Dan Swano, “The Master”

Dan Swano, “The Master”

Chapter: EDGE OF SANITY

EDGE OF SANITY. The biggest chapter of your musical career since 1989. What do you remember from the first days of the band?

Dan Swano: There was a lot of excitement in the beginning of EDGE OF SANITY. At first, I didn’t really think we would make it beyond that first demo, since it was only 2 songs on it that featured all four members. Only Sami showed up the last day of the sessions and, him and me, did the other two tracks on the 1st demo. With that lack of dedication so early into a project (two days old…), I felt that it would probably be just another of the “one/offs”. But, for some reason, I couldn’t let it die. This was the first project I had with those guys and they came from a new “clique” of people. I thought they were cool so I reached out to them. We decided to change stuff around, let Dread play guitar along with Sami for more elaborate guitar arrangements and bring in Anders Lindberg (who sang in my punk band ULAN BATOR) on bass. We kind of rebooted at the early 1990’s, scrapping all the demo songs.

The first track we worked on as a five piece was “Immortal Souls” (The intro riff was recycled from the track “Preposterous Corpse” that I had written during my short time in ABHOR, some months earlier). Then it all just went so fast! We wrote more tracks, recorded rehearsals, demos and promos…played a few gigs and BAAM!! We had a record deal around a year after we formed, for that very first demo session! Through the “Kur-Nu-Gi-A” demo we had attracted the attention of the Swedish label “Tyfon” that ended up being renamed as “Black Mark”. And that, kind of ends the “age of innocence” for EDGE OF SANITY…After that, there were a lot of hard truths thrown in our face!

Why did you put an end at EDGE OF SANITY? Which was the main reason back then? You decided to reunite the band with session musicians in 2003 to release “Crimson II” and that was it! Any chance of reuniting the band?

Dan Swano: I didn’t put an end to it. I tried to revive the band after the  “Infernal” recording, when I felt we had drifted so far apart, as if we were two bands inside one! I wrote them a letter, pretty much demanding to let me alone become EDGE OF SANITY and they (the other four), could call themselves “what ever”. Just to let me alone…of course it backfired and “Black Mark” let the guys to keep the name and do the “Cryptic” record. I ran back to my home studio with the “tail between my legs” and slowly molded my ideas into what became MOONTOWER. After some touring the other guys decided to quite EDGE OF SANITY, like 20 years ago I think.

When I wanted to do another solo record, the label convinced me to try another record using the EDGE OF SANITY name, which I first felt was completely weird, but after a talk between me, Boss and the other guys, there was an agreement made that I could do one more album using the same name, since it would trigger the back catalogue sales. Boss saw things from a finance perspective. However “Cryptic” had cost a lot and sold not so much, so a “reboot” was surely needed for the EOS brand name. I think “Crimson II” did pretty well and I also made sure there was a compilation album and a remixed “Kur-Nu-Gi-A”, all made for free, to bring back some money to the royalty account!
We got pretty close to a one-off reunion gig some years ago, but I let it go since I just haven’t got the time or the nerves to be involved with stuff like that. I am happy looking after the old stuff being remixed and remastered, but new music or gigs…naah…that’s not gonna happen with me involved.

Do you consider EDGE OF SANITY as your main band or do you feel like it was another project of yours? Which one of your projects is now considered to be the most special for you?

Dan Swano: In the eyes of the world I guess EDGE OF SANITY was always seen as the big one and for a short time it was something very important to me for sure, but I never really had a main band. I am way too restless for that. In the early 90’s, for a period, I was in so many different bands and projects that I just couldn’t get them all the rehearsal time they needed per week. The most special will always be UNICORN. The magic we had between ‘88 and ‘91 happens once in a lifetime and I am so happy that I got to be in that “special band vibe” thing!

If EDGE OF SANITY were still active, what do you believe they would sound like…?

Dan Swano: No idea. We were moving further and further apart as the years went by, so maybe we would have set up some ground rules and gone back to the early stuff that I find pretty unique. Stuff like “The Dead”, “Angel of Distress” and “…Tales” sounds like a cross between aggressive Thrash and Death and something else…that might have been something! Tune the guitars back up a bit and just go mental! 🙂

What is your favorite EDGE OF SANITY album? What do you have to remember from the recording sessions of it?

