When Lee chucked a copy of this Swedish trio’s debut album “Unearthed” my way I was pretty interested to hear it, the stuff I’d heard on Myspace had been cool but what I didn’t expect was to be blown away and for this album to barge itself in my top ten albums of the year with little chance of finding too many other albums to dislodge it. I contacted guitarist Totte to shoot the shit and find out more about these Swedish underdogs.
Your Debut album “Unearthed” has just been released on Orchestrated Misery Records and a very impressive piece of work it is. To us here in the UK you seem to have come from nowhere with this release so could you please give a bit of history on the band?
Well, thank you very much. CATAPULT THE SMOKE was formed as a “hobby project” in 1998 by Tobbe Larsson (drums/vocals) and Magnus Linhardt (bass).They had played together in various constellations over the years and thought it was time for yet another. After a few sessions they soon realized they needed a guitarist. At the time I played together with Tobbe in another band called TRAUMATIC. They asked if I wanted to to join them filling the guitar spot and since I played drums in TRAUMATIC I jumped at the chance of playing another instrument.
For those who haven’t heard the early stuff I can assure you that it was quite different from the “Unearthed sound”. It was kinda slow and laidback, a large dose of 70’s groove with a more or less half-assed result. When TRAUMATIC ended in 2000 I became more involved in the making of the music and it changed quite drastically. Nothing planned or anything, we just evolved. I’ve always liked a little faster and a little heavier music and I think it’s something you can hear on the bonus tracks to Unearthed and of course the album itself. Over the years we did a couple of recordings, one of which is now released as Unearthed.
The album is the first release on Orchestrated Misery. How did you come to work with them?
They contacted us via our Myspace wanting to buy a cd. When I told them that we didn’t have anything officially released, they said “Let’s change that”. And they did!
Most of the album was recorded in 2004 with some bonus tracks recorded in 2001. Why did you decide to release such old recordings?
We were certain that they wanted to release our latest recording which was called “Born in fire”. When they told us they probably would prefer “Unearthed” a recording we did in 2004, we were all a little surprised but when we compared the two we couldn’t but agree that even if it was an older recording it was the superior one for different of reasons.
Your Myspace page has some recordings from 2006, are there any plans to release these at any point and do you have any plans to record and release newer material? Do you plan to continue working with Orchestrated Misery?
These are songs from the “Born in fire” recording I’ve been telling you about. At the moment I don’t know what’s going to happen with this recording. We will probably concentrate on new songs and a new recording this fall. We might redo one or two from “Born…”, but I don’t know. A lot of things went wrong during this recording and the more I listen to it the more things I dislike. AND (for that matter) like with the songs. Some of the songs weren’t ready to be recorded when we did. We should have used some more time working on them to get out their fullest potential. As icing on the cake both the guitar and bass-amplifiers broke down during the recording. So sound wise this wasn’t our strongest effort and not the best of experiences. I still think there are some great songs on there, they will in some form or another either as bonus tracks or as re-recorded ones appear on our next release. If I have to compare the best songs from “Born…” with the best songs from “Unearthed”, “Born in fire” wins every time. But as a whole with a better sound and fewer low points I think “Unearthed” is a better unity.
We have nothing settled with Orchestrated Misery, we just did this thing together. I don’t know if we’re going to or if they even want to continue together.
How do you find it working with a label based in the US? Will this give you any opportunity to tour in America?
Probably not. They’re a small label and we’re an even smaller band. I can only see it possible as a supporting act to some other bigger band. It would of course be a pretty amazing experience playing over there. I’ll see to it that they get to work on that right away!haha!
You guys are from Sweden which has a rich history for rock and metal bands from Candlemass and Count Raven to the death metal bands of the early 90’s to the huge upsurge in garage rock to bands such as Witchcraft, Spiritual Beggars, Grand Magus and Graveyard. What is the scene like in your home town of Mjolby and how do you find it trying to get gigs in Sweden?
We haven’t played much at all outside our home town but hopefully this new album is going to change that. The scene today is pretty rich with all kinds of bands and genres. Our home town Mjölby has always had a great tradition of helping kids get the opportunity to let of steam playing music. When I started out in a band called CRAB PHOBIA in ’88 they even paid us for a new drum set and a couple of instruments just to get us going. Without these contributions we would probably never had the chance to get started playing at the age we did.
