During 11 years of metal trip, I read at the very best 2 or 3 COMECON interviews. A lack of needed informations can currently be felt, both on the web and in my collection of old paper zines... There was somekind of mystery around this band and it wasn't always the coolest! I had a bunch of questions in my bag of death... One day I found the contact of Rasmus Ekman (ex Comeon guitarist) on the web... Soarprize! After several months of laziness and maximum busy-beer, the questions were ready... Enjoy the violence!
1. Hello Rasmus! What's up? Are things cool and how does it feel to answer a COMECON interview many years after the band split up?;-) Do you remember why you initially chose to form COMECON and what were your goals back then?
We formed in
1991. The only real band members were Pelle and I. The plan was
to play grind/death metal without all the quarrels in our former
band (Krixhjälters/Omnitron). We also wanted to *not* have our metal
songs ruined by radio rock production.
2. What does COMECON mean and why did you choose this band's name?
It was the
name of the Stalinist/Soviet bloc economic union - the Cold War
counterpart of EC. See eg http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comecon
3. The first COMECON album "Megatrends in brutality" was probably your most obscure and Death metal influenced, while it had a little apocalyptic side, strange melodies and industrial influences that would be more famous later.. How did you and how did people react at the time? Was this album considered as pure Death metal? Original Death metal?
Probably it fits right in the middle between grind and death. In Sweden many could hear it was a Sunlight Studios production: Entombed and Dismember recorded their first several albums there, along with many other bands. The "strange melodies" were what we did all the time in KH. We enjoy oriental and some folk music too. But coming from a hardcore punk direction, we didn't have any Black Sabbath or other boring blues rock influence. That perhaps makes our songs slightly different from some death bands. The industrial influence is perhaps the drum machine - more about that below.
4. Your second album shew a more open-minded choice of styles as your songs had tastes from larger scales of music, and the Death metal influences weren't exactly the same than the first album (DEATH and PESTILENCE took more space in my opinion). Was it your goal to do something new and fresher? Did you choose to never record the same album?
We planned to add a little more decorations for each album. The grindcore blastbeats are tricky to use without becoming tedious. So mostly it's just a little more metal than grind this time. We didn't want to copy Omnitron (which was almost a thrash/symphonic outfit), so we tried to restrain ourselves and keep things fairly straightforward. Death and Pestilence sound is probably due to the singer, Martin van Drunen. We planned to have a different singer for each album, and were very lucky to get really good singers to work with each time.
5. Your last and third album "Fable frolic" is the strangest sounding as it was more experimental than the 2 other ones. When it was released, it had elements not commonly used in the metal scene. On one hand one could feel the COMECON touch that remains present from here and there, but it also sounds very strange as the COMECON atmosphere isn't here anymore and I have mixed feelings about it. Can you tell us more about what you wanted to do at the time? Give us more tips to understand when you were coming from... Were these tracks really meant to be for COMECON, or was it used on a matter of facts?
As mentioned, the decorations were increased, more or less according to plans. We don't have more variations than say the commercial black metal bands of '95 - just different. There's more nylon-string guitars than common though. We thought that was a great addition to the soundscape, and planned to take it further on the next album.
From your questions I think you listen most closely to the sound (which is a perfectly good way to listen - thanks for listening at all!) Most of the riffs, the notes and the rhythms stay in the same neighbourhood over all three albums, but the production is a bit different. Also each of the singers creates a whole new atmosphere.
it's not what you're after, because if I listen to one song from
each album, I think there's almost more difference in sound between
Megatrends and the two other.
6. Before COMECON there was OMNITRON. I had the opportunity to listen to the album you recorded and it was already some very wide-influenced music, but with some kind of thrash metal main style. If I'm not wrong, it even had some lines saxophone thrown in here and there... Was OMNITRON your very first band? How would you describe the kind of music you played? What did lead you to stop OMNITRON and begin with COMECON? I also read about a band called THE KRIXHJÄLTERS that was said to play some kind of punk. Tell us more about it! What kind of music you played, what you released...
