Interview with drummer and guitarist Erik Qvick
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: December 12, 2015
From the ashes of Swedish Death Metal troops Nirvana 2002 rises a new shredding, ancient grave-reeking corpse named Under the Church. This formation features two thirds of the original Nirvana 2002 lineup, drummer and guitarist Erik Qvick and bassist Lars Henriksson, strengthened by vocalist MiK Annetts, who hails from Reykjavik, Iceland, the country Erik Qvick relocated to from Sweden some years ago.
Under the Church's main goal is to go back to the roots of early proto-Death Metal which they have accomplished on their two official releases; a self-titled 7-track EP released in 2014 and their debut album, Rabid Armageddon, which was released in October 2015, both on Singapore's Pulverised Records.
Erik Qvick took some time to talk to The Metal Crypt about how it all started back in 2012 and all the reasons that drove them to form Under the Church to spread the murky Death Metal gospel in the names of ancient extreme forces like Master, Repulsion, Autopsy, Venom and so on...
Luxi: So, what's new... err, in Sweden?
Erik: I'm in Iceland at the moment actually. I have been living here since a few years back. I guess Sweden is doing alright; a lot of new (and old) cool bands like Black Trip, Monolord, Bombs of Hades, Obnoxius Youth. Hockey season starts soon, so it's all good.
Luxi: It was bassist Lars Henriksson that formed Under the Church with you in 2012. Did you feel inspired by Nirvana 2002's short-lived existence and popularity that you had the need and/or desire to play Death Metal again and keep your own musical flame alive?
Erik: I wouldn't call Under the Church a reincarnation of Nirvana 2002 but it's true that the reunion gigs we did as N2002 sparked the fire again but we wanted to do a new band with new music. A reunion as Nirvana 2002 would be an absolute no-no and pointless. It's much better to do what we did; start with a blank slate and write music that we would want to hear ourselves instead of being stuck in a certain formula based on nostalgia. We basically liked playing and writing music together again and one thing led to another.
Luxi: I bet starting Under the Church was no-brainer for you but finding a suitable guy for the vocals maybe not so easy. Eventually you found Australian-born MiK Annetts for that spot. What kind of a process was it to find him for the band? As far as I know, he lives in Reykjavik, in Iceland, right?
Erik: Yeah, I met MiK a few years ago here in Reykjavik. When we recorded the tunes for our 2013 demo I remembered him and asked him to sing on the demo. It worked out great and he joined the band shortly after that.
Luxi: Is it a concern that Mik lives so far away? I mean, you probably don't rehearse with him every week or even every month. Then again, all this new, modern technology thanks to the Internet obviously makes things easier no matter where you live, right?
Erik: MiK and I live here in Iceland, Lars, Wallin and Klacke live in Sweden. We bounce ideas back and forth through emails and phone calls. To write music the way we do works like a charm, it's way more productive and less time consuming. Obviously we'd like to rehearse once a week and write everything together in the garage. But those days are long gone when one could do that. Lars and I usually come up with a bunch of "almost-done-tunes" that we send to all the members, everybody has their say in riffs/arrangements and so on, we record demo versions of the tunes, everybody has their say again, and so on until we have a track that everybody digs, then we just record it, simple as that really. We try to rehearse as often as we can. It does not happen too often but we're working on that.
Luxi: Instead of breathing new life into Nirvana 2002, which is a legendary cult Swedish underground Death Metal name for many of us, was original vocalist and guitarist Orvar Säfström's obsession with everything related to video games one of the reasons you formed a new band?
Erik: Not really. I did talk to Orvar about the band when Lars and I started writing the tunes for the demo and EP, but like you say he's very busy doing all kinds of projects. I do think that he has some Death Metal up his sleeve and I heard something about he and some members from a seminal Swedish Death Metal band recording some tunes, plus he's also singing with Murder Squad every once a while. I just felt that we had to do a new band and not ride the coattails of Nirvana 2002. Of course it's inevitable that Nirvana 2002 gets brought up but it's never by us. Magazines and record labels are the ones that use that name to get some attention.
Luxi: Let's leave Nirvana 2002 for good and move on to more details about Under the Church for the rest of this chat. I assume recording Under the Church's debut album (titled Rabid Armageddon) was an easy and painless process since you already knew the musical direction the songs were going to take and it is Swedish old school Death Metal all the way. Do you feel you accomplished what you wanted to on Rabid Armageddon?
Erik: Oh yeah, it's Death Metal, no more no less. That's what we play and write. As soon we started playing, that's what came out. We had no other musical "choice", so to speak. We're really happy with the album; it has a great organic sound to it.
Luxi: What I found so great about Rabid Armageddon is that it is like a time-capsule from the late 80's and early 90's when such rising underground Metal comets as Deathstrike/Master, Repulsion, Nihilist/Entombed, Autopsy, Carnage and such, ruled the underground world and beyond. How much would you say that these bands influenced Under the Church's music?
Erik: Spot on! Put all those bands in a blender and you'll have a killer sound. Of course that's what influenced us back in '89 and it still does today. If we want to be really geeky and specific about influences then there are certain bands that maybe influenced certain songs on this album more than others. It's not copying or anything like that, I'd say that is more of a way of paying homage to a certain sound and attitude. There's a lot of Sadus, Dark Angel, Dorsal Atlantica, Vulcano, Celtic Frost, Merciless, Trouble, Venom, Accept and Motörhead on this album. It's not really obvious but if one listens carefully there are nods here and there to those bands.
Luxi: I don't know if it's only me but MiK sounds a lot of like Paul Speckmann during his Death Strike days. Have any other people made similar observations besides me?
