(We welcome NF, a new contributor to NCS. He has brought us the following interview of Fredrik Söderberg of the Swedish band DAWN, who should need no introduction, as well as lots of photos, some of which are being published for the first time.)
Fredrik: Thanks for your support. It’s an honor to have this conversation with you today, I really appreciate it!
I started writing my own songs in the mid-eighties with my band Legion. The songs were a mix between Dio, Mercyful Fate, and Manowar, which all had a heavy metal style. I always liked the most haunting, heavy, and melodic songs I could find. Here are some examples: Dio-“Egypt (The Chains Are On)”, Mercyful Fate-“The Oath” (Don’t Break The Oath), Manowar-“Battle Hymn” (Battle Hymns), and Celtic Frost-“Into the Crypts Of Rays” (Morbid Tales).
The first two Ozzy albums are important to mention here since Randy Rhoades is one my favorite guitar players. Other influences were the thrash movement with Slayer’s Hell Awaits and Kreator’s Pleasure to Kill.
My second band Obduracy was a mix between these bands but had a more primitive sound. Later on, I bought the first Infernal Majesty album called None Shall Defy, it was a crossover between thrash and death metal. This was the first time I heard blastbeats and it was in the song “SOS” off of the album.
From that point on I started to write faster songs. Although the song “Overlord” sounds a bit slower in the vein of Morbid Angel it was still very inspiring to me as well.
DAWN came to be because I played in local bands and played with other people who were not exactly into the music and lifestyle I liked. It was a struggle to find members and people who would form a real serious band in my hometown Linköping, so I had to look elsewhere for band members. In late 1990 I met Henke Forss and we started to search for other band members together. Not long after there was Andreas, Karsten, and Lars who joined us, and DAWN was formed.
DAWN’s first 3 releases were demos with a unique death metal sound to them. You guys did not have the typical “Swedish” death metal sound that everybody seemed to have during that era. What was the driving force behind the crushing melodic riffs that you wrote for these demos?
Fredrik: The first demo Apparition along with Promo 93 were recorded at Dan Swanö’s Gorysound (later Unisound/Hellspawn) and quite a lot happened there. We almost found our style on the demo as we were experimenting with lots of different stuff within the realm of heavy metal, thrash metal, and death metal. After Apparition in ‘92 we all got into demo bands and tape trading, death metal bands like Eucharist and early Sentenced, goth rock bands like Sisters of Mercy and Fields of The Nephilim, and electronic bands like Arcana and In Slaughter Natives (I lived on the same street as the record label Cold Meat Industry and bought some of their albums).
We all had a background in heavy metal so there was a certain metal vibe to some of the songs and also classical music/guitar inspired parts. Henke had also changed his vocals because of the way Eucharist and Sentenced were singing. Another thing that we also made different was to set a different style on the guitars; we only tuned the guitars a half-step down to make our music much more unique. At the time it was odd to NOT down-tune the guitars and put the thickest strings on for this type of music. We just decided to be different and tried not to be like other bands who sounded like Entombed and wore flannel shirts.
Some other things changed during those times, like our logo a couple of times and the lyrics changed as well. We could not reinvent the wheel so we played the music we liked best, tried to be as creative as possible, and that ended up showing in Nær Sólen Gar Niþer For Evogher.
-DAWN debut era-
In 1994 your debut album Nær Sólen Gar Niþer For Evogher was released by Necropolis Records. How did you end up getting this record deal?
Fredrik: Paul Thind (Necropolis Records, R.I.P), the label manager, and I started to send letters to each other through tape trading. Paul eventually started the label Necropolis Records and had asked me if I played in a band and told him that I did and that I’d send him a promo. I instantly got a deal back and signed the contract in 1993. Naer Sólen Gar Nider For Evogher was released a year later. We had taken the creativity to new a level, it became a mix of absolutely everything we had listened to so far.
The debut album was an explosion of intensity and non-stop melodic riffs, which pushed the boundaries of metal as a whole. How long did it take you to write all of the material for the album? Can you explain the progression from the demo era of DAWN into the debut album?
Fredrik: I think the most important change was the Promo 93 recording, where the music became even more melancholic and experimental. Our debut album was NOT a blend of black metal and death metal, but rather a blend of heavy metal, thrash metal, death metal, alternative, and classical music/guitar. This album was created between 1992 and late 1993, so it was a time when death metal was very hyped. Entombed were up on the Swedish charts and were popular on TV. The whole commercial part of death metal was strange and we did everything we could to be different.
Not only the music, but like I mentioned earlier, we changed our logo, front covers, lyrics, and entire concept. We created our own style without knowing how the sound was going to progress on the next album, or how people would react to our music.
