Interviews

FEBRUARY 2013 Q & A with [xxx] magazine

All questions answered by Henrik Karlsson

After so many years without a realease, Seven Trees is back with he remastered version of Embracing the Unknown, called “Expanding The Unknown”. How are your feelings right now?

– We’re extremely excited! It will be very interesting to hear what people think about the release – both those who have the original release, and those who have never heard it. I imagine the buyers of the ‘Classics’ series to be both old school people who’s been into the scene for many many years, that might have the original release, and the younger crowd that is researching the roots – it will be interesting to hear from both sides how they experience it.

In my opinion you are somehow the forgotten heroes as your first and only album was a remarkable highlight in the era of doomed, dark electronic. Who had the idea to remaster “Embracing…”?

– Wow, thanks! That’s quite a compliment. This all started out 3-4 years ago, when Nader Moumneh of Electro Aggression Records got in touch with us and asked if we wanted to appear on his 4CD-boxset “Old School Electrology”. We thought, yeah that’d be cool, and started digging through our archives. We found a lot of stuff that we had forgotten about, got a bit sentimental, and thought that it would be interesting to do some kind of re-release project. When that boxset finally came out we were contacted by a few labels who were interested in doing a re-release. One idea we had with one label was to release a 2CD-set of the remastered album plus unreleased material, but when Torben of Infacted Recordings approached us about doing a ‘Classics’ release it just felt right – so we choose the best of our old material to make a really good ‘Classics’ release. We still have a lot of material left from our archives, which might see the light of day somehow later on in whatever form that fits – maybe we will just post it on SoundCloud or BandCamp, together with a limited CDR release for those (like us) who still wants physical releases.

As I also have the original album from 97 (on the legendary Zoth Ommog) I can clearly hear the new mastering. The Drums are clearer and the voice is now perfectly embedded in the sound. Were you both also unsatisfied with the old master?

Why was there somehow a lack of quality in the finished product then, while your work was great?

– Everything in the production has kind of been brought up to a new level now, it sounds totally different – vibrant and alive – and it’s everything we wanted the release to be back in 1997 – well, even better actually, since the mastering technology has developed a lot since then. Yeah, we were very unsatisfied with the old master – I remember we got a test-CD from Zoth, and it sounded so horrible it’s beyond words – some songs they had completely fucked up so they sounded worse than on our original recordings. We had a good listen to it and sent Zoth a full A4 sheet of stuff that they needed to change – they changed about half of it and the rest they didn’t give a shit about, and they just put out the release without us confirming that it’s how we wanted it. But, there’s quite a difference between now and then – back then mastering was something that very few people knew how to do, so you were pretty much left in the hands on the label. Nowadays there are a lot of people that master stuff – not to say that all are good, cause mastering really is an art, but just to say that there are a lot of more choices now. It’s a shame that not more old industrial albums are remastered and re-released, there are a lot of classic albums that I would like to see a remastered re-release of, like some older Skinny Puppy and Front Line Assembly albums.

After this album you literally vanished in the haze. What did you do all the time? Becoming salesmen, manager or daddies J?

– Well, we’ve both been composing music ever since, we just haven’t gotten around to forming a new band or anything, and to put anything out, we’ve just been doing it cause it’s a natural part of our lives to compose and write music. But aside from making music, Johan still works in IT, and I’ve been working with a lot of different stuff since back then, mainly music related stuff. Up til last year I worked at a record label here in Stockholm, and since last year I work with artists rights. No kids yet. :)

How was it for you to work on yur old material?

– We’ve been working on this remaster on and off for two months, and it’s been quite the journey. Basically we’ve been pestering our mastering guy, Tobias Ersson of SoundBitz, of getting it RIGHT this time, so there’s been a loooot of hours in his studio to get the best possible outcome. We’ve been there looking over his shoulder all the time telling him ‘yes’ or ‘no’, cause if this was to be done it had to be done with care. He’s an awesome very talented guy who put his heart and soul into this project, and he had the utmost respect for the material. It was a long time since both Johan and I listened to the album, so it was also a trip back in time and a lot of 16-17 year old memories were brought back to life. It’s interesting to see that, for example, the lyrics I wrote still mean as much to me, and that the overall feelings of the songs is something you can still relate to. Maybe that means I will never grow up? :)

The new release come up with some Bonus-Tracks. Where did they come from? Are they from your Demo-Cassettes? Some songs sound like they are even older, roughier and dirtier?

