interview by: Roberto Martinelli
Swedish bands always blow me away in terms of how tight
they are. The Forsaken raise this high standard even farther. Their
latest album, Arts of Desolation, may not be the most interesting
record you'll hear in terms of the appeal of the actual songs, but you
can't help but marvel at the amazing guitar solos and the jaw-dropping
skills of the drummer. Lucky that The Forsaken's skinsman, Nicke Grabowski,
was available for an interview...
photos taken from www.theforsaken.net
Maelstrom: What do you do for a job, Nicke?
Grabowski: I'm working passage control and security systems. Like, for
example, hotel locking systems, with a smart card/ magnetic card. It's
not so funny, but you have to do something for a living.
Maelstrom: Well, I'll tell you what: I'm mostly interested
in talking to you about drums. I'm a drummer, and listen to guys like
you play and I wanna learn about how you got to play like that; what
you do in your routines. We'll talk about the new record a little bit,
of course. We can get that out of the way.
Nicke Grabowski: Ok.
Maelstrom: What do you think of it? Are you satisfied with
Nicke Grabowski: Of course we all are very satisfied with
it. I think it's always like that. All in all, I think the arrangements
have become much better for the new album. It's more straight; more
a punch to the face.
Maelstrom: The thing that I like most about the album are
the solos. The solos are really melodic. The rest of the album is really,
really brutal, but the solos come along, and it's kind of a break.
Nicke Grabowski: Yeah! I think both the guitarists are
listening a lot to these guitar heroes like Steve Vai, Steve Morse and
Joe Satriani, and that's maybe why they want to play these kind of solos.
I like it, too. I think, like you said, it's a great break to have in
the brutal music. It feels like some kind of relief when you can get
your breath for when the next time the brutality comes in, you know?
And it colors the music, instead of always sounding static.
Maelstrom: I always am amazed when I listen to bands from
Sweden at how tight they are. I had heard some story once in an interview
about why Swedish bands are so good is because the government pays for
practice space for bands. Is that true?
Nicke Grabowski: It's true, in a way. The government makes
lots of contributions to rehearsal rooms. For example, we pay $17 dollars
a month each for a rehearsal room. That's pretty cheap, because we get
25 square meters.
Maelstrom: That's nothing, man.
Nicke Grabowski: I know. It's a big collective of rehearsal
rooms. The guys who run it are getting money from the government to
keep it up.
Maelstrom: Do they have instruments at these places, or
do you have to bring your own?
Nicke Grabowski: No, we have our own instruments. There
is the possibility to make coffee and food, and stuff like that. There's
a studio as well; kind of like a cafeteria but without people selling
food to you. You have to make it yourself if you want it. It's not like
that at all places in Sweden. We have it like that; I like it.
Maelstrom: How did you discover metal?
Nicke Grabowski: One of my relatives took me to one of
his parties when I was like, eight years old, or something. There was
an Iron Maiden cover band playing at his party. The drummer, I wanted
to get him to teach me. He taught me the standard beats, and then I
was on my own.
Maelstrom: Iron Maiden is obviously a HUGE influence on
Swedish metal. It seems that there are more bands from Sweden who were
influenced by Iron Maiden that any other countries' bands.
Nicke Grabowski: I think so, too. I love them as well.
I don't know how much money I've put into that band: buying DVDs, videos,
CDs, LPs, whatever. (chuckle)
Maelstrom: What do you think of that band Nifleheim? Have
you heard of them?
Nicke Grabowski: Yeah, I've heard of them.
Maelstrom: Apparently there's a story that they were going
to record a new album but they had to delay it because they spent all
the budget on Iron Maiden stuff.
Nicke Grabowski: Yeah. Did you know these guys used to
be in a national commercial in Sweden? Hahaha. Yeah. I think it was
some kind of insurance commercial, that you had to keep your stuff safe.
It was about Iron Maiden stuff. They had so much Iron Maiden stuff they
wanted to keep insured. It was crazy, you know? They're driving around
in an old American Trans-Am, and stuff like that. "Hey guys, look
what we have! Don't come and get it." Hahaha.
Maelstrom: What kind of drums do you have?
Nicke Grabowski: I changed my drums two years ago. I play
on a Tama Star Classic set. I have a 22" bass drum, three toms
and two floor toms. I use 10", 12", 13", and 14"
and 16" hanging floor toms.
Maelstrom: What kind of cymbals do you like?
Nicke Grabowski: I like Sabian because they don't crack
as easily as all the other cymbals I've tried out. You know, it's expensive
to play drums! Especially metal music, it's like you're cracking cymbals
like you're changing underwear. And that's hard for your expenses. But
I like it. It depends, sometimes you want your right crash to be a little
bit more bright. You want to have a big spectrum of sound. Sabian has
lots of different kinds of cymbals. But my hi-hat and my ride are Paiste
Signature series, 'cause I haven't found anything that I like to play
Maelstrom: So you never like to play cracked cymbals? I
know some drummers keep cracked cymbals and play with them. They like
the fact they don't sustain as much.
