Alf Articulates All
An interview with Oxiplegatz
by: Drew Snow
Oxiplegatz is truly one of the more original acts in the death metal underground. Utilizing a mesmerizing sci-fi atmosphere, baritone male vocals, wonderful female vocals, and of course some more typical death/black vocals, this project, solely the hobby of Alf Svensson, deserves more recognition than it receives. The complex compositions are all of inspiring, diverse, beautiful, brutal, and everything in between, encompassing the entire spectrum of emotion and musical intensity. The man behind Oxiplegatz is obviously -not- one to follow the current trends, and it will remain that way forever, it seems, as it should. Alf had some very interesting, and very -true-, things to say, so do read on.

CoC: Could you please explain how Oxiplegatz came into being, and give a little background on the band?

Alf: As you might already know, I played for a couple of years with At the Gates, which was formed by myself and some other guys from Gothenburg, Sweden, after our first band Grotesque was split up. After recording the album _With fear I Kiss the Burning Darkness_, I felt I could no longer go on playing with the band. We had been on a few shorter tours through Europe and I felt it was not really my thing, and since the band gained popularity it was likely there would be a lot of gigs coming up. Furthermore, we were starting to have different points of view on the future of the band. Anders was taking over the role of songwriter more and more, not that I thought his material was bad, I just felt like experimenting a whole lot more then the rest of the guys seemed to do. So, I decided to let them develop in their own direction and do what I wanted to do for myself. I had a lot of old material that was never used with At the Gates, and I put together some songs of rather uneven quality. This was released as the first Oxiplegatz album: _Fairytales_. Unfortunately, I was not used to doing everything on my own and the result was, looking back now, not what I would have liked it to be. I let myself be influenced by others' opinions and ideas, which I have learned since to ignore completely. The second album, _Worlds & Worlds_, is in a sense the first real Oxiplegatz album, with the style formed and the direction for the band set, even though some songs also on this album are old material. "Graveyard dream" is an old song I wrote for Grotesque, which was never recorded. "The End Is Nigh" and "Journey" were originally meant to be on the first album, but the recording really sucked so I did a re-mix and added a new song - this is the last part on the CD, recorded in Studio Fredman. As I think of it, perhaps the next release will be the first complete Oxiplegatz album.

CoC: What is the current state of the band?

Alf: I don't know if I would really call it a -band-; it's more like a hobby of mine. Anyway, I haven't quit yet. I hope to make at least one more attempt at creating something I won't have to be ashamed of in ten years or so.

CoC: What's been going on since the release of _Worlds & Worlds_?

Alf: I'm currently working on the next Oxiplegatz project, no title is yet decided, but it will be an album more or less consisting of one long piece of music. One day as I was listening to the radio at work, I was suddenly sickened by the way all music is essentially the same, in structure and melody. So I thought: "Sad, sad is the state of society. Has the evolution of the human brain turned into regression?" Everybody only does what others have done before them, following the mainstream like a flock of mindless sheep. The visionary is looked upon with scorn, people lack insight and depth of vision, rejoicing only in the image of the familiar and even simple. Unfortunately, this goes also for the better part of the metal scene. I really don't understand it - would I pick up the cover of a new band, decipher the logo, look at the photos of guys in black leather with long hair, corpsepaint, and inverted crosses, desperately trying to look evil, read the blasphemous titles and say: "Wow - cool, this looks interesting, I'm buying?" - I don't think so... I'm not saying I'm the most original composer there is, but at least I try not to do exactly what everyone else does, just to sell. This whole thing with Satan, inverted crosses, and evil is purely ludicrous. I personally refuse to believe in anything that was invented by some old goat-fucking shepherd thousands of years ago in Israel. It's all crap. My interest lies in the future, and man's evolution into homo sapiens stellaris. Oxiplegatz is dedicated to the unknown of the final frontier.

Alf: The new project will be the story of a world perishing in the gravitation of a huge black hole. The inhabitants are forced to emigrate into space. Strange adventures await them between the stars as the mystical journey unfolds.

CoC: Where do you get such inspiration for the sci-fi aspect of the album?

