It’s not a very long time ago when I first listened to Scar Symmetry, and I did it ‘cause Roberth Karlsson was screaming like a maniac in the album by Aktiv Dödshjälp “Men allting har ett slut”, that I like a lot. I wanted more of his vocals and I found that he was the bestial growler in Scar Symmetry. Yes, I know, sometimes the ways in which I reach some bands are a bit… unusual…
And what to say, I was amazed to listen to this band that was new to me.
Well. A few days ago I had the pleasure of interviewing both of their vocalists, Lars Palmqvist (clean vocals) and Roberth Karlsson (growls). They always do their thing in perfect synchrony, and let me tell you, the combination of the animalistic growls by Roberth and the beautiful and melodic voice by Lars is really amazing! This, and the fact that Scar Symmetry plays some of the most explosive and technical Progressive Melodic Death Metal I’ve ever listened to. Wow.
Hi Roberth, hi Lars, it’s a pleasure having you two in Blessed Altar Zine. Thank you for doing this.
Now it’s been half a year since “The Singularity (Phase II: Xenotaph)” was released. How happy are you with this album?
Lars: Hello 🙂 It was an album that took a long time to be released so I had almost forgotten what the songs sounded like, but after hearing the master that Per sent I was very surprised how good it sounded. “The Singularity (Phase II: Xenotaph)” feels a bit like getting into a space rocket and going straight into space at full speed where the songs are like planets you pass 🙂 For me it’s the best Scar album I’ve been on, and when you read comments about the album many people seem to like it too, which is really fun that they have the same taste as me.
Roberth: Hey Silvia, I am really satisfied with this album. It turned out so great, the songs, the sound and the performances. It feels like it was worth the waiting and as far as I have read, people seem to really dig it.
What’s the song (not just from the last album) that you enjoy a lot performing live?
Lars: “Chrononatilus”, which is from our latest album, it has become a favorite for me. It is one of our fastest songs and it contains many elements of the Scar Symmetry sound, and it has been appreciated by the audience. Also “The Anomaly” from the album The Unseen Empire is our most played song on Spotify but a song that is fun to sing live, and the song that we often end our concerts with.
Roberth: Recently I really enjoy Chrononautilus and we just started to play Holographic Universe (we did it live back in 2008-2009 for 2-3 shows) so these are my favorites by now.
How do you warm up before a show? Do you have any rituals before stepping on stage?
Lars: If we get to the venue early, I go out and run to ”wake up the body”. Then, when there is an hour or so left, I use a resonance tube and sing a few songs through that, then I have a beer and a glass of wine and some tea with ginger. And I use an exercise band, 5 minutes before I take some high notes; then I run out and kick ass.
Roberth: I don’t have any specific rituals. If we are in a new city, I’ll go for a walk, maybe some training ( together with Lars). Just before the show I get a glass of red wine and some Jack n coke. I never do any vocal warm ups, after being growling since the late 80s, I don’t need that kind of exercises. Side story to the Jack n coke is that I don’t buy 8cl Jack n coke anymore. Because I want the last time I bought it to be that time I bought one for me and one for Lemmy back at the Rainbow bar a drunken evening years ago. Just to keep it cool.
What’s the best thing for you about performing live shows?
Lars: When you are on stage, you get a wonderful flow of adrenaline in your body that you only feel there, then to see the audience sing along and see them enjoying themselves.
Roberth: The best thing is seeing the audience enjoying the music and the show.
How was it that you both became vocalists in Scar Symmetry? You joined the band at the same time? How is it (for each of you) to share the vocal duties with another person in a band?
Lars: Roberth and I grew up in the same town (Finspång) and we got to know each other when we were 12-13 years old, when we also formed a punk band where I played drums. Roberth is a fantastic friend and singer, and when we sing live we can do old/new songs where our voices cross each other, which we also use a lot on the new album too, which I think is really cool. I love to share the stage with Rob.
