Interview conducted November 2 2018
Interview published February 1 2018
In November, The Crown made a long-awaited
appearance at Nordfest, a festival in Sundsvall, Sweden. Prior to the
Swedish death metal masters' awesome, crushing gig, Metal Covenant sat
down with guitarist Marko Tervonen, one of
the founding members.
A very nice and interesting time
was had, talking about things past and present regarding The Crown, who
also demonstrated their top form with their latest class album, Cobra
Mozzy: So, how was your journey to Sundsvall?
Marko: Well, it was like a day at work, an eight
hour drive. But that is how it is.
Mozzy: You have not played up here in Northern
Sweden before, have you?
Marko: No, let's see
the most Northern city we have been to. But that is a long time ago.
Mozzy: Oh, I don't remember that.
Marko: It was twelve hours driving that time,
and I remember it was icy as hell, as it was in December or something
You have never really done a proper Swedish tour either, right? It has
just been Gothenburg and some other one-off gigs. It was the same in your
Marko: You are right. It has mostly been one-off
gigs. Sometimes we have done a tour in Scandinavia. We did a tour with
Cannibal Corpse once which was Oslo, Stockholm, Gothenburg. We're actually
looking to do Malmö and Gothenburg back to back early next year.
It will be together with a very cool band but you have to wait for that
Mozzy: I remember seeing you at Sweden Rock
Festival in 2012, and you had a very large audience then.
Marko: Yes it was. Sweden Rock is special as
it is such a big festival, so you're playing for the people that are
there, so to speak. I don't know how many in that audience who were
there just to see us, though. But it is an awesome festival.
Mozzy: Indeed. I was thinking about the
setlist, both tonight and other times. It must be really hard to choose
between songs, especially tonight where you are not playing that long?
Tonight's playing time (45 minutes) is way to short, to be honest.
Marko: That is right. You just have to adapt
to that situation. We played in Russia last weekend and then we played
for close to 70 minutes. And tonight it is 45 minutes. It is a battle
every time, choosing which songs to remove. It is very hard!
Mozzy: It is a sign that you have lots of
good songs, however.
Marko: Yes! Even if we would pick just one song
from each album, we would have to remove a song (for tonight's set).
It is a bummer, but you just have to do it.
Mozzy: How have the songs from the latest
album (Cobra Speed Venom) been received by the audience
Marko: I think it has worked very well!
Mozzy: The album was well-received too,
Marko: Yes it has. Thanks. It started like
I think there were some people who had written us off. The last record
was not crap (laughs) but it could have been so, so much better for
different reasons. It was what it was, what can you do. But I am glad
that we this time had the opportunity to do the best record we could.
And also that it has worked out great live. This album is more intense.
Mozzy: There is a difference in that area.
Marko: Yes. The last one sounded a bit tired,
in my opinion. I put much of the blame on myself. For various reasons,
I ended up drumming on that one (smiles), and it was only just that
I pulled it off. And then this time there was such a difference when
a young guy like Henke (Henrik Axelsson) stepped in and simply blasted
his way though the material. Now it has a whole different energy. And
we can use his ability in a whole different way compared to mine.
The new album is a bit sharper indeed, song-wise as well I think. I also
read that you think that this album has more of the feel of being created
by a band.
Marko: Exactly. That was an important piece
of the puzzle. Actually, all our records up until when we quit (in 2004)
were made as a band. We rehearsed, went into the studio, and made it
all in the right way. Then when we made our comeback, it was like, 'well
I can produce it'. It felt easy that way. And then what happened, like
with the previous record, was that I sat at home by myself laying the
guitars and so on. Not at all working as a band, you know.
So with Cobra Speed Venom we made a conscious
decision that we will work in a real studio and I will not produce,
just play guitar and whine (smiles). Also, we were going to rehearse,
which we did not do last time when it was made the modern way with sending
files. That works well for other bands, but we have to really practise
the material and play it.
In that way, we get to shape it. And then we
enter the studio, all of us. It should not be a one-man project. I produced
both Doomsday King and Death Is Not Dead, and you find yourself alone
in the studio asking "is this good?" (laughs), you know. You
don't have the band mentality.
Mozzy: Plus, you returned to Studio Fredman
for this one.
