Ronnie Ripper Olson
(the old days of Svensk Dödsmetall)
"28 years in Satan's service -
a sober retrospective of drunken Chaos"
(Questions compiled by Cornelius of Encomium 'zine and Georgius of Archangel's Lantern)
(Questions compiled by Cornelius of Encomium 'zine and Georgius of Archangel's Lantern)
Hail brother Ronnie! Tack/thanks a lot to you for the great idea about telling us your experiences regarding the Golden era of the Svensk Dödsmetall. First of all, in your opinion who was the very first pioneer after BATHORY and Quorthon? (Someone says MEFISTO, some ones MORBID and some others GRAVE and NIHILIST, etc.)
- Hey brother, glad you are still interested in my lunatic ramblings! Well, it’s hard to say who were the second generation of pioneers in extreme music, there were a lot of brilliant minds paving their own path at this time and I became part of it a bit too late to judge chronographically who invented what really. Where I live it’s quite isolated if you don’t know the right people and the word underground was still connected with the partisan movement during WW2, ha ha!
Jokes aside, we started out with Vomitory not knowing about this rumbling underground movement in metal and it wasn’t until I met this girl in another town that was closely connected to the guys in Macabre End/God Macabre that we all got our share of Swedish Death metal. The metal scene has always been alive in our small village of Forshaga, spanning all the way back to the early 1970:es when a band from here called Autumn Breeze even released an LP which was more or less the same thing as Black Sabbath and Deep Purple did at the same time, so we were raised with the old classics like Venom, Iron Maiden, Motörhead, Judas Priest, Saxon, etc and then moved on to heavier acts like Bathory, Sodom, Destruction, Kreator, Sabbat (UK) and so forth.
We knew our shit so to speak but we had no idea where it came from before it made it to actual LP’s and cassettes, there was no connection to the true underground. When getting in touch with it eventually we quickly got the letters going and travelled far and wide to see gigs and bought demos, fanzines and found ourselves bombed with flyers from the whole world. All you had to do was to send a few bucks and wait for a month and you received a handwritten letter and a tape from whoever was at the other end. There was of course rip-offs out there but those never made it very far since the word of mouth spread faster than they could ever compose a decent letter.
All this is probably common knowledge but I’ll just go along with pops into my head here. But yes, back to the question you actually asked, there were a lot of undiscovered diamonds out there who were just waiting for the big break and some made it and some didn’t. I’d say some of the best stuff didn’t make it to LP before they disbanded for some reason but I reckon the demos has come out as proper releases by now, I am still to catch up with all these fancy packages released lately.
One band that always was and still is unique in every sense is Merciless, they were pioneers for sure and for me they will always be a major part in who invented real aggressive metal in Sweden and no one ever came close to copy their style.
First ever photo of the original lineup, still before Tobias actually joined the band (1990)
In our personal conversation you told me an old story about the special Swedish sound from the viewpoint of Sunlight Studio. Please tell more about this to the readers. Thanks a lot for your photo about Master Tomas Skogsberg, please share some thoughts about Him. (I have a Big and Eternal Respect to Him, as my collection mostly richer by his brilliant works, i.e. NIHILIST, ENTOMBED, DISMEMBER, CARNAGE, GRAVE, etc.) How the old Sunlight Studio looked like and how it is nowadays?
- Well, the story goes that Tomas had this old desk that spewed out pure SWEDEATH metal on demand as we all know and that he decided to clean his calendar for a few days and have it cleaned up by a technician. The guy showed up and disassembled the desk and saw that the soldering schematic was not correct so he asked Tomas if he wanted him to correct it. Tomas said “Sure” and so the guy corrected the “faulty” connections. Then a few days later the studio was up and running again and as usual the band wanted the classic Entombed/Dismember sound but it was nowhere to be found! Tomas called up the guy and asked him to come back and change the schematic back to how it was in the first place and so he did and there was the sound again. Conclusion: The whole Swedish Death metal sound was based on a faulty connection!
What the studio looked like? Well, it was in an old bomb shelter under a high-rise building they called “The women’s house” I believe and it was quite crammed and intimate which was totally awesome. There were two studios there, one full scale studio with two connected recording rooms and one with only a small booth for recording vocals and such which was used mainly for the final stages of the production. The recording rooms in the main studio was placed one behind the other so the setup for us was: Studio first, then amps and then at the end the drum room. When we came to the vocals we put the microphone in the room where the amps were. There was a small entrance where you could drink coffee and all but you had to suck your belly in if someone tried to leave or enter the place. Intimate and totally awesome! Now I have only seen pics of the current setup but I believe he has the studio in an old barn in the countryside and he is totally hippie and can’t be rushed to finish a production on a deadline. This is just hearsay though so take it for what it is, this is merely a rumor that floats around so I might be wrong.
