1. Firstly thanks for doing an interview with us, could you give us a bit of background info on Sardonic Death and your roles in it?
Janus: Well, Sardonic Death was the end result of several years worth of experimenting with music/noise. We being me Janus, my brother Rasmus and my school chum Kenneth. We didn’t know how to play, but nevertheless had various “bands” playng half-dead acoustic guitars, drumming on cardboard boxes and shouting evil things into a cassette recorder... We made numerous tapes – all shit – and had many so called “solo projects” where we made “solo demos” – even more shit. In 1985 I made a cassette demo limited to one copy with static from the radio. I called the “band” Hvid Støj (white noise), the tape was called Hvid Støj, and all the “songs” were called Hvid Støj. The cover was white w/out any information. I believe this is the first pure noise “release” in Denmark... We were very adolescent/avant garde. Rasmus began taking guitar lessons, Kenneth got drum lessons, and I fooled around with basses everytime I could lay my hands on one. Then in 1987, we got involved in an association for amateur musicians in nearby Ribe. Suddenly we had regular and steady acces to electric instruments and real drums! We became more focused, having just heard Scum for the first time, and wanting to do something similar. So the “bands” were buried, and Sardonic Death was named after a qiouck leaf through a dictionary. The line up was Raz (Rasmus) on guitar, Kenneth on drums, another school friend of mine John on vocals, and me on the bass. We recorded a never released demo This line up lasted for some time, but John tended to prefer the company of his crazy goth girlfriend rather than rehearsing, so we kindly asked him to leave, and reorganized som the line up was Kenneth on drums, me on bass, Raz switching to vocals, and new boy Erik “HC” on guitar. He could actually play!! This was the crew that recorded Celestial Mindwarp.
Kenneth: You’re welcome. SD was started in 1985 as a really primitive outfit with no real instruments, only acoustic guitars and cardboard boxes as drums. Actually a lot of material was recorded in those days with the help of a boombox in our bedrooms. One recording we even did outside! Around 1987 we graduated to real instruments. We found out about some rehearsal facilities (RIAMUF) in the nearby city of Ribe, and in the beginning we used to sneak in to have secret rehearsals on other bands’ equipment. Shortly we decided to join RIAMUF, and for a small fee we could have our own rehearsal room. That was our rehearsal space until the band ended. I was the drummer.
Raz: Kenneth and Janus were the ones who introduced me to metal in the first place. Being Janus’ younger brother I fooled around trying to be cool enough to mingle with them when they thrashed out to Metallica and Messiah in the local youth club. Their version of “hairdryer microphones” in front of the mirror were billiard cue guitars. They usually turned up the music so loud that everyone else left the room – besides me.
Eventually I got cool enough to be a part of the first incarnation of Sardonic Death – the notorious G.I.G./S.O.A. We played old trashed acoustic instruments and used a Commodore 64 drum machine at the highest speed it could do - Very noisy and with lots of energy. Looking back it was kind of groundbreaking in 1986.
After some fooling around we started playing “real” in the rehearsal rooms of RIAMUF, Ribe. We got John – (Later Sacrificial) – on vocals, me on guitar, Janus on bass and Kenneth on drums and changed our name to Sardonic Death. This line-up lasted 2,5 years and we played concerts around Denmark, including the famous “Tusindfryd” Club in Aalborg.
When John left the band I took over the vocals and we got Eric “HC” Tietgen to play the guitar. After some gigs we released the “Celestial Mindwarp” demo before everything fell apart when Janus left for England and HC lost the interest. Kenneth and I rehearsed a few times with Flemming (Later Arcane Order) but it was never the same again.
2. You guys proudly are the first grindcore band from Denmark could you give us a bit of info of what it was like spearheading a Danish grind scene? And is there any pride to be had being the first?
Janus: It was rather lonely being the only grindfreaks in the country, not that
we were bullied, but the ridicule!! People generally laughed their asses off
when listening to grind. Not many liked it, certainly no-one we knew did, apart
from a few sad punks, and us. One of these punks ended up being a very
celebrated sound artist, you can read about him here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jacob_Kirkegaard
Well, it was mainly good fun, trying to be as fast and noisy as possible. I personally had some pride in being in the most extreme band in the country. Sonic extremity has always been a personal aim for me. But mostly people laughed and called it assholemusic, and scorning us for our poor “musicianship”.
