Interview with Whiplasher Bernadotte (Vocals) | By Eric May
Sweden’s Deathstars are known for single-handedly creating the Deathglam genre and they continue to prove its strengths with their newest album, The Perfect Cult. I spoke to frontman Whiplasher Bernadotte about the concept of the new album, which he described as both a “Faberge egg” and “audiosex in inner space” as well as Marilyn Manson comparisons, lyrical inspirations, his hobbies outside of the band and what little we can put into print regarding those times when the guys get wild!
Tell me a little bit about the new album, The Perfect Cult. What did you want to do differently here, than on previous albums? Do you think it’s your strongest album yet?
Yes, I think it’s the strongest album by far. It’s different in a lot of ways, for example it’s also not as outgoing as the previous ones. It’s more personal this time. Private. It’s not party darkness, more personal darkness. Also it’s more synth oriented sound wise and has a slower pace throughout the material. It’s superior when it comes to melodies and production. It’s really European audiosex set out in inner space. This was an album we refused to compromise with; we definitely didn’t want to be limited by a strict deadline. We came when we wanted to come – which is an unwise synonymous since the album came later than expected, but then again – I’ve never been a member of Mensa.
How long did it take to write and record, and what was the atmosphere like in the studio?
A lot of character on the album is done while in the studio, but of course we have the foundation of the songs when we start to record. The drums and guitars were recorded in Gothenburg, vocals and keyboards in Stockholm. It’s impossible to say exactly how long it took to write and record. Some songs on the album were written just a few months before we entered the studio, but also, for example; “The Fire Galore” has been ready for several years. In the studio it was three weeks for guitars, drums and bass. After that it was vocals, re-writing arrangements, adding keyboards, orchestration, drum loops and editing on and off for a couple of months.
People have compared your band to acts like Marilyn Manson, but I think it has more in common with gothic and industrial bands. In all honesty, your sound has always done well to remind me of The Kovenant’s SETI album, which I enjoyed heavily. What would you say inspired you to play this kind of music? Also, what albums could you list as major influences to the band’s sound?
Marilyn Manson and us, we sound nothing alike. Never have. The reason we get compared to him is – I guess – that he was the first commercial artist that looked like bands in the metal underground have been looking like since 1985, so the people referring to him are just people that don’t know too much about music in general. It says more about them than us.
Kovenant’s SETI I’ve never listened to really, but their Animatronic album was inspiring because just as us they broke out from the more extreme Norwegian/Swedish metal underground scene and did something else. We – coming from black, death, and thrash metal were fed up with having twenty riffs in each song – even though I still love that kind of music – and wanted to challenge ourselves, write more effective songs based upon piano, heavy riffs and cleaner vocals. The first album (Synthetic Generation) was more of an experiment – we didn’t know where we were heading, so it just became… something. That something was the first step on the road later known as Deathglam, a genre now adopted by bands all over the world. We wanted to use the frustration and aggression we had on the albums we did in the more extreme metal scene and combine it with synth, strong melodies, bombastic arrangements, more industrial elements and just give birth to a hybrid that was more dictated by a definite dark vibe then to stress writing music just to belong to a cool genre. We’ve for example never said that we’re a metal band, because we’re not. Metal for me is Judas Priest. We’re just a bastard child of different genres.
Lyrically, what inspires you? I’ve always noticed many militaristic influences (Blitzkrieg Boom, Explode) as well as plenty of irreligious material such as “Play God” and of course, some definite Satanic influence.
Just the environment that we act within, so it’s basically subjective chronicles about our every night lives. The military style is just symbolic for inner strife and we have no real satanic stuff because that is just not in our context. We leave that for black metal and then it makes sense. No, it’s more closely related to postmodern nihilism and indifference as well as intercourse and lawless debauchery. I mean one song can be about a philosophical idea, the other about total destruction. It’s just about us and the loins of hell. High and lows. Mostly lows of corpse.
Who is The Perfect Cult? It sounds like our current society might fit the description rather well.
It’s a kind of sarcastic title. It’s based upon the song “The Perfect Cult,” which deals with something that I tend to see pop up here and there in the different lyrics on the album. It’s self-criticism in the raw and it’s about weakness. The whole album is about weakness. It’s sort of like holding a Fabergé egg and you just smash it into the ground so you don’t have to walk around being afraid of dropping it. It’s about not believing in anything – or being passionate about anything – for the fear of losing it.
Your single is called “All The Devil’s Toys.” Tell me a little bit about the meaning behind this song. It sounds like a reference to weapons.
It actually has nothing to do with weapons; it’s just about giving in for the pleasures of the flesh. All the lusts. Everything you shouldn’t do, but want to. Like a priest in the wet loins of Lilith. It’s about dealing with your instincts, face them, enjoy them and grow from them. Just like a healthy penis. It’s about lust versus moral. Dostojevski distorted, kind of.