Dan Swano: I think it has to be “Unorthodox” – I do love the first one too, but in the shape it was released, with the “Not-band-approved” mix/pre-mastering from hell, I find it pretty “unlistenable” so I go for “Unorthodox”. I remember that we would leave nothing to chance for that one. For the 1st album we arrived with one guitar and thought the studio would have the rest (like my “studio” Gorysound had)…ha, ha…I’ll never forget the look on the engineer Rex’ s face…”where’s your gear..??” ha, ha… any how. We brought our own drums, amps and guitars and bass etc. and even some FX rack stuff and made sure Boss stayed away from the creative process. We had two weeks available I think! We recorded a lot of bonus tracks (even one unique track for the cassette version only) and of course two bonus tracks for the CD, that was a young format at the time!! We got a bit stressed out at the mixing stage because the computer from the console kept crashing and things took forever! But all in all, it was the best time I have ever had in a studio that was not of my own 🙂

Chapter: DAN SWANO

Which are your major influences as a musician in general?

Dan Swano: Some players that have inspired me a lot over the years are my brother Dag, that showed me the path and made me realize that someone could play more instruments and also sing, not just be good at one thing. Then there’s people like Simon Phillips, Les Binks, Ian Mosley, Steve Rothery, Dann Huff, John Wetton, Didge Digital, Geoff Downes, Jonathan Cain, Geddy Lee, Neil Peart, Fish, Steve Hogarth, Wayne Hussey, Kevin Shields, Chuck Schuldiner, Nicke Andersson, Patrick Mameli, Hank Shermann, Glen Tipton/KK Downing, John Tardy and many more (that I will hit myself with a brick in the face for forgetting..but..hey..I am only human), that all contributed to the complexity of my musical DNA in a way they wrote riffs or how they performed their parts on their instruments!

Your future plans as a musician? Any chance of returning to the Death Metal sound? Do you work at any musical project of yours nowadays?

Dan Swano: I am currently working on restoring a lot of my stuff from the early 90’s. It can be found on “swanomerch.bandcamp.com”. I am also working on the album from SECOND SKY, that have been in progress for a long time, but I always find things to improve on it, so it will be ready when it’s ready…. that one will be taking up all my spare time for the foreseeable future.
Νo “Death Metal” return as a musician. I tried it some time ago and my heart is just “not in it” that much any more. But never say never, you know, maybe I will release another DARKCIDE track or so 😉

Which are your main activities in your everyday life nowadays?

Dan Swano: Mixing and mastering other people’s music has been my full-time profession since 2011. Then I like to spend time with my wife and our dog and do “normal people stuff” 🙂

Who is your favorite musician you have ever worked with? The one you really admire?!

Dan Swano: Well, it’ s hard to mention just the one, because no one was ever that mind blowing. It was great to watch people like Jon Nödtveidt and Mikael Åkerfeldt in action, back in the day. Those two guys opened up some doors that people still enter to this very day. I also have to mention my brother Dag again. What he did for me and my band GHOST when we just little kids is really admirable. Without him and his support I am not so sure that I would have gone into music as early and as determined as I did!

Unisound studios. Dozens of recordings. Are you still using the studios for Mixing-mastering? Approximately how many bands have you been involved with, as a guest musician-sound engineer or as a producer??!

Dan Swano: I am using the name, but I cut off the “Recordings” part (It was never called “studio” because it never was..it was a place where you could record stuff..but a studio…not really ha, ha!!) it’s kind of Unisound Mix and Mastering these days..but I prefer just “Unisound”. I counted some time ago and I think by now it might be up to 450 unique bands (that I am not a part of myself) which I have either recorded, mixed or mastered or combinations!

What is the craziest thing you can remember from your studio sessions?

Dan Swano: The first one is from the recording of that dreadful DARK FUNERAL album that never was. I had just invested in a new digital console, that had cost me a small fortune and the whole session was somehow tense. There was this feeling in the air that it’s not gonna end well! All of a sudden. there is a flood of water rushing down from the ceiling! Unisound was located in a cellar, with lots of pipes in the roof from the business on the floor above. And the water flooded all over the table where the console was located but magically stopped 1 centimetre from the console, not even making it wet!! We were all just standing there, looking at this flood of white water pouring down from the roof and thinking “Heh!? What the fuck!!??”. It turns out the dude above us had installed a washing machine. No one had ever used that connection before and it turns out, that the pipe it led to was broken! I wonder if that happened at Morrissound during the mixing of “Leprosy” too….ha, ha ;).

