Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Ronnie Ripper interview part 1: early days, Vomitory, Gehennah

Reuploaded is an interview I did with Ronnie Ripper of Turbocharged (previously Vomitory  and sort-of-currently Gehennah) for a website I ran with my mate Chris, called Metal Mongrel. This interview took place over two nights on MSN in April 2007 and was online from then til the end of 2008 when Metal Mongrel died due to lack of commitment. There are interviews with Ronnie at Metal Maniacs and People of the Black Circle, but I've put this online again cos it was one of my favourite things to come out of Metal Mongrel and its been hidden away too long. It's an interesting read given the passing of time – you'll notice quickly that I hadn't listened to any Vomitory at this point. Gehennah was foremost on my mind, and in the months leading up to this I'd been surprised to hear about activity from a band I'd (reasonably, it turned out) assumed to be dead. At the same time I was just hearing Turbocharged for the first time, and it's a bit 'Woah!' hearing how their sound has come along from 2007 to now. I shouldn't be surprised (and I'm not) that it's been an increase of attitude and aggression that still promotes the hard-drinking, hard-rocking habit of Gehennah.

Decibel Rebel was one of the first extreme metal albums I bought, back in 2001, and is still a favourite. I'd frequently wondered what was going on with Gehennah since then so obviously was chuffed as fuck when Ronnie got in touch and agreed to an interview. Half the questions were made up on the spot in response to what Ronnie was saying to the set questions, and it degenerates into banter a few times, so it's a long read. Was good fun though.

Nowadays Turbocharged

Most interviews start off with people reminiscing about how they got into the well known rock bands first, except extreme metal intys where everyone got into Judas Iscariot first. Was there life before Metal for yourself? Did you have any embarrassing trend-following periods while you were finding your feet?

Well, of course there was a time before metal but I wouldn't call it a life though I never really showed much interest in anything before I heard Motörhead's "Ace of Spades" for the first time on my brother's stereo, this must have been around 1981 when it first came out - but then for a few years I lost interest for everything and more or less only watched old war movies I guess. But then in 1987 I think, there was the true awakening when I stumbled across an old Venom-video of "Witching Hour" - and I was stuck in what has made me up to date

I never cared about following what others listened to or what movies were the most popular, I grew up in the countryside  and I still live quite isolated from everything that follows any fashion so it never even occurred to me that you could be part of a trend, I guess if you look at the bands I've been playing in you'll see that we were before our time or inbetween the 80s and the retro. It was never retro for Gehennah since we had listened to the same bands since they first came out, we just started playing ourselves a little late. Vomitory are, as you know, one of the oldest still working death acts from Sweden so you can't pin no trend on us there either! I feel quite pleased in not finding any such periods in my life now actually, ha ha!

I assume that Brother Ripper with Ace Of Spades playing was an older brother? Because they always come up in stories, corrupting their siblings. I'm not after his life story, but did your brother get involved with playing music or are you the black sheep of the family in that sense?

You hit the head on that one, my friend! I have always been the black sheep for playing this kind of music and not taking anything seriously - they never realized that something you enjoy can be what you live for I guess. My older brother actually bought a guitar but before he learned more than "Breaking The Law" and "Smoke On The Water" he had smashed it to pieces for not being good enough, ha ha. I guess the destructive musical gene runs in the family, ha ha. But he had given up on metal and hardrock long before it got the best of me though.

Everyone becomes a beer drinking and/or pot-smoking miscreant in their teenage years when the Rock kicks in. What was your poison of choice in those old days, and how did you go about indulging it? Do Swedish children all go to church now instead of getting pissed on park benches?

Actually, I was quite low-profiled as a kid and I was more or less the one just hanging around the other kids who puked all over and stuff like that, but when it finally kicked in it really started spinning fast from the start, ha ha! LITERALLY!

Since I have an asthma I never started smoking but drinking is enough if you only do it properly I guess - it has worked for many years and of course there has been some stupid moment of testing other crap it never did me the good a bunch of beers do for me. In the beginning it was all about the music though, the drinking took the upper hand later on, ha ha!

