Nothing But Death Remains
CoC chats with Rogga Johansson of Demiurg
by: Jackie Smit
Indulgently vintage death metal has been enjoying a fair comeuppance of late, with names like Bewitched and Death Breath dropping particularly inspired bombshells. Another such act that any fan worth his or her salt would do well to take heed of is the recently formed Demiurg. Fronted by Ribspreader's Rogga Johansson and boasting the talents of the legendary Dan Swano, the band's debut recalls the glory days of death metal's Panzer-groove, made famous by the likes of Bolt Thrower and Swano's own Edge of Sanity. Speaking to Johansson himself, it turns out that this wasn't your quotidian case of four guys discovering a musical connection in a band room.

Rogga Johansson: It was Guido, who used to work for Hammerheart and Karmageddon Media and started working as an A&R guy for Mascot Records, who came to me with the idea. He simply asked me if I wanted to put together a band for him; and with Ribspreader being on Karmageddon, he knew that if I had my way I'd release three records a year with that band, which is obviously impossible. So he knew that I tend to have a lot of songs lying around and he asked me whether I'd like to release something for Mascot, which I immediately agreed to.

CoC: Was a lot of the material on this record originally intended for Ribspreader?

RJ: Well, I write probably a full song every second day, and I save it on tapes and CDs. So I have a ton of riffs and ideas that could have become songs for either Ribspreader or Paganizer or even other bands and projects that never happened just lying around. With this record I wrote probably fifty percent new stuff and pieced it together with a lot of the older material I had lying around. There's music on this record that's upwards of five years old.

CoC: It's interesting that you say that though, because the music on _Breath of the Demiurg_ sounds like it was intended for the same band and every song sits alongside the rest of the material in a very natural way.

RJ: I was actually a bit worried about that. The two newest tracks on this record were the ones where I used my high-pitched, black metal vocals ("Monolithany" parts 1 and 2) and I actually wanted to take those two off because I thought that anyone who listened to it might feel like it didn't belong with the rest. But in the end I left them in and people seem to think that they're the best songs on the record.

CoC: There are a few things about this material that does separate it from anything else you've done -- the keyboards and melodies in particular. Were those added later on when you had made the decision as to which songs were going to be used for the record?

RJ: All the keyboards were added later, but all the melody and all the guitar stuff you hear on the record was exactly the same as when I'd written the songs originally. So the keyboard stuff we put on afterwards when we listened to the material and we felt that there were pieces that needed sprucing up.

CoC: Just getting back to your mention of Guido giving you the idea to put this album together, if this were a band that was "made to order", you've certainly ticked a lot of boxes on any death metal fan's wishlist.

RJ: <laughs> I know it probably sounded bad when I said it earlier, but you'll have to forgive me -- my English isn't very good. I think that what it is, is that Guido knew that I had all this material that I could basically put out under any name, and he asked me if I wanted to put it out on Mascot Records.

CoC: And you got the name off "Warhammer 4000"?

RJ: <laughs> No, actually not. I got it off another role-playing game I used to play in Sweden when I was thirteen or fourteen years old called "Kult". It's a lot like the "Hellraiser" movies -- a really occult role-playing game -- and it's based on the idea of the Demiurg, who created the world, but he's not really a superior being; more like a creator. So it's based around the concept that the Demiurg isn't all-powerful and at times just a disturbed man, which explains why the world is essentially flawed.

CoC: Did you incorporate those ideas and themes into the record?

RJ: Yes. Actually this is the start of a three-album concept. For this first album, I decided to focus not entirely on the creation theme, and so I also incorporated a lot of H.P. Lovecraft stuff. One of the songs, "The City of Ib", is actually based on one of his short stories.

CoC: Getting back to the wishlist I mentioned earlier, getting Dan Swano to play on the album and recording it at Unisound is certainly many a fanboy's wet dream. Was that on the cards when this project was initially being conceived?

RJ: It was, actually. I've known Dan since 2001, when he and I worked together on the first Ribspreader album. I later worked on the second one myself, and we'll probably do the third without him too, because he's a very busy guy. But he had time to help me out with this album, and he'd re-opened his Unisound studio, so it all fit together perfectly. For the next Demiurg album, I have no idea if he'll actually do the production again, but he'll definitely be involved in some way.

CoC: There are some definite references to Edge of Sanity on the album though. Was Swano's involvement a factor on how the material ended up sounding?

RJ: Well, all the stuff except the keyboards and the drums on the new record was already written to 99.9% when he came on board. So his biggest contribution came during the production. That said, when I started recording the music, it didn't have nearly as strong an Edge of Sanity feel to it as it does now. So it's strange that he managed to convey his personality into my compositions just by producing the album and doing the drumming. I mean, he doesn't even play drums in Edge of Sanity, so it also can't just be that. Thinking about it, when we did the first Ribspreader album he told me that he wasn't going to do any grind blasts on the drums, because he can't. He does have a very unique style in that sense and I know that when he has written for Edge of Sanity he has directed the drummers to follow that same style, so that could definitely have something to do with it. This album definitely has the same style of drumming as a later era Edge of Sanity album like _Crimson_.

CoC: Since you mention it, as this is the first part in a trilogy, would you consider doing a one-track record like _Crimson_ in the future for one of the sequels?

RJ: That would be great, but I think that people would probably shoot it down straight away because Dan is in the band and it would be stupid to do something that he has already done twice. I'm also the vocalist on the second _Crimson_ album, so I'm sure that people will point to that.

CoC: With all of your other musical endeavours in the background, are you planning for Demiurg to become a full time concern in the sense of going on tour, etc.?

RJ: That's really up to Mascot Records. When we recorded the album, they asked us if we wanted to go on tour, and we thought it would be best to wait and see how it does when it's released. This may not be wise to say, but the album was done in ten days, so it's actually very basic and actually quite easy for me to do it. So we don't have a playing line-up, Dan is a very busy guy and we haven't discussed the possibility of touring at all. If Mascot come back to us with a good offer, then it's definitely something that we'd consider. But on the other hand, it could do very badly and then Mascot will probably change their minds. So we'll see how it goes.

CoC: How far into the next Demiurg album are you?

RJ: Three songs have been completely written, and I have basic material for two full albums. That's basically seventeen embryos lying around on tapes -- just riffs and different ideas. So everything has been outlined, and three songs are totally finished.

CoC: Once you've done the last in the trilogy, will that be the end of Demiurg?

RJ: I hope not, although nowadays it's all about what the label wants. If they don't want to pay for us to go to the studio, we can't do an album. But if they want to release the three albums I have in mind, and they want a fourth, then I'll be happy to do it. I can always expand on the concept the way they do it in Hollywood by talking about what happened before the story on the first album.

CoC: So it will always revolve around the same concept?

RJ: Yes, because it's basically the concept of life: building and destruction, whether it be relationships, countries or anything else. So the concept is easy to expand upon.

CoC: Well, I'm sure that everyone who digs into _Breath of the Demiurg_ is going to look forward to the next record. Is there anything you want to say in closing?

RJ: Only thanks for a good interview. It's nice to speak to someone who speaks proper English. <laughs>

(article submitted 18/2/2007)


ALBUMS
5/25/2008 J Smit 8 Demiurg - The Hate Chamber
2/18/2007 J Smit 8.5 Demiurg - Breath of the Demiurg
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