– The bonus tracks are taken from demo cassettes and compilation appearances, from between 1994 to 2001, with four of them being taken from our first demo released in 1994, of cassette source actually. Yeah, I guess we did have a rougher sound in the beginning, very harsh, especially the vocals are different with a lot of distortion and stuff. We also used a lot of movie samples in the beginning, which is something we realized later on that we didn’t really wanna have too much of. The 1994 sound is very different, but I still really like it, and one or two of these songs I’d like to do a remake of some day.

What did you want to express at that time with “Embracing The Unknown”? It sounds like some kind of psychopathic thoughts ;)?

Well, “Embracing The Unknown” for me was an exploration of my inner. With the lyrics I tried to approach stuff that was difficult for me to deal with personally; bad relationships, sucidial tendencies, depression, anxiety, rough childhood, those sort of things. That’s the sort of stuff we wanted the songs to reflect, both lyricwise and the melodies. So, it was me actually embracing the unknown… which was how I came up with the title of the album. It may sound pretentious, but that’s how it was. :)

After this “Recall” will we hear more and new stuff from Seven Trees?

– Definately! Around half a year ago we decided to revive Seven Trees and we are currently working on new material. We haven’t decided yet what to put out – if it’s gonna be an EP or an album or whatever, or just random tracks on Bandcamp, and we haven’t decided on the final production and sound yet – we’re currently into creating the actual songs and will decide later on exactly how we want Seven Trees to sound in 2013. We wanna keep the concept, but with an updated production and soundscape. Lyricwise I’m still very much into the same type of lyrics, so that’s not gonna change a whole lot – I still haven’t figured myself out. :)

Thank you very much and all the best for the future.

MARCH 2013 Q & A with [xxx] Magazine

All questions answered by Henrik Karlsson

More than 15 years ago you released the album “Embracing The Unknown”. Although it sold well and was very well-received even in America, you never produced a follow-up, apart from two or three new tracks for compilations. Why not? Have you ever thought of producing another album within this time?

– Neither Johan or me has ever stopped making music. What happened was, that during the years from our start in 1994 until 1997 after our album release, I moved from our hometome Örebro, to Malmö, which is 500 kilometres south. During that period it wasn’t as easy to send each other material to collaborate working on as it is nowadays, well especially since I was running Atari at the time and him PC. Also, 1994-1997 was rather hectic for us making music in several projects all the time, so personalitywise it took quite the toll on us and we clashed a little, and after our final show in Gothenburg in 1997 it was more or less something we knew that we couldn’t continue in the same way as before. We did a few tracks here and there though, for compilations, sporadically. Anyway, nowadays, being almost 40 years old we are aware of our differences in personality, and we have a blast working together!

I don’t know about Johan exactly how many songs he’s made throughout the years, that’s just sitting there on his harddrive, but I have at least 50 good songs that I will eventually do something with. Some will end up as Seven Trees material, if they will fit whatever release we have in mind. Some might end up as a sideproject.

In 1997 you went on tour as support of Mentallo & The Fixer. What are the best, most exciting or even strangest things you remember regarding this experience?

– I think my most vivid member from that tour is when we played in the former Eastern German countries, especially in a town called Magdeburg, but also Jena and Glachau. The atmosphere and sheer dedication of the people in Magdeburg was absolutely amazing. The venue was packed, and afterwards tons of people had brought our CD for us to sign it. We felt like superstars – though we are actually a small band! If you compare this to Berlin (no offense, it was a really good show and turn up there as well), the attitude was more like (“ah, yet another support band, let’s have a beer instead”. Or, they simply didn’t like us! :D Also, I had never heard Mentallo before, and I really grew to like their “Burnt Beyond Recognition” album, especially live they gave everything and the songs are really good.