It seems like the lyrics for “The Mark Of The Gun” have proven all too true in the past few months, as our country has had more shooting deaths than we’ve had in years. This has caused people to call for gun control, while others seem to push against it, citing the right to bear arms. What is your opinion on this?
For Europeans it’s mega weird that Americans have these loose restrictions when it comes to guns, but then hey – I’m from Scandinavia. What do I know? Here we only have guns to kill moose and polar bears. But intellectually and spontaneously it sounds like something you would think people would have called a bad ethical idea already even during the Jura period or so. For me it makes no sense with terror balance in your own country, but that’s what it is. Ted Nugent seems to enjoy it though. Just like the boys at Columbine. In the end it’s just building walls around yourself for the fear for others, which seems to results in racism, isolation, stupidity and death. Change your politics, I would say.
There’s a lot on this album to insist that humanity is pretty much worthless, a veritable plague of sorts. We’re plastic, fake, abusers and we start wars that kill millions of our kind. Do you think there’s any hope for us, or are we doomed to be eradicated like the parasites that we are?
Actually it’s not about that at all. In Deathstars it’s a lot of black humor combined with the darkest aspect on different personal subjects. Sometimes it’s positive but covered in a jet-black agenda. It’s necessarily doesn’t mean you should die by these words. I’m usually provoking myself in the lyrics. Writing about my weaknesses, because writing about how fucking cool you are, how powerful, how much cash you have and drugs that you take is so status quo. It’s mega boring. There is no conflict in it, which means there is no progress, which means it’s totally self proclaiming. And if it is self proclaiming means that you want to impress – like hip-hop artists singing about bitches and cars and their designer suits. (Laughs) They worship the stereotypes. If you want to impress, you are of course a slave to other people since you are so dependent upon their appreciation. You are a slave of the system. It’s just boring. Like a Big Mac at McDonalds. I rather have Beluga.
What do you enjoy outside of music? What do you do for leisure? Is there anything you’d recommend?
I’m Swedish, but I’m living in Florence, Italy at the moment, so I’m into the history here and I’ve been reading about art and I’m just a big fan of Italy in general. This is the cradle of European culture in many ways. Think Los Angeles – this is the direct opposite in every way. I read about stuff in the morning, and then I walk to that part of the city, or that certain museum or church to study it. Except from that I’m writing for different TV shows in Sweden and in the past few years I’ve really been into different kind of expeditions. Next one is climbing Kilimanjaro and doing the marathon at the foot of the mountain. Then I like vodka a lot too.
Tell me about the three bonus tracks included with the deluxe edition of the album. Skinny remixed “All The Devil’s Toys” as Dope Stars Inc. remixed my personal favorite cut, “Explode” and Hacking The Wave remixed “Temple Of The Insects.” How did all of these interactions come about, and what do you think of these remixes? What is it like to hear your own music remixed by other artists?
Remixes are just for fun. It’s a version that someone puts together in a different way. It’s cool, I guess. It gives another aspect on a song. We enjoy hearing other people’s takes on our music.
Let’s talk about touring. What’s the best tour experience that you’ve ever had? Have you ever met or played with anyone on tour that inspired you? What kinds of crazy shit have you guys done on the road that we can actually put in print?
You can’t print much of it, of course. We’ve been through a lot of shit yet much more great stuff during tours throughout the years. I think the sold out arena tour with Rammstein – Made in Germany – was fantastic of course. We’d been talking to Rammstein for a while about touring together, but it never synched and when it did we had a blast. It was an industrial feast in Europe with I think over 700,000 visitors at the shows. Also it’s been great when KISS – our all time heroes – came to watch our show in Stockholm, the guys just walked in backstage in our dressing room with a camera crew and took us by surprise, literally two minutes before we had to go on stage. We also toured with Korn who Nightmare likes a lot. We won some music prizes which necessarily doesn’t mean shit, but since we always walked our own way it’s something that kind of is a receipt showing that what we do makes sense, even though we question ourselves all the time. You know, we’ve never used other producers than Nightmare Industries as the band grew up like more of a studio experiment from the beginning, we hardly ever let anyone else listen to our stuff before the album is done, so it’s a complex thing. We do it ourselves, produce it ourselves and then we take it to the stage. Deathstars should be a question mark even for us. When we ever think of Deathstars with an exclamation mark after it, then I would think twice on what we are doing. It should be a ride for us as well, an adventure from day to day.
Deathstars has two sides: On the album it’s more of a personal soundtrack, but live it’s back to the reptile brain rock n’ roll super action band where we put our personal hell and erotic ways on wide display. Live we are usually the boyfriend’s worst nightmare. Touring is something we enjoy very much, as that’s where we get to meet the fans and hang out within the band. Hopefully we can start doing it in the U.S in the future since it’s the only continent where we’ve never toured so far.