Interview with guitarist Patrik Svärd
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: January 30, 2015
The fact that Sweden ruled the European Death Metal movement in the early nineties is yesterday's news. Stockholm was the "hot bed" for Death Metal with such names as Entombed, Dismember, Afflicted Convulsion, Unleashed and a few others leading the troops of death. In American it was Florida that produced the most promising Death Metal acts some 25 years ago, led by Morbid Angel, Malevolent Creation, Death, Obituary, Deicide, etc. Back to Sweden where Stockholm was not the only town to get in on the Death Metal act. Helsingborg produced a band called Sadistic Pain which was formed in 1987 by Niclas Olsson and Christian Carlsson. A year later they changed their name to Leprosy. Leprosy released a couple of well-received demos (Death to This World in 1988 and Full of Hate in 1990) before disbanding. One even reached the headquarters of Earache Records but nothing came of it.
Who would have guessed how much fun it is digging up old corpses from ancient graveyards nowadays? It's no blasphemy or disgrace that Leprosy's rotting corpse has been dragged back to the daylight. Leprosy's demos will get an official treatment soon and guitarist Patrik Svärd was keen on telling us a bit more about that plus he shared some info about the history of this semi-legendary (to say the least) Swedish Thrash/Death Metal bunch.
Ready to read more about Sweden's answer to Chuck's Death? Good...read on.
Luxi: First off, thanks for accepting my interview invitation for our site, The Metal Crypt. How are you doing?
Patrik: Hi there! I'm doing really well, thank you! I am in the middle of recording the fifth album with my current band, Cloudscape, so I'm playing guitar till my fingers bleed. The music is not in the same genre as Leprosy so it might not be your "cup of tea". It's in the style of progressive and melodic Metal.
Luxi: If we start at the beginning Leprosy was originally known as Sadistic Pain back in 1986 when Niclas (Ohlsson) and Christian (Carlsson) formed the band. I am curious to know what it was like to get your band started back when the huge Swedish Death Metal explosion was happening.
Patrik: It was a really exciting time to be playing extreme Metal. The thing that attracted me to Sadistic Pain and later Leprosy was that the music was kind of "free form." You could play whatever you liked and there were no rules as to how fast, long or heavy a song could be. All other music at the time was made in the same form. Verse, bridge, chorus and back...boring!!
Luxi: Was Sadistic Pain's style a combination of Thrash and Death Metal in the beginning or did it turn to more Death Metal-orientated stuff after the name change to Leprosy?
Patrik: When I joined the band it was already called Leprosy and the musical direction was well set. I would like to think that by the time of the recording of our second demo that I further influenced the direction towards longer and more technical songwriting.
Luxi: After the name change to Leprosy you recorded your debut 5-track demo, Death to This World, in 1988 and it was very well received by the underground tape-trading scene. Were you happy and satisfied with this particular demo and how much notoriety it brought Leprosy?
Patrik: Yes indeed! As I said before, the way we created something as sinister and boundless as Death to This World in a musical environment surrounded by Toto clones and Mötley Crue wannabe bands made it feel like it was us against the world. We were proud even if our friends and family didn't really get it.
Luxi: Could you describe the recording sessions for Death to This World? What kind of experience was it for you? I imagine being as young as you were at that time you had little recording experience. Is this correct? What were some of the biggest challenges during the recording process?
Patrik: I joined the band prior to the recording of Death to This World. I was asked by Magnus Liljetoft, who was a longtime friend, to play solos on their upcoming demo. He wasn't into soloing and he knew that I was starting to become good at it and I had been in a recording studio before. At that time I was playing in a band without any real direction so when I was asked to join in on a few rehearsals to get to learn the songs I quickly fell in love with the innovative material they had written. I quit my other band and joined Leprosy full time. I contributed to the songs by writing all the melodies and solos. I also wrote the intro to the song "Schizophrenia" on this particular demo.
The demo was recorded at a local studio in Landskrona. It was called Studio Maskinen and it was owned by a workers union by the name of ABF. We produced it ourselves but it was engineered by Christian Odeholm. It was recorded and mixed during a weekend in 1988.
The most challenging thing was that all the basic tracks were recorded live. If someone made a mistake we had to start over again. Luckily, we were well rehearsed. The only things that were overdubbed were the harmonies and guitar solos.
None of us knew that you could lower the tuning of the guitars so everything is recorded in A440 (pitch standard). Maybe that contributed to our sound. Many bands tuned down a half or a whole step even back then. We didn't know you could do that. That's how little we knew.
