Updated: Aug 2
I’ll go on record and say that this has been one of the most rewarding, frustrating, exhilarating and intoxicating experiences I’ve ever signed up for.
Fredrik Andersson continues to make an incredible mark on the death metal genre. His resume includes With Oden on Our Side, Twilight of The Thunder God (Amon Amarth), Dead Harvest (This Ending) and Netherbird (Arete).
My introduction to his drumming was Twilight of The Thunder God. I was going through a lot during that time. And it was this disc that kept me going. As well as The White Stripes souped-up, stripped-down cover of Son House’s bare-knuckle heart breaker-Death Letter.
Death Metal drumming gives me chills. I always think: “How can anybody play that fast and precise?!” Yet there are people out there who do this on a nightly basis. The best always make it look effortless. And Fredrik Andersson is one such person.
I do realize that I’m a virtual nobody when it comes to this music journalism thingamajig. And I adore each and every one of you that read my articles on a consistent basis. But as far as the pantheon of rock journalism goes, I haven’t even cracked the surface.
I'm not going to lie. It was a lot of self talk to get the gumption up to ask Mr. Andersson if he would allow me to interview him. In the end, what did I have to lose? So I asked. When it hit me that Frederick Andersson actually said yes, I whooped and hollered with enough fervor to shame a Pentecostal preacher into blushing green with envy. Side note: this also drew more than a few inquiring eyeballs from my co-workers. HAH!
But enough of my gushing. Here’s what occurred…
GSH (Author): What or Who inspired you to become such an outstanding death metal drummer?
Fredrik Andersson: I'm probably different from other drummers. I played guitar in my first band and when we fired the drummer, I switched to drums. Mostly because that was a way for me to have control. I wrote the music and played the drums (A Canorous Quintet).
My inspiration was simply the music and the bands. Not any single drummer specifically. If I have to name the most influential drummers, it would be both Erlandsson brothers, Nicke Andersson, Peter Sandoval, Igor Cavalera and Lars Ulrich.
GSH: According to the book Swedish Death Metal by Daniel Ekeroth, were you a participant in the youth centers that were prevalent in Sweden circa 80’s-90’s? And if so, what were they really like? And how did they affect your early musical efforts?
Into Death Metal? Read this book.
FA: Yeah. I went to shows at “Lagret” (Translates into Warehouse. This is where the shows happened. So says Fredrik.) in Tumba. I went to see Dissection there. Amon Amarth were the openers. That’s when I first met the guys. It was in ‘93-’94. In my band, we played a few of those places with At The Gates, Necrophobic, Edge of Sanity, Disharmonic Orchestra, Etc. These youth centers were often marked as “drug free”. But I would say that very few were completely sober. You gathered outside the venue before the show and drank the booze you brought. There was always a bunch of guys selling their demos in the crowd. You would talk to people and get to know them, buy their demo, drink beer, smoke, etc.
GSH: Thanks for sharing that. How do you approach a song?
FA: Hmm..that can differ pretty much from song to song. It also depends on the band, the situation and how much time I have or want to spend on each project. The easiest way for me is to listen to the demo a bunch of times. I listen to it until I pretty much know it by heart. Then I just play it but probably change or improvise fills. This also how I approach songs if I will play live with a band that has already released songs. If I feel the song needs more work in comparison to the demo/programed drum track, I’ll start analyzing the riff and try to come up with something better or more interesting. This is harder because of a couple of factors- I’ve already heard the song with the demo drums. The band has gotten used to those drums. Obviously, I think my drums are better. Otherwise, I wouldn't change them but there's always the element of doubt.. And sometimes it comes down to convincing the guy who wrote the demo drum track that I could do it a bit better. And that is never an easy task. Some songwriters are weirdly attached to the drums that they have created. Even if it is lacking a groove. It can also be hard to try to sound just like a drum machine.
GSH: Do you have a preferred wood when it comes to drums? And if so, why?
FA: Birch sounds usually better for my style of music. But any drum can sound good if you tune it right so it really doesn’t matter that much.
GSH: Great. I’ve encountered some drummers who are very picky when it comes to the wood they use. When was the moment when you knew you wanted to play drums?
FA: I have no idea. But I do think drums is an instrument that appeals to most people. There is something tribal about playing the drums that a lot of people feel connected to.
GSH: Please tell me about your work on the new Vanandir album.
FA: The new Vanandir? There’s not much to tell. I recorded the tracks last year. The album will come out this fall. About the recording of it? I did all the songs in about one and a half days. It was just a quick studio session.
