Back in 2012, when working on the very first issue of Iron Fist, we interviewed Peter Stjarnvind about his then new band Black Trip. Now having just released their second full-length ‘Shadowline’ we thought we would re-print the entire article as his passion for his band and for heavy metal has not changed. Vocalist Joseph Tholl is interviewed in the latest issue of the magazine, out on December 7
“You can laugh at me but don’t you ever make jokes about heavy metal. It’s my religion.”
Peter Stjarnvind is deadly serious. You can hear it in his voice as he spits his manifesto down the crackly phone line. The former Entombed, Krux and Nifelheim drummer has a passion and it’s that word that sums up our 50 minute conversation. And it’s a passion for traditional, true, authentic heavy metal, so much so that it’s lead to new band, Black Trip.
Don’t for one second presume that in the wake of the Swedish revivalists (Enforcer, Portrait, In Solitude et al) that our gallant stickmaster decided to jump on a bandwagon. Peter’s been an advocate of heavy metal since the late ’70s, and while his erstwhile Nifelheim bandmates have morphed into the comedic brothers of Maiden fandom, he’s just as much a maniac for metal as the Bröderna hardrock. However for Peter, swap Bruce for Biff and you’re getting close to his obsession. It was seven years ago that he found himself drinking backstage at a festival with fellow drummer Daniel Bergkvist (of Swedish speed freaks Wolf) and lamenting the lack of love for Saxon and by the end of the weekend they’d promised to start a band that would pay respect to the men that “brought us all together”.
Forming before the current wave of traditionalists got together to start a well-needed old-school metal revival, Black Trip was the domain solely of Peter. He picked up a guitar, not his instrument of choice, and started to write the music of his youth that he missed so much.
“The first time I met Daniel we came to the conclusion that we both loved the ’70s and ’80s heavy metal sound. So that inspired me to start writing,” he explains. “I wrote ‘The Sleeper’, the first song, about seven years ago. I’ve taken my time to write the songs. I wanted to focus on the sound coming from England between ’79-’82. I want Black Trip to be on the right side of the road to darkness.”
Iron Fist discovered Black Trip through their Facebook page and before long the two demo tracks online would be the most played songs in the office. But beyond the familiar sounds of NWOBHM, a painstaking recreation of the passion (there’s that word again) of the underdogs such as Bleak House and Jaguar, there’s something else lurking, and like most of the contemporary Swedish heavy metal bands it’s hard to miss the nods to their own kin, Heavy Load, Oz, Jonah Quizz and other such forgotten heavy metal gems from the Northlands.
“I wanted to recapture the sounds of bands like Pokolgép from Hungary, Drakar from Czechoslovakia and a lot of weirder bands out there. Witch Cross from Denmark and Sarcofagus from Finland too,” he tells us as he carries on to reel off a list of obscure bands that we’re not going to pretend to know about. “The Scandinavian bands were influenced only by the British bands as none of us had heard the Eastern Europeans bands. You had to wait for the wall to come down. All these bands were locked in the East, y’know? And the fascinating thing is, where did they get their influences from?”
Influence is something that is cannot be understated in heavy metal, especially where Iron Fist is concerned. Why is it that we are so comfortable with the past? Why are we so dismissive of modernity, like mixing thrash with dubstep or taking the sounds of Meshuggah and multiplying it beyond recognition? In an earlier conversation with Niklas Kvarforth of Shining, who himself is always trying to push his band into newer territories, he admits openly to being a copy of what his forbears Burzum and Mayhem did, and it seems that the metal covered in Iron Fist will always be open about its respect of past masters. Is Peter worried that he may be stuck in the past?
“Maybe, on some level. But now we can see what’s good and what’s not. What I miss is that hunger that metal bands seemed to have early on. What I’ve tried to capture with Black Trip is the spirit of all those hundreds of British heavy metal bands that recorded one 7” and wanted to make an album because Iron Maiden did and Saxon did. They were so hungry you can hear it. That’s gone these days, it seems so pretentious and not about the passion for the music.
“And another thing I thought a lot about, when looking for a singer for Black Trip, every fucking New Wave band had a great singer but I can’t mention even five decent singers from England now. Where did they go?”
Which brings us to Joseph Tholl. The idea of the guitarist from perky, upbeat youths Enforcer joining forces with a member of the servants of Satan beggars belief, but the unlikely lads have collided and created one of the most exciting demos of 2012.
“He’s much younger than me,” Peter laughs. “We met properly on June 22, I remember the date because it was the day Breivik shot those kids in Norway. We were playing the same festival and he was doing backing vocals in Enforcer and I asked him if he’d ever consider singing lead. He recorded the vocals for the demo and I was overwhelmed because he completely captured what I was looking for. He had that passion, so it was a good marriage.