What else do you remember from this time as if it was yesterday?

– I think what I remember the most is the sheer magic of working in a band again, with a person that shares your views exactly of how you want the songs to sound. That is a kind of magic noone will understand that is not into music making – just sending each other stuff and thinking “yeah, that’s how it’s supposed to sound!” when you get the result back, after you’ve gotten stuck somewhere in a song. Also, the scene is very much the same, for both the good and the bad, but I think it is kind of cool in one respect -. I’ve always seen myself as an industrial guy, despite me also being into other kinds of (electronic) music, and I’ve always almost only had friends who were into this kind of music, so it’s kind of cool to still be able to go out and listen to good music, have good beers and have a blast on the dancefloor (if they play stuff i like ;)).

Of course a lot of things must have happened in your personal lives since this time. Did you stay in touch with the (dark) electronic music scene though? What are the bands or trends you noticed?

– We haven’t exactly stayed in touch with the dark electronic scene devotedly, but our hearts has always beaten extra for electronic music in different forms. We are both very broad in our listening, and so we discover stuff from a lot of genres. But of course we’ve kept track of what classic bands like Skinny Puppy does, which is still a favourite band of mine. I would say there’s just a few bands from the scene that I listen to nowadays, and the one I like the most is Haujobb. They do their own thing, they don’t follow trends, and they’re very talented. You can tell by the sheer amount of sideproject these guys has. Another one I’ve also followed is Covenant, which I think always deliver some good stuff. But, we well never make this kind of music, it’s not our thing. Anyway, yet another band worth mentioning is Diary Of Dreams. But, for me, in the early 00s, what happened was that I started thinking a little bit that a lot of what I heard sounded quite the same as that of what I listened to when discovering industrial, in the late 80s/early 90s. I don’t even know half the bands that are big and popular now. I have, though, probably missed out on a sheer amount of good stuff throughout these years, cause my main taste will always be electronic music – but for example for the past 3 years I’ve been heavily into noise and rhythmic industrial. My favourite album of last year was Control’s “The Resistance” on Ant-Zen. It gives me exactly the same feeling of aggression as “That Total Age” did when I was a 13-year old angry teenager (god i’m getting old!), but on a different level. The year before that my favourite was Haus Arafna’s “You”, which blends minimal electronics with some harsh noise like sounds, and they do great songs. My favourite bands of all times are Depeche Mode, The Cure, Placebo, Skinny Puppy and Rome.

By the end of 2012 you came up with a facebook profile and you immediately will have noticed that there are a lot people who still remember and like Seven Trees. Did you expect such a “welcome back”?

– We absolutely did not. We were expecting 50 likes. Now, we don’t have thousands of likes, but for a band that has not put out an album for 17 years, I am very honoured of the 300+ “friends” we have. And I’m hoping that with the release of “Expanding The Unknown”, people that has not heard us before, but buy the classics series cause it’s a good midprice series, will appreciate the album and we will gain a few more “friends” to form a nice little family. :-)

In a few days time your longplayer is going to be re-released, filled-up with bonus tracks from old demos and compilations. Please describe your feelings when listening to this stuff again.

– It was very surreal. Neither Johan and I had listened to “Embracing…” for many years, and suddenly we got to hear this record we did, over and over again. I think my feelings were that “yeah, this is not too bad”, and also all the emotions from writing these, for me, rather gripping songs, came over me again, and I remembered all the stuff that happened in my life during the time of writing the album, in 1996, with ex girlfriends, traumas, and so forth. I also realized that I can still totally relate to the lyrics – does that mean I haven’t grown up? :)

BTW: How did this whole project “Expanding The Unknown” come into being? I mean, whose idea was it and what happened then?