GSH: Dang! That’s pretty quick. Where was that album recorded? What was the vibe like? Do you prefer to record onto Digital or Analog?
FA: Vananadir is pretty much Anders (Anders Ericksson) thing. He writes all the songs and does the midi drums for the demos. We played through most of the tracks of the new album in the rehearsal room. There were some songs that as a band we did not get a chance to run through them before recording them. I pretty much take Anders’ demo tracks and just play it “my way”.
I prefer to record on analog but no one does that anymore. The most I’ve ever used analog in the last 15 years was the latest Myronath album.
GSH: I know drummer’s practice. Like, all the time. What does your present practice routine consist of these days?
FA: My practice routine at the present moment is basically…nothing. I only get into a practice room before a show. I play through the bands’ songs.
GSH: When it comes to death metal in general is just how does a Swedish death metal band come up with their name? For instance, Myronath. What does that mean? Or maybe it just looks cool on a t-shirt.
FA: No idea. Mark is the main force behind Myronath. He’s from Malta. I know Vanandir comes from Norse mythology. Back in the day there was a group of people called “Vanir”.
Fredrik Andersson in free flight..and corpsepaint.
Authors Note- The Vanir are a secondary tribe of Norse deities. The Vanir Gods are associated with fertility, prosperity, seafaring, etc. Read The Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson.
GSH: Basically, those names are taken from Norse mythology?
FA: Something like that. Don’t take my word for it. I think it means “of vanir descent” or something close to it.
GSH: Did you have a feeling that Amon Amarth was going to let you go or was it a surprise
FA: It was a car crash in slow motion. I remember I wrote an email to Johan Hegg (Vocals. Amon Amarth.) talking about my situation in the band in early 2014. I said I was sure that I was going to get fired soon. At this time I considered Johan to be my friend. I thought he was the most fair, sober and sympathetic guy in the band. He said it was completely unimaginable and that it was just as likely that he would be fired. I am not sure if he actually thought that or if he could not understand my perspective.
GSH: You were vital on some of their best work. With Oden on Our Side and Twilight of The Thunder God are titanic slabs of Swedish Death Metal! Were there any reasons given for that decision? In regards to letting you go?
FA: Yeah. They had their reasons. And I didn’t agree with them. I suppose that in itself was a reason. My email to Johan was about an argument I had with Olli (Olavi Mikkonen. Guitar. Amon Amarth.) about how I thought how our light show was shit at that time. Mostly because the light tech kept blinding me due to the way he angled the lights. Olli got pissed about this and we were fighting about it. The reason they eventually fired me was because they wanted me to stop doing this drumstick trick I did a couple of times during the show. The stick flew up in the air and hopefully I caught it. They were afraid of getting hit in the head by my sticks. They said I had to stop doing it. I thought they were being ridiculous and I got pissed off about that. After we got home, I was called to a meeting where they officially fired me.
GSH: Fired over a simple drumstick trick? That seems a bit...harsh.
FA: Yeah. What can I say? I guess it was all for the best though. I was pretty miserable. It was healthier for me to be let go.
GSH: Truth. What does your drum kit consist of these days?
FA: It’s pretty basic. 2-3 rack toms. One floor tom. One Kick drum with a double pedal. 2-3 crashes. One china, splash and ride. A second hi-hat. I sometimes use roto toms.
GSH: What is the deal with corpsepaint? Why has it found a home in death metal?
FA: I’m really not the guy to answer that question. It’s been in the black metal scene since it started. I don’t know exactly how it started. But the original Mayhem singer (Called himself…Dead.) wanted to look more…dead. But for me it looks cool and enhances the live show. I guess the idea started with Alice Cooper and KISS then evolved to King Diamond and so on.
GSH: Do you like experiencing music at home or do you prefer a live setting?
FA: I think music is best enjoyed in a live setting. Given that the music is actually performed live and the band doesn’t rely on backing tracks.
GSH: Agreed! I think we’re done here. The floor is yours to tell us all about your upcoming releases, tours and bands.
FA: Thanks for your time and questions. I hope the answers are somewhat entertaining or interesting. Check out the current bands I play with: Kvaen, Vanandir and Myronath. And stay very metal!
Truth time. This was a bit of a stretch for me. My previous two interviews felt easy because I knew the subjects (See Conversations With an Android and my interview with Mario J. Rivera and Matt Ainsworth of Nights Like Thieves). But I overcame my doubts and grew.
Much thanks to Fredrik for his time and insights. Now get out there and see some shows....and buy some merch from the band you like!
Now I'm done.