“One thing that I think was important when looking for a singer also is to know that JB from Grand Magus was going to be involved,” Peter admits. “He sounded great, but it sounded like Grand Magus, so for me there was no point doing it. I hadn’t heard Joseph’s folk/blues band [www.MySpace.com/JosephTholl] before doing this but this is certainly the first time he’s sung lead in a heavy metal band and I think it’s good to not have a ‘known’ guy, otherwise it just sounds, well, with JB it just sounded like I’d written a song for Grand Magus. So to find someone like Joseph who didn’t already sing in another band was amazing to me. JB heard the songs with Joseph actually, and said to me ‘stick with that guy!”
At the time of writing Black Trip have only played a couple of shows and released a 7” through Primitive Art, but they already shine. Maybe it’s the combination of Peter’s history with the genre’s early days and his legacy with some of extreme music’s most game-changing bands matched with Joseph’s youth and obsession with recapturing a sound he was too young to live through. However, Peter is adamant that this is his project… for now.
“Both Joseph and Sebastian [Ramstedt, guitars, also of Nifelheim and ex-Necrophobic] have song ideas but we’re gonna take them for the second album,” he insists. “I thought since I’d written all the songs up to here, for me, it would be the most perfect gift to have all of them on the first album. I want to have the first Maiden album and then we can do the ‘Killers’ album. It’s not an ego thing, I just want to keep it so we’re recording these songs and keeping it how I thought it would sound.
“However, I don’t sing, so I don’t write song melodies, so it was really good with Joseph because for the 7” I had some lyrics written by Erik Danielsson from Watain and some written by the guitarist from Kaamos but Joseph didn’t find the melodies right so he wanted to rewrite the lyrics, and I think that’s a really brave idea. He’s definitely an asset for me.”
With such legendary names such as Daniel, Sebastian, Erik, Konstantin, JB and of course Peter involved in one way or another it would be easy to file Black Trip in the supergroup or side-project box. Does Peter agree?
“I see it as a band,” he says firmly. “I thought of it as a side-project when I was doing the songs on my own, sitting recording at a friend’s house. Do you wanna know how I record?”
“I go to a rehearsal room with two microphones plugged straight into ProTools and then I count in myself with the drum sticks and then I think about the riffs in my head and record. No click track, no guitars. I do it once, and then I go and do the guitars, bass and the leads. That is a project. All the demo songs and the 7” I did like that. There is a reason for not using a drum machine. One, it sounds stiff and awful and you don’t get the feeling. Second, I can’t programme for shit and it pisses me off. It took me 20 minutes to record [forthcoming album song] ‘Feeding The Fire’, I set up the microphones, took off my shirt and just played it once and it’s so much easier for me to do that than try and programme a drum machine. In a sense it’s been a project but now we’re playing together it’s a whole different thing.”
As the conversation continues we go back to the current music scene. Peter’s lived through so many of the vital musical zeitgeists; NWOBHM, the birth of death metal in Stockholm, the explosion of the Gothenburg scene, black metal’s second wave, so it’s interesting to get his take on the contemporary metal scene, and while he’s quick to dismiss the Americanisation of Swedish death metal (“I’m pretty sure that I know more about heavy metal than some American who just discovered At The Gates, some clown with shorts on, you know what I mean? It bothers me as a human being, not just as a hard rocker!”) he’s not worried about the recent success of bands like Ghost.
“I wrote these songs seven years ago, there was no resurgence to speak of and now I’m not sure if this is a good time for Black Trip or not,” he ponders. “I think a lot of the bands in the new wave, or whatever you wanna call it, have a good personality to them rather than the death metal scene in the early ’90s where every band started to sound so alike. There’s more personality in the metal bands. You can hear the difference between Enforcer and In Solitude or Ghost.
“I don’t think they should be in my territory because they don’t know what they’re doing anyway,” he continues when asked if he’s worried that in the wake of Ghost a new batch of watered-down versions could be cloned to make the bigger labels a quick buck or two. “I always think people don’t understand that heavy metal isn’t a music style, it’s a lifestyle. You can’t just jump in and out and think that you’re cool or hip or with it, it’s a passion that doesn’t go away. If labels do try and copy it to get their own Ghost, or own occult/trad metal band it’s not going to effect us. Put it like this, if I sell a million copies of Black Trip I would be worried because I know that there isn’t one million people who really understand heavy metal. Why is my ex-wife liking Ghost? Because she heard it on the radio? It’s weird that people like Ghost but they don’t like Mercyful Fate, that’s a fucking insult to everything I care about. It would be like liking Black Trip but not Saxon.”
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