What's the balance between music and drinking these days?  Be honest!

It depends what band you mean, ha ha! In Gehennah it's ALL about the free drinking while in Turbocharged we make sure to play a great gig before we get faced - but both bands end up embarrassing ourselves sooner or later.

As it happens, I need a fucking beer right now. I just had two bottles of Riggwelter, fucking nice ale. Before I go onto the music questions, what's your favourite drink these days?

Free beer of course.

No, just beer - but everything goes down if it's served in the right situation I guess!

So true! *ahem* You were in a Death Metal band called Vomitory from 1989 to 1996, believe it or not. Have I got my dates right?

Actually, it was from October 1989 to January 1997 but who cares - I don't think we even got to meet up on a rehearsal before I left the band that year.

I stand corrected. Now, whilst we all have an idea of what Death Metal sounds like in general, how would you say Vomitory differed from other DM bands, if at all? This is in relation to other DM bands playing in the early 90s when Vomitory was starting out, and the DM bands of today.

I guess that a lot of bands starting out at the same time as Vomitory took their influences from other death metal bands while we still stood firmly rooted in the Sodom/Venom-vein in some ways. Of course, when you find a style that's new to you and it starts influencing you it tends to sound like most other bands though. One thing that I'm glad didn't die with me in that band is that they never messed around with any other vocals than growling, we even got told from a major label at one point that we might have a deal if we changed our vocals to more "screamy At The Gates-like" vocals but I/we refused to sell out just for that deal.

I don't know what differs from them these days from other bands but if I have to say something I'd say that they still don't compromise with their simplicity. Straight forward and no compromise, those are and has always been the keywords in Vomitory I think.

Are you ok to tell us which major label wanted Vomitory to sell out, or is it better to let it be?

Since I'm not in the band any more I better leave it to your imagination but they are still around and are still one of the major ones in this genre - those bastards, ha ha! We even did a recording for them since they asked for more tracks to listen to but they were stupid enough to let us go anyway.

Bastards! much of Vomitory's lyrics did you write? Were you involved in writing any of the music?

I wrote all the lyrics from the beginning and up to the whole "Raped In Their Own Blood"-album, then I don't think we had written any new songs after that. I actually wrote some riff here and there but no complete songs until the "Raped"-album, the one that you can hear is mine is probably "Pure Death".

So that would've been your first proper songwriting attempt, right?

Hell no, I wrote some crappy tunes in the start but when we took a turn for the better material I only wrote the lyrics, ha ha!

What were you writing lyrics about back then, and what motivated you to write about these subjects?

Well, it's hard to be exact all these years later but I wrote about death and what I thought sounded reasonable of what happens when you pass over and such . In the end of my days in the band I got more and more into war and nerve gas and such things though - much cooler subject I think. I'm not much of a poet you know, I'd rather describe a bombing, he he.

In your time with them Vomitory released a full-length album, a few demos and a 7". How much of this material is available these days?

The last I heard was that the debut album has finally come out on vinyl but the rest I think is a collector's market - you're lucky IF you find any of that material and since they have gotten quite big I guess it'll cost you.

How much of it do you have yourself? Are there any plans to re-release the demo material?

I think I have most of it somewhere around here, I try to keep at least one copy of everything we do - I'm a collector you know. I don't know if they plan any reissues or something but if I know the guys in Vomitory they like too look ahead instead of backwards though. That's the charm with old stuff: not anyone can own it!

So true, but such a tease for those of us coming in at the tail end of things! Waaah! Anyway, enough of would you say the older material differs to what they're doing these days, if at all?

Everyone evolves and they really sound great these days, almost too wellplayed, but they still really punch you in the face with their blastbeats! Back in my days we were more of a garage-death-band I think but that might only be the difference in sound from the first album to the last now. It's an art playing death metal for 18 years and still kick ass I think!

Fucking GEHENNAH innit!

Gehennah began almost alongside Vomitory, am I right? Was there any problem with playing in two bands at the same time?