Roberth: I got a phone call from my dear old friend Jonas Kjellgren back in 2008. We have known each other since 1991 and always enjoyed talking/hanging out/ recording stuff at his studio. He asked me if I knew anyone who could fit as a singer in Scar Symmetry. They had or were just about to kick out the old singer. I said I didn’t know anyone who would fit at the moment. Then he called me back and said: YOU should do it! I was like: No. I know I do and did the growling great, but clean singing is not my cup of tea. I asked him if it would be possible to have two singers ‘cause I know a guy (Lars) who sings super, and he is a dear friend of mine since 1987, and he is kind, sweet and looks good on stage. He said that he would check with the other members. We did an audition and recorded two songs, don’t actually know if they tested some more singers? Probably they did, but I have never asked. We got the job and now more than 15 years later, it is more fun and professional than ever! To share vocal duties with Lars is absolutely perfect.
Can you tell our readers which other bands are you involved with nowadays? And… how do you find time for being everywhere?
Lars: The priority band is of course Scar Symmetry, but I also sing in a band called Dautha which is a Doom Metal band; I have my own project Sortem where I sing about death and mass murderers (cozy), but then I have many “project bands” that I’m involved in where I make vocal melodies and sing on. I sing every day in the car when I go to my daily job, sometimes voice exercises but mostly Scar Symmetry songs I need to practice. I don’t have children so the time to sing and make songs is always there.
Roberth: Scar Symmetry is my main focus and what I have and want to give my 100% time to music wise. Else I’m doing vocals in Aktiv Dödshjälp and Ironmaster (together with the former Scar Symmetry guitarist Jonas Kjellgren).
How would you describe your bandmate’s vocals?
Lars: Roberth has one of the world’s best growl voices. Sometimes I hear bands with growl voices that sound like little mice, voices comparable to he who is a beast. Per has started to sing lead parts on the records, which lifts the songs even further and live it will of course be a lift with a good choir. Per has a voice like an angel and sounds like a perfect synth 🙂
Roberth: He is the perfect clean singer, great range and a strong voice. He practices hard everyday and sings better than ever! And he is my partner in crime.
Is there any vocalist that has been a big influence/inspiration for you?
Lars: The two singers who have meant a lot to me are Paul Stanley and Bruce Dickinson, but also many 80s and 90s icons singers such as Geoff Tate, Michael Kiske, David Coverdale, Steven Tyler, Freddie Mercury, Alanis Morisette and Tobias Sammet.
Roberth: Back in the late 1980s when I started to growl, my favorite was Karl Willetts. David Vincent was also an early influence.
Do you imagine yourself not doing this? I mean, no singing, no gigs, not being in a band (or some)… What do you figure your life would be like?
Lars: I would have a lot more money, hehe.. No, but I like to try new things all the time, and have also been good at sports and started playing long golf when I was 13. And if music hadn’t come in between, I think I would have become a golf pro and now been to Hawaii with a good drink in my hand.
Roberth: ha ha, no!! That sounds really boring! I don’t know what would make me in such a condition. My life would probably be like it is when I’m home from tours. I hang out with my son, my girlfriend and friends. And enjoying life in silence in my house far away in the forest.
Let’s talk a bit about your musical taste and preferences. Are you a vinyl person, or do you prefer listening to music in other physical formats, or maybe digital?
Lars: I like vinyls, but I don’t listen to music very often these days. But when I do, it’s mostly on Spotify. It turns out that I mostly listen to Scar Symmetry to practice new songs we are going to play live, haha.. I mostly listen to podcasts about World War II, artists, sports documentaries and about serial killers.
My stereo in the living room has been missing speakers for over 15 years..
Roberth: I’m a vinyl person, I like the organic sound. And looking at the album covers. It’s music as it’s supposed to be, not compressed digital shit. But I have digital streaming services also, just ‘cause it’s easy to listen to. But it’s not the same experience.