Kenneth: I don’t know if Denmark ever had a grind scene? However, I am pretty sure we were the first. It was not a particular popular genre, but we loved what we did and to be honest we weren’t really qualified to do anything else than these short bursts of noise and some simple ’77 style punk songs, which we did early on. If I have any pride in it, I don’t really know. But it was always funny to see other people’s reactions at the time.
Raz: I never really thought of it that way.. We were just
kids with a lot of energy and didn’t really know that we were exploring unknown
terrain. But yeah, thinking of it.. it’s kind of cool.. just the kind of story
that you want to tell to your grandkids J
3. You list your immediate influences from Napalm Death's "Scum", Lärm's "Straight On View", Cryptic Slaughter's "Money Talks" and Wehrmacht's "Shark Attack", however personally your sound reeks of a distinct Repulsion sound had it been plugged into the setup of Larm, and your front cover has that Repulsion rottenness to it too, so would it be right of me to think that Repulsion were an influence on you also?
Janus: I didn’t listen to Repulsion before the Horrified lp was out in 1989 on Necrosis Records (by Bill Steer?). I immidiately loved it though, and I guess it had an influence on our sound. The thing is, though, I always wanted us to go more in a Lärm direction. Where others in the band had other influences. So our sound was to some extent a compromise.
Kenneth: I guess they were an influence. I mean, at the time every fast band was something we enjoyed. But the other records you mention was really the big ones for us at the time. I never thought of the sound on the demo to be along the lines of Repulsion/Lärm, but I see you’re point when I think about it. The cover artwork was done by someone not into extreme music at all, I am not really sure if it was done specifically for us or if it was something he already had laying around.
Raz: Kenneth and Janus were much more into Repulsion that I was. I loved Napalm Death but never really expanded my grind horizon further than that, being more into slow and dark stuff.
4. How did you guys come about acquiring these records?
Janus: Mainly we got them via mailorder, and from the Copenhagen based record store Rock Uglen. I called the owner whenever I had some money, and asked what new records he had that might excite me, he then laughed and went on to talk about assholemusic, and eventually recommended something. At other times we had read about a record in a ‘zine and ordered it. We also did some tape trading, and actually had the first two Carcass lps on tape prior to their relaase, as well as Napalm Death’s Harmony Corruption... That tape had a much more rough sound than the lp. I’m still disappointed about Harmony Corruption.
Kenneth: From mailorders. There were rarely any records to be bought locally that could satisfy our needs for extreme music. There was a cool shop in Copenhagen, Rock Uglen (which is still going), which had the best selection here in Denmark, so we used that one a lot. I also placed a lot of orders at CBR in Sweden.
Raz: I moved to another town for a few months in summer of 87. In the stinking little shithole sleeptown of Sommersted I met 2 cool brothers with quite a big record collection. Some of the stuff was the wildest I’d heard and I got a cassette copy of “Scum” and “NTIGTAWDIDWI” by Septic Death.
I went back to Rødding and played it for Janus and Kenneth who were totally blown away. The rest is history.
5. As you have mentioned you raise Napalm Death’s Scum as being a big influence, undeniably it is their most popular and pivotal record (27 rereleases listed on discogs!), did you guys know about Napalm Death before Scum, or was Scum your introduction to the band?
Janus: Scum was the first we ever heard of ND. It fucking blew me away, I guess the first hit of heroin must feel the same way as my first hit of Scum. It was a total unexpected life changing experience. It blew my mind, and I can still get that rush now when listening to it. Another record that has made a similar impact on me, but much later, is Putrefaction In Progress by Last Days Of Humanity, if you’re into noise, gurgles, blazing blast beats and gore, that record is a must listen!
Kenneth: The “Scum” album was the first we heard from Napalm Death. I remember our singer Raz got a dubbed tape from someone, and it was really just totally mindblowing over-the-top extreme and a huge thrill. When I listen to it today I get the same feeling of excitement as I did the first time I heard it, nothing has changed! It is still sounds like a fresh recording to me, and still extreme no matter what came after it.
Raz: See last question. I must admit that at first I thought ND were a black metal act, because of “Multinational Corporations”, which I thought was satanic chanting.. hehe..