- The first demo was funded by our parents really, ha ha! We found this guy who was sitting in a house in the woods and made radio jingles and he had never heard brutal music what so ever but still, he had a studio and thought it would be cool to have a band recording in his house.
We came there and set up our gear and all was fun and games until my time for vocal recording. He had some struggle to get the guitars sounding right but he nailed it. Then I went up to the mic, put on headphones and he said “Sing something”. I did and he was just silent for a few moments and then I heard in my headphones a worried voice asking me to repeat myself. I did and once again he sounded a bit sceptic and asked if this is really the way I am singing. I said “Yes, this is it” and he was like “Ok, let me adjust the level down a bit”.
And well, that’s basically Death metal history by now, ha ha. We were pretty pleased with the demo and couldn’t believe that was actually us playing on it, it sounded far better than we hoped and when it was time for our first EP we decided to hit the same studio again. That time we had a major struggle with guitars falling out of harmony I remember, Ubbe and Ulf apparently pressed the strings so differently that there was no way in hell we could make it sound right. The solution was for them to play both guitars on half the song each and that fixed it. The old line-ups were quite steady once we got going and the only one worth mentioning is Bengt Sund who played the bass on the first recordings, the rest are already accounted for if you have the first album. I am back in touch with him these days and we are actually planning to make some music together again but it will come in due time due to lack of proper timing.
Björn who produced the demo and the EP is probably living his life as a common man now and I find it hard to believe that he still makes recordings.
Peter Wallgren and Volcanic Wolf are one and the same guy actually, we just gave him a stage name for the Gehennah stuff which became the one he used. He was a friend of ours who experimented with photo and he was an artist making paintings. These days I am not sure how much he makes in art but I know he has some work out there within mainly the stoner scene, making layouts worthy a 1970: es psychedelic band as it should be.
Living Skull is actually Tobben from Vomitory, the name was invented during the old Gehennah recordings once again, just like Volcanic Wolf. We said “everyone must have a stage name on our albums, do you have one or should we give you one?”. Both these names were their own ideas so I can’t explain why they were made up or what they actually mean. It’s basically shits and giggles that became bigger than we ever thought it would be.
You are from Forshaga. I checked out on the map, it is close to Karlstad, where VOMITORY from. How were the old shows? Which was your very first VOMITORY performance and when it has happened? Tell us more about the feeling of the old shows near you, regarding the Stockholm ones and perhaps about the Gothenburg area.
- Actually, both Vomitory, Gehennah and Dawn of Decay were from Forshaga, all in the same small village and closely connected to each other. Most gigs were in Karlstad though and sometimes we had some cool bands passing through from both the Swedish and the Norwegian scene but mostly it was just local ones with above mentioned bands over and over again. Again, it used to be a quite isolated area when it came to music and we created our own scene to play live and we travelled far and wide to see the other bands on stage. Well, a stage was a luxury at that time, we went out in the middle of nowhere this once to see some Finnish bands play on the floor in a summer home too! Sometimes we travelled a few hours with only those hours to spare just because we were not supposed to go but realized we didn’t want to miss it. Some other gigs we planned to attend for months.
With label bosses of Primitive Art Records during the release party of “Hardrocker”, drunk as hell and seconds from passing out (1995)
It was easier back then since no one had kids or duties as a family man, this is probably what made it all so magic in hindsight, it was always DIY and low key as fuck. You didn’t have security in the same manner as you have today, there were of course guards keeping the peace but they let you stage dive and whatever without trying to kill you first.
The feel of the gigs were probably the same as for everyone up to date when it comes to local gigs, the only difference was that people attended them in larger numbers since it was always friends promoting friend’s bands for friends who liked the music. Everyone supported everyone as a difference today when you have different camps of different people trashing each other for petty reasons. I think the scene again has returned a bit to the roots and the bad shit is weeded out or changed to something else but it’s not the same as the early days, it’s an updated version of it. Good enough if you ask me but you still have the folks that cross their arms on their chest, pushes out the lower lip and says it was better back then, I’d say they should get into it or get out. This is now and we are still the same idiots having fun and there’s no room for grumpy old farts.
First Gehennah lineup L-R: Cpt. Cannibal, Rob Stringburner, Ronnie Ripper and Mr. Violence (1992)
You told me about Jon Nödtveidt (R.I.C.) a few interesting and new information. Jon was handling the Swedish branch of Helvete Records and you've been a very frequent customer back then. How can you describe those crazy times? Do you ever met Euronymous personally and any other Norwegian guys of different hordes at the shows or other places? Abbath and you are old friends. When did you meet him the first time? (Since 20 years ago I’m a proud member of the IMMORTAL fanclub). Jonas Lindblood of PUTERAEON (ex-TAETRE) is an old friend of yours as well, if I’m not mistaken. Please share with us some funny or interesting stories about both of them.
