ALL HAIL DEATH, RAPE, AND MURDER.|
AN INTERVIEW WITH THE BRAINBOMBS By MONTY BUCKLES
Z Gun #2
Maybe there is something gravely wrong with the inner machinations of my psyche if I have to find affirmation for my mediocre existence in something so unrelentingly vile. Maybe you’ll interpret the following as the braying of a petulant, myopic nabob with an immature musical perspective, trying desperately to kick some sand into your record collection, all in the name of getting some much needed attention. Or, perhaps you’ll dismiss it as bombastic pomposity, pretension of the highest order, when I make the obvious observation that the skilful application of minimalism can lead to works of stunning complexity. But question my veracity all you want, Chuck, but I’ll swear until the cows come home, fat ladies are singing, chickens are back home roosting, or for you religious types; up and down on a stack of Bibles before the eye of a vengeful and cruel God. The Brainbombs are one of my all-time favorite bands. They have miraculously produced works with such singular clarity of vision, that they’ve transcended their familiar influences into a unique, cohesive whole. Taking Mark E. Smith’s endorsement of repetition to absurd extremes, for more then twenty years, these Swedes have been vomiting up the most depraved aural sludge this side of hell. Their catalog is a masterpiece of sustained intensity, all emitting the same monolithic, oozing squall. Primal enough to resemble music deciphered from stone tablets of a civilization that worshipped the long lost antecedents of Hanbi, with lyrics cribbed from the graffiti in Satan’s private commode, and vocals that sound like a Swedish Peter Lorre impersonator with a rusty Cuisinart lodged in his larynx. A lonely trumpet echoes over the din, as the band plods through one riff over and over and over and over and over again. The lead guitar belches out noise as it weaves around rhythm guitar’s elliptical throb. The drummer is always in the pocket. The Brainbombs only played live a handful of times, & never toured. They take simplicity to a brutal extreme, shitcaning traditional songwriting dynamics altogether, drowning them in pulverizing slop with lyrics harrowing enough where British Immigrations authorities wouldn’t let a Brainbomb into their country after some handwritten lyrics were found in his luggage (they didn’t think someone that produced such sentiments could be anything but a sexually sadistic murderer). It’s not boneheaded metal, or adolescent punk nihilism, but conceptual purity manifesting itself in preposterously ugly, totally addicting, and utterly hypnotic music.
Beyond a comprehensive discography and a few scattered interviews, info on the Brainbombs in English is scarce. Nowadays with a few keystrokes you can get soup to nuts info on most anyone you’d fancy to, but the Brainbombs remain an enigma. The only really comprehensive interviews were in their native tongue, Swedish. As for those of us whose knowledge of the Swedish language is limited, we are shit out of luck. The names of the band members are shrouded in pseudo-anonymity. Routine questions from the likes of Americans, like when a writer at Moshable inquired about a recording, was answered with:
...now we’ll get rich when you stupid cocksuckers buy the record because it’s so unbeliveable [sic] tough, and you want to be so hard, don’t you?
or dismissing the King Kong zine, to which they contributed an excellent Chrome cover:
As for the concept itself I think it’s a nice try but why all the lame bands (Sator, G.O.L.D., Nomads etc.) who noone [sic] is interested in but asslickers.
Even people who have MET the Brainbombs are hard up at offering insight. Scott Derr, member of Monoshock and The Drags, and CEO of the excellent deceased label Blackjack, which released the superlative “Burning Hell” and “Genius And Brutality, Taste And Power” Brainbombs LP’s, had this to say:
Zip Gun: How well did you get to know the Brainbombs? What were they like?
