INTERVIEW: Tobias Gustafsson – Cut Up

Photo Credit: Soile Siirtola
Photo Credit: Soile Siirtola

WORDS: Tim Redman

Since VOMITORY‘s demise in 2013 Tobias Gustafsson and Erik Rundqvis have been hard at work with their new death metal endeavour, CUT UP. We spoke to drummer Tobias Gustafsson about the band’s debut record, Forensic Nightmares, signing with Metal Blade Records and why CUT UP should be seen as a new band.

Hello there, Tim from Distorted Sound here. The new album, Forensic Nightmares is a crushingly heavy experience. For those excited to check out the band can you explain a little bit about what they can expect from CUT UP? 
Tobias: Hi Tim. I guess you already said it. People can expect a crushingly heavy experience. CUT UP and Forensic Nightmares are all about grinding, brutal and groovy death metal, with reverence to the past but going full throttle forward.

You’ve recently released the song Burial Time as a single. How’s the response to that been?

Tobias: It’s been overwhelmingly good! People and the metal press like it a lot. Some people have even said things in the lines of “no more death metal releases needed in 2015, because Forensic Nightmares is the death metal album of the year!” Could be worse haha! We picked Burial Time as the first single/video because it sums up what CUT UP is about pretty well. The video itself is rather simple – no special effects or such – only a straight up performance by the band. But that’s how we wanted to present CUT UP for the first time to the public. This way, the focus is more on the song rather on the visuals.

You should also be congratulated on signing with Metal Blade Records for your debut release. How did that come about? 
Tobias: Thanks. Having worked with Metal Blade for over ten years with VOMITORY, they were naturally interested in what mine and Eriks’ new band was up to. We didn’t get the deal served on a silver plate though. But they really liked what they heard and offered us a good deal, so that was it. Even though I’m very happy that we ended up with Metal Blade Records, it was never taken for granted. We sent our material to a few more labels too at the same time. Some were very interested in CUT UP and some didn’t even bother to reply properly.

There are clear comparisons going to be drawn to VOMITORY due to the shared members. Can you talk us through the circumstance surrounding the decision to end that band and how CUT UP came to be from that?
Tobias: From my point of view, VOMITORY had come to an end. It was time to call it a day anyway. We had a blast during all the years and I think we ended the band in a respectful way, with our heads held high and at a high point in the bands’ career. There are a lot of different reasons that made us take that decision. Different priorities in the everyday life for instance. But VOMITORY was never disbanded to “get out of the way” for CUT UP. When VOMITORY was finished, we didn’t even know if there would be a new band at all. But very soon after the final VOMITORY show, me and Erik started talking about putting together a new band. Because Erik and I both felt the urge to keep playing together. We both share the same ambitions to play live, go on tour etc, so it was a quite natural step for us. And we enjoy just hanging out together.

Do you view CUT UP as a continuation of what you were doing there musically or is there a difference in how it feels to write for the two bands? 
Tobias: It is important to know that CUT UP is CUT UP – it’s a new band – and not VOMITORY with a new line-up or something like that. But the spirit of VOMITORY is of course there, for obvious reasons. I see it as a natural continuation musically, but there are still differences in how we write and work in CUT UP. The biggest thing would be that CUT UP has two lead vocalists, Erik and Andreas. Working with that is exciting for us all, since none of us have had that in any of our previous bands before. But we also try to work more consciously with different tempos, hooks and choruses in CUT UP.

FORENSIC NIGHTMARES doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel as far as death metal goes, sticking with a more traditional formula and doing it well. Was this a conscious decision on the bands behalf or was that simply the music that came out of rehearsals?
Tobias: It’s a combination of both, I guess. When we write and play death metal the way we like it, this is how it turns out. We knew from the start that we wouldn’t reinvent the death metal wheel, but we knew that we could spew out contagious killer death metal, and making it fresh sounding.

Clearly you can be considered a veteran of the death metal scene at this point, what changes have you noticed between when you started out back in 1989 and when you started CUT UP?
Tobias: You know, what NOT has changed, is the excitement to start something new! It’s still the same, and I absolutely love it. But obviously a lot of things have changed over the years. That special feeling when the death metal scene was boiling, but still hadn’t quite exploded yet. It’s something very difficult to explain. That world, that small bubble, was fantastic to be in. We felt immortal. Nobody outside it (parents, teachers, class mates, “normal” people…) had a clue or understood shit about what we were doing, and what our music was. They couldn’t touch it. And it was all very offensive and a little mysterious, which is cool when you’re in your late teens. But it’s fucking cool in your 40’s too haha! I think that death metal still is offensive. Or at least it should be, if it’s to be called death metal. And I love that. I wouldn’t say that death metal has become mainstream, but it has – well deserved – earned great acceptance in the business and among metal fans in general. At this point, I’m sure that death metal will last forever.

Obviously there are more ways than ever for bands to get exposure those days. Do you feel the modern death metal scene is more saturated than it has been in the past and that it’s more difficult for new bands to make a mark?
Tobias: I think it’s a bit harder nowdays for new bands to make a mark, just because of the many ways to get exposure. It’s easier to disappear in the crowd. But on the other hand, I feel that new death metal bands of today are more determined in a way. They’re doing it because they want to play death metal, and not just because it’s the flavour of the day, which sometimes was the case back in the early days. And with that mindset, you have better chances to succeed regardless of how many channels there are available for exposure.

How has that affected CUT UP, if at all? 
Tobias: Not at all actually.

While it does hurt record sales illegal downloading is one of these methods of exposure. We’ve seen both sides of the arguments in the mainstream news recently. What are your opinions on this clearly divisive issue? 
Tobias: Illegal downloading is wrong! It’s illegal! It has changed the record industry fundamentally, but it’s also the industrys’ own fault since it didn’t meet the problem as the customers changed their way of consuming music. While I think it’s great that music is so easy to access today (legally!) and I welcome technical evolution, I still miss the old days when music was more exclusive. You bought (yes, bought!) a couple of physical records each month, and really took the time to listen and digest the music, the cover artwork, the band photos, the lyrics, everything. That is now lost to a great extent. Bottom line is that if people don’t want to pay for music, then there won’t be any music for them to steal in the end.

No doubt you’re hoping to take CUT UP out on the road in support of the record. Given that you’ve got no less than NIFELHEIM supporting you for your release gig, you must feel confident on this front. Are there any further live plans that you can share with us yet? 
Tobias: We are very confident, that’s true, but NIFELHEIM is actually the headline act at our release show. PUTERAEON is the opener and CUT UP plays in the middle. We want to go on tour to support the album and spread our name of course, but in this writing moment there are no other shows confirmed. We’ve been getting some offers during the last couple of months though.

I’ll bring this interview to a close by offering you the floor. Is there anything you’d like to say to the readers of Distorted Sound?
Tobias: Check out Forensic Nightmares once it’s out, and go to give us a like. There you will also find any news regarding upcoming merch and show dates. Thanks for your support! Cheers!

Forensic Nightmares is set for release on June 30th via Metal Blade Records.

Check out our review of Forensic Nightmares