The Krixhjälters was a punk combo formed in 1982 - one of the early hardcore/thrash punk bands in Sweden. Pelle joined in 1985. We recorded two 45" ep's and an album. The name was changed to Omnitron in 1989. We recorded one album under that name. Krixhjälters' initial thrash punk soon became thrash metal, with many different influences and lots of festive decorations - saxophone, synth, samples (sampling was all new and hot in 1988). It was quite successful, we got good reviews for the live act. We almost got a record deal with Warner in 1989/90, but it was fumbled. There was lots of tension in Omnitron - that's why the music was so varied, we liked different stuff. Too bad that the guys couldn't get along. Comecon was at first a side project for Pelle and me, to do the hard music we liked, without the bickering. Then Omnitron broke up a few months later.
7. I guess you was and have always been very open-minded concerning your musical tastes! Tell us more about it, and how did you feel concerning the strong die-hard close-mindedness about the early thrash and death metal waves?
Didn't notice that since I never hung out with many metal musicians or fans. My first punk crowd was very open - had to be since there were so few in Stockholm who liked thrash (aka hardcore) in 1981.
8. Before being a part of COMECON, Pelle Ström played in the Swedish Thrash metal band AGONY who recorded the cult album "The first defiance"! Can you tell us more about AGONY? Was Pelle a strong force in this band or was he some kind of "guest" musicians?
Pelle was one
of the best death metal rhythm guitarists in Sweden at the time.
He was a member for most of Agony's career (I think, not sure).
Did most of the rhythm work on the album, but only had one song
(the last, punkier one). I know there was some wrangling in Agony
too, but I don't know details (and wouldn't tell about other's problems
if I knew).
9. I can't draw many similarities between your band and AGONY, so I wonder if Pelle was composing in COMECON... Who was writing most of Comecon's music?
We split the albums evenly, but Pelle always managed to write one or two more songs than I could come up with.
10. Are there some unreleased COMECON songs lying somewhere on an old tape?
No, we wrote most of the songs when we knew we were going to record. Pelle had started a couple of tunes for the fourth album when we heard Century Media didn't want another record. Then we dropped it and didn't bother to go on. Too much other stuff was interfering anyway. (Pelle had three little kids, I started work, etc.) Life just kills death sometimes...
11. There was a problem in the track-listing of "Megatrends in brutality", wasn't it? Was it the label's mistake?
copied the track listing off the master tape rather than the mix.
It's correct at the Comecon band page
12. Was this album’s title a little rebellion against the metallic trends of brutality? Or why did you choose it?
Well... we thought it was just cute. It refers to both the history that scares us, and the music we like, though at different time scales.
14. The few COMECON photos I saw were quite nice looking: on one hand there was 3 guys looking like some kind of punk/ Death metallers, and there was an apparently very well dressed guy with an Ebm/ industrial look lol. Was it natural or rather something your label chose to have more "selling points" for the biography?
I'm the mod. I dressed punk for several years, then switched to suit in 84-85. Didn't change musical habits though. The 80's was a terrible epoch, be glad if you missed it. Omnitron looked even better: two hippies, a mod and Pelle as thrasher/metalhead. And two huge biker-looking friends used to be bodyguards and can-can dancers. Almost a Village People lineup.
15. Your band is quite famous for featuring the vocals of 3 Death metal "super-stars": Lars Goren Petrov (ENTOMBED), Marting Van Drunen (PESTILENCE, ASPHYX...) and Marc Grewe (MORGOTH).
I doubt Comecon were very famous. But the singers is probably one thing people might know about us. Had we done our fourth album it would have been even worse: I wanted an opera bass, a female vocalist and a metal growler. On equal terms. We would have fit right in with the commercial black metal albums of '96-97...
16. How did you get in touch with these guys? Were some of them a part of the band for some time, as they played rehearsals and gigs, or was it really some short-length project for a recording sessions? With which vocalist did it occur the best? Did some of them write their own lyrics for COMECON?
We got Petrov through Omnitron's punk label manager, and the other two through Century Media. I guess it was a good way of getting them jobs when they were in-between bands.
17. Even though a drummer is listed on the credits of your first albums, I'm pretty certain it's a drum-machine. Ok, it could have been triggered drums, but the playing was so tight and mechanical and the sound was artificial... so I have serious doubts about it!
18. Why did COMECON split up and what did the musicians of the band did after the last album? Did they leave the metal scene? Maybe some are still anonymously playing metal in some Black metal subprojects.... lol
No, sorry, we're both out of the loop. A couple of fans have asked about van Drunen recently, but I don't know his whereabouts.