Alf: I have always been a sci-fi fan. Periodically I read a lot, the problem is only that there are so few good writers. Most concepts have already been used before, also in this field. My personal favourite is Jack Vance, who never seems to run out of ideas for new and strange societies on remote worlds. Besides reading sci-fi, I have, ever since being a child, been an amateur astronomer. It's a thrilling feeling to gaze through a telescope at some distant star and ponder: "What lies out there? Maybe I'm right now staring at a future home of mankind, or the blazing scene of an interstellar war going on beyond the knowledge of us feeble, earth-based primitives. If only I was born a few hundred years into the future!"

CoC: How has the response been to _Worlds & Worlds_?

Alf: Fairly good I would say. I do not get much mail, but the few positive words I receive from fans over the world is what counts. I never expected to satisfy the taste of the commoner. The album has sold okay, but that don't matter much to me, I write music mainly for the fun of it.

CoC: Why was there such a time/studio difference between the recording sessions for the album?

Alf: Periodically I lose interest in music and spend my time with some of my main interests, which are things like drawing comics, writing or painting. Recently I've gotten into 3-D graphics, that is making computer games, and learning this has taken a lot of time. Music is something I rarely occupy my thoughts with, only when I'm fed up with other things.

CoC: The artwork which adorns the album is spectacular. Would you care to talk about this further?

Alf: Thank you - it's actually one of the things I like the most about the CD. The front cover is made from a mixing of techniques. I had decided to have a naked woman on the sleeve, so I took a photo of my girlfriend and blended it into a scenery made in a 3-D program. The goatbot is one of my first tries at creating figures with the computer, and as it turned out pretty cool I thought: this will do for the cover and will also give a hint at the black metal parts of the music. One thing about the cover: I wanted it to be white. This color seems to be banned in metal circles, which suits me fine. The back cover was created first as a mesh of 3-D objects and later worked upon in a 2-D art program. All in all I like it a lot - the contrasts between the white, the black star fields and the metal surfaces are striking. There, enough of boasting.

CoC: Are you involved in any other projects besides Oxiplegatz?

Alf: Some lesser projects. I recently made a few songs together with my younger brother, who is into punk. A CD is to be released shortly. It has not many things in common with Oxiplegatz. I'm also in a punk band called Oral, which has existed by and by since 1985. It was my first band and we played Discharge-inspired music. We released a CD in 1995 with some old songs, and it is now sold out. I have a few projects of my own which I don't know if they will ever be completed.

CoC: What is meant by the name Oxiplegatz?

Alf: According to an old Donald Duck magazine, it means "How?" A gold-devouring creature uttered the word when deceived by the clever Donald and his nephews. I figured: Most bands have names that are totally incomprehensible, I'll use an even worse...

CoC: The CD packaging, theme, etc., are all not things that are familiar to the black or death metal scene, yet the music retains many of the trademarks. Are you trying to separate Oxiplegatz from the rest of the faceless bands in the genre?

Alf: I would hope so. I'm sure all the cool satanic bands laugh at my image, but so what - I laugh at theirs. At least I don't wear makeup like a raccoon... As you might be aware of black metal is big here in Scandinavia and I know a lot of guys who actually claim to be serious satanists or rather devil worshippers. They perform rites out in the woods, drink blood and cut themselves up with knives. Ridiculous. I hold them for no better than all the religious vomit of Christianity and Islam, it's only the other side of the same coin. Sure, we had inverted crosses when I played with Grotesque, but that was only to make fun and provoke. So you could say I try to separate myself from them.

CoC: Towards what direction do you think you are heading, musically, for the next Oxiplegatz release?

Alf: I have given up the concept of putting songs together in the standard way. I will just put together a lot of riffs and melodies as I see fit, one thing inevitably leads to another. I had an intention to have a really intricate setup of instrumentation and a lot of orchestral arrangements, but now as I've made a few attempts at putting the pieces together on my computer (I record at home using hard disc recording) I find that the sound tends to be blurred and the details hard to discern when using too many instruments at once. I'm not sure yet but perhaps I'll cut the original concept down to a rather basic setup of drums , bass, guitars and a few choirs and synth sounds. Simplicity has it's charm, I listened to some old At the Gates stuff the other day (I rarely do) and I was struck by the simplicity of the songs - but still, they are clear and definite in composition. So the next Oxiplegatz album might hold a few things for those who liked the early At the Gates, since I have reached the conclusion that bigger is not always better when it comes to arranging songs. It will still be death metal, not as fast and aggressive as some of the songs from _Worlds & Worlds_, but more variations and strange melodies.