Luxi: How did you end up with title Death to This World? Did have any alternative titles in mind?
Patrik: I have no recollection at all of the naming process. It probably sounded brutal and arrogant, just like we were...
Luxi: Was it only the four songs that ended up on the demo that you had ready to be recorded in 1988 or did you also have some other songs that you dropped maybe because you felt they did not fit in with the rest of the songs or they were unfinished?
Patrik: I think we had a few other songs but I'm not sure any more. Sorry.
Luxi: When you eventually got this demo into peoples' hands were you close to signing on with a label?
Patrik: I'm not sure, but I remember Earache Records showing some interest at one point in time, but that could have been later.
Luxi: Tragedy struck Leprosy soon after the D.T.T.W. demo was released; your bassist Christian passed away. Is it still a bit too delicate a subject to ask what happened to him?
Patrik: It was actually a few years after the release of the second demo, Full of Hate, when Christian passed away. He was fired from the band a while after the Full of Hate demo was done. His drug abuse led to him not being able to play anymore. We had Mikko in the band for a while before we disbanded.
I think his body couldn't cope with all the toxins he put into his system. He overdosed. It makes me really sad when I think back to all the fun and crazy stuff we all did together.
Luxi: How did you find Miko Mattson? Was he a close friend?
Patrik: Yes, Mikko was a friend of ours. He used to play football in the same club as P.O. He was already a gifted musician. He also had the right mindset for us. It was a no-brainer for us to ask him to join.
Luxi: You were also doing a lot gigging with Leprosy. Besides your home country, you played at least once in Germany, in a city called Bamberg. Can you tell us about that trip to German territory? I am sure you were thrilled about the whole thing, right?
Patrik: The first German show was played in Bamberg in late '88 supporting Sodom. I have no memory of the second one that we played with Coroner. We were billed as the Swedish version of Death. And that we were booked as stand-ins for Death due to a cancelled European tour.
The third time we went to Germany was by invitation of a guy called Patrick Stallmach, whom we met vacationing in Mallorca. He had a friend who booked bands at the Rockfabrik in Ludwigsburg (I'm not sure but I think his name was Thomas Zwini??). They brought us down for a mini festival with Pestilence headlining (I think that Rostock Vampire, Atrocity and Spermbirds played as well. Don't quote me on this...ha ha!).
That same weekend we also played at a private party in someone's basement. I think we got 400 German Marks for it and we had almost 50 people crowding in that place. I also remember that one of Niclas' bass drums moved away from him when he played it, so we had to put Christian's foot in front of it. Funny how certain things sticks to my memory after all this time. It was one helluva time!
Luxi: Did you also try to get gigs in Finland, Norway, Denmark and other countries but failed due to lack of inexperience and the right contacts?
Patrik: I don't think we got that far in our thinking. There weren't really any plans, we just took things as the came along. If we'd gotten the chance to play anywhere we would probably have taken it.
Luxi: How were the Swedish gigs in 1988-89? Were these gigs arranged by local friends?
Patrik: I really don't know. I never played in Sweden with Leprosy. The few shows that were played there were before I joined.
Luxi: In 1990 Leprosy recorded their second demo, Full of Hate, featuring seven songs all in all. I have never had the opportunity to hear this demo so what can you tell us about it? Were you pleased with the musical direction of that demo or was it missing something vital from your point of view?
Patrik: When it came to the songwriting for Full of Hate I took on a bigger role, along with Niclas. We collaborated on most of the tracks with input from the rest of the guys. I do recall that I wrote "Insanity" by myself and recorded everything on the chaotic intro to "Nuclear Mayhem," even the lyrics and vocals. It was aptly named "Chaos..."
I personally liked Full of Hate a lot more due to the more technical and progressive style some songs took on. The song "Pedophile" ended up at close to 9 minutes. It is still very aggressive and evil.
Our vocalist Patrik Olofsson had a gift for writing good lyrics about interesting topics. Magnus was a good riff maker. I think the demo can carry its weight even in today's musical climate. We somehow managed to create a monster that still sounds fresh 25 years later. I'm proud of it.
Luxi: Was Full of Hate ever available officially in the same way as the D.T.T.W. demo; with a professionally made tape and cover?
Luxi: Around the days when the Full of Hate demo was circulating through the underground tape trading scene did it ever find its way to the right hands and start you thinking of making Leprosy's debut full-length?
