Monday, April 17, 2017

Chapter 3: Rippin' Shit - The Unlikely Story of Northern Sweden's DS-13

Hot off of catching these Swedes destroy the west coast of the United States, I'm happy to unveil excerpts from their exclusive chapter for the thrashcore book. This was one of my favorite bands then...and now. I can't emphasize enough how great they are 20 years later. That's right! 20 years have now passed since their very first show in cold Umeå, Sweden. They are also goddamn sweethearts. As nice as their songs are short, fast and fukking loud. I had a pleasure interviewing them via Skype, in a tour van, and even on the roof of an unnamed tech giant's HQ (we'll call it Schmoogle). Ok, that's it, thanks to them, thanks to Felix Havoc, and thanks to you for overlooking the wide array of grammar sins I've committed. Remember, all this and more will be edited, laced with visuals and published in a of these days. Until then, enjoy...

Keep following at or on Instagram: @thrashwagon.

Rippin’ Shit

Demon System 13

André "Andy Anarchy" Sandström (DS-13) In the beginning people thought we were a joke band.

Fredrik "Tom Terror" Jonsson (DS-13) I think we were seen as some kind of a joke. We were fine with that. We had super dumb lyrics and were playing super short, fast songs. Everybody was pretending to be smart around that time and we didn’t.

Andy Anarchy I listened to a lot of American hardcore and Swedish punk and hardcore – Minor Threat, Dead Kennedys and also Swedish bands, Anti Cimex. I don’t think there was many people in Umeå at that time who listened to that kind of music.

Christoffer "138" Jonsson (DS-13, ETA, Bruce Banner, Busted Heads Records) In the mid-90s, the Umeå hardcore scene turned to the whole intellectual thing. Refused were always the spearhead of the scene, no matter what kind of music they played. They were the flagship for all the trends and they turned to the philosophy thing, the Marxist thing, the extremely political hardcore - which I have no problems with, because hardcore punk by its nature should be political. But they went for the intellectual angle and I think hardcore punk should be somewhat stupid.

Tom Terror It was Christoffer. He had this girlfriend who had this guitar that was at his place. He sat down a couple nights and wrote the songs that ended up on the first 7”. Me and Christoffer were in the same band, we had this straight edge band called Revive. I guess he knew that I was kind of tired of the direction of the Umeå hardcore scene. It was super pretentious. Me and Christoffer and André and Jonas, we were people who enjoyed old-school hardcore more than the new school.

138 The whole scene went intellectual. Umeå started it and the rest of Sweden followed, and me, just liking fast, raw music, this kind of pissed me off. I was booking shows in Umeå at the time, this was in ’96. I just came up with the concept of DS-13 because I wanted to have something that was stupid. So I wrote 13 songs in 20 minutes basically. I’m exaggerating, but the philosophy of the band was it shouldn’t take longer to write a song than it does to play it. I came up with the name and I wrote a list of 13 song titles that I wanted to write songs for…and that pretty much is the first 7”.
The songs and the name existed before there was anyone else in the band.

Jonas "Jånte D-Kay" Lyxzén (DS-13) For the first show Christoffer played guitar and they had a bass player named Fredrick.

Tom Terror He was just a guy in Umeå who had moved there. I don't think we had a phone number for him. We had a rehearsal time and we rehearsed every Saturday. We rehearsed the songs and we did one show with him and then we pretty much quit.

Andy Anarchy We didn’t do anything for a long time.

Tom Terror It was Jonas who actually brought it up and said why don't you do that band anymore?

138 I felt like after the first gig, this was a one-time fun thing. We didn't break up, we just didn't do anything after that gig. During that summer, Jonas (Jånte D-Kay) said, “I should join the band. I should play guitar, you should play bass and we’ll do this band because I think it could be really good.”

Jånte D-Kay The first time we practiced I actually played bass, but I was like, I kinda suck at bass, let’s switch.

138 He kick-started us back together and that’s the only lineup that recorded anything. That’s the line-up we’re doing now.

Jånte D-Kay Many people thought it was a joke. Our songs were so short and that was not at all what people were accustomed to.

138 The scensters, like Refused, they embraced us. They supported us, they thought it was really good. We played with them really early on…We got a good response really early on.