6. So everyone says that Napalm Deaths Scum is the first grind release, but is their any earlier release that you personally feel retroactively would nowadays considered Grindcore? (For me its Asocials – How can hardcore get any worse release from 1982)
Janus: I suppose you have a point about Asocial, I never listened to it before you mentioned it though... I feel Siege, Deep Wound, Protes Bengt, Fear Of God and Repulsion all made contributions to the genre too.
Kenneth: Asocial for sure. The Genocide (MI) demos as well. Plasmid and Heresy could be considered as well, but without the extreme vocals.
7. What did you guys think as Napalm Death began shifting away from their ground breaking grindcore sound and shifting into more mediocre and death metal territories?
Janus: I hated it. I really didn’t like the band for a long time after Lee and Bill left. Well, Utopia Banished was a fantastic lp, but I had a pause from listening to their releases during most of the 1990s. I think Napalm Death of today is as different from ND of 1987/88 as they were from ND 1982, but I admire their stamina, and really dig their output in the 21st century.
Kenneth: I love Death Metal but in this case I was extremely disappointed. I loved the “Mentally Murdered” EP which had a Death Metal sound, and maybe Lee’s best vocals ever. “Harmony Corruption” is a different story. I can play it and somewhat enjoy it, but to me there were better bands playing the same style. The production also has a lot to do with it. Boring and flat. I always fantasied about hearing “Harmony Corruption” with the production of “Mentally Murdered” (or “Mass Appeal Madness” even) and with Lee’s vocals.
8. You mention there was a lot of hostility or negativity from the metal scene towards what you were doing, did Denmark have the old divisional cliques of metal vs punk that cropped up elsewhere?
Janus: Many Danish punks were fashion clichees, and many Danish metal heads were ac/dc loving bigots, I never felt home in either camp. The metal heads laughed at us, and the punks thought we weren’t punk enough. It was a relief to find that beautiful bastard that is grindcore. Suddenly there were other long haired people with lefty views... But then again, one of the members of Mercyful Fate used to be in a punk band called Brats...
Kenneth: I think they (metalbands and anyone else) just saw our music as amateurish, which of course it was but no matter what, Grindcore just wasn’t popular here. Some of the other bands at our rehearsal space would accuse us of anything. If a cymbal was broken or an amplifier burned out, it could of course only be something we had done. It was really a drag arguing with these people over such things. To be honest, I never broke anything but my own drumsticks.
Raz: I don’t think it was these frontiers that were the problem. We hung out with both punks and metalheads and in Ribe nobody really seemed to care. I think the reason why we felt some hostility was that the music was (and is) extreme and seemed as total noise for most people, even experienced listeners of metal. I always considered grind to be the perfect crossover between punk and metal – the dark brutality of metal mixed with the lyrics and anger of punk.
9. Around the same time frame as the releases you list as being highly influential, we also saw the rise of legends such Siege, Heresy, Concrete Sox, Electro Hippies possibly Asocial if we dig far enough back who all in their own way would come to influence Grindcore, had you guys heard of these bands at the time, and what were your thoughts on their music?
Janus: I knew and loved Heresy, Concrete Sox and Electro Hippies. Still do. In general we were very much into what happened in the ukhc scene, also some of the Swedish (Rövsvett, Mob 47 etc) and Finnish (Terveet Kädet, Rattus etc) acts were influential to us. I personally always liked the more hardcore oriented bands, I had - and still have trouble liking guitar solos and long songs in extreme music, don’t get me wrong, I love Maiden, Priest and the whole NWOBHM lot, but that’s just ordinary rock to me...
Kenneth: By 1988 I was getting into tapetrading and I was getting all these bands in the mail as well as early demos of deadly acts like Azagthoth, Matricide, Rigor Mortis, Master, Death, Morbid Angel, all the crazy Peel sessions etc. I was a huge fan of it all because most bands carried their own sound and the scene was still fresh and something unique, unlike today where the “scene” is overcrowded beyond belief and much of it sounds like the same to me. Of the bands you mentioned, I can add that I still regularly play the first Concrete Sox LP and well as the split LP’s from Electro Hippies and Heresy and of course the Siege comp/demo tracks. Let’s not forget Unseen Terror!