Scott Derr: Drajan and I corresponded via email sporadically in the years after the second record. Sometime after closing up shop I went to Europe with the Drags. We had a show in Stockholm scheduled so I contacted Drajan. He and trumpeter/lyricist (I’m spacing on the name) showed up. I didn’t know until after the show. I didn’t even know what they looked like. Apparently they spend most of the show in the lobby talking with my wife who was selling merch. Apparently the Drags were a bit light for their tastes. Anyway, they introduced themselves after the show. They were very mild mannered – could’ve been students at the local art school. As we got deeper into the free Swedish beer, things got hazier. They came with us to a high-rise apartment outside the city where we continued to drink. The young hosts seemed somewhat terrified by their countrymen’s increasingly bizarre behavior and when they asked me who these people were I brought to their home, I told them they were the Brainbombs. The guy kind of freaked out. He was a Swede but didn’t believe the band actually existed. He was also very aware of the Teenage Graves, a pre-Brainbombs outfit he described as legendary. Now they were in his home and drunk. Eventually they caught a cab and we said our goodbyes. It’s been sometime since we’ve been in touch. Do you have an email address?
So, via email, I contacted the Brainbombs. An interview was reluctantly agreed to. Follow up questions to my generalities were discouraged. I tried to get past their inscrutability. In a disturbing parallel to the majority my efforts in my professional and personal life, I failed. Enjoy.
Zip Gun: How did you first form?
Brainbombs: Drunk on a cold evening out on [the] town in Hudiksvall.
Hudiksvall is a small town (current pop. 15,363) in Sweden. In 1960 Eisenhower said that Sweden’s welfare policy excess had led to a nation given to “sin, nudity, drunkenness and suicide.” What the hell did he know? He couldn’t even walk. According to Hudiksvall’s (current pop. 15,363) website, the town is known as: "Glada Hudik", or Happy Hudik. This term originates from the 1800s when visitors was happy to come and stay in Hudik as word spread of its famous friendly hospitality and its lively social life”. The website even links to the Hudiksvall “Friendly joy!” brochure. When (not kidding) I clicked on it, figuring some friendly joy would be just what the Doctor ordered; the cocksucker caused my computer to freeze. Figures. A glance at the Tourist and Visitors section shows some of the recreation offered by the town; “Chose whether you’d prefer to swim in the sea, in a lake, or a heated outdoor pool – Hudiksvall has it all! Further information from the Tourist Office”. Some other activities the town offers include the old amusement/self propulsion stalwart, “Walking” (if I’m ever in the neighborhood, I’ll try the KajevallsledenPath - according to the tourist board it is “relatively undemanding, though undulating in places”). Other activities include “Arts and Crafts” and “Canoeing”. If exploration is more your speed, over on the adjacent Hornslandet Peninsula, you can visit the “ancient cave” (is there such a thing as a new cave?). Far more ominous is the menacingly titled “Folk Music Gathering”: Hudiksvall is well known for its traditional local music. In summer, you can enjoy concerts In homestead museums, churches and hill farms. There are also Spelmansstammor, meetings of traditional fiddlers and other musicians, that are open to the public. It is not unusual for such events to gather thousands of participants and spectators.
According to other interviews, Brainbomb’s musical influences run the gamut from Chrome (no surprise there, they did cover ‘em), James Chance (who some Swedish translation software I used optimistically referred to as ‘James Opportunity’), and Whitehouse, especially their temp lyricists and onetime member, Peter Sotos. You don’t have to be able to bend spoons with your mind to extrapolate a set of influences like that, in a town both dull and pleasant, making way for a sound as virulently anti social as the Brainbombs.
ZG: How did you initially hear about Peter Sotos?
BB: He put out his ‘zine Pure that Dan had got a hold of through a Swedish distributor of various obscure records and stuff called Pop ‘N Roll Family.
