up though. It´s just a beefed up mix from the Purgatory Afterglow mastertapes. I don´t know when or how it will be released, but maybe on a compilation or so. It´s 15 years since that song was released!
What do you enjoy more, sitting in a studio twiddling knobs or making music yourself (live), what are the advantages/disadvantages of each?
I am 99% the studio guy and 1% the stage guy. If I wouldn´t have been so stupid to sing and play guitar in all my live acts, then I would probably say different because I love playing drums on stage. I like to hide behind the cymbals and just rely on animal rage!! But as a frontman or guitarist I am very shy on stage and have fear to play wrong and forget the lyrix all the time. Not funny. I like to be able to rewind and do another take. That is a bit hard on stage, until they invent the time warper!!! To sit all day in the studio you lose a little bit touch with reality and all circles around that mix. For me it´s great that I work extra in a musicstore and get to get out of “the bubble” and meet people and also completely forget about the mix for some time and come back and listen with fresh ears and mind!
How, when and why did you start your career in the music business?
I got in to the whole thing around real early. My first real band GHOST played the first show in 1984, I was 11 years old. It was in the same room that later turned out to be Gorysound/Unisound!! GHOST also played live to my whole school in the gym hall. We kicked ass and since that moment I knew I wanted to be a rockstar!! I got the vibe that life was easier when you were famous. And since I am quite lazy that seemed like a good idea. Later on I learnt that you needed to work really hard to become famous at the level I wanted and kind of gave up on the whole idea. I am pleased with the level of fame I have achieved over the years. Just enough!
What music were you listening to when you grew up?
I was born into a hardrocking home. I learned to love heavy music before I could talk. My older brothers played me all kinds of stuff and I see now why my music taste is so confused!!
I enjoy anything from sappy ballads to harder than hard Death Metal….
You play almost every instrument ever invented, did you teach it yourself? Which one´s your favourite instrument?
I am still a drummer at heart, but I don´t play it that much anymore. That is the only place where I feel really “safe”. I like my own voice and all, but my range is a little bit too limited and my guitar playing is a bit weird since I hold the guitar upside down for some weird reason!!
With so many projects , side projects going on in the past and present, where do you get all your creativity from? Are you afraid you´re ever running out of ideas?
Ehrm….my creativity has been pretty low in the songwriting department for quite some time. I chose to focus all my energy on getting my mixing career back on its feet. There is really no way I could make a living playing professionally with any of my bands and I am not so keen on touring at all…which is a must to make a livin´ these days!!
What´s the current status of Nightingale, the last album came out 2007?
The status is that we haven´t rehearsed since…I don´t remember 😉 We will rehearse next weekend and get back in shape for 2 gigs line-up for June and July. I am not really sure what the future will bring for Nightingale. There are some ideas for new songs and if I had more time to focus on shaping it all up into full-blown songs…then we might have an album ready some time next year…but we are currently without a label…so I am not really sure where the budget would come from. If any label is interested in us…get in touch at dan(at)unisound.se
Total Terror´s debut album was finally released more than 10 years after it was recorded, why did you want to put it out now? Do you think there will be a comeback of crustpunk sometime?
Naah. It was a mix of events that led to the release of this album. I translated a lot of reel to reel tapes to my computer and amongst them was the reel with Total Terror and I just had to remix the album. Then I guess Roel asked me what I was doing at the moment and he put 1 and 1 together and realized that 3/5 of Edge Of Sanity playing brutal music could be something for Vic [Records]…It is also a good way for me to check out if Vic might be a future home for any of my current projects. So far so good!! I think crustcore is there in the background pretty much all the time. I think there might be periods of time where it will be featured in metal more or less…right now I hear a lot of crust in death metal. Bands like Vomitory are good at incorporating it into the death mix!!
If you could wipe off one genre of music from the face of the earth, which one would it be?
What would you do if you for some reason couldn´t do music anymore/ would turn deaf like Beethoven?
Shoot myself on the spot!!
Tusen tack again and good luck with all your projects!
You are welcome!!
Photos: Dan Swanö