The phone rings for a while and then Gehennah’s vocalist Mr Violence answers. His voice is thick and sleep-drenched – I just got the poor bastard out of bed as he didn’t know I would be calling, hence his being in bed, in Sweden. I mention that in the course of researching for our chat I found that he’s been very busy doing the interview circuit for Gehennah’s new album Too Loud to Live, Too Drunk to Die. But as he points out “Yeah, we’ve done quite a few but none from Australia. This is the first one.” Whallop! Sentinel Daily Australian Exclusive, right there…
As I picture Mr Violence cuddling up to his teddy bear (or more possibly, a half empty bottle of whisky), I ask why it’s taken so long to get another album out – I mean, it’s been nearly 20 years since 1997’s Decibel Rebel. He is refreshingly honest. “Well we’re lazy – very lazy – I guess that’s the best answer; we didn’t have a record contract for a lot of years and we just did a few gigs every year. Our old bass player (Ronnie Ripper) dropped out of the band so we got a new one (Charley Knuckleduster) and we started up again, doing new material. So getting a new guy in the band gave us new energy so we started doing new songs and released an EP (2015’s Metal Police) on Lightning Records and Metal Blade signed us.”
Ah yes, 2015’s Metal Police EP; it’s got 12 tracks so it’s practically an album. “Originally it was four songs at eight minutes long but people thought that was a bit short so we recorded two more songs in the studio – we didn’t quite know what we were gonna do – and when Metal Blade wanted to release it we went back to the studio and re-recorded six old songs for the extended EP that got released.” He chuckles when I mention I was particularly enamoured with Carve off Your Face (And Shove It up Your Ass).
You guys started out as a Venom covers band, yes? “Yeah, that was just the first couple of rehearsals then we started doing our own stuff because we couldn’t do the Venom songs justice; that’s how it started back in ’92.” I point out that Venom are probably one of the most under-rated bands and he agrees: “Yeah, I think so too – they’re my favourite band ever.” Other influences for the band include Motörhead, Bathory, and Raven. When I mention Raven, he gets very animated. “We love Raven! The first three albums by Raven are fuckin’ masterpieces!” If you don’t know Raven then you bloody well should – go Google them or something…
Getting back to Too Loud to Live, Too Drunk to Die; the band recorded it in a week, which is no mean feat. “Yeah, we always do things fast because we don’t wanna over-dub stuff too much. We just wanna get in there and play it live in the studio and record it raw. That’s the way we wanted it. It’s one guitar, bass, drums and vocals. It’s very close to how it’s gonna sound live; we like it to sound the same way live as it does on the album.” This raw, dirty and very pure sound is apparent on the album.
I touch on the idea that too many people (wrongly) think that because Gehennah enjoys the fun-times, they’re not a serious band. Mr Violence agrees. “We’re a super-serious band – this whole ‘joke band’ thing kind of pisses me off actually – just because we have some humour in our songs. It’s almost taboo to have a laugh in the metal community and I don’t understand why. It’s not that everything is a joke – it’s not that at all – we’re damned serious about our subject matter but you know; we like to have a laugh.” So what are the other blacker (read more serious) bands’ attitude towards Gehenna? “We don’t have any problems with them, most of the cool bands and us seem to get along. We haven’t gotten any shit or anything like that. Most of them understand what it’s all about; it’s mostly the ones who don’t understand the music that label us a joke band.”
This was the first time that you used Studio Cobra and producer Martin ‘Konie’ Ehrencrona; was it a good move? Mr Violence is very happy. “Yeah, that was our first time with Martin. He’s a great guy. From the first time, he understood exactly what we wanted to do. One of the first things he said was that one of our songs had the feel of the Greek speed metal band Flames and when he mentioned Flames we were like ‘this guy knows what we’re after’…”
One last question and I’ll let you get back to bed. While doing my research I found an intriguing anecdote about Hellcop (drums) nude, covered in whipped cream, drinking from a fish tank. Please explain. Put simply “We were fuckin’ super-drunk! That was a horrible, horrible time… we have a history of being pretty fucked up when we hit the stage. Nowadays we try not to totally lose control before a show but it’s a struggle. We like to drink and sometimes we’ve gone a bit over the top but now we try to stick just to beer before a gig but in the past we’ve done some pretty intoxicated gigs…sometimes too intoxicated.” His honesty is particularly refreshing but now I must let him go so he can return to the arms of Morpheus. Nighty-night, Mr Violence.