Peter Sotos is kind of like Alan Shepard, but instead of being the first non-monkey American to go into space, he was the first American to get arrested for possession of child pornography. Where’s his parade? Anyway, the poster boy for transgressive writer set, Sotos launched into notoriety with the aforementioned zine Pure. Pure documented, with unabashed enthusiasm and admiration, the various reprehensible acts of serial killers, in particular, sexual sadists. You want an eyeful? Make sure your Grandma isn’t looking over your shoulder, here’s a portion of Sotos’ account of Dean Corll aka “The Candyman” who killed (at least) 27 boys in Houston... "Pulling and chomping at the little white boy’s balls, exposing veins and nerve-endings, sending waves of incredible pain through the child’s aching sore being. Pure ecstasy, Dean spills his hot cum into crying child’s wounds. No less enjoyable, is the image of Dean using the dull knife across the kid’s little dick. Tearing away at the fleshy skin that forms a taut red dick that Dean molests in his rough and slippery palm. Tug, rip and cut as the blood splits from a brand new wound – scrape pull harder and cut again, as the little boy clenches his eyes shut and cries for his daddy." (pg. 66 Pure, Issue #1) Unsurprisingly, this managed to raise a few Scottish eyebrows when a copy was found during the course of a raid of an apartment belonging to some Scottish Gravediggers. Maybe the gravediggers in your town are literate, tasteful individuals, whose appetite for sophisticated literature is only matched by their uncanny command of etiquette, and are known for greedily consuming the classics on their midnight sojourns to desecrate corpses for their own nefarious pleasures, but I doubt it. But yeah, that otter give you some idea of the class of readership Sotos was attracting. Anyhoo, Scotland Yard, not known for their tolerance of transgressive literature sat down and gave Pure a read. Their eyebrows skyrocketed. Their fists clenched. Their rage flared. Their tolerance for American free speech laws evaporated. After all, this was some sick shit. The Scots corralled three different psychiatrists to examine Pure. All three concluded, sans interviewing the man himself, that Sotos was in fact, a dangerous sex offender. Scotland Yard was so horrified with the entire enterprise that they got America on the horn. American law enforcement officials gave Pure a read. They didn’t like it. No sir, they didn’t like it one bit. Since there are those pesky laws that prevented them from going to Sotos’ residence, beating him within an inch of his life, then locking him deep within a cell, they instead collectively decided the best course of action was to utilize tax payer’s monies on a nine month surveillance of Sotos’ residence in Chicago, in tandem with a massive investigation. Sotos was arrested, charged with obscenity, and possession of child pornography. Y’see, Pure wasn’t just lurid prose. Nope, Sotos xeroxed photos of murders and victims copied from newspapers alongside some snapshots of cocks in mid ejaculate cribbed from low rent porno mags. When it came time to do Pure’s second issue, Sotos used a close up of a (very) young girl’s vagina from the magazine Incest 4. Sotos still had the issue of Incest 4 sitting around his apartment when a bunch of Chicago cops came calling. Oops. Sotos was the first man in the history of the United States to be charged with owning child pornography. Owners of vast collections of child pornography shuddered as Sotos went to trial. Now, I am now legal expert (the only thing I know about Law is that I dislike people who read John Grisham), but I know you have to really make someone mad to be the first person charged with someone.
Sotos was put on trial. The Scopes monkey trial took seven days. Leopold and Loeb, the first ‘Trial of the Century’, defended by possibly the most famous lawyer of all time, for two exceedingly wealthy families with virtually unlimited funds, breezed by in less the two months. OJ Simpson’s criminal trial was a real fucking back-breaker, clocking in at eight months. None of the Nuremburg Trials took more then a year. The Warren Commission took less then ten months to investigate and compile their findings. As for Sotos, they had already invested nine months in following, figuring someone that wrote like that had to be up to something. He was put on trial for THREE YEARS, before being convicted. As an aside, yes, Sotos’ trial was a big waste of the state’s time & money. Yes, it was a fucking joke. But it’s a testament to just how utterly offensive and reprehensible the writing is that it would provoke the state into spending, literally, millions of dollars to prosecute him.