Jånte D-Kay We practiced and went to the studio and in one day, we recorded 24 songs. We added the vocals the next day and that was it. We chose the 13 songs that we thought were best.

Tom Terror We didn't have any connections to other labels, so we released it ourselves. A friend of ours did the cover and André's brother drew the logo.

Andy Anarchy I don’t think Christoffer thought he would have a label, it was more like DS-13 will release their own record and he gave it the name Busted Heads.

Jånte D-Kay He was really driven, pushing, promoting, making contacts and talking to people.

138 We just accidentally discovered this DIY thing, because it felt like the most natural thing to do. “Do It Yourself” wasn’t a concept that people talked about because people were still sending demo tapes to record labels, to Burning Heart and Epitaph.

Tom Terror That 7” really opened a lot of doors for us, even though its cover is awful and doesn’t make any sense, like most of our covers.

138 We got this letter from Felix, who I had never heard of. I had never heard of Code 13 or Havoc Records. He just said, “I think your record is really fucking good. I want to do a US pressing.”

Andy Anarchy We were at the age where you are restless. You want things to happen fast. “Two weeks ago we did the last record, let’s do a new one.”

138 We were very young and very excited that people liked the music.

Andy Anarchy Felix Havoc was a record collector, he was really into Scandinavian hardcore. He got that 7” and thought it was really good and contacted us to see if we wanted to do a repress. I think that was the same with Gordon. He contacted us to see if we wanted to do a North American press of the second 7” which I guess was sold out.

138 He wrote me when Deranged Records didn't exist. I think we're pretty much the reason he started doing Deranged Records.

The first LP, the B side is from our first recording session. The B side is from the split 7”s.

Tom Terror It’s two different recordings. It was the A side that was a new recording. The B side is an old recording from the first session we did…There are some good songs on it. I like the B side more than the A side.

138 “If this is hardcore” is a very typical song. I wrote that when I stopped being straight edge, because I was really fed up with the youth crew, straight edge macho scene. I felt that even though we listen to the same kind of music, an asshole is still an asshole. I won’t be your friend just because we both like Youth of Today.

Around the late 90s there was this whole animosity between the crusty scene and the youth crew scene in Sweden. The youth crew scene just wanted to wear Nikes and do tough guy dancing and the crusties wanted it to be leftist and vegan and feminist. We always belonged more to the crusty side of the politics, but both crowds enjoyed us. So much energy wasted on debating tough guy moshing. That's still a debate in Sweden to this day. It comes back every fourth year or so.

Jånte D-Kay We started touring quite early, touring Europe and Sweden.

138 In ’98, we played one off shows here and there in Sweden, but it was hard since Umeå is very far up north, far from everything. Umeå is eight hours driving north of Stockholm. Our first proper tour was in the summer of ’99. We did a four-week tour of Europe.

Tom Terror We did a lot of good shows, we did a lot of bad shows, but Separation were really good friends and we had a great time going on the road with them.

Andy Anarchy We were pretty young. I didn’t know much about touring.

Jånte D-Kay I’m a drummer, so on the first two tours I didn’t have my own guitar. I borrowed a guitar every night.

138 We did a total of 200 shows. Pretty much only Western European tours…two US tours and Japan.

Felix Havoc (Havoc Records) I was really into what they were doing and we became fast friends. Code 13 played with DS 13 when we toured Sweden in 1999. I still think those first few 7”s are their best material. I organized their US tours.

Jånte D-Kay He set the whole thing up and it was super organized and well-taken care of.

Tom Terror We had Felix. We wouldn't have done these tours or I don't think the tours would have been this good without Felix. He was super great to work with. He did everything. We were sitting in the back of the van sleeping and he was sitting up front listening to war documentaries on the cassette player.

138 Playing Havoc Fest was really good. That was also weird because they had the festival and so hobo punks had been gathering the entire week in Minneapolis. Just the concept of hobo punks was new to us Swedes, that you can go on trains disappear into the country. The night before, there was a house party and this guy got stabbed to death. Some hobo punk stabbed the guy.

Jånte D-Kay From what I heard, they were sitting around a bonfire, some guy got aggressive and stabbed another punk who died. Then just before we played the wife came up and talked to the audience. It was the day after so it was really horrible and sad and she was crying.