10. You also state that you guys tried your best to be part of the fastcore scene, was there an established fastcore scene already in Denmark, or was it just something you wanted to bring to Denmark also?
Janus: When I wrote fastcore in the description, I did it mainly because we started playing fast music before the term grindcore was established, I’m not sure, I think we used to call fast bands speedcore or something like that... So no fastcore in DK.
Kenneth: Never heard anything about this…
Raz: We just wanted to play as fast and extreme as possible. Labels, genres (and frontiers between these) didn’t really matter to us. We had a lot of energy and anger that we needed to get out of our system and the music helped us doing that. I don’t think that we were really aware of what we were doing. I wasn’t, anyway.
11. On the subject of fastcore, there is some debate as to who and what constitutes fastcore, Chris Dodge in his lyrics under Spazz, claims fastcore dates back to 1982 with the likes of The Fix, Neos and Youth Korps while others argue they are just hardcore bands, who were some fastcore bands that you listened to at the time?
Janus: See above answer
Kenneth: I don’t know about the term “Fastcore”, so I can’t really answer this.
12. You lacked a consistent line up, do you feel in any way this detrimented you as a band? Or did it offer you anything you can’t from a stable line-up?
Janus: The only line-up change to speak of, was the exit of John and the switch from guitar to vox for Raz plus the following inclusion of Erik. Him coming in the band helped us improve musically as he actually knew how to play.
Kenneth: We only had one lineup change, when John left and Raz changed from guitar to vocals and we got a new guitar player. All for better in my opinion.
Raz: Well, the 2 line-ups were pretty stable, but the 3 of us (Kenneth, Janus and I) also seemed to be unable to find the right 4th member.
13. What you can tell us about the Thrash Nights at Ribe you used to play at, and what made them so infamous? Any funny or shocking stories?
Janus: They began as a place for us and the other alternative/extreme bands in Ribe to play live, there were band nights before, but the bands we played with at these, were crappy 80’s pop/funk shit bands. We created the “trash nights” (as they were called on the first poster) to get our own venue. The other bands were Sacrificial, Hag, Innercity Decay and others. It was mostly fun, apart from the episodes we had where drunk posers/farmer boys wanted to kick our asses.
Kenneth: We felt that we had to do some proper shows and for the right people instead of playing with pop and funk bands, which we actually did at the first gigs. We came up with the idea to do these Thrash Nights. It was at a little venue in the RIAMUF building and mostly local bands played there. I guess at the time there wasn’t a lot of these kind of gigs with 5 or 6 metal/death/punk bands going on, and as far as I remember there was always an acceptable turnup. The Thrash Nights / Metal Nights are still going on at the same venue today, but we have nothing to do with it.
Raz: At a concert in Odense we met Thomas Bøjden (Later Die Weisse Rose). He was like us, wanted to listen to as extreme music as possible. He came to a Thrash Night in Ribe some months later. We warmed up by drinking gold beers in the nearby park before the concert. Thomas got so drunk that when Sardonic Death got on stage he knocked a PA-amp in his intense headbanging. We laughed our
14. The entirety of your live career as a band spanned an unlucky number 13 gigs, how well received by the public were you?
Janus: Hmm, the punks liked us (all 4-5 of them), and sometimes people had a good laugh at our expense, so people enjoyed it for one reason or another. We usually played for 12-15 minutes - including our regular last song - a medley of Wise Men Say and Yes’s Owner Of A Lonely Heart. Sometimes we did a (admittedly filler) song called Spændt Blære (meaning stretched bladder) which was us making chaotic noise with no coherence or plan for approx 3-4 minutes. Good fun. The title came from a silly idea we had about the circumstances of the death of the then prime minister’s wife. We were certain that she had a full bladder when she died.
Kenneth: After we got HC on guitar and really got going, I think they were received pretty well after all. Although I do suspect people just turned up to see this fast band they had heard about and maybe not because of the music itself. That said, we sure did have a few true fans.
Raz: I guess everybody hated us, besides the guys who were as crazy as us.
15. Not only can you guys claim to be the first Danish Grind band, but you also were the first to convince Agathocles to play outside of Belgium, what can you tell me about the circumstances of your friendship and how the show came to be, and also what the show was like?