Where some people read Peter Sotos and are outraged, immediately assume he probably has a toddler tied up in his basement and decide that furthermore he is a threat to mankind and should be incarcerated and kept as far away from the populace as possible, other see the most elusive and valuable of commodities; inspiration. Y’see, Sotos is the main influence on the Brainbomb’s lyrics. They quote him verbatim. They managed to assimilate his style to the point where even if they aren’t lifting direct passages; it is almost indistinguishable from Sotos playbook (except it’s funnier, pull “I Need Speed” off the shelf). It’s an all out assault on proper lyrical decorum. Most bands never ask “why should we bother playing more then one riff?” or “why should we worry about the traditional way that people lyrically construct a song, especially considering we just totally disregarded the way people do it musically, let’s just sing the most unbelievably threatening, ghastly subject matter we can in a way that doesn’t rhyme and disregards proper meter?”
I gotta get back on track. One half of the Zip Gun’s crack editorial staff, Scott Soriano, is a hard-nosed ex pugilist with a mean streak a mile wide. He’s been known to offer a “helpful suggestion” to the stomach, some “encouragement” to the groin, or repeated “constructive criticisms” to the face if the piece ain’t up to snuff & meanders too much. So, back to it.
ZG: Who writes the songs?
BB: Mostly Dan, sometimes Drajan or Jonas or Lanchy.
ZG: Is there a strict aesthetic you try and follow when you’re writing songs?
BB: Most of the songs are written from the view of the perpetrator, but songs like ‘Anne Frank’ or ‘Obey’ are not [as] simple as the [seem] to be. Every song we’ve done has been recorded and everything is first take. No rehearsals. If we do not have enough riffs thought out before the session, a new riff is produced [on] the spot by one of the guitarists and then recorded as the next song. All words are mostly prepared before the session.
One riff = One song
This simplicity makes the subtle deviations within the formula (like the excellent “Maybe”, where the tempo dissolves before the band lurches back into the riff, or “Stupid And Weak”, where the rhythm shifts into intensified hammering, while the guitars scrape away) all the more jarring.
So the Brainbombs released their single “Jack The Ripper Lover” on an unsuspecting planet. It somehow made its way around the world to America, where the cognoscenti fortunate enough to get a copy, flipped causing an enthusiastic stir. This was followed by the incredible onesided “Anne Frank”/”No Guilt” single. They even had the audacity to put a photo of poor Anne on the front, the already offensive sleeve barely hinted at the unrepentant ferocity therein. It makes virtually every other record in the history of recorded sound like the internal monolog of a five-year-old girl playing hopscotch. Here’s a taste:
I kill Anne Frank
Tom Lax, head-cheese as Siltbreeze records was one of the first stateside to get a Brainbombs record, courtesy of Derr. Of the singles, Lax said “the living embodiment of slurred Swedish proto sludge forged by Liket Lever, honed by Leather Nun & perfected by Brainbombs,” sounding, “like your Vas Deferens slowly & painfully being eradicated by a flesh eating virus”. Jay Hinman was one of the first Americans to review a Brainbombs release, in his late zine, Superdope. Hinman describes the first releases as “mind blowingly great for their freakishly raw & loud art/jazz/noise alone. They were so out of left field – so strange and jarring – and so difficult to find in the US – that a small cult developed around the band at the time”. Emphysema (his friends know him as Erin), who went on to form the A-Frames, was amongst the small cult. “Once I first heard the Brainbombs I didn’t listen to much else for about 2 years... Those fucking riffs that should be stupid but are totally genius”. According to Erin, “They slowly drive you insane”. Thurston Moore describes it thusly; “Just when rock n roll was getting dull as wood and we were nodding off to total snoozecore jams came Brainbombs sliding into our hearts on an electric skum-cycle outta Sweden. Fucking saved rock n roll, no doubt”. Tony Rettman, editor in chief of 200 LBU waxed succinct, “I thought it was real brutal and stupid. I loved it.” I asked Scott, who went on to release the first two Brainbombs full lengths, for his two cents...
ZG: How did you first hear the Brainbombs?