Second awesome memory is when the studio had moved to the black tower in the city center of Örebro. It was a very hot summer and ALLEGIANCE was in the studio. When the singer, Bogge was starting to record the vocals, he just couldn’t stand the heat in my iso-booth (that turned into a sauna in five minutes during the winter!!!), so we decided to cut the vocals in the control room, where you could open some windows. Said and done. Bogge started singing/screaming, really loud, in Swedish, about very anti-christian things and things were going really well. All of a sudden the doorbell rang and I buzzed who ever it was, without even asking in the intercom…before I knew, two police officers with  their snarling dogs stormed the studio in full combat mode saying that someone from across the street had called them to report the murder of a woman (!!) begging for her life, screaming “Jesus!” and other things!!! The police guys searched the place and once we explained the situation and played them the vocals while reading the lyrics, they understood! However, they were really pissed and told us to shut the fucking window!

A comparison in the metal scenery back in the 80’s/90’s and now? Which do you believe are the main differences?

Dan Swano: I think there was a lot more of the actual performer, the way it could be made in real life on the records. Nowadays everything gets tampered with and the records tend to sound a lot more perfect. What kind of bugs me about that is that I have come to the point where I really don’t believe that a performer is good any more from hearing a record. I know how much you can fake stuff (I do it all the time to me and my own stuff…perfectionism is a disease…it sucks..).
It is first once you hear a band live on TV or something, where there is no way for them to fake stuff, you know what they’re really capable off. Usually stuff is out of time and out of tune, sometimes beyond what I know if “fixable” in the studio but sometimes you get blown away by how awesome a band is live and it is a bit sad that the difference on record is not that big any more like in the old times when there was no real way faking a good performance (other than using drum machines or other, secret players!!)

What is your opinion about the Extreme Metal scene nowadays? Which are the newly formed bands (talking about the last 10 years) in the extreme metal scene that gained your attention?

Dan Swano: I am only listening to the stuff that I work with and there are a lot of cool bands in that genre that I have had the honour of mixing. There’s nothing ground-breaking going on. There’s a lot of homages to the past, but there’s another side to it. Just write the best possible song. It’s kind of unimportant if the genre itself isn’ t expanded by the band, but if they write a bunch of catchy tunes, that is all I need! Then there is the follow-through with relentless touring….one of the bands I worked with from their very beginning, that now are getting up to headline status is DESERTED FEAR. They sadly went elsewhere to mix their latest album, but I still think they are an awesome band with a determination to “make it” that I haven’t seen since the 80’s when every Swedish hard rock band wanted to be as big as Europe!

Which is the most awkward moment you have experienced during a concert with one of your projects-bands?

Dan Swano: Oh..so many of the EDGE OF SANITY gigs were embarrassing! If it wasn’t guitars or strings or even bass necks (!!) breaking, it was my voice that sounded like a throat-singing monk on a bad day. There was also one time with NIGHTINGALE that I performed with pretty high fever and decided to play the gig with my hair in a knot..and since I usually stand on the stage looking down on my pedals, I sweat like a pig on fire and my sweat caused my pedal board to live its own live and it started turning pedals on and off randomly and I couldn’t control it…that was not fun!

Which bands do you believe that started all these Melodic Death Metal scene? EDGE OF SANITY are surely one of them…

Dan Swano: I guess we were one of the first that took things to another place. I cannot really say exactly who did it, but DISSECTION had a lot of great melody and also IN FLAMES did some great stuff in the beginning, and I guess we all tried to “out melody” each other at some point. When it wasn’t about being as brutal as possible any more, I was well prepared after having played melodic music since I was like 7 🙂

What is your favorite metal producer (except from yourself of course…) and metal recording in general?

Dan Swano: Well, I have to mention Scott Burns and what Tomas Skogsberg did on “Left Hand Path”. I also really dig Randy Burns work (just listen to MORTAL SIN’s “Face of Despair” WOW!!), and my friend Jens Bogren have done some really awesome stuff! There’s also some Andy Sneap stuff that is really influential. He always got stellar guitar tones!!

Your opinion about the metal community/metal bands of Greece? Favorite Greek Metal band?

Dan Swano: I think they always had a cool true, dark side to their stuff. Also very unique sounding. I have worked with a few of them and most recently, and soon again ON THORNS I LAY! Great stuff!

What kind of music do you like listening to, except Heavy Metal?

Dan Swano: Well, I am not really listening all that much to Heavy Metal at all. I get enough of that at work!! My main ear-candy is A.O.R. And Pomp rock, mixed with a bit of Pop-Prog. Then, there’s some stuff from bands like (old) DAUGHTRY, (old) ALTER BRIDGE, (mid-old) BREAKING BENJAMIN that I like a lot.