Not really, I had all the time in the world back then and since I quit the bass in Vomitory early on to concentrate on the vocals I had to get that part of me satisfied as well. The time I played in both bands I can't remember anything ever colliding between them, it was more like we could book both bands on the gigs and I had twice the fun, you know!

How long did you play bass for in Vomitory? I assume this was as bassist+vocalist for that time, right?

Yeah, at first we only played covers by Sodom, Venom and Celtic Frost and me and Urban used to share the vocals between us. I think it was about 1 1/2 years or so but since I never had played or sang before I decided to only pick one and learn it correctly.

How often did Vomitory and Gehennah play live together?

I can only guess but I would think about between 10 and 20 times, maybe some more than that - we played A LOT on local gigs back then but I don't really remember which ones were played by which band, ha ha! Drunken hardrocker-brain, you know!

Why did you leave Vomitory? Everyone loves being in a Death Metal band!

I guess you can say that we grew apart along the way. It was like a fuse was blown you know, it just didn't work out any more but I can't put my finger on a special reason though. It's just one of those things that aren't meant to last.

Fair enough. Are you still in contact with any of the Vomitory guys?

Not really, we bump into each other every now and then but they have all moved and we live in different towns so I don't see them that often.

Gehennah play a raw style reminiscent of Venom and Bulldozer, but would you say that Black Metal was a fair label for it? How little do you care for labels?

It's always the hardest thing, to label your own music. With Black Metal we mean the kind Venom started, not the kind of the 90s - we got a lot of crap for not being true and all that but most of the assholes shouting the loudest were the ones who  just stepped into mom's make up and had bought their first black hair-dye so it was no big deal. But the most fitting label is still STREET METAL. I don't know who really came up with it but it fits us since we really play the kind of metal you long for when you hit your face in the asphalt I guess, ha ha! Labels are not important but it's impossible to avoid them as well.

666 Drunks & Rock'n'Roll - Street Metal, fights & alcohol!  Gimme some stuff to check out tomorrow, who else do you feel plays STREET METAL?

I think of STREET METAL more like an attitude than a sound and to mention a few I think fits the description (but this is only MY OWN personal view): Nifelheim, Infernö, Bulldozer, Sabbat (jap), etc. It's really hard to line them up on demand but I think you get the drift..? It's the dirty kind of in-your-face-metal which really stands out of the crowd and don't care for anything more than what they wanna play themselves I think.

Hardrocker is definitely a rawer, nastier affair than the two full-lengths that came after it. Any particular reason for the slight change in sound?

Not really, the only thing that I know for a fact is that when we recorded "Hardrocker" we didn't have a clue what we were doing, we just blasted our way through the recording and just DID, we didn't THINK. But, as always, when you do something again you have more control over the situation and we simply put too much thought in it all and really turned ourselves inside out to match or overglow the first album - just take a look and see the failure on that one!

We also didn't have time to rehearse properly and select the better songs, we just recorded the stuff we had back then and looking back on the "King of the Sidewalk"-album there are more than one song that should have never been released.

Hardrocker will always be my favourite Gehennah album of course.

Gehennah are quite an amusing band, and ideal for parties. I have a fond memory of 'singing' Under The Table Again at a mate's house while lying under his table in a vodka-induced stupor. Do you think other bands influenced by Black Metal should dig out Teacher's Pet and Whiskey Time again and remember what else BM is capable of doing? 

I'm glad to hear that our songs has come to their proper use even outside the backstage, ha ha! The fucked up side of today's black metal is the total lack of self-distance and irony, it seems that many bands out there during the last 10 years or so has spent more time in being "true" and "evil" than writing songs that'll last for more than a week and that they don't have the guts to get drunk and accidentally show their human side - now where's the point in that??? Stop playing in a band and start farming or something, we don't wanna hear another word about that fucking momma's boy pure evilish dream, right??
Well, I DO respect the ones who are really into it and really practice what they preach but those are the ones we meet backstage on our own gigs and who drinks a few beers with us. The most false ones shouts the loudest about being "true".