– This all started out 3-4 years ago, when Nader Moumneh of Electro Aggression Records got in touch with us and asked if we wanted to appear on his 4CD-boxset “Old School Electrology”. We thought, yeah that’d be cool, and started digging through our archives. We found a lot of stuff that we had forgotten about, got a bit sentimental, and thought that it’d be interesting to do some kind of re-release project. When that boxset finally came out we were contacted by a few labels who were interested in doing a re-release. One idea we had with one label was to release a 2CD-set of the album remastered plus unreleased material, but when Torben of Infacted Recordings approached us about doing a ‘Classics’ release it just felt right – so we choose the best of our old material to make a really good ‘Classics’ release. We still have a lot of material left from our archives, which might see the light of day somehow later on in whatever form that fits – maybe we just post it on SoundCloud or BandCamp, together with a strictly limited numbered CD release for those (like us) who still wants physical releases.

One of the main reasons for this re-release was that you were never satisfied with the sound quality of the original album. What went wrong back then and why did nobody act / change things before the album was released?

– Yeah, we were very unsatisfied with the old master – I remember we got a test-CD from Zoth, and it sounded so horrible it’s beyond words – some songs they had completely fucked up so they sounded worse than on our original recordings. We had a good listen to it and sent Zoth a full A4 sheet of stuff that they needed to change – they changed about half of it and the rest they didn’t give a shit about, and they just put out the release without us confirming that it’s how we wanted it. There’s quite a difference between now and then – back then mastering was something that very few people knew how to do, so you were pretty much left in the hands on the label. Nowadays there are a lot of people that master stuff – not to say that all are good, cause mastering really is an art, but just to say that there are a lot of more choices now. It’s a shame that not more old industrial albums are remastered and re-released, there are a lot of classic albums that I would like to see a remastered re-release of, for example some old Skinny Puppy and Front Line Assembly albums.

Now, Tobias Ersson remastered the tracks and they simply sound brilliant! Who is that genius guy and where do you know him from? What do you think about the results?

– Tobias is a friend of mine since quite a few years, and he has been working with making music, producing, mastering, mixing and recording for 20 years. He also has his own bands Lowe and Rezonance, which is more synthpop and triphop. Anyway, originally Infacted wanted someone else to do the mastering, someone in German, that usually does the Classics series, and who does a great job, but I knew that if we were gonna do this it would had to be done with us being present, so I wanted someone in Stockholm so that I could participate in the studio while the work commensed. So basically we spent 2 months mastering this – not every day, but on and off – many many MANY working hours – and it was a real challenge, getting the most out of it. But Tobias has ever since he was a kid been a tech nerd so he had all the equipment and knowledge to make it sound the way it now does, and I think the result is simply stunning. The tracks taken from cassette doesn’t sound as good as the album – but that’s impossible when it’s from cassette source (and they were originally recorded on a porta studio, which tape we don’t have any more – so the cassette was all we had).

As far as I know you are currently working on completely new stuff. How is the state of affairs so far and what may one expect from it?

– As of now we are currently working on new material. Aside from all of the tons of “old” songs from 2000-2012, since we resurrected Seven Trees in Autumn 2012 I think we have 10 tracks that we’re working on, out of which 7 we’ve come quite a bit with. The thing though is that we’re writing melodies and structures, building the tracks, and later on we will decide on the final production when the actual songs are built up completely. So, if someone heard these “work in progress” tracks they would have no idea what what we have in mind for them. :) What we want is to stay true to the Seven Trees concept with the same type of songs, but bring them forward to a 2013 level. Lyricwise it’s gonna stay rather the same dealing with the sort of “heavy” subjects that I like to write about, such as depression, anxiety, bad relationships, feeling like you don’t belong in this world, deathwishes and so forth.

What else is planned for the next few months?