SD: I actually bought their first two 7” (“Jack The Ripper Lover” and “Anne Frank” [released in 1989 and 1990, respectively-ZG]) from a small L.A.-based mailorder outfit. It went out of business owing us a couple hundred bones, but I guess in retrospect, turning us on to the Brainbombs was worth it.
Scott, intrigued, decided he wanted to put out a Brainbombs record.
ZP: How did you first contact them?
SD: Tom Kruder, my original partner in crime, and I were pretty blown away by the singles. This being the preinternet days, we simply wrote them a letter expressing our desire to do something. I don’t remember if we were thinking LP or 7” at that point. I’m not sure we had any idea where Sweden was. We were drinking a lot in those days. [Continued] After some time had passed we got a letter back from Anders Drajan, the drummer. He seemed to handle the “business” end of things for the band. He thought we were joking. They seemed pretty surprised somebody in the US had ever heard their music, let alone wanted to release it.
ZG: How was it working with them?
SD: It was always a little weird dealing with a band with whom you had no personal connection. That was pretty unusual for BJ. Also, our dealings happening mostly before I had internet or a computer for that matter making communication pretty slow. I remember a few odd hour phone calls. But most correspondence went down the old fashioned pony express way. Nevertheless, they were easy to deal with. Frankly, BJ was a pretty shabbily run organization, as someone who’s been at the other end of the label-band relationship, I’m not sure I would have been as patient with us as they were.
The Brainbombs went on to Load Records, who released, in my opinion, their most fully realized record “Urge To Kill”, and compiling their singles. The Brainbombs released a few tracks recently, but according to some, they’ve called it quits. Let’s get the lowdown from the proverbial horse’s mouth.
ZG: Are the Brainbombs done for good?
BB: Yes and no.
ZG: Where does the name come from?
BB: The name comes from a song called ‘Brainbomb” by Punishment of Luxury.
ZG: When was the first album recorded?
BB: It was recorded in September 1991 in a friend’s cabin and then released by Black Jack in 1992.
ZG: How did the trumpet get added to your lineup?
BB: When the Brainbombs [were] about to record their first single, they had no lyrics, but Dan called them up and said he had written lyrics for ‘Jack The Ripper Lover’ and ‘No End’, so they told him to join up with the trumpet.
ZG: Is there a Brainbombs song you are most proud of?
ZG: Why the lack of live shows?
BB: There is no need for such things.
ZG: Did you read Kvarblivelse? [The memoirs of alleged Swedish serial killer and child molester Thomas Quick]
BB: No, TQ is a fake and a fucking moron.
ZG: Do you feel any kinship with any other bands?
ZG: Are their any contemporary bands you like?
ZG: What really scares you?
BB: Stupid people.
ZG: If you could kill one person, who would it be?
BB: Maybe you.