Those were the days! The scene was pretty different in late 80’s early 90’s. Today you have to pretty much beg for a spot in some crappy bar someplace. If you’re lucky ten miserable souls show up just for the cheap beer, wondering who the fuck you are and why you are on stage.
When we started TRAUMATIC in the early 90’s we got asked to play all over the place. There were quite a lot of people turning up at shows as well back then. The interest was bigger (we were younger and probably a lot better looking!) Death metal was pretty big in Sweden at the time and a lot of different bands started out in Mjölby.
If you’ve read Daniel Ekeroth’s book “Swedish death metal” you’ll get the picture. The environment for people who were interested in starting bands has always been great in Sweden. This is the reason why Sweden has such a rich musical history and is concerned to be a great contributor to heavy music or to music in general for that matter. But I can tell you a secret right now just between you and me, for every great band emerging from Sweden there’s about ten really crappy ones. Not everything’s turned to gold ‘coz some crazy Swede’s touching it. When I was the most productive I played in four bands at the same time and they were all killer! haha! Those were the days indeed!
Have you managed to play outside of Sweden or do you have plans to?
No we haven’t and at the moment there are no plans for it either. Hopefully this release will help us spread the name of CATAPULT THE SMOKE and maybe there will be an opportunity to do so in the future. We would love to come to the UK and play together with you and your band GRIFTER some time Ollie, JUST MAKE IT HAPPEN DAMN YOU! ha!ha! (I would give my left nut to make this happen!!! – Ollie).
Which other Swedish bands could you recommend that we may not have heard of over here in the UK?
Ohh man, I’m really not the guy to recommend new music. My friends always complain that I don’t listen to much new shit. There has to be something really spectacular for me to change my turntable from those great albums by GRAND FUNK, DEEP PURPLE, FREE, THREE MAN ARMY, CAPTAIN BEYOND, LYNYRD SKYNYRD, THIN LIZZY, RAINBOW etc. etc. I mean I listen to all sorts of music, I really do. Great music is simply great music no matter if it’s funk, pop, jazz, soul or RnB I don’t care. If you stamp your foot it’s affecting you. The only exception is reggae and black metal, it makes me come down with a rash.:) But anyway, my heart mainly lies with those great heavy rock acts from the 70’s. And I guess you know all of them already? (You’re a man after my own heart, the 70’s is where it’s at for me – Ollie).
Getting back to the music, I felt that your sound seems to sit right in between stoner and doom with an eye on the classic rock bands of the 70’s with maybe even a bit of Soundgarden style grunge thrown in. Who would you say have been your main influences?
Everyone has always told us that Tobbe sounds a bit like Chris Cornell from SOUNDGARDEN, so that’s probably why you’re referring to them. Since I write most of the songs in CTS I should be able to answer this question, I hope. Everything I’ve heard has probably influenced me in some way or another.
If I hear a crappy Marilyn Manson song on the radio I probably think, crap! this is something I would never have done. And in a way he has influenced me to never ever play anything even remotely sounding like him. (Haha, awesome, I can’t stand the talentless fucker myself – Ollie) If I hear a new ballad by whomever I may get an idea by the chorus or whatever to make the heaviest fucking monster riff out of it. Not that you would recognize it but still.
I could be at work standing next to some bizarre machine making all kinds of noises and get an idea right then and there. I actually did a whole CTS song listening to Dolly Parton, so you have probably stamped your feet to a Dolly Parton “rip-off”.haha! Or not!!! That’s the beauty of music I think, something completely different from what you usually play can actually inspire you to create something quite unique and fresh. What I mean is, when someone else’s music is coming out of your fingers you’ve got a problem. You’re a cover band! We had a lot of that when KYUSS got popular in Sweden, a lot of Swedish bands listened to them till their ears bled. Nothing wrong with that, they were a great band. The problem was when they released what they had done you could hear exactly what album and song they had listened to during their KYUSS-fest in the studio. And no one can play KYUSS songs better than KYUSS right? I always try to rethink and redo the stuff I believe reminds me to much of other bands or songs. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail, you’ll be the judge………
Of course it’s totally impossible to not sound like any other band, all the riffs are already made right? But you could damn well try…….I remember we did a CARCASS cover in TRAUMATIC on our first demo, after that we were a CARCASS rip-off band. Everything we did sounded like CARCASS, even our own songs. And I didn’t even like them. Bummer!
