September 10, 2015 Interview – Whiplasher Bernadotte of Deathstars
Labels can often be extremely limiting to an artist. While a necessary evil for many to categorize music, some bands simply cannot be boxed in. One of those who are difficult to corner are Sweden’s own Deathstars. Consisting of members with roots in Black/Death Metal bands like Dissection, Ophthalamia, and Swordmaster, Deathstars was born from a variety of influences ranging from Rock-n-Roll, Metal, to Industrial, and everything in between. Immediately attracting attention with their 2003 debut album Synthetic Generation, it was 2009’s Night Electric Night which launched the band to massive success internationally as they spent time touring with Rammstein in arenas throughout Europe in the album’s support. Five years removed from the storm that Night Electric Night brought, Deathstars returned in 2014 with a brand new album, The Perfect Cult, and made an overdue touring appearance in the USA in 2015. Recently we sat down with Lead Vocalist Whiplasher Bernadotte for a look into the early years of Deathstars, their long break between albums, touring North America, Horror movies, and more.
CrypticRock.com – Deathstars began fifteen years ago, and in that time, the band has become one of the most respected Gothic/Industrial style Metal bands throughout Europe. How would you describe the journey the band has been through over the course of the years?
Whiplasher Bernadotte – I think the first album, Synthetic Generation (2003), was more of an experiment because we came from the more Extreme Metal underground with bands like Dissection, Swordmaster, and Ophthalamia. I think we just wanted to do something at that point that was a bit more challenging than having twenty riffs in every song. We started to try more Pop structures, and tried to do something else. I think it was more of an experiment. It is kind of an institution for ourselves as well. Deathstars is some kind of Death Glam as we call it. It is a mixture of our heritage, Synth, Pop, Rock, and Industrial. I would not agree with saying we play Goth, we have nothing to do with the Goth Rock scene, but I can understand why people refer to that. I think we have been pretty consistent, but still, it is a big question mark after Deathstars even for us. I do not know what is going to happen next or how the next album will sound, it is a journey.
CrypticRock.com – Understood. Labels can be very limiting, but like you said, it is understandable that sometimes people put that label on the band.
Whiplasher Bernadotte – Yes, of course, because that is a shortcut for thinking for people. I need that as well. It is like if you put a Comedy label on a Horror movie, it is a really bad comedy right? People should only know what to expect, but it is something that I do not see us doing. It is more of a Dark Rock band than a Goth or an Industrial Rock band. We were into Rock bands like MC5, Kiss, Alice Cooper, and that stuff. I do not think anyone of us in the band really listen to that kind of music, but, as I said, I get it.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, now, as you said, you have come from former projects such as Swordmaster, Ophthalamia, and Dissection, which are clearly different bands. They are more Extreme Metal as you had stated. So, you were really looking to do something very different as you said, which you have with Deathstars.
Whiplasher Bernadotte – Yes, we wanted Deathstars to be a hybrid of music of what we like, and not necessarily just Metal, like we had in the early ’90s. We wanted it to be a mixture of a lot of stuff, and that is something that has worked well.
CrypticRock.com – In 2009, the band released their third studio album entitled Night Electric Night, and that record received enormous praise. Almost seven years removed from the recording process of that album, you started in 2007 recording that record, do you have fond memories of it?
Whiplasher Bernadotte – Yes, with Termination Bliss, we did not play much live, everything started with that album. Then I think we did over two-hundred shows during the period of a year, all around playing Europe and South America. With Night Electric Night, then we started to record in Brooklyn, NY and we had a good time. We also went on tour with Korn in the middle of that writing and recording process and continued to record it in Sweden. That is the reason it took a long time for us to record The Perfect Cult album, because the touring was so spread out. We were doing tours all around the world pretty much, except for North America. We did a four month arena tour with Rammstein, so it was kind of the reason it took so long with The Perfect Cult album, because of the touring with Night Electric Night. We had a really good time with it though.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, and you had mentioned the Rammstein tour in 2011-2012, that had to be a pretty amazing experience. The band was playing in these huge arenas probably for the first time. What was that like?
Whiplasher Bernadoote – Yes, we played shows like that a few times before, but with Rammstein, we had been in contact with them and we had been wanting to go on tour together for a long time before it actually happened. They are really into Deathstars, and we of course enjoy Rammstein, so we knew each other. When we made contact, it happened, it was fantastic of course. It was the biggest tour in the world doing the biggest production in the world, during that period. Every show was sold out within an hour for every arena, and we did about fifty of them. It was definitely fantastic. We would like that chaos and party of full arenas.
CrypticRock.com – Sounds great. You had mentioned the long span between records, between Night Electric Night and The Perfect Cult, actually five years due to the long touring. With that said, what was it like writing and recording The Perfect Cult?
Whiplasher Bernadotte – It takes some time for us to write the songs, especially as I have been living in Italy, and Emil, he lives in New York, and that is pretty much how it worked last time. When we moved things so far apart, it has added more time and it takes longer to get it done. You do not feel like writing music as soon as you finish a tour, so you usually need some time before you do it; that is the main reason. It was kind of chaotic recording The Perfect Cult privately for me. We recorded all the instruments on the West Coast of Sweden and then we did the vocals and all the synth stuff in Stockholm, so it was two different chapters. What Emil and I usually do is just isolate ourselves, and no one else gets to listen to the material, not the record label, not the management, not anyone, before it is 100% done. It is a very internal matter when we do the writing. We just go into the studio and hang out there and do a writing in the studio as well. When we are at peace about it, we get Stefan Glaumann (Rammstein), he always mixes our stuff. Then when it is done, we send it to the label. It is kind of in a bubble, a vacuum, you do not really notice anything else around than just recording and being in the studio, or cellar somewhere. It is like a dungeon of pleasure (laughs). That is how it usually works and that is how it worked this time as well.