CoC: Is Oxiplegatz solely a manifestation of your mind's eye? Do you think you will ever tire of it?

Alf: Oh yes, I tire of it from time to time and think 'I've had enough of this shit now! Never again will I waste hours upon hours on pointless musical exertions.' After all, every new piece is merely a rearrangement of the same old notes and beats. But as long as I feel I can do better than the last attempt, I guess I will try again and make another album... And, most important of all, I still think it's fun to write music. It's a way of expressing oneself and visualize your ideas, not as good as drawing and painting, but still...

CoC: What else do you do in life, besides Oxiplegatz?

Alf: I tend to get involved in more things than I really have time for. To start with, I work like most others do, a necessary evil to get enough money to be convenient in life. Since four years back I run a tattoo studio in Gothenburg, and I work about 25-30 hours a week there. Actually, I'm sick of tattooing and I try to cut down on the hours in favour of more interesting things. A year ago I started learning 3-D graphics. I spend an average of three hours a day at my computer, constructing meshes in 3-D Studio. I hope to put together a commercial adventure game in the near future together with a friend who is a C++ programmer. Another big interest of mine is comics. I try to do at least one page every week on some story. I recently finished a ninety-page sci-fi story, inspired by Jack Vance's "Dying Earth" novels. It will hopefully be released in Sweden during 1997. I also have another story going, a tale from around the year 1000, when the Icelander Grette Asmundsson lived a life as an outlaw in medieval Scandinavia. Lots of violence and sword swinging there. It's almost completed. Besides these main interests, I train a lot. There's a good Thai boxing club here that I've been going to for some time, but recently I changed to shoot fighting, which is a kind of mixed style of Thai boxing, wrestling, and Jiu Jitsu. If you've seen the Ultimate Fighting Championships and those kind of no-rules competitions, you know what it's about. I train maybe three, four evenings a week. Well, apart from that, there's not much. I almost never hang out with friends, sit around listening to music or just do nothing, I think that's a complete waste of time. Life is short. So, I'm pretty busy, but on the other hand I'm never bored.

CoC: When can we expect a new release?

Alf: As soon as I feel satisfied with the new stuff. I record a few parts now and then as I get the inspiration (at home with a hard-disc-recording system on my PC). I'm not sure when it will be finished, since I have to start working on the cover and all that, but I hope maybe in autumn of 1997.

CoC: What are some of your inspirations, musically, and which other bands in the scene today do you respect and listen to?

Alf: I try to get influenced as little as possible from other music. "Getting inspiration" sounds pretty much the same to me as "stealing ideas from others". To be true, I haven't bought a CD in the last two years, because I never have time to listen to them anyway. So I'm not really following what has happened in the scene lately. I kind of lost interest when most bands that I like left the old death metal style and evolved into something less inventive or aggressive. I get a demo tape or a CD from fans now and then, and this is what I mostly listen to, if anything. New, unexperienced bands often project an energy that the -big- bands lack. The latest CD I got was an Israeli band - Grimoire, _A requiem..._ - it's pretty good. I still like a lot of old stuff though, like Napalm Death's _Harmony Corruption_, the first Deicide, Incubus' _Beyond the Unknown_, almost everything with Bolt Thrower, Macabre, and Discharge... I listen mostly to opera, medieval music, and music from the early part of this century, Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and all their Swedish likes. I respect every band, whatever their style, that has something original to give and not only follows the mainstream. I have problems accepting that everyone must always try to be so cool all the time and put up a facade, even if I realize the same could probably be said about myself.

CoC: Why don't you work with any other musicians for Oxiplegatz, as far as writing/performing music and lyrics is concerned?

Alf: Because I can't stand it when people interfere with my ideas. I want to be in total control and free to follow my every whim. Music is always better when created by one individual. I hardly think that any of the old composers like Puccini, Schubert or Mahler would have accepted to get their ideas voted down by others? I personally had enough of this with At the Gates.

CoC: I think that's about all my questions, Alf. You can take this opportunity to say anything you want.

Alf: Thank you for your interest in my insignificant music. For those who want to visit my website, the URL is http://home3.swipnet.se/w-30444. My E-mail address is alf.svensson@swipnet.se.

(article submitted 9/4/1997)


ALBUMS
1/16/1999 P Azevedo 6 Oxiplegatz - Sidereal Journey
11/18/1996 D Schinzel 9 Oxiplegatz - Worlds and Worlds
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