Marko: That is right. It was a safe bet. He
(Fredrik Nordström) has produced great records for us and for many
others, of course. Plus, it is just a 50-minute drive from my hometown.
There were some suggestions like going to England to a producer, but
we cannot go there for five weeks and leave our daily lives here. That
is just how it is.
Mozzy: The financial bit plays a part as
well I suppose.
Marko: For sure. The circumstances were right
in order to use Studio Fredman this time. For example, when you have
the band in the studio and you get some spontaneous idea late at night
after having a beer, you can grab it right away. Those things can become
fantastic, and you loose those when you send mp3 files back and forth.
Mozzy: Apart from having more intense parts
on the Cobra Speed Venom, you also have that great groove, and the punk
feel, you have always had. Also, things like the awesome parts on In The
Name Of Death which is more traditional hard rock, even. Things like those
are very cool.
Marko: Yeah! That is something we have brought
back. There are not really any of those elements on the last album.
Magnus (Olsfelt, bass) is great at writing rock tunes, and then we add
things to his work. Like with In The Name Of Death, if you remove the
drums, it is a rock tune! When we others add our things it becomes something
else, like death metal rock, sort of.
You really have a great mix of different things in your music. These elements
really spice it up.
Marko: Exactly. We have dared to bring in some
rock and some punk and other stuff. As long as it sounds good. Also,
we have realized that super-fast drums do not always make it more brutal.
If you include some D-beat, that can be even more intense and make it
Mozzy: Something which also has to be emphasized
that The Crown have a lot of class songs, with great choruses as well.
Great songs, simply put. Even though you have fans of all over the world,
it feels like you could have been more popular than you are. In comparison
to a band like Entombed, for example, in my opinion you have songs that
are just as good or better.
Marko: Yeah, thank you! Well, I am still very
pleased with the new album and during our long drive here we discussed
that it is time to do a new album and we have a challenge ahead of us
to step it up. Because we put so much time into creating this last one.
We don't want to rush it or be sloppy just to get another one out. It
has to go through this process which we know makes for a better end
result. So I'm very pleased and it will very interesting to see these
end-of-year polls with best albums and so on!
Mozzy: It should appear in a few of those.
But have you thought about that aspect of popularity through the years,
that you should have made it a bit bigger? As a fan, one can feel that
Marko: Well that aspect is interesting for sure.
My experience has always been that those who are fans or our band, they
are huge fans, you know (laughs)! I often see or hear people from the
whole planet saying "you are so underrated!" or "the
most underrated band in Sweden". "How come you are not a bigger
band?" and so on. Then you start to wonder 'well, what is the reason?'
I am sure there are so many factors. Maybe we
should have played more live, or whatever. Maybe the timing with a lot
of things has played a part too. When death metal exploded in Sweden,
we appeared right afterwards, so we were not among the leaders, so to
speak. Those can be a couple of reasons. But speaking from a quality
point of view, we feel that we have nothing to be ashamed of.
Mozzy: Certainly not.
Marko: I am really happy with everything we
have done, and we have always tried to do our best. But then, should
we be bigger? I don't know, it is difficult to answer
Mozzy: Yes, and you still have lots of fans.
Marko: Exactly! And with the latest album, that
has been obvious, not least abroad, that there is more interest. I think
the audience is noticing that there is more energy, both on the album
and in us as performers.
Also, you were inactive for some years which surely made a difference.
Marko: Yes, of course. And when we made our
comeback with Doomsday King (in 2010), we had a different singer and
that record was originally intended for another project. It was thrashier
and so on.
Mozzy: It's a really good album though.
Marko: Yes! I think it is underrated myself (laughs)
I like it, it is aggressive. But if we had made our comeback with an
album like Cobra Speed Venom, maybe it would have been different. I
don't know. You can speculate about these things in absurdum.
Mozzy: Did you miss The Crown during those
years when you were away? Did you think that you would make a comeback
Marko: Well, that is what happened in the end.
When we quit it was because we had had enough. We had been doing it
since we were 14 and just kept going. When it was time to quit, it was
time. But it was funny, during those years away from the band
it is not like you can just stop playing and creating music. So I made
two records with Angel Blake, which is way different. And Magnus wrote
a record for a rock band, Stolen Policecar. It was in the vein of The
Hellacopters, energetic rock stuff, which he is great at.
