Interview with vocalist/guitarist Christoffer Karlsson | By Michael Pementel and Kelley O’Death

Throwback garage punks The Dahmers are obsessed with things that go bump in the night, be they the monsters who stalk through ’70s and ’80s horror films or “The Milwaukee Monster,” real-life serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer, from whom they take their name. Though many may mistake these dark appetites for telltale signs of melancholia or psychosis—you’ll just never understand, mom!—this Swedish band of misfits remain committed to making terror fun on their new album, Down in the Basement, due out via Lövely Records on Oct. 26.

“We all have a common interest in old horror flicks and a fascination of the dark side of the human mind, so it became a natural part of the band from the start,” vocalist and guitarist Christoffer Karlsson says. “We’ve all liked horror movies since we were kids, basically. Don’t know why—it was exciting and felt a bit forbidden maybe. Kind of like when you hear bands like KISS or AC/DC for the first time as a kid, I guess. It’s thrilling and feels a bit ‘dangerous.’ You also find a lot of the same ‘outsider’ themes in horror movies just as in punk and rock music, so I guess that’s been very appealing for us as well.”

Karlsson says the themes and stories found on Down in the Basement are based on “all kinds of things. A few of them are based on short, creepy horror stories, and some of the lyrics are based on more personal stuff. There’s themes such as alienation, frustration, and solitude. Music is a great way to expose and vent your feelings. The horror theme is also a great way to [draw] similarities with completely different things.”

“The horror-based lyrics are, a lot of the times, inspired by different movies, and we make up our own stories based on the same kind of subjects,” he continues. “A lot of Dario Argento stuff. It’s all kind of a tribute to the old horror and slasher movies we love.” 

If their inspiration lies in horror films, why did The Dahmers choose to channel their love of all things creepy and weird into music? We’ve been playing music in different bands basically since we were 12 years old, so music has always been with us,” Karlsson explains. “In the start, I don’t think we considered it very much; it just became a natural part of us, since we were into both music and movies at the same time. But we also like the colorful contrast it gives the band, blending lyrics about dark themes with quite cheerful and catchy melodies. We also love the visual aesthetics of old horror movies, and it works very well with the band.”

“When we started out, we never made a decision that we were going to be a garage punk band,” he adds. “We just wanted to play loud rock music inspired by whatever we liked, and that’s what we still do. We despise the idea of limiting oneself to a specific genre or artist for inspiration; that’s when things get boring and there are enough boring bands around. Some of the inspiration has come from the kind of music we grew up with—classic rock bands like KISS, Status Quo, and Thin Lizzy—and later on, in our early teens, we all discovered punk and hardcore bands like Misfits, Ramones, Black Flag, and so on. Besides that, we just like music with good melodies, so bands like The Beatles and ABBA also had a big impact on us. So, our inspiration comes from so many different places, and that has always been very natural for us. To summarize it, we just want to do what we feel like without feeling limited by genre.”

Though The Dahmers stay spooky all year ’round, Halloween season holds a special place in their hearts. “In our town, we actually used to arrange release parties on Halloween a couple of years in a row with every new release we made,” Karlsson shares. “It was very popular and attracted a lot of people. We will not do it this year, unfortunately, but we will do a Halloween gig in Eskilstuna, [Sweden], on some kind of mini-festival, so we are hoping for a wild Halloween party.”

No All Hallows’ Eve is complete without a horror-themed playlist, but according to Karlsson, The Dahmers “don’t know so many horror-themed bands. Misfits and Alice Cooper are obvious, I guess. Screaming Lord Sutch is also cool.”

“Instead, I can recommend some good bands at the moment,” he offers. “You should look into Obnoxious Youth, Sheer Mag, and Viagra Boys. Great bands!”

Check out The Dahmers bandcamp here!

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