From the tape trading days to present, with all the streaming platforms, the way in which people share music has changed a lot. Do you think that underground bands have more opportunities to be known today, as it seems that everything is just a “click” away? You don’t have to wait days or weeks to borrow your friend’s tapes and vinyls after all…
Lars: Yes, it has become much easier to spread music today, by sending or uploading your music, which is of course a good advantage. But in the past it was something special to go to the record store and buy a record you had been waiting for to be released for months..
Roberth: Yes, time changes, some things are better and some are not. We traded cassettes back in the days, that was awesome and Death Metal was so new and fresh! I did get to sing in Pan-Thy-Monium as a 14 years old kiddo at the time we started the band in January 1990. To get a record deal was kinda easy. We signed with Osmose Records. Awesome times, glad I was at the right place at the right time. I remember me and my friends had to take the bus to get to a record store. It took us a half day to get back home again, with an LP you probably bought because the artwork looked dangerous enough! Best case it also sounded good, ha ha! Nowadays it’s so easy to listen to new music, I find new bands every week. Thank you internetz.
How old were you when you started listening to Metal, and which band was your entrance door to this music?
Lars: My father was a music teacher and played a lot of instruments when I was a little kid (which he still does). He bought me a drum set when I was 6 years old and when I already started to like Kiss, my sister recorded a lot of cassette tapes for me with Hard Rock on. But my first record I bought was “Creatures of the Night” in 1982 when I was 7 years old.
Roberth: I bought some Kiss/Deep Purple/Motörhead cassettes in the early 1980s but I remember buying Bathory – ‘Under the Sign of the Black Mark’ in 1987. That was the record that changed my life forever. Still get chills listening to it. I was 12.
What bands were you listening to in your teens? Are you still listening to them nowadays?
Lars: Yes, I listen to the same bands today as then. Iron Maiden, Twisted Sister, Queensrÿche, Def Leppard, Guns N’ Roses, Mötley Crüe, Kiss, W.A.S.P. … Almost all the 80s Hard Rock bands 🙂
Roberth: Too many to write down. In my teens it was 90% Death/Black Metal. I haven’t stopped listening to any bands, just listening to more bands/artists as they pop up!
Is there any song (from another band) that is very special for you, and makes you feel really emotional?
Lars: Sometimes I can feel like I want to listen to a certain song that meant something or that I feel like hearing again, but no one that makes me feel really emotional..I think.
Roberth: As I mentioned, Bathory. Even newer bands. At the moment I listen everyday to the new album from Mephorash.
Do you like listening to other music besides Metal? Which styles/bands?
Lars: Yes: Alanis Morissette, ABBA, Frank Sinatra, Kalle Baah (local band), Bob Marley (I like Reggae), Hans Zimmer, John Williams, Spice Girls, Nightingale..and a lot of other artists/bands 🙂
Roberth: I listen to Woven Hand a lot, and old Hard Rock from the late 60s and early 70s.
What does Metal music mean to you in your life?
Lars: It has meant a lot, without it I wouldn’t have been able to travel around the world and sing and experience great fun moments with my lovely band friends and crew.
Roberth: It’s such a big part of being me, makes life awesome! Glad I wasn’t born some hundred years earlier. Such a waste of life never hearing Entombed, Venom or Darkthrone! Ha ha ha!
Many thanks for your time doing this interview, guys. Wishing you the best things to come. Is there anything you want to add?
Lars: Thank you, I hope that the world will become a better place to live in. In Sweden, there is a high level of gang crime with many shootings and explosions as a result, which creates insecurity in society. Something must be done to improve the future for our children. But until the world ends, I will continue to rock and look forward to seeing fans, venues and places for at least another 15 years 🙂
Roberth: Thank you so much! Take care! Looking forward to get back on the road again in January, going to the USA, Australia and Japan to begin with! Cheers!
Interview by Sílvia
Check out Scar Symmetry in case you still don’t know this band, and be ready for a great dose of Progressive/Melodic Death Metal attack, in a very thunderous way! You can also check the other bands/projects by Roberth Karlsson and Lars Palmqvist. Support the underground.
**Please support the underground! It’s vital to the future of our genre.**