- I didn’t meet Euronymous personally but just some week before his murder I wrote an angry letter about shirt we ordered but he never delivered, telling him to shove them up his ass. Then I saw in the newspaper that they were looking at Swedish connections and expected the cops to seek me out, ha ha.
Spoof of a very famous photo of a controversial guy, this time with a huge butter knife and a fly-swatter (1992)
The only person I remember meeting from that time in the Norwegian scene was Metalion of Slayer Mag. We went to see Dissection’s first gig ever and there he was, drunk out of his mind. Pretty cool to know you saw the start of what later would be one of our most mythical bands, I think Jon was around 15-16 at the time but he sure was an Encyclopedia of underground metal even at that age as everyone knows by now.
I was in touch with him through the Swedish branch of Helvete based in Eskilstuna for sure, I spent half of every month’s pay for about a year in that place! We met just a few times but chatted a bit before parting again, it’s not that big of a deal really. He was a nice guy and a talented musician, let’s leave it at that.
Yours truly and Mortiis during the release party of “Hardrocker” (1995)
Those times were very different compared to today because back then you really had to stay active to keep up with things, there was no internet and you couldn’t just pick up the phone to talk to people farther away than your own area code due to massive costs, and you had a different hunger for knowledge. Today you don’t have to remember anything vital since you have Google in your pocket, much like the way no one learns phone numbers anymore, you have the name in the phone book and that’s it.
Abbath I only got to know personally a couple of years ago, he is a cool guy and all the stories about him are most likely true! Eccentric as fuck and a material for a bunch of books, that’s for sure! I don’t have a lot of stories though, I was as drunk as him when we met so I guess someone else will have to tell those…
Jonas and I don’t go back that long either, just a couple of years as friends on Facebook and then we played a few gigs together, just hanging out being the silly bastards we are. It’s always cool to get to know people personally that you actually have listened to in one form or another throughout the years.
Ronnie and Abbath (Metal Magic Festival, 2015)
(my Immortal: At the Gates of Blashyrkh Fanclub member card from 1997--GF)
The sad end of Pelle "Dead" (Per Yngve Ohlin, R.I.P.) we knew all. I’m mostly into Death/Thrash Metal, but I like a lot MORBID (it is just simple Death/Thrash Metal for me) and MAYHEM stuff with Pelle, demos, and especially "Live in Leipzig". Please share with us your experiences, memories and opinion about his works.
- There’s not much to say really, not more than I do remember a time when he was still alive and the stories were fresh about him burying his clothes in the woods and sniffing that dead bird and all. As a vocalist he was good but not much different than the rest of the Black metal vocalists out there. However, as a person he was really an interesting one according to the stories and I wish I could have met him and made up my own expression of him. I spoke to a guy the other day who knew him personally and he sent me a photo saying “this was before the Norwegians ruined him” so I bet there’s a really decent and cool guy behind all this mythic persona that people talk about today. The rumor says he was planning to quit Mayhem and move back to Sweden and attend an art school and some conspiracy theories says he was sacrificed and such but I don’t know what to believe. He is gone now and the world keeps turning, let’s just listen to his vocal contribution and remember someone who was there as it happened. I like the notion that there are people in metal that takes this art above and beyond the common mind so he will always bring a smile on my face for his “shenanigans” on stage and off. We need the danger back in metal and it’s not supposed to be for everyone.
Per Yngve Ohlin "Dead" (16.I.1969-08.IV.1991 R.I.P.)
If there is anything I might forgot to ask you about the Golden times, but you feel it is important to be known by others, please feel free to add it here..
- I don’t know what to add really. There are pages upon pages to say about this era but it’s impossible to remember it all at once without someone asking or mentioning the minor details that brings it back to mind. I can add to the ones wishing they were born earlier that sure, it was a cool time and all, but when you are part of the past you are not part of the future as long as the younger generation and there’s more to come! The future is still to be written and it’s up to the ones growing up now to not let the old stuff die into oblivion. I hopefully have at least 20 more years of making noise and will stick around to see to it that people talk about today in 15 years as a golden age too!
Tack så mycket, bror Ronnie! Please finish the interview by sending your extremely rotten vomits to all the die-hard old-school death metal freaks worldwide :)
- Tack själv, brother! As I am finishing this off I will start packing for another tour of Turbocharged so if you see us come to your town, don’t be a stranger! Show up and we’ll shoot the shit and have a good fucking time for everyone to talk about in years to come, you hear?! Support Archangel’s Lantern! *over and out*
Ronnie/Gehennah live in Stockholm (1997)
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