Just two years after Nær Sólen Gar Niþer For Evogher was released, 1996 brought Sorgh Pa Svarte Vingar Fløgh which was put out by Necropolis Records again. This legendary EP held similar elements from the previous release but also presented a strong transition in your guitar writing and arrangements. What exactly was your goal with Sorgh På Svarte Vingar Fløgh?
Fredrik: We were not satisfied with everything previously and tried to continue not copying other bands. We walked our own path, which ended up in a natural progression both musically and in all elements surrounding DAWN. I think the main goal was to create a darker atmosphere on the EP but we also tried to get the sound and the performance better by testing out the (new at the time) ”Studio Abyss”.
After the EP, the band was rehearsing much more, progressing the sound and performance further than ever before, purchasing new advanced equipment, and we were playing live during these years which made the band tighter.
-DAWN EP era-
DAWN unleashed the epic masterpiece Slaughtersun (Crown of the Triarchy) in 1998 through Necropolis Records, once again showing a huge progression with style and arrangements. The music is fast and hypnotic with insane melodic classical riffs. When did you start writing the material for this release and what was it like recording the album? Can you please expand on the process you went through to create this ultimate classic?
Fredrik: I started writing the music for Slaughtersun (Crown Of The Triarchy) when we recorded our EP in late 1995. I was lucky at the time because my parents had a big house on the countryside, so I put two Marshall amps down in the cellar where my room was. I spent the weekends there locked in my room playing guitar and going back and forth to our rehearsal place. Jocke and I spent a lot of time rehearsing during the day and the other guys in the band would join us at night.
-Fredrik in the “Slaughtersun (Crown Of The Triarchy)” CD booklet-
All of the music was recorded live at the time with absolutely no editing done on a production like ours, so we understood completely that we had to rehearse a lot to be able to step up our performance for recording in the studio. I believe we were rehearsing 3-4 times a week before we went in to record this album with Peter Tägtgren in Abyss Studios.
-Fredrik playing in the studio-
It took two weeks to record and 6-7 hours to master at Cutting Room in Stockholm (two weeks after the recording). We had a great time recording this album since everything was prepared in detail before entering the studio. Peter Tägtgren was good to work with and the whole process went smooth. Jocke did the drum recording in one day, Andreas and I recorded the guitars with all overdubs, acoustic guitars, etc., in three and a half days, Lars Tängmark recorded the bass in one day and the keyboard parts the following day, Henke finished the vocals over a few nights, and the rest of the time was spent mixing the album. Slaughtersun (Crown Of The Triarchy) was a step up for all of us in the band. It felt right at the time and had all of the elements a good album should have.
The development from that studio session was not about what & how we played but why we were playing, and that’s still my goal today. “Why do I play guitar?”, and the simple answer is to find the right feel/sound/performance. That’s what we aimed for and still do to this day.
Since Slaughtersun (Crown Of The Triarchy) was released, what have you been doing musically from then until now?
Fredrik: Since then I have had no other projects music-wise. I’ve been playing guitar a lot and recording riffs at home. I must have spent 4-5 hours a day practicing to create the new DAWN material for a very long time, playing only when I felt like there was something special to write, and if not I’d find other things to do instead.
There has been talk of DAWN’s third album, The Fourfold Furnace, for many years. Currently, what can you share about the progress of this album?
Fredrik: Many fans have been asking us why nothing has happened over the years with DAWN. The simple answer is that we have had problems finding a drummer while Tomas Asklund played in Dissection and Gorgoroth, so we never truly found a replacement. Tomas is back in the band and at this point we have done a lot on the new album. All guitars are recorded and the rest of pre-production is done. Tomas Asklund is working on the drum recording right now.
We will record the bass guitar in the Autumn with our new bass player Henke Ekeroth (ex.-Dark Funeral guitarist/bass player).
-Henke Ekeroth (Typhos) playing for Dark Funeral-
A couple of months back, Daniel at Dawnland Arts started to work on the front cover for the album. We don’t know exactly when the album will be released since we don’t have a new record deal.
-Daniel working on some DAWN graphics-
DAWN has a history of progressing in atmosphere and style from what you previously release. Is that still the case with The Fourfold Furnace, and how can you compare the new material to the material on Slaughtersun (Crown Of The Triarchy) that has haunted us all for 23 years?
Fredrik: What has developed since we recorded Slaughtersun (Crown Of The Triarchy) is mainly the songwriting and playing style. By that I mean the arrangements, melodies, and the riffs have become more of my own style and sound.