I couldn't agree more. While I'm looking back on stuff that was happening when I was born or still in primary school, it does seem that people forget that the old bands got their reputations because the music was, and still is dark as fuck. While it's much easier to get hold of information now that spoils the mystique, I do find some bands these days who needn't bother trying their hardest to be obscure because nobody cares about their music anyway. It's generic fifth-generation Burzum/Darkthrone clone-music. Arrrrgh!!!

Hell yeah, the first Bathory-album is more or less rock and roll on acid but I have never ever heard something so purely satanic, not sooner nor later!

Absolutely! I've always found that to be one of the biggest appeals of extreme music, when you can hear the elements of a previous style in it but it's been corrupted and twisted. Something that used to be safe, suddenly isn't so innocent. That goes back even to those early Black Sabbath albums where you can hear the jazz influence quite heavily, doesn't it? It's jazz, but twisted! It's a shame with those '2 kvlt 4 u' types who try and say that Venom and Bathory aren't Black Metal...because if all the genre is is just tremolo-picking clones then suddenly it's a very neutured, boring and safe style.

Hell yeah, Satan really got a hold of the old roots in the early seventies through bands as Black Sabbath, Pentagram  and Black Widow - we've all heard it before when you look back at it but when it first came out there must have been a lot of scared christian scum around the world!

You're right there, a genre isn't tougher than the people playing it - that's what's wrong with the black metal of today. Where's the attitude? And if you look at the corpsepaint before and now you can see the difference in where they put their efforts - DEAD of Mayhem looked like he had put paint in his hands and just smeared it in his face while the younger bands look like handpainted puppets.

To sidetrack a little bit, I think I covered this a little bit in my gig review but in spite of the misuse and overuse of corpsepaint these days, one of the best displays I've seen of it recently was on Watain, when I saw them supporting Kreator and Celtic Frost. Those guys literally looked like the walking dead, straight out of a fantasy book. Took me right back to days where I was discovering this music. 
o rly
Back to the questions! 

You said earlier about getting shit for not being 'true' Black Metal. I remember awhile ago reading about one of the guys from Nifelheim saying how Black Metal shouldn't be made funny, in reference to Gehennah. I'm not bringing this up to insult Nifelheim - they're fucking amazing - but because I got into Nifelheim at exactly the same time as Gehennah... ...My first Black Metal bands after discovering it through Bathory. There's some tenuous links between Gehennah and Nifelheim through Headbangers Against Disco and a band called Merciless, I think. How familiar are you with the band and their music? Have you ever known them on a personal basis?

Yeah, we know both bands personally even if the years has passed by and we may not talk that often, we still say HI when we meet and all that. You should remember the difference between Gehennah and Nifelheim when it comes to Black metal: They prove that black metal can be as evil as it comes while Gehennah play the less serious tracks of the same genre I think.

I don't know if this comes out right but I hope you see my point. We share the same path but we walk different sides of it so to speak. Our roots are the same though we have chosen a different approach musically but when we end up at the same parties we're all the same drunken pigs!

I asked earlier about the availability of Vomitory demos, but what I really want to know is how to get hold of Gehennah demos and splits. Tell me!

Ask me about the cure for cancer when you're at it, ha ha! We haven't got a clue about how many copies each demo has been printed in and even less control of where they are these days. There are a few strange limited editions specially made for local gigs and such crap, one edition included porn pictures and may have been made in only 20 copies, ha ha!They were sold out or misplaced many years ago and we have never thought of doing reissues of that era - there were somehow rumours about some bootlegs about ten years ago with our demos but I think it was only bull since we've never heard of them since. When you're more into drinking than you're into promoting things aren't really that controlled you know.

Hahaha! Very true...but you never know. Hopefully someone out there can put some bootleg copies back in circulation for trade, eh? Fuck buying them at stupid prices...

I agree, such stuff shouldn't be profit these days - no one benefits from that! Just let it spread!

While we're on this theme, what's your general opinion of downloading/trading music?