Chapter: SIDE PROJECTS & RECORDINGS

DIABOLICAL MASQUERADE. One of the most significant bands of the Avant-garde Black Metal scene! What were (and are) your relationships with Blackheim? What do you have to remember from those days?

Dan Swano: Anders was one of the first artists to work with me in Gorysound, back in 1992. At the time I was still just doing demo recordings on weekends, when ever there was an interest for it. They (he and Jonas) wrote to EDGE OF SANITY a fan letter and after some communication it was decided that their band, KATATONIA would record with me. After that, we did a lot of cool stuff together and some years later, ‘95 or ‘96, Anders just booked my studio for the DIABOLICAL MASQUERADE project and I wasn’t so involved to begin with. I did all the drum programming and stuff like that, but I did that for a lot of clients. And once we go the “Nightwork” my studio had been closed and I still felt the urge to work with sound. I had a place called “The Sanctuary”, set up in the basement where the studio had been on the top floor (in a cool, black tower!!). Anders did not really have all the songs ready for the album and I contributed a lot of music to that album, pretty much anything written on the keyboards was mine.

Anders “Blakkheim” Nyström

We just fleshed it out with guitars and had a blast! I also played drums on that one…well, all except the kicks, that was programmed…and once yet another album came into question, I had moved the stuff to my living room and gone 100% computer recording/mixing. This time I agreed to do it, but only if I could be “Mutt Lange” and have my say about everything and pretty much produce, co-write and take many of the decisions. Anders agreed and showed up. He recorded all the riffs he had to a click track and went home. I fleshed it out with all the tricks in the book, programmed drums, added keys, etc. Then he came back and did the vocals and after that I’ve mixed it! And that was that 🙂 Great fun!

“Moontower” album. A great release of yours, back in 1998. How did you come up with this album, after so many “aggressive” musical appearances at the past? Would you be interested to compose-release something similar in the future?

Dan Swano: MOONTOWER was my idea to make a Death Metal album as if it was done in 1972. It limited my choice for keyboards to piano, mellotrons, moogs etc. and that, along with the more progressive metal vibe of the music was all that was left of the idea. The drums needed to be more modern, while the guitars was kind of 50/50 old hard rock and metal toned, the bass had a certain “Geddy in the 70’s” vibe to it…so it was a bit of mix and match…but the real game changer was the choice to growl rather than sing clean. I was really pissed off at the time and it just felt more natural to growl out my frustrations than to sing nicely! I still love the album, but it was pretty misunderstood at the time of release. There are some “could have been on Moontower” vibes in the Witherscape catalogue, for sure. So that will have to do 🙂

NIGHTINGALE is the band that you run with your brother. You have expressed your melodic Progressive Rock character at this group. What news from there? Any new music coming?

Dan Swano: No new music, I’m afraid. We did the live album some time ago and before that, I kind of drained myself of all things NIGHTINGALE did with the “Retribution” album, that I think is mega-awesome!

BLOODBATH. An all star-band with Akerfeldt, Blakkheim, Renkse, Tagtgren and you! How this cooperation did came up, back in 2000? Any memories from this period?

Dan Swano: Well, of course! It was meant to be a “one/off” to try out some new equipment, but it turned into something more than that and, once the label got wind of this unholy alliance it became something more serious for all of us. For me, it was never even at a project state because I kind of “quit” after each recording (except after the second album, when I was let go…), but I had a great time…my most played song “Eaten” came out of it, so it’s all cool 🙂

You have recorded two of the most INFLUENCIAL and UNIQUE albums in the history of melodic Black Metal. “The Somberlain” and “Storm Of The Light’s Bane” from the legendary DISSECTION, back in 1993 and 1995! What do you remember from those recording sessions and Jon Nödtveidt? What is your opinion about those albums? What do you think about DISSECTION?

Dan Swano: I remember bits and pieces. ”The Somberlain” was easier to make than “Storm Of The Light’s Bane”, I also like the first one a lot more from a musical point of view. The first thing I remember about ”The Somberlain” was that I asked about the songs and Jon said there’s one they haven’t really played yet, that he “wrote in his head on the bus” and that was “Black Horizons”. He taught the members the track and what you hear on the record is one of the first times they played it and hear it coming back to them through speakers “as one” – I added the “monk choirs” and the “heavy metal scream” for it and I also helped Jon to flesh out some of the backing guitar things. Not to forgot I added a synth solo 🙂

The second thing I remember is trying to get the guitar tone Jon wanted. So I showed him the studio Marshall JCM800 + vintagr 4×12″ cab, then he plugged his Gibson Les Paul with miniature humbuckers into it and he said “Löjligt!!” which translates into “Ridiculous” or something…after that he took his Boss Turbo Distortion (DS2) pedal and connected it between the guitar and the “distorted to the max” Marshall amp and there it was “The Dissection sound” – a lovely blend of transistor and valve distortion!!