-Fredrik EP era-
With this material you will immediately hear that it is DAWN, but we have taken a step to create better riffs, bridges, and choruses.
When Tomas Asklund joined the band he shared tons of arrangement knowledge and taught me a lot over the years, constantly giving suggestions on things to change here and there.
-Tomas Asklund (Alzazmon) playing for Dark Funeral-
On the new record, the bass gets a more melodic role as the riffs are created for the guitar. I have made sure there are great acoustic riffs as well, a lot of the material is written on acoustic guitar and electric guitar in combination with bass. The bass lines are as important as the guitar riffs.
Comparing Slaughtersun (Crown Of The Triarchy) is a good comparison — we have spun on what was good on that record and removed what was not as good, but at the same time it is an aggressive record with more unique twists to offer.
-Fredrik and Henke playing live-
Anybody who listens to DAWN knows immediately that the music is special and has a specific sound that no other band comes close to having. What gear and setup do you use to create the trademark DAWN guitar sound?
Fredrik: I only own one electric guitar, bass, acoustic, and a digital portastudio. I sold all my electric guitars except for my Jackson (custom shop Death Angel model). I have always liked the Jackson neck-thru-body and scarf joint-alder body along with a quatersaw maple neck and ebony fretboard… sounds very bright and aggressive with these features. I use passive pickups with vintage hot alnico magnets, mostly Seymour Duncan JB or similar.
-Fredrik’s Death Angel-
My preferences do change from time to time. If I’m recording I use my modded Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier with a Boss SD-1 overdrive in front, as boost and EQ in the effects-loop. I like to record on a really high volume to get the tubes cooking and use a Mesa Boogie oversized cab with Celestion speakers. Most of the time standard miced with Sure 57 mics. This works great for me and sounds awesome for this type of music.
-Fredrik’s Death Angel and Set up-
As I mentioned earlier I tune a half step down from standard (440hz) and use strings gauged 10–46; tuning a half step down makes the sound special and it fits our music perfectly.
Your style seems to be one of a kind and extremely diverse. Can you explain your origin when it comes to playing guitar? What are some bands that you were inspired by and still listen to? Besides DAWN, what are some projects you’ve been involved with over the years of your musical career?
-Fredrik (Chainsaw Demon) in Cranium-
Fredrik: My first experience with music was a Progressive Rock group from Canada called Saga; my father introduced them to me (first three albums). That band got my attention and Ian Crichton’s guitar playing for Saga really inspired me.
The first guitar riff I ever tried to play was Judas Priest-“Breaking The Law”. Guitar playing took a new turn when I bought the Ozzy solo albums Blizzard Of Ozz and Diary Of A Madman with Randy Rhoades on guitar, and an even higher level was reached with Jake E. Lee (who is a really underated guitarist IMO).
-Randy Rhoades playing live-
Bands like Celtic Frost and Slayer went on a completely different path, showing that as a guitarist you didn’t need to be a note by note freak to create good songs anymore. I think I’m a combination of all of those twists and turns in metal and hard rock from the ’80s.
The things that still continue to inspire me are the musicians who have the right feel/performance/sound. Guitar playing is like a brew that must be matured in order to be enjoyed.
-Fredrik playing live with his old Fernandes-
In the Middle of the ’90s I started up one of my old bands from the ’80s, callled Cranium. We had the same line-up as back then and released two full-length albums plus an EP. Our original plan was to make several records but the drummer unfortunately passed away in 2001; everything ran its course and there were no more records made. Cranium was the only side project I had since starting DAWN in 1990.
Besides music and operating DAWN, what are some of your interests/hobbies? What do you do for a living these days? Do you have a family? Please give some insight on the world of Fredrik.
Fredrik: Some of my hobbies are collecting LPs/CDs, reading books, working on old cars (I buy cars in pretty good condition and renovate them), and fishing (I spend time in the Sea and on Archipelagos in the Summer).
-One of Fredrik’s project cars-
People are always surprised that I don’t collect guitars; I like to play guitar but not collect them. Guitars should be played and not hung on a wall or be locked away in a case. I currently work as an Administrator for an IT company and have no family. All of the things I do make me creative but I always go back to playing, writing, and recording music as long as it’s fun.
Thanks once again for taking time to answer everything. Do you have anything else you would like to say to all of the DAWN fans reading this?
-Fredrik in the studio-
Fredrik: Thanks for showing interest in DAWN and supporting the real melodic, epic metal of death. In 2021 we have an upcoming special-edition album set coming out from Cosmic Key Creations. Follow their FB page at: https://www.facebook.com/cosmickeycreations