You may not have known it, but there has been a subtle, one-man force that has been wreaking havoc under our radars throughout the entire death metal underground in the last few years but has been around for far longer. The multi-instrumentalist that goes by the name of Jonny Pettersson is someone who has been behind some of the most flavorful releases in the underground whose work ethic means nonstop work as this man has so many different projects that do nothing but justice for death metal. From more established acts like Ashcloud to new blasts on the scene like Heads for the Dead and soon Nattravnen, Pettersson is someone who clearly has the capacity to shake the death metal community with each release. I was lucky enough to pick at his brain with some questions that shed some light on that work ethic, the future, and dreams.
It’s an absolute honor of mine to be able to interview you, truly. I was introduced with Ashcloud but it’s because of your work through Transcending Obscurity that I’ve become a big fan of your style that continues to grow, and I know many others can agree with that. Thanks so much for agreeing to do this!
- What made you think to have so many different acts going on? Just this year we see the debuts from both Heads for the Dead (which is thankfully doing incredibly well for itself) and soon the monstrous Nattravnen, but that’s not including the rest like Henry Kane just to name one. Was it a desire to try different styles without being “stuck” with a single act?
I’ve always had tons of projects going, it might even be some sort of disorder, haha. But if I start playing around with some riffs that I like, I almost get this compulsive feeling to turn it into a song, and then turn that song into an album. And if that album doesn’t fit the bill with any of my other bands, it will become a new one. I think it stems from an overactive brain and a burning passion for music. I have 57 unreleased demos spanning from late 1996 to 2013. Let’s just call it CMCD (Compulsive music creation disorder), haha.
2. Anyone who’s familiar with your work knows that you seem to really enjoy doing literally all the instruments as we see yet again in Heads for the Dead and Nattravnen. What makes you want to do all that when it may be easy to split the workload?
That’s just a mix of me being stubborn, not wanting to have to ask for help with anything, and if I have a passion for something, I want to learn how to do everything to do with it, to the best of my ability. The more I can do myself, the more productive I can be. And the way my brain works, being able to do it all myself just feeds my creativity.
3. Last year, you released the debut with two other classy gents for Ursinne, and I feel like that album really resonates with your overall approach to death metal; a little crusty for flavor, fast with plenty of flashy instrumental bits, but always undeniably heavy with riffs galore. Is that something you’d like to implement more in the future or is it more of something that’s for Ursinne more than anything else?
Ursinne is one of few bands where I came up with the music after we started the band. Me and Dave were talking about doing a project, and what we wanted the project to be like. Dave suggested old school Swedish death metal, so I knew straight away that we would be using the HM-2 sound, which to be fair is the best sound in the world. But at the same time I didn’t want it to sound anything like any of my other bands, so while trying to keep the Swedish feel to it, I tried to add some Discharge, Celtic Frost, Venom and Motörhead. I’ve written most of the next album, and it will go even more into those influences.
4. As I said earlier, Heads for the Dead is easily one of the hottest albums of its kind circulating through the underground right now thanks to its devastating and intoxicating sound. What’s your favorite thing about this record? Personally, it’s how everything fits together so perfectly from the sound of the vocals to the feel of the instruments.
It’s always hard to pick a favorite, but it would have to be “Deep Below”. The whole album was an amazing experience to write. I never put any restrictions on my creativity, yet subconsciously I wouldn’t add some elements to some of my projects/bands, whereas with “The Serpent’s Curse”, I could draw on a blank canvas, and let the sound build as the songs came along. The songs kept growing and evolving even after they had been written. Months after I would still be adding small details and sounds to get the soundscape I was after. One of my biggest influences for Heads is James Bernard, a film music composer who’s made the music for tons of old horror films. The way he managed to capture the sound of horror is just amazing, I don’t care how “trve” or evil you think your band is, no one will ever reach the horror like he’s done.
5. As you know, metal is absolutely rife with underground acts and hundreds upon hundreds of releases coming out every year. What’re some records from the past year or two that have caught your eye?
2018 has been an exceptionally good year in music. I was thinking about my end of the year top 10 list the other day, and it’s impossible to just pick 10. But a few of the ones that have really stood out this year for me is Outre-Tombe – “Nécrovortex”, “Fredag Den 13e – Dystopisk Utsikt”, “Skeletal Remains – Devouring Mortality”, Bæst – “Danse Macabre”, Gluttony – “Cult of the Unborn”, Gruesome – “Twisted Prayers”, Vanhelgd – “Deimos Sanktuarium” and Down Among The Dead Men – “And You Will Obey Me”. The list could go on, haha.