But then, as time passed.. I remember Magnus
contacted me and told me "I have 12 new songs. It is death metal,
what should we do with them?" (laughs) That is how it started.
I was like "I don't know". But our kids, which were produced
during our break (smiles), had gotten older and it was like "now
the kids are older so daddy can start playing around again" (smiles).
And then Magnus said that he has songs for a
record. "Well, we cannot release it as The Crown". So we talked
about releasing it under the name Dobermann. Doomsday King was intended
for that, with Andreas Bergh from The Deathstars as singer. It was going
to be a whole different thing (laughs). Then we thought "maybe
we can ask Janne (Saarenpää, original drummer) if he wants
to do drums? And ask Marcus (Sunesson, former guitarist) if he wants
to do solos?"
of a sudden, all of us were there. Except for Johan (Lindstrand, vocals),
he did not want to join at that time, so we brought in Jonas (Stålhammar).
Then it was getting silly, so we thought we might as well release it
as The Crown. It all sort of crept upon us (laughs).
Mozzy: I see. Actually, I was at Summer
Breeze festival in 2006 and then I saw both Angel Blake and One Man Army
And The Undead Quartet (with Johan Lindstrand). That was quite special.
Marko: Oh! That was a long time ago.
Mozzy: Now we have mentioned various members,
line-up changes has been a big part during your career as well.
Marko: That is right. And changing the singer
is quite a radical thing, it is something you should avoid. But what
can you do? When Johan quit the first time, we did not know what to
do. But then we thought, 'well if we don't have Johan, who is the best
choice?" And that was Tompa (Lindberg). We asked him since he was
not in a band at the time, and he joined. You always have a choice:
either you sit there rotting with a bunch or songs, or you choose to
do something about the situation. And we always had support from the
label, who told us to keep going.
Mozzy: Yeah, you should just keep going.
As a fan though, you often find it a bit sad when an original member leaves.
Mozzy: But then you realize that it works
out after all.
Marko: Yeah. You often divide the fans in two
camps, for example when you release your second album, you always get
different opinions. Some said that The Crown is better with Tompa, and
so on. That's just the way it is.
Mozzy: As for other member changes, when
Robin Sörqvist (guitar) joined, you already knew him right?
Marko: Yes. And he is even the cousin of my
ex-wife, and he is a childhood friend. And then Henrik came in later
as drummer. When Janne left it was natural, because he moved to the
US. He knew that there was no way he could to both things. I had a studio
a couple of years ago, and Henrik's band Imploded was there. I was impressed
straight away by him.
Also, he helped out live with Angel Blake one
time. So it was my suggestion to the rest of the band, if they wanted
to meet Henrik Axelsson (smiles). He is younger than us, but he fits
in perfectly. As we have done this for such a long time, it is not enough
to have a skilful drummer; it has to work apart from the playing too.
You cannot spend an eight-hour drive with an asshole, you know.
Mozzy: It is enjoyable to hear him on the
new album for sure.
Marko: Oh yes. And also, there is really nothing
edited on the album. You hear that it is Henrik who is playing, and
you will hear it tonight as well. He really is that skilful, and fast.
So he is perfect.
Mozzy: Now that you members are a bit older,
what are your ambitions?
Marko: Well, first and foremost, we find ourselves
really happy that we are able to do this. And the most important factor
in why we can do it, is that we can do it on our terms. I know a band
that started around the same time as us, and they have just kept going.
They are in a pretty tough position. Because somewhere along the way
you try to make the band into your career and something that brings
your income, you know. And that is hard.
we had our break, we took the opportunity to study and get real jobs.
Shaping up your normal life, so to speak. So nowadays, we are lucky
in that we can turn things down, because we know that it can affect
things in your private life and in your job.
Mozzy: I was going to say that; you must
be in a pretty perfect situation. You have your security back home but
can also go out and play for your fans in different parts of the world.
Marko: Yes, exactly! Otherwise, it would not
work. If we were forced to live on the music, we would have to play
200 gigs in a year. Then, I would not have been married, and my son
would not recognise me. I would not put myself in that position. So
the fact that we can make it work the way we can, is just awesome. Sometimes
you forget that. Like I said, I know colleagues in other bands who are
in a tough position. They have to say yes to every gig and that creates
Mozzy: Now you are back on Metal Blade,
and they also seem to support you very well.
