Breathing life into a classic sound

By: Johan Carlsson
Pictures courtesy of: Magnus Eklund
Published: April 23, 2007

The Swedish duo Necro Facility brings back the Vancouver sound of the 90:s, and they do it with style. Their second strong album "The Room" has just been released, and I met up with Oscar Holter and Henrik Bäckström in a Stockholm suburb for a chat. Both of them are well spoken young men in their early twenties, dressed in street wear. We find a busy café and when we sit down, I’m hoping that my MP3 recorder will be able to pick the conversation up. Luckily it did.

Working as an album
"The Room" sounds more focused and slick to me than the debut album "The Black Paintings", and it seems like people agree. Oscar Holter does too.

– Yeah, we’re getting better at everything. Plus when we made "The Black Paintings", we were still into the industrial scene, and it was songs collected during a long period of time. In time for this album we had started to listen to other music like Meshuggah, Tool, anything... I think you can tell, because it’s not as many bass lines, it’s more fucked up.

Henrik Bäckström elaborates.

– I think it grew out of a couple of tracks we did that had a certain character and feeling. We liked that, but also made some more songs that didn’t really sound like that. We wanted an album that sounded homogenous. We thought "The Black Paintings" worked as an album, because we had lived with those songs for such a long time. In hindsight we discovered that not all the tracks fit together though. So we decided to save these other tracks for something else. We have about five unfinished tracks that we really like, but they didn’t fit on the album.

What will happen with these songs?

– We’ll see, says Oscar. Maybe when the record company needs some money they will ask for some old crap we can release, haha.

I have a feeling we might see these tracks on an EP or something like that though.

Oscar to the left, Henrik on the stairs.

No need to reinvent the wheel
Both Henrik and Oscar come from the small city of Degerfors in Värmland towards the west of Sweden. They met in school and began playing video games together. Oscar was more into industrial, while Henrik listened to goa-trance.

– Oscar called me one day and asked if I wanted to go to his summer home in Strömstad. I did, and while we drove there Oscar loaded up the CD changer with music, all kinds of weird stuff. He had just bought "The Singles Collect" with Skinny Puppy I think, and "Deep Down Trauma Hounds" was first. And I was like "shit, this is new, it's a new world of music". It was raw, cold, aggressive and generally druggy. Instead of the space and hippie leanings of goa trance, this was more down to earth. But still with a punk attitude.

– We started thinking about how we would make our own music. After listening to more and more stuff, we realized that it was as good as it could be, and that there’s no need to reinvent the wheel. However, this kind of music isn’t made anymore, so if we wanted to listen to it, we had to do it ourselves.

– Because we’re so young, VNV Nation had started making crap music already, says Oscar. So we were a bit confused, is this the kind of music we should listen to? We didn’t know Skinny Puppy was older music, because it was new to us.

Do it yourself
Growing up pretty close to Stockholm, I seldom had any problems finding new music while growing up, but Degerfors is a small, pretty remote little town. You have to wonder how you find Portion Control and Front Line Assembly there. Oscar tells me how he found the music.

– I think it was a death metal guy I knew, or something. He used to listen to a lot of industrial stuff, and Ministry. We were very much into music, but there was no one to ask. Normally there is a big brother or something that you can look up to, but not for us. All the synth fans like Lazer-Stefan from Spetsnaz and Jouni from Pouppée Fabrikk had left as well. So we used the internet, and borrowed albums at the library.

– Not many of our age did this kind of thing, they got everything on CD. But we were finding old demos and stuff like that, which was fun. It was our own thing. It felt more like we did it for the music, not for image. Today if you go to the Tech Noir club in Stockholm for example, many people dress up.

– I think we were about 14 or 15 when we did our first Necro gig, Oscar continues. We were too young to get into clubs, so we rented a barn and did it ourselves. And so we got to know all the older fans.

The music is gloomy. They're not.

Working with chart pop
Oscar works in a studio in Stockholm now, mixing other artists. For example Regina Lund and Cosmo4, two contestants in the Swedish Eurovision contest. I have a theory that much of the best electronic music is made by people that listen to other types of music. Case in point, Depeche Mode and IAMX for example. I try this theory on Necro Facility. Oscar:

– I actually think it might be right. Most typical synth bands are so goddamn pretentious, and it’s often very badly done.

– I think it often is boring, stale and static in a kind of way, Henrik agrees.

– They’re not often good producers, because they have only heard one thing and only know how to do one thing. I listen to other music and can take that experience and put it in my music, so it becomes more interesting, Oscar elaborates. Henrik starts to laugh.

– It sounds like we’re really pretentious assholes, but we’re not!

– Hehe, yeah, everyone does their thing, and we wanted to do the old-school thing. And we admit it; it’s very much influenced by Skinny Puppy.

Necro Facility doesn’t shy away from this fact. But it’s not entirely intentional, rather it’s more a result of experimenting around in the studio until they find a sound they like, and by that time it just ends up like that. Henrik tells me more about the music making experience.

– Usually we got some cups of coffee and a load of beer and get started. Often we have a certain feeling we’re looking for. Sometimes the music just doesn’t come, sometimes it’s smooth sailing.

Right now Oscar still lives in Örebro even though he currently works in Stockholm. Henrik however has moved here while working as a tele-technician in the suburb of Kista. This makes it harder to work on new material, but they haven’t really started anything new anyway. Some gigs are planned, amongst others at the Tech Noir club in Stockholm in June, and the Arvika Festival in July. There are some loose plans of a tour this fall, but nothing is set in stone.

Read more:
Release "The Room" review

Release "The Black Paintings" review