138 They asked us, “can the widow of the dead guy come up and say a few words?” So she came up and it was a very emotional moment. She talked and the guy who died had no insurance of course, so they wanted to collect money for her. I think they had kids as well. The entire vibe was very tense in the room afterwards. We were a bunch of scrawny, 20-something kids from the north of Sweden. We never experienced people being stabbed to death in connection to punk shows. We were like, “how are we gonna’ follow this,” because everybody’s mood was really down. I introduced the band by saying “this is fucking bullshit, punks killing punks. We should be fighting the common enemy, the police. We are DS13 from Sweden.” And people just went fucking nuts.

Jånte D-Kay In a way, I think “Killed By The Kids” sounds very good, and in a way, I think it sounds terrible.

138 We never knew what the fuck we were doing in the studio. Every recording we did is just us going there and plugging in the instruments and not really knowing what the fuck we’re doing and just going with it. Sometimes it worked really well and sometimes not as well. This record is actually recorded at a really fancy major-label studio in Stockholm where a shitload of mainstream rock like the Hives recorded. We could never afford that.

Tom Terror We got some money from Felix, so we rented a studio in Stockholm.

Andy Anarchy I think we wanted to do something else, try something new, but those guys only made pop music.

Tom Terror Yeah, they’re not thrash guys.

Jånte D-Kay I tried another guitar that I didn’t normally use and I tried another amp, so the guitar sound was totally different than what we were used to.

Andy Anarchy I think the guitar sound on that record is fucking awesome.

138 I got disappointed that not many people paid attention, because at the time I thought we had done something on our own that wasn’t close to what anybody else was doing. I remember feeling that nobody really noticed.

Tom Terror I guess were all happy with the recording at least when we did it, but I still feel like it's a hard record to listen to.

138 The record sold a lot. Felix still has it in print and people still pick it up today or are turned on to us through this record.

Tom Terror We had been in contact with Pushead, he was going to release compilation and wanted us on that. Christoffer had an established contact with Pushead before that and asked him to do the cover art.

138 I asked him, “can you do a cover for us?” I found out later that this was supposed to be another band’s cover.

The record cover cost more than the record…It’s a cool looking cover. It doesn't make sense, but it’s Pushead. I love his style, and I grew up with his style.

138 In 2001, we did 40 Shows in 42 Days in the States and September 11th was the first week of the tour.

Andy Anarchy We played in New York City at ABC No Rio on the 10th.

138 I was dating this girl in Providence. We played ABC No Rio on September 10th. We left Manhattan the morning of September 11th at like four in the morning. I went with her to Providence to stay with her and the other guys went to Jersey to stay. So we were separated. All the shit went down and it took them the entire day to make it to Providence.

Jånte D-Kay We played in Providence with Drop Dead. It was just a regular show. Dropdead was talking about what happened and they were like “let’s try to make it a fun night anyway. Let’s be reasonable about this and not jump to conclusions until we actually know what the hell’s going on.”

138 One of the most insane shows I’ve played in my entire life, just the vibe of it.

Tom Terror There were some skinheads and we didn't feel super comfortable that night. We just kept a low-profile. It was a good show. I think people still showed up and had a good time.

Felix Havoc Those 9/11 shows were pretty weird, people were kind of dazed and confused, shocked. I remember Bob from Drop Dead kind of talking things over with the audience, and saying what was on a lot of people’s minds. I for one, thought that if we caved in to fear and hysteria we would be letting both the terrorists and the politicians win, and that we should carry on thrashing and fuck the oppressors. The 9/12 show in New Jersey, was supposed to be the Toga Show, but I don’t think people were too into my idea of wearing Togas.

Andy Anarchy We played with Out Cold and Nine Shocks Terror. It was too close to 9/11 to do that toga thing.

Tom Terror That was one of our most stupid ideas.

Jånte D-Kay That was like the 3rd or 4th show on the tour, so we toured for another month. We saw all the aftermath and the crazy stuff that was going on in the country.

138 We were just in the country and we just kept on touring. This was before the internet, so you were at shows you met old friends, you hang out and everybody was just kinda guessing what was going to happen. Nobody knew. Everybody just making assumptions like well America is going to invade this country, were going to do this, everybody was just guessing.

Jånte D-Kay It was really difficult to grasp it. It was totally surreal.