Nicke Grabowski: I play cracked cymbals in my rehearsal
room. I have cymbals that are too expensive to play in the rehearsal
room. I only use those for recordings and live shows. I used to always
play on non-cracked cymbals, but, hu-hu, I have to put my money in other
things as well. Like, I want to buy a motorcycle soon.
Maelstrom: Oh, that's cool. What kind of motorcycle do
Nicke Grabowski: Do you know anything about motorcycles?
Maelstrom: A little bit.
Nicke Grabowski: Honda has a new model out, called BTX.
Maelstrom: Oh, my God...
Nicke Grabowski: Yeah...(laugh) It's like a Harley
Davidson, but much bigger, so the Harley guys will be afraid of me when
I come cruising down the town. Hehehe. But it's expensive. It's like
a $16,000 motorcycle.
Maelstrom: So, you always have to be making noise. (laugh)
Nicke Grabowski: Yeah, exactly. Hehe. I like that. That's
why I want to buy something like that. Not a Japanese race motorcycle.
I used to have one of these because I like speed, as well. If I would
have the money, I would buy both, but, hehehe, you can't have everything,
as my girlfriend used to say to me when I get too excited buying things.
I'm a tech freak: I like computers and hi-fi systems, and stuff like
that. I don't know why I ended up like this. Huhu. Buying expensive
stuff and I don't have money to do anything else.
Maelstrom: How old are you?
Nicke Grabowski: I'm 26.
Maelstrom: Oh, same as me.
Nicke Grabowski: Yeah? It's a great age. I hope it will
stay like this. I don't have to get older right now. You get closer
to 30, and that's horrible.
Maelstrom: Yeah...I'm trying not to think of it that
Nicke Grabowski: I always think that I am closer to 20
than 50. It's easier that way.
Maelstrom: How much do you practice a week?
Nicke Grabowski: It depends on how much I have to work.
Usually, we have a running schedule for 3-4 times a week - the whole
band. Between that I try to go down one or two rimes by myself for a
few hours and try new stuff out. The guitars have some riffs that I
want to put some cool stuff to. I go down with a tape and freestyle.
I have looped the riffs and try over and over to come up with new beats.
It always ends up with a thrash beat. It works with all riffs. I don't
Maelstrom: You guys are, it seems to me, always playing
Nicke Grabowski: 4/4 mostly. Sometimes we play in 3. We
try to mix those up, but it's always hard to arrange songs when you
have to break the beat into another kind of beat.
Maelstrom: In terms of a drummer who wants to get better
- to model after someone who's already really good - how much should
you practice a week, or how much did you practice a week to be able
to get as good as you are?
Nicke Grabowski: Before I practiced like three hours a
day on the days we weren't rehearsing. On those days, we rehearsed for
like four hours, or something.
Maelstrom: Even now?
Nicke Grabowski: Uh, yeah. We rehearse for four to five
hours. It depends. We used to go down to our rehearsal room, play through
all our songs from both albums. After that we'd sit down and write new
material, and try riffs out. We also take pauses, of course. So we play
for two hours, go out and drink some coffee, we'll take a beer - it
depends on what day it is - and after that we try to rehearse for two
or three hours more. You have to be like that.
Maelstrom: Then you get to a certain level and you maintain?
Nicke Grabowski: Yeah, of course. If you don't play, you
drop the skills. Especially when it comes to not being exhausted so
fast. Especially with this music: you're totally blown out after a show.
But that has to do a lot with technique as well. If you learn a good
technique, you don't have to be that exhausted. But most of the
big drummers use triggers. I don't. I don't like to play like a sissy,
not hitting the drums properly. I like to bash them. Also when I play
blast beats. So, it's much harder to play blast beats for a longer time
when you want to hit the drums properly.
Maelstrom: So the drums on the album aren't triggered?
Nicke Grabowski: Uh, yeah... I used triggers for my
bass drum. It's easier to boost the bass drum sound when you record.
That's why we use the triggers. We used triggers for the toms, but only
the signals in order to put a high-pitched attack above the acoustic
sound. We didn't have any sampled sound. Of course there are really
good drummers that use triggers for the whole drum set, for example
Nick Barker. He's really good, and you can see that when he plays live
as well. I think it's a lot to your playing style and what you want
to do when you play. I would like to try it out, especially when it
comes to playing in the rehearsal room and we can mic that out to the
PA system. Maybe we won't have to rehearse with such a volume that we
have now. Maybe you'd be able to hear the bass drum.
Maelstrom: I think that can be kind of dangerous. A friend
of mine doesn't have a choice: he plays those electric drums in his
house and he records on them. He says when he goes back to regular drums,
it's like he can't play them anymore.
Nicke Grabowski: I know what you mean. It's more that
I want to hear my bass drums when I rehearse. The bass drum always drowns
in the sound at the rehearsal room. I would not use electronic drums.
It's kind of a different feel.