Marko: Yes, It was great because when we started
talking about doing this a real band, we thought about them. We did
two albums with Century Media, which was a bit so and so, as regards
to relations and effort, but whatever. So we thought that we should
see if Metal Blade were interested. They still have people working there
since we were with them in the old days.
Mozzy: I have met a couple of guys from
Metal Blade, like Andy Turner and Michael Faley. They seem like cool guys.
Marko: Yes! And then we have Andreas Reissnauer
who works in Europe. It was him and a guy named Michael Trengert who
discovered us, really. Michael passed away a few years ago, sadly. We
have a lot to thank them for. Andreas is a diamond of a guy. We entered
Studio Fredman, recorded four songs and sent them to Metal Blade only.
We asked them what they thought and they just said "let's go!"
straight away. That was great to hear so we decided to go for it.
Mozzy: Also, it is fun that they are releasing
various editions of the material, like on vinyl. Me and my friend Stefan
just bought the new Zombified picture disc, for example.
Marko: Yeah! Aha, cool (laughs)! Yes, those things
are fun. They really know their stuff, Metal Blade. And since we have
had such a long relation with them, especially with Andreas, it works
great. He is so calm and flexible. Also, we said to them that we cannot
do these five week tours. But we can do shorter tours that don't affect
things that much. And they were fine with that.
Those were the conditions we had. Before, when
we were younger and were just musicians, we did five weeks in the US
and so on, you know. That would not work today, it is just not possible.
Mozzy: I guess they also see that there
is interest in the band anyway.
Marko: Yes! Then again, I can imagine they can
be somewhat frustrated. The latest album, Cobra Speed Venom, is our
first record to enter the official German chart. It was in the top 50,
as the 34th most sold record in Germany (smiles). None of our previous
records have been in the top 50. It is so great that this happens with
your latest work.
Andreas called me and said "you fucking cracked the top 50! You
are in 34th. So, how many gigs have you booked in Germany?". I
replied "none" (laughs). So we had nothing booked while we
had that success. Now we are going there this December, though. I had
no idea that the album would do so well.
Mozzy: That is really cool. So, what about
the imminent future? It is the 20th anniversary for Hell Is Here next
year, for example. Is that something you have thought about? I noticed
you played that material in Japan recently.
Marko: Yeah! Well, with this band we are not
very good at honouring those anniversary things.
Mozzy: I guess sometimes you just forget
Marko: Exactly. It was actually our promoter
in Japan who asked if we could do something special since Possessed
13 was turning 15 years and Hell is Here 20 years. "Oh, is that
the case?" we responded (laughs). However, I know that there is
a plan with Metal Blade to re-release the albums on vinyl and that sort
of stuff. A couple of years ago we had some other anniversary plans
but nothing came out of it.
Mozzy: Well, it is not a must either.
Marko: No, it's not. It can be really fun though.
We have had some proposals, like playing an album in full live, which
has gotten popular. But I don't know, it feels like on the verge to
prostituting yourself (laughs). Sometimes it can be good and sometimes
not. It depends.
So we have to take it step by step and see what we will focus on. It
would be fun to do something.
Mozzy: And a new record is being planned,
then? That is very interesting.
Marko: Yes. And the great thing is that we have
a luxury problem in that we already have 13 new songs (smiles). Song-wise,
it is not a problem, as we got such a kick out of the whole Cobra Speed
Venom album. The songs just kept flowing. The challenge now is simply
to get together and start working on the songs. We have not rehearsed
any of them, but the foundations are in place. When we get to the stage
when it is time to record, I don't know. But it should be next year,
Mozzy: We will look forward to that.
Marko: Yes. We were really excited about the
response for the last one, so that helps.
Mozzy: I will be awesome to see you tonight,
it has been a long time. And I know many are looking forward to your gig
Marko: Oh, cool!
Mozzy: You should have been given a longer
playing time, though.
Marko: Yes, but we have to adapt to it. It has
been worse, like when you go to a festival abroad and play 30 minutes.
You barely have time to get warmed up. Like at the Maryland festival
where a huge number of bands are playing, 24-7, and there are changeovers
every 20 minutes. It is insane.
Mozzy: Thank you very much for your time.
You have to go and get something to eat as well before the gig.
Marko: Thank you! Yes, some food is necessary.