19. The very first COMECON release was a split Ep with MERCILESS! Your two songs were later featured on your first album... but it seems these songs were from the same recording session than the album! How did it occur that way? Did you have an album recorded, and since you didn't find a label to release it, you chose the path of an Ep? Do you know how many copies were released? It was apparently released on CBR Records... Tell us more about this Ep!
was a gimmick by the recording label. The songs are right from the
album. We first approached Omnitron's label. The owner let us record
probably just because he knew L-G Petrov was out of Entombed at
the moment, and thought he could cash in on all our names. So he
paid for the first album recording (and for several other bands),
and almost went broke. Ambitious guy. Then he had to fence all the
tapes somehow. He managed to sell us to Century Media. But then
L-G went back to Entombed, and Earache started fucking about. So
Century Media paid Earache several thousand dollars in some kind
of compensation for alleged breach of contract, and limited the
first album to 10000 copies.
Anyway, we did get to record two more albums, until they decided we weren't going to turn enough profit. Death metal business went through a bit of a crisis in the mid-90's, sending the music back underground. Probably better this way.
20. It seems COMECON never did a lot of gigs... I think I never heard about a COMECON tour or something like that... So my question is: did you play a lot of gigs? Was COMECON only a studio band? Or maybe you didn't like that much to play live...?
No gigs. We played 100-150 shows with KH/Omnitron though. We might have liked to start a real band and play live, but we never found a free drummer (and didn't work awfully hard to find one).
21. Did you ever think about having your songs remixed by a techno or industrial band? Some strange projects like MIGHT FORCE happened to do this in the early EARACHE days...
22. Are you still in touch with the once musicians of COMECON? What are you all doing on a professional point of view? I read on some websites you programmed softwares like 'Granulab' or 'Coagula light', is it something you earn your money from, or rather some leisure activity? Use this incredible opportunity to promote your business! ;-))
Pelle is a
school teacher and unused Russian expert.
23. Are you in touch with the current metal scene and how do you feel about it? Are there some current bands you enjoy or are you rather interested in other forms of music? Since you live in the same town than the guys of KAAMOS (Stockholm), do you know this band? Do you like their old school death?
I don't follow the scene today, but try to pick up whatever I come across. Mostly old guys like myself: Strapping Young Lad and Meshuggah...
24. Do you like Gothenburg's melodic "Death metal" wave?
Which ones? I liked At the Gates.
25. Do you think there will be more COMECON released in the future? As many old school bands are coming back with new albums and fresh hair-cuts, one could imagine you might be interested to play again... What's your opinion about the big come back of all these old school bands?
have staid on track all the time: Slayer, Morbid Angel, Deicide,
Napalm (sort of)... I haven't heard the recent efforts of those
old bands you talk about (which?). Aren't they just middle-aged
guys who have worked in the record business for some years; now
the biz is going through another crisis (which they blame the listeners
for - the mp3 downloading), and the middle-aged middle managers
are threatened with losing their jobs. So they dust off the old
band, but now they now how the system works so they don't get ripped
off like they were before
This is just my imagination - I don't really know which bands you talk about... But you can notice there are a lot of old 70's rock bands back on tour too - this seems a general industry phenomenon. There hasn't been any cool new trend to milk for quite a while now, the labels don't have any product to sell. So they recycle old stuff. Well, some of it is better than some of the recent trends they've been pushing anyway...
26. If you had been 18 in 2004 and chose to form a band, what kind of music do you think you would have played?
Probably we would not only do music, but work with video too. That medium was not really available until now. Not sure what the music would be. Punk is *old* isn't it. Metal too... Some hardcore techno variant perhaps? (D.O.A / Delta 9)
27. Do you think COMECON has fulfilled the initial goals of the first question?
Yep. We did have one more album in us that I think deserved to be recorded. But it feels good to end with an album we like.
28. What are your best remembrances of the COMECON days? Are there some things really special and emotive you will remember until your existence ceases? What were some of the craziest things some musicians of COMECON did?
guitar parts in two days and getting fairly good result. Just holding
a brand-new album that we recorded a couple of months ago.
29. What are your future projects? (Musically or not).
30. Allright, I have asked most of the questions I had in mind! Thanx from advance for your time and answers! And thanx for the COMECON albums!