– Sometime later this year we will release an EP, to start with. We are currently choosing 3-4 tracks out of the 7 I just mentioned, to make a really good EP. There’s also gonna be some remixes on there – I just sent a remix kit to someone in the genre I respect, quite a big name, that will remix one of our old tracks. After the EP, we’ll see what happens – maybe an album. The reason we do an EP is that we want to get something out there and for people to see that Seven Trees is still around – we’re not just doing a re-release! The EP will be released digitally on BandCamp, along with a very limited numbered CD release in maybe 100 copies or something. We’ll see what happens – hope you like our new stuff! (well, and the re-mastered re-release! :-))


MARCH 2013 Q & A with [xxx] Magazine

All questions answered by Henrik Karlsson

1. Seven Trees has been founded in 1994. Please tell us how you found together.

– The story behind the forming of Seven Trees dates back to 1990. At that time I started working in a record store, and being into the scene for a few years it bothered me that they didn’t have an industrial section, and neither had any of the other record stores in town. So, I told the owner I wanted to start up and superwise an industrial section in the shop, and he said; yeah, fine. The rumour spread throughout town, and I soon got a big bunch of regular customers buying the industrial stuff. This is where I met Johan – he came in and asked for Neubauten, and we started chatting and realized we had a lot of things in common, and started to hang out. Me starting this industrial section is actually how I got to know most people back then; the scene is small so everyone got to know one another, and there was no internet. Pontus and Stefan from Spetsnaz and Mikael and Daniel from Octoberland were regular customers of mine, for example. Anyway, a couple of years later Johan and I decided to start making music. Heavily influenced by the Cold Meat Industry type of bands like Raison D’etre and In Slaughter Natives we started experimenting with that kind of stuff. We did a lot of songs, but never really took the project further with like releasing anything. In 1994 Johan formed Seven Trees together with original member s Andreas Wahlstedt and Markus Johansson. I was more into experimental stuff at the time, so I preferred to work on that. They recorded the demo “The Sum of All Fears” which was put out on cassette in like 30-40 copies back in 1994. By the end of that year, Johan, Andreas and me formed a kind of ambient industrial project called Beneath The Moor, also heavily influenced by the Cold Meat Industry type of bands, but with harsh Seven Trees type vocals. We did a couple of live shows and recorded a 5-track demo, which was never released. Shortly after that Andreas and Markus lost interest in making music, and it was natural for me to join Seven Trees since3me and Johan had the same visions of the projects and the music we were making. We recorded the 5-track demo “To Live Is Regret” in 1995 (with 5 tracks from the first demo on the b-side), which we sent out to labels, and this is what caught Zoth Ommog’s attention.

2. Please explain why you have chosen the name Seven Trees for your project.

– There isn’t any particular story behind that – all we (they) wanted was a name that didn’t sound clichéd and that fit well with the sound of the music. Seven Trees just felt right.

3. What are your main influences according to music and lyrics?

– For me personally, I am very influenced by the dark sides of life. I’ve been dealing a lot with depression and anxiety, and making music has always been a way of letting off steam; to transfer my feelings into songs. It’s the best catalyst. This also goes for my lyrics; a lot of what I write deals with these subjects, as well as like bad destructive relationships, and all the other heavy shit that people go through. I’ve always liked to write kind of like industrial “love songs” lyricwise; the bad side of love that is – no happy shit – and about the tough sides of going through depression, anxiety and death wishes, for example. When it comes to music we’re both very broad in what we’re listening to – both of us have always had a weak spot for electronic music though, for me ever since I
got into Depeche Mode in 1982. But I have and am also into other types of music – one of my favourite bands is Placebo for example. These past few years I’ve been heavily into noise and rhythmic industrial, but what I listen to is seldom reflected in the music I make. I just sit down, open my mind, and let the stuff that’s in my head come out through my fingers on the keyboard, and it’s the same for Johan. Listening to music and creating music are two different things for us.

4. Since the original release of your album „Embracing the Unknown“ in 1997 technical possibilities for making music have improved a lot. Which technology do you use when you compose today in contrast to 1997?