Listening to the album I can hear a progression from the earlier recordings from 2001 to the 2004 recordings, the song writing is more mature and the 70’s influence seems stronger. How have the band progressed in the 5 years since the album sessions and what can we expect from the band now?
Yes there is definitely a big difference I think between the 2001 songs and the actual Unearthed recording. That was the whole idea of including them as bonus tracks, showing were we came from a bit and hopefully a little improvement in writing and playing. We talked about maybe using something from the very first recording but it didn’t feel right. It felt like a different band all together, it lacked any affinity what so ever. I still enjoy those songs even if we rarely play them.
I think there’s an improvement if not as noticeable as just mentioned but still definitely there when I listen to our new stuff. I always try to push it forward with the writing and the playing trying to learn stuff I’m really not very good at. You have to understand, I’m a drummer in heart and soul. Not that I don’t enjoy playing the guitar but I haven’t played since I was a kid as most other guitarists.
I think everybody in the band has grown considerably. Tobbe’s vocal skills have exploded, just think what he could achieve if he just concentrated on singing and didn’t have to play the drums at the same time. Well, he kicks ass anyhow. Anyway, as I’ve said before we’re planning to do a new recording this fall. Probably record 8-9 new songs and they will blow “Unearthed” out of the water my friend, take my word for it.
Time for a stupid question now. What 5 albums would you play an alien who has never heard rock music to give them a lesson?
1. THIN LIZZY – VAGABONDS OF THE WESTERN WORLD
Probably not their greatest work but with a killer song as “The Rocker” you can not ignore it right?
2. RAINBOW – RISING
Their absolutely amazing second release. Ritchie left Purple after making the mighty “Burn” album (yeah I know, Stormbringer as well) Burn is probably one of the top ten heavy rock albums ever made, if you ask me. He went and did almost one better (almost), Rising is a mastermind at work, the songs, the playing. Cozy Powell at his best, Ronnie James Dio never smaller (ha!) The only thing that has always bothered me is the chorus to an otherwise great song “Do you close your eyes”. DO YOU CLOSE YOUR EYES WHEN YOU’RE MAKING LLLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVVVVVEEEEEE! Crap!
3. GRAND FUNK RAILROAD – E PLURIBUS FUNK
One of the best bands ever. This is the power trio of all power trios. Songs like “People, lets stop the war” and “Save the land” makes me wanna dance around naked in my apartment doing all kinds of crazy shit. Amazing!
4. DIO – LAST IN LINE
The best DIO album, easily better than the slightly overrated Holy diver. Even Vinny Appice was great back then, not tired and constipated as we’re used to see him now. I just love Vivian Campbell’s guitar playing, not perfect but with awesome energy.
5. KISS – UNMASKED
Where would I’ve been without KISS. The band that made me wants to be in a band. Probably their most disliked album but I totally adore it. Fantastic disco-rock with cheesy lyrics and over the top costumes. “Naked city” and “Easy as it seems” is on my list for possible covers for CTS. (Haha, I think most of us have gone through a Kiss phase at some point and this album does have some cool songs – Ollie).
What are the plans for the band in the future?
We’ll keep doing what we’ve been doing all these years. As long as it’s fun and rewarding in some way we’ll keep going. We’ll be rehearsing like crazy this summer for the recording later this year. Hopefully you’ll see some sort of tour or something next year, it would be great to come to the UK and play. It really would! (hint! hint!).
Thanks for doing this interview, do you have anything else you’d like to say…you have free reign to say whatever you like!
Thank you Ollie for supporting the band and the extraordinary review you did of “Unearthed”. I would also like to thank all of those who have bought the album and by that way supporting us and Orchestrated Misery Records. If you are interested in checking us out just visit our Myspace: www.myspace.com/catapulttheesmoke.
There you’ll find links to both Orchestrated Misery Records and also the way to get your hands on your copy of “Unearthed”, it’s dirt cheap! See you around guys!
Interviewed by: Ollie Stygall