Janus: It was through Kenneth, he knew Jan AG from trading I think, so he arranged that gig. It was a fantastic experience, seeing a “real” grindband play - apart from that I think the only live grind we had witnessed was Napalm Death (yes the classic FETO line up!!) play in Club Paramount in Roskilde in November 1988...
Kenneth: I got their “Cabbalic Gnosticism” demo through trading and I decided to write Jan AG because I was really into it. We started trading tapes and stuff and in the true underground spirit, it was just natural to try to set up a gig for them here. As far as I remember RIAMUF forked out the travelling money for Agathocles. One small dissapointment about it all was that Agathocles had scrapped all their old stuff and was now only playing the more accessible “Theatric Symbolisation..” material. It was still a great gig though and very well received. As a bonus we got Jan to sing with Raz on our version of “Teachers”. The pic on the insert for the AG/Smegma 7” is from their show here.
Raz: Good memories there.. I remember us doing a cover of “Teachers” by Agathocles on the demo and on the night Jan went on stage with us a made it an unforgettable noisy duel. Just the stuff you want to put on an “Absolute Duets” compilation. At the after party one of the Agathocles members lost his virginity, while the rest of us drank us stupid.
16. Did you guys ever consider going through the grind rite of passage and release a split with Agathocles?
Janus: Oh I really wanted to, but in hindsight it would probably have ended up crappy. I still really badly want to have my name on a vinyl release though, a few years back Jan AG and I discussed the possibility of releasing a split Agathocles/Kusari Gama Kill 7” I doubt that will happen though, but there would be some poetic beauty to such a release...
Kenneth: In all honesty, when looking back I don’t think we were just ready yet to go for vinyl, but I have no doubts that we at the time had discussed something like that.
17. Evidently Agathocles are industrial in their approach to material, boasting more splits than I care to count, do you think this mechanical one after another approach to music is good, or do you guys prefer the quality over quantity argument?
Janus: I prefer to have a few good releases from a band, that 100’s of mediocre ones. But of course you will always lust for more of a good thing. Agathocles are good at what they do. But their output is overwhelming - bordering to numbing. I love the Wound release on Grindcore Karaoke, and I REALLY lust for more, but there is no more... And that sad and beautiful.
Kenneth: Difficult to say. For myself I think I have my share of Agathocles stuff (around 65 releases), but there are no doubt fans out there who has it all and is still craving for more. I have grown rather tired of the split-EP format, because often you just don’t like one of the bands. I much more favor an album every third year instead of 8 split EP’s.
18. You guys had a pair of siblings, Janus on bass and Raz on vocals, as much as I love my family and their supportive understanding to my affliction to grindcore/noise they in no way understand its appeal, how is that you both came to love the same music? And did the band have a different vibe or dynamic given that half of you were brothers?
Janus: Well, we are only 2½ years apart, and having had a rough childhood/youth having to cope with much crap has brought us to be friends as well as brothers. But of course there were some tension. Raz was always the mellow one. I mean that in a good way. He now makes music as half of a good neofolk/goth/art-band called Subfinal. About how we came to enjoy the same chaos, we were always together and listened to whatever new record one of us (me, Kenneth or Raz) had bought...
Raz: Growing up in the inbred town of Rødding in the 80s and not being in to Puch Maxis, Opel Mantas, tractor pulling, kappa and la coste there wasn’t much else to do than kill yourself, get into bingo or extreme music. Suicide or bingo wasn’t really Janus’ or my style, so.
I think it gave the band a lot of vibe that we were siblings. Janus always put on more of a show than I did and was usually more extreme and extrovert. I chose the role of the more quiet introvert guy. Together with the personalities of the 2 others I think it made the perfect mix.
Janus, Kenneth and I were very close, so the core of the band was like a family really.
19. If truth be told aside from yourself, and one third of Magt given your involvement I don’t know any other Danish grindcore band, care to recommend any? (Question written before being graced with Dead Instrument, and a kind list of Danish extreme bands by a reader)
Janus: I only know of Dead Instrument. I like them, but haven’t heard their new record. My current band Kusari Gama Kill played at the release party for their first 12”
Kenneth: Aside from Dead Instrument I don’t know any. I think the first album is a pretty good harsh affair, but other than that I am much in the black here…
Raz: I can only remember our countless sideprojects, that we use to do all the time.. Verrockt, Satanic Sexton and a lot more that I forgot..