– Well, a lot of the work is easier nowadays, and it’s cheaper and more easy to use. Back then you had to have a lot of money to be able to do stuff. Well, not entirely true – actually we did a lot of our early stuff with just one sampler; an Ensoniq EPS16+, which had built in effects so you could actually make finished songs with it, together with Amiga sequencer software, and some additional equipment when recording. Nowadays there’s such a variety of software synths and effects and shit that you can use it’s simply incredible. Also, me living in Stockholm and Johan in Orebro, it is amazing how easy it is to work together just sending files back and forth. This would not have been possible in the same way back then. We have exactly the same setup now on our PCs, working in Cubase 7, and we just share files and bang there you go, the song is in your system to work on. It’s fucking amazing!

5. The classic release via infacted records contains some bonus tracks. Are these previously unreleased tracks or do they come from cassette releases from before the release of the album?

– We have a lot of old demo material, out of which some were put out on the cassettes mentioned previously. When we were contacted by a couple of labels about doing a re-release, an original idea we had was to do a full blown 2CD-set of the album, the cassettes, and unreleased stuff. However, when Torben from Infacted got in touch about doing the Classix CD it just felt right – so we decided to do that instead, and we simply choose the best of our old stuff. The extra tracks consists of 4 tracks off of the first cassette, along with compilation only tracks. The remaining material will be released in some form sooner or later; perhaps just as a fun thing on BandCamp together with a limited numbered self-released CD for the people (like us) that still wants physical products. The Beneath The Moor demo will get it’s own release in the same way, and if our really old stuff is any good (I haven’t heard it in 20 years) we might consider putting some of that out in the same way. But it has to be good – I honestly don’t remember – it was our very first steps in creating music. :)

6. As your original album „Embracing the Unknown“ has become a real classic in the dark electro scene why didn’t you release another album or EP?

– 1992 til 1997 we basically spent all our spare time making music. When Embracing was released, and we went on tour with Mentallo & The Fixer, things had started to take a toll on us on a personal level. We have always completely 100% agreed in how we want the music to sound, but we had some differencies personality wise. When in 1997 I moved to Malmo, a town 500 kilometres from Orebro, it kind of became quite obvious that the project could not continue, since it was very hard at the time to collaborate on a distance, compared to now, especially with me using Atari and Johan PC. 1997-2001 we met up from time to time, made some remix, did a couple of songs for compilations, but that was it. But, neither Johan or me has ever ceased to create music. We have tons of stuff from 2000 until now that will somehow see the light of day, either as Seven Trees material or side project material. But, yeah, basically we got a bit fed up with each other, plus there was the personality clash and with us living very different lives and spending so many years together making music intensly. Nowadays though, we’ve grown, and at the age of close to 40 everything clicks on a personal level as well; I guess you just grow to see the positive sides in people instead of focusing on what someone is lacking. We have a blast nowadays – it‘s nothing but fun!

7. Can your fans hope for a brandnew album release via infacted recordings soon?

– We decided to revive the Seven Trees project in autumn last year, and since then we have been working on new songs. I think we’ve got like 10 really strong tracks, out of which 6-7 are quite finished in their structure. We have decided to first release an EP, which will consist of 3-4 songs, and we’re currently in the process of chosing which those tracks are gonna be. There will be a couple of remixes on there also. This will be released on BandCamp and on a limited numbered self-released CD. After that, work will probably start to commence on a new album. But at this point we take it slow, so we decided on an EP first, and then an album, or we might just release another EP. Anything is possible today! The final sound of the songs we have now is not finished – we are still
trying to decide how we want Seven Trees to sound in 2013. We want to stay true to the original idea behind the project, but develop it into a 2013 Seven Trees. But, the songs and structures are there, it’s mainly the final production that we need to decide on.

8. Finally your last words to your fans and our readers please!

– We look forward to getting feedback on the remastered re-release, which sounds so different from the original album. The mastering of the original release was horrible, and together with our mastering guy Tobias Ersson we’ve really developed a whole new approach for the album – this is what it should have sounded like back in the days, or well since mastering technology has developed so much it sounds even better than what would have been possible in 1997. Hope you’ll enjoy it – and stay tuned for more material, which should be out early autumn! If you wanna stay connected and get updates – join us on Facebook!