CrypticRock.com – Right, one can imagine that outside opinion can disrupt the flow of creative ideas when you are trying to create something.
Whiplasher Bernadotte – Yes, and we are control freaks and perfectionists. This album, Jonathan Davis from Korn asked us if we wanted to record it in his studio, and also, we were in contact with some other producers in Los Angeles. We were actually supposed to record it in Los Angeles with some fancy producers, but eventually we did not get why, because we wanted to do it ourselves 100% anyway. I think it was trying to get us to get other input instead of just being as internal – actually get someone else’s opinion. In the end, I do not think we were ready for it so, maybe on the next album we will get another producer or someone to come in with ideas, but it is not in the cards right now. Actually, I do not think it is going to happen, but you never know.
CrypticRock.com – That is okay, sometimes that is best for the creative process. You know your music best.
Whiplasher Bernadotte – Yes, exactly. Emil and I released our first album when we were sixteen years old, and we have always stuck together. I think it is just maybe because that is what we are used to doing.
CrypticRock.com – The newest record, The Perfect Cult, is really jam-packed with a lot of well-written songs. While it maintains the style of the previous record, Night Electric Night, it seems you use more harsh vocals this time around. Was that your intent?
Whiplasher Bernadotte – No, actually, I have not thought about that. Usually, the most important thing with a Deathstar song is not what genre it belongs to. It is all about the mood in the song, what kind of vibe it is, that is what dictates every song. I try out different vocals while I am recording. Sometimes I change it from how I was thinking about it, and that is just to be in a creative mood. There is no planning behind the singing, it is just what the song needs, or what I think it needs.
CrypticRock.com – Right, that is understandable. Like you said, it is whatever the song needs, and you go with the mood. The band recently completed your first ever North American tour with Septicflesh and Moonspell in 2015. This was a long time coming for many fans in the USA, it was very exciting. What was it like touring North America?
Whiplasher Bernadotte – It was a great time. We have had a lot of offers to go there and we kind of had it planned, but it never really happened. I do not know why, because we have been touring so much in the rest of the world, but never in North America. We just thought this was a good opportunity and everyone really enjoyed it. For us, it was something fresh instead of just being in Europe or where ever. It was very rewarding and it is interesting to see how the Deathstars fans also roam around the streets of America. I think we want to go back as soon as possible, but I do not know when that will be. Everyone is really eager to come back as soon as we can.
CrypticRock.com – That would be really special to see the band come back. Like you said, it has been a long time and things did not work out in the past, so hopefully now things will work out and the band will come more often.
Whiplasher Bernadotte – Yes, we all want to come as soon as possible. If we could choose, we would do another tour there within a year.
CrypticRock.com – That would be excellent if that happened. Now seeing that Deathstars is a very diverse band, and you mix a lot of styles in your music, what are some of your personal musical influences?
Whiplasher Bernadotte – Well, I mainly listen to the old Death Metal Bands. I grew up listening to Morbid Angel, or the more Black Metal scene where I come from, or friends of mine, or what I grew up with. Most importantly, I like Rock bands from the ’70s and ’80s such as Iggy Pop, MC5, Kiss, Alice Cooper, or Velvet Underground. The more Classic Rock bands, that is what I listened to most. I cannot really keep up to date with the new music, I just play my old records over and over again. I have been like that since I was a teenager. People tend to think I listen to music like Deathstars, but I really do not actually. Deathstars is more of a mixture of the bands I like and their different elements.
CrypticRock.com – Yes, influences are influences, sometimes it does not necessarily mean that your music is going to sound like the music you listen to. It might have elements like you said, but it is not particularly going to sound like it.
Whiplasher Bernadotte – I have influences from Iggy Pop, but you cannot really hear that in our music. An influence is something that triggers your creativity and to do what you do.
CrypticRock.com – Absolutely. I had one last question for you. My last question for you is pertaining to movies. CrypticRock.com covers music and Horror films. If you are a fan of Horror films, what are some of your favorite Horror films?
Whiplasher Bernadotte – Well, I am a huge fan of Dario Argento and Lucio Fulci. I grew up collecting movies of them and I have this one from the biggest collector of Horror movies in Europe. He had room to room with originals, this was during the VHS period, so I got everything from him. I have always been a huge fan of Argento, it is something else and so unique, I actually got to interview him when he was the guest of honor for the Stockholm Film Festival for the biggest newspaper in Sweden. I was really glad to meet him. He has this charisma, it is crazy. Also Fulci’s The Beyond (1981) I think is my favorite movie.
CrypticRock.com – Those are some excellent movies. There really is something special in the Italian Horror film scene back in the ’80s. Unfortunately it does not seem as strong as it was back then.
Whiplasher Bernadotte – No, but now I have seen Argento is crowd-fundraising for The Sandman, which is actually starring Iggy Pop as the Sandman. It is outstanding from what I hear. I do not think it is done yet. I am a bit confused because I have been keeping updated. There has been conflicting reports if it is going to be released or not. It will be interesting to watch the movie.