Maelstrom: I've played those things a couple of times and
it feels weird.
Nicke Grabowski: Yeah, I agree. You don't get the whole
feeling like you get on an acoustic set.
Maelstrom: So run me through your practice routine. You
said three hours. What do you do?
Nicke Grabowski: When we rehearse as a band we go through
the songs. That's the best way to practice. Even though you have played
a song like 200 times, it's good practice. When we play the old songs,
the ones that if someone would wake me up in the middle of the night,
I can sing those songs for you.
Maelstrom: I don't think I'd like to hear you sing those
songs in the middle of the night to me.
Nicke Grabowski: No. No, don't. (laugh) No, but, I always
try to put new stuff in when we practice the old songs. Sometimes I
go down and do snare practices, like rolls.
Maelstrom: So, who taught you to do stuff like that?
Nicke Grabowski: I figured it out myself. The most basic
beats I learned from that guy I told you about before. Everything else
I learned by myself.
Maelstrom: So you never took any lessons?
Nicke Grabowski: No. When I think back, I would have liked
to have done different. I would like to have taken lessons. Maybe I
would be even better. But the older you get, the lazier you get. The
band is getting bigger, so that means we have to rehearse more. When
I have some free time, I like to do different stuff so I don't get too
fed up with music. But in a way I always listen to music. At work I
listen to music. Then I go to rehearsal, and when I go home I listen
to music again.
Maelstrom: What do you like to listen to most lately?
Nicke Grabowski: I got Corrosion's latest album. I bought
the latest DVD of Iron Maiden... And now we're back to Iron Maiden
again! (laugh). I listen a lot to Throneaon. They sound like Vader and
Deicide... a much better Deicide. It's really too bad what [Deicide]
has done on their two latest albums. They are boring live. When I saw
them it was '92 or '93, In Denmark. I was really looking forward to
seeing them. But they had bad sound and they didn't play well and they
were totally boring on stage.
Maelstrom: I was reading your lyrics, and it seems that
they were just thrown in at the end. Is that true?
Nicke Grabowski: Uh... yeah. Especially on the latest
album. I like to write lyrics, but when we entered the studio on the
latest album we had two songs' lyrics ready. I was stressed out to write
lyrics and I will not do that again, I can promise you. For example,
I want the lyrics to be better, and I want the vocal arrangements -
even though they are pretty cool - I think they can be much, much better,
more interesting, more varied. Let's see what happens on the next album.
I have started writing lyrics already.
Maelstrom: I never listen to music - especially with extreme
metal - for lyrics.
Nicke Grabowski: Most of the time I agree with you totally.
Maelstrom: It's really a contrast to hear people talk about
other types of music and how they like it because of the lyrics.
Nicke Grabowski: This music is guitar-based music. The
vocals are a fifth instrument. Of course, if you have really bad lyrics,
it can destroy the overall feeling of the band. When I buy a CD and
the layout is very professional, and the music is very good, and you
go visit the website and it's also professional, you get this feeling
of the band. It gets better with all the small details.
Maelstrom: Who's the best metal drummer in Sweden right
Nicke Grabowski: Peter Wildoer of Darkane. Also, I like
Matte Modin of Defleshed.
Maelstrom: He's AWESOME.
Nicke Grabowski: He's crazy. I heard him making a sound
check when he was playing with Defleshed. He was just toying around
with his cymbals, and it was clear that this guy knows more about drumming
than he's showing. He's kind of a jazz drummer. Also, the guy from The
Crown (Janne Saarenpää.) He has a really cool style when he
plays. He's kind of different from all the other death metal drummers.
Maelstrom: Can you describe your technique when you play
Nicke Grabowski: I try to use my fingers. Also, I'm not
a one-foot blaster. I use two bass drums. I try to figure out ways to
play so you don't get so tired.
Maelstrom: Nicke, I think this is the end of my time. Any
last words? It's been really cool talking to you about drums and stuff.
Nicke Grabowski: Yeah! It was cool! Actually, you were
the first one that has interviewed me so much about drums! I have to
say I really liked the interview.
Maelstrom: Oh, I'm glad.
Nicke Grabowski: Because, you know, most of the people
always try to ask about really deeply about lyrics and a lot, lot, lot
about guitar. They always try to find the most boring question in the
world: "can you please tell me the history of the band?" That's
the question I would like to erase from history. I HATE that question.
Maelstrom: Hahaha! I mean, I don't want to say I don't
care, but, I dunno, I don't think it's that interesting.
Nicke Grabowski: No, it's not.
Maelstrom: You guys made a band.
Nicke Grabowski: You know what I mean. Most of the bands
have similar story. "Ok, we're five guys. We met up in high school.
We had fun together, we made a demo. We got a deal. And now we're recording
albums." It is basically like that all the time. So, it was cool.
For the fans: I hope that we are coming to the States, because you guys
are always giving us very good support. About 10 fan mails a day from
Maelstrom: You read your fan mail?
Nicke Grabowski: Always. You can write me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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