Erik: I love that sound and style of Death Metal vocals; that Master '85 album and Speckmann's vocal sound or Scott Carlson on the Repulsion demos, so the Speckmann reference isn't negative at all. The studio where we recorded drums and vocals has some really cool analog delays and gear. That studio usually only records and releases Dub Reggae stuff and I'm really picky about sound and the proper way to get "THE" sound. The vocals came out great.
Luxi: "Suspended in Gore" off Rabid Armageddon reminds me strongly of Autopsy's Mental Funeral with its sludgy and somewhat creepy feel to it. Can we feel some undivided love in the air toward Autopsy's past works here? ;o)
Erik: What's not to love about Autopsy? I think Autopsy's doom type tunes and riffs are just fuckin' phenomenal! There's also some Candlemass/Trouble in that style of guitar playing, which Autopsy was also influenced by so I guess one thing leads to another.
Luxi: Also, to my ears "Walpurgis Night" seems to pay homage to the pre-Entombed days, e.g. Nihilist...
Erik: Well, the verse riff is sorta-kinda-like the early Dismember stuff. I dig how those types of tunes had a bouncy, groovy feel to them without sounding corny and again I think Repulsion is the common denominator for both us and Dismember. I mean "Radiation Sickness"; c'mon, that tune has a serious groove!
Luxi: How pleased are you overall with the outcome? Do you think that you managed to create exactly the kind of album that you had on your sketch board long before the first songs were catapulted out of the Under the Church fortress for Rabid Armageddon?
Erik: I am super happy with the album. The EP that came last year had some great tunes but the sound/mix on it isn't really up to par with the music. For Rabid Armageddon we learned from previous mistakes and did the bulk of recording/mixing/mastering ourselves. The album also has, dare I say, a good variety of tunes on it. I'm really happy with the overall sound; it's very well balanced.
Luxi: What do you personally find so magical about the late eighties and early 90s underground (Death) Metal scene?
Erik: Nostalgia can only get you so far. Everything wasn't necessarily better in '89 than it is today. I do think that it was a fantastic time full of fantastic bands. The bands from that period also listened to and were influenced by the great bands that came before them, which I think was a huge factor. It's a sad state of affairs being in a new band today if your "Metal history knowledge" begins with a band like Bring Me the Horizon. I think records like Scream Bloody Gore and Severed Survival still sound valid today and will do so for many years. None of the Deathcore bands of today are going to make any lasting impact or have a legacy other than the silly haircuts.
Luxi: You lived during the tape-trading times back when there was no Internet. If you wanted to get your music out for people, it was lots of hard work and the physical copies of certain releases ruled the lands from Sweden all the way to the other end of the world. Do you miss those days?
Erik: The waiting made you appreciate the tapes and fanzines. If you had to wait 6 weeks to get Wild Rags magazine, you surely read the whole thing once you got it.
Luxi: If Under the Church had existed during the heyday of the first wave of Swedish Death Metal, what would the chances be that you would still be here doing albums? I know this is all pure speculation, but you know, IF...
Erik: Most likely we would've signed a bad deal with Century Media, released four albums, then started fighting over merch money and broken up the band...
Luxi: Back in the day when the so-called "Stockholm Death Metal" sound was some of the hottest shit among underground Death Metal maniacs in the early 90's, many youngsters that formed their own bands wanted to ape that sound by tuning their guitars down ridiculously and, surprisingly or not, ending up sounding really great. I was wondering if you can recall any funny related to this specific "Stockholm Death Metal" sound?
Erik: As far as Nirvana 2002 goes, that sound came about when we recorded at Sunlight for the CBR records compilation. We were pretty early among Swedish Death Metal bands to record at Sunlight. I think Skogsberg was still trying to figure out how record this stuff. He had done the first Tiamat and Entombed albums already, so he was getting better and better. But the main ingredient was recording on Uffe Cederlund's Ibanez guitar, Peavey amp and Boss HM2 pedal. Somehow that combo just sounded like a chainsaw on acid.
Luxi: Singapore-based Pulverised Records is known as a true home of Swedish old school Death Metal patrols. When you signed to them, did you feel like going home knowing you'd be in good hands?
Erik: They were among the first labels to approach us. Pulverised has done a great job with both the EP and the full-length. We knew other bands that had released albums on Pulverised and who said some good things about the label so it made sense to sign with them at the time.
Luxi: Were there any other offers on the table for Under the Church?
Erik: There were quite a few actually that contacted us after we had already signed with Pulverised. Since our contract with Pulverised now has run its course, those labels are more than welcome to contact us again, haha!
Luxi: You also have an album release gig coming up in Stockholm, Sweden on November 28th with Crucifyre supporting. What do you expect from that one, and do have anything special planned for your set list on that particular night?
Erik: Yep, that will be both our debut gig and release concert so there's some pressure there alright. It will be fun though. We have set list with tunes from both the EP and Rabid Armageddon. We're really looking forward to it.
Luxi: Are you also aiming to do some festival appearances with Under the Church during 2016, or even earlier during this winter already (e.g. playing at some indoor festivals)?
Erik: There's nothing else planned at the moment other than the release gig in November but we want to do festivals and stuff too. If you're a booking company or management looking to book some old farts that play Death Metal, do drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, ok?
Luxi: How do you believe 2016 will look for Under the Church? I bet you have written some new material already so perhaps there will also be a follow-up album during 2016 or am I completely mistaken?
Erik: We already have some new tunes recorded; there's no rest for the wicked y'know. Maybe we'll release them on a 7" vinyl early next year but for the time being we're concentrating on Rabid Armageddon, which just came out.
Luxi: Guess what? We have come to the end of this interview so I want to thank you Erik for your time and I also wish you all the best with everything that you may do in your life. Let there be death! Any closing words?
Erik: Thanks for the support and interest in Under the Church! Stay tuned for more raw Death Metal!
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