6. You’ve worked with all sorts of other musicians from the lesser known to the straight-up legendary. Is there anyone specifically that you’ve ever wanted to work with?
I’ve been very fortunate to have been able to work with some great musicians. It’s always extremely giving to be able to work with people who have the same passion for music as yourself. A dream would be to work with Devin Townsend!
7. As I’ve said you’ve done a solid work of death metal across your releases especially this year. Is there a style you’ve especially wanted to try your hand at like blackened death or maybe some more thrash-influenced work?
I think I’ve managed to cover most styles of extreme metal. So I’m sure there will be some releases coming hitting even more extreme styles. Me and Rogga Johansson (Paganizer, Revolting etc) have a Nailbomb/Godflesh influenced project going. We have a few demo songs done, but we’re far from having anything done for a release. All in good time though. I have a few demos with an old thrash project called Acid Domain that I’ve had plans on re-recording and possibly releasing. They are all from 98/99 so I’d imagine that they will be changed slightly, haha.
8. Being a musician can be incredibly draining at times from what I know as it can take someone several years to make just a few songs, but you seem to do it five times fast if not quicker. Where do you find the inspiration to write so much?
It’s all because of the CMCD (Compulsive music creation disorder), haha. No, but in all seriousness, I wake up and I think about music, I go to bed and I think about music. Apart from my dogs, everything comes second to music. Some nights I’ll start working on some new songs, and all of a sudden it’s 4 in the morning and I’ve forgotten to eat and have 2 hours before I have to go to work.
9. Transcending Obscurity is easily my favorite record label in the business as of right now with each release being absolutely stellar and I feel many other fans can agree to that including yourself at least a little with the label’s rising popularity. But what are some other labels that you feel should share the spotlight now?
Working with Transcending Obscurity is an absolute pleasure and I have nothing but positive things to say about them and Kunal who runs it! A few other labels that are well worth checking out right now is Raw Skull Recordz, Neckbreaker Records, Black Lion Records, and Carnal Records!
10. What’re your thoughts on metal as a whole in its current state with the underground being larger and more diverse than ever and with legends like Black Sabbath and Slayer calling it?
I think metal is healthier than it’s ever been. As much as I like the nostalgia of tape trading, being able to instantly reach fans all over the world is pretty damn cool! There is a lot of people talking about saturation within the scene, though I think rather than complaining about it, come up with ways of highlighting bands that are really good instead. There is no point of being stuck in the past, we are here and now, so if you want to be seen, stop complaining and make sure you get seen. As I a music fan I am thriving in this musical climate. I go through tons of albums each month, and I keep discovering new bands that is kicking some serious ass.
11. What’s next? As I do reviews, I always listen to what’s happening now but I almost always look forward more to what’s to happen next to any band that catches my eye. New Henry Kane? More Ashcloud? Finally Troikadon?
There is a new Henry Kane coming out at the start of 2019, and it will take off where I left the first album. The biggest difference on the new album is that it’s not as harsh and abrasive as the first, don’t get me wrong though, this is by no means a “nice” album! We don’t have any current plans for the next Ashcloud album as both me and Gareth have been busy with other stuff. But who knows what 2019 holds. We are actually working ahead with the Troikadon album, and the 3 vocalists are now working hard on the lyrics, and vocal layout. So we are getting there, and definitely something to look out for in 2019!
Once again, thanks an absolute million for agreeing to do this. I consider it a great honor and I can promise financial support from my end for some time to come. I plan to buy multiple versions of both Heads for the Dead and Nattravnen when I can and I sincerely can’t wait to hear what you have next!
Thank you for a great interview, it was an absolute pleasure to reply to the questions! And thanks for all the support, I really appreciate that!
As always, an absolute joy to be able to sit down with a mastermind like Pettersson who’s incredibly down to earth and someone that is unbelievably passionate about the scene and his music. As we talked about above, this year has been very busy for Pettersson and 2019 only promises more! With Heads for the Dead becoming a smash upon its release, his collaboration with Kam Lee of Death fame in the stellar Nattravnen will surely resonate with fans as well! Please, support great artists like this and keep your eyes peeled for the release of “Kult of the Raven” coming soon!
LISTEN to Heads for the Dead on Bandcamp here.
LIKE Heads for the Dead on Facebook here.
LISTEN to advanced tracks of Nattravnen’s “Kult of the Raven” on Bandcamp here.
LIKE Nattravnen on Facebook here.