138 I remember going back to the airport in Minneapolis, basically five weeks after it happened and just seeing military forces with m-16s at the airport just casually walking around. It’s not something that we’re used to in Sweden. We’re not used to weapons at all because we have very strict gun laws and are our police are not armed like American police.

138 We broke up over a woman that none of us ended up being with afterwards.

Andy Anarchy We talked about how we had done everything that we could do. The next thing would just be the same.

Tom Terror I think we were all satisfied with what we had accomplished.

Jånte D-Kay We had 20 new songs that we actually rehearsed and were ready to record and then this happened.

Tom Terror We actually broke up before the Japanese tour.

Andy Anarchy I decided I wanted to do this anyway because if I don't do this I’m going to regret it.

Jånte D-Kay It was really fun. Good shows, awesome bands.

Tom Terror The last show in Tokyo was probably one of the best shows we ever did. It was just crazy. It was like people getting there early and getting in front of the stage and just standing there for five hours watching all the bands. There were seven bands playing that night.

138 The last show in Tokyo that we played was Fuck on the Beach, Paintbox, More Noise for Life, Breakfast, Total Fury and Forward.

Tom Terror I guess it was strange because we did break up because of a reason and we got together and played a couple of shows, we did a tour of Japan. We got along well.

138 It was good that we broke up. It was time for the band to break up anyway. We’d been an active band for five years with a shitload of records, we did 200 shows, there wasn't really a next level for us to go to. We could have done another album with 20 thrash songs and the world wouldn't have been a better place.

Jånte D-Kay It was a good ending in Europe. It was probably our best show in Umeå.

Tom Terror Looking back, I can see that's pretty much when the scene changed in Umeå. More bands popping up playing more old-school hardcore music and D-beat music.

Jånte D-Kay Felix said, “I really want to see you one last time” and he set up the festival so he could fly us over.

Tom Terror We were all psyched about that show and I guess it didn't turn out to be what we expected because there were some technical problems.

Jånte D-Kay The one thing I remember was smashing my guitar on some girls head by accident.

Andy Anarchy For me that was one of the worst shows we did.

Jånte D-Kay I was swinging the guitar at the same time as this girl was getting up on the stage and smashed my guitar on her head and blood started running down her face. Actually, it was pretty cool because I talked to her and we took a picture together. I gave her a record and said, “I am so sorry.” I think Christoffer went there a year later and she had a t-shirt with me and her on it with her bloody face and it said “taking one for the team.”

Andy Anarchy For the first time in our career, there was expectations. This is the last show, it must be the best show. When every tour, every show we did was just for fun and now there was people just there for us. I think that’s why it didn’t work.

Jånte D-Kay I felt like that show in Umeå should have been the last show.

138 It was a major change in my life because I identified myself with this band, for not that many years, but still five years of a really important part of my life…When you’re in your early 20s, that’s when you starting becoming the person that you will eventually end up being for the rest of your life. It was a real big identity crisis that I did not have the band anymore. So I turned to the label and I invested a lot of time in Busted Heads Records and so was still very much in the scene and in the loop. Looking back at it, I realize that that was really important to me. That was such a big part of my identity, to be part of this scene, to know every band, to have every record, to be in touch with every person. I guess it was covering up for not having DS-13 anymore.

Jånte D-Kay I’ve had a lot of bands after DS-13, but nothing's been similar to this, because even when we were not playing, we were hanging out all the time.

138 I kind of realized really early on that we had some impact because people started to talk shit about us and when people start talking shit about you, you know people know who you are. Because we became really popular really fast scene in the Swedish scene, people started saying that we were assholes and sell outs and they were sick of us, because we went to the States and so on, which is the natural backlash.

Tom Terror I've been in a couple of bands but no bands have ever come close to what we were doing in DS-13. Also, the friendship we had in the band, I can’t compare it to anything. That’s pretty much why I didn't do any bands after that.

138 It goes back to the Heresy song, “Network of Friends.” The whole DIY mentality. I don't think it’s just thrash being international, it’s all of hardcore being international. If you are a youth crew guy or you are a crusty, or whatever, it’s an international scene.

Jånte D-Kay I think that's also what made us special because you're having fun with your best friends. You go on tour with your best friends. You’re doing music with your best friends.

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