Patrik: I think it was around that time that Earache Records showed some interest. But nothing ever came of it...
Luxi: Besides the material that ended up on Full of Hate, did you have any new songs you were working on or even completed?
Patrik: We made a rehearsal room recording that was sent to our fan club guy in Germany. It contained two songs that weren't properly recorded. There is a video from the Rockfabrik show where we played one of them. I think they were called "Magic Mushroom" and "A New Disease" but I'm not sure. It's been a few years...
Luxi: Do you believe that Lady Fortune abandoned Leprosy at some point? I mean, when certain things started going wrong for the band they sabotaged Leprosy's whole existence.
Patrik: No. I think that the band dug its own grave when people started doing drugs.
Luxi: If there's one historical event in Leprosy's career that you would like to turn around, what would have it been?
Patrik: Oh yes! The fucking drugs!! Without them we might have gotten somewhere.
Luxi: Today there are a couple of guys working on Leprosy releases; Cronis from To The Death Records is working on a vinyl release and Chris from Cryptorium Records is giving the demos a CD/DVD release. How did you hook up with these guys and get the cooperation started for these cult Leprosy releases?
Patrik: It's actually a funny story. I was contacted by Chris a few years ago. He sent me a text message asking if I was the same Patrik Svärd that used to play in Leprosy. He was interested in releasing our demos on CD. That led us to the point we are at today. At the same time Cronis had contacted Niclas wanting to do the same thing. It was a few months down the road when we all realized that Chris and Cronis were doing the same thing at once. Hopefully it will all be ready soon.
Luxi: I assume all this demo stuff will be completely remastered from the original DAT-tapes so that the quality will be as professional as possible, correct?
Patrik: No, not really. I don't think anyone has the master tape for Death to This World any more. I have made a new master for Full of Hate since I have the original master tape in my possession. It was transferred and mastered a few years back by a friend of mine who owns a studio in Helsingborg, Rainer Neuman of Amptown Studio.
The quality of that sound is quite good. No one will be disappointed with the release.
Luxi: Without a doubt the layout of these releases will be filled with rare, never-before-seen Leprosy pictures, vintage gigs flyers, etc., and I bet the time-consuming search for all this stuff probably gave you a serious headache but was worth it...
Patrik: The sad truth is that not many things have survived. We've got plenty of interesting pictures and a few fanzine scans. As for old flyers from those times I would not get my hopes to high. Sorry...
Luxi: Necromaniac Artworks will be responsible for the cover of these Leprosy releases. How did you find the artist behind many other eye-catching albums by Deserted Fear, Disinterred, Horrified and Morbidity, just to name a few?
Patrik: The cover was chosen by Cronis and I think it's really cool and fitting. It is an old school Death Metal-type of cover. Awesome indeed!
Luxi: Did you give a sketch to the artist of what you wanted the Leprosy album cover to be like or did he draw it out of his own imagination?
Patrik: I don't know. The Leprosy logo was created by Niclas' ex-girlfriend. We kept that, but the cover is completely new.
Luxi: So, how about a couple of reunion gigs (or preferably a mini-tour) after the album is out, just to celebrate both the release and Leprosy in general? I am sure there are a few die-hard Leprosy fans out there that would appreciate it...
Patrik: We have talked about it. Maybe we will do something when the record is released. It would be fun!
Luxi: Are there any juicy secrets about Leprosy that people don't know but that you have always been eager to reveal in public when the time was right? I guess now would be as good a time as any with the Leprosy re-releases out.
Patrik: Ha ha...I don't know if we have anything THAT "juicy" to tell but there are a few weird ones instead.
After a show in Germany when we were getting ready to leave the venue, Christian was nowhere to be found. We searched everywhere for him. Suddenly someone found him in the boiler room, passed out on the floor, lying in a pile of rubbish. He said he was tired and couldn't find a quiet place to sleep.
Also, I fractured my right arm during our lunch break while we were recording Death to This World. I still managed to get my solos recorded before I went to see the doctor.
Luxi: Well, I believe I got it all covered from my side. Thank you so much for your time and talking about Leprosy for the readers of The Metal Crypt. It was lots of fun. The mandatory closing words belong rightfully to you... ;o)
Patik: I would like to thank both Chris and Cronis for believing so much in our music that they want to do this a quarter of a century later. We never thought that anyone would care for what five idiots from a small town in Southern Sweden created 25 years ago.
I also want to thank the people that are interested in listening to our music.
Death to the world... it is full of hate!!!
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