I walked into that one. I will leave you with the words on Ben Wallers, head honcho of The Country Teasers, who has released excellent records under the name The Rebel. Ben’s all caps style preserved for effect. Pull up a chair:
BRAINBOMBS ARE TODAY'S ROLLING STONES, HERE'S WHY: IN THE EARLY DAYS OF ROCKNROLL IT WAS ABOUT PRIMAL SCREAM; NOT THE BOBBY G BAND, I MEAN "I BELIEVE IN THE R N R DREAM : R N R AS PRIMAL SCREAM" (M.E.SMITH: LIVE AT THE WITCH TRIALS) DO YOU HEAR THE PRIMAL SCREAM, ROCK AND ROLL, IN A N Y MUSIC THESE DAYS? - OF COURSE YOU BLOODY DON'T ! YOU HEAR EVERYTHING BUT THE PRIMAL SCREAM, YOU HEAR NOT ROCK N ROLL. MY OWN MUSIC IS NOTHING TO DO WITH ROCK N ROLL. I TRY TO LET A BIT OF PRIMAL SCREAM INTO IT HERE AND THERE TO KEEP IT REAL AND ALL THAT, BUT I'M A COMPOSER, LIKE THE REST OF THESE SAPS IN MUSIC TODAY. LAPTOPS, GARAGE PUNK, KRAUTROCK, RAP : IT'S ALL NOT-ROCK, UNPRIMAL INTELLIGENT DRUM AND BASS. VENEER, SHEEN, TECHNIQUE, KNOWLEDGE, REFERENCE, PRODUCTION. BRAINBOMBS ARE TODAY'S ROLLING STONES BECAUSE THEIR DIRECT CATCHY MUSIC, ANGER, EMOTION AND HUMOUR CUTS THROUGH ALL OF THE MODERN CONFUSION, MEANINGLESSNESS, COMPLEXITY AND BULLSHIT WITH PURE ROCKNROLL EXPRESSION, LIKE WHEN ROLLING STONES DID IT. NO ONE HAS DONE IT SINCE, EXCEPT MAYBE SEX PISTOLS. ACTUALLY CULTURE NEEDS THESE BANDS : IT NEEDED ROLLING STONES, IT NEEDED SEX PISTOLS AND IT NEEDED BRAINBOMBS. WE LIVE IN A CULTURE WHICH IS SO DISPARATE AND COMPLEX NOW THAT THE EFFECTS ARE NOT CLEAR LIKE IN THE ERA OF STONES AND PISTOLS BUT I FEEL THAT BRAINBOMBS EFFECT IS SIMILARLY MASSIVE AND IMPORTANT. WE'VE GOT A LONG WAY TO GO BECAUSE KASABIAN HAVE ALL GOT TO DIE OF AIDS FIRST BUT WHEN THE CURRENT POST-FERDINAND GUITAR SHITSTORM CALMS DOWN AND REAL MUSIC RETURNS TO THE FORE (I MEAN TECHNO) WE WILL ALL FEEL THE BEAUTY THAT BRAINBOMBS HAS ENABLED US. MY FAVORITE LYRIC TODAY IS "IN A LONELY PLACE : IN A LONELY ROOM : IN A BED OF BLOOD LIES A WOMAN SCREAMING I VANT COAK. I VANT COCK". MY COLLECTOR'S ITEM IS A SPLIT SINGLE FROM BELGIUM WITH A COVER OF "THAT'S THE WAY I LIKE IT UH-HUH UH-HUH". THE HAPPIEST DAY OF MY LIFE EXCEPT OF COURSE NOVEMBER 19TH 2004 WAS LAST AUGUST WHEN SCOTT DERR OF BLACKJACK RECORDS GAVE ME "BURNING HELL" AND "GENIUS AND BRUTALITY". I AM STILL LEARNING THEM. BURNING HELL IS BECOMING A CLASSIC ALBUM. PREVIOUSLY MY FAVORITE WAS "URGE TO KILL". MY FAVORITE SONG IS "ASS FUCKING MURDER", I PARTICULARLY LIKE THE FIRST DELIVERY OF THE LINE, "IT'S FUCK-ASSING MURDER". OF COURSE AS AN ENGLISH I FEEL VERY PROUD OF THE SONG "DRIVING THROUGH LEEDS". THE REBEL HAD A GIG IN LEEDS. THE CENTRE IS A BLEAK PLACE. KAANAN TUPPER GOT ME INTO THEM; A-FRAMES HAD GOT HIM INTO THEM. BUT I WISH I'D GOT INTO THEM WHEN BLACKJACK FIRST RELEASED THEM BECAUSE I'D BE TWICE THE MUSICIAN I AM NOW.
All interviews conducted by yours truly via email, unless otherwise noted. Load Records is planning on releasing both the Brainbombs singles compilation and the “Urge To Kill” albums remastered, & on vinyl. Also coming up is a 7” on Anthem Records, coming from the same sessions that gave us the latest Kenrock and BBC singles. The remaining singles may very well be compiled, too.