Storm Of The Light’s Bane” was a bit more difficult. The members had different views on how it should sound and they were all “infected” by the Norwegian black metal movement, so my fave tracks on are more in the vein of the 1st album. “Night’s Blood” and “Where Dead Angels Lie”: in fact I recorded and mixed those tracks in between both albums sessions for a compilation album for a label called WAR records. We mixed the album three times (the only time that has happened!) before every one was happy! There is no denying that “Storm of the Light’s Bane” is an important album for both them and me, but I have more of a nostalgic vibe about the first album, for sure!

OPETH. You have recorded their first 2 albums and also you have really good relationship with Mikael Akerfeldt. What is your opinion about the musical progress of OPETH at their last 3 albums. What do you have to remember from the first recordings of OPETH and Mikael?

Dan Swano: I think the musical progress is cool. I actually prefer how they sound now than how the stuff turned out when the classic OPETH sound “disappeared” after the second album (much 6/8 rhythms with twin harmony guitars and longer more atmospheric parts). The exception is “Ghost reveries” that I think is amazing and the best thing they ever did, again almost like another OPETH (much because of the D minor tuning and more keyboard stuff and the best sound/production they ever had).
I have lots of memories from the 1st album since it blew my mind wide open! But the two most special memories are the start of the vocal recording, when I still hadn’ t heard any of Mike’ s voices. He told me on the phone that they had some clean vocals too. At that time the growl/clean thing being performed (well) by the same vocalist was very unusual, so I had my doubts… When I started the tape, Mike insisted on only having a candle lighting up the room (there was no control room/recording room, so Mike was a few meters in front of me). I only had the light from the equipment to guide me and as the track started (“In the Mist”….I think). Mike did the most amazing growl from low to high! His growl was so amazing that I got goosebumps all over me! Then he just switched from growls to clean vocals (perfectly in tune on the first attempt!) like you turn off a distortion pedal. I wish I could have seen my face at the time! I bet my mouth was open enough to have a family of birds move in there 🙂

The second is the guitar solo for “Forest of October”, the part of it that Peter played. It’s on the very KING DIAMOND inspired part. He told me already that it was a really intricate part and he was nervous that he wouldn’t nail it. So he asked me to play it back to him, so he could practise. I did, but what he didn’t know was that I recorded it. He played it all the way through, exactly the way it is on the record and after the last note he was like “Fuck..I am never gonna play it that good again!!! Such a shame that we didn’t record it!!!” Then I could proudly say “Well,,I did!!” Mike and Peter were so happy and the vibe at the studio at that moment, was just so amazing!! After it was mixed, I preached about OPETH to every one and even stole much of their vibe to enhance the “Crimson” album (where I, of course, made sure to have Mike on vocals and guitars too…). It was weird being one of five OPETH fans in the world for so long, since they delayed the release of the album for a year (I think), because they negotiated the deal through lawyers and stuff to get better royalty rates etc.

Thank you very much for your time Dan. Your final words for the Greek fans and “The Gallery” readers all around the world…

Dan Swano: Thanks for your support and thanks for the interview! Check out “swanomerch.com” and “swanomerch.bandcamp.com” and also “danswano.com” and “unisound.se” and follow us on Facebook or my on Instagram etc. Rock on!
D

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This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Δεν ξέρω τι να σχολιάσω πρώτο. Κάποια γενικά πράγματα οπότε. Επαγγελματικη συνέντευξη, γεμάτη φωτογραφικό σπάνιο υλικό. Ανεβαίνουμε, όλο κ καλύτερα.

  2. Πολύ ωραία συνέντευξη, ενημερωτική και ενδιαφέρουσα! Πάμε δυνατά!

  3. Great interview,awesome information about EDGE OF SANITY and DISSECTION!!!!

  4. Marvelous interview, keep up the good work mates!

  5. Very excited to see this….we just travelled back in time!

  6. One of the most charismatic figures in the metal community … !!!
    His words unwrap & sound like stories that emerge from a time capsule … !!!
    The photographic material is a unique description of a whole era … !!!
    Terrific job … beautiful and to the point … !!!
    Κeep up the good work

  7. Proud for this!

  8. At the heart of your essence you have the answer; you know your power and you comprehend what you needed.

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