20. What can you tell me about the recording and creative process of your only release, Celestial Mindwarp? (I remember something about Pear Cider or wine :p)
Janus: Well, we wrote the songs in the years prior to its release, weeding out our crappier moments (Abberation!) and recorded the songs on a cassette player in our rehearsal room. We miked up the various instruments as good as possible and made a few takes. No real mixing or mastering took place. We were focused and had fun. After all, it was recorded April 1st.
Kenneth: It was recorded in our rehearsal room on my tapedeck connected to mixer and two or three microphones, very basic and raw. Somehow I feel the end result was pretty lame, no dynamics. I actually favor our last rehearsal tapes instead. Yeah the good ol’ pear wine was a favorite of ours, something we held in high regard. A bottle of that and a sixpack and everything was great. We spent many a drunken nights at Janus’ apartment (he was the only one who didn’t live with his parents) consuming that stuff and listening to wild and crazy music. I remember when he had to move, there were so many empty pear wine bootles it was almost embarrassing.
Raz: Well, when we recorded the demo, we were quite sober and extremely serious, but on some rehearsal afternoons we drank a shitload of apple wine and hung out with the guys from HAG. At one time Jacob Hansen (Invocator/Anubis Gate) showed up at our rehearsal room only to meet
us quite tipsy and unable to grind faster than a medium speed bossa nova track. We were a bit ashamed as Jacob was one of the big names on the scene and we wanted to impress him.
21. You recently have had it remastered and put on Grindcore Karaoke as a free download, is there much difference between the original and the now remastered version? And why the decision to have it remastered?
Janus: The difference between the two versions is mainly that the new mastering allows you to hear what is going on to some extent at least. I asked Peter Max-Jacobsen if he would attempt mastering it, just to get a version without too much tape hiss and because I wanted to have it in a digital format so it didn’t dissappear for ever when the last copy of the tapes rotted away. Peter is a very talented sound and visual artist - now living as a successfull painter. Back when he remastered it, he had a band called EX PMX that I was a part of the live band of (in my incarnation of the electronica/noise guy Bobby Blitzkrieg). We played 5 shows in the summer of 2006, and he agreed to return the favour by doing this remaster.
Kenneth: I think the remastered version is better. Maybe the drums sounds a little weird but overall it is more powerful. I think it was remastered by one of Janus’ friends, but he surely can tell you more about that and how it came to be.
22. What are your thoughts on the Grindcore Karaoke/ Bandcamp approach to music distribution?
Janus: I love it. Fuck labels. When money gets into the equation people gets irrational. Pay what you like. I hate the Lars Ulrich/big business approach, and really respect people like Bruce Dickinson for accepting that people might download some pirated material, but also assuming that people are willing to pay for things they like - to support the artist! NOT the corporate shitfucks that has inserted themselves in the food chain with no good for anyone but themselves coming out of it...
Kenneth: I am fine about. It is not something I use myself, but I have no doubt that it is an effective way to spread your music and make it available.
Raz: Absolutely cool. I use bandcamp for my present project Subfinal. It’s awesome that music is available free or cheap to people around the world. If we were in it for the money, we would have formed a boy band... or maybe not..
23. Due to your geographical closeness did the vibrant Swedish punk and metal scenes ever have any connectivity with yourselves?
Janus: We listened to heap much Swedish, Norwegian, Finnnish and German music, but the UK was also a very important place for us musically. Maybe the most important.
Kenneth: I was not in direct contact with any band, but I embraced the early swedish Death Metal scene, up until 1992 or so, and of course I also still enjoy the classic swedish crust bands.
24. Any Chance of a Reunion?
Janus: We have talked about it for fun, but I think it would be crappy...
Kenneth Janus, Raz and me talked loosely about it. Maybe meet up one day and see how it goes. I haven’t been in contact with HC for over 10 years, but who knows what will happen in the future.
Raz: Well.. It could be so much fun. I haven’t seen HC for more than a decade, so chances are small. I’m not even sure that I’m able to growl anymore.. But if the stars some day are right, I would certainly not say no.