Ha ha, of course I'm against it - I wanna make loads of money on you all for liking what we do!

No, seriously, it's a part of the technology these days and I get my fair share of music through those channels myself. There must be other ways to run a record label, you can't download t-shirts so make shirts to make it all float.

It's not the downloaders who kills the music, it's the labels who has made too big business of it all who are to blame I think. I can imagine that it feels really crappy for a band that sees their almost finished release on the internet with the wrong order of the songs and all that but that's a small price to pay since the music really reaches out to millions of people. You can never spread music on CD like they are spread over the internet.

Again, I agree, and again I'm going to hijack the interview  but I've always felt that one of the biggest benefits of having the medium available to us fans is that hopefully it'll kick the big record companies up the ass to promote their bands right. Get them out there touring more, going to more towns, making sure their albums are properly distributed, all that kind of thing.

It's ironic that smaller labels who would need record sales more are actually embracing mp3 technology and encouraging fans to download music, whilst the big labels with sufficient money to promote a band adequately are shitting themselves.

Yeah, I'm with you on that one - the hard thing for the labels is that they never know the true numbers of downloads though so I can imagine that it's hard to plan a tour when you don't know where the fans really are though.

Good point...well, if they want a good return, that's for them to figure out I guess!

The smaller labels has probably realized that you can't beat the downloads so instead they join in on the party while the bigger labels still think they can trample everyone in their merry way to the bank. Well, it's their loss!

Any chance of the debut album Hardrocker being rereleased? I saw a copy go for about $80 on eBay a little while ago. Fuck that!


That's more than we ever made in royalties for all three albums!!!!

I shit ye not...there were quite a few bidders as well!

We should have had a box and sold them there, then we would have made some cash – finally.

I don't know about Hardrocker but the other two albums are being reissued as a double-CD sometime soon with some bonus material and crap on it, don't know exactly when but it should be out this year.

I think we've found out why all those bands try and stay obscure. The benefits of hindsight eh?

Could be.

I had a look and saw Hardrocker was released on Primitive Arts, right? Are Gehennah still on Osmose Productions? Because if that's the case it's not like you can chase anyone up to do a proper rerelease of Hardrocker then, right?

No, we were let go from Osmose back in 1998 and we've been unsigned since then so we're up for grabs I guess. But as we see it, if there's gonna be another issue of Hardrocker it's all up to Primitive Art to decide if and where. We have never put our fingers in that cookie-jar, it's always in the label's hands what happens with our stuff, I guess it's mostly because we're so fucking lazy, ha ha!

If Hardrocker comes out again I sure hope it'll sail under the same flag as the first time it was released, anything else would be strange.

Going back to the lyrics of 666, Drunks & Rock'n'Roll again...did being let go from Osmose have anything to do with them having to pay you bail money?  Again, be honest! 

No, we costed them a few bucks but not in that sense, ha ha! We simply didn't generate enough money for them so they didn't renew our contract, nothing fancier than that. But we never got to know what they thought about the line you're referring to: "but we can afford it, Osmose will pay the bail", ha ha! We thought it might have gotten some upside down smiles in their office though!

I guess that's going to be one of Metal's mysteries now - WOULD they have paid the bail? 

Yeah, I think they would have let us rot in jail though, we didn't give them an easy time back then, ha ha!

I think by now everyone can guess why, haha! Anyway, considering what we've just said, would you be at all bothered if I distribute my downloaded copy of Hardrocker amongst all my friends?

Go ahead, let them all take part of our fucked up minds .I have downloaded our material from some guy in Hungary myself, he had it all - and it's also still in my share for others to download.

Is that just the full-lengths?

No, even the "No Fucking Christmas" EP was included.

The hardest thing to find must be our 10 year anniversary Mini-CD, at least without the glitches in the pressing. There were some complications during the burning process so the only 50 copies there are of the first issue has some flaws in them.

Awwww shit, that must've been irritating.

Irritating, yes, but it's easy to see which ones are real and which ones are not - no one wants to copy a failed version. Collectors item you know, ha ha!

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