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Interview: Then Comes Silence

by François Zappa

We continue our inmersion in modern darkness, this time with another band that will play next year at the W Festival. We talked with Alex Svenson, singer, bass player and composer of the band from Stockholm. Their last album is highly recommended for anyone who loves more dusk over dawn. Then Comes Silence. And after comes Darkness.

—Which were your early influences apart from the obvious ones like Killing Joke, Bauhaus or Joy Division? Punk and classic music?

Yes, punk is the key to everything. Dead Kennedys and Ramones were a good start if you wanted punk music. I picked up different and many valuable lessons from all different influences. The organized minimalism by Kraftwerk, the straight discipline by AC/DC and harmonies and structures from Black Sabbath and Joy Division.

—Your music has also some shoegaze influences. Do you think that being part of Sad Day for Puppets has in a way, helped you add another layer to your sound? How do you combine the light of your first band with the darkness of the Then Comes Silence?

In the beginning Then Comes Silence were a bit more influenced by shoegaze and noise rock. Sad Day for Puppets toured quite often with A Place to Bury Strangers. We opened for them in Europe and the UK. I learned a lot watching them and hanging with the band. I wasn’t the songwriter in Sad Day for Puppets, but I’m pretty sure the lyrics are as dark as they should be. Don’t get fooled by the sweet arrangements and glimmering jangly sound by that band. It’s a trap.

—And to finish with the influences, do you listen to psychedelia? I have never read you speaking about psychedelic music.

Oh yes, I have listened to psychedelic music. It’s a broad genre and crosses the borders to goth and post-punk in many ways. I have mostly been interested in the 70s German part that some call “Kraut Rock.” Bands like CAN, Tangerine Dream and NEU!.

—For the people who only know your last album, Blood, can we talk a bit about the previous ones?

When I wrote the first and the second album, I wanted the sound to give a feeling of insecurity. It’s noisy and the product is deliberately unbalanced in the mixing. I was more into horror back then. You can hear the difference by the way I was singing on the tracks. Singing like a dead.

—You released your first album in 2012 with Novoton Records and for a first record you have very clear ideas. How was the recording and writing of the songs?

I made a demo in 2011. The label manager at Novoton heard two songs and wanted to carry on with a whole album right away. I started the band at the same time while we were doing the recording sessions. I’m the only one left from the original set up. The others are secret.

—The second one was released one year later, just called Then Comes Silence II. In how many ways it’s a continuity of the first?

I see them both as one piece because I wrote them almost at the same time. The second one is just a little less doomy I suppose. They are both produced in the same sound with an extensive amount of over dubs on all instruments.

—I love the covers of these first two releases, and of the singles of the period, who was doing them?

The cover of the first album is a collage of two photos. The hands in the water by Andreas Karperyd and the sky by David Kvist. On the second album my alter ego, D.K. Griftegaard took over the graphics and a main part of the band’s artwork. That includes Nyctophilian and the merchandise too.

—Nyctophilian was your third album. “Feed the Beast” and “Animals” are some of your more electronic songs till that moment. How did you start adding some electronic elements to the songs? You are a fan of Wendy Carlos and Kraftwerk, right?

I’m a fan of 70s analogue electronic music. I love the smell of warm vintage synths. The plastic smell mixed with dust and solder. “Feed the Beast” was a fast recording. I started the old Oberheim sequencer and let the drummer, the ex-member Karl follow the beat. Old school DAF-ish.

—You talk of the paintings of the old masters as inspiration. Hardly ever we have the chance of speaking about painters, which artists do you like? In which way do they inspire your music?

I’m no art critic. I only go for the vibe and I like watching heavy old symbolic paintings. Hieronymus Bosch, Goya, Tizian, Caravaggio and Artemisia Gentileschi among others. I don’t know how they inspire me, but they definitely push buttons inside me.

—Sorry to hear that your father died when you were writing your last album Blood. Did writing about it helped you overcome the pain?

Yes, it was a consolatory way to handle my sorrow. I had just started writing for the album when the sad news about my father’s passing flipped my whole life around. It became a healing process writing the rest of the album. I had my issues with him and I wish we could have spent more time together. He lived abroad and very far from me and my family.

—We always hear about the Death metal scene in Sweden but not about the Goth one. Are they related?

I have a good feeling they are coming together more and more. Metal, goth, industrial music and wave. Up here where I live in Sweden it used to be more segregated among the subcultures. Everyone stayed in their genre, but now it seems to be more mixed. The subcultures are crossing borders.

—We have just interviewed Spiritual Front and talked about the importance of lyrics in Goth music. How do you approach them?

I’m not a storyteller. When I write the lyric for a song, I start by collecting phrases and lines that I have written down. I have them all in a book. I put the words together and the song starts to appear.

—Talking about metal again, how is recording with a label famous for publishing metal bands? How did you get signed?

We have mainly toured in Germany. We have an Austrian-German management working for the band. They introduced us to Nuclear Blast, who wanted to blow some new air into the goth and post-punk scene. They liked our music and gave us a fine proposal. I guess they want to spread their line of genres too. Many musical styles cross borders today.

—What’s the most important part of a Then Comes Silence song: the atmosphere, the riff, the melody?

That depends on what kind of song it is. I value all three a lot.

—I read in a recent interview that you lived a few years in Spain. What do you remember of these years?

I have many childhood memories. I moved back to Sweden when I was six. I went to pre-school in Madrid. My first friends were Spanish kids. I remember that the climate at the playground school yard was pretty hard for a silent and shy little kid like me, but no harm done. The jargon was a bit different than I was used to. My family followed my father’s assignments. He worked for a big Swedish company and since he spoke Spanish fluently he was sent to Latin America and Spain.

—You also lived in South America. Have you toured there? The Goth scene is supposed to be great.

We haven’t toured there yet, but things are moving so let’s hope and let’s make it happen. I have two favorite acts from South America. La Procesión de lo Infinito from Medellín, Colombia and Causa de Muerte from Santiago, Chile.

—How do you combine Then come Silence with your work with Sad Day for Puppets and Radio LXMBRG?

—Sad Day for Puppets and Radio LXMBRG don’t exist anymore. I only work with Then Comes Silence.

—Which Goth bands have caught your attention in the last years?

It depends on what you call goth. Wave, post-punk and EBM are melting down into a big garden of goth… I like to follow bands like Ritual Howls (US), TRAITRS (CAN), The Foreign Resort (DK), True Moon (SWE), She Pleasures Herself (PT), Whispering Sons (BE), She Past Away (TR) and HAPAX (IT) among others. These are bands we often hang out with on tour.

—You are going to play with bands like Killing Joke and other great bands from the eighties in the W Festival. Are you happy of that?

I hope I will make it. I want to see them all. I try to catch as much as I can. There’s always so much happening all the time.

—What can we expect of Then Comes Silence in the future?

 Right now we have the songs for the next album ready to go. I can’t wait.

Photo: Per Kristiansen

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